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:: Friday, June 18, 2004 ::

Cheney blames media for blurring Saddam, 9/11

Cheney blames media for blurring Saddam, 9/11:
Blaming what he called 'lazy' reporters for blurring the distinction, Vice President Dick Cheney said that while 'overwhelming' evidence shows a past relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the Bush administration never accused Saddam of helping with the Sept. 11 attacks.
Well, that's very true. Without a lazy media, the impression that Bin Laden and Saddam were in bed together wouldn't have been propagated.

Just like, for instance, if you hadn't left your car unlocked, that thief wouldn't have stolen it. Of course, it's still theft and he'd still go to jail. It's just he would have had a harder time stealing your car if you'd bothered to lock it.

Well, whatever problems the Bush administration has, they don't lack for balls. I mean, let's face it: The biggest ally the White House had was a quiescent press. Calling them lazy because they failed to correct your lie might shock them off their knees and convince them to, you know, report the facts.
:: Morat 12:56 PM :: ::

:: Thursday, June 17, 2004 ::

New Dells...

TBogg vents a bit about his new Dell (complete with non-functioning monitor and broken DVD players).

I sympathize. Dell's customer support has always been good to me, but I've had friends who had nothing but trouble. It seems pretty hit or miss.

Still, the conversation TBogg had is pretty typical of any tech support call. You don't call actual experts, you call low-paid tech support flunkies who -- basically -- run through a flowchart for your particular problem.

So yes, they ask stupid questions like "Is it plugged in". Well of course my machine is plugged in. I know what I'm doing. But when the problem is "Machine won't turn on" I'm willing to bet that fixes at least a few people's problems every day. If the low-level flunkies can't handle it, your problem gets passed to people who actually understand the guts of your machine.

It's a hassle for the computer literate, but it's a godsend to people like my father or my grandfather. They're smart men, but asking "Is it plugged in" really is the first step to solving their computer problems.

For the record, I damn near called customer support for a problem almost as stupid: I had hooked up my new monitor and the damn thing wouldn't display. It took me almost five minutes to realize I hadn't pushed the button to change input modes. I was using digital input, but it was trying to read analog.....

Still, for my money, the most annoying part of the Dell customer service experience is the cheerful woman who tells you -- in a low chirpy voice -- over and over about spyware and viruses and how Dell won't fix them and where you should go to find help.

They need a way to turn that off. "If you're prefer not to listen to be inform you about spyware for the eight millionth time, please press 1 for inoffensive "music" that at least won't make you claw your own eyes out in frustration....."
:: Morat 11:36 AM :: ::

Rumsfeld ordered prisoner held off the books

MSNBC phrased this poorly:
Pentagon officials tell NBC News that late last year, at the same time U.S. military police were allegedly abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered that one Iraqi prisoner be held "off the books" -- hidden entirely from the International Red Cross and anyone else -- in possible violation of international law.
If you change "in possible violation of international law" to "if true, a violation of international law" and you have the correct statement.

The only question is whether Rumsfeld did this. As best I understand it, it's quite obviously against international law to do this.

Personally, I love the tag line:
Pentagon officials still insist Rumsfeld acted legally, but admit it all depends on how you interpret the law.
Having read Bush's memos on torture, I can only imagine the Pentagon is interpreting the law as having a "We really don't want to" escape clause...
:: Morat 10:35 AM :: ::

More Incriminating Enron Tapes

Political Animal points out even more Enron tapes:
But officials at the FERC, the very agency charged with regulating energy companies, has not only known about the tapes for two years, but fought attempts to release them.

Now Senator Barbara Boxer of California has called on the FERC to go after those who gouged energy consumers and end those expensive contracts -- or else.

'I said wait a minute, who are you representing here, those folks who cheated us or the consumers,' says Boxer.

'I'm calling on President Bush to ask for the resignation of any FERC commissioner who continues to stand in the way of justice for California consumers who were victimized during the energy crisis,' she says.

But to add insult to injury, Enron and other energy companies hope to pull themselves out of bankruptcy by collecting on the contracts, and are now suing their victims.
I've got to agree with Kevin and Barbara here: Why, exactly, is Bush's FERC trying to hold California to long-term contracts signed during the height of Enron's market manipulation?

And why did the FERC sit on these tapes for two years?

And just to add something of my own: I'm amused as all hell that these tapes are coming out now, five months before election day. I bet Karl Rove's wishing they'd just released the tapes two years ago, rather than try to hide them and end up reminding the public right before election day about the kind of people Dubya calls for advice....

I'm happy to see their penchant for secrecy biting them on the ass. Gives me the warm fuzzies.
:: Morat 9:22 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 ::

Whaaaaaaaa?

Well, somehow I don't think this is going to go over well in California. (Well, I can think of a few wingnuts who still blame all of this on Davis, although I haven't inquired in awhile. Possibly the "Grandma Millie" tapes changed their minds.):
As California struggled through the 2000-2001 energy crisis, Enron traders gloated about gouging the state. Now state Attorney General Bill Lockyer says federal regulators are heaping insult upon injury by demanding California pay Enron and other energy companies almost $270 million in refunds.
So, just to get this straight: Enron employees were caught -- on tape -- bragging about how they were stealing money from California by illegally jacking up energy prices, and California owes them a refund? (Specifically, California's owes Enron 23 million dollars).

Welcome to Bizarro World, where a company can steal from people, have their ill-gotten gains stolen by the companies executives, who then donate heavily to politicians willing to appoint their cronies to the FERC, who then rule that the original victims owe the criminals money.

The only analogy I can think of is like making rape victims apologize to their rapists because the sex was bad....
:: Morat 1:19 PM :: ::

Torture and ticking time bombs...

Glenn Reynolds touched on this topic today, and since -- surprisingly -- his view is pretty close to mine, I thought I'd share. Glenn notes:
I find it hard to respond to these things in terms of cost-benefit. My law school mentor Charles Black once said that of course you can come up with scenarios -- the classic ticking-nuclear-bomb example -- where torture might be justified. And you can be sure that, in those cases, if people think it'll work they'll use it no matter what the rules are. But there's a real value to pretending that there's an absolute rule against it even if we know people will break it in extraordinary circumstances, because it ensures that people won't mistake an ordinary remedy for an extraordinary one.
My thinking on the matter is pretty simple: If it's truly justified, you won't give a damn about prosecution or the fact that you're breaking the law. And, when it was all said and done, I sincerely doubt a jury would convict you...and I'm certain someone could be found to pardon you.

On the other hand, if you're having to come up with convoluted legal procedures designed to avoid prosecution, you already know what you're trying to do is wrong, both legally and morally.
:: Morat 11:47 AM :: ::

When laws get in the way of torture

I don't think I've seen a more succinct summation of those torture memos:
Documents recently obtained by the press reveal White House anxiety about how to protect President George W. Bush and members of his cabinet from going to prison for ordering, authorizing or deliberately permitting systematic torture of persons in their control, but technically outside formal American legal jurisdiction. The question put to lawyers was how the president and the others could commit war crimes and get away with it.
(Bolding mine). The whole article is good, so read away. (Hat tip to Atrios)
:: Morat 11:39 AM :: ::

Kerry Raises Iraq Abuse Questions

Smart move for Kerry:
Sen. John F. Kerry said Tuesday that newly disclosed Bush administration legal records on torture raise 'serious questions about how high' responsibility for the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal goes.

Kerry said President Bush had incorrectly left the impression that 'just a few people' were involved in the U.S. military's mistreatment of detainees.
[...]
Kerry said if he were president, he would have named an outside investigator to "restore people's faith in getting to the bottom of" the prison scandal.

He listed as a possible leader of such an inquiry Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the maverick Republican whose name comes up frequently in Kerry's speeches. Kerry has talked with McCain about the prospect of him becoming the Massachusetts senator's running mate.
McCain is an excellent choice. He's a Republican, so it makes the results harder to dismiss as "partisan politics" -- not that Ann Coulter and her ilk wouldn't do it. He's also managed to earn a reputation for integrity and independence, and as a former POW you can be certain he'd root out everyone responsible, and institute real reform...and not just superficial reforms.

Of course, if I was George Bush or Dick Cheney, I'd probably wet myself at the notion of McCain heading up a panel. After all, what Bush and Cheney did was authorize war crimes -- no matter what their little legal memos said. McCain's the sort that would turn over all his material to prosecutors....assuming Bush doesn't make an 11th hour pardon of everyone involved, including himself. (Can a sitting President pardon himself? Because Dubya's the sort that would issue a blanket pardon upon leaving office....)
:: Morat 11:32 AM :: ::

Makes you wonder...

So, just to note, it took less than a week for the White House's latest lie to be flatly contradicted:
Investigators have found no evidence Iraq aided al Qaeda attempts to attack the United States, a commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings said on Wednesday, undermining Bush administration arguments for war.

The report by commission staff said al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in 1994 and had explored the possibility of cooperation, but the plans apparently never came to fruition.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney this week reiterated pre-war arguments that an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, which is blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, represented an unacceptable threat to the United States.
However, the commission said in a staff report, 'We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.'
Well, not a "new lie". Just the latest utterance of it.

And yet Reuters feel the proper phrasing is "undermining". Got to love that liberal media. Dick Cheney is caught telling a flat out lie, and it's reported as the 9/11 commission undermining his story.

No, they contradicted it. They contradicted it because it wasn't true. They know it wasn't true. Dick Cheney and George Bush, with unfettered access to the materials the 9/11 Commission had to fight for, know it wasn't true. Everyone not watching Fox News knows it wasn't true.

When you tell a falsehood and know it's a falsehood, you're "lying". Dick Cheney is lying. Which makes him a liar. Moreover, he's lying and continues to lie about a matter which has cost almost a thousand American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.

I think the proper word here is "lie", don't you?
:: Morat 11:05 AM :: ::

Another oil bombing..

Oil production is -- or rather will be -- the lifeline of any new Iraqi government. While I think that George Bush's mistakes have already assured that any interim government (assuming it's not merely a US-backed puppet government) will have a lifetime measured in weeks, it appears that the guerrillas and insurgents have decided to cut that lifeline:
Anti-U.S. guerrillas trying to discredit Iraq's new interim government killed an Iraqi oil official and attacked foreign contractors on Wednesday after strangling the country's oil export lifeline.

With the formal end to U.S.-led occupation only two weeks away, the shadowy insurgents have intensified assassinations and suicide bombings to prove that the interim government cannot hope to assert control after the handover.
In the latest attack on Iraq's oil industry, saboteurs blew a hole in one of Iraq's two southern oil export pipelines on Wednesday for the second time in 48 hours, an Iraqi oil source told Reuters. The source said the damage was 'fairly big.'
Simple take: Without secure oil production, even a US-backed puppet government cannot stand. It'll be took expensive. Without oil production, an independent Iraqi government cannot stand -- they'll lack the resources.

In short, if the destruction of oil production and delivery systems continue, no government -- US puppet or actual "By the people, for the people" Iraqi rule can survive. We know it, the insurgents know it, the Iraqi Governing Council (or whatever they call themselves these days) knows it, and the insurgents know it.
:: Morat 11:01 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 ::

'Fahrenheit 9/11' Gets Standing Ovations

What? Hell Froze over? Fox News gave Fahrenheit 9/11 a positive review?
But once 'F9/11' gets to audiences beyond screenings, it won't be dependent on celebrities for approbation. It turns out to be a really brilliant piece of work, and a film that members of all political parties should see without fail.

As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, 'F9/11' ? as we saw last night ? is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty, and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice. Readers of this column may recall that I had a lot of problems with Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine,' particularly where I thought he took gratuitous shots at helpless targets like Charlton Heston. 'Columbine' too easily succeeded by shooting fish in a barrel, as they used to say. Not so with 'F9/11,' which instead relies on lots of film footage and actual interviews to make its case against the war in Iraq and tell the story of the intertwining histories of the Bush and Bin Laden families.
I'll be back later. This will take some time to digest. (Hat tip to Bill in Portland)
:: Morat 9:52 AM :: ::

Dreams coming true?

Kos points out a new voter initiative in Colorado:
The wealthy president of a Brazilian university is bankrolling an initiative to end Colorado's winner-take-all presidential electoral system.
J. Jorge Klor de Alva is the major donor to The People's Choice for President - a nonprofit group seeking voters' permission to award Colorado's Electoral College votes proportionally as a percentage of the statewide popular vote.

For example, a candidate who wins 60 percent at the polls could snag five of the state's nine electoral votes, leaving the remaining four to a candidate who wins 40 percent on Election Day.
I'm excited purely on an intellectual level. I've always been a proponent of proportional voting -- even more so after the Florida fiasco -- and think this is a major step in the right direction.

Of course, Colorado has 9 EV's up for grabs, and this would move it from a likely Bush pickup (all nine) to a Bush 5, Kerry 4 split. In any other election, probably not a big deal. That alone will probably scuttle it, but I can hope it passes.

I do agree with some of Kos' posters, however. Big states (California, Texas, Florida, New York, etc) should probably work together. The Democrats would never allow California to split it's electoral votes proportionally, and the Republicans would never allow Texas to do so....but perhaps they'ld agree if Texas and California did so at the same time.

Maine and Nebraska already allocate votes this way, but few people know -- or care. A state changing the system, especially when it will affect the 2004 count, will get a lot of media attention on election night. After all, at the very least they'll have to provide dual tallies: One for if the Colorado initiative passes, the other if it fails. More visibility for an important issue.
:: Morat 9:36 AM :: ::

:: Monday, June 14, 2004 ::

SCOTUS Wusses out...

They're buying a few years at most. So why punt?:
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a California atheist could not challenge the words 'one nation under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance, sidestepping the broader question of separation of church and state.
So what happens to California? Since Newdow was judged to lack standing, I'd imagine the circuit court's decision was rendered moot.

But now everyone in California (heck, everyone in the 9th's jurisdiction) knows how they'll vote. It's only a matter of time before someone else files.

I suppose I could put on my tinfoil hat and speculate that SCOTUS would likely be forced to revisit the case right before the 2006 mid-term elections....
:: Morat 10:48 AM :: ::

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