Monday, June 30, 2003
I'm only surprised that it happened on the North Side. Chicago, the city of wooden fire escapes and high winds, experienced a tragic accident as a Lincoln Park porch collapsed, killing 12 people.

In college, on the architecturally neglected South Side, I was party to a number of near porch collapses, and I always wondered when hundreds of people would plummet at a party. I don't know how a city can overhaul the logic behind construction of most of its apartment buildings, but I do know hundreds of Chicagoans and former Chicagoans who could have told you years ago that something like this was going to happen.
Saturday, June 28, 2003
This week, another seven days of the neoconservatives' Total War, nonetheless produced a few things that can make progressives smile. The Supreme Court--activist and conservative as it may seem--managed to largely uphold the principles of affirmative action. That same court overturned anti-sodomy laws, and based on precedent and principle so broad as to open the door for further relaxation of our society's institutionalized sexual discrimination. And Strom Thurmond died.

What took the cake, for me anyway, was the moveon primary. Civil-freakin'-society, as de Tocqueville would say. The internet has always had the potential to revolutionize or democratize this or that, but the increasing salience of online and web-based political organizations suggests a coming fruition. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Kick Ass!" And of all the social arenas that could gain newfound political prominence, the winner seems to be one that is at least relatively dominated by progressives.

Friday, June 27, 2003
Things are looking up for the United States of America. Yesterday, gay people received the right to have sex, two days ago a very activist, conservative court somehow managed to not throw out affirmative action, and today, the biggest development in American history:

The National Do Not Call List
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Here is the text of a speech by Robert Byrd, easilly the coolest ex-klansman I have ever heard of.

...The American people have questions that need to be answered about why we went to war with Iraq. To attempt to deny the relevance of these questions is to trivialize the people's trust.

The business of intelligence is secretive by necessity, but our government is open by design. We must be straight with the American people. Congress has the obligation to investigate the use of intelligence information by the Administration, in the open, so that the American people can see that those who exercise power, especially the awesome power of preemptive war, must be held accountable. We must not go down the road of cover-up. That is the road to ruin.
Just in case anyone is still less than wholly convinced of the Bush administration's duplicitousness in building their case for war, it is now coming to light that Paul Wolfowitz began in 2002 making plans and issuing orders to investigate Hans Blix's past in an attempt to smear him, and that the administration was actively working to circumvent the UN. This, together with the more obvious efforts by the US to withhold key information from the UN inspectors, clearly validate the claim that the neoconservatives in the administration were dreaming of war with Iraq long before their arbitray timeframe based on imminent threats.
Howard Dean weighs in on the Supreme Court's ruling to overturn sodomy laws. Maybe the religious wackos (Scalia, Limbaugh, etc.) who see this as the top of a slippery slope leading to gay marriage are right. It is funny to watch social justice make people uncomfortable.
Lieutenant General John Abizaid, the new commander of American troops in the Iraqi theater, stated resolutely and firmly taht the US will find WMD in Iraq. I guess that if you say something enough, it becomes true. This comes on the same day that the UN has finished analyzing nuclear plans found in Iraq--determining that they had not, in fact, re-started their nuclear program, despite American claims to the contrary.

I heard the New York Times' Nicholas Kristoff on NPR yesterday, and he was kicking around a frightening theory. Clearly, at some point Bush and Rove are going to decide on a fall guy or series of fall guys. They may also suggest some nominal or evne substantive changes to our intelligence apparatus. In short, this could mean that we will react to this problem--one in which the desires of Defense outweighed to findings of the CIA and State--by crippling the CIA and State Department, thereby leaving all of the power with Wolfowitz' DIA.

Basically, "our" response to the politicization of the military and intelligence could be to make it easier for that to happen in the future.

Today, just a couple days after issuing a baffling affirmative action ruling (which I've seen best summarized as "you can use race subjectively, just not objectively") the Supreme Court has struck down Texas' and other anti-sodomy laws. This is a major victory for every one who values the right to privacy, not just those who hit from a certain side of the plate. I want to personally congratulate all gay people (and people who just like to get extra freaky) on their first official day as law-abiding sex-havers.

I'm sure that a lot of people grew tired of waiting to have sex for 200+ years, and are relieved at now having the green light. Maybe now that gay people can have sex, the gay population will increase. That must be what Scalia was talking about in his dissenting opinion about the "gay agenda."

via metafilter
I have been moving for the last two days, and my DSL connection will be off for the next few days, but I will start to blog again, damnit, and may sneak in some blog action while at work.
Monday, June 23, 2003
I hope everyone is voting in the primary. It is a wild idea, with the winner of the primary receiving millions of dollars and the support of hundreds or thousands of volunteers. This looks like an early precursor of a sort of new online civil society, a way for people to pool their individual power, like once upon a time when there were things like labor unions.
Howard Dean has officially thrown his hat into the ring. Today's announcement was a staged event, with more than 15,000 people showing up at different places nationwide to take part. This event, hokey as it may have been, is important to Dean's candidacy because the current buzz about him is that he can not win. He is the first candidate to ever rely so heavilly on the net, which may be the greatest toolkit for grassroots politics the world has ever seen.

An excerpt from his speech:

The great lie spoken by politicians on platforms like this is the cry of "elect me and I will solve all your problems."
The truth is the future of our nation rests in your hands, and not in mine.
Abraham Lincoln said that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.
But this President has forgotten ordinary people.
You have the power to reclaim our nation's destiny.
You have the power to rid Washington of the politics of money.
You have the power to make right as important as might.
You have the power to give Americans a reason to vote again.
You have the power to restore our nation to fiscal sanity and bring jobs back to our people.
You have the power to fulfill Harry Truman's dream and bring health insurance to every American.
You have the power to give us a foreign policy consistent with American values again.
You have the power to take back the Democratic Party.
You have the power to take our country back.
Today scientists in Iraq are performing DNA analysis on human remains that are believed to possibly belong to Saddam Hussein. American forces shot up an automotive convoy near Hit, due to a tip that Hussein was still alive and traveling in the area. Why, exactly, this security-obsessed wacko would be traveling in a motorcade, I don’t know. But that is not to say that I fully doubt he would.

The US is also trumpeting their latest incriminating findings: memos and papers thought to be related to Iraq’s WMD programs. Now, we are to assume that the “imminent” threat came from a stack of paperwork. Were they held together with staples of mass destruction? Iraq didn’t use recycled paper?

Now that Bush has stopped promising to find weapons, we are likely primed to hear some serious rationalization of how exactly these findings indicate that Iraq posed a significant, and immediate-term threat to the US. What is getting lost in the current debate over the justifications for war is the arbitrary timeframe on which it was waged. Ultimately, whether or not the war was a good idea is a matter of opinion. But the inappropriateness of the timeframe and our rush to war ought to be crystal clear to just about everyone.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
I am back in town from my friend's wedding now, and will begin blogging again tomorrow.
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Two nice Salon articles from yesterday: 1, 2. They both speak to a common idea: the truth about a given matter is hardly relevant, just who it is who gets to create the truth. These days Salon is the best "full-service" media outlet this side of PBS.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
I am going out of town for the weekend, and may not blog much for the next few days.
If every moron on the radio alrady believes in the myth of the "liberal media," (nice irony, I know) why not create one?
Carl Levin has again increased the pressure on the executive branch, this time claiming that the CIA deliberately held back information on Iraqi weapons sites from UN inspectors in order to expedite the the perception that inspections had failed. What a tremendous shame this bit of information is only getting play in the UK press.

Meanwhile, the CIA has replaced the Dept. of Defense in looking for WMD in Iraq. This hunt for weapons is scrambling every which way, and it seems to have little direction. Instead, the mechanisms and conditions of the search (like the recent shift to discussion of weapons "programs") seem to be responding to political pressure. That does little to take away from the growing realization that this war was waged entirely for political purposes. Too bad that is only coming from the Australian press.

Man, if only the world's "model of democracy" had a functining press and civil society. I hear they're buildin' one of those in Iraq, maybe they can give us some pointers.
Click the charming picture below to see where it came from (serisouly).

exact location here
A couple of unrelated, interesting articles.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Dean: Investigate Bush statements on Iraq

Howard Dean gets painted as a real outsider who can't possibly hack it in big-time politics, but he is pretty impressive of late. He seems ready to play serious hardball with Bush, and I don't see any other candidates with actual nads out there. If the previous election really was just spoiled by Nader, than Dean can surely get the voters that Nader did, and with a national-security-oriented running mate--like Wesley Clark--he would have a shot.
I had a conversation with my father a few months ago about the Iraq war. He told me that the President had hte benefit of the doubt--for then, but we could talk again when we invade Iran. Well, Dad, that may be comin' up soon.

The posturing, illogic, and threats about taking our "total war" to Iran have begun in earnest. I bet that we will soon learn another synoym for "imminent".

via Metafilter
I've always been pretty unquestioning about disobeying unjust laws. I sort of see it as my duty to do so, but as I get older self-interest is taking over. I quit downloading music from the web months and months ago, and I am glad that I did. I still feel that intellectual property is largely nonsense, and I still poo-poo the notion that artists lose money when people download their stuff for free. I would actually believe that this is true only for shitty musicians. If people hear your good music for free, they will become fans. "Fan" is the word that used to be used before "revenue unit" became more fashionable [note: I made up that last sentence]. That aside, I am glad that Orrin Hatch will not be destroying my computer.

I stand by the basic and (in my experience) unchallenged observation that the two bands in the history of rock n roll whose music was freely (i.e. with no revenue-yielding transaction) exchanged the most also two of the bands who have the largest and most stable economic empires: Phish and the Grateful Dead.

While a hippy-driven industry model may seem problematic, it is hard to dispute the notion of free advertising increasing product awareness. Napster is only a threat to music for which the product awareness far exceeds the quality--in other words, shit.
Here is a nice editorial from's Alan Bock, calle the Rise of the Apologists. Lately, I have been getting into their editorial staff a little more than before, because they bring a unique perspective to the table. Their writers identify themselves as Libertarians, and certainly don't have the "left-wing" perspective through which many are beginning to ask the tougher questions. Being essentialy a lestist myself, I can certainly buy into the rubric through which much antwar sentiment gets passed, but I feel that the discourse needs to be more varied so that a space is created for the real narrative to emerge and become accessible outside the constraints of abject politicization. There is more to the story than an "evil Republican," and if it gets painted that way, the nation as a whole will lose out on the chance to come to grips with an historically significant departure from our shared ideals of constituional liberalism and repbulican transparency.
So the war that was declared over in early May continues to take lives. The Iraq War, for all of its controversy, has at least been viewed as a military success, but that perception may change as well. We will soon reach the point when there have been more casualties since the war "ended" than there were when it was going on.

''We need to pull these guys out and put some other troops in here who are trained for peacekeeping, because our first impulse is to kill,'' said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wright of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

''My guys question why we are going from warriors to peacekeepers, because the belief in what was told to us was that we would fight and win and go home and that someone else would do this (peacekeeping),'' he said.

''We need to pull these guys out and put some other troops in here who are trained for peacekeeping, because our first impulse is to kill,'' said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wright of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

''My guys question why we are going from warriors to peacekeepers, because the belief in what was told to us was that we would fight and win and go home and that someone else would do this (peacekeeping),'' he said.

''We're in this murky situation where it's not really combat, but it is in some ways, and that's difficult,'' said 1st Lt. Eric Hooper, the executive officer. Some days the men arrest looters, and on others, they fight guerrillas. Often the two are hard to distinguish.

''Little kids wave at us and their parents slap them in the back of the head and make them stop,'' said Spc. Anthony Combs of Hyden, Ky. ''It makes me feel like I wasted my time over here and they don't appreciate what we did.''

Maybe acting within the auspices of NATO or the UN would have been nice. They do, after all, actually train peacekeepers. By this administration's standard, Vietnam could have been seen as a success if it was arbitrarilly declared to be over five weeks in.
Today a great discussion on Metafilter tipped me off to some interesting poll data. As always, statistics such as these should be taken with a grain of salt, but here you go:

This article recounts some surprising numbers.

But this one, originally found on Tom Tomorrow's blog, is pretty revealing about the extent to which people can be subtley mislead.

Of American adults, at least 18 years of age...

65% couldn't describe the basic facts about Watergate
56% think in war, the media should support the government over questioning it
48% say the news media acted responsibly during the Clinton Wars
45% characterized Watergate was "just politics"
43% attended religious services in the previous 7 days
40% believe the media was biased in favor of Bill Clinton
35% say the government should not fund stem cell research
34% think Rock and Roll has had an overall negative impact on America
33% believe a wife should "submit herself graciously" to a husband
30% say the Bible is the "actual word of God" to be taken literally
29% think people will be "more likely" to afford college for their kids in 2020
28% disapprove of labor unions on principle
28% say the government should have the right to control news reports
27% believe divorce is "morally wrong"
26% thought various disasters in 1999 might "foreshadow the wrath of God"
26% think grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank their kids
24% describe themselves as interested in what celebrities think
21% told a pollster they'd never met that they had cheated in a relationship
21% say justice was served in the O.J. Simpson case
20% approve of the how the Catholic Church handles pedophilia
20% believe that the killing of civilians in Vietnam was "relatively rare"
15% were upset at Diana Spencer's death like "someone you knew"
12% think the United States should have a British-style royal family
11% stockpiled food and water in advance of Y2K
11% think "Titanic" was the best American movie of the 20th century
11% would like "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" as their personal physician
10% would eat a rat or an insect on a "reality" TV show
10% think it?s advantageous to be a woman in American society
10% believe Oswald acted alone
10% say they are "very likely" to become rich someday
8% could not name a single TV network
8% fear they are "very likely" to be shot or badly hurt by a stranger
7% think Elvis is possibly still alive
6% say Garth Brooks is the best male singer of the 20th century
5% are ?very afraid? of thunder and lightning
5% would be "more likely" to buy food labeled as genetically modified
3% wanted to see the questions on "Millionaire" become less difficult

The most telling numbers are the large groupd of people who believe things that they were not even specifically told. The best is the number of people who perceived and Iraq-9/11 link, though Bush never even said such a thing existed. Narrative was interwtined and connotation was expolited--he would mention the two things in teh same sentence, for example--to intimate this idea without having to actually lie. Well done.
Legendary music producer/agent/executive Danny Goldberg has written a new book, click it to read an excerpt.

He also gave a candid interview to Salon, in which he really took Democrats to task. The kernel of his criticism is that the "left" has lost all sembance of a clear ideology that is communicable to most people. The right has a worldview. When discussing the right, one needn't use quotation marks, as when they talk about the "left." See?

He proceeds from the assumption that those who would have us believe that the primary lesson of the 60's is negative are full of shit. Decent premise.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Carl Levin is calling the CIA on some of its BS the last year and a half. This mess is so convoluted that the average person is not going to have any real idea of the basic narrative at play here, and scapegoats will be easy to sell. The whole thing is so complicated that people ultimately will have heard too many sides of each little story to not jst stick with whatever they wanted to believe in the first place.
I have added a second essay to the site. This one is based on a blog entry from a few days ago that I felt like fleshing out a little bit more. That is why I have not been blogging so prolifically these past few days.
This here blog now supports comments. Wonderful.
MSNBC is publishing an article in their June 23rd issue that begins to go into some detail about the neoconservative takeover of the executive branch. PBS' Frontline doucmentary The War Behind Closed Doors is still the best cource available on the matter, and it has been available for like 6 months. It is good, however, to see the mainstream media getting in on some of this reoprting.

Perhaps one day we will actually see the letters P N A C in a major newspaper or magazine.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
Today, Richard Lugar hinted that the War on Terror may be ready to go big time. The US is thinking about joining up with Israel to fight Hamas (presumably only in the occupied territory, and not in Syria or Lebanon, tought that would really be wild).

That would put us at war with Al Qaeda, Hamas, Iraq, Terrorism, and Drugs. What a bunch of ass kickers we are!
Sen. Pat Roberts now appears to be leaving the door open for public hearings into the administration's bullshitting of WMD claims. This Salon article is interesting, and not only because it illuminates the staunchly partisan Roberts' inspired waffling, but also because it provides the following strange poll results:

According to a new CBS News Poll, six in 10 Americans say it is important for the United States to find the illegal weapons. Two-thirds of those polled said they think the administration exaggerated the weapons threat. That sentiment appeared not to have harmed Bush politically, with his job approval still at 66 percent.

Roberts is likely just posturing in order to shut up the vocal Carl Levin and John McCain. It is somewhat possible, though, that he is coming to accept a spectre raised by the poll numbers above: people like W., God damn it, and Karl Rove and the Bush political machine are going to use that. Everyone in Washington is a potential fall guy. Entire institutions. The CIA, the DIA, Republicans in Congressional oversight roles--even Rumsfeld et al when the shit hits the fan--are going down before it will be effectively made to look like President Bush's moral clarity was in any way compromised by politics or, more frighteningly, bizarre ideology.
Turning the tanks on the reporters

The Observer's Phillip Knightley writes that Iraq will go down as the war when journalists seemed to become a target. Predicted here, discussed "in progress" here. The BBC, Al-Jazeera, and the US Committee to Protect Journalists thought it prudent to find out from the Pentagon what steps they could take to protect their correspondents if war came to Iraq... All three organisations concluded that the Pentagon was determined to deter western correspondents from reporting any war from the 'enemy' side; would view such journalism in Iraq as activity of 'military significance', and might well bomb the area.
All-consuming vigilance will be the hallmark or our "total war." We must be on the lookout, not only for those who we know are the enemy, but also those who pretend to be harmless. We must stop... David Nelsons.
All of Washington is beginning to scramble. They are doing rhetorical calesthenics, preparing for the epic game of pass the buck that is set to commence shortly. George Bush and Colin Powell continue to shift their narrative away from the sweeping absolutes that sold their war to the public mind. Congress appeared ready to assume a confrontational stance, but now the Senate Intelligence Committee is rolling over.

Not only has John Warner ultimately decided to hold closed Congressional hearings on the Iraqi WMD matter (a decision which even a wire service recognizes as detrimental to a democratic inquiry), but they have also begun to blame the CIA for their refusal to ask any questions before the war. Eleanor Clift suggests that posturing may be beginning to finger George Tenet as the fall guy.

This is ridiculous for two reasons.

1. It is the duty of the Congress to oversee the Executive Branch. In a sense, doing so is full one-third of their mandate.
2. If these guys were so into searching for the truth, and they really wouldn't have brushed the bogus intelligence aside and rushed to war anyhow, they would never have signed away their constitutionally-granted right to declare war.

The framers granted the responsibility for waging war to the Congress because of its diverse and republican nature. It is, one would hope, a positive omen that the legislature is composed of a variety of competing interests and personalities among whom it is difficult to attain consensus. A byproduct of what we might call "gridlock" in other instances is deliberacy, an elusive virtue in wartime. For them to give it away wholesale and willy-nilly suggests that the cognitive dissonance began long before the war.
Preparing for secret executions may be God's work, but it sure is hard work.

Via Fark photoshop contest.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
As the controversy over the Iraq war grows, we are reminded of one inescapable truth about war: regardless of its justness, to the victor goes the spoils. Halliburton's Kellog, Brown and Root has decided to double the price tag for its work to restart Iraqi oil production. They can just do that?

There has still been no competitive bidding at all on the matter, and it is "now" looking like administration figures lied and distorted evidence in order to bring the nation to war. Once we begin visiting the question of why, we must look in this direction. Certainly, ideology played a role. The dominant one, for my money. But speaking of money, one can not ignore the blatant financial interests that were served by the Iraq war and by its fallacious timeframe.
Our War on Terror is so pressing and absolute as to not have time for diplomacy. There is no talking cure for evil. Apparently, post-hoc diplomacy is OK, though, especially when you will be sitting down with a negotiating partner as honest and deserving as the TALIBAN.


via Warfilter
I wrote an article about Ahmad Chalabi, and sent it out to some media outlets. No one bit, so here it is. I am actually adding stuff to the "essays" section now, albeit slowly.
The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle both report today and about President Bush's campaign fundraising push, which informally began with the aircraft carrier landing after which paraded the executive package.

It will continue soon with a six-stop fundraiser blitzkrieg predicted to rake in more than all of the Democrats combined. The NYT reports that numerous high-profile donors who in years past preferred buying off Democrats are now anointing the sore feet of our Great Leader's coffers. He is expected to break his own fundraising record, and put together as much as $170 million. That's a machine, to be sure, but I have trouble with one thing.

I don't really understand how W. is a good investment, as crooked politicians go. An extensive established network of friends--from the creative Ken Lay to the honest and majestic Saudi Prince--as well as his, frankly, godlike Moral Clarity, mean that his mind is not going to get made up in an ordered or pre-determined way. This man is proud to dub himself "born again." While I applaud anyone in their own endeavors of spiritual development, it is worth noting that this guy values dramatic "come to Jesus" moments. Great, if you're a teenager. A leader, and especially a Commander-in-Chief, should recognize the value of deliberacy of diligence.

He found the neocons like he found Jesus. How can you predictably buy off a guy like that? Stupid. There are plenty of non-dramatic crooked politicians out there, who can be bought off in a fair and old-school manner. A couple are even running as Democrats. They need to find a way to demonstrate that they are every bit as corrupt as President Bush, while also being stable. The slogan for 2004:

Vote Democrat. All of the Bullshit, None of the Jesus.
This would be a good time to point out that I have partially overhauled the PNAC Primer.

While surfing last night I came across something potentially problematic: someone else has made a PNAC Primer. His name is Bernard Weiner. His Primer is an article with a lot of references. A nice piece. It was published on May 26, just a few days after I started putting mine up.

Do I have a problem with there being two pieces with the same name? Nah. But is Mr. Weiner does he should tell me. Aside from being generally weak-willed, I am too poor for a lawyer. I will change the name of my site at the slightest threat. Have a nice day.
These are strange times. With ideologues drivin' the coal-guzzlin' America train, and no opposition party in sight, progressives have found allies in the strangest possible place: arch conservatives. Pat Buchanon, when not advocating the construction of an electrified fence along the Mexican border, has spoken out against neoconservatives since long before the war on Iraq. In his latest article, he boldy predicts that neoconservatism is dead.

It would be great if he were right. Too bad he's crazy.
Let's Roll... Kennebunkport style.

Friday, June 13, 2003
Yeeeeeeeee Haaaaaw!
Barton Gellman of the Washington Post has been in Iraq since March following the hunt for Iraq's stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Today he went public about a covert unit that has been hunting these weapons actively since before the war began in March. They have turned up nothing at all.

A covert Army Special Forces unit, operating in Iraq since before the war began in March, has played a dominant but ultimately unsuccessful role in the Bush administration's stymied hunt for weapons of mass destruction, according to military and intelligence sources in Baghdad and Washington.

Task Force 20, whose existence and mission are classified, is drawn from the elite Army special mission units known popularly as Delta Force. It sent a stream of initially promising reports to a limited circle of planners and policymakers in Washington pointing to the possibility of weapons finds. The reports helped feed the optimism expressed by President Bush and his senior national security advisers that proscribed weapons would be found.

Thus far, military and intelligence sources said, the expectations are unfulfilled.

Put aside the implications that this find--or lack thereof, if you wish--has on the idea that WMD will not be turning up in the quantities or conditions promised

Assuming that Saddam Hussein in fact was in possession of a vast store of chemical and biological weapons as claimed in the forged intelligence, I am left to ask two questions:
1. Uh, where's that shit now?
2. Would anyone be asking question #1 if not for the sudden regime change?

W is fond of reminding the flock that Iraq is about the size of California. If you were looking in that area for something that could range in size from baby-food jar to a piggy-backing tractor trailer, why in the hell would you fill it up with cluster bombs first? The well-documented looting of the Iraqi nuclear facilities demonstrates the volatile interaction between extraordinarily valuable killing technology and complete fucking anarchy. Despite the wisest prognosticating--not to mention moral clarity--of our leaders, it turns out to have been a bad idea to torch the haystack right before going in after the needle.

Whatcha gonna do? Maybe homeboy needs to pray a little more. Or could it be that ideology, be it religious or otherwise, is not the best possible foreign policy paradigm? It is amazing that Bush (or Karl Rove) can turn the fact that he was President during one of the worst acts of terrorism in history (not that I am at all suggesting he was responsible) into the public believing that his party is somehow the de facto "national security party."

A lot of people find George Bush personable, and as a lot of people find me to be a prick, I do not wish to really advance my contrary opinion. But that aside, he got suckered. He became a posterboy for a movement of which he wasn't even a part. Bush was not dreaming up the war in Iraq and the War on Terror years ago. W in a think tank? But those who were gained his ear more than 18 months ago, and the results have become palpable for those who are losing their lives in the pursuit of an academic dream.
It has not taken long for the feds to abuse and politicize a new law, the RAVE Act:

Only two months after the RAVE Act was passed by Congress it has been used by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to intimidate the owners of a Billings, Montana, venue into canceling a combined benefit for the Montana chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). One of the biggest reasons activists waged a national campaign to stop the RAVE Act was the fear that it would be used to shut down political events like this.

Sponsored by Senator Biden (D-DE), the RAVE Act (also known as the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act) was first introduced last year. It proved so controversial then that two of its original co-sponsors withdrew their support because they feared it would send innocent business owners to jail. Business owners collected over 20,000 signatures in opposition to the bill. Protests against it were held around the country and tens of thousands of voters urged their elected official to oppose it. Controversy over the bill stalled it last year, but Senator Biden attached it to the popular "Amber Alert" bill without public debate or a vote of Congress earlier this year and sneaked it into law.

The RAVE Act expands federal law to make it easier to jail and imprison event organizers and property owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring on their property – even in cases when they take serious steps to reduce drug offenses. It applies to "any place", including bars and nightclubs, hotels, apartment buildings, and homes. Legal experts warned that the law was so broad that it could be used to shut down not only raves and electronic music events, but also Hip Hop, rock, and country music concerts, sporting events, gay and lesbian fundraisers, political protests, and any other event federal agents do not like.

We have already seen that the DOJ will bend its rules to meet the moral objectives of John Ashcroft, and now the DEA seems perfectly willing to follow suit. Again, it does matter that Bush, Ashcroft, et al are not blood-sucking vampires hell-bent on destroying American democracy. Indeed, I would imagine that they are well-meaning, but that hardly matters at all. The infrastructure of authoritarianism is being constructed, for better or for worse, and that is not a structure that is easilly dismantled.

How many Fleetwood Mac concerts, boarding school parties, or Libertarian Party mixers do you think the RAVE Act will be used to shut down? People use drugs in all of these contexts, but they are not salient threats to our nation because they do not offend the aesthetic sensibilities of the ruling class. This reminds me of--along with reminding me that the war on "terror" is indeed a war on dissent as well--of a a fantastic quote from, I believe, Ernest Hemingway: "The biggest enemy of creativity is good taste."

Now those tastes are legislated and politicized. And good taste is now arbitted by this man.
Unravelling the spin--and what must also be some genuine instances of ignorrance--on the subject of the Bush administration's misuse and manipulation of intelligence about Iraq is getting pretty tricky. In the latest round, the CIA disclosed that it had cabled information to the White House regarding the forgery of the Niger "yellowcake" uranium sales documents. A staffer in Condeleezza Rice's office claims to have found that piece of information unremarkable and to have chosen to sit on it rather than pass it along to his/her boss.

And indeed the White House was quick to confirm this. The problem is that Nicholas Kristoff, who originally broke this story, sees things quite differently.

To help out Ms. Rice and Mr. Cheney, let me offer some more detail about the uranium saga. Piecing the story together from two people directly involved and three others who were briefed on it, the tale begins at the end of 2001, when third-rate forged documents turned up in West Africa purporting to show the sale by Niger to Iraq of tons of "yellowcake" uranium.

Italy's intelligence service obtained the documents and shared them with British spooks, who passed them on to Washington. Mr. Cheney's office got wind of this and asked the C.I.A. to investigate.

The agency chose a former ambassador to Africa to undertake the mission, and that person flew to Niamey, Niger, in the last week of February 2002. This envoy spent one week in Niger, staying at the Sofitel and discussing his findings with the U.S. ambassador to Niger, and then flew back to Washington via Paris.

Immediately upon his return, in early March 2002, this senior envoy briefed the C.I.A. and State Department and reported that the documents were bogus, for two main reasons. First, the documents seemed phony on their face — for example, the Niger minister of energy and mines who had signed them had left that position years earlier. Second, an examination of Niger's uranium industry showed that an international consortium controls the yellowcake closely, so the Niger government does not have any yellowcake to sell.

Officials now claim that the C.I.A. inexplicably did not report back to the White House with this envoy's findings and reasoning, or with an assessment of its own that the information was false. I hear something different. My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower C.I.A. officials did tell both the vice president's office and National Security Council staff members. Moreover, I hear from another source that the C.I.A.'s operations side and its counterterrorism center undertook their own investigations of the documents, poking around in Italy and Africa, and also concluded that they were false — a judgment that filtered to the top of the C.I.A.

Meanwhile, the State Department's intelligence arm, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, independently came to the exact same conclusion about those documents, according to Greg Thielmann, a former official there. Mr. Thielmann said he was "quite confident" that the conclusion had been passed up to the top of the State Department.

"It was well known throughout the intelligence community that it was a forgery," said Melvin Goodman, a former C.I.A. analyst who is now at the Center for International Policy.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Another year of above-the-law hegemony is on its way. Funny that a man who possesses the "moral clarity" of W would have no interest in humility. I think Jesus was into that shit, George, so it can't be all bad. The idea that a flurry of spurious suits against the US might choke the court -- which I have heard advanced -- might have something to it. But that hole can likely be patched with something less than an abstruse and pompous categorical refusal to engage.

It is not as if the US has nothing to gain from institutions of international legitimacy. One of the primary reasons that government in its present state came to be was the need for some body to regulate or moderate commerce. The emergence of a true international economy bespeaks the need for a real set of international rules, in fact, it would seem natural for them to develop. But a conviction to unilateralism--not only in practice but in spirit--precludes our leadership from even ceding to the progress of others.

UNITED NATIONS (AP-CP) - The UN Security Council today approved another one-year exemption for U.S. peacekeepers from prosecution by the new international war crimes tribunal, but it faced opposition from France, Germany and Syria.
The Ism Schism

I want to be clear about why I am posting this article. It is a standard news piece, about US forces in Iraq finding and attacking a camp supporting a guerilla-style (likely Fedayeen-backed) resistance. I am not taking issue with the events reported in the article, or the article itself, really. In the larger context of a war and occupation, it is hard to be singularly opposed to taking out a small group that only brings violence to the table, and I really am not even talking about that.

I am bothered by the use of the word "terrorism." It appears in the headline; the article states numerous times that the US identitified the camp as a "terrorist training camp." Now, if "terrorist" means "bad," then that's cool. Those Fedayeen guys definitely sound bad to me. The most essential and most alarming aspect of the new War on Terrorism is the utter refusal by those perpetrating it to define "Terrorism" itself [big "T" Terrorism, as it were]. Largely, we as a society and a world gleaned a tremendous lesson from 50 years of cold war: to not give in to the myth of deliverance by ideology. The oft-cited "myth of the Communist monolith," the fallacious notion that Communism superceded nationalism, was indeed abstracted and applied to the ways of life of entire populations, most cheesily in America's collective acknowledgement that the Russkies really did love their children too.

But the problem with such rational and populist lessons is they are only learned by those who were not benefitting from the flawed old order. Thus, transfusing what really is common f***ing knowledge into the discourse of the politicos -- who always have such a tremendous continuity, even when their cultural or social bedrocks may not -- is like having the Flat Earth Society give out the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Enter the War on Terrorism. A war on a word sounds so brilliant and absolute: Drugs, Poverty, Evil, Communism, Infidels. Gee, a war against Evil? Nah, I think that we should have Evil send a representative to some talks in New Hampshire. Reality is obscured by polarizing and meaningless terminology. These are part and parcel a subset of the larger and all-encompassing War on Rationality.

In the article above, troops are attacking, justifiably, a camp composed of remnants of Saddam's private guard and elite military forces. I understand the political necessity of John Ashcroft never telling me what "terrorism" means, lest he lose his ability to expand his powers everyday, but before 2001 it was generally thought to mean something along the lines of "using violence against civillians to further political goals." But it instead gets applied to everyone we don't like. To the government, the word means that which is in the way of our objectives (be they just or unjust). But to the citizenry at large, the word still means something specially and singularly evil, and threatening to them personally. Is this Fedayeen camp of starving assault-rifle-packing distant Hussein cousins a threat to me? Hell no, I live in Oregon. They are the last remnants of the military force of a nation that we have invaded and are occupying. That is leagues away from blowing one's self up in a pizza place or cutting a bunch of nuns' heads off (a la our homies the Contras).

Does this put me on Team Fedayeen? Indeed not. It puts me on Team Don't Blow Smoke up my Ass and Tell Me that the Evil Terrorists Caught My Pants on Fire.

When a war against a word becomes a de facto national religion, we as a people approve of or overlook foreign policy actions and frameworks for action that are counterproductive to our real security and quality of life needs, as well as wholly incompatible with our shared principles. The Contras are only the most bizarrely sinister example. Suharto in Indonesia, the House of Saud, even Hussein himself, the list of rotten friends we've had goes on and on. Anticommunism justified the overthrow of democratically elected governments in our own hemisphere, funded by our own CIA, and aided by our own Army Rangers. The people chose to look the other way en masse, that being a preferable alternative to risking a regional outbreak of the great ism disease of the day. Anticommunism was the disease, not tiny Central American countries that wanted to mix state planning into their nascent economies (as we still do today, in the form of tariffs and subsidies that would be unthinkable in the developing world).

The Soviet Union was a real threat to the United States, as was the possibility of losing the trade and friendship of Western Europe. But ideology was never the problem. Communism, as set of beliefs and not as just a concrete, human government, was a problem faced by the Soviet people themselves. They got over it.

This new ism is all the more powerful, because we in effect created it. The word gets to mean whatever is politically expedient. Many can remember when artists or homosexuals were seen as communists. How long until those who grow a beard or read subversive literature become branded terrorists? Not long. And this time around, they can be rounded up secretly and executed in Cuba instead of grilled in an open session of Congress. "Terror" permeates our national language, and the blurry edges of its definition appear to be spreading slowly, like a stain on the fabric of our shared culture and institutions.
Yesterday I finished two projects that I have been working on. One is an essay for Filthy about Bob Gibson, which is called "Beaning Jim Crow." The other, "Chalabi's Bay of Pigs," is about - imagine this - Chalabi and his effect on the charge to war. I am trying to get it published here and there, but it will probably end up on this site soon. I am thinking of starting an essays section, maybe in place of the book reviews that I seem to not be writing.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Liberation = Bechtel owns your water

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, San Farn-based Bechtel Corp. is looking into privatizing Iraq's water supply. They have already tried to do this -- sometimes successfully -- in California, British Columbia, and Bolivia. In Bolivia alone, hundreds of thousands turned out to protest corporate power overtaking waterways and lakes, some of spiritual singificance, that their people had shared since before Colombus. Ultimately, Bechtel got a bank to threaten to cut off IMF debt relief if Bechtel's water demands were not met. Well, I think that Bechtel has discovered that people under anarchic martial law are not going to be able to organize resistanc or opposition to privatization of their water. Let's say it again: WATER.

That former Bechtel beneficiaries like Donald Rumsfeld were able to take a nation to war to pad Bechtel's profit margin is one thing, but that the same company would then feel a need to sieze and adminster the water supply of another nation is insane. Water, unless I am misinformed, is a rather important substance for us earthlings. Can we commoditize air next? Don't they have that in Japan?

[for the record, the word water appears in bold to emphasize the absurdity of owning someone else's basic means of subsistence (which used to be called slavery), because the fact that it's wrong doesn't seem compelling to many people]
"Our nation can no more survive as half democracy and half oligarchy than it could survive 'half slave and half free'" (alternative non-PDF link). "Understanding the real interests and deep opinions of the American people is the first thing. And what are those? That a Social Security card is not a private portfolio statement but a membership ticket in a society where we all contribute to a common treasury so that none need face the indignities of poverty in old age without that help. That tax evasion is not a form of conserving investment capital but a brazen abandonment of responsibility to the country. That income inequality is not a sign of freedom-of-opportunity at work, because if it persists and grows, then unless you believe that some people are naturally born to ride and some to wear saddles, it's a sign that opportunity is less than equal. That self-interest is a great motivator for production and progress, but is amoral unless contained within the framework of community. That the rich have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more homes, vacations, gadgets and gizmos, but they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else." Bill Moyers "tends the flame of democracy."

Man, I love this guy.

via fold_and_mutilate of Metafilter
At first, it appeared that the effort to begin a public probe into the manipulation of intelligence that formed the foundation of the case for the Iraq war was shaking out as bipartisan, with John Warner, and eventually John McCain on board. Each day we would hear of another Senator or Representative pushing harder for an open review of exactly who pulled which string. It only took a few minutes this morning for all of that momentum to cease to exist. When your party controls the legislature, Newton's law of conservation of energy can apparently be taken off the books.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts said some of the Democratic criticism of the handling of the intelligence has "been simply politics and for political gain. I will not allow the committee to be politicized or to be used as an unwitting tool for any political strategist," the Kansas Republican said.

And Senator Roberts spoke, and it shall be done. Any inquiry into the war will be closed to the public and to Congress at large, and held by only these two Republican-dominated, largely pro-war committees. Apparently, when Senators from a variety of states and from both political parties, centrists and "idea-guys" like McCain, come together to push for hearings that would be comprehensive and public enough to satisfy those who sacrificed for this war that it was not based on lies, that is pure politics. And to close the doors on a hearing -- which is then officiated by those who chose ot close the door -- on the subject of what may be the gravest accusations ever against a sitting President is pure oligarchy.

To borrow a phrase from Colin Powell, this sounds like so much bullshit.
Last Night, Ahmad Chalabi was on Charlie Rose for the entire hour. In am writing a full-sized article about it, which I will post here as soon as every media outlet I know of refuses to buy it.

Rose seemed to skate around the most basic fact of his sitting down at "the table" with Chalabi: That he was speaking with a man who had just gamed the US government, press, and people. Chalabi is like a one-man Cuban exile community in that his Iraqi National Congress is able to drive American policymaking and public sentiment. The highlight of the hour was when he called Judit Miller "a very critical journalist with an eye for the truth." This, while writing off the rest of the press (to whom he hadn't peddled suspect intelligence) by saying "a lot of journalists were anti-war, are anti-war." Apparently, Chalabi sees a different media from the flag-waving, unanalytical outlets of propaganda that I see.

More on Chalabi later.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Speaking to a family member tonight, I was reminded that the myth of the "tax-and-spend" Democrat continues to fourish, as does its companion assumption that the GOP is thus the de facto party of fiscal responsibility. As has been said before, it's time to start throwing around the term "borrow-and-spend Republican."

Congress' top budget analyst warned Tuesday that the government is on track this year for a record deficit exceeding $400 billion, which provides fresh fodder for President Bush and Democrats to use in their battle over taxes and spending.

As with his father, the previous GOP President, Bush's Presidency has been disastrous for the economy. Why? Because an overdependency on defecit spending can only be maintained if the underlying assumption of Reaganomics -- that cutting taxes for the rich stimulates the economy -- holds. Could the empirical data be any more stark? Could the gap between perception and reality be any wider?
Today the Washington Post picked up on the lexical shift that was pointed out here yesterday: In a subtle shift, some U.S. officials have begun to talk of finding weapons 'programs' or 'capabilities.' 'Programs in and of themselves give rise to tremendous concern with the weapons themselves,' Fleischer said.

While I think that the Post has been the best paper in the US of late, it's still disheartening to know that the mainstream media is so often reluctant to go big-picture with anything. Maybe the Post would be wise to look into the overall evolution of Bush's verbiage on this matter, and on the broader "war on terrorism." The way that narrative and implication were intertwined to communicate things without saying them, to fool and placate Americans, his Reagan-like ability to gloss over gross abuse of power with a dumb, comforting smile. Gee, somebody should write a book about that...
It looks like the US government is going ahead with its plans to install an execution chamber at camp X Ray in Gauntanamo Bay. This new power to execute "terrorists" was sought when Ashcroft was called before Congress to answer questions. Not only did he dodge the big ones [replying that innocents will be released "when the war is over," in reference to the admittedly never-ending war on terrorism], but he also managed to have his tertiary requests met with approval.

Fascism, Oligarchy, Illiberal Democracy: These are all words. They obfuscate the truth of the underlying fact that Americans are unwittingly building the infrastructure of authoritarianism. One man, one frightening religious zealot but more importantly one office that could be filled by anyone, has access to an unprecedented scope and depth of information about all of us, not just the "bad" people.

When I was a kid, and I first heard of Hitler, I read Mein Kampf. I checked the Anarchist Cookbook out of the library, and not because I wanted to make a bomb, but because I was curious. I bought a book by Milton Friedman for a class in college, not to mention a bunch of books by Claude Levi-Strauss. I am not a nazi, or a terrorist, or a neoliberal or a structural functionalist, but someone with access to my purchasing and library information could easily determine that I was -- especially if they wanted to. One can be executed due to the subjective application of an undefined term. Who is the real threat to the United States?
I have to say this all the time, but damn it, I'm not crazy, everyone else is!

Rep. Henry Waxman has written an (extensively footntoed and juicy) open letter to President Bush demanding answers about "misrepresenting evidence" against Iraq. Waxman is unique among an ever-growing numer of pitchfork-wielders as a Congressman who had supported the war. He wrote of the use of forged evidence about alleged nuclear transactions between Niger and Iraq:

These statements played a pivotal role in shaping congressional and public opinion about the need for military intervention in Iraq. I voted for the congressional resolution condemning Iraq and authorizing the use of force. Like other members, I was particularly influenced by your views about Iraq's nuclear intentions... Mr. President, I recognize that you have many demands on your time and that there are many issues that you cannot address. But this issue should be different. The credibility of the United States is now in question.

Dennis Kucinich is also raising hell in the house, and there is still a chance that the Senate will could begin inquiries in two different subcomittees. The war was able to be perpetrated because the balance of powers was lost to the executive branch. A little checkin', balancin', and ass-whoopin' from the legislature could, ironically, republicanize things a little bit more.
Monday, June 09, 2003
New Zealand's Scoop has posted the full text of Vanity Fair's interview with Paul Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz [on the topic of a Sept. 15, 2001 meeting]: Yeah. There was a long discussion during the day about what place if any Iraq should have in a counterterrorist strategy. On the surface of the debate it at least appeared to be about not whether but when. There seemed to be a kind of agreement that yes it should be, but the disagreement was whether it should be in the immediate response or whether you should concentrate simply on Afghanistan first.

RIchard Perle also dropped a nugget or two in his interview. He describes his first meeting with W.: "Two things became clear. One, he didn't know very much. The other was he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much... you got the sense that if he believed something he'd pursue it tenaciously."

That still doesn't eclipse my absolute favorite Perle quote of all time, "This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there ... If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely, and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy but just wage a total war, our children will sing great songs about us years from now."

Yes! That guy talks like someone who looks like Nesferatu. Oh, yeah.
"We shouldn't deny, those of us who were hawks, that there could have been misstatements made, I think in good faith,"

Guess who said that. I bet you didn't say Bill Kristol. Check out today's version of Bush's defense of the war. He has begun using the phrase "wepaons programs" instead of "weapons." Clever. This is obviously a departure from his previous claims, but easier to defend at the same time. So if he will just admit that he was lying about his previous claims of imminent danger, I will buy this later round.

Fareed Zakaria provides some nice background to this ideological pattern of overestimating threats.

The rhetoric is slowly shifting. Never again will we hear Bush make such absolute declarations of his knowledge. Vaguary is harder to call a lie, but bullshit is bullshit.

"Bullshit [tm]" is the official Postmodern Potlatch term for the dishonest case for war, and the opportunistic grafting of a bizarre ideology onto American foreign policy.
Howard Dean is racheting up his attacks on the Bush administration. The Deomcratic Candidates gathered to address a crowd of 400 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Though he was apparently outdone by Dennis Kucinich singing the national anthem, Dean was direct and confrontiational on the subject of the war. Meanwhile, Lieberman continued to defend George Bush and the Iraq war.

Dean compared Bush to President Nixon during the Watergate crisis. “What did the president know and when did he know it?” Dean asked, in a reprise of the famous question posed about Nixon in 1974. “The country is facing a serious crisis,” Dean told the crowd. “Our people are dying in Iraq at the rate of nine a week and the American people may not have had the full information about why we went there. The president’s credibility is at stake.”
From this article:

U.S. military units assigned to track down Iraqi weapons of mass destruction have run out of places to look and are getting time off or being assigned to other duties, even as pressure mounts on President Bush to explain why no banned arms have been found.

After nearly three months of fruitless searches, weapons hunters say they are now waiting for a large team of Pentagon intelligence experts to take over the effort, relying more on leads from interviews and documents.

Today the Guardian may be putting the "chemical weapons trailer" hype to bed. It turns out that a British firm likely sold the trailers to Iraq, and they are indeed hydrogen-producing mobile weather-ballon labs. Time for Bush to retract his claims that these trailers were indeed the evidence he has sought all along. The military has run out of places to search, so they are being asked to leave while the DIA brings in its own team -- to search in the same places! No wonder the hawks that be are so reticent to allow nonpoliticized international inspectors back in, they may forget to plant find the smoking gun. Even US intelligence experts are doubting the validity of Bush's claims about the few dubious scraps that have turned up...

...not to mention the rationale that sent us looking for them in the first place. From this article:

"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention on Aug. 26. "There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."

In September, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld joined in: "We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons," Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18. "His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons -- including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas."
Chrissy Gephardt, daughter of Presidential hopful Dick Gephardt, is discussing her sexual preference [hint: it is of the marked variety] with the press . She's also speaking out in favor of legalizing gay marriage. Right on.

It is important to note the difference between having a gay family member and truly championing gay rights. If not for this distinction, Dick Cheney would be speaking out the ancient and homophobic practices of his boss and the policies of the DOJ. If Gephardt starts stumping hard for the gay vote -- and it is only a real block if gay issues come to the forefront -- then things will get interesting. Until then, it would be wise to look at the Congressman's home state, where gay marriage is nowhere near being on the table, except for the proposals to alter the constitution to oppose it.
John Gilmore of the EFF is suing the FAA, Ashcroft, the DOJ, a couple of airlines and just about everyone else involved in air travel. He argues that requiring ID is not an effective safety measure and that it infringes on civil liberties. From the FAQ:

If we knew who the terrorists were, we could just arrest them all, rather than stopping them when they try to fly. So what do you mean by "a known terrorist"? A previously convicted hijacker? A card-carrying member of Al-Queda? A Green Party member, who seeks to change our established form of government? Someone on probation, convicted of non-violent civil disobedience for protesting the Star Wars program at Vandenberg Air Force Base? A member of Earth First!?

There is good reason to believe that any list of "known terrorists" contains "suspected" terrorists, not actual terrorists, and is full of errors besides. Particularly when the list is secret and neither the press nor the public can examine it for errors or political biases.

Who is a terrorist? Any IRA member from the last twenty years? A member of the Irgun (led by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin)? Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for sabotage for 27 years by the South African government? A WTO protester? The US Government killed more Afghani civilians in the last year than the number of US people killed on 9/11; does that make US soldiers terrorists? Israel and Palestine both claim that the other is terrorist. So do India and Pakistan. So do leftists and rightists in Colombia.

Ultimately the line between "terrorist" and "freedom fighter" is a political one. Our freedom to travel should not depend on a politician's decision about whether they agree with our aims or not. Every "anti-terrorist" measure restricts people based on their politics, not just based on whether they use violence. Violence was already illegal.

I saw this on Metafilter, and the discussion that ensued leads me, initially, to point out that Mr. Gilmore is not opposed to xrays, metal detectors or personal searches that are applied equally or randomly.

This suit is a brave, if unpopular, defense of the right to travel and associate freely [even if Gilmore does intimate that passengers should be armed]. It also makes a salient point about the apparatus of political spying and repression: it doesn't need to have been built with authoritarianism in mind to be harnessed by authoritarian forces. The real story of the last two years is not a terrorist attack or a bullshit war, it is the giddiness of Americans at the prospect of forking over their hard-won liberties.

Is an illusion of security worth the sacrifice of freedom? That seems to be the going rate.
Former CIA agent Robert Baer has written a new book, Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Its Soul for Saudi Crude. He has thus far resisted attempts by the CIA to force him to change or remove a portion of the book's content that claims that high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family have been involved in political assassination plots and the training of Chechen rebels with apparent ties to Al Qaeda.

THE CIA HAS CONTENDED in a letter to the ex-agent-turned-author, Robert Baer, that one passage about the alleged assassination plots contains “secret intelligence information” that can’t be disclosed without violating the terms of a secrecy agreement he signed when he joined the agency in 1976. But Baer told NEWSWEEK he has no intention of complying with the CIA’s demands. “Basically, I’m just defying them,” Baer said in an interview. “I don’t see where they have a leg to stand on—unless the First Amendment is totally gone.”

Interesting. Baer's book sounds like a more intellectual application of the logic that drove the "SUV's support terrorism" commericals, which were funny as hell. It would seem as if there is little that the CIA can actually do in this situation, but then again the powers of the state are expended everyday.

via Warfilter
Sunday, June 08, 2003
It appears as if Bush may run into trouble after all when being investigated by the Senate Select Subcommittee on Intelligence. An article running in tomorrow morning's Wahsington Post, which mostly recounts Condeleezza Rice's most recent statements spinning the Iraq intelligence debacle, also hinted that some Senators may indeed be planning an objective inquiry.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking minority member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "There is too much evidence that intelligence was shaded." Levin, who also sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the possible or probable presence of prohibited weapons in Iraq "was turned into a certainty over and over and over again by the administration." Levin added that if weapons are not found, "the credibility and reliability of our intelligence is going to be challenged in the future, and it's going to be much more difficult for us to lead the world."

Not bad. The article goes on to describe Richard Gephardt's rush to the President's defense. Uhh, Dick, you are spending a bunch of money trying to get the guy's job, so you can get off of his lap now. Thanks.
Poland decided to join the EU today, with 82% of Poles voting in favor of membership. Europe is expanding and becming more inclusive, and with the likely addition of Turkey and up to 13 other possible new members, European supranationalism is becoming truly pluralist in its scope and approach. What an abjectly unfortunate juncture for a breakdown in the US relationship with Europe and the rest of the world -- and beyond that a dissolution of our cooperation in the few real institutions of internationalism that we still bother to embrace. There may soon be a day when we only remember a time when the lives of Americans and Europeans were not all that different, and perhaps the only thing to do is to hope that when that day arrives we can still remember a time before freedom fries.
Saturday, June 07, 2003
I've been having a nice discussion lately with the guy who originally blogged a response to my statments on the recent ban of dilation and extraction abortion. This is wild, because abortion is usually a topic so fruitlessly contentious that I would not touch it with a ten-foot pole. Here is the last "round":
The pro-life position (which, again, can be argued rationally and without reference to religious dogma) is that from the moment of conception, a personal human being is present. Abortion, then, involves the deliberate killing of an innocent human being, and as such, it should be illegal, like every other instance of deliberately killing an innocent human being. Abortion is hence unlike drugs, alcohol, gambling or cults, in that none of these per se involve the killing of a human being. I can gamble, and not kill. I can take drugs, and not kill. I can drink, and not kill. I can join a cult, and not kill. But I cannot procure or perform an abortion without killing. That's the difference. Abortion isn't about a private, moral choice which concerns only me and my body: it is very much public, in that it involves another human being and their body beside the woman and hers... that is, her child. If our legal system is going to be consistent in its recognition of the unique value and rights which each human being has, then abortion should be illegal.

Abortion is hence unlike drugs, alcohol, gambling or cults, in that none of these per se involve the killing of a human being. I can gamble, and not kill. I can take drugs, and not kill. I can drink, and not kill. I can join a cult, and not kill. But I cannot procure or perform an abortion without killing.

What is it that makes this statement true? The underlying belief – which may well be valid, as far as I know – that a fetus is indeed a “complete” human life. We both know that even a given single piece of scientific data could be construed in either direction. Being a secular humanist (though, admittedly, one that is “far gone” enough to make criticisms of “science worship” or so forth less than patently false) I feel that I can understand the value of having a strong ethical foundation for one’s beliefs and actions. If there were an actionable, government-appropriate criteria by which we could deem a fetus to be “alive enough,” then I could understand the state being involved. If anything, the fact that disagreement on this issue runs so deep as to provoke violence [for the record, I by no means associate the entire pro-life movement with violent nuts] goes to show that it is likely neither driven by a unanimously-held standard nor for that matter is it even a decision best made in a majoritarian manner.
For my money, classical Liberalism, Constitutionalism if you will, is precisely a means to avoid actions based on a common morality. In that spirit, a medical decision – which despite any moral claims is clearly more relevant to the woman involved than anyone else – is best left to a medical professional. To do anything else would be to elevate a given morality above the values of individual liberty and pluralism, and thus both an overextension of the role of government and a failure of the American republican process.
Joe Lieberman, the neoconservative Democrat.

The Memory Hole has cached now-yanked websites that trumpetted the connections between Lieberman and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization that tries to get fundamentalist Christians to support Israel. He already was unique among the Democratic candidates in not only trying to be more Republican than the Republicans but more hawkish as well. Great. So it is possible that the 2004 election could be between two people whose campaigns were paid for by rabid fundamentalist Christian groups actively seeking to bring about armegeddon. That's not depressing or anything.

By the way, that last link is fantastic.

I was given another reminder of how fantastic the web is yesterday. I was over at Metafilter when I saw some bizarre real-time in-house censorhip unfold with our friends at Fox News.

A user named aacheson shared a link to a Fox News story that she had found, bearing the title: DIA Had No Evidence of Chemical Weapons in Iraq Last September. Aacheson then joked about the hilarity of such a decidedly hawkish information outlet actually running this. The headline and link from this story can still be seen on this search result page from google news (which I cached and put up on my site, as the results have changed). Aacheson’s joke turned out to be quite telling. User nicwolff soon discovered that Fox News removed the article entirely from their website soon afterward. And they redirected the link to a new story at the same URL, bearing the quite polar headline DIA: Intelligence Report Supports WMD Claims. All right then.

Aside from the possibility that I somehow created that google news page myself [which I assure you is zero – take a look at my site], this is a fantastic example of the web giving people an unforeseen level of scrutiny over media outlets. What does it mean? Giving Fox the benefit of the doubt, which they deserve about as much Bill Bennett deserves to hit a slot jackpot, maybe a technical error caused someone to cut and paste the wrong article from Reuters or the AP. Maybe it was a joke. Or maybe, just maybe, this is another in a long line of examples of Fox’s demonstrably political and ideological editorial policy trumping the independence of their “journalists.”
Friday, June 06, 2003
So in less than a week of blogging, I have already managed to offend a stranger. I received an email pointing me to this blog, with an entry speaking to my displeasure at congress' inroads to uteri everywhere:

For now, I'll simply note that Patton appears to never have heard any of the imminently rational arguments against abortion; usually I'd blame the person in question for that, as it's very easy to find such arguments on the net, but since I've just "found" Patton, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Then he suggests that I check out a group called Libertarians for Life. As it were, I am rather aware – at least I would say so – of the rational arguments against abortion. I find them to be many-fold, and – again we will disagree – I have yet to ever really see anyone try to refute with them. No one is “pro-abortion.” What I have yet to encounter are the rational arguments for criminalizing abortion. By rational, I don’t mean “sensical” or “good,” I mean, rational, as in not drivne by a morality claim. Drugs ruin lives, alcohol ruins lives, gambling ruins lives, cults ruin lives, and I am sure that abortion has ruined lives, but nonetheless when the state dictates to its citizens whether or not they can make choices about their own bodies and lives I can only construe that as a forceful grafting of a moral and religious template onto a populous whom it does not fit.

I'm a man, so I might be wrong, but it seems unlikely that anyone relishes having an abortion. But I know that people, and often the same people, relish control over my personal life. And you've got to choose your battles.
What a wild day. John Dean, who served as Richard Nixon's White House lawyer for a thousand days, has begun asking if lying to make a case for war is an impeachable offense. Good question. Dean talks up the Paul Krugman editorial from a few days ago, and neatly lists, references, and annotates some of W's greatest whoppers to date:

President Bush's Statements On Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction

Readers may not recall exactly what President Bush said about weapons of mass destruction; I certainly didn't. Thus, I have compiled these statements below. In reviewing them, I saw that he had, indeed, been as explicit and declarative as I had recalled.

Bush's statements, in chronological order, were:
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
United Nations Address
September 12, 2002

"Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons."
"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
Radio Address
October 5, 2002

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."
"We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."
"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States."
"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" - his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech
October 7, 2002

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
State of the Union Address
January 28, 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
Address to the Nation
March 17, 2003

Seeing as not only the CIA and State Department, but also Defense's own DIA is now disavowing the intelligence that Bush and Rumsfeld claim to have seen, one is forced to wonder where it came from [OK, not really. Can you say Iraqi National Congress?]. That being said -- and I am as alarmed by the right-wing power grab of the last few years as anyone -- I don't know that impeachment is the way to go. Wouldn't a thoroughly discredited incumbent be easier to beat?

Check out this story. Note the headline: Iraqi nuke site was close to making bomb. Pretty unambiguous, no? Now read the article:

which was close to developing an atomic bomb before the 1991 Gulf War.

The article, with copy from the AP but a new headline, then goes on to explain that the International Atomic Energy Agency has been in control of the site since 1991. I guess that nothing goes with fabricated intelligence better than a 12-year old smoking gun.
Kick-ass isolated incident:
A Green Party mayor!
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, it would seem as if last September the Pentagon's Intelligence service reported that it had no evidence of the presence of WMD in Iraq.

The time frame is notable because it coincided with Bush administration efforts to mount a public case for the urgency of disarming Iraq, by force if necessary. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others argued that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical and biological weapons and was hiding them...
In its report last September, the Defense Intelligence Agency said it could find no reliable information to indicate that Iraq had any chemical weapons available for use on the battlefield. But the agency also said Iraq probably had stockpiles of banned chemical warfare agents.

The existence of the DIA report was disclosed by U.S. News & World Report, and a classified summary was reported by Bloomberg News on Thursday. Two Pentagon officials who had read the summary confirmed Friday that it said DIA had no hard evidence of Iraqi chemical weapons.

It is actually pretty surprising hear -- when one considers who controls the Pentagon and what the DIA has been used for in recent months -- that they would even have reported their lack of findings. That being said, someone in the Defense Department has started leaking things pretty regularly, and that with Rumsfeld publically, though impersonally, excoriating them each time that something is slipped to the press.

Even Hans Blix is responding to today's report. It seems that he was operating under the assumption that the US was just denying him access to the best intelligence, but he is learning, the same as the rest of us, that there wasn't any.

Today Salon's Jake Tapper dusted off the "L-word," making Salon the first major media outlet (I think, what the hell do I know?) to actually call a spade a spade or a lie a lie. Every day Bush and Blair get closer and closer to waking up to a lynch mob. Well, OK, maybe just Blair, but the pressure is picking up on this side of the pond.
"The Justice Department has barred a group of employees from holding their annual gay pride event at the department's headquarters, the first time such an event has been blocked by any federal agency, gay rights leaders said today."

Basically, in order for a group to have a "day" the President must issue a proclamation -- at least officially. The event took place year, though, with Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson as the keynote speaker. The President that cooked up Loyalty Day, Leif Erikson day, and hundreds of other proclamations, can't be bothered to as much as allow gay staffers at the DOJ to have a day of pride and fellowship. Was it really a good idea to choose an evangelical Christian as our President? And having grown up in Missouri's pathetic school system, with no textbooks but plenty of opportunities to pray, I can only imagine what then-Governor Ashcroft's "leadership" will do to the rest of the country.

via Metafilter
John Ashcroft was finally brought before Congress to answer questions about the PATRIOT Act. Unfortunately, he used the opportunity to ask for more leverage to seize people's library records and execute them. Damn.
In all the stuff that I read about the New York Times scandal and the "departure" of two editorial bigwigs, I never hear Judith Miller mentioned as a source of all this outrage.

She used Chalabi as a source. For intelligence. Aside from the fact that this violates my personal predaliction to never trust anyone with his own private army, this guy was deemed too untrustworthy to continue being paid off by the CIA. That is weak journalism, and it was an important part of propping up a weak case for war. My alliance among news outlets with the word "New York" in their names is as solidly affixed as ever.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
The Bush administration has again refused to let international weapons inspectors return to Iraq. It would seem that, from their perspective, having someone unbiased by their side would lend international credibility, which obviously is sorely lacking.

It seems possible that Rumsfeld et al have no idea one way or another whether Iraq had WMD, and that they are content to sit back and see if they can get lucky. It has really only taken one term for most of the Bush junta to set themselves up nicely for their corporate afterlives [ahem...Michael Powell] and most were positioned well enough in the first place.

But what do they care? Sen. Mitch McConnell [R Ken.] today poo-pooed the very notion of a Senate inquiry. Fellow committee member Kit Bond, who I heard on NPR repeating Rumsfeld's talking points, doesn't exactly give the impression of one who's smelled blood, either.

Any inquiry that did take place would be likely be co-officiated by the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. It would be interesting to note that potential Bush rival John Edwards sits on the Intelligence Committee, but he too was a supporter of the war. Are we really to expect an investigation into a given event to be run impartially by people whose reputations may in part depend on proving that their support of said event was appropriate?
Although none of it is really "done" yet, every page of the PNAC Primer is up now. I am going to continue filling in detail and tinkering here and there, but one can at least get an idea of what the thing is going to look like.
The New York Times is experiencing a real shitstorm at the moment. The Jayson Blair scandal is only now beginning to die, and Judith Miller's misleading dependency on Chalabi as an "inside source" is starting to become clear. Executieve Editor Howell Raines, as well as his right-hand man Gerald M. Boyd, stepped down today.

Apparently, the standard as to what is "fit to print" has gotten somewhat looser.
Pressure is fainlly beginning to build on the Bush administration in regards to their case for war. For whatever reason, the US Senate decided to wait until after the war to decide if it was a good idea or not. Better late than never.

The administration has officially begun spinning this brewing controversy. Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense, held a press conference yesterday for the purpose of denying accusations that intelligence was skewed in order to make the case for war, but not everyone was impressed. From the article:
After Mr. Feith's nearly hourlong briefing, some defense officials familiar with classified intelligence assessments on Iraq, its ties to terrorists and what the govern ment charged were its weapons of mass destruction programs, said they were baffled or angered by his remarks. One senior official, who said he was skeptical of Mr. Feith's account, was too angry to answer immediately. Another official said simply, "There was a lot of doublespeak out there."

What's behind this doublespeak? Let's see, so Powell presented a plagiarized term paper (passed off as a British intelligence dossier), some forged documents and some photos of trucks to the UN. Powell himself referred to the statement -- drafted by "Scooter" Libby -- that he was forced to read as "bullshit." Even intelligence that may later check out as valid was supplied by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, easilly the single most self-interested party in this situation. Isn't that like getting all of your intelligence on Cuba from a wealthy exile community? Oh, wait. Yeah, that all appears to be on the up and up. Of course, there are many who feel as Thomas Friedman does: that we went to war "because we could." For what it's worth, Friedman doesn't seem to have a problem with this.

It would likely be asking too much for Bush to be subjected to weekly screaming, a la Tony Blair. But it would be nice if he at least had to pretend to answer questions, which of course is about all he'll likely have to do if the Senate inquiry gets off the ground.

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