Saturday, February 19, 2005


Bush's Fake Reporters for Fake News

The New York Times' Frank Rich explains:
..."Jeff Gannon" is now at least the sixth "journalist" (four of whom have been unmasked so far this year) to have been a propagandist on the payroll of either the Bush administration or a barely arms-length ally like Talon News while simultaneously appearing in print or broadcast forums that purport to be real news. Of these six, two have been syndicated newspaper columnists paid by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote the administration's "marriage" initiatives. The other four have played real newsmen on TV. Before Mr. Guckert and Armstrong Williams, the talking head paid $240,000 by the Department of Education, there were Karen Ryan and Alberto Garcia. Let us not forget these pioneers - the Woodward and Bernstein of fake news. They starred in bogus reports ("In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting," went the script) pretending to "sort through the details" of the administration's Medicare prescription-drug plan in 2004. Such "reports," some of which found their way into news packages distributed to local stations by CNN, appeared in more than 50 news broadcasts around the country and have now been deemed illegal "covert propaganda" by the Government Accountability Office.
It is a brilliant strategy. When the Bush administration isn't using taxpayers' money to buy its own fake news, it does everything it can to shut out and pillory real reporters who might tell Americans what is happening in what is, at least in theory, their own government. Paul Farhi of The Washington Post discovered that even at an inaugural ball he was assigned "minders" - attractive women who wouldn't give him their full names - to let the revelers know that Big Brother was watching should they be tempted to say anything remotely off message.
Source: New York Times The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show' Feb 20, 2005

The sad thing is, this story is getting no coverage by the "liberal media" that pounced on every rumor about the Clinton White House.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Manchurian Beefcake Story Churns On...

Now that Jon Stewart's Daily Show has covered the James "Manchurian Beefcake" Guckert (a.k.a. Jeff Gannon) story, it seems Mr. Guckert is again talking to sympathetic media types. If he's trying to gain a reputation for truthfulness, though, he needs to at least tell a consistent story:
Five days after telling E&P that he was no longer speaking to the press because it was not helping him, former White House reporter James Guckert, a.k.a Jeff Gannon, said today that he had changed his mind and was seeking the right media outlet to tell his side of the story.

Asked this afternoon about reports that he was scheduled to appear on the Anderson Cooper's CNN show tonight, he denied it strongly. One hour later, a CNN spokesman told E&P, "He's taping it right now."

"My side of the story has been poorly reported," said Guckert, ..."One of the frustrating parts has been that everyone has been willing to say things and not make the effort to speak with me.
"I wasn't even given a chance to respond. Chris Matthews' show didn’t make any effort to reach out to me, which is disturbing," he said. "He asked Pat Buchanan to comment on some things [about him] that that Pat Buchanan has no information on."

When reminded that he had made a point of saying to E&P that he would no longer talk to the press, Guckert said that should not have stopped those shows from seeking him out of journalistic fairness. "Does that mean they don't try to talk to me?" he added.
Source: Editor & Publisher 5 Days Later, Guckert's Tells E&P He'll Talk Again, Apparently on CNN (Feb 18, 2005.)
Meanwhile, it appears Mr. Guckert originally started getting "day passes" as a GOPUSA representative:
(White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan) said White House Press Office staffers considered the openly partisan (GOPUSA) site to be a legitimate news organization when they gave Guckert, a.k.a. Jeff Gannon, the first of numerous day passes in February 2003.
...(McClellan) would not identify the (staffer) or comment on how he or she could consider GOPUSA -- which is run by Texas Republican activist Bobby Eberle -- to be a legitimate news organization.
However, Eberle has told The New York Times that he later created Talon to build a news service with a conservative slant and "if someone were to see 'GOPUSA,' there's an instant built-in bias there."
Source: Editor & Publisher Scott McClellan Reveals That Gannon/Guckert Got GOPUSA Press Pass Feb 18, 2005.
Has Karl Rove's crew been listening to their own propaganda for so long that they really think a web site run by a Republican activist is a legitimate news service? For that matter, surely there are rabid Republican activists with journalism experience out there somewhere - maybe from Sinclair Broadcasting? Why did they settle for a man with no experience - with ties to gay prostitution sites? Unless, of course, there was something else going on...


India Likes Bush's Policies

It appears that some people approve of killing large numbers of Muslims and shipping US jobs overseas:

In a recent 21-nation poll, the land of Gandhi and the Taj Mahal was one of only two countries in which a clear majority felt Bush's re-election made the world a safer place. Germany, France and Britain, among others, thought otherwise - by a wide margin.

Chief among the reasons Indians cite for liking Bush is his stance against terrorism. Indians, who've long faced terrorist attacks from separatists in Kashmir and other regions, welcome Bush's pressure on India's longtime nemesis, Pakistan, to crack down on Islamic militants trying to cross to the Indian side of Kashmir.

The booming outsourcing industry also appreciates Bush's pro-business, hands-off policy toward the shift of U.S. software, back office and call center jobs to India.
Source: Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau Poll shows Indians view Bush favorably Feb 17, 2005 (Emphasis added.)

However, not even India approves of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy:
"It's high time they withdrew from (Iraq)," said Rajneet Bhatia, 28, whose family business helps Canadian and European universities recruit students from India. "Don't forget about the loss of life. Terrorism is one thing, but war means loss of life, too."


No Evidence, No Torture

The US Army has apparently taken decisive action against torture - by destroying evidence proving that it occurred:

The ACLU says the documents suggest prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan has been widespread and that the military has tried to suppress the fact.

"It's increasingly clear that members of the military were aware of the allegations of torture and that efforts were taken to erase evidence, to shut down investigations and to humiliate the detainees in an effort to silence them," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero told AP news agency.
Source: BBC US releases new abuse allegations Feb. 18, 2005.

One could almost the the impression the Bush Administration really did authorize the torture of suspected terrorists. I guess it makes sense - if they weren't terrorist sympathizers before they were tortured, I'm sure they were terrorist sympathizers after being tortured questioned using techniques Attorney General Gonzales assures us are nottorture


Death Squad Expert Named as US Intelligence Chief

John Negroponte has been named as the chief of all US Intelligence. We can all sleep safer, knowing that someone allegedly involved in Central American death squad activity is shaping US intelligence policy. The BBC notes:
In the early 1980s, (Mr. Negroponte) was ambassador to Honduras.

At the time, the US was deeply engaged in covert operations in Central America - notably against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

What Mr Negroponte knew about these murky operations, and how far he was aware of human rights abuses committed by US clients in the region is, for some in the US, an open question.

Mr Negroponte has denied any such knowledge or involvement.
Source: BBC Bush's new intelligence man Feb. 17, 2005

Others are somewhat less restrained in their characterization of Mr. Negroponte's Central American years:

Speaking of Negroponte and other senior US officials, an ex-Honduran congressman, Efrain Diaz, told the Baltimore Sun, which in 1995 published an extensive investigation of US activities in Honduras:

"Their attitude was one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed."

The Sun's investigation found that the CIA and US embassy knew of numerous abuses but continued to support Battalion 3-16 and ensured that the embassy's annual human rights report did not contain the full story.

The question of what John Negroponte knew about human rights abuses in Honduras will probably never be answered definitively, but there is some circumstantial evidence supporting the view that Negroponte was aware that serious violations of human rights were carried out by the Honduran government, allegedly with the support of the CIA. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, on 14 September 2001, as reported in the Congressional Record (, aired his suspicions on the occasion of Negroponte's nomination to the position of UN ambassador:
"Based upon the Committee's review of State Department and CIA documents, it would seem that Ambassador Negroponte knew far more about government perpetuated human rights abuses than he chose to share with the committee in 1989 or in Embassy contributions at the time to annual State Department Human Rights reports."
Among other evidence, Dodd cited a cable sent by Negroponte in 1985 that made it clear that Negroponte was aware of the threat of "future human rights abuses" by "secret operating cells" left over by General Alvarez after his deposition in 1984.
Source: Wikipedia "John Negroponte" (Emphasis added.)

Just the guy we need to investigate all those alleged incidents of torture and human rights violations by the CIA and their buddies.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Bush v. Reality : Global Warming

The BBC reports:
"This is perhaps the most compelling evidence yet that global warming is happening right now and it shows that we can successfully simulate its past and likely future evolution," said lead author Tim Barnett, of the climate research division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California.

"If you take this data and combine it with a decade of earlier results, the debate about whether or not there is a global warming signal here and now is over - at least for rational people."
(Source: BBC News Greenhouse gases 'do warm oceans' Feb 17, 2005)

Of course, Mr. Bush's administration doesn't believe in rational thought...


No Missile Left Behind

President Bush's "No (Millionaire's) Child Left Behind" act is partially based on test scores. School funding is cut if students perform poorly on standardized tests.

Maybe we should apply this rationale to President Bush's "Son of Star Wars" missile defense program. After all, it keeps failing standardized tests...

Molly Ivins observes that the "Bush budget takes pennies from hungry kids, feeds billions to Star Wars" For example:
With President Bush's proposed budget, may it die in committee, no pause is necessary. Read any overview of the proposal, and you can see exactly who's getting screwed: children.

Good Lord, what a nasty document. The cuts are in health care, childcare, Head Start, nutrition programs, food stamps and foster care. Because budgets are such abstract things -- add a little here, cut some there, all produced by the Department of Great Big Numbers -- it's hard to see what they actually mean to real people's lives.
Nothing compared to the $9.9 billion being squandered on the missile defense boondoggle this year. (Did you notice that the system flunked yet another test this week, at a cost of another $85 million?)

If we cut one or two billion dollars from the missile defense program ever time they flunked a test, it would "get their attention" just like cutting the budget of underperforming schools "gets the attention" of teachers and administrators.

Some may argue cutting "missile defense" spending would cause it to fail. However, shouldn't that argument apply to "underperforming" schools as well?

Besides, there is a difference between children and technology: if we put off spending money on technology, the technology improves. If we put off educating our country's children, they are forever "left behind."


Bush Vs. Reality - The Battle Continues

Three quick stories from Reuters:

Now that Mr. Bush has been re-elected, oil prices are heading back toward $50+/barrel.
Oil Extends Gains Above $48
Thu Feb 17, 2005 12:18 AM ET
By Jonathan Leff

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Oil prices added to strong gains on Thursday, spurred by persistent OPEC talk of a cut in supplies ahead of the second quarter that could drain healthy U.S. stockpiles before summer.

U.S. light crude rose 13 cents to $48.46 a barrel, building on Wednesday's rally of more than 2 percent that took prices to the highest level in three weeks.

Oil has rallied $3 over the past week on new forecasts for a tighter-than-expected market this year, as well as continued warnings from OPEC that a slide in prices or steep build in inventories could prompt swift action to stem output...
It also looks like we can expect visitors soon, despite the high oil prices:
Iraq Conflict Feeds International Terror Threat -CIA
Thu Feb 17, 2005 12:16 AM ET
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic militants waging a deadly insurgency against U.S.-led forces in Iraq pose an emerging international terrorism threat, CIA Director Porter Goss said on Wednesday.

In his first public appearance as U.S. spymaster, Goss described Iraqi insurgents, including al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as part of a Sunni militant movement inspired by Osama bin Laden and intent on attacking Americans.

"The Iraq conflict, while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists," Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Those jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's threat-based foreign policy is having the same effect in the Middle East as it did with North Korea - making them more defiant:
Syria and Iran Say Will Build 'Common Front'
Thu Feb 17, 2005 12:09 AM ET
By Parisa Hafezi

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran and Syria, both locked in rows with the United States, said on Wednesday they would form a common front to face challenges and threats.

"We are ready to help Syria on all grounds to confront threats," Iranian Vice-President Mohammad Reza Aref said in Tehran after meeting Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otari.

Otari told reporters: "This meeting, which takes place at this sensitive time, is important, especially because Syria and Iran face several challenges and it is necessary to build a common front."
It will be interesting to see how history views Mr. Bush's continued string of disasterous policies. Maybe they'll title it "The Rise and Fall of the Bush Reich Right."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Planting Trees Protected Tsunami Village

Remember the right wing's idiotic "Kyoto Treaty wouldn't prevent a tsunami" talking point right after the disaster? Turns out keeping lots of tree cover near the coast is a good, inexpensive defense:
In 2002, a village in India's Tamil Nadu state planted 80,244 saplings to enter the Guinness World Records book.
When the tsunami roared into the coast of southern India on 26 December many villages and towns were crushed as the giant waves swept across open beaches.

But the people of Naluvedapathy in Vedaranyam district, south of the Tamil Nadu's worst affected areas around Nagapattinam, remained almost unscathed.

Unlike other coastal areas in Tamil Nadu, Naluvedapathy is shielded by a kilometre-thick tree cover.
In spite of being located on a higher elevation, the huge waves flooded their homes, paths and farms.

But the thousands of trees helped break the impact.

Nagappan, an old farmer, says the village has always had trees but the numbers increased vastly when the local administration sold the idea to villagers to create a world record three years ago.

"We were saved by these trees. Other coastal villages should also create a tree cover for their safety," he says.
Source: BBC Tsunami villagers give thanks to trees Feb 16, 2005 (Emphasis added.)

Not that a high-tech tsunami warning system wouldn't be a good idea, but why not establish a tree belt around the coast as well. Yes, it spoils the view from tourist's ground level hotel rooms, but it is inexpensive insurance against disaster. (I expect it would help against storm surges from typhoons, too.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


IOKINAR - Baghdad Style

House Republicans conduct hearing upon hearing regarding possible corruption at the UN "Oil for Food" program. However, due to the IOKINAR rule (it Only Counts If You're Not A Republican) only the Democrats seem at all curious about possible corruption under Paul Bremmer's ironically-named "CPA":
Millions of dollars were wasted by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that ran Iraq after the fall of Baghdad, a former official has said.

Huge cash payments were made to Iraqi contractors out of the back of pick-up trucks, in scenes reminiscent of the "Wild West," he said.

Former CPA officials told the US Senate that sackfuls of money were often "tossed about like footballs".

The former head of the CPA and the administration have denied wrongdoing
Senator Byron Dorgan, who heads the Senate Democratic Policy Committee that held Monday's hearing, said "millions, perhaps billions of dollars have been wasted and pilfered".

Former CPA official Franklin Willis told the hearing there had been widespread abuse and waste of money at the authority.

He showed pictures of himself and other US officials holding plastic-wrapped bundles of $100 notes totalling $2m, which he said was used to pay a security contractor.

"We told them to come in and bring a bag," Mr Willis said.

He added that "a combination of inexperienced officials, fear of decision-making, lack of communications, minimal security, no banks and lots of money to spend" led to chaos that was typical of the Wild West.
Source: BBC (Feb 15, 2005) Iraq agency 'run like Wild West' (Emphasis added)

I recall reports that many of the CPA's administrators had originally sent résumés to the Heritage Foundation and were surprised at being recruited by the CPA for positions they had neither the background nor the experience to perform. They were, however, strong Bush supporters.

Shouldn't investigations of possible financial mismanagement (both UN and US) be based on something other than politics?

Monday, February 14, 2005


Iraqi Vote Results In - 2% Turnout for Sunnis

It is still good news that the Iraqis had an election - but it didn't live up to the original hype. The BBC reports:
Overall turnout across the country was 58% of eligible voters.

But in Anbar province, at the heart of the restive "Sunni triangle" area of central Iraq where the insurgency is strongest, fewer than 2% of those eligible to vote actually did so. Insurgents had threatened to kill those who ventured out to vote.
Source: BBC "Shia parties triumph in Iraq Poll"

Juan Cole notes that Mr. Bush's best buddy interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi only got 14% of the vote despite massive spending and media coverage:
Although Allawi's list is among the three with more than two digits, in fact he lost big. Allawi had all the advantages of incumbency. He dominated the air waves in December and January. He went to Baghdad University and made all sorts of promises to the students there and it was dutifully broadcast, and there were lots of photo ops like that. Allawi's list also spent an enormous amount on campaign advertising. The source of these millions is unknown, since Paul Bremer passed a law making disclosure of campaign contributions unnecessary (the Bush administration's further little contribution to "democracy" in the Middle East). Despite these enormous advantages, clear American backing, money, etc., Allawi's list came in a poor third and clearly lacks any substantial grass roots in most of the country. It seems to have been the refuge of what is left of the secular middle class.
Source: Juan Cole's blog Informed Comment
Will the new Iraqi government stop construction on the permanent US bases currently under construction? Will they wait until the bases are completed and THEN order the US out? Stay tuned...

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