June 2004
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Posted June 30, 2004
Public Radio Killed the Intel Star

A smattering of articles confirms the linkage between indicted intel contractor David Passaro and the death of Afghan detainee Abdul Wali, a connection we speculated about on June 18. That same day, the Washington Post ran the story Civilan Charged in Beating of Afghan Detainee:

A member of the U.S. military who was based in Asadabad when thedeath occurred said three CIA workers -- one full-time employee and twocontractors -- took part in interrogating Wali. Special Forces guards checked onhim every several hours. About an hour after one interrogation session, guardsentered the holding cell and discovered that "the man was dead," he said.

Immediately after Wali's death, he said, the CIA personnel left the base byhelicopter. The soldier later learned that the CIA station chief in Kabul hadbeen told that Special Forces troops had killed the man, according to themilitary source and an official in Washington. When the Special Forces teamthreatened to make the case public, the military source said, the CIA personneladmitted what had happened...

...Wali's final days were chronicled by an American, Hyder Akbar, 18, whosefather, Sayed Fazl Akbar, had returned to his native Kunar province to becomethe governor there after the fall of the Taliban. Portions of a tape-recordeddiary that Hyder Akbar kept during a visit with his father were played Dec. 12on National Public Radio.

If you haven't yet listened to the chilling account in the original program, "Teenage Embed", we urge you to take an hour and do so now.

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Posted June 28, 2004
Your GOP-Controlled Congress

On this day when the Supremes have decided that prisoners have rights, it seems like a good time for our semi-regular check-in with Roll Call, to see how your Congress is furthering the bizarre policies of the Bush Administration.

In the House:
•The ceiling on the national debt has been raised another $690 billion (HR4613). What it means: the debt ceiling is now $8 trillion;
•Decided not to withhold parts of intel agency budgets until they cough up documents on detainees (amendment to HR 4548). What it means: They'll release the papers if you close your eyes and wish the finest wish that a U.S. Representative can make;
•Rejected Democratic proposal to make tax cuts pay-as-you-go (amendment to HR4663). What it means: voodoo economists can continue to cut taxes for the rich, and pay for it not with spending cuts, but by adding it to the aforementioned national debt.

In the Senate:
Passed the 2005 defense authorization bill (S2400), $447.2 billion total. Interesting and/or alarming provisions:

•Private contractors may continue to interrogate prisoners;
•$36.5 million to develop tactical nuclear weapons ("mini-nukes"). What it means: Bush is preparing to use nukes on the battlefield, he thinks nuclear war is winnable;
•$10.2 billion for the missile defense program, and allow it to be deployed BEFORE it is tested. What it means: *ka-ching* for aerospace corporations; a future administration will be able to reassure us sooner that we're safe from missile attack, who cares if it works;
•Rejected attempt to shift funds FROM missile defense TO explosive detection technology, WMD screenings at U.S. ports, and blocking terrorist access to weapons-grade radioactive material. What it means: the color-coded alert system is all we need;
•Retained the ban on photos of military caskets;
•Failed to make veterans' health care an entitlement, those services will continue to be funded (or not funded) on a year to year basis;
•Rejected proposal requiring the Justice Department give the Judiciary Committee all documents on interrogation policy.

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Posted June 25, 2004
The Short List

To: JK
From: Mary Beth Cahill
Subject: Veep possibilities

Here is the list of possibilities that you wanted me to draw up.I think you're right; we need to stop acting coy, admit that the field isn'tvery deep, and just pick someone already.

Howard Dean. Strengths: Energized the party, recruitednew young voters, national grassroots network still in place. Weakness: none I can think of. Judgment: Do you think he's forgiven us for all those dirtytricks we used against him? I'll check his blog.

John Edwards. Strengths: Centrist, DLC cred. Maybe thesmartest guy in the primaries (present company excepted, ha!). Weakness: Triallawyer; the whole communicating-with-the-dead thing. Judgment: This is thechoice for a balanced-ticket—northerner & southerner, moderate & moderate,lawyer & lawyer, placid & energetic, old & young.

Hillary. I just put her on the list because she's left me50 zillion voice mails to the effect that she "might" be interested. Thismorning my phone rang, I was in the shower, and when I answered it was her. Shepretended it was a wrong number, that she had meant to dial the bakery counterat Dean & Deluca. Right.

Dick Gephardt. Strength: labor union base would be goodfor ticket. Weakness: no eyebrows. Judgment: Possible last resort.

John McCain. Strengths: War hero, itching for revengeover South Carolina in 2000, principled positions on issues. Weakness: positionsare Republican positions. Judgment: If we want to invite a right-wingRepublican onto the ticket, why not just renominate Joe Lieberman?

Joe Lieberman. See McCain.

Governor Gary Locke. Strength: Doesn't have a record offailures. Weakness: Doesn't have a record of successes. Judgment: Give me afreaking break.

How about asking Teresa to run? Strength: Smart, feisty.Weakness: Joe Nascar hates that. Also, not U.S.-born. But I think we can"discover" a birth certificate that says she was born on the grounds of the U.S.Embassy in Mozambique. I'll put Dick Morris on it.

Mary Beth

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Posted June 21, 2004
Objects in mirror are older than they appear

I am consistently amazed at the extent to which absolutely brilliant people are afflicted by enormous blind spots. Take for instance Mr. Paul G. Allen. The Microsoft co-founder is doing the responsible thing by being a philanthropist and innovator. His foundation gives away millions of dollars annually to arts, education and conservation; he has enriched Seattle with the Experience Music Project, and the new Sci-Fi Museum; his ownership has made Seahawks football respectable again; and this morning Spaceship One brought commercial space flight closer to reality.

Here in his hometown, Allen's Vulcan group is planning a major biotech research district in the South Lake Union area. Allen is the property owner. The plan is to attract biotech companies that will move to Seattle and create a 'Silicon Valley of the life sciences'. Truly a cutting-edge, 21st century project. And yet what form of public transportation does Allen want built in South Lake Union? A streetcar line—i.e., transportation invented in the 19th century.

What is the record for new streetcar systems of the past 25 years? Dismal: ridership is a tiny percentage of total travel, and no positive impact on traffic congestion. Therefore, a streetcar in South Lake Union guarantees that the biotech district's streets are going to be congested. And why would a company want to move into a situation like that?

Instead of looking into the future of transportation, Allen is looking into a rose-colored rearview mirror. The people who make their living from trains and buses make it seem as though those are the pinnacle of what humans can accomplish. But there ARE transit alternatives. Come on Paul, get with the times.

Sidebar: Let it all hang out in the Center Of The Universe. On the Saturday closest to the summer solstice, Seattle's Fremont neighborhood is the venue for a lively Solstice Parade, a hippie version of Mardi Gras. Last Saturday's parade had the dancers and bands that annual paradegoers have come to expect, as well as the famed nude cyclists (more this year than ever before).

No parade is complete without floats, and this one has them, mostly beasts and political commentary.

The people-watching is great too. This year chalk was handed out before the parade, and many people turned 34th Street into artwork. Of course, a parade also has to have fun nuns,Xena, Warrior... Prince(?) (his site is here),plumed majorettes,hula musicians, fruit,silly hats,flowerchildren grooving to the music, andthe world's all-time greatest genius. This one had all those, and more.

There is only one criticism of this year's Solstice Parade, and I direct it toward my fellow paradegoers. People, ask yourselves: Am I in the parade? If the answer is No,then get the hell out of the goddamn street. Your friends will find you eventually, that's what your cell phone is for.

All photos by Mr_Blog

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Posted June 18, 2004
The Delusional-in-Chief

All Things Considered, 6/17/04 clip start @:04:18
ATC: President Bush today maintained that there is an ongoing relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda thatexisted before, which seems to contradict the staff statement that your commission came out withyesterday. Can you clarify what that contradiction might be?
Commissioner Jamie Gorelick: The staff statement says esssentially, Iraq andSaddam Hussein played no role in the 9-11 plot, and that Saddam Hussein was notan active supporter of Al Qaeda. To the extent that individuals may assert thatthere were contacts from time to time, that may well be true. But what the stafffound was that there was no collaboration.
ATC: VP Cheney has said that there's overwhelming evidence of an Iraq-AlQaeda connection. Is that a fair statement, do you think?
JG: Well, all I can say, and I will stick to the wording of our staff statement,the staff would not agree with that conclusion. And I would also say that theAdministration had our staff statement well in advance. It did take issue with anumber of factual assertions, none of them having to do with the statementsabout the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. So our expectation is... that if theAdministration had contrary facts, it would have brought them to our attention.
ATC: One of the lines in the staff statement... "the contacts between Iraq andAl Qaeda do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship." Iguess the question is, does that mean specific to the attacks of 9-11, or doesthat speak to something broader than that?
JG: It speaks to something broader than that.

Report after report has failed to find evidence of collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq, but George W still insists there was. Now the 9/11 Commission also says there was no connection regarding the World Trade Center attack, nor on any other terror actions. Maintaining a belief despite repeated evidence to the contrary; isn't that roughly the definition of insanity?

Sidebar: Who was intel agent "Dave"? A grand jury has indicted intelligence contractor David Passaro in the death of an Afghan detainee named Abdul Wali. This appears to be the continuation of a story that first aired last year on WBEZ-FM's This American Life. In the program "Teenage Embed", Hyder Akbar, American-raised son of a provincial governor, tells of the death while in custody of an Abdul Wali. Is this the same Abdul Wali in the Passaro case? One clue: one of the agents who informs Akbar of Wali's death is named "Dave".

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Posted June 17, 2004
You know you want it

The interim Iraq Government wants it. Heads of state, editorial pages and NGOs say Iraq should have it. Even George W. agrees they should have it. We're talking about sovereignty of course, and preparations are underway for the magic June 30 deadline—which is to say that the insurgents are assassinating ministers as fast as the interim government can appoint them.

George has made the promise of full sovereignty numerous times. But what are the Resident's men saying? Let us screen out the chatter and isolate on one representative source.Last month, plain-spoken Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt was telling the BBC's "Talking Point" that Iraq was getting it all:

when we pass over sovereignty it won't be at half measureSource

But the previous month, April, the State Department was saying something different. Staff described "limited sovereignty"; Colin Powell told Reuters that Iraq will have to give up some sovereignty for security reasons.

Powell's view is the realist's position. Kimmitt is basically a PR flack, speaking for Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bremer. In the bizarre mindset of the Bush White House, full sovereignty means partial sovereignty. Bush is supposed to lead our foreign policy, yet given the choice between Powell pragmatism and Pentagon fantasy, what he's giving the American people is the PR spin. Surely he knows he's not giving Iraq full sovereignty. Surely he knows the American people know that full sovereignty, now, will lead to chaos. So instead of continuing to lie about it, why doesn't he come out and admit it? Mr_Blog will accept a logical and reasonable explanation. We can't give Iraq full sovereignty until they are able to defend themselves, so until then our forces need to be able to operate unhindered. There, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Sidebar— Delicious Irony. A study of Americans lacking health insurance has been released by the group Families USA. Key facts: One-third of non-elderly were uninsured during 2002-03. Whites are the largest uninsured group, but you are more susceptible to losing coverage if you are African American or, especially, Latino. As a result, uninsured-ness is rife in the South and Southwest.

The worst state? Texas, with 43.4% of the non-elderly population uninsured—over 8.5 million people. Add this to the shameful state of Texas education and the environment, and the harm inflicted by Bush on his so-called home state continues. I'll have my irony with a raspberry vinagrette.

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Posted June 15, 2004
Wing-ed Terror

Things with wings are out to get me, or so it seems of late. The first was spooky in a "they're in the house" horror-movie kind of way. The second was kind of Woody Allen-comical.

A couple of weeks ago Heather (you can call her Ms_Blog) and I thought we heard the gentle tapping of rain against the window of the sun room, which is where we keep the TV. Funny how perception colors your mood, because after a few days of enjoying the occasional pattering, we suddenly noticed it was getting louder. And happening when it was sunny outside. And that it stopped for a minute if you banged on the wall.

After an hour or so of daylight observation, we discovered that the pattering was caused by a nest being colonized in our wall by an expeditionary force of wasps. The once-charming pattering was actually the hegemonic invaders bustling around and smacking their exoskeletons into each other. They had gained entry through a gap in the trim of an old, cheaply made window, for which I blame the old, cheaply inclined Norwegian who did the 1960s addition to our 1920s house.

First I investigated the green alternatives, but the only information I could find presumed an exposed nest in a tree or on a home's exterior. So I would have to acquire some serious chemicals. Since the DHS is on watch, I would have to go retail. The nearby Fred Meyer (you might know it as Kroeger's) had a number of sprays, and I chose "Maxide Wasp, Hornet & Yellow Jacket Killer".

      Next, I crafted a plan of action. A "bee suit with helmet" was recommended by several online sources. Give me a freakin' break. Instead, I resorted to a balaclava, goggles, and gore-tex raingear sealed at the wrists, ankles and waist with duct tape. A bendy drinking straw attached to the nozzle would allow me to spray at right angles. I was ready to strike.

June 12, 2004. Time: 2000 hours. Attired in my (hopefully) sealed outfit, I ascend a stepladder into the theater of operations. Swiftly, I give the nest entrance a 4-5 second squirt. Lesson 1— the label reads "Fast Knockdown," and they're not kidding. Not one squadron rises to counter my surprise attack. Attaching the straw, I spray inside the entrance, downward, then upward. I unleash half of my chemical arsenal. Inside, on the other side of the window, Heather is signaling and saying something, and I make out that "they're getting louder." She goes to fetch her Sony Pressman and attempts to record the sounds.

Two minutes and the battle is over. There is no resistance, and no reinforcements arrive; my improvised wasp suit is unnecessary. Lesson 2— wasps return to the nest at night. Thank you, University of Minnesota Extension Service. The nest went silent, and days later there is still no activity. To be safe, I'm keeping the remaining half-can of spray. If you think about it though, that's probably more poison than the Coalition has uncovered in Iraq; maybe it would be wiser to get rid of it, what with the election coming and Dubya likely to take advantage of every opportunity to wage telegenic war on 'terror'.

The next day Ms_Blog and I took a cross-Sound ferry to Bainbridge Island, in order to spend the afternoon at Bloedel Reserve. The Reserve is a spectacular private park, orginally the estate of the Bloedel timber family. There are many zones of forest and pastures, and gardens both naturalistic and formal. There is even a Japanese style garden that is the setting for the estate's guest house.

Among our favorite sights are the two enormous white swans. Today though they were not in their usual pond, and we were almost resigned to not seeing them when we spied them gliding across a pond near the main house. We took advantage of the photo op, then followed them along the shore to the other end of the pond. To our delight the huge male swan emerged from the water and approached us across a grassy slope, dipping his head to dig for food. Lesson 3— male swans are big, baby. We took more photos as he strode back and forth, showing off his shiny black face, beak and webbed feet. I soon learned that black was also the color of his personality.

The bastard charged me like Sean Penn outside the Viper Room. Honking and flapping its massive wings (6 foot wingspan at least, swear), it latched onto my jacket with its beak, jerking its head from side to side like Sean Penn eating a Viper Room appetizer, possibly the buffalo wings. Speaking of wings, a long, muscular wing hurts when it strikes your knee. Avoid it wherever possible.

I tried to keep still and shoo it away, but I found that doesn't work with swans. It just wouldn't let go. I was considering panic as a viable strategy when Heather advised a different one: "RUN," she yelled. Lesson 4— humans out-accelerate swans. Forced to let go of my jacket, he turned to Heather, who pre-empted any further nonsense by swinging her camera at it. Met by this strong deterrent, our winged attacker retreated and re-joined its mate in the water.

Later, at the gatehouse on our way out, the docent laughed. "Crazy bird," she said. "He does that all the time."

Ugly duckling? Still ugly—deep down.

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Posted June 8, 2004
At Home With The Tenets

"George! I'm going to the office. Do you want me to stop anywhere on the way home?"
      "No, I'm expecting a... delivery. Have a good day."
      "What are you going to do today?"
      "Oh, you know. Oprah. Dr. Phil. Get Smart. Watch my stories. "
      "Uh huh. Well I'm glad you're having such an easy transition."
      "Real easy! It's really kind of a relief not having to worry about national security...
      "I know."
      "...Rove always trying to screw me..."
      "Mmm. Are you going to install that new outlet? Did you find the instructions in the Time Life book?"
      "No, I have other sources. I called Ahmed, and he called a friend, who called his brother-in-law..."
      "His brother-in-law."
      "Code Name 'Screwball'. An electrician. Solid bona fides. He's sending me the plans. Actually, they should have arrived by now..."
      "Well, while you're thinking about that, it's the second Tuesday of themonth, so the paper boy is collecting today."
      "I already took care of him yesterday."
      "We had an unofficial meeting. Billy's part of my new action network.
      "Billy's my eyes and ears out in the neighborhood. He's provided solid intel that it's the Peterson's Great Dane crapping on our lawn. So I'm going to circulate a rumor that Peterson is being investigated by the SEC's Martha Stewart Division. And there's some scary shit going on out there. Wal-Mart wants rezoning approval for a big box six blocks from here. I'm meeting with the NSCC tomorrow to devise a counterinsurgency strategy."
      "The NSC?"
      "NSCC. Neighborhood Security Consciousness Council"
      "Whatever. I have to go. Don't forget to put the recycling out on the curb."
      "We don't do recycling anymore."
      "I canceled it. The recycling driver didn't pass his background check."
      "Meaning we're not letting anyone on our property who can't provide a passport, birth certificate or Costco card."
      "George, we need to talk."
      "Sure, honey."
      "George, I'm starting to worry about you. All this spying around the house has to stop. You're not Director anymore. You're out of it. Give yourself some time off. Relax. Focus on us. What about John's college? That's what you told the President you were staying home to work on."
      "Wait'll you see the photos Merlin got me of the Dean of Admissions! It's a slam dunk, honey."
      " *sigh* "

Sidebar— Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004. A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at? 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation.We are trying to get unemployment to go up and I think we're going to succeed.Facts are stupid things. The Contras are the moral equivalent of the FoundingFathers. We're doing everything we can. Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.I'd rather be in Philadelphia. How are things in your city, Mr. Mayor? Mistakeswere made. We begin bombing in five minutes.

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Posted June 3, 2004
Just a few bad apples

Abu Ghraib was awful. We want to believe soldiers like Charles Graney and Lynddie England were acting on their own. It wasn't official policy. It was just a few bad apples. Those sadists don't represent us.

And yet a trickle of reports is coming faster now, that policymakers created an atmosphere that encouraged or condoned abuse of inmates. And apparently the trail leads to the Pentagon, with Rumsfeld personally approving the harsh interrogation policy. There is even smoke at the White House, where a memo by counsel Alberto Gonzales, warning that U.S. war crimes laws could apply to senior officials, raised the specter of Bush officials being prosecuted by a new Administration. Gonzales urged exemption of the Afghan war from the Geneva Convention.

That was in early 2002, and the exemption (no prisoner of war status for detainees in Afghanistan) made no mention of Iraq or Iraqis. So bring on the War Crimes Act! Here are some ideal candidates for prosecution, named in a pair of stories by Dan Frosch that ran in The Nation and Alternet. Frosch details an incredible story of U.S. "corrections advisors" given the job of rebuilding the Iraqi prison system—and how those officials had been forced to leave their stateside jobs due to outrageous human rights violations in the prisons they supervised.

Frosch's reports are not being picked up widely, you're not going to know about them unless you read The Nation or Alternet. As of today there are only 5 hits in Google News.

Everyone should read these stories; they confirm that Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident. What happened at Abu Ghraib was exactly the M.O. of the people who were in charge. Graner, England et al were "just following orders." That they had a good time doing it was just a bonus.

Exporting America's Prison Problems The Nation
Uncle Sam Wants You Anyway Alternet

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