Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This Just In - Bob Woodward is a Tool

ConsortiumNews comments on a recent article in the Washington Post:

Bob Woodward had three government sources telling him before the Iraq invasion that the Bush administration
was hyping the intelligence about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. But Woodward kept the information
to himself, presumably for fear of damaging his reputation (if WMD were eventually found) and jeopardizing his
unparalleled access to George W. Bush's White House.

Does He Have A Strategy?

Well, no. According to Think Progress's deconstruction of the 'National Strategy for Victory in Iraq'(.PDF), what we have is 'Stay the Course Stay the Course Stay the Course 9/11'.
The administration's hand is in the proverbial jar, wrapped tight around Iraqi oil, and they know just letting it go is not really an option no matter how many people've died..

As an update, here's the New York Times on this 'plan':

. . . Mr. Bush hates comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. But after watching the president, we couldn't resist reading Richard Nixon's 1969 Vietnamization speech. Substitute the Iraqi constitutional process for the Paris peace talks, and Mr. Bush's ideas about the Iraqi Army are not much different from Nixon's plans - except Nixon admitted the war was going very badly (which was easier for him to do because he didn't start it), and he was very clear about the risks and huge sacrifices ahead.

A president who seems less in touch with reality than Richard Nixon needs to get out more.

And here are further commentaries by David Corn and the Plaid Adder.

Alito's Agenda

People for the American Way highlight a recently revealed memo(.PDF) written while Alito was a DoJ lawyer in 1985. Alito urged the Reagan administration to intervene in a reproductive rights case with an eye towards “the goals of bringing about the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, and in the meantime, of mitigating its effects.”.

“The Supreme Court rebuffed (Alito's) arguments in 1986. A Supreme Court with both Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the bench in 2006 would not.”

More on this from The Smoking Gun. Also, a note - The Court's few pro-gay civil rights rulings are built on Roe v. Wade. Incuding the recent ruling overturning sodomy laws. Without Roe v. Wade, gay civil rights are a dream of the past.

Like Most of the Other 999

Firstly, in the obvious way:

And second, in that evidence that could prove or disprove his guilt was not only never examined, it in fact has been -oops- destroyed:

Lovitt's lawyers, who include former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, and anti-death penalty advocates had argued that his life should be spared because a court clerk illegally destroyed the bloody scissors and other evidence, preventing DNA testing that they said could exonerate him.

1000 was Mr. Lovitt's lucky number. 999 other people - 152 under our compassionate, Christian executer-in-chief - were not so fortunate.

An aside - let's not oversimplify the impact of race in capital crimes cases. While 58% of the persons put to death since 1976 in America in fact were white, being black and being charged with a capital crime greatly increases your odds of receiving the death penalty. Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims.

Did Someone Say 'Death Squads'?

It's little things like mass roving bands of murderous thugs that let you know Negroponte has done his work:

...evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.

Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged in recent weeks, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

Some Sunni men have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Clifford Pickover offers this ongoing roundup of "Breaking news on God and other higher beings in this world and the world to come".


This series of recent phone pranks illustrates exactly what's wrong with America and humanity in general. If an anonymous caller tells you over the phone that he's a cop - or even more imposing, he works for your boss - and he wants you to strip search someone, what do you do? I know what I would do, but it's not what Ordinary People(tm) would do:

On May 29, 2002, a girl celebrating her 18th birthday -- in her first hour of her first day on the job at the McDonald's in Roosevelt, Iowa -- was forced to strip, jog naked and assume a series of embarrassing poses, all at the direction of a caller on the phone, according to court and news accounts.

On Jan. 26, 2003, according a police report in Davenport, Iowa, an assistant manager at an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar conducted a degrading 90-minute search of a waitress at the behest of a caller who said he was a regional manager -- even though the man had called collect, and despite the fact the assistant manager had read a company memo warning about hoax calls just a month earlier. He later told police he'd forgotten about the memo.

On June 3, 2003, according to a city police spokesman in Juneau, Alaska, a caller to a Taco Bell there said he was working with the company to investigate drug abuse at the store, and had a manager pick out a 14-year-old customer -- and then strip her and force her to perform lewd acts.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Dark Art of Interrogation

Mark Bowden examines the distinction between torture and 'coercion' , and discusses the effectiveness of each, as well as going into the history of 'coercion' in the American intelligence services:

"You want a good interrogator?" Jerry Giorgio, the New York Police Department's legendary third-degree man, asks. "Give me somebody who people like, and who likes people. Give me somebody who knows how to put people at ease. Because the more comfortable they are, the more they talk, and the more they talk, the more trouble they're in—the harder it is to sustain a lie."

Phillip Carter, meanwhile, outlines several compelling reasons why torture is counterproductive, in reference to the Jose Padilla case:

Any information gained through torture will almost certainly be excluded from court in any criminal prosecution of the tortured defendant. And, to make matters worse for federal prosecutors, the use of torture to obtain statements may make those statements (and any evidence gathered as a result of those statements) inadmissible in the trials of other defendants as well. Thus, the net effect of torture is to undermine the entire federal law enforcement effort to put terrorists behind bars... a nation, we still haven't clearly decided whether it's better to prosecute terrorists or pound them with artillery. But by torturing some of al-Qaida's leaders, we have completely undermined any efforts to do the former and irreversibly committed ourselves to a martial plan of justice. In the long run, this may be counterproductive, and it will show that we have compromised such liberal, democratic ideals like adherence to the rule of law to counter terrorism. Torture and tribunals do not help America show that it believes in the rule of law. But if CIA officials continue to use tactics that will get evidence thrown out of federal court, there will increasingly be no other option.

The Formerly Great Writ

With an eye towards the continuing assault on habeus corpus, Slate gives some background on the 'formerly Great Writ', and all the previous and the current attacks on it:

...In 1989 in Teague v. Lane, for example, the court excluded habeas claims based on new constitutional rules of civil procedure; in other cases the justices whittled away at prisoners' rights to file successive habeas petitions.

Congress took its own shot at habeas in 1996. A law passed that year and signed by President Bill Clinton made it harder for federal courts to grant relief to a habeas petitioner...

The 'Murtha amendment'

"...what the Republicans have done is a phony debate, a cynical debate, a divisive debate. They had the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter, draw up a one-line resolution, saying we want the immediate deployment -- immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops...
...They prostituted Mr. Murtha's very thoughtful approach to the end of the deployment of American troops. So this debate is needed. But on the terms that the Republicans did it, is a disgrace to the American troops. It is a disgrace to this Congress."
-- Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA)

MediaMatters presents this comparison between Rep. John Murtha's House Joint Resolution 73 and HR 571, which was labeled by that darn liberal media as the 'Murtha amendment'.

An update: Sen. Barack Obama has a proposal which is somewhat.. in the middle of these two extremes:

...after the December 15 elections and during the course of next year, we need to focus our attention on how reduce the U.S. military footprint in Iraq. Notice that I say "reduce," and not "fully withdraw."

...Second, we need not a time-table, in the sense of a precise date for U.S. troop pull-outs, but a time-frame for such a phased withdrawal. More specifically, we need to be very clear about key issues, such as bases and the level of troops in Iraq. We need to say that there will be no bases in Iraq a decade from now and the United States armed forces cannot stand-up and support an Iraqi government in perpetuity...

AlterNet :: Ambassador de Sade

Just one of many survivors is Samantha Monroe, now a travel agent in Pennsylvania, who told The Montel Williams show this year about overcoming beatings, rape ... and the confinement to a janitor's closet in "humble pants" -- which contained weeks of her own urine, feces and menstrual blood.

Not that it's any news that BushCo loves, loves, loves them some torture, but this is an under-reported angle on the matter. Mel Sembler directed the leading 'juvenile rehab' business in America, subjecting thousands of teens and children like Samantha Monroe to degradation and torture - well, really just because they can. It's a tremendously popular enterprise, and Mr. Sembler is neither its first entrepreneur nor is he the only one to see his outfit closed down once word leaked out of what he was up to.
He is, however, the only one to finangle his 'experience' into a high-ranking government post.
Meet Mel Sembler. Formerly Bush's ambassador to Italy.

Germ Boys and Yes Men

Stewart Simonson is being presented as 'Brownie part 2', but he's really just one more outcropping on the mountain of BushCo cronyism and incompetence.

Meet Stewart Simonson. He's the official charged by Bush with "the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies"--a well-connected, ideological, ambitious Republican with zero public health management or medical expertise, whose previous job was as a corporate lawyer for Amtrak. When Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently speculated, "If something comes along that is truly a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence," many of those professionally concerned with such scenarios couldn't help thinking of Simonson. They recalled his own unsettling words at a recent Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on government response to a chemical or biological attack: "We're learning as we go."

Happy 65th

... to the Little Dragon.
Back to politics tomorrow.

The Futility? of Philosophical Inquiry

Michael Mock advances a defense of philosophy and of objective truth, and of the obtainability of knowledge:

"The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason." -- Bertrand Russell

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Autonomy, Religion, and Revolt in Foucault

Corey McCall ammends rather than rewrites our view of Michel Foucault's outlook and message:

Although it is true that for much of Foucault’s writing life he wrote under the sign of Nietzsche’s anti-Enlightenment destroyer of idols, another figure emerges from the shadows late in Foucault’s work. Kant’s influence becomes evident in late texts such as Foucault’s “What is Enlightenment?,” in which Foucault seeks to rehearse the question that Kant elaborates in his famous essay of 1784...

Don't Bomb Us!

Hopefully the last word in the 'bombing Al-Jazeera' matter, a few Al-Jazeera staffers have put together this blog, where they keep abreast of all sorts of related news.

Making Air Travel Safer

By banning nipple rings!

Attention, travelers with nipple piercings: If you plan to fly out of Pittsburgh International Airport this holiday season, bring your pliers.

Otherwise, you might miss your flight.

At least one passenger who traveled through Pittsburgh learned this the hard way. She had to remove her piercings in a restroom after airport security told her she couldn't get on a plane with her hardware intact.

Now, firstly, this strikes one as a case of exluding a symbol in order to send a message to 'those people'. (In this respect it is much like the War on Some Drugs - it's a clash-of-cultures issue.) The hussy had her nipples pierced, and some upright TSA worker seized an excuse to 'straighten her out'.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but for real, raw, base venality, you need look no further than a pissant low-level civil servant...

The Observer :: Abuse Worse Than Under Saddam

According to former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi:

'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,'...

...'We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated,' he added. 'A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations. We are even witnessing Sharia courts based on Islamic law that are trying people and executing them.'


Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Straw Men of Iraq

Peter Daou defuses ten defenses commonly heard for the Iraq war:


This is the ultimate fall-back for supporters of this disastrous war. Somber references to mass graves, Saddam gassing his people, liberating the Iraqis from a dictator, spreading freedom, etc., are second only to flag-waving and bumper-sticker "support" for the troops when it comes to feel-good justifications for the fiasco in Iraq.

To human rights activists, this faux-bleeding heart conservatism rings hollow. Considering the unremitting suffering and killing and violence and abuse of innocents that takes place on this planet, it is intellectually dishonest to resort to a retroactive humanitarian rationalization for a war that was ostensibly defensive in nature. Especially when we callously ignore the plight of so many others who suffer in silence.

If the trump card question is "don’t you think it's good that Saddam is gone?" then one rhetorical question can be met with another:

Isn't it terrible that we've done nothing to stop the slaughter in Darfur?
Isn't it terrible that Iraq is still a killing field and now a terrorist breeding ground?
Isn't it terrible that a nuclear armed Kim Jong Il is still in power?
Isn't it terrible that the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in Iraq could have saved millions of starving children instead of killing tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis?

And so on...

Also, The Left Coaster examines the 'Clinton did it too!' defense in greater detail:

...Second, Clinton's bombing of Iraq in 1998 was not an invasion and occupation of Iraq - so using Clinton's attack to justify an invasion and occupation simply does not cut it. [I am setting aside the fact that Clinton did not, in a partisan manner, dramatically and deliberately deceive Americans about Iraq's capabilities (or lack thereof). Further, in addition to NOT invading and occupying Iraq for the purpose of "disarming" Saddam Hussein, he also did not actually allow parts and materials usable for WMDs and other weapons to be looted in the process - like his successor did.]

Third, Bush introduced a serious falsehood with his claim. After all, Clinton's attack of Iraq in 1998 was not based on the "same intelligence" that Bush used. Some of the most important, fraudulent claims made by the Bush administration were based on information obtained subsequent to 1998. The aluminum tubes "evidence" emerged in 2001. The "uranium from Africa" "evidence" emerged in 2001/2002. And so on...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday Bunnyblogging

Enjoy a Thanksgiving mooncake! Posting will resume shortly.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

Now try not to think about what's in that meat.

Food is cheap in America, and if that means that little Anna hits puberty at age nine or both Mom and Dad contract breast cancer or a new strain of E. Coli resists drug treatment, it's a small price to pay. Life in modern industrial society comes with risks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Besides being fun to say over and over again, the Berkely Open Infrastructure for Network Computing is a good use for idle CPU cycles. Actually, several good uses. Download the client and decide whether you want to help model climate change, search for pulsars, design a particle accelerator, or the project that started them all, search for aliens.

The protein folding project is still its own thing, though.

Changing Hearts and Minds

When an organization - a media organization or any other - has a point of view you don't like, what do you do? In BushCo's America?

Did you guess 'blow them the fuck up'? Give yourself a pat on the back!

Britain has warned media organizations they are breaking the law if they publish details of a leaked document said to show U.S.
President George W. Bush wanted to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

Now, I'm not sure just which 'station' they mean here - Al-Jazeera's offices in Baghdad and especially in Kabul have already been attacked by U.S. forces, and its reporters have been attacked and several have been killed. In any case, I wonder if Air America will be next..

An update: Attaturk makes note of an interesting coincedence, and the Sunday Times provides further details.

The Little Spacecraft That Could

As has been pointed out recently, Hayabusa is not the first probe to land on an asteroid - merely the first probe designed to do so.

Renamed in memory of the late planetary scientist, Gene Shoemaker, NEAR Shoemaker orbited Eros for a full year, giving scientists a bounty of data that included more than 100,000 close-up images. And then, last Monday, came the bonus. "I think the team thought, we've been there long enough, let's try something new," Santo said. "Let's have some fun. Let's see if we can land this thing." Many on the project were skeptical that NEAR would survive its landing attempt. But as Coughlin said, "We'd thought it thorough, and knew everything had to go right. And it did go right."

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Honor And Integrity, Redux

Something to remember the next time BushCo insist that Congressional Democrats had access to 'the same intelligence' he did:

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda...

...The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.

As an aside, my attention was drawn to this revealing paragraph and quote towards the end:

Those grievances were also perhaps illustrated by comments that Vice President Cheney himself wrote on one of Feith's reports detailing purported evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. In barely legible handwriting, Cheney wrote in the margin of the report:

"This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA."

Al Qaeda might be talking to a nation willing to give it WMD's to use against us, and that's good news?
... if you've got an agenda. And if the nation's security isn't part of it.

Fallujah, White Phosphorus, and the Law of War

Dave Glazier discourses on the use of indiscriminate weapons - like WP shells - in urban warfare:

The article(.PDF) in the Army’s own artillery journal leaves no doubt that WP was deliberately employed in an anti-personnel role in Fallujah; the core legal issue concerning its use against the Iraqi fighters thus becomes a factual question of whether other weapons causing less superfluous injury or suffering could have been employed. If so, its use in that role was illegal, if not then it was permissible against the enemy fighters...

...The law of war is quite clear that armed forces must distinguish between military and civilian objects in conducting attacks; this principle of distinction requires situation specific consideration of the means and methods to be employed. According to the account of the Army artillerymen, virtually all the artillery firing against Fallujah was conducted in a “danger close” environment, meaning U.S. forces were within 600 yards of the intended targets and the first rounds of each fire mission would thus be deliberately offset from the target in a direction away from friendly forces and then walked on using observer spots. This is necessary because according to this source dispersion, or essentially notional first round accuracy, of the Palladin howitizers employed at Fallujah is +/- 370 meters! That means that the first round could predictably fall anywhere within four football fields of the intended target. That’s not really a problem in warfare in open terrain, but in an urban environment it surely is.

An update: Juan Cole describes the Fallujah/White Phosphorous fiasco as more a public relations matter than one of war crimes. While phrased that way it seems reasonable, 'seperating insurgents from civilians with 2000 pound bombs', as 'Hunter' over at has it, is a questionable even if not illegal tactic. Mr. Cole comments further here.

The Dawn Of Antimatter Chemistry

Well, maybe. Researchers at UCR might have created a simple antimatter molecule:

In positronium, hydrogen's proton is replaced by a positron, which is the antimatter partner of an electron. A positron has the same positive charge as a proton, but has the same mass as an electron, which is just 1/1,836 that of a proton. So positronium is an extremely light 'atom'...

...Because positronium is so unstable, it is hard to make a positronium gas dense enough for the atoms to link together. Still, Mills and colleagues think they may now have found a way, and suspect they have seen a hint that positronium molecules existed briefly before self-destructing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Sky Is Green

Also, Dick Cheney is eighty feet tall, and can fly...
Crashcart's skill for bullshit must have served him well in corporate life. Here he is, dissembling before the American Enterprise Institute's policy wonks:

Those who advocate a sudden withdraw from Iraq should answer a couple simple questions. Would the United States and other free nations be better off or worse off with Zarqawi, Bin Laden and Zawahiri in control of Iraq?

So.. if the US leaves, the Iraqis would be incapable of defending their country? Don't tell Rummy..

Update: text of Crashcart's remarks here. Also, commentary by David Corn.

The Spoils of War

But remember, it's not about oil, it's about freedom and democracy...

Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Dangerous Curve, Redux

"Keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curve Ball said or didn't say and that the Powers That Be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curve Ball knows what he's talking about," -- an anonymous CIA official

Curveball, the 'drunken liar' whose fanciful tales of Iraqi weapons stashes were never taken seriously even by his handlers, but which formed the bedrock of the administration's case for war, is back in the news again, because evidently not enough people paid attention the first time.

At the Central Intelligence Agency, officials embraced Curveball's account even though they could not confirm it or interview him until a year after the invasion. They ignored multiple warnings about his reliability before the war, punished in-house critics who provided proof that he had lied and refused to admit error until May 2004, 14 months after the invasion.

Not coincidentally, this administration and all its flunkies are collectively in power for a similar reason.

Commentary on Curveball by Maureen Dowd and Pat Lang.

No Exit Strategy

Because everyone else is doing it..

It's funny because it's true. Then again, it's not even remotely funny - because it's true.
Also, I see the covers of dozens of future biographies in that last image..

Subtlety is Lost on Some People

Mr. Henderson lucidly picks apart the administration's recent defensive dissembling:

The President is misleading us when he defends himself from charges that he is misleading us. Nobody supported Saddam, and everybody felt he was a threat. That is why he was contained for years through the use of sanctions, embargoes, and the no-fly zones - successfully contained. That is why Clinton ordered bombing - to keep him contained. But apparently the elder Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton were capable of containing him (even better than we thought) while the younger Bush could not comprehend a threat that didn't require full-scale invasion. Apparently Mr. Bush has only two "threat-level" settings - "no threat at all" and "oh my God invade now before it is too late we will all die otherwise 9/11 9/11 9/11."

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Rolling Stone :: The Man Who Sold the War

"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." -Andrew Card, speaking about what would become Operation Iraqi Freedom.

People who lauded Bush as the 'CEO President' forgot that deception and manipulation are a marketer's primary tools. Here we see what happens when they're turned to the service of selling death:

One of the most powerful people in Washington, Rendon is a leader in the strategic field known as "perception management," manipulating information -- and, by extension, the news media -- to achieve the desired result. His firm, the Rendon Group, has made millions off government contracts since 1991, when it was hired by the CIA to help "create the conditions for the removal of Hussein from power." Working under this extraordinary transfer of secret authority, Rendon assembled a group of anti-Saddam militants, personally gave them their name -- the Iraqi National Congress -- and served as their media guru and "senior adviser" as they set out to engineer an uprising against Saddam...

...Indeed, Rendon is already thinking ahead. Last year, he attended a conference on information operations in London, where he offered an assessment on the Pentagon's efforts to manipulate the media. According to those present, Rendon applauded the practice of embedding journalists with American forces. "He said the embedded idea was great," says an Air Force colonel who attended the talk. "It worked as they had found in the test. It was the war version of reality television, and for the most part they did not lose control of the story." But Rendon also cautioned that individual news organizations were often able to "take control of the story," shaping the news before the Pentagon asserted its spin on the day's events.

"We lost control of the context," Rendon warned. "That has to be fixed for the next war."

The Rendon group responds here, rather feebly. A less sensationalist approach than Rolling Stone's can be found in Truth From These Podia, by Paul Wolf.

The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:

* ... distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict.
* ... caused misdirection of portions of the military operation.
* ... was irresponsible in parts.
* ... might have been illegal in some ways.
* ... cost big bucks.
* ... will be even more serious in the future.

In either case, one is reminded of William Randolph Hearst's telegram to Frederic Remington, on the advent of the Spanish American War. The 'newspapermen' are again creating our wars, and the 'journalists' again merely provide photos of the bodies.

As an update: A bit more about the Rendon Group here, in an article from last Sunday's Chicago Tribune, and an expose' of a Rendon-backed astroturfing campaign here.

The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ' 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news” deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. The Pentagon has made aggressive use of various information warfare techniques, developing new programs and hiring outside media consultants in executing their various missions in the Global War on Terror.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Bunnyblogging


Chemical Weapons Found In Iraq

"U.S. forces do not use napalm or white phosphorus as weapons..." -- US Ambassador Robert Tuttle.

A spokesman for the U.S. military has admitted that soldiers used white phosphorus as an "incendiary weapon" while trying to flush out insurgents in the northern Iraqi city of Fallujah last year...

...High-ranking U.S. officials had earlier insisted that the substance, which can burn skin to the bone, was used only to help illuminate battle scenes.

Of course, it's illegal to use these sorts of munitions to kill - or on civilians, explaining that faux 'to flush out insurgents' dodge above - but dropping 100 pounds of the stuff on a busy street to 'mark' it is A-OK.
To spread democracy!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I Know Another Term For 'Tinkers With The Truth'

James Kuhnhenn and Jonathan S. Landay are a bit more forgiving than I would've been. Here they're providing 'context' for some of the administration's recent bald-faced lies.

ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."

CONTEXT: This isn't true.

The Congress didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief, a top-secret compendium of intelligence on the most pressing national security issues that was sent to the president every morning by former CIA Director George Tenet.

As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers.

Cheney and his aides visited the CIA and other intelligence agencies to view raw intelligence reports, received briefings and engaged in highly unusual give-and-take sessions with analysts.

Moreover, officials in the White House and the Pentagon received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group, circumventing U.S. intelligence agencies, which greatly distrusted the organization.

The INC's information came from Iraqi defectors who claimed that Iraq was hiding chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, had mobile biological-warfare facilities and was training Islamic radicals in assassinations, bombings and hijackings.

The White House emphasized these claims in making its case for war, even though the defectors had shown fabrication or deception in lie-detector tests or had been rejected as unreliable by U.S. intelligence professionals.

All of the exiles' claims turned out to be bogus or remain unproven.

The Other Shoe Drops

Our enlightened statesmen, you may remember, recently and overwhelmingly agreed to suspend habeus corpus - at least when it comes to dangfurriners and 'terrists' - in order to prevent any more of our misdeeds from coming to light. If you thought that was a dangerous precedent, pat yourself on the back. It turns out the rest of us are next.

This spring, several members of Congress have introduced legislation designed to eliminate federal review of criminal cases for the stated purpose of speeding up executions. The legislation, known as the Streamlined Procedures Act, would effectively kill the writ of habeas corpus by stripping federal courts of jurisdiction to consider cases in which a prisoner's constitutional rights may have been violated. The legislation would apply to all criminal cases, including capital cases.

All our problems will be solved if we make it easier to put those people to death, evidently.. See the full text of the measure here(.PDF).

School's Still In

It's a little hard to expect any credibility if you say 'We do not torture' while also teaching the world to torture.
Just saying..

We Promise, We'll Be Good

"Evil men obsessed with ambition and unburdened by conscience must be taken very seriously, and we must stop them before their crimes multiply" -- Guess Who

So, the monumentally corrupt Texas GOP has promised to stop breaking the law! And they say they really mean it!
That's good enough for Travis County Attorney David Escamilla, evidentally, who's mysteriously agreed to defer prosecuting them until after the 2006 elections...

Monday, November 14, 2005

We Do Not Torture - Except We Might

Portrait of a man trying to pat his head and rub his belly at the same time:

Though if it were possible for one's head to explode from sheer cognitive dissonance, the AP would quickly run out of stenographers - that is, reporters:

In an important clarification of President George W. Bush's earlier statement, a top White House official refused to unequivocally rule out the use of torture, arguing the US administration was duty-bound to protect Americans from terrorist attack.

This is, of course, just days after Chimpy said 'We do not torture' and this same pack of lap-dogs dutifully wrote it down.
The administration continues in its fervid refusal to disavow 'enhanced interrogation techniques'.

This Is What Secret Justice Looks Like

Only habeas corpus got Adel a chance to tell a federal judge what had happened. Only habeas corpus revealed that it wasn't just Adel who was innocent -- it was Abu Bakker and Ahmet and Ayoub and Zakerjain and Sadiq -- all Guantanamo "terrorists" whom the military has found innocent.

Habeas corpus is older than even our Constitution. It is the right to compel the executive to justify itself when it imprisons people. But the Senate voted to abolish it for Adel...

Not, in fact, that it did any good. Even after a military tribunal decided the man was innocent, he was simply returned to his cell. That was eight months ago, after four years of illegal imprisonment. The only thing habeas corpus gains him is that someone, somewhere, knows about what's been done to him.

Fortunately, our intrepid statesmen are on the job! Read what Lindsey Graham (R-NC) proposes to do about this intolerable state of affairs:

The Need for Habeas Reform As it Concerns Enemy Combatants

* The Supreme Court's Rasul (2004) decision held that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear habeas petitions from Guantanamo detainees.
* For the first time foreign terrorists
(they must be terrorists - some bounty hunter we paid thousands of dollars to said so! -ed.) in U.S. custody have begun claiming the rights and benefits of the U.S. Constitution, our laws, and treaties.
* The amendment clarifies the previous understanding of the habeas statute that aliens outside the United States do not have access to our federal courts.

We've seen this pattern before, haven't we? When our bad behavior is revealed - make sure that can't happen again. Needless to say, the measure passed quickly - after less than an hour's debate.
For freedom!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Brown's Out Of A Job

.. and that much is right in the world:

Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he extended Brown's contract for an additional 30 days, until mid-November, to help the agency complete its review of the response to Katrina.

But Brown ended his contract early, said Knocke, responding to an inquiry about House Democratic demands to remove Brown from the payroll...

..."It is difficult to imagine anyone less qualified to assess FEMA's failed response to Katrina and make recommendations for improving the agency,"

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Veteran's Day

$200 billion and 2062 dead US soldiers .

No bunny today.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bush : 'We Do Not Torture'

Well, we're all glad he could clear that up. I suppose this means any objections to McCain's anti-torture bill have been dropped. But why is Crashcart out campaigning for a special exemption that will allow the CIA to torture people - all the while insisting that the US doesn't do that sort of thing? He doesn't say that we won't. Are we just tired of outsourcing the job?

"This isn't about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies." -- Sen. John McCain

We'd like to think so.

Tax and Spend What, Now?

BushCo has now borrowed more money from foreign powers than all 42 previous administrations combined. Here's the list, as of August 2005.
Interest on our nation's debts will reach $400 billion next year.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Not Everyone Slept Through The '70s...

Why can we have a national discussion about whether Kate Moss has a cocaine fueled jawgrinding habit, and not the president(.MOV)?

20 shocking facts about US elections

Deanna Zandt brings up a few alarming facts:

13 Jeff Dean was Senior Vice-President of Global Election Systems when it was bought by Diebold. Even though he had been convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree, Jeff Dean was retained as a consultant by Diebold and was largely responsible for programming the optical scanning software now used in most of the United States.

14 Diebold consultant Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The International Brownie Effect

Remember when people seriously thought Bush would hire and surround himself with smart and competent people? As at home, so it goes in Iraq:

Ziad Cattan was a Polish Iraqi used-car dealer with no weapons-dealing experience until U.S. authorities turned him into one of the most powerful men in Iraq last year — the chief of procurement for the Defense Ministry, responsible for equipping the fledgling Iraqi army.

Do we need to tell you how this story ended?

The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, in a report reviewed by Knight Ridder, describes transactions suggesting that senior U.S.-appointed Iraqi officials in the Defense Ministry used three intermediary companies to hide the kickbacks they received from contracts involving unnecessary, overpriced or outdated equipment.

Knight Ridder reported last month that $300 million in defense funds had been lost. But the report indicates that the audit board uncovered a much larger scandal, with losses likely to exceed $500 million, that's roiling the ministry as it struggles to build up its armed forces.

Revision Thing

A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies:

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

(All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity.)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

What's Wrong With Libertarianism

According to 'Radical Russ':
The more important point, however, is that the capitalist is the über-villain for communists, and a glorious hero for libertarians; that property is "theft" for the communists, and a "natural right" for libertarians. These dovetail a little too closely for coincidence. It's natural enough, when a basic element of society is attacked as an evil, for its defenders to counter-attack by elevating it into a principle....

...The methodology isn't much different either: oppose the obvious evils of the world with a fairy tale. The communist of 1910 couldn't point to a single real-world instance of his utopia; neither can the present-day libertarian. Yet they're unshakeable in their conviction that it can and must happen....

...If someone has an answer for everything, advocates changes which have never been tried, and presents dishonest evidence, he's a crackpot. If a man has no doubts, it's because his hypothesis is unfalsifiable.

As an addendum, Russ has posted a continuation of this essay: What's Wrong With Libertarianism, Part 2.

Will Turdblossom Be Attending?

Once again, that smell is irony's rotting corpse:

President Bush has ordered White House staff to attend mandatory briefings beginning next week on ethical behavior and the handling of classified material after the indictment last week of a senior administration official in the CIA leak probe.

Of course, these sorts of briefings, as well as regular audits are already required for anyone with a security clearance. The 'lapses' which brought us to this pass didn't happen because people didn't know better.

For additional ironic effect, this addendum: Guess who's presenting these courses?
Harriet Miers.
Someone - I forget who - said that 'Irony would be if the administration were teaching ethics courses.' Voila.

A Thousand Words

(As Bob Harris points out, a certain percentage of people will agree with any insane thing.)

It's Always Later Than You Think

Anniversaries are great for putting you in a dour mood, and this article in the Financial Times, observing the fifteenth anniversary of the World Wide Web project does nothing to lighten one's hearts..

Imagine a network with the opposite design. Imagine that your terminal came hardwired from the manufacturer with a particular set of programs and functions. No experimenting with new technologies developed by third parties – instant messaging, Google Earth, flash animations . . . Imagine also that the network was closed and flowed from a central source. More like pay-television than web. No one can decide on a whim to create a new site...

...Why might we not create the web today? The web became hugely popular too quickly to control. The lawyers and policymakers and copyright holders were not there at the time of its conception. What would they have said, had they been? What would a web designed by the World Intellectual Property Organisation or the Disney Corporation have looked like?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Friday Bunnyblogging


Following the Yellowcake Road

And my, where it leads! According to a series of articles in La Repubblica, the poorly forged documents that were the basis for administration WMD claims were the work of a known 'intelligence fabricator'. An Italian administration eager to curry favor fobbed them off on the White House after every reputable intelligence agency who saw it spotted it for the nonsense it was. SISMI chief Nicolo Pollari met with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on Sept. 9, 2002, and Mr. Hadley now finds himself with 'no recollection' of anything that went on at that meeting. (It was the Panorama, owned by Mr. Pollari's boss, Silvio Berlusconi, which later added the 'aluminum tubes' angle.)

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002

Ongoing translation efforts are being undertaken by Nor al-Cubicle. Corrente has something of the 'dieter's version' of this particular stew.

For more deeply inquiring minds, 'Pen' speculates and comments on these developments at great length, and the Left Coaster has launched an ongoing four-part (thus far) series of articles comparing CIA intelligence on Niger with the documents in question.

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

But you'd think somebody'd've learned better by now:

President Bush last week appointed nine campaign contributors, including three longtime fund-raisers, to his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a 16-member panel of individuals from the private sector who advise the president on the quality and effectiveness of U.S. intelligence efforts.

The Hammering Continues

“The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees." - Michael Scanlon, former superstar of the Delay money machine and current indictee, in a memo to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Fortunately, we have Mr. Delay's word that he was in the dark about the whole sordid mess...

Critiques of Samuel Alito

One of the drawbacks of nominating an experienced and qualified person, as the administration will tell you, is that their experience gives concerned parties a great deal of history to pick over and debate and criticize. During Mr. Alito's tenure on the 3rd Circuit, many of his colleagues have done some of this legwork in advance, weighing in especially harshly when he breaks with law and precedent, as he's apparently wont to do:

“What [Judge Alito] proposes to do in [his] holding is effectively have courts take a back seat to bureaucratic agencies in protecting constitutional liberties. This . . . is a radical and unwise redefinition of the relationship between federal courts and federal agencies . . . .” (Grant v. Shalala, 1993) (Judge Leon Higginbotham)

“I disagree with [Judge Alito’s] holding that a union has ‘actual authority’ to waive its members’ Fourth Amendment rights bound only by the fair representation doctrine. . . . This sweeping assertion divests all public sector employees of their Fourth Amendment rights and strains to make legitimate that which clearly is not.” (Bolden v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Authority, 1991) (Judge Richard Nygaard)

(Emphasis in all cases added.)

Doom Mice!

You know, between the howling mice, the hyper-muscular mice (Good news! The mutation's also appeared in humans!), the regenerative mice, and and the mice with giant human brains, I'm really starting to worry.

Also, I wonder what Fatmouse thinks of all this? Some mice get all the -good- mutations...

An update: fearless regenerative howling hyper-muscular mice with giant human brains! The world trembles..

Thursday, November 03, 2005

It's Okay, Trust Us

In the latest chapter in the ongoing contretemps between the administration and the CIA, the 'secret prisons' story has been injected into the mainstream media. While not exactly news, it's created the predictable bit of controversy, as Fox and CNN's viewership is reassured that - despite removing people from reality and locking them away with no accountability or oversight - nothing untoward is going on.
For democracy! And freedom!

Special bonus! The recently declassified 1963 CIA secret manual on coercive questioning.

Hayabusa's Scientific and Engineering Achievements

Japan develops an ion drive and sends a robot lander to an asteroid, in the first mission of its type.
Meanwhile we'll think about maybe getting around to another moon mission... in 15 years or so.
Damn, damn, damn and damn..

"I'm trapped now, please rescue me"

Useless scapegoat Mike Brown is in the news again, with the release of a selection from his email correspondence(.PDF) during the Katrina disaster. While we'd appreciate seeing his incompetence suitably rewarded, it'd be better to see everyone who shares in the blame for this debacle dragged out into the light.

A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Philosophical Terms

Philosophical vocabulary, demystified.

Utilitarian: one who believes that the morally right action is the one with the best consequences, so far as the distribution of happiness is concerned; a creature generally believed to be endowed with the propensity to ignore their own drowning children in order to push buttons which will cause mild sexual gratification in a warehouse full of rabbits

Benthamite: someone who really would ignore their own drowning child in order to push the rabbit-gratification button.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What the 'Shield' Covered Up

The Washington Post:

In his impressive presentation of the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby last week, Patrick Fitzgerald expressed the wish that witnesses had testified when subpoenas were issued in August 2004, and "we would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005."

Note the significance of the two dates: October 2004, before President Bush was reelected, and October 2005, after the president was reelected. Those dates make clear why Libby threw sand in the eyes of prosecutors, in the special counsel's apt metaphor, and helped drag out the investigation.

Think Progress : : Samuel Alito’s America

Well, at least he's experienced....Think Progress dissects some of the would-be Justice's positions:

ALITO WOULD OVERTURN ROE V. WADE: In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980’s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view, voting to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1991]

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

So with this guy, Scalia and Thomas forming a solid hard-right block, Roberts becomes our swing vote. He's our moderate.