Thursday, May 31, 2007

We might as well forget Godwin's law. The Republicans are adopting Gestapo techinques and using the same euphamisms.

It seems that the term "Enhanced Interrogation" as used by the Bush White House is exactly the same as the term the Gestapo used for their torture techniques. Here is from Andrew Sullivan.:
The phrase "Verschärfte Vernehmung" is German for "enhanced interrogation". Other translations include "intensified interrogation" or "sharpened interrogation". It's a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their "enhanced interrogation techniques" would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. 'Waterboarding" was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The "cold bath" technique - the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo - was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College,

pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.
There is an excellent history book called A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954 - 1962 by Alistair Horne which presents the history of the war of national liberation by the Algerian FLN to defeat the French Imperial occupiers. He has several Prefaces, each written for a later edition as he got further information about the the Algerian war of national liberation. Just reading them is a real education.

The FLN learned a lot from Ho Chi Minh in Viet Nam, and applied it to their war against the French, since both nations had the same intent - remove the Imperialist occupier. The French kept fighting and kept wondering why the Algerians were fighting them because the French were just there to bring democracy and improve the education and economy of Algeria. The FLN realized early on that they could not defeat the French in a head-to-head battle, so they developed terrorist techniques and went after the Algerian police who were attempting to stabilize Algeria.

The French recognized that they were fighting a war that required effective Intelligence to win, so they made special efforts to gather that Intelligence, using some of the nastiest torture techniques that they had developed. The Algerians responded by increased terrorism that went after civilians, men women and children with no regard for humanity.

Any of this sound familiar? Because after the French left Algeria the Palestinians used techniques developed by the Algerians to go after the Israeli occupiers during the Intifada, and the Israelis used increasingly tough interrogation techniques on the Palestinians to get effective Intelligence in a timely manner. All of this has blended into the current war in Iraq, with the two sides, American and insurgent, each patterning on the appropriate techniques developed first in Algeria.

Horne presents the evidence that shows there is no difference between the rationale and rhetoric of the earlier Imperialist occupiers and the Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza as well as the U.S. in Iraq. The reason our military is fighting terrorists in Iraq is exactly that same as why the French were fighting the Viet Cong in Viet Name and then following that were fighting the terrorists in Algeria. The French were occupiers who did not want ot leave and the Occupied wanted them out at any cost. That is what Bush's recent statement about there being an American presence in Iraq for the next half century, on a time scale similar to that of our troops in South Korea. That will not happen. We will leave Iraq relatively soon. The cost of staying is way too high.

America is an unwanted occupier in Iraq, and now we even have polls showing that the majority of Iraqis want us out of there immediately if not sooner.

But there is one more really significant similarity. Torture. The U.S. under George W. Bush demands good and timely Intelligence, and they will go to whatever extremes they need to to get it. That is the reason for the similarities in the language describing Intelligence gathering techniques that this article started with. But here is Alastair Horne's warning on the use of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques:"
[ from page 18.] The vile hand of torture; of abuse, and counter-abuse. In the Algerian War what led -- probably more than any other single factor -- to the ultimate defeat of France was the realisation, in France and the world at large, that methods of interrogation sere being used that had been condemned under the Nazi Occupation. At the dawn of the new century, the ugly ghosts of torture returned to plague France. In 2001, and eighty-three-year-old former general, Paul Aussaresses, published a book in which he unashamedly, indeed proudly, admitted to having tortured -- in a good cause, he claimed. After a trial which gripped France, the aging G=general got away with a find of one hundred thousand franc, on a uniquely worded charge "in the name of respect for the victims."

Because of the slowness of communications in the 1950's and 1960's it took a year or more for the message of abuses perpetuated in Algeria to sink in. Now, with the Internet and al-Jazeera, one set of photos from Abu Ghraib is enough to inflame hatred across the Islamic world against the West, providing an excuse for all the beheadings and atrocities carried out by al-Qaeda. From the Inquisition to the Gestapo and the "Battle of Agiers," history teaches us that, in the production of reliable intelligence, regardless of the moral issue, torture is counter-productive. As a further footnote to my tenet, learned in Algeria, ... torture should never, never, never be resorted to by any Western society.

The testimony of Prefect Tietgen of Algiers - Tietgen had been informed by the Algiers police that they had intelligence of a bomb which could have caused appalling casualties. Could they put a suspect to "the question"? Himself a deportee in World War II, Teitgen ... refused.
"...I trembled the whole afternoon. Finally the bomb did not go off. Thank God I was right. Because once you get into the torture business, your lost.... All our so-called civilization is covered with varnish. Scratch it, and underneath you find fear....When you wee the throats of your coplains slit, the the varnish disappears."
In America under the heel of Bush, Cheney and the Republicans, the varnish is nearly gone.

Bush, Cheney and the Republicans need to be removed from American public life - forever. Only then will we begin to be able to replace the varnish of civilization which they have so casually discarded.

Note to Justin

You asked if I would publish freelance articles here. The answer is yes, probably, but we need to discuss it. I have tried to email you, but your email service rejects my emails.

Email me through the email block in the upper right corner under "About Me" and allow my emails to get through your email service spam blocker.

Key point, though. I don't pay. Google doesn't pay me and so far no one has bought a book through Amazon from my site, so I can't afford to pay anyone else. (In fact, I still use Barnes & Noble for myself. They pay postage on new books if I buy over $25 worth so it is cheaper than Amazon - and B&N is a Blue vendor. Amazon is not.) But who knows? Maybe Bill Gates will decided to subsidize my activities, and then I can share.

I wonder if I will ever learn to write short posts.

Nah. No fun in that.

More evidence that the Republican Party is a criminal organization

What is a criminal organization?

A criminal organization has important members who commit criminal actions to forward the goals of the organization. Then, if those people committing criminal actions are threatened with being caught and punished, the criminal organization has large numbers of other people (who appear honest and non-criminal) whose job is to protect the core criminals.

What makes the current Republican Party a criminal organization?

Attacking Iraq

George Bush, Dick Cheney, and a host of high-ranking other Republicans wanted to invade Iraq. Unfortunately, Bush 41 did a pretty good job of defanging Saddam and Iraq, and Bill Clinton kept the sanctions effectively in place while he was in office. So when Bush 43 and Dick Cheney took office, there was no justification for invading Iraq. But as is now well known, they really, really wanted to.


Fortunately for George W. Bush his old friend [*], Osama bin Laden, was out there to help. Taking advantage of the confusion of changing administrations and the general incompetence at running the federal government that the Bush administration has so frequently displayed, bin Laden was able to organize and carry out the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Upon entering office, Bush made the 9/11 attack a lot easier for al Qaeda by downgrading the counter-terrorism efforts and ignoring the many warnings they received from Clinton and members of his administration. (See Against All Enemies for details.) [**]

Using fear of terrorism to increase public fear

The 9/11 attack permitted the Bush administration to conduct a public relations campaign raising fear against Iraq so that Congress would pass legislation that allowed Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to conduct the attack. The nearest thing to a rational reason for the invasion of Iraq was the NeoCon document Rebuilding America's Defenses from the Project for a New American Century. In it the NeoCons urged that America, as the sole remaining Superpower after the dissolution of the USSR, should focus on establishing its worldwide Empire. But logic didn’t result in the invasion of Iraq. The real reason for the invasion has been the concerted Republican campaign to frighten the American people and thus stampede the Congress into approving and supporting the war. [***] This has been a criminal conspiracy of the highest order.

The difficulties Republicans had in justifying the invasion of Iraq

The problem the Bush people and the NeoCons had was that Iraq was not really very threatening to America. Contrary to the PNAC fantasies, the Iraqi conventional military after the Persian Gulf War was just enough to maintain control of the many internal threats Saddam faced. There really was nothing left over to attack America. And Saddam was not significantly involved in terrorism.

Saddam's major connection to terrorism was to encourage Palestinian terrorists to attack Israel by offering $25,000 to the families of each dead Palestinian terrorist. That's PR, not real support like guns and training grounds. Saddam wouldn't provide either of those because the armed, trained terrorists who would result would be more likely to attack him than the Israelis. So how could the Bush administration make Saddam appear more threatening to Americans?

The only possibile way for the Republicans in the White House to get majority support to invade Iraq was to make it appear that Saddam had some really, really threatening super weapons or was trying to get them. Even chemical weapons or biological weapons were not really massively threatening. It takes large quantities of poisons to begin to create a credible threat against relatively small and local targets. Saddam didn't have those chemicals after the Persian Gulf War, and did not have the capability to make them. Nasty as chemical weapons are, they were not a major threat to the America.

Biological weapons have never been effective weapons of war. So the only possible weapon for teh White House to use to scare the American public was nuclear weapons, and the UN was carefully (and we now know, successfully) monitoring any attempt to develop nuclear weapons in Iraq. Beyond that, even if Saddam did get a nuke or two, he had no real way to deliver it to the U.S., nor was there a reasonable way to use it that gave Iraq a winning edge. One use of an Iraqi nuke on America and Iraq would have been converted into a radioactive smoking wasteland that no one could enter for a thousand or more years. The Bush administration ignored these realities because they did not suit their need to scare the American public into starting a preemptive war.

If the White House was to scare the American public into starting a purposeless war, they had to lie to the public in a great but baseless public relations game. They started by making sure that everyone knew that Saddam was a really nasty person, then they had to give the appearance that this nasty person, Saddam, was trying to get the only truly frightening weapon, nukes.

They started by carefully crafting their message around the imprecise term "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD). Using the initials, WMD, gives the sense that it is a precise techinical term, which it is not. WMD range from the relatively easy to acquire but not especially effective chemical weapons up to the almost impossible to acquire nuclear weapons. This use of faux precise terminology allowed them to stoke the public fear of nuclear destruction by simply discussing the relatively easy acquisition of chemical weapons. Both are the same since they are both discussed using the same term.

The forged documents claiming an Iraqi purchase of yellow cake from Niger

Next they got help from the Italians. The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconni, was an extremely close ally to George Bush. According to the new book “The Italian Letter”, the Italian Military Intelligence Service (SISMI) forged or acquired a set of fake documents which purported to prove that Iraq was attempting to purchase 500 metric tons of "Yellowcake", a form of Uranium ore.

The authors of "The Italian Letter" suggest that the forgers were probably senior executives in SISMI, and they point out that the NeoCon Michael Ledeen has close ties to both Italian Intelligence personnel and to Vice President Dick Cheney. A direct connection between Dick Cheney and the forged of the Niger documents cannot as yet be established, but the opportunity and motivation are both there. (See my earlier article Proof that lies led to our invasion of Iraq for more details.)

The use of doctored and otherwise bad Intelligence to make the case

The forged Niger documents were rejected as unreliable and unrealistic by the Italian reporter they were first given to (based in part on her visit to Niger to investigate), and also by the CIA station chief in Rome. When later the British Intelligence included them in Intelligence reports, the American CIA advised the British Intelligence not to use them. Both the CIA and the State Department's (DoS) Office of Intelligence and Research (INR) investigated the Niger documents. The INR had the U.S. Ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick, investigate the assertions in the Niger documents while the CIA sent Valerie Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, to contact both French and Nigerien officials he had known when he had previously been stationed in Niger.

The result of both American investigations (separately) and that of the Milan reporter Elisabetta Burba was to conclude that Niger could not have diverted 500 metric tons of of yellow cake from the French owners of the existing mines, could not have expanded production, and did not have adequate infrastructure to ship that quantity if the first two problems could have been solved. In addition, the DoS was aware that Iraq still had over 500 metric tons of yellow cake in Iraq, but that it was under UN seal and had been constantly watched. Iraq didn't need the Uranium. All they had to do was break the UN seals and use it.

But when the forged documents got to Douglass Feith's Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon, they were uncritically stove-piped directly to Dick Cheney's office. They were the basis of the public relations blitz that had a number of top White House officials saying in unison "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." That PR blitz was coordinated by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) established by the President's Chief of Staff Andrew Card, under the guidance of Karl Rove, and including "Scooter" Libby, then Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney (See WHIG Personnel.) WHIG had been created to intensify the selling of the Iraq war in the wake of the release of the Downing Street Memo out of Great Britian. The Downing Street Memo had to be submerged, since it clearly stated that the Bush administration had planned on attacking Iraq well before any evidence that Iraw was a threat to America had been surfaced (or created.)

The forged documents were also the basis of the so-called "16 words" inserted in Bush's State of the Union speech given to Congress on January 28, 2003. The British based their Intelligence statements on the same forged documents, claiming they had additional data to support them. The so-called additional data is now known not to exist.

Was this incompetence in which Cheney and the White House simply chose not to believe one set of Intelligence results over another, or was it a lie? In my opinion, too many people knew both sides of the story and knew how the so-called Intelligence using the forged documents was cooked for it to be incompetence. The extreme secrecy of this White House in which no top aide is being allowed to be questioned by Congress, in which about 50 top aides have been using Republican National Committee email accounts which are more easily destroyed that government ones are, and in which documents are not turned over even under subpoena is intended to prevent proof of the lies from being established. People smart enough to protect their information in so many manners are simply not so incompetent as to buy false Intelligence.

The treasonous exposure of a covert CIA officer

This brings America to the Valerie Wilson Affair. Joe Wilson went to Niger, investigated, and he knew that the "16 words" were false. They were intended to frighten America into an unnecessary war. So in the Spring of 2003 he began to write OpEds that showed the "16 words" were a lie told by the President. But Dick Cheney had to have that lie believed. So Cheney and Libby set out to discredit Joe Wilson by exposing his wife's employment as a CIA officer. The Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, brought Scooter Libby to trial for lying to the FBI, Lying to the Grand Jury, and for Obstruction of Justice. The Obstruction of Justice was based on the fact that because of Scooter's lies, the necessary elements of proof that Dick Cheney had in fact exposed the identity of a covert CIA agent in violation of the law could not be proven. It was this crime by Dick Cheney which Patrick Fitzgerals referred to as "the Shadow over the Vice President in his summary of his case against Scooter Libby.

There is no doubt at all that what Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove did in exposing the CIA status of Valerie Plame was, in fact, treason against the United States. It was clearly providing aid and comfort to the enemies of the Unites States of America just as teh actions a quarter of a century ago by the turncoat CIA agent Philip Agee did when he published the names and stations of serving CIA officers, resulting inthe murder of at least one officer in Greece.

This brings us to the most recent public revelation about the Valerie Plame case. At the beginning of this essay I stated that a criminal organization has both people who commit crimes to further the goals of the criminal group, and they also have large numbers of other people (many of whom appear honest and non-criminal) whose job is to protect the core criminals.

Lies told by right-wing pundits to support those of the White House

Numerous right-wing pundits have spent a great deal of time and ink (or pixels) stating that Scooter Libby should not have been tried, let alone convicted, for outing the covert CIA officer Valerie Plame. Glenn Greenwald at Salon has an excellent take-down of many (and I really mean "many") right wing pundits who have been lying and saying that Valerie Plame was not covert. Go read it, and look at the names and the quotes. The various people Glenn quotes all have one message, presented without doubt or qualification. The message has been presented with NO FACTS TO SUPPORT IT. They all said, repeatedly, that Valerie Plame was NOT COVERT.

Had that been true, the CIA would not have sent the request to the Department of Justice to investigate Plame's exposure, Ashcroft would not have recused himself, Fitzgerald would not have been appointed Special Prosecutor, and none of the various judges would have even let the investigation go to Grand Juries. There has been no doubt all along by anyone with direct knowledge of the classified information that Valerie Plame was covert within the meaning of the law. A crime was clearly committed. But the Republicans have been lying to protect their criminals.

Now that Patrick Fitzgerald has provided to an unclassified sentencing memorandum to Judge Wells who is considering Libby's sentence for the crimes for which he has been convicted, the many Republican conservative defenders of criminals and traitors must change messages. But they will change, and move on to a new lie because the central Republican criminals must have the chorus of defensive criminals to protect them.

The continued Republican criminal activity

Their war isn't going well, but that just makes it more important for the criminal Republican Party to protect the central criminals such as Rove, Bush, Cheney and Libby. The central criminals commit the key crimes, and the Republican chorus obstructs justice to protect the central criminals.

That makes the Republican Party a criminal organization. Simply supporting the Republican leaders is now a criminal activity, since all the leaders are criminals and the rest are obstructing justice.

[*]This relationship can be inferred through the long-term relationship between the bin Laden family and the Bush family tbrough mutual investments such as those in the Carlyle Group, through the secret evacuation of members of the bin Laden family by plane when all other air travel was shut down in the days after 9/11, through the apparently planned escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora when his presence there was well known in Intelligence and top military circles (for which Gen. Tommy Franks was given the Medal of Freedom,) and through the indifference to catching him after that displayed by the Bush administration. More specific evidence is unavailable primarily because of what appears to be a cover up by top government officials similar to the cover up and obstruction of justice in the White House orchestrated by Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby in the treasonous exposure of Valerie Wilson as an agent of the CIA.

[**]It is possible that 9/11 was pure coincidence. Osama bin Laden may have just been looking for the next way to attack the U.S. If so, it succeeded in a manner that was probably quite beyond anything even Osama and his lieutenants expected. There is also the possibility that the Bush administration intentionally let its guard down and hoped that there would be a direct terrorist attack on America, since this would allow Bush, Cheney and the NeoCons to justify the attack on Iraq. Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. Intentionally or because of incompetence, it is clear that the Bush administration DID let America's guard down so that 9/11 could occur.

A third possibility is that there could have been back-channel communications between the Bush administration and the more radical elements of the bin Laden family who were in contact with Osama to let him know that there was a window of opportunity for an attack on America. As unlikely as that appears at first glance, the recent actions of Vice President Dick Cheney to try to get the Iranians to attack an American target such as a warship in the Persian Gulf to justify an American attack on Iran demonstrates that there was a much greater possibility of the third option that reasonable Americans are likely to accept. Cheney wanted the war in Iraq and was willing to do anything to start it. Now he wants an attack on Iran desperately, especially since he has only 20 months remaining to bring that dream of his to fruition. Cheney is both highly consistent and very much a believer in American Empire brought about by the American military.

[***] This was a lot easier while the Republicans were in charge of the Congress. A war - any war - was just what they needed to allow them to run for reelection on the traditional extreme security issue. Otherwise the majority of American voters outside the South prefer Democratic Party issues. It worked for them in both 2002 and 2004.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fitz' sentencing memo establishes Libby's culpibility clearly

"Scooter" Libby's defenders have been wailing and ranting for months that the trial and conviction of Libby was criminalizing politics and that he did nothing wrong. Well, the declassified document that Fitzgerald just released demolishes every single talking point the right-wingers have been spewing. This report has been in several places, but the best is on Mark Kleiman's site The Reality-Based Community. Mark does a masterful job of extracting the key points from Fitz' memo.

Valerie Wilson was an active and covert agent of the CIA during the legally relevant period, as every judge who passed judgement on the case early on had to know from classified information. Libby was orchestrating a cover-up of the illegal release of Wilson's identity and Libby kept Cheney fully informed of his activities. Specifically because of Scooter Libby's lies to the FBI and the the Grand Jury it became impossible to prove, legally, that the individuals who actually revealed Wilson's identity had the requisite state of mind (knowledge and intent) that was required to prove a violation of the law. So Scooter's cover-up successfully prevented prosecution of the specific (treasonous) criminals.

Then Fitz takes on the many accusations that Scooter should never has been tried in the first place, let alone convicted.
7. In summary:
To accept the argument that Mr. Libby’s prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President. To state this claim is to refute it. Peremptorily closing this investigation in the face of the information available at its early stages would have been a dereliction of duty, and would have afforded Mr. Libby and others preferential treatment not accorded to ordinary persons implicated in criminal investigations. [pp. 13-14]
This trial exposes at least three people who without any level of doubt at all have committed treason to the nation. Those people are I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, his boss, Richard Cheney, and the innately rotten Karl Rove.

Remember that treason is the only crime that is defined in the U.S. Constitution. It is defined as
Article 3 - The Judicial Branch
Section 3 - Treason

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
Art 3, Section 3, U.S. Constitution.
Those three individuals clearly meet the definition of the crime of treason.

I'd also say that anyone attempting to protect them does likewise. Jonas Goldberg from National Review On-line, anyone? Perhaps there should be a list kept on-line of those who are traitors. It could certainly start with Libby, Rove, Cheney and Goldberg.

Here is the Fitzgerald sentencing memo (in .pdf format.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An analysis of journalism

What is modern journalism and how did it get this way? ePluribus Media reviews what appears to be a fascinating new book The Rise of the Blogosphere. [Online price through Barnes & Noble is $49.95 and those of us who spend $25 a year to get the member's discount only pay $39.96. Since that is over $25.00 they pay the postage. However, I am going to wait for used copies to drop in price.]
Barlow is a sharp critic of the current trends in the media, such as the presentation of news as entertainment. At the same time, he is passionate about the importance of journalism in creating an informed public debate about the policy issues that face us. As one of the early members of the ePluribus Media collective, Barlow believes web journals and blogs have an important, if not essential, role to play in shaping public opinion and giving citizens the means to take on an active role in political debate. This -- the role of the blogs and the future of print journalism -- is one of the hottest topics in the field today.

Although Barlow is a passionate advocate of citizen journalism as it is manifest online, he does not see it as a substitute for a viable press. He also rejects the contention that web journals are an essentially new form simply because they are distributed through the Internet. In this, and other ways, the book is full of surprises; it is personal, while at the same time scholarly. It's a first-hand, inside perspective on modern journalism, but not a first-person memoir. Barlow references his own experiences as a professional journalist and teacher of journalism, but delivers a comprehensive, well researched review of the history of U.S. journalism from colonial days to the present.

The book begins with a discussion of how early U.S. printers published newspapers as a way to fully realize the capacity of their presses and how they could, by becoming postmasters, run a primitive version of modern-day news bureaus. Barlow then guides the reader through the technological developments publishing has seen in the past 250 years, from the days when Benjamin Franklin was simultaneously a printer, publisher, writer, postmaster and political leader, to the development of blogs and web journals today. This growth of technology created the possibility to reach wide audiences quickly, but it also created the circumstances for the stifling development of commercial pressures on publishers.

Besides the advent of profit-driven presentation, Barlow also addresses a more recent development in journalism - the fraud of objectivity. All too often, the truth of a matter is obscured by attempts to appear "neutral" in reporting the news of the day. Giving air time to two conflicting opinions purporting to be an unvarnished presentation of fact does not meet the ideal of objective journalism; presenting both sides of an issue is always laudable, but honest journalism demands a commitment to truth.
I find that Talking Point Memo provides better journalism than any of the major media outlets - especially the New York Times and the Washington Post. {The Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe both do a better job than those two. But since they are regional newspapers they are not considered competitors to those two. It isn't an issue of journalism. It's an issue of distribution.)

Journalism is changing, and with FOX in the driver's seat at the moment, it is at a nadir. The blogosphere is part of the way out, but only a part. On-line journalism will never have the distribution to the masses that will give it the cachet to dominate journalism. But it is leading the way out of the current level of utter crap that has allowed the Conservative Republicans to dominate politics.

Having not read this book yet, I am not sure what insights it offers. But something is better than nothing. This is worth a trip to the library.

More corruption in the politicized Department of Justice

It seems that U.S. Attorneys and their assistants were not the only jobs in the Department of Justice (DoJ) that Gonzales, Rove(?) and company were politicizing. They were also placing unqualified people into the job of Immigration Judge. It got bad enough that so that they shut down appointments as Immigration Judge last December and the DoJ Inspector General opened an investigation of the procedures used for choosing new Immigration Judges.

The reasons and final outcome are not yet known, but we know a lot more than a short time ago. Go read EmptyWheel for more details.

But now, back to Republican nastiness

Odd how pleasant it has been to NOT be writing about the latest despicable or stupid action from the Republicans in Washington, D.C., or about the nastiness of the Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives who has gotten so out of line that even half the Republicans are trying to remove him. Or at least a lot of the Republicans. But I can no longer resist.

The most recent biennium of the Texas Legislature closed yesterday amid efforts to remove him as Speaker. If there were an election, he would be gone, but using his discretionary power to NOT recognize motions by members of the House he avoided an election right up to the closing of the session. He will have to run for reelection as Speaker when the next session starts.

The next session starts in January of 2009 after all members of the House run for reelection in 2008, and Tom Craddick has the largest war chest of any member of the House. Craddick is expected to fund nasty primary campaigns against several Republicans who recently spoke out against his actions. The prediction is that the Texas Legislative elections in 2008 will be real scorched-earth elections. Never let it be said that a Republican doesn't know how to run nasty elections.

Gas prices are high because ....

Interesting article on the reason for high gasoline prices in the European Tribune by Jerome a Paris. He starts off by explaining why the benchmark price for Light Sweet Cushing Oil has become non-representative of world oil prices since the 70's. (Cushing is a town in Oklahoma of about 8,000 people which "is famous as a price settlement point for West Texas Intermediate on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and has been cited as the most significant trading hub for crude oil in North America." The oil price most quoted in the U.S., West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is essentially set at Cushing.

A further problem is the political instability in Nigeria. That instability has been forcing world crude prices up, but Cushing, OK is far enough inland that it does not use Nigerian crude. Unfortunately, the U.S. East Coast does. That means that the WTI index is not capturing prices that effect oil supplies on the East Coast - or in Europe for that matter.

The solution would seem to be to switch to an oil price index that captures world prices better, but the difficulties of switching a large number of contracts covering varying periods of time from WTI to some other index have made that a non-starter. So gasoline prices are rising, while the index that is supposed to explain that rise has remained pretty constant over the last year or so. (Jay Leno last night said that gasoline prices in California are approaching $4.00 per gallon.)

That's what I got out of Jerome's discussion. It seems reasonable to me, assuming the facts are correct. I don't vouch for the facts, but Jerome has seemed reliable to me. So go read his article and see if it gives you an idea regarding what might be happening.

Oh, and I would consider this explanation before I would automatically adopt the conspiracy theory that the oil companies are just gouging us. If that were the case, I don't think they would let prices get this far out of hand. That would be just looking for government crack-downs, and they really don't want that. Oil company executives may be greedy and unscrupulous as a group, but one thing they are not is stupid.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Extricatia clusterfuckum prontus

Extricatia clusterfuckum prontus is my favorite Latin for "Bring the troops home."

But there is also
  • Copiae subducentes sunt or perhaps Copiae subducendae sunt or maybe
  • Extricandae copiae.
At least, according to Mark Kleiman at his "The Reality-Based Community."

Mark's post explains the "whys" of each phrase (except my favorite, which has what a researcher might, by a stretch, call having face validity. Having never studied Latin myself, and having absolutely no interest in the study of the language, I will leave it to Mark and his cohorts.

But the idea of such a bumper sticker does intrigue me. A quick Google search of the Internet brought me to this site which claims it does small quantities. A single 3 X 10 bumper sticker, Black and White or Color, is $4.95 (and I assume postage plus handling.) There is a volume discount, but they specifically say that they specialize in small quantities and that for large volume there are probably less expensive sites.


I have no connection to the makestickers site and do not offer any warranty of any kind. Any purchase anyone makes is on their own. I did no more due diligence than to merely read their website.

So - anyone with Photoshop or some graphics capability interested in designing the bumper sticker or stickers?

Addendum 9:28 AM CDT May 29, 2007
OK. From the comment, here is the suggested website Again, I provide this link for anyone who wants to try it but I know nothing about No warranty here.

"What are we doing here?" Iraq echoes Viet Nam.

Airborne Staff Sergeant David Safstrom is on his third tour as a member of the Airborne in Iraq. It is his first time to question whether there is any value in what he is doing there.
“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this past February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought, ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.
(New York Times.)
The quagmire of Iraq is not the same as the one in which we once fought in Viet Nam, but there are echoes. Lots of echoes. Big echoes.

A buddy of mine once commanded a supply company in Long Binh, staffed by a mixture of Americans and South Vietnamese. He said the Vietnamese were generally the better workers, more motivated and more efficient. The senior Vietnamese employee was also a friend of his. My buddy felt that we were making real progress there - until one evening he went to town and stumbled on a Communist rally which his highest ranking Vietnamese worker was leading. Not only could my buddy not trust our allies, he couldn't even trust his friends.

Lyndon Johnson didn't invade South Viet Nam. It was Eisenhower who committed the U.S. to military support of the South Vietnamese government when the French pulled out in 1954. It was a political decision, since leaving Viet Nam would have been described by the conservative right-wingers a "Losing Viet Nam, just as they were still blaming Truman and the Democrats for "losing China" in 1948. Then when it came time in 1956 for the scheduled vote in South Viet Nam on whether South Viet Nam would be reunified with North Viet Nam, Ike could not permit it to take place. It was clear that the South Vietnamese would vote to unify with North Viet Nam, and 1956 was a Presidential election year.

This was high "Joe McCarthy" time. Like now, the radical American right was in the ascendant. At some point during this period of the 1950's the John birch Society even called Ike a Communist. America's radical right had veto power over ending unnecessary wars. (Note the "echo.")

So Viet Nam became a tar-baby. Once America had grabbed hold it became politically impossible to let it go. Ike couldn't ignore the Conservative right-wingers and pull out, so he handed Viet Nam off to his Democratic successor, John Kennedy. Still, it wasn't a major commitment of American troops in 1961. It was more like the current American involvement in Colombia. But it remained unwinnable. Kennedy even sponsored a coup which removed the corrupt South Vietnamese leader and replaced him with a military dictator in hopes that corruption would be reduced and Viet Nam would become more unified fighting the Viet Cong. That didn't work either. (The corruption of the government is another echo.)

Lyndon Johnson was also unable to face up to the American radical right wing. His White House tapes have him recorded as admitting that we could not win there, but he could not politically face the threat of right-wing accusations that he had "lost" Viet Nam to the Communists. So he listened to Gen. Westmoreland and attempted a "surge" in 1965. (Another echo.)

Only he had a draft in place, so his "surge" could get a lot larger than Bush/Cheney's has been. It reached half a million military men. The substitute that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have used is to have 100,000 contractors substitute for combat soldiers. Still, that places this current "surge" at about 160,000 military and 100,000 contractors (including Blackwater) for a total of 260,000 Americans. The population of South Viet Nam in 1960 was 17,333,000 and of North Viet Nam was 21,154,000. Half a million was not enough to win Viet Nam, and 260,000 are not enough to win in Iraq. (Echo?)

Neither LBJ nor George W. Bush found it politically possible to mobilize America for a real war. For LBJ it was "Guns and Butter." For Bush it has been "Support the troops. Display a ribbon." But at least LBJ passed a 10% surtax to try to pay the costs. Didn't work, as the inflation fought by Nixon, Ford and Carter demonstrated, but at least he had the good sense to try. Bush hasn't even tried, instead leaving the Federal Reserve to manipulate the money supply and depress the economy to prevent inflation. (Echo? We'll see.)

Bush 41 could have invaded Iraq as the tracks of the Persian Gulf War swept across the sands towards Baghdad, but as he explained in his book, the potential cost was not worth what little could be gained. Dick Cheney and the NeoCons obviously disagreed, so the moment they got a pliable and ignorant George W. Bush into office they took the opportunity to continue the Persian Gulf War by invading Iraq. A major part of this appears to have been an effort to erase the stigma of having "Lost" the war in Viet Nam. They were trying to prove that America was no longer bound up in what the conservatives call "The Viet Nam Syndrome." Rather than being an echo of the Viet Nam War, this seems to be the same set of right-wingers attempting to correct what they saw as a mistake when we left Southeast Asia without a clear victory. This has not been an echo of viet Nam so much as refusing to learn from their mistakes and making the same mistake twice.

Whatever the excuse for invading Iraq in the first place, it has clearly not been worth the cost for at a minimum the last three years. But like in Viet Nam, the American right-wingers have defined leaving without victory (which they never define) as losing, so they have to stay. (Yep. Another echo. A real big one this time.)

That kept Americans fighting an unwinnable war in Viet Nam for two decades before we saw that the French had been correct in leaving in 1954. Cheney has already promised the King of Saudi Arabia that America will be in Iraq 18 months from now, and it is clear that Bush intends to pass this abortion of a war off to his Democratic successor when the new President is sworn in January 2009. Then, of course, the "Who lost Iraq" cry will ring from the rafters as the right-wingers blame the person who pulls the troops out of Iraq for losing the damned war we never should have started in the first place. (More echoes. It is domestic politics that keep us there, not the war itself.)

How long - and for how many American lives - do we let these right-wing power fantasies keep us stuck in an unwinnable and unnecessary war in Iraq?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

EmptyWheel on the release of the Intel reports about the Iraq War.

EmptyWheel does her usual excellent job of analysing the way the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) dealt with the long-delayed report on how the Bush administration used the Intelligence that the Intelligence Community (and especially the CIA) provided to them.

The information regarding what an invasion of Iraq would entail was there. The Bush White House and the Republican-dominated Congress ignored the valid and reasonahle information in favor of fantasy tales that were developed and distrubuted by the American Enterprise Institute and the American Standard. But the Republicans hate being caught out by this report. They really panned it.
The substantive complaint against this report comes from Senators Bond, Warner, Hatch and Burr. They dismiss the overwhelming power of the report, firstly, by claiming it's alright if decision makers ignore our own Intelligence Community in favor of the propagandists at the AEI.

While the Intelligence Community's assessments on post-war Iraq likely served as useful tools for policy makers and military planners, it was only one of several useful tools available to it. Other tools included outside academics and experts, media reports, and policy makers' and military experts' own education and experience.

The Republican Senators go on at some length, trying to dismiss the sound analysis the two reports offered by pointing at tactical elements the reports didn't predict--like the use of IEDs. And then they reveal their hand with their biggest complaint: the inclusion of the distribution lists for the two report, showing everyone from Richard Armitage to John Bolton to Dougie Feith to Stephen Hadley to Scooter Libby received the reports (though Senators Hagel and Snowe voted with Democrats to release the distribution lists).

The inclusion of [the distribution lists] is misleading, because the names on such lists are typically either the principals, staff heads or the security managers of a governmental office and there is no way to ensure whether the individuals named on the distribution list actually read the documents sent to their office.

This is the same excuse that Condi has used repeatedly, that she may not have seen the explicit warnings sent to her not to use the Niger claim. Funny how everyone in the Administration seems to have ignored precisely the reports of value, but now they want to duck responsibility for having ignored those reports. (Though they do make an excellent point--that the Committees should have admitted that they, the Committee members, had received the reports as well. I will be calling Rockefeller's office--and probably Feingold, who doesn't usually do purely partisan things--to see if they've got a good explanation.)

In short, the Republicans offer a bunch of excuses that, in the private sector, would get someone canned. "I didn't read the reports I was supposed to." "I ignored the company's own intelligence for that which I preferred, but now I don't want to take responsibility for having made that choice."

But in the Bush White House, such excuses don't get you fired, they get you promoted.
Of course the Republicans panned the report. It catches them out. They were spreading the misinformation that led to America's unnecessary attack on Iraq, and were concealing all of the valid information that suggested - even stated flat out - that an attack on Iraq was not a good idea. Now America is in the middle of the disaster they created and the Republicans really hope they can convince the rest of us that there is no real purpose in finding and exposing the idiots who started this damned disastrous war they started for no good reason.

They should not be allowed to get away with it.

How scary is the Republican Party getting?

Glenn Greenwald makes the following point about the debate of all of the Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination for President in North Carolina a few days back:
The GOP debate in South Carolina two weeks ago was something of a watershed moment in American politics. It really was like watching a debate between Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Reynolds and Michael Savage -- with the LGF commenters as the audience, cheering most boisterously for the most extreme warmongering, pro-torture and pro-lawless-detention sentiments. It is one thing to encounter that level of extremism in the right-wing blogosphere or on talk radio. But to see that embraced so openly and so eagerly by virtually all of the GOP presidential candidates is rather staggering, and self-evidently meaningful.

In that debate, John McCain stood out as a bizarre exception, as the soft principled moderate, all because he opposes torture (even though he negotiated and voted for The Military Commissions Act). And McCain's anti-torture position actually offends a substantial portion of what has become the GOP base. Are there other Western countries where leading presidential candidates have run expressly on a platform of torturing people and putting them into beyond-the-reach-of-the-law detention camps with no charges of any kind?
Every time I think the Republican Party has gone so far over the line that no sane American could do anything but recoil in horror, they get applause from their hard core base followed by becoming more extreme. I used to find nothing but disgust for Pat Buchanan and his public positions, but in the last few years he has frequently begun to sound very much like one of the sane ones - and the rest of the Republicans reject him for it.

It has reached a point where I think the Republican Party should be declared a criminal organization, and everyone who belongs to it should be required to go before a Truth and Reconciliation Board where they confess to their crimes in exchange for immunity from prosecution. If they don't, then try them under the RICO laws.

The Republicans in Congress are not innocent of the crimes committed by Tom DeLay and Dennis Haster. They elected those people as their leaders because they were criminals and because they would cover-up criminal actions by people like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Mark Foley, John Doolittle, Rick Renzi, Jerry Lewis, and others. Sure William Jefferson of New Orleans appears to be a criminal on the Democratic side of the isle, but he hasn't been elected to the leadership because of it.

I really worry about the Republican Party. It has gone off the rails and has left the world of democracies. It has become a real danger to the oldest Republic on Earth.

How many political lies begin with "It would send the wrong message?"

When you hear a politician state that he will not approve of some action others are proposing because "It will send the wrong message to (someone or some group.)" he is invariably lying. It isn't that it sends anyone any message. It's that he doesn't want the action taken but refuses to tell the true reason why he doesn't want it. Providing education on birth control to teenagers does not give them any message giving permission to have sex. They'll do that either with or without education on birth control The reason that people offer that reason is that their real reason, that getting the girl pregnant is punishment for having sex, is not something they want to be seen to say in public. Providing clean needles to intravenous drug users does not imply approval of illegal drug use. Getting aids is punishment for breaking the rules.

The current case in point - cutting off funds for the Iraq war will neither leave troops in the field with no weapons, armor or fuel, nor will leaving Iraq send any kind of message to America's enemies that we are weak and vulnerable. It might actually send a message that grownups have taken control in Washington, but no one is going to do anything different from what they intended to do because of that revelation. See Glenn Greenwald.

Gloria Borger - if lobby reform passes watch for an exodus of Congressmen

Gloria Borger, discussing the pending Democratic Lobby Reform legislation with Chris Matthews last Thursday said:
"Watch for mass resignations from House members who are now saying they can’t afford to live here unless they’re bought and paid for by lobbyists. They’re going to leave."
The strange thing is that she made it sound like that would be a BAD thing.

Proof that lies led to our invasion of Iraq

Digby uses a new article from the LA Times to contrast what the decision-makers in the Bush administration really knew from American Intelligence Agencies with what they told the public before they started the War in Iraq. Now I'd like to take that and show how those lies were crafted into the casus belli for the war in Iraq by a small group in the White House who wanted the war for years. To get the American nation to go along they created lies and suppressed Intelligence that countered what they wanted, then sold their fantasies on a grand scale to the public and Congress. The result has been the war in Iraq which now kills upward of a hundred American servicemen and women a month and an unknown number of Iraqis.

Iraq is a purposeless war which is impossible to win, but which the White House refuses to consider ending because ending a war we have not "won" is an admission that they should not have started it in the first place. President Bush wants desperately to pass the war on to his almost certainly Democratic successor so that the Democrats will pull American troops out. Then the Democrats can be blamed for losing this unnecessary war. But let's look at how we got here, starting from the excellent post by Digby.

The new LA Times report is only now exposing the warnings and (prescient) predictions of what should have been expected as a result of an invasion of Iraq. Digby compares the realistic Intelligence reports with the unrealistically confident NeoCon-inspired dreamworld that was marketed to Congress and the public by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) as justification for the invasion. The warnings and predictions were provided by the CIA and the Intelligence Community to the White House before the 2003 invasion, but they were classified and suppressed by the White House because they ran counter to the invasion Dick Cheney wanted and George W. Bush went along with.

Much of the pro-war Intelligence used by WHIG in that national sales pitch was obtained through the special "Intelligence" operation (the Office of Special Plans (OSP)) set up by Don Rumsfeld in the Pentagon, staffed by NeoCons and run by NeoCon Douglass Feith (See also Sourcewatch, Office of Special Plans.) The purpose of the OSP was to cherry-pick unprocessed Intelligence reports, usuall those the Intelligence Community considered unreliable or false, then combine those with reports from Iraqi defectors provided by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. The Intelligence Community (properly, as it turned out) considered data from the INC to be unreliable disinformation. But OSP would assemble these reports, package them as thugh they were properly analyzed Intelligence, and stove-pipe the results directly into the Office of the Vice President to be used by Dick Cheney and the WHIG to "sell" the apparent threat Iraq represented. This was intended to justify the preemptive invasion of that country. The likely results of such an invasion were simply ignored.

The excellent recently published book The Italian Letter describes how Cheney's office and the WHIG created the the appearance of the threat that Iraq had or nearly had nuclear weapons. This was combined with the additional threat that Saddam was likely to give those weapons to terrorists for their to use to attack America. The threat of Iraqi nuclear weapons was based on the history of Saddam's nuclear weapon program from the time of the Persian Gulf War and were sold as current based on the fiction that Iraq was attempting to buy Uranium ore (yellow-cake) from Niger around 2000. This latter fiction was based on a set of forged documents provided to U. S. Intelligence by the most unreliable Intelligence Service in Europe, the Italian military Intelligence agency called "SISMI." WHIG used this data as the basis for their public relations offensive in which senior White House officials repeatedly told the public "We don't want the smoking gun to appear in the form of a mushroom cloud." WHIG had concluded that the only threat powerful enough to justify an invasion of Iraq had to be the threat of a nuclear attack. Nothing less than a nuclear threat would be enough to scare the American public into starting a war.

The WHIG had another problem, though. It was well-known that Saddam Hussein, a secular Baathist, disliked and distrusted Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. How, then, was WHIG to sell the idea that Saddam might give one or more weapons of Mass destruction to a terrorist group he disliked? Enter an Iraqi defector whose reports of mobile chemical weapons factories were provided to American Intelligence by the Iraqi National Congress. The defector, who was code-named "Curveball" by the German Intelligence Service (BND), was later determined to be the brother of a top aide of Ahmad Chalabi. This report was widely publicized and doubts about its accuracy were concealed. The report was even publicly presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations as justification for the invasion of Iraq. The reports from curveball, as we now know (and as the German BND told the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq) were utterly false.

In fact, the CIA was proven to have been correct when it evaluated that all of the so-called Intelligence provided by Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress was unreliable and not usable. But Vice President Dick Cheney and the NeoCons running America's foreign policy couldn't accept this. They wanted to invade Iraq. The only thing stopping them was the fact that the American people would not pay for or send large numbers of American soldiers to die for a war fought with a nation that was not a threat to America. None of the legitimate Intelligence supported invading Iraq.

The solution was to create or acquire false "Intelligence" that did support an invasion of Iraq, or cherry-pick Intel reports that supported the case for the invasion while suppressing reports and analysis that countered such favorable reports. Eisner and Royce in their book "The Italian Letter" trace the source of the forgery to several top administrators in Italian SISMI. Why they did it is unknown, but a NeoCon, a strong supporter of the Iraq invasion and close associate of Dick Cheney named Michael Ledeen travels in Italian Intelligence circles and is suspected to have something to do with it. (Ledeen was also involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan administration.) The Curveball reports were used by excluding the negative assessments of his data provided by his handlers, the BND. The OSP had as a major function the development of Power Point briefings of Intel that supported and sold the invasion. The White House Iraq Group (WHIG) was responsible for collecting the data and coordinating the public relations program that was designed to frighten the Congress and the American public into supporting the invasion of Iraq.

It worked, too.

Now the USA is deeply involved in combat operations in Iraq which have no real purpose for our nation. Five years after being stampeded into an unnecessary (and badly planned) war in Iraq the evidence that was available to the White House countering their decision is slowly trickling out, and even more slowly being reported by news organizations which are NOT the New York Time, the Washington Post, or the major TV news channels.

The only arguments for keeping our troops fighting in Iraq now are that if we leave, the al Qaeda will be somehow freed up to attack America again (as if they can't do both at once), that leaving Iraq now will set off (?) greater sectarian warfare in Iraq (it's not like we are holding it down any now. How does our leaving make it worse?) and that by stopping fighting and going home without "winning" (whatever that might mean) we are signalling "the Terrorists" that we are weak and vulnerable and therefore easy to attack (as if our inability to impress our control of Iraq hasn't already given them that idea.) Oh, and Sen. Pat Roberts did not want to release the report on the use and misuse of Intelligence by the White House to initiate the unnecessary invasion of Iraq because "I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further."

Digby's post on the LA Times report on the Intelligence that the White House suppressed and what the WHIG told the public and Congress to force up public fear and justify an unjustifiable war is spot on.

Steve Benen at TPM provides a quote from Maureen Dowd (behind subscription wall) today that really sums it all up.
The president said an intelligence report (which turned out to be two years old) showed that Osama had been trying to send Qaeda terrorists in Iraq to attack America. So clearly, Osama is capable of multitasking: Order the killers in Iraq to go after American soldiers there and American civilians here. There AND here. Get it, W.?

The president is on a continuous loop of sophistry: We have to push on in Iraq because Al Qaeda is there, even though Al Qaeda is there because we pushed into Iraq. Our troops have to keep dying there because our troops have been dying there. We have to stay so the enemy doesn’t know we’re leaving. Osama hasn’t been found because he’s hiding.

The terrorists moved into George Bush’s Iraq, not Saddam Hussein’s. W.’s ranting about Al Qaeda there is like planting fleurs du mal and then complaining your garden is toxic.
[Bolding mine - Editor PPS.]
Or even shorter, Bush, the Republican Party and conservatives, and Dick Cheney have royally screwed America. They will pass on a much diminished American nation when Bush and Cheney finally are evicted from the White House they should have never had.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Vote Suppression is the issue

The Republican Party has stolen the Presidential election in 2000 and in 2004, and Americans are dying because of it. So are Iraqis, for that matter. But it's not just a case of misprogrammed diebold voting machines. Mostly the vote is rigged by suppressing turnout of likely Democratic voters. Buzzflash interviewed Gregg Palast:
Greg Palast: 2004. And in 2006 and 2004, they challenged tens of thousands of black soldiers. They stopped their votes from being counted when they were mailed in from Baghdad. Go to Baghdad and lose your vote -- mission accomplished.

BuzzFlash: How did they do that?

Greg Palast: By sending letters to the homes of soldiers, marked "do not forward." When they came back undelivered, they said: Aha! Illegal voter registered from a false address. And when their ballot came in from Fallujah, it was challenged. The soldier didn’t know it. Their vote was lost. Over half a million votes were challenged and lost by the Republicans -- absentee ballots. Three million voters who went to the polls found themselves challenged by the Republicans. This was not a small operation. It was a multi-million dollar, wholesale theft operation.

I’m working with Bobby Kennedy, who is a voting rights attorney. He said, “This is not just an icky, horrible thing that people do wearing white sheets. This is a felony crime.” [paraphrase] And the guy they put in charge of this criminal ring to knock out voters is a guy named Tim Griffin. Today, Tim Griffin is -- badda-bing -- U.S. Attorney for Arkansas. When they fired the honest guys, they put in the Rove-bots to fix the 2008 election. That’s what I’m saying -- it’s already being stolen, as we speak. Tim Griffin is the perpetrator who’s become the prosecutor, and that’s what’s going down right now.
This is why Tim Griffin was sent to replace Bud Cummins, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Dud Cummings was apparently too law abiding for Rove to trust to kill any investigation of vote suppression or vote stealing in Arkansas.

Of course, the Republcans don't always conduct vote suppression. Sometimes there is nothing for it but to resort purely to good, old fashion vote stealing.
Greg Palast: I have it all in Armed Madhouse - Updated Edition, including in the three new chapters. First and foremost, is that it’s not one thing. It ain’t just electronic voting, guys. You go, oh, we have paper ballots, we’re saved, we’re saved. Bulls***! Wake up! Hello! Let’s remember that in Florida and Ohio, they didn’t have computer voting. So all the stuff about Diebold -- Ohio was not stolen by computers, because they didn’t have computers there. In fact, they were thrilled when people complained about computers because they could keep the junky punch cards in. That doesn’t mean that computers are safe. As I point out in the new chapter, the Republicans held on to Katherine Harris’ seat -- and we don’t want to think too carefully about that image -- they held onto Katherine Harris’ seat with 300 votes, while 18,000 votes disappeared in the computers. So they do use computers. That was a pure, straight-up, shoplift of the Congressional seat.

BuzzFlash: A House committee just voted not to pursue an investigation of that election, despite the disappearance of 18,000 votes.

Greg Palast: That’s sick -- deeply, deviously sick. First of all, in New York and other states, when votes are in question, they simply redo them. People talk about recount -- forget it. Redo the vote. When the machines collapse, then there’s no question that there was monkey business.

BuzzFlash: Then why do you think --

Greg Palast: -- why don’t Democrats stand up?

BuzzFlash: The U.S. House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats. It’s like saying, well, $320 million is missing from a bank but we’re not going to investigate that.

Greg Palast: You’re forgetting it’s not about the two parties. Vote theft is mainly a racial issue in America, and it’s a class issue. The white caucus is a lot bigger than the black caucus. They don’t call the Congress a millionaire’s club for nothing. There aren’t many guys in there -- or women -- who are not millionaires. So it’s the millionaires versus us. It’s the white caucus versus the black caucus, which is of great concern. So the vote is along racial class and economic lines, not along party lines. Party lines are pretty much meaningless. There’s pretty much one party -- the party of the cash. But I’m not one of these people that says there’s no difference between the Democratic and Republican Party. The question is: is the difference meaningful? That’s all. When it comes down to voter issues, remember that the Democrats in power there were elected under the racist, broken, classist system. If you fix the voting system, a third of those Democrats could never win a primary. The last thing that they want is poor people to vote.
The USA is the oldest Republic existing on Earth today. It has been a two century plus experiment, and my reading of twentieth century history has suggested to me that powerful industrial societies are forced to adopt many of the characteristics of a Republic. But Bush and the conservative Republicans have been proving that the dangers to a Republic that are inherent in a powerful Chief Executive who is also Commander in Chief are very real. The five decades of WW II and the Cold War allowed the forces opposing democracy to gain a great deal of power, and the end of the Cold War did not make them want to give it up.

We are seeing the backlash against the end of the Cold War, augmented by 9/11. Terrorism is a major problem, but it is not a war, nor is it an inherent characteristic of Islamic societies. But they want to define it that way because it allows the non-democratic American nationalists to throw out the freedoms from an autocratic government that we Americans have gotten used to.

That's what this vote changing, voter suppression, vote stealing and election stealing is all about. Those given power to deal with a nuclear-armed USSR will not give up that power just because the threat is gone. They are fighting the loss of that power, but it must be taken from them. That is the lesson provided by the Bush/Cheney administration.

See also:

Rudi Guiliani - an example of the "new" GOP.

Does the apparent acceptability of the twice divorced Rudolph Giuliani mean that the Republican Party is moving away from dependence on the social conservative voters? Digby looks at that question. He starts from what Thomas Edsall wrote in TNR as he tries to explain how different Rudi Giuliani is from the recent sex-and-morality oriented Republicans. The difference does not seem to be hurting Rudi's polls as it would have in the 1990's.
...many members of the GOP elite--whose overwhelming concern is cutting taxes, a Giuliani forte--would privately welcome the chance to downplay, if not discard, the party's rearguard war against the sexual and women's rights revolutions. Much of the Republican Party's consulting community and country club elite always viewed abortion and gay rights as distasteful but necessary tools to win elections, easily disposable once they no longer served their purpose. Now, with most of the leading GOP contenders demonstrating at best equivocal support for the sexual status quo ante, that time appears to be drawing near.
So Thomas Edsall suggests that the Republican party is changing. The morality leaders of the last twenty years or so are reactionaries who lived through the sexual revolutions of the 1960's and 70's, but they are now disappearing. The recent death of Jerry Falwell and the obvious decline are examples of this disappearance. No clear leaders have replaced those two.

Digby agrees that this change is occurring. However, he disagrees that that this is a symptom of a basic change in reactionary and Southern nature of the modern conservative Republican Party.
I agree with the fact that the GOP is ready to vote for "a hero," but I don't think it signals any kind of substantive change in the GOP. The "values" obsession was just the code of the times for the standard Southern Strategy of white male prerogatives and macho ass-kicking that the Republicans have been running on for 40 years. They are just once more re-packaging their tired old crap in patriotism instead of the Bible, (which they often cycle with "states rights" and "traditional values" among other things.)

Nothing has changed. The Republicans are actually just being more honest than they've been in recent years when they didn't have a boogeyman to beat liberals over the head with and needed to erase the hideous image of that nasty man Newt Gingrich as the face of the Republican Party. "Values" was always just the girly-man version of "Giuliani Time."

The modern Republican party is all about authoritarianism, militarism and domination over minorities, women and gays. Rudy is a perfect candidate. After all, there is no candidate in the race who has humiliated women more masterfully or condoned official violence against racial minorities with more fervor. Of course the South Carolina Republicans love him.
I think this is a really insightful point made by Digby. The Republican reaction to Rudi is a clear example of a change in the nature of the Republican Party. When the Republicans lost the national security issue as a tool to beat the Liberals over the head with they shifted focus to the issues of sexual morality and dominance over women. These were code for the new version of the Republican "Southern Strategy" in which they win by attracting the white Southern racist and anti-immigrant vote.

But now they have 9/11 as a touchstone for everything they do to win elections, and they are shifting back to the more natural Republican issues of national security. The reactionary core nature of the conservative Republican Party has not changed during the twentieth century. Only the messages they use to attract different reactionary voting groups to support them has changed.

Passing bird commits lese Magesty, dumps on Bush.

Bush was conducting a Rose Garden news conference, when a passing bird contributed its view of what he had to say. Here's the video.

[Note: I have been trying to post this for two days, but the ABC News version in Flash simply would not run for me.]

Friday, May 25, 2007

CIA warned Bush of danger that Iraq would collapse into internal strife

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were warned in advance that while the initial attack on Iraq would be successful, that country would very probably collapse into internal strife and even civil war as a result. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has released portions of pre-war intelligence in which the CIA warned the administration of the risk and consequences of a conflict in the Middle East.
...the 40-page Senate report reveals that two intelligence assessments before the war accurately predicted that toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists. But those warnings were seemingly ignored.

In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community's think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerrilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists.”

It also warned that “many angry young recruits” would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and "Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials."
[From NBC News.]
So not only did they lie to get Congress to approve something they used as justification for the preemptive invasion of Iraq, they knew IN ADVANCE that it would not be the kind of fast in-and-out attack that Panama was. They knew they were going into a nasty, long-term occupation of an Arabic nation in the center of the Middle East.

So what did they REALLY think they were going to get from an attack on Iraq that was worth the cost that they knew - IN ADVANCE - America was going to have to pay? What possible payoff could have been worth the anticipated cost?

Unless Bush, Cheney and their advisers do not consider government to be real money, and they have no empathy at all for the people who are dying and being wounded to carry out the orders given from the White House. If that is the case, then Bush and Cheney do not see any cost at all. But that would be insane.

Then they have had the nerve - the chutzpa - to blame it on bad Intelligence from the CIA and the Intelligence Community. Those guys warned what was going to happen, and it did.

This report appears to be the one that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), then Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, promised would be released in Spring of 2005 after he held off presenting it before the 2004 Presidential Election. The Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq was released July 9, 2004 and focused on the failures of prewar Intelligence. It appears to me that this should have been part of that. But the Republicans promised that Phase II of the report "soon." Sen. Roberts stated about the second half of the report at the time the first part of the report was released that "It is a priority. I made my commitment and it will get done." Then when it had not been released by March 31, 2005 he said "I don’t think there should be any doubt that we have now heard it all regarding prewar intelligence. I think that it would be a monumental waste of time to replow this ground any further."

Now we can see what the Republican Party was hiding. This was the Congressional leadership as well as those in the White House.

It is clear that Pat Roberts was afraid of losing the 2004 Presidential election over the war in Iraq, but let's go back to the real question. What in Hell did Bush and company think they would gain by invading Iraq? They knew there were no WMDs. They knew Saddam was a nasty dictator, but his removal wasn't worth the financial cost or the American lives lost. It was a stretch to think that Saddam was really threatening anyone, especially America. "Installing a democracy" is something any government expert would laugh at. It can't be done by invasion. The cost of the invasion and the occupation was clearly going to be a great deal more than could be recovered even if America owned all the Iraqi oil. Is there anything else?

Why did Bush and company really think the invasion of Iraq could possibly be worth it?

The answer to the above question may lead to Cheney rather than to Bush. Steve Clemons reports that Dick Cheney really, really wants war with Iran now, and that Cheney and his subordinates are currently trying to sabotage Bush's efforts to use diplomacy to reach an accommodation with Iran. Joe Klein reports that he has confirmation of Steve's story from several sources. This resembles the ways that John Bolton was sabotaging Sec. of State Colin Powell when Powell attempted diplomatic solutions to American problems that would replace the military options. Bolton is, of course, one of Cheney's subordinates.

All of this tends to confirm the stories that it is Cheney calling the shots for the White House in military and foreign policy matters. It also sounds a lot like Cheney is literally bat-shit crazy.

The answer may be that America entered the Iraq War because of Dick Cheney's fevered fantasies, and Bush did not have enough good sense to realize that what Cheney was doing was literally insane.

Goodling gave us the crime. Caging. Who will take it from here?

Greg Palast has pointed out that Monica Goodling gave up the real crime at the core of Department of Justice antics. (See Bradblog.) The key is "Caging." The following is from a letter from Greg Palast published in Bradblog:
Goodling testified that Gonzales' Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson, perjured himself, lying to the committee in earlier testimony. The lie: Sampson denied Monica had told him about Tim Griffin's "involvement in 'caging' voters" in 2004.

Huh?? Tim Griffin? "Caging"??? [Snip]

...what's 'caging' and why is it such a dreadful secret that lawyer Sampson put his license to practice and his freedom on the line to cover Tim Griffin's involvement in it? Because it's a felony. And a big one.

Here's how caging worked, and along with Griffin's thoughtful emails themselves you'll understand it all in no time.

The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked "Do not forward" to voters' homes. Letters returned ("caged") were used as evidence to block these voters' right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses. Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and --- you got to love this --- American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are Black voters.

Why weren't these African-American voters home when the Republican letters arrived? The homeless men were on park benches, the students were on vacation --- and the soldiers were overseas. Go to Baghdad, lose your vote. Mission Accomplished.

How do I know? I have the caging lists...

I have them because they are attached to the emails Rove insists can't be found. I have the emails. 500 of them --- sent to our team at BBC after the Rove-bots accidentally sent them to a web domain owned by our friend John Wooden.

Here's what you need to know --- and the Committee would have discovered, if only they'd asked:

1. 'Caging' voters is a crime, a go-to-jail felony.
2. Griffin wasn't "involved" in the caging, Ms. Goodling. Griffin, Rove's right-hand man (right-hand claw), was directing the illegal purge and challenge campaign. How do I know? It's in the email I got. Thanks. And it's posted below.
[Note: go to Bradblog for this. Editor, PPS.]
3. On December 7, 2006, the ragin', cagin' Griffin was named, on Rove's personal demand, US Attorney for Arkansas. Perpetrator became prosecutor.

The committee was perplexed about Monica's panicked admission and accusations about the caging list because the US press never covered it. That's because, as Griffin wrote to Goodling in yet another email (dated February 6 of this year, and also posted below), their caging operation only made the news on BBC London: busted open, Griffin bitched, by that "British reporter," Greg Palast.
This is the next step in opening up the "caging" issue. It's not over by a long shot.

But why have the American media not picked up on it? Too complicated for them?

Prior related posts.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Part II of the Personal Democracy Forum

Yesterday I linked over to Josh Marshall's video of Part I of the Personal Democracy Forum. Today I want to send you to Part II.

In this installment Josh interviews two more people, one is a journalism professor who is working on how decentralized citizen journalism will work, and the second is a law professor who steps back a bit from the details and describes how citizen journalism and open source software are opening society up, while big businesses since 1990 have been working hard to lock down as much information as possible so that it is not available to most people (Think Disney and the extension of the life of copyrights.)

I strongly recommend that you sit through the video. And if it starts sort of hanging up then starting again, the data is not downloading as fast as it is being displayed. The solution is to start the video, pause it, and let it download a lot before restarting it.

Watching this video is a little like seeing the future. The first interview is a nuts-and-bolts how to do it for citizen journalism using the internet, and the second interview provides a quick glimpse of how the slow innovation is lagging behind tne new technologies and the people using them. So go watch it.

Ignorant Wingnut Sen. Coburn prevents honor to Rachal Carson

According to David Roberts Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) intended to introduce a bill to honor Rachel Carson on the anniversary of what would have been her 100th birthday. Her great book, Silent Spring, literally introduced the world to the idea that the environment had to be viewed as a complex interacting system in which the destruction of one species of plant or animal could upset the entire ecosystem. It seems to me to be a very appropriate honor considering the impact her book had on environmental thinking.

This is what Wikipedia says about what she was teaching:
as a renowned author, she was able to ask for (and receive) the aid of prominent biologists, chemists, pathologists, and entomologists. She used Silent Spring to create a mental association in the public's mind between wildlife mortality and over-use of pesticides like dieldrin, toxaphene, and heptachlor. Her cautions regarding the previously little-remarked practices of introducing an enormous variety of industrial products and wastes into wilderness, waterways, and human habitats with little concern for possible toxicity struck the general public as common sense, as much as good science; "We are subjecting whole populations to exposure to chemicals which animal experiments have proved to be extremely poisonous and in many cases cumulative in their effects. These exposures now begin at or before birth and - unless we change our methods - will continue through the lifetime of those now living."
Unfortunately, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has informed Sen. Cardin that he will kill the bill when submitted.

Why? Wingnut irrational anti-science reasons. Here is more from Wikipedia:
Even before Silent Spring was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1962, there was strong opposition to it. As Time Magazine recounted in 1999:

Carson was violently assailed by threats of lawsuits and derision, including suggestions that this meticulous scientist was a "hysterical woman" unqualified to write such a book. A huge counterattack was organized and led by Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid - indeed, the whole chemical industry - duly supported by the Agriculture Department as well as the more cautious in the media.

Scientists such as American Cyanamid's Robert White-Stevens (who wrote "If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth."[1]), chemical companies, and other critics attacked the data and interpretation in the book. Some went further to attack Carson's scientific credentials because her speciality was marine biology and zoology, not the field of biochemistry. Some went as far as characterizing her as a mere birdwatcher with more spare time than scientific background, calling her unprofessional.[citation needed] Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson reportedly concluded she was “probably a Communist.”[2]

In addition, many critics repeatedly asserted that she was calling for the elimination of all pesticides despite the fact that Carson had made it clear she was not advocating the banning or complete withdrawal of helpful pesticides, but was instead encouraging responsible and carefully managed use with an awareness of the chemicals' impact on the entire ecosystem. In fact, she concludes her section on DDT in Silent Spring not by urging a total ban, but with Practical advice should be "Spray as little as you possibly can" rather than "Spray to the limit of your capacity."
[Bolding is mine - Richard, Editor PPS.]
It is clear that what Rachel Carson suggested would sharply reduce the market for DDT and at the same time increase the on-going research costs into safe and appropriate ways to use DDt. The Chemical Industry strikes back at anyone who threatens to reduce their markets and increase their costs. They read the book and went on the attack.

Such corporate attacks are easier because wingnuts don't read the books they ban, burn and otherwise try to hide from the public. It's enough for them that Monsanto, Velsicol, American Cyanamid claim that she said that DDT should be banned.

As I recall, one of the things she established scientifically is that DDT in the environment makes the egg shells of wild birds much thinner and weaker. One result of this was that the bald eagle was rapidly going extinct. DDT use was sharply curtailed, and now we are getting Eagles back. Carson researched environmental connectedness. If someone uses a pesticide to eliminate one organism, the effects of the pesticide are felt throughout the food chain. Poisoning one insect with a pesticide ends up poisoning larger animals and humans further up the food chain. You would never hear that from the chemical industry. It would reduce their markets and raise research costs to them too much.

Of course, they could not be sued for the animals and people their product damaged and killed because the research that could prove it is very costly and complicated. Even if it was performed, convincing 12 members of a jury that the chemical company caused the problem would be extremely difficult. These cases would be more difficult to prove than was the fact that smoking causes cancer. This is a classic case in which a corporation takes the profits and passes off the costs to the environment and to society, making others pay the costs of the product.

So logically, rationally we have to be careful how we use pesticides. That means more research into both the effects of the pesticides and into the food chains the pesticide is to be injected into. But that kind of research requires scientists who understand the ecosystem, know how to collect data, and can both apply and understand the results of statistical processes. Such people are seen as barriers to action by the wingnuts who elect such politicians as Tom DeLay ("The Bug Man" - he hates the Environmental Protection Agency) and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

With all that as background, look at this relatively new website. Rachel Was Wrong.

So Rachel doesn't get a Senate bill to honor what would have been her 100th birthday.

Once again we learn that Bush placed an incompetent in a high-level government job

This article is primarily a review of the appearance of Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and her performance on the Jon Stewart Show, but take a look at Ms. Spellings' qualifications to be the Secretary of Education!
A cursory background sketch on Spellings reveals her never to have earned a degree in education or been a classroom teacher. Her official government bio begins, "As the first mother of school-aged children to serve as Education Secretary, Spellings has a special appreciation for the hopes and concerns of American families." Forget qualifications on how to educate a nation; she's a mom!

The most important detail about Secretary Spellings is that she was the political director for George W. Bush's first gubernatorial run in Texas, and then served as a senior political adviser for him from 1995 to 2000. Get past the charming Texas drawl and you reveal an inner-circle Bush loyalist/ideologue.
We expect school teachers to have teacher training as well as training in their subject matter, and school administrators are expected to have graduate education in the discipline of Education. School Superintendents have doctorates in education.

Ms. Spellings' qualification as Secretary of Education for the third most populous nation on Earth? She is a "Mom." Oh, and an inner-circle Bush loyalist from Texas. From the review of her performance on the Jon Stewart show, she is doing for the Department of Education what Michael Brown did for FEMA, and perhaps she is doing what Alberto Gonzales has done for to the Department of Justice. She can't even talk seriously about the problem of "Teaching to the Test." Heck of a job, Maggie.

If this were the Biblical story of Job, all of America would be Job and George Bush and his Republican minions would be all of the trials and tribulations imposed at once. Say after me now "How long, Oh Lord, must we suffer so?"