Friday, February 25, 2005
Its all scripted
During his trip to Germany on Wednesday, the main highlight of George W. Bush's trip was meant to be a "town hall"-style meeting with average Germans. But with the German government unwilling to permit a scripted event with questions approved in advance, the White House has quietly put the event on ice. Was Bush afraid the event might focus on prickly questions about Iraq and Iran rather than the rosy future he's been touting in Europe this week?
From WashPost: Bush's Distaste for News Conferences Keeps Them Rare
White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett: [T]his White House uses news conferences more sparingly than other types of presidential events, because "if you have a message you're trying to deliver, a news conference can go in a different direction."
He further stated: "In this case, we know what the questions are going to be, and those are the ones we want to answer," Bartlett said. "We think the public will see the thought and care and attention he's given to a lot of the different questions that are being asked...."
See the DailyKos diary Ari & WH staff admitted to partisan games - TWO YEARS AGO
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Got any outrage to spare?
We write letters
Dear Honorable Senator Sarbanes,
Dear Honorable Senator Mikulski,
I am writing you with regard to a letter I understand the Senate Democratic leadership is currently circulating. It is the letter written by Sen Richard Durbin calling on President Bush to “order a full inquiry” into how a “fake” journalist working for a “sham” news organization got access to the president. May I assume you are familar with this letter?
I write requesting you add your name to this letter. First there is the issue of how, in this time of hightened security, a "fake" journalist was allowed so close to the president. Secondly, and in my opinion more important, this episode adds to previous actions taken by this administration to manipulate the media and public opinion. In fact, the GAO has already shown some actions (the "fake" news segments) are most likely illegal.
For our party to have a fair chance at letting the people of this republic hear and understand our views and plans, the media *must* remain independent of those selected to govern. The White House's recent actions work to prevent this and must be challenged.
I kindly ask that you might take the time to communicate to me either that you plan to add your signature to Sen. Durbin's letter or provide an explanation of why this matter warrents different or no action.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Missing and dead contractors in Iraq
Tikrit, Iraq -- In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.
About 45 minutes later, [Ryan Manelick] found von Ackermann's car, abandoned. There was no sign of von Ackermann, who had been alone when he called. No hint of struggle, not even a footprint. All that remained was his satellite phone, his laptop computer, and, on the car's backseat a briefcase holding $40,000 in $100 bills.
Just over two months later, on the morning of Dec. 14, Manelick was shot dead near Camp Anaconda, a U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and about 50 miles south of where von Ackermann had disappeared.
But Manelick had said something startling the night before he was killed.
"I'm in fear of my life, you know," he said to a gathering at a Baghdad restaurant, at which a Chronicle reporter was present.
"It's not Iraqis I'm worried about, either," added Manelick. "It's people from my own country."
According to [his father] Greg Manelick and other former associates, Ryan Manelick had earlier told Army investigators looking into von Ackermann's disappearance that large sums of money were being paid in kickbacks to a U.S. Army officer in Iraq in return for doling out lucrative contracts to another a business associate at Ultra Services.
Von Ackermann, who as a contract manager for Ultra Services spent a lot of time at various U.S. military bases in Iraq, knew all about it, did not approve and was about to blow the whistle to U.S. Army authorities, Ryan Manelick reportedly had maintained.
Justice Dept uses secret legal arguments
ATTORNEYS FOR the Justice Department appeared before a federal judge in Washington this month and asked him to dismiss a lawsuit over the detention of a U.S. citizen, basing their request not merely on secret evidence but also on secret legal arguments. The government contends that the legal theory by which it would defend its behavior should be immune from debate in court. This position is alien to the history and premise of Anglo-American jurisprudence, which assumes that opposing lawyers will challenge one another's arguments.
Judge Bates is cautious and generally deferential to government concerns. Yet he was evidently disturbed by this argument, at one point asking whether the government could identify "any case in which . . . even the legal theory for dismissal is not known to the other side?" The government could not.
In this case, the liberty of a U.S. citizen is at stake.
How many troops really killed in Iraq?
Starting from uberblondie's Daily Kos diary How many troops REALLY dead in Iraq?, I end up the author's blog Suburban Guerrilla where the question of the Pentegon's casualty counting pratices are called in to question. Part of that entry is based on the Axis of Logic article The Mighty US GI's: Lied To, Used, and Losing by Amer Jubran. To quote:
Information about the number of US casualities in Iraq is available on a web site of the Pentagon or known as the "War Hub" at www.pentagon.gov. This information covers only those who are officially US citizens enlisted with different military services. Hired security contractors, or mercenaries, and recruits who are not citizens who enlisted to obtain a "green card," are not counted or mentioned. A large number of the green card recruits are from Mexico and Central America. There are no organizations to look after their rights or help them once they're in Iraq. Most of them are buried in Iraq when killed. A videotape produced and distributed by the "Majles Shora Al-Mojahideen in Fallujah," one of the most important military wings of the Iraqi resistance, showed a burial site discovered outside the Iraqi city of Samara with tens of bodies in US military body bags. The dead where dressed in US uniforms. It is estimated that as many as 40% of the US troops serving in Iraq are green card recruits.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Abu Ghraib on the Hudson
[T]errorism suspects - none of whom were ultimately charged with anything related to terrorism - alleged in sworn affidavits and in interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers:
o Humiliated them by making fun of - and sometimes painfully squeezing - their genitals.
o Deprived them of regular sleep for weeks or months.
o Shackled their hands and feet before smashing them repeatedly face-first into concrete walls.
o Forced them in winter to stand outdoors at dawn while dressed in light cotton prison garb and no shoes, sometimes for hours.
The problem here is this is not a story out of Guantanamo Bay or Iraq or Afghanistan, but took place in New York City. From New York Daily News: Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib
On the ninth floor of the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, terrorism suspects swept off the streets after the Sept. 11 attacks were repeatedly stripped naked and frequently were physically abused, the Justice Department's inspector general has found.
The Justice Department's inspector general has substantiated some of the prisoners' allegations - and some incidents were captured on videotape. But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any federal correction officer at MDC.
Inspector General Glenn Fine, whose staff reviewed 380 MDC videotapes, reported in 2003 that "These tapes substantiated many of the detainees' allegations." Furthermore, the officers were not just a few bad apples but "a significant percentage of those who had regular contact with the detainees," Fine wrote last March.
The Justice Department currently is reconsidering its rejection of a News Freedom of Information request for the tapes, after the paper filed an appeal.
Along with my natural disgust to read what these people were subjected to, one thought that is foremost in my mind is: All this seems to have taken place immediately after Sept 11, 2001. This would be before the White House had established its "torture policy". I will have to look more into the dates. But on its surface, it seems the US government may have been using torture before it had even offically decided torture was ok.
Needless to say, lawsuits have been filed against the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Let me close with one more quote from the article:
Oded Ellner - one of five Israeli Jewish terrorist suspects - said he sought medical help after MDC's allegedly meager, often spoiled meals left him with severe dysentery symptoms. The doctor came with five guards and a camera, he said. She then ordered him to strip and shift his backside into a small space in the cell door so she could conduct a rectal exam from outside the cell.
"I'm a human being, not an animal!" Ellner said he shouted. "I have a right to an exam." The guards, he said, "just laughed," and all walked away.
Note the use of a female doctor asking him to expose his rectum.
Bush in his own words (1998)
John Ashcroft would be a "very good Supreme Court pick" or a "fabulous" vice president.
Preparing to meet Christian leaders in September 1998, "As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways."
He worried that allegations of cocaine use would surface in the campaign..."I haven't denied anything."
"I wouldn't answer the marijuana questions. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried."
And he is cocky at times: "It's me versus the world. The good news is, the world is on my side. Or more than half of it."
[O]n the eve of Mr. Bush's re-election [as Texas governor]: "The top three offices right below me will be the first time there has been a Republican in that slot since the Civil War. Isn't that amazing? And I hate to be a braggart, but they are going to win for one reason: me."
When Mr. Wead warned him that power corrupts: not to worry, "I have got a great wife. And I read the Bible daily. The Bible is pretty good about keeping your ego in check."
He told Mr. Robison: "Look, James, I got to tell you two things right off the bat. One, I'm not going to kick gays, because I'm a sinner. How can I differentiate sin?" The Christian Coalition "uses gays as the enemy. It's hard to distinguish between fear of the homosexual political agenda and fear of homosexuality, however." "I think it is bad for Republicans to be kicking gays."
"The [Christian] coalition wants America strong and wants the American flag flying overseas, not the pale blue of the U.N."
talking about Mr. Bush's "immature" past, Mr. Bush said, "That's part of my schtick, which is, look, we have all made mistakes."
Mr. Bush could hardly contain his disdain for Mr. Gore:"I may have to get a little rough for a while, but that is what the old man had to do with Dukakis, remember?"
Keep in mind:
The White House did not dispute the authenticity of the tapes or respond to their contents.
The New York Times hired Tom Owen, an expert on audio authentication, to examine samples from the tapes. He concluded the voice was that of the president.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Bush wants to censor fed employee's union
The Department of Labor is trying to stop federal employees from receiving a union newsletter that includes an article critical of President George W. Bush's plans to change Social Security. The department has distributed the quarterly newsletter since 1978 to 7,500
[Labor Department's senior career ethics officer] Shapiro said the matter is being referred to the department's inspector general for possible violations of criminal law against lobbying.
Critics say that the department's rationale is a smokescreen and that the incident isn't the first time the department sought to limit material critical of Bush.
In December 2002, when a newsletter cartoon mocked Bush's tax policies as favoring the wealthy, the Labor Department blocked distribution, said Ron Yarman, president of the National Council of Field Labor Locals, which publishes the newsletter. The union filed a grievance, and members got the newsletter.
As this new batch of Dr Martins enters its second term, they become more and more under the power of control. All dissent is seen as a threat to its supply. The only way to guarantee continued control is to exercise it.
How much of the current media control is part of a master plan or are the actions being taken just the ones that happen when events are as they are now?
Thursday, February 17, 2005
...and the torturing leads to murder
An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture — suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
[Manadel al-Jamadi] died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.
Did his CIA interrogators initially worry about this death? Unlikely not, for they knew
Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib — prisoners being held secretly by the agency.
...and the torturing continues...
Omar Deghayes, 35, was born in Libya but fled to Britain as a child after his father was murdered by the Gadafy regime.
Mr Deghayes also alleges beatings and ill-treatment by the US that left him blinded in one eye after a soldier plunged his finger into it, and claims that he had human excrement smeared on his face.
Mr Deghayes grew up in Brighton and studied law at Wolverhampton University and then in Huddersfield. His family say he had given sermons in a mosque condemning terrorism and violence in the name of Islam.
There is also a discussion of this over at DailyKos: U.S. guards blinded Guantanamo prisoner
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Why we (don't) need to invade Iran
ElBaradei of the IAEA said Tuesday that there had been no discoveries in the last six months to substantiate claims that the Islamic state is secretly working toward building a nuclear bomb.
...suspension of its nuclear activities, such as uranium enrichment, that could be used in a weapons program. "If I look at the big picture," he said, "there is no enrichment in Iran, and this is quite satisfactory, and I hope it keeps this way until we reach an agreement" for a permanent stop.
[A senior Bush administration official said] that the IAEA's own reports demonstrate an "established pattern" over decades of Iran using peaceful nuclear programs to move toward developing nuclear weapons. "It is not a matter of finding a bomb in a given week," he said.
We have it on good authority that there is no nuclear threat from Iran. This is the gentleman that told us the Iraq was not a nuclear threat. If I recall, he was right on that one. Oh, and the US intellegence: wrong.
He also takes the US to task for its stance toward Iran, compared to North Korea.
[He] also described White House policies on Iran and North Korea as inconsistent. Without greater U.S. participation in diplomacy, ElBaradei said, confrontation could increase.
Echoing public and private comments from French, German and British officials, ElBaradei said the only way to end the crisis and avoid confrontation was for the Bush administration to get involved in the talks between the three countries and Iran.
"I don't think the Iranian issue will be resolved without the United States putting fully its weight behind the Europeans," he said.
What, the current administration get behind the Europeans? I don't imagine that happening anytime in the near future. I have to wonder, what is the White House's fascination with the use of the military? It is almost like they have a fetish for men in uniforms.
Please compare and contrast the two points of view:
His caution on Iran has led some Bush administration officials to suggest he is more interested in blocking U.S. policy than in stopping Iran.
But a majority of countries on the IAEA board consider ElBaradei's leadership on Iran helpful and want him to take a third term.
Roll Call chimes in: ‘Gannon Fodder’
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said allegations of male prostitution did not motivate her and Conyers to submit the FOIA request. "I don't care about his personal life. I don't care about his politics," she said. "But I do care about who gives us the news." Coming so soon after revelations that conservative commentator Armstrong Williams took payments from the Bush administration, the Guckert controversy is all the more troubling, Slaughter said.
In case you don't want to read the whole thing, closes with this:
[Knight Ridder's White House correspondent] Hutcheson said while there were "times when I got annoyed with Gannon's questions -- they were stated to express an opinion. ... I was far more concerned about non-responses from the podium" to substantive questions from real reporters about Bush's policies.
Seems there are some that are just glad there is a reason to investigate how the WH communicates. This might be a good thing. This view is independent of the whole gay sex for hire angle. On the other hand, the gay sex for hire frame will make is harder for the bigots in the RW to defend the White House.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Framing "Gannon" 1
In shark infested political waters life doesn't get any better than making phony family values hucksters endlessly repeat phrases like "we didn't know he was a prostitute." First rule --- make them talk about stuff they don't want to talk about. It's very difficult to get them started, but if you get the media lemmings running in the right direction they'll do it.
What matters is to have the phrase gay sex for hire repeated endlessly. It doesn't matter if it is being alleged, denied or or the whole topic cursed. As long people keep hearing it, it will contribute to their view of the White House.
No More Stalins, No More Hitlers
Not one man rule or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy,
But of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power
By random pressures and subject to political and economic factors
That leave little room for decision.
They're representatives of abstract forces
Who've reached power through surrender of self.
The Iron-Will Dictator is a thing of the past.
There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.
The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds
Are rulers by accident,
Inept, frightened pilots at the controls
Of a vast machine they cannot understand,
Calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.
William S. Burroughs