Notes on how things seem to me from out here in Hollywood... As seen from Just Above Sunset
Click here to go there... Click here to go there...

Here you will find a few things you might want to investigate.

Support the Just Above Sunset websites...


Click here to go there...

« November 2005 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
Photos and text, unless otherwise noted, Copyright 2003,2004,2005,2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
Contact the Editor


"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"

Site Meter
Technorati Profile

Thursday, 10 November 2005

Topic: Photos

Catching the Past in Los Angeles Before it Disappears - the Tail O' the Pup

No Politics Today. Enough is enough. Thursdays are the day to shoot photographs for the weekend edition of Just Above Sunset, the magazine-format parent site to this web log. And the day was for Melrose Avenue, as in this:
Long before TV's "Melrose Place" hit the TV airwaves, there was Melrose Avenue, the real Melrose Avenue - one of the unique sections of the city which help define the L.A. experience. It's a funky, New Wave, walking/shopping/dining/ people-watching area which is, in turn, both bizarre and delightful.

Melrose is to the young, cutting-edge trendies of the West Side what Rodeo Drive is to their affluent elders, and what the Venice boardwalk is to LA's residual 60's counterculture: a place to shop, a place to stroll outdoors, but most of all, it's a place to see and be seen.

Melrose is one of the few genuine pedestrian neighborhoods in our City of Angels, and it is unique, with a quirky, slightly-demented personality all its own. It's a neighborhood trying desperately to be hip and outlandish, and succeeding wonderfully; a garish blur of day-glo and neon, of pierced noses and red Ferraris; row after row of eccentric, trendy little boutiques with gaudy storefronts done up in florescent colors, sporting curious names such as "A Star is Worn," "Humphrey Yogurt Cafe," "Warbabies," "Some Crust: the Bakery," "Retail Slut," and "Wacko".
Well, the best of the 155 Melrose Avenue photos will be in an online album soon, and the best of those in Sunday's Just Above Sunset. Until then, there is some local news.

Thursday, November 10, this appeared in the Los Angeles Times that landed with a thud on the doorstep he in Hollywood.

New Digs for Tail O' the Pup?
Internet gossip may complicate a possible relocation of the popular fast-food stand after it is forced from its spot in West Hollywood.
Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times

What's this? The Tail O' the Pup - one of those classic hot dog stands in the shape of a hot dog - classic LA stuff - is moving again. It used to be at La Cienega Boulevard and Beverly Place - that's where it stared in 1921. But they put up a giant mall - Beverly Center, roughly modeled after Renzo Piano's Beaubourg Center in Paris (the Pompidou) - and then a fancy Sofitel Hotel (a French chain, no less) right where the Tail O' the Pup was. They moved the Tail O' the Pup a few blocks over to San Vicente Boulevard in 1986, and now it may move to Westwood, by UCLA. But the deal may fall though as the new landlord, seeing all that chat on the internet, may want big, big bucks for the new site. The current landlord wants to use the site where it stands now to develop condominiums and a retirement community for gays and lesbians. This is West Hollywood we're talking about after all.

Is this the end of the Tail O' the Pup?

Better catch it before it's gone, which is what the pre-Melrose photo jaunt turned out to be - catching the past in Los Angeles before it disappears.

So here it is.

As luck would have it, the photographer who was assigned by USA Today to take shots of the Tale of the Pup, Bob Riha Jr, has been a customer of the famous food location for forty years. Here he gets a good one of the manager.

Ordering, and yes, the Tail O' the Pup is adjacent to Cedars-Sinai, so that really is a doctor in scrubs.



USA Today catching what may be gone soon.

Posted by Alan at 20:20 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005 20:35 PST home

Topic: Breaking News

Just in From Paris: Calmer, But Not Peace
Today's news from France, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis - an account of the situation on the ground there today, received in Hollywood just after four in the afternoon, well after midnight in Paris.

Calmer, But Not Peace

PARIS - Thursday, 10 November -

Although urban violence decreased again last night the authorities are being cautious as the holiday for Armistice Day approaches on Friday, followed by a weekend, when there might by further demonstrations.

Fewer cars were burned on Wednesday night and a police spokesman said there were 'practically no' battles between police and rioters. All the same a police station, two kindergartens, a school and a city hall were targeted by arsonists.

Another 200 were arrested, which has brought the total since disturbances began, to 2033 arrested. According to reports, Michel Gaudin, General Director of the National Police, stated that a hundred of those arrested were foreigners. Of those arrested, 364 have been convicted. Of these, 73 were minors.

On the political front more voices are being raised against the expulsion order of the minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy. There are objections that coupling deportation of foreigners to a conviction amounts to a double penalty - a legal situation not supported by French law, and one recently opposed by the same minister of the interior.

In Paris service stations have been forbidden from selling gas in containers, in an effort to halt the confection of Molotov Cocktails. Police say that rumors are flying around the Internet and via SMS telephone messages, suggesting a confrontation with police in Paris.

A group comprising 160 associations has police permission to form a group at 15:00 on Friday, at the 'Wall of Peace' on the Champ de Mars. The Banlieues Respects collective says participants should have visible white handkerchiefs. The demonstration in favor of urban peace will march towards Denfert-Rochereau. Similar parades are scheduled for Toulouse and Lyon on Saturday.

In another incident Nicolas Sarkozy acted quickly to suspend eight police officers filmed by a France-2 TV-news team, showing some of them beating a young man. The film was shown on tonight's TV-news. The incident, which happened on Monday in La Courneuve, is the subject of two investigations.

A spokesman for a police union said there was no excuse for the conduct, but pointed out that after 14 consecutive nights of urban turmoil many police officers are stressed to the limit and tired.

Copyright © 2005 - Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Editor's Notes:

Pascal Riché is Libération's US reporter. His blog (with Laurent Mauriac) is A l'heure américaine, in French. (It has a cool feature. Double click on any word and an English translation of that word pops up. How did they do that?)

Here he is in English on the riots, a brief item he has cross-posted at TPM Café, home to Josh Marshall and Matthew Yglesias -
Don't believe Fox News. France is not on the verge of a civil war, and what is happening in my country is not a jihad. The riots in the French "banlieues" are nevertheless very serious: they are one of the most serious social crises of the last 60 years. And they signal the death of our century-old "integration model," one of the pillars of the modern French Republic. As the Prime Minister Villepin put it: "We must be lucid: the Republic faces a moment of truth.

The French have always cherished their model of integration, considered as an idealistic and almost mystical process. Its aim was generous: any immigrant, once he or she acquires French citizenship, becomes a citizen absolutely equal to any other. The "République Francaise" would proudly integrate her immigrants without any problems, thanks to her secular schools, her national institutions, her universal values. Regardless of the color of their skin or their religion, they would quickly acquire and embrace French "culture".

For this reason, "diversity", of course, was never encouraged in France. The objective rather was "indivisibility". Immigrants were invited to melt, as quickly as possible, into the French cultural mold. "Affirmative action" - or, even worse, "positive discrimination" - are still are taboo words in France. "Communautarisme" - acting as a community - is a derogatory word in political language. You will never see in France a parade of Vietnamese French or Algerien French walking down the Champs Elysees as you can see Puerto Ricans or Irish celebrating their community on Fifth Avenue. And nobody will ever ask you if you are Black, Caucasian or from North-African ascent.

But during the riots of the past 13 days, Frenchmen have been confronted with the failures of this model, have watched it go up in flames like one of the many torched cars strewn across darkened Paris streets. Every day young rioters have been expressing a deep anger at the French society, even going so far as to burn schools, the ultimate symbol of the "République." Most are not immigrants themselves: they are French citizens, born in France, sometimes even born to parents who were born in France themselves. But they have not been integrated at all. Living in grim ghettos, without jobs, coping daily with discrimination and racism, they feel like they were abandoned by their country.
Riché goes on to explain that the French must now consider something like "affirmative action," but that is unlikely to go very far because of the deep conservatism of the French political elite.

See also Pascal Bruckner in The National Review here - "The riots could only have happened in France."

Ric sent a long post about these two items, but added, "It's a head-bender. Let me think about this before having any of it posted."

So more will follow.

Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, Thursday, November 10, 2005, 11:45 am Pacific Time -

Posted by Alan at 16:56 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005 17:04 PST home

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Topic: Chasing the Zeitgeist

Too Much News: Lots of Things Blow Up

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem! (Stand aside, plebeians! I am on imperial business!)

Okay, that appeared here, so who knows if the Latin is accurate, or the translation? But it's pretty cool. Those charged with implementing the policies of the administration might want to commit this to memory, as it might be useful when asked questions about our secret prisons in the old soviet satellite countries, what's up with asking for the authority to torture folks and all the rest.

Are people thinking that way? Well, the Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker of the General Accounting Office, says in this in Business Week -
The Roman Empire fell for many reasons, but three seem particularly relevant for our times: (1) declining moral and ethical values and political comity at home, (2) overconfidence and overextension abroad, and (3) fiscal irresponsibility by the central government. All these are certainly matters of significant concern today. But it is the third area that is the focus of my responsibility and authority as Comptroller General, the nation's top auditor and chief accountability officer.
Yes, running an empire is hard work, and our imperial war seems to have grown.

Wednesday, November 9, suicide bombers carried out nearly simultaneous attacks on three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman that night, killing at least 57 (the count so far) and wounding 150.

This does appear to be an al-Qaeda assault on this Arab kingdom with very close ties to the United States. The hotels - the Radisson and Day's End and Hyatt - are part of US chains. And Jordan has helped us with the war - training Iraqi police and such things. In the Clinton years we convinced them to sign a peace treaty with Israel. They made their choices.

The wider implications? We may think by invading and occupying Iraq, and setting up there the kind of government we know they really ought to have, we were excising a cancer of sorts, a malignant influence in the region. But we may have started a region-wide war. Why would the bad guys decide that all the bad stuff would have to be carried out inside the Iraq borders? They don't think much about borders, or more probably, think they are artificial barriers to the way the world should be. We fight nations. They don't.

Of course Ahmed Chalabi, who will, it seems, soon run Iraq, was in Washington the same day, and he's from Jordan - although he can't go back what with that conviction for bank fraud and the sentence of twenty-two years hard labor - so maybe there's some message here.

The message might just be this whole business is more than Iraq. We shall see.

Minor blowups?

Mentioned previously, there were rumors that Judy Miller of the New York Times, the reporter who got the Times to publish all the pre-war stories about Iraq having a nuclear program and tons of chemical weapons - straight from her inside sources, Ahmed Chalabi and Scooter Libby and the White House Iraq Group - would return soon to the newspaper. Yeah, she went to jail to protect Libby, and she got the Times to publish single-source propaganda, but would she return as a reporter or even an editor? Would she be telling editor Bill Keller and publisher Arthur Sulzberger what they should and should not print each day?

It seems not. She resigned Wednesday. The Times explains here. They know they were burned. Enough is enough.

Somewhat larger blowups?

That would be the results of the off-year elections all around the country. Something is up.

The Democrat, Corzine, wins in New Jersey (here)
The Democrat, Kaine, win in Virginia (here)

That's two state governors.


The Democrat, Mallroy, wins in Cincinnati (here, the first black mayor they've ever had)
The Democrat, Kilpatrick, wins in Detroit (here)
The Democrat, Frank Johnson, wins in Cleveland (here)
The Democrat, Ryback, wins in Minneapolis (here)
The Democrat, Coleman, wins in Saint Paul (here)

Other races?

The Dover Pennsylvania School Board - all eight "intelligent design" proponents were voted out of office, as they paid the price for the showplace trial on teaching such stuff in science classes. The locals seem to be asserting that Pennsylvania isn't Kansas. It seems they won't be redefining science there. It will be, there at least, just the study of natural phenomena, and not the study of the supernatural or metaphysical.

Out here in California, all eight initiatives on the ballot got voted down.

Proposition - 73 Abortion Notification - no at 52.52 percent
Proposition - 74 Teacher Tenure - no at 54.08 percent
Proposition - 75 Union Dues - no at 53.45 percent
Proposition - 76 Spending Cap - no at 62.00 percent
Proposition - 77 Redistricting - no at 59.46 percent
Proposition - 78 Drugs-Industry - no at 58.42 percent
Proposition - 79 Drugs-Labor - no at 61.02 percent
Proposition - 80 Electricity Deregulation - no at 65.64 percent

Okay, the first was a nod to the religious right, as all teenage girls would be required to let their parents have the final say.

The second was an attempt to hit the teachers' union - and made little sense. Make tenure harder to get. Drive teachers away.

The third was classic union busting - making sure the unions were quiet. No dues for political action, unless with specific instructions each time.

The fourth was classic - give the governor the authority to override everyone and make all budget decisions himself any time there's not a budget surplus.

The fifth was to give a panel of three retired judges the authority to draw the lines, and to get more Republican districts.

The sixth was to cap drug prices in the way the pharmaceutical industry wanted.

The seventh was to cap drug prices in the way the Ralph Nader followers wanted.

The eighth was changing the rules on energy production to make things more "free market."

The voters here, as it seems to some of us, just said they don't trust the governor and would prefer not to have these special elections to decide things he cannot be bothered to work out with the state legislature. This "special election" cost us around seventy million in state funds. It was bullshit. The voters just said so.

Robert Scheer, the Los Angeles Times' token leftie (soon to be fired, according to the word on the street), had this to say about all these results:
The lessons of Tuesday's election both in the bellwether state of California and across the nation is that Lincoln was right: the American people will not forever be fooled. The negative message of the Republican right, even when fronted by a smirking action hero, has lost its power to terrorize voters.
On the other hand, Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz said this -
Every four years, the press grabs onto the flotsam of the Jersey and Virginia races and the New York mayoral contest - boosted this year by Arnold's special election in California - and tries to interpret, infer and extrapolate what it all means. And it may not mean squat beyond the borders of those states.
Maybe so. All Americans trust Bush and are in awe of Arnold Shwarzenegger, as Kurtz know in his bones. And we're all terrified, and will thus, in the end, vote Republican.

Some of us think not. But we're probably wrong.

Still, the results are interesting.

Other blowups?

This should be noted. It hit the media on Wednesday, November 9 -

Who Is Lying About Iraq?
Norman Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine, December 2005

"Among the many distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications that have emerged from the debate over Iraq, one in particular stands out above all others. This is the charge that George W. Bush misled us into an immoral and/or unnecessary war in Iraq ?"

He says it never happened. People like that Wilkerson fellow just misunderstood things. (In these pages see this and this for what Wilkerson was saying.)

His conclusion: "For the most part, the problems discussed so far have more to do with the methods of Administration officials than with their motives, which were often misguided and dangerous, but were essentially well-intentioned. The one action for which I cannot hold Administration officials blameless is their distortion of intelligence estimates when making the public case for going to war."

But there were those good intentions.

There was tons of reaction.

Matthew Yglesias here -
Now look. Maybe you want to argue that Pollack doesn't know what he's talking about. Maybe the administration's actions weren't "misguided and dangerous." Maybe they didn't engage in "distortion of intelligence estimates" (or, in layman's terms, "lying") when talking to the public. But surely if there's any justice on earth we can all agree that you can't cite an article that calls Bush a liar as evidence that he did nothing wrong.
Kevin Drum here: -
Unless you think that going to war is no more serious than planning a marketing campaign for a new brand of toothpaste, all of this contrary evidence should have been publicized and acknowledged along with all the evidence that went in the other direction. It wasn't. Given this, the fact that so many people believed that Saddam had an active WMD program simply doesn't perform the analytic heavy lifting that Podhoretz thinks it does.

In any case, if it's really true that the Bush administration did nothing to spin, exaggerate, or lie about WMD before the war, why are war supporters so relentlessly trying to suppress any congressional investigation into this? You'd think they'd welcome it instead. For a bunch of innocent bystanders, they sure are acting awfully guilty.

This will be the political discussion for the next three years? Seems so. What was said wasn't the truth, but it wasn't really lying.


Other things blowing up?

Douglas Jehl in the New York Times with this - the CIA's Inspector General warned in a report a long time ago that interrogation techniques approved after 9/11 might violate provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
The current and former intelligence officials who described Mr. Helgerson's report include supporters and critics of his findings. None would agree to be identified by name, and none would describe his conclusions in specific detail. They said the report had included 10 recommendations for changes in the agency's handling of terror suspects, but they would not say what those recommendations were.

Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, testified this year that eight of the report's recommendations had been accepted, but did not describe them. The inspector general is an independent official whose auditing role at the agency was established by Congress, but whose reports to the agency's director are not binding.
So we're actually doing eight of ten things that might be legal. What are the other two? Heck, what are the first eight we're no longer doing?

More CIA stuff - over at the Washington Post there was an editorial by Jeffery Smith, who used to be their top lawyer, the former General Counsel there. He thinks Cheney's call for an exception to allow the CIA to practice torture is loony:
The Post reported on Oct. 27 that John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, has directed intelligence agencies to "bolster the growth of democracy" and support the rule of law in other nations. Those are noble causes that will be embraced by all intelligence officers. But if the vice president's proposal is adopted, the CIA will presumably be free to bolster democracy by torturing anyone who does not embrace it with sufficient enthusiasm. Some democracy.
The vice president is taking heat from all over.

And there's this - some very influential conservatives are getting behind the McCain amendment to follow the existing rules and not torture people, and make no exception to that for the CIA, no matter what the vice president wants.

This torture thing is harder to sell than the plan to wipe out the Social Security program.

And then there's something that just might blow up. Karl Rove is not at all out of the woods. Susan Ralston, Rove's personal assistant, is being called before the Fitzgerald grand jury again, as noted here. That's not over yet?

And there's this. It seems in a White House press briefing Scott McClelland, the press secretary, is asked this:
Whether there's a question of legality, we know for a fact that there was involvement. We know that Karl Rove, based on what he and his lawyer have said, did have a conversation about somebody who Patrick Fitzgerald said was a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. We know that Scooter Libby also had conversations.
He answers, "That's accurate."

The White House transcript publishes his answer as, "I don't think that's accurate."

The White House is now trying to get the Congressional Quarterly and everyone else to change their transcripts. They're resisting. It's on tape, and they don't want to lie. The White House sees it as a courtesy. He didn't mean to say that. But no one is cutting anyone slack these days.

The mood of the country has changed.

Posted by Alan at 20:29 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005 20:34 PST home

Topic: Breaking News

Just in From Paris: First Night of Curfew
Instead of commentary, news, from Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, an account of the situation on the ground there today.

First Night of Curfew

PARIS - Wednesday, 9 November - Reports this morning claimed fewer incidents during the night in the Paris area and around France. It was the 13th consecutive night of disturbances, and the first in which an emergency curfew was put in force in selected areas.

Many fewer cars were burned in the Ile-de-France last night as well as fewer throughout the country. Affected communes were 196, and arrests fell to 280, 50 less than Monday night. An interior ministry spokesman thought the total arrested to be 1830 since the beginning of the disturbances on 27. October.

The curfew plan concerns 25 out of 96 departments in France, with 38 urban areas targeted. Movement of persons, and driving, could be restricted. A curfew can be set for the city of Paris by the préfet of police, but mayor Bertrand Delanoe thought such a measure would be 'disproportionate.'

One such town last night was Evreux in Normandy, where both minors and adults of the Madeleine quarter were subjected to a total curfew from 22:00 to 05:00. Evreux was the scene of extreme violence on Saturday night.

During today's question period in the National Assembly minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he was demanding the deportation of convicted rioters, if they were foreigners, with or without valid residence permits. According to Sarkozy, 120 foreigners have been convicted during the current wave of riots. Right-wing deputies applauded the idea.

In other remarks the short minister lauded the record of a special group of police, the GIR, created to combat the underground economy in the suburbs. He said 1600 investigations have been carried out, resulting in 12,000 arrests, with 3205 jailed.

Opposition politicians from several parties expressed doubts about the wisdom of the curfew, and many questioned the public absence of the president, Jacques Chirac.

Dollar Picks Up

The euro's value compared to the dollar has been falling since summer but the slide has grown more apparent in the past week. For a brief period on Tuesday one euro was worth $1.17, down from its recent high of $1.25 in September. Due to huge trade imbalances, currency specialists believe the value of the euro will climb again before year's end.

Copyright © 2005 – Ric Erickson, MetropoleParis

Editor's Notes:

From the Associated Press, see this summary of what's up south of Paris, and note who is in the game now:
Arsonists struck a warehouse used by Nice-Matin newspaper in the town of Grasse, national police spokesman Patrick Reydy said. A total of 161 cars have been burned - about half in the Nice area - and nine buildings damaged across the Riviera region.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who previously inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as "scum," said 120 foreigners have been convicted for roles in the violence, and he called on local authorities to expel them.

"I have asked regional prefects to expel foreigners who were convicted - whether they have proper residency papers or not - without delay," he said.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, said French nationals of immigrant backgrounds should be stripped of their nationality and sent "back to their country of origin" if they committed crimes.
Lots of information on Jean-Marie Le Pen can be found here, and Le Pen has been mentioned often in these pages, as on January 16, 2005 in It Was the Week of the Nazi Revival. And it seems Le Pen was born on June 20, 1928, so he shares a birthday with the editor, the guitarist Chet Atkins, Errol Flynn, Nicole Kidman and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He shares nothing else with us.

Posted by Alan at 15:41 PST | Post Comment | Permalink

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.

"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

Newer | Latest | Older