Wednesday, June 30, 2004

270: Fuck Florida 

Just looking over the electoral college map, which I may do religiously from now on, there's a pretty good chance that Kerry can lose Florida and still beat Bush.

Here's the states Kerry needs, in order of his likelihood of getting them.

State / Kerry % / Bush % / Nader % / Undecided % /

Massachusetts 54/30/5/11
Illinois 53/37/4/7
New York 52/34/7/5
Maryland 52/38/2/8
California 51/39/4/6
Vermont 51/36/4/9
Maine 49/39/3/9
Winnipeg 49/25/5/21
Ohio 49/43/2/6
Iowa 46/42/3/9
Oregon 44/39/4/13
Minnesota 44/41/2/13
Connecticut 46/36/8/10
New Jersey 46/40/7/7
Washington State 46/42/2/10
Delaware (N/A)
Washington DC (N/A)
Hawaii (N/A)
West Virginia 47/44/3/6
Michigan 45/43/3/9
Pennsylvania 44/43/7/5

That's 270. There is also room for a New Hampshire / Delaware switch, but New Hampshire tends to run red far too often for my personal tastes, so I gave it to Bush. If Bush makes any gains in Pennsylvania, then Kerry is cooked unless he has Florida. Even New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and New Mexico going Blue wouldn't fix it.

Mohammad Ali Abtahiniacs? 

Not sure if you knew this, but Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a Muslim Cleric and a Vice President of Iran, has a blog. And it's really good. I don't know much about him, but his penchant for bad jokes, interest in liberal reform and support of young people, coupled with a blog and a fondness for text messaging, make me think of him as an Iranian Cleric version of Howard Dean.

It's roughly translated, but some of my favorites include a Western Journalist interested in Government Internet Filtration software for her home, so her kids can't go to certain sites (he's against web filtering in Iran), a Seinfeld-esque entry, and last but certainly not least, the broken chair TV interview.

"To be fair I should say that it was not only the chair's fault but also being overweight was a more effective cause of breaking the innocent chair!! Its better that I say it before you do!! Isn't it?

Can you imagine Dick Cheney writing that?

Nader Is An Asshole 

This won't be another anti-Democracy rant about how Nader shouldn't be allowed to run. Instead, I just want to point out this, an open letter to Michael Moore, which concludes with:

Your old friends remain committed to blazing paths for a just society and world. As they helped you years ago, they can help you now. They are also trim and take care of themselves. Girth they avoid. The more you let them see you, the less they will see of you. That could be their greatest gift to Moore the Second- the gift of health. What say you?

Now, I don't really know what the deal is with calling Michael Moore fat, or why Moore's weight is a big enough issue for Nader to consider talking about in the political arena. While fat jokes go at Rush Limbaugh and Moore from both sides of America's Aisles, one has to wonder how much political sense it makes to insult anyone for sharing something with 76% of the American Population. But this is the traditional Nader methodolgy: self righteousness, which could, in fact, be actual righteousness, makes him love an idealized America at the expense of understanding the actual America.

But Nader isn't the only asshole. In Oregon, 1100 Democrats went to a Nader rally and refused to sign the petitions to get Nader on the ballot. Instead of the 2000 people they expected to sign, which would have earned Nader a slot in Oregon, only the 900 seats were filled with people willing to sign the petition. Anyone else who wanted to sign it wasn't given the opportunity thanks to this Democratic Party twist on Republican "Blackwashing" of voter registration records in Florida.

It should be patently clear: The Democratic party should not be deliberately attempting to undermine the Democratic process if it wants to claim the right to authenticity when it inevitably complains about the dirty manipulations of GOP Scumbags in Florida. You stand for free and fair elections and an uninterrupted Democratic process, or else you don't.

Monday, June 28, 2004

"Fahrenheit 9/11": All Oil, No Sauce 

Alright, so, after three days of being sold out I finally went to see Michael Moore's movie. While I had been told that people left the theater infuriated, all I could really do at the end is say, "That's it?" People accuse Moore of going too far. He didn't nearly go far enough.

Part of it was timing. Where was the Abu Ghraib Torture scandal? Probably about a month after Moore was in the editing room. That the question of authorization was never addressed- and that the only abuse of prisoners is essentially glossed over with a "good people do bad things under bad leaders", the movie failed to make the real case for what might be the biggest blow to American Integrity in over forty years.

But there is also the matter of missing footage. For example, contrast the close ups of dead Iraqi Civilians and the Bush's statement of regret for those killed in the line of duty with his behavior at the Press Club Dinner some time ago. Showing slides of himself looking around the oval office, Bush joked, "Those Weapons of Mass Destruction have got to be around here somewhere!" to the roaring guffaws of all in attendance.

Moore also glosses over the entire issue of Guantanamo, The Outing of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent working in the field of nuclear terrorism, the Bush relationship with the media (Bush essentially cancelled the media). They don't mention the forging of UAEA documents or that we spied on UN officials in the lead up to the war.

He also doesn't show Bush falling off of the Segway scooter, which I admit is a cheap shot but also totally hilarious.

Moore also makes some weak points. Saddam "never threatened the life of any American" is kind of a rough call when Saddam was literally shooting at the Air Force daily as they flew over the no-fly zone in Northern Iraq; Moore also mentions the Hussein plot to kill Bush Sr. Otherwise, the movie is accurate, as far as I can tell. While it seems to work- people leave the movie energized- I am afraid that it paints Bush as only a partial smidgen of the total and absolute failure he is, the worst son of a bitch to sit in a chair and broadcast venom from the oval office since Jackson's Trail of Tears or the legacy of Manifest Destiny.

See it, by all means. But just remember: Bush isn't as good a President as Moore makes him out to be.

Two Days In Advance, Transfer of Power in Iraq 

The Nation of Iraq (A Halliburton Subsidiary) was handed over to the Puppet Government (leaders who were selected by people who were selected by Americans) two days ahead of schedule, and, like all Democracies, without the Iraqi Public's knowledge and with the caveat that they will probably be under Martial Law sometime later this afternoon. Bremer read a statement that said, "The Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist on June twenty-eighth. At that point, the occupation will end."

Here's some of what we all have to look forward to now that the "occupation has ended":

More than 130,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country with wide latitude to mount operations to combat an increasingly violent insurgency. A temporary constitution also limits the interim government's power to basic civil administration and preparations for national elections. While ordinary Iraqis regard the handover as symbolically important, it will not result in many immediate changes for them. U.S. forces will continue to conduct raids and house searches. Iraqi government ministries will operate in much the same way they did while under occupation.

Of course the "transfer of power" is really just the "transfer of responsibility for the inevitable onset of Martial Law", which Bush seems mighty proud of:

Asked whether he thought that imposing martial law was something an emerging government should do, particularly with American forces that will remain in Iraq, Mr. Bush said that Dr. Allawi "may decide he is going to have to take tough measures." America's job, he said, is to help the Iraqis "deal with these thugs."

It seems Iraqi enthusiasm could be more exuberant:

There were was no cathartic firing of AK-47's in to the air, as there had been just hours after the Americans announced the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, or even in the aftermath of soccer matches and weddings. Today, the streets were not filled with the cacophonous, celebratory honking of car horns, nor with crowds parading the Iraqi flag.

Probably the only people excited about this are FOX News and Bush Campaign Interns. Juan Cole reminds us that there is, in fact, some good news: Paul Bremer is out of Iraq. But Cole also writes:

Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration.

I'm not really looking forward to seeing Aaron Brown tonight. I don't know how pretty Iraq is going to get over the next 24 hours.

Family Values 

With thousands of Republicans set to invade the city this summer, high-priced escorts and strippers are preparing for one grand old party.

Agencies are flying in extra call girls from around the globe to meet the expected demand during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 gathering at Madison Square Garden.

"We have girls from London, Seattle, California, all coming in for that week," said a madam at a Manhattan escort service. "It's the week everyone wants to work."

"It's going to be big," agreed one operator at a midtown escort service.
- New York Daily News

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Keep In Mind the Source 

Tehran Times:

The UAE-based daily Al-Khaleej reported on Monday that Kuwaiti tariff officials have intercepted a truck loaded with radioactive materials in the Iraq-Kuwait border. The daily quoted informed sources as saying that the radioactive control team from Kuwaitis Health Ministry discovered that one of the trucks belonging to the U.S.-led coalition forces was carrying heavy radioactive materials trucks. The trucks were headed for Iraq.

No one else is reporting it and, frankly, I don't know why Al-Jazeera wouldn't report it if the claim originated in a UAE newspaper. So, probably bogus.

The Onion Strikes 

The Onion Strikes once. The Onion strikes twice.

Just So You Know... 

When your boring, Fox News watching, Bush-Cheney 04 Bumper Sticker On His SUV-Putting, "Iraq War" Tee Shirt Wearing uncle calls you up to tell you that the bastard liberal New York Times found this:

"Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990's were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq."

Make sure to tell him that they also found this:

The document states that Iraq agreed to rebroadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, and that a request from Mr. bin Laden to begin joint operations against foreign forces in Saudi Arabia went unanswered. There is no further indication of collaboration.

Shorter: Saddam Hussein agreed with Al Qaeda to broadcast anti-Saudi propaganda, but when Bin Laden wanted his help attacking foreign military in Saudi Arabia, Hussein blew him off.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Cheney Pulls a Kerry 

On Tuesday, Cheney, serving in his role as president of the Senate, appeared in the chamber for a photo session. A chance meeting with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, became an argument about Cheney's ties to Halliburton Co., an international energy services corporation, and President Bush's judicial nominees. The exchange ended when Cheney offered some crass advice.

"Fuck yourself," said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency.
- WaPo

But what would J. Grant Swank, Jr say?

What The Fuck? 

The Bush Cheney Website has a new ad up. Literally, this is what it is:

Shot: Al Gore
"How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Husseins Torture Prison?"

Shot: Adolf Hitler
"Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!"

On Screen, Text: "What were war crimes in 1945..."

Shot: George W Bush
On Screen, Text: "Is Foreign Policy in 2004..."

Shot: Howard Dean
"I want my country back!"

Shot: Michael Moore
"We live in a time when we have a man, sending us to war for ficticious reasons..."

Shot: Dick Gephardt
"This president is a miserable failure"

Shot: Adolf Hitler
In the text, "God told me to strike at Al Qaeda...and I struck them..."

Shot: George W Bush
"And then he told me to strike at Saddam Hussein..."

Shot: Al Gore
"He betrayed this country! He played on our fears!"

Shot: John Kerry
"Today, George Bush will lay off your camel, tax your shovel, kick your ass and tell you there is no promised land..."

On screen text: "This is not a time for pessimism and rage..."

(Sunny music swells up, picture of George W Bush)

On Screen Text: "It's a time for optimism, steady leadership, and progress." (Paid for by Bush Cheney 04)

I am seriously not making this shit up.

Help Out WIth My New Internet Piece 

So, I am doing a new project, and I need your help. Basically, I am looking for pictures of people watching news about Iraq or Afghanistan on television. These pictures don't have to be good, and they don't even have to include you in them, though that is fine. Anything is fine as long as there is a television with the news about Iraq on in the background, I don't care if its you eating chicken or a three year olds birthday party or just a shot of your living room with the TV on, I just need a picture of your television set when the news comes on. (And it shouldn't be a "staged" set up, either.)

These will be utilized, in full or in part, on the website, "". We are not looking for artistic, stylized pieces. Snapshots, blurry photos, bad lighting are acceptable. Credit will be given if used.

Send all submissions, clearly marked "our nation at war" in the subject header, to:

one38 (@)

Thanks a bunch.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bush - Zarqawi in '04 

CIA Agent still employed and anonymous, on how that War on Terror is going.

He calls the war in Afghanistan an unfolding nightmare.

"We're faced with a long term insurgency there and at some point, as I write in the book, we're going to have to decide to leave the country or greatly augment the size of the forces we have there."

He also says the invasion and occupation of Iraq has only made it easier for bin Laden to recruit more followers who see the U.S. as an aggressive, infidel power.

"If Osama was a Christian, it was the Christmas present no one ever expected to get," says the author of the Iraq invasion.

Nader Wants Edwards 

Nader, a long-time consumer advocate and nemesis of corporate America, praised Edwards, a former trial lawyer who made a fortune suing big business, for his work on behalf of those wronged and defrauded by corporations.

Edwards' communication skills and media savvy would also be an asset to the Kerry campaign, Nader's letter said.
-NY Times

And let's not neglect the fact that Nader announced his own VP, Peter Camejo.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Brunswick Ten 

Protesters arrested in Glynn County last week during the Group of 8 Sea Island Summit continue to withhold their names from officials and remain in jail. To them, it's a show of solidarity. But it's a strategy Glynn County Sheriff Wayne Bennett has seen before.

"When a person gives a Jane or John Doe, it's normally a matter of hours when they realize they cannot get out of jail that they will give us that information," Bennett said. That hasn't happened, though. Of 18 protesters arrested last week on charges that include criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway and refusing to disperse, 10 remain at the county detention center. They cannot be bonded out until they are identified. It costs approximately $45 to house an individual each day in jail, according to Glynn County officials. Refusing to release their names is intended to draw attention, said Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild.

"It's a conscious decision. The purpose is to send a message that if, for example, the arrests seem to be unlawful or if there was harsh treatment by law enforcement ... that they protest the efforts of law enforcement," she said.

You can read about it in the Brunswick News, but what's really interesting is that these protesters have set up an Audio Blog, where they are phoning in blog entries from jail. I do wish the text portion of the blog would explain the situation better. Particularly, what they did and why they were arrested in the first place would be nice to know, though Indymedia of Tampa Bay (warning- apparently this story isn't important enough for indymedia to spellcheck) have the following explanation of the arrest:

When they finally arrived at the police barricade, just past a local Sea Island shopping center, the activists were told that if they crossed the police barricade they would be arrested. Rather than attempt a direct action to break through the barricade, as has at times occurred at other G8 demonstrations, the approximately 75 activists remained where they were. Those 15 who were arrested chose to sit down in front of the police blockade in a peaceful demonstration of opposition to the policies and procedures the G8 represent.

If anyone can verify this account, that would be nice.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Every Petition is a Record Review 

A popular theory among conspiracy theorists lately is that the Bush Administration's campaign in Iraq isn't a grab for oil or a grab for history, but rather an attempt at creating a so-called manageable chaos in the Middle East. It's hardly an unprecedented idea: By propping up a flimsy, illegitimate regime beholden to foreign interests, Iraq will mire in an insurrectionary climate, and our country will gain the justification it needs to continue its interference in the region. The paradox, of course, is that chaos, by definition, is highly unmanageable; inevitably, the contradiction doesn't always pan out, and ours is looking more and more like such a case.

If manageable chaos is what Bush and his cabal were angling for, they'd have been wise to take a page from The Dirty Projectors, whose songs consistently threaten to implode under the weight of their own ambitions, yet always manage to hold it together.

From the Pitchfork review of the "Dirty Projectors" Album. It continues, but it seems like the weirdest intro to a record review I've seen in a while.

Speaking of the AP 

AP Sues Bush Over National Guard Records.

Thank God this is coming back. Bush managed to change the subject by coming out for the Gay Marriage Amendment back when it came up the first time (Thanks, you'll recall, to Michael Moore). Maybe this time he'll Nuke Cleveland.

Torture Memo 

Good News! Remember that 56 page memo that gave Bush full control over the decision to torture or not torture prisoners, as well as finding any loopholes that would allow legal variations on torture? Well today the Bush administration announced that it will be "replaced" with a "new memo." While you ponder just what the hell that is supposed to mean, and why it is supposed to make a shred of difference, there was also an interesting revelation from the White House that Rumsfeld authorized stripping prisoners naked and threatening them with dogs.

Bush, meanwhile, managed to wipe his ass clean by pretending that his statements on Afghanistan had anything to do with Iraq, saying, "I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time". Of course, whether he approved it later (or not) isn't included in today's "memo-dump" from the White House.

By the way, the New York Times Article doesn't mention any of this stuff, but it's all over the AP report.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Musgrave v Matsunaka 

Marilyn Musgrave, the Colorado Congresswoman who introduced the Gay Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, is up for re-election this year. Just a friendly reminder that this is her, talking to Gavin Newsom on Larry King Live back in February:

MUSGRAVE: Are you going to have a polygamy day? Are you going to have a group marriage day? How far is this going to go, Mr. Mayor? I'd just like to know how far you're going to go in defining the law. And please answer that. Is polygamy OK?

NEWSOM: It's -- you know, it's the typical red herring, and it's almost stale rhetoric. It's the same rhetoric to get off the fundamental...

MUSGRAVE: It's a legitimate question.

NEWSOM: ... the right of two -- the right of two people...

MUSGRAVE: Is polygamy OK?

NEWSOM: ... to come together...

MUSGRAVE: If you blur the lines of the definition of marriage, Mr. Mayor, how far do you go? I'm really interested. Do you support polygamy?

NEWSOM: I don't support discrimination, and I feel I have an obligation to protect and preserve...

MUSGRAVE: You haven't answered the question.

So, here's her competition: Stan Matsunaka. Go, like, give him money, or something, yeah?

Don't Ask, Don't Tell 

"After putting my life on the line in the war, the idea that I was fighting for the freedoms of so many other people that I couldn't myself enjoy was almost unbearable." - Brian Muller, an Army bomb squad team leader who served on a security detail for President Bush. Muller was discharged from the military after admitting to a superior office that he was a homosexual.

770 soldiers were discharged last year because of the policy.

The Schools! 

The following story is so good and heartbreaking, I don't know how to summarize it, and I don't want to be snarky either. You should read the whole thing, but for the lazy among us, here is a chopped down version:

John Agresto was a self described Neo Conservative who went to Iraq with the idea that Democracy was going to work, and that a key to that Democracy, and a key to establishing goodwill with Americans, would be to invest in the education of Iraqis.

"Like everyone else in America, I saw the images of people cheering as Saddam Hussein's statue was pulled down. I saw people hitting pictures of him with their shoes," said Agresto, the former president of St. John's College in New Mexico. "Once you see that, you can't help but say, 'Okay. This is going to work.'"

But after mortar attacks, threats by insurgents against his staff (which consisted of Iraqis), His plans to repair hundreds of campus buildings were scuttled by the Bush administration's decision to shift reconstruction efforts and by the failure to raise money from other sources. His hope that Iraqis would put aside differences and personal interests for a common cause was, as he put it, "way too idealistic."

"I'm a neoconservative who's been mugged by reality," Agresto said as he puffed on a pipe next to a resort-size swimming pool behind the marbled palace that houses the occupation authority. "We can't deny there were mistakes, things that didn't work out the way we wanted," he added. "We have to be honest with ourselves."

Agresto wanted $1.2 billion of the money Congress approved for Reconstruction. But he got $8 Million. He asked for 130,000 desks, he got 8,000.

" "We're not buying books for the libraries. We're not buying saws and nails for the technical institutes. We're not replacing the computers that were stolen. I can't be anything but sad about it."

Alright, that's all you get. That's just page one of a five page article. You really should read the whole thing.

Meet The New Democracy, Same as the Old Democracy, #51468 

Faced with violent resistance even before it has assumed power, Iraq's newly appointed government is considering imposing a state of emergency that could involve curfews and a ban on public demonstrations, Iraqi officials said Sunday. -NY Times

That is gonna be totally awesome. Nothing's going to help the Iraqi Democracy more than "a curfew, a ban on public demonstrations, checkpoints to control public movement and changes to search and seizure laws". The funniest bit is that Allawi announced all of this with the following:

"The Iraqi people are determined to establish a democratic government that provides freedom and equal rights for all its citizens. We are prepared to fight and, if necessary, die for the cause."

So, I'm not stupid, I know that there are people out there killing people, and I wish they weren't, I wish they could believe in a multi party Democratic system and work through those channels, but they don't and can't. So the question of Democracy in Iraq is really a question of "Whose Democracy?" So now we have decided it will be Allawi's American-pleasing Democracy, with a dedication to "foreign investment" (read: American Investment) at the expense of Iraqi entrepreneurs. So, the entrepreneurs fund the Jihadists, including the foreign ones. If the Government outsources Jobs and Investment then the investors are going to outsource the Jihad. Obviously, I don't like the notion of detonating roadside bombs for the sake of rich Iraqi factory owners- but that is what is happening. (Nick Berg was killed by foreigners in Iraq, by the way, not Iraqi Nationalists- let's keep these two groups separate, even if they work in concert out of convenience).

They are one part of a very large chorus. There are actual issues at stake in the civil war that is going on, that goes far beyond the "Terrorists are Bad People" ideology. There are questions of genuine representation, questions and demands for the actual economic structure, and for the true sovereignty of the Iraqi People. A ban on organized protest just doesn't seem to accomplish much for that dialogue, and it especially undermines a peaceful resolution process.

Happiness is a Psychological Disorder 

From the New York Times: The happier your mood, the more liable you are to make bigoted judgments -- like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because he's a member of a minority group. Why? Nobody's sure. One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an "everything is fine" attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.

Also interesting is the discovery that happy people are more likely to "get involved with politics" than "alienated" people are. While I think that's dumbly phrased ("Happy people are more like to participate in politics than people who are alienated from politics") what's interesting is that the major parties, and successful campaigns, are usually organized by the popular kids in high school. (It might have something to do with student government, too, but then, how the hell did "student government" ever end up as something for the cool kids table? It's extraordinarily geeky). The geeks end up on the talk shows- Bob Novak comes to mind, if you saw him bemoaning Bill Clintons sex life for 6 minutes on Meet the Press yesterday you know what I mean.

If you've ever been to DFA field offices in New Hampshire, the kids who worked there all stepped out of a Abercrombie and Fitch catalog. But by analytical thought, I think that comes out in a lot of ways. Analytical thought is also what keeps people from introducing themselves to others, prevents people from working for causes, etc. Analytical thought is obviously directly related to cynicism. So an absence of cynicism, particularly in relation to other people, makes for a particular type of person to whom politics- the day to day handshaking type of politics- is perfectly fine and perfectly normal. I got it from most of the Candidates when I met them- Dean, Edwards, Clark, particularly- the were "happy" people who made my cynicism feel dirty. That's what good politicians do. Kucinich, on the other hand, seems like a miserable human being, in spite of his happy talk mantras. He doesn't talk to you if you approach him, he lectures at you pedantically. While I haven't met him, I feel like Nader would be the same way.

Kerry, then, is the weird one out. I had a discussion the other day about Kerry's "coldness" and his "aloofness" and I suddenly realized something. You have to have some respect for John Kerry, and you have to give him a pass on his personality quirks, because most of them stem from the stress of dealing with the Vietnam War. "Loss of Affect" is a major component of a post war personality, as is a withdrawal from people. I don't want to psychoanalyze John Kerry, but in regards to the "Happy People" that are most other politicians, it's interesting that the component of his personality that Republicans attack the most is actually the result of Kerry's heroism for volunteering in the Vietnam War.

Maybe that's a line some of the Democratic Talk Show Avant Garde can start using.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

The "Penis Into the Vagina Only Club" Amendment 

It looks like Mid July is when the Senate will vote on the Constitutional Amendment against certain kinds of Love- "forcing lawmakers to cast a tough political vote just weeks before the Democratic presidential convention in Massachusetts", according to the AP report.

But how "tough" is it, exactly? The Bill doesn't have the 2/3rds Majority to pass. The Convention will wash out any vote yea or nay anyway. And, it's a common sense play: even if you hate Gays, you can still vote against the Constitutional Amendment and go on saying that hating gays is a states rights issue, which has also been the more popular stance of a majority of Americans, according to a Newsweek poll from May 15th, 2004, the last poll I saw on the issue.

Meanwhile, Paul M. Weyrich, national chairman of an amalgam of conservative organizations known as Coalitions for America, recently said that Bush needs to change the subject from Iraq to the gay marriage ban in order to be re-elected in November.

In another world it'd be funny.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Happy News Not Angry Making News 

This gem (it's a link to an mp3) is just part of a larger body of work made up by the George W Bush singers, who combine samples of the President with music I associate with the Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song Music of the 1970's, complete with jingle-singers. So good it makes you wonder why anyone ever thought that voting was for old people. (Oh and this one is pretty great, too.)

C/O The Natster.

Democracy or Terrorism? 

From Salon, comes a very long but highly lucid, sober explanation of the current "American Problem" with foreign nations. It's worth reading it in its entirety, even though you have to sit through an ad.

[The] Iraq war has certainly had a massive impact, and not only on U.S. credibility abroad. What we face here is not merely skepticism but also burning rage, a passionate antipathy that, although far from uniform, does seem ubiquitous. Even now, however, America's critics continue to distinguish between the U.S. administration, which they fear and despise, and the American people, with whom they feel sympathy.

But the pictures from Abu Ghraib prison may have finally changed that. If the American electorate, knowing what it knows and, above all, having seen what it has seen, proceeds to reelect George W. Bush in November, the moderating distinction between the American administration and the American people will be eroded or perhaps erased -- with what violent consequences no one can predict.

It goes a little like this, and I know this sounds vehemently Anti-American, but here it goes anyway: If the American people can't pull their own shit together by November 2nd to make sure Bush gets his ass kicked out of office, then to a certain degree, we deserve whatever we get as a result. Standing by our President is a death warrant, not only for our own citizens who will be targeted with renewed fury by Islamist Fundamentalists, but also a death warrant for our reactions against those attacks. I may sound like I am predicting an Armageddon, I'm not. But I don't expect a peaceful 2006 with Bush in the White House.

One symptom of America's growing disconnect from the world, and especially from its former Cold War allies, is the administration's reliance on language that is unintelligible to Europeans. An example is the claim, often advanced by President Bush, that we are currently engaged in a world war between "democracy and terrorism." This is a confusing way to speak because the same terrorist network that attacked the U.S. has also attacked Saudi Arabia, a tribal monarchy that bears no resemblance to a democracy.

Slavoj Zizek writes, "Precisely in such moments of apparent clarity of choice, mystification is total." The actual conflict is between Option A, Capitalism, and Option B, everything else. Even in the early days after the 9/11 attack, there was the hint that Anti globalization forces, such as those at the WTO and FTAA protests, were partly responsible, it was actually my first theory that morning, since an external threat seemed next to impossible. (I was an ignorant American-centric activist once, too.) But the attacks had much more to do with anti-globalization than they did with a war on Democracy. While I can't say what Osama Bin Laden wanted from his antics, I can say, pretty self assuredly, that slowing down the process of American globalization would be the cure. Unfortunately, the entire concept of "globalization" has now been redeemed- if America can be everywhere, with its shining Democratic light and culture of tolerance, then surely terrorism will be vanquished. While this theory is fine and good, it's simplistic and naive to assume that it is a matter of beaming MTV into Afghanistan and opening up a Starbucks in Kabul. That's the sort of thing that stokes anti-Americanism. Actually cleaning up our track record- a good start would have been to not torture people- is a requirement to solving the terrorist problem. We need to be able to speak with credibility about the light. Torture and pure self-interest, not so credible. But for the rest of the world, the nature of Democracy- particularly as an "American" ideal- has a very different interpretation:

Roughly speaking, "democracy" is a system that allows those who are directly affected by decisions to exert some influence on the decision makers, ideally by periodically reelecting them or ousting them from office. This simple definition makes clear why Europeans and others greet Bush's endless claims to be "spreading democracy" with such disbelief. Throughout the world, people who were never consulted, even casually, are profoundly affected every day by decisions made in Washington. America's blankness about the downstream effects on other countries of its actions is without question one of the principal sources of anti-Americanism in Europe and elsewhere. Formulated differently, anti-Americanism is to some extent the expression of thwarted democratic aspirations.

I really, really love that line. It's the truest thing I've seen written about all of this stuff so far: anti-Americanism is to some extent the expression of thwarted democratic aspirations. Anti Americanism is not merely the desire to kill the threat of America, (and certainly not because they "hate our freedom"), so much as it is the resentment of America for not being what it is supposed to be. It pretends to be a savior when it is only a savior of convenience. It supports democracy, but only where there's oil and Halliburton contracts. The America they see is a hypocrite; and part of why is explained below:

America's aggressive counterterrorism efforts have already interfered significantly with its attempts at democracy promotion. To battle terrorism, the U.S. has been lending support to the secretive and coercive apparatuses of states that are, at best, incompletely democratic. This trend will continue and, under these conditions, democratic efforts will no doubt be funded quite feebly and will be cosmetic at best.

This includes the past actions such as the promotion and support of the Taliban and Al Qaeda during the Cold War, the overthrow of the Democratically Elected Shah in Iran, and then, brilliantly, the support of Saddam Hussein against Iran. We're still in the midst of it today- backing up Karimov in Uzbekistan in order to fight terrorists. We're always middling with leadership somewhere, and then ten years later the revolution that grows out of the instability of the ones we've "loved and left behind" turn into Kheomeni, Hussein, or Bin Laden. (Don't even get me started on South America). This approach can only guarantee that we are ever only suffocated by our own excess. The Afghan Democracy is a brittle failure, already working to re-encompass warlords and fundamentalist religious clerics. And the article in Salon predicts a very similar fate for Iraqi Democracy:

What is the very best outcome that we can hope for in Iraq? With extraordinary luck, Iraq could become, in a few years, something like Bosnia without the high representative of the E.U. It would have a weak central government because, given the fragmentation of the society, no all-Iraqi government can be simultaneously representative and coherent. Periodic elections would serve only to reinforce the independence of the Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions, and the government would constantly be in delicate negotiations with local and tribal leaders. Such a pseudo-state would be considered successful if it could protect its cabinet members from assassination, if most foreign fighters were evicted (breaking the lethal marriage of convenience between transnational terrorists and nationalist insurgents) and if neighboring powers were not driven to dispatch military forces into the country. But it would be at best a corrupt, criminalized and disorganized polity, festering, unsafe and characterized by violent weakness.

This Just In From the "No Shit" Department 

The Media is buzzing because the 9/11 commission says there are no links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, which readers of this blog, or readers of any newspaper, already knew- before the war even started. But I guess a second, or third, or fourth round of talking about it is fine. Bush today said of the lack of links, "This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and Al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda." But here's some fun from September 25th, 2002:

Q: Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda?

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's a -- that is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say. (Laughter.) But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is -- I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.

Turns out that was a pretty funny answer, really. Just not funny ha-ha.

Draft Bruce! 

There's a petition underway to encourage Bruce Springsteen to play a concert at Giants Stadium, where Springsteen would take the stage at the same moment that Bush accepts the nomination. The money raised by the concert would go to voter recruitment drives all over the country, and the idea is that other artists will sign up as well.

c/o Blogging the President.

The Case Against Gephardt 

Matthew Yglesias on the case against Dick Gephardt for VP.

Gephardt always struck me as kind of a lame duck. But Yglesias also points out that Gephardt pretty much wrote the god-awful resolution that gave Bush discretionary powers over when to engage Iraq in War, minus the caveats that most Democrats wanted. Gephardt strikes me as a watered down Tom Daschle but with vague Union Support (even though most unions went with Dean in the primaries.) Gephardt also lost Iowa even worse than Dean did, and garnered none of the enthusiasm that Dean did.

I hope to high hell it isn't Gephardt. Give me Clark, give me Edwards, give me Vilsack, but please, don't give me Nunn or Gephardt.

The Best Ever! 

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday. This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said. -New York Times

"I think Donald Rumsfeld is the best secretary of defense the United States has ever had." - Dick Cheney, May 9th, 2004

So maybe Tenet was a prick, too. But that's no excuse, Rumsfeld isn't a "take orders" sort of guy. The fate of the prisoner, by the way, is even weirder:

But once he was placed into custody at Camp Cropper, where about 100 detainees deemed to have the highest intelligence value are held, he received only one cursory arrival interrogation from military officers and was never again questioned by any other military or intelligence officers, according to Pentagon and intelligence officials.

They took him off the books because he was so high value, and then they only interrogated him once.

Best Secretary of Defense ever!

Trent Lott Wants You To Know Something 

Re: Abu Ghraib, in the upcoming New York Times Magazine:

"Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Your Money Is Political. So Is Your Friday Night. 

June 25th is a Friday: Request it off from work, and then invite your friends to go see Fahrenheit 9/11. Sign the pledge, if you want to. Sad but true- and it's the case with Air America Radio, as well- proving that "Liberal" entertainment can make money is crucial to the market giving us more left wing voices. Indeed, to get progressive ideas distributed and heard, and to encourage progressive moves in the market, progressives have to consume progressive products. It's the dollar vote concept- at once atrocious in principle but the most directly effective means of shaping and shifting culture.


138 Days untill the election. Give some money to the Kerryman.

After all, he's not Bush.

The NRO Wants You To Know Something... 

Reagan didn't "ignore" the AIDS crisis by not mentioning it until it was 8 years old, he just didn't believe the "fear mongering" that "the AIDS epidemic would soon spread to the heterosexual population and cause a wave of mass death, that AIDS was an "equal opportunity destroyer."

In other words, he cared about AIDS, just not when Gays were dying from it. And that, apparently, is a-okay with the National Review.

Why not make a dollar donation every time the NRO says something atrocious? It will help Kerry but maybe most importantly, it will annoy John Derbyshire.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Cheney: No Really, Guys, I'm Not Kidding... 

The AP reports that Dick Cheney is still insisting that Saddam Hussein "had long established ties with al Qaida."

As the newspaper article puts it so eloquently: The vice president on Monday offered no details backing up his claim...

If You Tolerate This, Then Your Professor Could Be Next 

The LA Times has an editorial on Steve Kurtz, AKA, "The Story No One Is Blogging".

The effort to paint Kurtz as a bioterrorist in the making would be funny if it wasn't so frightening. Federal officials in Buffalo have been in hair-trigger mode since six Yemeni American men from nearby Lackawanna pleaded guilty in recent months to charges that they attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001. But given the bacteria test results, Justice Department lawyers should never have brought the Kurtz case to the grand jury. Using the Patriot Act to muzzle lefty art professors defies common sense, not to mention the Constitution. The grand jurors should tell the Justice Department to get lost.

An Apology, Of Sorts. 

Just wanted to make a clarification on the last post regarding the Pope and the President, particularly what I meant by the term "Pope Monkeys."

It was pretty easy to misconstrue as an attack on those who follow the Catholic Faith, that's not what I intended. The Pope Monkeys I am referring to are the Bishops and Priests who wield their religion the way an ape wields its fist- the same people who covered up the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in order to protect the Pope and the Church, rather than to protect the people they are supposed to serve. These are the same people who Bush is asking the Pope to encourage towards political activism, and to guide the Catholic religion away from Humanism and into Authoritarianism. That's how Apes fight: by exercising power over others.

So, my apologies to my Catholic friends and readers if it came out as an attack on them. Catholicism, like any religion, can be used to improve peoples lives, or manipulated to harm them. I take offense to the people who manipulate religion to those ends.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Steve Kurtz 

The artist I mentioned before, who was arrested for having petri dishes after his wife died, was alluded to in a column by Paul Krugman today, which tackles the genuinely awful job that Ashcroft has been doing as AG.

Then there is the lack of any major captures. Somewhere, the anthrax terrorist is laughing. But the Justice Department, you'll be happy to know, is trying to determine whether it can file bioterrorism charges against a Buffalo art professor whose work includes harmless bacteria in petri dishes.

Seriously, people need to get up in arms about Steve Kurtz.

Da Popa and El Preznit 

On his recent trip to Rome, President Bush asked a top Vatican official to push American bishops to speak out more about political issues, including same-sex marriage, according to a report in the National Catholic Reporter, an independent newspaper.

In a column posted Friday evening on the paper's Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: "Bush said, 'Not all the American bishops are with me' on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."
-New York Times

You know, the Pope and the President have a lot in common, outside of reverse-sense social views and a warped religious conviction. They're both the heads of organizations that have unofficially condoned the abuse and sexual humiliation of innocent people; they're both secretive in organizations that are supposed to be transparent, and both of them are immersed in a spectacle that has nothing to do with the lives of their day to day followers. Both are supposed to be in positions of wisdom and guidance, and instead, both manipulate their followers and thrive on the ignorance of their hardcore supporters. Both use religion as a tool of control, Bush in the name of Freedom and the Pope in the name of Christ. I have no problems with Christ, or Freedom, but the false idols these guys pray to ain't my thing.

But together, they're like peanut butter and chocolate.

The pope and the president have a lot to talk about, particularly on the issue of manipulating the Pope's followers into more active support of the Bush Regime agenda: It's not enough, apparently, for the Pope to decide that "To vote in favor of a law [allowing same sex marriage] so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral"- Bush wants the Pope to encourage activism against Gay Marriage. So what more does Bush want? How "active" should the Pope-Monkeys be in attacking the ability for Homosexuals to receive legal rights on par with Straights? What does GW prefer: A Crusade or an Inquisition?

By the way, anyone see the Pope's strong condemnation of what happened at Abu Ghraib? Yeah, me neither. To his credit, he referred vaguely to "deplorable events"- not mentioning which deplorable events, specifically- at his press conference with Bush. But the Pope might not really care anyway, considering this report from Abu Ghraib that appeared in the Guardian newspaper:

"I saw [name blacked out] fucking a kid, his age would be about 15-18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard the screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn't covered and I saw [blacked out], who was wearing the military uniform putting his dick in the little kid's ass," Mr Hilas told military investigators. "I couldn't see the face of the kid because his face wasn't in front of the door. And the female soldier was taking pictures."

Maybe the Pope just thought it was another day at Sunday School?

The Clever Protest Dillemma 

New York Times on a couple of new protest tactics that will be seen outside the RNC convention in New York.

Luke Kuhn, 38, a self-described radical who lives near Washington, has sent out e-mail pleas seeking a suitable kiln to melt a brass ring, about the size of a large wedding band, inscribed with Bush Über Alles, at the start of the convention. Axis of Eve, a protest group formed in January to focus on women's rights, is selling underwear adorned with anti-Bush slogans and is organizing 100 women to flash them during the convention (The underwear will be worn over body suits or leotards to keep it legal.)

Zoe Strauss, a Philadelphia photographer, is urging people to wear red bandannas en masse as a symbol of protest and plans to bring 10,000 to the convention to hand out. Wendy Tremayne, a performance artist, is recruiting volunteers for a Vomitorium, a re-enactment of a Roman orgy that she plans to stage as a protest against imperialism, consumerism and gluttony.

I am supportive of all these actions, but I feel like these are still very "old" styled political protests. Sure, they're novel compared to a march or a sign, but I don't see them being as novel as they could be. (I love, for example, the Radical Cheerleaders).

Here's a quote from a really good editorial that appeared on Common Dreams a while back, on the subject of Spectacle in the Anti-War movement:

The first thing we need to do is understand the distinction between direct and indirect action. For too long, too many activists have mistaken drama for direct action. For the record, direct action includes only tactics that have an immediate impact on some element of the problem at hand. Indirect action seeks change via more circuitous routes, such as seeking to change citizens’ minds in the hope that they will, in turn, change their voting behavior and that this will, in turn, lead to changed national policies. Rent strikes, boycotts, blockades, sabotage, and demonstrations that substantially interfere with business as usual are direct action. Petition drives, letters to editors, community education, and demonstrations that are limited to symbolic expressions of opinion are indirect action.

Study of successful social change movements reveals that success is most likely when both direct and indirect tactics are coordinated. Needless to say, these must be effective tactics, which means that they must be rooted in accurate perceptions of reality and smart strategic analyses. Want to change the hearts and minds of your fellow citizens? Then you’d better have a clear sense of what they’re really thinking and feeling along with at least a rudimentary working knowledge of the factors that lead people to change their attitudes and behavior.

If peace activists feel a little daunted by that list of prerequisites, that’s good — they should. Like people in every other field of difficult endeavor, activists are forever making mistakes due to unspoken, and inaccurate, assumptions. Because marches and rallies were so effective during the civil rights and Vietnam protest movements, we assume that they will have the same effect on public opinion today. We forget that times have changed; we forget that people are no longer shocked by the sight of thousands of their fellow citizens marching in the streets; we forget that, for both observers and participants, protest marches have become little more than parades.

I, of course, can't complain: I am all indirect action, all sizzle and no fire. The problem with living in an ironic age is precisely this: While there is ample opportunity for direct, non-violent action, there is no energy for it. While stuff like the radical cheerleaders and Pirates Against Bush (Dressing up like Pirates at protests) are great and all as ways to get involved and show yourself as an anti-Bush signifier, as a way to spread messages that might not get out- but they are limited in scope and reach. They are also limited to Bush, instead of the culture of war, anarcho-capitalism and social Darwinism that pervades American Culture and government. Mass boycotts of war profiteers (or of the Publix Supermarket chain, for example, for supporting right wing think tanks, or Coors beer for their link to the Heritage foundation, etc) would be an effective means of exposing just how much of the right wing is dominated by corporations, but also hurting them where they live.

I sound like I'm complaining, I'm not. I like protest, I like creative protest, but there is a component of actual revolution that is still missing, and that component is direct action. We're at a point now where we can start raising the bar.

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Can anyone find me a succinct definition of post modern irony? It seems to get me into a lot of trouble because I can't actually explain to people how bowling can be an ironic act. I know that it can, I just have a hard time explaining how and why.

Help, please?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Ron Reagan Jr's Eulogy 

Ronald Reagan Jr, a pretty open liberal, had this less than subtle message for Bush in the Eulogy for his father today:

"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

Friday, June 11, 2004

Artist Arrested by FBI, Art Considered "Terrorism" 

An arts group called the Critical Arts Ensemble had one of its members, Steve Kurtz, arrested after police came into his home after his wife died of cardiac arrest, and panicked at the site of petri dishes in his studio. An FBI Terrorist Task Force was brought in, and Kurtz is now facing a grand jury for the intent to create a biological weapon.

Kurtz, and the CAE, made art that questioned the line between biology and commerce. I met this guy at an art event in London in 1999, and I promise you, they're satirists. They're very funny people, very smart people, and they aren't terrorists. (That said, I should specify- this isn't a hoax, or a publicity stunt). They challenge the economics of genetically engineered food, yes, and maybe that scares some people in Monsanto office buildings, but it shouldn't scare "America". They're very clearly satirists. I think they still have work up at the University of Minnesota, but if you're not there, some of their work is available to see for yourself on the web:

Cult of the New Eve, a (entirely fictitious) cult dedicated to biologically engineered superiority, is a favorite, as is the more playful Society for Reproductive Anachronisms, which jokingly advocated "world sex tours" that would allow us to combine the DNA of all races in order to bring about a more unified global understanding and unity. They also created a cd for teenagers with software, hardcore music and a guide to hacking a gameboy. But some of the pieces went into the realm of genuine science: "Free Range Grains," was a mobile DNA extraction laboratory that tested food for the presence of genetically modified organisms.

That's the equipment the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has confiscated, and that is part of the reason why Steve Kurtz is facing a grand jury. In his possession were also bacteria used in High School science experiments. 7 other artists, most of whom also hold University-level teaching positions, have also been asked to come up before the grand jury.

This is pretty intense stuff. You can sign a petition, or if you are in New York, San Francisco or Pittsburgh, you can go to a protest that has been planned. Otherwise, you can contribute to their legal defense fund. If you run a blog- let people know about this. It's very important that an innocent artist doesn't face 10 years in prison for making his art (and let's not forget- he was arrested on the day that his wife died) but if you don't care about that, then consider this the first step toward the criminalization of amateur science.


Happy Ronald Reagan Day! Get to stores early for the best sales...

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I Can't Make Words 

I can't even begin to go into the full implications of this.

WMD's weren't there, but the dual use stuff- like fermenters for medicine that could be used to create Anthrax- were shipped out of the country to scrapyards in neighboring states, including such bastions of American Love as Jordan. The best part? Some of these are being found in the scrapyards with the UN's tags still on them.

So, let's pretend that we went to Iraq to keep WMD's out of the hands of terrorists- remember when that was the reason? Well, they didn't exist. But the dual use technology that might have been used to maybe make them? Well, not only did we fail to stop them from getting distributed, we fucking distributed them.


Then we let them sit around in a scrapyard. In Jordan.

The Torture Gate Memo 

I said this month would be good for Bush, I was right. Reagan's death is giving him a smokescreen to cover up mounting evidence that he knew and approved of torture against Iraqi detainees. From the Washington Post- try, really try, to wrangle around the newspaper-editorial-ese of the writing:

In a paper prepared last year under the direction of the Defense Department's chief counsel, and first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, the president of the United States was declared empowered to disregard U.S. and international law and order the torture of foreign prisoners. Moreover, interrogators following the president's orders were declared immune from punishment. Torture itself was narrowly redefined, so that techniques that inflict pain and mental suffering could be deemed legal. All this was done as a prelude to the designation of 24 interrogation methods for foreign prisoners -- the same techniques, now in use, that President Bush says are humane but refuses to disclose.

People I know still think that Abu Ghraib didn't go to the top, and was the act of a few soldiers who "went nuts". But if that was the case, I don't know why there would be a memo, over 56 pages long, explaining a strained legal rationale for the use of torture by the military, which also focused on the President's powers to order it. Here's a paragraph from the memo. This time, wrap your head around the government-memo-ese:

Any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution's sole vesting of the Commander in Chief Authority in the President. There can be little doubt that intelligence operations, such as the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants and leaders, are both necessary and proper for the effective conduct of a military campaign. Indeed, such operations may be of more importance in a war with an international terrorist organization than one with the conventional armed forces of a nation-state, due to the former's emphasis on secret operations and surprise attacks against civilians. It may be the case that only successful interrogations can provide the information necessary to prevent the success of covert terrorist attacks against the united states and its citizens. Congress can no more interfere with the President's conduct of the interrogation of enemy combatants than it can dictate strategy or tactical decisions on the battlefield. Just as statutes that order the President to conduct warfare in a certain manner or for specific goals would be unconstitutional, so too are laws that seek to prevent the President from gaining the intelligence he believes necessary to prevent attacks upon the United States.

That's from page 24. It's not your casual, "while you were out" sort of memo. It's a legal document asserting two things: for one, that almost any act conducted by Bush (or any President) during a time of war can be deemed part of a war strategy and is therefore untouchable by Congress. The memo also wrings every legal interpretation of "torture" and "inhumane treatment" that it can, in order not to understand what not to do, but to understand what they might be able to get away with legally. For example, page 7's heartwarming,

"...Because Section 2340 requires that a defendant act with the specific intent to inflict severe pain, the infliction of such pain must be the defendants precise objective. If the statute had required only general intent, it would be sufficient to establish guilt by showing that the defendant "possessed knowledge with respect to the actus reus of the crime. (Carter, 530 US at 268). If the defendant acted knowing that severe pain or suffering was reasonably likely to result from his actions, but no more, he would have acted only with general intent [...] (general intent "usually takes the form of recklessness (involving actual awareness of a risk and the culpable taking of that risk) or negligence (involving blameworthy inadvertence)"

That section has a fun little allegory about a man who robs a bank with the intention of returning the money and going to jail so he could be treated for his alcoholism. He used force to take the money ("general intent") but he didn't actually intend to keep it, which "fails to satisfy specific intent." It concludes with this upbeat appraisal of our nation's ideals:

"Thus, even if this defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith. Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his custody or physical control."

The kids at Abu Ghraib should only be so lucky as to have access to lawyers as good as these. So what happens if the abuse is accidentally implied by high ranking military officers whose words were misconstrued and resulted in the accidental torture of people within US custody?

Well, if that ever happened, the Bush Administration would have been prepared with a 56 page legal defense. The soldiers who were "carrying out orders", of course, might not be so lucky. It seems to be popping up in Ashcrofts testimony already:

LEAHY: Did your department issue a memorandum that would suggest that torture is allowed under certain circumstances as the press has reported? And that's a simple enough question. It could take a yes- or-no answer.

ASHCROFT: Well, first of all, I'm not going to comment on the memos and advice that I give to executive departments of government...

LEAHY: But if you get...

ASHCROFT: ... but I will say this: that while the job is to explain the meaning of the statutes and to explain, in memos, the law, I want to confirm that the president has not directed or ordered any conduct that would violate the Constitution of the United States, that would violate any one of these enactments of the United States Congress or that would violate the provisions of any of the treaties as they have been entered into by the United States, the president, the administration and this government.

LEAHY: Does that mean your department would aggressively prosecute anybody who might come under your jurisdiction under any of these laws, any person for whom there is probable cause of committing torture, regardless of whether that person was acting under direct order of the president or anybody else?

ASHCROFT: The Department of Justice will both investigate and prosecute individuals who violate the law. The Torture Act is a law that we include in that violation. The laws relating to various other aspects of conduct are.

We have before us at this time a number of investigations under way. We have established a special team for prosecuting such violations in the Eastern District of Virginia. It's a U.S. attorney's office that's accustomed to international items because it is the home of both the CIA and the Pentagon.

There is one case outside that framework that is being prosecuted, and was being prosecuted earlier, before we became aware that we might have a broader responsibility here.

But we are investigating items both on referral from the Department of Defense and from the intelligence agency. And those matters take into account our responsibility to enforce the laws enacted by this Congress...

LEAHY: I would assume that you would carry out your responsibilities; you swore a solemn oath to do so. But does your answer mean that there has or has not been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants?

ASHCROFT: The president of the United States has not ordered any activity which would contradict the laws enacted by this Congress or previous Congresses...

LEAHY: Not quite my...

ASHCROFT: ... or the Constitution of the United States...

LEAHY: Mr. Attorney General, that was not my question.


ASHCROFT: ... or any of the treaties.

LEAHY: That was not my question. Has there been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants, yes or no?

ASHCROFT: I'm not in a position to answer that question.

LEAHY: Does that mean because you don't know or you don't want to answer? I don't understand.

ASHCROFT: The answer to that question is yes.

LEAHY: You don't know whether he's issued such an order?

ASHCROFT: For me to comment on what I advise the president...

LEAHY: I'm not asking...

ASHCROFT: ... what the president's activity is is inappropriate if -- I will just say this: that he has made no order that would require or direct the violation of any law of the United States enacted by the Congress, or any treaty to which the United States is a party as ratified by the Congress, or the Constitution of the United States.


Yeah, I know this post is long, but let's read it over again. Bush admin gets a memo that says "Hi, you aren't violating any act of Congress by ordering torture on detainees." Ashcroft is asked if Bush ordered it, and instead of answering it, says, "Well, all I am going to tell you is that he hasn't violated any laws of Congress."


Remembering Reagan, Troix 

Give it up for FAIR:

Reagan's fervent support for right-wing governments in Central America was one of the defining foreign policies of his administration, and the fact that death squads associated with those governments murdered tens of thousands of civilians surely must be included in any reckoning of Reagan's successes and failures.

But a search of major U.S. newspapers in the Nexis news database turns up the phrase "death squad" only five times in connection with Reagan in the days following his death--twice in commentaries (Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/6/04; Chicago Tribune, 6/8/04) and twice in letters to the editor (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/8/04; L.A. Times, 6/8/04). Only one news article found in the search (L.A. Times, 6/6/04) considered the death squads an important enough part of Reagan's legacy to be worth mentioning. The three broadcast networks, CNN and Fox didn't mention death squads at all, according to Nexis. Nor were any references found in the transcripts of the broadcast networks to the fact that Reagan's policy of supporting Islamicist insurgents against the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan led to the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The Reagan administration's friendly policy towards Saddam Hussein was also a neglected media topic. During the Reagan years, the U.S. offered significant support to Iraq, including weapons components, military intelligence, and even some of the ingredients for manufacturing biological weapons like anthrax (Newsweek, 9/23/02).

I don't have a problem with honoring or respecting the dead, but let's also remember that Reagan, by no means, belongs on the ten dollar bill, or Mount Rushmore...


Fun little tidbit on what Iyad Allawi, Iraq's new prime minister, was doing for us back under Bush I:

Dr. Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord, used car bombs and other explosive devices smuggled into Baghdad from northern Iraq, the officials said. Evaluations of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign varied, although the former officials interviewed agreed that it never threatened Saddam Hussein's rule. and: One former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was based in the region, Robert Baer, recalled that a bombing during that period "blew up a school bus; schoolchildren were killed."

Whatever happened to that old line about showing terrorists that terror can't win, etc?

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Reagan Deux 

Froomkin has a look at how Reagan's Death will impact the Bush campaign.

I'm just back from Quebec, where all the Reagan coverage was in incomprehensible French (I have a beautiful French accent, I am told, in spite of my 16 word vocabulary) and where the TV coverage didn't mention it all weekend. What did I miss?

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Burnt Sienna 

Ronald Reagan is dead. Coincidentally, I am going to Canada for a few days- so I won't be joining the other lefty blogs that feel compelled to bend over backwards to say something nice about the man who introduced Trickle Down Economics, Welfare Queens, and the demonization of liberals to the mainstream zeitgeist.

But nonetheless, here's my memory of Ronald Reagan.

Back in the 1980's, I was a young kid. When I was about six, I had this idea that I could mix certain colors together and come up with a new color, which I could take to Ronald Reagan and he would use it, and it would be a distinctive American color, and we could sell it and change the world because introducing a new color is changing the possibilities for an entire planet's palette.

I imagined walking through a long hall in the White House, up to a throne where Reagan sat, and I would show him the color and how to make it. And he would look at the color and he would say- (imagine Phil Hartman's impression of Ronald Reagan here, not actually Ronald Reagan)- "I guess you and I have got some work to do."

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Bush Administration Finds Its Scapegoat 

And it's a Clinton Appointee!

Goodbye, George Tenet.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Don't ask me why, but I think Bush's poll numbers are going to start heading back up pretty soon. They kind of have to, I'd imagine, but what I expect is the recovery from Abu Ghraib- they've sat still and done nothing, so now it appears they're in the clear, as the story has gone through its news cycle life expectancy, taken over by the new Iraq council. I hate to say it, but I call June to be a very good month for Bush.

They Hate Our Freedom 

Chomsky has updated.

In brief, Eisenhower and his staff were concerned in the 1950s about the "campaign of hatred" against us in the Arab world, and understood the reasons: the perception that the US supports harsh and oppressive regimes and blocks democracy and development, and does so to gain control of the energy resources of the region. In later years, that remained true, though new reasons arose. Thus when the Wall St. Journal and others studied attitudes of "moneyed Muslims" (bankers, managers of multinationals, corporate lawyers, etc.) after 9-11, they found the same reasons, along with others: the decisive US support for vicious Israeli repression of Palestinians and robbery of their resources, and the murderous US-UK sanctions that were devastating the civilian society of Iraq. In the streets and villages, the attitudes would be far more extreme. Since Western intellectuals don't like to hear unpleasant truths about themselves, not surprisingly, we are treated instead to a stream of fantasies about "why they hate us".

If the Bush Administration doesn't see this as reality, it at least needs to own up to the idea that this is how that reality is perceived. If it really wanted to prevent the death and destruction in Iraq (and potentially at home as a result)- it should have gone in with a hearts and minds effort that went well beyond bringing a pro-democracy Islamic MTV into Iraq at the expense of the grassroots media. The grassroots media- even the most vitriolic anti-american media- does a service to our own interests. It tells us what the problem is. Had we worried more about Abu Ghraib than we did about the pictures of Abu Ghraib, or more about heavy handed military tactics than about Al Jazeera broadcasting them, we'd start to have some degree of understanding of the occupied people of Iraq.

Part of that strategy would involve very careful avoidance of "the appearance of impropriety"- a heeding to things that were dismissed by the right as "cynical conspiracy theories"- such as Halliburton's contracts, or the rewarding of American contracts to rebuild over Iraqi contractors. (As I've mentioned before, and as is brought up in Harper's magazine this week, the resistance is funded by angry Iraqi businessmen who don't like the American economic policy that favors foreign investment.)

The hearts and minds strategy would involve keeping the heavy handed midnight raids to a minimum, when often enough a knock on the door would suffice. Take for example, the video described in this weeks Portland Pheonix:

"The soldiers don't exactly approach with stealth. They kick open a gate to the house's yard. What happens next, as Coulthart explained in an interview with the Phoenix, illustrates a perilous gap in American and Iraqi cultural understanding. "First, you have to understand that guns are ubiquitous in Iraq -- most people have them, and it's very common for them to shoot them in the air all the time for any number of reasons -- from celebrations to anger to whatever," he says. "Burglary has become very common in the past year, and oftentimes, if people hear something outside their homes at night, they'll fire a shot or two into the air to scare burglars away. Now, you could just go up to a house, like other soldiers do, and just knock on the door. But some treat these missions like full-fledged combat operations and start kicking things in with guns drawn, and then you get what happens next."

The soldiers rush into the house, and the suspected insurgent, a former Iraqi Lieutenant- Taha Hassan Abbas- is there with his wife and daughter. Abbas speaks only one word of English- "Welcome"- and repeats it constantly to show the soldiers he doesn't mean to resist. He holds his hands in the air. The soldiers don't have a translator. He keeps repeating "Welcome, welcome", and they keep threatening to shoot him in the leg if he doesn't cooperate, which, of course, he doesn't understand. Convinced he is going to be killed, Abbas begins praying in Islamic, which the soldiers respond to by throwing him into a chair, breaking it under his weight, and beginning to kick him in the stomach. The next shot shows Abbas being led away with handcuffs, his face bloody, his eye swollen shut.

It was all on video, presented by the AP, over a month ago. Have you seen it on CNN? Of course not.

Understanding what we're doing over there would hold us responsible for those actions. No American wants their hands dirty, and as a result, we avoid looking at our hands- which makes building something extraordinarily difficult.

If we did, of course, we would know how to win this thing. Treat the Iraqis with respect- a job that the Bush administration, if it even concerns itself with that mandate anymore, seems to assume to mean "treat them like westerners, give them democracy." But it's more than that.

It would mean giving the Iraqi's control over their industry and economy, instead of spreading it out to foreign interests. It would mean Halliburton out, Bechtel out, and Iraqi's in. It would mean paying attention Iraq's domestic news agencies, even at their worst, and addressing the concerns they reflect, instead of trying to shut them down or chastising them for broadcasting pictures of what we do, as if the pictures were reality and not a reflection of it. It would mean daytime investigations into suspected resistance- not midnight military raids against suspects that end with unwarranted beatings.

And then, you go after the genuine "bad apples". There would be far fewer of them if we respected Iraqi security and psychology, personal and social.

The question before the war, of course- giving up on the WMD's, and the Human Rights- was the notion of Democracy in Iraq. The problem was, America wasn't in the position to do it. It never was. No one in Iraq believed America was there to liberate them- they've believed since the 1950's that America wants its oil and its dictatorships.

And they were right. If the right wing wants to call it a "conspiracy theory", they can do it, but it isn't going to go very far with the Iraqi people. They're blowing up contracted reconstruction sites not because they hate progress, but because they hate Halliburton making money off of that progress. They're killing contractors because they are foreign labor, taking Iraqi jobs away. The resistance in Iraq- the genuine, domestic, grass roots resistance in Iraq- is there not because they "hate freedom", but because they want freedom from us. They don't care if you dismiss them or not- they want us out, and if we are going to stay in, then we'd damn well better pay attention to what they think of us. The foreign, al-Qaeda operatives in the region are capitalizing on that, capitalizing, as al-Qaeda always does, on American weaknesses. That we have given al-Qaeda such a great recruitment tool is a testimonial to the failures of the Bush Administration and to years of American policy in the region.

I don't like to see Americans killed, I don't like to see Iraqi's killed or tortured, and I certainly don't condone the violence of either side of this conflict. But to pretend that the Iraqi Resistance is an animal psychology is to deal with an idealized, abstract and incorrect projection of reality. The longer we look at the optimistically American, dehumanizing anti-Iraqi view, the more people get killed. It's that simple.

Religion, Women, and Veils 

For anyone who still pretends that Roman Catholicism- or the President- isn't out of touch, Dan Froomkin reports the following E-mail sent to White House press pool yesterday:


Remember kids: The "W" stands for Women, and the Pope stands up for "unindicted coconspirators in serial child rape". What a team!

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Six Months 

Bob Harris has the post I should have had if I wasn't busy selling TV's to hundreds of people who forgot what holiday it was by Sunday afternoon.

Summary: The Pentagon knew for six months that there was torture going on at Abu Ghraib, and the day before they knew that, they knew that most of the people there weren't guilty of anything. Then they sat around and did nothing. For six months.

$119,400,000,000: The Thousand Year Walmart Plan for Iraq 

Every once in a while, the AP Newswire throws something like this out for reporters looking for color. Today, it's "Other Things Iraq War Funding Can Pay For." Fun stuff:

"If the $119.4 billion were divided evenly among Iraq's estimated 25 million residents, each would get $4,776. That would be eight times the country's $600 per capita income, an estimate an official of the United Nations Development Program made last November."

"$119.4 billion is about equal to the total incomes earned in 2003 by all the residents of Vermont ($19 billion), North Dakota ($18.5 billion), Wyoming ($16.4 billion), Alaska ($21.8 billion), South Dakota ($22.3 billion), and Montana ($22.6 billion), using figures from the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis."

It would also send the entire population of Jacksonville, Florida to Harvard University for four years.

Since I'm very clearly a geek who loves numbers posts, here's some of my own:

If we had to pay this money back by working exclusively at Wal Mart, it would take us 5,970,000 years. Or, put it another way: if 5,970 people volunteered to work at Wal Mart to pay off the debt? It would take them a thousand years. If 600,000 Wal Mart employees forfeited their wages, it would take about 10 years for them to pay it off.

Today, Let's Celebrate The Joy of Taxes! 

Read Krugman Today.

Repeat after me: Taxes are patriotic.

Tax money goes to support our troops, yes. But taxes strengthen the nation, educate our citizens and bring up the average intelligence level, which makes the whole nation smarter. It helps carve out careers for poor kids who can't afford to go to college, which increases the amount of doctors and lawyers and trained, educated workers we have so we can compete with other countries that actually give a shit about education and even pay for it without complaining. The smarter the country is, the smarter leaders it chooses. The dumber the nation is, the higher the chance that Jeb Bush ends up being president eventually.

Taxes help keep people healthy, and prevents them from getting sick. Tax programs like welfare and social security help people on the outs- or with no means to get back on the ins- to survive without turning to crime and going to prison, which costs more money than welfare, anyway.

Repeat after me: You pay less in taxes, you pay more for everything else.

Taxes are like a membership to a wholesale supermarket. The food is less because its bought in bulk. You save money because you buy a portion of that bulk, and some people buy it in bulk themselves. You pay once a year for this. You maybe use public transportation for just a dollar. If you don't, the people who do are easing traffic congestion, which helps the environment. Your taxes- in most cases, by the way, your taxes and not your tolls- support the highways and roads you use, anyway.

Repeat after me: You are not in the top 10% of income earners.

When you hear "top 10%", think: People who make more than $104,000 a year. Do the math, kids: this is not you. So don't worry about John Kerry's tax raise on "the top 10%". This will bring down the cost of your taxes and it will improve the things that taxes make possible. You are very lucky if you even scrape out of "the bottom 60%" of taxpayers- which tops off at $44,000 a year. But even then, you are not going to be affected.

So, let's celebrate the Kerry tax plan over the Bush tax plan! And while we're at it, let's celebrate taxation itself, even though John Kerry isn't going to raise your taxes.

I'm a Pathetic Worm (At Best!) or: Democrats Can Be Assholes Too 

Stephanie Herseth's special election is today- not that anyone should care. Odds are she wins. But apparently, my comment (you will notice that it includes not only an email link, but a link to my website as well) on Atrios' site regarding Stephanie Herseth's support of the gay marriage amendment- or, as Atrios puts it, the "Hate Amendment"- earned this response:

I wonder if the trolls who post on this site, think they are defying death or something. All adrenaline, bravado, chest naked at freezing temperatures with paint on their face. Well, I got news for you Mark Hyman and scout. Post and run does not qualify as bravery. You are pathetic worms, at best. My 3 and a half year old has more guts than you. "Pathetic" does not even start to do you justice.

Democrat or die, and if your democrat happens to be pro-war and anti-gay rights well, line up- and that apparently counts as "guts".

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