31 March 2006

Cheesy Solution

I sure as heck don’t know how to solve our nation’s illegal
immigration problems. But I do think Josh Marshall is right.
A guest worker program is a very bad idea.

We're not Kuwait and we're not Germany. It's
bad for America to have a permanent class of
residents who are here for their labor but who
are permanently barred from becoming citizens.
It's bad for our society. It's bad for the
immigrants. And it's bad for citizens who have
to compete for jobs against an inherently
exploitable class of whatever amounts to 21st
century coolie labor.

No surprise President Bush is big in favor of
such a bad idea. Bad economics, bad civics,
bad social policy.

30 March 2006


Right back at'cha Tony!

Boston Herald:
Smith was working as a freelance photographer
for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at
a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald
reporter asked the justice how he responds to
critics who might question his impartiality as a
judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked
directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say,
‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking
his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”

UPDATE: Photographer fired for releasing photo.

29 March 2006

See you in six *

MIAMI (Reuters) - Jack Abramoff, a disgraced lobbyist
at the heart of a Washington influence-peddling scandal
that has rattled top Republicans, was sentenced to
nearly six years in prision
on Wednesday for fraud in the
purchase of a Florida casino cruise line.

Abramoff, who is cooperating in a federal investigation
into whether Washington politicians gave his clients
favorable treatment in exchange for campaign
contributions, Super Bowl tickets and other illegal gifts,
was also ordered to pay $21.7 million, together with a
co-defendant, in restitution.

* 5 years and 10 months to be precise.

27 March 2006


Has the worm finally turned in the CIA leak investigation?
Raw Story has the latest scoop.

Karl Rove, Deputy White House Chief of Staff
and special adviser to President George W.
Bush, has recently been providing information
to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the
ongoing CIA leak investigation, sources close
to the investigation say.

According to several Pentagon sources close
to Rove and others familiar with the inquiry,
Bush's senior adviser tipped off Special
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to information
that led to the recent "discovery" of 250
pages of missing email from the office of
Vice President Dick Cheney.

Thirty years ago, Nixon was able to destroy evidence
by simply pressing the record button.

The current Tricky Dick wasn't so lucky.

None would name the staffers and/or
officials whom Rove is providing information
about. They did, however, explain that the
White House computer system has "real time
backup" servers and that while emails were
deleted from computers, they were still
retrievable from the backup system. By
providing the dates and recipient information
of the deleted emails, sources say, Rove was
able to chart a path for Fitzgerald directly
into the office of the Vice President.

20 March 2006

3 Years

It's official: Three years in Iraq and the hits just keep on comin'.

What better way to mark this solemn anniversary than to look
back at some of the perceptive analysis offered by our well-paid
news pundits during the early days of “shock and awe.”

"I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight
district of San Diego that military action will not
last more than a week. Are you willing to take that
(Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, 1/29/03)

* * *

"We're all neo-cons now."
(MSNBC's Chris Matthews, 4/9/03)

* * *

"Over the next couple of weeks when we find the
chemical weapons this guy was amassing, the fact
that this war was attacked by the left and so the
right was so vindicated, I think, really means that
the left is going to have to hang its head for three
or four more years."
(Fox News Channel's Dick Morris, 4/9/03)

* * *

"The war was the hard part. The hard part was
putting together a coalition, getting 300,000
troops over there and all their equipment and
winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a
democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning
a war."
(Fox News Channel's Fred Barnes, 4/10/03)

* * *

"Well, the hot story of the week is victory.... The
Tommy Franks-Don Rumsfeld battle plan, war
plan, worked brilliantly, a three-week war with
mercifully few American deaths or Iraqi civilian
deaths.... There is a lot of work yet to do, but all
the naysayers have been humiliated so far....
The final word on this is, hooray."
(Fox News Channel's Morton Kondracke, 4/12/03)

* * *

"Now that the war in Iraq is all but over, should
the people in Hollywood who opposed the
president admit they were wrong?"
(Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes, 4/25/03)

* * *

"We had controversial wars that divided the
country. This war united the country and brought
the military back."
(Newsweek's Howard Fineman--MSNBC,

Howie eventually got it right, sort of.

The war has united the country, and he didn’t say exactly how the military was brought back.

17 March 2006

Must-See TV

It looks like Tom Cruise is about to become the next
Scott Tenorman.

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS
battle, but the million-year war for earth has
just begun!" the "South Park" creators said
in a statement Friday in Daily Variety.
"Temporarily anozinizing our episode will
NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever
trapped in your pitiful man-bodies... You
have obsructed us for now, but your feeble
bid to save humanity will fail!"

By The Book

Salon released more photos this week of the prisoner
abuses at Abu Ghraib. While the Bush Administration
maintains its “few bad apples” defense, historian
Alfred W. McCoy provides some essential context in
his latest book, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation,
from the Cold War to the War on Terror.

From Scott McLemee’s book review in Newsday:

The photos from Abu Ghraib are not, McCoy
argues, signs of a local lapse in military order
- or even the excesses fostered by recent
policy. "Rather," he writes, "they show CIA
torture methods that have metastasized like
an undetected cancer inside the U.S.
intelligence community over the past half

The specificity of these methods is that they
target the mind, not just the body. The
unreliability of physical pain as a means to
extract information have been recognized for
a long time. McCoy cites the Roman legal
writer Ulpian, who spelled the problem out
clearly in the third century A.D. "For many
persons have such strength of body and soul
that they heed pain very little ... while others
are so susceptible to pain that they will tell
any lie rather than suffer it."

The inspiration to find a different way of
breaking through resistances dawned on the
American intelligence community from
studying the Communist show-trials from the
1930s through the early '50s. The glassy-
eyed, robotic performance of defendants in
the dock - confessing, with monotonous
unanimity of tone, to the most improbable
acts of espionage and subversion - suggested
that perhaps the Soviets had reached some
breakthrough in psychological warfare

There followed a secret crash program in
efforts to duplicate those imagined
techniques. (I say "imagined" because most
accounts of Stalin-era interrogation suggest
an overwhelmingly low- tech reliance on
good old-fashioned beating, hunger and

Discreetly pumping large quantities of money
into the academic discipline of psychology,
the CIA helped foster work on, as one
researcher put it, the "effects of radical
isolation upon intellectual function." With a
handful of tools such as goggles, gloves and a
foam pillow, a subject could be reduced to "a
state akin to acute psychosis within just 48
hours." Psychologists also found that self-
inflicted pain - caused by, say, standing in an
uncomfortable position for a long period -
created great mental stress while leaving
minimal physical damage.

By 1963, the results of all this sordid
laboratory work were synthesized in the
CIA's manual titled "Kubark
Counterintelligence Interrogation."
presented "a revolutionary two-phase form of
torture that relied on sensory deprivation and
self-inflicted pain for an effect that, for the
first time in the two millennia of this cruel
science, was more psychological than
physical." It aimed at destroying the detained
person's sense of identity by (in the manual's
own words) "inducing the regression of the
personality to whatever earlier and weaker
level is required for the dissolution of
resistance and the inculcation of

The Kubark manual was not just a moment of
Cold War excess. Some of the more
deranged-seeming CIA-sponsored research
projects were exposed to public scrutiny
during Congressional hearings during the
1970s. But the psychological techniques
themselves continued to be codified in
handbooks on interrogation used by military
and intelligence personnel in training their
counterparts in Asia and Latin America in the
arts of "human resources exploitation."

The same principles (isolation, disorientation,
efforts to destroy the sense of inner identity)
can be read in recent accounts of
interrogations conducted during the war on
terror. McCoy notes the similarity between
the earlier CIA manual and the "72-point
matrix for stress and duress" adopted at
Guantanamo Bay. The arsenal of tools has
been expanded, thanks to techniques
intended for precise kinds of psychosexual

Some of this, of course, is as familiar as
certain hideous digital-camera images burned
into the world's memory. But the value of
McCoy's retelling of it comes from the
enlarged historical context, and from his
willingness to do a bold thing - namely, to
state the obvious, that these techniques are in
no meaningful sense less inhumane than
anything practiced in a medieval dungeon.

Nor is there any particular reason to think
they are more effective than the methods that
Ulpian considered so unreliable almost two
millennia ago. Reducing detained subjects to
a quasi-psychotic state is doubtless a lot of
fun for some people. (McCoy notes that the
practitioners of these techniques can undergo
"a dangerous expansion of ego, leading to
escalating cruelty and lasting emotional
disorders.") But the smirking assurances of
Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales to the
contrary notwithstanding, do we have any
reason to think it has had any tangible

We hear repeatedly from the administration
that, in short, no, the United States does not
torture - but yes, we are going to do
whatever it takes to preserve us from the
barbarians. Perhaps it is an appropriate
moment to recall a good summary account of
how an unstable regime creates the
conditions in which dehumanization

"When feelings of insecurity develop within
those holding power," it reads, "they become
increasingly suspicious and put great
pressures upon the secret police to obtain
arrests and confessions. At times police
officials are inclined to condone anything
which produces a speedy 'confession,' and
brutality may become widespread." That was
an analysis produced by the CIA, 50 years
ago, describing the Soviet system. But at
least they were secure.

12 March 2006

The Lamest Of Ducks

With nearly three years left in office, the president’s
policies and popularity are sinking fast.

WASHINGTON Mar 10, 2006 (AP)— More
and more people, particularly Republicans,
disapprove of President Bush's performance,
question his character and no longer consider
him a strong leader against terrorism,
according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting
one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Nearly four out of five Americans, including
70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war
will break out in Iraq the bloody hot spot
upon which Bush has staked his presidency.
Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on
the wrong track, a 6-point jump since

"Obviously, it's the winter of our discontent,"
said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Republican Party leaders said the survey
explains why GOP lawmakers are rushing to
distance themselves from Bush on a range of
issues port security, immigration, spending,
warrantless eavesdropping and trade, for

The positioning is most intense among
Republicans facing election in November and
those considering 2008 presidential

Today’s NY Times has more tasty quotes from the
circular firing squad of Republicans now surrounding the

There's a lot of frustration here — we've had
a run of real bad luck," said Tom Rath, a New
Hampshire Republican leader. "You've got
such longevity in that White House team that
they are tired. They need a break. They need
a big piece of good luck. I don't know what it

James H. Herring, the chairman of the
Mississippi Republican Party, said, "They need
to minimize these self-inflicted wounds."

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
said of Mr. Bush: "He's right about Social
Security. He's right about the big things of his
time. Executing has been a problem.
Implementing has been a problem."

Of course, when you’re the head of the executive
branch, an inability to “excecute” might be a significant
problem -- one that requires more than “a big piece of
good luck” to fix. Republicans outside the Bush Bubble
have been aware of this for some time. Hence the ever
growing list of conservative authors, bloggers and
pundits running for the hills to get as far away from
Bush’s disastrous policies as possible.

Basically, when William F. Buckley and Bill O'Reilly both
agree that the Iraq War is a failure, no amount of
spinning from Rumsfeld or Cheney is going to help.

And when your own party ignores your veto threat and
puts the kibosh on your big, international business deal
-- citing national security concerns -- it might be time to
start using a new playbook.

From the above NY Times article:

Several Republicans here said Mr. Bush
urgently needed to shake up his staff. Senator
Norm Coleman, Republican of Minnesota,
pointed to what he described as a series of
management and political failures as he urged
Mr. Bush to bring in a new team.

"There is some question about whether those
around him have served him well," Mr.
Coleman said. "This president has strong
support in the United States Senate — in
many ways, a lot of our fates are tied to him.
We want him to be popular, we want the
public to support him. But there have been

Quack! Quack!

08 March 2006

Rotted Roots

Senate Republicans on Tuesday agreed to expand
of President George W. Bush's domestic
spying program but rejected Democratic pressure
for a broad inquiry into eavesdropping on U.S.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Republican chairman
of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said
the committee voted to create a new seven-member
subcommittee that would scrutinize the
eavesdropping under a plan approved by the
White House.

. . .

"I believe the president is prepared to sign a bill
once the Congress does work its will," Roberts told
reporters after a closed-door committee meeting.

"When it comes to national security, I prefer
accommodation over confrontation whenever
possible. We should fight the enemy. We should
not fight each other."

Four Senate Republicans, all critics of the program,
proposed a plan that would authorize the National
Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant
for 45 days but require the White House to justify
every decision to continue beyond that timeframe.

. . .

But the Republican-controlled intelligence panel
voted down a Democratic proposal for a complete
investigation into the surveillance by the National
Security Agency by the full 15-member intelligence
committee. Democrats complained that they had
been shut out of discussions with the White House
that led to the agreement.

"The committee, to put it bluntly, is basically under
the control of the White House through its
chairman," said a visibly frustrated Sen. John
Rockefeller of West Virginia, ranking Democrat on
the intelligence committee.

Glenn Greenwald:
Nobody who has lived outside of a cave for the
last five years could possibly be surprised by any
of this. One of the reason we are at the point
we're at in our country -- where we have a
President who not only breaks the law but claims
he has the right to do so, while the media barely
finds any of it worthy of much attention -- is
because the Congress has completely abdicated
its responsibilities at the altar of cult-like
obedience to White House decrees. That's just
one of the many rotted roots in our government.

02 March 2006

A Kinder, Gentler Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney urged Americans
Thursday to do a better job of saving and
challenged policymakers to strengthen pensions
and fix Social Security to help people in their
golden years.

"The American dream begins with saving money
and that should begin on the very first day of
work," Cheney told a conference here exploring
how to encourage people to boost savings and be
better prepared for retirement.

Too often, workers are living paycheck to paycheck
and are not saving sufficiently, Cheney said.

And then he didn’t shoot anyone in the face.