Friday, July 15, 2005

Lies and the Lying Liars

To shift gears just a bit, here's something from the "not surprising at all" department:

Fox News's talk show star Bill O'Reilly took aim at Governor Kathleen Blanco on his show this week. In an episode on sex offenders, the conservative talk show host said Blanco, and Louisiana, don't care about getting tough. But it may have been O'Reilly's staff who didn't care to research the issue.

Despite bill after bill in the recent legislative session cracking down on sex offenders, the O'Reilly Factor host on Tuesday said Louisiana is apathetic toward sex offenders.

After naming 13 states and their prospective governors, including Kathleen Blanco and the state of Louisiana, O'Reilly goes on to say, "Remember those states and those governors, ladies and gentlemen, if you live there. These states are soft on child sex offenders, and their governors do not care. What a disgrace."

We asked Governor Blanco's staff about the comments. Press Secretary Denise Bottcher says she's not sure how O'Reilly came to his conclusion.

"The research that the Bill O'Reilly show did in this area was just a series of e-mails."

E-mails, Bottcher says, asking questions her office couldn't answer. So they referred the researchers to the Attorney General's office and to prosecutors who know the laws a little better. According to the A.G.'s office and the district attorneys, O'Reilly's office never followed through.

LDAA President Brent Coreil says not only are Louisiana's laws some of the toughest, but if D.A.'s come across a legal barrier in their prosecution of child sex crimes, both the legislature and the governor help them out to tweak the laws.

Coreil says, "I think it's very strict, and we are complying with it strictly, and I just cannot see the reason for these statements to be made."

Speaking for his colleagues, he takes offense to O'Reilly's attack. "When an attack like this is made without substantial research, it really hurts the overall legal community."...

WAFB tried to contact Bill O'Reilly for comment, but according to the O'Reilly Factor staff, he is out of the office.

Now, to be honest, I don't really follow sex offender laws here in the Gret Stet, not being a sex offender (and, years ago, I went through a background check proving as much--the background check was job related). The point is, of course, that O'Reilly did shoddy research, but that didn't stop him from opening his pie hole and making substantial contributions to global warming.

Maybe folks from the Gret Stet will finally begin to see Bill for what he is--a liar.
Roving Up

Once again, the work bug surfaced, which took up a good bit of the afternoon--although I'm quite happy to see that the Rove story has be precise, six or eight, depending on whether you think Karl more closely resembles a roach or a banana spider (apologies to banana spiders, who are actually quite amazing creatures. Over at my mom's house they'll build these remarkable, six to eight foot webs)...

Anyway, I digress. Let's see...Billmon notes the thick-enough-to-cut-with-a-meat-cleaver irony in today's, um, leaks purporting to tell Rove's side of the story...or, given the circumstances, the latest version of Karl Rove's increasingly desperate attempts to find a defensible explanation for his actions. I believe the version being spun now is that Bob Novak called Karl, not the other way around, and their collective grunts convinced the former to publish using the latter as a secondary source...too bad that, for Karl, it matters not one whit. Keeping with the same source (some guy out of Philadelphia who calls himself Atrios), there's the small matter of these latest stories contradicting last week's version of events. Then there's the additional rumor swirling about that Judith Miller was the original source for matters Plame--the link is from John at AmericaBlog--the piece says that Novak basically ratted her out...rats ratting out fellow rats, I guess...Aravosis also cites a NY Daily News story that adds a third rat to the mix--a rat named Ari. Hmmm.

Note: regular visitors here might recall my own post, citing Al Cockburn and Jeff St. Clair offering the same theory re: Judith Miller...on the other hand, Billmon points out that Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media has the same theory. Ouch.

Still, I think this makes some sense. Miller and her fellow neocon screech machine were adament about the existence of Iraqi WMD's. And, most folks reading this are aware of both Rove's modus operandi ("fuck them like no one..., etc.") as well as Miller's own methods...then, there's this interesting item, indicating apparent contact between Miller and someone in the White House at just around the time they decided to put Joe Wilson and his wife to the's not all that difficult to imagine Ms. Miller (once again) going a bit beyond journalism (finally, anyone recall Miller hissing her defense on the WMD story? "I was proved fucking right." Sounds to me like she and Rove are at least on the same plane, metaphorically speaking).

Well, it all makes for interesting speculation, even as the ultimate fruit resulting from the labors of Karl, Bob, Judith, Dubya, Dick, etc., has turned out to be quite sour and worm infested. And, whether or not there IS any "controlling legal authority," (remember that phrase? oh, the link is to Charles Krauthammer--gag--although, as an aside, it's a useful reminder of what does and doesn't bother the Krautster: questionable fundraising? Oh, the humanity! Putting politics above national security, lying your way into a war that's killed thousands? Yawn.)--anyway, one thing's certain: controlling legal authority or not, the evidence is QUITE clear that Karl Rove is at least one individual who sees ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with putting politics above matters of national security--nor does he find anything wrong with destroying the careers of any number of people (recall, Plame's cover was that she was an employee of Brewster Jennings and Associates. Thanks to Rove, and whoever else outed Plame, ALL the people associated with the firm, either directly or indirectly, have had their cover blown). Whether or not Karl can parse out a LEGAL defense in this matter is one thing. But there's no doubt that Karl Rove is certainly a sleazy individual--even by the pretty low standards of political operatives.
Self Correcting

Or, how Knight Ridder handles internal moonbats:

On Tuesday, Mark Yost, an editorial writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press wrote a column that sharply criticized Iraq war coverage as "bad," for focusing on the negative aspects when there's so much progress to report.

Yost, of course, is welcome to his opinion, but some of his colleagues in the press quickly counter-attacked, in letters to Romenesko and others, pointing out that, ironically, Iraq coverage by the company he works for, Knight Ridder, had been hailed by many (including E&P) for often running a step or two ahead of all others...

Pretty strong stuff, but I wondered, in a note Tuesday to Knight Ridder's Washington chief Clark Hoyt, if we would hear a defense from his estimable Baghdad bureau, or what's left of it, following the death of one of its prize reporters there last month.

The KR response arrived late Wednesday.

But first, a bit more from Mark Yost, writing from the air-conditoned splendor of his office or home in leafy Minnesota.

"I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq," he revealed. "A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.

"I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren't so blinded by their own politics that they can't see the real good we're doing there. ...Why isn't the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren't are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years? And reporters wonder why they're despised."

Now here's the Knight Ridder reply, first from Hoyt, then Baghdad bureau chief Hannah Allam, from a memo sent to KR editors.

From Clark Hoyt:

It's astonishing that Mark Yost, from the distance and safety of St. Paul, Minnesota, presumes to know what's going on in Iraq. He knows the reporting of hundreds of brave journalists, presumably including his own Knight Ridder colleagues Hannah Allam and Tom Lassetter, is bad because his Marine colonel buddy tells him so.

Yost asks why you don't read about progress being made in the power grid, which the colonel oversaw. Maybe it's because there is no progress. Iraqis currently have electricity for an average of nine hours a day. A year ago, they averaged 10 hours of electricity. Iraq's oil production is still below pre-war levels. The unemployment rate is between 30 and 40 percent. New cases of hepatitis have doubled over the rate of 2002, largely because of problems with getting clean drinking water and disposing of sewage.

The "unfiltered news" Yost gets from his military friends is in fact filtered by their isolation in the Green Zone and on American military bases from the Iraqi population, an isolation made necessary by the ferocity of the insurgency. To say that isn't to argue that their perspective is invalid. It's just limited and incomplete.

Knight Ridder's Baghdad bureau chief, Hannah Allam, has read Mark Yost's column. Her response, from the front, says it far better than I could.

From Hannah Allam:

It saddens me to read Mark Yost's editorial in the Pioneer Press, the Knight Ridder paper that hired me as a rookie reporter and taught me valuable lessons in life and journalism during the four years I spent there before heading to Iraq.

I invite Mr. Yost to spend a week in our Baghdad bureau, where he can see our Iraqi staff members' toothbrushes lined up in the bathroom because they have no running water at home. I frequently find them camping out in the office overnight because electricity is still only sporadic in their sweltering neighborhoods, despite what I'm sure are the best-intentioned efforts of people like his Marine buddy working on the electrical grid.

Mr. Yost could have come with me today as I visited one of my own military buddies, who like most officers doesn't leave the protected Green Zone compound except by helicopter or massive convoy. The Army official picked me up in his air-conditioned Explorer, took me to Burger King for lunch and showed me photos of the family he misses so terribly. The official is a great guy, and like so many other soldiers, it's not politics that blind him from seeing the real Iraq. The compound's maze of tall blast wall and miles of concertina wire obscure the view, too.

Mr. Yost can listen to our bureau's morning planning meetings, where we orchestrate a trip to buy bottled water (the tap water is contaminated, when it works) as if we're plotting a military operation. I wonder whether he prefers riding in the first car -- the most exposed to shrapnel and bullets -- or the chase car, which is designed to act as a buffer between us and potential kidnappers.

Perhaps Mr. Yost would be moved by our office's tribute wall to Yasser Salihee, our brave and wonderful colleague, who at age 30 joined the ranks of Iraqi civilians shot to death by American soldiers. Mr. Yost would have appreciated one of Yasser's last stories -- a rare good-news piece about humanitarian aid reaching the holy city of Najaf.

Mr. Yost's contention that 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are stable is pure fantasy. On his visit to Baghdhad, he can check that by chatting with our resident British security consultant, who every day receives a province-by-province breakdown of the roadside bombs, ambushes, assassinations and other violence throughout the country.

If Baghdad is too far for Mr. Yost to travel (and I don't blame him, given the treacherous airport road to reach our fortress-like hotel), why not just head to Oklahoma? There, he can meet my former Iraqi translator, Ban Adil, and her young son. They're rebuilding their lives under political asylum after insurgents in Baghdad followed Ban's family home one night and gunned down her 4-year-old daughter, her husband and her elderly mother in law.

Freshly painted schools and a new desalination plant might add up to "mission accomplished" for some people. Too bad Ban's daughter never got to enjoy those fruits of her liberation.
Loose Lips

Check out this AmericaBlog post. Short version:

Last year, the Bush administration, in an attempt to steal the spotlight from the Democratic National Convention, spun the terror alert color wheel and pronounced the threat "heightened." When pressed on the matter, Team Bush clumsily sputtered and frothed, providing the press enough information to piece together a story involving a certain individual in Pakistani custody named Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan. Why is that important? Well, Khan, despite his arrest, was still in contact with other Al Qaeda operatives. You see, Pakistani authorities had managed to turn Khan. He was a mole.

Among other things, Khan had information about plans for a London subway bombing. Had THAT operation continued, there's a good chance British authorities could have foiled the plot BEFORE the fact. However, with Team Bush determined to prove that Code Orange Julius or whatever it was was justified, a lengthy investigation was blown. Police in England managed to make some arrests on minor charges--but other Al Qaeda terrorists managed to fly the coop, AND the operation itself was placed in the hands of another cell, which carried out the ugly action last week.

But hey, leaking information vital to global security is just a day's work for the Bushistas. And there was an election to be won (the only thing that matters to them).
Dig Two Holes...Rinse, Repeat

Fallujah, showcase city mound of rubble in Operation "It's Duck Season, Fire!", isn't exactly what the Bush administration would call "good news:"

Transformed into a police state after last winter's siege, this should be the safest city in all of Iraq.

Thousands of American and Iraqi troops live in crumbling buildings here and patrol streets laced with concertina wire. Any Iraqi entering the city must show a badge and undergo a search at one of six checkpoints. There is a 10 p.m. curfew.

But the insurgency is rising from the rubble nevertheless, eight months after the American military killed as many as 1,500 Iraqis in a costly invasion that fanned anti-American passions across Iraq and the Arab world.

Somewhere in the bowels of Falluja, the former guerrilla stronghold 35 miles west of Baghdad, where four American contractors were killed in an ambush, and the bodies of two were hanged from a bridge, in March 2004, insurgents are building suicide car bombs again.

At least four have exploded in recent weeks, one of them killing six American troops, including four women. Two of five police forts being erected have been firebombed. Three members of the nascent, 21-seat city council have suddenly quit and another member has stopped attending meetings, presumably because they have been threatened.

Just as disturbing, even Falluja residents who favored purging the streets of insurgents last November are beginning to chafe under the occupation.

"Some preferred the city quiet, purified of the gunmen and any militant aspect," said Abdul Jabbar Kadhim al-Alwani, 40, the owner of an automotive repair shop, expressing a widely held sentiment. "But after the unfairness and injustice with which the city's residents have been treated by the American and Iraqi forces, they now prefer the resistance, just so they won't be humiliated."...

As the level of violence has increased, marines and Iraqi soldiers are stepping up patrols and house raids. That is further alienating residents. The problem is compounded by sectarian tensions between the Shiite soldiers and Sunni residents. Virtually all of the Iraqi soldiers here are from the south, because previous militias of local residents turned out to be disloyal or fell apart when confronted by insurgents.

American officials say the plan is to draw down the American and Iraqi troop presence in the city as a 1,200-man Iraqi police force is installed by December; one-third of its members are to come from Falluja.

"The Iraqi Army is not trained," Sheik Thaier Diyab al-Arsan, 30, a thin man wearing a red headdress, angrily told Colonel Miles at the meeting downtown. "They're killing people. They're shooting people in the head. You're not in the street. You don't see what's happening."

Geez. Fallujah pretty much was handled in the same way that Sherman dealt with the South. Then you've got the concertina wire, checkpoints, etc.--and they're STILL fashioning bombs? What's next?

Hmmm. Not that I want to make explicit comparisons, but I wonder how many in wingnuttia would, without a trace of irony, propose a final solution to the Fallujah problem?

Thursday, July 14, 2005


James Wolcott notes significant differences between international reaction post 9/11 versus the dauphin's "to hell with it" attitude post 7/7 (citing this Tom Watson piece from The Huffington Post):


Like Johnny Rotten in "No Feelings," President Bush has got no emotions for anybody else, and can't be bothered even to go through the formal motions, having so many more important, interesting things to do, such as fall off his bicycle...

Has the United States or even simply Washington, DC held a silent moment for the victims of the London bombings? Has any national gesture of solidarity been proposed?

If so, I haven't seen or heard of it. We're just going about our business while insisting that the world perpetually acknowledge our scars and trauma from September 11th as our justification to wage whatever aggressive action we deem necessary to ensure it never happens again.

For months, we've been hearing and reading that Brits no longer discriminate between average Americans and the policies of our government--that the reelection of Bush has made them hold us in something of the same contempt they hold him. Well, they have good reason, and we keep furnishing them with better reasons all the time.


On the morning of September 13th, 2001, the officer in charge of the Coldstream Guards Band and 1st Battalion Scots Guards received a call from Buckingham Palace. Banish tradition. The music accompanying that day's tourist-swathed ceremomy at the changing would be different. That day, the band played The Star-Spangled Banner. The Brits were with us...

Our President, George W. Bush, was actually in the United Kingdom when terror struck London. He was in Scotland, a two-hour flight from Heathrow. Understandably, he and the other leaders completed the G8 summit, unbowed by the carnage in the London transit system.

And then our President came home.

Watson asks rhetorically why Bush couldn't be bothered to even spend a few moments in London--to which Wolcott replies (probably correctly) that Bush simply "couldn't be bothered." Indeed, it seems as if these days the United States won't bother itself with ANY signal of empathy with a world increasingly threatened by vicious acts of terror--acts which, in some measure, are the result of muleheaded policies of the Bush administration. They exploit the tragedy of 9/11 when they should instead be hanging their collective heads in shame for being asleep at the wheel--and insist that their way is the ONLY way, world be damned. Then they follow up with the ultimate cynicism--better there than here, as if the globe can somehow be partitioned between fortress America and "abroad." What idiots.

Speaking of which, I'd also like to note for the record that, contrary to wingnuttia, those of us on the left don't "hate America." We hate MORONS, particularly those who insist on dragging this country down with their aggressively ignorant stands on matters like national security, which will NEVER be achieved with blowhard rantings, particularly when they're followed up with pathetic actions like the war in Iraq, where some 8-10 Army divisions are caught up in a stalemante with irregular forces at best. Idiots don't deserve adulation--they deserve rejection and contempt.
What a Dick

And, believe it or not, we're not talking about the biggest Dick in the Bush Cheney administration--this is from Think Progress via Atrios, so you've probably seen it...but it's worth noting anyway:

Appearing on Fox this morning, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey said the following in regards to his assessment of the growing leak scandal:

We’ve got Karl Rove, who is under this constant attack of political malarkey, who has probably the most documented case of his evidence of anyone in the the whole story. So quite frankly, I think the American people are seeing it for what it is right now. More than anything else it’s a political farce not a matter of national security interests. [Fox News, 7/14/05]


Here’s what Dick Armey said about the case back in October 2003 when we had no idea who may have been involved:

Now, there was no reason to tell the world about the ambassador’s wife. It was just a short-sighted, self-centered, simple-minded cowardly act of revenge, and who’s paying the cost? The Bush White House… If they ever find [the leakers], they ought to just — they ought to just kick them out of the White House and prosecute them, because…the greater the pretension, the greater the hypocrisy. [CNN, 10/19/03]

Indeed, Mr. Armey, hypocrisy is an easily understood story.

Note: work is kind of busy at the moment, which means I might not be able to post much more today...
Partial Success

Reading this story reminded me of a series of articles that came out just before the January "election" in Iraq indicating the desire on the part of some administration officials (and then interim thug of the month moment Allawi) to go all Salvadoran on some Mesopotamian ass.

Well, if the Salvadoran option is truly being implemented, they're getting at least one thing right--the sheer numbers of people being killed:

Iraqi civilians and police officers died at a rate of more than 800 a month between August and May, according to figures released in June by the Interior Ministry.

In response to questions from The New York Times, the ministry said that 8,175 Iraqis were killed by insurgents in the 10 months that ended May 31. The ministry did not give detailed figures for the months before August 2004, nor did it provide a breakdown of the figures, which do not include either Iraqi soldiers or civilians killed during American military operations.

While the figures were not broken down month by month, it has been clear since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over after the Jan. 30 election that the insurgency is taking an increasing toll, killing Iraqi civilians and security workers at a faster rate...

In per capita terms, the highest death rates were in Anbar, Najaf and Diyala Provinces.

In all, the ministry listed 15,517 wounded in the same period. Of that figure, men made up the overwhelming majority, at 91 percent of the total. Cities in the northern Kurdish enclave were not included in the count.

Insurgent attacks claim the overwhelming majority of Iraqi lives now. In the two months after the Shiite-led government was announced, insurgents killed more than 1,500 Iraqis, a number approaching the total of American troops killed since the start of the war two years ago.

Deaths at the hands of Americans are statistically fewer, but far from uncommon. On June 25, a 21-year-old engineering student was shot dead during a house raid by marines in Anbar Province. The student, Muhammad Summaidai, answered the door and was excited to practice his English, according to an account by his cousin, Samir Summaidai, the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. The marines took him to a back room to see the family's weapons. A short time later he was dead, shot through the neck in what his family says was a murder by the marines.

["The Americans have to be smarter - to hide and lay traps for the insurgents," Mr. Summaidai said by telephone in early July. "Not just to terrorize the community. That will not work."]

The marines said in a statement shortly after the incident that they were investigating.

One day earlier Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi employee of the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, was shot and killed by an American sniper while he was on his way to a gas station, Knight Ridder said. That death is also under investigation.

"We monitor the deaths of civilians the best way we can," a military spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, said in an in e-mail message. But he added: "We do not have the ability to get accurate data. We do not have visibility all over Iraq in every location."

800 deaths a month compares, um, favorably, with statistics from Central America during the Reagan years.

Now, whether this is part of an overall plan or merely the inevitable outcome of such a stupidly planned (not to mention illegal) war hardly matters--death is death, and it's pretty hard to focus on whatever "good news" is out there when you're burying some 25 extra bodies a day. Hence, the best thing Team Bush can come up with on a regular basis is "we're making progress," which earlier this week I suggested was merely the "building a bridge to the 21st century" equivalent of "we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel" (hey--is that a train whistle I just heard?).

And, on the subject of past posts, take a look once again at what Riverbend said about the new Iraqi security forces:

As to Iraqi forces...many of their members were formerly part of militias, and that many of them contributed to the looting and burning that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for weeks...

The[ir] forte...? Raids and mass detentions. They have been learning well from the coalition. They sweep into areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass the females in the household and detain the men. The Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him in the head as his car drove away.

Sounds rather death squadish to me.

And again, remember that ALL this has been utterly needless in terms of any sort of justifiable action in the so-called war on terror, although something tells me that the casualty count is definitely creating a sense of terror--if not rage--among Iraqis, who I can't imagine are all that thrilled being pawns in the chess game that Team Bush insisted back in 2003 was going to be easier than a game of checkers with our side having already been made kings.
"Angry" Joe Wilson

I thought at first of calling this post "Return Fire," but I noticed Matt Lauer and Jamie Gangel both made sure to identify Joe Wilson as "angry," perhaps in an attempt to hedge. Gangel even concluded her interview with the former career diplomat by citing Dana Milbank's remark vis-a-via Karl Rove and DC ("It's KR's town and everyone else just lives in it," or something like that).

Anyway, here's the transcript, and here's the accompanying article. Both provide links to streaming video for those with plenty of bandwidth.

"Angry" apparently reflects the latest attempts by the GOP slime machine to deflect criticism--slime that has reached, well, Rovian proportions. Billmon, as always, has several noteworthy posts, one of which includes a link to Mark Kleiman's interesting suggestion that Rove might be safe in regards to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act--but might well be in violation of ESPIONAGE statutes, not to mention Obstruction of Justice or Perjury. All in all, it looks like Karl ended up f*&king himself "like no one has ever f*&ked him before."

As for the spin--well, last night PBS treated me to their version of "fair and balanced," mixing and matching Ed Rogers and John Podesta in a sort of higher class version of Shields and Brooks--Rogers had the GOP talking points down (Whiskey Bar aptly calls it the "alternate universe"), while Podesta provided the lukewarm mush on soggy milquetoast that characterizes the Democratic side of the menu these days.

Still, this story continues to show a surprising degree of staying power (despite Rogers more or less pleading with Ifill to kill it--kill it in the next few days). Perhaps that's because Joe Wilson is no pushover. As someone who dealt with Saddam Hussein directly, I can't imagine him flinching under the withering attack of Mayberry Machiavelli spitballs.

Which, by the way, speaks volumes as to this administration. Consider: they have no compunction about lying their way into war. They have no guilt over a blatant attempt to destroy the career of an individual who accomplished admirable work in the Central Intelligence Agency in a sensitive field (indeed, Rove referred to Plame as "fair game"). Playing politics is put on a higher plane than the national security of the nation. They and their neocon fellow travelers routinely display the most callous of attitudes towards the nation's armed forces, ranging from deployment without adequate equipment to basically telling soldiers to fuck off and die--literally.

And, finally, remember that these clowns are the ones who IGNORED warnings of an imminent attack on the United States in 2001 until it was too late. At this point, Rove ought to thank his lucky stars the shit on his shoes is, by comparison, relatively minor (although still potentially a felony). Because in an alternative universe that had any genuine measure of justice, he, his boss, and the administrative cabal would be facing far more serious charges, like war crimes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Highs and Lows

Willie Nelson's new reggae album comes in two flavors:

The cover art of Countryman, released Tuesday, features green marijuana leaves over a red and yellow background and looks similar to a large pack of rolling papers.

However, for those looking to snap up the CD at Wal-Mart's famously rolled back prices, the cover features a palm tree in place of the offending leaves, a change made by Universal Music Group Nashville out of deference to the retailing giant's strict guidelines with regards to lyrics and packaging.

"They're covering all the bases," Nelson commented to the AP.

Laff. Something tells me that A LOT of Wal-Mart "Associates" can easily recognize the leaves of cannibis sativa and/or indica--hell, how else could they stand to work there?
Call it "The Halliburton Defense"

Also known as the "it was IRAQI money" argument:

A federal judge issued a ruling yesterday that will limit the applicability of a critical antifraud statute against corporate contractors in Iraq.

Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., held that the False Claims Act does not apply to the many contractors who were paid by the American occupation authority using Iraqi oil money...

Yesterday's ruling, the first to provide guidelines in what has been a legal void, could derail some whistle-blower lawsuits that are in their early stages and under seal, experts in procurement law said.

In the chaotic year after the 2003 invasion, the coalition authority used billions of dollars in Iraqi funds, along with Congressionally appropriated money, to pay for reconstruction projects and vital imports.

Judge Ellis said the civil suit before him, involving allegations of sham billing by the security company Custer Battles, could go to trial under the False Claims Act because the company was mainly paid with confiscated Iraqi money that had become legal United States property...

Legal experts said there appeared to be little doubt that fraud involving appropriated United States funds - Congress has directed more than $20 billion to Iraqi reconstruction - would be subject to the False Claims Act. But many of the contracts signed in 2003 and 2004 were partly or wholly paid using Iraqi money.

Lawyers for Halliburton celebrated by lighting cigars with $100 dollar bills...which, they assured reporters were "most definitely" 'Iraqi' funds.
Creature of Habit

This sounds familiar:

During George H.W. Bush's second presidential campaign, Rove was fired from the campaign team because of suspicions that he had leaked information to columnist Robert Novak — the same columnist who first reported Plame's CIA role in 2003, citing anonymous administration sources.

At the time, Bush's campaign was in trouble, and there was concern that the president might not even win his home state of Texas. The Novak column described a Dallas meeting in which the campaign's state manager, Robert Mosbacher, was stripped of his authority because the Texas effort was viewed as a bust.

Mosbacher complained, expressing his suspicion that Rove was the leaker. Rove denied the charge, but was fired nevertheless.

Well, except the part about Rove getting fired. Apparently George the Younger can't bring himself to take that step. Maybe it's because you can't spell "deficit"--fiscal or mental--without Dubya.

As for Novak, most of y'all have probably seen Murray Waas's piece on the original Prince of Darkness--they shined a flashlight into the dank basement he calls home--and Bob blinked.
Bad Reporter

Don Asmussen reveals that a cat didn't get Scott McClellan's tongue--the truth is that he's in a permanent vegetative state.
Wolfowitz for $300 Billion

Tbogg takes on the WSJ's curious "challenge," and suggests the man with the special hair tonic.
While Rove Burns

Well, it looks like Karl is still on the hot seat--good. Couldn't happen to a more deserving SOB. And given Karl's position as the "brain" of the GOP, his descent is all the sweeter (and probably explains the increasingly desperate attempts to protect him at all costs. Fair warning: the link is to a GOP memo, and I can't guarantee that reading it won't make you smash your computer monitor with a brick).

The big blogs have all sorts of stuff to look at, from the memo above to Faux News Whore John Gibson's argument that Rove deserves a commendation for, um, whatever. Lesser lights are taking aim at Joe Wilson, of course, essentially arguing that HE outed his wife by acknowledging his marital status or occasionally venturing out in public with her.

But while it sure is fun to observe what I hope is the Rove political death watch, overseas a death watch of a different sort is sadly playing out:

Twenty-seven people, many of them children, were killed by a suicide truck bomb today as the children gathered around an Army vehicle where troops were handing out chocolates and other gifts.

The blast was so powerful it set a nearby house on fire.

The attack, which killed an American soldier and wounded three others, occurred about 10:50 a.m. in east Baghdad, according to the United States military.

And while nutjobs with car bombs are killing Iraqi children, Iraqi "police" are dishing it out to adults:

Iraq's widely feared police commandos were struggling on Tuesday to explain how at least 10 Sunni Arab men and youths, one only 17, suffocated after a commando unit seized them from a hospital emergency ward and locked them in a police van in summer temperatures exceeding 110 degrees.

The article goes on to note that many of the commandos are veterans of Saddam Hussein's army, police, and/or intelligence units--and are quite comfortable with what for them is the old fashioned way. In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old.

Oh, and I was noticing something the other day--it seems as if, just as the old "if they're dead, they're VC" has been modernized for the new century, I've detected a similar update on an expression from that time. "Light at the end of the tunnel" is now "making progress." I just don't know how much more progress we--or the Iraqi people--can stand.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bad Scotty--No Biscuit!

Tom Burka and I (see my post from this morning--the last paragraph) might not have been on the exact same page, but we were reading from the same book:

White House Cannot Confirm Ever Having Met Karl Rove

Finally, Mr. McClellan denied understanding the words "Karl Rove," merely shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders in a show of incomprehension.

Today's Grim Tally

Starting at Today in Iraq, I see today's death toll for Iraqi civilians was at least 18, i.e., just a normal day in a conflict that, according to the "Geneva based Graduate Institute of International Studies" has killed upwards of 39,000 individuals. Matt also points out an interesting item in one Reuters story--quotes around the term "terrorist," implying an update to the old slogan "if they're dead, they're VC." In this case, there's the possibility that, in order to justify the action, the new operative term is "if they're dead, they're terrorist." Why am I not surprised?

Afghanistan isn't exactly looking good--but compared to Operation How Long Can We Keep Halliburton's Share Price Up, it's still a picnic in the park. Numbers like 39,000--or 25,000, according to the more conservative Iraq Body Count--or 100,000 "extra deaths," according to The Lancet (that figure includes crime victims, deaths due to insufficient hospital space, etc.) demonstrate quite clearly that "The New Iraq" is no better--and, indeed, quite a bit worse--than the old version. Or, as James Kunstler writes:

Under Saddam Hussein, Iraqis didn't dare voice opinions lest a gang of Baathist goons appeared at their doors in the dark of night to take them away for torture and execution. Under the current system, Iraqis don't dare cooperate with the government (or worse, their US military sponsors) lest a gang of Jihadi (or Sunni or former Baathist) goons show up at their door and drag them off to execution.

Last week, as I was leaving for vacation, I missed Riverbend's latest, but it underscores this point nicely:

E., a younger cousin, and I were sitting around in the living room, sprawled on the relatively cool tiled floor. The electricity had been out for 3 hours and we couldn’t turn on the air conditioner with the generator electricity we were getting...

We did not have Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the war. We didn’t know that sort of extremism. We didn’t have beheadings or the abduction of foreigners or religious intolerance. We actually pitied America and Americans when the Twin Towers went down and when news began leaking out about it being Muslim fundamentalists- possibly Arabs- we were outraged.

Now 9/11 is getting old. Now, 100,000+ Iraqi lives and 1700+ American lives later, it’s becoming difficult to summon up the same sort of sympathy as before...

Don’t Americans know that this vast wasteland of terror and terrorists otherwise known as ‘Abroad’ was home to the first civilizations and is home now to some of the most sophisticated, educated people in the region?

Don’t Americans realize that ‘abroad’ is a country full of people- men, women and children who are dying hourly? ‘Abroad’ is home for millions of us. It’s the place we were raised and the place we hope to raise our children- your field of war and terror.

The war was brought to us here, and now we have to watch the country disintegrate before our very eyes. We watch as towns are bombed and gunned down and evacuated of their people. We watch as friends and loved ones are detained, or killed or pressured out of the country with fear and intimidation...

Three decades of tyranny isn’t what bombed and burned buildings to the ground. It isn’t three decades of tyranny that destroyed the infrastructure with such things as “Shock and Awe” and various other tactics...prior to the war, we didn’t have sewage overflowing in the streets like we do now, and water cut off for days and days at a time. We certainly had more than the 8 hours of electricity daily. In several areas they aren’t even getting that much...

We’re so free, we often find ourselves prisoners of our homes, with roads cut off indefinitely and complete areas made inaccessible. We are so free to assemble that people now fear having gatherings because a large number of friends or family members may attract too much attention and provoke a raid by American or Iraqi forces.

As to Iraqi forces…There was too much to quote on the new Iraqi forces. He failed to mention that many of their members were formerly part of militias, and that many of them contributed to the looting and burning that swept over Iraq after the war and continued for weeks...

The forte of the new Iraqi National Guard? Raids and mass detentions. They have been learning well from the coalition. They sweep into areas, kick down doors, steal money, valuables, harass the females in the household and detain the men. The Iraqi security forces are so effective that a few weeks ago, they managed to kill a high-ranking police major in Falluja when he ran a red light, shooting him in the head as his car drove away.

Billmon, once again, delivers his own indispensible interpretation of recent events in the aptly titled post "The Devil's Flypaper"--where he rightly shreds professional morons like Fran Townsend (I've been trying to make the same point in any number of recent posts, but his style is a lot better than mine):

...what the flypaper theory reveals is the true attitude of our would-be liberators towards their Iraqi test subjects.

The Iraqi people may matter in the abstract -- that is, if they can be made to serve as symbols of the majestic benevolence of American power, or used as living props in the next White House photo op. But their actual suffering matters not a whit, not if it gets in the way of the increasingly absurd attempts of the Cheney administration and its supporters to rationalize the criminal mistakes that have brought us to this point.

Of course, the "Cheney administration's" rationalizations are why we're losing the war in the first place--Iraqis aren't stupid, and they're getting sick and tired of the kind of clusterfuck that is quite inconceivable here in the West, 9/11, Madrid, and London notwithstanding (for more on this, here's another Arthur Silber post from today--he recalled Juan Cole's post from last September reminding us of what things WOULD be like if the situation in Iraq was somehow transplanted here). The duplicity with which we treat the country--and its people--is a classic example of the thought processes behind at least some of the neocons (I'm thinking here of the pond scum populating sites like LGF, or the ongoing clown show at Powerline). They're the sorts of people who will INSIST that the world really, REALLY wants nothing more than an ice cold Coca-Cola--yet, they insist on conking people in the head over and over with the bottle in an attempt to prove that the soft drink actually IS cool and refreshing.

Which isn't exactly a good sales pitch to those on the conked end (although the one doing the conking might buy an extra bottle or two, both to replace the ones shattered--AND to relieve a powerful thirst that comes from such an exertion). In the end, though, you're left with not much more than a pile of shattered glass, and lots of angry folks...folks who might well decide that the problem is you, and simply want you to get the fuck out of there, no matter HOW good hearted you may be--and, to be perfectly honest, I've got my doubts about the good heartedness of the principles who authorized "the mission." "Good-heartedness" and "illegal invasion of a country to satisfy a politicized blood lust ritual" don't exactly go hand in hand.
Kremlinology at Quantico

Maybe the setting itself doesn't carry the weight of Red Square, nor were the various Politburo members lined up on either side of the Premier, but gagging through watching Bush's speech last night on C-Span reminded me of nothing so much as the modern version of "overwhelming success in achieving--and succeeding--goals of the latest five-year plan"...with additional announcements proclaiming the latest Heroes of the Soviet Union, Second Class.

On the latter point, "Jamal" was singled out for special mention, along with Glenn Colby and Marty Schwader:

The Iraqi people are seeing progress. They're stepping forward to the fight. One Iraqi who stepped forward is a traffic cop named Jamal. Recently, Jamal was training in the city of Irbil with about 200 other recruits, when a red car came hurtling toward them and it exploded. He survived, but many of his comrades did not. Here's what he says: "I saw friends killed and wounded and crying out and blood everywhere. It is not the first time they tried to kill us ... we're not afraid. I'll stay a policeman and serve my country." Americans are proud to serve alongside such brave allies, people willing -- (applause) -- people willing to take risk for democracy and freedom, people willing to sacrifice.

How touching. Particularly the notation--or was it a stage direction?--indicating "applause." Bush also mouthed the usual references--hard work, freedom, kill the terrorists, hard work, freedom, front line in the war on terror--then there was a final, quick, press the flesh before his handlers hustled him off to whatever bunker he's hiding out in for the duration of "The Passion of the Roveweiler."

I dunno--maybe "Kremlinology" is too crude a comparison. I don't think the Soviets ever tried, much less managed, to pull off such a display.

But, to mix and match the twin turdblossoms, I can't think of any tag team in modern times who display such a profound contempt for democracy than Rove and Bush--and, extending the metaphor, their manager Dick Cheney--hell, for that matter, the entire GOP leadership these days. Triumph of the Will, as interpreted by the Mayberry Machiavellis.

Karl, to be sure, stepped in a big steaming pile, but sadly I think this post by Bull Moose (first saw a reference here at TPM cafe) is probably what we can expect. Wingnuttiasphere apparently is already declaring victory according to Arthur Silber, and while previous intonations of "Mission Accomplished" haven't exactly borne out, 'nuts aren't really all that concerned about reality these days (their focus tends to be on matters they used to dismiss as "inside the beltway"). Additionally, the MSM stories coming out seem to have a degree of built-in fatigue, as evidenced by this rather lame effort from the Times--quote both sides, imply partisanship on the part of the Democrats, and cite some GOP insiders, one of whom concludes "Rove needs to be on his A game now, not huddled with lawyers and press people."

As for subverting national security for pure partisan gain?--ho hum...just another notch on the belt(way)...

But, while Karl STEPPED in a big steaming pile, Dubya SPAT one out yesterday--and his carefully selected audience pronounced it delicious. I suppose it's too much to ask of the mouth breathers--they'll constantly rally round Bush's peculiar brand of reptillian mutterings mixed with just enough blood at low-boil to send them into agressively ignorant frenzy--but I'd like to hope that recent events--the ongoing clusterfuck in Iraq, Afghanistan teetering on the edge of chaos, AND the London bombings--have demonstrated that blind rage isn't exactly a recipe for success.

It IS, however, a recipe for destroying both traditions of democracy AND democratic institutions themselves (whether or not such traditions and institutions have ever existed is a topic for a different post, and I won't get into that here). And after watching the dauphin last night, I'm as worried as ever that--speaking of edges--this country is about to careen off one while being driven by a group of individuals who shouldn't even have driver's licenses, much less be given carte blanche to run the nation.

I guess it'll be time to REALLY worry when Scotty the terrier doesn't merely stonewall, but instead offers his best blank expression (and, my god, he's good at that) while replying "Valerie Who?"

Monday, July 11, 2005

"The System Worked"

Something tells me the average neocon will look at this story (earlier version here) and insist that "the system worked:"

After being held for more than seven weeks in solitary confinement in an American military prison in Iraq, Cyrus Kar, an aspiring filmmaker from Los Angeles, was freed Sunday in Baghdad, exhausted and hungry but relieved that his ordeal was coming to an end.

"I am very happy to be out," Mr. Kar said in a late-night interview in the hotel room where he was staying with his Iranian cameraman, who was also released. "My family wants me home soon, and I'll be very happy to talk to everybody as soon as I get out of Iraq."

Mr. Kar, 44, said that on the advice of his lawyers, he would not discuss the details of his treatment until he was safely back in the United States. As he sat shirtless on the couch in his room, a dark bruise was visible on his right arm and an abrasion on one of his legs, but he otherwise appeared in good health...

Mr. Kar said he had been able to recover all of the film he had shot during what he said were two weeks of work in Iraq before he and his cameraman, Farshid Faraji, were detained by Iraqi troops on May 17.

The two men were arrested after the taxi in which they were riding was stopped at a checkpoint near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, and a search of the vehicle turned up 35 washing-machine timers, devices that military officials said were sometimes used by Iraqi insurgents in making bombs.

In the American military's first detailed statement about the matter on Sunday, a spokesman defended Mr. Kar's detention, saying that he had represented "an imperative security threat to Iraq" and that his case was resolved "appropriately."

The statement said a panel of military officers had reviewed the case of Mr. Kar, a naturalized American who was born in Iran and served in the Navy, allowing him to testify and call witnesses in his own defense.

"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee-review process," the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Don Alston of the Air Force, said in the statement. "We followed well-established procedures, and Mr. Kar has now been properly released."

In other words, seven weeks for making the mistake of getting in the wrong cab--with the added bonus of having his lawyer--and family--kept largely in the dark regarding his incarceration. But, the neocons will insist that Kar's release shows that "the system works." Of course, some will also suggest that Kar had "no business" being in Iraq in the first place, freedom not really meaning "freedom," after all. Indeed, you can expect the odd wingnut or two to suggest that Kar wasn't punished enough, despite the fact that he'd committed no crime (and, indeed, according to his sister, generally supports the Bush policy). Because, after all, to certain wingnuts, the fact that Kar is Iranian-American is plenty criminal enough.

However, I'd like to see a neocon's reaction should THEY (or a family member) receive such treatment. In fact, plenty of neocons have ALREADY shown their hand--to cite Wolcott again (writing about the terrorist attack in London):

The curious thing is that so many of the rightward bloggers and Fox Newswers who are hailing the Brits for their quiet stoicism and pluck don't seem to realize they're issuing an implicit rebuke to themselves and their fellow Americans. They're saying, in effect, "You've got to admire the Brits for showing calm and quiet perserverence after these explosions--they don't get all hysterical, overdramatic, and overreactive the way we Americans do." They don't seem to realize the example shown by Londoners might be a lesson to them, a model they might follow instead of playing laptop Pattons at full volume every time they feel a rousing post coming on.

In other words, I'd bet most neocons would go apeshit should they not be accorded proper respect at your average drive-thru, much less get locked away for seven weeks--without any charges being filed. And, if this is how a US citizen gets treated, imagine what's happening to the average Iraqi (note to neocons: the Iraqis are the people you're the military is ostensibly fighting for).

Welcome to the New World Disorder.
Just a Theory

No, this isn't a post about the ridiculous editorial penned by Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna (here's the accompanying Times article)--instead, I'm noting a Cockburn/St. Clair piece about Judith "Jailbird" Miller. Citing the Washington Post (alas, not linking to the article, though), they speculate on just how Karl Rove might've come across the information he considered appropriate to screw Joe Wilson (and, um, the country) with:

There are curious questions hanging over Miller's determined march towards her prison cell, not far from that of Moussaoui, who is probably offering her free legal advice on the prison grapevine.

Miller never actually wrote a story in the New York Times about Plame being in the CIA. So why has Fitzgerald been so eager to have her testify? The answer may lie in a paragraph buried in the Washington Post, reading as follows: "Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials ­ not the other way around ­ that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee."

We could conjecture that when Fitzgerald interviewed White House political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, one or other or both had said that they learned Plame was married to Wilson and in the CIA from Miller, who ­ again this is surmise ­ might well have learned this from one of her other sources, whether Perle or Chalabi or someone else in the intelligence world.

After all, this is Miller's style of reporting. Learn something (entirely false in the case of the WMDs) from one source, then bounce it off another, and then put together a story citing two sources. In the case of the WMDs, Chalabi would give her a "defector" who would duly impart his fantasies about Saddam's arsenal. She would relay the defector's story to "a high intelligence source" who would confirm it.

Note: if you've heard this already, my apologies--I'm still catching up over here.

Now, this is only a theory, with no proof to back it up...still, while I'm inclined to take a hard gulp and support Miller's right to protect a confidential source, I'll make note of Cockburn/St. Clair's observation that Judith's time in the clink will likely pay off handsomely--an investment that can be cashed out in lecture fees, book contracts, and whatnot. Perhaps it isn't the easiest way to earn a living--but it sure beats falling victim to violence, say, in Iraq--a war for which Ms. Miller was a leading salesperson.

And, quite possibly, the source for Karl Rove, who, whether or not he is indicted, managed to screw himself pretty could maybe even say screwed like no one has screwed himself before.
Rule of Thumb

From James Wolcott:

...whenever a neocon ideologue urges staying the course, it's the signal bell for the sane among us to lower the lifeboats, iceberg dead ahead.
From the Archives

Paul Krugman makes his own case for satire being the new news:

To understand where the budget deficit came from, you can't do better than the Jan. 18, 2001, issue of the satirical newspaper The Onion, which predicted the future with eerie precision. "We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent," the magazine's spoof had the president-elect declare. "And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

As a longtime Onion reader (it originally was published in Madison) I think I remember the story itself--the headline, IIRC was "Our Long Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over." Damn if they weren't dead on accurate.
Enormous Assholes Anonymous

Democratic Underground makes the appropriate suggestion that Brit Hume, Brian Kilmeade, and John Gibson should park their lard in a meeting room and play co-confessors for a while, considering their collective responses to the tragedy in London last week:

"My first thought when I heard," said Brit, live on air, "just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"...

"I think that [the attack] works to our advantage, in the Western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened." ...

"If they had picked France instead of London to hold the would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?"

And I think Paul Harvey deserves a dishonorable mention (DU has him at #7 of their Top Ten Conservative Idiots of the Week)...although, to be honest, I don't know if living corpses really qualify as EA's. Geez, won't SOMEONE in Chicago give the guy a decent funeral already?

I'm not real surprised Harvey would suggest the nuclear option in regards to Iraq and Afghanistan--that's pretty standard moonbat tripe. However, it's sad to note his glorification of smallpox blankets and slavery--twin evils I assumed most modern humans recognized as pretty appalling. But what do you expect from wingnuts?
"I Didn't Inhale"

I suppose it's possible that time itself might come to the aid of Red Faced Rove and his triple chin...after all, it's now a good two years or so since he made the fateful decision to fuck Joe Wilson "like no one has ever fucked him!"...

Time and the ultimate parsing of phrase--parsing that makes "I didn't inhale" and "what the definition of 'is' is" seem like chump change--are Rove's allies, and you can expect that the next few weeks at the Bush White House to resemble the Nixonian bunker mentality as they fervently hope the media has lost what little instinct they ever had for a feeding frenzy. After all, it's not like Rove blew the cover on someone working on, say, WMD issues...oh, wait a minute...

Right now, a quick, highly unscientific tour of various websites (including--gag--a quick trip to Faux News)--is bringing out the pessimist in me. While dutifully noting the fact that Roveweiler WAS at least one source who blew Valerie Plame's cover, it seems as if contortionism has become sort of a hobby for some reporters/editors/publishers. Hence, special consideration for whether or not Karl's lips actually uttered "Plame" or "Valerie" during the course of conversation with Matthew Cooper. Others emphasize the nature of the statute regarding exposure of agents:

...disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent's identity.

But, one stumbling block might be the White House itself--time and time again Bush went on record explicitly stating that he wouldn't tolerate "leaks." And, considering the Bush family stance towards this type of behavior, it's difficult to imagine Rove getting a free pass--unless the media decides to play whitewasher and spread a fresh coat--or two.

Which, sadly, is more than easily imagined these days. The "first rough draft of history" seems focused more on the agony of Matt Cooper than anything else, for instance. CNN and Faux, as you might expect, don't have anything today. And, with the passage of two years, or, in journalese think, some 730 lifetimes, it's more than possible to keep the lid on this--or at least minimize the damage. And with the public focused on things like the London train bombings--well, and being more realistic, Katie Holmes (PROMINENTLY featured at Faux's web site), there's a good chance this could become just another three day sensation along the lines of Richard Clark's book/public statements, which are shocking...IF you're paying attention.

Instead, though, it seems that, despite the fires all around, the public--and their representatives in the media--are more concerned with what's playing on the fiddle...