Arranology

Archive for July 2004

BA Uses Fab Friday to Dump On 9/11CR Rec’s

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In what has become a tradition over the last few years, the Bush Admin normally saves its most unpopular statements for release after 3pm on Friday when no one is paying any attention. Karl Rove has proved, without question, that democracy doesn’t operate between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday because US citizens stop caring about it between 3pm Friday and 7am Monday. Friday afternoon press releases are reserved for announcing the BA’s most fascist, least popular, and most undemocratic initiatives, policies, and statements of intent because they will be completely ignored by citizens vacationing from their citizenship, and by Monday everyone has moved on to something else.

eRobin has pointed out that Rove isn’t the genius a lot of people claim he is, and she’s right. He’s not. What he is is a crafty political animal with low cunning, a bagful of sleezy tricks he isn’t afraid to use, and no illusions about Americans’ real attitudes toward their patriotism and responsibilities of citizenship. He knows that we like our patriotism to come without the pain of too much thought and our citizenship duties restricted to watching network tv news, preferably with the sound off. We don’t want to spend more than an hour a day on it; we want it pre-digested and fed to us with a spoon; and above all, in a complex world where nothing is what it appears to be, allies on one issue are enemies on others, and all the truth is in the nuances, we don’t want to hear, read, or be forced to learn anything that can’t be summarized in a 5-sec soundbite because we can’t handle nuance. We’re afraid of gray areas; we tremble before anything that has more than one level of meaning and believe that if something isn’t simple to understand it’s probably a trick; we prefer to deny uncomfortable realities rather than face up to difficult solutions, and the illusions of a ‘morning in America’ to the warnings of dark clouds on the horizon; we’d rather trust our leaders than keep an eye on them because the first we can do from our barcalounger and the second might require movement unrelated to a gym or a snowboard. We prefer war to peace if peace would be confusing. And we prefer being to afraid to facing our fears–we want somebody else to do that for us.

Nothing about this is particularly much less exclusively American. It’s human, it’s the way we operate and have for centuries. We are neither uniquely ignorant nor ingenious in our willful blindness. We are simply better able to allow ourselves to indulge in both as a result of our riches: we don’t have to deal with reality if we don’t want to; we can turn on the tv and watch other humans we can look down on swallow cockroaches and cheat on their lovers. We don’t have to work 7 days a week because four guys got hanged in Haymarket Square to win the 40-hr work week for us. We have a Consitution to protect our domestic liberty and oceans on both sides to protect us from foreign invasion. We’ve been extraordinarily lucky in both our geography and our progenitors because they did all the work for us and we can have our weekends off.

Which explains Fab Friday. Rove’s view of us is the view I’ve just expressed. It’s who he thinks–knows–we are, or would prefer to be. He panders to it, strokes it, encourages it every chance he gets, and one of his favorite tricks is to drop his bombshells just as we have dropped our attention as citizens to focus on the only two days we have in which we get to act like ordinary humans.

Which is why I find it so disturbing that he would save the announcement of the BA’s disagreement with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission for a Friday afternoon.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration warned Friday that the two central reforms proposed by the Sept. 11 commission — creating a powerful intelligence chief and establishing a new counterterrorism center — may remove barriers protecting intelligence from political influence and undermine civil liberties.The president and his senior advisors are drafting initial orders on some of the commission’s recommendations that could be issued as soon as next week. But action on the centerpiece reforms deserves more consideration, a senior White House official said.

“We need to, in considering each of these recommendations, place a premium and real attention on how to protect civil liberties while better safeguarding our homeland,” the official said.

Similar concerns were expressed by senators Friday during the first congressional hearing on the Sept. 11 commission’s recommendations. The question of how to protect the independence of the intelligence community has become perhaps the most difficult dilemma for policymakers who are otherwise eager to embrace reform.

Many questions arise from the waves like a school of dolphins: Why would an Administration that for three years has been assiduous about gathering every possible power it can to itself suddenly refuse one? Why would an administration previously contemptuous of anyone else’s privacy while obsessing over its own suddenly be concerned about protecting ours at its own expense? And if it’s an election-year ploy, why announce it on Fab Friday when they know it will be ignored?

Part of my discomfort no doubt comes from the painful discovery that I actually agree with them. My experience over the past 3 1/2 years of the BA has been that when I approve some decision they’ve made, either I’m wrong or they’re lying. Usually it turns out they had a plan to twist that seemingly intelligent and citizen-friendly decision into a pretzel that makes it its own opposite, and I’m wary of that but I don’t see how it applies here. The 9/11CR plops power right into their waiting laps, and even Kerry is stumping hard for it. Why would they reject it? It codifies and encapsulates in law–potentially–exactly what they’ve been roundly criticized for doing: politicizing intelligence. Why turn away from the very development that would legitimize what has been illegitimate up to now? The possibility that they’re genuinely concerned about citizen rights is laughable given the PATRIOT Act and all their other blithe intrusions on civil liberties, so I dismiss that out of hand. What other reasons could there be? A few come to mind.

1) Rove wants to take the opportunity for Junior to act ‘presidential’ by appearing to ‘think it over’ and ‘have doubts’–BA spinmeisters are already out there making a big deal about how Bush is ‘reading the whole report all the way through; he will finish it’ (NPR), apparently unaware that their breathless surprise at his uncharacteristic behaviour is showing–over something there is no real danger will not be passed with or without him.

2) He wants to set Junior’s reluctance smack up against Kerry’s unvarnished enthusiasm, making Kerry look like a callow opportunist and Junior like a seasoned statesman by comparison, cautious and thoughtful–traits noticeably lacking in Shrub’s palette over the past 3 years.

3) He wants the Pubs to be able to disclaim responsibility down the line when the re-organization blows up in everybody’s face.

4) He thinks Junior might lose the election and doesn’t want that kind of power put into Democratic hands.

But the first two are positive for him and don’t explain why he would do it on Fab Friday, and the second two are exercises in projecting farther into the future than the next election–a skill conspicuous by its absence from Karl’s portfolio.

In fact everything about this announcement is uncharacteristic of Rove, Bush, and the whole BA. It doesn’t fit with anything else they’ve done since the day they took office. So what the hell is going on?

Written by Mick

July 31, 2004 at 1:25 pm

BushScience: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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After taking a beating over politicizing science for ideological reasons and to make things easier for corporate polluters and despoilers of the environment, the Bushies have come up with a whole new tactic: The EPA simply isn’t going to ask what the science might be if they don’t think they’ll like the answer.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration made it easier Thursday for the government to approve pesticides used by farmers and homeowners, saying it no longer would require the Environmental Protection Agency to first consult other federal agencies to determine whether a product could harm endangered species.The change, supported by growers and pesticide manufacturers, affects federal regulations for carrying out the Endangered Species Act, a law that protects about 1,200 threatened animals and plants.

Environmentalists said the streamlined process would strip away protections for those species.

The law has been successfully used by environmental groups in a recent lawsuit seeking to mitigate the effects of pesticides on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. A federal judge found that the EPA had failed to abide by a requirement that it consult with federal wildlife agencies over the potential harm from pesticides.

Under the new process, expected to take effect in a few months, the EPA will conduct its own scientific evaluation. The agency will be required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies only if its internal evaluation deems that a pesticide is likely to have an adverse effect on endangered species. (emphasis added)

OK, so the EPA, which is implementing the change at the behest of the industry, is going to do its own ‘internal evaluation’, minus the science involved, which they will ‘evaluate’ based on…what? Industry claims?

‘So, Bob, what does Monsanto think? I mean, they developed this pesticide. Is it safe to use around animals?’

‘Of course it is, Bill. We tested it and it’s safe as houses. Sign here.’

‘Well, can I see the test results?’

“No can do, Bill. Proprietary rights, exclusionary, you understand. Just sign the damn waiver, I’m late for my 9am tee-off at the club.’

‘Maybe I should ask Fish & Game–‘

‘What are you, a Commie? Why do you hate American business, Bill? We’re trying to make a buck here, what’s so wrong about that that you think you have to check every little piddling detail? Anyway, what’s a few dead birds here or there, there’s millions of the damn things. Wake me up every morning at the crack of dawn, the little bastards. We’ll be better off without ‘em. Now sign or tell Junior he can forget the $200K for his next campaign.’

‘Oh, well, when you put it that way….’

Yessiree. ‘BushCo: We’re a Friend of Science–When Science is a Friend to Us. If It Ain’t, Screw It.’

Written by Mick

July 30, 2004 at 11:18 am

27 Candles in the Dark

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The looting in Iraq may have started with Iraqis, but they got peanuts compared to what was stolen when the US corporations came to town. According to the LAT, besides on-going investigations into Halliburton, KB&R, and several other sub-contractors, the CPA Inspector General’s Office has launched 27 criminal investigations of individuals accused of fraud and theft.

WASHINGTON — A comprehensive examination of the U.S.-led agency that oversaw the rebuilding of Iraq has triggered at least 27 criminal investigations and produced evidence of millions of dollars’ worth of fraud, waste and abuse, according to a report by the Coalition Provisional Authority’s inspector general.The report is the most sweeping indication yet that some U.S. officials and private contractors repeatedly violated the law in the free-wheeling atmosphere that pervaded the multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild the war-torn country.

More than $600 million in cash from Iraqi oil money was spent with insufficient controls. Senior U.S. officials manipulated or misspent contract money. Millions of dollars’ worth of equipment could not be located, the report said.

“We found problems in the CPA’s financial management, procurement practices and operational controls,” Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the inspector general, wrote in the report. “These results are not surprising: The CPA faced a variety of daunting challenges, including extremely hazardous working conditions.”

The report raises anew questions surrounding the occupation government under Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, who turned over control in June to an interim Iraqi government.

The coalition’s failures continue to haunt the country today as Iraqis struggle with security issues and infrastructure problems with electricity, transport

Not surprising, really, considering that the attitude of those at the top of the US govt is pretty much the same: Taxpayer money belongs to us and we can do what we want with it, including steal it. The charges, for anyone familiar with the corporate mind, aren’t exactly a surprise, either.

The Times has reported on several cases in which a small circle of former Republican administration officials had drawn scrutiny for their actions in Iraq, including a deputy undersecretary of Defense under investigation by the FBI in connection with a telecommunications contract. In another case, officials have said, a former senior U.S. advisor conducted negotiations with a family connected to Saddam Hussein to form a new Iraqi airline.


In one case, a senior U.S. advisor “manipulated” the contracting system to award a $7.2-million security contract. The contract was later voided and the money returned.In another incident, a contractor billed $3.3 million for nonexistent personnel working on an oil pipeline repair contract. A security contractor guarding the pipeline overcharged the CPA by $20,000. Both incidents are under criminal investigation.

In another example, a military assistant to a Pentagon employee gambled away part of a $40,000 grant issued to help coach an Iraqi sports team, the report found.

What is a tad surprising is the number of excuses coming, not from the perps, but from the IGO.

Iraq was “a much more Wild West environment. It’s a wartime environment,” said Steven Kelman, a Harvard professor and contracting expert. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, psychologically, some folks have the idea that they’re risking their lives under difficult conditions. They justify that they’re entitled to a salary increase.”


“In the early days, there was no record keeping. They were flushed with money and seized assets. People just didn’t follow established procedures,” said Charles Krohn, a former CPA official. “You were dealing with inexperienced people who didn’t understand that there’s always a day of reckoning.”

So ‘Boys will be boys, heh-heh’, is that it? There weren’t enough flak jackets or boots to go around for the troops, but hey, I’m a corporate snowbunny in a war zone, I got serious perks coming! And these are people inside the CPA, not war profiteers like the Halliburton crowd; you’d expect this sort of thing from them. The message these guys got from their leaders was: ‘Take whatever you can get your hands on. We are.’

And for those who will say, as they always do, ‘Well, it was only a few bad apples….’, I say:

Uh, $$$20BILLION$$$ missing and 27 separate investigations of criminal misconduct in a single govt entity means a significant chunk of the barrel was rotten, don’t it?

Written by Mick

July 30, 2004 at 10:58 am

Edmonds Charges Substantiated

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According to the NYT, a secret DoJ investigation has concluded that Sybel Edmonds was, indeed, fired for blowing the whistle on sloppy FBI oversight of its translators.

WASHINGTON, July 28 – A classified Justice Department investigation has concluded that a former F.B.I. translator at the center of a growing controversy was dismissed in part because she accused the bureau of ineptitude, and it found that the F.B.I. did not aggressively investigate her claims of espionage against a co-worker.The Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that the allegations by the translator, Sibel Edmonds, “were at least a contributing factor in why the F.B.I. terminated her services,” and the F.B.I. is considering disciplinary action against some employees as a result, Robert S. Mueller III, director of the bureau, said in a letter last week to lawmakers. A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.


Given the tight secrecy surrounding the case, “one could argue that Mueller himself disclosed classified material” by quoting from a still-secret Justice Department report, said one congressional official who spoke on condition of anonymity.In his letter, Mr. Mueller said he was pleased that the office of the inspector general “had not concluded that the F.B.I. retaliated against Ms. Edmonds when it terminated her services on April 2, 2002.” At the same time, he said, “I was concerned by the O.I.G.’s conclusion that Ms. Edmonds’ allegations ‘were at least a contributing factor in why the F.B.I. terminated her services.’ “

He said the F.B.I. would work with the inspector general to determine whether any employees should be disciplined as a result. And he emphasized that he wanted to encourage all F.B.I. employees to “raise good faith concerns about mismanagement or misconduct” without fear of reprisals or intimidation.

The letter did not say what other factors, if any, beyond Ms. Edmonds’s accusations may have played a part in the decision to dismiss her. In the past, federal officials have suggested that her allegations had nothing to do with her dismissal, pointing instead to what they described as her “disruptive” presence in the field office.

The inspector general “also criticized the F.B.I.’s failure to adequately pursue Ms. Edmonds’s allegations of espionage as they related to one of her colleagues,” Mr. Mueller said in his letter.

The J Edgar Hoover Legacy Marches On: Silence the critics, then fire them. The next step is to trash their reputations.

So the Plame investigation is coming to a head and now the Edmonds investigation is about to generate some steam. Meanwhile, the investigation of Halliburton continues, Kenny-boy’s trial is about to begin (they must have picked the jurors by now), and questions are circulating about Cheney’s actual relationship with his old company. This is sure going to be a fun summer for the Bush Team, and the fall should be full of surprises.

Written by Mick

July 29, 2004 at 1:09 pm

Posted in FBI, Justice Dept

You Can’t Keep a Good Con Down

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Our old friend Ahmad Chalabi, embezzler, thief, swindler, master con artist and possible double agent, still isn’t in jail if that’s what you thought. No, like the trouper he is, he has re-written the script and taken his act on the road where he is performing as The People’s Friend–and Muqtada al-Sadr’s ally.

Snubbed by the Bush administration neoconservatives who once embraced him [Untrue: Perle is still defending him, as are Wolfowitz and Libby--MA], and excluded from the interim government, he is building a grass-roots coalition of Shiite Muslim groups who lack a voice in the new Iraq.At the same time, he’s reaching out to Iraq’s most prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose followers come mainly from Baghdad’s urban underclass and the impoverished south of the country. Political analysts here believe that the new approach will eventually win support from a significant segment of Sadr’s followers if Chalabi chooses to run for office — and, as expected, Sadr chooses to wield his power from the pulpit instead.

That would give Chalabi and his new organization, the Shiite Political Council, mass support that could yield considerable clout in the majority Shiite community.

More established Shiite parties alternately discount Chalabi and describe him as a strong opponent. He is gathering up the political scraps, “mingling with little groups,” in the words of Ridha Taqi, director of political relations for a major Shiite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

But he acknowledged that if Chalabi can bring Sadr on board, he will be a formidable force. “If the Sadr movement abandons violence and makes an alliance with Ahmad Chalabi, he will gain something from that movement,” Taqi said. “Sadr is one of the big pillars of the Shiite family.” And, he added, “it’s not that Ahmad Chalabi is [just] thinking of cooperating with the Sadr group — he’s already working with them in an intense manner.”

Chalabi clearly hasn’t given up on his dream of one day ruling Iraq–and controlling its treasury. He has found a little opening and he’s exploiting it for all he’s worth. Remember, he still controls much of the bureaucracy in Iraq, having installed loyalists at key points in the new govt’s infrastructure who know where all the bodies are buried, and Allawi has made no significant attempt to remove or replace them–not a good sign, since it would be one of the surest ways to consolidate his power before the election that will undoubtedly come.

You can file this under Bad News From Iraq. I suspect that the Neocon Wonder Boys are as proud as peacocks that their protege just won’t give up but the rest of us should be seriously concerned that Chalabi hasn’t been stepped on yet. An alliance with al-Sadr bodes no good for either the US or the Iraqi people’s best interests. I’ve said before that I doubted he was doubling for Iranian Intelligence and I still do, but his contacts with them are real enough and they will use him if they get the opportunity. At the moment, I figure he’s probably feeding them information about Iraq’s dissident Shiite groups and they’re patting him on the head and making promises they don’t intend to keep, but if he manages to corral some power in the eventual coalition govt, their contacts could get a lot more serious.

Chalabi is steadily building his new coalition. The leadership of the Shiite Political Council includes several members of the former Governing Council who, like Chalabi, were left out of the interim government. But the bulk of the members come from small, little-known groups. Unsophisticated in politics, they are joining because they see the organization as a means to make their voices heard.And because they are Shiites, they hope that by banding together they will avoid being crushed the way they were under the previous regime.

“It has nothing to do with sectarianism. It’s just that Shiites represent the majority,” said Ali Aliausha, an earnest man in a pinstriped suit who spent much of the last 20 years in exile and says he lost two brothers to Hussein’s executioners. He was one of many people at a recent meeting of the council at Chalabi’s headquarters — known as the China House for its pagoda-like architecture.

“Dr. Ahmad Chalabi is an Iraqi citizen, and he has played a big role in this moment of change,” Aliausha said, admiration in his voice.

Oh, so it’s Dr Chalabi now, is it? Cute. That title carries a lot of freight in Arabic countries where it represents a combination of virtues like honesty, selflessness, and political integrity, to none of which Ahmad has any legitimate claim. His populist stance is as big a sham as the ‘information’ he had his minions in the INC invent and then pass along to the gullible neocon newcomers at C-TEG, but it may be awhile before the Shiite groups figure that out.

Little Ahmad better be careful how he steps, though. He’s playing with dynamite in al-Sadr, and the dynamite is sweating.

Written by Mick

July 29, 2004 at 11:49 am

Posted in Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq

Kerry Backs 9/11C Rec’s: Rush to Judgment 2

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I suppose it was inevitable. It’s an election year. But did he have to be so damned enthusiastic about it?

NORFOLK, Va., July 27 – Senator John Kerry called Tuesday for an 18-month extension of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, sharpening his critique of President Bush’s response to the panel’s recent report by declaring, “backpedaling and going slow is something that America can’t afford.”Escalating the political tussle over national security, Mr. Kerry, at a campaign rally in this Navy town, said the commission should stay in existence past its scheduled Aug. 26 expiration to monitor progress on its many recommendations and issue status reports.

“You can’t treat the commission report as something you hope will go away,” he said. “Leadership requires that we act now, not talk, not vague promises, not excuses.”

An 18-month extension so they can ‘make sure we do it right’, he said, or words to that effect (I heard him say it). Like the 9/11CR is the fucking Bible or something and he’s a fundamentalist acolyte. But it’s an election year and the numbers are tight and Junior waffled over the 9/11C from the beginning, stonewalling it, refusing to release documents until it was forced to, playing games around who would testify and how, and all the rest of it. He’s vulnerable here so we have to jump on it.

The problem is: the 9/11CR is NOT the be-all/end-all, NOT the Received Word From On High. It’s just a report by some politicians who’ve made some serious mistakes that we already know about and failed even to ask some of the most vital questions. In an NYT Op-Ed yesterday, Gerald Posner took them to task for their easy dismissal of Saudi complicity.

[E]ven more startling is the report’s conclusion that the panel has “found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually” helped to finance Al Qaeda. It does say that unnamed wealthy Saudi sympathizers, and leading Saudi charities, sent money to the terror group. But the report fails to mine any of the widely available reporting and research that establishes the degree to which many of the suspect charities cited by the United States are controlled directly by the Saudi government or some of its ministers.The report makes no mention, for example, of an October 2002 study by the Council of Foreign Relations that draws opposite conclusions about the role of Saudi charities and how “Saudi officials have turned a blind eye to this problem.” The 9/11 panel also misses an opportunity to more fully explore an intelligence coup in 2002, when American agents in Bosnia retrieved computer files of the so-called Golden Chain, a group of Mr. bin Laden’s early financial supporters.

Reported to be among the 20 names on this list were a former government minister in Saudi Arabia, three billionaire banking tycoons and several top industrialists. Yet the report neither confirms nor denies this. Nor does it address what, if anything, the Saudis did with the information, or whether the men were ever arrested by Saudi authorities.

After going over the evidence that Saudis, including members of bin Laden’s family, were allowed to leave the US at a time when other planes were grounded (whether or not they were questioned before they went is unclear), he concludes:

Of course, none of these matters undermine the report’s central conclusions about what went wrong inside the United States leading up to 9/11. And satisfying answers to questions about the relationship between the Saudis and Al Qaeda might not be available yet. But the commission could have at least asked them. By failing to address adequately how Saudi leaders helped Al Qaeda flourish, the commission has risked damaging its otherwise good work. (emphasis added)

Robert Dreyfuss points out in 9/11C–Failure #2 that some of their central recommendations betray an astonishing ignorance of both Islam and what drives Islamic terrorism.

Thing Two. Perhaps it’s too much to expect people like Fred Fielding, Slade Gorton, Jim Thompson, Bob Kerrey and the rest of the 9/11 Commission to say anything intelligent about how to “Prevent the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism,” one of the top priorities in the “What To Do? A Global Strategy” chapter of their report. After all, it’s fair to say that they are virtual know-nothings when it comes to understanding Islam, not to mention its radical and fundamentalist manifestations.But this chapter isn’t a road map on fighting “Islamist terrorism.” It is a veritable Bartlett’s of quotable (and meaningless) platitudes. So far, at least, I haven’t seen anyone point this out.

Here are a few of the silliest (and by the way, these are not taken out of context, but are the central observations and “recommendations” of the commission in how to fight Islamic terrorism by “engage[ing] in the struggle for ideas”):

“It is among the large majority of Arabs and Muslims that we must encourage reform, freedom, democracy, and opportunity.”

“The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors… That vision of the future should stress life over death.”

“Just as we did in the Cold War, we need to defend our ideals abroad vigorously. America does stand up for its values.”

“The U.S. government should offer to join other nations in generously supporting a new International Youth Opportunity Fund.”

These are PPPP’s (Pointless but Positive Political Platitudes) meant to shore up Junior’s ill-advised, inaccurate hyperbole about Islamic fundamentalism arising from a hatred of ‘freedom’, which is such arrant, bigoted, and superficial nonsense that even the neocons who thought this idiotic strategy up never used it as an excuse before he did.

The 9/11CR is just a political document, and it needs to be treated that way: picked apart until the grain is separated from the mountains of chaff, not embraced like Holy Writ. Yet even the 9/11 Family Steering Committee, up to now one of the 9/11C’s most vocal and reliable critics, is jumping on the bandwagon.

We intend to hold any elected official publicly accountable for any obstruction or opposition to the implementation of these recommendations. We will maintain a log on our website that will track the course of this legislation. We will in effect conduct our own oversight – “the people’s oversight”. And we will actively lobby Congress and the White House until these important recommendations are in place.

You can stand down guys; it’s an election year and everybody’s breaking their necks to get in line. We’re apparently going to have this crap hung around our necks at the speed of light, and nobody’s going to bother too much with whether it makes sense or not, will fix anything or not, or count the glaring holes in it.

It’s an election year.

Written by Mick

July 28, 2004 at 1:44 pm

Bush: A Conservative’s View

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It’s nice to see a conservative coming out and admitting the obvious (linked via a secondary source to avoid registration hassles).

Written by Mick

July 28, 2004 at 1:08 pm

Who says there aren’t real stories at the Convention?

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From Atrios:

So, the convention ceiling is of course filled with the customary balloons, awaiting their drop. I hear Ralph Nader is going to sneak in and trigger them early (joke). But, the disconcerting thing is that occasionally they pop, just loudly enough to sound like something other than a balloon popping…

Written by Mick

July 28, 2004 at 12:54 pm

The Pakistan Connection

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Pakistan’s role in the 9-11 attacks has been woefully underreported in the US. That’s no surprise, of course, since it’s an inconvenient fact for an administration peddling fairy tales about Saddam’s alliance with Osama. But for those of you who prefer non-fiction to fantasy, I suggest reading Michael Meacher’s recent article in the Guardian. To extract four points and one quote:

(1) A Pakistani intelligence (ISI) operative who wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta before the 9-11 attacks is about to be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, namely the execution of WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl. (Pearl is thought to have been particularly interested in our government’s role in training or backing the ISI.)

(2) The head of ISI who ordered the money wired has not been charged with anything, questioned or brought to trial. He has quietly retired, and neither the US nor Pakistan is raising a peep about it.

(3) The man thought responsible for Pearl’s murder, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is “…unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information” (NYT).

(4) FBI translator Sybel Edmonds, who has tried to expose individuals and governments that helped orchestrate the 9-11 attacks, has been put under two gag orders by the Justice Department, and her formerly public testimony to Congress has been retroactively classified. (I believe Sybel Edmond’s story is, as Mick would say, so not over.)

… and the quote:

Daniel Ellsberg, the former US defence department whistleblower who has accompanied Edmonds in court, has stated: “It seems to me quite plausible that Pakistan was quite involved in this … To say Pakistan is, to me, to say CIA because … it’s hard to say that the ISI knew something that the CIA had no knowledge of.” [Former ISI head] Ahmed’s close relations with the CIA would seem to confirm this. For years the CIA used the ISI as a conduit to pump billions of dollars into militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan, both before and after the Soviet invasion of 1979.

W ith CIA backing, the ISI has developed, since the early 1980s, into a parallel structure, a state within a state, with staff and informers estimated by some at 150,000. It wields enormous power over all aspects of government. The case of Ahmed confirms that parts of the ISI directly supported and financed al-Qaida, and it has long been established that the ISI has acted as go-between in intelligence operations on behalf of the CIA.

And after you’re done reading this article, go back and reread an old but very important report by Seymour Hersh that our media has steadfastly ignored while breathlessly promoting stories like the meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials. (Yeah, sure, Mohammed Atta happened to be in Florida while this meeting was supposedly taking place in Prague – but why get hung up on facts that don’t fit with the story you’re selling?)

Written by Mick

July 28, 2004 at 12:52 pm

Posted in 9/11, Pakistan, The GWOT

What’s Good About Kerry? Plenty

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Adam, of A violently executed blog lays out a compelling case for Kerry in a compact post packed with detail and, as always, no-holds-barred commentary.

Yeah, yeah, I know, Faux News says he’s a “flip-flopper” and that he’s “out of the mainstream”.Shall we take a look at a few of his “out of the mainstream” ideas?
(1) Rebuilding international alliances – seems pretty logical. If we’re fighting a war on terror worldwide, it’d only make sense to work with other governments to fight it effectively, right?
(2) Modernize the military – Whoa! Give our troops the best training and tools we can to allow them to fight effectively? Seriously whackaloon, it isn’t.
(3) Use diplomacy, trade, money, moral pressure and the military to accomplish our goals – another plain idea, that seemed to work well for all the other American presidents except the current.
(4) Develop an energy policy geared towards lessening or removing our dependence on foreign oil – This one’s so mainstream it made me yawn. I mean, I’ve heard this from everyone from the mailman to the bagger at my grocery store.
(5) Cutting middle-class taxes – if you think this is out of the mainstream, you need to go see a shrink.

There’s a lot more, just as pungent. Go read it.

Written by Mick

July 27, 2004 at 9:41 pm

Rush to Judgment

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In a tele-conference (he’s vacationing at his pretend ‘ranch’ again) with Washington, Junior pushed his gang to prepare the ground for swift implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations.

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush tried to seize the initiative on intelligence reform Monday, meeting with aides and urging them to accelerate their review of proposals issued by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.The president, who is keeping out of sight at his Texas ranch during the Democratic National Convention, used a video link to take part in the meeting at the White House that included Vice President Dick Cheney, Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., acting CIA Director John McLaughlin, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Cheney joined the call from Jackson, Wyo., where he was campaigning.

“The president has asked the group to fast-track their review and the implementation of the recommendations,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told reporters during a briefing in Crawford. “To the extent that there are some recommendations that could be acted on sooner rather than later, the president could certainly act within days on some, obviously longer on others.”

Buchan said the president has been reading the commission’s 567-page report and expects to be in daily contact about it with Card, who is heading the White House review.

Cheney said that he was halfway through reading the report, calling it “engrossing.”

“I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it,” he said without elaborating.

No kidding.

This is not a particularly surprising development. Besides its being an election year (a really lousy time to be rushing through changes as sweeping as the ones the 9/11C recommends) when no one wants to perceived as ‘foot-dragging’ by asking uncomfortable questions or, god forbid, counseling prudence in the face of (yet another) potential terrorist attack, the 9/11C’s suggestions would concentrate even more power in the hands of the executive by removing the last vestiges of independence from the IC.

Investigative reporter Robert Dreyfuss, in a post called ‘Five Things Wrong With The 9/11 Report (Thing One)’ on his blog, The Dreyfuss Report at TomPaine, lays out the two most divisive and disruptive changes.

First, the commission proposes the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). It would have two functions: intelligence and operations. Of its intelligence function, the commission says: “The NCTC should lead strategic analysis, pooling all-source intelligence, foreign and domestic, about transnational terrorist organizations of global reach.” Operationally, “The NCTC should perform joint planning. The plans would assign operational responsibilities to lead agencies, such as State, the CIA, the FBI, Defense and its combatant commands, Homeland Security, and other agencies.” According to the commission, the head of the NCTC “must have the right to concur in the choices of personnel to lead the operating entities of departments and agencies focused on counterterrorism, specifically to include the head of the Counterterrorist Center, the head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, the commanders of the Defense Department’s Special Operations Command and Northern Command, and the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism.”

While it would seem to centralize decision-making and promote co-ordination in theory, the practical ramifications of an all-powerful anti-terrorism brigade are frightening. As envisioned by the 9/11C, the NCTC would have the power to direct US intel resources in any direction it wanted since it would have control of the IC purse-strings. This raises the specter of turning the whole IC into a giant version of Doug Feith’s OSP/C-TEG operations with raw intel stovepiped straight to the top if it serves an admin’s political objectives and buried deep in the catacombs if it doesn’t. Worse, it would put intel objectives at the mercy of political ops who want to score points.

Then the commission would couple this all-powerful new entity with the creation of a National Intelligence Director. The NID would be an intelligence czar, overseeing both foreign and domestic intelligence collection and analysis. “The National Intelligence Director must be able to directly oversee intelligence collection inside the United States.” The NID would also have authority to “approve and submit nominations to the president of the individuals who would lead the CIA, DIA, FBI Intelligence Office, NSA, NGA, NRO, [parts of] Homeland Security and other national intelligence capabilities.” And the NID would control their budgets. The NID would also oversee covert operations. And: “The head of the NCTC would report to the national intelligence director.”

The creation of the NID would all but eliminate the differences between the CIA and the FBI, mashing them together under one all-purpose Director, shifting the focus of the agencies almost completely and making them political arms of the President, pesonally.

In tandem, the NCTC and the NID would create an intelligence power of truly awesome scope. Because terrorism is essentially a political crime, as the ACLU reminds us constantly, counterterrorist investigations always involve politics, dissidents and rebels. It’s not like investigating crimes, or like intelligence on war-making capabilities of nations. Just as the Patriot Act knocked down the “wall” between the CIA and the FBI, making it far easier to conduct domestic spying operations against American citizens not suspected of a crime, the NCTC-NID combination would concentrate the power to carry out domestic spying in all-powerful nexus, located (where?) in the White House. The NID would report directly to the president, or to the “POTUS,” in the pompous wiring diagram in the commission report. Says the report: “The intelligence entity inside the NCTC .. would sit there alongside the operations management unit, … with both making up the NCTC, in the Executive Office of the President.”

This is nothing less than the operations diagram setting out America’s first Secret Police, and, either accidentally or deliberately, is copied from the operational charts of the old Soviet system where the NKVD and the KGB were simply different aspects of the same function–protecting the State from dissidents and political troublemakers–under the overall control of a single department directly responsible to the Premier. This was, as those of you old enough will remember, a very effective mechanism for strangling free speech and controlling the political activities of the Russian people.

It is on the one hand ironic and on the other frightening that the 9/11C has looked to the Soviets for a model. One wonders what they’re trying to tell us.

Written by Mick

July 27, 2004 at 3:07 pm

Posted in 9/11, Intelligence

Fahrenheit 9/11: A Holy Mess

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As I said to someone recently, Michael Moore has never been a real documentary film-maker; he is a satirist who uses the documentary style as the tool of his trade. There is a vast difference between the two, and Fahrenheit 9/11 demonstrates just how wide that yawning gap is.

A good documentary builds its case from the inside out, like the construction of a house–showing us the foundations of its subject and then what was built on top of them–or from the outside in, like peeling an onion–showing us what’s on top and then slowly removing layer after layer to reveal what the surface was hiding. Moore’s film does neither. Fahrenheit 9/11 is structured like one of those grab-bags you get at a carnival: it’s got a little bit of everything in it that happened to be lying around loose when it got put together.

There is no attempt here to make any sense of what happened on 9/11 or of what it led to. This isn’t a documentary, it’s a polemic designed to pick out the most startling images and/or facts it can find and then throw them all in the same bag. The only thing that holds it together is that it all has something to do with 9/11 or Iraq. It doesn’t make clear the connection between them and it doesn’t show how one led to the other in any substantive way, in fact it barely gets around to suggesting that there is a connection.

And yet Moore clearly had more on his mind than a simple polemic. One of the longest and most connected sections of the film deals with the business relationship between the bin Laden family and the Bushes, including the relatively minor conspiracy around getting them out of the country after 9/11 so that potential investigations wouldn’t inconvenience them in any way. Compared to some of the other issues Moore raises–the oil imperative, the Halliburton-Cheney conspiracy, the Israeli Army-derived tactics against the civilians of Iraq practiced by our military, and most importantly perhaps in this context, the power of the Saudi Royal Family to influence the decisions of the Bush Administration–the ‘planes’ incident tends to pale into insignificance, yet he spends more time on it than on all those other issues combined.

Worse, he never finishes what he starts. The connection between the bin Ladens and the Saudi Royals is never made; he doesn’t detail any of the disturbing proof of the Saudi govt’s support for terrorists, including Al Qaeda; he shows that Iraqi oil was clearly a large part of the motivation for the Second Gulf War and brings the Afghanistan pipeline into the equation for what may be the first time, but he doesn’t connect those dots to the larger strategy the neocons have had for the Middle East since the late 80’s. Where is PNAC? Where is Richard Perle? Where, for god’s-sake, is Israel? No genuine documentary would ever have left out such key parts of the puzzle that is 9/11.

He follows a similar pattern throughout the film, lingering over insubstantial or less substantial aspects of the 9/11 fall-out while rushing through or brushing past far more lethal topics, a tack no self-respecting documentarian would take after his first student effort had been roundly criticized. How else would you explain that Paul Wolfowitz–a chief architect of the neocon strategy that led straight to Iraq–makes his only appearance combing his hair with his own spit? or that John Ashcroft’s only appearance involves a singular, not to say peculiar, instance when he sings a song–badly; there is nothing as sad as listening to somebody who thinks he can sing and can’t, unless it’s listening to somebody who thinks he’s funny and isn’t–of his own composition about an eagle soaring, soaring, soaring… OK already, I get it, John: eagles soar. Got anything else to say? Not in this film, he doesn’t, and that’s a problem.

Part political invective, part satire, part self-righteous polemic, Fahrenheit 9/11 stands or falls on the strength of its images and its ability to ridicule public figures who deserve it, and on that score it’s much more successful. Nobody who sees it is ever going to forget the image of the President of the US sitting in that second-grade classroom, immobile, for almost ten minutes after he’s been told that a second plane has hit the WTC, his face a mass of confusion and doubt. Moore speculates on what he might have been thinking, but if you look at his face it’s pretty clear that what’s running through his mind is one simple question: ‘What should I do?’ It’s equally and shockingly clear that he doesn’t know the answer.

The footage from Iraq is as stunning and as uncomfortable as anything from Titicut Follies. Iraqi children mutilated by American bombs, what the BA and the Pentagon would call ‘collateral damage’, are juxtaposed with Donald Rumsfeld cheerfully and with great pride and firmness explaining that such things could never happen because of the precision of our technology and the ‘great care’ we take to avoid them. Moore unceremoniously rips away the fantasy that the iraq war–that all modern war–is somehow cleaner and more humane than it used to be. It isn’t. War is still hell and the innocent are still its worst victims and anybody who doesn’t understand that should never be allowed to occupy a position in which they have the responsibility of either starting one or maintaining one.

But the most moving and devasting section of the film doesn’t come from Iraq but from Flint, Michigan. Anybody who can watch Lila Lipscomb trying to come to terms with the death of her son without his heart imploding in his chest is walking around dead and doesn’t know it. Anybody who can listen to her husband’s soft yet deeply angry question–‘And for what? For what?’–without questioning the motives of the leaders who sent his son to his death is either a robot or an alien pod-person, not a human being. You might still decide that Lila’s overwhelming grief is part of the price we must pay for a greater good, but if you don’t at least ask the question and re-examine the supposed reasons, everything from your toes up is no more than petrified wood masquerading as living tissue.

For in the end, Moore’s film isn’t trying to make or prove any particular case. It is aimed toward only one goal–taking you to that moment with Lila and her husband after having put into your head and your hands just enough information to make you question the govt’s quasi-justifications for this couple’s enormous sacrifice. For that achievement alone, it should be honored.

Written by Mick

July 27, 2004 at 6:38 am

Posted in 9/11, Film, Humor/Satire

House Republicans Attack Constitution

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I’ve been saying for a long time that the radcon Publicans don’t recognize any limitatiions to their power or any line that should not be crossed if it brings political advantage, however mementary, but harms the good of the country. Jay Bookman of the AJC thinks the House Pubs are preparing to prove that thesis. In a vote last week, they undermined the Constitution by baldly taking unto themselves the power to render it null and void.

Every politician has — or should have — a line that he or she will not cross just to gain political advantage. Even for the most ambitious and ruthless, there should be some things that are off-limits, some steps that aren’t worth taking because the potential damage to the nation outweighs any political gain.But like many Americans, I have a sneaking suspicion that the line has shifted considerably. In fact, after last week’s events in the U.S. House of Representatives, you have to wonder if it still exists at all for some people.

Frustrated by the Senate’s failure to produce even a majority of votes in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, House leaders decided to take a more controversial approach. Citing an obscure and largely untested provision of the U.S. Constitution, the House voted 233-194 to bar the Supreme Court from considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law dealing with gay marriage.

That is a power grab of breathtaking consequence. If Congress has the authority to tell the Supreme Court that certain issues are off-limits, it would give legislators a free hand to do whatever they wished, without worrying about whether it violated the Constitution. The whole idea of a separation of powers could be rendered null and void…

In yet another of the ironies/hypocracies that stud the Bush years like the rusted hulks of AMC Pacers, it is the very people who have been screaming for years that Congress has taken too much power to itself who are the ones to assume the ultimate power: the power to disembowel the Constitution whenever they feel like it, cut the courts out of the equation by forbidding them to rule on anything it’s done, and become the last, the only arbiters of their own actions.

Theoretically, [the provision in question] allows Congress to pass a law — say, making it a felony to criticize members of Congress — and then forbid the courts to review such a law. It could pass a law making Christianity the national religion, and bar the courts from hearing a challenge. It could allow government to tap our phones without a warrant, or toss dissidents into prison without trial, and refuse to allow the courts to intervene.That’s why the provision has remained obscure and largely untested. Previous generations of politicians, even in the heat of intense battle, have understood and respected the potential damage it could do. They saw it as a Pandora’s box that once opened could threaten not just our constitutional liberties but the whole concept of a balance of powers among the judicial, legislative and executive branches.

With the radcons, though, that’s the whole point. They’re not interested in ‘constitutional liberties’ or maintaining ‘the balance of power’, they’re only interested in forcing the whole country to act the way they want it to act and believe what they want it to believe, and they will usurp any power that will allow them to do that. The vote this week proves that.

Written by Mick

July 26, 2004 at 2:23 pm

Stewart Udall Takes Dim View of Dimbulb

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Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior during the 60’s and generally considered to be the best of the last 50 years, is none too thrilled with what Junior’s pervasive pandering to the oil industry is doing to his native West.

SANTA FE, N.M. — A crucial struggle over land stewardship is taking place south of my home on the Greater Otero Mesa, a 1.2-million-acre stretch of grassland that looks pretty much the way it did when Coronado explored the region almost 500 years ago. As much as half of Otero Mesa still qualifies for protection under the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act, which was enacted when I headed the Interior Department under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. This law prevents industrial development on designated federal land “retaining its primeval character and influence.”But the Bush administration, determined to ransack public lands for the last meager pockets of petroleum, has turned my old department into a servile, single-minded adjunct of the Energy Department. It is intent on opening Otero Mesa and other wild lands to oil and gas exploration under the guise of reducing our ever-growing dependency on imported oil.

Here in New Mexico, where citizens cherish sublime landscapes, the administration’s attack on the mesa is a heated issue. Gov. Bill Richardson has been joined by lawmakers, environmental groups and thousands of citizens in opposing drilling on Otero.

This crusade is part of a wave of public resentment across the West over the dark chapter that President Bush and his aides are writing in the history of the American conservation movement. From California to Colorado, Montana to Arizona, drill rigs pockmark the West’s wild places, licensed by a White House that views opening of the nation’s last untrammeled country to private development as a prime economic priority.

The real Bush Doctrine seems to be: If it don’t make a profit for one of my cronies, it’s useless. The BA doesn’t recognize any social good except in the piling up of private profits, and it doesn’t seem to matter what gets ruined or who dies in the process. America and its people are just resources to be exploited by the oligarchs and corporations until there’s nothing left to exploit, and then what? One more Bushian term and we’re likely to find out.

Written by Mick

July 26, 2004 at 12:46 pm

Bush’s FDA Attacks Consumers in Court

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The Bush Admin’s FDA is arguing in court to unilaterally reverse laws passed by Congress. Their aim is to protect pharmaceutical companies–B/C’s second biggest campaign contributors after the energy industry–from lawsuits arising from design flaws or shoddy workmanship in their medical devices. FDA lawyers are claiming that laws which establish ‘minimum Federal standards’ actually establish maximums, which is bad enough, but they then go on to insist that if a manufacturer meets those standards, it is therefore immune to prosecution even if the device is faulty, even if it kills people.

WASHINGTON, July 24 — The Bush administration has been going to court to block lawsuits by consumers who say they have been injured by prescription drugs and medical devices.The administration contends that consumers cannot recover damages for such injuries if the products have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In court papers, the Justice Department acknowledges that this position reflects a “change in governmental policy,” and it has persuaded some judges to accept its arguments, most recently scoring a victory in the federal appeals court in Philadelphia.

Allowing consumers to sue manufacturers would “undermine public health” and interfere with federal regulation of drugs and devices, by encouraging “lay judges and juries to second-guess” experts at the F.D.A., the government said in siding with the maker of a heart pump sued by the widow of a Pennsylvania man. Moreover, it said, if such lawsuits succeed, some good products may be removed from the market, depriving patients of beneficial treatments.


Jay P. Lefkowitz, former director of Mr. Bush’s Domestic Policy Council, said the F.D.A.’s litigation strategy embodied “good health policy and good tort reform.”But Representative Maurice D. Hinchey, Democrat of New York, said the administration had “taken the F.D.A. in a radical new direction, seeking to protect drug companies instead of the public.” Mr. Hinchey recently persuaded the House to cut $500,000 from the budget of the agency’s chief counsel as a penalty for its aggressive opposition to consumer lawsuits.

In the Pennsylvania ruling, issued Tuesday, the appeals court threw out a lawsuit filed by Barbara E. Horn, who said her husband had died because of defects in the design and manufacture of his heart pump. The Bush administration argued that federal law barred such claims because the device had been produced according to federal specifications. In its briefs, the administration conceded that “the views stated here differ from the views that the government advanced in 1997,” in the United States Supreme Court.

At that time, the government said that F.D.A. approval of a medical device set the minimum standard, and that states could provide “additional protection to consumers.” Now the Bush administration argues that the agency’s approval of a device “sets a ceiling as well as a floor.”

The administration said its position, holding that individual consumers have no right to sue, actually benefited consumers.

Don’t you love it? Day is actually night, up is really down, black is basically white if you look at it from the right angle, and truth has no meaning except as an obstacle to be overcome by pretending it doesn’t exist. So an attack on consumer rights is suddenly beneficial for consumers. Right.

The horror of this is that some courts are buying this shit.

In the Pennsylvania case, the federal appeals court quoted extensively from the administration’s brief and said the views of the F.D.A. were entitled to great deference because the agency was “uniquely qualified” to determine when federal law should take precedence over state law.Bush administration officials said their goal was not to shield drug companies, but to vindicate the federal government’s authority to regulate drug products.

Patients and their families said they felt betrayed.

I bet. And don’t you think they weren’t. Betraying consumers is one of the things the BA does best. And most consistently.

Written by Mick

July 25, 2004 at 3:38 pm

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