'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Where There's Smoke ... ?

So a few posts back I reported on a Britich tabloid's claim that Bin Laden was "boxed in" by British and US forces, a claim quickly denied by Pakistan. Now, we have Iranian state radio reporting that Bin Laden is not just boxed in but was captured "a long time ago." The Iranian report specifically mentioned that the situation was being covered up to facillitate an October Surprise:

Tehran, Feb 28, IRNA -- Iran`s state radio has quoted an informed source as saying that Osama bin Laden had been captured in a tribal region in Pakistan.

The radio`s external service, broadcast in Pushtun, said US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld`s trip to Pakistan on Thursday had been made in connection with the capture.

The radio said, "The capture of the al-Qaeda leader has been made sometime before, but (US President George W.) Bush is intending to announce it when the American presidential election is held." Contacted by IRNA, an IRIB announcer at the Pusthtun service, confirmed the news, which he said, they had got from a `very reliable source` in Peshawar, Pakistan.

"Osama bin Laden has been arrested a long time ago, but (US President George W.) Bush is intending to use it for propaganda maneuvering in the presidential election," he said. Osama`s head on a platter is believed to be a big boost to Bush`s presidential chances, which are increasingly being eclipsed by Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry.

The Saudi-born dissident is accused of masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks on American landmarks in New York and Washington. Visiting Kabul on Thursday, Rumsfeld said he believes Osama will be caught, but has no idea when.

The AP picked up the story, offered some tepid denials from the various players:

Larry Di Rita, the chief Pentagon spokesman who traveled with Rumsfeld this week to Afghanistan, denied the report. "I don't have any reason to think it's true," he said Saturday.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, also said he had no information to suggest bin Laden had been caught.

"Things are going well, and we believe we will eventually catch all the leaders of al-Qaeda, but I know nothing of that report," he said.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed called the report "baseless." "We have neither arrested Osama nor we have any information about him," he told AP.

Pakistani Army spokesman Gen. Shaukat Sultan also said the report was not true. "That information is wrong," he said.

and claimed that a source for the Iranian story has since recanted, saying that he was misquoted.

At this point I'm starting to believe that at least the boxed-in rumor is true, and things like this Iranian claim are just confused echoes of the true story. What would be the motive of Iranian journalists in making up a story like this whole cloth? I think it's pretty clear -- based on the empirical observation that these news stories just aren't going away -- they're reporting an actual rumor, but is there any truth behind the rumor? ...

Cecil B. De Mel

There's a delighfully mean review of The Passion of the Hype over at the Dissident Voice. Leilla Matsui theorizes on the relationship between the current attack on the rights of gay people and the rise of an affable Australian wacko's Jesus movie:

In the late 1980s, a similar controversy erupted when artist Andres Serrano exhibited a "blasphemous" series of photos depicting the crucifixion as seen through a jar of the artist's own urine. Using the iconography of his Catholic childhood, Serrano's work challenged the virulent homophobia of America under Reagan. A dying man bearing the cross of his unacceptable passions became an apt and powerful symbol of a nation coming to grips with AIDS. Now, as the issue of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages provides the impetus for a new onslaught of homophobia, Gibson gives us a battered and muscly defender of "family values," murdered by a howling Jewish mob; a minority anti-Semites throughout the ages have associated with decadent sexual practices and "tainted" blood. In an age of war, non-artist provocateur Mel Gibson explores the roots of his own blood lust in the character of Jesus simply because he has enough money to play dress up in the desert.

For all its "bad taste," Serrano's novelty shop crucifix floating in a jar of pee could hardly be described as "kitsch" which may explain why Republicans were so offended by it at the time. Perhaps the most subversive element of "Piss Christ" was its rather melancholy and conventional beauty. Gibson, on the other hand, adds an element of high camp to his significantly bigger budget drama.

Dissident Voice is a pretty good source of hard left views. It's nice that's there's another clearinghouse of these types of articles besides just Znet.

How Anne Coulter Helped Promote Howard Dean

So there's a struggle underway for control of the governor's vast internet empire. I guess I'm rooting for Trippi ... the Dean Machine always was more interesting than Dean.

I never quite got the Dean phenomenon -- what all the excitement was about. Standing up to Bush, I guess, but didn't it have to be more than that? To me he seemed like your average Democratic politician. Or perhaps the rise of Dean played into, or was the result of, this dynamic that was engineered by the right in which leftism is defined solely on social issues.

A perfect example is the work of Anne Coulter. Who are these ubiquitous liberals she valiantly wages her war against? Maybe mighty union leaders? A secret oligarchy of organizers and labor bosses? Powerful cabals of activist janitors shutting down industry for their own gain? No, such leftists don't exist, and, in Coulter's universe, Americans don't care about economics anyway. She rails against the elitist editors of the New York Times for shedding no tears when Dale Earnhardt died. Or Hollywood bigshots who think they're better than everybody and are out of touch with flyover country. Your average American, you see, isn't concerned with empowerment in the workplace, with having decent benefits, a good salary, and job security -- no, no, no, what Joe America is concerned about is whether that snobby Barbara Streisand is looking down on him. The right likes to say it's persecuted by powerful liberals; unfortunately, in the sphere of life and culture where the real power resides, the right killed off the competition long ago-- there aren't many powerful progessives persecuting the poor ultra-rich -- so they have to point their finger in a different direction, in the social direction. (In this paragraph, I'm basically paraphrasing an article in the current issue of the great little journal The Baffler that unfortunately is not online)

What does this have to do with Dean? Well, this worldview has won out. In the case of the good governor, it's won out to such an extent that a guy like Dean gets treated as if he's Eugene V. Debs when in fact he's a fiscal conservative who, you know, voted for NAFTA and wants to extend it. But, I guess all those guys on DailyKos bemoaning the loss of the true progressive candidate like disgruntled Greens don't care about NAFTA. Seriously, that's what I guess.

When leftists say there's little difference between the two parties mostly what we are talking about are fiscal and economic issues. The claim is viewed with shock and outrage, like it's the ravings of a crazy person, but only by those who are fully entrenched in the the-social-sphere-is-the-only-sphere worldview.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Not Very Surprising

So it's become pretty clear that the charges against Katherine Gun were dropped to keep hidden the extent to which the Iraq invsion was viewed as illegal thoughout Whitehall*. This really shouldn't be too surprising to anyone who has been paying attention; after all, Richard Perle admitted that the war violated international law, saying:

I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing. International law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone.*

Perle's statement was a much bigger deal internationally than it was in the States. In fact, it wasn't even reported here.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Rats Leaving A Sinking Ship

Richard Perle resigned from the Defense Policy Board. KnightRidder ran the complete text of his resignation letter:

February 18, 2004
The Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Thank you for finding time to see me on February 10. As I said then, the meeting of the Defense Policy Board would be my last, after 17 years of continuous membership under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It was a great privilege to serve on the DPB, but never more so than during your leadership. You have been open to ideas from all members of the group, challenging conventional wisdom and accepted doctrine and examining complex policy issues with great care, wisdom and courage.

Since there is bound to be speculation about my departure from the DPB, I thought I would put what I said to you in writing.

Despite heated disclaimers, my membership on the defense policy board has led many people to see my articles, books and television appearances to associate my views with those of the administration or the Department of Defense. This results partly from a misunderstanding about the role and nature of the Defense Policy Board, exacerbated by the controversy surrounding policies I have advocated as a private citizen. A television viewer or newspaper reader, accustomed to zoning boards, school boards and appeal boards, is likely to think that the Defense Policy Board actually makes decisions, and that a member of it must be in a position to speak authoritatively about administration policy. The fact that the Defense Policy Board is not a decision making body but is simply a forum enabling the Secretary of Defense to hear a variety of opinions and observations (often opposed to one another) is simply not understood by the general public

We are now approaching a long presidential election campaign, in the course of which issues on which I have strong views will be widely discussed and debated. I would not wish those views to be attributed to you or the President at any time, and especially not during a presidential campaign. This is particularly true now since I have just published a book that calls for far reaching reform of government departments responsible for combating terrorism. Many of the ideas in that book are controversial and I wish to be free to argue them without those views or my arguments getting caught up in the campaign.

So it is with gratitude for the opportunity to serve the Department of Defense that I wish to resign from membership on the Defense Policy Board.

With admiration for your service to the nation and the cause of freedom, I remain, sincerely yours,

Richard Perle

Accordng to the ABC News report Rumsfeld didn't ask him to resign, but the text I emphasized is a rare admission by a member of the inner circle that neocons are no longer the kids of the moment. Rumor has it Karl Rove's it's the economy stupid-type internal campaign slogan this time around is No War in '04 ... perhaps Fat Karl had a little talk with Perle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Hijacking of the Pentagon
(or a Post in Which American Leftist Links to American Conservative)

If you haven't read this interview with Karen Kwiatkowski yet you should really check it out. Kwiatkowski was a conservative Republican career analyst transferred to the Pentagon's office for Near East South Asia during the period in which the neoconservatives were preparing to invade Iraq. Kwiatkowski's disgust with the crass politicization of policy that she witnessed led to her resignation. Her testimony provides an insider's confirmation of allegations the left has long assumed to be true, that the neoconservative's Office of Special Plans did not serve to create policy, rather, to create propaganda. According to Kwiatkowski, the OSP's output was an evolving bulleted list of talking points that was to be used verbatim in all internal reports regarding Iraq and terrorism. Furthermore, she contends as this list was modified, changes did not track the truth as ascertained by our intelligence services, rather, changes tracked reports in the mainstream media. So for instance the talking point about Mohammed Atta meeting with Iraqi agents was dropped not when, say, the CIA discovered that it wasn't true, but when the Washington Post ran a story treating the tale as highly dubious-- a scandalous dynamic given that this list was to be used to source internal policy documents.

Here's Kwiatkowski on the real reasons for the invasion of Iraq:

One of those reasons is that sanctions and containment were working and everybody pretty much knew it. Many companies around the world were preparing to do business with Iraq in anticipation of a lifting of sanctions. But the U.S. and the U.K. had been bombing northern and southern Iraq since 1991. So it was very unlikely that we would be in any kind of position to gain significant contracts in any post-sanctions Iraq. And those sanctions were going to be lifted soon, Saddam would still be in place, and we would get no financial benefit.

The second reason has to do with our military-basing posture in the region. We had been very dissatisfied with our relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly the restrictions on our basing. And also there was dissatisfaction from the people of Saudi Arabia. So we were looking for alternate strategic locations beyond Kuwait, beyond Qatar, to secure something we had been searching for since the days of Carter — to secure the energy lines of communication in the region. Bases in Iraq, then, were very important — that is, if you hold that is America’s role in the world. Saddam Hussein was not about to invite us in.

The last reason is the conversion, the switch Saddam Hussein made in the Food for Oil program, from the dollar to the euro. He did this, by the way, long before 9/11, in November 2000 — selling his oil for euros. The oil sales permitted in that program aren’t very much. But when the sanctions would be lifted, the sales from the country with the second largest oil reserves on the planet would have been moving to the euro.

The U.S. dollar is in a sensitive period because we are a debtor nation now. Our currency is still popular, but it’s not backed up like it used to be. If oil, a very solid commodity, is traded on the euro, that could cause massive, almost glacial, shifts in confidence in trading on the dollar. So one of the first executive orders that Bush signed in May [2003] switched trading on Iraq’s oil back to the dollar.

A couple of months ago, American Conservative ran a three part feature in which Karen Kwiatkowski tells her story in more detail: Part I: In Rumsfeld’s Shop, Part II: Conscientious Objector, Part III: Open Door Policy. Fascinating reading, she pretty much lays out the whole history of the Office of Special Plans. I don't know why this series didn't get more play in blogs -- maybe just not in blogs I read, given its source. (Actually, I had a fun time poking around on American Conservative -- I had no idea of the extent to which real conservatives are pissed off at Bush and at neoconservatives ... check this shit out, and this)

It's Official ...

The charges against Katherine Gun have been dropped.

Um ... What Happened to Defending Democracy?

Amy Goodman interviewed Ira Kurzban on her show today. Kurzban is a Miami-based lawyer who's served as the General Counsel of Haiti since 1991. His position on the unfolding crisis is that based on the history of US involvement in Haiti, the identity of the rebels, the types of weapons they are using, and their major demand, the return of a Haitian army, it is likely that the US Defense Intelligence Agency and/or the CIA is deeply involved in the coup. He says that there is hard evidence prima facie, at least, that it is a military operation and that the US knew what was going to happen before it began:

We have analyzed the kinds of weapons that these people have brought from the Dominican Republic, who they are, how they're organized, and they're organized, really, as a military commando strike force that's going from city to city. They're very well organized, and they're armed to the teeth with the kinds of weapons, Amy, that really, no one has ever seen in Haiti, except when Haiti had an army. This notion that somehow, you know, this is kind of a rag-tag group of people who had arms that they got originally from Aristide, which is kind of what's playing in the press generally, is just totally untrue. When we have looked at the weapons that they have, they have M-16's, M-60's. They now have armor piercing weapons they have rocket propelled launchers. They have weapons to shoot down the one helicopter that the government has. They have acted as a pretty tight-knit commando unit, and they're led by, as I think you were pointing out in the introduction -- they're led by people who were former associates of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Jodel Chamblin was the trigger man for FRAPH during the military coup, when FRAPH -- when FRAPH was written was a creation of the Defense Intelligence Agency of the United States. There's enough indications from our point of view, at least from my point of view, that the United States certainly knew what was coming about two weeks before this military operation started. The United States made contingency plans for Guantanamo.

Kurzban believes that the peace plan was just a stalling tactic to give the opposition more time to claim more towns and territory before the international community offers anything more than words. At this point, Aristide has asked for "international assistance", meaning peace-keeping troops -- where is the US? -- as Kurzban states

Secretary [Powell] has said [that the US wants to preserve democracy in Haiti and allow Aristide to complete his term], and we hope that he is sincere in saying that. And we hope that he is going to act on it now, and that the administration is going to act on it. The President of Haiti facing a military coup, has now said, we need international assistance. He said it to the world yesterday. And the question is, will the world act or will they allow a democracy to be destroyed. No one has ever contested that President Aristide's election was not a full, fair election and no one has ever said that Aristide would not have been elected in the year 2000 because of his overwhelming popularity. The question is will the international community stand by and allow a democracy in this hemisphere to be terminated by a brutal military coup of persons who have a very, very sordid history and gross violations of human rights.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Halliburton Redux

The Financial Times reports that the Pentagon is investigating whether Halliburton subsiary Kellogg Brown & Root fraudulently overcharged the US government to import gasoline into Iraq. The odd thing is the Army Corps of Engineers launched its own inquiry months ago and not-very-surprisingly concluded there was no wrong-doing but, now, has asked the inspector-general to open a criminal investigation.

Some Other Changes to Consider

Well, George W. Bush has decided to demonstrate his desire for a smaller less intrusive government by amending the constitution of the United States of America to restrict the rights of a minority group such that our laws are in accordance with a two thousand year old near-Eastern cult to which he belongs. You know, I just chalk it up to Bush being a uniter and not a divider. I think he could even be more of a uniter if he would just get rid of this troublesome bit of text:

Amendment XIV

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The proponents of the new constitutional amendment might as well work to revoke XIV while they're at it -- actually, if they're honest, they're going to have to at least change its text a little. Also, they could organize to pass an amendment making Christianity the official religion of the United States -- the Christianity amendment could be worded such that harmonizing our laws with the sacred texts of the state religion happens as a matter of course -- that would save a lot of time in the long run.

Judy is a Dick Slap

Left Hook has an amusing article up about confronting NYT reporter Judith Miller during the Q&A period of a speech she gave. Miller is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the paper of record printing Ahmed Chalabi's bedtime stories for neoconservatives as fact. There was also just a piece in the New York Review of Books about Miller, the gist of which was that the reason the NYT didn't have much to say about the extent to which BushCo exaggerated the existing intelligence is because it had already reported the exaggerated intelligence as fact in Judith Miller columns.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Wake the Kids, Phone the Neighbors

A Chomsky article was in the New York Times today. Now, how am I going to get these monkeys to fly back into my ass? ...

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Strange Tidings

A British tabloid reported yesterday that Bin Laden has been trapped in an area 16km into Pakistan by British and US forces. However, Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed that the report is not true. Don't know what to make of this. Perhaps ... to enter tinfoil hat country ... Osama Bin Laden is not boxed in because it is not October?

A Darwin Award

Check out this post from the ever mysterious Xymphora about the stupidity of SUV's. It concludes

The corpse of every moron who dies driving an SUV should receive the Darwin Award at the funeral with a suitable notation marked on the tombstone so anyone who sees it can have a good laugh. But the safely issue is just the tip of the moron iceberg. Every SUV owner has paid a huge amount of money on wasted sheet metal bolted to the chassis of a pick-up truck with no engineering thought applied to the design whatsoever. Each one will waste huge amounts of money moving this stupid mass of sheet metal around, paying for completely wasted fuel. Burning this fuel needlessly harms the environment and depletes a rapidly disappearing resource. At least they have their cupholders . . .

O Ralphie Boy, The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling...

In this blog, I haven't had much to say about the primary race, because I see it as a farce. I had a post early on in which I said I didn't care what happened as long as Lieberman wasn't the nominee, and I stand by that. I don't think there are any substantive differences between the Democratic candidates, except that Kucinich is obviously a leftist, in the old tradition of Debs and all the others who dedicated their lives to giving Americans alive today an enormous gift: our social safety net, our child labor laws, our beloved weekend, our civil rights laws, our high standard of living.

That said I won't be supporting Nader this time around. Not because I think he will hand the election to Bush but because of what his 2004 campaign is going to do to the left. Look, the way I see it, the lesson we must take from the 20th century as a whole is that the long term survival of the human race is at stake. Read the Observer's article about the Pentagon preparing for wars of survival as sudden global climactic change becomes a reality in the near future. Pakistan has nukes for godsake. I like sentience. I like the human race -- and it's probably the only game in town. We are probably the most complex entity that has evolved in this universe. I'd like us to be around in, say, 10,000 years. If we are around in 10,000 years, it will be because the good side of our nature, the part that values freedom, that values cooperation and democratic ideals, the part that values solidarity and empathy with others, triumphed over the darker parts of our nature. If that happens it will be because we have built institutions that reward, reinforce, and amplify the good parts of our nature rather than exacerbating the myopic selfish part, as global state-sponsored capitalism does.

I supported the Green party in 2000 because of the possibility that it could blossom into such an institution -- a long shot, yes, but you have to start somewhere. Given the animosity and vitriol that has been directed at the Greens over the last few years (that I think was largely unjustified but very real, nonetheless -- so one can't just wish it away), it's clear now that we are going to have to start somewhere else. Nader should have stumped for Kucinich. All he is doing now is building a huge wall of hatred and resentment between the hard left and the liberal left that's going to take years to dismantle.

I wish him luck. Maybe he will find some way to do something positive here, but it doesn't seem very likely to me.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Hurray for Our Side

It's looking like Katherine Gun is going to go free: (from "Case set to be dropped against GCHQ mole who blew whistle on US bugging ", Guardian, 2/20/04)

The prosecution is preparing to abandon the case against a former GCHQ employee charged with leaking information about a "dirty tricks" spying operation before the invasion of Iraq, the Guardian has learned. Katharine Gun, 29, is due to appear at the Old Bailey next week where she has said she will plead not guilty to breaking the Official Secrets Act.

She has said her alleged disclosures exposed serious wrongdoing by the US and could have helped to prevent the deaths of Iraqis and British forces in an "illegal war".

The case is potentially hugely embarrassing for the government and would open up GCHQ operations to unwelcome publicity. Also damaging and politically threatening is her plan to seek the disclosure of the full advice from the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, on the legality of the war against Iraq.

You know, she's lucky she's not American. This sensible decision of the prosecution -- and, generally, I guess, of Blair's administration -- is precisely the sort of thing that BushCo is incapable of. They deal with all criticism, all dissent, by unleashing the dogs. The extent to which this is true actually makes for high comedy in that the Bush administration seems to have real love of cutting off its nose to spite its face. If this case was a US scandal, Ashcroft and the boys would never have let up. It'll ruin someone's life -- too bad, we're going to nail her. Everyone in the world thinks its a bad idea -- too bad, were going to nail her. It actually hurts our own cause because of the harsh light it will shine on us and our actions -- too bad, we're going to nail her.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Ashcroft Under Fire (Again)

Last June three arab immigrants in Detroit were found guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorism. The federal prosecutor of the case was Richard Convertino. The case was heralded as a major victory in the "war on terrorism". Here's FOX's version, "Three Found Guilty at Michigan Terror Trial", 6/3/03 which states, "Defense lawyers said the defendants were victims of overzealous federal agents who relied on the lies of an admitted con man to build a flimsy case that didn't add up to terrorism." Ashcroft gloated so loudly about this case while it was going on that he was scolded twice by the trial's judge for violating the gag order.

But a couple of months ago doubts about the case lead to an investigation into the FBI's Detroit office and Convertino. The Associated Press, ("Misconduct questions in antiterror probe", 1/30/2004) reported:

The probe into Convertino, who was removed from the case in September, is examining whether he withheld evidence from the defense, threatened a defense lawyer with an unfounded criminal investigation, and arranged to reduce the sentence of an illegal immigrant on trial for drug charges in exchange for acting as an informant in the terrorism case.

Convertino refused to comment on the existence of a department investigation but vehemently denied the charges [...] He said the leak [of Farhat's identity, to a local newspaper,] by Justice Department officials was an attempt to smear him and endangered the life of the drug defendant-turned-informant, Marwan Farhat.

The leak "was meant to deprive me of the opportunity to answer any baseless allegations in the proper form," he said.

Now Convertino is fighting back and launching a suit against Ashcroft: (from "US lawyer sues over terror cases", Guardian, 2/19/04)

An American prosecutor has launched a lawsuit against the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, claiming that the justice department has mismanaged terrorist cases. In an unusual move, Richard Convertino, the assistant US attorney for Detroit, has accused Mr Ashcroft of smearing him and putting an informant's life in jeopardy.

He claims Mr Ashcroft and justice department officials compromised a crucial intelligence source as part of a bureaucratic vendetta.

Mr Convertino says officials punished him for cooperating with a Senate investigation into failures in the war on terror by blowing the cover of an intelligence asset.

It's interesting how similar Ashcroft's attack in this case is to the attack against Joseph Wilson that caused the Plame scandal. Marwan Farhat had been an actual asset in Ashcroft's beloved war on terror, an asset that was squandered to hurt a political opponent. Here's a quote from Marwan Farhat's letter to Special Agent Robert Pertuso whom he claims asked Farhat to steal mail from the terror suspects in exchange for 25% of any money confiscated from the suspects:

I worked around the clock helping and assisting the government of the United States to put Muslims in jail. My life has been destroyed, abused and used to benefit your interests.*

It should be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Horns, Halos, and Occam's Razor

Well, I watched Horns and Halos on Cinemax last night. It's a documentary about Soft Skull Press's struggle to reprint the controversial Bush biography Fortunate Son. In terms of cinema, it's a pretty good movie, definitely worth seeing -- an interesting portrait of Soft Skull's founder Sander Hicks and of J. H. Hatfield, the author of Fortunate Son who tragically committed suicide in a large part because of the controversy. (If you are not familiar with this story, scroll down to my post What Was Helen Getting At?)

But do I feel the movie gave me any more reason to believe the notorious Bush/cocaine arrest/community service rumor? Not really. Perhaps I even believe Hatfield's tale a little less now, because prior to seeing the movie I was under the impression that Hatfield's three anonymous sources were nobodies who didn't speak out on the record to avoid Republican backlash. The movie reveals the sources were non-nobodies who Hatfield did not reveal, not to protect them, but because they would deny his story: Karl Rove, Clay Johnson, and Bush's minister Rev. Jim Mayfield.

Why would Karl Rove tell a Bush biographer that Bush got arrested for cocaine possession in 1972? Here's Sander Hicks in his own words (talking to David Horowitz no less):

HICKS: In fact, I'd like to refer you to my piece published on our website, the new Publisher's Preface that's at press right now in the new edition. We've revealed these sources now, and one of them is Rove. hatfield was in contact with Rove throughout his research process, during Fortunate Son originally. In August of '99, Salon were the first people to break this news. They got this tip and reported it: Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, and that's why he did volunteer community service at Project P.U.L.L. in Houston. So Hatfield called Rove back up and he called Clay Johnson and got the full story from them. The reason they actually GAVE him the full story, albeit with some flaws that were deliberate so they could later discredit him, was that I think they already knew Hatfield was a felon. They could discredit the entire story, they could manipulate the media. They could use Hatfield, and release Hatfield's record, release it to the Dallas Morning News that Hatfield himself was a felon. They could completely sweep the media, wipe the slate clean, and take the media's focus on Bush and Bush's wild years, and cast the spotlight right back on Hatfield. Destroy the news of Bush's drug history by destroying the messenger. Which is genius, in some ways....

HOROWITZ: Yeah. I thank Karl Rove if he did that, and the country thanks him and the world thanks him.

Look I want to believe this story. Sander seems like a nice guy and I feel really bad about Hatfield ... but all we have is Sander's word and all he has is Hatfield's word and Hatfield is dead. Hatfield, by his own admission, was trying to make a big splash, was trying to climb the literary food chain. When Hatfield had Rove telling him this story on the phone, why didn't he turn on his tape recorder?

I also think Hicks' claim just plays into this deification I see on the left of Karl Rove as some kind of criminal mastermind. I think it's a counter-productive fixation. Everyone is so defeatist, figuring Bush has to win because Karl Rove is omnipotent. Karl Rove is just some guy. He's good at running a dirty campaign, fine -- Mephistopheles he is not.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the film. But you know ... Who knows? I still think some version of Hatfield's story might be true, based not on the work of Hatfield, but based on empirical observation of the lengths to which BushCo went in covering up whatever they are covering up regarding the AWOL narrative.

If anyone has any thoughts on Hatfield's version of the story or why we should believe it, I'd be interested in hearing them...

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors

No, I don't mean Drudge's dud. How 'bout all those other ones? There's eveyone's favorite creepy crucifier of hypocrites and his alarming tale of George W's indiscretion. And the current doozy Atrios is peddling featuring lust in the dust Texas-style. Also Bill Bennet and the curious hobby he pursues when not gambling. And tonight at 7pm Horns and Halos premiers on Cinemax ... Jesus Christ, what's going on? Has Karl Rove switched teams or something? Strange times, strange times... or maybe Larry Flynt and Karl Rove were separated at birth?

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Good Ol' Viceroy Bremer on Self-Determination

AFP reports Bremer says Iraqis can have any kind of government they want as long it's the kind the US picks for them. Sheikh Sadr al-din al-Kubbanji retorts

Today the power is in the hands of the people and this means that we are not obliged to adopt principles imported from outside, thousands of miles from here. I think that if one seeks to impose a solution other what the Iraqi population wants, it would spark a crisis and none of the parties want this to happen.

Um ... Little does he know, Bremer is planning on vetoing the civil war.

You know, look, all kidding aside, these people, Bushco, neocons, etc. love to talk about democracy but their usage of the word is so narrow they're like caricatures of themselves. Democracy is a vague word. It means many things to many people. Neocons et al. use the word to mean "A government that serves the interests of a narrow spectrum of US-based corporations." You can put that clause in place of the word "democracy" in any statement made by these people, and I guarantee the statement will be more coherent, will make more sense.

One value that's intertwined with the semantic halo of the word "democracy" is self-determination. These people never talk about self-determination, because they don't believe in it. They don't believe that people should have say over decisions to the extent that the decisions effect their lives. Look at Cheney with his secret energy commission; look at the unelected bureaucrats in the organizations that control the general framework of corporate globalization; look at Wolfowitz calling for Turkey's military to rise up because its government enacted a policy that was preferred by 90% of its population, not allowing the US to use its border to invade Iraq.

I am a leftist. I don't like theocracies, but my likes and dislikes -- as well as Bremer's and Wolfowitz's and Cheney's and Perle's -- have very little to do with what form of government it is just to impose on Iraq -- very little to do with it, because the decision does not effect my life. I can argue with Iraqis if I like. I can argue for a separation of church and state, but, if we value the notion of self-determination and democracy, the choice is ultimately theirs. To the extent that the choice is theirs, they are free. To the extent that it is not, they are not free.

But Will They Save Pittsburgh?
Peggy of the Island of the Blue Dolphins
And Then Are They Going To Cure Reagan With Their Mysterious Dolphin Magic?

Oh ... shit ... we're done for now. According to the wise and beautiful Wall Street Journal charmer, Peggy Noonan, enchanted dolphins may just save Bush's presidency: (from a Wapo online chat with Noonan)

St. Louis, Mo.: Will enchanted dolphins arrive in time to save President Bush's drowning Presidency like they saved Elian?

Peggy Noonan: Maybe. And maybe he won't need saving. And maybe the Democrats will. And maybe by the election you'll need saving, and perhaps some of Bush's decisions made in connection to the war on terror will save you. It's all the maybes that keep us getting up in the morning with a sense of excitment and anticipation, don't you think?

The question is a reference to an April 2000 WSJ piece, Why Did They Do It? in which Ms. Noonan asserted that dolphins that were similar to "a contingent of angels" saved Elian Gonzalez from being eaten by sharks. Look, I can't make this stuff up. It's also rumored that the dolphins were among those who beat up radio journalist Scott Piasant de Obregon outside the house of Gonzalez's Miami relatives* (Okay, that link doesn't actually mention enchanted dolphins but they were there ... Drudge told me!)

(Thanks to some guy from the comments of Eschaton who was the question asker)

Moral Conservatives Want It Both Ways. Media Let's Them Have It

FAIR reports that media coverage of the proposed ammendment banning gay marriage has been misleading regarding the consequences of the legislation. Proponents of the ban and pundits are spinning advocacy of the ammendment from a state's rights angle, implying or openly declaring that although gay marriages would be illegal federally, states could pass their own civil union laws:

"[The amendment] would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but allow states to establish civil unions for gay couples. Some conservatives are unhappy that the proposed amendment would allow civil unions for gay couples." -- Terry Moran, ABC World News Tonight correspondent

The thing is ... the above isn't clearly true. It's an issue that is under dispute; however, the media consistently reports the ammendment story such that it is implied civil unions will not be banned. Here's the text of the proposed amendment:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

The second sentence is what is under dispute. Conservative's backing the the-legality-of-civil-unions-will-be-up-to-states interpretation assert

The second sentence is directed at courts, stripping from them the power to compel homosexual marriage by appeal to other constitutional provisions.*

but even if the above is the intended interpretation if homosexual civil unions could not be compelled by appeal to other constitutional provisions, isn't it just a matter of time before they were banned outright. Furthermore, it is not at all clear that the above is the intended interpretation.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Stolen Youth

Justin Podur recently reviewed Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel's Detention of Palestinian Children by Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh, and Adah Kay. The book sounds pretty gripping and informative. Here's an excerpt from the review:

Children are arrested "at checkpoints, on the street, or at their homes by heavily armed Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night. The soldiers take them to detention centres in Israeli settlements or military camps… the children are interrogated. This almost always involves some form of torture or abuse, including sleep and food deprivation, threatening language, beatings with heavy batons, being punched and kicked, as well as being tied in painful and contorted positions for long periods of time…"

After interrogation, children are brought before a military 'court' that operates under a different set of laws than those that apply for Israelis. Where Israelis come under Israeli civil law, Palestinians fall under military orders. Whereas Israeli children, including Israeli children in settlements in the occupied territories, get child-specific courts and procedures, Palestinian children are tried by the same Israeli military courts and judges as try Palestinian adults. The rules of evidence and procedure are such that it does not make sense to call the institutions that decide where to incarcerate Palestinian children 'courts' at all. When these 'courts' have made their decisions, most Palestinian children are incarcerated in Israel itself, with children of 16-17 treated as adults by Israel's military laws (according to these laws, Israeli children are children if they are under 18, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but Palestinian children are adults if they 16 or over). Visiting the children in prison is impossible for family members, given the permanent closure of the Occupied Territories that existed long before the territories were physically walled in as they are now, with the Gaza Strip being surrounded by electric fence and the West Bank nearly surrounded by the apartheid wall. But not content to simply wall and fence Palestinians in on all sides, Israel proceeds to round them up and take them off to prisons inside Israel.

Indeed, prison is "a central feature of Palestinian life", with over 600,000 Palestinians having spent time in prison since 1967 (the population in the Occupied Territories is around 3 million). Prison, Cook, Hanieh, and Kay argue, including the detention of children, is part of Israel's system of control, "permeating every aspect of Palestinian life. It is a system backed by legal, political, economic, cultural and psychological structures, and designed to keep more than 3 million people under submission."

I guess I knew this sort of thing went on, but it's shocking to hear the scale at which it goes on.
(thanks to the postmodern anarchist for the tip)

Sunday, February 15, 2004

What Was Helen Getting At?

Recently Helen Thomas grilled the hell out of Scottie during the White House press briefing ... the transcript is hysterical. But what was Helen getting at? She kept asking Scottie about whether Bush had ever performed community service because she was trying to substantiate the following rumor: George W. Bush was arrested for cocaine possession in 1972, through political connections the arrest was expunged from his record, but Bush had to perform punitive community service. The idea is that this episode is the cause of the holes in Bush's military records.

Where does this allegation come from? In 1999 Salon ran a gossip article that reported the above claim. According to the original Salon piece, an anonymous email circulating around media organizations purported the cocaine arrest story and that Bush performed his community service at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Houston. Salon contacted the community center and the allegation turned out to be false.

However, this story inspired J. H. Hatfield, who was currently working on the tell-all unauthorized Bush biography Fortunate Son to investigate whether Bush's stint as a counselor for Houston's Project P.U.L.L. was actually the result of a community service sentence. Bush's work with inner city children for P.U.L.L. is a fact, mentioned in an official online Bush bio (but not in the well-known miserable failure bio) as well as in A Charge to Keep; interestingly, this service took place during 1972, a contentious year in the AWOL timeline. Hatfield claimed to have found three sources close to Bush who confirmed the Bush/cocaine/community service story. Here's one of them, supposedly a former Yale classmate:

George W. was arrested for possession of cocaine in 1972, but due to his father's connections, the entire record was expunged by a state judge whom the older Bush helped get elected. It was one of those 'behind closed doors in the judges' chambers' kind of thing between the old man and one of his Texas cronies who owed him a favor ... There's only a handful of us that know the truth*

After Fortunate Son was released all hell broke lose. Hatfield was attacked by the Bushies. The Dallas Morning News suddenly received information about Hatfield's criminal past: he was a convicted felon. Hatfield at first claimed he was being set up, that some other Hatfield was the felon and that his record was clean, but then later recanted. Because of the scandal, St. Martin's Press pulled Fortunate Son from the shelves. In 2001 Hatfield killed himself in a hotel room in Springdale, Arkansas, thus spawning a thousand conspiracy theories. Here's a transcript of a Democracy Now piece that might be Hatfield's last on record statement about the cocaine arrest claim.

What should we make of this story? Well, obviously there's nothing here but a claim made by anonymous sources, so there's no direct reason to believe Hatfield's tale. But there is circumstantial evidence: the story has tremendous explanatory power. For instance, it explains why Bush didn't take his physical. If the terms of the community service had been that he had to remain clean and he hadn't remained clean then taking the physical could have had serious repercussions ... but that's just speculation. Yet ... read that transcript of Helen Thomas grilling Scottie again ... Scottie never says, "NO! He never performed punitive community service, Helen." -- Why not? For what it's worth Hatfield claimed he asked Scottie about his allegations and Scottie replied, "Oh, shit ... no comment."


"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."
-- George W. Bush, 1984*

Here's where we are in the AWOL story. From 70 to 72 we know Bush flew planes in Texas like good little boy. In the spring of 72 he went (supposedly) to Alabama to work on a family friend's Senate run without getting proper authorization first. But according to the original Boston Globe story there's no proof Bush ever served in Alabama.

Since this scandal became reopened, the Bushies have offered the following evidence:

1.) A dental record that proves that he actually showed up at Dannelly Air National Guard base in Alabama but that contradicts statements made during the 2000 campaign regarding when he left Alabama for Texas.

2.) Payroll documents show that from the spring of 72 to the spring of 73 Bush was paid for at least 17 appearances, but indicate a five-month gap in which he wasn't payed for anything, and they are not corroborated by records in Alabama, which means the documents don't prove Bush was paid for service in Alabama.

3.) A former Guardsman, Bill Calhoun, vouched for Bush in a Wapo story, claiming to have seen Bush 8 to 10 times in Alabama, but Calhoun, a partisan Republican, screwed up the dates he gave in his alibi for Bush, perhaps basing made-up dates on early incorrect AP stories.*

4.) The big document dump on Friday which as it stands now, according to the Washington Post added nothing new:

But the tone of Bush's military file changed abruptly, and with no documented explanation, in May 1972, when Bush sought to transfer to Alabama. That began a period of months in which, the documents suggest, Bush did not actively pursue Guard service and the Guard did not actively pursue him.

That's about it. There's still no good explanation of why Bush refused to take the physical or what the real explanation for his Alabama trip is or where he was during the missing months.

A retired lieutenant colonel, Bill Burkett, has claimed repeatedly for years now that he was a firsthand witness to the scrubbing of Bush's file at Texas Air National Guard headquarters. Here's Bill Burkett recounting part of his story in an interview with Salon:

On this occasion [General James's] secretary was not at her desk and the door was cracked approximately 8 to 10 inches. And I stuck my head through the door. [ ... ] When I stuck my head through the door slightly I could not see anyone sitting in the wing-backed chairs or the couch that sat in front of his desk where you always sat if you went into the general's office for a conversation. Immediately I recognized he was on a telephone call and I was extremely embarrassed. I felt uncomfortable about that. And I stood there [in the receptionist's area] for a moment. The basic part of what I heard, and the words I'll give you are a paraphrase, they are not direct quotes, the words basically were, "Karen Hughes and Dan Bartlett were going to come out to the [Texas National] Guard and they wanted General James to make sure the [Bush] records were assembled and basically, not in some crisis statement or anything, but to make sure there wasn't anything there that would embarrass the governor."

He goes on to claim to have seen twenty to forty pages of Bush's military record in the trash. Given all the holes in the paper trail we've been shown, it's not hard to believe Burkette's story, but unfortunately it's unclear what it would take at this point to move the AWOL story any further. Barring something incredible this seems like it is the end of the line.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Fear and Loathing in the White House

I love the headline on this NYT report, "Anxiety Takes Hold of Presidential Aides Caught Up in Leak Inquiry":

At a White House that has largely avoided scandal — and one that has been distinguished by remarkable internal cohesion — the escalating investigation has brought unusual personal stress and the uncertainties that afflict anyone caught up in a full-scale criminal inquiry.

Some White House officials, concerned about what the investigation might mean for themselves or their bosses, have been pumping reporters for information about what they know. Others, so far untouched by the investigation, are sighing with relief.

But like any institution caught up in a criminal inquiry, this one appears intent on getting on with business as usual, and avoiding the spectacle of colleagues' turning on colleagues, even as investigators turn up the pressure.

"The mood is concern, not worry," said one Republican with close ties to the White House. "It's attention, not fear. And so far it hasn't caused any dysfunctional relationships to crop up."

Someone's gonna crack ... I love the part about White House staffer's "pumping" reporters ... "So, uh, let me ask you a few questions ... Um ... am I going to jail?"...

Well, 'Small Hostile Units' Sounds Kind of Democratic

Bal·kan·ize or bal·kan·ize:
tr.v. Bal·kan·ized, Bal·kan·iz·ing, Bal·kan·iz·es
To divide (a region or territory) into small, often hostile units.

An internal CPA report has concluded that Iraq has already begun breaking apart:

A confidential report prepared by the US-led administration in Iraq says that the attacks by insurgents in the country have escalated sharply, prompting fears of what it terms Iraq's "'Balkanization'". The findings emerged after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on the top US general in Iraq, John Abizaid, on Thursday.

"January has the highest rate of violence since September 2003," the report said. "The violence continues despite the expansion of the Iraqi security services and increased arrests by coalition forces in December and January."

The report, which is based on military data and circulated to foreign organizations by the US aid agency USAid, diverges with public statements by US officials who claim that security in the country is improving.

[ ... ]

It attributed much of the civilian violence to rising ethnic tensions between Kurds, Shias and Sunnis, noting that several bodies were found in the south "with hands bound and bullet wounds to the head".

But attacks on military targets, which had seen two months of decline, rose even faster than those on civilians, it said, particularly in the "Sunni triangle", north and west of Baghdad. It described the "profuse availability" of roadside bombs, the favored weapon of the insurgents, as "alarming", saying attacks had surged almost 200 per cent.

The report shed little insight into who was behind the attacks, but said "multiple reports confirm the presence of al-Qaeda in the country".

Hey, Collin, Is This Bullshit?

Collin Powell flipped out on a Congressman's staffer who dared to shake his head while Powell was asserting the party line at the House International Relations Committee hearing:

Powell noticed the staffer shaking his head as he repeated the Bush Administration's defence of Iraq war -- that even if Saddam Hussein did not have massive quantities of WMDS, he had the capacity to produce them and was an evil man.

"Are you shaking your head for something, young man, back there? Are you part of these proceedings?" he burst out.

Powell's scolding threatened to derail the hearing. Congressman Sherrod Brown, a 12-year veteran of the House, objected: "Mr Chairman, I've never heard a witness reprimand a staff person in the middle of a question."

Powell shot back: "I seldom come to a meeting where I am talking to a Congressman and I have people aligned behind you giving editorial comment by headshakes."

"Well, I think people have opinions," Brown retorted.

[ ... ]

Chairman Henry Hyde (Republican) urged all members to calm down despite the 'very emotional subject'.

Reminds me of Powell's "This is bullshit." temper tantrum before his UN performance. Funny stuff... it really looks like the House of Bush is starting to crumble a bit.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Empire Strikes Back?

So I'm sure everyone has seen the front page of Drudge's cesspool today... if not here's a non-cesspoolirific link that provides the relevant info. Atrios sees fat Karl's grubby little hands behind this, but I must admit ... I don't. At least, not yet ... it'll look like Rove to me when it's getting bigtime press coverage. Atrios says FOX and Boston radio are covering the story, so I don't know. The story isn't anywhere on FOX's website. Does anyone know if Clear Channel has picked it up?

The thing is this shit with Kerry fucking around is old news as Ezra tells us. Also the Drudge story has all kinds of holes in it and it's only ~250 words long. You know, if Clark said something like, "Kerry's campaign is going to implode! -- which is why I'm dropping out! Because I'm MAD. I'M LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. My actions are COMPLETELY random! I'm CRAZY WESLEY and I'M NOT WEARING PANTS." -- maybe that would make a little more narrative sense. Otherwise...

Gutter Politics or The Democrats Start Acting Like They Have a Pair

Who was it that said when a conservative argues with a liberal, the conversation, 99.9% of the time, will end with the liberal saying, "Well, you've made a good point." Well hopefully this is the end of such refined and definitely unreciprocated noble discussion. As the Democrats begin to realize that unless they fight the same way the Repugs do, they're doomed.

The sparks continue to fly as the White House released documents that Bush just claimed last weekend were already public. And as we all anticipate the release of photographs of Jane Fonda with John Kerry, the White House starts telling us that all of this concern about Bush's National Guard service is "gutter politics".

Scottie: You expect the garbage can to be thrown at you in the 11th hour of the campaign, but not nine months before Election Day. I certainly hope that this level of discourse is not a reflection of what the American people can expect from the Democratic Party over the duration of the campaign.

I certainly do hope this is an indication of the level of discourse the American people can expect. I just hope they start asking why Bush refused to take his flight physical in 1972 or even better, why after 3 years we still have no idea what the fuck happened on September 11th 2001.

[This post was dreamed up in the diabolical mind of Mystery Helper G]

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Blood and Treasure

There's an interesting article up on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, of doomsday clock fame, about the finitude of planet earth's oil resources:

One hundred and twelve billion of anything sounds like a limitless quantity. But in terms of barrels of oil, it's just a drop in the gas tank. The world uses about 27 billion barrels of oil per year, meaning that 112 billion barrels--the proven oil reserves of Iraq, the second largest proven oil reserves in the world--would last a little more than four years at today's usage rates.

In the future, 112 billion barrels will likely prove even shorter-lived. In the United States, gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and larger homes are deemed essential. As the underdeveloped world industrializes, demand for oil by billions of people increases; China and India are building superhighways and automobile factories. Energy demand is expected to rise by about 50 percent over the next 20 years, with about 40 percent of that demand to be supplied by petroleum.

Ever-increasing supplies of low-cost petroleum are thought to be vital to the U.S. and world economies, which is why the invasion of Iraq and the belief that controlling its 112-billion-barrel reserve would give the United States a limitless pipeline to cheap oil were so dangerous. The war in Iraq will definitely have an effect on the U.S. and world economies, but not a positive one. The invasion, occupation, and rebuilding of Iraq will cost the people of the United States both blood and treasure. But more to the point, Iraq could be a fatal distraction from many fundamental and extremely unpleasant facts that actually threaten the United States--one of which is the finite nature of petroleum resources.

Petroleum reserves are limited. Petroleum is not a renewable resource and production cannot continue to increase indefinitely. A day of reckoning will come sometime in the future. The point at which production can no longer keep up with increasing demand will mean a radical and painful readjustment globally to everyday life.

Well, you know, at least after the oil runs out we'll all get to live in one of those cool post-apocalypse Mad Max worlds where we drive around in dune buggies and fight each other with boomerangs and nailguns -- my plan is I'm going to be the guy who has the homemade helicopter. Or I guess the human race could get serious about developing alternative renewable energy sources ... but that's just crazy talk.

(link thanks to thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse which is once again active)

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Dumping The Dick

The idea that Cheney might be on the chopping block has moved from the status as a rumor on blogs to the pages of Newsweek:

Is Dick Cheney a drag on the ticket? As President Bush's rating dips below 50 percent, some prominent Republicans are beginning nervously to wonder. "The chatter on Cheney has increased in the last two weeks," says Republican strategist Scott Reed. "Cheney has moved into the Bush world; you either love him or hate him." The charge that the Bush administration hyped the WMD threat from Iraq has thrust the vice president into the spotlight, a place he generally prefers not to be.

There was a time when Cheney's presence in the White House was regarded as reassuring. [ ... ] But as Cheney disappeared into his "undisclosed location" after 9/11, surfacing only occasionally to warn of dire threats from terrorists with germs and nukes, he began to look a little bit less like Gary Cooper and more like Dr. Strangelove.

Um... maybe Sydney Greenstreet or Lionel Barrymore ... but Gary Cooper? Whatchoo talkin' bout Newsweek?

Hey ... Before I Forget ... A Big American Leftist Congratulations to Dennis the Menace

Kucinich came in third in the Maine caucuses beating out Edwards and Clark (haha ... losers!) He even brought home the coveted double digits -- 14%, woohoo! (You'll all have to excuse me -- after backing political underdogs my entire adult life, I have low expectations and am very easily impressed.) Here's the Globe story, for some reason the headline is all about Kerry.

About a Six or Seven on the Squirm-o-meter

There's a pretty good episode of Scottie & Me today:

Russell: You said last year that you spoke with the Vice President's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, and that he was not the leaker and he did not authorize the leaks. Do you stand by that statement?

Scottie: Russell, we've addressed all of these issues previously. There is now an ongoing investigation. And I think if you have questions relating to the investigation, I would suggest you address those questions to the Department of Justice. Like I said, if there is information that they feel is helpful to share publically, I'm sure they will.

Russell: The Vice President took Supreme Court Justice Scalia on a duck hunting trip to Louisiana while the Vice President had a case pending before the Supreme Court. Does the President see this as appropriate behavior - taking a Supreme Court Justice on a duck hunting trip while he has a case pending - and does he believe that Justice Scalia should recuse himself from that energy task force case?

Scottie: I think you need to direct those questions to the Vice President's office -

Russell: I was asking about the President's view -

Scottie: I'm not familiar with the specifics.

Hmmm ... I'm starting to See A Pattern Here...

So we've all seen the story about feds investigating activists at Drake University. Here's the latest: (from "Feds: Subpoenas Of Antiwar Protesters Linked To Trespassing Inquiry", IBS 2/10/04)

A federal prosecutor said subpoenas seeking records of a legal activist group and ordering four antiwar activists to testify before a grand jury are linked to an investigation into trespassing at Camp Dodge last November.

The case has received national attention, and advocates are planning a rally around noon Tuesday in front of the federal courthouse in Des Moines.

Monday, The U.S. Attorney's Office in Des Moines postponed those four appearances before a federal grand jury.

And Monday evening, U.S. Attorney Stephen O'Meara provided the first official details of what the investigation is about. O'Meara said reports that the case is being investigated as an "antiterrorism" matter that involves the United States Patriot Act are "not accurate."

The grand jury issued subpoenas to at least four Iowans: Wendy Vasquez, Elton Davis, Patti McKee and Brian Terrell.

The activists had been scheduled to appear Tuesday, but the government pushed it back until next month. Reasons for the delay were not given.

I think the stuff about the subpoenas dealing with a tresspassing investigation is new.

But what about this: ("Northwestern escapes DOJ subpoena", Chicago Business, 9/2/04)

A move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was halted—at least temporarily—when a Chicago federal judge quashed the information request.

The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals, Crain's sister publication Modern Healthcare has learned. Besides Northwestern, Mr. Ashcroft is seeking patient records from University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor; Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

Could John Ashcroft be unfairly targeting the left? Shocked, I'm Shocked. He's always seemed so impartial.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Scottie Testifies Before the Plame Grand Jury

Everyone's favorite Ari Fleischer-impersonator testified before the grand jury investigating the Plame affair. But he didn't say anything about it, the little prick. Here's the link: "McClellan Testifies in CIA Leak Probe", AP 2/9/04. (Sorry if no one else cares about this... I used to have an unnatural fixation with Ari Fleischer -- he was my favorite Bushie to hate -- but now all I have is little Scottie)

Imagine What It Would Look Like Without the Spikes...

Salon has an article up that argues in a clinical almost satirical style that given a few reasonable assumptions the only way Bush can win is with an October surpise. The argument is based on examining the above graph and noticing that Bush's approval number's natural tendency is to fall but in the event of war, terrorism, or capture of an official state enemy it temporarily goes up.

I think we should all work hard to spread the Osama-gets-killed-is-going-to-be-the-October-Surprise meme. If it doesn't happen, no harm done. If it does happen it will work out more poorly for Karl Rove if people are kind of expecting it. So, you know, tell your apolitical cousin and Republican brother-in-law what the October surprise is going to be.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

It's historic times: The Meet The Press Descent into Incoherence

BUSH: See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror and don't blackmail the world.

So I guess the USA isn't a free society...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

BUSH: There's nervousness because they're not exactly sure what their form of government will look like, and there is you can understand why. In nine months' time, there’s – we’re now saying, democracy must flourish. And as I recall from my history, it took us quite a while here in the United States, but nevertheless we are making progress.

What the hell does this mean? I thought we were saying that democracy was going to flourish by June 30th? Has the June 30th deadline slipped? Where the hell did nine months come from? Is he talking about democracy flourishing before the US elections in November? If so, he has just admitted that the dates they are picking have nothing to do with what's good for Iraqis, but, rather, have everything to do with what's good for Bushies.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Russert: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

Bush: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I'm very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that because right here in the Oval Office I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment, that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.

This is just a great exchange. Really shows Bush's vision of democracy. Democracy is three unelected clowns in the oval office making decisions for a country that hates them. Sounds just like our democracy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Russert: Now looking back, in your mind, is it worth the loss of 530 American lives and 3,000 injuries and woundings simply to remove Saddam Hussein, even though there were no weapons of mass destruction?

Bush: Every life is precious. Every person that is willing to sacrifice for this country deserves our praise, and yes. [...snip...]It's essential that I explain this properly to the parents of those who lost their lives. Saddam Hussein was dangerous, and I’m not gonna leave him in power and trust a madman. He's a dangerous man. He had the ability to make weapons at the very minimum. For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, “In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.” It's we are in a war against these terrorists who will bring great harm to America, and I've asked these young ones to sacrifice for that. A free Iraq will change the world. It's historic times. A free Iraq will make it easier for other children in our own country to grow up in a safer world because in the Middle East is where you find the hatred and violence that enables the enemy to recruit its killers. And, Tim, as you can tell, I've got a foreign policy that is one that believes America has a responsibility in this world to lead, a responsibility to lead in the war against terror, a responsibility to speak clearly about the threats that we all face, a responsibility to promote freedom, to free people from the clutches of barbaric people such as Saddam Hussein who tortured, mutilated there were mass graves that we have found a responsibility to fight AIDS, the pandemic of AIDS, and to feed the hungry. We have a responsibility. To me that is history's call to America. I accept the call and will continue to lead in that direction.

Words fail me.

From the Oh-Hell-We-Just-Chalked-It-Up-To-Al-Qaida-It's-Simpler-That-Way File

An extremist group called "Jaish Ansar al-Sunna", which means army of the protectors of the Sunna, has claimed responsibility for the recent Irbil bombings, but the claim has not been independently confirmed: (from "Insurgent Group Claims Iraq Bombings", AP, 2/4/04)

An Iraqi insurgent group claimed responsibility Wednesday for twin suicide attacks on the offices of two Kurdish political parties, saying they were targeted because of the Kurds' ties to the United States.

"Two of our martyrdom-seeking brothers...broke into two dens of the devils in the city of Irbil in the north of Iraq," said the statement by "Jaish Ansar al-Sunna", or "Army of the Protectors of the Sunna."

Sunna refers to the collective teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.

The statement was posted in Arabic on a Web site that frequently carries statements by Islamic militants. It said the Sunday attacks were launched because the two Kurdish parties "paved the way for the American crusader army."

The claim could not be independently confirmed. The name of the organization was included among a dozen insurgent groups that issued a joint statement this week in Ramadi and Fallujah warning Iraqis against cooperating with the U.S.-led occupation.

Kurdish and U.S. officials suspect the attacks may have been carried out by Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group with alleged ties to al-Qaida. The attacks killed many officials of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

In the statement, the Army of the Protectors of the Sunna condemned the PUK for the crackdown on Ansar al-Islam. It said PUK leader Jalal Talabani "was coordinating with the crusaders (Americans) to attack our mujahedeen brothers from Ansar al-Islam group and their women and children."

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Wolfowitz Went to Iraq (and All You Got Was This Lousy Blog Post)

Wolfowitz went to Iraq again. While he was there he drove around in an armored personnel carrier with a stupid name that's controversial because it's supposed to be a piece of shit, repeated the worst argument in all of political discourse, and said that Turkey's war on terrorism is a good model for the US's counter-insurgency war in Iraq.

American Leftist agrees with Wolfowitz on that last point as long what we mean by "a good model" is a model that accurately reflects reality rather than a model that is morally positive. Turkey's war against insurgents has been anything but morally positive. In fact it demonstrates what is wrong with the whole metaphor of a "war on terrorism". Wars on terrorism provide a convenient way for states to wage illegal wars against powerless political opponenents--in Turkey's case proponents of a Kurdish state--while hypocritically taking the moral upper ground in their rhetoric. Turkey pursued violent "ethnic cleansing" policies throughout the nineties, and now it can couch such atrocities in the guise of its "war on terror" and people like Wolfowitz will hold it up as an example for the world.

Turkey also has a history of using the fight against terrorism as an excuse to stifle free speech*. In 1999 it convicted celebrated author Gunay Arslan of disseminating propaganda and almost exactly a year ago Turkey tried to use anti-terrorism legislation to convict Chomsky's Turkish publisher*. I guess this is the sort of thing that Wolfowitz thinks is a good model for the US.

On an October Surprise in Reverse

There's been a lot of talk lately that Karl Rove is planning an October surprise in which Osama Bin Laden will be killed or captured just in time for the general elections. Actually, I just saw Chomsky speculate about it this morning on BookTV (CSPAN2 is showing this speech again at 9:20pm tonight) but as far as I know it's all just speculation at this point. The Bushies may be planning an October surprise but they are also shitting bricks about an October surprise in reverse. The October surprise in reverse I am referring to is open warfare breaking out between the various ethnic factions in Iraq, an Iraqi civil war. This unspoken fear casts its shadow over all discussion of the upcoming Iraqi elections.

The original plan -- and by original plan I mean the one that happened to immediately precede the current one -- for the transition to Iraqi sovereignty was that the governing council would draft a constitution and then elections would be held according to this constitution, a long process with the CPA in control in the meantime. Last November, however, Bremer got a little excited about the state of Iraq. He felt that Washington wasn't taking seriously just how broken the country was; he made pleading phone calls to Condoleeza Rice, flew home for emergency meetings, and lo and behold it was decided that a new Iraqi government would be put in place by June 30. The plan was to select a bunch of "notables" and then hold caucuses.

Unfortunately for the caucus plan, Iraq's Shia majority didn't turn out to be idiots. Initially the US dealt with Shia resistance to its caucus plan by ignoring it, but after last month's massive protests this strategy became untenable. So the US ran to the UN and the UN currently has a team on the ground in Iraq. The official purpose of the UN team is a little bit muddy. In some news articles they are determining if the early direct elections the Shia favor are possible; in other articles they are surveying Iraqis to determine what sort of elections the Iraqi people would like. But the real purpose of the UN is to provide legitimacy to the US's caucus plan. The UN team is going to determine that its not feasible to hold direct elections before June 30 because, you know, it isn't feasible to have direct elections by June 30, and to broker some compromise with the Shia such that they support the plan. But that just begs the question -- what's so special about this date June 30? Who came up with it? Carina Perelli, head of the UN's electoral assistance division, who helped organize elections in such war-ravaged countries as East Timor, based on her years of experience? No, it was the Mayberry Machiavellis -- it was the Bushies, and they picked it based on wanting to be out of Iraq by November.

The Shia are, for now, supporting the UN team because they have little to lose and possibly because they believe the UN team is going to favor early elections. They believe this because the UN already studied the feasibility of early elections, before the headquarters bombing, and, rumor (a rumor spread by Ahmed Chalabi no less) has it, decided that the elections are feasible.* But given the Kurds ongoing moves toward independence and the resulting violence, the whole situation is increasingly tenuous. The Shia majority won't stand for any government that they don't have a large stake in. And the Kurds are not going to stand for a government that again oppresses them, to quote a CIA analyst, from "CIA warns of Iraq civil war",Kights Ridder, 1/21/04:

Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time. They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before.

And note that that article about the CIA warning about a possible Iraqi civil war was written before the recent violence against the Kurds.

Friday, February 06, 2004

What a Difference Eight Months Make

Does anybody else remember Colin Powell's "This is bullshit" temper tantrum over the intelligence backing up the claims he was going to make before the UN? Here's an article about it from The Guardian. Powell actually put together his own team to try to verify some of the stuff he was about to assert as fact:

Mr Powell's team removed dozens of pages of alleged evidence about Iraq's banned weapons and ties to terrorists from a draft of his speech, US News and World Report says today. At one point, he became so angry at the lack of adequate sourcing to intelligence claims that he declared: "I'm not reading this. This is bullshit," according to the magazine. Presented with a script for his speech, Mr Powell suspected that Washington hawks were "cherry picking", the US magazine Newsweek also reports today. Greg Theilmann, a recently retired state department intelligence analyst directly involved in assessing the Iraqi threat, says that inside the Bush administration "there is a lot of sorrow and anger at the way intelligence was misused".

which is interesting given his recent statement that he may not have supported the invasion had he known Iraq did not possess WMD's:

I don't know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world. The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus; it changes the answer you get.*

Um, Colin, you did know.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Where in the World is Hans Blix?

He's hanging out in Stockholm, winning prizes, making fun of the Kay report, and generally blixing it up. Where he isn't is on TV in the US. To get to talk about Iraq's lack of WMD's around these parts apparently you have to have been all wrong about them for the past decade. It also helps to be an ex-vice president of a defense contractor that's heavily involved in managing and profiting from post-invasion Iraq, oh yeah, and voting Republican.

Where in the world is Scott Ritter? Well, voting Republican isn't enough ... uh, apparently having been correct back when you got character-assassinated for doubting the official doctrine isn't good enough even if you happen to be a card-carrying Republican. Scott Ritter, these days, is saying things like, "There was not a single intelligence service in the world that said Iraq maintained massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction," on Australian radio.

Do yourself a favor and follow that last link and listen to the whole thing on the RealAudio stream. It's quite an interview; Ritter is pissed, really fired up. For instance, of Kay, he says

David Kay was a political appointee from day one. He is not there to search for the truth. He is there to spin data to the political advantage of the president. And for David Kay to stand before Congress and say that the president does not owe the American people an apology, The intelligence services owe the president an apology -- [it] is clearly a politically-motivated statement that has nothing to do, again, with the search for truth but rather to protect the president from the bad decisions that he made and, in fact, the misleading and often times fabricated statements that he used to justify this war.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

American Leftist Reports FOX News Has Fascist Slant

Fox News kicked off Black History Month in typical fashion by running an article discussing the leftist slant of African American Studies. As many media outlets use this shortest month of the year to take notice of the great injustices as well as triumphs experienced by the black citizens of this country, Peter Brownfeld at FOX News uses it as an opportunity to tell the blacks to get over it, quoting references made to a “victimization” complex suffered by black people who know and dare speak of the history of this country.

"Black history month, when it originally came to fruition, was an attempt to instill some pride because there was a belief that American history in general and world history did not appropriately recognize the contributions of blacks," said Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (search), one of America's oldest civil rights groups. "But it devolved into an ideological left-wing rant."

And why wouldn't it be a left wing rant? Isn’t advancement in African American rights an ideological left-wing rant? In America, if you are even in your early forties, then you were alive during a time of segregated schools in a country where black people still couldn’t vote. But I guess that's just another ideological left wing rant.

Fox News reports African-American Studies Have Leftist Slant

[this post is also by Mystery Helper G]

Shake Up in Chomsky Town

As of Feb. 1, Bad News: The Noam Chomsky Archive has closed its doors after four years of dedicated service. There's now a new official Chomsky site and the Chomsky team wanted to consolidate the professor's web presence to this site. R.R. King the editor of Bad News:Chomsky has been asked to help out with the new official site but hasn't decided yet if he will accept. There was some concern that Bad News: Chomsky hosted information that is not on the official site, but the official site intends to ensure that no data will be lost.

In other Chomsky news, it's come to my attention that some kind soul has put mp3's of the legendary debate between Chomsky and Richard Perle up on the internet for download; this is the debate from the 80's that Edward Herman mentions in his article, "From Security To Insecurity State".

Also I think Shake Up in Chomsky Town was the name of a Roger Corman movie.

I Know Something That Peter Jennings Doesn’t Know?

In fact, I knew 2 years before Dubbya even ran for president that his military service record was questionable to say the least and I’m just some low life liberal who knows how to use Google, not the chief anchor of a major flamingly liberally biased network. See "Bush AWOL, ABC Absent, But Moore Correct" by Frederick Sweet, Intervention Magazine.

So how could Peter, who by the way seems to be notorious for his liberal slant in comparison to his rival anchors, have missed this?

A recent article on The American Prospect breaks it down for us into simple numbers:

In 1992, there were no fewer than 526 stories about Clinton and the draft in major American newspapers. In all the news outlets covered by Lexis-Nexis, there were 950 stories about the subject. But when the 2000 election rolled around, reporters were decidedly less curious about the topic. There were 77 stories in 1999 and 38 stories in 2000 in major papers about Bush and the National Guard. In all news outlets, there were 258 stories in 1999 and only 98 in 2000. In other words, during their respective election years, there were nearly 10 press stories about Clinton's efforts to avoid serving in Vietnam for every one story about Bush's efforts to avoid serving in Vietnam. In major papers, there were almost 14 Clinton stories for every Bush story. The only major newspapers that investigated the issue with any vigor were The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times.*

So this is barely news as an "on the record" deserter sends kids off to die. But still, we are hit over the head with Howard Dean’s "meltdown" only to learn, from Diane Sawyer of all people, that this was even more spun than originally thought.*

God help us, or at least, stop helping the Bushes.
[This post brought to you by Mystery Helper G]

Censure Bush!

MoveOn is pushing to get Congress to censure Bush over the exaggeration and distortion of the intelligence regarding Iraq's WMD's. I think this is a pretty good idea. Hell, John Howard got censured in Australia, and he probably didn't make nearly as extreme claims as Bush.

Here's the link.

Agressive Generalization

So given the sort of statements in this article, "Bush Accused of Undermining Investigation ", Guardian 2/3/04 -- for instance, "We also want to look at our war against proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, kind of in a broader context" -- it's pretty clear what the new strategy is for dealing with the nonexistence of Iraqi WMD's. The Bush cartel is going to make the scope of the investigation so broad that it will include actual instances of intelligence errors, like the CIA being surprised by the India / Pakistan nuke tests, to drown out the investigation's intended purpose -- to understand how it could be that the Bush people made so many claims that were false regarding Iraq's immediate danger to the US.

If you recall this strategy is very similar to what was tried in the early days of the Plame affair. When the Bush people finally broke down and started talking about the outing of Plame, their talking points were all about leaks generally rather than about the specific leak. I think Bush, at one point, specificly denounced leaks without mentioning Plame's name.

The democrats really need to fight for an investigation that focuses on intelligence about Iraq

Monday, February 02, 2004

The Cuban Five

Miami-based right-wing paramilitary groups have been terrorizing Cuba for the past forty years. For example, in 1976 Cuban Airlines flight CUT-1201 was blown up in flight off the coast Barbados killing 76. Over the years Cuban embassies in Lima, Lisbon, Madrid, and Ottawa have been bombed. These groups have also committed a great deal of violence on American soil-- see, for instance, Jim Mullin's article "The Burden of a Violent History" from The Miami New Times which lists 68 acts of violence committed in the Miami area alone. Such actions are just the tip of the iceberg -- terrorists have taken the lives of hundreds of people in Cuba -- but the story of anti-Cuban terrorism is long, complicated and way beyond the scope of this of this post. It'll have to suffice to say that it exists. (Do your own damn google search.) The terrorists operate without much interference from the US government; for example, the man responsible for the bombing of flight CUT-1201 and some of the embassy bombings was pardoned by former president Bush.*

At some point in the past decade or so, Cuba sent five men to the US to monitor the activities of the Miami-based terrorist organizations. The five helped to stop a number of terrorist actions, bombings and assassination attempts. In the spring of 2001, the five were railroaded through a corrupt trial and convicted of espionage and related charges, although under US law espionage only applies to spying on governments. The US claimed the Cuban five were spying on US military bases which was simply a fabrication. Their sentences ranged from fifteen years to two life sentences, while the terrorists in the organizations they were monitoring live freely in Miami.

Leonard Weinglass, the renowned civil rights lawyer, has taken on the case of Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban five. There's an interview with him up on Znet.

Here's Chomsky on the subject:

The thing with the Cuban Five is such a scandal, its hard to talk about it. Cuba was providing the FBI with information about the terrorist actions taking place in the United States, based in the United States - completely criminal. So instead of arresting the terrorists, they arrested the people that provided the information, which is so ridiculous I find it difficult to talk about it. They put them under very hard conditions and it's not recorded. You can't read about it. So one of the reasons it goes on is because nobody knows about it. There were a few brief mentions, but all it said was that these people were informing Cuba that an unarmed plane was going to fly over Havana. That's about the only story that was reported. The actual facts of the matter are not secret but no one knows. *

Also see freethefive.org

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