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Consider:

"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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Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Topic: Couldn't be so...

What couldn't be so is so…

Tuesday, November 8, the news wires were humming with the odd.

Kansas: The New Face of the Nation

As the Associated Press reports here, this was the day the Kansas Board of Education finally approved new public-school science standards. The public schools in Kansas can teach evolution - high school students "must understand major evolutionary concepts" (yes, Dwayne, that will be on the final), but science teachers have to tell all students "that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology."

Yes, science teachers have to say that there are some things that science hasn't gotten around to explaining yet, and so, since these things are complex and pretty cool, they are definitive proof that there is an "intelligent designer" behind them - but since one cannot say, in public schools, that designer is the God of the New Testament as understood by Methodists and Baptists, just know that there must be an "intelligent designer" - or nothing makes sense. It's only logical.

By the way, the AP reports the vote was six to four. All six of those who voted for the new standards were Republicans. Two Republicans and two Democrats voted no.

But the kicker is this: "In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena."

Say what? Science is more than that natural explanation stuff. You have to cover the supernatural explanations. Science is now religion?

No. The "Intelligent Design" folks don't claim God is the designer. They aren't that presumptuous.

Science is now metaphysics. If you haven't yet discovered the physical mechanism for something you must assume a metaphysical explanation. You have no choice.

So the Kansas Board of Education has redefined what science really is. We'll see if the scientists of the world agree with them.

Board member Janet Waugh, Kansas City Democrat: "This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that."

So move.

The AP notes that the supporters of the new standards said these new standards will promote academic freedom. John Bacon, Republican board member: "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today."

Yeah, no one likes having reality shoved down his or her throat. Why not acknowledge, in science class, where one studies natural phenomena and tries to figure it out, those who believe in the supernatural? It's only fair. All you need to do is redefine science. Science in the Kansas schools in now broader than that. You teach them about the physical world, and also about the metaphysical one that we all have faith is really there.

Ah well. It doesn't matter.

Making Uncle Dick Cry

Recent posts in these pages have covered the efforts of the Vice President to allow our government to ignore the Geneva Conventions and do "enhanced interrogations" of folks we grab who we think might know things that would harm us. His efforts have been directed to allowing our military and intelligence services to engage in what almost everyone would define as torture. When the senate balked and, led by John McCain, vetoed 90-8 to say we'd follow the rules we already had in Military Code of Justice and defined by the treaties we have signed, he met repeatedly with key senate leaders to say we at least ought to exempt the CIA, and we really needed those super-secret prison in eastern Europe and elsewhere where there were no rules and no one knew who we held there or why.

Then Tuesday the AP reports here that the Pentagon has issued "a broad new directive mandating that detainees be treated humanely and has banned the use of dogs to intimidate or harass suspects."

The AP item reports this is just an attempt to "pull together" all of the Defense Department's "existing policies and memos covering the interrogation of detainees captured in the war against terrorism" - a bureaucratic thing. But it makes the Vice President look bad, doesn't it?

And this new directive says that "acts of physical or mental torture are prohibited" - and it directs that any violations be reported, investigated, and punished when appropriate. And you cannot even use dogs as dogs used by any government agency "shall not be used as part of an interrogation approach or to harass, intimidate threaten or coerce a detainee for interrogation purposes."

So how do we get information from the bad guys? Cats?

Poor Richard!

But the we're told that the new policy only governs the interrogation of any detainee "under Defense Department control." What isn't covered? "Prisoners in department facilities, such as Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib, could at times be considered under the control of another agency - such as the Central Intelligence Agency - and therefore would not be subject to the directive's policies."

Ah, Cheney may still have the CIA as a resource.

And anyway, as mention previously, the president last Sunday said we don't really do torture. We can be a bit abusive, but these are bad guys, and "abuse" is not torture. Not all of them die or anything.

Here's an interesting comment, an email at Andrew Sullivan's site:
I've figured out a way to solve this. The administration is looking for ways to "physically abuse" prisoners "without intent to cause permanent injury or loss to vital organs."

I've got just the thing:

Sharpened reeds jammed underneath the fingernails. It hurts like a bitch. The nails will turn black and fall off, but they'll eventually grow back. No permanent injury and no organ failure. In other words, it's not torture.

Or how about sticking their head in mud for a minute at a time, letting them come up for air for a second, then plunging them back down again, over and over? Our South Vietnamese friends used to do this to captured VC. It's like waterboarding, only more messy. No permanent injury and no organ failure, unless you mess up and you kill him by mistake. No worries, though. You didn't intend to kill him. In other words, it's not torture.

Or if you're not that creative you can always stick with the old standby: breaking the bones in their arms and legs. No permanent injury and no organ failure. Bones eventually heal, and last time I checked bones are not organs.

In other words, it's not torture.
Yeah, and Uncle Dick is a good and kind and peaceful man.

But Tuesday the buzz around Washington was the rumored split between Bush and Cheney, and that was openly discussed by Thomas DeFrank in the New York Daily News here, where he quotes "a key Bush associate" saying this:
The vice president's office will never be quite as independent from the White House as it has been. That will end. Cheney never operated without a degree of [presidential] license, but there are people around who cannot believe some of the advice [Bush] has been given."
Okay, the president seems to have a three-year-old's grasp of things, his "brain" (Rove) is either going to be indicted and resign, or many say, not be indicted and resign as he's become more of an albatross than a brain, and folks are wondering if the vice president has lost it.

No wonder the New York Times editorial for the day contained this -
Mr. Bush cannot fire Mr. Cheney, but he could do what other presidents have done to vice presidents: keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm. Mr. Bush would still have to turn his administration around, but it would at least send a signal to the nation and the world that he was in charge, and the next three years might not be as dreadful as they threaten to be right now.
You want dreadful? Think about Bush alone running things, without Rove on domestic issues figuring things out, and Cheney doing the same thing on international issues. He alone would handle all the detail and nuance? Talk about dread.

But wait! There's more!

As mentioned previously, late Monday it seemed that there would be a bit more on those secret CIA prisons, franchised to torture "detainees" in former Soviet camps in Eastern Europe. The senate might call for a congressional investigation into the disclosure of all this, trying to figure out how Dana Priest of the Washington Post found out about it all. Matt Drudge, early Tuesday morning, said it was coming.

He was right. Here's the opening of the Boston Globe account.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert circulated a letter Tuesday calling for a congressional investigation into the disclosure of alleged secret U.S. interrogation centers abroad.

The Washington Post reported Nov. 2 on the existence of secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe for terror suspects.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sidestepped questions on secret prisons Tuesday, saying the United States was in a "different kind of war" and had an obligation to defend itself.

The Republican leaders' letter said that if the Post story was accurate, "such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks."

The letter was to be sent to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas and his House counterpart, Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Hastert's office said he had signed it. There was no immediate word whether Frist had done so.
Frist signed it. The Justice Department has been called in.

Yes, the obvious - these guys are a whole lot more concerned with punishing someone who let that cat out of the bag than with stopping torture or our practice of "disappearing" people.

Driving through Los Angeles at noon Tuesday you found talk radio in your car filled with discussion of this - the Post story put counties like Poland and Romania is grave danger because the al Qaeda folks would now do terrorist things to their buses and trains and all that. (Both countries deny running these CIA franchise operations but Human Rights Watch has some really damning flight records showing otherwise.) What else? What we're doing may be reprehensible but it was still secret and the Post should have never known about this. Or the Post should have spiked the story and never printed a word as this makes us look bad - they must hate America (remember what they did to Nixon). Or the Post should have named the countries and revealed everything - we have a right to know (remember the New York Times and the Pentagon Papers). And if your turned to the oldies station they were playing the Stones - "Paint it Black."

And, over on Air America, Al Franken was interviewing Josh Marshall, who I see later in the afternoon had some thoughts on this new investigation, comparing it to Fitzgerald's CIA leak investigation, as in this -
What we have here is an administration under the sway of men with lawless and authoritarian tendencies. Betraying one of the county's own spies to cover up revelations about dishonest actions in leading the country to war, attempts to squelch the press to hide government policy of supporting torture. These actions are all cut from the same cloth: cover-ups and secrecy to hide lies and dishonorable acts, all backed by force and disregard for the law.

Now it seems Sen. Lott is telling reporters he thinks the leaks came from Republicans, which is at least one more sign that there are a growing number of Republicans more interested in their country's honor than in the Cheney gang's governance by violence and lies.

Let them investigate Republicans, Democrats; let them take it before judges. Whatever. Lies beget coverups which beget more law breaking into a spiralling cycle. The executive is in corrupt hands. Nothing will change till that does.
Senator Trent Lott? What was that about?

CNN (Ed Henry) here -
Trent Lott stunned reporters by declaring that this subject was actually discussed at a Senate Republican luncheon, Republican senators only, last Tuesday, the day before the story ran in the Washington Post. Lott noted that Vice President Cheney was also in the room for that discussion and Lott said pointblank - "A lot of it came out of that room last Tuesday, pointing to the room where the lunch was held in the capitol." He added of senators "we can't keep our mouths shut." He added about the vice president, "He was up here last week and talked up here in that room right there in a roomful of nothing but senators and every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper." He said he believes when all is said and done it may wind up as an ethics investigation of a Republican senator, maybe a Republican staffer as well. Senator Frist's office is not commenting on this development. The Washington Post not commenting either.
Maybe they shouldn't have opened an investigation. The wheels really are coming off.

Guess Who's Back in Town!

AFP (l'Agence France-Presse) may have had it with Americans, as their account of the visit of Ahmed Chalabi to Washington opens with le ridicule et la méchanceté (ridicule and malice) -
Ahmed Chalabi, the guileful Iraqi politician enmeshed in a row over Iraq war intelligence, resurfaces in Washington this week, at an embarrassing moment for the Bush administration.

Chalabi, in his latest incarnation as an Iraqi deputy prime minister, is due to meet Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday, and deliver his first speech in the US capital for two-and-a-half years.

Critics accuse Chalabi, once a darling of the Pentagon and neoconservative hawks, of peddling false intelligence and seducing the United States into a war which has now killed more than 2,000 American soldiers.

He was due to arrive in Washington Tuesday with the White House reeling from the indictment of senior aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby in a federal probe, which shone new light onto the administration's justification for the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

He will also meet Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Bush's national security advisor Stephen Hadley, Treasury Secretary John Snow and senior figures in Congress, his spokesman Francis Brooke said.
And he's still under investigation by the FBI, of course - that stuff about his passing US intelligence to Iran.

Senator Durbin of Illinois, Tuesday - "It is very difficult to track how this man, who gave us such misleading information before the invasion of Iraq - now under active investigation for endangering American troops - is now the toast of the town in the Department of the Treasury and Department of State." (And much more here.)

Well, the man is deputy prime minister of Iraq. And he's also their Oil Minister. You can't exactly turn him away. And he wants to talk about improving Iraq's infrastructure, including the electricity and water networks. So what's the problem?

The problem is there's no upside here.

AFP:
"I understand why Ahmed Chalabi wants to see Condoleezza Rice, it is not entirely clear to me why Condoleezza Rice wants to see Ahmed Chalabi," said Danielle Pletka, from the American Enterprise Institute, which has close ties to the administration and will host Chalabi's speech on Wednesday.

When Colin Powell was secretary of state, the State Department was cool toward Chalabi, and its skepticism was shared by some in the CIA.

Whatever private feelings top Bush aides may still hold towards Chalabi, little would be gained by snubbing him.

Chalabi stirred intrigue this month by traveling to Tehran, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ignited a new war of words with Washington.

"On the one hand, you have the feeling he is doing it to show (the US) he is independent, on the other hand you have the feeling that he is going to cover his odds," said Pletka.

But Bush critic Steven Clemons, senior fellow of the New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute, branded Chalabi a "repugnant foe of American interests," on his political blog "The Washington Note."

Some people also criticize Chalabi because he was sentenced in absentia in 1992 by a Jordanian court to 22 years in prison, accused of corruption and embezzlement of 288 million dollars over the collapse of Petra bank of which he was managing director.
And consider his overall rap sheet, discussed off and on in these pages but condensed here.

The general idea is before the war we were paying his Iraq National Counsel 335,000 a month (around forty million over five years) for "intelligence" about Saddam and how much of a threat Saddam was. It was bogus - but it went to the Cheney-sponsored Pentagon Office Of Special Affairs, bypassing everyone else, then straight to the White House. Heck, there's the account of Chalabi being asked to speak to a Pentagon planning meeting the week after the World Trade Center was destroyed, a meeting of the Defense Policy Board, chaired by Richard Perle. And Chalabi provided "Curveball" - that defector with all the information about the Iraqi chemical weapons labs we never found - the brother of one of Chalabi's guys. Chalabi fed Judy Miller of the New York Times her scoops - like the twenty secret WMD sites hidden in Iraq. The link above has all the news sources.

Then he laughed it all off - "Mr Chalabi, by far the most effective anti-Saddam lobbyist in Washington, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled US intelligence. 'We are heroes in error,' he told the Telegraph in Baghdad."

And yes, in June 2004 he was accused of passing secret US intelligence to Iran, and National Security Adviser at the time, Condoleezza Rice, now our Secretary of State, promised Congress a full investigation into that. But nothing happened. Links to that in the Post and Wall Street Journal are here too, along with links to his arrest for counterfeiting and the 1992 conviction for fraud and embezzlement from the Bank of Petra. He still owes Jordan twenty-two year of prison time, in hard labor.

But he's the toast of Washington at the moment, just back from Tehran where he met with their leaders, that one-third of the Axis of Evil.

So we fought this war for this liar and thief who laughs at us, betrays us, and hands Iraq over to Iran as a sort of Shiite satellite?

That couldn't so. But it seems that it is so.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005 - a very odd day indeed.

Posted by Alan at 20:49 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005 20:54 PST home

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