Monthly Archives: May 2007

I do need to lose a little weight, but….

….I really resent the Living XL catalog offering me this:

Siltec® Heavy Duty Electronic Platform Scale 500lb. Capacity

Built to industrial specifications from reinforced sheet steel and aluminum, this extra-strong scale has a 1000-lb. capacity. Features include a remote keypad and display module with readout display, on/off switch, lb./Kg switch, and tare control that is linked to the weighing platform by a flexible, six-foot cable. Includes a double-sided mounting pad for easy viewing. Solid-state technology ensures state of the art accuracy and shows weight in increments of 0.5 lb. or 0.2 Kg. The extra-large 15″ x 15″ platform is sturdy and easy to step on and off. Stable readings are fast-in as little as 3 seconds. Runs on either an AC adapter (included) or go portable with 6 “C” batteries (not included). Full one-year warranty on all parts and labor. Repair and calibration service available worldwide. Item #X1136.

$239.95

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In case you didn’t get the full story on the Brits kidnapped in Baghdad…

This is how good bad the security situation has gotten in Baghdad:

From the Guardian UK

It was one of the most brazen attacks on a government building in Baghdad. More than 40 men in police uniforms drove up in a convoy of 19 government-issued SUVs, to the technology and information directorate of the finance ministry. They sealed off the building, set up roadblocks outside it, walked into a hall where a British consultant was giving a lecture on computers, and shouted: “Where are the foreigners?” The consultant and his four British bodyguards were led away by a man in a police major’s uniform, without a shot being fired.

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al Qaeda didn’t follow the Russians home from Afghanistan

just sayin….

Osama bin Laden got his start helping to boot the Ruskies out of Afghanistan back in the late 90′s. Last time I checked, he and al Qaeda didn’t follow the Russians home. And Russia was a lot closer to Afghanistan than we are to Iraq.

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Filed under domestic terrorism, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Karl Rove:Bush's brain or Bush's as'hole?, Middle East

Dallas Morning News: Bush “setting up Iraq” so we can’t get out???

I pay special attention to Bush stories that come out of Texas. Maybe that’s wrong…maybe with his Texas pals Bush talks more “macho” (not to say he might be drinking…).

Who knows…but this story out of Dallas is yet another disturbing reminder of the dark and unpredictable side of the man who somehow became the most powerful man in the world. It may be that the “Koreanoid occupation” is more than a pipe dream.

Georgie Ann Geyer in the Dallas Morning News:

…Iraq, where we were supposed to be “containing terrorism,” is now clearly exporting insurgents to other regions – to Lebanon, to Syria, to Gaza, to Bangladesh, to Kurdistan.

And so, on the one hand, you have weakened societies vulnerable to the “new answers” of “new insurgencies,” and on the other hand, you have Iraq set up as a school for terrorists with American troops and policy providing the constant inspiration for their fight.

This, of course, is not the way the Bush administration sees it.

The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet “T” written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.

What’s more, there is not much real give in the administration’s policies. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other American diplomats met Memorial Day weekend with the Iranians in Baghdad (a good first move but limited, since the Iranians have most of the power because of our incredible stupidity in Iraq). But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness.

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated “I am the president!” He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of “our country’s destiny.”

We have recently learned that Bush is planning on a prolonged US presence in Iraq, making some bizarre analogy to our 50 year South Korean occupation. Yet many have assumed that Bush’s influence on Iraq will cease in 2009, if not before.

This story raises several unpleasant possibilities: first and most importantly, that Bush is an irrational and egomaniacal person. But we should also wonder: What is he planning? yet another “strongman” installed by the US as a puppet regime in a dependent state? Widening of the war to include Iran or Syria? Tampering with the American system of government?

Neither Bush nor Cheney are the sort of person who should trusted with the immense military power of the United States. Yet they are virtually unchecked. This story should add to the concern that they will do even more harm to the Republic and the world than they have already accomplished, if they are left in power until 2009.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Politics, Texas

Waas spotlights role of GOP operative Hearne in US Attorney scandal

Murray Waas at National Journal unravels some of the involvement of GOP operative and Karl Rove protege Mark Hearne in the Arkansas and Missouri chapters of the US Attorney scandal. Hearne is probably involved in all of the those situations where USA’s were being pressed to bring “voter fraud” charges. Hearne, who was legal counsel for Bush Cheney in 2004, is known as the head of the bogus and now defunct American Center for Voting Rights.

Waas’ story clearly shows the bending of the Justice Department to partisan purposes. And it shows the importance of getting Karl Rove’s testimony; he is the dot that connects the White House to political intervention in the investigation and/or prosecution of individual cases.

Mark (Thor) Hearne, a Republican Party operative who had served as national election counsel for the 2004 Bush-Cheney presidential campaign and played a behind-the-scenes role in both cases. Hearne’s role provides a window into how a Republican activist was pushing Bush administration officials — and perhaps in some cases working in concert with them — to use the Justice Department for partisan purposes.

[ex-USA for Arkansas] Cummins said in an interview that a former senior Justice Department official from the Bush administration, William Mateja, repeatedly contacted him during the investigation and asked whether Blunt was implicated in the corruption probe. Cummins said he was unaware at the time that Mateja was making his calls at the behest of Hearne, whose law firm had retained Mateja on Blunt’s behalf.

In the case involving ACORN, Hearne had urged the Justice Department long before the election to investigate the activist organization and similar groups that registered Democrats. When Hearne came to believe that the U.S. attorney for western Missouri, Todd Graves, was not taking seriously allegations that ACORN workers were registering people who did not qualify to vote, he took his complaints to senior officials in Justice’s Civil Rights Division and to the White House, according to a former Justice official and a private attorney who worked with Hearne. The private attorney said in an interview that Hearne boasted to him about having discussions with administration officials who wanted Graves replaced.

The White House declined to comment on any of its discussions with Hearne.

At the insistence of the Bush administration, Graves resigned on March 10, 2006. Graves has said publicly that he believes his dismissal was the result of clashes he had with his superiors for not aggressively pursuing voting-fraud cases.

When Graves resigned from Justice, Bradley J. Schlozman, one of his superiors, replaced him. The two had disagreed on the voting-fraud cases when Schlozman was acting head of the Civil Rights Division’s voting-rights section.

Schlozman had pressed Graves to bring a civil suit against Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, for allegedly failing to crack down on voting fraud. Graves expressed serious reservations about the case, saying it lacked merit. Subsequently the voting-rights section filed the suit. Later, U.S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey dismissed it, concluding: “It is … telling that the United States has not shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a result of deficiencies alleged by the United States. Nor has the United States shown that any voter fraud has occurred.”

Hearne found his niche in the GOP’s operation in Florida in 2000:

Among his mementos are personal letters from President Bush and Karl Rove thanking him for his work in the 2004 campaign and a picture of Hearne holding up and examining a ballot with a “dimpled chad” in Broward County as a representative of the Bush campaign during the contested 2000 Florida recount.

In February 2005, with encouragement from Rove and the White House, Hearne founded the American Center for Voting Rights, which represented itself as a nonpartisan watchdog group looking for voting fraud. Critics, including the liberal group People for the American Way and state chapters of the League of Women Voters, say that the group was a Republican front and pursued only allegations of voting fraud by Democrats. The group now appears to be defunct.

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Filed under George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Karl Rove:Bush's brain or Bush's as'hole?, Politics, US Attorneys, voter intimidation

Scooter Libby, multiple felon, is a hero to “conservatives”

Anonymous Liberal today notes the ridiculous hero/victim cult that worships the remorseless felon Scooter Libby (which cult includes Norman Podhoretz, by the way).

Patrick Fitzgerald’s sentencing brief in the Libby case was released today. He concludes:

Mr. Libby, a high-ranking public official and experienced lawyer, lied repeatedly and blatantly about matters at the heart of a criminal investigation concerning the disclosure of a covert intelligence officer’s identity. He has shown no regret for his actions, which significantly impeded an investigation.

Yet conservatives continue to openly defend this convicted felon. As Newsweek reports:

Since his conviction last March, a number of conservative partisans—who shared with Libby his ardent support of the Iraq war—have mounted a vigorous public campaign in his defense and sought to lay the groundwork for a presidential pardon. In mid-May, Libby was a featured guest at a New York dinner honoring Norman Podhoretz, one of the neo-Conservative movement’s intellectual godfathers. According to reports from the scene, the dinner, organized by Commentary Magazine, opened with cheers and a “standing ovation” for Libby.

Think about that for a second. This is a man who was convicted of four felonies by a jury that was clearly conscientious and deliberative (they even acquitted him on one of the counts). He was prosecuted by a Republican political appointee, a man who is widely-regarded as one of the best and least political prosecutors in the country. He was represented at trial by the best legal team money can buy. Yet somehow this man has become the cause celebre among the conservative intelligentsia, the very symbol of injustice. How completely and totally absurd.

(Glenn Greenwald on the now totally clear proof that Valerie Wilson was a covert agent. )

Podhoretz obviously is part of the Cheney/Libby/BombIraq/BombIran/BombSyria circle of madmen. But there’s more to it than that. … worshipping lawlessness is a part of modern conservatism, and it is an important part of Bush’s (and certainly Rove’s) deliberate behavior.

Not my father’s conservativism, that’s for damned sure.

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Baseball: A-Rod goes over the line (again).

link

Yelling at an infielder who’s trying to make a play.

Baseball has rules against baserunners interfering with fielders. In part, these rules are designed to keep order, but also to minimize the chance of injury; fielders have to concentrate on fast-moving baseballs.

Several years ago, in an obvious and illegal way, Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod,”) while running the bases, slapped at an infielder, and was penalized for it.

Now he has invented a new way to interfere: yelling at an infielder who was trying to make a play. Apparently he got away with it. For now.

The setup: Yankees winning, 7-5, two out and two on, top of the ninth. Jorge Posada pops up to third. Howie Clark camps under it. Rodriguez trots by and yells “Ha!” (according to him). Clark thinks it’s the shortstop, John McDonald, calling for the ball. He backs off, the ball drops to the turf, the inning continues, and the Yankees score three more runs.

I asked Alex what his intention was, and he said, “To win a game. We’re desperate.” Later, he said, “I didn’t know what my intention was.” (I also asked Derek Jeter for his opinion on the play, and he wanted no part of the question.)

Rodriguez’s intent was obvious to the Blue Jays and the Yankees alike. Just as he did when he tried to slap the ball from Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS, Rodriguez was trying to give his team an edge however he could.

“He said, ‘Hey,’ when he was behind Clark,” [Toronto manager] Gibbons said. “The timing was perfect. The third baseman thought the shortstop called him off.”

Baseball has a way of taking care of things like this. “Brushback” pitches and the like. But if the rulebook doesn’t cover it, then it needs to be changed. Because when it happens in the seventh game of the World Series, there is no “next-day” payback.

Baseball fans and players call this “bush league;” I call it peeing on the great rug of baseball.

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Bush fantasizes a South Korea-type occupation for Iraq

Bush is finally coming somewhat clean on the reasons he decided to invade Iraq: a longterm military presence. Trying to make it into a South Korea, however, is a joke.

link

The half-century US military presence in South Korea may be a model for a future in which US forces play a support role in Iraq rather than a frontline combat role, the White House said Wednesday.

“The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence, but you’ve had the development of a successful democracy in South Korea over a period of years, and therefore, the United States is there as a force of stability,” said spokesman Tony Snow.

Bush and the reality thing? I don’t seem to recall anything in Korea that was similar to what is going on in Iraq: no religious/racial strife, no violence against the US….no oil….this comparison is really over the line, Smokey….

Bush is basically clueless. This comparison is just stupidity.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?

This year’s must-read: Andrew Sullivan on torture

Okay, maybe something more important will come along next week. But for now, this is it (you’d be better off to go to Sullivan’s site).

The phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”. Other translations include “intensified interrogation” or “sharpened interrogation”. It’s a phrase that appears to have been concocted in 1937, to describe a form of torture that would leave no marks, and hence save the embarrassment pre-war Nazi officials were experiencing as their wounded torture victims ended up in court. The methods, as you can see above, are indistinguishable from those described as “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the president. As you can see from the Gestapo memo, moreover, the Nazis were adamant that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be carefully restricted and controlled, monitored by an elite professional staff, of the kind recommended by Charles Krauthammer, and strictly reserved for certain categories of prisoner. At least, that was the original plan.

Also: the use of hypothermia, authorized by Bush and Rumsfeld, was initially forbidden. ‘Waterboarding” was forbidden too, unlike that authorized by Bush. As time went on, historians have found that all the bureaucratic restrictions were eventually broken or abridged. Once you start torturing, it has a life of its own. The “cold bath” technique – the same as that used by Bush against al-Qahtani in Guantanamo – was, according to professor Darius Rejali of Reed College,

pioneered by a member of the French Gestapo by the pseudonym Masuy about 1943. The Belgian resistance referred to it as the Paris method, and the Gestapo authorized its extension from France to at least two places late in the war, Norway and Czechoslovakia. That is where people report experiencing it.

In Norway, we actually have a 1948 court case that weighs whether “enhanced interrogation” using the methods approved by president Bush amounted to torture. The proceedings are fascinating, with specific reference to the hypothermia used in Gitmo, and throughout interrogation centers across the field of conflict. The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration…

The Court did not regard any of the above-mentioned circumstances as a sufficient reason for mitigating the punishment and found it necessary to act with the utmost severity. Each of the defendants was responsible for a series of incidents of torture, every one of which could, according to Art. 3 (a), (c) and (d) of the Provisional Decree of 4th May, 1945, be punished by the death sentence.

Here’s the Nazi defense argument:

(c) That the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement.

This is the Yoo position. It’s what Glenn Reynolds calls the “sensible” position on torture. It was the camp slogan at Camp Nama in Iraq: “No Blood, No Foul.” Now take the issue of “stress positions”, photographed at Abu Ghraib and used at Bagram to murder an innocent detainee. Here’s a good description of how stress positions operate:

The hands were tied together closely with a cord on the back of the prisoner, raised then the body and hung the cord to a hook, which was attached into two meters height in a tree, so that the feet in air hung. The whole body weight rested thus at the joints bent to the rear. The minimum period of hanging up was a half hour. To remain there three hours hung up, was pretty often. This punishment was carried out at least twice weekly.

This is how one detainee at Abu Ghraib died (combined with beating) as in the photograph above. The experience of enduring these stress positions has been described by Rush Limbaugh as no worse than frat-house hazings. Those who have gone through them disagree. They describe:

Dreadful pain in the shoulders and wrists were the results of this treatment. Only laboriously the lung could be supplied with the necessary oxygen. The heart worked in a racing speed. From all pores the sweat penetrated.

Yes, this is an account of someone who went through the “enhanced interrogation techniques” at Dachau.

There is also a piece on torture in the NY Times today.

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Norman Podheretz: It’s 1938, Iran or somebody is Germany, somebody is Hitler, and let’s bomb somebody; okay, God?

Norman Podheretz has an op piece in the Wall Street Journal today, in which he “hopes and prays that the US bombs Iran.”

Podheretz was one of the principal architects of Bush’s “ideas” about the Middle East that resulted in the Iraq War. The WSJ piece is an attempt to string together a lot of unrelated history, make Iran seem like Nazi Germany, but somehow even more evil, evoking a religious and racial war to the death…WW IV, as he calls it.

Firstly, 9-11 was not a sudden declaration of war by a religion. It was an attack by a group of Saudis who were fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who wanted our troops out of Arabia…that group of al-Qaeda had, with our assistance, previously ejected the Russians from Afghanistan. They did not follow the Russians home.

There is a similar group with a similar name in Iraq attempting to eject the US troops from that country. They are not the same group that attacked us on 9/11.

Iran is a largely Shiite country, and is historically peaceful. It supported the US efforts against al-Qaeda and the Taliban until Bush, under the influence of Podheretz and the neocons, to declare it part of the Axis of Evil. Its president does not have the power to do a much more than shoot his mouth off (and have his words mistranslated). Iran is ruled by clerics, whose policy is no nuclear weapons. Iran supports the Saudi peace plan for Palestinians. The idea that some day in the future Iran might have a nuclear weapon, that could somehow be placed in a missile and launched in the general direction of Israel is ridiculous. Why would Iran want to blow up thousands of Palestinians or destroy the Temple Mount? And become a target for US nuclear weapons?

Iran certainly would like to see the US out of Iraq. So would everybody in the Middle East except some who imagine that US presence there would help Israel (it won’t). We can buy our oil just like everybody else. If American oil companies want to operate there, they can make competitive bids, just like the Russians and the Chinese. Meanwhile, we can develop alternative energy sources.

But Iran is not al-Qaeda. And we are not living in 1938. And bombing Iran would almost certainly provoke the very sort of religious war that Podheretz is trying to suggest now exists, a war which would, I believe, result in the annihilation of Israel.

Podheretz’ piece, appearing in the Wall Street Journal, is disturbing. But what is more disheartening is that we have a man in the White House who is susceptible to this sort of madness. We have a Vice President who seems to be detached from reality, who is reportedly trying to make an end run around the president, to instigate an attack on Iran. Who knows what Bush will do? He has the power to do whatever his simple thoughts, or “God”, or his “gut”, tells him to. There is no one to stop him but our military brass. A sad commentary on the state of the Republic.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Countdown to attack on Iran, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, music, Politics