Saturday, March 10, 2007

Maybe Our Leaders are Completely Incompetent

The one thing I could be persuaded to give props to Our Leaders for (other than a historical level of corruption) is the economy: If they could have done a better job, they could have also done a worse job.

And then I read this from Combrade Abelson in Barron's Marxist Economic Review:
...Treasury Secretary Paulson continued to provide good cheer to the president by flat-out claiming that this is the strongest economy within his memory. He must have been born yesterday, what with productivity growth grinding to its lowest level in nine years, housing gurgling ever deeper in the tank, gasoline prices inching back up toward $3 a gallon, the hoopla about ethanol driving prices of grains higher, to be followed shortly by rising costs of meat (as old McDonald could have told Mr. Paulson, cows and pigs and chickens got to eat, too, and what they eat is grain) and the feeblest job creation of any recovery in a half-century.
Aw, nuts!

Not maybe Our Leaders really are completely incompetent... :(

WTF Story of the Day

The headline:
F.B.I. Head Admits Mistakes in Use of Security Act

One needs to read no further because it just begs enough issues right there.

Is the shmuck claiming that after six years he had no clue how the PATRIOT Act was being enforced by his agency?

And if he had a clue, he's a major, major liar.

Either alternative clearly demonstrates -- proves! -- such incompetence that his immediate firing or resignation is inarguable and mandatory.

Then of course, it raises similar questions about the administration that keeps a major agency headed by such an incompetent.

Yet again, this administration has done virtually nothing of any benefit to the nation in six years of rule.

And that's why the GOP is going to be in deep-shit trouble in 2008. A major asshole like Rudy isn't going to help. The Big Media smoke machine will be on the GOP's side of course, as it's been for nigh thirty years now but even the 24/7 lies from the media won't help, specially when they're losing viewers and readers.

One Day of Some of Our Leaders' Successes

At one point on 9 March 2007, the top of the Times' main page showed this:

Failing with the FBI (actually a long-time system for supervising the FBI i.e don't supervise the FBI); screwing vets; and being rightly despised in Brasil.

It has to make you proud of Our Leaders and their historically high level of ineptitude. And lucky us are the beneficiaries!

Our Leader Shows His Love for Freedom for Americans

Multiple media outlets are focusing on the unsurprising story that the FBI seems to have been abusing its powers under the Patriot Act to issue so-called "national security letters" (NSLs), whereby the FBI is empowered to obtain a whole array of privacy-infringing records without any sort of judicial oversight or subpoena process. In particular, the FBI has failed to comply with the legal obligations imposed by Congress, when it re-authorized the Patriot Act in early 2006, which required the FBI to report to Congress on the use of these letters.

That the FBI is abusing its NSL power is entirely unsurprising (more on that below), but the real story here -- and it is quite significant -- has not even been mentioned by any of these news reports. The only person (that I've seen) to have noted the most significant aspect of these revelations is Silent Patriot at Crooks & Liars, who very astutely recalls that the NSL reporting requirements imposed by Congress were precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a "signing statement" as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act's renewal into law. Put another way, the law which the FBI has now been found to be violating is the very law which George Bush publicly declared he has the power to ignore.

It was The Boston Globe's Charlie Savage who first drew attention to the Patriot Act signing statement in a typically superb article, back in March, 2006, which reported:

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."

Bush wrote [Ed. note: This, of course, is not meant literally]: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "

The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.

When a country is ruled by an individual who repeatedly and openly arrogates unto himself the power to violate the law, and specifically proclaims that he is under no obligation to account to Congress or anyone else concerning the exercise of radical new surveillance powers such as NSLs, it should come as absolutely no surprise that agencies under his control freely break the law. The culture of lawlessness which the President has deliberately and continuously embraced virtually ensures, by design, that any Congressional limits on the use of executive power will be violated.

That NSLs are a dangerous and oversight-less instrument which entail enormous potential for abuse is hardly a new revelation. But those who tried to warn of such dangers were tarred and feathered as allies of the Terrorists, people who wanted to prevent the Commander-in-Chief from protecting the American people. Who else would possibly express concerns about The Patriot Act?


Back in November, 2005, when the re-authorization of the Patriot Act was being "debated," the abuse by the FBI of these NSLs was documented in an excellent expose by The Washington Post's Barton Gellman:

The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. . . . .

A national security letter cannot be used to authorize eavesdropping or to read the contents of e-mail. But it does permit investigators to trace revealing paths through the private affairs of a modern digital citizen. The records it yields describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.

In the same Post article, the genuine threat posed by this invasive instrument was made clear by Bob Barr:

"The beef with the NSLs is that they don't have even a pretense of judicial or impartial scrutiny," said former representative Robert L. Barr Jr. (Ga.), who finds himself allied with the American Civil Liberties Union after a career as prosecutor, CIA analyst and conservative GOP stalwart. "There's no checks and balances whatever on them. It is simply some bureaucrat's decision that they want information, and they can basically just go and get it."


Continuing our tour, as it were, of the highlights of the Cheney/Rove/Bush administration, a headline that says it all:
Gonzales, Mueller Admit FBI Broke Law

Friday, March 09, 2007

Those Lucky Republicans Have Their Nominee Already

John McCain declared the loser by the Wall Street Journal.

Not that it's going to be great to actually, like, run as a Republican.

Meanwhile, Wall Street is corrupting both parties' candidates.

The Golden Age is Here, Thanks to Our Beloved Leaders

The FBI underreported its use of the USA Patriot Act to force businesses to turn over customer information in suspected terrorism cases, according to a Justice Department audit.

One government official familiar with the report said shoddy bookkeeping and records management led to the problems. The FBI agents appeared to be overwhelmed by the volume of demands for information over a two-year period, the official said.

"They lost track," said the official who like others interviewed late Thursday spoke on condition of anonymity because the report was not being released until Friday.

Isn't Our Leaders' ineptitude breathtaking? Other than greed, corrruption, dishonesty and pandering, do they actually get anything right?

I have great doubts how hands on Our Beloved Leader is but his administration certainly has his personality of a complete fuck up.

Speaking of which, Our Leaders' greatest hits (although they missed outing Valerie Plame):
The 2000 election. Katherine Harris. Bush v. Gore. Halliburton. The Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing. Jack Abramoff. David Safavian. Ken Tomlinson. The manipulation of terror alerts. The suppression of science on global warming. The case for war in Iraq. The Downing Street memo. Ohio in 2004. Voting machines. Claude Allen. Jeff Gannon. The lack of planning for "postwar" Iraq. Dusty Foggo. Katrina. Michael Brown. Enron. Wiretaps. Bank records surveillance. The $8.8 billion that went missing in Iraq. The neglect of wounded soldiers. The politicization of the Justice Department.
Meanwhile, the surge for dummies:
Or not. As the New York Times reports today, the man in charge of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq is recommending that the president maintain the escalated number of troops there until at least February 2008.
Speaking of which, the surge lowdown:
Those congressmen who accepted the “surge” and the media who supported it were sold a bill of goods. One of the top U.S. commanders in Iraq admits it.

According to the New York Times, Lt. Gen Raymond Odierno, “the day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq has recommended that the heightened American troop levels there be maintained through February 2008.”

That’s if the “surge” is to have any chance of success: bring material benefits to the people of Baghdad, give them a sense of calm and security, put a damper on the civil war and allow Iraqi political leaders a chance to somehow patch their country together.

Otherwise, the Times article makes clear, the consensus in the Pentagon is that the buildup will fail. Indeed, the surge to date is “little more than a trickle” and will only reach its goal of an additional 28,000 troops on the ground by June. Yet, under previously-announced plans, troops were supposed to be withdrawing from Iraq already by September 2007.

According to many experts, even maintaining troop levels through next February is far from enough. An unclassified version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate states that “the Iraqi Security Forces, particularly the Iraqi police, will be hard pressed in the next 12 to 18 months to execute significantly increased security responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia militias with success.”

So—the question which has to be asked—and answered.

1. Are we really to believe that General Odierno and his bosses–General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the gang in the White House—that they just discovered that the surge, as sold to congress and the media, would not work? That the build up by a U.S. military already stretched to the breaking point would have to continue many months longer than indicated?

The answer to that question is a no-winner. If the generals didn’t realize just a few months ago that the concept of a limited surge as presented to the public was a farce, they were woefully ignorant of the situation in Iraq and should have never been given command. If they did lie—for that’s what we’re talking about—then they should lose their jobs.

The obvious White House strategy was this: Let’s at least get this surge thing rolling. Once underway, we simply oblige our weak-kneed congress to up the ante. If not, we accuse them of refusing to support our boys on the ground.
We win the 2008 elections with that. ( As Tom Engelhardt among others has so clearly pointed out)
Indeed, the administration has already been able to increase the build up from 21,000 to 28,000.

2. The administration has never been obliged to specify how long the buildup would continue. When recently asked that question, for instance, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs blandly told Pentagon reporters: “We’re looking, as we should, at each of the three possibilities: hold what you have, come down, or plus up if you need to,”

C’mon guys. Your generals on the ground have already told you the current policy is doomed. It’s truth time. It’s also time for everyone trying to avoid that issue—in congress and the mediam not to mention most of the herd running for president- to pull their heads out of the sand.

Do the folks in the Pentagon or anyone really believe that the U.S. public and Congress will support higher troop levels well into an election year? So what’s the point of the whole exercise? Sending more American troops, not to mention thousands of Iraqis, to death and dismemberment, pouring hundreds of billions more dollars down the Iraqi drain.
And to what end?

To maintain a charade that will ultimately allow George W. Bush and the Republicans to blame a lilly-livered Democratic congress and/or the next occupant of the White House for America’s “defeat” in Iraq.
We have the best leaders in the world!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Little Micro-Soft Weenie Bashing; Wisdom from a Right Wing Anti-American

From the 7 March Wall Street Journal Evening Wrap newsletter:
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told a Senate committee today that cumbersome immigration restrictions are diminishing American competitiveness. Echoing a complaint that's often heard from Silicon Valley, the technology executive said that he feels "deep anxiety" over immigration policies that he argues drive off the world's best and brightest workers at a time when they are most needed by businesses.
Get it?

This great American, who America and its freedoms allowed and enabled to become the country's richest person by letting get away with an essentially illegal monopoly, believes American students are dopes and without money-grubbing geeks from other countries, America isn't worth $#!t.

Hey, Bill: it's Windows that isn't worth $#!t, except to ignorant masses who don't know any better.

God help America if the nation's richest geek is the nation's smartest man. (Hint: He isn't, not by a long shot.)

If he was so smart, Windows would be at least as good as Mac OS X -- I mean ease of use and stability, and PC's wouldn't be commodity devices made out of cheap crap but, you know, things that would, like, work reliably and well and breakdown suddenly just because of its cheapness.

And by the way: M$ is the last &^%$ing company in this country that needs corporate welfare. $40+ billion isn't enough to get the allegedly best and brightest into America? Or for that matter, to establish satellite offices through the world -- oh, wait, they have them already.

Newsweek S*cks Off Our Next Leader -- Thereby Continuing the Death Spiral of Mainstream Journalism

It would be hard to overstate the enormity of the favor that Newsweek is doing for Rudy Giuliani this week. The mag's enormous cover story is a profile of Giuliani bearing the cover line "The Real Rudy," which under normal circumstances would lead you to expect that you'll be getting an unvarnished portrait of the former New York mayor.

But I just checked in with Rudy's preemient biographer, Wayne Barrett. His take on Newsweek's effort? "It's an application for access, that's what this piece is. They wanted access to the Giuliani campaign, they had none. They submitted this application."

The piece actually has this title:

"Master of Disaster"

...and is filled with comically hyperbolic phrases like this one:

Born in 1944, Rudolph William Giuliani was raised to be tough in moments of peril.
What's more, while the piece does revisit some of Rudy's infamous low points, it also recycles myths about Rudy's mayoralty that, to put it charitably, didn't belong in a piece bearing the cover line "The Real Rudy." Newsweek says:

As long as Rudy got results, the public didn't particularly care how he did it, or how many fights he picked. The squeegee men were gone, as were turnstile jumpers and the more notorious pornographic emporiums.
This is bullshit, pure and simple. The public did in fact care "how he did it." Polls showed that while New York City residents did applaud the goals Rudy reached, majorities were decidedly opposed to his tactics. A New York Times poll in April of 2000, in the wake of the police shooting of Patrick Dorismond, found that 50% disapproved of Rudy's handling of crime, his signature issue, and concluded that "New York City residents have a decidedly negative view of Mr. Giuliani's handling of race relations." This is not a small falsehood on Newsweek's part, incidentally. The discomfort New Yorkers felt with Rudy's tactics, as opposed to his results, go directly to the heart of questions about the man's character -- and whitewashing this discomfort out of the public record is just dismal journalism.

That's not all. The notion that Rudy banished the "squeegie-men" from New York is another myth, according to Rudy biographer Wayne Barrett -- yet there's little question that this myth will figure centrally in the heroic narrative of Rudy that's taking shape with the help of publications like Newsweek. Barrett told me: "The squeegie men were gone before Rudy took office. Ray Kelly [the top cop under former Mayor David Dinkins] got rid of them. [Rudy police commissioner] Bill Bratton admitted this in his 1998 book. He wrote that `ironically, Giuliani and I got credit for the initiative,' and that `only politics prevented David Dinkins and Ray Kelly from receiving their due.'"

Finally, there's the small matter of Rudy's conduct on 9/11. Barrett's latest book details a wealth of counterintuitive info about his performance that day. Barrett tells me that he spent an hour and a half on the phone with a Newsweek reporter, much of it discussing the stuff he uncovered about Rudy and 9/11. But get this -- while Newsweek did credit Barrett for a revelation about the criminal past of Rudy's father, the mag didn't include a single word from Barrett's interview or book about 9/11.

"A serious magazine like Newsweek shouldn't refuse to ask any questions about what happened that day," Barrett tells me. "I don't care if I'm quoted or not -- that's not the point. The only thing I care about is getting journalists to look critically at his 9/11 performance. If Newsweek just rolls over and bows to myths, they will help make him President."

The Young Today

One of the fun things about being old is dissing the dumb and young. OTOH, just because the older generation disses the younger generation all the time doesn't mean that there is no merit to their complaints.

What the children of the "greatest generation" have wrought....
A little smug self-absorption might be a time-honored trait of at least some subsets of the under-30 crowd.

But over the past few decades the prevailing disposition among college students -- today labeled Generation Y or Millennials -- has slid into full-blown narcissism, according to a study released this week.

The "all about me" shift means much more than lots of traffic at self-revelatory Web sites such as YouTube and Facebook. It points, says the study's author, to a generation's lack of empathy, its inability to form relationships -- and worse.

"Research shows [narcissists] are aggressive when they have been insulted or threatened," says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and lead author of the report, called "Egos Inflating Over Time." "They tend to have problems with impulse control, so that means they're more likely to, for example, be pathological gamblers [or] commit white-collar crimes."

For some, the study validates their suspicions of educational and parenting techniques that put undue emphasis on the positive: tot-level self-esteem boosterism, luxury-as-necessity entitlement, and what one calls "instant fame-ification."

"I can't imagine you can do a study on Gen-X, Gen-Y, Gen-Z and not have the takeaway be an inappropriate application of self-esteem," says James Twitchell, an English professor at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and an author of books on cultural shifts in the US. The trend is apparent even in student grading. "Grade inflation is just [another] adaptation of Lake Wobegon to everyday life. Everyone is 'above average,' " he says.

But others -- including proponents of the self-esteem movement, workforce experts, and students invited to assess the study's unflattering mirror -- take issue with the apparent lack of nuance in the study, still being reviewed for publication in a scholarly journal.

These young adults are "hard to define," says Jody Turner of the Los Angeles business-strategy consultancy "Most kids coming out of college are looking at ways of contributing but not giving up their material goals," she says, and finding ways to do that by marrying Gen-X creativity with the "community desire" of other generations.

"You do have to be careful. There's a lot of conflicting evidence," says Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington who has studied youths and morality. "Millennials are also among the most hardworking and least inclined to self-destructive behavior," she says. "They've behaved better than the Gen-Xers or the baby boomers. ... They're closer to their parents than [were] previous generations."

Still, according to the study, 30 percent more college students showed "elevated narcissism" in 2006 compared with 1982. Over 25 years, researchers have posed a series of "narcissistic personality inventory" questions, each with two possible answers, to more than 16,000 students, with the latest survey conducted last year.

That makes "current college students more narcissistic than baby boomers and Gen-Xers," its authors conclude. (Data points between 1982 and 1990 are few, says Professor Twenge, also the author of "Generation Me.")

That quality can be amplified when school's out.

"Gen-Y is the most difficult workforce I've ever encountered, because part of them are greatest-generation great and the other part are so self-indulgent as to be genuinely offensive to know, let alone supervise," says Marian Salzman, a trendspotter and senior vice president at JWT, the global advertising agency.

Millennials themselves don't completely reject the new label. But they offer some modifications.

"I know people who are attention- seekers and only think about themselves," writes Jessica Riggin, a sophomore at California State University, Monterey Bay, in Seaside, Calif. In an e-mail, she attributes the behavior mainly to overconsumption of low-brow media, which leads to crass celebrity-emulation among many of her peers. She doesn't buy in. "I don't care who Anna Nicole's baby's father is," she writes, "and I don't care who's admitting themself [sic] into rehab."

Ms. Riggin prefers another kind of social participation: She volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center near her school and at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"We live in a society that emphasizes the power of the individual," notes Zach Samson, a senior studying journalism at Northwestern University near Chicago. "So it is very easy to see why my generation would be considered so narcissistic." Growing up, he was told he was "special," he says, and that he could accomplish anything he worked for (and he ended up interning with Oxfam, the antihunger group, last year in Thailand).

"But my parents were not emphasizing that I was this grand person who was better than everyone else," Mr. Samson says, "just that I was unique, as was every other person."

That kind of parenting is in line with the positive aspects of the self-esteem movement -- success tied to relationships and the development of empathy, the inverse of narcissism, says Janis Keyser, coauthor of "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be," the parenting bible of the '90s.

Some of the Twenge-study answers meant to indicate narcissism ("I like to be the center of attention," for example) actually strike Ms. Keyser as "signals of somebody who is feeling insecure."

Self-esteem today is often approached in terms of "personal worth" -- feeling good about oneself, says Chris Mruk, professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. But feeling good about oneself without demonstrating competence, he adds, does lead to narcissism.

"Our society tends right now to be a little more lopsided toward the feeling-good end, the individual end," says Professor Mruk. "You really do need to have both competence and worthiness. The middle point is where the balance would be," he says, "and where well-being would occur, both socially and individually."

Our Leader's Secret, in an Image (on the Right, of Course)

Link. (Click on it to see it clearly.)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Our Leaders' Loved Ones; That Notwithstanding, Heroic Truth-tellers

Dirty commie lefty hippies spat on Vietnam returnees -- an urban myth that's never been proven (and see this).

So commie lefty hippies engage... well, it doesn't matter. If it happened, it involved isolated incidents by isolated nutjobs.

But that's worse when treating the wounded as garbage is the policy of radical right-wingers, then it's apparently OK:

Who Would Haqve Thought it?? It's Not Just Walter Reed!!!

"It Is Just Not Walter Reed"
By Anne Hull and Dana Priest
The Washington Post

Monday 05 March 2007

Soldiers share troubling stories of military health care across US.
Ray Oliva went into the spare bedroom in his home in Kelseyville, Calif., to wrestle with his feelings. He didn't know a single soldier at Walter Reed, but he felt he knew them all. He worried about the wounded who were entering the world of military health care, which he knew all too well. His own VA hospital in Livermore was a mess. The gown he wore was torn. The wheelchairs were old and broken.

"It is just not Walter Reed," Oliva slowly tapped out on his keyboard at 4:23 in the afternoon on Friday. "The VA hospitals are not good either except for the staff who work so hard. It brings tears to my eyes when I see my brothers and sisters having to deal with these conditions. I am 70 years old, some say older than dirt but when I am with my brothers and sisters we become one and are made whole again."

Oliva is but one quaking voice in a vast outpouring of accounts filled with emotion and anger about the mistreatment of wounded outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Stories of neglect and substandard care have flooded in from soldiers, their family members, veterans, doctors and nurses working inside the system. They describe depressing living conditions for outpatients at other military bases around the country, from Fort Lewis in Washington state to Fort Dix in New Jersey. They tell stories - their own versions, not verified - of callous responses to combat stress and a system ill equipped to handle another generation of psychologically scarred vets.

The official reaction to the revelations at Walter Reed has been swift, and it has exposed the potential political costs of ignoring Oliva's 24.3 million comrades - America's veterans - many of whom are among the last standing supporters of the Iraq war. In just two weeks, the Army secretary has been fired, a two-star general relieved of command and two special commissions appointed; congressional subcommittees are lining up for hearings, the first today at Walter Reed; and the president, in his weekly radio address, redoubled promises to do right by the all-volunteer force, 1.5 million of whom have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But much deeper has been the reaction outside Washington, including from many of the 600,000 new veterans who left the service after Iraq and Afghanistan. Wrenching questions have dominated blogs, talk shows, editorial cartoons, VFW spaghetti suppers and the solitary late nights of soldiers and former soldiers who fire off e-mails to reporters, members of Congress and the White House - looking, finally, for attention and solutions.

Several forces converged to create this intense reaction. A new Democratic majority in Congress is willing to criticize the administration. Senior retired officers pounded the Pentagon with sharp questions about what was going on. Up to 40 percent of the troops fighting in Iraq are National Guard members and reservists - "our neighbors," said Ron Glasser, a physician and author of a book about the wounded. "It all adds up and reaches a kind of tipping point," he said. On top of all that, America had believed the government's assurances that the wounded were being taken care of. "The country is embarrassed" to know otherwise, Glasser said.

The scandal has reverberated through generations of veterans. "It's been a potent reminder of past indignities and past traumas," said Thomas A. Mellman, a professor of psychiatry at Howard University who specializes in post-traumatic stress and has worked in Veterans Affairs hospitals. "The fact that it's been responded to so quickly has created mixed feelings - gratification, but obvious regret and anger that such attention wasn't given before, especially for Vietnam veterans."

Across the country, some military quarters for wounded outpatients are in bad shape, according to interviews, Government Accountability Office reports and transcripts of congressional testimony. The mold, mice and rot of Walter Reed's Building 18 compose a familiar scenario for many soldiers back from Iraq or Afghanistan who were shipped to their home posts for treatment. Nearly 4,000 outpatients are currently in the military's Medical Holding or Medical Holdover companies, which oversee the wounded. Soldiers and veterans report bureaucratic disarray similar to Walter Reed's: indifferent, untrained staff; lost paperwork; medical appointments that drop from the computers; and long waits for consultations.
More. (Emphasis added.)

The good news is that Our Leaders are succeeding at making the GOP toxic, anathema to numerous voters. At this rate, Election 2006 will be seen as but a harbinger....

The Times Finally Lists Abuses by Our Leaders

Except it's limited to abuses of civil rights. And of course it belongs as a series of front page articles -- a bill of particulars against Our Leaders -- not hidden away as a Sunday editorial.
Restore habeas corpus

One of the new act's most indecent provisions denies anyone Bush labels an "illegal enemy combatant" the ancient right to challenge his imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious.

Habeas corpus is nothing remotely like a get-out-of-jail-free card for terrorists, as supporters would have you believe. It is a way to sort out those justly detained from those unjustly detained. It is essential to bringing integrity to the detention system and reviving the United States' credibility.

Stop illegal spying

Bush's program of intercepting Americans' international calls and e- mail messages without a warrant has not ceased. The agreement announced recently — under which a secret court supposedly gave its blessing to the program — did nothing to restore judicial process or ensure that Americans' rights are preserved. Congress needs to pass a measure to force Bush to obey the law that requires warrants for electronic surveillance.

Ban torture, really

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that McCain trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules. This amounts to rewriting the Geneva Conventions and puts every American soldier at far greater risk if captured. It allows the president to decide in secret what kinds of treatment he will permit at the CIA's prisons. The law absolves American intelligence agents and their bosses of any acts of torture and abuse they have already committed.

Many of the tasks facing Congress involve the way the United States takes prisoners, and how it treats them. There are two sets of prisons in the war on terror. The military runs one set in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. The other is even more shadowy, run by the CIA at secret places.

Close the CIA prisons

When the Military Commissions Act was passed, Bush triumphantly announced that he now had the power to keep the secret prisons open. He cast this as a great victory for national security. It was a defeat for America's image around the world.

Account for 'ghost prisoners'

The United States has to come clean on all of the "ghost prisoners" it has in the secret camps. Holding prisoners without any accounting violates human rights norms. Human Rights Watch says it has identified nearly 40 men and women who have disappeared into secret American- run prisons.

Ban extraordinary rendition

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to believe he will be tortured. The administration's claim that it got "diplomatic assurances" that prisoners would not be abused is laughable.

A bill by Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, would require the executive branch to list countries known to abuse and torture prisoners. No prisoner could be sent to any of them unless the secretary of state certified that the country's government no longer abused its prisoners or offered a way to verify that a prisoner will not be mistreated. It says "diplomatic assurances" are not sufficient.

Congress needs to completely overhaul the military prisons for terrorist suspects, starting with the way prisoners are classified. Shortly after 9/11, Bush declared all members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to be "illegal enemy combatants" not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions or American justice. Over time, the designation was applied to anyone the administration chose, including some U.S. citizens and the entire detainee population of Guantánamo.

To address this mess, the government must:

Define 'combatant'

"Illegal enemy combatant" is assigned a dangerously broad definition in the Military Commissions Act. It allows Bush — or for that matter anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the United States.

Screen prisoners fairly

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Guantánamo. The vast majority will never even be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without charges.

Under legal pressure, Bush created "combatant status review tribunals," but they are a mockery of any civilized legal proceeding. They take place thousands of miles from the point of capture, and often years later. Evidence obtained by coercion and torture is permitted. The inmates do not get to challenge this evidence. They usually do not see it.

The Bush administration uses the hoary "fog of war" dodge to justify the failure to screen prisoners, saying it is not practical to do that on the battlefield. That's nonsense.

Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal government's race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents whenever possible.

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American agents.

Oh yes, it is time to close Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable symbol of the abuses committed by this administration, with Congress' complicity, in the name of fighting terrorism.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Gaming of U.S. Attorneys: The Short but Complete Version

George W. Bush learned at least one lesson from his father: You want your federal prosecutors to be team players who will throw a political elbow or two when the White House needs some help.

When George H.W. Bush faced a tough reelection battle in 1992, his administration tried to destroy Bill Clinton by implicating him in criminal investigations. But those plans collapsed when federal law enforcement officials, including a U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, resisted what they saw as improper White House political pressure.

Now, the younger George Bush is moving to ensure that he won’t be sabotaged by similarly independent-minded prosecutors. The Washington Post reported that the White House approved the firing of seven U.S. attorneys at the end of 2006 after the Justice Department identified them as insufficiently supportive of the President’s policies.

The Justice Department got input on the firings from congressional Republicans, including Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico who criticized the performance of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, the Post reported. [Washington Post, March 3, 2007]

Iglesias has alleged that two New Mexico legislators – whom he says he will identify only under oath – pressured him to speed up indictments of Democrats before Election 2006. At the time, the Republican congressional majority was in jeopardy, in part, because of a series of GOP corruption scandals.

Some of the fired prosecutors handled those Republican corruption cases or served in offices that could play significant political roles in Campaign 2008. For instance, ousted San Diego U.S. Attorney Carol Lam oversaw the prosecution of Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, whose case had opened a window on Washington war profiteering.

President Bush also replaced the U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, which was a focal point of investigative activity during Campaign 1992 when George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign was digging for dirt on Bill Clinton – and which could be mined again if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic presidential nominee.

In 1992, the elder George Bush found himself in an uphill battle against the upstart Arkansas governor who had impressed many Americans with his energetic plans for the future, especially when contrasted with Bush’s difficulty in articulating a clear rationale for a second term.

As the campaign clock ticked down, the hard-ball players in the Bush camp were looking for a disclosure about Clinton that would be so damning as to make him unelectable. One scheme had been to float a false rumor that Clinton had tried to renounce his citizenship while a college student during the Vietnam War.

American Justice

When Billy Cottrell was first sent up to Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, he thought he had landed the perfect job. A brilliant student of theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Cottrell has a high-functioning form of autism that makes it difficult for him to pick up on people’s emotions, but also gives him a grave appreciation for detail. At Lompoc, he thought, he would do secretarial duty in the “boiler-room office,” spending many hours alone, filing, sorting, typing and proofreading. He could be useful.

Before his first day, however, prison officials got nervous. They knew Cottrell was smart; they’d seen his physics textbooks and writings. And wasn’t this the kid who’d been convicted of blowing up Hummers somewhere in Los Angeles? Thinking he might find a way to rig the water heaters to blow up the prison, Cottrell says, they denied him the job.

Next, Cottrell was offered a job mowing Lompoc’s copious lawn. This appealed to Cottrell’s jittery need for physical exertion. Before he was arrested, he could run a marathon in under three hours, even sleep-deprived and hopped up on Rockstar energy drink. Once again, however, the penitentiary’s guardians said no: Cottrell says prison guards worried that he might use the gasoline in the lawn mower to make a bomb.

Finally, Billy Cottrell — who got kicked out of high school a few times yet wrote an essay to the University of Chicago so impressive he was accepted into its competitive math-and-science program, who snagged an appointment at Caltech to study the arcane complexities of string theory, and who many prominent scientists consider a genius — found a job he could keep. He stood up to his knees in filth, sorting through his fellow inmates’ putrid detritus in the prison dumpsters.

It’s a job most prisoners get as a single day’s punishment. Cottrell did it for three and a half months.

Since the day he arrived at Lompoc, 18 months ago, say his lawyers, family and friends, Cottrell has been harassed, threatened and taunted by the prison population and, in some cases, also by the guards and the administration. Because in the rigid world of prison, Cottrell has been labeled a terrorist.

Lompoc guards whispered the word at him as he passed. Visitors heard guards refer to him as their “very own ecoterrorist.” Cottrell later learned he had been used as an example in a training video on how to deal with terrorists in prison, “so now every prison guard in the country recognizes me as a terrorist on sight,” he wrote in a January 10 letter to the L.A. Weekly. He has been denied common privileges such as exercise, visitors and phone calls. Ultimately, he was banished to solitary confinement — the Hole, in prison parlance — like a violent thug.

And all because of one night in the summer of 2003, when Cottrell helped two friends deface and destroy dozens of sport utility vehicles in the name of the environment. Those who know of Cottrell and his tough prison sentence stretching to 2010 — the judge piled on an additional three years, without benefit of a jury rendering — say Cottrell is being mishandled, persecuted and, within the prison walls, compelled to become the very radical his prosecutors argued he was in court.
It makes one sick.

Way more here

Why Big Media Journalism is Succeeding: Only Incompetents Get Rewarded and Promoted

Judy Miller's lies got onto the front page and, at the same time, there was a significant dearth of (correctly) skeptical stories.
A few years ago, David Brooks, New York Times columnist and media pundit extraordinaire, penned a love letter to the idea of meritocracy. It is "a way of life that emphasizes ... perpetual improvement, and permanent exertion," he effused, and is essential to America's dynamism and character. Fellow glorifiers of meritocracy have noted that our society is superior to nepotistic backwaters like Krygystan or France because we assign the most important jobs based on excellence. This makes us less prone to stagnancy or, worse yet, hideous national clusterfucks like fighting unwinnable wars for reasons nobody understands.

At Radar we are devoted re-readers of the Brooks oeuvre and were struck by this particular column. It raised interesting questions. Noticing our nation is stuck in an unwinnable war (or two), we wondered if America hasn't stumbled off the meritocratic path. More specifically, since political pundits like Brooks play such a central role in our national decision-making process, maybe something is amiss in the world of punditry. Are the incentives well-aligned? Surely those who warned us not to invade Iraq have been recognized and rewarded, and those who pushed for this disaster face tattered credibility and waning career prospects. Could it be any other way in America?

So we selected the four pundits who were in our judgment the most influentially and disturbingly misguided in their pro-war arguments and the four who were most prescient and forceful in their opposition. (Because conservative pundits generally acted as a well-coordinated bloc, more or less interchangeable, all four of our hawks are moderates or liberals who might have been important opponents of the war—so, sadly, we are not able to revisit Brooks's eloquent and thoroughly meritless prognostications.)

Then we did a career check ... and found that something is rotten in the fourth estate.
The rest is here, including studies of the four specimen: Tom Friedman, Peter Beinart, Fareed Zakaria, and Jeffrey Goldberg, as well as the losers, those who suffered for being right on this naty, pointless war: Robert Scheer, William S. Lind, Jonathan Schell, and Scott Ritter.

Moral: Honesty is not the best policy, kids.

The good news: Big Media journalism is putting itself out of business. Maybe the big journo media will disappear, replaced by niche cable channels, websites and bloggers but days of the print and broadcast dinosaurs will be soon ending....

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Genius of Mrs. Our Beloved Leader

Not that anyone should be surprised by "Ba-Lite", and so on and so forth:
Laura Bush, Iraq expert, just now on Larry King Live:

Many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, uh, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everyone.

Yeah, it's such a great place that Iraq. So stable, well, except for that pesky "one bombing a day." Once again, Laura Bush blames the media -- and Larry King let her get away with it, of course. Laura should talk to CNN's Michael Ware about that -- actually Larry King should talk to him, too.

That damn Reuters said there were at least two bombings today:

Iraq's Shi'ite vice president and a cabinet minister were wounded in an apparent assassination attempt on Monday when a bomb killed six people at a ministry in Baghdad where they were attending a ceremony.

Near the volatile western city of Ramadi, a suicide bomber blew up an ambulance at a police station, killing 14 people including women and children, a local hospital official said.

Otherwise, it's a really stable place.

Larry asked Laura Bush about the twins, but he didn't ask the most important question: Since, things are going so well in Iraq, Laura, have your daughters signed up for a tour of duty yet?

Right Wing Values [Not Safe for the Children!!!]

They really do have no issues with prostitution. Really.

Hannity doesn't
. At least not with these; they're patriotic. Judith Regan doesn't have a problem either.

The General Shows Us How Important the Love for Our Troops at Walter Reed is....

-- to the righting-nut part of the blogosphere.

Hint: not at all:


Sunday Not-So Funnies