Saturday, June 24

Free the Liberty Seven

Real life is not like C.S.I. When I went to jury duty a few months ago, these were practically the first words out of the mouth of the prosecutor. 'This is not C.S.I." We were not going to see crystal clear evidence of the defendants guilt, verified to a scientific certainty by an errant fingerprint, piece of cloth, blood or head lice. That's just Hollywood.

That very night I attended a Hollywood Premier, a festival for the USC Film School which included one film "Fast Money" that happened to feature Archie Kao, one of the cast members of C.S.I. I also met one of the other cast members, David Berman (aka "Super Dave") who as it turns out actually is a forensic scientist in "Real life". I told him exactly what the prosecutor had told me earlier in the day - he smiled a knowing smile.

Criminology is not an exacting science, largely because the information has to be filtered and evaludated by people - who bring to it all thier own biases and preconceptions.

Speaking of biases and preconceptions: let's talk about the Liberty Seven - the seven alleged wannabe members of Al Qaeda from Liberty Florida who didn't have a car, gun or explosives yet were still arrested this week for allegedly talking about blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago.

Ladies and Gentleman, we have now entered the age of the thought crime. Think something outloud to the wrong person at the wrong time - and without any physical or forensic evidence what-so-ever you too just might wind up in Gitmo, doing the stress-position tango.

Let's just look closely at this case:

Citing an investigation that began months before Thursday's raid, the source said the group talked about an attack on the Sears Tower and the FBI headquarters in North Miami Beach -- but that they had no ``overt explosives or other things.''

The group thought that they ''were doing [the attacks] in conjunction with al Qaeda'' but were really dealing with undercover law enforcement, the official said.

It was ''pretty much talk, we were on top of them,'' the source said.

Another law enforcement source said the group had no actual ties to al Qaeda.

Family identified one of the men arrested as Stanley Phanor, 31, who called the warehouse the group's place of worship.

According to Stanley's sister, the group, which formed about a year ago, called itself the Seas of David. The 40 to 50 members consider themselves ''soldiers of God'' and are against the war in Iraq. Like soldiers, they incorporate discipline into their daily lives: exercise, no drinking, no drugs and no meat.

Phanor and his friends had been living in the warehouse for about eight months, and they often fed homeless people and helped them find jobs, his sister said.

''All of them worked so hard,'' she said.

Militant Black Muslims, they've been called, raising spectors of Malcolm X and his AK-47 at the ready - or the Black Panthers of the 70's with their shotguns, black leather jackets and berets.

Dangerous. Deadly. Pissed-off And BLACK!

It's not like we haven't had "Homegrown" terrorist before like Tim McVeigh or Eric Rudolph (who actually did blow some shit up) That's what the newsagencies have been touting for the last 36 hours. We're safer now because the G-men caught this Black Muslim Bastards who apparently wanted to...Talk us to death.

The key to this entire case seems to be the FBI's undercover al-Qaeda "Plant" who promised to supply this bunch of losers with supplies and a plan. The reason I'm so skeptical of this entire scenario is because I've seen this movie before.

This is in large part what happened to Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), the former Black Panther member who spent over 20 years in prison for a murder he couldn't have committed. According to an FBI source, an illegal wiretap proved that Pratt had been over 400 miles away in Oakland when the shooting he was accused off took place in LA. Pratt (who was also Tupac Shakur's Godfather) remained in prison until the key witness against him was revealed as a paid Sherrif's informant. The survellance, arrest and conviction of Pratt was a part of the goverments COINTELPRO program of the 70's, which was intended to suppress anti-war pro-communist sympathese at the time. The extra-legal activities taken by the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon eventually led to the forming of the Church Commission and the formation of the FISA Court. (That's right, the Court that the NSA was afraid to go through before illegally tapping thousands of American calls and emails)

History it seems, just might be repeating itself.

The next steps, what happens in the next few days while in custody will either make or break this case. What I mean, is that the FBI will next attempt to coerce a confession from one or all of the "conspirators" just as they did in the much more recent case against Hamid Hayat.

In this case, the FBI again used an informant, name Khan, to suggest to Hayat, an impressionable teenager from Lodi, that he should "join Al Qaeda".
The FBI had come calling on Khan in the weeks after 9/11. He was living in Oregon, working double duty at McDonald's and managing a convenience store, bringing home $7 an hour to an American girl who was falling in love with him. He did his best to impress the two agents. Yes, he was familiar with the Pakistani community in Lodi. In fact, a few years earlier, he had seen Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Dr. Ayman Zawahiri, coming in and out of the mosque on Poplar Street. And not only him. Among the men on their hands and knees praying were the main suspects in two bombings of U.S. embassies and a military complex in Saudi Arabia.

The FBI would later concede that Khan's sightings [of Zawahiri] were almost certainly false.

Over the next six months, Khan would record more than 40 hours of conversations with Hamid and his father, mostly in the privacy of their home. As a job, confidential witness for the FBI's war on terror paid well—more than $225,000—and Khan threw himself into the part with such ardor that he looked more FBI than the agents themselves.
The kicker though wasn't the informant, it was the interrogation - which was reviewed by veteran FBI officer James Wedick.
Hayat shifted in his chair, and his voice grew submissive. One hour, two hours, yawns, cigarette break, yawns, candy break, exhaustion. The freefall never came. Instead, each new revelation, each dramatic turn in his story, was coming from the mouths of the agents first. Rather than ask Hayat to describe what happened, they were describing what happened for him and then taking his "uh-huhs" and "um-hmms" as solemn declarations. He was so open to suggestion that the camp itself went from being a village of mud huts to a building the size of Arco Arena. His fellow trainees numbered 35, 40, 50, 200. The camp was run by a political group, a religious school, his uncle, his grandfather, yes, it was Al Qaeda. The camp's location was all over the map—from Afghanistan to Kashmir to a village in Pakistan called Balakot. As for weapons training, the camp owned one pistol, two rifles and a knife to cut vegetables.

Wedick was troubled by the inability of the agents to pin down the contours of one believable story. They didn't seem to know the terrain of Pakistan or the month of Ramadan. They didn't seem to fully appreciate that they were dealing with an immigrant kid from a lowly Pashtun tribe whose sixth-grade education and poor command of the English language—"Martyred? What does that mean, sir?"—demanded a more skeptical approach. And then there was the matter of the father's confession. Umer Hayat described visiting his son's camp and finding 1,000 men wearing black Ninja Turtle masks and performing "pole vaulting" exercises in huge basement rooms—100 miles from Balakot. The agents going back and forth between the two interrogations that night never attempted to reconcile the vast differences in the confessions.

The video ended and Wedick picked up the phone and called defense attorney Johnny L. Griffin. Whatever hesitation he had about taking on the FBI office that he, more than anyone, had put on the map—the office where his wife still worked as an agent—was now gone. "Johnny, it's the sorriest interrogation, the sorriest confession, I've ever seen."
The prosecution managed to block Wedick from testifying as an expert witness for the defense, Hayat was eventually convicted and faces 39 years for "making false statements to the FBI" and providing "material support" to terrorists [althought the only "terrorist" he ever met was Khan, the FBI informant] After the case was over Wedick visited one of the Jurors.
He saw one juror holding back tears and made a straight line for her apartment. She wouldn't let him in at first, talking through a crack. Two hours, four hours, finally she opened the door and told him what he suspected. She didn't believe Hamid was guilty. So intense was the pressure from fellow jurors to convict him that she had to check into the hospital. Throughout the trial, she said, the foreman kept making the gesture of a noose hanging. "Lynch the Muslim," she took it to mean. Wedick persuaded her to write it all down and sign it. Then he filed the affidavit with the federal court, hoping it might lead to a new trial.
According to data obtained by the Innocence Project, which has used DNA evidence to exonerate 180 persons who had been condemned to death row, 35 times (out of the first 130 cases - or 27%) there was a False Confession and another 21 times (16%) the wrongful conviction was the result of bad information provided by informants and snitches.

Unfortunately, like the Prosecutor said - real life isn't C.S.I., and DNA evidence which can conclusively prove guilt or innocence is rarely available. Certainly not for the other 2 Million people that currently reside in our jails and prisons. (Somewhere between 5-10% of whom - or about 200,000 people conservativel, based on what the Innocence Project exoneration numbers (180) vs Death Row Population (3,314) indicates - are probably completely innocent of the crime for which they were convicted)

If we're sending these guys to prison for a bunch of rude, obnoxious talk, which in all likelyhood was being directed by the FBI informant, then why the bloody hell is Ann Coulter still walking around free considering some of the unruly shit that's been coming out of her mouth for years?
For example:
Her "only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building"

Her only real question about Bill Clinton was "whether to impeach or assassinate."

From what we've seen so far they've got a better case against Scooter Libby and Karl Rove for lying about Matt Cooper than they do against these guys, and they didn't indict Rove.

IMO The Liberty Seven should be afforded bail and released - immediately, or at the very least afforded the protection of an attorney. Meanwhile the evidence should be put before a Grand Jury - as required by the fifth amendment. Every moment they remain in indefinate FBI custody, is a moment where they most likely are undergoing intense interrogation, and like Hayat just might reach a point where they'll basically agree to anything in order for the questioning to finally stop.

These guys are not Al Qaeda, and we shouldn't be wasting time energy and resources on them.

Meanwhile, Osama is laughing at us.


Friday, June 23

Voting Rights Act on the Ropes

Yesterday Firedoglake made an offhand mention of something that should make every Black and non-Racist White person in America rise-up in outrage, but so far hasn't even generated a serious whimper.
"Rep Lynn I Can’t Name the 10 Commandments. Even Though I’m Sponsoring a Bill on Them" Westmoreland (R-GA) is leading a coalition of Southern Republicans to sink the renewal of the Voting Rights Act.

Who would have thought that the law that protects your right to vote in this nation just might expire - or be significantly modified by Southern Republicans to "lower the burden" on their states to comply? (Burdens like the ban on the use of the Poll Tax, Biased "Literacy" Tests which were used to deny the Vote to Blacks, strategies which haven't gone away - but instead have been updated for the new Millenium)

For those of you - Like the President - who've forgotten exactly what the Votings Rights Act is, it's one of the crowning jewels of the Civil Rights Movement, a law intented to end the nearly century long practice of blocking Black people from access to the vote despite the ratification of the 15th Amendment.

Let's let Claude Allen, for head of the White House Domestic Affairs (before he abruptly retired due to felony shopping lifting charges) refresh everyones recollection.

Terry, from Illinois writes:
What exactly is the Voting Rights Act? I thought we all had the right to vote in our country, hense why we are a democracy?

Claude A. Allen
Thanks for your question, Terry. The Voting Rights Act, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, has been called one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation ever enacted. Most important, the Voting Rights Act enforces the Constitution's ban on discrimination in voting on the basis of race.

President Bush has directed the full power and resources of the Justice Department to protect each person's right to vote and to preserve the integrity of our voting process. The President has also called on Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act, and the Administration looks forward to working with Congress in the coming year to reauthorize this vital piece of civil rights legislation
In response to those in Congress who seem to think voting discrimination is a "thing of the past", Rep John Lewis (D-GA) had this to say.

"[I]t was during the middle of the last census that the Georgia State Legislature authored a redistricting plan that severely diluted the power of the African American vote. It was Georgia that developed the modern-day poll tax, as one federal judge called it, that disenfranchises rural voters, the elderly, the disabled, students and other minorities who have no government photo ID. It is the state of Georgia that has received over 80 objections from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice since the last reauthorization, pointing to discriminatory voting plans agreed to by state, county, and local governments. And Georgia represents only a part of the over 1000 objections the DOJ has seen fit to make since the last reauthorization in 1982.

"The evidence shows that voting discrimination in America is not dead, and the Voting Rights Act must retain its original power in order to assure that democracy prevails in every hill and valley, every city and suburb, on every fertile farm and every desert plain in America. If we as a nation and a people are truly committed to the full participation of every American in the democratic process, then there should be no serious impediment to the passage of H.R. 9. To every Member who has looked at the overwhelming evidence, it is clear that we have come a great distance, but we still have a great distance to go before we can lay down the burden of voting discrimination in America."

Despite the empty platitudes of Mr. Allen, the fact is that Voting Rights Act is genuinely at risk. With their claims that they need a "Majority of the Majority" to agree before they can vote on amendments, and arguements over creating English-Only ballots, there is the very strong likelyhood that this Congress could introduce a escape clause which would allow practices that target minority voters such as "Caging" (As discovered by John Conyers Report on Ohio 2004 (PDF)).

We can't let this happen, we can't let the blood and sweat that was spilled during the Civil Right Era by the Freedom Riders, Dr. Martin Luther King be wasted this way.

The Toll-Free Phone Number of Congress is 888-355-3588, just dial it and they will immediately connect you to any member, even Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Let them know just how you feel.

Hat Tip to Georgia10 on Dkos for keeping this issue in the spotlight.


Thursday, June 22

Running Iraq just like Saddam

In recent days Bill O'Reilly has been again named "Worse Person in the World" by his best gadfly/nemesis Keith Olberman for suggesting that America should "run Iraq the way that Saddam did" in order to bring order to the chaos in the region.

On the same night as Olbermann's rebuke O'Lielly continued his diatribe going on to argue that American is losing the war because of the ACLU, Amnesty International, The International Red Cross, President Jimmy Carter and Air America Radio who have all heavily critized the U.S. for violating Geneva Conventions and committing possible War Crimes.

Although it's easy to blow-off these comments by O'Reilly, I think his statements betray a mentality that has been at work all along - and ultimately knocks down the final piece of the "Noble Mission" canard.

We didn't go to Iraq to suppress WMD's - Saddam didn't have them and we knew it - and we didn't go to spread "democracy", not if we have to implement totalitarianism in order to do it.

We went there to project American Power, in an infantile display of dicks-man-ship - just as O'Reilly and his "Get Tough" rhetoric reveals.

Here's how O'Reilly laid it out.
O'REILLY: "Talking Points" believes the Bush administration has to stop being defensive about waging war. At this point, the new Iraqi government should declare martial law in areas controlled by insurgents. That means anyone can be arrested and shoot-on-sight curfews.

Saddam was able to control Iraq, as you know, and defeat insurgencies against him. The new Iraqi government can do the same, but it needs to get much tougher.

Let's examine for a moment how Saddam was able to defeat those insurgencies shall we? Following the first Gulf War, with his own forces essentially decimated by the air-barrage of U.S. B-52s, Saddam surrendered to U.S. led coalition forces - there was both a Shi'ite rebellion in southern Iraq and a Kurdish rebellion in the North against Saddam. His response to these insurrections was swift and brutal.

He used nerve toxin on them. Y'know - Weapons of Mass Destruction.

O'Reilly is far from alone is his view that America needs to take off the "Kid Gloves". Micheal Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden desk has long argued for a Total War strategy against Islamic extremism.

I've found Scheuer's writing most useful for it's detailed insights into Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's over-arching strategy of prompting an American financial collapse - like that with brought the Soviet Union to an end following years of endless, fruitless battle in Afghanistan - rather than a strict military defeat. He also suggests that our best choices are to change our policies toward the Muslim world and attempt to reach-out and prove we aren't the enemy of Islam that they seem to think we are.

This makes sense, but Scheuer is a pragmatist and he realizes that this type of radical shift in strategy is highly unlikely, therefore he points out what just might be the inevitable. In his book "Imperial Hubris" he makes the following arguement.

Killing in large numbers is not enough to defeat our Muslim foes. With killing must come a Sherman-like razing of infrastructure. Roads and irrigation systems; bridges, power plants, and crops in the field, fertilizer plants and grain mills-- all these and more will need to be destroyed to deny the enemy it's support base. Land mines, moreover, will be massively reintroduced to seal borders and mountain passes too long, high, or numerous to close with U.S. soldiers. As noted such ations will yield large civilian casualties, displaced populations, and refugee flows. Again, this sort of bloody mindednes is neither admirable nor desirable, but it will remain America's only option so long as she stands by her failed policies toward the Muslim world.

Scheuer supports the doctrine of Total War and essentially idolizes Sherman, who burned an enourmous swath through the south in order to break the back of the Rebellion during our own Civil War. Tactics not unlike those used by Saddam Hussein. He argues that our efforts in Afghanistan have been "dainty" and largely ineffective -- the bulk of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces were able to easily avoid being captured or killed and have since spread worldwide, metastesizing (sp) into a Cancer that now affects Chechnya, Malaysia and has prompted the bombings of Schools, Planes (Russia), Trains (Madrid) and Subways (London).

He's not exactly a Bush fan, and is fervent against the Iraq war. But neither was a he a fan of Clinton. His biggest error in my opinion is his failure to recognize our success in Bosnia by using an overwhelmingly powerful force comprised of equal parts American, European and Russian forces against the massive confusion, chaos, ethnic cleansing of the Balkans. As well as our success against the attempted disruption and insurgency by Al Qaeda (which as documented by Richard Clarke in his book "Against All Enemies" was anticipated and thwarted).

O'Reilly and Scheuer are far from alone in their way of thinking.

O'REILLY: All right, Colonel Hunt, I think we're at a tipping point here in the Iraq war. I think if America does not stop being on the defensive, and I mean militarily and in the war of public opinion, that we gotta get out of there. We either have to fight the war and win the war, or get the hell out.

HUNT: Yeah, I totally agree. We take the gloves off. Military leaders, take the gloves off. The soldiers know what they do. Get out of the way. Politicians, get out of the way.

But of course, like all True-Blue and RED Conservatives, O'Reilly can't help but find Liberals to Blame for our sad state of affairs in Iraq.

The Bush administration also needs to begin challenging those who are helping the enemy. The ACLU, for example, opposes just about every anti-terror strategy. This organization should be exposed.

The BBC also helps the enemy by consistently slanting the Iraq war coverage and portraying the coalition as villains. The vile Air America Radio network does the same thing.

O'REILLY: All right, do you believe it's a tipping point, general?

McINERNEY: Yes, I do, Bill. And it's a tipping point in the will of the American people. We can't lose over there militarily. It's the will of the American people. And I call them "ACE" Democrats or "ACE" liberals -- aid and comforting the enemy.

O'Leilly also made the arguement that the ACLU and President Carter have hurt America by proclaiming that we torture detainees, even though America official policy is against torture. Well, sure the official policy says one thing - but apparently the Army Field Manual now says something completely different.

The problem with all of this is the very strong probability that America took the "gloves" off a long time ago. We already run Iraq just like Saddam did.

The 2004 attack on Fallujah which preceeded the first Iraqi election follows almost exactly the script that both Scheuer and O'reilly describe -- establish Marshall Law, completely disrupt the infrastrucure and oh yeah - use Chemical Weapons. (In this case, White Phosphorous, which literally melts skin).

The recent tragedy in Haditha also seems to support the contention that U.S. Forces are far from "holding back" in Iraq.

This entire line of reasoning ignores one crucial fact. We Don't Have A Large Enough Troop Footprint To Implement this kind of Strategey.

We don't have the manpower to implement Marshall Law and a "shoot on sight" curfew in Ramadi and also keep the insurgents from gaining a foothold elsewhere. The sad lessons of Fallajah and Afghanistan are that you have to cover every possible escape before you try and spring a trap. Besides that, we already have destroyed their infrastructure - and we haven't fixed it since.

As Sheuer points out the only reason America has to consider implementing overwhelming brutality and excise the Geneva Conventions fron the Army Field Manual - is because we've been dealing from a position of Bad Faith during this entire conflict. All of our justifications have been wrong. Saddam wasn't a threat to us, he didn't have WMD's, he didn't have Nukes, he wasn't tied to Al Qaeda - and he'd destroyed his WMD's in 1991 (as revealed by the Dulfer Report).

While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible Indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad's desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.

This information was provided to the Bush Administration long before the invasion by Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, and confirmed by Saddam's pre-war declaration.

If our sole reasons for getting rid of Saddam was to end the "Rape Rooms" and then our people turn around and re-use the exact same facilities for the exact same purpose - what have we managed to accomplish other than changing the guards on the doorway to hell?

Our Administration Lied about the reasons for the War from Day One.

They used Bad Faith. The only true use of military force is bring someone to the negotiating table who is otherwise unwilling, but if they simply can't trust anything you say -- we should they bother showing up no matter how much force you use? Bad Faith poisons all the waters.

I've often begun to wonder, why did Saddam hide the fact that he had destroyed his WMD stockpile? Could it have been the strong likelyhood of a renewed Kurdish and Shi'ite rebellion if they knew his primary weapon against them was disabled? Was he just buying time to reconstitute his decimated Army? And if we had Let the Inspectors Finish Their Job and reveal that Saddam was disarmed, would his worst fears have come true and the violent insurgency that is now killing our soldiers would instead have gone and captured Saddam instead? (Especially since there some indications that Kurdish forces were the ones to capture Saddam, not U.S.)

The New York Times, Amnesty International, President Carter, the ACLU and Air America Radio didn't create this situation. Bush and his neo-con supporters did.

Being willing to Use the Big Stick doesn't end the story, you have to know how to clean up the mess after you use it.

We have to change direction as both John Murtha, John Kerry and Russ Feingold have pointed out - but it's fairly unlikely that this will occuring during the Bush Administration and we can expect nothing more than further Abu Ghraib's and Haditha's for the forseeable future.


Monday, June 19

"Nobody Anticipated" the Incompetance Bushco

I have to admit to a bit of partisan bias. When George Bush was elect selected as President in 2000 I hoped things wouldn't go well for his Presidency. At least not too well. After closely watching the wingnut shenanigans of the Gingrich Congress, and the attempted Impeachment of President Clinton for an affair (while both Gingrich himself and House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde had both had affairs of their own) I didn't want the Republicans to gain a toe-hold in the top office in the land that they could parley into a decades long stand.

Mind you, I didn't want things to go too bad - but I couldn't have ever imagined that they go nearly as badly as they have.

Noone could have. Or could they?

From Crooks and Liars.
Cheney now says he didn't anticipate the insurgency's strength

On June 20, 2005 (a year ago)-Dick Cheney said that the insurgency was in it's last throes. He was talking to the National Press Club today and said:

Video-WMP Video-QT

Q: Do you think that you underestimated the insurgency's strength?

Cheney: I think so, umm I guess, the uh, if I look back on it now. I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered....

"I don't think anybody anticipated" a phrase that sounds quite a bit familiar. Just who said that? Could it be President Bush last August on Good Morning America?

Bush on GMA

Here's the interview today with Diane.

[] "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." Video-WMP

Isn't that interesting? It's just too bad that someone did anticipate the breach of the levees - they faxed details about it over to the White House.
A dire warning email was sent to the White House situation room by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC) 48 hours before the landfall of Katrina that said based their Hurricane Pam simulations they predicted "breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property."

And that they even the himself President was told about it in a briefing.

(AP) Video-WMP Video-QT

Federal officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief of possible devastation just before Hurricane Katrina struck. Six days of video footage from briefings and transcripts were obtained by The Associated Press. The warnings were that the storm could breach levees, risk lives in the New Orleans Superdome and overwhelm rescuers.A-P reports Bush didn't ask any questions during the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck on August 29th.... read on"

During the 9-11 Commision hearings Condoleeza Rice claimed that "No one could have anticipated" that someone would fly planes into buildings, the problem with that is that her own chief Terrorism Officer - Richard Clarke - had already done exactly that.

In 1996 Clarke, mindful of Ramsey Yousef's plot to blow up 12 747's over the Pacific Ocean, asked this question during a planning session for security at the Atlanta Olympics. From "Against All Enemies" - Page 106.

"What if somebody blows up a 747 over the Olympic Stadium, or even flies one into the Stadium?".

Too bad Condoleeza spent the first 8-months of the Bush Administration ignoring Clarke and his warnings about Al Qaeda, she could have learned a thing or two.

So now we have Dick Cheney claiming that nobody anticitpated the insurgency. Well nobody except for Paul Bremer and Gen. Shinseki.

General Zinni "I was hearing a depiction of the intelligence that didn't fit what I knew."

Video-WMP Video-QT

ZINNI: I saw the - what this town is known for, spin, cherry-picking facts, using metaphors to evoke certain emotional responses or shading the context. We know the mushroom clouds and the other things that were all described that the media has covered well. I saw on the ground a sort of walking away from 10 years’ worth of planning. You know, ever since the end of the first Gulf War, there’s been planning by serious officers and planners and others, and policies put in place - 10 years' worth of planning were thrown away. Troop levels dismissed out of hand. Gen. Shinseki basically insulted for speaking the truth and giving an honest opinion.

The problem though is that simple facts simply do seem to be convincing in today's political climate. Approaches like (the very much UNindicted) Karl Rove's attacking of Democrats such as John Kerry and John Murtha as "cut and runners" sadly does have the likelyhood of gaining traction. Even though Murtha himself did great job of pushing back on Meet the Press this past Sunday.
Murtha to Rove: He's sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big- fat backside- saying stay the course! From Meet the Press: Video-WMP Video-QT

Russert: Cutting and Running

MURTHA: He's in New Hampshire. He's making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside-saying stay the course. That’s not a plan! We've got to change direction. You can't sit there in the air-conditioned office and tell troops carrying seventy pounds on their backs, inside these armored vessels-hit with IED's every day-seeing their friends blown up-their buddies blown up-and he says stay the course? Easy to say that from Washington, DC.

But the most important thing about what Murtha said, besides debunking the BS Spin that we "couldn't have gotten Zarqawi" if we had followed Murtha redeployment plan - we could drop a 500 lbs bomb on somebody from just about anywhere in the world - the important fact and goal in this mission has to be having the Iraqi forces stand on their own. Yes, they do finally have a Government, and the President has had his Victory Lap in the Green Zone. So why aren't the 250,000 trained Iraqi troops taking over the bulk of the security duties from our 130,000 troops?

The simple fact is that we are in the Iraqi's way. Both the Iraqi President and Vice President asked Bush for Timetable for Withdrawal. The Iraqis want it, the Troops want it, the American People want it - the only people that don't want it are in the White House and the House of Representatives.

"As Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop level in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists,"

He rejected calls by some members of Congress that U.S. forces withdraw immediately.

"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorist tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder and invite new attacks on America," Bush said.

"To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your commander-in-chief."

Bush was Wrong to ignore Bin Laden in August of 2001, he was wrong to ignore Saddam's declaration (five months before the war) that he "HAD NO WMD's", he was wrong to interrupt the inspectors before they could confirm that fact, he was wrong in failing to anticipate what most of the career military knew was going to happen in Iraqi with too few troups, he was wrong to ignore warnings about the dangers of Katrina and HE'S WRONG NOW.

At a certain part, you have to let kids ride their bike without training wheels. Ya gotta let have the keys to the car and drive alone. It doesn't have to happen all at once, it should be a gradual step by step progression - where improvements are being made each time.

But improvement aren't being made in Iraq. Instead of kidnapping civilians and journalist, the insurgents are now kidnapping American Soldiers. I know the desire to get Pay-back can be very strong, but we have to realize that we're now the third party in the midst of a domestic dispute -- and both sides are gradually turning against us. We have to do the right thing, not just stroke our own ego.

The Iraqis have to work out this issue for themselves. The leader of the foreign fighters who made up Al Qaeda in Iraq is now dead. Future terrorists and insurgents can be and should be taken out the same way. The Iraqi forces need to be at the forefront of this conflict, and yes we should certainly be backing them up logistically and with heavy artillery and/or air resources -- but our troops simply don't need to be in harms way anymore.

It's not a matter of cowardice, it's a matter of strategy.

Bush and his supporters continue to claim that now, three years after the start of the war, the Iraqi forces still "just can't handle it". Well, if that's true exactly whose fault is that?

The soldiers have done their jobs properly, it's time for them to start leaving - with honor. It's time to let the kids take the hotrod out for spin. If they still can't handle it, then maybe they need a brand new set of driving instructors in Congress this year and in the White House in 2008.

People who know how to fucking anticipate the bumps and curves in the road ahead.

People like John Murtha of course, but also John Kerry and Russ Feingold who today posted a call for a specific Timetable for the the Iraqi forces to stand up sot that American withdrawn from Iraq, and help protect our security around the world, not just in one lone corner of it.


Mark Crispin Miller on Election Fraud, RFK Jr and Salon

Although it has largely ignored the by Corporate Media, Robert F. Kennedy's Rolling Stone Article, "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" has generated a firestorm of debate in the blogosphere, a harsh response from Fahrad Manjoo of Salon, whose many errors in fact and logic have generated hundreds of letters of protest, (as well as responses from Kossack Malcolm, Bob Fitrakis at the Free Press, and Bob Herbert at the NYTimes) prompting a defense by Salon's Editor Joan Walsh.

Now Mark Crispin Miller, author of Fooled Again has stepped up to the plate with a letter to Salon which they refused to print claiming "In terms of the Ohio election fraud issue," wrote Jeanne Carstensen, "we don't feel your letter, as passionately argued as it is, adds anything substantially new to the debate, which we've covered the hell out of already", but has instead been printed in the Huffington Post.

First he addresses Salon long history of extreme skeptism on this subject.

And so Salon has, for the last six years, been searching earnestly for "evidence" of fraud, and finding nothing but "unproven charges." If I may say so, this version of your history is not credible. First of all, it begs the question -- for there is vast evidence of fraud, as the letters you've received make wholly clear. Certainly you have the right to keep insisting that there is no evidence, and Manjoo certainly has every right to quibble with whichever single claim he may perceive as bogus or exaggerated. Neither move per se, however, can negate the copious, precise and ever-growing evidence of massive fraud in 2004, any more than the tobacco companies could negate the evidence that cigarettes are lethal, or the US religious right suppress the evidence of natural selection, or of global warming.

First he points out some rather strong reporting previous done by Manjoo -- Before Nov 2, 2004.

Back then he did a fine job covering several sinister developments, including the shenanigans of Nathan Sproul, a theocratic activist whose firm, Sproul & Associates, conducted bogus voter-registration drives in at least six states, covertly registering people as Republicans without their knowledge, and often trashing forms filled out by Democrats. (As I point out in Fooled Again, my book on the 2004 election, SEC records suggest that Sproul may also have abetted the subversion of the recount in Ohio.)

Miller even used much of Sanjoo's work in Fooled Again, but since then things seem to have changed.

ex post facto he seemed far less interested in dealing with the evidence of GOP malfeasance than in jeering every effort to discuss it. Instead of careful scrutiny of that evidence, he resorted mainly to sarcastic hooting and ad hominem assault -- the same tactics that the Bush Republicans themselves have always used to cast all argument about their unexpected win as sheer insanity.

On Manjoo's claim that "Nothing was New" in the Kennedy article and that "if you've read Fool ed Again you're already familiar with everything Kennedy has to say".

Crispin, author of that very book, disagrees.

That claim is quite false. Kennedy and Rolling Stone have given us a shattering new view of the Ohio travesty, based both on prodigious journalistic synthesis and remarkable firsthand research. Its interviews alone -- especially with Lou Harris, the polling eminence, who deems Ohio stolen by Bush/Cheney -- are, or ought to be, big news. While I am proud to say that Kennedy considers Fooled Again a major inspiration, I cannot claim that he derived much information from my book. His focus is entirely on Ohio, whereas Fooled Again devotes only some 15 pages (out of 350) to the crimes and improprieties committed in that state. My book deals with the election fraud committed nationwide in 2004 -- as Manjoo knows. Why, then, would he say that Kennedy had cribbed it all from me? Far from wanting Salon's readers to assess the evidence themselves, he seems to want people not even to know about it -- certainly a strange objective for a writer with "an open mind."

Yes, Strange indeed. I have to admit I haven't yet myself read "Fooled Again", but I have decided that it's now a must. The tactics of Manjoo to make Kennedy into some sort of plagarist while making it appear that all the arguments brought forth by both him and Miller are "old news" - parellels quite closely the tactics used to tamp down the Downing Street Memos, which subsequent evidence has shown were precisely on the mark.

This odd and unexplained switch by Manjoo from intrepid investigative reporter to corporate shill is a very frightening trend. One that betrays a greater split within the Democratic Party itself. While Mark Hertsgaard at Mother Jones was talking to Ohio Dems in order to poo poo any while tin-foilish discussions of Election Fraud - John Conyers, Stephanie Tubbs-Johnson and others were snubbed and ignored. Sometimes even when they happen to be the same person, if they're story doesn't fit the pre-ordained script.

According to the journalistic groupthink, any Democrat who duly exculpated the Republicans was necessarily (a) well informed about what really happened on Election Day, and (b) being completely honest, on the record. In fact, some of those Democrats were clueless, or reluctant to go public with the truth. For instance, Bill Anthony, the Democratic chair of Franklin County's Board of Elections, has quietly contradicted what he said both to Manjoo and Baker, telling Bob Fitrakis, on the record, that he does believe Bush/Cheney stole Ohio, largely by fiddling with the numbers in the rural counties in the state's Southwest (a major vote-theft, as Kennedy explains in Rolling Stone).

He discusses the DNC report, which concludes that fraud didn't occur - but at the same time confirms the massive shortages of voting machines in democratic precints and appears to be more of political statement than a factual analysis of Ohio 2004.

Most of the rest of his article is largely an attack on the theocratic aspirations of the Bush Regime, and how Democrats repeated refuse to stand up to it.

The movement now in power is not conservative but radical, intent on an apocalyptic program that is fundamentally opposed to the ideals of the Enlightenment, on which, lest we forget, this revolutionary secular republic was first founded. The movement frankly disbelieves in reason, and in all the other worldly goods that every rational American still takes for granted: pluralism, checks and balances, "the general welfare," freedom, progress, the pursuit of happiness. For this movement, condom use is worse than death by AIDS, however many millions the disease may kill; the ruination of the planet should be hastened, not prevented, as it means that He will be returning soon; the "war on terror" is a matter not of geopolitics but metaphysics, as our national enemy is "a guy named Satan"; homosexuals should not be citizens, the US having been conceived as a "Christian republic"; and -- most relevant to this debate -- the movement's adversaries, which means all the rest of us, are not human beings with divergent interests but literal "agents of Hell," demonic entities against which any tactic, however criminal or sinful, is permissible, because they are likely to use any tactic, regardless of its sinfulness or criminality, to force their evil program on the Righteous Ones.

This is a bit more religiously focused than what I've observed. I myself believe that Bush's own religiousity is little more than a pose, one designed to place himself as the object of focus of the hard-core religious right - but that his own Personal Jesus is wealth, power and influence - not the Almighty.

I believe the Left Behinders are merely his pawns, the shock-troops in his army of Hatred and Diviness, while his own his aims and goals are more geo-economical than metaphysical. I've likened the New Right to the New Klan, covert and circumspect in their intentions - yet openly using Hate Speach against Liberals in order to indirectly say the things about minorities, women and gays that couldn't be said it polite or any other type of company.

The Original Klan was a religious organization as well, but few would argue that their actions were God-like in their intent or results.

The tragic reality of what has been occuring for the last 6 years in this country, the impact of Bush policies on our children, our elderly, our treasury and our dedicated soldiers will haunt this nation for decades, if not centuries. We are living in a very dark time, but pulling the covers over our heads to keep out the cold sinking feeling as the underpinings of our Democracy our slowly eroded away is the wrong response.

While we're standing around arguing in the courtyard about whether we might have been lied to and robbed yet again - the GOP is headed out the back door with what's left of our Freedoms tucked under their arm.

It's high time we focused on catching and stopping these bastards, on steming the tide of their facism and racism, before it's too late and the damage is nearly irreversable.

It's high time we focused on catching and stopping these bastards, on steming the tide of their facism and racism, before it's too late and the damage is nearly irreversable.

Time's running out.

Update: Mark Crispin Miller himself posted a Diary (just a few minutes before mine) about his letter to Salon and the general silence by the Liberal Media (by which I believe he means Salon and Mother Jones) on this issue. My concern in this diary and others isn't so much the reluctance by some of left to accept the truth of election fraud and to quibble about whether it was "deliberate or merely inadverdant - that issue is IMO largely irrellevant to the question when we will begin to FIX IT which so far we've completley failed to do.

Update II Let me take a moment to distinguish my point of view from Miller's. He seems appalled and surprised to be receiving the level of intense push-back on the issue of Election Fraud that has so far occured. I find this view counter-intuitive. OF COURSE people are reluctant to accept the idea that our entire democracy is founded upon a pile of lies and deception. There is no way for such a pill to go down easily. Yes, people want to cough it back up - even involuantarily. They'll perform all types of self-heimlich manuevers to accomplish this, contorting their positions into a pretzel - and still never quite managing to get the job done.

I'm not surprised by this - I welcome it.

The real challenge for those who beleive strongly in widespread election fraud in 2000 and 2004 is to patiently and methodically unbend the pretzels one twist at a time. Address the issues, leave the personalities out of it. State your evidence, document your sources and methodoligies.

Make your case.

In both his letter to Salon and his post here on Dkos, Miller, unlike Fitrakis and Herbert, has largely failed to do that, and instead has spent most of his article pointing fingers at other liberals. It's true that some of what he's saying is justified, but the claim is more strongly made when one makes a purely factual arguement rather than an emotional one.

We must rise to the challange that stands before us, one which we must meet and defeat. If we can't win this battle amongst ourselves, how do we expect to change the mind of anyone else?


Sunday, June 18

The Not-so-Closed Bigotry of the Reich-wing

<> The other day I wrote a diary Liberal Bashing : The New Racism, where in I examined how the vicious Hate Speach of the Coulters & Bradleys we see now has it's roots in the same blind rabid fear and loathing of blacks, gays, jews and women that America has struggled with for centeries.
Since Liberals aren't identified as a unique ethnic class, invective can be hurled at them that would otherwise be recognized for exactly what it is. Hate Speach. Threaten to round up all the Liberals and Gitmotize them, and people may either scowl or chuckle -- but they don't see that these people are more than a little serious about that, and in the process a great many blacks, jews and latinos will be on the firing line first.

In this diary I reveal the behind-the-curtain story that help prompt my observation.

Some who responded to my diary here and on Democratic Underground were actually offended by the suggestion that Liberals may be facing discrimination that is comparable to what Blacks faced during Slavery, Jim Crow, Racial Profiling, Violent Gay Bashing or anti-semitism. Besides the obvious self-centeredness of presuming that one persons victimaztion somehow dimishes anyone elses, the fact is that the War on Liberals actually is developing a body count, as I stated in one comment.

On your broader point on the persectution of Liberals, I think we saw it happen rather violently at Kent State 36 years ago.

But I think that we still see it everyday when people wear a Circle-Slash "W" t-shirt and get harrassed and cursed at, arrested like Cindy Sheehan - or fired for an "Air America" Sticker.

There's the case of the Federal Employee with the pro-Peace Bumper stickers being harrassed and forced to move his car by Homeland Security.

"Free Speach Zones". People tossed out of public speeches for the wrong signs and again, bumper-stickers.

Who was Eric Rudolph really targeting with the Atlanta Olymbic Bombing or his previous attacks on Abortion Clinics? What was the Oklahoma City bombing really about - especially considering it was inspiried directly by the "Turner Diaries"?

Just look at who the ACLU FOIA requests have revealed the FBI and NSA are spending thier time surveilling - instead of Al Qaeda?


Imagine if these same activities were occuring, harrasment, arrests, bombings, survellance simply because these people were part of a racial or ethnic group - rather than simply having a particular point of view, one which they have every right to have?

These events are far from an accident or coincidence, a new Jim Crow is coming - in fact, it may already be here.

In his book "Blinded by the Right", former Conservative Hatchet Man David Brock describes his gradual rise through the hard-core Neo-con circles, how he eventually reached a personal crisis point and began a radical shift in his own life and political orientation that eventual led to his founding of Media Matters, to help combat the exact same right-wing media spin and smear tactics that he himself had perfected during the "Trooper-Gate" years.

In the process he had ample oppurtunity to see many of our favorite Conservative pundits not only with their hair down, but sometimes their pants too.

If you don't know David Brock is openly gay, but that is a fact that he hid for many long years as he hurled word grenades at Liberals for the Moonie Times and later the Scaif funded American Spectator. Eventually he was outed, not voluantarily - and he found his relationships with his various Conservative friends changed little - at least on the surface.

It turns out the one of his best friends during this period, after his outing but before his eventual enlightenment was Laura Ingraham - whom he profiles in the book.

Though Gringrich, Limbaugh, and the Spectator already had substituted name-calling for reasoned conservative discourse, Ingraham and a merry band of imitators would bring Limbaugh meanness to millions of American television viewers, stigmatizing Gringichism as ignorant and inane. Laura also was a symbol of trouble Newt's revolution would have in establishing a broad-based appeal to women; she requently attacked feminisim for making women unhappy and resentful, while betraying those same qulities in her commentary. Laura's stock-in-trade was the politically incorrect sound bite. Showing up at one interview in a full-length fox coat, she mocked the "squealing baby foxes, which were cute when they were alive"

Yeah, she's a bitch - that much is clear. One who thrives on her bitchiness, but exactly how did this anti-feminist homophobe behave behind closed doors with opening gay comrade-in-arms Brock?

...of all the conservatives I had met since coming to Washington, I grew closes to Laura. For several months after we met in November 1994, we were inseparable companions. Laura drew me out of my shell; she helped me to relax and enjoy myself among the conservatives. She was amuch more prodigious networker than I was, and she was also a wicked gossip, befriending the likes of Rush Limbaugh and George Will, then repeating their often creepy confidences to me.

Considering what they often say On the Air one can only imagine what David Brock would find creepy by comparison.

Though I was now out of the closet, my socializing was still strictly confined to the conservative political orbit, and I had no romantic life. The more esconced I became in the conservative firmament, the more I felt that it would be easier for the conservatives to accept a nonpracticing homosexual.

So you see, Conservatives have no problem with Gay people - as long as they don't like, act gay - ever.

Laura took the place of a mate. We were out on the town virtually every night together, cohosted seveal parties and dinners at my home, and vacations in souther California with the Huffingtons. [Long before Arriana's split with her gay husband Michael and her own eventual disenchantment with the right] We shared a lot of laughs. Despite her public persona as a voice of Gingrichism, I also saw in Laura a glimmer of humanity, softness and vulnerability, buried beneath all of the role-playing. In candid moments, she confided she didn't believe much of what she was saying on the airwaves. Channeling into our politics our emotional problems [in Laura's case, the pain of a difficult childhood, and her tortured relations with men, whether married or not], we were both trapped in devices of our own making.

So for all you who always suspected that many on the right has been projecting their own inner demons on Liberals, Blacks and the rest of the world, your theories are now confirmed, at least in Laura's case. But how does a gay man become best friends with a rabid homophobe like Ingraham? Denial isn't just river in Egypt.

I hadn't known of Laura's antigay past at Darthmouth, where, along with her then-boyfriend Dinesh D'Souza, she had participated in the infamous outing of gay students, who were branded "sodomites," until I cringed as I read about her Dartmouth Review exploits in a 1997 profile in Vanity Fair. To make matters worse, I was quoted int the piece saying that Laura was unreserevedly accepting of homosexuality, which in my pressence she always had seemed to be.

Let me just stop to point out that Dinesh D'Souza is the author of "The End of Racism" a vicious anti-Liberal tract. (Ironically, If you Google "The End of Racism", the number one hit is a scatching review I did of the book ten years ago still posted on Geocities) According to D'Souza Racism will continue to plague us because of Liberals and the Civil Rights Act, and once we do away with both - things will be oh, so much better.

After reading the article I was chagrined and felt used but never confronted Laura about it, though Congresman Barney Frank, the openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts, did. At a black-tie gala at the Washinton Building Museum, Frank and his companion spotted Laura and me milling through the crowd. Frank approached us and proceeded to denounce Laura's history of gay bashing. I remained mute during the harangue, because I agreed with everything Frank was saying. He then turned to me and snapped, "And if you want to front her, that's fine." I was speechless, red-faced and humiliated. Of course, Frank was right, but I didn't have the courage or self-regard to do anything about it. Blithely, I continued to revel in the gossip-page glitz and heartless sarcasm of my right-wing fag hags--the Ariannas, the Lauras, and the Ann Coulters. {Brock had met Coulter during her Scaif funded behind the scenes work in support of the Paula Jones Case] At this point in life, this transparently empty right-wing circle was all I had.

It wasn't until much later that Brock finally rediscovered his missing spine and realized that Ingraham was role-playing with him, that she still harbored the same homophobic sentiments she'd expressed at Dartmouth and because he was a weapon in their war against the hated Liberals - they tolerated him and allowed him (limited) access into their inner circles, then trashed him behind his back on a regular basis.

To some extent the Naked Hate Speach we've seen coming from the right for the last decade and a half is merely role-playing as Brock mentions. And in some ways it's something much deeper, something driven by their own self-loathing - and like a classic bully they lash out at that which they fear may be a part of their own makeup, yet when those they attack finally stand-up and pop them in the nose -- they immediately collapse on the floor crying and whining, calling for the teacher to protect them from the mean, bad Liberal.

One of the comments on my original diary hit the nail on the head in to response to the issue of whether Liberal bashing is always code for bashing minorities, or whether sometimes the targets really are Liberals themselves.

.Good point about how codes aren't always in play. The people in charge on the right really DO hate liberals and liberal policies...and they ALSO use liberal as code for other groups.

Here's a thought (drawing a little on Thomas Frank's ideas): The people who are really in charge on the right - the corporate plutocrats, the old-money elites, the people who dump the money into the right-wing foundations and think tanks and elections - really do hate liberalism itself, because liberal policies cut into their power. They may also actually be prejudiced, but it's not JUST prejudice - liberal policies themselves really are the enemy of those people. Consequently, the right-wing elites DO attack liberal policies directly (by promoting free-market fundamentalism, attacking unions, etc.). But they ALSO try to turn more people against liberal policies by linking "liberal" up with pre-existing hatreds and prejudices, so that people who actually do NOT benefit from conservative policies (i.e., the vast majority of us) will give into their worst instincts, indulge their prejudices, and blame "liberals" for their problems. The elites deliberately make "liberal" code for the groups people already fear, or feel threatened by. In some cases the fear or prejudice may already be there - the targets really ARE already very racist or sexist or afraid of homosexuals - while in other cases, the fear or dislike may be partially manufactured - e.g., the result of efforts to convince people that they can't get a decent job or make ends meet because of THOSE people (immigrants, gays, women, blacks, unions, whatever) all wanting "special privileges," THOSE people and their "liberalism" are the cause of your problems, not the corporate overlords, etc.... repeat ad nauseum.

I think a lot of the liberal-bashing we're talking about is part of the specific efforts by those who really benefit from regressive policies to "activate" and re-enforce pre-existing prejudices, and to manufacture new ones, and link them all to "liberalism" as a way to defeat policies they really do hate. It's just one part of a larger strategy.

Yes, absolutely -- the goal is Regression. Taking us back to the "Golden Era" of the '50s that Gingrich loves so much. As Justice Alito pointed out during his confirmation hearings, they want to take us back before the Supreme Court got so uppity and actually started to enforce the 14th Amendment in Brown V Board of Education and ended Segregation. These people to this very day -- see that as a mistake, one which they intended to incrementally undo while we Liberals pay them no real mind, cowed and tramatized (they hope) by their incessent attacks on our patriotism, intelligence and even - our right to exist in America.

But I think Americans are made of sterner stuff - and that ultimately once they're ultimate ends are exposed, these people are in for a rude surprise, don't you?