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February 18, 2005


When I visited the museum at the former Dachau concentration camp, many years ago, there was an exhibit of photographs intended to viscerally illustrate the sheer inhuman brutality of life in the camp. One of these photos showed a prisoner hanging from a tree by his wrists, which were tied or cuffed behind his back--one of the more painful positions into which the human body can be forced, according to the exhibit's accompanying text.

I hadn't thought of that image in several years--until I read this:

An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA (news - web sites) interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time.

The prisoner 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.


February 17, 2005

New in the shop...


This is bizarre. (Possibly unsafe for work, but only mildly.) (Update: the site on the other end of that link has had a slight cosmetic makeover, though its lineage is still obvious.)

All I can say is, if you're stealing code from this site, you've got to be really desperate. (...given that this site is held together with duct tape and chewing gum. It's a cargo cult of a website, hillbilly html at its best--for which I take full responsibility. Really need to get an actual webmaster one of these days.)

Hat tip to Jen Sorensen, who made the discovery via the hits she was getting from the stolen blogad.

(...speaking of: go buy Jen's book. Seriously. She's really, really good, and it's a good bet that if you like my stuff, you'll like hers. So, go. Now. Buy.)

Don't assume...

...that I've seen any given news story--lately my life is pretty hectic. I've noticed that over the past few months, people are sending fewer links--maybe just general burnout after the election? At any rate, even though I don't have time to respond personally to every email that comes in, the links you send are one of the things I rely on. I'd rather get multiple links to an important story than none at all.

The triumph of democracy
After hours of closed-door meetings, members of the United Iraqi Alliance agreed to hold a secret ballot to choose between Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi, most likely on Friday, said Ali Hashim al-Youshaa, one of the alliance's leaders.

The contrast between the two candidates is stark and reveals a division within the clergy-endorsed alliance, made up of 10 major political parties and various allied smaller groups.

Al-Jaafari, 58, is the leader of the religious Dawa Party, one of Iraq (news - web sites)'s oldest parties, known for its popularity and close ties to Iran. Although al-Jaafari is a moderate, his party's platform is conservative.

Chalabi, 58, who left Iraq as a teen, leads the Iraqi National Congress and had close ties to the Pentagon (news - web sites) before falling out of favor last year after claims he passed intelligence information to Iran.

A secular Shiite, Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress is an umbrella for groups that included Iraqi exiles, Kurds and Shiites. Much of the intelligence his group supplied on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction programs failed to pan out.


G/G update

Maureen Dowd:

I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?

At first when I tried to complain about not getting my pass renewed, even though I'd been covering presidents and first ladies since 1986, no one called me back. Finally, when Mr. McClellan replaced Ari Fleischer, he said he'd renew the pass - after a new Secret Service background check that would last several months.

In an era when security concerns are paramount, what kind of Secret Service background check did James Guckert get so he could saunter into the West Wing every day under an assumed name while he was doing full-frontal advertising for stud services for $1,200 a weekend? He used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House, then, once inside, switched to his alter ego, asking questions as Jeff Gannon.

If you're advertising a dodgy business on the web and someone finds out about it, it doesn't constitute "digging into your personal life"--key words here being "advertising" and "business." Not sure what part of that the right wingers fail to comprehend. Also, discussions of whether or not prostitution should be legal are completely irrelevant, just a further attempt to sidetrack the issue. Rightly or wrongly, prostitution is illegal, and if G/G was running an escort service, that means he was publicly advertising his criminal activity, apparently while also being granted access to the White House which was denied to an established columnist for the New York Times unless she would submit to an extensive and redundant FBI background check which he himself could never possibly have passed.

For the right wingers to pretend that there's nothing interesting going on here is laughable. The only question is whether our cowed So-Called Liberal Media will actually investigate, or just continue to give everybody the benefit of the goddamned doubt.


February 16, 2005

Curiouser and curiouser

Looks like Gannon/Guckert was attending White House press briefings before his ostensible news agency, Talon, even existed.

Our boy Bob

The New McCarthyism

Atrios has the links.


I'm deleting some stuff here because several readers have pointed out that, when you buy a wish list item, you are presented with the choice of shipping it to yourself or to the recipient, so I guess conceivably someone in a hurry might click the wrong button. I'm still not impressed with the system, or with Amazon's responses when things get fouled up. I'm still deleting the wish list because this is a situation that will certainly come up again, and it's just more trouble than it's worth.

Uh oh
(CNN) -- A blast was reported Wednesday near the southern port city of Dailam in Iran, Iranian state television reported.

The Associated Press quoted Iranian state television reports that the explosion may have been caused by a fuel tank dropping from an Iranian plane.

Early reports by state television indicated witnesses claimed the blast was the result of a missile fired from a plane seen overhead.



February 15, 2005

Head's up

Bob Harris was on a Jeopardy Tournament of Champions tonight. May still be time for those of you in other time zones to catch it.

...and now that the surprise won't be spoiled for anyone, I can say: congratulations, bud. Beers are on you next time.

Sneak peek

From the same folks who brought you the Christmas ornaments. There's going to be a Blinky, too. Details to come.

Slowly, for the mouth breathers

Obviously, the point is not that Gannon/Guckert is gay.

The point is that a fake journalist working for a fake news website, who was apparently leading a double life--allegedly even running an illegal business--somehow gained access to one of the most secure facilities on the face of the planet, under a fake name, in order to ask fake questions the White House wanted asked during press conferences.

You don't get into the White House by showing up and flashing a press pass that you Photoshopped together and had the local copy shop laminate. And you certainly don't get into the White House briefing room by virtue of working for a freshly minted partisan website, unless you are very well connected. The point is, the White House and/or its surrogates really shouldn't be in the business of inventing fake news agencies in order to manipulate public opinion. But they were, and they got caught. (...and it should go without saying that this goes waaaay beyond the "tradition" we've heard so much about lately of making sure you've got a friendly journalist in the audience. Fox News wasn't friendly enough, for chrissakes?)

Gannon/Guckert's alleged porn sites and "escort" activities are relevant in that they highlight the utter incompetence of the administration--somebody somehow thought it would be a bright idea to use this guy, and nobody bothered to vet him to see if they were going to end up with egg on their faces. Any right winger who pretends that G/G worked for a legit news agency and is simply the innocent victim of a gay witch hunt is either too stupid to tie his own shoes in the morning, or is breathtakingly dishonest. No third choice.

(some editing)

Note to Amazon

One of the items a generous reader purchased off my wish list never arrived. I can't seem to get a reply via your normal channels. Please contact me so we can sort this out.

Update: Okay, so I heard from Amazon...apparently some idiot there shipped the wish list item to the purchaser, rather than to me. And they now say there's nothing to be done. Of course, there was no way for me to ever know any of this, since the item in question (the book City: Urbanism and its End) still shows on the 'purchased' list. So, to the person who bought this for me--they claim the book was shipped to you. So either you have a book you didn't want or you've had to hassle with sending it back. In any case, I apologize for the headache. And unless somebody at Amazon gets this straightened out, like, today, and gets this book in the mail to me, I'm pulling the wish list, as well as the affiliate link, off this site. I don't care what your standard policy is. You screwed up. Fix it.

I've spent enough time on this today--I'm still trying to get this week's cartoon written. But several people have passed along Amazon's deliberately hard-to-find customer service number, which may be useful to some of you: 1-800-201-7575.


February 14, 2005


The Gannon story just gets weirder and weirder.

UPDATE: link was dead for awhile. Seems to be working now.

So in the end, why does this matter? Why does it matter that Jeff Gannon may have been a gay hooker named James Guckert with a $20,000 defaulted court judgment against him? So he somehow got a job lobbing softball questions to the White House. Big deal. If he was already a prostitute, why not be one in the White House briefing room as well?

This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a "daily basis." They reportedly made a decision to give him - one of only six - access to documents, or information in those documents, that exposed a clandestine CIA operative. Say what you will about Monika Lewinsky - a tasteless episode, "inappropriate," whatever. Monika wasn't a gay prostitute running around the West Wing. What kind of leadership would let prostitutes roam the halls of the West Wing? What kind of war-time leadership can't find the same information that took bloggers only days to find?

If only we could have seen this coming

The history of American intervention in the Middle East is largely a history of unintended consequences. Backing the Shah of Iran set into motion a sequence of events which led more or less directly to 9/11. And, well, once again it looks as if things may not work out as well as the strategists and visionaries might have hoped:

When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.


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