Friday, June 17, 2005

Downing Street Memos -- Yesterday's Hearing w/John Conyers

What a Day! Keep the Signatures Coming

Conyers writes:

The hearing itself was amazingly informative, moving and informational. Raw Story has my opening statement (along with much more). The witnesses were well informed and helped us create a tremendous record moving forward. Their basic testimony continued until approximately 3 PM, and was followed by a round of questions from most of the 30 members who joined us at one point or another. We also had a surprise guest in the form of Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department before the start of the Iraq war due to her believe that the intelligence was being fixed and manipulated. At the very end of the hearing all of the family members of deceased soldiers stood up and spoke out. They showed tremendous courage. Bradblog has a great lowdown of the entire hearing, including an audio feed. C-SPAN broadcast live and simulcast and will rebroadcast over the next several days. Radio Pacifica broadcast audio live, and Air America and Randi Rhodes cut in frequently. There was quite a bit of talk among the Members that we had crossed the tipping point on the DSM, and that further disclosures and activism would have a commutative effect on the White House and public opinion. We finished the hearing about 5:30.

 | After Downing Street

And gets slammed for it, too

White House Goes After Durbin
White House Castigates Durbin for Remarks

Yeah, I know, next we'll hear the man burns flags or something. "How dare he use the word 'gulag'"! But you know what? His word choice won't change the fact that the US is torturing people in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

The real disservice to our men and women in uniform is what this administration has told them to do.

Durbin Speaks Truth, and Eloquently

GTMO Floor Statement by Sen. Durbin (PDF)

Oh. *presses hand to chest and sniffles, reading*

My new hero.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Iraq Timeline

by Greg Palast. Note, if you please, it starts in early 2001. Before Sept 11.

The New Downing Street Documents, laid out with key points provided.


Pentagon Concerned About Legality of Interrogation Techniques

Memo: Pentagon Concerned About Legality of Interrogation Techniques

Why would the Pentagon have been worried?

During a January 2003 meeting involving top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes and other officials, the memo shows that Mora warned that "use of coercive techniques … has military, legal, and political implication … has international implication … and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution."
Mora's deep concerns about interrogations at Guantanamo have been known, but not his warning that top officials could go to prison.

Because it's our men and women in uniform who get left holding the bag. All the time.

In another internal memo obtained by ABC News, a Navy psychologist observing the interrogation warned that the tactics used against Mohammed al Qahtani — dubbed "the 20th hijacker" — revealed "a tendency to become increasingly more aggressive without having a definite boundary."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that interrogating al Qahtani had produced results.

That doesn't -- this is shocking, I know -- actually make it okay.

Sen. Durbin on GTMO Treatment

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Downing Street Memos

The documents I refer to in More Downing Street Memos have all been released on I've updated that entry to add them, and am reproducing the same list at the bottom of this entry as well.

New Memos Detail Early Plans for Invading Iraq

LONDON — In March 2002, the Bush administration had just begun to publicly raise the possibility of confronting Iraq. But behind the scenes, officials already were deeply engaged in seeking ways to justify an invasion, newly revealed British memos indicate.
Foreshadowing developments in the year before the war started, British officials emphasized the importance of U.N. diplomacy, which they said might force Saddam Hussein into a misstep. They also suggested that confronting the Iraqi leader be cast as an effort to prevent him from using weapons of mass destruction or giving them to terrorists.
The documents help flesh out the background to the formerly top-secret "Downing Street memo" published in the Sunday Times of London last month, which said that top British officials were told eight months before the war began that military action was "seen as inevitable." President Bush and his main ally in the war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have long maintained that they had not made up their minds to go to war at that stage.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth," Bush said last week, responding to a question about the July 23, 2002, memo. "Both of us didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option."

Published accounts, including those by the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and former U.S. counter-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke, said that Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld began focusing on Iraq soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Richard Clarke said "[By] Wednesday [after Sept 11, 2001], Secretary Rumsfeld was tallking about broadening the objectives of our response and 'getting Iraq'" (p. 30, Ch. 1). The evening of Sept 12, according to Clarke, the President stopped him and said he wanted Clarke's team to go back over everything to see if Saddam was involved (p. 32). Clarke described Randy Beers telling him he thought he had to quit and "they wanna fuckin' invade Iraq again", in mid to late 2002 (p. 241, Ch. 10).

-- from Against All Enemies, by Richard A. Clarke, former counterterrorism czar for the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that 10 days after his (first) inauguration, President Bush's premise was that Iraq was destabilizing the middle east and America was "washing its hands of the conflict in Israel. Now, we'd focus on Iraq." (p. 71-75, Ch. 2). O'Neill also said that on Sept 12, 2001, Secretary Rumsfeld raised the question of Iraq, and that "the Pentagon had been working for months on a military plan for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein", also citing the President's "intense interest" in Saddam. The weekend after 9/11, at Camp David, Wolfowitz turned the focus to Iraq. (p. 184-188, Ch. 5).

"Iraq", O'Neill said later, "was like changing the subject -- Iraq is not where bin Laden is and not where there's trouble". (p. 188)

-- from The Price of Loyalty, by Ron Suskind.

The Downing Street Memo:
Minutes of Prime Minister's Meeting Held 23 July 2002.

The briefing paper provided preparatory to that meeting:

The "New" Downing Street Memos:


Big Bird being Chopped

Republicans take a shot at Big Bird

Republicans on the House subcommittee that controls public broadcasting have voted to reduce and eventually eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting. The effects would be disastrous.

This extreme abuse of power is doing nothing but harm to public education, reasoned debate, and unique programming. To attack something that has been so beneficial to virtually every American is unfathomable. For years, parents and teachers have looked to these programs as a safe haven on the broadcast spectrum — a rare find in a time when it's hard to trust that children won't be inundated with questionable material.

Sign the Petition to Protect PBS, NPR and Big Bird!

Behind Dean 1000%

Dean is Doing What We Hired Him To Do

So... Howard is making some of the spine-challenged democrats uncomfortable. That's exactly why we wanted him, because the centrist democrats don't have the balls to say what needs to be said. We knew when Dean was given the job, he'd be pushing the envelope. Now he's doing it. The grousing from a handful of democrats is actually a positive sign. If he was not getting some complaints then he would be failing to meet our expectations for speaking out-- truth to power.

Dean Speaks For Me!

Dean Just Told Them The Truth and They Thought It Was Hell

The simple truth is that corporate interests have hijacked our nation, theocrats want to take us back to the days of the Salem Witch Trials (with gays playing the part of witches), and the "stars" in the corporate "mainstream" media have been so terrified by Bush administration threats of loss of access (which could then lead to the loss of their own 6- and 7-figure income jobs) that they perpetuate administration lies and tremble at the thought of actually asking a tough follow-up question when Bush prevaricates.
Howard Dean points out these uncomfortable truths. And, like the little boy who said that the Emperor had no clothes, those entrenched in the status quo are trying to hush him up.

Dean Speaks For Me!

A Master Politician at Work

Transformative politics is not for sissies.

Getting criticized by the party elders is actually part of the process. The leaders of the permanent minority are always doomed to become followers of the new majority. Howard Dean isn’t interested in leading a bunch of losers. He’s interested in political transformation.

Dean Speaks For Me!

Democratic leaders back Dean, don't want 'wimp'

"I hope Governor Dean will remember that he didn't get elected to be a wimp," said DNC member Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a South Carolina state representative. "We have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up for Democrats."

"When we elected Dean we knew we were getting a leader who would be good at organizing the base and getting the message out to the American people, and that's what he's doing," Alari said. "He's our guy."

Dean Speaks For Me!

And then along comes Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, outspoken and uncompromising, swinging Willie Stark’s meat ax with a will and a purpose. He dared to say that he hates Republicans, that the leadership of that party hasn’t worked a day in their lives, that the GOP has become a radical hothouse of right-wing Christians, almost all of whom are white, and that House majority leader Tom DeLay should go back to Texas and get his looming prison sentence over with. Insert palpitations. Suddenly, Democrats like Joe Biden and Bill Richardson start knocking over furniture and old ladies in their rush to get to a microphone so they can distance themselves from the wild man.
...The problem with all the equivocation is that it obscures a simple fact that requires exposure and discussion in this country: Dean was right. Ninety nine percent of Republicans in the state legislatures in all 50 states, and in Congress in Washington DC, are white. Even in states and districts with large minority populations, the Republican representatives for those places are almost uniformly white Christians.
Of 3,643 Republicans serving in state legislatures across the country, only 44 of them are minorities, amounting to 1.2%. Texas, with a minority population of 47%, has 106 Republicans in the state legislature. There are exactly zero African Americans and exactly zero Hispanics serving in that body as Republicans. In Washington, 274 of the 535 elected Senators and Representatives are Republican. Exactly five are minorities.

Dean Speaks For Me!

So, put your money where Dean's mouth is and shell out 5, 10 bucks to the DNC today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Only a Man Could Be This Dumb


My god, that was so incredibly stupid. So quintessentially male.

What bizarre combination of unwarranted self-confidence and self-centeredness leads to flying in such a way as to crash a plane, for fun?

"Ooh look at that," Mr Cesarz said, apparently referring to cockpit readings. "Pretty cool."

Yes, it's *cool* to crash your commercial plane and kill yourself! It's *cool* to deliberately exceed the operating parameters of a complex machine that is HANGING IN THE AIR!

It's cool to have *faith* in a piece of machinery magically working no matter what you do to it, rather than *understanding* how it works and might at some point fail!

Oh, you go right ahead and say "all men aren't like that, Sid, you're tarring all of us with this brush" if that makes you feel better. You know and I know that enough men do enough shit like this all the time to effect actuarial tables and insurance rates across the country.

I admit this tirade on my part is triggered in part by the fact that I was raised in Alaska, where being stupid -- or even inattentive -- could GET YOU KILLED. I cannot stress that enough.

Oh, look, a bear! Let's go tease it and take a photo!

Well, only if you want to die, dipshit. Bears are dangerous. What are you, stupid?

It's a lesson that has stood me in good stead, from bears to rattlesnakes to scuba diving to people talking on cellphones on the freeway.

It's this bizarre lack of belief that anything can ever actually hurt you -- this presumption of immortality -- that leads to 18 to 24-year-old men having high auto insurance rates. There's a reason for the high rates. Because when you assume that nothing bad could ever happen, you don't THINK about the CONSEQUENCES of your ACTIONS.

Idiot Guy: Let's destruction-test a plane!

Woman: *raises eyebrows* While I'm in it? No, thanks.

Because This Is Not The Business of The State

Medley talks about abortion today:

"...fundamentally my reason for being pro-choice: these issues are not the business of the state."

Truer words were never spoken. Go read the whole thing.

More Downing Street Memos

More British memos on pre-Iraq war concerns

Sunday, I acquired what appear to be copies of these memos that have now been verified by NBC News, and transcribed and incompletely made available by Raw Story,

They are damning. That's all I have to say about the content. I think there's a prima facie case -basically, sufficient information to make an inquiry reasonable.

What may be surprising is that this does not appear to be the initial leak of these documents.

The quotes from

Secret papers show Blair was warned of Iraq chaos, published in late 2004, all seem to match text in the longest of the PDFs, ods020308.pdf, allegedly the "options paper" provided by the Overseas and Defence Secretariat.

Bush and Blair:Secrets and Lies, published 19 Sept 2004, has direct quotes matching that PDF and the documents straw020325.pdf, ricketts020322.pdf, and manning020314.pdf (at great length).

Blair told Bush he 'would not budge' in support for war, also published 19 Sept 2004, has quotes matching as well, but not nearly as thoroughly.

'Failure is not an option, but it doesn't mean they will avoid it', published 18 Sept 2004, includes screenshots of documents that look the same, and I note that the author of that article is that same as the first article I list above, and includes extensive quotes matching manning020314.pdf.

Iraq: The British legal background
The Iraq options paper | PDF
After axis of evil, British foreign secretary says Iraq case weak
Condi committed to regime change in 2002
The British legal background
Admission that Iraq WMD program hadn't changed | PDF
The 'need to wrongfoot' Saddam on inspectors | PDF

The Downing Street Memo:
Minutes of Prime Minister's Meeting Held 23 July 2002.

The briefing paper provided preparatory to that meeting:

The "New" Downing Street Memos:


Monday, June 13, 2005

Coingate: More Theft in Ohio

More Theft in Ohio

Because this isn't yet a national story, it has gone under the radar, but I want to bring to y'all's attention something very interesting that is going on in Ohio:
Coingate Concerns Resonate to D.C.
"Coingate" is the press moniker for a truly amazing scandal involving a Republican donor and party functionary named Tom Noe (I know, it would be better if he were a doctor) who is a dealer in rare coins. Noe, an enthusiastic and prolific contributor to Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, somehow managed to convince James Conrad, the head of Ohio's Bureau of Workers' Compensation, that it would be a good idea for him to 'invest' $50 million of the Bureau's money, through Noe, in rare coins. Noe now appears to have embezzled $10-12 million of that money. Most of it probably went, as Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien put it, for Noe's "personal use"...but it's quite likely that a fair amount of it found its way into the Bush campaign coffers, because Noe is also under investigation for helping the Bush team break campaign finance laws.

The Leak that Changed Minds on the Iraq War

The Times Review puts it together for you:

The Leak that Changed Minds on the Iraq War

Six weeks ago The Sunday Times published the leaked minutes of a July 2002 Downing Street meeting in which Tony Blair committed Britain to war in Iraq months before parliament was consulted.
They detailed a secret pledge to President George W Bush to help oust Saddam, showed that Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, had warned such action could be illegal and that Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, had thought the case for war was “thin”.

Today [Sunday, June 12, 2005 --sid] we publish further revelations in the news section in the form of a July 2002 Cabinet Office briefing paper.
It makes clear that both Blair and Bush have a lot to apologise for: “When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change,” it states, adding that “regime change per se is illegal”.
As a prime minister had agreed to do something that was illegal under British interpretation of international law, it was “necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support regime change”, the briefing paper says.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Now for the Big Question

What knitting project do I take with me on the plane?

The current cardigan?

Or, perhaps, a lace shawl? It *is* the Summer of Lace, as Wendy pronounces. I could do one in a pale yellow baby yarn. Or even haul out the precious grey merino that I've had for a couple years now.

Or should I wait, and buy yarn at my destination?

Decision, decisions...

WriterGirl: You Know Those "How To Write" Articles That All Say "Write"?

They're right.

How to write a novel in three weeks, or what I learned writing a novel in three weeks:

Step Zero: Be improvished student on summer break with only three weeks between finishing finals and start of summer session.

It may help you focus. Plus, this becomes your day job.

Step One: Come up with basic plot
Girl meets boy, girl marries boy for political reasons, stuff happens of the shit-hits-fan variety, they maybe fall in love.

Step Two: Figure out the character flaw of the main characters and their basic emotional arcs

Girl: insecure about her lower-class origin - must prove self worthy of current role.
Boy: inadequacy issues with comparisons to dead brother - must prove just as good as dead brother would have been.
Bad Guy: Territorialism/resentment of lower-class giving themselves airs - fight to preserve status quo.

Step Three: Come up with general linguistic air and color scheme of people, technology of society

anglo-saxon v. hindu v. african v. latin v. ?
middle Ages, today, or future?
magic, science, or neither?

Step Four: Throw Caution to the Wind and Write

  • Don’t edit, write new material
  • Stick to daily page count
  • Don't get bogged down with linguistic crap - stick in a placeholder ("[bard]","[Z's husband]") and then move on.
  • Take a day off if need be to walk around living room asking yourself, “and then what happens”.
  • Re-read favorite portions of beloved book by beloved author for guidance and inspiration. Actual portions, book, and author may vary by day.
  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Describe little things, they make the moment real.
  • Remember: Real People Make Mistakes. This includes your characters.
  • Don’t be afraid to have characters answer different questions than the ones they were asked, or to interrupt one another.
  • Draw a vague map.
  • Outline bits if the mood strikes you - but outlining doesn't count in the daily page count
  • Write.
  • Write.
  • Write.

Your Mileage May Vary, God Knows, Mine Will.

"Over the Top" Dean v. "Under a Rock" Cheney -- I'll take Dean

Vice President Dick Cheney presumed to speak for Democrats today when he said that DNC Chairman Howard Dean was "over the top", "not the kind of individual you want to have representing your political party", and stated that "I think many of his fellow Democrats feel the same way".

Well, speak for yourself Dick, I'm EXTREMELY happy with Dean's willingness to stand up to you.

The Vice President exerted some hyperbole -- or, maybe he flat-out lied -- when he then claimed that Dr. Dean, who was elected five times as Governor of Vermont, had "never won anything".

Speaking in Iowa the same day, Dean said, "I'm tired of lying down in front of the Republican machine. We need to stand up for what we believe in."

I am behind that attitude 1000%.

Downing Street Memo Confirmed as Authentic?

That memo and other internal British government documents were originally obtained by Michael Smith, who writes for the London Sunday Times. Excerpts were made available to The Washington Post, and the material was confirmed as authentic by British sources who sought anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.

Damned Empire reads the above as confirming the "intelligence and facts are being fixed around policy" Downing Street Memo itself.


"creating the political conditions for military action"

Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action

Our objective should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or to international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD. It seems unlikely that this could be achieved while the current Iraqi regime remains in power. US military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime, followed by elimination if Iraqi WMD. It is however, by no means certain, in the view of UK officials, that one would necessarily follow from the other. Even if regime change is a necessary condition for controlling Iraqi WMD, it is certainly not a sufficient one.

Recall that the output of the meeting for which this document was a briefing is the "Downing Street Memo".

Recall also that on June 08, 2005,

Prime Minister Tony Blair said "the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all." But no one is denying that Mr. Rycroft is the person who normally takes minutes, or that the meeting in question didn't occur, or that the minutes are egregiously inaccurate, or that they represent a deep misunderstanding of the substance of the Washington meetings Sir Dearlove had attended and was reporting on. Are. They.


Where's the Beef?

Second US Mad Cow Suspected

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns confirmed late Friday that an older animal had tested positive for the brain-wasting disease, sparking fears that foreign countries would shun American beef again, at a time Mr. Johanns is making a strong push to reassure export markets that the nation's beef is safe.

How about instead of reassuring export markets beef is safe, we actually make beef safe and stop feeding cows and other animals to our cows? They're herbivores, for Christ's sake. Whose bright idea was it to turn them into cannibals?

Nope, No Exit Strategy Here

U.K. Memo Said to Question Postwar Plan

"A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise," authorities of the briefing memo wrote, according to the Post. "As already made clear, the U.S. military plans are virtually silent on this point. Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden."

The output of this meeting is the becoming-more-infamous-by-the-day "Downing Street Memo".

The Washington Post has more of the same: Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Postwar Iraq Plan

The July 21 memo was produced by Blair's staff in preparation for a meeting with his national security team two days later that has become controversial on both sides of the Atlantic since last month's disclosure of official notes summarizing the session.

You know what? I remember actually thinking to myself, all this time ago, that if the Brits were in with us on this (the invasion into Afghanistan), we must not be being too great an ass, internationally speaking.

But I had a certain amount of faith in Colin Powell's credibility back then, too.