28 September 2006

Shhh... Don't mention the WAR!

No, not that war.

According to Eric Boehlert
at Media Matters, the big three
network newscasts will end the month having spent a grand
total of 40 minutes covering the Iraq War.

It's inevitable -- and understandable -- that
over the 43-month span of the conflict in Iraq,
media interest would ebb and flow, as well as
be dictated by events on the ground. And in
2005, as well as into early 2006, there was a
legitimate argument to be made that Iraq
fatigue had set in among reporters, editors,
and producers, as well as news consumers,
with both sides growing tired, or at least
somewhat immune, to the almost daily
dispatches of the latest IED explosion and
the steady drip, drip, drip of U.S. casualties.

But the civil war currently raging inside
-- it has claimed nearly 7,000 civilian
casualties in the last two months -- is a
different story altogether; one that begs for
sustained, detailed coverage. After all, the
country that the United States invaded, the
country it has spent tens of billions of dollars
trying to rebuild, where nearly 3,000
Americans have been killed, and the country
Bush promised was going to stand as a
beacon of stability in the region is teetering
on collapse, with sectarian violence tearing
sections of Baghdad apart.

Yet, instead of racing towards that important
story, the press appears to be turning away
from it just as nervous Republicans nationwide
are also turning away from it. To quote
, "It [the war] has been taken off
television, and Bush must love it."

And crap like this doesn't help either.

22 September 2006


While the Democrats were out to lunch, President Bush and
Republican senators have come to an agreement on how to
make torture legal

Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?

NY Times:

The deal does next to nothing to stop the president
from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While
the White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches”
of the conventions that could be prosecuted as war
crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide
on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of
the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation
techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear
how much the public will ultimately learn about those
decisions. They will be contained in an executive order
that is supposed to be made public, but Mr. Hadley
reiterated that specific interrogation techniques will
remain secret.

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the
overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal
flaws. It allows the president to declare any foreigner,
anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant” using a
dangerously broad definition, and detain him without
any trial. It not only fails to deal with the fact that many
of the Guantánamo detainees are not terrorists and
will never be charged, but it also chokes off any
judicial review.

Charles Pierce:

And the Democratic Party was nowhere in this debate.
It contributed nothing. On the question of whether or
not the United States will reconfigure itself as a nation
which tortures its purported enemies and then grants
itself absolution through adjectives -- "Aggressive
interrogation techniques" -- the Democratic Party had…
no opinion. On the issue of allowing a demonstrably
incompetent president as many of the de facto powers
of a despot that you could wedge into a bill without
having the Constitution spontaneously combust in the
Archives, well, the Democratic Party was more pissed
off at Hugo Chavez.

This was as tactically idiotic as it was morally blind. On
the subject of what kind of a nation we are, and to what
extent we will live up to the best of our ideals, the
Democratic Party was as mute and neutral as a stone.
Human rights no longer have a viable political
constituency in the United States of America. Be enough
of a coward, though, and cable news will fit you for a

Note to Democrats: If you don't have the guts to stand up to these
bullies and scoundrels and fight for the cause of basic human
decency, don't bother showing up on election day -- because I
sure won't.

19 September 2006

Trick or Treat?

Earlier this month, President Bush shared his thoughts on the
upcoming midterm elections.

President Bush says he believes Republicans will
retain control of the Congress after the November
elections, even as members of his own party predict
a loss of some seats.

Dismissing the possibility the top House Democrat,
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, could rise to House
speaker if the GOP lost its majority, the president
said, "That's not going to happen."

Democrats need to gain six seats in the Senate and
15 in the House to gain control.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal's
editorial page editor, Bush was commenting on how
he planned to resurrect his push to change Social
Security next year when he was reminded that some
polls show Democrats were likely to win control of
at least the House.

"I just don't believe it," the president told Paul Gigot,
according to an account published Saturday.

"I believe the Republicans will end up being _
running the House and the Senate," the president
was quoted as saying in the interview Thursday
aboard Air Force One.

Certainly no one could ever accuse this president of lacking
confidence. But given the many "errors" and "irregularities"
that have plagued our recent elections, (*cough*... DIEBOLD)
one can't help but wonder what sort of tricks Karl & the Gang
have planned this time around.

Tristero gets the ball rolling with a list of potential
October Surprises.

15 September 2006

Buh-Bye Bob

Looks like another member of the Abramoff crime family
will be spending some time behind bars.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. Bob Ney agreed
Friday to plead guilty to two criminal charges
in the congressional corruption probe
spawned by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Papers in the case said the Ohio Republican
had accepted trips worth more than $170,000.

Justice Department officials said prosecutors
would recommend the 52-year-old congressman
serve 27 months in prison. A formal admission
of guilt would make Ney the first lawmaker to
confess to crimes in a Republican-heavy scandal
that erupted at the dawn of the election year.

For more on this story, check out TPM Muckraker's invaluable
reference page and their touching tribute to the man formerly
known as "Legislator #1" to federal prosecutors.

14 September 2006

Foreign Relations

Lots of exciting new developments in Kazakhstan.
Apparently, a sense of humor is not one of them.

Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev
is to fly to the US to meet President Bush in
the coming weeks and on the agenda will
be his country's image.

President Nazarbayev has confirmed his
government will buy "educational" TV spots
and print advertisements about the "real
Kazakhstan" in a bid to save the country's
reputation before the film is released in the
US in November.

President Nazarbayev will visit the White
House and the Bush family compound in
Maine when he flies in for talks that will
include the fictional character Borat.

But a spokesman for the Kazakhstan
Embassy says it is unlikely that President
Nazarbayev will find the film funny.

10 September 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

There is a must-read article in today’s LA Times about the
just-released Senate Intelligence report that once and for
all destroys the myth that Saddam Hussein was an ally of
Al Qaeda -- a myth the Bush Administration continues to
sell to the American public
as fact.

In one of its main conclusions, the report said
that "postwar findings indicate that Saddam
Hussein was distrustful of Al Qaeda and viewed
Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime,
refusing all requests from Al Qaeda to provide
material or operational support."

According to the report, Hussein has told U.S.
interrogators that "if he wanted to cooperate
with the enemies of the U.S., he would have
allied with North Korea or China." His former
deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, told U.S.
interrogators that "Saddam only expressed
negative sentiments about Bin Laden."

The report's disclosures include a classified
assessment by the CIA last year that Hussein's
regime "did not have a relationship, harbor or
turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his

The committee, made up of eight Republicans
and seven Democrats, said U.S. intelligence
agencies before Sept. 11 "accurately
characterized" Bin Laden's intermittent interest
in pursuing assistance from Iraq, but were
largely wrong about Hussein's attitudes.

The Iraqi leader, according to the report, was so
wary of the terrorist network that he "issued a
general order that Iraq should not deal with Al

* * *

The CIA and other intelligence agencies were
generally skeptical that Hussein had significant
links to the terrorist group. But Vice President
Dick Cheney and other senior administration
officials have persistently highlighted isolated
intelligence reports suggesting a relationship
between Hussein and Bin Laden. The Senate
report contradicts many of those assertions.

The report concludes, for instance, that it is true
that Zarqawi was in Baghdad for about seven
months in 2002. But Hussein was initially
unaware of his presence in the country and later
ordered his intelligence services to capture
Zarqawi, according to the report.

The attempt was unsuccessful, and Zarqawi
escaped to Iran. He also hid in areas of northern
Iraq beyond Hussein's reach. After Hussein was
overthrown, Zarqawi led the deadly insurgency
against U.S. forces before he was killed by a
U.S. airstrike in June.

Even as administration officials insisted on a
Hussein-Al Qaeda link, they steered clear of
alleging a direct role by the Iraqi strongman in
the Sept. 11 attacks.

And at a news conference last month, Bush said
flatly that Hussein had "nothing" to do with the
assaults. Still, a CNN poll released this week
found that 43% of U.S. residents said they
believed Hussein was personally involved in the
attacks; 52% said he was not.

09 September 2006

Supporting the Troops

For U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the Superbowl is a BYOT event.
(Bring your own tacos.)

So far, the U.S. Government have spent over 300 billion
taxpayer dollars
to finance the war in Iraq.

Where does it all go?

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root
charged millions to the government for
recreational services never provided to U.S.
troops in Iraq, including giant tubs of chicken
wings and tacos, a widescreen TV, and cheese
sticks meant for a military Super Bowl party,
according to a federal whistle-blower suit
unsealed Friday.

Instead, the suit alleges, KBR used the
military's supplies for its own football party

Filed last year in U.S. District Court in
Washington, D.C., by former KBR employee
Julie McBride, the lawsuit claims the giant
defense contractor billed the government for
thousands of meals it never served, inflated
the number of soldiers using its fitness and
Internet centers, and regularly siphoned off
great quantities of supplies destined for
American soldiers.

McBride was hired by KBR in 2004 as a "morale,
welfare and recreation" coordinator at Camp
Fallujah, a Marine installation about 35 miles
west of Baghdad. She was fired the next year
after making several complaints about KBR's
accounting practices, the suit says, and was
kept under guard until she was escorted to an
airplane and flown out of the country.

* * *

McBride is not the first Halliburton employee
to allege fraudulent billing practices. The
company has steadfastly denied wrongdoing.

Rory Mayberry, who worked for KBR in 2004,
testified from Iraq via videotape to a group of
Democratic members of Congress
investigating contractor fraud.

As food manager at another military camp in
Iraq, Mayberry said he witnessed KBR
employees serving spoiled food to American
troops, including food from trucks that had
been bombed and shot at. Workers were told
to pick out the shrapnel, and then serve the
food, Mayberry testified.

He also claimed KBR charged the government
for meals it never served.

In July 2004, former KBR planner Marie
DeYoung testified before the House Committee
on Government Reform. She said she witnessed
"significant waste and overpricing" while
working for the contractor in Kuwait, including
paying a subcontractor $100 per 15 pounds of
laundry, costs which were passed on to the

Halliburton, which holds more than 50 percent
of rebuilding contracts in Iraq, was headed by
Dick Cheney before he took office as vice
president. He has denied any government
favoritism toward his former company.

04 September 2006


The art of sock puppetry by Baldassare Castiglione:

It is an art which does not seem to be an art. One
must avoid affectation and practice in all things a
certain sprezzatura, disdain or carelessness, so as
to conceal art, and make whatever is done or said
appear to be without effort and almost without any
thought about it ... obvious effort is the antithesis
of grace.
- The Book of the Courtier

* * *

An Apology to Our Readers

After an investigation, The New Republic has
determined that the comments in our Talkback section
defending Lee Siegel's articles and blog under the
username "sprezzatura" were produced with Siegel's
participation. We deeply regret misleading our readers.
Lee Siegel's blog will no longer be published by TNR,
and he has been suspended from writing for the

Franklin Foer
Editor, The New Republic

* * *

posted by sprezzatura on 2006-08-27 17:33:02 [respond]
I'm a huge fan of Siegel, been reading him since he
started writing for TNR almost ten years ago. (Full
disclosure: I'm an editor at a magazine in NYC and he's
written for me too.) I watch the goings-on and have to
scratch my head. The people who hate him the most are
all in their twenties and early thirties. There's this awful
suck-up named Ezra Klein--his "writing" is sweaty with
panting obsequious ambition--who keeps distorting
everything Siegel writes--the only way this no-talent can
get him. And I ask myself: why is it the young guys who
go after Siegel? Must be because he writes the way
young guys should be writing: angry, independent, not
afraid of offending powerful people. They on the other
hand write like aging careerists: timid, ingratiating,
careful not to offend people who are powerful. They
hate him because they want to write like him but can't.
Maybe if they'd let themselves go and write truthfully,
they'd get Leon Wieseltier to notice them too.

* * *

Robert Farley at LGM:

It seemed to me, reading Siegel's rants about the
blogosphere and popular culture, that he was raging
more than anything else at the loss of his own
status as an authoritative voice. In denouncing Kos,
or Kincaid, or people who wear baseball caps, what
seemed to come through more than anything else
was a frustrated "Listen to me!!!! Why aren't you
listening to me!?!?" Indeed we did; Siegel was able
to capture a bit of notoriety through making the
most ridiculous and absurd arguments conceivable,
but even that notoriety was dependent on his
position at TNR, which now seems to be at an end.

* * *

Sucks to be Seigel.

Fortunately, his sock puppet has bravely chosen to carry on
with a solo career.

On Appeasement

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein (Dec. 1983)

LA Times, 8/30/06:

By likening today's U.S. foreign policy to that
during World War II and the Cold War,
Rumsfeld sought to portray skeptics of the Bush
administration as being on the wrong side of
history. He ridiculed American officials who had
hoped to negotiate with Adolf Hitler.

"Once again, we face similar challenges in
efforts to confront the rising threat of a new
type of fascism," Rumsfeld said. "But some
seem not to have learned history's lessons."

He continued, "Can we truly afford to believe that,
somehow or someway, vicious extremists could
be appeased?"

Another history lesson from Frank Rich:

Mr. Rumsfeld didn’t go to Baghdad in 1983 to
tour the museum. Then a private citizen, he had
been dispatched as an emissary by the Reagan
administration, which sought to align itself with
Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was already
a notorious thug. Well before Mr. Rumsfeld’s
trip, Amnesty International had reported the
dictator’s use of torture — “beating, burning,
sexual abuse and the infliction of electric
shocks” — on hundreds of political prisoners.
Dozens more had been summarily executed or
had “disappeared.” American intelligence
agencies knew that Saddam had used chemical
weapons to gas both Iraqi Kurds and Iranians.

According to declassified State Department
memos detailing Mr. Rumsfeld’s Baghdad
meetings, the American visitor never raised the
subject of these crimes with his host. (Mr.
Rumsfeld has since claimed otherwise, but that
is not supported by the documents, which can
be viewed online at George Washington
University’s National Security Archive.) Within
a year of his visit, the American mission was
accomplished: Iraq and the United States
resumed diplomatic relations for the first time
since Iraq had severed them in 1967 in protest
of American backing of Israel in the Six-Day

In his speech last week, Mr. Rumsfeld
paraphrased Winston Churchill: Appeasing
tyrants is “a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping
it would eat you last.” He can quote Churchill all
he wants, but if he wants to self-righteously use
that argument to smear others, the record
shows that Mr. Rumsfeld cozied up to the
crocodile of Baghdad as smarmily as anyone. To
borrow the defense secretary’s own
formulation, he suffers from moral confusion
about Saddam.

Finale Episode

Don’t try this at home. I’m a professional TV personality.

Alas, the Crocodile Hunter has joined the Grizzly Man.

BRISBANE, Australia - Steve Irwin, the hugely
popular Australian television personality and
environmentalist known as the "Crocodile
Hunter," was killed Monday by a stingray during
a diving expedition, police said. He was 44.

Irwin was filming an underwater documentary
on the Great Barrier Reef in northeastern
Queensland state when the accident occurred,
Sydney's The Daily Telegraph newspaper
reported on its Web site.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said Irwin
was diving near Low Isles Reef near the resort
town of Port Douglas, about 1,260 miles north
of the state capital of Brisbane.