Blog Archive

Thursday, July 31, 2003
You have to see this FLASH from Take Back The Media. It's the music that really kills me: In my head, in my head, stop it, stop it, stop it.

Once in a great while, I'll be sitting here (as I do almost constantly) and I'll read something and it will set me off. I'll raise my hands and start yelling at the people around me that I well know do not exist:

      Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!

But they don't because they can't because they are not real.

It is different for the real people that I would wish to yell at. They too won't stop it because they too cannot. They can't because they, like me, are haunted by demons. But unlike me, they do not admit theirs. I act mine out, and think myself foolish when it is done and I am over it. They act theirs out also, but are fooled by the false image of reality that appears before them. We both live in haunted worlds, but I accept mine for that. They do not, and are besieged by the urge to kill their imaginary demons. Except that one cannot kill imaginary demons; one can only kill real people. And they, unlike me, will accept that as a right and proper substitute.

   Update: CakeGate and the Neocons

The "CakeGate and the Neocons" timeline has been updated to 7/31/2003 at 1:20 AM. Most recent changes include:

  • Several of many planned inclusions of PNAC events.
  • A reference to a "National Security Presidential Directive" in February, 2001. This Smirking Chimp article is something worth reading, especially as it involves one of the first actions Bush took as President. Essentially, he dissolves interagency co-ordination of intelligence and greatly elevates the role economics in national security.
  • Some additional footnoting along with some general maintenance to make the chart easier to use.
  • Lot's of new entries on the "aluminum tubes" claim. These came from an excellent Mother Jones article on this subject. If you are interested in this particular aspect of the nuclear claim, Mother Jones has provided a mainstream link for each date. (There's also a few other dates from other articles there.)
O.K. I know I set out to stick just to the Niger FAXs, and the flowchart indeed does and will continue to do so. But after a while, it became obvious that for this timeline to be of any serious use, the entire nuclear claim would have to be viewed as a whole. Too many important events would have to be left out otherwise, but mostly the aluminum tubes references are need to portray the true level of the administration's marketing effort here. So sue me!

You too can help! I am currently seeking information on:

  • Any public references by administration officials that refer to the "smoking gun ... mushroom cloud".
  • Any public references by Dick Cheney to Iraq's suspect nuclear activities.
  • Activities and dates of the activities of the UN nuclear inspectors (IAEA) in Iraq.
  • I'm short of activity from October 11th thru December 2nd. Certainly, things were going on during this time. Does anyone have anything interesting? (The beginning of January is also slim.)
Now, I am trying to do this totally from mainstream sources, so it would save me time if you could include a link of this fashion with anything you might provide. But, whatever you've got, I'll take it. Just ship it along to Benedict@Large.

P.S. Sorry, but my planned updates to the flowchart are on hold right now. There simply is too much to do on the timeline, and I can get that published a lot faster. But I promise that I'll get back and update that also!

Tuesday, July 29, 2003
  A Benedict@Large Editorial  
I don't get this at all, or maybe I do.

We have a CIA agent (Valerie Plame), who has as her objective for the CIA to keep her "ear to the rail" on developments around the world regarding weapons of mass destruction. It is (was) her job for the CIA to find any and every threat to the United States that such weapons might offer. The exact job that the administration needed most to advance their case for war against Iraq. The exact claim that they are still trying ot shove off as legitimate. If the "imminent threat" claims that the administration used for its rationale for the Iraq War were important, then Valerie was a critical CIA operative to them. And yet, two "senior administration officials" revealed her identity, thereby eliminating any effectiveness that she might have.

Disclosing the identity of a CIA operative is a most serious federal crime (for every good reason), and both substantial fines and incarceration can result from doing so. But for either of these to occur, John Ashcroft's Justice Department must investigate and file the appropriate charges; an action they appear uninterested in doing.

It is of note that early on in Ashcroft's tenure as Attorney General, he was photographed with the statue of blind justice appearing behind him. The single bared breast on that statue so upset him that he had the statue itself covered so that he might never again be photographed with it included. The bare breast of blind justice obviously offended him, and he would not be photographed with it again.

Some may suggest that this is a small point: Ashcroft is religious man, and that bared breast simply made him uncomfortable. But he did not simply have the bare breast covered, nor did he move his photo-ops to a new location where that breast would not appear. He covered the entire statue itself. My detractors will say that I am splitting hairs here; that it is a small point. But it is not.

What would it take for you to cover the blinded scale of Lady Justice? Would an embarassment over a bared breast ever qualify? It certainly would not if you loved and understood the blinded and balanced scales that she possesses. It would have to be that the bared breast was more important to you than the message that the statue itself conveys. And that is John Ashcroft, a God-intoxicated man.

But John Ashcroft's version of God includes the "Divine Right of Kings": That those who come to power do so only if God Himself wills it. And any decision he makes is clearly one that only came because God Himself willed it ... which forgives all errors he might make. They would after all be God's errors, and that would not be possible.

Which brings us back to Valerie Plame and why John Ashcroft cannot even consider persuing rightful charges against those who outted her: They were acting on behalf of a man who would not have come to power unless God Himself had willed it. In other words, George W. Bush. God's arm Himself.

And John Ashcroft will not defy God, even if the oath you heard him swear would have him do so. After all, he did not swear it to you. He swore it to God, and to John, those are two entirely different things. Don't get confused by that just because you happened to listen to his oath.

For an additional perspective on this, read "America is a religion" by George Monbiot.
Monday, July 28, 2003
     Will Condi be walking?
The latest talk by Washington insiders is that Condi Rice may have to walk the plank for the uranium claim in the State of the Union address, and Stephen Hadley may be joining her. This isn't surprising, though it probably is unfair. If you have followed my "CakeGate" chart, you've probably noted that from the start that I've catalogued Condi as "impressionable", and this is kind of what I've meant by that. Condi may well be a smart enough lady, but she's out of her league on a war cabinet with extreme hawks like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. So naturally, if someone ends up needing to take a fall here, you can well expect that the Cheney and Rummy will have moved themselves to the back of the line. Which of course is too bad for a number of reasons:
  1. Condi is just getting caught in the mistake. Dick and Don were the guys who actually made it. (And point men Scooter Libby and Doug Feith don't smell any too clean in this matter either.)
  2. Taking down Condi doesn't solve a damn thing, and really entirely misses the point of problem. The problem isn't about what people saying; it's about what people are thinking. And there are a lot of people around with really bad thought processes.
  3. Condi will still have to be replaced, and there's no guarantee that her replacement won't be worse.
What about Colon Powell? Nah, you don't take down a 4-star with junk like this. In fact, as far as I can see so far, Colin also managed to keep Neocon watchdogs John Bolton and Dick Armitage away from the fray.

Of course, all of this is just speculation, because in the Bush administration, loyalty is more important than truth, and you are much more likely to be fired for telling a truth that needs to be told than for telling a lie that shouldn't have been told.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Updates on the White House outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent:The shit is not exactly hitting the fan here yet, but there are good signs. Like the Trent Lott affair, the blogs are taking up the case. While it is discouraging that more media outlets have not yet piped in, the White House press conference indicates that they are indeed interested in the story.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
A wonderful article from Tom They interviewed Raymond McGovern of Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity regarding their recent call for Cheney's resignation. A great read, but what is most surprising is that McGovern (who leads this group) is a quite devout Christian. I get so used to thinking that devout Christians are of a sort that are so difficult to deal with, but Ray reminds me of my own Christian heritage here. He reafirms to me that many faiths can come together and be united against lying.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
How very curious. I hate conspiracy theories, but this administration begs for them with their penchant for secrecy.

I am referring here to the Reuters article "White House Threatens Veto on Media-Ownership Cap". While I am totally into the "CakeGate" thing, I initially thought that I should publish this simply because I had harped so much on this issue. But then there was this thing in this article about the President's assistants who would be recommending to him a veto. Seeing that he had left for his long Texas vacation already, I found this a curious statement. The President has not made this decision; only his staff has. And who are they?

They are the ones he's left behind to deal with the "CakeGate" mess. And what is this mess when you get to the bottom of it? The "mess" is that the issue is getting press coverage. And all of a sudden the White House holds out a bone? If the press keeps up coverage on CakeGate, no expansion for them?

OK, so label me a conspiracy theorist. But when "senior administration officials" are willing to commit felonies simply to punish an honest disclosure, certainly nothing is out of bounds to them.

   Scandal #2? ... and just when Scandal #1 was getting fun!

The White House is by now well known for reacting unkindly towards people and countries that they don't see eye to eye with, so it comes as no surprise to find that they are none too pleased with Joseph Wilson. Wilson's "crime" of course was to tell the New York Times that it was he was the person who went to Niger to check out the possibility of a Saddam-Niger uranium deal. Well reported by now, Wilson's evidence came down as strongly against the claim. The big deal of course is that Wilson's article has mushroomed the issue beyond what the White House has been able to control. So naturally, Wilson had to be punished.

But here is where it gets ugly: The White House doesn't have anything on Wilson himself, so they go after his wife (Valerie Plame) and out her (to Robert Novak: The mission to Niger) as an undercover CIA agent! Well, pardon me, but perhaps the White House should brush up on the Federal Criminal Code (starting with the "Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982"), because that is a quite serious felony ($50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison). This was first reported by The Nation on July 16th, but other publications are now picking up on it. Applicable links are below:

  • A White House Smear: The Nation first makes the link between the "outing" and the criminal code. 7/16/2003
  • Some Dare Call It Treason: BuzzFlash publishes a lengthy editorial suggesting the disclosure as treason. 7/21/2003
  • Who's unpatriotic now?: Paul Krugman (NYTimes) questions the patriotism of an administration that would violate criminal statutes. 7/22/2003
  • Columnist Blows CIA Agent's Cover: Newsday confirms Wison's wife as an undercover CIA agent and raises the criminal nature of the disclosure. 7/22/2003
  • Applicable Federal Criminal Code provisions: Section 793. Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information and Section 798. Disclosure of classified information. Note also that this disclosure seems to have been made by multiple people acting jointly. To that effect, conspiracy provisions of the Federal Criminal Code may also apply.
  • Search Google News for the latest media outlets to join the fray. As this goes to press (5 PM), this link returned only six stories. If that number starts climbing, the Bush Boys have their second scandal before the first is even over. No wonder Bush just took off for Texas again.
   "CakeGate" & the Neocons
I spent probably the better part of the last four days (and many hours before that) chasing down info on the "Niger FAXs" and how they got into the President's State of the Union Address. I've compiled most of this into a large chart showing key personalities and information flows (131K) in an attempt to see if I could figure out what happened. The picture is now coming into focus (it is quite complex), and I'll probably be writing up some of my conclusions shortly. What I am looking for as I do that is any comments that this chart might generate. Have at it, if you want, or simply download the chart for you own use.


  1. This chart is a work in progress, and it will be changing as more information becomes available. This version is current through: Tuesday, 7/22/2003, 1:05 AM

  2. This chart mostly reflects only the forged Nigerian FAXs, although the patterns may well be similar for the WMD issues and the Saddam-Al Queda claim.

  3. This chart is quite large (now 1474 x 1292). On an average monitor, you'll see only about a quarter of it. I would recommend bouncing a few times between a full (but distorted) view and a fully expanded view until you get used to its layout. While the layout itself is not complex, the level of detail certainly is.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
            From The Age (Australia):

  Operation Pat Robertson Freedom  
We pray that you Oh God will raise the standard
Pat Robertson and make him retire.

Pat 'The Fruitcake' Robertson

See, this is the trouble with you Fundies. Every time we don't keep you on a short enough leash, you let freaks like this crawl out from under the rocks. Pray for God to remove three Supreme Court justices because they are old and sick? "Raise the standard" against them? This wacko is asking for you to pray for the deaths of these people! And "Operation Supreme Court Freedom?" You all got your own little Jihad going here, don't you!

You need to put a muzzle on this guy. He's making you all look like idiots.

Pray for the death of three Supreme Court justices.

Monday, July 14, 2003
Bernard Weiner of The Crisis Papers writes "On the advisability of holding one's nose when voting". His argument is essentially that the old argument that Republicans and Democrats are essentially one and the same can no longer apply when the Republican is George Bush. Hold you nose if you must, but vote for any Democrat who runs against him.

I wasn't having much of an argument with his logic until I ran into "Holy Joe, Corporate Joe, G.I. Joe: Will the real Senator Lieberman please stand up?" over at LA Weekly. I already knew Lieberman was bad, but I didn't know he was this bad. I mean, this guy is a right wing Rebuplican right down to the saying one thing and doing the opposite routine.

Sorry, Bernie, but I may not be able to hold my nose tight enough to vote for Joe. Come to think of it, I think I have something already planned for that day.

   Profits Not Patients
By Yves Engler via ZNet

With all that is going on right now, it is often difficult to focus on some of the core issues that I am passionate about, and one of these is national healthcare.

One thing that few of you are aware of is that my first ten years as a computer professional was spent in group insurance. I can remember back to those days and the conversations I had with business associates regarding the run-up in prices. To a person, we all understood back then (~1978) that the system was unsustainable. That it has lasted as long as it has is quite surprising to me, but those original sentiments of mine have not diminished. Indeed, as I write, the system is self-destructing. If this has not hit you yet, trust me. It will.

The fact of the matter is that in the 25 years since I and my colleagues uttered those sentiments, the business interests surrounding healthcare have repeatedly said that they could get it under control. Twenty-five years they have claimed this. Twenty-five years they have used this claim to defeat any meaningful changes to the system. Twenty-five years they have failed.

It is time to re-examine these claims. Business has consistently claimed that a business solution is the only answer. Well, they have totally revamped their entire system three times in the last twenty-five years, and nothing has changed. Medical cost keep soaring well above inflation, and more and more people are forced to go without healthcare. The system is broken, and it has been for a long time. And business is clearly unable to solve the problem. Business insists that it must be a rationed commodity, while the public insists that it is a fundamental right.

O.K. Off of my soapbox. This article by Yves Engler doesn't advocate for anything. All it does is give examples of medical care when it is treated as a commodity. Nothing more. But it does beg the question: Does this kind of conduct reflect the value you place upon your own life? Because it is the exact value that business places on it.

I don't know whether I've just missed this before, or whether it is a new feature at Anyways, I'm going through this mailing from them requesting that I sign a petition to Congress asking for an investigation into the Bush rationale for the Iraq War, and suddenly I'm confused. At one moment, they are talking about 330,000 signatures, and then they are talking about 712 and wanting 900. I reread it, and then notice the name Clay Shaw, who happens to be my representative in the House. All of a sudden, I get it! They are sending each and every member of Congress the list of signatories from their own congressional districts.

As I said, maybe I just missed this, but I am impressed. So many of these petitions go as a single copy of all who signed, and this is a welcome change.

To be quite honest, I've been quite skeptical of the value of such internet petitions before, and this development at does not entirely change that. But it seems to me that Clay Shaw will at least know that 712 voters in his district are aware of the problem and want something done about it.

And by the way, If you haven't yet joined, do it. If you just want to sign this petition, go here. And you can join when you do so with a single checkmark.

So Tenet falls of his sword? That's the end if it, declares George Bush. Pardon me, George, but that is simply silly.

Tenet vetted the speech? Fine. But who else did? Why are you now trying to claim that the responsibility for that claim lay totally with the CIA?

In fact, it did not. We already know that Powell's State Department was aware of this and just eight days later, he refused to use it in the UN presentation. Powell claims it's absense there was because things had changed, but they did not change in those eight days.

So what are we to think now, George? Condi knew. So did Powell, So did Tenet. The claim sucked wind. But that is three departments; not just one. Are we now to believe that Condi and Powell had no say in vetting this speech? Bullshit. Tenet falling on the sword is meaningless.

But let's get to what is. The CIA asked the Brits to remove the claim from their dossier in September. The Brit's did not, claiming other evidence, evidence that to this day cannot be disclosed. Are we to now think that this other evidence was not shared with you? Of course it was. Which means that the other undiclosed British evidence was not sufficient for you to claim that we had the evidence. Factually correct, as Condi has offered, but a piece of crap nonetheless.

All of which leaves us where we started: You floated a bunch of crap evidence. It may well have been the evidence given to you, but that does not matter. You are the Commander-in-Chief, as you so highly play the role. But what are you a commander of? Shoddy workmanship? You will dispatch our military into harm's way based on shoddy workmanship? It all eventually comes back to you, doesn't it? You are the one who runs the organization that produces this crap that you make decisions on. You are responsible for that organization, but so far, you have refused to accept responsibility for it. It is simply time that you do. This cannot happen without a total vacuum from above. You took the job. Now, do it. If you are unable, then it is time for you to be removed.

Curiously enough, I am feeling very positive about these recent statements. In a quite large way, they clear the way for going after Dick Cheney. You remember him, don't you? He's the one that got a $25 million severence package from Haliburton, in spite of the fact that he had not completed the terms of his contract. The same Halliburton that got the unbid rebulid contract for Iraq. The same Halliburton that, in an unnoticed claus at the time, took ownership of all of Iraq's oil. Nice deal if you can get it, for sure.

Anyways, it was Dick who sent Joseph Wilson to Niger on this via the CIA. And now we are to believe that Cheney did not know the results of his request? And then we must postulate on that Dick Cheney did not vet your State of the Union speech? Sorry, George, but it did not happen that way.

In fact, this false Niger claim had more lives than a cat, and someone had to be responsible for making that so. The only one who could have is Dick Cheney (anyone seen much of him lately?) He knew the Niger thing was false, but he owed Haliburton a bunch, and the only way he could pay off that loan was to pull off all of this flim-flam, hoping that few noticed.

Now, Dick is a curious person when it comes to the idea of who in fact created this forgery. We don't much talk about that these days, but who would be motivated to create this? Dick becomes curious for one single fact: His last stint in government was when the ten year old name on the Niger FAX was still valid. That name has not been valid since. So the question must arise: Why would Dick ask for this to be checked out by the CIA if it was his forgery, and you would have to suspect that there would be no reason. Plenty of reason to keep the FAX alive, but why offer the CIA an opportunity to dispute it? Obviously, this does not make sense.

So who else would be in a similar position? Ten year old knowledge, and a reason to fabricate evidence? There is only one person who meets this criteria: Paul Wolfowitz. How did he do it? I don't know. But someone was sufficiently motivated, a person who was in a position to get this done, and a person who relied on knowledge that was outdated by ten years. Wolfowitz did this and got his wish. He got his ten year old wish of an all out war against Saddam.

Unfortunately, he did so in a manner that is in clear violation for federal crimal statutes. His penalty? Five years. Not much when you consider the damage. But I am still researching this. If it can be tied into treaties and international law, the federal penalty can rise to death. And I am not bullshitting you on this. Given the results of this FAX, if Wolfie did indeed fabricate this, he is most likely eligible for the death penalty. To the Neocons? Shove that up your pipe and smoke it.

Friday, July 11, 2003
Coming soon to a neighborhood near you:
    Combat Zones That See (CTS)    
(a.k.a., "Big Brother")
No kidding, this is the real thing. It's actually just finishing up the proposal process over at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a.k.a, "Rummy's Toys"), and a developer(s) for the system is to be named on August 29th.

What it is is a series of intelligent video cams that will be able to recognize vehicles, read license plates, and identify faces. Where the "series" thing comes in is that all of these cams will tie back to a central processor which will then do neat stuff like identify routes of vehicles, anticipate routes, flag unexpected departures from anticipated routes, and even tell you who got in and out of the vehicle and where. And this is not about tracking a single vehicle; it is about tracking all vehicles in an area both simultaneously and over long periods of time.

Not to worry however. This is intended only for military applications (specifically, urban warfare); not for Homeland Security. The standard DoD caveat attached to all of their computerized intelligence-gathering projects is also attached here. So why then does Noah Shachtman from the Village Voice find several of the bidders on this project saying otherwise? ["Big Brother Gets a Brain". Good article. Lot's of stuff I don't give here.] To see if I could find an answer, I went to the project's "Proposer Information Pamphlet" [280K, PDF] and it's "Briefing to Industry" [8.4M, Power Point] and found several curious items:

  • Whatever the final system is to be made up of, the most strong requirement of the design is that it is to be mostly made up of consumer off the shelf (COTS) items. In other words, stuff that you and I can buy.

  • Whatever the final system is to be made up of, another strong requirement of the design is that it be mostly unclassified. In other words, anyone can buy it.

  • The project has two phases:

    • Force Protection Configuration: This consists of preinstalled video cams that may or may not have their "intelligent" functions physically present with the camera, and each camera communicates with the cenral "brain" over land lines. This is essentially a prototype of the final requested system, and is meant to work out any major bugs in the recognition and pattern-developing software.

    • MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) Configuration: This is where the military considerations are brought in. Rapid deployment (in hostile territory), self-calibration once dropped, and no dependence on land lines.

    Note that it is only with a successful second phase that this project becomes useful to the military in hostile locations. But even if only the first phase is successful, the technology can quite well be used to monitor non-hostile populations (like you).
So there you have it. Unclassified and quite affordable technology, combined with a game plan that makes it useful for docile population control if it is even only half successful.

None of this however is to be confused with the Total Information Awareness (TIA) project. [I know the name changed, but the technology didn't.] That is a separate project entirely. But it is hardly illogical to join the two once you have each of them. Let's say that you drive by a suspected terrorist target a number of times a week. CTS notices this and asks TIF, "What's up?" TIF checks its records and finds that you live in Location A, your kids go to day care at Location B, and the suspected target is on a reasonably route between the two. You're cleared, ... unless of course you happen to pay for day care in cash.

Welcome to Big Brother. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Greg Palast is starting a web log. Two of three times a week maybe.

If you are not up on Greg, he's the American ex-patriot reporter who left us and went to England simply for the ability to report the truth.

So what is Greg's first post about? Draft dodging. Seems that he got a bit more info than we have heard before. But I must warn you: Don't read through to the end. It will just piss you off.

   This is very big:

If there is anyone in the Senate today that has a perspective on history, it is Robert Byrd. Not always, in retropect, the "nice guy", he has learned the lesson of age and wants to offer them to us:

On August 22, 1920, an article written by former Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence appeared in one of the great newspapers of London, the Sunday Times. This legendary British military officer -- better known as Lawrence of Arabia -- began his commentary with a sharp warning about his country's occupation of ancient lands in the Middle East:
"The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster."
Colonel Lawrence concluded with an equally sharp question:
"How long will we permit millions of pounds, thousands of Imperial troops, and tens of thousands of Arabs to be sacrificed on behalf of colonial administration which can benefit nobody but its administrators?"
These were the observations some 83 years ago of a British soldier who had studied the history of the Middle East, fought alongside Arabs in the Great War, and understood the anger of those who lived under the administration of a distant power.

His observations, which might have been considered academic in the months before U.S. and British troops began their advance into Iraq, now appear prescient. As violence in the streets of Baghdad increases, as our troops are being killed and wounded by guerilla attacks, as progress toward creating a new Iraqi government stagnates, the American public is only just now beginning to come to grips with the enormity of the task that we have before us in Iraq. A clear picture had never been painted for them by the "powers that be." Rosy scenarios about instant liberty and flowers to the troops were the order of the day.

But, now reality has emerged and it is harsh. And seeing the enormity of the task before us, and the increasing dangers to the loved ones who serve in uniform, the American people are beginning to ask, how long must our troops remain in those distant, hot sands? How long must they patrol the dangerous streets of Najaf and Fallujah? When will our troops be coming home?

Weeks ago, the President gave vague assurances about the timely withdrawal of our troops. He said, "We will stay as long as necessary to get the job done, and then we will leave." [Remarks at Santa Clara, CA, 5/2/03] Such words are without substance. They are "doublespeak." They do nothing but feed the hopes of the American people that our troops will soon return from Iraq while avoiding any real indication of when that might happen. The fact is that the Administration has carefully avoided telling the American people when it expects our occupation of Iraq to conclude. So far, this Administration has yet to even estimate how soon it will be able to hand Iraq over to the Iraqi people. In short, it appears that we have no exit strategy. The word "quagmire" is starting to be used by the media. Clearly, many people are very worried about our situation in Iraq. The death toll keeps mounting.

Last week, the President actually taunted those forces who are murdering our troops in the streets of Iraq. He dared the violent militants by saying "Bring 'em on." One can hardly think of a more inappropriate comment for a President to make when Americans are under siege in Iraq and being asked to deal with the treacheries of urban guerrilla warfare with no end in sight. Chest thumping should have no place in such a situation. This was the President who went to the trouble to put on a flight suit, land on an aircraft carrier, and, with great fanfare, tell the American public that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." But, British and American soldiers are still dying in Iraq. Now, the President is saying, "Bring 'em on." What are we to believe?

The President has backed away from earlier suggestions of a foreseeable end to U.S. peacekeeping efforts in Iraq. He warns of the return of tyranny if our troops begin returning home. Judging by the President's statements, our armed forces have become the thumb in the dike - - the only obstacle that prevents the return of a repressive dictatorship in Iraq.

How did it come to this? Members of Congress were told that our forces would be greeted as liberators. Iraqi citizens were supposed to eagerly embrace democracy and serve up Saddam Hussein on a silver platter the moment that they sipped from the cup of freedom. We should have known that the burden of democratizing Iraq would be no easy task. The Administration should have been more forthcoming about the difficulty of that task, about the time it would take to execute it, and about the cost to the taxpayer.

To be sure, the Defense Department is now scrambling to scrape up as many as 20,000 foreign troops to join our forces in occupying Iraq by the end of September. I applaud these efforts. But it would be folly to believe that a deployment of 10,000, 20,000, or even 30,000 foreign troops would significantly reduce the dangers to the nearly hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now in Iraq.

The failure of this Administration to adequately plan for post-war Iraq has become painfully evident. At yesterday's Armed Services Committee hearing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he did not know if the United States had made any formal request for assistance from NATO or the United Nations since the beginning of the war in Iraq. The deployment of experienced peacekeepers from our friends and allies would go a long way to relieving the strain on our troops. It is simply shocking that our Secretary of Defense would be unaware of any efforts by the Administration to make a formal request to NATO and the U.N. to provide these troops.

The tragic failure of the Administration's efforts to build international support before launching its impatient rush towards war against Iraq is now bearing its bitter, bitter fruit. The difficulty in finding just 20,000 peacekeepers to patrol Iraq is evidence that White House efforts to assemble 49 nations into a "coalition of the willing" was merely an exercise in rhetoric, meant to cover the lack of significant military or financial contributions from dozens of nations, save for those of Britain, Australia, and Poland.

Has the lack of a plan for post-war Iraq needlessly cost American lives? If we had not been so convinced that Iraqis would greet our armies with flowers and smiles, could we have better anticipated the chaos and lawlessness that broke out in the days after the war?

If we had not been so cocksure about our ability to neatly decapitate the leadership of the Iraqi regime, could we have fashioned a better plan to deal with the collapse of civil order as our tanks rolled into Baghdad?

Perhaps this White House should have listened to the advice of many senior military leaders who foresaw the need for several hundred thousands troops to stabilize post-war Iraq. Perhaps it should have contemplated the consequences of a Saddam Hussein driven into hiding, but still potent and dangerous. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. The Administration appears quite ready now to dedicate our military to a long-term occupation of Iraq. War-weary soldiers will continue to patrol the areas around Baghdad. The citizen-soldiers of the National Guard and the Reserves will be kept from returning to their homes, their jobs, and their families. Thousands of American families will continue to worry about the fate of their loved ones.

And in spite of the heavy commitment that this Administration has made to the most ambitious policy of nation-building in more than half a century, it appears to be on the verge of sending unknown numbers of U.S. troops to yet another peacekeeping mission in Liberia.

In my home state, there is a growing sense of disenchantment with these foreign adventures. Every day, more letters come to my office from West Virginians asking when their family members will be coming home. They contain details about National Guard and Army Reserve units with unclear missions and open-ended deployments. I have received word that some units are without mail service, others must wait weeks between phone calls home to their families. One unit had to ration water to just 20 ounces per day because of supply shortages. I suspect that other Senators are experiencing a similar phenomenon in the content of their mail from families of the Guard and Reserve.

These part-time soldiers are proud to serve in our nation's military, but they know that they are also full-time members of their communities. Our nation's reservists have important duties in their civilian lives, serving their cities and towns as police officers, businessmen, doctors, teachers, and laborers. Members of the Guard and Reserves proudly joined to serve their country in times of crisis, not to be a permanent constabulary force in the Middle East.

Our brave and professional fighting men and women are awesome on the battlefield, but they must not be expected to carry out the role of peacekeepers or nation-builders in an open-ended mission, whether it take place in Lebanon, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, or Iraq. Our American soldiers are not Iraqi bureaucrats. Our Armed Forces are trained to win wars, not run countries. Putting our men and women in such an untenable situation is a misuse of our military and a disservice to our military personnel.

This Administration should think hard about whether we have the manpower to sustain a large commitment of troops in Iraq for the long term. We currently have overseas commitments in South Korea, Japan, the Balkans, and Afghanistan. Keeping tens or hundred of thousands of troops in Iraq for as many as ten years may demand more troops than our voluntary armed forces can muster.

This Administration should think hard about whether we have the money to single-handedly pay for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. The Department of Defense has reported that we are spending $3.9 billion each month to occupy Iraq, in addition to the $950 million we are spending each month for our mission in Afghanistan. At a time when the United States is running record-breaking deficits of $400 billion each year, the Administration has not even included these $58 billion in occupation costs in its budget. In sharp contrast to the 1991 Persian Gulf war, where our allies contributed $54 billion of the $61 billion cost of that war, the American taxpayer is virtually alone in bearing the burden for the staggering cost of this most recent war with Iraq.

Americans have good cause to be proud of the men and women who unselfishly serve our country in uniform. They have carried out their duty in Iraq admirably. But what is the next step? The last thing we want to do is repay the services our troops have given to our country by committing them indefinitely to a fuzzy reconstruction mission of uncertain duration.

Iraq is fast becoming an urban guerilla shooting gallery with U.S. troops as the targets. It is time to go to the United Nations and work to deploy a trained multinational peacekeeping force to cope with the perils of the occupation of Iraq. Before there is a disaster to cope with. Before there is a major loss of life. Before there is a crisis, we must read the tea leaves.

This White House cannot further presume on the patience of the public. The American people must be given an exit strategy for our troops. We must ask the International Community for help in Iraq.

A crazy old man? Thank you very much. I think I'll just put my trust there. There is much to be learned from those who have lived longer.
Notes of the day:
  • The Molly Ivins interview with BuzzFlash is priceless. Make sure you read it all the way. I laughed a number of times, but never more than her last sentence.

  • Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty has been fined $450 thousand for her role in trying to influence the Florida Supreme Court during the 2000 election fiasco. To read my e-mail to her upon learning this, click here. [As for my reference therein to "the Stockade", that is were we in Palm Beach County sends our female criminals. Mary could learn a few things there. Let's start with humility.]

  • Did you see this? ABCNews has lost their mind. Headline: Iraq/Al Qaeda Connection. Now, mind you, this is their "I-Team" reporting here. Investigative journalists. And what is their "investigative" link? Seems that Mohamed Atta was in Prague at the same time that the recently arrested Abu Amin was. Seems that Abu Amin was videotaped speaking to someone that looked like Mohamed Atta. Upon review by intelligence, it seems that it wasn't Atta at all. So why the headline? No wonder that the American public is so misinformed. Our news media sucks.
  Media Watch:  
   Objectivity, how to fake it, book burners, & the "really" free press

Objectivity: From the Columbia Jornalism Review comes Re-thinking Objectivity by Brent Cunningham, an extensive article that reviews the role of the "objectivity standard" in journalism tody and the hosts of problems that it presents. Brent uses as examples stories taken from recent news events where objectivity seems to have actually have prevented getting at the full story, at least in a timely fashion. Not a argument against objectivity, but rather a suggestion that it is but one among a greater set of equal tools needed to develop effective reporting.

How to fake it: A bit quicker to the point is David Edwards in Manufactured Controversies: The 'Nut' Theory Of Dissident Journalism. Dave writes for MediaLens, a British group that reports on British reporting, and seldom does so with kindness.

His target today is the methods by which some in the mainstream British media attempt to marginalize "dissident" reporting (which we might define as anything that goes beyond what the mainstream reports). But Dave wastes no time with philosophical agruments (like the above article). He instead selects reports by high-priced journalists, and with the precision of a surgeon's knife, exposes every element of fraud in them. It really is a beautiful thing to watch.

Book burners: Remember the stir at the University of North Carolina last year when the Quran was assigned as summer reading to freshmen? Well, those folks are back again protesting this summer's selection. The object of their scorn? "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America". Too liberal, says Michael McKnight, a senior and spokesman for Committee for a Better Carolina.

Now, pardon me, but I'd suppose that just about any book could be found objectionable by someone, but this book hardly rises to the emotional level of last year's selection. So why the fuss? because this group is being financed by the far right John William Pope Foundation. This is simply a case of money hunting for an issue.

Advice to Mr. McKnight: At least present your argument using the correct terms. This book is not "liberal". It is merely "low class".

The "really" free press: Now, I didn't know this. The Guardian (UK) is actually funded by a trust whose sole purpose is to keep and grow The Guardian. There is a similarly-financed (but much smaller) newspaper in northeast Connecticut, and the arrangement makes fora very diferent kind of newspaper: One that is driven by news instead of by advertisers and profits.

All of this is quite good news, seeing that The Guardian is planning to enter the U.S. news market with a very different kind of weekly news journal: long, in-depth articles with a decided libel orientation unbroken by the steady stream of ads that dominate other such publications. Current plans are for them to debut around the end of the year and well in time to cover the 2004 elections. The dailyKOS chimes in with enthusiasm over this, and I too can hardly wait. Watch out, Bill Kristol!

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Bev Harris of has at last released the "hack" that she has found in the programming that Diebold uses on their vote tallying machines. Bev had been hyping this for a number of days, claiming that it might be a scandal to beat Watergate (or at least the start of one), and so I looked into the hype, and came away with (from what I could gather) a mind that while what she had uncovered was significant, it was hardly of a scope that she was suggesting. Don't get me wrong. I respect Bev and have even worked with her (quite) briefly before. I just couldn't really see that she had that much.

As it turns out, my suspicions were correct. While Bev has uncovered a major flaw, it is hardly earth-shaking as it stands. But here is the thing, and I have written to Bev to tell her: The most significant thing that she has uncovered is not what she thinks it is. It is that the entire programming that Diebold uses for their vote tallying has no ability to operate in a secure environment. Any 15 year old attempting his first hack could defeat every control in the Diebold programming, and could do so without being detected with quite little effort. The fact of the matter is that, while the hacks she has found are significant, she could have made any hack that she had attempted work against this system.

[View also: a second Scoop (NZ) story on this and the BlackBox Voting annouchment.]

Saturday, July 05, 2003
An example of the fact that the Turkish military conducts covert operations out of view of its own government: U.S. Said to Hold Turkish Forces in Iraq. Three Turkish officers and eight noncommissioned officers have been detained in northern Iraq in a plot to assassinate the Kurdish governor of Kirkuk. While the Turkish government has of course asked for the release of their soldiers, it has also indicated that they were not acting as agents of Turkish government policy.

This of course is the same military that the administration asked to intervene with the democratically-elected government of Turkey for permission to attack Iraq from its soil. We lay down with strange bedfellows, it seems.

   Revenge of the Nurds
From the Boston Globe: Website turns tables on government officials

Here's an interesting concept: If the federal government is going to create a data base to keep track on us, why don't we create one to keep track on them? That's the idea behind the new Government Information Awareness website created by two researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The system will start by offering standard background information on politicians, but then go one bold step further, by asking Internet users to submit their own intelligence reports on government officials -- reports that will be published with no effort to verify their accuracy.
Another idea I particularly like: A hook-up to the live C-SPAN broadcast where the dossier for the current speaker will available in real time (with good things like who has contributed to that person). Sounds good to me!

[Note: As always, PoliticalMoneyLine offers searchable data bases on campaign contributions (soft and hard money), PACs, and who is lobbying for whom and why.]

   Simple Rules:
From the John McCandlish Phillips (Washington Post):
Media Ethics According To Deuteronomy
More and more, people are turning to the internet as an alternative source of news, and more and more, many of us (myself included) are trying to provide that. As we do, it is important for us to remember that people are turning to us to provide what they are not finding elsewhere: Honesty. In this article, Phillips provides a few simply guidelines as to what that means.

In particular is Phillips' point about not letting our theories get very far ahead of our facts, because this is perhaps where some of us most err. It is all easy enough to suspect conspiracies surrounding voting machines and 9/11, for example; many things about these seem poorly explained. It is another thing to say these suspicions are proof. I don't think there is anything wrong with reporting suspicions; simply that we need to report then as exactly that.

End of lecture.

Friday, July 04, 2003
   The Editorial Page

   From Richard Reeves (Yahoo News): The New American order

The French, it seems, are taking literally President Bush's threat that other nations are either for the United States and all its works, zigs and zags, or they are against us. And one possibility you see here is that the new Bush order could collapse into civil wars and anarchy because the rest of the world just might decide they are against us.
   From Jim McDermott (American Prospect): Fear Factory
The Bush administration's dangerous manufacturing of post-9-11 dread
I'm not sure how much more of this our country can take. Memories of conversations with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder haunt me. I know I'm not alone: I've talked with other veterans who have had recent flare-ups. The nightmares are coming back.
   From Chris Floyd (Moscow Times): Global Eye -- Troubled Sleep
The secret policemen snatched the citizen from his house. There were no charges, no warrants, no warnings. They spirited him away to a secret location; no one knew where he had gone, why he'd disappeared. The covert agents grilled him, in secret, for three months. They told him that if he didn't cooperate, he'd be declared an enemy of the state -- then they could salt him away in a military prison or the regime's concentration camp and hold him there, without charges, for as long as they wanted.
   From Charley Reese: Trust Is Important
Lying, directly or indirectly, is a mortal sin for a public official in a free society. It erodes trust, which is the glue that holds society together. And it is entirely unjustifiable. When I was flacking for politicians, I always told my clients they had two, and only two, choices if asked a question: tell the truth or say "No comment." ... As far as I'm concerned, the Bush administration has lost all of its credibility, and an administration no one can believe is an administration that needs to be replaced.
Iraqis seemed to have been encouraged by Bush's "Bring 'em on!" bravado, killing one American soldier and wounding 20 more in three attacks today. (America's birthday, too. Have they no shame?) Of course, the Democratic Presidential candidates were quick to jump all over that remark, but W. David Jenkins III had a simpler thought: "George, Would You PLEASE Shut Up!"
So Saddam is supposedly alive and talking. Well, who knows? But in reading the translation of his speech, I noted that he wanted the Iraqis to ask "the invaders" a question: Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Imagine that. Even Saddam wants to know.

Meanwhile, back on the Hill, Democrats on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are complaining that they are simply understaffed for the job of going through the 17,000 pages of pre-war intelligence reports, but the controlling Puglies aren't interested in this thing going any faster or being any more thorough. That of course should surprise no one, but considering that this thing may become an aweful dangerous thing to be found on the wrong side of, standing in the way of this could turn out to be a political death wish for some of them. Or at least we can hope.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
BIG POST ERROR, POST ID 105728679405302530 REPORT IT

These people are totally bullshit. I can't do a serious article anymore. I keep getting shit like this, every time I try.

This is why I have taken time off, hoping for some reply from Blog*Spot to my complaints. But none has been forthcoming. According to their own records, they have not even viewed my complaints.

I don't know what I am supposed to do at this point. I just spent 6 hours on an article, only to have it rejected as too large (10K, with lots of HTML tags).

To be quite truthful to you, I am not going to sit here and simply pump out trivial links to articles that I find. It is every essence of why I bother to do this to begin with that I have the opportunity to string many links together with how I view them all in a single context. Lacking that ability, I have virtually no incentive to continue.

Add one more to the list of the Gipper's business failures. Yup, "Dubya" didn't just flunk out in the oil business. It seems that he also flunked out as a board member of The Carlyle Group. According to David Rubenstein, co-founder and Managing Director of The Carlyle Group, Bush was offered a position on the origuinal Carlyle board as a favor to a friend. His substantial contribution to that board during its first three years? Off color jokes.

Anyways, one day Dave says to him, "I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else." And that was that. Dave also says that if you had asked him to name 25 million people back then who one day might be president, George wouldn't have made the list. Needless to say, Dave is not on the White House invitation list.

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Welcome to Tranquility Bay. [ Part I ] [ Part II ]