Monthly Archives: April 2007

9/11 Conspiracy theorists take note: burning fuel melts steel in Oakland

are we clear?

“The heat from the wreckage caused the ramp connecting eastbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 to melt and collapse,” Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said. “The temperature during the fire exceeded 2,000 degrees.”

The tanker carried 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline. The fire burned for about three hours after the 3:41 a.m. crash, heating the exposed steel girders on the underside of the skyway ramp.

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Filed under San Francisco, travel

Bob Kengle, formerly of Department of Justice, on the sabotage of the Voting Rights division

via TPM Muckraker:

From 2001 on there were repeated occasions on which I discovered after the fact that front office personnel (that is, the political appointees) had directly contacted attorneys I was supervising without first advising me or the section chief. Before this Administration such contacts were extremely rare and generally only occurred under exigent circumstances. This was a serious problem for several reasons. First, the front office personnel lacked the specialized litigation experience needed to successfully litigate voting rights cases at the highest level. Even if such direct contacts were well-intentioned, the political appointees’ judgment often was poorly informed. By first discussing a matter with me or the section chief we could ensure that the appointees were aware of the relevant legal, factual, policy and tactical considerations before any directions were given to the line attorneys. What may appear to be a good argument in a particular case may be inconsistent with longstanding positions that in fairness should be adhered to absent a convincing reason to change. States, political subdivisions and public officials (who are the parties against whom the Voting Section generally litigates) have every right to expect the Department to be consistent. Ad hoc arguments are de rigeur for private litigants but the Department must be judged by a higher standard. Direct contacts with the line attorneys undermine these policy considerations….

also was very concerned that increased interaction between line attorneys and political appointees would result in retaliation against line attorneys who did not toe the line. The Civil Rights Division historically had been structured so that part of my role as a supervisor was to be a buffer against such conflict between political appointees and line attorneys, who could then be evaluated by the quality of their work rather than the extent to which they were “team players” with the Administration. If there was a price for disagreeing with the front office, it was mine to pay – not the attorneys I supervised. In bypassing the section chief and deputy chiefs the front office seriously (and in my view quite deliberately) undermined the institutional safeguards protecting the Section’s career staff.

ut by late 2004, I did not believe that I could ensure that following the law and facts would remain a higher priority than partisan favoritism. This was based partly upon my expectation that the Administration, if returned to office, would feel less constraint against heavy-handed management and biased enforcement than had been the case in the aftermath of the controversial 2000 election. To put it bluntly, before 2004 the desire to politicize the Voting
Section’s work was evident, but it was tempered by a recognition that there were limits to doing so. That such constraints diminished over time is evidenced by the well-known and ham-fisted handling of decisions involving Texas’ congressional redistricting plan in late 2003 and Georgia’s voter ID law in 2005. My concerns also were greatly magnified by the evident intention of the political appointees to replace Joe Rich after the 2004 election with a new section chief who would be a willing “team player”.


It is a menace to the historic credibility of the Civil Rights Division (which I can tell you was a real thing and part of what made being a Division lawyer different), and especially the Voting Section, if its line attorneys come to be viewed by federal courts, by state and local governments and by the general public as just a bunch of Administration flunkies. It is an even greater danger if that is true.

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

The US and Iran: Elliot Abrams’ sandbox turns into a garden in spring

It’s almost beyond recounting, the number of “let’s make nice with Iran” stories coming out of Washington, New York and Baghdad. And it was just a month ago that we closed the books on Abrams “bombIran” farce. The fact is that Iran is not an evil country, and most of the people in the Middle East know it. Would I want to live there? no. But that’s not the question.

While the US has been bombasting, bombing, torturing, threatening, killing, imprisoning, kidnapping, sanctioning, backing Israel 110% and Boltonating generally, Iran has made political and economic alliances with its neighbors and world powers, built pipelines, and, as always, not invaded anyone. Iran supports the Palestinians and the Saudi plan for resolution of the Israel problem.

The NY Times finally noticed that even the Saudis have deserted Bush in favor of Iran.

Gee, it seems like its almost time to shut down the Elliot Abrams’ sandbox series, put the toy soldiers and the toy airplanes and the toy nuclear bunker buster bombs away, and let the adults use the sandbox for a flower garden, or grow some vegetables.

Elliot wants to play in his new African sandbox, anyway.

PS: Congrats to Elliot for getting his name in the paper, courtesy of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) via Robert Novak:

I have had many such conversations with Hagel, but not for quotation. This time, I asked him to go on the record about his assessment of what the “surge” has accomplished. In language more blunt than his prepared speeches and articles, he described Iraq as “coming undone,” with its regime “weaker by the day.” He deplored the Bush administration’s failure to craft a coherent Middle East policy, blaming the influence of deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iran, Middle East, Politics

The next Iraq flash point: Basra

Well, “next”…who knows; I mean the Kurds are getting into it with Turkey, al-Sadr may turn his militias loose at any moment, the Green Zone is getting shelled….But Basra has not gotten the concern it deserves…here’s why:

The Brits are trying to withdraw from Iraq, and that means Basra will be left to the militias and whatever US unit dares to enter. It has been a hellhole since the beginning of the war, but has been somewhat under the US media radar. And it may continue that way, since no US correspondent in his right mind would leave the Green Zone to go to Basra, unless they were basically suicidal. Recent events threaten even a semblance of government control.

So will Basra just fester along? not exactly. Basically, all Iraqi oil now flows through Basra. The pipelines in the north, in the Kurdish regions, have already been extensively and repeatedly disrupted.

About a third of the oil flowing through Basra gets hijacked, diverted, stolen, looted, tapped, and sold on the black market. A great racket, but great rackets have a way of attracting interlopers, especially when law enforcement is next to non-existent. Will insurgents sabotage the pipelines as they have in the north? or will more of it be stolen? how will the US respond? how can it respond?

It is also worth remembering that the US military is largely supplied from Kuwait, along routes that run through the Basra region. Without British troops present, the US must detail units to guard their line of supply.

It goes without saying that Basra is very close to Iran, geographically as well as religiously. That has already heightened tensions there, as the Brits have joined the chorus claiming that Iran is supplying explosive devices responsible for the deaths of British soldiers.

And lastly, a member of the British royal family serving in Basra would be about the stupidest thing the Brits have done since taxation without representation.

We just don’t have enough troops to enforce any sort of general control in Iraq, and Basra is just one more example. It doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is, you can’t just dream up another 200,000 troops to send to Iraq on a continuous basis. We don’t have them. Can’t be done. The hypocrisy of Bush, Cheney and the like is astonishing: beating the drums because Iraq is so crucial to America, conjuring up all sorts of terrible outcomes if we leave, yet unwilling to institute the draft to accomplish “victory.”

So our kids just get chewed up day after day, week after week, year after year. Iraqis die, get killed, starve, have no services, and eventually the middle class leaves the country. Two million. A whole generation of men has been lost. And there we sit, trying cover up reality while presuming to tell the Iraqi parliament to give us their oil.

It’s a sham and a disgrace.


Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Condoleezza Rice: tell me again, what is her job?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, John McCain for president of Del Boca Vista, Middle East, Politics

Michael Ledeen, still up to his old tricks

From George Tenet’s new book:

In January 2002, George J. Tenet, the man who oversaw all American spy agencies, was asked by a visiting Italian intelligence official what he knew about United States officials making contact with exiled Iranian opposition figures.

“I shot a look at other members of my staff in the meeting,” Mr. Tenet writes in his newly published memoir. “It was clear that none of us knew what he was talking about. The Italian quickly changed the subject.”

The embarrassed Mr. Tenet, then director of central intelligence, had stumbled upon a quixotic effort by a few Pentagon officials working closely with a conservative Middle East specialist, Michael A. Ledeen, to meet with Iranian dissidents living abroad. It was neither the first nor the last time he would be surprised by intelligence efforts inside the Bush administration but outside official channels.

There are many who believe that Michael Ledeen’s meetings with the Italians were involved with obtaining, if not creating, the forged Nigerian papers which formed the basis for Bush’s misleading claims about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff loved characters like the ones Ledeen associated with, that had been discredited by intelligence agencies. Unreliable/lying Iraqi exiles and dissidents like Ahmed Chalabi and the infamous “Curveball” played a large role in the generation of Cheney’s/Bush’s fabric of deception that pursuaded the US to go to war against Iraq.

The adjective “crazy” is sometimes applied to Ledeen. Here is one reason why:

In a 2003 column entitled “A Theory,” Ledeen outlined a possibility that France and Germany, both NATO allies of the United States, “struck a deal with radical Islam and with radical Arabs” to use “extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice” to bring down a potential American Empire. He stated, “It sounds fanciful, to be sure,” but that, “If this is correct, we will have to pursue the war against terror far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East, into the heart of Western Europe.

In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), Michael Ledeen is on the staff of the American Enterprise Institute, the leading neoconservative “thinktank.” His hawkishness on Iraq pales in comparison with his advocacy for war against Iran.

Ledeen hasn’t changed. For one thing, he still seems to embrace unreliable sources. At his site “Faster Please” he links to a couple of interviews with a guy who defines the unreliable source, here and here.

And, he doesn’t shy away from “far out” theories:

Finally, notice the data he [Petraeus] provides on suicide attacks: eighty to ninety percent are carried out by foreigners via Syria. Put that together with the knowledge that the most dangerous explosives are coming from Iran. Then ask yourself why so many people keep talking about “insurgency,” which implies a domestic reaction to the presence of coalition forces on Iraqi soil.

There aren’t many constants in this fast-changing world; it’s good that we can count on Michael Ledeen to be Michael Ledeen.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

US soldiers being killed at fastest rate in three years

According to IraqCasualties, an average of nearly 4 US soldiers are being killed each day in Iraq. This is the highest average since April, 2004. Civilian casualties appear to continue unabated.

No wonder Bush is putting off the evaluation of the surge for another 5 months.

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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

Pet food, yogurt makers, and China: you get what you pay for.

You know the story on pet food and melamine. Last week I tossed a yogurt maker that just quit working. Made in China. Today I happened to see these comments at dKos:


The real problem wasn’t the American pet-food companies, but the Chinese food manufacturers that deliberately tainted the food.

This is only the second time I’ve seen those allegations, the other was on NPR. Not a single MSM source so far (that I’ve seen) has mentioned it.

I’ve dealt with Chinese companies in manufacturing, and THEY ALWAYS GIVE GREAT PROTOTYPES AND FIRST-RUN PRODUCTS, THEN THEY TURN TO CRAP.

This is how they do business. I say we ban all imported Chinese food products that aren’t inspected before they enter the country. If they don’t like it, fuck them, and I really mean that. Kill their economy if they can’t respect our food supply.

everyone i know of in business says the same thing

prototypes == perfect

long term production === crap.

you have to ride their asses continuously to keep quality up. they take any short cut they can. what we consider lying is their normal way of doing business


And of course there are other reasons not to buy Chinese goods: our balance of payment is way out of whack, and the Chinese are doing a lot of damage to the environment.




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Filed under dogs, economics, food/drink, Personal

But the schools are still painted, right?

It won’t take much more to make Iraq a PERFECT fiasco.

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.


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Filed under Bill Kristol: is he smarter than you?, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Iraq, Michelle Malkin's latest brain fart, Politics

Saturday Big Lebowski Roundup

The film critic (?) of the Northern Iowan (?) gets it.

I’ve talked with dozens of people about “The Big Lebowski” and have noticed a peculiar recurring sentiment. Just about everyone reports not enjoying the film after their first viewing but liking it exponentially more each time it plays. I have a theory as to why this may be: It’s a perfect film.

Each shot contains a wealth of detail, every wonderful line is uttered so well that even the less spectacular moments are firmly planted in the sublime. The level of delight offered by this film is witnessed so rarely that it might be easy to fail to recognize it as a masterpiece. Normally, the argument that one should watch a particular film over and over is merely a euphemism for “it’s got too many flaws to be enjoyed until the viewer can overlook them.” On the other hand, “The Big Lebowski” demands to be watched again and again because to process the entire splendor with, one viewing may be impossible.

Though The Dude may be the antithesis of relentless detective, he’s a surprisingly apt observer through the haze of pot smoke, not to mention sidesplitting to watch. It’s not easy to make a drug-addled, self-proclaimed “deadbeat” an identifiable character, but that Bridges didn’t receive an Oscar nomination is to the Academy’s eternal shame.

If there’s a film that has more laughs per minute than “The Big Lebowski,” I’ve yet to see it. Most comedies pick a source of humor and stick to it: a sarcastic lead, people getting hit in the nuts, political satire, or whatever gets people in the seats. The Coen brothers mine a staggeringly diverse spectrum of humor for the jokes, which fly from start to finish, refusing to die out or lose strength in the final act. Absurdist, ironic, satire, slapstick, and other forms flow and merge seamlessly, never getting stale or predictable.

I’d wager that “The Big Lebowski” might be the most beloved film amongst people of my generation, perhaps excluding “Star Wars.”

That’s my homework, Walter !!

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Filed under Movies, The Big Lebowski

Movie review: Fracture

Well, it’s a good formula: bring back an aging (very aging) Anthony Hopkins as a Hannibal Lecter-type evil genius, toss in a little ilicit sex, some licit sex, mystery, murder, and see what happens.

And that’s the problem.  Good ingredients, but the recipe is flawed. The film bumps along in a series of highly improbable events which highlight Hopkins’ character’s genius, the amorality of lawyers, and the idiocy of our legal and medical systems.  The character development of Hopkins’ nemesis, a young prosecutor played by Ryan Gosling, is not very credible.

The film is too long, the plot twists are predictable, and the ending is clumsy.

The cinematography is very good, production values up the wazoo; it LOOKS like a good movie.

I give it a borderline recommend, but don’t be blamin me if you don’t like it.

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Filed under Dick Cheney: Hannibal Lector in disguise?, Movies