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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 14 June 2004

Topic: Dissent

Some things prove to be correct - and some notes on dealing with that.

Sometimes you have to ask the right questions, directly.

Eric Alterman does so at his MSNBC site "Altercation" -

And here I reformat for emphasis - one paragraph becomes many ...
It's hard to say which is the best representation of what this war is doing to and has done to this country.

Is it the lies that were told to get us into it?

Is the fact that we are picking up innocent people off the street and torturing them?

Is it that we have suspended the most basic civil liberties in our own country?

Is it that the work of professional intelligence agencies has been corrupted?

Is it that we have drawn resources away from the fight against Al Qaida which has completely regrouped?

Is it that we are creating more terrorists?

Is it that more than seven hundred Americans have been killed and thousands have been seriously injured?

Is it that thousands of Iraqis have been killed but nobody is keeping an account of the numbers of their deaths?

Is it that we are now more hated around the world than we have ever been?

Is it that we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars while actually decreasing our security?

Is it that we are doing all this while starving the most crucial homeland security programs?

Is it that everyone who told the truth about what was being planned has been dismissed and seen their characters attacked?
As they say on the infomercials for kitchen gadgets, it's all this, and more!

Then Alterman links to an article by Mark Follman in - an interview and book review - regarding Thomas Powers and his views. Thomas Powers wrote Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al Qaeda - and that book claims that "that the Bush administration is responsible for what is perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of U.S. intelligence."

The article is available only through subscription, but you get the idea. (And if you don't really care that much about copyright laws, the article is reprinted here in full: ... the Bush administration "correctly read how the various institutions of our government could be used to stage a kind of temporary coup on a single issue: Whether or not to go to war with Iraq.")

Out here in La-La Land, Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times explained a few weeks ago that this is quite an accomplishment -
As Thomas Powers, one of America's foremost scholars of intelligence and the author of the forthcoming "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History From Hitler to Al-Qaeda," recently wrote, "In its first half-century the CIA got lots of things wrong.... In 1950 it failed to foresee intervention by the Chinese in the Korean War, a mistake that almost resulted in American armies being driven entirely from the peninsula. In 1968 the agency was surprised by the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, a failure repeated in 1979 when the agency failed to predict the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

"Ten years after that the [CIA] estimators continued to issue new alarms about Soviet power and intentions almost until the very moment the Berlin Wall came down, signaling the true end of the cold war, an event soon followed by a still greater astonishment -- the actual collapse and breakup of the Soviet Union itself."
And screwing up with Iraq, from the WMD business to maybe Chalabi being in bed with the mullahs running Iraq, is worse than all this?

Maybe so. We got a whole lot of things quite wrong. But we meant well. We always mean well.

Alterman, above, says that everyone who told the truth about what was being planned has been dismissed and seen their characters attacked.

Oh heck. We need an example of that.

Scanning This Modern World one finds such an example.

There you will find a link to Move Forward America, which seems to be a Republican group mounting a grass-roots effort to pressure individual theatres and theater chains to not, under any circumstances, screen this film - or suffer the wrath of the right, or righteous, or whatever. The do provide a list of email addresses for major theatre chains and some individual theaters.

Ah, but that can be turned the other way. You, or anyone else, could go to the site and send emails saying that these folks SHOULD show the damned movie.

For starters I recommend dropping a line to these folks. When I lived there I used to patronize this place.
The Little Theatre
240 East Avenue Rochester, NY 14604
Phone: 585-232-3906
Email: or
But you can look for movie houses in your own town.

Of course, viewing will be restricted even if the film is screened.

See Ratings row over Moore Iraq film
BBC, Monday, 14 June, 2004, 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK
The US distributors of Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 are to appeal a decision by US censors to give it a restrictive rating.

The Motion Picture Association Of America (MPAA) has rated the film R, meaning nobody under 17 can see it unless accompanied by an adult.

Moore has attacked the decision, saying that teenagers should be allowed to see the film unaccompanied.

... Lions Gate, one of two companies releasing the film in the US, called the decision "totally unjustified". The MPAA said that the rating was given for "violent and disturbing images and for language".

... Moore said: "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years. If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq."

... IFC Entertainment, which is jointly distributing the film in the US along with Lions Gate, said it was confident the decision would be overturned.
If it is overturned, or not, it really doesn't matter. Any twelve-year-old knows how to get into an R-rated screening.

Moore may be dismissed, and attacked, as Alterman suggests. But we will be able to see his film.

(By the way, This Modern World also provides a link to the background of those running Move Forward America - the organization trying to stop Michael Moore. Just your normal Republicans.)

Tip of the hat on this Moore thing to the cartoonist Tom Tomorrow of This Modern World. Great name.

Posted by Alan at 17:34 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 15 June 2004 10:06 PDT home

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Stormy Monday: More Odd News

Bob Patterson, who appears in Just Above Sunset as both The World's Laziest Journalist and The Book Wrangler, has been strongly urging that all these posts here be made shorter, with much less commentary.

Bob offers this as an example of the format readers would probably prefer.

The Guardian newspaper in Britain is reporting that the Red Cross wants Saddam Hussein to be either formally charged or released.

If he is released, can he run for office in the new elections? Iraqis who resent the American presence could show their resentment by voting for Saddam.

Wouldn't that "tear it" as far as "why are we there?"

Isn't breaking one more international law preferable to the possibility that Saddam might get elected?
Yep, this has been in the news. Matt Drudge was all upset about it. I've seen lots of commentary. Perhaps it needs no more than this.


As for the previous post here on the Washington Post pulling an Ellsberg and publishing the full Justice Department memo authorizing torture, at least if the CIA does the torturing, I shall only point.

A rather prominent law professor does a line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph, analysis here of this memo. Click on the link. Do your own reading and commentary.

Note the comedian Jay Leno adds this
According to The New York Times, last year White House lawyers concluded that President Bush could legally order interrogators to torture and even kill people in the interest of national security -- so if that's legal, what the hell are we charging Saddam Hussein with?
Of course, my favorite new odd news items is this: When Bush met with the Pope last week in Rome he spoke to selected Vatican leaders requesting the Catholic Church support his reelection by publicly endorsing the US Republican Party and publicly condemning the Democratic Party, since, like the Church, the Republicans oppose abortion, want to ban gay marriage entirely, and also say embryonic cell research is actually a form of murder, infanticide.

You can click on the link for details. You can provide your own commentary.

Oh heck, what is there to say, after all? The Church is interested, but wary.


Posted by Alan at 10:13 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, 14 June 2004 12:13 PDT home

Sunday, 13 June 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Keeping up...

Sunday - and the new issue of the weekly online magazine Just Above Sunset has been posted. That hit the wire late this morning, and your editor spent the rest of the day plowing through the Sunday paper, cleaning up the place, attending to Harriet-the-Cat and the balcony full of thirsty plants and such.

But things just keep happening.

Switching between the restored version of Frank Capra's 1937 "Lost Horizon" (all two and a half hours of it) on the classic movie channel and the news I see the Washington Post has just posted the memo they reported on a few days ago. This one is the one from Alberto Gonzales, the lawyer who advises Bush - the White House Counsel - to the CIA. It is the White House saying to the CIA - "Torture folks? No problem. Go for it!"

Say, do you remember when the New York Times printed the Pentagon Papers - all that internal policy stuff we weren't supposed to ever see about the Vietnam War? The New York Times used its newspaper to provide the full transcripts of those Pentagon Papers. The Post is using the web. Whatever.

Here we go again. We can read what we are really not supposed to read. The free press doing its job? Treason? Depends on your political leanings.

Well, the memo is not from Bush himself, only his lawyer, his legal spokesman, his Justice Department, so Bush himself can claim he, himself, would never advise such a thing. He can claim Alberto was acting on his own initiative and really should have discussed the memo with him before Al sent it over to the CIA. Bush would have known this would be trouble. Bush could say that.

Delegation has its risks. Sometimes your subordinates do things that just aren't good.

We shall see how this plays out. In one of my previous careers I was a boss - a Senior Systems Manager, no less. One, of necessity, delegates. You trust your guys. And when things go in the weeds, as they sometimes do when you delegate, well, you suck it up, repair the damage, and go on.

How will Bush handle this? I have no idea. Should be interesting.

Here's the item:

Justice Dept. Memo Says Torture 'May Be Justified'
Dana Priest, Washington Post Staff Writer, Sunday, June 13, 2004; 6:30 PM
Today is posting a copy of the Aug. 1, 2002, memorandum "Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A," from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to President Bush.

The memo was the focus of a recent article in The Washington Post.

The memo was written at the request of the CIA. The CIA wanted authority to conduct more aggressive interrogations than were permitted prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The interrogations were of suspected al Qaeda members whom the CIA had apprehended outside the United States. The CIA asked the White House for legal guidance. The White House asked Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for its legal opinion on the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Office of Legal Counsel is the federal government's ultimate legal adviser. The most significant and sensitive topics that the federal government considers are often given to the OLC for review. In this case, the memorandum was signed by Jay S. Bybee, the head of the office at the time. Bybee's signature gives the document additional authority, making it akin to a binding legal opinion on government policy on interrogations. Bybee has since become a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Another memorandum, dated March 6, 2003, from a Defense Department working group convened by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to come up with new interrogation guidelines for detainees at Guant?namo Bay, Cuba, incorporated much, but not all, of the legal thinking from the OLC memo. The Wall Street Journal first published the March memo.

At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, senators asked Attorney General John D. Ashcroft to release both memos. Ashcroft said he would not discuss the contents of the Justice and Pentagon memos or turn them over to the committees. A transcript of that hearing is also available.

President Bush spoke on the issue of torture Thursday, saying he expected U.S. authorities to abide by the law. He declined to say whether he believes U.S. law prohibits torture. Here is a link to the White House transcript of the president's press conference, which included questions and answers on torture. ...
Well, the cat is out of the bag.

This on the heels of US News and World Report, in their June 21 issue revealing that our top officer in Iraq, General Richard Sanchez was directly involved in hiding prisoners from the Red Cross.

Well, that explains why John Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander, is planning to appoint a four star general to head up the Army's investigation of this mess, as the New York Times reports.
General Abizaid's request, which defense officials said Mr. Rumsfeld would most likely approve, was set in motion in the last week when the current investigating officer, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, told his superiors that he could not complete his inquiry without interviewing more senior-ranking officers, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq.

But Army regulations prevent General Fay, a two-star general, from interviewing higher-ranking officers. So General Sanchez took the unusual step of asking to be removed as the reviewing authority for General Fay's report, and requesting that higher-ranking officers be appointed to conduct and review the investigation.
Fay has to go. He only has two stars. Sanchez has three. A two star cannot investigate a three star.

A few bad apples indeed.

And there are lots of indications that four confidential Red Cross documents implicating senior Pentagon civilians in the Abu Ghraib scandal have been passed to an American television network, which is preparing to make them public shortly. First notice here.

And add this - another "Oops, sorry." The New York Times tells us here that at the start of the Iraq war we "launched many more failed airstrikes on a far broader array of senior Iraqi leaders during the early days of the war last year than has previously been acknowledged, and some caused significant civilian casualties, according to senior military and intelligence officials."

Now they tell is.

It just keeps getting better all the time.

And the Los Angeles Times is reporting that a group of twenty-six former senior diplomats and military officials, a number of them appointed to key positions by Republican Reagan and Bush's father, plans to issue a joint statement on Wednesday arguing that this President Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November. This would be twenty former ambassadors - appointed by presidents of both parties - to places like Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia. And some retired State Department guys. The organizer is retired Marine general Joseph Hoar, and he was the commander of US forces in the Middle East under Bush's daddy.


Posted by Alan at 19:30 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 12 June 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Things that just couldn't be so...

Just to keep the pot stirred.

In Monday's Time Magazine John Dickerson offered this: A Peace President?

To cut to the chase:
Indeed, the President is privately telling aides that after leading the nation to war in his first term, he wants to spend his next four years being "a peace President." Officials in the Administration contend he has more credibility as a diplomat now that he has shown a willingness to use force to back his principles. "The reason diplomacy will be effective in a second term is because of the use of the military," says a senior Administration official. Doubters suspect the shift is aimed at coaxing other nations to help rescue his failing Iraq policy -- and to present a less warlike face to voters. Bush campaign advisers concede as much. "It may help overseas, yes," says a top Bush campaign adviser, "but if nothing else, it gives us ammunition to push back against Kerry."
Oh yeah, that'll fly.

One commentator calls this lunacy. But qualified lunacy.
I don't mean lunacy in a "mental illness" way, I mean in a completely detached from reality kind of way. The reality is unimportant, only the label and perception that matters. Standard fare in politics, until the candidate and his people are unable to distinguish between the two.
Maybe so. Will people buy the sizzle and not the steak? If the most powerful man in the world says something is so, is it so?

We'll see about that.

Second Item

The ongoing prisoner abuse scandal - none dare call it torture? - is just a problem with a few bad apples (a silly metaphor). Yeah, right.

This from the Washington Post:

Soldier Described White House Interest
Staff Requested Data From Abu Ghraib, Probers Told
R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, June 9, 2004; Page A03

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice had no idea such awful things were afoot?
The head of the interrogation center at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq told an Army investigator in February that he understood some of the information being collected from prisoners there had been requested by "White House staff," according to an account of his statement obtained by The Washington Post.

Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, an Army reservist who took control of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center on Sept. 17, 2003, said a superior military intelligence officer told him the requested information concerned "any anti-coalition issues, foreign fighters, and terrorist issues."

The Army investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, asked Jordan whether it concerned "sensitive issues," and Jordan said, "Very sensitive. Yes, sir," according to the account, which was provided by a government official.

The reference by Jordan to a White House link with the military's scandal-plagued intelligence-gathering effort at the prison was not explored further by Taguba, whose primary goal at that time was to assess the scope of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. The White House was unable to provide an immediate explanation.
All the memos advising how to avoid being charged with ware crimes like torture being revealed in the press, all the photos, and all the recently opened investigations of homicide (of these damned wimp prisons who had the nerve to die on us - starting at thirty-two open investigations and now in the low eighties) - and now this.

It is hard to fight a war on terror when everyone is on your case about your methods.

Hey, if all this went to the very top, including daily reports to Condoleezza on how firm we were being with those we detained, wouldn't we all agree what our government does doesn't matter as long as we're safe. And the Rice woman needs something to make her smile each day.

Third Item

When you control the media, you get what you want.

As Kevin Drum points out - "Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi thinks a big turnout in Sunday's election will help his party. So, since ownership of half the media in the country apparently wasn't enough to get the word out, he decided to send text messages to all 56 million cell phones in the country."

Yeah, well, you can read all about it in The Guardian (UK) here. The idea didn't work out so well in practice:
Many of the messages arrived in the night, activating the alarms of hundreds of thousands of mobiles and waking their owners.

....Italian law authorises the government to carry out mass texting "in cases of disaster or natural calamities" and "for reasons of public order or public health and hygiene".

Mr Berlusconi's supporters argued that a decree authorising the move, signed by the interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, on Thursday, complied with the law because the messages would ensure a steadier flow of voters and thus avert any threat to public order.
Silvio Berlusconi must have the same lawyers as Rumsfeld.

The law can be a flexible thing, open to interpretation.

One hopes Colin Powell's son Michael, the fellow who heads the FCC, isn't getting ideas.

Fourth Item

From the Associated Press: Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh announced Friday that he and his wife, Marta, were divorcing. That's here. Add your own sarcastic comments if you wish about how this sort of thing is bound to happen when gay couples are allowed to marry - which is what Limbaugh likes to claim on the air. Gay marriage will destroy convention marriage.

Perhaps. If you read the AP item you will see this was Limbaugh's third marriage. He hammers the "drug culture" and it turns out he has a serious addiction problem himself. He rants about family values and that sort of thing, as his third marriage falls apart. And his six million fans love him anyway. No one is perfect and his opinions are still correct.

Oh well.

Posted by Alan at 09:40 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, 12 June 2004 09:49 PDT home

Friday, 11 June 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

Choosing friends and allies....

It seems the new prime minister of Iraq, our new best buddy, Bush's special guest at this week at the G8 summit at Sea Island Georgia, has a bit of a history of terrorist bombings - you know, blowing up civilians for political ends - financed by the CIA. The source seems to be guys who used to work in the CIA. But details are sketchy.

Ex-C.I.A. Aides Say Iraq Leader Helped Agency in 90's Attacks
Joel Brinkley, The New York Times, Published: June 9, 2004
WASHINGTON, June 8 -- Iyad Allawi, now the designated prime minister of Iraq, ran an exile organization intent on deposing Saddam Hussein that sent agents into Baghdad in the early 1990's to plant bombs and sabotage government facilities under the direction of the C.I.A., several former intelligence officials say.

... 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.

No public records of the bombing campaign exist, and the former officials said their recollections were in many cases sketchy, and in some cases contradictory. They could not even recall exactly when it occurred, though the interviews made it clear it was between 1992 and 1995.

The Iraqi government at the time claimed that the bombs, including one it said exploded in a movie theater, resulted in many civilian casualties. But whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then.
Well, I'm sure Allawi is a better man now. And this all seems vague. Maybe it never happened.

Assume it isn't true. This country does not associate with terrorists. They're evil. Bush would never have a press conference and sit next to anyone who had done such things, and say nice things about him.

Who are you going to believe?

But wait, there's more.

I saw this in This Modern World here - and Bob Patterson (The World's Laziest Journalist from Just Above Sunset) also sent me the link to the Saint Petersburg newspaper story

We all know Michael Moore's new movie suggests the Bush family is too close to the Saudi royal family. Well, "suggests" is too mild a word. Anyway, Kevin Phillips wrote the book on that whole business of who the house the Saudi royal family is entwined with the Bush dynasty - reviewed here (middle column) in early January.

You do remember how everyone insisted that those flights the day after the 9/11 attacks - quickly getting some important Saudi royals, relatives of Osama bin Laden, out of the country - only happened after regular air travel had resumed? That was the line. Then it might have happened before the air travel ban was lifted. But things weren't clear. And then the story changed - it turned out to be quite verifiable that Saudis had been flown somewhere or other during the air travel ban, but only within the country, not out of the country.

Now we find out more, from this in the Saint Petersburg Times.
TAMPA - Two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, with most of the nation's air traffic still grounded, a small jet landed at Tampa International Airport, picked up three young Saudi men and left.

The men, one of them thought to be a member of the Saudi royal family, were accompanied by a former FBI agent and a former Tampa police officer on the flight to Lexington, Ky.

The Saudis then took another flight out of the country. The two ex-officers returned to TIA a few hours later on the same plane.

For nearly three years, White House, aviation and law enforcement officials have insisted the flight never took place and have denied published reports and widespread Internet speculation about its purpose.

But now, at the request of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, TIA officials have confirmed that the flight did take place and have supplied details.
And the Bush administration is sort of saying that, well, maybe something like that happened - but absolutely refuses to say who authorized such flights.

Well, both these are minor items.

The first is too vague to used as any indication that the Bush team is so desperate for just anyone to take over Iraq for us that a former terrorist will do for now. Or if it turns out that the story actually is true - that the guy we laud as the heroic new leader of Iraq has a history of planting bombs in movie theaters for political ends - at least the cause was good, blowing up innocents to help rid the world of Saddam Hussein, and that's why we financed the effort. Regrettable. But noble. Ends justify the means. Worrying about the specific means and precise methods is for wimps. Sometimes you have to play rough. That seems to be the way we operate now.

The second item? So some folks got to fly to safety when everyone else was grounded, and they happened to be from the family of the rulers of the country that produced all but two of the 9/11 hijackers? You have to trust the Bush crew that the Saudis are our allies - that the Saudi nationals who participated in the death of nearly three thousand of our citizens were just, say, "bad apples." That also seems to be the way we operate now.

Posted by Alan at 21:59 PDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink

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