Friday, October 27, 2006

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Ann Compton might have a sliver of backbone, but the rest of the networks maintain their groveling posture/jellyfish mein when forced to even consider upseting dear leader:

NBC won't run ads for the Dixie Chicks documentary because, in the words of the NBC's commercial clearance department, "they are disparaging to President Bush."

Glenn Greenwald has more.

And, while ABC isn't technically in on this one, Greenwald points out they've done similar things on other occasions. Hence, I added them to the mix.

As for the Faux network, well...shit. To be honest, I forgot about their sorry asses. Try to imagine their banner/logo in the mix.

What's galling about this is that I'll bet a lot of people STILL don't realize that networks do this ALL THE TIME. Free speech issues aside, even PAID speech is subject to all sorts of limits. Limits that rarely get exposed, much less no small part because the very media that should air such a debate is busily clamping down on who's worthy enough to spend what most people think is equally green money to run something on, ahem, the PUBLIC airwaves.

Oh--and as most of y'all probably already know, quaint notions like the Fairness Doctrine were gutted/done away with during the Reagan era (you know, I almost added a disparging remark about Reagan and Alzheimers, but I thought better of it, lest I be compared to a certain impotent, pill popping wretch).

Free speech without ACCESS to outlets like the networks is, well, about as effective as my humble little blog (still getting QUALITY as opposed to QUANTITY of readers, I'd like to think).
Or Maybe Dick Really IS a Fucking Sewer Rat
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Earlier I saw WIIIAI write that--gasp--his thoughts were the same as a member of the DC press corpse re: whether Big Time ever "slips up."

Think Progress has the transcript. Looks like the reporter is Ann Compton:

SNOW: I’m telling you what the Vice President — I talked to Leeann about it. She says, No, he wasn’t referring to waterboarding; he was referring to using a program of questioning, not talking about waterboarding.

Let me put it this way: You’ve got Dick Cheney, who has been head of an intelligence committee. He’s been the secretary of defense. He’s been the vice president. This is not a guy who slips up. And he’s also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don’t talk about for political reasons. Sorry.


COMPTON: Saying that Vice President Cheney doesn’t make mistakes like this, he did go up and curse a senator to his face on the Senate floor and accidentally shot his friend. So he’s not perfect.
"There's Nothing More Dangerous Than a Wounded Mosquito Cornered SecDef"
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(title inspiration)

Then again, I could've titled this post based on how Internet Exploder Truncated the Headline...what was "Rumsfeld in Heated Exchange in Reporters Over Iraq" shows up on my taskbar as "Rumsfeld in Heat..."
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Must...change...train of thought...

Anyway, I wasn't lying when describing the Dumsfeld at yesterday's presser as "prissy/pissy"...I'd only read the transcript, but if you can find the a video of the exchange (right now it's on C-Span's main page), you'll see that he was about blow a gasket/go postal.

Sort of a wimpy version of Bruce Banner. With weird, surrealistic poetry..."you wouldn't like the unknown unknown me...when I'm angry..."
..."And We NEVER Said 'Stay the Course'"
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I think it was Claude Cockburn who once said, "Never believe anything until it has been officially denied." (ok, just checked--yes, it is attributed to him).

So it goes with Big Time and his favorite things:

White House press secretary Tony Snow denied that Cheney had endorsed water boarding.

"You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would, never does, never will," Snow said. "You think Dick Cheney's going to slip up on something like this? No, come on."

In an interview Tuesday with WDAY of Fargo, N.D., Cheney was asked if "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives."

The vice president replied, "Well, it's a no-brainer for me but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture. We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Peppered with questions about the remarks, Snow said Cheney did not interpret the question as referring to water boarding and the vice president did not make any comments about water boarding. He said the question put to Cheney was loosely worded.

The administration has repeatedly refused to say which techniques they believe are permitted under the new law. Asked to define a dunk in water, Snow said, "It's a dunk in the water."

A cigar's sometimes just a cigar...and attaching electrodes to a suspect's genitals is just "interrogation," or "hazing."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Benchmark THIS
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You've got to wonder if Team Bush really doesn't know how deep they've stepped into it in Mesopotamia...they can get clinical--or, in the case of Rumsfeld, a little prissy/pissy about semantics, but it's not like THEY have anything other than their political asses on the line.

Then there's a reality-based, albeit long article from Vanity Fair (and apologies...I forget where I first saw it, then Blogger went through its daily outage)...anyway, worth reading in its entirety, it focuses on the Haditha massacre, but also looks at the broader picture through the haunted eyes of one Marine platoon (check out the link to the photographs)...then concludes on an ominous note:

Iraqis live in an honor-bound society, built of tight family ties. When noncombatants are killed, it matters little to the survivors whether the American rules allowed it, or what the U.S. military courts decide. The survivors go to war in return, which provokes more of the same in a circular dive that spirals beyond recovery. Haditha is just a small example. By now, nearly one year later, hatred of the American forces in the city has turned so fierce that military investigators for the trials at Pendleton have given up on going there. That hatred is blood hatred. It is the kind of hatred people are willing to die for, with no expectation but revenge. This was immediately apparent on a video that was taken the day after the killings by an Iraqi from the neighborhood—the same video that was later passed along to Time. The Marine Corps was wrong to dismiss the video as propaganda and fiction. It is an authentic Iraqi artifact. It should be shown to the grunts in training. It should be shown to the generals in command. The scenes it depicts are raw. People move among the hideous corpses, wailing their grief and vowing vengeance before God. "This is my brother! My brother! My brother!" In one of the killing rooms, a hard-looking boy insists that the camera show the body of his father. Sobbing angrily, he shouts, "I want to say this is my father! God will punish you Americans! Show me on the camera! This is my father! He just bought a car showroom! He did not pay all the money to the owner yet, and he got killed!"

A man cries, "This is an act denied by God. What did he do? To be executed in the closet? Those bastards! Even the Jews would not do such an act! Why? Why did they kill him this way? Look, this is his brain on the ground!"

The boy continues to sob over the corpse on the floor. He shouts, "Father! I want my father!"

Another man cries, "This is democracy?"

Well yeah, well no, well actually this is Haditha. For the United States, it is what defeat looks like in this war.

Benchmarks, indeed.
"This Nation Will Self Destruct..."
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Patrick Cockburn chronicles "From Mission Accomplished to Mission Impossible" (hopefully the old television version with Peter Graves, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, and Martin Landau...NOT the Tom Cruise movie version...unless Cruise gets cast as Shrub):

...There is still a hopeless lack of realism in statements from senior American officials. It is as if the taste of defeat is too bitter. "This Mehdi Army militia group has to be brought under control," said the US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad at a press conference in Baghdad yesterday. But in the past few months most of the Shia districts in Baghdad --and Shia are the majority in the capital --have come under the control of the Mehdi Army, the militia of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It is all so different from that moment of exuberant imperial hubris in May 2003 when President George Bush announced mission accomplished in Iraq.

Where did the US go wrong? Saddam Hussein's government collapsed almost without a fight. Iraqis would not fight for him. Iraqis may not have welcomed American tanks with sweets and rose petals but they were very glad to see the back of their own disaster-prone leader.

The greatest American mistake was to turn what could have been presented as liberation into an occupation. The US effectively dissolved the Iraqi state. It has since been said by US generals --many of whom now claim to have been opponents of the invasion all along --that given a larger US army and a more competent occupation regime, all might still have been well. This is doubtful. The five million Sunni Arabs were always going to fight the occupation. The only Iraqi community to support it were the five million Kurds. The Shia wanted to use it to gain the power their 60 per cent of the Iraqi population warranted but they never liked it.

One theme has been constant throughout the past three-and-a-half years --the Iraqi government has always been weak. For this, the US and Britain were largely responsible. They wanted an Iraqi government which was strong towards the insurgents but otherwise compliant to what the White House and Downing Street wanted. All Iraqi governments, unelected and elected, have been tainted and de-legitimised by being dependent on the US. This is as true of the government of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today as it was when sovereignty was supposedly handed back to Iraq under the prime minister Iyad Allawi in June 2004. Real authority had remained in the hands of the US. The result was a government whose ministers could not move outside the Green Zone. They showed great enthusiasm for press conferences abroad where they breathed defiance at the insurgents and agreed with everything said by Mr Bush or Tony Blair.

The government can do nothing because it only came into existence after ministries were divided up between the political parties after prolonged negotiations. Each ministry is a bastion of that party, a source of jobs and money. The government can implement no policy because of these deep divisions. The government cannot turn on the militias because they are too strong.

It is also true that almost all parties that make up the government have their own militias: the Kurds have the Peshmerga; the Shia have the Mehdi Army and the Badr Organisation; the Sunni have the insurgents. In areas of Iraq where civil war is already raging or where it is impending, people look to these militias to defend their homes and not to the police or regular army.

The US has lost more than 500 of its soldiers, dead and wounded, this month. Every month this year the combined figure --more telling than that for dead alone --has been creeping up, as the area of US control is diminishing. The handover of security to Iraqi government forces --the long-trumpeted aim of American and British policy --is, in practice, a handover to the local militias.

The problem for the US and British is that many Iraqi leaders outside the government think the British and Americans are on the run. Wait, they say, and they will become even weaker. The US is talking to senior Baath party military officials in Saudi Arabia and Jordan who control the insurgency if anybody does. But it is unlikely that they would call a ceasefire except on terms wholly unacceptable to other Iraqis.

Can the US extract itself from Iraq? Probably it could but only with great loss of face which the present administration could not endure after its boasts of victory three-and-a-half years ago.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Couple of Things...

First, sorry for the slow pace of posts--I was busy a little earlier, and then Blogger was "down for planned maintenence" (and let's hope this might actually, oh, I don't know, actually make it reliable...although I'm not holding my breath)...anyway...

Had to run to our off-site "disaster recovery" location for a little of our OWN maintenence, but caught a little of NPR on the radio. One focus was on the racist GOP attack ad in Tennessee...and yeah, noting the GOP's even deeper foray into the racist sewer its been wallowing in since the 60's is more important, but...

One line in the attack ad is "terrorists need their privacy," presumably a reference to Shrub's warrantless wiretapping (and probably to the elimination of habeas corpus, the Eighth Amendment, and the Geneva Conventions). To focus strictly on the former, though, this lie, and that's what it is (i.e., Democrats won't wiretap terrorist suspects at all), has been looked at by bigger bloggers than me (see especially Glenn Greenwald)...but to add my .0002 cents worth, I wish like hell somebody with a spine would stand in front of the assclowns like Shrub--or Orrin Hatch--or Abu Gonzales--or whoever the hell is pushing this sort of nonsense and tell them something along the lines of "if you're TOO STUPID to fill out a one page form, then you're not suitable for holding high office. To wit:
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THIS is a standard federal search warrant. That's it. One page. I looked for a FISA warrant, but was unable to find one online. I seriously doubt it's any more complicated.

Looking more generally at search warrants, you can see that hearsay evidence is acceptable, and there are exceptions for things like "plain view" or pursuit of a particular suspect. I think most folks reading this are also aware, more specifically to FISA, that warrants may be applied for retroactively up to three days after the fact.

Looking even MORE specifically at FISA and electronic surveillence, you'll also notice that provisions are in place for requesting physical entry to a premises...although most if not ALL wiretapping these days can and should be done at a CO (central office)...any additional material above and beyond electronic intelligence gathering could be sought by...filling out the one page application above.

How difficult is that?!?

And, I repeat: if it's TOO difficult for a particular office holder, i.e., if they're TOO GODDAMNED STUPID, then they should be looking for another line of work. Yeah, I realize that might be difficult, but there's always K-Street.


Otherwise, I also caught a few minutes of the latest version of Shrub tries to speak in coherent sentences...and fails. Pa...the...tic.
If Dubai Can Build Playgrounds for the Rich...

...then it should damn well be possible for THIS country to plan and fund coastal restoration projects for a region that's of vital, strategic well as a region with abundant natural resources (e.g. fisheries/aqualculture, coastal area agriculture) and a commercial hub that connects this country especially to Central and South America, but also the world.

Last night I was flipping through cable stations and came across a show about the massive engineering project that is Plam Island. Massive, yes, but the technology exists, and the project is getting done (note: I've searched "the google" for articles re: environmental impact--but a major difference down here is that we'd be restoring, not building coastline)...even though in the end it's really just a money-making scheme. An investment that's a playground for rich people.

Well, what the hell is wrong with this country making it's own investment--and one that's NOT for a playground, but for one of the most productive shorelines on earth? What's more, there's plenty of available material, starting with the very silt that once built the coast, but is now floating out to deep water.

Sure, a large project like this needs funding, and yes, there should be studies to determine the best mix and match of what I'm sure are a variety of approaches/choices.

But--if this country can't even CONSIDER something that a place like Dubai has turned into actual fact...well, shit.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Well, Maybe THIS Explains Things
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An experimental helmet from Toshiba Corp. gives its wearer the visual experience of being someplace else.

Inside the headgear from the Japanese electronics maker, a 40-centimeter screen can show a vista that is synched with the wearer's head movements, giving the illusion of actually being there.

The 3 kilogram helmet -- squared off in the back and rounded, bubble-like, in the front -- has infrared sensors at the top that detect which way the wearer's head is moving, said company spokeswoman Kaori Hiraki.

The projector in the back of the helmet shows images corresponding to the head movements on the screen inside the helmet, giving the wearer an illusion of immediacy and realness, according to Tokyo-based Toshiba...

Part of the effect comes from how the helmet shuts out the real world, she said.

Must be a whole other world in there...
Stuff Happens
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Recently I came across an ESPN special about Pat Tillman. The focus of course, was on the tragedy of Tillman's death, although a few passing references were made in regards to the (very cynical) attempts by the military and this administration to score political points before the real story--he was a friendly fire casualty--eventually surfaced.

One other thing, though, stuck with me. Even as Tillman was (rightly) praised, and even as one soldier said something to the effect that he hoped those who accidentally killed him would remember it "for the rest of their lives," hardly ANY attention, much less any sympathy, was evinced towards a second casualty: an Afghan national. Allied with the US, he was on the same hill, and took a number of .50 caliber rounds, which killed him instantly...just prior to (likely) the same .50 caliber killing Tillman himself.

I hate to say it, but if he'd been the ONLY death on that day, I doubt seriously we ever would have heard about it.

In light of that, here's a story hardly more uplifting:

American soldiers shot and killed four Iraqi firemen after mistaking their fire tender for one hijacked by insurgents, US military headquarters has said.

"After receiving word that a fire truck and its crew were just hijacked, coalition forces pulled over a fire truck matching that description," said a statement describing Monday's incident in the western city of Fallujah.

When the unarmed firefighters got out of the fire tender US soldiers opened fire and killed them, after mistaking them for armed insurgents.

"The suspected insurgents were in fact firefighters responding to a call. The fire truck number did not match the one of the hijacked truck. All four of the firefighters that exited the vehicle died," the statement said.

"Minutes later another fire truck was spotted and pulled over in an area nearby. The occupants fled. It was determined that this truck number did match the truck that was hijacked," it added.

American forces are often accused of using excessive and indiscriminate force in Iraq, although commanders say the problem is now taken more seriously and the number of wrongful killings has diminished.

You know, it's because stuff like this DOES happen that war should always be a LAST, LAST resort. This administration, on the other hand, thought it'd be just swell to embark on an "easy" little conflict. That's bad enough: playing games with people's lives for crass political game--but now it's come back to bite them hard, and it's not letting go.

Just you wait--from what I've seen in the news and the blog posts, IF the Democrats don't screw it up and win the Congress, there will be a Texass'ed sized hue and cry for an end to "partisanship" and much whining, wailing, and gnashing of teeth about "wild" Democrats and their hearings/investigations.

Well, considering the destruction these assclowns have brought on ("bring it on")--hearings, investigations, and yes, hopefully some Texass'ed sized crow/humble pie--is pretty mild punishment indeed. Others--like Tillman, the anonymous Afghan national, the four Iraqi firefighters, the US soldiers killed or wounded...and the countless thousand innocent people who's "crime" was living in the wrong place at the wrong time--have paid a hell of a lot more.
Dada as Policy
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I guess it's fitting that today's Pravda-on-the-Hudson has an article focusing on Marcel Duchamp (and Katherine Dreier) in light of the--no pun intended--tortured posturing and spinning from Team Bush on Iraq, including (h/t Morse) Tony Snow's impromptu "because-it-feels-so-good-when-I-stop" moment at the podium.

"Stay the course" evidently is sooooo 2003...and 04...and 05...and most of 06, but like most of Shrub's past, it's been "abandoned"...although perhaps not quite as thoroughly as his failed businesses. Likewise, as WIIAI points out, the (to use a recent favorite Shrub word) "unacceptable" term "timetable" has been replaced by "benchmark."

In other news, "lost and without a clue" will be replaced by "goddamnit, I'm NOT shut the fuck up, alright?"

As Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down...'kay. And, while a thousand mile journey begins with one step, ever get the feeling they keep moving the finishing line back by, oh, twelve to eighteen months? That is, just long enough to where it's out of the average person's mind comes time to push it back a little further.

You know, like everything else, the longer the mess is around, rotting and stinking, the worse it's going to be when someone finally gets around to cleaning it up. Team Bush is in the position of tenants who've evidently decided they no longer give a damn, and are willing to let the place fall apart, knowing the lease expires in 09 anyway.

Maybe the landlords--us--should be a little more careful with our property, and evict the sons-of-bitches before they really DO have a mess the size of an epic train wreck...

Monday, October 23, 2006

You Can't "Win" if You Don't Play
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...but I'm not sure if I WANT to play a game where Don Young is the "winner:"

Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is first in the House with 1,905 points.

Here's a little more on the Congressmanshit:

Powerful enough to earn the moniker "Alaska's Third Senator," this seventeen-term congressman and former tugboat captain knows how to haul home the bacon. Thanks in no small part to his efforts, Alaskans receive $1.87 in federal funds for every dollar they contribute in taxes. Last year, Young leveraged his post as chairman of the House Transportation Committee to stuff the highway bill -- "like a turkey," in his own words -- with nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel projects for his home state.

More than $400 million of the money was earmarked for two separate "bridges to nowhere." One, nearly as long as the Golden Gate, would serve an island community of only fifty people. The second, a monument to waste known as "Don Young's Way," would connect Anchorage to a patch of scarcely habitable marshland.

"These two bridges are the most egregious example of government waste we've ever seen," says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation called one of Young's bridges a "national embarrassment." But the congressman refused to scrap the projects. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Sen. John McCain proposed that Young redirect his prized pork money to help rebuild New Orleans, Young accused his detractors of "ignorance and stupidity." The victims of Katrina, he suggested, "can kiss my ear!"

The "victims of Katrina" would probably show a lot more charity to Mr. Young than I would--personally, I'd probably celebrate should Mr. Young oh, say, get run over by a truck...and I'd celebrate even more if he lingered on in intense pain for a while before concluding his miserable excuse for existence.

Well...anyway. Jeffrey found a link to the fantasy website itself. And maybe one day shitheads like Young will be recognized for what they are: the Aaron Brookses of national government.
Hiding Something?
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Glenn Greenwald makes the case for the upcoming election. Here are a couple of paragraphs:

A Democratic takeover of one or even both houses of Congress is unlikely to result in any new affirmative legislation or policies, since their control will be by only a small margin, dependent on conservative lawmakers in their majority, and subject to a presidential veto. With some exceptions (such as the power to control appropriations and cut off funding), the real power they will have will be to investigate and expose the conduct of the Bush administration and to reveal to Americans what has really been going on.

It is difficult to overstate how crucial that is for exposing what the Republican Party has become and undermining those who control it. The administration has been able to ward off even the most incriminating accusations and disclosures because they control the primary sources of information. They can deny anything, selectively release misleading exculpatory information, and operate in the darkest shadows and behind the highest walls of secrecy. As a result, disclosures about what they have done are always piecemeal and easily obscured. But full-fledged hearings will shine a bright light on what the administration has really been doing, and that will enable the public to get a full picture of the true state of affairs.

The rest is here, and is VERY much worth reading.
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It starts at the "top" (well, at least officially, although the REAL apex of the slag heap--Big Time--is equally capable of flat-out lying/denying reality while maintaining a straight face). I mean, what the hell else can you call it when:

Shrub insists he's never been for "staying the course" with Operation Enduring Clusterfuck...which is, once again, more than living up to its name.

It's official: "arrogance and stupidity" can earn you a severe reprimand if, as a State Department Official, you use them to describe US Middle East policy. I'm beginning to think, though, that the reason for the sudden turnaround is sort of like the old joke Khrushchev used to tell: you don't reveal state secrets.

Another couple of Billmon masterpieces look at the ever more absurd pronouncements re: Iraq (note the update at the bottom: Team Bush can't keep their storyline straight) and the politics of perversity, a GOP staple.

And, while they're in denial re: Iraq, and in full, lurid, voyeuristic mode re: sex and politics, one thing that seems to be swept under the rug is...the Gulf Coast, which, while one of the more VISIBLE indications of Team Bush failure domestically, is certainly not the sole example of incompetence. Just wait until the REST of the country finds out that we've ALL been Katrina'ed or Rita'ed, that is, when everyone realizes how much has been wasted on the fool's errand overseas...and how little will be left to actually DO the things governments should do.

In just a couple of weeks we'll have the chance to deliver a vote of no-confidence in government by assclowns. Alas, we won't be throwing the executive branch bastards out, but it can be a message nonetheness, and perhaps a sign that this nation is slowly returning to a measure of sanity, rather than the limbic spasms that vicious, ugly bastard Karl Rove's been busy exploiting.