27 May 2006

Too little, Too late

The Wonder Twins hold a press conference.

In a joint news conference, Bush said he had
used inappropriate "tough talk" -- such as
saying "bring 'em on" in reference to
insurgents -- that he said "sent the wrong
signal to people." He also said the "biggest
mistake" for the United States was the Abu
Ghraib prison scandal, in which guards
photographed themselves sexually tormenting
Iraqi prisoners, spawning revulsion worldwide.
"We've been paying for that for a long period
of time," he said.

Blair, who visited Baghdad this week, said he
and Bush should have recognized that the fall
of president Saddam Hussein would not "be
the rise of a democratic Iraq, that it was going
to be a more difficult process" because "you're
talking about literally building the institutions
of a state from scratch."

While Bush increasingly has begun to
acknowledge missteps in handling the war, his
comments last night -- together with Blair's --
represent his most explicit acknowledgment
that the administration underestimated the
difficulty of the central project of his

The hour-long news conference came at a
moment of acute political weakness for both
men, who repeatedly emphasized that Iraq is
finally turning a corner and that, whatever
their other misjudgments, the decision to
attack Iraq remains justified. Blair appeared
dour and exhausted during much of the news
conference, and both leaders became most
animated when talking about their sagging
political fortunes.

"No question that the Iraq war has, you know,
created a sense of consternation here in
America," Bush said. "I mean, when you turn
on your TV screen and see innocent people die
day in and day out, it affects the mentality of
our country." He added: "I can understand why
the American people are troubled by the war in
Iraq. I understand that. But I also believe the
sacrifice is worth it and it's necessary."

Peter Daou:

The significance of this shouldn't go
unnoticed. Bush has now admitted what the
progressive blog community has said all
along: Bush's tough talk was wrongheaded
and cost lives

Dan Froomkin:

Bush expressed regrets last night for some of
the cowboy rhetoric of his first term, and he
acknowledged that the horrific prison abuse at
Abu Ghraib was a big mistake.

But he wasn't really conceding much. In the
former case, he was expressing regret about
style, not substance; and in the latter case, the
only harm he acknowledged was to America's
reputation -- while taking no responsibility for
any role he might have had in creating the
conditions in which such atrocities could take

Richard Wolffe:

..And for me the big giveaway was at the end
of that answer,  I don't know if you can see it
on camera, but the President flashed a big grin
to those of us sitting in the front rows. It didn't
seem that he was quite as contrite as his

25 May 2006


New York Times:

HOUSTON, May 25 — Kenneth L. Lay and Jeffrey
K. Skilling, the chief executives who guided
Enron through its spectacular rise and even more
stunning fall, were found guilty today of fraud
and conspiracy in a case that led the parade of
corporate scandals in recent years that emerged
from the get-rich-quick stock market excesses of
the 1990's.

The eight women and four men on the jury
reached the verdicts after more than six days of
deliberations. Mr. Skilling was convicted of 18
counts of fraud and conspiracy and one count of
insider trading. He was acquitted on nine counts
of insider trading. Mr. Lay was found guilty on
six counts of fraud and conspiracy and four
counts of bank fraud.

The conspiracy and fraud convictions each carry
a sentence of 5 to 10 years in prison. The insider
trading charge against Mr. Skilling carries a
maximum of 10 years.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Mr. Skilling said
as he left the courthouse, "but that's the way the
system works."

For a company that once seemed so complex
that almost no one could understand its arcane
accounting or how it actually made its money,
the cases ended up being nearly as simple as
could be. Mr. Lay and Mr. Skilling were found
guilty of lying — lying to investors, to employees
and to government regulators — in an effort to
disguise the crumbling fortunes of their energy

In a brief appearance after the verdicts were
announced, Paul McNulty, a deputy attorney
general, appeared emboldened by the jury's
decision. "No one, even heads of Fortune 500
companies, is above the law," he said in a
televised statement. "We will continue to pursue
relentlessly this type of corruption."

Associated Press:

[U.S. District Judge Sim] Lake ordered Lay to
stay in the courthouse until his passport was
surrendered and until the conclusion of a 2 p.m.
CDT bond hearing.

Lake told jurors, "you have reflected on this
evidence for the last few days and reached a
very thorough verdict, and I thank you."

He set sentencing for Sept. 11. The charges for
which Lay was convicted carry a maximum
penalty in prison of 45 years in the corporate
trial and 120 years in the personal banking trial.
The charges for which Skilling was convicted
carry a maximum penalty of 185 years in prison.

23 May 2006

Secret Rooms

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein thought something
smelled fishy more than two years ago. Here are
excerpts from a statement he wrote in January 2004:

In 2003 AT&T built "secret rooms" hidden
deep in the bowels of its central offices in
various cities, housing computer gear for a
government spy operation which taps into the
company's popular WorldNet service and the
entire internet. These installations enable the
government to look at every individual
message on the internet and analyze exactly
what people are doing. Documents showing the
hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest
that there are similar locations being installed
in numerous other cities.

* * *

In San Francisco the "secret room" is Room
641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large
SBC phone building, three floors of which are
occupied by AT&T. High-speed fiber-optic
circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down
to the 7th floor where they connect to routers
for AT&T's WorldNet service, part of the
latter's vital "Common Backbone." In order to
snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was
installed and cabled to the "secret room" on
the 6th floor to monitor the information going
through the circuits. (The location code of the
cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th
floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The "secret
room" itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet,
containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including
such equipment as Sun servers and two
Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air

The normal work force of unionized technicians
in the office are forbidden to enter the "secret
room," which has a special combination lock on
the main door. The telltale sign of an illicit
government spy operation is the fact that only
people with security clearance from the
National Security Agency can enter this room.
In practice this has meant that only one
management-level technician works in there.
Ironically, the one who set up the room was
laid off in late 2003 in one of the company's
endless "downsizings," but he was quickly
replaced by another.

This document and others related to the class-action
against AT&T are sealed in a San Francisco
federal court. But lucky for us, Wired has published
them, here.

22 May 2006

Cheesy Blockbusters

Hollywood wanker, thy name is Ratner.


Ratner: I got upset that Bryan Singer's got
"X-Men," Sam Raimi's got "Spider-Man" and
they hired Chris Nolan to do "Batman." It was
like, "What am I going to do? I'm not going to
have any franchise." The "Superman" script by
J.J. Abrams was brilliant but too expensive to
make. Warners didn't want to make it with an
unknown actor. Bryan managed to figure out
how to do a lower-budget version of that.
When Bryan left "X-Men," I wanted it so bad. I
realized it was the end of a trilogy; it's not
"Star Trek 8." It's truly like "The Lord of the
Rings." I was going to be part of history. "X-
Men" is special, it has scope, it's the biggest
action movie ever, it's thought-provoking. The
movie deals with friendship and when you give
up on somebody you love.


Ratner: I wasn't trying to reinvent the series.
I didn't change the story at all. The cure
concept was brilliant. Storywise, my focus was
on the emotionality and the psychological
journey of the characters, who the audience
and myself have to love.

Waaaah! I’m not going to have a franchise!! And by the
way, that brilliant Abrams script was pure shit (according
to actually literate people who don’t use words like
emotionality.) Read all about that fiasco, here.


Ratner: When you work with Shakespearean
actors, you get good performances. Working
with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart in one
scene, the walls were vibrating from their
voices. I was new. If I was going to leave a
mark, I was responsible for these new
characters who weren't in the other "X-Men,"
like Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde and Ben Foster
as Angel. Kelsey Grammer isn't going to be
known as Frasier anymore, he'll be known as
Beast. He has such power, he needed that deep
Shakespearean voice to cut through a thick

It’s nice to know that “Shakespearean” essentially means
speaking with a very loud voice. It’s a shame Sam Kinison is
no longer alive. He would have been the perfect Falstaff in
Ratner’s production of Henry IV.


Ratner: ... I start "Rush Hour 3" on August 23.

12 May 2006

Close Calls

April 6, 2006: Attorney General Alberto “Abu” Gonzales testifies
before the House Judiciary Committee.

The muckrakers at TPM posted this exchange with Rep. Gerald
Nadler (D-NY):

NADLER: Number two, can you assure us that
there is no warrantless surveillance of calls
between two Americans within the United States?

GONZALES: That is not what the president has

NADLER: Can you assure us that it's not being

GONZALES: As I indicated in response to an
earlier question, no technology is perfect.


GONZALES: We do have minimization procedures
in place...

NADLER: But you're not doing that deliberately?

GONZALES: That is correct.

May 11, 2006: USA Today publishes this article by Leslie Cauley.


The National Security Agency has been secretly
collecting the phone call records of tens of
millions of Americans, using data provided by
AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct
knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and
businesses across the nation by amassing
information about the calls of ordinary Americans
-- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.
This program does not involve the NSA listening
to or recording conversations. But the spy agency
is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an
effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in
separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the
world," said one person, who, like the others who
agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined
to be identified by name or affiliation. The
agency's goal is "to create a database of every
call ever made" within the nation's borders, this
person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means
that the government has detailed records of calls
they made -- across town or across the country
-- to family members, co-workers, business
contacts and others.

Quite a shocker, huh? Breaking the law and lying to
congress. Would never expect it from this gang -- not to
mention all those big, friendly phone companies.

Go Qwest, young man.

And if all that isn’t enough to get your blood boiling, go
read this post by Glenn Greenwald.

This continuous evasion of judicial review by the
administration is much more serious and
disturbing than has been discussed and realized.
By proclaiming the power to ignore Congressional
law and to do whatever it wants in the area of
national security, it is seizing the powers of the
legislative branch. But by blocking courts from
ruling on the multiple claims of illegality which
have been made against it, the administration is
essentially seizing the judicial power as well. It
becomes the creator, the executor, and the
interpreter of the law. And with that, the powers
of all three branches become consolidated in The
President, the single greatest nightmare of the

Sleep tight.

10 May 2006

All The President's Trash

Is Bush still looking for someone to run FEMA?

I nominate this guy.

A public sanitation worker in Washington, D.C., on
Tuesday found a thick stack of papers with nearly
every detail of President Bush's trip to Florida on
the floor next to a big trash truck.

The documents offer the exact arrival and
departure time for Air Force One, Marine One and
the back up choppers, Nighthawk 2 and 3, as
Washington CBS affiliate WUSA-TV first reported.

The documents also list every passenger on board
each aircraft, from President Bush to the military
attaché with the nuclear football. CBS News chief
White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports it
was a copy of the president's exact schedule for
the day, which the public never sees for security

Sanitation worker Randy Hopkins told WUSA-TV
reporter Bruce Leshan that he could not believe
what he was seeing when he discovered the
presidential schedule.

"I saw locations and names and places where the
president was going to be. I knew it was
important. And it shouldn't have been in a trash
hole like this," Hopkins said.

The documents also offer the order of vehicles in
the President's motorcade, Leshan notes.

Hopkins is an ex-con working in sanitation, and
said he felt it was his civic duty to tell somebody
about what he'd found, he told WUSA-TV.

09 May 2006


USA Today:

"You hear people say he has a hard core that
will never desert him, and that has been the case
for most of the administration," says Charles
Franklin, a political scientist at the University of
Wisconsin who studies presidential approval
ratings. "But for the last few months, we started
to see that hard core seriously erode in support."

Only four presidents have scored lower approval
ratings since the Gallup Poll began regularly
measuring it in the mid-1940s: Harry Truman,
Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the first
George Bush. When Nixon, Carter and the elder
Bush sank below 35%, they never again
registered above 40%.

That was yesterday. Today, a new CBS/New York Times
poll has more of the same.

Only 31% of those polled approve of Mr. Bush's
job performance and 68% believe the United
States is worse off today than it was before
Bush became president.

It’s a good thing the president doesn't pay attention to

PRESIDENT BUSH (4/28/05): Polls? You know,
if a President tries to govern based upon polls,
you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. I don't
think you can make good, sound decisions based
upon polls. And I don't think the American people
want a President who relies upon polls and focus
groups to make decisions for the American

No, the American people want a President who relies
upon phony intelligence, illegal domestic spying,
sycophantic government cronies, and imaginary
conversations with Jesus to make decisions for the
American people. Which is why the American people
think he’s doing such a swell job.

What was that again about a dog chasing his own tail?

04 May 2006

Cheesy Pop Music

I have a lot of popular albums, but they usually weren’t popular
when I bought them. In fact, this is the only #1 album that I ever
bought while it held that spot. (true story)

So it is no surprise that I have no idea who the hell these guys are.
If their music is as entertaining as their interviews I can see why
they’re so darn popular.

But they could probably learn a few things from this young man.

01 May 2006

Champion of Truthiness

If you missed Stephen Colbert’s dazzling performance at
the White House Correspondents’ dinner (which wouldn’t
be a surprise considering how the mainstream press are
ignoring it
) do yourself a favor and watch the video at
Crooks & Liars.

Kos has the full transcript.

I mean, it's like the movie "Rocky." The president
is Rocky and Apollo Creed is everything else in
the world. It's the tenth round. He's bloodied, his
corner man, Mick, who in this case would be the
vice president, and he's yelling cut me, Dick, cut
me, and every time he falls [Dick says?] stay
down! Does he stay down? No. Like Rocky he
gets back up and in the end he -- actually, he
loses in the first movie.

OK. It doesn't matter. The point is the heart
warming story of a man who was repeatedly
bunched in the face -- punched in the face. So
don't pay attention to the approval ratings that
say 68% of Americans disapprove of the job this
man is doing. I ask you this, does that not also
logically mean that 68% approve of the job he's
not doing? Think about it.

I haven't. I stand by this man. I stand by this man
because he stands for things. Not only for things,
he has stood on things. Things like aircraft
carriers and rubble and recently flooded city
squares. And that sends a strong message, that
no matter what happens to America, she will
always rebound with the most powerfully staged
photo ops in the world.

Yes, “this man” is our president, and he was sitting only
a few feet from the podium. But Bush wasn’t the only one
cut to pieces by Colbert’s satire.

But the rest of you, what are you thinking,
reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in
eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very
important reason: they're super depressing. And if
that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over
the last five years you people were so good over
tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global
warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and
you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those
were good times, as far as we knew.

But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it
works: the president makes decisions. He's the
decider. The press secretary announces those
decisions, and you people of the press type those
decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them
through a spell check and go home. Get to know
your family again. Make love to your wife. Write
that novel you got kicking around in your head.
You know, the one about the intrepid Washington
reporter with the courage to stand up to the
administration. You know - fiction.

And check out Michael Scherer’s article at Salon.

Colbert is not just another comedian with barbed
punch lines and a racy vocabulary. He is a
guerrilla fighter, a master of the old-world art of
irony. For Colbert, the punch line is just the
addendum. The joke is in the setup. The meat of
his act is not in his barbs but his character -- the
dry idiot, "Stephen Colbert," God-fearing
pitchman, patriotic American, red-blooded pundit
and champion of "truthiness."