Friday, August 31, 2007

Back to the maddening crowd

I've been filled with useless information
Spewed out by papers and radio stations
-- The The
Two weeks "off the grid" impart a certain clear-eyed view of things not normally examined at larger scales. This is not a comforting realization, however, when that view results in the observation that very little actually changes on such a time scale. Rejoining the scene, all the familiar memes are seen to be operational, while various propaganda campaigns, both of commission and omission, jump at rested eyes. The bucolic laze and earnest manor of rural reaches accentuate and heighten an awareness of the dreadful nature of much of what passes for "information" in the age of corporate media, serving as it does an even worse agenda destined for an awful end. Except there is no end, only a continuation of the blight. And much of that, of course, is purposefully hidden, while we are daily inundated by rafts of utter nonsense and noise. Extracting oneself from this shit stream is not only refreshing but should be seen as mandatory. Once accomplished, the daily scandals and puerile behaviour of the political class take on the appearance of soap bubbles; ephemeral blips of scum that rise from the frothy surface of a deeply polluted body politic. We see these bubbles, of course, but not the gross and fetid waters below.

The beast does not sleep nor does it loll in its daily toil to service the imperial mission. Hence, the ongoing though stepped-up agitprop regarding Iran and that country's now presumed WMD and the continuing news that the Cheney branch of American government has, once again, engaged the war crime of planning an aggressive war, something that has been in the works for literally years. As well, the public is now nearly constantly informed that the "surge" in Iraq is going well despite obvious evidence and even the authoritative admonitions of soldiers on the ground. Afghanistan is failing, at least in the nominal sense of the word, but that is a near ignorable frisson in the larger sphere of globalized conflict. After all, the drug lords are making out rather well, which only fuels another of America's wars: the "war on drugs." Both for the drug lords and those supposedly tasked with fighting them, by an unrepentant and cynical calculus, this is undoubtedly a win-win situation, as more and more money is poured into both ends of that particular pipeline.

The wars must be kept alight. As the world's only arbiter of "freedom and democracy," proudly, America must hold firm. Given the debilitated state of US troops, a state we are surely not allowed to imagine of the world's preeminent military, increasing reliance on pure and indiscriminate air power is bound to further populate the world with more "terrorist" foes bent on stopping, or at least increasing the price of, a now decades-long imperialism. This battle has been wisely branded as the "war on terror" so that it appears to be something other than what it actually is. For select segments of the "economy," the profits from this war have been enormous, which further conflict will only enhance. On top of the marginally indirect profiteering, others slurp up large sums of unaccounted taxpayer funds through all manor of hook and crook. And all of this continues apace, with nary peep nor protest by the corporations that supposedly bring us "the news." Profits without conscience are good for the American economy.

Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the president continues to rely on his religion. God tells him to make war and the corporate media lavish him with praise for his "faith." The imperial mission is portrayed as a divine good. To that end, potentially high profile speakers who utter even a scrap of the truth of these things must be marginalized, ostracized or, preferably, ignored outright. Which, of course, render such people low profile, made purposefully so, and therefore not representative of the American public. This is a lie. Most Americans want universal health care, an end to the wars, a preemption of an attack on Iran, and New Orleans properly and honestly rebuilt. None of this is happening nor will it be allowed to happen on the current watch. Despite electoral demand, the wars continue, universal health care is "controversial" and New Orleans slowly morphs into an adult Disneyland, the poor and disposed now efficiently cordoned, under armed guard and subject to arrest by mercenaries should they try to return home.

Furtherance of this ultimately doomed agenda is aided and abetted by the corporate media with a constant ringing that America is ruled by free and fair elections. Purposefully ignoring the vast "irregularities" of recent elections, throat-wobblers appear on television and decry the investigation of the US attorney firings as a "witch hunt." Representative of the corporate punditocracy, David Brooks, resplendent in pasty complexion and purple necktie, declaims on public television that the investigation of the firings was unnecessary, the Attorney General "incompetent," and there was no underlying conspiracy when clearly there was. Though the corporate media remain unable to state the purpose of the politically motivated dismissals, the strategic firing of US attorneys obviously indicated yet another facet of an election rigging apparatus designed to deliver the Rovian wet dream of a permanent Republican majority. Despite these efforts, the public will was strong enough to thwart the game and put an end to GOP majorities. Not that that has seemed to matter. For, far from reigning in White House overbearing and illegality, the now Democratic majority appears entirely incapable of even of pouring piss out of a boot. Despite the blessed departure from the Justice Department of the universally despised White House toady, Democrats have promised to keep up the investigation and will likely face further media wrath should they try to keep that promise. Considering Democratic cringing in the face of previous threats of name-calling, this promise will likely go unfulfilled.

While administration supporters see nothing wrong with any of this -- in fact, argue for more of it -- critics lambaste this particular government as amazingly incompetent. Americans are constantly told that all these debacles are the result of ineptitude, as though one "mistake" after another after another, all of which obviously derive from a uniform and tightly controlled agenda, are nothing but signs of "failure." While it may appear to be that way to anyone with a sense of nominal governance, if one thing has been made clear by the Bush administration, it is surely that this is no nominal government. Claims that the Bush administration is both incompetent and ruthlessly capable of rigging government agency to service a self-interested agenda induces a certain dissonance. Clearly, both cannot be right. Clearly, both are not right. If the behaviours of the Bush administration demonstrate one thing, it is that they are not incompetent. They have done exactly as they have intended while the rest of the country has paid a very dear price for those intentions.

Two weeks away and none of this changed. Not that this should be expected. The Iraq war is promised to continue by both Democrats and Republicans. Darfur will simmer and boil. Iran will be a threat until they do what they are told. Pakistan and India will roil for years yet. American administrations will continue to supply arms to practically everyone. Forget New Orleans as it once was. The granularity of world events is far larger than any of what most Americans are often distracted by. This is important for the continuance of any imperial mission. For when the public looses sight of the imperial forest for the trees of daily strife, as they do and will, the engine of empire is allowed to rumble in the distance, and the larger narratives and sickly agendas will continue to run roughshod over the land. Until the whole sordid, violent mess collapses.

This is entirely preventable. But such an effort, like those of the imperial engine, will have to be sustained and long term. Seeds of such an effort are being sown even today. If the Bush administration has demonstrated ineptitude in one thing, it is their own misunderstanding of the sentiments of American citizens, who clearly want something far better than what they are being dealt right now. Resistance is not futile and this country's leadership has stirred the public from a purposefully induced torpor. Now is the time to wake up. Stop listening to the lies and look at the world. It can be far, far better than the way it has been made.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Splish splash

As I work up a post-hiatus post, I had to pass along this little bit of entertainment, spotted over at Dvorak Uncensored. Excitable Japanese people watch a crazy American jump into a kiddie pool from a 10 metres height. The glamour! The excitement! as only the Japanese can muster it on the most banal of activities.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Live free and Die Bold

This is great news, naturally via Bradblog:
Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. is no more. At least in name.

After a year and a half of conversely trying to dump their failed voting unit and/or lying to customers about the reliability and security of their voting systems, corporate parent Diebold is giving up the ghost of their election business which, according to an analyst in a Reuters report, was "responsible for less than 10 percent of Diebold's revenue, and 100 percent of its bad publicity."

According to a company statement [PDF] just released, Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. will become Premier Election Solutions as of today. The company president, David Byrd, who has overseen the disastrous election unit for some time, will stay on as President to go down with the ship, apparently

Applying full lipstick to the pig, the company statement declares, "The change to Premier signals a new beginning for the company." And President Byrd picks up where he left off, furiously polishing his turd, with the claim that "This is both a fresh identity for our company and a unique opportunity for us to concentrate our focus solely on proving best-in-class elections solutions for current and potential customers."

No word on when they'd begin that "focus" after years of claiming same, but doing anything but. They have, however, radically lowered their expected revenue statement for the year by $120 million.

After a string of disastrous reports on the quality and security of their voting systems, along with plummeting stock prices since last week, it seems clear that Diebold, the once-great, more-than-100-year old company, is doing whatever they can at this point to save the corporate parent. While their stock price (DBD) plummeted at today's opening bell, and is currently down some 5.6% from yesterday, the price has begun to rise again in the last hour or so on news of the sale.

more ...

Who knows if this is enough to fix things, especially with Rove on the loose, but it is a start.

AWOL and Wikiganda

Just a quick note that I will be away for a couple more weeks.

But a recommendation comes to keep an eye on Wikipedia, a story which I'm sure many have already heard. It is becoming "rife with propaganda," as the CIA, Microsoft, Wal-mart, Fox News and Diebold have all been found to be editing a spectrum of entries, not only about themeselves but historical events as well, where I suspect the CIA is most involved. For instance, did you know that, according the hacked Wikipedia, the Taliban ruled Iraq before the invasion?

Great. The fetid and corrupt corpse of the American establishment is rendering what once promised and had the potential to be a fantastic tool into a useless trove of disinformation, propaganda and outright lies. In other words, they are curling an expert community-based reference into an establishment record of a false history, like much of the rest of our so-called historical "knowledge" of the American empire. Entirely expected and wholly disappointing.


It's all good

It is inarguable that General David Petraeus’ Iraq surge plan is moving toward success, and there is no reason to doubt that greater progress is in the offing.
-- Jonathon Strong,
Family Security Matters, Aug 15, 2005

Iraq Set to Disintegrate, New Study Warns

That Iraq is threatening to break apart is, of course, nothing new. The Kurds in northern Iraq have established an autonomous Kurdish region. In the south of the country, the Shiites are interested in doing the same. Meanwhile, in the center of Iraq,violence remains part of everyday life as Shiite and Sunni extremist groups continue campaigns of car and suicide bombings.

Fractures, in otherwords, are not difficult to find. And the fractures are made all the worse by the fact that the groups involved rarely have the best interests of Iraq foremost in mind. In northern Iraq, the study points out, the two leading Kurdish political parties are demanding that the city and province Kirkuk be joined with the Kurdish dominated region -- a demand, Steinberg writes, that is likely to increase violence in the until now largely quiet north.

Indeed, the massive attack in the Kurdish area near the Syrian border on Tuesday seemed like proof that sectarian violence is rapidly spreading north. Four truck bombs exploded in villages killing at least 200 people. The bombs were likely detonated by Sunni groups angered by a Kurdish-speaking sect called the Yazidis. In April, a Yazidi woman was stoned to death for dating a Sunni Arab.
[more ...]

-- Der Spiegel, Aug 15,2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Housing bubble? there is no housing bubble

After the Dow dropped another 207.61 points today, I've got share the headlines of the financial world. It sounds like the fucking apocalypse:
Sentinal warns of losses if clients panic.
Tokyo stocks may loose ground after Wall St. tumble
Asian stocks may fall on U.S. drops and credit woes
Stocks drop as U.S. credit, consumer worries weigh
Credit woes, metal prices slam Toronto stocks
WRAPUP 3 -ECB calls for calm, credit worries roil markets

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let slip the surly bonds of lies

A talking head on national television let slip one of those telling and overlooked burps that no one in the mainstream media will acknowledge or even repeat. In fact, the reaction to the statement was notable for its non-existance: nothing to see to here, people!

In what can only be described as a surreal discussion about General Lute's previous suggestion that a draft might be considered, wherein we are treated to the sight of "Democratic strategist," Stephanie Cutter, talking about the "tremendous amount of political will" that will be required to "get this done" [instituting the draft, that is], Washington Times' Tony Blankley blurted out something at which the host, the indubitable Pat Buchanan, and his supposed Democratic counterpart barely blinked:
Obviously, the politics isn't there for it, but if you have some future disasters, and we're not up to being able to defend the oil fields or ....
Whoa!! Now, just wait a minute. Only moments prior, Pat Buchanan was lamenting the fact that the American people are not up to doing battle for democracy.
... the American people are willing ... they're not willing to do battle, I mean they don't want to loose this war in Iraq, but they're not willing to do battle endlessly for democracy in Iraq....
This is tremendously instructive and is indicative of just how stupid these people think the "American people" actually are; what little regard they have for these "American people." I also wonder who are these "American people" that the Buchanans and Blankleys and Cutters of the world talk about. Because most seem not to buy into that load of bullshit.

Since I've been pounding on the idea that US troops are not going to be leaving and will become garrison guards of the oil fields after an initial draw-down, I've probably acclimated Alan Breslauer, aka, hotpotatomash, to noticing something like this and hats-off to Alan for catching it. At least, I would like to believe that might be the case. He's a smart guy, though, and I probably had nothing to do with his acute attention to detail.

Watch the vid at Bradblog. And watch the mewling Stephanie Cutter again if you need to be convinced that the Democrats are just as much of a problem as the GOP.

Rush to judgment

That Patriot Act is yielding all sorts of exquisite little provisions:
The Justice Department is putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.
That Gonzales would be or even could be concerned that "adequate council" is provided to defendants is risible. If anything, Gonzales would come down on the side of providing less council, not more, as his term as Texas Governor Bush's executioner so plainly demonstrated. There couldn't possibly be a more inappropriate candidate for receiving fast track powers over death penalty cases.

The Denial Machine: a repetitive rationale

After following George Monbiot's exposé about the global warming denial machine, modeled as it is on the Big Tobacco denial machine, I didn't imagine that I would see such a story in an American mainstream media outlet. That such a story would appear in Newsweek seems even more amazing. But it is there and, if you are not familiar with the infrastructure of the Denial Machine, check out
The Truth About Denial

Since the late 1980s, this well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change. Through advertisements, op-eds, lobbying and media attention, greenhouse doubters (they hate being called deniers) argued first that the world is not warming; measurements indicating otherwise are flawed, they said. Then they claimed that any warming is natural, not caused by human activities. Now they contend that the looming warming will be minuscule and harmless. "They patterned what they did after the tobacco industry," says former senator Tim Wirth...

As soon as the scientific community began to come together on the science of climate change, the pushback began," says historian Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego. Individual companies and industry associations—representing petroleum, steel, autos and utilities, for instance—formed lobbying groups with names like the Global Climate Coalition and the Information Council on the Environment. ICE's game plan called for enlisting greenhouse doubters to "reposition global warming as theory rather than fact," and to sow doubt about climate research just as cigarette makers had about smoking research....

Groups that opposed greenhouse curbs ramped up. They "settled on the 'science isn't there' argument because they didn't believe they'd be able to convince the public to do nothing if climate change were real,"
Wow, that strategy sure sounds familiar. Because it was Paul Wolfowitz, on how the neocons were going to convince the American public that Iraq needed invading, who said,
The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason.
If by "government bureaucracy" Wolfowitz meant "public opinion," then this might have borne some vague resemblance to the discussion. And they sure knew the American public would not bone up to war for a program of "spreading freedom."

The Newsweek story is great lesson in how these organisations work and exactly why much of the public thinks there is significant debate about this. Check out it out.

What not to do

Also from the blog at Foreign Policy comes FP's own amusing round-up of places not to be.
The World’s Most Overhyped Vacation Spots,
a list of avoidances that includes, Iceland, Ibiza ("it's mayhem"), and Badaling, China, where the Great Wall is closest to Beijing.

Woo hoo! I'm on the Great Wall of China!

Virtual foreclosure vultures circling overhead

Considering the attention the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage industry is suffering and the continued rippling shocks, (the Dow is plunging again today, down 184 points as of 3:34PM EST; FINISHED at -207.61, did the Fed stepped in to prevent yet more disconcerting market behaviour?), the attendant foreclosure boom the country is experiencing was bound to turn into a bonanza for engaging entrepreneurs. Which means that it isn't too surprising to see that some other engaging entrepreneurs have turned Google maps into a foreclosure tracking tool.

Indeed, from the comfort of the keyboard, visitors of (beta) can perform virtual fly-overs of all malign properties of the recently evicted. Complete with full spectrum presentation of high-to-low "activity," "pre-foreclosure," "bank-owned," and "auction" status, viewers and prospective property predators can view the foreclosure markets in a variety of parameter spaces, allowing one to really zero-in on the optimal target in what is an increasingly target-rich environment.

They aren't kidding about this being beta, though. California appears to be the only state available so far. Which is certainly where a lot of carrion lie, so it was probably the obvious place to start.

Baghdad on the Hudson

Simply Appalling notes a particular feature of the recent manhunt in New Jersey. Police now "tear through" entire neighborhoods searching for bad guys:
In the days since the shootings, investigators have recovered various pieces of evidence, including shell casings from at least one gun and a beer bottle with what they say are Mr. Carranza’s fingerprints. On Wednesday night, after the police recorded a formal statement made by Ms. Aeriel identifying Mr. Carranza, they obtained an arrest warrant and descended on the street in Orange where he lives.

About two dozen officers went house to house, said one neighbor, Pauline Bourne, “tearing right through them.”

The officers did not find Mr. Carranza....
Sure to become modus operandi for our police state constabulary. What is notable about this feature of the tale is how un-notable it was; a mere toss off in the story, designed, I suspect, to convey the sense of urgency, as though this is perfectly fine action on the part of the police. I suspect the people who had their houses rifled didn't think anything about it. Ms. Bourne seems only a tad miffed and certainly does not sound like someone whose constitutional rights had been violated. Are we simply getting used to this?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Frictional forces

Now, don't tell me this surprises anyone (via Dvorak Uncensored):
Political spin masters in Lebanon have been trying in recent days to explain the results of a pivotal special election last Sunday, which saw a relative unknown from the opposition narrowly beat a former president, Amin Gemayel.

There has been talk of the Christian vote and the Armenian vote, of history and betrayal. One explanation, however, that all agree on proved crucial in this race: Gemayel's support by the Bush administration, and the implied agendas behind such support, seem to have helped doom him.

"It's the kiss of death," said Turki al- Rasheed, a Saudi reformer who watched Sunday's elections closely. "The minute you are counted on or backed by the Americans, kiss it goodbye, you will never win."

The paradox of American policy in the Middle East - promoting democracy on the assumption it will bring countries closer to the West - is that almost everywhere there are free elections, the American-backed side tends to lose.
Since this is not a surprise and anyone with even impaired cognitive ability would obviously realize that, as overwhelming Middle Eastern sentiment stands at odds with "American interests," any reasonable attempt at a "free and fair" election in the Middle East would never result in a favourable outcome for the White House.

By favourable outcome, I mean that which is ostensibly the one publicly desired. But, more and more, it seems obvious that US foreign policy is tending toward achieving increased conflict and stress, not less. And not just in the Middle East.

Indeed, Bush administration policy paints a wide swath of intensified friction across Eurasia. Hence, agitation with Iran; arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other gulf states; arms sales to both Pakistan and India; a nuclear deal with India with a proviso for nuclear testing; arming and funding Sunnis and the Shiite Maliki government; missile defense deployment in Eastern Europe, Hamas elections happily fractionating Palestinians, and by which Condeleezza Rice claimed to be "surprised" though signs were readily apparent; subsequent funneling of arms to Fatah. Iraq, of course, is the hot zone in the middle of it all.

In light of this smorgasbord of hot and cold conflict entrées, "losing" a few hundred thousand guns in the middle of it seems like par for the policy course and hardly appears to be anything out of the ordinary.

That's pretty cynical on my part, I know. Either that, or it is really cynical on the part of the White House (I will again urge a viewing of No End in Sight to further enhance cynicism about this administration). Given what we know about how the Bush administration really cares about the troops, I doubt the White House has much concern for the US forces caught in the middle of a conflagration onto which the administration continues to dump fuel.

I would appreciate seeing some kind of reasonable argument that increased tensions do not serve this administration's interests. I haven't seen one yet. And I strongly suspect the prevailing attitude within the White House remains: Hell, just send 'em some more Red Bull.

See this movie!

Razing the stakes

Katrina apparently didn't destroy enough of the city of New Orleans. Now city officials are razing houses on their own.
While Willie Ann Williams waited for federal aid to rebuild her home in the hurricane flooded 9th Ward, it was demolished — apparently by mistake.

There was nothing left but bare dirt.

A city official told her family that the wood-frame house should not have been torn down, but no one has told them why it happened or what happens next.

Mrs. Williams had a building permit and wanted to fix up her house once she received money from the federally funded, state-run Road Home grant program. Now, with no house to repair, she's living 70 miles away in Franklinton, La., and doesn't know whether she'll be able to come back, said Mrs. Williams' daughter, Vonder McNeil.

Shrinking turd blossom

Karl Rove, President Bush's close friend and chief political strategist, plans to leave the White House at the end of August, joining a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exits in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration.
I have a certain amount of skepticism about this but it is not entirely unexpected. In fact, it has been expected for sometime.

Of course, amusement rears up with the words of deputy White House press secretary, Dana Perino, who informs us that Karl, along with his "brilliant mind," is leaving because he will be "giving more to his family." Before that happens, though, Rove is going to spend some quality time shooting doves.

Warning: objects in mirror are more unscrupulous than they appear.

Rudy awakening

From the Orwellian realm of the police state Republican party.
Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.
Freedom's just another word for ... doing what you're told.

[h/t The Right's Field and The November Blog]

That's the way you do it

4 easy steps:

1) Chronically underfund a hospital in a poor section of LA, symbolically called Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital.

2) See, or otherwise ensure, that it fails to pass federal inspection.

3) Apply this failure to federal standards and pull federal funding.

4) The Hospital closes.
That's just one way. There are others.

Coming to an African American neighborhood near you.

The wall between church and gay

Bloody Lutherans and their ... their tolerance. Why can't we keep all this a not-so-secret dirty little secret? American is crumbling, crumbling I say!
A national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged its bishops Saturday to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule

Fly zone

Speaking on terrorism thinking and how to prevent another terrorist attack, without regard for causal arguments, Steven Levitt offers up a little gem that might cause believers some concern:
Beyond this, I think there are a few more prospective things we can do. If the threat is from abroad, then we can do a good job screening risky people from entering the country. That, too, is obvious. Perhaps less obvious is that we can do a good job following potential risks after they enter the country. If someone enters on a student visa and isn’t enrolled in school, for instance, he is worth keeping under close surveillance. Another option is one the British have used: putting cameras everywhere. This is very anti-American, so it probably would never fly here.
The Bush administration is funneling millions of U.S. dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks for street surveillance ....

The move could accelerate the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates were quoted by the report as saying.

Since 2003, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has doled out millions of dollars on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation.
You might want to reassess some of those assumptions, Dr. Levitt. The terrorists haven't attacked, perhaps because they can see that they don't need to. We're doing the work for them.

Why look over here, China and Zimbabwe are following our lead. Admirers, no doubt.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Class warfare: Fox v. Edwards

Also from mash, this excellent film by TPM.

I like mash's appraisal and he sums it up adroitly:
There are two Americas. The rich elite corporatist America that stole two presidential elections, controls the country and repeatedly gives the rich tax cuts and the rest of us. Guess which one Fox 'News' represents? Which is why the John Edwards gets no love from Fox 'News' and the mainstream media. It's either no media coverage or bad media coverage for Edwards. The fact is that even talk of the two Americas scares the shit out of the ruling class. They fear it could awaken the sleeping beast that is the American people.

The rest of us can only hope.

It's disbelief!

I had to post this after seeing at Hotpotatomash.

iPhone Bills are killing people!

Ok, well, not quite. But soon! Very soon.
As you enjoy your weekend, ponder this bit of humor: while the iPhone may be master of the digital mobile experience (for now), dead trees come in for a flogging, as AT&T's iPhone bills are quite impressive in their own right. We're starting to get bills for the iPhone here at Ars, and while many of us have had smartphones for some time, we've never seen a bill like this.

One of our bills is a whopping 52 pages long, and my own bill is 34 pages long. They're printed on both sides, too. What gives?

The AT&T bill itemizes your data usage whenever you surf the Internet via EDGE, even if you're signed up for the unlimited data plan. AT&T also goes into an incredible amount of detail to tell you—well, almost nothing. For instance, I know that on July 27 at 3:21 p.m. I had some data use that, under the To/From heading, AT&T has helpfully listed as "Data Transfer." The Type of file? "Data." My total charge? $0.00.

This mind-numbing detail goes on for 52 double-sided pages (for 104 printed pages!) with absolutely no variance except the size of the files.
Read the Ars Technica post for images of the bills and more hilarity.


Sometimes, having zero recognition can be frustrating because it means that days -- weeks -- later, some "big name" will bumble onto something that should have been immediately obvious from various code phrases contained in the original story. The now infamous O'Hanlon/Pollock op-ed generated an enormous amount of media coverage, mostly because these effete ninnies reported that the surge was making things better. That they did this on the coattails of the US military was admitted, if coyly, in the op-ed itself, though no one at the time seemed to recognize the admission. Except here, where the opening statement made in the op-ed was easily decipherable:
VIEWED from Iraq, where we just spent eight days meeting with American and Iraqi military and civilian personnel....
The meaning was obvious:
Readers are to be convinced of the veracity of this report because, despite their being handled by the US military the entire time, O'Hanlon and Pollock have "harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq."
But now Glenn Greenwald, in an interview with O'Hanlon, is revealing that this is exactly how the propaganda effort went down. The DoD arranged the entire trip.
How did you arrange the meetings with the Iraqi military and civilian personnel?

MO: Well, a number of those -- and most of those were arranged by the U.S. military. ... The predominant majority were people who we came into contact with through the itinerary the D.O.D. developed.
Now, don't get me wrong. I have great respect for Greenwald and it is especially good that he got O'Hanlon on record saying this. But everyone is claiming to be surprised by this "revelation" when it was no revelation at all. At least, not here. But "here" is pretty much the middle of nowhere.

Apologies for the self-indulgent bellyaching. I will now return the the regular bellyaching program.

O'Reilly movie review

The Bourne Ultimatum sucked because it "bashed America."

Snack pack rat

Mitt Romney today endorsed President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.
-- Boston Globe,
January 10, 2007

Join the Surge of Support for our troops!

-- Mitt Romney,
campaign website

One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president."

-- Mitt Romney,
August 8, 2007
Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis.
Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well.
-- "War Czar," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute,
August 10, 2007
It looks like we won't be seeing that kind of service from the Romney clan. Mitt does encourage us to send snacks and thanks to the troops, however. Mitt says he will be a great president because he believes in "keeping American strong." Through snack packs.

The "good," the bad and the ugly

There is almost no discussion of the NY Times article, How the 'Good War' in Afghanistan went Bad, on the growing debacle in Afghanistan and how it got to be that way. The biggest reason for that is likely scandal fatigue; pure and utter burnout about a failing war made that way by ideologues without conscience. In other words, a very familiar tale. In fact, there is far more yakking about the Iowa straw poll than about than Bush's failed wars and the way they got that way. Which itself is also a tired and familiar tale.

Ignoring for the moment, the complete lack of necessity of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan -- the Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden -- the story is a very good account of how the Bush administration screwed up the Afghanistan occupation. It is, in fact, an eerily similar account to the disastrous decisions documented in No End in Sight, about the US post-invasion occupation of Iraq. The problem with the story is that it is simply not surprising anymore. Hell, it isn't even really news, despite some interesting details. Nonetheless, it should be read, if for no other reason than to simply apprise oneself of this particular litany of ideological idiocy wherein, once again, reason and knowledge lost out to fealty to a blinkered and uninformed belief and a much broader agenda.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hot cross lawsuit

Firstly, I've got to cancel my AT&T service. Now, I'm never going to buy a goddamn Band-Aid again.
After more than a century of sharing the same emblem, a red cross on a white field, Johnson & Johnson has sued the American Red Cross for using its trademark for other than non-profit purposes.

J&J claims the ARC is marketing first-aid kits to make a profit, while the Red Cross says the money from the sale of the kits goes exclusively to its relief services and called the pharmaceutical giant's lawsuit "obscene."
One really has to marvel at the reasoning that must be present in the head of those who think up this stuff. Is this really considered a viable business strategy these days?

A very long time

Even as they call for an end to the war and pledge to bring the troops home, the Democratic presidential candidates are setting out positions that could leave the United States engaged in Iraq for years.

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.
Well, there it is. I've been arguing for some time that neither Republicans nor Democrats are going to completely withdraw (see sidebar on the Iraqi Oil Law). But a crystal ball was hardly required.

After watching No End in Sight last night, a devastating and tightly drawn portrait of the Bush administration's disastrous behaviour in post-invasion Iraq, I came away with the distinct feeling that the entire debacle was designed to be exactly that. And it was done so exactly to justify a very long presence in that country no matter who took over the reigns.

Watch this film and listen to the Democrats now. See if you don't come away with the same feeling.

Dukes of a Hazard

There is almost nothing funnier on the Bush presser landscape than when Bush feels a need to explain something, some reference he's made, cleverly he thinks, and perceives a needed clarification.
At a White House press conference Thursday, Bush appeared to be already inhabiting his vacation mode, shedding the businesslike, sometimes grim demeanor he's had of late to slouch against the podium and be avuncular.

He gamely joked and mugged with reporters, at one point raising two fists in a boxing stance to illustrate what not to do in a photo op with the president of Iran.

"You don't want the picture to be kind of, you know, duking it out, you know?" Bush said " 'OK, put up your dukes.' That's an old boxing expression."
Just 527 days before this jackass is gone.

Go ahead and jump

Israeli website DEBKAfile says, jump. Right wingers ask, how high?

New York City then must respond to "internet reports," putting police on hightened alert and diverting them from actual police work.
New York police stepped up security throughout Manhattan and at bridges and tunnels on Friday in response to an Internet report -- which authorities said they could not verify -- that al Qaeda might be plotting to detonate a dirty bomb in the city.
As right wingers howl into the void, and after grabbing headlines, at least at those outlets prone to hysteria, DHS then has to step in and discount the "internet reports" as "unsubstantiated" and that there is "no credible information" in this "report." This is mostly ignored in favour of advancing a notch on the ratchet of fear.

All in all, a pretty successful campaign for DEBKAfile and the right wing, which never fail to indulge their credulity as long as promises of al Qaeda bomb plots are involved.

Back draft

Bush's "War Czar" wandered seriously off the reservation.
Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation's security by one means or another," Lute added in his first interview since he was confirmed by the Senate in June.

No, General Lute, it is not a "policy matter." As with most things in this administration, re-instituting a draft is a political matter. And implementing a draft for an highly unpopular war is political doom for the Republicans. So what we hear is the president's "position," which routinely fails to connect with reality.

National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe:
The president's position is that the all volunteer military meets the needs of the country and there is no discussion of a draft.
The Bush administration will continue to sap and abuse the armed forces until Bush is gone, which leaves it up the next president to consider, just like any possible withdrawal from Iraq. But neither Democrat nor Republican will bring back a draft. It is political doom. Which is really why Bush and the GOP have resisted the notion of a draft, even as the Iraq war further drives the military to the breaking point with soldiers now routinely expecting third, fourth, possibly fifth tours. Everyone knows this.

Apparently realizing that talk of bringing back the draft put Lute into bear country. Lute counters his own statements that the Army is "stressed," in order to get back on the ranch.
Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well.
So, the Army is stressed, but it is "serving us exceptionally well," so we will continue to stress it and leave the mess to next administration.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The world is a much better place

The Humans are dead. Affirmative. I poked one, it was dead.

Free market willies

After the Fed stepped in and dumped $62 billion into the banking system to keep the Wall Street "free market" from actually behaving that way, the rhetorical flourishes emanating from the Federal Reserve were sights and sounds to behold. Some might even call them, Orwellian:
The Federal Reserve, trying to calm turmoil on Wall Street, announced today that it will pump as much money as needed into the financial system to help overcome the ill effects of a spreading credit crunch.

The Fed, in a short statement, said it will provide “reserves as necessary” to help the markets safely make their way. The central bank did not provide details but said it would do all it can to “facilitate the orderly functioning of financial markets.”
It looks like the Plunge Protection Team had a busy day.

Indeed, there really is nothing quite like the sight of a federal government that says it loves a free market, dumping money into those markets in order to ensure the "orderly functioning" of what this country, and especially the disingenuous hacks on Wall Street, like to label as such. They all love a free market unless it starts doing something they don't like. When the panic strikes, panic of the markets' own creation, why, it's the gummint to the rescue.

This move is especially notable after George Bush's recent statements that he would resist, possibly veto, more government funds for rebuilding the dilapidated public infrastructure of the nation. This move is especially notable after Bush threatened to veto an increase in the State Children's Health Program (S-CHIP), afraid, he claimed, that this would lead to more America citizens using government health care. By god, we can't have that. Government money, in general, going to help the citizenry of the country is despised by the free marketeers. The market will deliver. The market rules! we hear, over and over again.

Suddenly, though, it doesn't. It can't be trusted. It must be managed and coerced and made to function in an orderly manner, so as not to cause too much upset amongst the propertied classes. All that hallucinated wealth, created from nothing more than rumour, innuendo and the implanted American dream, must be protected. With government funding.

America. The great "free market" swindle.

You down with OPP

It's hot today and I'm being lazy, reading Other People's Posts. So here are pointers to some good stuff.

I've spent a lot of time arguing about the importance of oil as a centerpiece of the American Enterprise on the geopolitical stage. Not much of stretch, I know. But one feature I haven't spent much time on is the neoconservative connection to Israel and how that affects and informs US foreign policy in the Middle East. I would argue that oil still holds preeminence and we'd probably be there anyway, whether Israel existed or not. But it does and Israel certainly has its influence. Kel at The Osterely Times presents an excellent argument on this aspect of American foreign policy and especially how Israeli influence is informing the Bush administration's drive to attacking Iran. I'm not partial to believing that Dick Cheney gives a rat's ass about Israel, but there are enough neoconservative Likudniks "advising" the administration to steer the ship of our ever-increasing police state with Kinesset consideration. Conveniently, attacking Iran represents a confluence of interests, both for Cheney and Israel. Check out Kel's post, well worth a read.

Hotpotatomash offers up much more extensive coverage of the AT&T "mistake" during it's webcast of the Lollapalooza concert, when Eddy Vedder's song lyrics contained some inconvenient remarks about the president. He even has the video of the audio drop. hpm also convinces me, not that that would take much, to drop AT&T service. I had been with Cingular and, through no action on my part, wound up with these buggers again. When I call to cancel, I really hope they ask me, why.

Once again, Len Hart at The Existentialist Cowboy offers up a heapin' helping of sense and sensibility in an extensive multi-media presentation with the excellent How the Ship of State Became the Ship of Fools.

Swedish Meatballs Confidential always makes me wonder if I am reading things correctly. Which is why I'm wondering about possible ulterior motives for the piece in Time magazine that Meatball One points out in Injun Country Networking on the improving conditions inside the Gaza strip, coming, as it appears to be, at the hands of Hamas. Considering the previous propaganda engagements of Time magazine, can it really be just a case of actual, on-the-ground reportage? It sure looks that way. Don't miss it.

Mountain Runner, often referred by Swedish Meatballs Confidential, is a fascinating place, attuned to lots of IO bits. For instance, did you know that Hezbollah is laying their own cable for a telecom network? Naturally, this has the powers girding loins.

There's some grist for the weekend mill.

Dropped on the descent

The fallout continues:
The cycling team of Lance Armstrong and this year’s Tour de France winner is disbanding, the latest and perhaps most high-profile entity to collapse in a sport wracked by persistent doping problems. Sponsors have fled the sport, and Armstrong’s team was unable to find a replacement for the Discovery Channel.
I guess there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Goofin' at AT&T

If you want to really understand what Net Neutrality means and how it will disappear in the hands of telecom companies, look no further:
In a prominent nod to one of the festival's lead sponsors, the logo for this year's Lollapalooza concerts in Chicago includes the tag line, "delivered by AT&T." But Sunday's headliner Pearl Jam complained that AT&T delivered less than the band's full performance during its Lollapalooza webcast. The powerhouse telco turned off the audio during the song "Daughter" while singer Eddie Vedder was railing against President George Bush. That bit of censorship -- which AT&T says was a mistake -- gave a bit of fuel to the forces arguing for "Net neutrality" regulations.
AT&T spokeswoman Tiffany Nels said the company goofed. Its Blue Room website is open to Internet users of all ages, so it tries to block "excessive profanity" from the broadcasts. It hires contractors to monitor the performances, and the broadcasts are delayed slightly to enable monitors to bleep off-color material. But those monitors aren't supposed to edit songs, just the stage patter between them, Nels said. "It's not our policy" to censor performances, Nels said, "and we regret the error." She added, "There was no profanity. It was a mistake."
What, exactly, was this "excessive profanity" that caused it to be cut out of the broadcast?
"George Bush, leave this world alone"
"George Bush find yourself another home"
What I expect Tiffany actually meant was that it was not their policy to publicly admit AT&T would censor songs.

These are the corporate toads that want to control the internet but also want you to believe they won't do anything like they just did. Nothing about these people is to be trusted. Nothing.

UN flip flop

The Bush administration sure are a fickle bunch.

After spending years and buckets of vitriol painting the United Nations as an ineffectual gaggle of dithering simps, which culminated in sending the mustachioed pestilence of John Bolton to the UN as US ambassador, suddenly the UN is being advertised by the new US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, as a crucial mechanism in the recovery of Iraq.
One of the advantages of the U.N. is that it can reach out to many groups and some groups that do not want to talk to other external players are willing to talk to the U.N.. Ayatollah Sistani, one of the influential figures of Iraq did not speak to the U.S./UK reps but does engage with the U.N. envoy.

Khalilzad's argument is stemming from a US desire for the UN to send in more staffers to help with community outreach efforts, since it is becoming more and more likely that US officials would be shot on sight. The UN Staff Council is none too keen, however, and have asked the new Secretary General Ban Ki-moon not to deploy any more UN staff to Baghdad, saying the security situation is "getting worse every day."

I'm guessing these shirkers haven't read O'Hanlon and Pollock, the Hannity and Colmes of the Brookings Institute. Otherwise, these UN ne'er-do-wells would know that things are getting better, not worse!

If the Bush administration is consistent in one thing it is in their displays of vituperative, bullying rhetoric and an unapologetic and unmitigated gall when trying to get what they want. To the Bush administration, the UN was a labyrinthine den of bureaucratic malaise, barely functional at any level and then, only to line their own corrupt pockets. Mostly this opinion was offered up in response to the Security Council's refusal to grant international imprimatur to Bush's unholy and illegal invasion of Iraq. But now, now the UN is vital to helping Iraq on the road to recovery.

What a difference a surge makes.

‘The Surge’: A Special Report

I wonder if Patrick Cockburn is going to be making the rounds on Hardball and Meet the Press.
It was supposed to mark a decisive new phase in America’s military campaign, but six months after George Bush sent in 20,000 extra troops, Iraq is more chaotic and dangerous than ever.
Some of the grim low lights:
- the average number of attacks on US and Iraqi forces, civilian forces and infrastructure peaked at 177.8 per day, higher than in any month since the end of May 2003.

- A US military study recently examined the weapons used by guerrillas to kill American soldiers, and reached the unsettling conclusion that the most effective were high-quality American weapons supplied to the Iraqi army by the US, which were passed on or sold to insurgents.

- In Baquba, a provincial capital north-east of Baghdad, US and Iraqi army commanders praised their own achievements at a press conference held over a video link. Chiding media critics for their pessimism, the generals claimed: “The situation in Baquba is reassuring and is under control but there are some rumors circulated by bad people.” Within hours Sunni insurgents, possibly irked by these self-congratulatory words, stormed Baquba, kidnapped the mayor and blew up his office.

- a convoy of 19 vehicles carrying 40 uniformed policemen arrived in the forecourt of the Finance Ministry. They entered the building and calmly abducted five British security men, who have not been seen since. The kidnappers may be linked to a unit of the Mehdi Army.

- One real benchmark of progress - or lack of it - is the number of Iraqis who have fled for their lives. This figure is still going up. Over one million Iraqis have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since the Samarra bombing, according to the Red Crescent. A further 2.2 million people have fled the country. This exodus is bigger than anything ever seen in the Middle East, exceeding in size even the flight or expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948. A true sign of progress in Iraq will be when the number of refugees, inside and outside the country, starts to go down.

- The Iraqi government has sought to conceal civilian casualty figures by banning journalists from the scenes of bombings, and banned hospitals and the Health Ministry from giving information. In July, AP reported, 2,024 Iraqis died violently, a 23 per cent rise on June, which was the last month for which the government gave a figure.

This is almost certainly an underestimate. In a single bombing in the district of Karada in Baghdad on 26 July, Iraqi television and Western media cited the police as saying that there were 25 dead and 100 wounded. A week later, a list of the names of 92 dead and 127 wounded, compiled by municipal workers, was pinned up on shuttered shopfronts in the area.
Efforts to cover up the real situation abound:
US embassy staff complained that when the pro-war Republican Senator John McCain came to Baghdad and ludicrously claimed that security was fast improving, they were forced to doff their helmets and body armor when standing with him lest the protective equipment might be interpreted as a mute contradiction of the Senator’s assertions.

When Vice-President Dick Cheney visited the Green Zone, the sirens giving warning of incoming rockets or mortar rounds were kept silent during an attack, to prevent them booming out of every television screen in America.
Cockburn has been in Iraq for years now and didn't just skip through the country on an eight day bump and grind with US military brass. If you want to know what is really going on there, read this.

Majority oppose the Oil Law

As with the general feelings of Iraqis on the American occupation, a large majority of Iraqis oppose the Oil Law the Bush administration and Congress are determined to be made the law of the land.
A new public opinion poll has found nearly two thirds of Iraqis oppose plans to open the country’s oilfields to foreign companies.

The poll found a majority of every Iraqi ethnic and religious group believe their oil should remain nationalized. Some 66 percent of Shi’ites and 62 percent of Sunnis support government control of the oil sector, along with 52 percent of Kurds.
While the story says that Iraqis oppose "oil privatization," we know what that really means. And so do the Iraqis.
[the poll] was the first time ordinary Iraqis have been asked their views about an oil law geared towards privatizing Iraq’s most lucrative natural resource.

In the Bush dugout

There is a Bush family tale of woe presented in the New York Times today. The tears and remorse of Padre Bush spill onto the page about the mean way people speak to him about his widely despised son. Indeed, so rough is the treatment that Papa Bush endures, we are told that Bush Sr.
likens himself to a Little League father whose kid is having a rough game.
This is how George Bush senior views his relationship both to the world and his miscreant son, a man who lied the country to war, stewards the horrific killing in Iraq and continues to exacerbate the worst humanitarian disaster on the planet. Why, it's just like Little League! Poor Georgie is having a rough game, getting hit with every wild pitch that comes off the mean mound of public opinion. No wonder the continuance of the Iraq disaster is of little concern to the Bushes. It is all just a game.

But further into the article, another telling passage is offered up as we learn that Bush Sr. speak a lot more frequently and confidentially with Bush Jr. than many people, even Bush's White House advisers, know about. Former White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, says that sometimes he can hear and see Daddy Bush speaking through his son.
It was relatively easy for me to read the sitting president’s body language after he had talked to his mother or father. Sometimes he’d ask me a probing question. And I’d think, Hmm, I don’t think that question came from him.
A probing question from Bush. I think we can all agree that probing questions are not Bush Jr.'s strong suite. And you don't need to read body language to figure that out.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Making the situation better

Sometimes, I will hear people say the darnedest things. Like, does propaganda work? The obvious reply is, of course, it works! Corporations wouldn't spend $250 billion a year on advertising if it didn't. Most people, though, don't really think of advertising as propaganda per se. I'm baffled as to why that is, but they don't.

They usually think of propaganda as something the government does to lie to the public or, in more benign forms, convince the public of something that they would otherwise have reason to doubt. Which is true. Propaganda is that, too. But does that work, they will ask. The answer to that question should be obvious given our current and likely never-ending predicaments in Iraq and Afghanistan. These programs depend on a number of factors, such as how subtle is the job, whether it is presented as "news" by operationally separated entities, the density of presentation. What is certain is that such programs neither have, nor do they need, any relationship with the truth.

As regards our current epoch, the government propaganda campaigns we have seen executed in the so-called news media have been very effective indeed. So effective, in fact, that the government press releases and talking points can no longer be distinguished from news reporting by nominal viewers. Even the news media themselves seem unable to distinguish these at times, the "video news release" and administration-paid talking head scams being cases in point. But after the exposure of the lies about Iraq and reports of the various fake news efforts conducted by the Bush administration, the fallout has been remarkable for one notable feature: there hasn't been any. The fallout from these disastrous propaganda campaigns has, in fact, been non-existent. People still seem willing to buy into whatever the White House and the Pentagon say, as long as they hear often enough. Or rather, as long as it is pushed at them with a certain frequency and intensity. Which is where the corporate media come into the equation.

Lately, there has been quite an uproar over various disingenuous reports about "progress" in Iraq, the O'Hanlon/Pollock op-ed being the most feverishly discussed. These reports, which appear to be nothing more than pleas for continued, deadly indulgence, follow on the heals of brief trips to Iraq hosted by the US military. Yet our media, including all the major networks and the New York Times, hosted and boasted the line that things in Iraq were looking up based solely on what the US military chose to expose to these jejune pipsqueaks. You wait! just another six months! None sought to report that, as O'Hanlon and Pollock skipped a merry path from one one television show to another, electricity in Baghdad had become all but non-existent, which has now led to severe water shortages. Malnutrition among Iraqis, especially children, has been on the rise and continues to sky rocket, with one third of Iraqi children now thought to be malnourished to the point of emergency. But of this, not a word. Not a fucking word.

Which is why the latest Gallup poll should strike us with some bemusement.
In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, taken Friday through Sunday, the proportion of those who said the additional troops are "making the situation better" rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was "not making much difference" dropped to 41% from 51%.
There is no metric nor combination of metrics that could lead anyone to this conclusion. This has been only the result of the recent cavalcade of war stars, shining brightly and saying that things are looking up. It's working.

I now suspect that a full court press could once again convince the morons in Congress and a larger portion of the American public that attacking Iran is an absolute must. In fact, this does not appear to be the hurdle the Cheneyites face but, rather, they face a resistance within the establishment, namely the Pentagon, to attacking Iran at some pre-determined time. Coercing a public so easily manipulated into accepting such a "need" appears not to be much of a problem at all.

Biblical vengence

Robertsonian logic would insist that God is not happy with Fox News:
The NYC headquarters of Fox News is completely flooded.

The French, the facts, the traitors

Something you will never see in patriotic American newspaper ledes. Of course, it comes from those damnable Frenchmen:
US President George W. Bush charged Monday that Iran has openly declared that it seeks nuclear weapons -- an inaccurate accusation at a time of sharp tensions between Washington and Tehran.

[via Brian Beutler and Matthew Yglesias]

The few, the proud, the Romneys

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday defended his five sons' decision not to enlist in the military, saying they're showing their support for the country by "helping me get elected."

Army says...

For those unaware of the brouhaha surrounding the Beauchamp stories publish in The New Republic, a then little noted dairy of a soldier reporting on daily behaviours of he and his comrades, the controversy, like many things that appear in The Weekly Standard, was completely manufactured by Bill Kristol's neocon trolls. The Weekly Standard was shocked, shocked! by the details related -- running over dogs, wearing skulls on heads -- and declaimed, first the author and, when Beauchamp turned out to a) exist and b) be a soldier in Iraq, then his stories fell under the scrutinies of the keyboard kommandos determined, once again, to prove the mendacity of the liberal press. Exigency required Beauchamp the defamer to be held to account.

Perhaps the one tale that enraged further the already enraged was one that describe how fellow soldiers had mocked a disfigured female soldier. Oh! that can't be true! American soldiers would never do that! Impossible! came the cries from right field. Lies! despicable lies! Yes, making fun of a disfigured soldier was simply beyond belief. Free from knowledge about how male soldiers have actually treated their female comrades, the right jumped on this tale as proof that everything Beauchamp said was untrue.

How to reconcile, then, the refusal to believe that male soldiers could be so cavalier and cruel, with the fact that female soldiers in Iraq have been subjected to rape in various FOBs operating in Iraq? Women soldiers, in fact, have died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day for fear of being raped going to the latrine at night. The latrine at FOB Victory was separated from main barracks and was the rape ground of choice for male soldiers, soldiers the Weekly Standard and their acolytes cannot imagine taunting a woman in uniform.
Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.

The latrine for female soldiers at Camp Victory wasn't located near their barracks, so they had to go outside if they needed to use the bathroom. "There were no lights near any of their facilities, so women were doubly easy targets in the dark of the night," Karpinski told retired US Army Col. David Hackworth in a September 2004 interview. It was there that male soldiers assaulted and raped women soldiers. So the women took matters into their own hands. They didn't drink in the late afternoon so they wouldn't have to urinate at night. They didn't get raped. But some died of dehydration in the desert heat, Karpinski said.

Karpinski testified that a surgeon for the coalition's joint task force said in a briefing that "women in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the port-a-lets or the latrines were not drinking liquids after 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and in 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep."
The Army covered this up. Good news, though: female soldiers were offered an 800 number state-side to make reports of this behaviour. 83 reports were called in, all of which were greeted by an answering machine. The problem, finally acknowledge at least internally, led to some halting "action" and female soldiers can now visit the Army's sexual assault website. This has hardly solved the problem and, in 2005, some 2300 cases of sexual assaults were reported, a number that is likely "vastly underreported." But, we are not to believe that male soldiers would make fun of a disfigured female soldier.

Given the trove of documented atrocities already at hand, hardly anyone had paid attention to the Beauchamp stories -- hardly revelatory -- outside the restricted confines of the right wing nut-machine. Until now. Now, it is "news" in the New York Times, which, once again, offers itself up as a Pentagon press release distributor. The tell comes in the easily identifiable headline,
Army Says Soldier’s Articles for Magazine Were False
We are to believe this, of course, just as we were to believe the Army when it said Pat Tillman was killed by enemy fire ... until they admitted he wasn't; the Haditha massacre was fiction ... until soldiers were convicted of it; they never used white phosphorous ... until they admitted they had. And while reasonable thinking adults have great cause to doubt any words issued by the US military, the right wing grind house continues to exercise its credulity in defense of any and every incredible thing the US military offers up when covering its own ass.

Whether Beauchamp's anecdotes are true is, while not entirely beside the point, certainly not the large issue here. They hardly describe behaviour that is unbelievable, despite right wing protests to the contrary. Known and documented behaviour, from conspiracy to rape a 14 Iraqi girl and kill her family, to raping female comrades, to executing an entire Iraqi family at Haditha, have proved to be far, far worse than the slights that Beauchamp related and things which The Weekly Standard has been notably silent about.

Since the The Weekly Standard is not a news outlet so much as a blatant neoconservative propaganda sheet, the true purpose of the Weekly outrage is to paint "the media" as a source of lies against America. While this is generally true, it is certainly not so in the way The Weekly Standard would have the public believe. Because here is the New York Times telling us what the Army says....

"Extreme weather the norm across globe"

It is good to see The Financial Times catching up with ATS. Following the previous post on weather extremes around the world, FT reports,
The world this year has ­suffered record-breaking weather extremes in almost every continent, the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organisation has warned, with global land temperatures reaching their highest levels since records began in 1800.

The floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms could be part of the climate’s natural variations and cannot be directly attributed to climate change. However, such instances of extreme weather are consistent with predictions of what will happen as the world’s climate grows warmer.
FT offers up another litany:
The WMO said global land surface temperatures in 2007 were 1.89°C warmer than average for January, and 1.37°C warmer than average for April. It tracked an alarming incidence of unusually adverse weather from Europe and Asia to Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

“Monsoon extremes and incessant rains caused large-scale flooding all over South Asia,” it said, “a situation that continues even now, resulting in more than 500 deaths, displacement of more than 10m people and destruction of vast areas of croplands, livestock and property.”

Cyclone Gonu, the first documented cyclone in the Arabian Sea, landed in Oman on June 6 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 148km/h, affecting more than 20,000 people.

In east Asia, heavy rains in June ravaged southern China, where flooding affected more than 13.5m people; while in England and Wales the period from May to July was the wettest since records began in 1766.

Germany also saw its wettest May since countrywide observations started in 1901; in sharp contrast with the previous month, which was its driest April since 1901.

Further south, the worst flooding in six years hit Mozambique in February, while abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan since the end of June has caused the Nile River and other seasonal rivers to overflow.

A series of large swell waves (3 metres-4.5 metres) swamped 68 islands in 16 atolls in the Maldives, while to the west, in Latin America, early May saw Uruguay’s worst flooding since 1959.

These deluges were matched by extremes of temperature in other parts of the world, with two record-breaking heatwaves affecting southeastern Europe in June and July. In May, Moscow recorded its highest temperature since 1891.

In July, temperatures in Argentina and Chile plunged to –22°C and –18°C, respectively.

South Africa, on June 27, experienced its first significant snowfall since 1981 (25cm of snow in parts of the country).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Justice talking

Apparently, the FBI thinks it perfectly reasonable to allow murderers to walk free and imprison innocent people so as not to hinder drug investigations.
[A]ll of this is necessary, the FBI is saying, to keep people from getting high.
Radley Balko has the details.

This is epilogue to the tale of the House of Death and the story that the DoJ, our guardian of law, has been ordered to pay restitution of $101.7 million after the FBI withheld exculpatory evidence and sent four innocent men to prison for decades. The judge in that case expressed righteous fury:
FBI officials up the line allowed their employees to break laws, violate rules, and ruin lives, interrupted only with the occasional burst of applause," said Gertner, berating the FBI for giving commendations and bonuses to the agents who helped send the men to prison....

"Sadly when law enforcement perverts its mission, the criminal justice system does not easily self-correct. We understand that our system makes mistakes; we have appeals to address them. But this case goes beyond mistakes, beyond unavoidable errors of a fallible system.

"This case is about intentional misconduct, subornation of perjury, conspiracy, the framing of innocent men."

The documents showed the FBI knew that the key witness in the case, notorious hit man Joseph "The Animal" Barboza, may have falsely implicated the four men while protecting one of Deegan's true killers, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi, who was an FBI informant.
Brazenly, FBI director Mueller said,
I would suggest to you that that is isolated. Day in and day out over the years, FBI agents have been undertaking investigations and done them lawfully.
Suggest all you want, Mueller. Go read the House of Death and see if you can believe anything coming out of the DoJ.

For the record

I just wrote to Maryland's senior senator about her vote on the FISA amendment.

Dear Senator Mikulski,

I am writing as a constituent to express my deep dismay upon learning of your vote authorizing the White House extended warrantless surveillance powers without full and sufficient consideration of this important matter by Congress and especially by the Senate. There is simply no excuse for rushing such legislation in advance of the congressional holiday. Even those in your own Democratic party have admitted that the bill is bad, possibly worse than first glance revealed.

How do you justify this blatant abrogation of your duties in Congress?

Novak's good ol' days

Diane Rehm had Robert Novak on her show today, hawking his new self-aggrandizing promotional tome, The Prince of Darkness, apparently having co-opted the royal title from Richard Perle (and here I thought he was Jon Stewart's "little douchebag"). The expected whingeing about the Plame affair was the order of the day -- he was "let down" by his journalistic collegues -- until he started in on the "liberal media," a lamentable development of which he is utterly convinced. At one point, he made a remarkable confession and said that the Los Angeles Times, now gratingly liberal according to Novak, was "an adjunct of the California Republican party."

Ahhh, those were the days, eh, Robert?

Primal instinct

We have an amazing country, where people's instinct, first instinct, is to help save life.
-- George Bush,
Aug. 4, 2007

The collapse of a major bridge in Minnesota should serve as a “wake-up call” for the federal government to spend more money maintaining the nation’s aging bridges rather than building new spans, Sen. Charles Schumer said yesterday.

Schumer said he will introduce legislation next month to double a proposed transportation bill appropriation to $10 billion. President Bush, however, has threatened to veto the measure