Thursday, December 30, 2004

Southeast Asian Tsunami relief

“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute”

Boy, howdy, the Shrub does it again. First he’s caught asleep at the ranch when the most powerful underwater earthquake in modern history causes a 500 mph tsunami to obliterate the coastlines of virtually the entire Indian Ocean basin, killing over 100,000 people, breaking legs and heads, smashing homes and businesses, wiping out the entire fishing fleet of Sri Lanka and making literally millions of people homeless and jobless, and does he offer the services of the Seabees, the National Guard, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Coast Guard, anything?
Well, yes, he does. He snapped, “Send ‘em a check for, I dunno, $15 mil and tell ‘em to shut up.” And went back to sleep.

When the UN’s representative Jan Egeland commented on the world’s stinginess in response to this overwhelming tragedy, Colin Powell hastily called a news conference to brag how the US is such a big giver. Baloney. Fifteen mil, later raised to a total of $35 mil, amounts to roughly $900 per dead body, and only dead bodies – but the damage goes way beyond mere dead people. The death insurance you buy off the back of matchbook covers pays out better than that.

Think about it: we’re talking 100,000 dead. The population of the impacted (and I mean impacted) areas is in the hundreds of millions, with an estimated 5 million directly affected. So what with flattened buildings, fishing boats smashed to splinters, businesses completely wiped out, cholera and dysentery most certainly on the way and the death toll from those, the total of the world’s relief money will probably be on the order of a few pennies per survivor.

God help those poor people, because Bush most certainly does not.

You can help, though. Send these people money. Money is preferred to food, clothes, etc., because it gives the relief organizations on the spot flexibility in making triage decisions.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres 1-888-392-0392:

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund) 1-888-588-2372:

Donate to the American Red Cross:

The Red Crescent:

And check out this Christian Science Monitor website for a much more complete listing of donation and disaster relief websites:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Caesar's unto Caesar

Personally, I love haranguing born-again types, driving up blood pressure levels left and right. Leviticus is spot-on for this stuff, especially since the catchall punishment for even petty crime is death by stoning, preferably by your neighbors. On my doctor’s advice, however, I really have to avoid this as a daily entertainment, even if a twice-weekly dose of vitriol does keep one’s brain cells on their toes. Still, we all need to get along somehow, and if we are going to recapture even some small modicum of civil discourse in this country, perhaps we should meet on a more level playing field. I propose modifying the language of Progressivism.

Perhaps the most galling thing about dealing with religious fundamentalists is that they are so freaking righteous about their every position, disregarding Jesus’ comment to “deliver unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” and ignoring everything else that Christ and the rest of the Bible has to say about political issues.

The authors of
The Search for Christian America have this to say about getting along in a political landscape that harbors Christians and non-Christians:

Some Christians speak as though there is an absolute antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought, neglecting the degree to which Christians themselves are hampered by sin and error, and the degree to which God’s common grace allows substantial room for communication and cooperation among all people in practical everyday life … Because we all live in God’s world, we have, in God’s common grace, some basis for discussing and shaping public policy without explicit appeal to the Bible. In fact, people from all nations of the world have been able to agree on many principles of justice and human interest, as for instance, in agencies and statements of the United Nations. That they violently disagree on other points or on the application of their common principles should not obscure this degree of commonality. So, Christians and non-Christians may be able to agree on the value of charity toward the poor and the starving, on the undesirability of genocide, that literacy should be encouraged, on the virtue of loyalty to friends and parents, and on many other things (pp.135-136).

Perhaps it’s time to take some of the heat out of the conversation with conservatives, particularly Christian fundamentalists, and engage with them in their own language, i.e., talk Christian to them. Quote the Bible, chapter and verse. To quote the authors of the article above:

As ambassadors for Christ, we are not to disobey civil government (except, of course, when they compel us to disobey God’s Word – Acts 5:29), but subject ourselves to it (Romans 3:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-17) and pray for such rulers and authorities so that we might live a tranquil life (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

I’m not prepared in this column to pursue the argument that Christians are bound by a New Covenant, one that supersedes the Ten Commandments per se, including Leviticus and Deuteronomy; I am sure there are a lot of thoughtful Christian bloggers out there who can clarify my point. I don’t propose that every Democrat or progressive turn him/herself into a theological lawyer. I do suggest that we, each one of us, when talking with a fundy, bear in mind their
confused, inconsistent, irreconcilable and self-contradictory theology. You might want to ask them their position on stoning vs. public burning, say, and take it from there.

Don’t be surprised when they honestly come out in favor of public
disembowelment, though. You will want to point out that, as enlightened citizens of the 21st Century, we have moved passed that particular barbarity, and quote some Biblical mumbo jumbo about peace, not piece, on Earth, etc. Buy a Biblical concordance and study it. Get one of those pocket books with appropriate Biblical quotes and be prepared to whip it out at any mention of “we are a Christian nation.” Fundamentalists are suckers for anything printed:
"The Bible is inerrant, infallible, true, trustworthy, without mixture of error and that, singularly or together, these words mean that every statement and word of the Scripture is absolutely accurate concerning every field of knowledge it discusses."
Keep a talking points flash card on your person at all times, and stick to the script. Do not get upset when they tell you that you are going to hell, Jews are going to hell, unbabtised babies are going to hell, gays are going to hell, abortion doctors are going to hell, etc., etc. Fire back, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." --Matthew 6:33. Gently remind these people that it is not for them to judge, and as Christians, they are enjoined to stay out of worldly affairs.

Bear in mind that these people (the Fundies) regard America as the product of European civilization, the so-called Judeo-Christian ethic and especially the
Great Chain of Being. They haven’t moved into the Humanist 16th century, much less the 21st.

But don’t argue their religion with them. We’re not out to start a new Reformation here; the fundies are well advanced (or maybe devolved) in that already. The whole point of this exercise is to establish your Christian credentials so we can cut to the chase: a reduction in the temperature level, a return to civil discourse, an airing of differing points of view with a Christian demeanor on everyone’s part.

In short, let’s try a different approach, a sort of verbal judo; instead of saying “fuck the South,” let’s say “Jesus loves you, too,” get a civil conversation going and move on from there. It couldn’t hurt.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Some bad news, some good news

We're all settled in here for the duration at Reality Frame. The duration, of course, being the term of the Shrub's office. Settled, and thinking about what the new year will bring. Will it bring Peace and Joy? Prosperity? World peace? Hah! No, folks, it won't, at least, not for Amerika, but it may elsewhere.

Rebecca Solnit at has some thoughts on the subject that will cheer you up. The Ukraine is off to a good start; so is Uruguay, after 170 years of ultra-fascist dictatorship, along with Chile, believe it or not. Even India, with the installation of Maneka Ghandi may be moving towards some ethnic peace.

Here in the good ole' US of A, we can look forward to Democratic stonewalling of Presidential initiatives, including Social Security reform, Supreme Court nominations, district Federal nominees, a
war machine juddering on and on and a public that is going to get pretty fed up about it, and will start making some real noise. The economy is tanking, illegal immigrants are flooding our factories and welfare system, etc. And the Shrubbery will take the hit for the whole mess.

Hope is in the air.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Feliz Navidad yaw'all

The Shrub has struck again! Starting next week, it's open season on our national forests, and the last real tree you might see is the Christmas Spruce in your living room..

Yes, indeed, Weyerhauser and their ilk has hit the jackpot. The Department of the Interior will start implementing its new rules allowing "economic use" of our national forests next week, and before you know it, it's gonna be Erosion City everywhere. Check this out.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday follies

1,240,000 citations for fraud

Yep. That’s how many citations that Google pulled up when I keyed in “2004 US presidential fraud.” Yikes. Now, it is true that a lot of the cites were from blogs, but there were many, many from mainstream media: CNN, New York Times, the UK’s Independent, etc., etc. I’m not linking them here, because you can just scoot over to Google and pull up the citations yourself.

Now I have said before that I am no conspiracy fan, but it just stands to reason that with as many people screaming (and they are screaming) that the fix was in, well, like the man said, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Know what I mean?
Red Rover
Those little tin guys on Mars are still chugging along, and this week sent back pix of clouds; more proof, if it were really needed, that there’s free water on the Red Planet.Now, if Bush were to do one Good Thing, he could follow through on his promise to send men to the place, we could establish a colony, and maybe Mankind would have a refuge, a seed store as it were, for after the Shrub starts the next nuclear war and irradiates the whole damn Earth.

If you’re interested in reading some speculative stuff about exploring the Red Plant, , the sf trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars), might give you an appreciation how the colonization of the 4th planet might play out. Stanley is a damn good writer and has some nifty insights into the political process as well.


History as fiction

Speaking of writers and political fiction, don’t forget to check out The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth, an alternative history of a fascist United States, and also Philip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle, another fascist fantasy. This stuff hits close to home, as it were.

While we're on the subject, while checking the Google for the above citations, I noticed that there are over 14,900,000 entries for "alternative history." Seems to be a popular subject on the Web. I wonder if any of those alternative worlds postulate a Dem winning the last election. Gee, I wonder what it would be like ...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More on voter fraud

This is probably the most important issue facing the American people at the moment. While the mass media are crying out about voter fraud in the recent Ukranian elections, they have steadfastly refused to smell the rotten cheese here at home. Truthout is posting articles updating the situation vis a vis the suspected voter-machine manipulation in both Ohio and Florida. As noted in a post earlier, a software writer in Florida is being interrogated by the FBI and other interested groups. The Supreme Court of Ohio has put off hearing a petition from the Alliance for Democracy asking for a block and/or suspension of Ohio's Electoral College voting results. Others elsewhere, including the New York Times, are also semingly getting seriously interested in this story.

But don't hold your breath on this one, and don't think for a minute that it's going to change the identity of the Man in the White House come January. The Shrubbery have a death-grip on the elections commisssions in most states, and there's an end to it. However, we really need to pressure the media to stay on the story. Even through the Dems task still remains to reclaim their liberal heritage, and sell that to the American electorate, rather than take the DLC's terrible advice to move the party plank right and pander to corporate donors, this can be the turning point on the way to reclaiming our democracy.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Mistaken identity

I have been laboring under a misunderstanding as to my principles, according to a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Here I thought that liberalism meant, in part, getting the government off my back. According to this commentary piece by Thomas L. Krannawitter, vice president of the Claremont Institute and director of the institute's Lincoln Fellowship Program, I intend no such thing. Apparently, I and my fellow liberals are out to “replace limited, constitutional government with a regulatory-welfare state of unlimited powers. “

Wow! When did I ever say that? I thought the whole idea was to limit government powers. Granted, decent highways and maybe throw in some health insurance would be nice, but I ain't demanding them. Then again, "My way or the highway," sounds pretty good as a political philosophy, doesn't it?

This statement comes embedded in a piece about Supreme Court Justice Thomas and an argument that Thomas is a proponent of
strict-constructionist Constitutionalism. Yeah, fine, Thomas wants to keep the clock of time stopped dead in the 18th Century; what’s new about that? What is interesting to me is this chap Krannawitter’s take on liberalism. He quotes a 1920s “liberal political scientist,” Charles Merriam: the ‘“natural law and natural rights" of the founders had been discarded by intellectuals "with practical unanimity." Instead, "the state … is the creator of liberty." ‘

Hmm. Maybe to Stalinists or Leninists, but certainly not to me, and most certainly not to the present-day Democratic Party, Greens, or even radicals. Real radicals say stuff like "Down with the State!, and throw bombs as puntuation marks. In actual fact, Krannawitter is probably mis-reading or mis-quoting Merriam, a noted political scientist from the University of Chicago (my alma mater). Perhaps this is knee-jerking on the part of the above conservative writer, but it does give me pause for thought. You see, this guy probably hates fun-loving liberals, and is looking for a way to justify it. He found his reason in a dead poly sci’s writings, which certainly do not reflect the current political climate, or the ideological bent of the mainstream of America, as quoted.

Now, Krannawitter is being given op-ed space in the Sunday LA Times (as a member of the “liberal media”, the Times is obliged to carry conservative pieces on same. Wait. That doesn’t scan. Oh well), so I can assume that this conservative’s opinion and understanding of liberal views is pretty mainstream.

But he’s flat wrong, and that, my friends, is the problem. So bear this in mind when you try to have a rational discourse with a conservative: You think he thinks you’re you, but what he really thinks is that you’re not. In fact, he thinks you’re a Commie. He’s still reading 1920s poly sci and handouts from the American Family League.

My advice is to ignore them and get on with your life. These people are blockheads and you are wasting your time, energy and money trying to convince them otherwise. Do organize for change, keep on the get-out-the-vote trail, give money to Dean, whatever, but don't waste your time trying to argue with them. They're all idiots and won't listen to you anyway.

Friday, December 10, 2004

More on voting machine rigging

I've never been much of a conspiracy fancier. There's just too much going on for real to be bothered with tales of the Bavarian Illuminati or pin-the-blame on the Black Helicopter outfits, but there is some real possibility that we may actually get to the bottom the the suspected vote-rigging problem, although certainly not before the Electoral College casts their votes (who counts their votes?).

Zogby International (the pollster guy), considered to be the best in the business, has posted an article from the Missoula, MT Independent that pretty much covers all you need to know on the status quo (yeah, I actually wrote that). A sample:

"The Bush administration’s “fix” of the 2000 election debacle (the Help America Vote Act) made crooked elections considerably easier, by foisting paperless electronic voting on states before the bugs had been worked out or meaningful safeguards could be installed."


"The Wall Street Journal recently revealed that “Verified Voting, a group formed by a Stanford University professor to assess electronic voting, has collected 31,000 reports of election fraud and other problems.”

The article goes on to talk about "mathematical impossibilities" in voting patterns. It's all very well reported and hat's off to Alan Waldman, the Missoula Independent and Zogby. You might want to check out Black Box Voting while you're at it. Additionally, a good summary of the situation can be found at T r u t h o u t, here.

We’re not a democracy

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."-Samuel Adams, 1776

Perhaps we should sent a cable to the DLC with the above quote.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."- Thomas Jefferson

So said Sam and Tom these two hundred plus years ago to the Torys. But the fact is, the shit still goes on. Some more recent quotes:

"There's no end to the rascality of these flinty-hearted bastards..." - Sen John Dingle (D.Mich) speaking of Republicans, quoted on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Nov. 11, 2003

“It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.” - Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General

"Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of plutocracy" - John Pierpont Morgan

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."- Abraham Lincoln

“The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson."- Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini

“The corporate octopus is stifling the natural growth of humanity. It spreads tyranny, poverty and economic serfdom. It defies the simplest laws of ecology. Warfare is the extension of corporate power by other means ... their one aim is to perpetuate the insane concept of limitless expansion on a limited planet, with permanent conflict as its desired outcome.” from Absolute Friends by John le Carre

The fight goes on. We never were and are not now at peace with the forces of corporatism, oligarchy, theocracy, facism and just plain stupidity. Remember the Know-Nothings? An actual political party, and one that seems to have resurfaced lately, backed with corporate funding.

Keep on blogging, folks and remember to vote early and vote often. Illigitimi non carborundum.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


So, okay, we got an update on the hoax angle on the Florida software writer. It turns out that this may be the hook that brings in the big fish. What looked originally as faked paper is just another computer glitch, this time for real. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Poll: Fla. Voters Had No Voting Problems!

The insanity just goes on and on. Now a poll taken in Florida (again) shows that "three out of four voters were very or somewhat confident their vote was counted" in the presidential election.

Which leaves 25% who weren't confident!

Wake up! These turkeys can't even see their beaks in front of their eyeballs.

Florida's vote-fraud software writer confesses

And you thought that vote-rigging was a wingnut fantasy. Turns out that right-wingers plan ahead.

Apparently, back in 2000, an employee of a software development company in Florida was tasked to work on a software package at the behest of then Florida Congressman, now U.S. Congressman, Republican Tom Feeney of Florida's 24th, that could transform Dem votes into Rep ones and not be detectable. Turns out, it can and easily. (But we computer geeks knew that already. ) So we got this guy in Florida just this morning signing an affidavit swearing to his code-writing and Feeney's plans for "vote suppression." Beautiful. Feney eventually became Speaker of the Florida House, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, and is now, get this, a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

So far, no mystery. Here's where the mystery comes in: is Big Media going to pick up on this? or is this going to go down the sinkhole?

Update: This thing may be a hoax. See here, about 2/3 of the way down the page. Hmmm. Maybe you can't trust anything you read on the Internet anymore.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

It's a rainy day

The weather here in southern California has been a tad chilly and wet of late. I’m guessing that it’s probably an early effect of global warming; even though it seems counterintuitive to have colder winters as a result of it. Still, it’s about par for the course as we start the wind-up for the end of the world, what with bad weather, worse politics and an economic crash coming. But it’s a reasonably good excuse to stay indoors and blog the day away.

The stuff you read here isn’t all that original. You didn’t read it here first, mainly. As with most blog authors, I cherry-pick the news sites and the opinion sites and basically throw stuff together, mostly to fill space until this project starts to jell, or I begin to have some original thoughts. In the meantime, what I have gleaned and thrown into this stew are factoids and opinions that reflect my own jaundiced view of the world.

The Internet is a fascinating place; just about every side of every question is out there and with a quick Google, Mamma, Yahoo, etc etc meta search you can reference just about anything, and I mean anything, quickly hyper-linking article to site to blog. It’s a far cry from my first fanzine, banged out on a used Underwood typewriter on Ditto mimeograph waxes and caretakingly illustrated with my own drawings. One mistake and the whole wax page was ruined. I bought the Underwood for $35, saved from my earnings as a soda jerk at Priscilla’s Tea Room, a real soda fountain in Nashua, New Hampshire, the shop itself dating from the Thirties and looking like a Hollywood movie set version of itself. I was 14 and eager to bring my ravings to the waiting world. It’s a long way away now, both in time and space. Today I can see my published results in minutes (and in glorious color) instead of the days that it used to take, what with lugging pounds of Ditto pages to the printer and back, then the post office to send my scribblings out into the void. Amazing, really.

Well, it's stopped raining and the world hasn't ended yet. I think I'll go for a walk on the beach. Later.

Later: The news just keeps sucking me back to the typewriter: "We call it a war on terrorism, but Muslims in contrast see a history-shaking movement of Islamic restoration. This is not simply a religious revival, however, but also a renewal of the Muslim World itself." --Defence Science Board

Kos and others are reporting that a Department of Defence Science Board white paper is very much at odds with the Busho take on the wonderful world of terrorism. Not that any sane person wouldn't have figured out the state of the world with just a few rational moments contemplating our foreign policy. Still, it is somewhat refreshing that somebody in our over-priced government has an inkling of the truth.

Now, if Bushboy would just read what people write for him. Also, while the mainstream media mainly avoided this story (the report was released in late September) the NY Times did mention it, although they too have failed miserably in follow-through.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Loyalty before intelligence

Man, you just got to love this stuff! The crap just goes on and on, with the toadies and flunkies on the march. Chalmers Johnson is calling the new CIA "worthless" and how can you doubt it? This administration has just got to go down in the history books as the stinkiest ever and bar none. Stand aside, Andrew Jackson and General Grant, you have been surpassed.

"Two weeks after George Bush's re-election, Porter J. Goss, the newly appointed Director of Central Intelligence, wrote an internal memorandum to all employees of his agency telling them, "[Our job is to] support the administration and its policies in our work. As agency employees, we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration or its policies." Translated from bureaucrat-speak, this directive says, "You now work for the Republican Party. The intelligence you produce must first and foremost protect the President from being held accountable for the delusions he has concerning Iraq, Osama bin Laden, preventive war, torturing captives, democracy growing from the barrel of a gun, and the 'war on terror.'" - Chalmers Johnson

Boobs as torture?

Not that the torture has stopped. It just goes on and on. Here's a beaut: female interrogators are exposing themselves to helpless Arab detainees in Guantanamo. Ok, we can snicker, but it does seem to me to be on about the level of your typical Buschco frat hi-jinks, except it ain't funny to the Muslim on the receiving end.

Like the man said: Have you no shame, sir?

I see by the papers

Evidence gained by torture is acceptable as evidence

An argument by U.S. Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle
Saturday, December 4, 2004 at 07:56 JST
WASHINGTON — Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government concedes.
This article, and ones similar to it are appearing all over the world press, from
Japan Today to the Air Force Times. The government’s case, which we have all heard before, is stated quite arrogantly by Boyle in his arguments before the US Circuit Court and reported by the AP.

In essence, the detainees (at Guantanamo and elsewhere) have zero rights. Boyle is bald-faced about this, and apparently believes it. (No wonder some people want to kill all the lawyers.) In fact, reading between the lines, it seems that Boyle is also promoting the quaint idea that since some of the evidence collected was from foreign torturers (i.e., Jordan, Syria, etc.), we can use it because we weren’t the torturers. Forget the old rule about tainted evidence; we got the goods by hook and by crook, and screw the Bill of Rights. Talk about splitting hairs. What law school did Boyle and Gonzales, et al go to? Somebody needs to burn it down.

By the way, just what does "concedes" mean in the para above? Sounds to me like some kind of spin, as if the government were being gracious about their legal tomfoolery. Duh?

Friday, December 03, 2004

Anonymous speaks again

How Not to Catch a Terrorist, or A Ten-Step program,
from the files of the U.S. intelligence community

The Atlantic Monthly, December 2004

by Anonymous

During the recent Senate confirmation hearings for Porter J. Goss, the new CIA director, Senator Dianne Feinstein read a provocative paragraph from a letter that had been sent to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The gist of the letter was that key pre-9/11 intelligence failings were the result not primarily of budgetary, structural, or organizational problems (as suggested by the official 9/11 Commission Report) but, rather, of bad decisions by individuals—"unelected, unaccountable officials who made an art of outlasting their elected superiors." What made the letter particularly notable was its author: a twenty-two-year CIA veteran named Michael Scheuer—now better known as Anonymous, the author of the books Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (2004) and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America (2002)—who headed the Agency's bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999.

The full text of the letter, which for the first time lays out ten crucial and specific failures by the intelligence community in the run-up to 9/11, has never appeared in print. The Atlantic has acquired a copy, key sections of which are reproduced below.


I will briefly summarize ten instances since 1996, picked from dozens of others to protect classified data, in which the decisions of senior Intelligence Community bureaucrats—not legal "walls", organizational structure, or inadequate budgets—have been at the core of our failure against Bin Laden. All of the following information has been passed in testimony, in documents, or in both by myself and other CIA officers to one or more of the four panels investigating the 11 September attacks: two internal CIA investigations, the congress's Joint Commission, and the Kean Commission. None of these panels, to my knowledge, have yet focused on the reality that, while the 11 September attacks probably were unstoppable, it was decisions by human beings—featuring arrogance, bad judgment, disdain for expertise, and bureaucratic cowardice—that made sure the Intelligence Community did not operate optimally to defend America.

1. Mid-to-Late 1996: CIA's Bin Laden unit acquired detailed information about the careful, professional manner in which al-Qaeda was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons ... there could be no doubt after this date that al-Qaeda was in deadly earnest in seeking nuclear weapons. The report was initially suppressed within CIA, and then published in a drastically shortened form. Three officers of the Agency's Bin Laden cadre protested this decision in writing, and forced an internal review. It was only after this review that this report was provided in full to Community leaders, analysts, and policymakers ...

2. December 1996: From a CIA officer detailed to another Intelligence Community (IC) agency and serving overseas, the Bin Laden unit learned of the availability of a communications conduit used by Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The other IC agency refused to exploit the conduit and threatened legal action against the Agency officer who advised of its existence. This officer bravely continued to supply the information; and I asked senior Agency officers to intervene with the other IC agency. There ensued a desultory interagency discussion without resolution. The CIA was forced to devise its own ability to exploit the communications conduit and secured about half of the available material. The other IC agency was able to secure the other half, but refused to share it. This capability was later lost because of an August 1998 leak to the media by the U.S. military.

3. December 1996-June 1999: The CIA's Bin Laden unit repeatedly and formally requested assistance from the U.S. military to help plan operations against Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. We needed and asked for special operations officers. After pressing for eighteen months, we were sent two non-special operations individuals who had experience only on Iran. The Bin Laden unit received no support from senior Agency officials vis-à-vis the U.S. military.

4. February 1996-May 1998: The Bin Laden unit and several other senior CIA officers requested transcripts rather than summaries of electronic collection against al-Qaeda ... [V]erbatim transcripts are operationally useful, summaries are much less so, and they are usually not timely. The answer to these requests in every case was no. At one point the senior operations officer for an Intelligence Community component said that the National Security Act of 1947 gave her agency control of "raw" signals intelligence, and that she would not pass such material to CIA.

5. August-September 1997: For most of a year the Bin Laden unit prepared for an operation in a foreign city that was set to come to fruition in late-summer 1997. The unit's lead U.S.-based officer on this operation was an extraordinarily able analyst from another IC component; she knew the issue cold. Days before the operation occurred the IC component ordered her back to its headquarters. She protested, but was told that she would not be promoted if she balked at returning. I protested to my superiors and to the three most senior officers of the IC component who were then in charge of terrorism. All refused to intervene. The operation was much less well exploited because of the loss of this officer. A year later, al-Qaeda destroyed U.S. facilities in the area near the foreign city of the under-exploited operation.

6. April-May 1998: The Agency's Bin Laden unit was ordered disbanded and reduced to a small branch. This was done, so far as I know, without the knowledge of the DCI [Director of Central Intelligence] ... When DCI found out about this plan, he intervened in mid-May 1998. By doing so, the DCI preserved the unit and dodged the bullet of having to explain to the American people why the Agency thought Bin Laden was so little of a threat that it had destroyed the Bin Laden unit weeks before two U.S. embassies were demolished. Needless to say, the on-again, off-again signals about the unit's future status made for confusion, distraction, and much job-hunting in the last few weeks before al-Qaeda's August 1998 attacks in East Africa.

7. May 1998-May 1999: The CIA officers working Bin Laden at Headquarters and in the field gave the U.S. government about ten chances to capture Bin Laden or kill him with military means. In all instances, the decision was made that the "intelligence was not good enough." This assertion cannot be debated publicly without compromising sources and methods. What can be said, however, is that in all these cases there was more concern expressed by senior bureaucrats and policymakers about how international opinion would react to a U.S. action than there was concern about what might happen to Americans if they failed to act. Indeed, on one occasion these senior leaders decided it was more important to avoid hitting a structure near Bin Laden's location with shrapnel, than it was to protect Americans. Two other points: the truth has not been fully told about the chance to militarily attack Bin Laden at a desert hunting camp being used by wealthy Gulf royals; and our best chance to capture Bin Laden—an operation which showed no U.S. hand, risked no U.S. lives, and was endorsed by senior commanders of the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg—was cancelled because senior officials from the Agency, the Executive Branch, and other Intelligence Community components decided to accept assurances from an Islamic country that it could acquire Bin Laden from the Taleban. U.S. officials accepted these assurances despite the well-documented record of that country withholding help—indeed, it was a record of deceit and obstruction—regarding all issues pertaining to Bin Laden between December 1996 and May 1998. The makers of this decision ignored the extensive documentary record that showed nothing but uncooperativeness from this Islamic country.

8. August 1998: After the bombing of two U.S.-based embassies in East Africa, the senior CIA managers asked what the Bin Laden unit needed most to enhance the attack against al-Qaeda. I again raised our dire need for verbatim reports derived from electronic collection. These senior managers ordered this to be arranged. After receiving less than a dozen such transcripts the process stopped. Despite repeated requests, I failed to get the flow of data restored. Also, tragically, no member of the Bin Laden unit was asked to testify before the State Department's accountability boards for the 1998 embassy bombings. This exclusion ensured that the systemic problems embedded in the Intelligence Community—which had become overwhelmingly clear before the 1998 al-Qaeda attacks—were not raised before the only pre-9/11 panel that might have been able to initiate remedial action.

9. June 1999: On moving to a new position, I forwarded a long memorandum to the Agency's senior-most officers—some are still serving—describing an array of fixable problems that were plaguing America's attack on Bin Laden, ones that the Bin Laden unit had encountered but failed to remedy between and among Intelligence Community components ... The problems outlined in the memorandum stood in the way of attacking Bin Laden to the most effective extent possible; many remain today. Insufficient or no support from other Intelligence Community components were highlighted in the memo, as were the issues of the grossly insufficient number of experienced officers assigned to the Bin Laden unit and the at best mediocre performance of our intelligence allies—especially in Western Europe—in supporting U.S. efforts against Bin Laden. I never received a response to this memorandum.

10. September 2004: In the CIA's core, U.S.-based Bin Laden operational unit today there are fewer Directorate of Operations officers with substantive expertise on al-Qaeda than there were on 11 September 2001. There has been no systematic effort to groom al-Qaeda expertise among Directorate of Operations officers since 11 September ... The excellent management team now running operations against al-Qaeda has made repeated, detailed, and on-paper pleas for more officers to work against the al-Qaeda—and have done so for years, not weeks or months—but have been ignored ...

The deaths of three thousand Americans—and the many more destined to die at Bin Laden's hands—may well be attributable to the type of decisions noted above, the refusal of senior bureaucrats to listen to their subordinates, and, most of all, the unwillingness of senior leaders across the Intelligence Community to remedy fixable problems if it meant making decisions that disturbed the bureaucratic status quo, telling the truth about organizational and operational problems to the congressional oversight committees, or alarming political leaders who might ask the Community to take risks in defense of America ...

The pattern of decision-making I have witnessed ... seems to indicate a want of moral courage, an overwhelming concern for career advancement, or an abject inability to distinguish right from wrong. Before the Kean Commission's recommendations are implemented, and a vastly expensive and disruptive scheme is undertaken to overhaul an Intelligence Community weaker today than on 11 September 2001, it is worth reviewing the testimonies and documents the commissioners and the other 11 September panels have in hand, and reassessing where primary responsibility lies. Is it really small budgets, poor organization, and legal hurdles that stopped the Community from dealing with Bin Laden to the best of its ability? Or is it the results of decisions by human beings who refuse to do either what is in their power and patently necessary, or that which is asked for by their elected chiefs in Congress and the Executive ...

Copyright © 2004 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; December 2004; How Not to Catch a Terrorist; Volume 294, No. 5; 50-52

Take my wallet, please

Jim Hightower hits the nail on the head yet again in this column about the moral bankruptcy of bankruptcy. This trick of corporate officers bankrupting a company, leaving the employees high and dry and then jetting off for foreign parts (or other companies for instance. Remember Eastern Airlines?) just steams me no end. Why on Earth does this shit just keep going on and on? Surely even the blockheads that crowd Wall Street can see that this failure to honor even basic commitments is just barbaric. The worst sort of social Darwinism that, unchecked, will devour everyone, leaving a corporate state beholden to no one.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Calling off the dogs

Troops Hunting Al Qaeda Members Withdrawn

Associated Press
Sunday, November 28, 2004; Page A28

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Nov. 27 -- The Pakistani army announced Saturday that it would withdraw hundreds of troops from a tense tribal region near Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden and his top deputy were believed to be hiding. (From the Washington Post).

Once again, the Bushman heels in his hunting dogs, and OBL slips away over the mountains. So much for his remarks during the debates:
BUSH: I don't think I ever said I'm not worried about bin Laden. That's kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course we're worried about bin Laden. We're on the hunt after bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get bin Laden (italics mine).

Of course, you really can't blame the Pakistanis; they have devoted several thousand troops to the seach for al Qaeda suspects for some time and in very hostile territory. Not that a hoard of heavily armed soldiers can easily flush out well-hidden revolutionaries in their home turf, but they were trying, they did find some dudes, but now they're tired, they want to go home, and OBL is probably wintering in Cap Sur, anyhow.

Personally, I have thought from the beginning that we should have sent cops after OBL. Real ones. Maybe Massachussetts state troopers. The big ones. Soldiers (even if they do dress like ninjas) are all well and good when you get the bastard backed into a box canyon, hell, a couple of good dogs could take care of that job, but first we gotta find the perp and for that we need a Mickey Spillane or a Spencer and his buddy Hawk; hell, we need Melvin Purvis! And he works cheap!

Of course, the downside to this is no Shock and Awe, just a Sock to the Jaw.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Onward, Christian soldiers!

God Has Granted America a Reprieve


Rev. Jones sent this greeting to Bush on November 3. It is now posted on his website.

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The media tells us that you have received the largest number of popular votes of any president in America's history. Congratulations!

In your re-election, God has graciously granted America-though she doesn't deserve it-a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. You have been given a mandate. We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet. Because you seek the Lord daily, we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly.
Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

Had your opponent won, I would have still given thanks, because the Bible says I must (I Thessalonians 5:18). It would have been hard, but because the Lord lifts up whom He will and pulls down whom He will, I would have done it. It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years-a brief time only-to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.

Christ said, "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my father honour" (John 12:26).

The student body, faculty, and staff at Bob Jones University commit ourselves to pray for you-that you would do right and honor the Savior. Pull out all the stops and make a difference. If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them. Conservative Americans would love to see one president who doesn't care whether he is liked, but cares infinitely that he does right.

Best wishes.
Sincerely your friend,

Bob Jones IIIPresidentBob Jones University


PS: A few moments ago I read this letter to the students in Chapel. They applauded loudly their approval.

When I told them that Tom Daschle was no longer the minority leader of the Senate, they cheered again.

On occasion, Christians have not agreed with things you said during your first term. Nonetheless, we could not be more thankful that God has given you four more years to serve Him in the White House, never taking off your Christian faith and laying it aside as a man takes off a jacket, but living, speaking, and making decisions as one who knows the Bible to be eternally true.

That about says it all, dontcha think?-the ed.

But wait! there's more:

"1. Leviticus 25.44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians? "

The anguished petitioner has more to ask here.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Frame Wars

"The conventional view of politics says that people are swayed by words, images, or facts. But that’s false, according to Frank Luntz and George Lakoff, two of the most successful practitioners of political reality construction. They believe that increasingly political forces will clash less over reality than over how it’s shaped. "

It's not facts, folks, it's perceptions. See here.

In this insightful article, the authors show what the spinmeisters are really doing. Not that's it's really news, propagandists have been creating reality for the undiscerning for a long time. Heinrich Himmler went so far as to create a myth based on the Knights of the Round Table and the SS as guardians of the Holy Grail for the Nazi party and the German nation that had the whole world wondering just what the hell those volk were up to.

But it does point out a direction that I think progressives and even moderate Democrats need to go in: a reorganizing of their thinking to recapture the American voting public, if American democracy is to survive the onslaught of the corporate pig.

What's needed here is a new Big Picture; a picture that paints a "reality" of unemployment, endless war, fear of the midnight knock at the door, bread lines and worse. Not that I personally don't believe that another big and really awful depression (not to mention a police state) is just around the corner, because I do, but as I am an optimist, I think we need to use the tools at hand: out-and-out brainwashing.

Yup. Let's attack the sons of bitches with their own weapons; exaggerations, lies, smear campaigns and blackmail. Let's see how they like it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Yesterday's Papers

Crusin' the Web

This modern technology is a wonderful thing. Thanks to any number of inventive and driven software writers and hardware makers, even the idiotic and illiterate can spew their spittle all over the world. I refer, or course, to the amazingly ignorant and misspelled posts that one finds in reply to blogs and other web sites offering anti-war (and to a surprising amount, merely factual) sentiments concerning our involvement in Iraq. A few minutes cruising the Web and reading posts/replies finds just a staggering amount of vitriol, hate, anal language and threats. Most of the posts read as if they are written by teenagers, although a few, particularly ones from persons claiming to be vets, seem to be merely victims of bad education and poor judgment. Now and then, a pro-war writer tries to be coherent, but it reads to me like an uphill battle for these authors.

Yes, I am an elitist

Of course, I speak from an elitist viewpoint, having graduated from high school. I am also a vet, from the Vietnam era with fourteen of my high school classmates dead as a result of that war, so I may be a tad prejudiced when it comes to thinking about any war, theirs or ours. But not all vets are supporting the war, of course. To think otherwise would be silly. Damn few soldiers, when in the thick of it, if offered a choice right now between shooting one more foreigner or going home, would choose to endure one more minute of the unremitting hell which is combat. They would choose to go home and screw the war. Bet on it.

Yes, here I am, safe behind the lines, feeling righteous about having done my bit and feeling safe to criticize our government's policies. That is my job, after all; I am a citizen. So I do support our troops, and I say bring them home. Screw Iraq, forget the oil, Halliburton is a fancy briefcase, Cheny isn't dead yet but tomorrow never knows, let's get the hell out of there.

Bad loser

To the world outside America, I won't say I'm sorry, but I am pissed off. Our democracy was hijacked fair and square by some pretty sharp guys. The Democratic party is burnt out as a voice of the working man, the Greens haven't found the vocabulary, the Libertarians can't endure realpolitik and the baby boomers as a group (and I speak as one) got lost in the suburbs, leaving the body politic to illiterate bubbas and corporate swine. But we did organize and get out the vote and supported our man and we registered everybody in sight! I hear you, you were magnificent. You did a great job with what you had. But what you had was not good enough. For the future, I might suggest you get somebody to run who actually stands for something. Dean as the chair of the DNC might be a good start. And while we're on the subject, how in the hell did you advisors and planners let him get trashed in Ohio? Remind me not to hire you to organize my birthday party.