Saturday, May 22, 2004

They Should Have Named It Thrice 

As I stall for work, I leave you with these two cool sites about New York.

Forgotten New York, and Urban Exploration Files.

It's like Beauty and the Beast-type stuff.


Get Your War On, Bee-atch! 

So funny. Donkeys are always funny -- except for that horrifying scene in Pinnochio. Man.

Just check out all of them.


Take the Money and Run, JFK. 

What a difference a month makes.
Sen. John Kerry "is considering delaying his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's July convention so that he can keep spending the millions of dollars that he raised during the primaries," the AP has learned.
Why not? What difference will it make to wait the extra month and be able to go head to head with W.? It's not like he needs the money.


Duped? Again? 

I saw it on Marc Rios first. Apparently those crafty Iranians have been fooling our well-meaning neocons all along, by channeling false information through Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. The DIA claims the whole thing was a front set up by Iran to mislead American intelligence, and further, to glean all the highly-classified information it could from Uncle Sam.
"Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the United States through Chalabi by furnishing through his Information Collection Program information to provoke the United States into getting rid of Saddam Hussein," said an intelligence source Friday who was briefed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's conclusions, which were based on a review of thousands of internal documents.

The Information Collection Program also "kept the Iranians informed about what we were doing" by passing classified U.S. documents and other sensitive information, he said. The program has received millions of dollars from the U.S. government over several years.

An administration official confirmed that "highly classified information had been provided [to the Iranians] through that channel."

ndications that Iran, which fought a bloody war against Iraq during the 1980s, was trying to lure the U.S. into action against Saddam Hussein appeared many years before the Bush administration decided in 2001 that ousting Hussein was a national priority.

In 1995, for instance, Khidhir Hamza, who had once worked in Iraq's nuclear program and whose claims that Iraq had continued a massive bomb program in the 1990s are now largely discredited, gave UN nuclear inspectors what appeared to be explosive documents about Iraq's program. Hamza, who fled Iraq in 1994, teamed up with Chalabi after his escape.

If true, this, to my mind, is the single biggest story of this whole sad affair. Not the prisons, not the false claims of WMD, but this, one of the most sophisticated and certainly one of the most successful covert operations in history. It literally led the US into a war that would benefit Iran more than anyone else.

Of course it is not as if BushCo is some naive innocent lured into a hostile action by the evil Iranians; the DIA itself warned the Administration before the war that it had no evidence of weapons programs in Iraq. And there is still a (small) chance that this whole thing is being set up as damage control to pin Chalabi and absolve Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and, by default, W himself of any blame. Except at this point absolution is no longer possible for this band of thieves.

Moreover, it points to a total lack of competence with this Administration. Being fooled by a totalitarian enemy regime is not the kind of thing one can easuly shrug off. There will be no "Oh well, they got us this time. We'll bounce back." This is war, a costly war in money and lives, and by far the most important ideological decision the country's made in a long time.

Everything, it seems, is falling apart, and if the consequences weren't so dire for all of us, I'd be laughing my ass off. This is truly amazing. The center cannot hold.


Friday, May 21, 2004

Good Stuff 

Keep your eyes on Karen K. She always has good stuff to say. Hey, hey.
U.S. military just raided the spacious home of Ahmad Chalabi in Baghdad. They had a good morning, driving away with several members of the Iraqi National Congress under guard, boxes of documents, and Chalabi's own computer.

Chalabi is outraged. "I am America's best friend in Iraq!" he wails. Chalabi has indeed been close to guys like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and former Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle. Perhaps he confused these individuals with the rest of the country, or possibly he mistakenly assumed they represented widely shared American interests.

He has now gone from a "hero in error" with his lies and manipulation of America prior to the invasion of Iraq to being told this month's $335,000 U.S. government welfare check will be his last, and having his home ransacked by heavily armed American soldiers none to happy about the way Iraq has turned out.

Read on. It's worth it. And always is.



One billion Chinamen cant be wrong, can they?
China delayed a UN Security Council vote on a controversial measure to extend the immunity of US peacekeeping troops from prosecution for war crimes.

The proposal for a one-year renewal of existing immunity comes amid a mounting scandal over the US abuse of prisoners in Iraq, which deepened with new pictures published in The Washington Post.

Diplomats said the Chinese delegation indicated it had not yet received word from Beijing on how to vote on the resolution, which is expected to pass despite several expected abstentions on the 15-nation council.

The United States muscled other nations into accepting the resolution in 2002 by threatening to veto all UN peacekeeping operations until they gave in. The next year, three council countries abstained when the first 12-month renewal was approved.

"Given the recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison, the US government has picked one hell of a moment to ask for special treatment on war crimes," said Richard Dicker from Human Rights Watch.

But who cares? We know that no other country has the power of immunity. We know it's hypocritical. We know the world is outraged, and we know that America is losing face and ground more quickly thatn any period in history. And we know that Lyndie England likes to sleep around. But what's the point? Even if China raises a ruckus, the US still has veto power. Let's just hope that other countries, pushed out of the rule of law, don't take on frontier justice. Or...


More Pesky Memos 

The Justice Department, to my understanding, is supposed to uphold justice -- at least in theory -- and not undermine it. Yet as early as late-2001, it was drafting strategies for circumventing the Geneva Conventions in the event of action against the Taliban or Iraq. Not that Bush had any war plans on his desk or anything.
The memorandums provide legal arguments to support administration officials' assertions that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to detainees from the Afghanistan war. They also suggested how officials could inoculate themselves from liability by claiming that abused prisoners were in some other nation's custody.

The memorandum, addressed to William J. Haynes, the Pentagon's general counsel, said that President Bush could argue that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was a "failed state" and therefore its soldiers were not entitled to protections accorded in the conventions. If Mr. Bush did not want to do that, the memorandum gave other grounds, like asserting that the Taliban was a terrorist group. It also noted that the president could just say that he was suspending the Geneva Conventions for a particular conflict.

On Jan. 25, 2002, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, in a memorandum to President Bush, said that the Justice Department's advice was sound and that Mr. Bush should declare the Taliban as well as Al Qaeda outside the coverage of the Geneva Conventions. That would keep American officials from being exposed to the federal War Crimes Act, a 1996 law, which, as Mr. Gonzales noted, carries the death penalty.

Interesting that BushCo was so concerned about such extreme convictions that it would employ the J-Dept. to look into this issue so carefully. Interesting, too, that Bush's proposed "humble" foreign policy now called for the absolute suspension of international law at any time the one-term governor from Texas and born-again Christian-alcoholic saw fit.

As we look at things from the perspective of several years, the scale and scope of their corruption, and the intricacies of their plotting and planning only seem to confirm our worst fears: that this is a renegade Administration bent on alienating every nation but the island of billionnaires, Cold Warriors, oil barrons, and Jesus freaks that put them in power in the first place. It does not sit well that the lawyers in charge of the World's Greatest Democracy were fully engaged in an ass-covering brainstorm so far in advance aimed at perverting international law. And international law is not a friendly flame to be playing with.

As usual, there was one semi-sane voice crying out from the wilderness.
The Gonzales memorandum provoked a response from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Jan. 26 in which he strongly suggested that the advantages of applying the Geneva Conventions far outweighed their rejection. He said bluntly that declaring the conventions inapplicable would "reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the laws of war for our troops." He also said he would "undermine public support among critical allies."

That quoted, perhaps Mr. Powell should have stuck to his guns before embarrassing himself before the UN. Nonetheless, whatever credibility my country has had as a beacon of freedom, etc., is now completely shot across the globe. Even for us cynics.

Is there any hope? I think that there is. I believe that this is a necesarry step in the eventual bloodletting of our system's less savory elements. No government is perfect, and, in fact, it cold be argued that one set up as well as ours is perhaps more likely to encounter major bumps along the way. Except that the American road has been bumpy all along. Now, however, we're truly rocking along, and at last, the rest of the world can see it.

Also I think the plural of memorandum is memoranda. But that is for another day...


Thursday, May 20, 2004

And Buried Deep On Page 24 

It's not often that you hear one branch of the government accusing another of putting out propaganda, but that's exactly what the General Accounting Office says BushCo did with its faux-news Medicare segments. And if you made it all the way to page A24 in today's New York Times you could read about it.
The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, said on Wednesday that the Bush administration had violated federal law by producing and disseminating television news segments that portray the new Medicare law as a boon to the elderly.

The agency said the videos were a form of "covert propaganda" because the government was not identified as the source of the materials, broadcast by at least 40 television stations in 33 markets. The agency also expressed some concern about the content of the videos, but based its ruling on the lack of disclosure.

The General Accounting Office said that a specific part of the videos, a made-for-television "story package," violated the prohibition on using taxpayer money for propaganda.

People seeing the videos in a newscast would "believe that the information came from a nongovernment source or neutral party," it said.

William A. Pierce, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, who helped develop the videos, said: "We disagree. It's not covert. TV stations knew the videos came from us and could have identified the government as the source if they had wanted to."

Now that is even more bullshit than usual from these people. To blame the individual television stations is so lowly and desperate as to confound logic. According to the GAO, some of the stations that aired the pieces said they mistook them for independent journalist reports. Each video ended with the tag, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting." They even had a Spanish version. (In all fairness, this story does lead the National section of todays Times online.)

But don't get too excited. No one stands any chance of getting into trouble over this. At the least, they may have to reimburse the Medicare fund for the cost of the videos -- which probably won't even happen anyway. And if you think the GAO is upset, think again.
Medicare officials are unlikely to face any penalties. David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, who is head of the General Accounting Office, said, "We do not have reason to believe that this violation was knowing and willful, and we are not in the enforcement business."

There's no business like show business, is there? And it's certainly the only business the Bush Administration knows!


We Got Second 

And that is something to be proud of. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know what I'm talking about. And you live in Brooklyn.


You Couldn't Iron This Irony With An Iron 

Lots more BS in Gaza. And lots more BS about the BS.
Israel defied international fury at the killing of nearly 40 Palestinians in the Rafah refugee camp, a militant stronghold, to expand its bloodiest Gaza Strip raid in years on Thursday.

The U.N. Security Council, convened at the behest of Arabs incensed at what they branded a "war crime," passed a resolution urging an end to violence after Israeli forces killed up to 10 Palestinians, many of them youths, at a peaceful protest. Unusually, Israel's U.S. ally did not use its veto to block the U.N. resolution, abstaining from the vote, and President Bush urged restraint from the Jewish state.

But Israel, whose forces stormed the Rafah camp after losing 13 soldiers in Gaza last week, looked undeterred.

Troops said they did not aim to hit the rally, but tank fire intended to repel protesters might have caused casualties.

In a rare rebuke for Israel from the White House, Bush urged restraint and said "It is essential people respect innocent life in order for us to achieve peace.",
What's that phrase about the pot and the kettle and thier similarities in color?


Monday, May 17, 2004

This Angers Me the Most 

Throngs showed up in protest and affirmation of the first legally-sanctioned state-recognized full-on technically sound ready -to-go one-hundred percent gay marriages in Massachusetts today. Throngs.

Ahead of a midnight deadline, hundreds of couples lined up on the steps of City Hall in the famously liberal community of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get their first chance at untying the final strands of red tape separating them from the legal rights of marriage.

"We wanted to be part of history," said Lesley Chiller of Malden, Massachusetts, who waited in line with her partner, Janet Putnam. "Years from now, I want to say I was there."

Passing cars honked their horns and a throng of onlookers choked the sidewalks outside the 19th-century stone building. Across the street, a small band of anti-gay demonstrators held signs like "God Hates Fags."

Now, there are slightly more sophisticated arguments that the one quoted, but not by much. This whole thing infuriates me more than almost any other "issue" going on today. No matter how it's cloaked, opposition to gay marriage is oppressive, it is about keeping one group of people superior, in legal rights and moral standing, than an other group. It is the same kind of civil rights struggle that his country has faced time and time again, from slavery, to voting status, to people with disabilities. It is the nature of a democracy under a structured governent. It's based on keeping certain people less than equal. When any of the said struggles comes to a head, legal battles ensue, and it becomes an "issue", ie something to be used for politics.

Nonetheless, it is socially important, so much so that I, a progressive you know, cannot even see why this is an issue. When it's an "issue" is when I don't thin it should be an issue; it's generally a very basic matter of human rights. Should we go to war in Iraq bacause a group of two hundred people want to? No. No issue. Should black people be able to vote? Yes, no issue. Should we cut emissions and develop new technologies to stave off environmental damage? Yes, no issue. Should anyone vote for George W. Bush? No, no issue.


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