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January 15, 2005

Baba Wawa

I'm paraphrasing from memory, but after the initial pre-interview chitchat she says something to Bush like, "Okay, if you're ready, let's begin the torture." And everyone has a hearty chuckle.

Didn't anyone at ABC cringe when they watched that footage?


January 14, 2005

Gosh, which version do you believe?
In his closing argument, Capt. Chris Graveline, one of the prosecutors, recounted incident after incident of alleged abuse, buttressing many with photos and video taken inside the prison in November 2003, to make the case that Graner was a sadistic soldier who took pleasure in seeing detainees suffer...

"It was for sport, for laughs," Graveline told jurors. "What we have here is plain abuse. There is no justification."

Defense lawyer Guy Womack countered that his client and other Abu Ghraib guards were under extreme pressure from intelligence agents to use physical violence to prepare detainees for questioning.


Those ubiquitious ribbon magnets

I was just thinking the other day that somebody really needs to repurpose that symbol. And now I see that someone has.


I think my cartoon from last September still pretty much sums up what I think about that particular tempest in a teapot.

Oldies but goodies

From Daily Kos:

We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. Condoleeza Rice, US National Security Advisor CNN Late Edition 9/8/2002

But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.†††
George W. Bush, President
Interview with TVP Poland

We are greatly concerned about any possible linkup between terrorists and regimes that have or seek weapons of mass destruction...In the case of Saddam Hussein, we've got a dictator who is clearly pursuing and already possesses some of these weapons.. A regime that hates America and everything we stand for must never be permitted to threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.†††
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Detroit, Fund-Raiser

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. †††
Dick Cheney, Vice President
Speech to VFW National Convention

There is already a mountain of evidence that Saddam Hussein is gathering weapons for the purpose of using them. And adding additional information is like adding a foot to Mount Everest.†††
Ari Fleischer, Press Secretary
Response to Question From Press

After eleven years during which we have tried containment, sanctions, inspections, even selected military action, the end result is that Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more. And he is moving ever closer to developing a nuclear weapon.†††
George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech

We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas†††
George W. Bush, President
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech

Follow the link, there are many more.


January 13, 2005

Bush's bulge, cont'd.

If you follow the link below, you'll come to what appears--to a layperson--to be a fairly compelling argument that the clearly visible bulge under Bush's jacket in the first debate (and under his t-shirt in a 2002 photo taken at his ranch) is a "wearable defibrillator," a medical device for "persons at risk of cardiac arrest." (Which brings to mind one immediate thought: if Bush and Cheney both have heart conditions...President Hastert, anyone?)

On an intuitive level, it makes a lot of sense. A lot of people--myself included--first assumed the bulge was a transmitter of some sort. The problem with that theory is, well, that 2002 photo. Does Bush wear a transmitter everywhere he goes, even on the ranch? Does Karl Rove softly whisper in his ear 24/7? Anyway, presidents always cover up and deny health problems. And something's clearly wrong with the guy. There was some footage floating around the web for awhile from his Texas gubernatorial run, and the difference between then and now is shocking. In the early footage he's articulate, able to think on his feet--it's like watching a completely different person.


One of this site's more learned readers is not persuaded by the defibrillator theory:

I am a psychiatrist, but I do have some knowledge of cardiac problems. let me say that the houstonindymedia site is quite misguided. I have little doubt that bush had something under his jacket, but he jumps they make on the site are unrealistic.

here are few reasons.
a transient ischemic attack (TIA) is by definition an incident that has no
lasting signs. if it did, it would be a stroke. bush's mouth is likely
just the way he is. it is not the result of a tia, to be sure, and it is
not likely to be a stroke. a stroke resulting in that muscular deficit
would almost assuredly affect his speech quality.

the treatment for atrial fibrillation is NOT to wear a defibrillating vest.
one would most likely be treated with medications that would prevent the
arrhythmia. a defibrillator is used when people have a significant risk of
a fatal arrhythmia or heart block. usually the defibrillator is implanted
(like cheney's) and is not noticeable at all under clothing. it is a
relatively straightforward operation, with extremely low risks. it is silly
to believe someone in dire need of defibrillation would wear a
defibrillating strap on device for two years.

to say that bush's thought process reflects wernicke-korsakoff syndrome is
equally absurd. korsakoff's syndrome comes about through chronic
alcoholism and malnutrition. bush may have been an alcoholic, but he was
highly unlikely to have been malnourished. at any rate, the cardinal
feature of korsakoff's syndrome is short term memory loss---to the extent
that one cannot remember what day it is, what one had for breakfast, etc.
wernicke's syndrome is the prodrome to korsakoff's and is more likely to be
detected through acute changes.

whatever problems bush has, he does not have korsakoff's syndrome and he
does not have ongoing transient ischemic attacks. it is nearly impossible
that he would wear a defibrillating vest for two years.


January 12, 2005

Bush's bulge

Was it a defibrillator?


Via Atrios, I see the weapons hunters have folded up shop:

Four months after Charles A. Duelfer, who led the weapons hunt in 2004, submitted an interim report to Congress that contradicted nearly every prewar assertion about Iraq made by top Bush administration officials, a senior intelligence official said the findings will stand as the ISG's final conclusions and will be published this spring.

I suppose those of us who were correct to doubt the administration's claims can now humbly await the profuse apologies and mea culpas of the thoroughly-discredited warmongers.


January 11, 2005

Gotta love this

Conservative radio talkers and other simplistic thinkers have been contrasting Michael Moore and Mel Gibson for the past year, as respresentative of the alleged divide between blue and red states.

Oh well:

When Mr. Gibson walked to the press room lectern, he and Mr. Moore seemed delighted to meet each other.

"I feel a strange kinship with Michael," Mr. Gibson said. "They're trying to pit us against each other in the press, but it's a hologram. They really have got nothing to do with one another. It's just some kind of device, some left-right. He makes some salient points. There was some very expert, elliptical editing going on. However, what the hell are we doing in Iraq? No one can explain to me in a reasonable manner that I can accept why we're there, why we went there, and why we're still there."

Partnership inquiry

Actual recent email:

Greetings Owner of www.thismodernworld.com,

I visited your site today. Id like to introduce myself and ask you to consider adding The National Geographic Store (http://shop.nationalgeographic.com) to your sites offerings. It looks like your site [[NAME OR URL]] , serves visitors interested in [[THEME]] which is a strong market for NGS also. I think youll find that the NGS offering could provide additional value to your visitors. And the commissions you'll earn with the National Geographic Store could be quite attractive for you. ;)

What do you think, regular visitors to [[NAME OR URL]]? Are you, like so many patrons of the National Geographic Store, strongly interested in [[THEME]]?



Because even leaving the hotel to pursue a story is so dangerous, Hughes says that now the safest way to get a good story is to be embedded with U.S. troops. "Generally, all it takes is one email to some lieutenant," he says. "A few days later, you're in a sardine can bumping along Highway 1."

Hughes joins John Burns of The New York Times, photographer Jason Howe and Reuters photographer Alastair MacDonald -- all on an embed in an area called "the triangle of death." They first receive an hour-long military Power Point presentation. "You have to remember you are only getting one side of the story, and it's a very convincing narrative," MacDonald says.

Hughes then meets up with Jackie Spinner, a reporter from The Washington Post, who is hunkered down beside a concrete wall, trying to file a story by satellite. She laments her dependence upon Iraqi stringers and the military for information. "I can't be my own eyes and ears anywhere," she says.


Not sure what's inspired the recent spate of Paypal donations, but I do appreciate the vote of confidence. And as you can see, the blog is slowly getting back up to speed...

One thing to remember about the memo fiasco

It may have been a fake--but Bush was AWOL. (Link via TBogg.)

This is how arguments are won in the internet age--focus on trivialities and ignore the larger picture. If there's a typo in your message board post, then you are clearly a worthless asshat who should be ignored by all reasonable people, blah blah blah. If you got suckered by somebody with forged memos--and god knows what agenda--then your entire career should be deep-sixed.

A few months back, the Times op-ed page asked various bloggers--mostly right wingers--what they thought the most important story of the election was. Some of the give-em-an-inch-and-they-think-they're-rulers crowd nominated themselves, and their obsession with these memos, as the most important story of the 2004 election cycle. And maybe they were right, in one sense: maybe they've helped usher us into a new era. Call it the Age of Obsessive Nitpicking. (Or, more accurately--for the obsessive nitpickers in the audience--the Age of Obsessive and Generally Misinformed Nitpicking.)

But that's not exactly something to celebrate.

...there's a good overview of the whole mess here.


January 10, 2005

Tortured arguments
Forcing naked Iraqi prisoners to pile themselves in human pyramids was not torture, because American cheerleaders do it every year, a court was told today.

A lawyer defending Specialist Charles Graner, who is accused of being a ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, argued that piling naked prisoners in pyramids was a valid form of prisoner control.

"Donít cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year. Is that torture?" said Guy Womack, Sergeant Granerís lawyer, in opening arguments to the ten-member military jury at the reservistís court martial.

. . .

The prosecution showed some of those pictures in their opening argument, including one of naked Iraqi men piled on each other and another of Ms England holding a crawling naked Iraqi man on a leash.

Mr Womack said that using a tether was a valid method of controlling detainees. "Youíre keeping control of them. A tether is a valid control to be used in corrections," he said.

This much, I believe:

Apart from arguing that the methods were not illegal, Granerís defence is that he was following orders from superiors. Mr Womack said: "He was doing his job. Following orders and being praised for it."


The predictions game

Prognostication is tough. Even when you get the generalities right, you're likely to be wrong on the specifics. Nonetheless, almost every writer Andrew Sullivan holds up to ridicule in this blast-from-the-past (link via Atrios) was far more prescient than Sullivan himself. Yes, he's exhibited some vague semblance of rationality on the war lately, but I'll take him seriously when he starts apologizing to the various recipients of his snarky little awards, and acknowledges that overall, they were right and he was very, very wrong.

...scroll up past the entry linked and there are more oldies-but-goodies, like this one:

V-H AWARD VIII: "Have you ever seen such amazing arrogance wedded to such awesome incompetence?" - Molly Ivins, March 16, 2003. No, Molly, I haven't. The liberal media have had a terrible, terrible war.

Someone with more time than me should really spend a couple of days going through Sullivan's archives and compiling these classics. He was generous enough to share his wisdom with us, it would be a shame to let it all fall into the memory hole.

Cue the apologists

According to Newsweek, the Pentagon is considering using what it calls "the Salvador option" in Iraq:

What to do about the deepening quagmire of Iraq? The Pentagonís latest approach is being called "the Salvador option"óand the fact that it is being discussed at all is a measure of just how worried Donald Rumsfeld really is. "What everyone agrees is that we canít just go on as we are," one senior military officer told NEWSWEEK. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing." Last Novemberís operation in Fallujah, most analysts agree, succeeded less in breaking "the back" of the insurgencyóas Marine Gen. John Sattler optimistically declared at the timeóthan in spreading it out.

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administrationís battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a successódespite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal. (Among the current administration officials who dealt with Central America back then is John Negroponte, who is today the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Under Reagan, he was ambassador to Honduras.)

. . .

Shahwani also said that the U.S. occupation has failed to crack the problem of broad support for the insurgency. The insurgents, he said, "are mostly in the Sunni areas where the population there, almost 200,000, is sympathetic to them." He said most Iraqi people do not actively support the insurgents or provide them with material or logistical help, but at the same time they wonít turn them in. One military source involved in the Pentagon debate agrees that this is the crux of the problem, and he suggests that new offensive operations are needed that would create a fear of aiding the insurgency. "The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists," he said. "From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation."

And there's the key: the Sunni population is paying no price, and we have to change that equation. In el Salvador, changing that equation meant throwing our support behind death squads guilty of torture, massacres and "disappearances"--arming them, training them, politely overlooking the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. (Not to mention four American nuns and six Jesuit priests. There's a good rundown of those years here for anyone who needs a refresher course.)

"Salvador option." Jesus Christ, what's a satirist to do when reality itself plays out like a ham-fisted satire?

Update: a response to the predictable right-wing wankery.


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