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Ethel the Blog
Observations (and occasional brash opining) on science, computers, books, music and other shiny things that catch my mind's eye. There's a home page with ostensibly more permanent stuff. This is intended to be more functional than decorative. I neither intend nor want to surf on the bleeding edge, keep it real, redefine journalism or attract nyphomaniacal groupies (well, maybe a wee bit of the latter). The occasional cheap laugh, raised eyebrow or provocation of interest are all I'll plead guilty to in the matter of intent. Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2003

CALM DOWN?
Sam Smith at
Progressive Review exhorts us to calm down about this exposed CIA agent thingie. While I agree that the danger issue is probably overblown, the real issue is hoisting the GOP on their own petard. It is the political right that's built up the CIA over the years as a sacrosanct institution vital to the survival of the nation and one which should be above and beyond suspicion or investigation. And now the official point men of the political right have basically rubbed shit all over the pedestal they erected for the CIA via exposing an ostensibly sacred CIA agent for no reason other than partisan revenge, letting their actions speak infinitely louder than their words ever have or ever will. Anyhow, here's Sam on how the CIA is and has always been its own worst enemy, via incompetence and, moreso, the sheer malevolence and hubris of many of its supposed saints.
...
Over the years, much of the best work of the CIA has been done by those who in a different environment would be known as scholars or senior fellows. They get their status by knowing more about their subject than most other people and not by handing explosive cigars to their subjects. The good ones, as in other places such as the campus or the newsroom, are, however, the exception. More fall into that category well encapsulated by Lyndon Johnson when he told an aide to bear in mind that the agency was filled with Princeton and Yale graduates whose daddies wouldn't let them into the stock brokerage firm.

The evil forces don't usually assassinate analysts. Instead, they go after their opposite numbers in the spy game. In this game, the agency's record has been pretty pitiful ranging from painstakingly building a secret tunnel in Berlin only to find out later that the East Germans knew about it all along, to totally misrepresenting the Soviet economy, to not being able to find bin Laden.

The agency has been able to avoid responsibility for its history of failure largely because of a sycophantic media, some of which - hundreds during at least one period - were either directly in its employ or at its service. Given the contemporary lack of honor in the media, one might reasonably surmise that the day of the agency-embedded journalist has returned.

The CIA has all the virtues and failings of a government bureaucracy but without even the minimal open oversight that other departments get. During its history, only a tiny number of agents have been killed or endangered by the media. Its own failings, exercises in institutional machismo, career stuffing, and foolhardy fantasies have cost far more lives.

How many? Well, the notorious CIA official James Angleton said shortly before his death, "You know, the CIA got tens of thousands of brave people killed. . . We played with lives as if we owned them. We gave false hope. We - I - so misjudged what happened. . .

"Fundamentally, the founding fathers of US intelligence were liars. The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted. These people attracted and promoted each other. Outside their duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things, that in looking back on my life, I regret. But I was part of it and loved being in it. . . Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, Carmel Offie, and Frank Wisner were the grand masters. If you were in a room with them you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell. . . I guess I'll see them there soon."

So calm down and think about something else more important, say like the law known as the Constitution that George Bush broke - by failing to uphold it in his lies to the people and the Congress about Iraq.


posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 11:31:03 AM | link

SHOCKED AND APPALLED!!!
I'm shocked and appalled to discover that a
cabal-appointed panel has found that:
The United States must drastically increase and overhaul its public relations efforts to salvage its plummeting image among Muslims and Arabs abroad.
Gee, I wonder if invading and occupying Arab countries under false pretenses is on the list of "Things Not to Do." A clue as to the problem is supplied by some numbers.
The committee found that the State Department spent about $600 million last year on its programs to advocate American policies, and $540 million more for the Voice of America and other broadcast networks.

If the $100 million to expand economic aid in the Middle East is included, the report notes, the total is about three-tenths of a percent of the Defense Department budget.

That is, the propaganda budget is ten times the economic aid budget, both of which are mosquitos on the Defense Department budget elephant.

The report does offer some corking good entertainment, though.

Another panel delegate visited some of the worst slums in Casablanca, Morocco, Mr. Djerejian added. "She said it was your worst nightmare," he said of the delegate. "Those hovels all had no plumbing, but they all had satellite TV dishes. You know, Woody Allen said 90 percent of life is just showing up. In the Arab world, the United States just doesn't show up."
That last bit is the funniest one-liner I've heard in months.
posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 11:02:01 AM | link

THE ARMS BIZARRE
The News in Pakistan provides one reason why the planet is riddled with wars and violence and will remain so for the foreseeable future. You see, supposed blood brothers the U.S. and Israel are separately arming bitter enemies Pakistan and India, respectively, to the teeth. This allows the hostilities to not only be maintained but escalated, not to mention the increased opportunities for such weaponry to be diverted to other, less governmentally-attached groups. The bottom line is, of course, the bottom line, but I just don't have the mojo right now to track down just which cabal cronies are profiting from this.
Pakistan has demanded a defence system from the United States to counter the Indian acquisition of Phalcon air borne system from Israel.

Addressing a press conference after attending a meeting of the Pak-US Defence Consultative Group (DCG) in the US, Secretary Defence Lt General (retd) Hamid Nawaz said the US defence department agreed to the list of all the defence procurement items given by Pakistan except those which require approval of Congress.

He replied in affirmative when asked whether the list of defence items includes a system to counter Phalcon air borne system (AWACS) being acquired by India from Israel. "Special care has been given to this aspect," he said. However, he said that it would require a final approval from Congress.

Hamid said the conventional arms imbalance in South Asia would be corrected to some extent if Pakistan were provided the required items for its defence needs. "We have achieved a major breakthrough in acquisition of defence items from the US," he said.

The defence secretary said during the meeting, Pakistan conveyed its concerns to the US officials about defence deals between India and Israel. "We told the US officials that India is acquiring ammunition from Israel and deterioration of one side’s capability would be dangerous for peace and stability in South Asia," he remarked.
...


posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 10:57:34 AM | link

ABUSING THE KURDS, PART XXIII
The
Financial Times reminds us that the Iraqi Kurds - whose abuse by Saddam Hussein is one of the first post-WMD excuses trotted out to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq - are a bloody handshake away from being hunted down by their supposed liberators.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) , Turkey's prime minister, is wavering in his commitment to send troops to Iraq because he has not received firm assurances from the US that it will round up secessionist Kurds hiding in northern Iraq, according to a senior Turkish official.

General James Jones, commander of US forces in Europe, visited Turkey earlier this month to discuss the possible deployment of about 10,000 soldiers, but Mr Erdogan has continued to insist an agreement on Kurdish Workers party (PKK) separatists should be part of any deal.

"This is the key to the whole troop deployment business," the official said. "If the Americans do something about the PKK, the problem can be unlocked."
...

And just how close are the perennial political pawns of the BushCo syndicate to being propagandized as terr'ists rather than victims due to the unfortunate, grim realities of realpolick and geopolitical expedience?
...
Turkey is one of four countries Washington has been soliciting for a 10,000-strong division to take over from the 101st Airborne in central Iraq.

Colin Powell, US secretary of state, admitted at the weekend that the US had given up on one of the countries, India, and Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, last week indicated that hostile domestic opinion made it unlikely he could commit troops other than as part of a UN-endorsed Muslim force.

South Korea, the fourth country approached, is weighing the request.
...

Assuming that the South Korean government can't afford the political liability of sending their young off to die for foreign investors, that leaves Turkey as the last, best hope for the cabal to find alternative targets for the giddy, flower-bearing Iraqis who stubbornly refuse to see any difference when the bullets being fired at them have "freedom and democracy" written on them.
posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 10:13:20 AM | link

SHALLOW THROAT SPEAKS
Bernard Weiner has a chat with "Shallow Throat". Given the demonstrated willingness of the cabal to say or do anything to get and keep power, the electronic voting situation is critical.
...
"But there are a couple of provisos," replied Shallow Throat, with a grimace. "Al Qaida could bail out Bush again, if they're able to launch another huge attack inside the U.S. before next November. But, even if that never happens, the one fly in the ointment is the computer-voting scandal.

"This is a catastrophe waiting to happen on a grand scale; it's already happened on a smaller one. The vote-counting software is child's-play to break into and manipulate -- and the glory part is that you can do it without anybody being the wiser. The computer-voting issue, finally, is getting into the mainstream consciousness and media, and so it won't be as easy to hide the issue anymore. But unless the pressure is unrelenting and the demands so intense to fix this scandal -- the three companies that control most of the software are all tied into the Republican cause -- the results once again could be skewed to give Bush a victory that he didn't win. If that happens, it's political, and maybe actual, civil war.

"So you and your friends have to mount a huge campaign to either fix the system -- insure, by law, that the software is checked out and improved, and build in verifiable paper trails and exit polling -- or, if that doesn't happen, postpone use of computer-voting for 2004 and rely on old-fashioned paper ballots that can be tallied by hand.

"Don't count on the Bushies playing fair; if we've all learned anything during the past three years, it's that you can't trust these guys in the slightest. They'll do anything, and I mean anything, to get and stay in power. Get to work.

"The computer-voting machines are Bush&Co.'s final insurance. I'd suggest that more states at least follow Missouri's example and simply refuse to purchase the computer-voting machines without having complementary technology that provides a verifiable paper trail of who voted for whom. But, even if you have a paper receipt of your vote, the real keys are those vote-counting software codes, which the Republican companies refuse to let anyone near. A technician could tweak them in close races, the machine would spit out a paper receipt of votes cast, and still the outcome could have been rigged.

"If the companies won't permit outside examination and regulation of their vote-counting software, simply refuse to purchase or use the machines. Democracy has to be defended; one person, one vote, each vote counted -- without that, we might as well be living in Stalin's Soviet Union."
...


posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 09:37:15 AM | link

GOP TACTICS
Corrente (via, of course, Atrios) writes of the standard GOP tactics we're already seeing.
The standard GOP gambit when caught in yet another scandal is to define culpability as narrowly and irrelevantly as possible, and then shout vindication when they successfully stonewall investigation on that issue. This was successfully deployed in Iran-contra, where the failure to prove that the demented Regan "knew" of the sale of arms to a terrorist nation was used to paint the entire investigation as a witchhunt and ultimately justify Bush I's pardons. The dodge this time, as Lambert reminds us, is to shift the discussion onto leaks generally to minimize this particular one.
...

posted by Steven Baum 10/1/2003 09:25:39 AM | link

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

DESPERATION POOL
How about another pool predicting which reactionary toady - upon no longer being able to deny reality without his head exploding - will be the first to call for martial law to protect the president from his domestic enemies while we're at forever war with the evil terr'ists? Or, given the complete lack of evidence for any sort of ethical or moral limitations within the cabal, who will be the first commissar to bring up the topic? I'm putting a sawbuck on Rumsy. The best-case scenario - and one that still stinks - is that the whole lot of them will retire to their various palaces to enjoy their Cayman Islands stashes a decade ahead of schedule.
posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 04:25:28 PM |
link

ROVE THE INSIDIOUS TRAITOR
William Rivers Pitt weighs heavily in on the "operative or mere analyst" red herring promulgated by the frightened rats.
...
The facts of this story are singularly grotesque. Taken at the top layer, you have a White House that appears perfectly willing to go after the family members of its critics. Valerie Plame's career is destroyed, period. The act itself displays a level of viciousness that is dangerous to the functioning of this, or any, democracy.

Peel the second layer and you discover the rank illegality of it all. Section 421 of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 reads as follows:

"Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

The third layer is where the darkness truly lurks, and where the deadly importance of this situation lies. Valerie Plame was not simply an analyst or a data cruncher. She was an operative running a network dedicated to tracking any person or nation that might try to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. That sentence deserves to be written twice. She was an operative running a network dedicated to tracking any person or nation that might try to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.

The Bush administration pushed very hard the idea that America is in danger from WMD being placed into the hands of terrorists. This was one of the central arguments behind the war in Iraq. Yet in order to protect Bush's political standing, a couple of "administration officials" blew Valerie Plame, and by proxy her network, completely out of the water in an attempt to shut her husband up. In short, in order to protect Bush from the ramifications of using fake evidence to support his war, this White House destroyed an intelligence network that was protecting us from the threat posed by chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

We are less safe now that Valerie Plame is no longer performing this vital task, and the members of her network are in mortal danger of being revealed and destroyed. Beyond that, we are facing a level of hypocrisy that shatters any and all previously known boundaries. This administration ginned up a war in Iraq based upon manufactured evidence and wildly overstated threats, all of which was painted over with rhetoric about defending the country from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. The fate of Valerie Plame, and her network, shows without doubt that the moral standing of this administration is as empty as Saddam Hussein's WMD cache.

In Ambassador Wilson's words, "Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames."

The current spin from administration defenders within and without the mainstream media is that Valerie Plame was only an analyst, and not an operative. This, somehow, is supposed to lessen the blow of an administration willing to attack the families of its critics. Yet the characterization of Plame as an analyst is factually incorrect. For one, Robert Novak himself indicated that she was an operative in the original report that birthed this scandal. "Wilson never worked for the CIA," wrote Novak, "but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

Ray McGovern, who was for 27-years a senior analyst for the CIA, further confirms the status of Plame within the CIA. "I know Joseph Wilson well enough to know," said McGovern in a telephone conversation we had today, "that his wife was in fact a deep cover operative running a network of informants on what is supposedly this administration's first-priority issue: Weapons of mass destruction."

McGovern further elaborated on the damage done when such an agent has their cover blown. "This causes a great deal of damage," said McGovern. "These kinds of networks take ten years to develop. The reason why they operate under deep cover is that the only people who have access to the kind of data we need cannot be associated in any way with the American intelligence community. Our operatives live a lie to maintain these networks, and do so out of patriotism. When they get blown, the operatives themselves are in physical danger. The people they recruit are also in physical danger, because foreign intelligence services can make the connections and find them. Operatives like Valerie Plame are real patriots."
...
One last bit of inside baseball. When the Niger scandal erupted, the Bush administration went out of its way to blame the CIA for the mess, despite the fact that the CIA, along with the entire intelligence community, had been cut out of the loop by Don Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans. The OSP, and its pet Iraqi Ahmad Chalabi, became the source for all of the information regarding Iraq's weapons capabilities, and a number of intelligence insiders have publicly blamed that group for the preponderance of highly erroneous data about Iraq. For the Bush administration to completely usurp the CIA by depending solely on data manufactured by the Office of Special Plans, and then to turn around and blame CIA when the OSPs data did not turn out to be true, is as insane as it is laughable. Yet this is what they have done. The CIA's calling for this investigation is nothing more or less than the Agency defending itself, proving out the oft-repeated warning that one scapegoats the CIA at their mortal peril.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 04:23:15 PM | link

GEEZER SPAZZ
Via
wood s lot, I learn of the marvelous Nihilist Spasm Band.
posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 02:21:13 PM | link

MORE TAX CUTS FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
I really need to get one of those "Lost Your Job? You Need a Tax Cut!" t-shirts. Via
MaxSpeak, we learn of yet more tax cuts planned by Tom DeLay and the cabal. I guess they're just seeing how much looting they can put in place before even the most braindead of dittoheads looks out of his trailer window and, upon seeing his $40K pickup truck with the "Impeach Clinton" bumper sticker being repossessed by someone not obviously black, Jewish or hispanic, finally gets all three dozen neurons cranking sufficiently simultaneously to feel the boot being regularly applied to his netherparts by BushCo, the Looting Company, and joins the lynch mob that will escort them out of town. On the other hand, probably not. And even if that should happen, the economy will inevitably improve under the auspices of an administration whose first goal isn't looting, Cletus Bob will buy an even bigger truck with a even bigger gun rack, and slap even more "Kill the Liberals" stickers on it as his neurons regress to the rhythms of rant radio.
This analysis examines the status of congressional tax-cut legislation in the light of the deteriorating fiscal outlook. It finds that the House of Representatives has already approved additional tax cuts, beyond the tax-cut bill enacted in May, that would add more than $500 billion to deficits over the next ten years, and that further House tax cuts are in the pipeline. The analysis also finds that the Senate has been more cost-conscious and has increasingly moved to include “offsets” in its tax-cut bills. Some of these bills, however, would not yield a fiscally responsible outcome because they rely on budget gimmicks to make the costs of the tax cuts appear smaller than they will actually be over time. As a result of such gimmicks, the costs of the tax cuts in these Senate bills ultimately would exceed the savings from the offsets.
...

posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 02:14:44 PM | link

BRING ON THE DOCTOR
So how about a concerted effort to get Hunter S. Thompson to go full-time doing to this cabal what he did to the Nixon cabal?
posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 01:45:07 PM |
link

THE GREATEST IRONY
Juan Cole brings tears to my jaded eyes with some beautiful prose.
...
The outing of Ms. Plame as a CIA operative was an attempt to punish Joe Wilson and to send a strong signal to other potential whistle blowers. It is unpleasant to be outed as working for the CIA. It ends your career and makes it impossible to go on consulting in that field. It also potentially endangers large numbers of friends and associates, who are outed along with you. The vindictive character of the action is clear. One reporter told Joe Wilson that after the Novak piece appeared, Bush political strategist Karl Rove said, "Joe Wilson's wife is fair game." Wilson initially thought that Rove's remark might suggest that Rove himself authorized the leak. But on reflection he now admits that it is not conclusive, and Rove could simply have approved of the action ex post facto.

Since the Iraq War was a get-up job based entirely on fraudulent or shaky intelligence that was further slanted in their public presentation of it by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Bush, there must be many US government employees who could tell tales on the administration's dishonesty and incompetence. The White House officials who outed Ms. Plame were telling them that the full weight of the US government would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they dared do any such thing.
...
And that is the greatest irony of all. Ms. Plame, who really was working to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, has been ruined by persons who only pretended to do so for political gain, and whose invasion of Iraq did nothing to make the US one whit safer.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 01:43:49 PM | link

THE NEO-BOLSHIES
Here's a fun bit from the comments section over at
Crooked Timber.
Working theory for some time has been that Rove, DeLay et al. lead a wing of the Republican party that is best understood as essentially Bolshevik: power by any means necessary, power for its own sake, rigidly enforced ideological conformity, institutions are to be subverted or trampled, rules exist only for other people to follow, control of the cadres down to the lowest level is key. (Did y’all see the bit about how even doctors sent to Iraq had to be anti-abortion?) Add in politicization, at a new level, at places ranging from the Park Service and EPA through the DoD.

I’m all for glee - it’s about time these Bolshies got their comeuppance!

doug


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 01:36:56 PM | link

ARGUMENTS FOR A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR
The Left Coaster digs up some compelling arguments for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the White House, as supplied by the usual America-hating commie peacenik Al-Qaeda supporters.
"Given the obvious conflict of interest, however, it should be an independent counsel, and not you, who exercises such discretion."

Orrin Hatch, in a letter to Janet Reno on Dec. 3, 1997

"Appointment of an independent counsel to investigate both the president and the vice president is inevitable. The longer her delay in doing this, the longer it will take to get answers the American people deserve."

Henry Hyde, on Oct. 4, 1997

"At some point questions must be answered, if only to build confidence that a rigorous investigation is underway and that Justice isn't merely circling the wagons to defend the White House."

Henry Hyde, Apr. 15, 1997

"There is a clear conflict of interest when the attorney general appointed by the president is called upon to investigate possible illegal acts by the vice president or other high-ranking administration officials."

Trent Lott, on Apr. 15, 1997

The questions that flow from this Administration’s poor handling of these most serious allegations remind many of us why we so fervently called upon the Attorney General to appoint an independent counsel for these matters over the past years. Faced now with a public perception that this Administration is more interested in protecting itself than in enforcing the country’s campaign finance laws, we cannot help but question the Attorney General’s stubborn refusal on several different occasions to appoint an independent counsel, notwithstanding that the available evidence clearly and credibly raised the possibility of serious crimes by high-level government officials.

Had such an independent counsel appointment been made by the Attorney General, public confidence most assuredly would have been maintained in the handling of these campaign finance cases – no matter the ultimate disposition. This is because an independent counsel would have removed the conflict of interest caused by the participation of the Attorney General in a criminal investigation and prosecution in which she was closely identified with an elected official who was “substantially involved in the conduct that is the subject of the investigation.”

Orrin Hatch, on Aug. 4, 1999

"Our concern has been that you, and the Department of Justice generally, face an inescapable political conflict of interest in investigating campaign fundraising violations that may involve senior Administration officials. As you yourself have recognized in testimony before Congress, such a conflict inevitably arises whenever an Attorney General, appointed and removable by the President, is asked to investigate possible wrongdoing by senior Executive Branch officials.

The concern raised by such a conflict, and which motivated enactment of the Independent Counsel Statute, is that the Attorney General may not thoroughly and aggressively seek out the truth when doing so may be embarrassing or damaging to the President and his Administration."

Orrin Hatch and Henry Hyde, on July 24, 1998

"An authority higher than me and more independent than the attorney general needs to determine the scope of the various laws implicated by this conduct, and whether any of these laws were violated," "In my opinion, Attorney General Reno was presented with an ethical question – a question ultimately of whether the public can have confidence in this investigation."

Orrin Hatch, on Apr. 16, 1997


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 01:21:18 PM | link

TIMELINE
Enjoy the
Timeline of Events Surround the U.S. Invasion of Iraq, as compiled by Black Max. A whole lot more questions than answers.
posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 11:20:42 AM | link

A PRIVATIZED OCCUPATION
Ceara Donnelley and William D. Hartung provide further details about the corporate profiteering orgy that is the occupation of Iraq.
...
Some of jobs undertaken by the Bechtels and the Halliburtons- such as rebuilding water and electrical systems for instance are necessary and important. Yet as a nation and a democracy we must ponder seriously whether such private corporations, with firm connections to our leadership, are necessarily the ones who should be handed these jobs. The privatization of the United States military is not a new controversy. P.W. Singer’s new book Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2003) offers insights into the questions that should be asked about the unprecedented levels of privatization of military planning, training, construction, and services that were pursued during the Clinton/Gore administration and have been accelerated under the Bush/Cheney administration. If the experience thus far in Iraq is any indication, we clearly have a long way to go before we establish the appropriate balance between profits and patriotism in the use of private corporations to implement our national security strategy.

From a taxpayers’ perspective, the most important question is how many billions of dollars has our government paid private corporations to ensure a final victory in Operation Iraqi Freedom—whatever "victory" ultimately comes to mean?

What follows is a breakdown of the major corporations involved in Iraq from the incipient days of U.S. military action to the forthcoming years of rebuilding.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 11:10:27 AM | link

SURREALITIES
Matt Bivens tells us how the Baghdad Fire Department's being fitted out with everything they need for the cameras, except for actual fire-fighting equipment.
...
Once the Iraqis at the Baghdad Fire Department's largest station learn English, they'll be able to read the English-language "Baghdad Fire Department" T-shirts we've decked their employees in. The BFD seems to be a symbol for our whole approach, by the way: US taxpayers have paid for a repainting of the station, new beds, air conditioners, office equipment, a television and a DVD player, reports ABC Nightly News. So the BFD probably on the surface looks more luxurious than most American fire stations. But ABC reports, that "after doing their best for the cameras, the firefighters told us there were still no replacements for the fire engines and protective gear taken by looters just after the war. 'I'm happy the Americans helped us,' said one of them. 'But if I'm going to fight fires, I'm going to need better clothing than a T-shirt. It's nylon and will burn right off.' "

Sorry, did our shock & awe campaign cost you your fire trucks? Here, have a million-dollar T-shirt. And smile for the nice Americans back home.
...

He also details the origins of the Halliburton feeding frenzy at the government trough.
...
The Washington Post reports: 'The practice of delegating a vast array of [Pentagon] logistics operations to a single contractor dates to the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and a study commissioned by Cheney, then defense secretary, on military outsourcing. The Pentagon chose Brown and Root to carry out the study and subsequently selected the company to implement its own plan. Cheney served as chief executive of Brown and Root's parent company, Halliburton, from 1995 to 2000, when he resigned to run for the vice presidency.'

He's in government, and he hires Halliburton to study whether to feed more money to Halliburton. Then, as the Pentagon money rolls into Halliburton, Cheney leaves government to take over as top dog at Halliburton. A few years later, Cheney returns to government -- with a monster severance check from Halliburton -- and lo and behold! His government starts feeding monster contracts to Halliburton. It stinks.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 10:56:00 AM | link

NEOCON-ARTIST The Independent gets around to reporting what some have known for a good long time: that embezzler Ahmed Chalabi is nothing more than an extremely well-paid neocon-artist. The cabal has admitted to giving him and the INC $100 million, and who knows how much more has been shoved at them under the table. That's another $100+ million that won't be spent on the disabled veterans whose numbers grow every day thanks to president blow monkey and the rest of the neocon chickenhawks whose only discernible skill is turning other people's blood, toil, tears and sweat into personal gain.
Information from Iraqi defectors made available by Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress before the US invasion was of little or no use, a Pentagon intelligence review shows.

The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) said defectors introduced to US intelligence agents by the organisation invented or exaggerated their claims to have personal knowledge of the regime and its alleged weapons of mass destruction. The US paid more than $1m for such information.

In 1998, Congress provided $97m to the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the London-based group that claimed to be an umbrella organisation for Iraqi interests. Its chairman, Mr Chalabi, is president of Iraq's Governing Council.

The defectors were interviewed before the warin various European capitals and the Kurdish-controlled city of Arbil in northern Iraq. Defectors were also made available to newspapers and magazines which reported stories about the cruelty of Saddam's regime and his efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

But the DIA review, mentioned in a leaked letter to Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defence for intelligence, makes clear that no more than a third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore even these leads were generally unproductive.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 10:45:15 AM | link

WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION
Via
Progressive Review, we find an excerpt from a Harpers's article by John Taylor Gatto that reveals the goals of the educational system.
...
Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, 'The Child, the Parent, and the State,' and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modem schools we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary."

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.

Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

  1. The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. . .
  2. The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
  3. The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
  4. The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. . .
  5. The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. . .
  6. The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor. . .

...

posted by Steven Baum 9/30/2003 10:29:14 AM | link

Monday, September 29, 2003

DELAY's FOLLIES
Michael King details the latest in the redistricting follies being perpetrated by Tom DeLay and his loyal lapdog Tom Craddick in the Texas legislature.
...
The House passed its congressional re-redistricting map in the wee hours of Sept. 17, following an extraordinary Tuesday in which it convened, adjourned, reconvened, recessed, and reconvened in order to lay out bills for discussion on the "three several days" required by the Texas Constitution. That is, there were not exactly three several days, but there was precious little discussion either, so perhaps it did not matter much that Speaker Tom Craddick gaveled the chamber back to order a little after midnight in order to pass out the map, HB 3, officially sponsored by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and passed previously in special called sessions No. 1 and No. 2. (Seven rural Republicans voted bravely against the plan; two Democrats voted for it.) The map has acquired the nickname "The Pancake Plan," after the stack of congressional districts it piles up in West Texas in order to accomplish the speaker's goal of basing one in his hometown of Midland.

Midnight sessions are a commonplace at the end of a session, but highly unusual in the first week. But the speaker is in a hurry -- ostensibly to evade any maneuvers House Democrats may have planned for him, but more significantly right now to outpace the Senate. Should the Republicans remain deadlocked on the West Texas districts, Craddick will presumably be able to point to his ready stack of pancakes and say, "Here's your order, Mr. DeLay." Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, who stands in Craddick's way, dismisses any pressure as well as the notion that, should redistricting fail, he is being set up to be "the fall guy." Accordingly, on Friday, after additional public testimony before Duncan's Senate Jurisprudence Committee, the committee approved on party lines (4-3) the map authored by Todd "Fair and Balanced" Staples, R-Palestine, which cobbles at least three new Republican districts out of East Texas but essentially leaves West Texas, and especially Lubbock, in its rearview mirror. It's good to be the chairman.

The House Redistricting Committee dispensed with the formality of public testimony altogether this time, no doubt because it gets tiresome to hear witness after witness denounce what one fully intends to do regardless. Instead, the House saved time and consternation by voting to pretend it had heard testimony, by means of House Resolution 43, which declares that in its earlier sessions the committee had "held public hearings throughout the state" regarding congressional redistricting and that the latest plan is "substantially identical" to those passed in the first two special sessions. Unfortunately, as Waco Democratic Rep. Jim Dunnam pointed out acerbically and Rep. King acknowledged grudgingly, under this definition "throughout the state" did not include South Texas beyond San Antonio; in any case the committee had heard no testimony on the map that it had actually passed. "This House should not be passing into law statements that are not true," said Dunnam. Along party lines, 83-54 (with the exceptions of Democrats Ron Wilson of Houston and Vilma Luna of Corpus Christi), the House disagreed with him.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 03:33:08 PM | link

DEL CASTILLO
I have seen the future of music, and it is
Del Castillo. I had the great pleasure of hearing them - live or otherwise - for the first time last night at the 2nd Annual KEOS Volunteer Jam. The band is tight and hotter than molten lead onstage, and whipped the all-too-small crowd into a proper frenzy. Even I was seen to have raised an eyebrow in fascination. They're led by and named for brothers Rick and Mark Del Castillo, who play flamenco-style (mostly) acoustic guitar. They play them damned well, too, a fact observed by others.
Instrumentals like Para Mi Sobrina and Yiddish March highlight the phenomenal talent of the Del Castillo brothers. Two of the things that have made a huge impression on me about Del Castillo really sink in when you see them live. On both Brothers of the Castle and Vida there are times where the guitar sounds exceptionally rich, even more than usual. Seeing them live, you realize that the brothers are playing in unison—arms and fingers moving in total synchronization. This would not be as impressive if it weren't for the complicated arrangements that they perform. The second thing that blows me away is the sheer speed at which they play at times. While one hand is a blur, the other is moving up and down the neck of the guitar with specific intent and precision.
...
The three-man rhythm section isn't lacking in talent, either. Del Castillo practically swept the 2002-2003 Austin Music Awards, and their "Dias de los Angeles" is featured on the soundtrack to Robert Rodriquez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Their two albums - "Brothers of the Castle" and "Vida" - aren't available on Amazon but can be purchased through their web site, at which you can also hear samples of their music. I haven't been impressed this much by a band since I first heard Los Lobos back in 1984. Music Bob sez try em' out.
posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 03:04:48 PM | link

PAYDAY FOR THE CABAL
Senator Robert Byrd discusses the cabal's request for $87 billion more for Halliburton, er, Iraq.
...
The Bush Administration's single-minded focus on Iraq has ignored, in large respect, the terrorist threat that produced the attack of September 11, 2001. The leader of that attack on our shores has not been found. Eyes have been trained solely on Iraq, while we remain vulnerable here at home. Many of us on this Committee have tried to better protect the American people from future terrorist attack. But, time after time, the Administration has actively opposed efforts to boost homeland security funds. In this request, however, the Bush Administration seems very willing to back Iraqi homeland security dollars.

The Administration fought against a $200 million boost for America's police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. But Iraqi first responders would get $290 million through this supplemental.

Last Wednesday, I along with Representatives David Obey and Martin Sabo offered an amendment to the homeland security appropriations conference report that would have provided $125 million to hire 1,300 customs inspectors on America's borders. That amendment was rejected as too expensive. Yet, on the exact same day, the President sent Congress this emergency request for $150 million for 5,350 border inspections personnel including 2,500 customs inspectors -- in Iraq.
...

Further details on great profit opportunities for the Cabal are provided by the Washington Post.
A new curriculum for training an Iraqi army for $164 million. Five hundred experts, at $200,000 each, to investigate crimes against humanity. A witness protection program for $200,000 per Iraqi participant. A computer study for the Iraqi postal service: $54 million.
...
Those details include $100 million to build seven planned communities with a total of 3,258 houses, plus roads, an elementary school, two high schools, a clinic, a place of worship and a market for each; $10 million to finance 100 prison-building experts for six months, at $100,000 an expert; 40 garbage trucks at $50,000 each; $900 million to import petroleum products such as kerosene and diesel to a country with the world's second-largest oil reserves; and $20 million for a four-week business course, at $10,000 per student.
...
Already, the administration's request for $400 million to build two 4,000-bed prisons at $50,000 a bed has raised enough questions in Congress to force Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremer to explain that cement must be imported to make concrete.

"We're not talking sanity here," Dyer said. "The world's second-largest oil country is importing oil, and a country full of concrete is importing concrete."
...

The opportunities for profiteering are seemingly boundless, with some GOP flunkies damned near admitting as much,
...
Some Republican aides say the numbers may be more defensible than they sound because the budget is not quite real. They suggest the administration has inflated costs, in part to avoid having to come back next year for a new emergency spending bill, and in part so they can skim some of the money for classified military efforts.

And many congressional Republicans quietly say they will never challenge the president's request in public. To do so, they say, would risk an intraparty rift that could endanger Bush's reelection efforts as well as their own.
...

One wonders how many more congressfolks will be willing to challenge the administration once Karl Rove - the cabal's chief capo - is led away in chains for his inelegant and transparent attempt to punish Ambassador Wilson for being unwilling to lie for the cause.
posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 11:40:13 AM | link

RUMSY COMMITS (FINANCIAL) FRAUD
The
St. Petersburg Times details how the Pentagon, i.e. Rumsy, is fraudulently stashing taxpayer money. And if it's being done at one military base, it's probably being done at all of them. Rumsy and the neocon cabal would have no use for only a paltry $20 million.
The U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base inflated budget proposals at the Pentagon's request last year to hide $20-million from Congress, according to documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.

Special Operations officials divided the money among six projects so the money would not attract attention. They also instructed their own budget analysts not to mention it during briefings with congressional aides, the documents show.

The Pentagon's inspector general has launched an investigation. House Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo, said he will ask Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a hearing Tuesday whether the Pentagon intentionally deceived Congress.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 11:30:30 AM | link

TIME TO PITCH ROVE OVER THE SIDE
Al Martin identified Karl Rove as the leaker at the start of September. Today, Josh Marshall supplies the following:
"Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted."

Why Are These Men Laughing
Ron Suskind

Look for Rove's hand puppet to call for a special investigation by an independent prosecutor like, say, Kenneth Starr. Actually, don't. This pack of two-bit liars and trillion-bit thieves no doubt plan to stonewall this until hell freezes over, and with Tom DeLay et al. controlling Congress, Big Tony the Supreme Court, and the media lapdogs and/or co-conspirators still wagging their tails in hope of another scooby snack, there's not much that can be done to stop them. Not to mention the nagging concern - which I recently discovered was shared by others - about the limits (or lack thereof) to which these rats will go if they're trapped.
posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 10:02:59 AM | link

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
Atrios is definitely the place to go to follow the developing scandal resulting from the cabal's outing of an ambassador's wife as a CIA agent in an attempt to punish him for ideological incorrectness. This probably won't bring the bastards down, but it will at least give them a couple of black eyes and some bruised kidneys. An Atrios reader supplies some technical details about the dirty trick or, to put it more accurately, the crime perpetrated by the cabal. Had anything remotely like this occurred during the previous administration, the shrieks emanating from the usual suspects would have broken every piece of non-tempered glass in the land, and more than a few of the tempered ones. Expect to hear the same shrieking hellbats of the right who howled about following the sacred letter of the law back in 1998 to commence bloviating out of the other side of their pieholes. An interesting if obvious exercise would be to dig up the opinions of the loudest apologists vis a vis outing CIA agents about someone not on Scaife's payroll, e.g. Philip Agee. If you can't find the phrases "high treason" and "death penalty" almost immediately then you're just not trying.
What would have happened if Valerie Plame’s name and affiliation had turned up in a Beijing newspaper column written by the Chinese Communist equivalent of Robert Novak? Well, there would be an immediate internal CIA investigation. The Director of Central Intelligence is required to notify FBI counterintelligence when certain national security information is compromised, and I believe this is one of those instances. Those investigations and notifications are mandatory, not optional, and the scope of investigation is criminal in nature.

Intelligence sources and methods are protected as Special Compartmented Information (that’s what it’s called, SCI) and specific sources are assigned random code words. Access to SCI is very tightly controlled. In addition to having the appropriate security clearance and investigation level, you must be nominated by name for further vetting, for a specific SCI/codeword program. Then you get indoctrinated into the program, briefed, and you sign shitloads of non-disclosure agreements. When you leave the program, you get debriefed and sign another shitload of non-disclosure agreements.

Every SCI/SI/code word program has a huge paper trail for the precise purpose of identifying a leak. Probably lots intelligence consumers in the government had access to Plame’s work product on WMD, although they didn’t know where the data came from. A few analysts who produced those reports knew her code word, so they could assess source reliability. Very few people knew her name, code word and associated work product, maybe one or two in the White House, and George Tenet knows exactly who they are because there is a paper trail.

Just as if Plame’s name and affiliation had appeared in that Beijing newspaper, Novak’s column should have triggered both FBI notification and investigation, and probably did. I’m guessing that the White House is stonewalling that investigation. Some people call that obstruction of justice.


posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 09:48:15 AM | link

HEH
Via
Atrios, we discover an AFP item detailing how Arab expertise is lacking amongst the post-invasion force because most of the experts couldn't make it through a series of ideological purity tests administered by the neocon cabal. That the occupation wouldn't consist entirely of flower bouquets, victory feasts and free prostitutes for the neocon instigators apparently never received serious consideration.
Iraq (news - web sites)'s stubborn guerrilla war, electrical blackouts, looting and chaos were born in Washington -- as US officials missed cues and battled over ideology, said a report.

"What do we mean by 'regime change,' anyway?" military commander Tommy Franks asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- in the midst of the war, according to the issue of Newsweek that goes on sale Monday.

Franks and most of the Pentagon were focused on winning the war, which they did. But, the newsweekly said, the occupation was a second thought.

One example is the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"CPA stands for the Condescending and Patronizing Americans," a Baghdad diplomat told Newsweek.

"So there they are, sitting in their palace: 800 people, 17 of whom speak Arabic. One is an expert on Iraq."

What happened to the Iraq experts? According to Newsweek, Rumsfeld ordered 16 of the 20 Pentagon staffers picked to go to Baghdad be cut because they were "Arab apologists," had positive opinions of the United Nations (news - web sites) or other opinions not acceptable to the neo-conservatives running the US government.

Rumsfeld's interference "got so bad that even doctors sent to restore medical services had to be anti-abortion," a member of the original team said.
...


posted by Steven Baum 9/29/2003 09:39:55 AM | link


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