No Posting Today
Off to Poway, California - Nicholas turns two - party time -
Posted by Alan at 09:08 PST
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Consider: "Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
"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)
- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"
"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."
Posted by Alan at 09:08 PST
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Posted by Alan at 17:06 PST
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Well, as many have pointed out, this is a bit disingenuous. We obtain these "explicit assurances" which, of course, leaves us with clean hands, but we leave it at that, and we use whatever information we get. Think of it like buying a hot Rolex watch from a seedy man in lower Manhattan - you were told it wasn't stolen so you're not guilty of any illegal transaction, the seedy fellow who sold you the watch is.Mr. Libi was indeed initially held by the United States military in Afghanistan, and was debriefed there by C.I.A. officers, according to the new account provided by the current and former government officials. But... it was not until after he was handed over to Egypt that he made the most specific assertions, which were later used by the Bush administration as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons.
... American officials including [Condoleezza] Rice have defended the practice, saying it draws on language and cultural expertise of American allies, particularly in the Middle East, and provides an important tool for interrogation. They have said that the United States carries out the renditions only after obtaining explicit assurances from the receiving countries that the prisoners will not be tortured.
Ah well, we got our war.Torture is the tool of the slothful. The main attraction to those who defend the use of torture is how easily and quickly a suspect can be broken. Unlike other forms of interrogation, torture requires only a small amount of training, no particular understanding of the suspect, and scant concern for the veracity of what is revealed. It requires only the willingness to do to another human being what one would not do to an animal. Understanding torture as the lazy person's tool makes it a bit more comprehensible why the Bush Administration would be the first in American history to defend the practice.
There are no "black sites" where we have "disappeared" people? No comment. We're just not saying. Draw your own conclusions.The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger... stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to "absolutely everybody" at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror.
When asked by journalists if the organization had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: "No".
He declined to explain further.
Basically, there can be no weighing of any evidence procured by torture. Case closed.The ruling by the House of Lords this week, barring any legal testimony extracted by torture, makes for inspiring reading. It provides a long history of how English common law banned torture for any reason from as far back as Magna Carta. Torture was indeed introduced in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century by the Crown, but was revoked in 1640, which was the year the last torture warrant was issued in Britain. After that, the use of torture was unthinkable in English jurisprudence. Nineteenth century legal historians deemed the practice "totally repugnant to the fundamental principles of English law" and "repugnant to reason, justice and humanity."
In the words of one scholar, writing in 1837, "Once torture has become acclimatized in a legal system it spreads like an infectious disease. It saves the labor of investigation. It hardens and brutalizes those who have become accustomed to use it."
So the Brits have this honor thing, and don't want to go back to the days before 1640. We do? It seems so, and we're working hard on tossing out this writ of habeas corpus thing, as well documented here.That word honour, the deep note which Blackstone strikes twice in one sentence, is what underlies the legal technicalities of this appeal. The use of torture is dishonourable. It corrupts and degrades the state which uses it and the legal system which accepts it. When judicial torture was routine all over Europe, its rejection by the common law was a source of national pride ... Just as the writ of habeas corpus is not only a special remedy for challenging unlawful detention but also carries significance as a touchstone of English liberty which influences the rest of our law, so the rejection of torture by the common law has a special iconic importance as the touchstone of a humane and civilised legal system. Not only that: the abolition of torture ... was achieved as part of the great constitutional struggle and civil war which made the government subject to the law. Its rejection has a constitutional resonance for the English people which cannot be over-estimated.
Ouch!The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.
Well the man is not happy. But he's a playwright, right? What does he know?... Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
...Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued - or beaten to death - the same thing - and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.
I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speechwriters but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.
'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'
Just more folks who don't have any respect for the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.Two American Nobel Prize winners said Thursday they are worried about President Bush's attitude toward science and accused his administration of ignoring important research findings.
"There is a measure of denial of scientific evidence going on within our administration, and there are many scientists who are not happy about that," said Roy J. Glauber, who shared this year's physics prize with fellow American John L. Hall and Germany's Theodor W. Haensch. Their research on the quantum nature of light has resulted in more precise optical clocks and measuring systems, and is used in today's satellite positioning systems.
Glauber also said some U.S. Congress members are more concerned about the political consequence of research projects than their scientific importance when they decide where to allocate money.
"(The projects) are not evaluated scientifically, they are only evaluated politically," Glauber said, but did not give details on specific projects. He spoke at a news conference after the three physics laureates gave a lecture to students and fellow researchers at Stockholm University.
Hall agreed that the attitude toward science in the Bush administration "does not go in the right direction."
But will Bill bring horror (torture, perhaps?) to this fellow in Rhode Island? What has he done?I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.
O'Reilly has not yet commented on this, but Moretti says he was just trying to be different and "to be creative and let them see a little bit of Hollywood or New York - bring it to Cranston."See Paris Hilton in all her seductive splendor, striking a provocative pose for passing motorists and spreading hot Christmas cheer in a chilly Rhode Island winter.
Blown-up images of Hilton and strings of pink Christmas lights adorn the front lawn of a home in a middle-class neighborhood of this city, part of a head-turning holiday display that pays homage to the famed hotel heiress.
The over-the-top pictorial is the work of Joe Moretti, a 38-year-old designer who was arrested last year for trespassing on Martha Stewart's property in Maine.
Passersby get an eyeful of Hilton sporting a tiny pink top hiding little of her chest, or wearing knee-high boots and a sultry pout or holding a finger to her lips. Even Hilton's faithful Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, is celebrated in a colorful portrait.
"If it's offending anyone, I apologize," Moretti said in a telephone interview Thursday.
Okay then, this man has an odd concept of Christmas, and of trespassing law. What would O'Reilly do? Moretti, it seems, has, in the past, built Christmas tributes to Madonna, Princess Diana and Liberace.This is the latest in a series of artistic lawn displays decorating Moretti's lawn. Last year, he paid tribute to Martha Stewart even as he and another man faced charges for sneaking on to the domestic maven's property. The charges were later dismissed, and the men donated money to public libraries near the property. Moretti calls the incident a "big misunderstanding."
Posted by Alan at 13:18 PST
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Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005 14:21 PST home
Posted by Alan at 18:09 PST
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Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005 18:13 PST home
One more instance where the facts are biased?Iraq's electrical power grid appears as dim as ever, or dimmer. Average daily supply - about 80,000 megawatts - falls 55,000 megawatts short of daily demand. It's 30,000 megawatts below the target that planners tried to hit last summer. And it's 15,000 megawatts below the average pre-war level. (A new power plant turbine in Kirkuk, which is about to fire up, will add just 260 megawatts to this total, according to the report. Two new substations, which Bush heralded in his speech, will service a mere 2,500 - out of roughly 1 million - homes in Baghdad.)
Baghdad, a capital city of roughly 6 million people, has only 6.1 hours of electrical power a day; nationwide, the average is 11.9 hours a day. The situation is, if anything, worsening; in the previous week's report, the respective figures were 8.7 and 12.6 hours.
Crude oil output - which Paul Wolfowitz once told us would pay for the war within months of Saddam's toppling - is stagnant, at 2 million barrels a day, well below the official goal of 2.5 million.
Well, it's a work in progress. Sometimes that's known as making it up as you go along.Bush might argue, in the face of all this, that the strategy needs more time; improvements will build on improvements, successes will generate popular support, which will yield more successes. Missing from this assurance, though, is any recognition of the dynamics set in motion by America's occupation - that the large-scale presence of U.S. troops bolsters security and stability, but it also foments resentment and hatred and swells the ranks of the insurgency, which wreaks further fear and chaos. Simply keeping the troops there longer won't necessarily improve the situation.
The president still hasn't painted a complete picture; he still hasn't spelled out a strategy.
Okay, our foreign policy is transformation. Whack the hornet's nest and see what happens. Who knows, something good might happen. Hey, something good could come of the Iraq war. You never know. It might. Shake things up and see.Israel told the United States it fears the outcome of regime change in Syria.
At a strategic-dialogue meeting this week among senior officials, Israel laid out for the United States three scenarios if Bashar Assad is toppled: chaos, an Islamist regime or another strongman from Assad's minority Alawite sect. Israel fears all those options, saying Assad provides a measure of stability.
U.S. officials told their Israeli counterparts that toppling Assad could be "transformative" and dismissed concerns about an Islamist regime taking his place.
And Christopher Hitchens ? who thinks this war is fine and has publicly said we should never leave (establish bases and make Iraq ours) - who often argues George Bush is a wonderful man who is subtle, insightful and even visionary - is on fire about that here.Though propaganda and spin exist on a continuum, they are different in essence. To spin is to offer a contention, usually specious, in response to a critical argument or a negative news story. It does not necessarily involve lying or misleading anyone about factual matters. Habitual spin is irksome, especially to the journalists upon whom it is practiced, but it does not threaten democracy. Propaganda is far more malignant. A calculated and systematic effort to manage public opinion, it transcends mere lying and routine political dishonesty. When the Bush administration manufactures fake "news," suppresses real news, disguises the former as the latter, and challenges the legitimacy of the independent press, it corrodes trust in leaders, institutions, and, to the rest of the world, the United States as a whole.
Well, that story has legs.Propaganda is the only word for the Pentagon's recently exposed secret efforts to plant positive stories in the Iraqi press. There is, to be sure, precedent for the U.S. funding democratically-minded foreign journalists, both clandestinely through the CIA and openly through agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID. Covert funding is both ethically indefensible and, in most cases, practically counterproductive. In the Cold War context, however, such efforts were often aboveboard and directed toward supporting courageous independent media and opposition voices in repressive countries.
In the Iraq cash-for-flacks scheme, on the other hand, the Pentagon did something simply stupid and wrong by hiring a propaganda-making firm called the Lincoln Group to cultivate an impression of grass-roots support for the American occupation. In this greenhouse, the gardeners did not just water and fertilize the seedlings; they handed out plastic flowers and hoped no one would notice they weren't real. American operatives paid Iraqi journalistic mercenaries to publish a farrago of puffery and outright misrepresentation. Here's my favorite quote from the Nov. 30 Los Angeles Times piece that exposed this operation: "Zaki [an Iraqi newspaper editor] said that if his cash-strapped paper had known that these stories were from the U.S. government, he would have 'charged much, much more' to publish them."
Ah, that explains the Wednesday speech.The administration's need to outsource its propaganda work - for reasons of deniability, not efficiency - has promoted the emergence of a new kind of PR-industrial complex in the nation's capital. Outfits like the Ketchum's Washington Group, the shadowy Lincoln Group, and the even more flourishing, even more shadowy Rendon Group are the parasitic fruit not just of unchecked self-puffery but of a lucrative new patronage network.
In a way, what's most troubling about the Bush's administration's information war is not its cynicism but its naiveté. At phony town hall meetings, Bush's audiences are hand-picked to prevent any possibility of spontaneous challenge. At fake forums, invited guests ask the president to pursue his previously announced policies. New initiatives are unveiled on platforms festooned with meaningless slogans, mindlessly repeated ("Plan for Victory"). Anyone on the inside who doubts the party line is shown the door. In this environment, where the truth is not spoken privately or publicly, the suspicion grows that Bush, in his righteous cocoon, has committed the final, fatal sin of the propagandist. He is not just spreading BS but has come to believe it himself.
So now you know.We got into the war with the help of something called the Rendon Group, a secretive firm that won a huge government contract to "create the conditions for the removal of [Saddam] Hussein from power." (According to an article by James Bamford in last week's Rolling Stone, Rendon invented the "Iraqi National Congress" and put Judith Miller and other reporters in touch with their bum sources on WMD.) Now the PR pork scandal is moving to a different level. This year, the Pentagon granted three contractors $300 million over five years to offer "creative ideas" for psychological operations aimed at what the PR experts call "international perception management." That $300 million will buy a lot of Arabic press releases, but it's unavailable for, say, body armor.
The contractor implicated in the planted Iraqi press story is the Lincoln Group, formerly Iraqex, which boasts to prospective clients that it provides services ranging from "political campaign intelligence" (dirt on your opponents in American elections) to "commercial real estate in Iraq" (so you can buy the choicest properties and tick off the Iraqis even more). It's run by one Christian Bailey, a 30-year-old Oxford-educated fop who helped run the 2004 Republican National Convention, and once cohosted parties in New York limited to those who had graduated from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Yale (Princeton was apparently beneath them). I tried to learn whether Bailey's British accent reflected British citizenship or more "perception management," but no one from the Lincoln Group would call me back. Other reporters were told that everything about the firm's operations was "classified." Bailey has put a bunch of Bush campaign hacks on the gravy train, finagled security clearances, then assigned them to corrupt the Iraqi media. Democracy in action!
The man is mad.With segments of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's political base rising in revolt, directors of the California Republican Party have demanded a private meeting with the governor to complain about the hiring of a Democratic operative as his chief of staff.
The request comes as Schwarzenegger faces a sustained wave of opposition from both moderate and conservative Republicans over the choice of Susan P. Kennedy. Before serving as a state public utility commissioner, Kennedy was Cabinet secretary to former Gov. Gray Davis. She also was an abortion-rights activist and former Democratic Party executive.
In appointing Kennedy last week, the governor praised her as an effective administrator who could "implement my vision" and work cooperatively with Democrats who control the Legislature.
But Republican operatives said grass-roots volunteers are so disturbed by the appointment that they are threatening to abandon Schwarzenegger during his re-election bid next year. Others said Schwarzenegger is risking a nasty fight that could cause the party to rescind its endorsement during February's convention in San Jose.
Posted by Alan at 21:54 PST
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Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005 21:59 PST home