Friday, January 28, 2005

Gonzales isn't fit for dog-catgher

Despite my recent waggishness, suggesting that Alberto Gonzales wasn't to blame and that the real daemon is Dubya (umm, second thought, Cheney, Dubya's an "IANAL"), I have to step forth and demand that our senators refuse to confirm his nomination as the highest law officer in the land. First off, I don't believe his denial cited in that previous post. Why? Because Gonzales is a lying sleazebag (see here and here and here).

Then we have Gonzales's complicity in TortureGate (here and here and here). Normal people just don't do this kind of stuff. Yeah, yeah, I know, he's a lawyer, but still....

Then there's Gonzales's role in executions in Texas, covering up or omitting any kind of information that might cast a clemency petition in a positive light. (see also this).

For more on the above, see this also.

I can't think of a worse candidate for the nation's top law enforcement position.

Hell with deference to the executive, and hell with laying the blame solely on Dubya ... Gonzales is an insult to all that believe in the law. If not paying a nanny's taxes is a death sentence for confirmation, surely in any rational world, he shouldn't even be given the time of day by the Senate. Vote him down, senators. Please.

Friday fishblogging

"You looking at me? You looking at me?"

(for reference, sabre squirrelfish, Palau,
2004/01/04, Nikon N80/28-80mm/Ikelite
housing with Ikelite DS-125 strobe).

Friday weirdness

According to The Sun, a couple got the "wrong" DVD:

A DEVOUT Baptist couple spoke today of their disgust after they claimed they bought a classic musical DVD featuring Doris Day from their local supermarket, only to discover it was an Italian porn film.

Alan and Anne Leigh-Browne, from Wellington, Somerset, had been expecting to enjoy watching the Pajama Game, a romantic comedy featuring the 1950's icon.
. . .
Retired doctor Alan, 67, said he picked up the film, which was sealed in plastic wrapping, for £2.99 from the bargain bin of a Safeway supermarket in nearby Taunton last Monday.

On Thursday the couple, who are regular attenders of their local Baptist church, settled down with a cup of tea to watch the 1957 film which has a U (universal) certificate.

Mr Leigh-Browne explained: "We are big fans of Doris Day and were looking forward to the film, but we knew something was amiss when a warning flashed up on the screen advising under 18s not to carry on watching.

"Then some topless young women appeared and started talking in Italian - we were horrified, it's not what you expect from a Doris Day film.

"It was a pretty raunchy, explicit film, it certainly pulled no punches. My wife and I were very shocked but we watched it until the end because we couldn't believe what we were seeing.
. . .

A spokeswoman for Morrisons, who now run Safeway, said they would be willing to investigate the incident.

She said: "Regrettably the customers involved would neither leave their
contact details nor return the DVD to their nearest store or head office after being urged to do so on several occasions.

"This here is evidence. I say, evidence!" -- Sheriff Buford T. Justice

ROFL. Just couldn't tear their eyes away from it. . . .

Read the full article. You may be able to figure out what's probably going on here.

(tip 'o da hat to Buzzflash for the link)

Why the death penalty must be outlawed

According to the N.Y.Times, they may seek the death penalty in the case of the suicidal person who allegedly caused the massive train wreck in California:

The charges include the special circumstances of using the train, which could make the man, Juan M. Alvarez, eligible for the death penalty. Mr. Alvarez may also face federal charges in the train derailment.

He was to stand in court Thursday afternoon and answer the charges, but his appearance was postponed until Friday, prosecutors said, because he was too weak from wounds he made to his wrists and chest before the wreck.

Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, said in an interview that he would not decide whether to seek the death penalty until the case was thoroughly reviewed by his office.

His voice firm with anger, Mr. Cooley called Mr. Alvarez a self-centered man whose aborted suicide attempt on the Glendale railroad crossing led to 11 deaths in the early morning darkness Wednesday. Two hundred people were injured. The body of one man was burned so badly that it had yet to be identified.

"Because this man was distressed, 11 people are dead from his selfishness," Mr. Cooley said. "They said he was not well enough to appear today. Hopefully, they will patch him up so we can get this case rolling."

Yes, I know, eleven deaths is a tragic thing. But Mr. Cooley seems to be motivated more by anger and hatred (or could it be politics?) than any rationality. The guy was trying to commit suicide. "Gee, let's help him! That'll scare the pants off him!"

To be sure, I'm not sure that they can even make a murder case stand here, I think the only person that Mr. Alvarez intended to kill was himself. And then he seems to have changed his mind even at that, and then tried to get the car off the train grade. At best he may be guilty of manslaughter, or negligent homicide, possibly, but I don't see a murder prosecution ... with a death penaly at stake ... unless someone's out playing politics here. And that, my friends, is the biggest "crime" here.

The part that really frosts me is this: "They said he was not well enough to appear today. Hopefully, they will patch him up so we can get this case rolling." Quick, patch him up so we can hang him. Whatta maroon. . . .

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday fishblogging

Creature from the blue lagoon

(for reference, Napoleon wrasse, Palau,
2004/01/04, Nikon N80/28-80mm/Ikelite
housing with Ikelite DS-125 strobe).

Monday, January 17, 2005

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks. . . .

For MLK day, why not a nice excerpt from one of his speeches to show why George Dubya Bush is not entitled to shine MLKII's shoes, much less invoke his name in some lame photo-op. . . .

From Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" speech:

I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

. . .

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received the regular promises of peace and democracy and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs.

So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men.

Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call "fortified hamlets." The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these. Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These, too, are our brothers.

. . .

At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism."
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.

Timeless words. Feel free to substitute for "Vietnam" any other word you think appropriate. Maybe if Dubya'd gone over to Vietnam, he might not be such a clueless berk.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Bill Safire just loves a good crook

According to Nixon's apologist Bill Safire:
3. On judges jailing journalists for refusing to reveal sources: Mainstream media have good reason to be angry about being unfairly jumped on, and no reason to be depressed and docile for fear of seeming self-interested. If the press can't promise sources that we won't rat on them, coverage would cease to be robust and uninhibited; government and corporate corruption would go unreported.
Ummm, so Bob Novak (bought-for-and-paid-RNC-hack) might have to fess up to which maladministration flack had told him to out a CIA secret agent who was trying to find and neutralize nuclear weapons programs??? I'd say that clamming up about who did what in the maladministration is the opposite of "robust and uninhibited" reporting. Shame on him. I say lock the criminal bastard up. This has nothing to do with journalistic confidentiality and fair play for whistleblowers unless you are of the hallucinatory impression that Novak thought that carrying the maladministration's water for them was in some sense "whistleblowing". . . . Of course, any sane person would say that Novak, desperately trying to protect the maladministration, was in fact a flack for Dubya, and that this is the very kind of information (cozy arrangements between the maladministration and friendly "journalists") that ought to be brought to light.

And Safire's columns on the WoMD (continuing, strangely enough, into this year and bizarrely insisting that there were WoMD despite even the maladministration's officially ending the search) puts Safire into the same Swift boat of behind-the-scenes "spinners" for the maladministration.

It's not "self-interest" that's behind Safire's and Novak's machinations for the maladministration. . . . Ummm, unless they're getting paid "under the table", perhaps? Say, Bill and Bob, was Armstrong Williams talking about you when he said he wasn't the only one on the take?
But why should mainstream media be alone in resisting this nationwide judicial assault on the people's right to know wrongdoing? . . .
Huh??? The "wrongdoing" here is the outing of Valerie Plame. What's this "judicial assault on the people's right to know wrongdoing"? Ms. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, tried to tell us about the maladministration's incompetence and mistakes (see also above concerning Safire's continuing denial on the falsity of the WoMD claims). The Republicans have been doing their damnedest since then to try to discredit Mr. Wilson (and that was why they outed Ms. Plame).
. . . Where is the legal profession, which should not only see danger in an unrestrained judiciary, but would be next in line to lose much of its own privilege of confidentiality with clients? Where are consumer groups, often reliant on whistleblower revelations in newspapers? And where are the preachers who may be threatened with contempt of court for not testifying about penitents engaged in peculation?
Hate to say it, Bill, but it's the maladministration that has decided that the government should be allowed to listen to the conversations of a suspect and their lawyer. And they didn't base this on some 'extension' of any supposed encroachment on journalistic confidentiality to attorney-client privilege cases. And it was Ken Starr that asked a half decade ago, at the behest of the Republicans, to breach ACP for Vince Foster's lawyer, but who was fortunately slapped down for this by the U.S. Supreme Court (one of my two letters to the editor published by the New York Times was on this subject).
4. On mainstream media's feeling that President Bush doesn't give a hoot about what we say or write: That's his loss more than ours. . . .
Nope, Bill, it's our loss. When he's the chief executive of the United States, and he refuses to listen to any bad words, it's our problem.
. . . He may deliver an uplifting second Inaugural Address, but still does not appear thoughtful or adept at answering questions.
Ayep. And what do you deduce from that, Dr. Watson?

The reason: Bush holds quarterly, rather than the traditional monthly, news conferences. This lack of regular rehearsal costs him familiarity with issues, and costs his administration the discipline of deadlines for suggested answers. As the debates showed, Bush gets better with practice. He is not as good as he thinks he is when winging it.

Still shilling for the Doofus-In-Chief, eh, Bill? He's just "out of practice", is that it? If so, why don't you suggest he "practice" some more? Wouldn't that be the appropriate response? ... unless you really don't believe this yourself, Bill. . . . You're right, he's pathetic when "winging it". What that means is that he can occasionally read speeches that others (such as yourself, Bill) might craft for him that at least have superficial structure and consistency (even if factually inaccurate), but that when he's trying to think on his own, he shows the true nature of his intellectual capacity. Has nothing to do with practice, Bill. And you know that. But you're just a fundamentally dishonest sort.

Torture can be just the ticket ... just keep it illegal, please.

Armando over at DailyKos has a thread about torture under conditions of extreme necessity, where I tossed in my legal two cents worth. Quoth he (from a BBC article):

The outgoing head of the US Department of Homeland Security has said torture may be used in certain cases in order to prevent a major loss of life. Speaking to the BBC, Tom Ridge said the US did not condone the use of torture to extract information from terrorists. But he said that under an "extreme set" of hypothetical circumstances, such as a nuclear threat, "it could happen".

Here's my take on this. The "nuclear option" in any discussion of torture and terrorism is to put forth an extreme and counter-factual hypothetical of a person who knows about a bomb and to posit that you know that you can only get the information from this person by using extreme torture. So you're faced with the terrible decision of engaging in behaviour which you would think would normally be unjustifiable and horrific (at least one would hope so, and such seems to be the tacit assumption of those that use this specific argument), but under the circumstances, necessary to prevent the much greater harm of doing nothing (I'll ignore the obvious fallacy of bifurcation here).

Extreme hypotheticals, of course, make bad law. But even so, here's a good rejoinder to such absurd hypotheticals: If you're convinced that you're doing "the greater good" by torturing the individual and getting the information to save those thousands of lives, go for it. Just don't expect to get off scott-free. Hell, if it's for "the greater good" for the suspect person to be illegally tortured to achieve this great savings of life, then it's also for the greater good for you to lay down your freedom as well, in order to save the masses. Do what you have to, and then take your lumps. You'll have the solace, as you sit and rot in prison for torture, of knowing that you saved all those people ... and you did it without corrupting the rule of law. Kind of like throwing yourself on a grenade to save your buddies ... not really a wise idea in isolation, but under the circumstances, it could be admirable.

The same issues arise in the case of Fourth Amendment law, in searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment says that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Violations of the Fourth Amendment have generally been discouraged through exclusion at trial of the evidence thus obtained, thus "punishing"the bad behaviour of the law officers (I'd note that one alternative means of deterring such Fourth Amendment violations, making the malfeasors civilly or criminally liable for their illegal actions, would be vigourously opposed by law officers and would stand no chance of passing into law, even if it would make more sense from a deterrent standpoint. I'll probably discuss this side issue later in another post someday).

The requirement that searches be "reasonable" has generally been interpreted as requiring a warrant for any search or seizure. Of course, getting a warrant has seemed to be too troublesome, too time-consuming, or too difficult to at least some people, so various ways have been found to carve out exceptions to the warrant requirement. I list some of these:
  • Exceptions have been made in some cases for "good faith" searches based on legally flawed warrants. The assumption is generally that the warrant flaw was technical (and that a valid warrant could have been obtained), and that it serves no purpose to punish such searches as the officers executing them thought that the warrant was valid and thus there is no deterrent effect on future bad behaviour in punishing the search (e.g., through exclusion of evidence).
  • There has been a loose definition of what constitutes a "search", such that warrantless inspections are allowed by simply defining them not to be "searches". This might include such things as highway "safety stops" and drug-sniffing dogs in public places.
  • There has been some erosion of the requirement that warrants be obtained in some situations where what would normally be a search is considered "reasonable". This is generally done under the rubric of denying that someone would have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" under the circumstances, even if the very same "search" would otherwise be unreasonable without a warrant. An example would be cell searches in prisons. Prisoners are not written out of the Bill of Rights; it applies to them in full force as well. This is finessed by saying that prisoners just can't have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" within their cells.
  • Perhaps the lamest incursions on the search requirement are the "exigent circumstances" ones. This would include searches such as the "pat-down" searches by law enforcement officers when stopping people ("Terry searches") and searches incident to arrest ("SITA"), purportedly for the purpose of protecting police officers from hidden weapons or other such things that might endanger the officers. Automobile searches have been some combination of "exigent circumstances" (the car is "mobile" and may disappear while waiting to get a warrant), and "reasonable expectation of privacy" (for some reason, judges seem to think that you shouldn't have as much expectation of privacy about what you keep in your car, as opposed to, e.g., your house ... and if you're driving a motor home, that's the way it goes).
I'll look at the reasoning for this latest type of exception in more detail here. The most compelling practical reason for such "exigent circumstances" exceptions isn't that there is some reason why the Fourth Amendment doesn't (or shouldn't) apply; it is rather that public safety considerations, and to a lesser extent prudential reasons (such as "preservation of the evidence") are thought to outweigh your Fourth Amendment rights. By appealing to such more important priorities, the law has decided that your rights are fine, as long as they don't get in the way of government business and efficiency. But by allowing such a balancing in the first place, these "exigent circumstances" exceptions encourage a number of bad tendencies ... and a further erosion of your rights.

The first bad tendency is that it tends to encourage attempts to find more and more "exigent circumstances" and more and more reasons for why the circumstances are "exigent". By not setting a bright line, but rather a fuzzy "balance" of "competing interests", your rights are now at the whim of a judge who decides what is more important (and present trends are, naturally, to find more and more instances where the government's needs come before your rights ... once one starts carving out exceptions, it's easier to find the next and the next). This is further compounded by the inexplicable decision of our justice system to allow all the fruits of such searches to be allowed in court if the search is deemed to be valid. If in fact the purpose of the "exigent circumstances" exception is to protect the law enforcement people and others, then the purpose is served when any dangerous items are found; anything incidental that is found doesn't further the purported government interest, but does encourage those that would seek such exceptions.

The second bad tendency is that it tends to encourage law enforcement officers to lie. Judges tend to take law officers at their word when they claim exigent circumstances. A famous example is Mark Fuhrman jumping the wall at O.J. Simpson's Brentwood estate. The claim Fuhrman made is that he thought that someone might be hurt (or be in danger of being hurt) at the Brentwood estate, and thus he was justified in jumping the fence, rather than going for a search warrant, in the interest of public safety. Of course, Fuhrman was lying; he simply wanted to get on the property, and no coherent claim has ever been made as to why Fuhrman might have thought that such exigencies would be the case. Similarly, when the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act ("CALEA Act"), which has to do with wiretaps on mobile phones, was being updated a few years back, the Justice Department was pushing for an "exigent circumstances" exception to the ability to trace cell phone locations. They wanted to be able to do such a trace for 24 hours without a warrant, if they believed that someone's life or safety was in danger. But I'm reasonably convinced that the government just wanted to get the first few bites of the apple for free, and that they'd find some reason to claim "exigent circumstances" if they wanted the information enough but didn't have the goods to get a warrant.

The purpose of the Fourth Amendment's requirement for a warrant is spelled out in the amendment itself. The warrant must meet some strong evidentiary standards, and the decision as to whether this standard is met is left to a (supposedly impartial) third party, the magistrate or judge, not the law officer in pursuit of the suspect with their own motivations and personal agenda. "Exigent circumstances" exceptions do an end-run around these checks and protections, and leaves it up to the law officer to decide how important your rights are.

I suggest that one very practical response to the claims of law enforcement officers that "exigent circumstances" should be excused would be to say, "sure, go ahead and search if you think you need to, but anything that you find that is not related to safety will not be admissible at trial." If the law enforcement officer truly believes that there is a safety issue, and it's not just a ruse to do a warrantless search, they should be glad to be able to do a public service and save lives. No second guessing the officer (or equally bad, taking their word for it); the officer's decision stands, whether good or bad, and if any evidence is excluded, it was the officer who made the determination, based on the circumstances, that such was a justifiable price. Any officer that doesn't want to make such a decision can go get a warrant, if they think they can meet the the requirements for such.

Which brings us back to the use of torture and the guy with the information about the nuclear bomb: Sure, if you think you can justify an illegal act to yourself as for the greater good, go do it. Then stand up and pay the price; it was you that made the determination, so stand by your decision. And if you have any doubts ... well, maybe you shouldn't. . . .

Friday fishblogging on Sunday

Sex-ed for fishes. . . .

(for reference, orange-finned anemonefish, Fiji,
2004/11/04, Nikon N80/105mm macro/Ikelite
housing with 2 Ikelite DS-125 strobes).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

KKK wins right to "adopt a highway"

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the KKK's efforts to sponsor a highway in Missouri's "Adopt-A-Highway" program. I believe that this may be the right decision; if the gummint is to open a program to public participation, they can't discriminate on the basis of viewpoint of the participants. One could argue, though, that states have the right to set viewpoint neutral criteria for participants in gummint programs, such as requiring that participants not discriminate in membership on the basis of race. I guess it depends on whether you consider the highway program as a "government program" or whether it is more a "limited public forum" for the propagation of free speech (in return for services provided to the government; here through the picking up of trash). The fact that the program allows for the participants to put up "sponsorship" signs would tend to weigh on the side of it being, at least in part, a "free speech" issue.

But the "Adopt-A-Highway" program requires that the groups that participate actually go out and keep their stretch of highway clean. I wonder if some people might think of ways to keep those Klansmen busy and out of mischief. The thought of a bunch of Klansmen along the side of the road picking up garbage does indeed tickle my fancy ... perhaps they ought to dress themselves in bright orange robes for the occasion. . . .

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Not to say "I told you so" . . .

. . . but I told you so.

For the most brain-dead Rethuglican sycophants out there, still living in fantasy world and hoping that you haven't been snookered by your Glorious Leader, here it is in black and white (colours you folks might be able to understand):

The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.

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

. . .

Intelligence officials said there is little left for the ISG to investigate because Duelfer's last report answered as many outstanding questions as possible. The ISG has interviewed every person it could find connected to programs that ended more than 10 years ago, and every suspected site within Iraq has been fully searched, or stripped bare by insurgents and thieves, according to several people involved in the weapons hunt.

. . .

"The September 30 report is really pretty much the picture," the intelligence official said.

Yep, everything you know is wrong, Dubya. You might have know that if you hadn't been so friggin' blasted on booze during your TANG days so you didn't black out and forget the sage wisdom tendered by the Firesign Theater back then. . . .

How to make friends and influence people ... Republican style

Courtesy of the Washington Post:

The work on documents is not connected to weapons of mass destruction, officials said, and a small group of Iraqi scientists still in U.S. military custody are not being held in connection with weapons investigations, either.

Three people involved with the ISG said the weapons teams made several pleas to the Pentagon to release the scientists, who have been interviewed extensively. All three officials specifically mentioned Gen. Amir Saadi, who was a liaison between Hussein's government and U.N. inspectors; Rihab Taha, a biologist nicknamed "Dr. Germ" years ago by U.N. inspectors; her husband, Amir Rashid, the former oil minister; and Huda Amash, a biologist whose extensive dealings with U.N. inspectors earned her the nickname "Mrs. Anthrax."

None of the scientists has been involved in weapons programs since the 1991 Gulf War, the ISG determined more than a year ago, and all have cooperated with investigators despite nearly two years of jail time without charges. U.S. officials previously said they were being held because their denials of ongoing weapons programs were presumed to be lies; now, they say the scientists are being held in connection with the possible war crimes trials of Iraqis.

It has been more than a year since any Iraqi scientist was arrested in connection with weapons of mass destruction. Many of those questioned and cleared have since left Iraq, one senior official said, acknowledging for the first time that the "brain drain" that has long been feared "is well underway."

Good strategy, folks. Get people pissed off at you, screw them over so they have a reason to hate you (and perhaps hurt you), and in the meanwhile show others what they can expect for "co-operating" with you. And just to frost the cake, see if you can bollix the whole thing up a bit more by encouraging people to bail out of Iraq as quick as they can and leave it to descend into hell. . . .

Saturday, January 08, 2005

"Sometimes it's just good to say 'no'...."

Says Eric Alterman:

Because sometimes it's just good to say "no," simply for the sake of saying it, because doing so lessens your complicity in a comfortable politics in which the destruction of American ideals is more admired for its clever tactics than it is condemned for its lasting damage. This is a government of vandals, and shame on anyone too dumb to realize it, or so ambitious that they'd make peace with it. Shame on any Democratic legislator who didn't line up with Boxer yesterday, especially the ones that gave pretty speeches and voted the other way. Shame on any Democrat who votes to confirm Alberto Gonzales. Shame on any Democrat who attaches himself to any Social Security plan while this administration is in office. This is a time to say no, just for the pure hell of it. Trust me, there's no political price to be paid that you're not already paying, piecemeal, out of your souls.

Yeah, what he says. . . .

Friday, January 07, 2005

Friday fishblogging

Gonna torture me too, Alberto? No place to hide. . . .

(for reference, common lionfish, Fiji,
2004/11/04, Nikon N80/105mm macro/Ikelite
housing with 2 Ikelite DS-125 strobes).

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Caine Mutiny, Part Deux

From Rising Hegemon, a fine graphic:

King George "Rutherford B. Hayes a.k.a. Captain Queeg" the Second is a very scary dude:
There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear "bad news."

Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.

Courtesy of Air America via Atrios. Maybe we need a Van Johnson to turn this ship around. . . .

Alberto Gonzales lets something slip...

Sez Alberto Gonzales, explaining why he's a changed man:
"I will no longer represent only the White House. I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the difference between the two roles...
So, let me get this straight, Al: When you wrote that memo that says that torture is just fine and ducky as long as the person tortured isn't permanently crippled or dead, you were just doing Dubya's slimy work for him then? When you said that we're not bound by the Geneva conventions, you were suggesting that Dubya don't heed no steeenkin' treaties, not that the U.S. itself isn't bound by such.

Glad you set us straight, Al. Guess your confirmation isn't a problem; rather, the real task for Congress is to impeach the SOB that put you up to such odious ... and un-Constitutional ... skullduggery.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

FBI and DHS: Malevolent or just plain stoopid?

Thanks to WXYZ TV in Detroit for this fine gem (courtesy of the nimrods at Ascroft's fear-mongering, bumbling FBI and Ridge's laughably pathetic "colour-coded" DHS):
There is a new warning for airports that may have passengers checking their watches. Security experts are now worried that terrorists could use a digital watch to set off an explosion in the air.

There was a time when shopping for a watch was an innocent, and perhaps one of the most fun things, you could do. But now the government is concerned that watches could be used as an instrument for terror.

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are warning transportation officials to look for Al Qaeda terrorists wearing two types of watches.

The first type is called altimeters, which measure altitude, and could be used to trigger an explosion when a jetliner reaches a certain height.

They are also on the lookout for watches containing hidden cigarette lighters, which could be used to ignite a bomb, like the one Shoe Bomber Richard Reed hid in his sneakers on a flight from Paris to Miami.

Ummm, rrrrriiiiggghhttt.

Any saavy terrorist is going to use his handy-dandy altimeter watch to know when to explode the plane, rather than just look out the goddamn window to see if the plane is off the friggin' ground (that is, if the plane isn't one of those planes that have a video display of the altitude on every monitor in the main cabin already). I mean, who are you going to believe, this altimeter watch or your lying eyes?

Then there's the question of whether to light your shoe-bomb with your little pocket butane lighter (permitted), or whether to do it in style and panache using your fancy lighter-watch. Or should you be really gauche and simply use a match?

I bet some morons brainstormed these latest "threats" after thinking about such subtleties for a couple of months. Or maybe it's your Ashcroft-Ridge "colour-of-the-week" tag-team, out with something else to keep the masses appropriately distracted, afraid ... and cowed. FWIW, this seems to be working:

Bob Parkllan, of House of Watch Bands in Southfield, has sold altimeter watchers at his store for years, and never before thought of them as a potential threat.

"It’s a little scary," Parkllan told 7 Action News. "It’s scary thinking about it. It makes you think of the type of person who wants to buy this type of watch."

Be sure to check under the bed before you turn in, Bob. And that closet, too. Theyyy'rrrrreeee gonna getcha!!! <*sheesh*>

But I tell you: If the TSA people need any advice, I'd say they shouldn't do this: "look for Al Qaeda terrorists wearing two types of watches." I think they ought to simply arrest any al Qaeda terrorists as soon as they identify them, Rolex, Bulova, Swatch, "WWJD" bracelet, or nothing. Seems pretty straight-forward to me. . . .

Disclaimer: I SCUBA dive, and I will admit to a little concern for those people that have dive watches that might be singled out for particular harassment by some ill-informed TSA guy. But the rest of you are going to feel it as well.