Saturday, April 01, 2006


Jill Carroll has put the Right in a dither

Editor & Publisher has been following the press reaction to the release of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll by her Iraqi kidnappers, and yesterday an article by "staff" began

After spending 82 days in confinement, apparently without a single step outside, and with her life on the line every moment, reporter Jill Carroll was cut surprisingly little slack from certain quarters in the day following her sudden release by insurgents in Iraq.

At issue were a pair of video interviews, one shot by the militants just before her release, the other at an Iraqi political office just after she was set free but before she was back in American hands. In the latter, she simply stated that she had been treated well, all things considered, and had never been beaten.

The quarters not cutting slack included John Podhoretz, columnist for the NY Post and rabid contributor to Fox News, John Hinderaker of the conservative blog Powerline, and Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

There was talk of the Stockholm Syndrome and tut-tutting that, well, after all her captors had kidnapped her, killed her translator and threatened her life. But Carroll herself gave a description of the experience that does not hint of delusion—

"It was like falling off a cliff for three months, waiting to hit the ground," Carroll told the Washington Post Thursday, after being released.

Of course the right-wing bloggers were more snide than their compatriots in the MSM. Melonyce McAfee's blog of blogs for Slate offers

Jazz4Sale smells a conspiracy. "I don't buy it. Everything about this makes me feel this is a PR campaign to make the same people that beheaded all those other hostages look like good, compassionate people," Jazz posits. Matt on Wizbang is thinking along the same lines. "Super, now we can look forward to her articles telling us how nice and misunderstood the insurgents are," he says.

But only "conservative Iowan Ryan" backhandedly captures the essence of the problem that Carroll poses—

"I have no doubt that … the media and far-left will be comparing Carroll's royal treatment to the treatment of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib"

This is paranoia. If Ryan can find anyone in the MSM making such a comparison I'll eat these pixels. But the comparison occurs to Ryan, who then projects it as some sort of left-wing idea. (Is there a left-wing homunculus in Ryan's brain? He should have it checked.)

But now that Ryan has mentioned it, Jill Carroll's kidnapping does invite comparison, doesn't it? You don't have to be a supporter of mujahadeen kidnappers to notice that the U.S. has kidnapped1 thousands of souls (including women and children) and held them secretly in Abu Ghraib and other prisons. You don't have to be a supporter of the mujahadeen murder of translators to notice that by conservative estimate the U.S. coalition has killed over 30,000 Iraqi civilians [NOW, transcript not yet posted]. You don't have to be a supporter of mujahadeen coercion to notice the coerciveness of military dogs, beatings, shackles and rape. And if you've ever viewed a photo of the inmates of Abu Ghraib, you don't have to be a supporter of the mujahadeen to notice that Jill Carroll emerged from her ordeal looking pretty intact by comparison.

The universal description of Carroll in the MSM yesterday was that she is "emotionally fragile," and a great deal of emphasis was placed on the fact that the videotape made before her release was coerced. But the MSM has mostly ignored the brief interview that she gave to a local TV station while at the office of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Howard Kurtz was the exception

As my colleagues in Baghdad point out, when that interview was taped, Carroll was still in the custody of a Sunni political party with ties to the insurgency. It may have just made sense for her to be especially cautious. And they tell me that Carroll did cry -- off camera -- when the subject of her murdered translator came up. Still, people are buzzing because her taped remarks have been played over and over again on television....

So there you have it. The right-wing spin machine is working at full throttle as many wingers suffer from an attack of voices in their heads. The voices must be silenced. But the little whispers in their noggins aren't coming from the Left; they're echoes from a time when they could still observe the world independently. Or—for the religious among them—perhaps they're messages from the Angel of Truth.


1"Kidnapping" legally speaking is

the taking of a person against his/her will (or from the control of a parent or guardian) from one place to another under circumstances in which the person so taken does not have freedom of movement, will, or decision through violence, force, threat or intimidation. Although it is not necessary that the purpose be criminal (since all kidnapping is a criminal felony) the capture usually involves some related criminal act such as holding the person for ransom, sexual and/or sadistic abuse, or rape.... An included crime is false imprisonment.

We don't usually refer to this activity as "kidnapping" when done by a government, but the distinction is probably lost on the victims. [back]

Friday, March 31, 2006


Deception of the Day

I've been there four times now. I can tell you that about two-thirds of Iraq is pretty peaceful. —Senator Joe Lieberman in a recent TV interview, as quoted by Walter Shapiro

Since more than three-quarters of Iraq is empty, Sen. Lieberman is telling the truth—for once—while completely misleading the audience.

His remark recalls the admission last week by Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey that the critic who said "turning over large portions of battle space to Iraqi forces is meaningless if most of that land is desert" had a valid point. Lisa Burgess of Stars & Stripes reported that

[General] Chiarelli, who is commanding general of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said March 17 that the coalition’s goal is to turn over control of 75 percent of the country’s territory to the Iraqi security forces by summer’s end.

But Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, believes the hand-over emphasis is “nonsense.”

With almost the entire western half of Iraq virtually empty desert, “the figures vastly overestimate the actual area of influence and are at least as meaningless as the worst reporting on pacification in Vietnam”....

“The Iraqi forces don’t control anything like these areas, ignoring what ‘control’ of empty desert means.”

But Lieberman's egregious effort to dupe the public really should be compared to that of California Republican candidate for Congress and inveterate liar Howard Kaloogian. Almost everyone by now has heard of the photo of Istanbul, Turkey that Kaloogian claimed he had taken in Baghdad to show how peaceful the city was.

Kaloogian has been well flayed in the blogosphere for his duplicity, but Lieberman's deviousness has gone unnoticed.

War candidate Lieberman

Our Lieberman quote appeared in an article in Salon that contrasted Lieberman with his potential challenger in the August primary—"antiwar businessman Ned Lamont." Author Shapiro can't quite puzzle out the dislike of Lieberman by the Left, but does come up with a fascinating poll result—

According to a mid-February Quinnipiac University poll, Lieberman has a higher approval rating among Connecticut Republicans (71 percent) than Democrats (57 percent).

But Shapiro notes that "The national party establishment is expected to rally around Lieberman." And Sen. Barack Obama appeared at a Lieberman fundraiser last night. Though the Democratic establishment would use other rationales to justify their support for Lieberman, I do not believe it can be denied that the national Democratic establishment is pro-war.

Lieberman, then, will benefit doubly. He will receive the official support of the Democratic Party. And if the race begins to tighten, you may expect to see funds pouring in from—yes!—the Republicans. Moneywise, it has been a very, very good war for them, and they won't want to lose such an ardent supporter.

As someone who views the Iraq war as a national disaster and disgrace—in some respects worse than Vietnam—I search constantly for a political strategy that might bring it to an end. Though it may take a miracle to accomplish, the unseating of Senator Joe Lieberman by an antiwar candidate would, I believe, bring the troops home faster than years of demonstrations and protests.

Nothing frightens a politician more than the sight of another politician losing a Congressional election. After all, under normal circumstances the Congress is elected for life. Loss of an election by a seated Congressman smacks of revolution! Let's make it happen!

MyDD has links up for donations to 4 worthy candidates. Ned Lamont is first in the list.

Factlet of the Day

More senior White House aides have left as a result of criminal indictments in Bush's second term — the vice president's chief of staff, the top administrator for federal procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget and the director of domestic policy — than through normal attrition. —Sidney Blumenthal writing in "Bush's Card trick"


A bit of good news for the felons of Washington State

In the effort to imprison as many non-White citizens as possible,1 if for no other reason than to deprive them of their right to vote, the state of Washington has done an outstanding job. When it comes time to restore the reborn and rehabilitated felon's voting rights, Washington goes further than any other state to ensure that doesn't happen. And when you consider that it's in competition with Florida, a state where you don't even have to commit a crime to end up on the excluded felons list, that's saying something.2

In Washington, to restore your right to vote you must not only serve your sentence plus complete your probation and community service but you must also pay all court costs, effectively making poverty another reason for disenfranchisement.

Ralph Thomas writes,

In 2004, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the state on behalf of three indigent felons who cannot afford to pay their court-ordered fines.

Now a state judge has struck down the law, citing the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The judge said,

It is well recognized that there is simply no rational relationship between the ability to pay and the exercise of constitutional rights.

A radical thought if there ever was one.

Naturally the State will appeal. If the statistic from 2002 still holds, the legislature may be facing up to 50,000 new voters.


1Presuming the State follows national patterns, about 1 in 5 of its prisoners is in for a drug offense. And of those, almost 50% are Black and 70% are Black or Hispanic. [back]

2Back in 2000 the Seattle Times was railing that—

The most disenfranchised adults in the United States are not, in fact, from Palm Beach County. They include the 2 million people in America's jails and prisons, and the millions more whose criminal records bar them from ever casting a vote.

But they were upset more by the rate of imprisonment than by the disenfranchisement. And Washington legislators didn't seem to get the message. [back]

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Bio of the Day

He rides a motorcycle, loves to bowl and keeps a copy of the children's book "Walter the Farting Dog" on his coffee table. —Janet Hook writing about new White House Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Word of the Day

Disintermediation: Removing the middleman or intermediary.

In a communications context disintermediation means to remove the mainstream media (MSM) from their roles as gatekeepers, interpreters and filterers of information. This can only be done, of course, by bypassing them through some other medium.

Ezra Klein has written an interesting piece on the resurrection of Al Gore. Our word of the day is offered as a description of Gore's effort to get around the MSM that done him wrong during the 2000 Presidential campaign—

On August 7, 2003, Gore headed to New York University to offer one of his first major speeches since his concession address; it was a notably prescient condemnation of the Bush administration's later bellicosity and overreach. But more visionary than the content was the distribution method: the speech was Gore's first ... offered under the auspices of the online-activism powerhouse, an alliance that granted Gore a direct conduit to millions of engaged liberal activists nationwide.

"I know the word fell out of favor after the dot-com collapse," mused Wes Boyd, founder of, "but he's doing disintermediation. He contacted us in the summer of 2003, said he wanted to give a speech, and was wondering if we'd like to sponsor it. What we lend to it is some of that disintermediation."

Disintermediation is a big word for a type of subtraction, the sort that excludes the middleman (the "mediator"). As a dot-com term, it described producers selling directly to customers rather than working through established retail channels. In Gore's case, it describes a public figure distributing his words directly to the public rather than working through established media outlets.

Simply Appalling is an avid proponent of disintermediation when the staff is sober enough to pronounce it.

Related post
Psst! Move over NY Times: The Whispering Campaign (6/27/05)

Disintermediation website
The Whispering Campaign

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


How the Pentagon's exit plan for Iraq might work

As we contemplate the turnover of military operations and command to the Iraqi army—"the plan" proposed by the Pentagon and White House—the date of the turnover is obviously uppermost in everyone's mind. So it may be well to check how another of our exit plans is going, just to get an idea of the timeframe.

Unknown to most Americans the U.S. is still in charge of the South Korean military in time of war. And the South Korean government is beginning to wonder when they might have their soldiers back. According to William Mann of the AP,

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has been talking since January about negotiating a way for homegrown officers to recover wartime command of South Korea's military. He specified in a speech to cadets at the Korea Military Academy this month that he hoped the turnover would come this year.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke to the matter just last week, and his tone suggested that we should all be cautiously optimistic—

... everyone agrees that 55 years after the [Korean] war, it's reasonable that the South Korean forces would increasingly take on more and more responsibility.

Well, actually not quite everyone—

Asked whether he thought the change in command structure could start this year, Rumsfeld replied: "No, no, I don't at all."

As in Iraq, there's a lot of work ahead, but the South Koreans are coming along and may be able to run their own army in a century or two—

"The South Korean government has raised the question as to when might it be appropriate to transfer responsibility to the Korean command, and that is something that gets discussed," Rumsfeld said Thursday.

He said no time has been set for the turnover, but South Korean forces already are taking increasing responsibilities. "They're doing that," he said, "and as they continue to take on more and more responsibility, the United States will be able to reduce its troops."

Meanwhile we must remain firm—

He said he had not heard that [South Korean President] Roh had suggested a 2006 agreement on a turnover, which he said will not happen.

His impression from conversations with Korean officials and cables he has read, Rumsfeld said, "is that they want the subject raised - which we do, too; we think that's just fine - and then we'd set about a path to see that the South Korean military evolves into a position where it would be appropriate for them to have that control."

The vital consideration is not to inject instability into the peninsula, Rumsfeld said. Before the Koreans can assume the responsibility, he said, they must "make investments and increase their capabilities."

The U.S. currently has 29,500 troops in South Korea—about a quarter of the number in Iraq. The good news is that they're not being slaughtered. The bad news is that there's some attrition due to age-related infirmities.


It sure does pay to be White

Only the AP has written up this story, and as best I can tell, only two newspapers have carried it—as local news.

San Juan County sheriffs deputies arrested a Colorado man after an officer discovered a homemade bomb containing bullets inside his broken-down vehicle when the man called for help with because he was stranded.

Ryan Matthew Bowler, 24, of Montrose has been charged with possession of explosives, a misdemeanor.

Bowler had called the sheriffs office from U.S. 550 south of Bloomfield on Tuesday.

A deputy who arrived to help him discovered an outstanding arrest warrant for Bowler and took him into custody.

His vehicle was towed, but police who searched it beforehand discovered a glass bottle containing gunpowder, something that looked like paper and live .22-caliber bullets. The top was wrapped with black electrical tape, and wires extended out the top, the sheriff's office said.

"It's never a comforting feeling when you find an explosive device during a search," said San Juan sheriff's Sgt. Tyler Truby. "Its not frequently, but it does happen."

The Farmington Police Department's bomb unit detonated the homemade bomb.

Truby said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was notified.

So how do I know he's white, you ask. Because even though I'm originally from Mars, I'm beginning to sense a pattern.

Related post
Racial profiling à l'anglaise (3/23/06)

Monday, March 27, 2006


Quote of the Day

The rapture, end-times, and Armageddon hucksters in the US rank with any Shiite ayatollahs, and the last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in US history. —Kevin Phillips, political strategist for Richard Nixon, as quoted in "Conservatives' new books have Bush in crosshairs"


Political Advice of the Day

What they [the Democrats] are going to try to do, what they should do, is say nothing except: "had enough?" If they try to wear a mask and pretend to be moderates, Republicans will cheerfully take the mask off. —Newt Gingrich in an interview for Time magazine


World Bank gives chicken feed to the Palestinian Authority

You may remember last year's elevation of Iraq War architect Paul Wolfowitz to the presidency of the World Bank. Since then Wolfie has devoted himself to stamping out corruption in Africa and eliminating upper- and mid-level bank managers at home. Wolfowitz is more Jewish than a yarmulke and more Neoconservative than the Jacobins, so why is the World Bank giving money to the Palestinians? Well, because the Israelis asked him to.

According to Roee Nahmias of YnetNews,

The World Bank has announced it plans to transfer more than USD 2 million in aid to Palestinian poultry farmers whose chickens contracted the bird flu virus. The World Bank has decided to funnel the money in compliance with a request by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who spoke with the Bank's President Paul Wolfowitz, and following talks between senior bank officials and Foreign Ministry Director General Ron Prushor.

The Israelis have halted the transfer of a monthly $55 million tax revenue they collect for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to punish the Palestinians for electing Hamas. Now they want Wolfie to pay for sick Palestinian chickens—

Livni has asked Wolfowitz to give incentives to the Palestinian farmers to exterminate the infected birds immediately, in wake of concerns that in lack of international intervention, the required procedures will not take place in the Palestinian Authority.

The bird flu was discovered in the PA in the middle of this week, and consequently Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instructed all the professional offices working opposite the PA to lend all the assistance required in order to contaminate the virus' outbreak.

This just goes to show that when chicken soup is at risk, the Israelis can find common cause with the Palestinians.

And the World Bank?

Meanwhile, Edward T. Pound and Danielle Knight of US News & World Report have just come out with a lengthy spread that purports to report on Wolfowitz's efforts to clean up corruption. Given the paucity of information in the article, I'm tempted to conclude that the authors were paid by the word. They begin with one Leslie Jean-Robert Pean, a Haitian who did very well for himself as a World Bank employee. But Mr. Pean's presumed delinquencies are but a drop in the bucket—

Some estimates [of waste due to corruption] are mind-boggling. A Northwestern University professor, Jeffrey Winters, an expert on Indonesia, told Congress in 2004 that he believed the World Bank had lost $100 billion to corruption over the years. Old bank hands ridicule the number but say they can't estimate how much has actually been stolen; they just don't know. But Steve Berkman, a former manager of World Bank projects in Africa who later worked as a bank investigator, says the $100 billion figure is probably conservative.

The authors date the actual anticorruption effort to the time of Wolfie's predecessor Wolfensohn. But Wolfowitz should fit right into the scheme

The sanctions process is frequently cited as the chokepoint for investigations. Many cases sat around for months in the integrity department before they were shipped over to the sanctions committee for action. The committee has banned either permanently or temporarily more than 330 consultants, company officials, and firms in seven years, but critics say that most of those disciplined are small mom and pop operations and that more than a third involved a single country—Indonesia. The committee has been reluctant, some bank officials say, to punish large companies engaged in misconduct.

The Indian pundit N.J. Nanporia illuminates the neoconservative aspect of Wolfowitz' efforts at the World Bank—

When Wolfowitz was nominated as World Bank chief no surprise that everyone was taken aback. Yet how skilfully he insinuated himself, as it were, into his new post.... However, the neo part of Wolfowitz psychological make-up does, even now, tend to surface. He thinks, for example, that corruption in the African continent, not terrorism, is the key problem and that stopping loans is the solution. Here we have the deeply ingrained neo idea that “pressure” — ranging from military threats to sanctions, to withholding aid, to “leaning” on individuals and nations — is the key to getting one’s own way.


Sunday, March 26, 2006


Dominionists in the bush?

First, let me say that I would be willing to cede all of Uganda to the Dominionists if we could just get a little peace. But you know they won't stop there.

The Washington Post's "World in brief" had this note today —

Uganda has dropped terrorism charges against a U.S. evangelist who police said was caught with assault rifles hidden in his bedroom just days before last month's election, the man's attorney said.

Peter Waldron, a 59-year-old from Wyoming who had claimed close links to President Yoweri Museveni's family, is expected to be deported on Sunday, said lawyer MacDosman Kabega.

"The director of public prosecutions simply stated to us that they had lost interest in the matter and the charges were being withdrawn," Kabega said.

This reeks with intrigue, but of course the Post won't be pursuing it.

I had missed the news of Waldron's arrest on February 20, but a number of bloggers were all over the story and ferreted out quite a bit about ex-military born-again "evangelist" Peter Waldron. If you're interested in the shady world of the Religious Right, its efforts toward global theocracy and its possible links with the CIA, the story of Waldron seems to have it all.

Bartholomew's notes on religion and Flogging the Simian have done quite a bit of work on Waldron's background. The Free Peter Waldron site is written by Dave Racer, who has also deposited comments on the above sites.

In the grander scheme of crime and intrigue, the Post probably has it right—that the story hardly deserves a mention. On the other hand, it is sometimes stories of such inconsequential matters (we think of the break-in of the Democratic offices in the Watergate) that can lead to really big revelations—when pursued by reporters, that is.

Related post
Dominionism and the Yurica Report (7/24/04)

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