Friday, April 14, 2006

The Katrina "Palaces"

Oyster's source "Slider" (who, along with Curveball and Spitball, seems to know a lot of things) tells him these are actually "death labs on wheels" (or was that "meth labs?" Well, whatever)...

My own source, whom I'll call "Screwball," tells me that the palace pictured above is just another example of how New Orleanians expect to live in the lap of luxury while citizens in the rest of the country must make do with residences that AREN'T full of mold, in need of complete interior gutting, or lacking running water/electricity. They suffer silently in apartments or houses that comply with existing building codes--and some are even forced to endure agonizing climbs up a flight of stairs to reach bedrooms and/or bathrooms.

But greedy New Orleanians feel entitled to 400 square feet--or more. Some folks are even REPAIRING their existing houses palaces. And they actually expect the government to repair the levees that were fucking BUILT BY THE GOVERNMENT WITH EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT GUARANTEES AGAINST BREACHING, FOR CHRISSAKES!.

Boy, that Hindrocket Dude really got it spot on--Shrub was the only person with the vision necessary to keep the greedy New Orleanians in check. (last link has audio that might not be safe for work).
Thumb Drives 'R Us

Super Low Prices! Classified Information Guaranteed!

h/t Cursor and Suspect Device

Why, it pretty much proves any concerns about Dubai taking over our ports was just so much overreaction:

No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

Why do I have a sneaking suspicion Halliburton--or a subsidiary--has a no-bid contract to provide janitorial services? But with the only "Mexicans" in Afghanistan being, ahem, soldiers in the U.S. Military, I guess it's hard to find reliable, cheap labor:

Maps, charts and intelligence reports on computer drives smuggled out of a U.S. base and sold at a bazaar here appear to detail how Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders have been using southwestern Pakistan as a key planning and training base for attacks in Afghanistan.

The documents, marked "secret," appear to be raw intelligence reports based on conversations with Afghan informants and official briefings given to high-level U.S. military officers. Together, they outline how the U.S. military came to focus its search for members of Taliban, Al Qaeda and other militant groups on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

And I'm glad King Doofus knows who his friends are:

Pakistan has long denied harboring Taliban leaders or training bases and has engaged in several well-publicized battles with insurgents in its tribal territories bordering Afghanistan.

But the documents contained on memory drives sold at a bazaar in front of the main gate of the Bagram air base suggest that although Pakistani forces are working to root out foreign Al Qaeda fighters from the northwestern tribal regions, the Taliban has been using Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan in the southwest, as its rear guard for training and coordinating attacks, some by foreign Arab fighters, in Afghanistan.

Smirk-Chimp really has a handle on things, eh?
Krugman: Follow the Money

" where's my beer and shotgun?"

Weapons of Math Destruction

Now it can be told: President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney based their re-election campaign on lies, damned lies and statistics.

The lies included Mr. Cheney's assertion, more than three months after intelligence analysts determined that the famous Iraqi trailers weren't bioweapons labs, that we were in possession of two "mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox."

The damned lies included Mr. Bush's declaration, in his "Mission Accomplished" speech, that "we have removed an ally of Al Qaeda."

The statistics included Mr. Bush's claim, during his debates with John Kerry, that "most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income Americans."

Compared with the deceptions that led us to war, deceptions about taxes can seem like a minor issue. But it's all of a piece. In fact, my early sense that we were being misled into war came mainly from the resemblance between the administration's sales pitch for the Iraq war — with its evasions, innuendo and constantly changing rationale — and the selling of the Bush tax cuts.

Moreover, the hysterical attacks the administration and its defenders launch against anyone who tries to do the math on tax cuts suggest that this is a very sensitive topic. For example, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa once compared people who say that 40 percent of the Bush tax cuts will go to the richest 1 percent of the population to, yes, Adolf Hitler.

And just as administration officials continued to insist that the trailers were weapons labs long after their own intelligence analysts had concluded otherwise, officials continue to claim that most of the tax cuts went to the middle class even though their own tax analysts know better.

How do I know what the administration's tax analysts know? The facts are there, if you know how to look for them, hidden in one of the administration's propaganda releases.

The Treasury Department has put out an exercise in spin called the "Tax Relief Kit," which tries to create the impression that most of the tax cuts went to low- and middle-income families. Conspicuously missing from the document are any actual numbers about how the tax cuts were distributed among different income classes. Yet Treasury analysts have calculated those numbers, and there's enough information in the "kit" to figure out what they discovered.

An explanation of how to extract the administration's estimates of the distribution of tax cuts from the "Tax Relief Kit" is here
[M: sorry, I can't get to the link]. Here's the bottom line: about 32 percent of the tax cuts went to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people whose income this year will be at least $341,773. About 53 percent of the tax cuts went to the top 10 percent of the population. Remember, these are the administration's own numbers — numbers that it refuses to release to the public.

I'm sure that this column will provoke a furious counterattack from the administration, an all-out attempt to discredit my math. Yet if I'm wrong, there's an easy way to prove it: just release the raw data used to construct the table titled "Projected Share of Individual Income Taxes and Income in 2006." Memo to reporters: if the administration doesn't release those numbers, that's in effect a confession of guilt, an implicit admission that the data contradict the administration's spin.

And what about the people Senator Grassley compared to Hitler, those who say that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans will receive 40 percent of the tax cuts?

Although the "Tax Relief Kit" asserts that "nearly all of the tax cut provisions" are already in effect, that's not true: one crucial piece of the Bush tax cuts, elimination of the estate tax, hasn't taken effect yet. Since only estates bigger than $2 million, or $4 million for a married couple, face taxation, the great bulk of the gains from estate tax repeal will go to the wealthiest 1 percent. This will raise their share of the overall tax cuts to, you guessed it, about 40 percent.

Again, the point isn't merely that the Bush administration has squandered the budget surplus it inherited on tax cuts for the wealthy. It's the fact that the administration has spent its entire term in office lying about the nature of those tax cuts. And all the world now knows what I suspected from the start: an administration that lies about taxes will also lie about other, graver matters.
Rummy Stays...But Fredo Might be Sleeping With the Fishes

Actually, Dick's More like Sonny, but...

Billmon has some thoughts in light of Fredo-ya's strong support for SecDef:

It's obvious why so many of Rummy's enemies are crawling out of the woodwork now -- they're hoping to improve the odds that the field marshall wil be swept away by the same broom that removed Andy Card and that is said to be hovering over the posteriors of McClellan and John Snow.

My advice would be: Fuggetaboutit. The chances that Dick Cheney will fire his old boss and ideological comrade in crime are only slightly higher than the chances that Rumsfeld's removal would lead to even a minor improvement in the situation in Iraq. It's almost like asking Cheney to fire himself.

To be honest, I think the pair of them would get rid of Junior before they would ever consider stepping down. This absolute determination to hold on to office at all costs may seem bizarre, considering how old and sick these guys are -- and how much shit is coming down on their heads every day -- but it's just the way these things work...

And so it has for Donald Rumsfeld [keeping power and holding on to it] -- with the added incentive that if he departs now, all anyone will remember about him twenty years from now is that he was an old man in a hurry who screwed things up and then was forced to resign.

Which is true, but not exactly the kind of epitaph an arrogant control freak like Rumsfeld would want chiseled on his headstone. Just thinking about it must burn like napalm. Surrender? Hell, he's just begun to fight!

So save your fire for more promising targets of opportunity, generals -- like the lower-ranking members of the cabal: Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Cambone, Wurmser, etc. You might be able to ruin their standing with the conservative true believers, make them radioactive enough that they'll never be able to slither back into the U.S. government again. But I'm afraid the Field Marshal is too heavily armored even for your rounds.

Unless, of course, Rummy sides against the family...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I'll See Your Flood and Raise You Three Feet

Today's Pic has details on the new FEMA guidelines. Check out any number of superb NOLA bloggers for all the details.

And that's by no means a comprehensive list of people in, or writing about New Orleans, so check out their blogrolls as well.

I'm taking a half-day off today, so see you tomorrow.
Always Look on the Bright Side...

In Iraq, it's now easier than ever to change your name...even to "Loretta" if you want:

"I changed my name to Abdullah because it is a neutral name. It could be Sunni or Shi'ite. My life is more precious than my name," said Omar Sami, an Arab Sunni university student.

Iraqis have become increasingly fearful that their religious allegiance could cost them their lives as the country slides toward civil war.

So names, many of which can clearly identify which sect you are from, have become a matter of life or death.

Bombings at mosques, hit squads and kidnappings have forced some people to apply legally for a new identity, a painful move in a country consumed by sectarian passions.

Shi'ites named Ali become Omar and Sunnis named Osman introduce themselves as Hussein, hoping to survive in densely populated mixed districts where victims of sectarian violence are killed on the streets every week.

In Baghdad, where both communities live side by side and people are often challenged at checkpoints or randomly by armed men, some choose the safest option of adopting neutral names like Ahmed or Mohammad, used by both Shi'ites and Sunnis.

Ayman al-Azzawi, an Arab Sunni taxi driver queuing up at the registry, said driving customers through Shi'ite or Sunni areas was like crossing communal minefields. Erasing his identity was the only option.

"I'm here to try to change my surname or even to omit it completely from my civil status card," he said. "I live in Baghdad al-Jadeeda, where many were killed for just being Sunnis or Shi'ites."

The last names of Iraqis are tribal. So anyone who wants a new name must first get permission from a new tribe and then go through the registry office, a small room overflowing with files.


Many are changing both names. Some prefer the less complicated task of changing their first names, and many more just lie about their names when they think it judicious.

"Forty percent of the people who come here change their names for sectarian reasons," said the registry clerk, who declined to give his name.

Iraqis say changing names was all but impossible under former President Saddam Hussein, whose pervasive intelligence agencies immediately became suspicious of such requests.

These days it's much easier. The process of registering a new name, which is then passed along to passport offices and the traffic department, takes about a month.

"It's really hard to change my name but I have a family to raise and look after. I will omit my surname from my ID in case I can't change my name," said Hassan al-Mosawi, the Shi'ite owner of an appliance shop.

Iraqis' concerns about being killed for their sect have deepened since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine pushed the country to the brink of an all-out sectarian conflict.

Some clothing and rings can also identify one's sect but many people now shun such signs to keep safe.

People like Abu Ali al-Maliki are especially vulnerable. The 52-year-old Shi'ite lives in Baghdad's most dangerous district, Dora, a predominantly Sunni area controlled by Muslim militants and Saddam Hussein loyalists.

Residents say Shi'ites dressed in police uniforms also raid the area from time to time.

"I have been advised to change my sons names from Ali, Hassan, and Fatima to Sunni names. Many Shi'ite and Sunnis were killed in cold blood just because of their sect," he said.

"I want to live in peace and don't want my children to die just because of their names."

You know, it's a shame that some people want to focus on just the bad things instead of the whole picture.
Speeding Up the Scandal Line


Well, I can post photos again, at least for the moment.

Anyway, this probably sounded better when heard as opposed to being read, but it's still a reminder that while they're a bunch of assclowns, it doesn't mean they aren't vicious...and evil:

OLBERMANN: That this is not the first scandal to hit the White House will not come as news to you, so many eyebrows have been raised, so many timelines questioned, that keeping just track of these scandals could become a full-time job, especially when we have now sunk to the level of weather balloons.

It is our job. A quick refresher here, working backwards. In just the last two weeks, the biolabs that weren't. That's today. The Republican New Hampshire phone-jamming scheme tied to the White House. The GOP says it was the RNC, not the White House. The plan for Iran, bombing the heck out of it. Scooter Libby testifying that Vice President Cheney told him that President Bush authorized the leaking of classified information to Judith Miller, that Mr. Bush declassified for just that purpose.

A Homeland Security media spokesman picked up in a sex sting, charged with preying on teenaged girls. Tom DeLay resigning from Congress. Mr. Bush replacing his chief of staff under pressure. And last but certainly not least, the Senate Judiciary Committee holding a hearing on a motion to censure the president.

Also this week, Senator Hillary Clinton invoking a comparison—briefly, anyway—between President Bush's abuse of power and that of President Nixon during Watergate.

Who better to call in to assess that comparison than Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who's also, of course, the author of “Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.”

John, good evening.


OLBERMANN: Of course, the only thing missing from this equation, this comparison, would have been a press secretary like Ron Ziegler getting up and saying something about how he didn't respect the journalism, the shoddy journalism of “The Washington Post”—Oh, wait, wait, we just, we just had that today to Joby Warrick in today's “Post.” Is that the complete set? Do you feel like you're living 1970 to 1973 all over again?

DEAN: Not quite, but it's approaching that. I think what we're building to is the “inoperative statement,” if you recall, comes late in the scenario. The fact that Scott McClellan is having to defend himself the way he is, is very reminiscent of what Ron Ziegler went through. It's a very tough job. Ziegler was very good at it and then felt very humbled by it when the rug was pulled out from underneath him.
Brain Stem Brigade

Well, the surest bet you can make these days is that Blogger will crap out at least once a week, and today's the day (well, that and there was a brief spell yesterday when everything--not just photo posting--was down)...

Anyway, I saw the Evan Thomas reference over at Atrios and C&L--in combination with Glenn Greenwald reminding us of one of Goldberg's rantings...and with the recent bearing of teeth re: the Iranian glowing watch dial program nuclear fuel enrichment announcement, we genuinely have at least a faction of wingnuts arguing for a reptillian approach to foreign policy...if not an actual reptillian policy guided by a group blissfully lacking in upper brain function, if not upper brain matter.

To be honest, I kind of expect this position from the 'nut cheerleader section: given their obvious difficulties with such things as normal speech, logical thought, and whatnot, it's not surprising at all that their general reaction to pretty much anything is "kill them all." But I really hoped there were at least a few non-mouth breathers in positions of genuine power--you know, adults who might understand that a complex world requires policies based on long term considerations.

The very concept promulgated by Thomas--the whole "teach them a lesson/Afghanistan wasn't a big enough bang"--isn't merely abhorrent. It's also unbelievably stupid, and demonstrates a sort of pig-ignorance that makes cutting your one's nose to spite your face look almost rational in comparison. And, again, combined with the REAL scenario along the Gulf Coast, where, for all the tough talk, you found a government engaged in extended group drooling while a genuine crisis unfolded...well, yesterday I likened Team Shrub to a petulant child. I might have make amends: they'd require more upper brain function to reach that level.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mississippi Breathes Easier

"Certified" NOT a Weapon of Mass Destruction (link)

How's the war in Iraq like a redneck divorce?

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped "secret" and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The authors of the reports were nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons -- who were dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers. Their actions and findings were described to a Washington Post reporter in interviews with six government officials and weapons experts who participated in the mission or had direct knowledge of it.

None would consent to being identified by name because of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized. Their accounts were verified by other current and former government officials knowledgeable about the mission. The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

I wonder what happened to the upside down Big Wheel outside?
The End Game for Dummies

No, son. This isn't Stratego®

William Rivers Pitt has more on Shrubleroy's Iranian obsession:

I had a debate with my boss last night about Sy Hersh's terrifying New Yorker article describing Bush administration plans to attack Iran, potentially with nuclear weapons. After reading the Hersh piece, my boss was understandably worried, describing his reaction to the article in road-to-Damascus-revelation terms. They're going to do this, he said.

I told my boss that I couldn't believe it was possible the Bush administration would do this. I ran through all the reasons why an attack on Iran, especially with any kind of nuclear weaponry, would be the height of folly...

It was a cogent argument I made, filled with common sense. My boss seemed mollified, and we bid each other goodnight. Ten minutes later, I had an email from my boss in my Inbox. He'd sent me Paul Krugman's latest editorial from the New York Times, titled "Yes He Would." Krugman's piece opens this way:
"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many people just didn't want to believe that an American president would deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace. "But he wouldn't do that," say people who think they're being sensible. Given what we now know about the origins of the Iraq war, however, discounting the possibility that Mr. Bush will start another ill-conceived and unnecessary war isn't sensible. It's wishful thinking.


Things have come to a pretty pass in the United States of America when the first question you have to ask yourself on matters of war and death is, "Just how crazy are these people?" Every cogent estimate sees Iran's nuclear capabilities not becoming any kind of reality for another ten years, leaving open a dozen diplomatic and economic options for dealing with the situation. There is no good reason for attacking that country, but there are a few bad reasons to be found.

Yes, I'm starting to sound a bit like a broken record, but a damn good reason to stop the saber rattling is because an ENTIRE REGION of this country desperately needs a massive commitment from the government to recover from a natural disaster AND act of criminal negligence. As things stand, Operation Doofus Invades the Desert is both a blunder of epic proportions and a needless diversion of resources. Going double or nothing in Persia isn't just a fool's mate: it's almost a Bobby Fischer-like foray into lunacy.

Minus the fact that Fischer at least knew how to play a mean game of chess.
Edwin the Piker

Or at least a model of fiscal restraint and responsibility, compared to FEMA, the Army Corps(e) of Engineers, and in general, the Shrub Administration.

See Schroeder, Oyster, Harry Shearer, and this T/P article for all the details.

Then consider that these same assclowns in charge of Gulf Coast reconstruction are applying their "Greed is Good" paradigm to the entire enterprise of Federal Government. Which means gems like Operation Enduring Clusterfuck, it's potential irradiated Persian twin, the general Defense Budget and, indeed, pretty much everything they can get their grubby little fingers on gets the same treatment.

Greed IS good--for those sons of bitches. And they're hoping the public is dumb enough to keep funneling money into their pockets by the container-boat load.
Time to Cue Up the Vera Lynn?

* But I Know We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day

Billmon has been making the occasional post again (huzzah!). You might want to take a look at what he describes as a "thought experiment--" some reflections on the Sy Hersch piece, and a WaPo article from this weekend. A decent one-word description would be "chilling."

And remember, this is ongoing while the Gulf Coast is still reeling from the effects of last year's hurricane season. They're really like little, bratty kids who won't take the time to clean up their room before running off, in Shrub's case, to blow up frogs--except for the massive human suffering, global ramifications, and all that...

Well, if "it's Wednesday" wasn't a good enough excuse to have a drink or four tonight, take a look...and crack open a bottle.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Doofus Square

Freeance and Peance

WIIIAI reminds us that this week saw the passing of a millstone, um, I mean a milestone, in Mesopotamia:

Today was Iraqi Freedom Day, the anniversary of the stunt in which Saddam Hussein’s statue was pulled down by Marines from the crack 75th Unsubtle Propaganda Division. How did y’all celebrate? Iraq celebrated with the usual bombings, shootings and whatnot. Freedom, ain’t it grand?

I wonder if Dick Perle still stands by his assertion from September of 2003:

And a year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush. There is no doubt that, with the exception of a very small number of people close to a vicious regime, the people of Iraq have been liberated and they understand that they've been liberated. And it is getting easier every day for Iraqis to express that sense of liberation.

I don't think "liberation" is really the proper term, Dick.

Yesterday we were treated to the specter of the Commander Smirk-Chimp-in-Chief in full pant/hyperventilate mode as he struggled with, and ultimately failed to answer, a question about private security contractors (like Blackwater employees) and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Today William S. Lind looks at the other side of this particular/peculiar equation:

In Exodus, the Fourth Plague sent upon the Egyptians was a plague of flies. A similar plague of flies has settled on the U.S. military, in the form of a swarm of retired senior officers working as contractors. Not satisfied with their generous pensions, they wheedle six-figure contracts out of senior officer "buddies" still on active duty. In return for steam shovel loads of the taxpayers' money, they offer "advice" that is, overwhelmingly, flyspeck.

The problem is that these contractors are businessmen, and business is a whore. The goal of business is profit, not truth. Profit requires getting the next contract. Getting the next contract means telling whomever gave you the current contract what he wants to hear. If what he wants to hear isn't true, so what? Just start the "study" by writing the desired conclusion, then bugger the evidence to fit. The result is endless intellectual corruption, billions of dollars wasted and military services that, as institutions, can no longer think.

The plague of senior officer contractors has effectively pushed those still in the military out of the thought process. Meeting after meeting on issues of doctrine on concepts are dominated by contractors. The officers in the room know that if they wave the BS flag at the contractors, they risk angering the serving senior officers who have given their "buddies" the contract. Junior officers, who have the most direct experience with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are completely excluded. They have no chance of being heard in meetings dominated by retired generals and colonels.

Not only does contracting out thinking bring intellectual corruption, it adds a whole new layer of dinosaurism to the thought process. Most retired senior officers' minds froze in the Fulda Gap many years ago, and that remains their vision of war. Further, any change is automatically an attack on their "legacies," which they are quick to defend. Twenty years ago, once the dinosaur retired, you could push him into the tar pit and move on. Now he is back the next day in a suit, with a six-figure contract.

Like the insurance scam noted below, the outsourcing of the military is little more than a deadly mix and match of free-market zeal and abject greed--with widespread misery and suffering served on the side. Then there's the added bonus of incompetence and lack of capibility when, oh, say, a natural disaster strikes--and the relentless/mindless pursuit of profit runs headlong into social obligation. Guess what loses out?

Hint: the American public does.
Spine Watch--An Ongoing Series

Missed the live broadcast of Countdown, but fortunately remembered to catch the tape delayed West Coast version. Joe Wilson, once again, showed how to stand up to weasely thugs (apologies to weasels). In doing so, he also demonstrated (again), that he's in good standing--pun intended--with the vertebrate community:

[OLBERMANN:] Thank you again for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN: The president says today he declassified the NIE to show the American people the truth, yet the information that was in it had already been thoroughly debunked as, at best, wildly unreliable.

The White House says the president had been (INAUDIBLE) -- did not know it had been debunked. Do you find that all plausible?

WILSON: Well, of course, over the weekend, there was a lot of reporting that fleshed out the assessment of the total document, the National Intelligence Estimate. I had known for a long time, since the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report came out, that the Senate was informed in October of 2002, and the White House shortly thereafter, that, in the judgment of the CIA and the intelligence community, the British had stretched and/or exaggerated the case of uranium sales from Africa to Iraq.

The national intelligence officer wrote a piece in the middle of January, again, before the State of the Union address, in which he said, as you pointed out, the charge was baseless.

And all—the president, I think, is laudable in wanting this information to have come out. I would have loved to have had it come out after my opinion piece appeared, because it would, of course, have substantiated what I said in that opinion piece.

Instead, Mr. Libby leaked certain portions of it, which were not sustainable by all the facts. And my wife and I have had to endure a three-year smear campaign, orchestrated, as the filing says, by multiple sources in the White House and elements within the RNC and the right-wing echo chamber.

OLBERMANN: Multiple officials in the White House, to quote it exactly from Mr. Fitzgerald‘s documents that came out over the weekend, the vice president‘s named as a designer of the plan, we have Mr. Libby‘s name mentioned in there, Mr. Rove. Even at this late date, are you surprised by how big this effort to discredit you and your wife allegedly was?

WILSON: Well, I had been told a couple of years ago that it was a group of people around the office of the vice president. I hoped then, and I hope now, that it didn‘t extend to constitutional officers, the president or the vice president.

I think we would benefit from their releasing the White House transcripts of their conversations with Mr. Fitzgerald, so we can all know precisely what they knew then and what they testified to.

OLBERMANN: Do you believe that what the president said today amounted to an admission to starting this ball rolling, or this snowball going downhill?

WILSON: Well, I think the president was well within his rights to declassify the entire document. I would have loved that, as I said. It was really just the selective leaking of portions of it that are—should be some—troublesome.

I‘d also point out, of course, that the declassification of the document was not matched by a publication of the document. It was selectively leaked to one reporter, and it was a perpetuation, essentially, of the disinformation campaign that had been in place when they made the State of the Union address in the first place.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Fitzgerald still has not filed any charges that directly relate to the leaking of your wife‘s name or any other secret information. He made it clear from the beginning of this that he was probably not going down that route.

If this is all we get prosecutorially, are you satisfied? Do you feel vindicated?

WILSON: Well, let me just say, first of all, that Mr. Fitzgerald has said repeatedly, both in the indictment and in subsequent filings, that Valerie was a classified officer, and as a consequence, she was covered by law.

And anybody who leaked her name is in violation of the national security of the country, even if it‘s not prosecutable. It‘s the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. It is what is called in the business a security violation.

I find it appalling that the president continues to retain on his staff these multiple White House officials who were involved in leaking her name, beginning with Karl Rove. I believe he‘s betrayed the national security of the country. I believe he and the others have betrayed the public trust of the country. I can‘t imagine the president wanting them still on his staff.

OLBERMANN: I mentioned earlier that today there were two more defenders of the administration who insisted still, today, that Iraq indeed tried to get uranium in Niger. Can you clear this up for us? Firstly, on National Public Radio today, Joseph DiGenova, who was an attorney in the Reagan administration, said that your original report on Niger, I‘m quoting him, “supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium,” end of the quote. Did your original report conclude that?

WILSON: Well, Mr. DiGenova has been wrong on so many things, and he‘s certainly wrong on this. I never supported any such conclusion.

What Republicans tend to argue is that a meeting at which uranium was never raised might have supported the president‘s allegation that Iraq attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Africa, again, where uranium was never mentioned.

But about Mr. DiGenova, who‘s an attorney in this town, he has also continued to say it‘s not clear that Valerie was a covert officer, despite the fact that it shows up in the indictment and in subsequent filings by Mr. Fitzgerald, and was in his press conference. I‘m not sure that that‘s the kind of attorney that I would hire if I were in some legal jeopardy.

OLBERMANN: Is that the same story as this, that was purported online today by Christopher Hitchens, whose reporting is on occasion very sound, he wrote that in February of ‘99, a man named Wisam al-Zahawari, Zahaiwai, excuse me...

WILSON: Zahawi.

OLBERMANN: ... Zahawi, was the Iraqi representative at that point of the International Atomic Energy Agency, paid an official visit to Niger. He doesn‘t come out and explicitly say that that trip in ‘99 was to seek uranium, but his headline does. It reads, “Sorry, everyone, but Iraq did go uranium shopping in Niger.” Is there merit to the Hitchens story?

WILSON: No. Mr. Al-Zahawi, Wisam al-Zahawi, who is a man that I know from my time as the acting ambassador in Baghdad during the first Gulf War, in the first Bush administration. He was ambassador to the Vatican, and he made a trip in 1999 to several West and Central African countries for the express purpose of inviting chiefs of state to violate the ban on travel to Iraq.

He has said repeatedly to the press, he‘s now in retirement, and also to the International Atomic Energy Agency, to their satisfaction, that uranium was not on his agenda.

OLBERMANN: Ambassador Joseph Wilson, as always, sir, great thanks for taking the time to join us.

WILSON: Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.
The Farm

A plantation mentality lives on...

Looks like State Farm is borrowing--with some modification--a page or two from the Team Bush the latter case, some $20 billion dollars of insurance claims is misidentified as "relief aid," while, on the private side, they've opted for a more primitive approach: shred the documents.

Unfortunately for "The Farm," they made a small mistake. They butted heads with one of their own: GOP Senator Trent Lott (h/t America Blog):

A lawyer for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Monday that State Farm Insurance Co. is destroying documents that could show the insurer has fraudulently denied thousands of claims by Lott and other policyholders whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Zach Scruggs, one of Lott's attorneys, says his client has a "good faith belief" that several State Farm employees in Biloxi are destroying engineering reports that gave conflicting conclusions about whether wind or water was responsible for storm damage.

Like thousands of Gulf Coast homeowners, Lott's claim was denied because State Farm concluded that Katrina's flood water demolished his beach-front Pascagoula home. State Farm says its policies do not cover damage from rising water, including wind-driven water.

But lawyers for the Mississippi Republican claim Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm has routinely pressured its engineers to alter "favorable" reports that initially blamed damage on hurricane's wind, which the company's policies cover.

A State Farm spokesman said Monday he couldn't immediately comment on Scruggs' allegations.

Lott's allegations come on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Kiln, Miss., couple who claimed they had obtained copies of conflicting reports prepared by State Farm's engineers on what damaged their home. They said one report traced the destruction to Katrina's winds while a later report said flooding was the culprit.

In response, State Farm spokesman Phil Supple had said the second report was the only one the engineering firm sent to State Farm's claims office.

In an interview Monday, Scruggs said corporate "whistleblowers" who are cooperating with Lott's attorneys have provided evidence that State Farm employees are destroying or moving those "initial favorable" engineering reports.

"We believe that this is a systematic practice," said Scruggs, who is Lott's nephew by marriage.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood also says he is investigating allegations that State Farm manipulated engineering reports to deny claims after the Aug. 29 hurricane.

You know, I'm not really all that surprised. I've got personal experience with insurance companies denying claims (in my case, they simply denied all my medical claims for approximately a two year period--these denials came after I moved and changed jobs, leaving me with two alternatives: either pay up the roughly $700 or get caught up in the never ending malestrom of answering machines, button pressing on the phone, and endless hold times, etc. etc. ad nauseum, and fuck 'em, the bastards). It's just another example of yer free market in action. They carp and whine endlessly about how "efficient" the system is...and this is a prime example: divide and conquer, use an army of employees to take on one individual at a time, stall, deny, stall some more, and so on. If they need to lie a little bit, well, that's not such a big deal, and if they get caught, take the wrist slap and move on. In the end, they've "protected"...their shareholders.

And now the gang in DC is applying the same business model to the government. Rinse, repeat...and enjoy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez Says

"Psst...It's me...Abu. And I've got Carlos with me."

Link from James Wolcott:

I'm happy to announce the op-ed editors of the Washington Post got hold of this blog and contacted me about contributing a shorter, more simplified version of my first immigration post. It appears in today's Outlook section of the Post.

Interesting story on this? When the editor, who is British but lives in DC, brought my piece up at the meeting, a fellow editor of hers said, "Yeah, but YOU'RE not an immigrant..." to her. He was NOT kidding. Because she is white, he had simply...assumed, in spite of her obvious accent. She told me about this with a bit of disbelief at how bad the confusion had gotten in the U.S. between race/nationality/legal status/immigrant status/socioeconomic class etc.

Now for the bad news. New polls show that Americans, awash in anti-immigrant propaganda the last few weeks, have suddenly decided (thanks to CNN and most other irresponsible media outlets) to blame this nation's economic problems ready for this? Illegal immigrants. That's right. I saw this coming. Propaganda 101.

If you had any doubt what this faux-debate on illegal immigration has been about, or who has orchestrated it, this poll tells you all you need to know. The Big Brown Alien Frenzy was created by right-wing think-tanks who have studied the strategies of dictators throughout time. They are purposefully and incorrectly using Latinos - and they have convinced the public that we are ALL illegal immigrants, even though 60 percent of us were born here and the majority of the other 40 percent are legal - as scapegoats and distractionary hate-targets so that no one pays attention to the real reason for our nation's economic destruction: George W. Bush and his idiotic fiscal policies...

The mistake the U.S. spin-meisters are making now is that they are clumsily and racistly trying to equate "Latino," "Mexican," and "illegal," (terms that are NOT interchangeable) in hopes of scaring the bejesus out of non-Hispanic white Americans and directing American anger over disappearing jobs, failing schools and lack of health care on what they wrongly perceive to be a foreign menace.

Why this fearmongering against Latinos a mistake? Simple. Most Latinos in the U.S. are citizens who are extremely offended by this false labeling and ignorant discourse. The only exception, I think, is Alberto Gonzalez.

The single exception I'll take to Rodriguez's post is to note that, interestingly enough, no one among the rabid Team Bush/GOP cabal seems to give a damn about the rather large number of illegal immigrants who've traveled to New Orleans looking for work. If I remember right, these folks were being employed at cut-rate wages by receipents of federal contracts...while at the same time, plenty of New Orleanians could and would take these jobs (provided they were paid a decent wage).

Maybe the government should look into THAT, instead of stigmatizing an entire group of people solely on the basis of ethnicity. But then again, Sensenbrenner's a coward...
Messiah With a Heart of Gold Lump of Coal

Reading the Hersch New Yorker article is troubling, to say the least. Rational, logical thought seems to be a problem for Team Bush:

In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, told me that there had been “no formal briefings,” because “they’re reluctant to brief the minority. They’re doing the Senate, somewhat selectively.”

The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”

"Worrisome" is understating the case, as this excerpt from Talk Left indicates:

A US military attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would be the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon as well as the United States and Iran, with the possibility of west Gulf states being involved as well. An attack by Israel, although initially on a smaller scale, would almost certainly escalate to involve the United States, and would also mark the start of a protracted conflict.

Although an attack by either state could seriously damage Iran's nuclear development potential, numerous responses would be possible making a protracted and highly unstable conflict virtually certain. Moreover, Iran would be expected to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and engage in a nuclear weapons programme as rapidly as possible. This would lead to further military action against Iran, establishing a highly dangerous cycle of violence.

The termination of the Saddam Hussein regime was expected to bring about a free-market client state in Iraq. Instead it has produced a deeply unstable and costly conflict with no end in sight. That may not prevent a US or an Israeli attack on Iran even though it should be expected that the consequences would be substantially greater. What this analysis does conclude is that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further - alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.

Aside from the international strategic implications of such an action, it really should boggle the mind of any realistic person to consider that a dangerous, costly undertaking is even being considered at a time when the Gulf Coast is still suffering from the effects of the storm and flood last August. I mean, Jesus H. Christ, does ANYONE on Team Bush understand basic prioritization and financial discipline?

I guess not. Of course, then again, IraQ (as I think Rising Hegemon pointed out, the "Q" is for "quagmire") is a bottomless pit these days when it comes to blood and money. Besides, even if it wasn't, this is an administration that demanded war, come hell or high water. And they got both--hell in Mesopotamia, high water right here. Worse still, they seem to actively ignore both--and the media's marching in lockstep with them.

On a slightly brighter note, the military is at least countering the administration's Iraq myths, while Senator Landrieu is at least talking a good game (h/t Ashley for the Landrieu link).

At a certain point, the public's got to realize that, far from even being the messiah with a lump of coal, we've got Chimp in Charge...

Would you trust the lives of your children--and the future of your nation--to THIS?
But What About the Freshly Painted Schools?

Maybe Baghdad's Chamber of Commerce can come up with something to counter what's bound to be some pretty bad PR for their fine city:

Zurich is the city with the highest quality of life in 2006, while Baghdad, for the third year running, has the lowest, a survey published Monday shows.

Geneva and Vancouver made the top three in the list compiled by human resource company Mercer while Bangui in the Central African Republic and Brazzaville, the capital of Congo Republic, joined Baghdad in the bottom three.

There's more here and here (alas, NOLA wasn't measured), including a voucher for accuracy with the following statement:

Houston remains the lowest ranking city in the U.S.

Unfortunately, there's no transcript, but the Baghdad C of C could look to this old SNL sketch for inspiration (Sodom Chamber of Commerce).