Friday, June 30, 2006

Welcome to my blog: providing you with a kind of information radar to better understand the information battlespace

Cecilia Fire Thunder, the Sioux council president who offered to host an abortion clinic on her reservation in response to the SD abortion ban, has been impeached by the council for going beyond her authority.

The military tribunals at Guantanamo are supposed to contact witnesses who prisoners wish to call. They don’t. They make minimal or no effort to find them, and have never flown a witness in to testify. In one case, the Guardian found all 4 witnesses an Afghan prisoner wanted in 3 days (one was dead, one worked for Karzai, one is teaching in Washington DC). It’s called Google, baby.

Of course the Pentagon may be a little behind the curve on such things. It just launched a three-year, $450,000 study to figure out just what these “blog” things are, anyway. Says one guy associated with the project, “Our research goal is to provide the warfighter with a kind of information radar to better understand the information battlespace.” Hey, don’t laugh, he figured out how to make money off of blogs.

Russia is holding up the paper work of 40 foreign NGOs forced to “register” under new laws. Also, the Duma has passed (in its first reading) a bill banning “extremism,” which is defined as “interfering with the legal duties of organs of state authorities,” whatever that means (whatever Putin wants it to mean, of course), or “public slander directed toward figures fulfilling the state duties of the Russian Federation.” Journalists could be imprisoned for 3 years for that and their papers closed down. Political parties could be dissolved for it. Further along is a bill to scrap the “none of the above” option on Russian ballots that made them so much fun (candidates had to win 50% of the total vote).

A “Suskind offering”: Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine

I’ve finished Ron Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, and I’m not overwhelmed, more average-to-middling-whelmed (but if you still want to buy it after reading my review, do click here for my Powell’s link or here for my link. I get like 80¢ if you do. Or try your public library; I had this copy 3 days after I put a hold on it).

It’s a 350-page book that would have been better, if less lucrative, as a long New Yorker article. Like other books by reporters, it’s hard to judge how seriously to take its revelations without knowing who his sources are, and indeed who his sources aren’t – his insights into the thinking of Acting President Cheney may be the most important part of the book, but I’ll bet he wasn’t able to interview the man.

(I wrote that part last night. Today the Columbia Journalism Review website has an interview with him, and dear God what a self-important, pompous man he is. I couldn’t have brought myself to read the book if I’d read that interview first. He admits that the reader must take on faith that he has talked with enough of the right anonymous people and that he is able to take account of their biases and agendas and get the story right. But, dammit, people love and trust him, he says: “I think over time readers are saying, okay, this is a Suskind offering, this is what he does. It’s more vivid, it moves.” Now how you can trust that his quotes from Bush and Cheney are accurate when he thinks that that’s what his readers are saying? I don’t think he realizes that the trust he’s asking us to place in his judgment and his character exactly mirrors the trust Bush demands as his due.)

The book’s title refers to the belief among the Bushies that the stakes are so high in The War Against Terror (TWAT) that it is permissible to act to prevent events that there is very little proof will actually happen, such as Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan network passing nuclear technology to Al Qaida. Can’t have the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud, and all that. “Suspicion... became the threshold for action.” Suskind seems to have spoken mostly with CIA sources, who are interested in reasserting the importance of factual analysis and, let’s face it, in covering their asses.

By the way, the book’s famous Bush quote, after Tenet sent a briefer to Crawford in August 2001 to make sure Bush got the point that bin Laden was determined to attack inside the United States, “All right, you’ve covered your ass, now”: the real significance isn’t just that Bush dismissed it, but that for him, the point of intelligence briefings wasn’t to provide a basis for action; rather, that he considered them a form of bureaucratic ass-covering.

The most interesting thing about the book is the way in which 1) Cheney’s plans, dating back to the Ford administration, to strengthen the executive branch, 2) Bush’s intellectual laziness, and 3) the “new type of war” against shadowy terrorists, all came together to reinforce each other and create the new model of government we have today. Suskind writes,
The Cheney Doctrine released George W. Bush from his area of greatest weakness – the analytical abilities so prized in America’s professional class – and freed his decision-making to rely on impulse and improvisation to a degree that was without precedent for a modern president. Cheney essentially crafted a platform, an architecture, for Bush to be Bush, while still being President.
The Cheney Doctrine – “It’s not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It’s about our response.” (that’s another maybe-quote) – is a perfect fit with a president who’s all about response and not at all about analysis, but it was The War Against Terror (TWAT) that raised the stakes and the uncertainty and paranoia and fear so that that recklessness could seem like a reasonable response.

On the one hand, crucial facts were routinely, Suskind says, kept away from Bush by Cheney, so that Bush could stick to the agreed narrative in public with plausible deniability and without being confused by the facts. Suskind, in another significant-if-true revelation, says that when Bush met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in April 2002 to try to get Saudi Arabia to cooperate against Al Qaida, he hadn’t seen, and evidently didn’t know about the existence of, the prince’s set of demands, mostly relating to Israel, because Cheney had diverted them to his office. The prince went away rather confused.

There many interesting things in the book, and fragments of interesting things, including a discussion of how to get authoritarian rulers (like Gadhafi) to do what the US wants, when their power depends on not losing face. We have a terrorist policy, Suskind says, but not a dictator policy. And there are many of those significant-if-true quotes and facts which I simply don’t know how to use because I’m not inclined to put blind trust in Suskind. Like a George Bush speech, it’s likely to be believed by the sorts of people who are inclined to believe it, but not to convince anyone else.

Put a sock in it

“D’ya think Elvis had to stuff his costume with as many socks as I did?”

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It was not always a given that the United States and America would have a close relationship

Bush thinks there is peace in southern Sudan (not Darfur). Told by the BBC’s Sudan reporter that the 2005 peace accord was not being honored by the government, he said, “That is not the information I’m getting.” That’s because it wasn’t extensively covered by Teen People magazine.

Salon finds proof of what Jane Mayer wrote last year (which they mentioned but didn’t link – bad Salon!), that the Pentagon’s how-to-survive-torture class was also used to train Guantanamo interrogators.

Bush met with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi today. Bush told him “it was not always a given that the United States and America [sic] would have a close relationship.” Indeed, some would call the relationship between the United States and America an abusive relationship.

Here’s how Bush spun Japan’s decision to pull its troops out of Iraq: “And they’re able to leave because they did such a good job.”

He talked about how he’d met a Japanese woman whose daughter had been abducted by the North Koreans. “It also reminded me about the nature of the regime -- what kind of regime would kidnap people, just take them off offshore, you know”. Um, hello? Guantanamo?

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld: How will Bush save us from the jayhawkers now?

The Supreme Court rules (pdf) in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that “The Court’s conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a ‘blank check.’” Could have fooled me. Note that what made Bush’s military tribunals illegal under both US military law and the Geneva Conventions was that the defendant had no right to see the evidence against him.

There’s an interesting nugget in Thomas’s dissent: according to Bush, the current state of war began (and this matters legally because Hamdan is charged with acts occurring before 9/11) with a declaration of war by Al Qaida in August 1996.

Clarence Thomas, who used not to like high-tech lynchings, believes Hamdan can be tried by military tribunal because Al Qaida is analogous to “banditti, jayhawkers, guerillas, or any other unauthorized marauders.” It’s always nice to see the term jayhawker bandied about. Very Ken Burns-y. What it comes down to is Thomas’s belief that Hamdan can be tried by a military tribunal because he is presumed guilty of “conspiracy to massacre innocent civilians,” and we know this because the Bush administration has accused him of it. Quod erat demonstrandum. He adds that this decision will “sorely hamper the president’s ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy.” Jayhawkers.


An Israeli government spokesman says of those who killed an 18-year old settler, “Their days as free people are numbered.” Dude, they’re Palestinians. They’re not exactly free people now. Kind of the point.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We must stop the desecration of the white flag of surrender

In response to the UN conference on illegal arms sales, the US demands there be no restriction on the international sale of ammunition or a ban on selling weapons to rebels fighting governments we don’t like – says the US’s under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, Robert Joseph, “we recognize the rights of the oppressed to defend themselves against tyrannical and genocidal regimes.” I’d be interested in a list of governments the US believes it is okay to overthrow. Probably different from my list. Also, isn’t arming such groups illegal in the US? Neutrality Acts, that sort of thing?

So Israel bombed several bridges in Gaza, which sort of has an arguable operational purpose, preventing their captured soldier being moved, although bantustanization is so clearly part of the Israeli strategy for keeping the Palestinian state weak that one assumes it was something they always planned to do given an even slightly plausible excuse. But destroying water and power supplies for the entire Gaza Strip? Seizing the labor minister, deputy prime minister, etc? Buzzing the Syrian presidents’ palace (actually, causing sonic booms overhead)? And after all this time, do the Israelis really think that collective punishment, taking 1.3 million hostages to exchange for 1, will make the Palestinian people blame Hamas rather than Israel and turn against it?

And a word to Hamas, or whoever seized Corporal Shalit: release him, kill him, but do it quickly.

For the second time this month, Bush, who was supposed to restore civility to Washington, has accused “a group in the opposition party” of being “willing to wave the white flag of surrender.” (Politicians are really showing their flag fetishes this week.) Bush was at a “Talent for Senate” fundraising dinner. “Talent for Senate”... nope, can’t think of anything funny or ironic about that. Actually of course that’s Missouri’s Sen. Jim Talent, who looks exactly like the sort of person Bush and his frat buddies liked to beat up.

It occurred to me as I read his words “it’s essential we do not forget the lessons of September the 11th, 2001,” that for someone who invokes it so much, he rarely if ever uses the informal abbreviation 9/11. Maybe he’s waiting for a formal introduction.

You have (inaudible) the Afghan people

Condi Rice was in Afghanistan today. Sometimes a crappy transcript inadvertently contains more truth than a good one. Here she addressed Karzai during a photo op: “you have (inaudible) the Afghan people and indeed to the region and to the world.” She went on, “(Inaudible) reconstruction (inaudible) bring further security to the Afghan people”.

Karzai twice claimed to be able to travel freely in Afghanistan outside of the several square blocks of Kabul he more or less controls. Why he even went to Zabul a while back. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Condi says that “we made the mistake once before of leaving Afghanistan and of not sustaining our commitment to our relationship here.” In an interview, she adds that “America suffered on 9/11 because we had not stayed committed to Afghanistan”. When were we “in” Afghanistan and what was the nature of our “relationship”? She is referring of course to the CIA’s covert program in support of the Mujahadeen. So was the failure in the 1980s that we didn’t bolster religious zealots long enough, or that we didn’t fill the role of imperial overlord vacated by the Russians?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In other words

Bush made a speech today in favor of the latest (obviously unconstitutional) line-item veto proposal. I know he even talks to us like we’re the idiots, but still: “According to the Congressional Research Service, the number of earmarks has increased from about 3,000 to 13,000 over the last decade. In other words, this process is taking place more and more often.”

Then he went jogging with an Iraq War double amputee, Staff Sgt Christian Bagge, who backed Bush into promising to jog with him in January when Bush visited the amputee ward of an army hospital. You’ll remember he then said, “I can’t think of a better way to start 2006 then here at this fantastic hospital.” Bush said that, not Bagge.

If I declare this a caption contest, I’ll really regret it, won’t I? “Then Bush used him to open a giant bottle of Budweiser” – that sort of thing, right? You people disgust me.

Somehow unworthy of a civilized society

In Kansas v. Marsh, the Supreme Court decided that in a death-penalty case, when aggravating and mitigating factors are even, it’s okay to just go ahead and kill the guy. There were long dueling arguments in the opinions about something actually irrelevant to this case, the likelihood of innocent people being executed, which Fat Tony Scalia wrote (pdf, Scalia’s concurring opinion starts on p.22)
“has been reduced to an insignificant minimum” (insignificant!), although “it is easy as pie to identify plainly guilty murderers who have been set free.” For the hell of it, Fat Tony even refers to Sacco and Vanzetti as “supposed innocents.” Scalia also complained that the dissent would give aid and comfort to “sanctimonious criticism [by foreigners] of America’s death penalty, as somehow unworthy of a civilized society” and would be “trumpeted abroad as vindication of these criticisms.”

Speaking of civilized societies, Somalia’s new Islamic rulers have announced their first executions-by-stoning.

Monday, June 26, 2006


After a very important meeting with Gary Sinese (for whom it must have been very reminiscent of Forrest Gump),

a reporter asked Bush about the leak that Gen. Casey has been talking about a timetable to withdraw a few troops from Iraq. His answer suggests that when he turns 60 this week, his age and his IQ will be identical:
First of all, I did meet with General Casey, and I met with him because it’s very important for me, as well as Secretary Rumsfeld, to meet with our commander on the ground. I’ve told the American people our commanders will be making the decisions as to how to achieve victory, and General Casey, of course, is the lead person. So we had a good visit with him. ... And one of the things that General Casey assured me of is that, whatever recommendation he makes, it will be aimed toward achieving victory. And that’s what we want. ... And so I did visit with General Casey, and I came away once again with my trust in that man. I’ve told the people here around the table that the decisions that I will make will be based upon the recommendations of people like General George Casey.
And I actually edited some of the rambling out of that answer.

On the North Korean missile test: “we need to send a focused message to the North Koreans in that this launch is provocative.”

And he said the NYT’s story about the warrantless inspection of banking records was “disgraceful.” Isn’t it fun when Bush tries to scold and shame someone?

Woody Allen discovers Friedrich Nietzsche’s Diet Book. “As we know, for centuries Rome regarded the Open Hot Turkey Sandwich as the height of licentiousness; many sandwiches were forced to stay closed and only reopened after the Reformation.” “The great question of philosophy remains: If life is meaningless, what can be done about alphabet soup?” “‘Order like you are ordering for every human being on earth,’ Kant advises, but what if the man next to you doesn’t eat guacamole? In the end, of course, there are no moral foods—unless we count soft-boiled eggs.”

Sunday, June 25, 2006

OK, folks, every so often I just can’t think of a title

A few hours after the announcement of Maliki’s “reconciliation plan,” video of the murder of 4 abducted Russian embassy workers was posted on the internet. A simple “no” would have sufficed.

The London Times, which saw a draft of it last week, says it’s been vagued up, including the removal of a real timetable, details of un-de-Baathification, and “a call for the Government to recognise the difference between resistance and terrorist groups and a written invitation for resistance groups to join a national dialogue.”

The Chinese legislature decides not to criminalize sex-selection abortions. Which is one of those practices I find morally abhorrent and wouldn’t consider banning for a second. The sort of people whose values would lead them to that act should not be inflicted with a baby girl, or vice versa.

I’ll bet when Bush goes to church, the Secret Service doesn’t let anyone else have an umbrella.

24 points, and a thousand times no

Maliki issues his 24-point plan, marked down from 28. Hurrah! It calls for a timetable for American withdrawal, without actually suggesting one. An amnesty, except for people who committed “criminal and terrorist acts and war crimes.” But jay-walkers need no longer live in fear of a midnight knock on the door. For those others, “we present a fist with the power of law to protect our country and people”; “No and a thousand times no. There can be no deal with them until they have been justly punished.” My impression that Maliki is a bit of a blowhard is not diminishing over time. It’s unclear whether or not the amnesty applies to people who just killed Americans, since the “terrorist acts” thing might or might not include that (depending on whether you ask an American or an Iraqi, really). Also, he didn’t say how they’d determine who had committed those acts which are ineligible for the amnesty. In other words, on this key provision, as on the timetable, he decided to fudge. He says that foreign troops should respect human rights. Rummy says, “Yeah, we’ll get right on that.”

What else? Ensuring the army is run on “professional and patriotic lines,” presumably by professional patriots. Compensation, from who knows what source, for victims of terrorism, ethno-sectarian cleansing, de-Baathification and military operations. Adoption of a rational discourse. National dialogue. A united stand against terrorists. Pretending that Iraq’s elected bodies are solely responsible for decisions regarding Iraq’s sovereignty and the presence of foreign troops. Yet more national dialogue. And then, for dessert, some national dialogue.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Letter to the NYT, one of several deploring its publishing of the details of the warrantless surveillance of banking records: “Isn’t the point that the public’s right to know must be balanced against protecting the public at a time of war? I’d rather know that the bad guys were being caught than having my ‘interest’ in this story satisfied over this morning’s cup of coffee.”

And in North Korea, whose citizens haven’t been told of its threat to test a ballistic missile, a waitress tells the Sunday Telegraph: “Our Dear Leader knows what he does, and if it’s necessary to keep something secret, we will.”

Government at its best

Saddam Hussein, unclear on the concept of a hunger strike, skipped exactly one meal to protest the killing of another of his lawyers.

Treasury Sec John Snow says the program of spying on private banking records is “government at its best.” In your face, Social Security!

Incidentally, that program may have been conceived to fight terrorism, but like every other expansion of executive power was immediately put to other uses, against more mundane crimes like money laundering and drugs. Other than that, their examination of millions of money transfers ($6 trillion a day) seems to have netted them one terrorist. Presumably if they ever put anyone on trial with evidence derived from this program, if it were actually effective, it would have all come out anyway, so really everyone can lay off the New York Times (Cheney says the Times’s decision “offends me”).

Meanwhile (is it too suspicious of me to wonder if this was timed to coincide with the NYT story, which they knew about for at least a month?), the FBI arrests a group of Floridian would-be terrorists whose plans were “more aspirational than operational.” Isn’t that the Republican Party motto?

Finally, farewell Harriet, we hardly knew ye.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Man, a Plan, a Quagmire, Iraq

It’s been a little while since Bush gave one of those speeches that were supposed to rally the American people behind him, but in them he always assured us that he had a plan, indeed a “plan for victory” in Iraq. Actually, I’m not sure which is less reassuring to me, Bush without a plan or Bush with a plan. This week the D’s have been talking endlessly about the plan, suggesting darkly that it is a mythical beast, holding up blank placards which are said to show that plan – hilarious! side-splitting! don’t quit your day jobs! It’s a way for the D’s to criticize – mildly – the conduct of the war without having to come to a common position on the war itself. The “plan” they’re calling for is as nebulous as Bush’s. Do they want a “plan for victory” – the same war only, you know, “better” – or a plan for phased withdrawal? In short, they’re focusing on plans so they don’t have to talk about the actual war – what is it for, how do we know when we’ve won, is it worth it – you know, the little stuff.

“Say, who here wants to go the Sunni Triangle?” (And yes, that is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace)

David Corn points out an 11-day old story I missed: the Pentagon has stopped releasing the number of how many Iraqi units are capable of fighting on their own. The number of Iraqis standing up so that we may stand down is now “classified.”

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

Decent and restrained, and they’ll kill anyone who says otherwise

Eli points out in comments that the Olmert quote in my previous post has been slightly altered in the linked Ha’aretz article, softening it without changing the message that Israeli lives are more important than those of Palestinians. The quote is completely missing from reports of his meeting with Abbas in the WaPo, Guardian, and NYT, so you’d think his only remark was an apology for the various civilian deaths, plus a claim that the Israeli Army is “the most decent and restrained army in the world.” The Swedish Army was too decent and restrained to comment. Those articles also all omitted Olmert’s insistence that the assassinations would continue.

Gore Vidal: “He [Bush] says we are at war on terror, but that is a metaphor, though I doubt if he knows what that means. It’s like having a war on dandruff, it’s endless and pointless.”

Pluto’s newly discovered moons are named Hydra and Nix. Should have been Nyx, but the name was already taken. Still, pretty cool names.

Another excellent name from the military. Asked yesterday about post traumatic stress in returning troops, Rumsfeld referred the question to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More important

Israeli PM Olmert says he will continue the policy of assassinations, no matter how many civilian casualties there are (like the three children and the pregnant woman yesterday), because “the lives and the welfare of the residents of the Sderot are more important than those of the residents of Gaza.”

I don’t know why it’s so shocking to hear him say aloud what we knew he thought.

George in Hungaryland

Bush is in Hungary to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising, which George has always found deeply inspirational and moving since he first heard of it this morning after breakfast. He called it “the idea of a revolution that celebrated the notion that all men and women should be free.” Celebrated? He does know it was crushed, right? Of course Bush being Bush drew from the events of 1956 his usual conclusion about the universal desire to be free, without quite noticing that they were about the desire of a small nation to be free from the occupying army of a large imperial power attempting to impose its ideology on them. That might have been a less comfortable lesson, and Bush doesn’t like those.

Caption contest:

What is Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsany explaining to George?

Unfortunately for Ferenc, the last toast has put George in one of his “frisky” moods

I’d title this one “Bush’s brain just broke” except 1) You could use that caption for most pictures of Bush, 2) It assumes that his brain ever worked.

You don’t normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles

The WaPo has a new detail about the Afghan secret police’s helpful editorial suggestions to the press: the correct term is not “warlord” but “freedom fighter.”

8 Marines are charged with killing an Iraqi and planting a “throw-down” shovel and an AK-47 on his body to make him look like he was planting an IED (how that works without also planting an IED on him, I don’t know). That Iraqi’s name? “Awad the Lame.”

But remember, 99.9% of American troops are killing people only in approved ways, so why focus on 0.1%? Unless it’s the richest 0.1% of Americans. Those people need a tax cut.

(Update: more details this morning. The Marines, after a fruitless night staking out some holes, waiting for someone to put an IED in them, went looking for someone named Gowad, but figured Awad [the Lame] was close enough. Hat tip to Zeynap, who hasn’t been posting enough lately.)

For 9 months, the Pentagon kept from the families of two dead soldiers that they had been killed, deliberately, by Iraqi soldiers. As they stand up, we stand down, or at least duck.

After threatening to shoot down North Korea’s missile if it is tested and then realizing, Oh yeah, we can’t actually do that, the US is refusing NK’s offer to forego the test if direct talks resume. The US rejects that because it’s just not polite. Sez John Bolton, the poster boy for polite, “You don’t normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.” No, you “refuse to rule out any of our options” – isn’t that what we always say about Iran?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

George in Europeland

Reuters: Thousands of people have been flocking to worship a man in West Bengal who can climb trees in seconds, gobbles up bananas and has a “tail”. They believe that Chandre Oraon, 27, is an incarnation of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god.

Speaking of monkey gods, George Bush is visiting Austria for the very first time. He keeps looking for kangaroos. He had a press conference with his good friend, Austrian Chancellor Schüssel (“I call him Wolfgang, he calls me George W.”). Near as I can figure it, Bush was in Europe to send messages to non-Europeans. He told Iran, which says it will respond to the nuclear proposal by August 22: “It seems like an awful long time for a reasonable answer -- for a reasonable proposal, a long time for an answer.” Yeah, George, like you’re such a fast reader. He told North Korea it should “not fire whatever it is on their missile.” Kimchee? Bush was shocked and offended to hear that Europeans consider the US the biggest threat to global stability. “Absurd” he called it, chuckling. “It’s a -- we’re a transparent democracy. People know exactly what’s on our mind.” And you don’t see any correlation between people knowing what’s on your mind and them considering you a threat to global stability, George? He added, “For Europe, September the 11th was a moment; for us, it was a change of thinking.” And, let’s face it, a change of underwear.

Then there was a round-table thing with students. One of whom was from Kosovo, the daughter of a murdered professor, who asked George about whether a politically independent Kosovo could achieve financial independence through foreign investment... and asked Laura to describe a family day in the White House. George said you need “good law, good practice, and anti-corruption.” Oddly enough, Laura gave the same answer.

Some pictures. I like this one of Wolfgang and George W. because of the chairs.

Wolfgang brought along his giantess of a foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik. Is it wrong of me that my first thought was that she could take Condi in a fight?

That’s George and Laura at the far end, out of focus. Reuters photographer Larry Downing seems to have been distracted by something.

Sorry, I don’t know if that’s the Kosovar student. Nor do I have her number.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All right, you’ve covered your ass

The Department of Homeland Security
put the secret hotline numbers it uses to communicate with state governors on the Do Not Call Registry.

China, switching its form of executions from firing squads to lethal injection, is buying death vans from a private company which someone tricked into thinking that a really good name for the website for its English-speaking customers would be (couldn’t find the van listed on the site).

Bush said last night that “right now we’re doing hard work in Iraq.” Which is funny because he wasn’t actually in Iraq but in Washington DC at something called the President’s Dinner Gala (Gala >noun. A festive entertainment or performance. From the Old French galer ‘to make merry’.) I guess there’s hard work and then there’s hard work.

Speaking of hard work in Iraq, I’m so looking forward to hearing exactly how those two soldiers – no, let’s give them their names, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker – were tortured and killed. I’m sure this won’t make American soldiers even more trigger-happy.

Anyway, Bush’s Gala was to raise money for Republican candidates, because “It is important to have members of the United States Congress who will not wave the white flag of surrender in this war on terror.” He continued:
There is a debate here in Washington, and there should be. And I welcome the debate, and we should welcome the debate. But I want to remind you of the consequences if those who want to withdraw from Iraq happen to prevail in the debate. An early withdrawal would be a defeat for the United States of America. An early withdrawal would embolden the terrorists. ... An early withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda and bin Laden.
I guess there’s welcome, and then there’s welcome.

He said, twice, how important it is to keep Hastert and Frist in their positions. Other bloggers have pointed out that Kitty Killer is retiring.

Ron Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11
(reviews in NYT & WaPo today; I’ll probably wait for my library to get it) (Update: my review here), has one especially good interesting-if-true anecdote: that a CIA guy flew out to Crawford in the summer of 2001 because they were afraid “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States” was too subtle a title to strike Bush’s interest. Bush heard him out and said, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.”

I guess there’s a covered ass, and then there’s George W. Bush.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Freedom, Ain’t It Grand: the Afghan secret police have issued an order that journalists may not criticize American and other foreign troops, may not portray the Afghan military as weak, may not interview or film insurgent leaders, may not make militant activities their lead story. Journalists were called to a meeting and issued their new marching orders.

Speaking of dark, secretive thugs meeting journalists, Dick Cheney went to the National Press Club today, and defended his “last throes” remark (Think Progress has the video). Evidently when we look back on it in ten years we’ll realize that he was right. Something to look forward to.

He did admit not having anticipated that the invasion of Iraq might result in, you know, violence, nor did they anticipate “the devastation that 30 years of Saddam’s rule had wrought, if you will, on the psychology of the Iraqi people. Very, very hard to go from the way they were forced to live for a long period of time to a situation in which they have the opportunity for self-government, for setting up and operating their own free and democratically-elected society.” Given the format of the event, there was no follow-up, so it was unclear what events, specifically, he was blaming on the devastated psychology of the Iraqi people or what the nature of that devastation is. Remember when Bush kept saying that Some People were saying that maybe certain peoples weren’t prepared for democracy and I asked who, in the real world, was actually saying that? Turns out it was Dick Cheney.

There’s never a duffel bag around when you need one

Headline from the Pentagon’s website: “Mountain Thrust Continues in Afghanistan.”

Bush went to the United States Merchant Marine Academy to give the commencement address. He informed the midshippersons that when Andy Card went there, he’d been stuffed in a duffel bag and run up the flagpole. Other than that not much decent blog-fodder in the speech. He did have a message for the Iranian people (although I’m assuming relatively few Iranian citizens were in the graduating class of the United States Merchant Marine Academy): evidently the US respects Iranians, and especially Cyrus the Great, who Bush has admired since he first heard about him, from his own mouth as he read the name off the teleprompter.

And then... ah screw it: let’s just show the pictures.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


I haven’t seen the “Formica report” (or as much of it as wasn’t censored) yet (why isn’t it on the ACLU website?), but on Saturday there was a story about it on the Pentagon website, which quoted various military officials praising the secret report as showing “that [DoD] is committed to transparency.” Those officials were speaking anonymously. One said that the report “is not new news.” You don’t really get to say that after keeping it secret a year and a half. Saying that its recommendations had all been implemented, he/she said, “This is an excellent example of the [Defense Department] doing the right thing; an excellent example of the department implementing the recommendations. You can’t ask for more from your government.” Except maybe not torturing & abusing prisoners in the first place. But then in all this talk, if the DOD is “transparent,” the prisoners are actually invisible. Gen. Formica himself seems to have interviewed only “soldiers, commanders and medical personnel.” Iraqis are evidently only worth listening to when they’re speaking between screams of pain.

Formica’s approach to various forms of abuse is time-dependent. He says that keeping prisoners in cells too small (4 X 4") to stand up or lie down in is okay for two days, but not for seven. Good to know. He says that keeping a prisoner on bread & water for 17 days is too long, but not so long as to create major medical problems. Incidentally, I was wondering about those “cells,” specifically whether US forces had actually built them for this purpose, but it seems that they were actually crates of some kind.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Raindrops keep falling on his chimp-like head

The absence of posting, if anyone was wondering, was due to a quaint annual tradition here at Casa del WIIIAI, the Running of the Blogger to The Computer Repair Store. My hard drive was corrupted. But you probably suspected that already.

Speaking of corrupt, Genentech is trying to prevent a colon cancer drug, Avastin, being used to prevent blindness because such tiny amounts of the drug do the trick that it’s just not very profitable. So it won’t test the drug or apply for licenses for it to be used for that purpose. What it will do is sell the drug to people with wet macular degeneration under a different name at, say, one hundred times the price. (There was an even better story a few years ago: a drug that cures sleeping sickness was taken off the market because Africans couldn’t pay enough to make it profitable, but production was later resumed when it was discovered that it also eliminated unwanted facial hair in rich white women.)

Israel’s claim that the shell that blew up all those people at the beach wasn’t its shell is based on 1) conveniently having failed to mention many of the shells it launched at Gaza that day, 2) lying about the timing of the blast.

Compare and contrast that with the Pentagon’s attempt to exonerate some Special Ops guys, who they say tortured prisoners only because they were given the old manual, which said they could.

Hell we all know what that’s like, just blindly following IKEA directions that seem to have been translated from Swedish into Korean and then into one of those African clicking languages and then into English, and you’re wondering why you’re attaching electrodes (a) to genitals (b) with Allen wrench (c) when you’re supposed to be building a media center, but that’s what it says in the instructions, so you just do it.

And then the military covered up the report – the “Formica report”! – for more than a year and a half. Now that it’s been released (heavily censored, natch) due to the FOIA and the ACLU, they say we should view it as a “historical document” from the old-timey days of 2004, a nostalgic look back on a free-wheeling time, like “Deadwood,” but with fewer mustaches.

“Too stupid to come in out of the what now?”

Friday, June 16, 2006

But before “it” became a number, “it” was a living, breathing human being

Tony Insert-Snow-Related-Pun-Here, asked if Bush had a reaction to the 2,500th dead service member military personnel in Iraq, replied: “It’s a number”. And Bush doesn’t do fuzzy math, much less bloody math.

The Supreme Court rules that the fruits of a poisonous tree are in fact delicious, refusing to use the exclusionary rule to enforce its own ruling against no-knock warrants. Scalia writes that the “social cost” of enforcing the Fourth Amendment is too high if it means guilty people might not be convicted because the evidence against them was illegally obtained. Why is the exclusionary rule no longer necessary? Scalia says that the police now “take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously.” In other words, in 1961 this remedy was required because the cops didn’t care about civil rights, but they are now so sensitive to them that all that is required is a stern talking-to, whereupon they invariably burst into tears and promise to do better.

This is how the Constitution dies a quick death: the Roberts Court doesn’t have to laboriously overturn rights one at a time if it eliminates at a stroke penalties for violating those rights.

An anonymous Republican strategist explains the thinking behind the Iraq resolution: “It is better when we debate other people instead of debating events.”

Dennis Hastert in that debate: “When our freedom is challenged, Americans do not run.” Let’s all pause to picture Hastert running. “We in this Congress must show the same steely resolve as those men and women on United Flight 93; the same sense of duty as the first responders who headed up the stairs of the Twin Towers.” Let’s all pause to picture Hastert heading up a flight of stairs.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

If Iraq is free, why do I feel like I’ve been overcharged?

That Pentagon briefing book is available here with the format and pretty pictures in WordPad or here in html without. Thanks to alert readers KEn and Bodo. Nothing hugely interesting beyond the fact that it was issued, as I said 3 posts ago, by the Pentagon. Just the usual talking points: we were right to go to war, we’re winning the war, really we are, stay the course, Saddam bad, 9/11, etc. There’s less of the usual spreading-freedom happy talk, although what there is of it is especially vainglorious: “A free Iraq will change the world.”

It indeed crosses the line into the political, using pre-war quotes from Kerry, Gore, Hillary Clinton, Carl Levin etc. and says “The Terrorists Draw Hope from American Defeatism.”

Things misspelled by the experts at the Pentagon: Osama bin Landen, Talban...

Oh no she dinnt!

The Queen. Of England. Quoted Groucho Marx today. The Queen did. Thusly: “As Groucho Marx once said ‘Anyone can get old - all you have to do is to live long enough.’”

Oh, it’s on.

It’s all about the hats.


Speaking of election-year pandering, they just had a little ceremony to sign the bill allowing the FCC to impose, ahem, stiffer fines on broadcasters for what Bush called “obscene, profane and indecent material.” He praised the Congressmen (I use the term advisedly: there were ten men and no women present. I noticed that too in a picture a week or two ago of sponsors of the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment) three times for “working hard” on the bill. Although these days Ted Stevens (seen here wearing a white suit to represent his purity) has to take a little blue pill to work hard.

That’s Rep. Joe Barton of Texas sucking his thumb, or whatever the hell he’s doing.

Nobly struggling

On this day when American deaths in Iraq have hit 2,500, the House of Representatives is debating, if that’s the word for this empty-headed grandstanding, a resolution against setting a deadline to remove troops from Iraq and which “declares that the United States will prevail in the Global War on Terror, the noble struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary.” (Purple emphasis added) I may or may not have more to say about this tripe-fest later, but it seems the Pentagon put together a 74-page debate prep book which attacks the notion of a deadline as “cut and run” and warns of the dire consequences of leaving “before the job is done.” This is a gross breach of the rules of democracy: the military does not get to dictate to the elected representatives of this nation what its job is or when that job is done.

Naturally, I want to read this thing, which the AP seems to be keeping to itself. If anyone sees it online, please share with the rest of the class in comments or by email.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bush press conference: I sense something different happening in Iraq


Number 869 on the list of phrases that Bush uses over and over that grate on my nerves until I snap: “killing innocent lives.” It’s either 1) killing innocent people, or 2) taking innocent lives. FUCKING CHOOSE ONE AND STOP KILLING THE INNOCENT ENGLISH LANGUAGE!

Sorry. All better now.

Darn dangerous: “I’d like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognize that we’re holding some people that are darn dangerous”. And we have to recognize the real victim here: him. “Sometimes we get criticized for sending some people out of Guantanamo back to their home country because of the nature of the home country. It’s a little bit of a Catch-22.” Yup, damned if you torture them yourself, damned if you give them to someone else to be tortured. And Gitmo “provides an excuse, for example, to say the United States is not upholding the values that they’re trying to encourage other countries to adhere to.” Note how he tries to delegitimize criticism with that word “excuse.”

There’s something happening here / What it is ain’t exactly clear: “I sense something different happening in Iraq.”

You gotta want it: “I appreciated very much the agenda [Maliki]’s laid out. In other words, he’s got a plan to succeed. And I appreciated their determination -- it’s not just his determination, but their cabinet’s determination to succeed. In other words, part of the success in Iraq depends upon the Iraqis and their will and their desire.” And later: “one of the reasons I went to Iraq was to be able to sit down with an Iraqi government to determine whether or not they have the will to succeed... [to] expel any doubt in my mind as to whether or not we have a partner that is going to do the hard work.” That’s why he brought his trusty will-o-meter. To misspell expel any doubt in his mind.

I like these kids; they got moxie: And rappel repel expel them he did: “And so doubts about whether or not this government can -- has got the will to go forward was expelled. That’s why I went. In other words, sitting here in America, wondering whether or not these people have got what it takes can create uncertainty. I’ve eliminated that uncertainty.”

Condescend much?: “I made it clear to the government there that it’s up to them to succeed.”

But it’s not all will and desire. Another part of success, at least for Bush, is defining success downwards. He said there won’t be “zero violence” in Iraq. Indeed, if you use violence to measure whether this is “a successful experience” (!), “then it’s not going to happen. All that does is give the power of -- a handful of murderers to determine success.” Don’t get him wrong, though: “Obviously, we’d like violence to go down” (phew), but “the reason why I said that we shouldn’t use the level of -- have a zero-violence expectation is because there are other measures to determine success, starting with political measures.” Also, cheese production.

Asked how much less violence he wanted, in, like, round numbers: “Enough for the government to succeed. In other words, the Iraqi people have got to have confidence in this unity government, and reduction in violence will enable the people to have confidence.”

Al Qaeda philosophy watch: “But al Qaeda is real; their philosophy is a real philosophy; they have ambitions.” You’ll remember that on Monday they didn’t have a philosophy.

On addressing the troops: “You know, when you’re in a theater like that, it’s important to hear words of congratulations sometimes, to hear that their efforts are appreciated and doing hard work. And I got to do that.” The congratulating part, he means, he got to do that, not the hard work part.

I have come today to personally show our nation’s commitment, and say is that the time?

Maliki is implementing security measures, a crackdown, martial law, call it what you will, in Baghdad. They’re calling it “Advancing Forward Together,” unless of you course you want to advance forward in a car on a Friday, or after 8:30 at night. Oh, and advance forward slowly and carefully when approaching the numerous checkpoints now being established. Freedom, ain’t it grand. Baghdad residents will have noted that George Bush can still just swan in whenever he feels like.

They will also have noticed that when he said “I have come today to personally show our nation’s commitment to a free Iraq,” he was on a five-hour visit.

Just saw the video of Bush in Baghdad, and there’s a priceless visual you can’t get from a mere transcript: when he talked about looking Maliki in the eyes, he literally turned to look him in the eyes, and this meant that Maliki, who was seated next to him, had to turn his head towards Bush. (The moment is 80 seconds into this Fox video clip, after a [sigh] 15-second commercial.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bush goes to Baghdad: And all of it makes sense to me

In retrospect, the ruse seems painfully transparent: Bush was going to spend two days discussing Iraq policy. Two days! Policy!

No, the only thing these clowns plan in that sort of detail is a photo op. We’re informed this one took a month of planning. And what a plan it was! Wheels within wheels: oh sure, when Bush started fake yawning at 7:45 and saying he was going to turn in and read. Of course no one was fooled – read! what a kidder! – but they just figured that any second Condi was going to make some similarly lame excuse to absent herself – have to brush my teeth, takes a really long time with the gap, you know! – and then the boys could get on with the traditional game of “Deliverance,” in which Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who’d been wondering why he’d been invited, is jumped, stripped naked, told he has a purdy mouth, and given a two-minute head start.

So it’s off to the Green Zone for George Bush! In a fleet of helicopters and, despite what CNN may have told you, Bush wore the same flak jacket as these guys, though perhaps without the pee smell Tony Snow detects arising from Dan Barlett’s.

I said perhaps. Funnily enough, there seem to be no pictures of Bush in that get-up.

It was Bush’s first meeting with Nouri Maliki, seen here having an attack of the vapors.

Who, by the way, was the genius who positioned Maliki in front of an American flag?

(Update: Bob of Bob
’s Links and Rants has an uncropped version of the picture above this one, which shows that he’s standing in front of an even bigger American flag. Maybe he just likes standing in front of American flags. Maybe he thinks they’re pretty or something.)

It was all going swimmingly, until Bush started speaking. “I appreciate you recognizing the fact that the future of this country is in your hands.” “We discussed the security strategy. We discussed an economic strategy, a reconstruction strategy. And all of it makes sense to me.” “[I]f given the right help, I’m convinced you will succeed, and so will the world.” The world will succeed if given the right help? From where, Rigel 7?

Hey sparky, no one walks in front of the king.

Then he went to speak to the troops. He told them, “I thank you for your sacrifice... Your sacrifice is noble and your sacrifice is important.” How reassuring. Still, being ordered to sit through a pep talk by George Bush is quite a sacrifice.

He told them that he’d given Maliki his patented ophthalmological test: “Today, I have come to not only thank you, but to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes -- to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are, and I believe he is.” Yay, he passed the eye test! Just like Putin!

“We don’t expect the Iraqi government to look like the American government.” Except for that one squat, squinty guy. Oh, and their agriculture minister has a purdy mouth, just like Mike Johanns. “We expect an Iraqi government to honor its traditions and its histories and its religious faiths. But we do expect the Iraqi government to honor the right of every man, woman and child to live in a free society.” Dude, it’s one or the other.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Treated better in death

Gen. William Caldwell, waving the military’s autopsy of Zarqawi, says, “The Iraqi people deserve the facts, to know that the personal threat of Zarqawi was eliminated and the fact that he was treated better in death than he treated others in life.” I’m not sure what, if anything, that actually means, although I know I’d feel better-treated if I were only autopsied when I was actually dead.

Another in our ongoing series, “Real News or The Onion?”: The United States Marines and the Iraqi Army are going around to mosques delivering air conditioners and prayer rugs, in what is called Operation Cool Carpet.

Bush dragged various generals and members of the Cabinet out to Camp David to strategerize about Iraq. Including, for some mysterious reason, the secretary of agriculture. Chimpy eloquently summed it all up for the press: “We all agree that we have got to continue to help this new government move forward.” Do you suppose there was a lot of discussion about that? Or about this: “The message to the Iraqi government is, is that we stand with you, that what you’re doing is important”.

What else did they talk about? I know this will surprise all of you: “We spent a lot of time in talking about energy and oil.” And what about oil? “My own view is, is that the government ought to use the oil as a way to unite the country”. Sounds sticky. Now I’ve often pointed out that Bush knows only one adjective. But when he’s talking about his favorite subject, oil, that adjective has a friend: “There’s some unbelievably interesting exploration opportunities.”

Let’s talk philosophy for a minute. Bush, today: “But the enemy doesn’t stand for anything. ... They have no positive philosophy.” And in an interview with Al Arabiya last October: “They don’t have a philosophy.” But 11 days before that: “And we’re facing an enemy that is ruthless and cold-blooded, an enemy that actually has a philosophy, and the philosophy is so opposite of ours, it is the exact opposite of what America stands for.” And in February: “Ours is an enemy that has no conscience, but they do have a philosophy.” And in March: “I see them bound by a philosophy with plans and tactics to impose their will on other countries.” And 18 days ago: “They have a point of view, they have a philosophy”. So, George, philosophy or no philosophy?

In all these pictures, it looks like Condi was really excited to be invited out to Camp David, only to find when she got there that other members of the cabinet were there too.