valerie plame affair
The Serious Implications Of President Bush's Hiring A Personal Outside Counsel For The Valerie Plame Investigation
By JOHN W. DEAN
Recently, the White House acknowledged that President Bush is talking with, and considering hiring, a non-government attorney, James E. Sharp. Sharp is being consulted, and may be retained, regarding the current grand jury investigation of the leak revealing the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA covert operative.
(Plame is the wife of Bush critic and former ambassador Joe Wilson; I discussed the leak itself in a prior column, and then discussed further developments in the investigation in a follow-up column.)
This action by Bush is a rather stunning and extraordinary development. The President of the United States is potentially hiring a private criminal defense lawyer. Unsurprisingly, the White House is doing all it can to bury the story, providing precious little detail or context for the President's action.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bush explained his action by saying, "This is a criminal matter. It's a serious matter," but he gave no further specifics. White House officials, too, would not say exactly what prompted Bush to seek the outside advice, or whether he had been asked to appear before the grand jury.
Nonetheless, Bush's action, in itself, says a great deal. In this column, I will analyze what its implications may be.
For those that might not remember, John Dean was Nixon's lawyer during Watergate.
Preserving an Era Image by Image
THREE young German farmers are strolling down a weedy path on their way to a dance in a neighboring village. They are dressed like dandies in matching dark suits with high collars, fancy hats and walking sticks. It is a Saturday evening during the summer of 1914. In this part of Germany, between the towns of Dünebusch and Hallscheid, in the Westerwald, near Cologne, the countryside is flat and nondescript. The farmers come upon a man with a bicycle. Or maybe he was waiting at that spot for them.
They probably know him. He is from the area, a photographer who has been taking pictures of people there, and everyone knows each other in these small villages. He has set up his bulky camera on a tripod. He poses the farmers. "Turn like that," we might imagine him saying. "Now face toward me. A little more."
When the shutter releases, the three farmers are caught as if in mid-stride, looking at him, pretending to have just noticed he is there. The barren background in the photograph turns blurry.
To see this famous image in the August Sander show now at the Metropolitan Museum is to be reminded how everything about the picture, which teeters so precariously between a snapshot and a formal portrait, between past and future, is strange and unnatural: these country flâneurs standing in the middle of nowhere, one of them with a cigarette delicately dangling from his lips, another holding up a hand self-consciously with thumb touching index finger. All three try to appear casual and spontaneous but clearly register the gravity of the moment when the camera will preserve them for posterity.
"Young Farmers" (1914)
Young Bourgeois Mother, Cologne
In this idyllic image of Frau Steinrücke with her child and small dog, August Sander depicted a scene of leisure specifically associated with middle-class Weimar Germany. Seated on the grass, the baby smiles at the camera while the mother gazes contentedly and the dog stands proudly beside her. The absent father is presumably at work.
One scholar astutely observed that, although "Sander claimed that his photographs were primarily documentary, . . . they also inevitably articulated anxieties and desires shared by many of his contemporaries." Germany in the mid-1920s experienced political and economic chaos. By posing a woman with her child in a landscape, Sander emphasized women's domestic role and tie to nature rather than their increasing political and wage-earning power. Perhaps because it reinforces traditional social tenets, this portrait conveys a sense of stability and calm, despite the fact that it was made during a period of fragmentation and turmoil.
Right after the local powerbrokers of the Iraqi Governing Council turned around and bit the very American hand that fed them, there was yet another sign of the United States' diminishing authority on all matters related to Iraq: the revised UN resolution submitted to the Security Council on Tuesday.
Both the IGC's ability to out-maneuver the Americans over the appointment of the interim government and the success of Security Council naysayers such as Russia and China in securing significant concessions reflect the Bush administration's increasingly precarious position: there is blood in the water and everyone can smell it.
The combination of the impending U.S. elections, Abu Ghraib torture pictures, the climb-downs with ex-Ba'athists in Najaf, the Shi'a militia in Fallujah and the mounting U.S. casualties have taken a serious toll on the White House's negotiating power. And the proof is in the details of the draft resolution.
New Iraqi Government Announced
by Juan Cole
How weak the Americans have become in Iraq became clear in Iraq on Tuesday when their choice for the ceremonial post of president of the transitional government had to withdraw in favor of Ghazi al-Yawar, the choice of the Interim Governing Council. Special UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi announced Pachachi as president with the blessing of lame duck American proconsul Paul Bremer. But almost immediately, Pachachi stepped down in favor of al-Yawar, feeling that he lacked the support on the IGC that would be necessary.
The big story this morning was obviously the carefully scripted conclusion to the hit comedy series Who Wants To Be President of the New Iraq®? in which the runner up, diplomatic patriarch Adnan Pachachi, graciously bowed out in favor of U.S.-educated tribal leader Ghazi Yawar, who - as the news media repeatedly remind us - demonstrates his independence from the massive army currently occupying his country by dressing in the robes of a nomadic Bedouin chief.
Hey, it worked for Peter O'Toole.
“Why are they doing this to us?”
He is a well spoken, handsome lawyer, just a year older than I am. He worked as a diplomat who coordinated NGOs and foreign governments in order to bring aid to his country during the sanctions.
He was detained and accused of being a spy for Saddam Hussein, even though he is not even a Baathist.
He was hung from his ankles for hours in Abu Ghraib, until he passed out.
I ask him what else happened to him in there. He pulls up the legs of his trousers to show me two electrical burns on the inside of his knees, and points to two more on his elbows.
thanks to Conscientious
The Gaza Withdrawal is NOT the Path to Peace
by Amira Hass
The government hospital in Rafah last week received a donation from a Palestinian NGO—four mortuary refrigerators with room for 24 bodies, in addition to the old refrigerator, which catered for only six bodies. There won't be any need for the macabre photographs of the dead casualties, held a week or more in commercial refrigerators ordinarily used to hold food. The new equipment is the quintessence of the Palestinian expectations for the coming year or two, at least: Sharon will try to advance his disengagement plan; the IDF will continue to strike in Gaza; Rafah will continue to be the focus of those attacks; many Palestinians will be killed and many will be rendered homeless. While in Israel there will be debate about formulas for disengagement, Palestinians will try to strike at the army, mine roads, develop the Qassam, and get weapons from whatever source they can.
In Israel the debate will be over the pain of evacuating settlements, Egypt will make its proposals, and the IDF will demolish more Palestinian homes and what remains of their fields, orchards and groves. But quietly. Just like overnight on Saturday, when another 23 homes of refugees were demolished in J block of the Rafah refugee camp. Who heard about it? Who protested?
These scenes of destruction, which have been part of life in Rafah and Khan Yunis since 2001, usually don't appear on our TV screens, in our consciousness or our consciences. Already, the number of Palestinians who have lost their homes in Gaza due to house demolitions—some 17,000, according to UNRWA—is more than double the number of Israeli settlers in the Strip. That's why the dragged-out talk in Israel about disengagement sounds, in Rafah in particular and in the Strip in general, like an Israeli trick to escape the daily and very contemporary reality of destruction.
The Scale of the Carnage
Palestinian Misery in Perspective
The media usually focuses on the latest casualty and quickly forgets those who died even a few days before. The American media in particular has a Dracula-like predilection for warm bodies, and no interest in cases where blood has already dried. Unfortunately this ahistoric focus on the last victim hides the scale of mass crimes and the responsibility of various perpetrators. Whether in Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, or Haiti, it is necessary to locate human rights abuses in a wider context to appreciate the scale of what is occurring on the ground.
In the case of Palestinian casualties, it is all too evident that CNN, BBC, and most other major media are mostly interested in today's casualties: they seem to studiously ignore precedents, and above all, they will not refer to the pattern of killings as systematic in nature. Of course, admitting that such killings are systematic would imply that Israel is committing "crimes against humanity", a precursor to genocide. When the media seeks to whitewash "friendly" mass crimes, there is a tendency to fixate on specific instances to the exclusion of broad patterns. Even when a pattern of killings and other abuses is chronic and systematic, the BBC/CNN will tend to focus on specific cases without reference to broader trends. When referring to Palestinian conditions, what we find is that reports of casualties, house demolitions, and dispossession in these media outlets pertain to specific cases and not to general patterns . Incidentally, the opposite is true when there is an incident of Palestinian violence; here lists and charts are available to highlight their context.
Time to put the US media on trial for complicity in genocide?
Following pressure from the Israeli public, international condemnations and a UN resolution, and a flurry of rare coverage of Rafah from American cable news networks, Israel's "Operation Rainbow" was 'concluded' in Rafah on 24 May 2004. According to Israel at least.
Since then, during a one week period in Rafah (27 May-2 June 2004), Israel destroyed another 39 Palestinian homes, leaving at least another 485 Palestinian civilians homeless, and razed another 24 dunums of Palestinian land.
Google News continuously crawls more than 4,500 news sources from around the world, yet a search for the keyword "Rafah" shows that, beyond the Israeli press, supplementary news websites such as the Electronic Intifada, and a handful of US newspapers, coverage of the latest demolitions following "Operation Rainbow" has been minimal, particularly in the United States.
Israel: Now you see it, now you don't
King County Democrats just pulled off a nifty magic trick.
They made Israel disappear.
Not the country, mind you, but the word -- as it had appeared in proposed language for the party's 2004 county platform.
The plank called for the United States to stop sending aid to Israel unless it treats the Palestinian people with dignity and respect. But when county Democrats, preparing for the big state convention, ironed out the final wrinkles of the platform Tuesday, "Israel" vanished.
The Unfinished Print
When does a work of art achieve aesthetic resolution, and when does it fall short? Artists, collectors, and theorists since the Renaissance have regarded this question as both problematic and central to understanding the artistic endeavor. For reasons inherent in the medium, prints claim a special place in this history. Over the course of several centuries, artists were increasingly likely to retain and distribute prints at various stages in their making. Experiments with differing states and specially tailored impressions encouraged a fascination with degrees of finish in printmaking that challenged the very idea of aesthetic completion.
What follows is a chronicle of the complex workings of the artistic imagination revealed through the unfinished print and the changing estimation of artistic process that it provoked. There are many different ways to define incompleteness in a print. This exhibition explores only some of them, as seen by the following themes and highlights from the exhibition.
Anthony van Dyck
Flemish, 1599 – 1641
Self-Portrait, c. 1629/1630
Etching (state i/vii)
thanks to Marja-Leena Rathje
war against some terrorists
The Smart Money and al-Q'aeda
So, let's say that who won wasn't something you had a stake in, but you could place a bet. What odds would you put on al-Q'aeda and what odds would you put on the US?
Because that's the game, a giant Go board that is the world. For those who haven't played Go, in Go if you surround pieces they turn to your colour. It's a game of stunning reversals, where territory assumed safe can suddenly switch sides. Unlike chess, computers suck at Go, but like chess a good player can give a bad player a lot of extra pieces and still win.
The US has a lot more pieces than al-Q'aeda. Aircraft carriers, nuclear missiles, piles of money and excellent troops. The American economy thrums with money and activity, the US army uses the most sophisticated technology in the world and the US has more power than any empire in hundreds of years
Against this juggernaut how can al-Q'aeda succeed?
A better question might be how can they fail?
Neil Folberg's CELESTIAL NIGHTS
thanks to LensWork
You know things are bad when Robert Novak starts making sense.
U.S. is lost in Afghanistan
The handful of valiant American warriors fighting the ''other'' war in Afghanistan is not a happy band of brothers. They are undermanned and feel neglected, lack confidence in their generals and are disgusted by Afghan political leadership. Most important, they are appalled by the immense but fruitless effort to find Osama bin Laden for purposes of U.S. politics.
This bleak picture goes unreported because journalists are rarely seen there. It was painted to me by hard U.S. fighters who are committed to the war against terrorism but have a heavy heart. They talked to me not to undermine policy but to reveal problems that should and can be corrected.
Afghanistan constitutes George W. Bush's clearest victory since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Taliban regime has been overthrown, eliminating al-Qaida's most important base. But the overlooked war continues with no end in sight. Narcotics trafficking is at an all-time high. If U.S. forces were to leave, the Taliban -- or something like it -- would regain power. The United States is lost in Afghanistan, bound to this wild country and unable to leave.
thanks to Eschaton
Double-Tongued Word Wrester
A Growing Dictionary of Old and New Words
Double-Tongued Word Wrester records words as they enter and leave the English language. It focuses upon slang, jargon, and other niche categories which include new, foreign, hybrid, archaic, obsolete, and rare words. Special attention is paid to the lending and borrowing of words between the various Englishes and other languages, even where a word is not a fully naturalized citizen in its new language.
thanks to wood s lot
Stirling newberry continues his series on the Fourth Republic.
The Fourth Republic:
III. Constitution as Covenant: The Union (1861-1932)
Links to the first two:
The Fourth Republic - Thesis
The Fourth Republic:
Constitution as Contract (1787-1860)
The Cartoonist made me waste another night. Yes, it's true. It's all his fault. He had a link to a Grateful Dead archive. I checked it out and was undone. It was much more than the Grateful Dead. Much more!
Live Music Archive
13,288 shows (569 artists)
Welcome to the Live Music Archive. etree.org is a community committed to providing the highest quality live concerts in a lossless, downloadable format. The Internet Archive has teamed up with etree.org to preserve and archive as many live concerts as possible for current and future generations to enjoy. All music in this Collection is from trade-friendly artists and is strictly noncommercial, both for access here and for any further distribution. Artists' commercial releases are off-limits. This collection is maintained by the etree.org community.
The Live Music Archive is but one part of a larger site (Internet Archive), which has movies and text, which I will search some other day. It's the Live Music Archive that caught me last night. They have 1764 Grateful Dead shows from 1965 to 1995. The Grateful Dead pioneered a strange concept. They allowed taping at all their concerts — that was the big reason that they were such a successful tour band. They never had any big hit records. The word got out through the trading of tapes. The Grateful Dead was a jam band. Every show was different and each song was never played the same. Improvisational rock and roll. The Grateful Dead wasn't the only jam band. Phish used taping to spread the word. But Phish is to be no more.
One of the early successes of the Internet was The Well. It became a huge success when the Grateful Dead tapers discovered it and used it to trade tapes. The Dead allowed non-commercial taping. You could trade but not sell. It was, and is, a huge community. But the quality of the tapes often left something to be desired. You always tried to get close to the original tape but often it was generations removed with a loss of quality. Boy, how things have changed.
The Live Music Archive has several formats available for downloads. Some are MP3 (64Kbps and VBR) but the most common format is Shorten. It doesn't seem to be very common outside of the trading community but it seems to be one of the standards for tapers. It doesn't compress nearly as much as MP3 but it's big advantage is that it's lossless. Unlike MP3, no data is lost on compression. And combined with modern *very high quality* portable portable recording devices, the sound is awsome. Unfortunately, this really only works for those with broadband. Dial-up is way to slow for these big files.
etree.org is behind this. Their site has links and directions on how to download and convert. I use Shorten to convert the Shorten files to WAV files, which then can be easily burnt. There are a lot of other options so check out the etree.org site.
I'm listening to the first set of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, February 11th, 2003, at Pompano Beach Amphitheatre. The sound quality and musicianship is incredible. It's psychedelic banjo jazz. But I've been a Bela Fleck fan for some time. The Live Music Archive lets me check out some other jam bands that I've heard of and not heard of. One of the latter is what I was listening to last night.
Every day more and more people are tuning in and turning on to Umphrey’s McGee. And for good reason. Like true sons of the American Midwest, Umphrey's McGee has risen to the upper echelons of the improvisational-rock scene through their seamless compositing of diverse musical influences, from progressive-rock to metal to funk to folk to jazz-fusion to classic song-based rock-and roll, all woven together with infectious melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, pristine harmonies, blistering musicianship, and rollicking grooves that keep dem bones a-shaking throughout the course of their patented sonic sagas.
Devotees of “all cool music,” the band identifies The Beatles and Led Zeppelin as primary influences with a reverence the members describe as “biblical.” They also share a love for the music of Yes, Gabriel-era Genesis, King Crimson, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis, and Jaco Pastorius. Their own playing and writing reflects these influences, yet maintains its own contemporary originality through a diligent avoidance of clichés (both musical and lyrical) and a willing patience to wait for the freshest expression of an idea to emerge. Sometimes song ideas sit dormant for years before finding a place in the band’s vast repertoire. Using 8-bar segments and progressions (building blocks they have dubbed “legos”), primary songwriters Jake Cinninger and Brendan Bayliss construct their songs piecemeal and with the active participation of their bandmates. All arrangements are collaborative. Lyrics, too, are collected over time and groomed to be thought-provoking and open to interpretation. This is a band that likes its audience to think while they’re dancing. Solid songcraft is the first crucial step in that process.
Last night I downloaded the first set of Umphrey's McGee, December 31st, 2002, Vic Theatre, Chicago, IL. They don't mention it, but there is a Phish influence. Definitely worth checking out. This show was three sets and takes up 4 audio discs. The second set has covers of the second side of Abbey Road. Wonderful!
Only 13,286 shows to go. Except that they keep adding to the list. I just checked and it's up to 13, 294 shows. I'd better start downloading. Here are some that I will be checking out soon: Aquarium Rescue Unit (14), Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (78), Big Head Todd and the Monsters (14), Billy Bragg (41), Grateful Dead (1764), Leftover Salmon (98), Little Feat (64), New Riders of the Purple Sage (17), Of A Revolution (268), Rusted Root (26), String Cheese Incident (652), Umphrey's McGee (438), Yonder Mountain String Band (265), and Zero (120).
There are many other archives out there in Internet land. Other bands and more music. These are all bands that are best seen live. If you like what you hear, go see them. You will be amazed. So much music, so little time.
I forgot about moe. (472).
Oceans Awash With Microscopic Plastic, Scientists Say
Beaches worldwide bear witness to the ugly impact of plastic debris on our oceans. Milk jugs, water bottles, cigarette lighters, diaper liners, jar lids, cheap toys, and goodness knows what else festoon tide lines today. But this may just scratch the surface.
A new study suggests that microscopic bits of plastic have sifted, unseen, throughout the marine environment. The plastic not only litters the beach, it is—like fine bits of sand—becoming the beach.
U.K. researchers in Plymouth and Southampton, England, found that microscopic fragments of nylon, polyester, and seven other types of plastic are widespread in sediments around British shores.
The sediments were collected from beaches, estuaries, and shallow waters. "Everything that didn't look like a piece of natural organic debris was then identified," said Richard Thompson, a senior marine ecology lecturer at the University of Plymouth, who led the study. Up to a third of this material was later identified as synthetic polymers used in plastics.
thanks to Scitech daily Review
Using bits of rolled up tissue paper as brushes, Antjuan painted these pieces with coffee as his paint. Scraps of paper served as Antjuan's canvas. He completed nearly 75 pieces and mailed them to us.
Receiving envelopes reeking of Nescafe was odd, but opening them to discover what was inside was fascinating. The depth of these pieces is astounding; the complexity, the darkness, the sense of humor, the reoccurring characters, all contribute to an amazing body of work. When we later spoke with Antjuan and the conditions under which these pieces were completed was revealed, it only added to our amazement. It is this body of work that helps to exemplify the commitment to create that resides within Antjuan.
thanks to gmtPlus9
cats and scanner software
Wrapping up a couple of loose ends. Yesterday we took Zach (our cat that hasn't been eating or drinking) to an internal specialist. Zach has actually started to eat small amounts. The vet felt that fatty liver disease (our fear) was not indicated and that it was probably stress (from some other vet visits) that set this off. He did an ultrasound and didn't see anything worrisome so he felt that letting nature take its course was the best solution. We aren't out of the woods with the little guy but a huge weight has been lifted.
Thanks to those that contributed to the New Scanner Software for Gordy Fund. I ordered the software last night and the scanner will be scanning soon, with new and improved scans.
The Consititution is the bedrock of this country. It defines this country. But just what does the Constitution define? Stirling Newberry has started a series on this. The reality is that this country has gone through two major governmental changes. Two changes that redefined government and its role. The first division was the Civil War and the second division was FDR. We are now at a third division and the beginning of a Fourth Republic. Stirling's look at this is very illuminating. He has two parts up. I don't know how many parts this will be and I'm not sure exactly where he is going with this, but I am most interested in seeing where he thinks the Fourth Republic is going. We are in the middle of a consitutional crisis. There are a lot of very big issues in our world. I think this is the biggest.
The Fourth Republic - Thesis
Every nation has national myths: ideas which are clothed as gnomic statements, axiomic in their pithiness. The Germans have myth of the "Fatherland", the French of the "National Will". In America, the continuity of our nation is symbolized by the assertion that, since 1789, we have been governed by the same constitution.
It is true that the same piece of paper is involved - but if the "election" of 1789 were held today, it would scarcely be recognizable to Americans as a "Democratic election". Legislatures chose electors, who were then manipulated behind the scenes to prevent a tie between the candidates for president and vice president. Today we live under political parties, and the contest between parties is the balancing mechanism of government. Yet there is no mention of them in the constitution anywhere, even the founding political theory which the constitution rests on abhors them.
Many of the fundamental mechanisms which balance power are not constitutional. For example, the sacred "cloture" rule, which effectively creates requirement for a 3/5 majority to pass contentious issues through the Senate - is nowhere enshrined in statute or constitution. The process of blue slips, the legislative offices, the workings of committees - all the product of agreement. It is also the product of agreement that presidential electors are no longer chosen by state legislatures. True, no state has done so in over a century and a quarter, and this makes our current system of general slate election "ancient usage and custom" rather than having the force of law
While most school children are taught that the difference between the United States of America's constitution and the British constitution is that theirs is unwritten, while ours is written - it simply is not true. Our constitution is both written and unwritten.
What is different is that our constitution's legitimacy rests in a written original, and all arguments appeal back to that written original. However, how we look at that original has changed drastically, in fact it has twice changed so radically that one must admit that what was before, and what was after, were two entirely different governments.
The Fourth Republic:
Constitution as Contract (1787-1860)
The images of Remembering Twelve come from an intense examination of my middle school experiences and what made it so difficult. Showing these photographs serve to compare my own experiences and raise questions about female middle school identity. I have depicted my sisters, cousins and other girls I interact with in moments of solitude and in group situations. My observations, personal reflections and research have led this body of work to its current focus.
thanks to consumptive.org
iraq — heart of darkness
thanks to Politics in the Zeros
Another must read by Riverbend...
Hot. It's hot, hot, hot, hot.
The weather is almost stifling now. The air is heavy and dry with heat. By early noon, it's almost too hot to go outside. For every two hours of electricity, we have four hours of no electricity in our area- and several other areas. The problem now is that the generators in many areas are starting to break down due to constant use and the bad quality of the fuel. It's a big problem and it promises to grow as the summer progresses.
I have spent the last two days ruminating the political situation and... washing the roof. While the two activities are very different, they do share one thing in common- the roof, and political situation, are both a mess.
The roof of an Iraqi home is a sacred place. As much planning goes into it as almost anything else. The roofs are flat and often surrounded by a low wall on which one can lean and look out into the city. During this last year, a certain sort of special bond has formed between your typical Iraqi and the roof of his or her home. We run out to the roof to see where the smoke is coming from after an explosion; we gather on the roof to watch the helicopters flying over head; we reluctantly drag ourselves out to the roof to fill the water tanks when the water is low; we hang clothes to dry on the clotheslines strung out haphazardly across the roof; we sleep on the roof during the endless, powerless nights.
Billmon comments on the new approach in Iraq...
... If the New York Times story is correct, Centcom finally appears to have conceded the fact that it lacks - and will continue to lack - the force strength necessary to root out the insurgents and/or "foreign terrorists" in Iraq.
Instead, it looks like the U.S. Army is about to become the most heavily armed bunch of security guards in history, responsible for keeping the new puppet government on its perch in Baghdad and - with luck - stopping the pipeline saboteurs from completely shutting down Iraq's oil exports:
[U.S.] commanders argue that a new emphasis on protecting roadways, power plants, utility lines and the oil industry will help generate support for a new government and enhance the security situation as the economy improves.
From a electoral standpoint, and probably a humane one as well, this isn't a dumb move, since it should drastically lower U.S and Iraqi civilian casualties - at least initially. But the strategic implications are pretty dour, at least for those diehards still dreaming of future Victory in Iraq Day parades.
Everything I've read over the past year about counter-insurgency warfare stresses the importance of staying on the offensive - of taking the fight to the insurgents. Or, as one analyst put it: An insurgent force that is surviving is probably winning. By hunkering down now, Centcom will at a minimum hand the tactical initiative to the enemy, allowing the insurgents to accelerate their campaign of intimidation and assassination against all who collaborate with the occupation and its puppets.
Dahr Jamail, at Iraq Dispatches, has some excellent posts form the ground. Here are three...
Slaughter in the Streets
Seventeen year-old Amir is crying during much of the interview. “We were coming home from work, and were shot so many times,” he says with deep anguish and frustration, “Walid told me to leave the car because he was hurt and needed help.”
Sometimes I forget that burnout applies to me too. After nearly two months straight of chasing stories, it was obviously time for a break. Unlike home though, one can't go take in a movie, take a jog or even a casual stroll. Walking around anywhere in Baghdad, being a westerner, is never casual. So I've spent most of my day off inside.
Late night writing due to the sweat alarm that has gone off, shortly after the electricity has cut out yet again. The electricity seems to have gotten worse lately, which is not surprising, in that this coincides with the gas shortage -- also growing more severe by the day.
Country Joe McDonald is back with some of the Fish. Some things just haven't changed in the last 35 years. Scroll down for the lyrics and a link to hear them play.
Cakewalk to Baghdad
I remember back, before we whacked Iraq
I was watching the news, were we gonna attack?
A man named Richard Perle came on and talked
He said going to Baghdad would be a cakewalk
Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad
It went real easy,
Took a couple of weeks
Tore down that statue
Set those Saddamites free
The frogs and the krauts, they feel real bad,
'Cause they missed out cakewalkin' into Baghdad
Cakewalk to Baghdad,
Cakewalk to Baghdad
Next we're gonna cakewalk into Teheran,
Gonna cakewalk to Damascus and Pyong-yin-yang
When we strut on in,
They're all gonna cheer
They'll be wavin' old glory,
We'll have kegs of beer, just like that...
thanks to Spitting Image
Once seen as an alarmist fear, an attack on key Saudi oil terminal could destabilise west
When Fadel Gheit first warned of his "nightmare scenario" that Saudi Arabia's main oil export terminal at Ras Tanura could be wiped out by terrorists, he was dismissed as an alarmist.
It was the week after the September 11 attacks in New York, where he is based. But the oil analyst began to think there was another target that would have an even more devastating impact if hit.
As fears of upheaval in Saudi helped set world crude oil prices to 21-year highs of $42.45 per barrel ahead of an Opec ministerial meeting today, there were fewer willing to scoff at Mr Gheit.
"I cannot think of any more logical target for terrorists. It [Ras Tanura] is the nerve centre for the Saudi oil trade but also for global exports. If you can blow up the Pentagon in broad daylight, then it cannot be impossible to fly a plane into Ras Tanura - and then you are talking $100 [per barrel] oil," he says.
Another oil shock?
The world depends for low oil prices on an unstable country that seems to be falling apart. No wonder they are rising
Attack Increases Doubts About Saudi Ability to Pump More Oil
Latest al-Qa'ida attack puts Saudi oil industry in question
Despite assurances, analysts are likely to be wary for some time to come, reports Nicholas Pyke
Expats living in fear inside mini-fortresses thanks to The Agonist
Here is a new online photography magazine. Some nice images.
An online art photography magazine. AK47 is published once a month. We showcase images from both fine arts and documentary photographers.
thanks to Expose
Presidents don't hire their own lawyer unless there is a pretty good reason to do so.
Bush, Lawyer Huddle On CIA Leak
President Bush has consulted an outside lawyer in case he needs to retain him in the grand jury investigation of who leaked the name of a covert CIA operative last year, the White House said Wednesday.
thanks to Political Animal
Before Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there was the TV show. That's when I discovered the Guide and Douglas Adams. Before the TV show there was the the radio show. I had not heard the radio show but now I can throught the miracle of the Internet. This is beyond wonderful.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Travel the galaxy with Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox in search of the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Douglas Adams' beloved classic, HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY comes to life in this BBC production, presented in 12 parts.
thanks to The Cartoonist
I'm running a little behind. In addition to the new job and getting ready to move, one of Zoe's cats is sick. It appears it might be fatty liver disease. We hope to get some more tests done soon to confirm that. He doesn't eat or drink so we have to keep him hydrated with IVs and force feed him small amounts of nutrients. We hope to find out soon just what to do.
This particular crisis may be over and the Saudis may have dodged another bullet. Or not.
Saudi horror sparks fears of oil crisis
Militants hold 50 hostages · £4 gallon looms as battle rages
Oil prices are set to surge after al-Qaeda gunmen killed at least 16 people, including a Briton, and seized 50 hostages yesterday during an indiscriminate rampage through the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar.
A Saudi Riddle
Al Qaeda's Saudi branch (or should I say home office?) has already proven its "bang men" are very good indeed. And while I'm sure every effort has been made to eliminate as many vulnerabilities as possible, it's hard to believe the kingdom's oil infrastructure has been spared because Al Qaeda doesn't have the means to attack it.
Knocking Saudi Arabia out of the oil producing business for two years would bring the global economy to its knees - and probably bring about the fall of the House of Saud. In other words, it would be an enormous victory for Al Qaeda, the kind that would make the current fiasco in Iraq look like a paper cut. And there's not much the United States could do about it, even if it invaded and occupied the Saudi oil fields. Iraq has already demonstrated the futility of trying to guard something as inherently vulnerable and sprawling as an oil infrastructure against a determined saboteur movement.
So why is Al Qaeda still fooling around with these attacks on foreign workers? Is it because they don't want to alienate Saudi popular opinion by destroying the goose that lays the petroleum eggs? Are they hoping to inherit the oil infrastructure intact once they take power? Do they have a implicit deal with the royal family (or some faction within it) to limit their attacks to the infidel devils and leave the valuable stuff alone?
I don't have any obvious answers to this riddle - or at least, none that aren't wearing silly tinfoil hats. But think about it the next time you fill up your tank, because it's probably the only thing standing between you and a $6 gallon of gas.
thanks to Expose
iraq — heart of darkness
The Whiskey Bar was closed this past week. Fortunately, the bartender is back and the commentary is flowing again. Billmon opens with this must read...
Massey’s anguished answer basically slammed me upside the head -- forcing me to remember the human lives that have been damaged or destroyed by the Iraq fiasco, and the hellish mess it has made of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and the strategic advantages that Al Qaeda and its growing universe of clone organizations are likely to reap from this disaster.
None of those things are even remotely amusing or enjoyable or suitable objects for partisan glee. Shrub’s misfortunes (unfortunately) are also America’s misfortunes – and even the world’s. So after sobering up a bit (I mean me, not Bush) I've spent the past few days thinking about what comes next.
I mean, if the mainstream media is going to, in effect, wallow in the blogosphere’s archives, and military officials – the safely retired ones, at least – are going to confess what’s been obvious for the past six months (Gen. Hoar: “I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss.”) then the only value a lowly blogger like myself can add to the debate now is to try to peer a little further down the road, to see if I can guess what blindingly obvious facts the media will be wallowing in this time next year.
And what I see coming is failure – the most spectacular U.S. foreign policy failure since the last helicopter lifted the last marine off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.
The story of Chalabi is a story of self-deception. Iraqis and Americans are dying because of a con man and his American dupes. Here is the whole sordid story...
Ahmad Chalabi pushed a tainted case for war. Can he survive the occupation?
Congressional hearings on the C.I.A.’s failures in Iraq were held in 1998, and Chalabi’s think-tank allies, such as Richard Perle, gave testimony that excoriated the Clinton Administration. Meanwhile, Chalabi continued to gather intelligence from Iraq that would further his cause. He found an opportunity in the U.N.’s weapons-inspection program, which had been set up in 1991 to prevent Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction. On January 27, 1998, Chalabi met in London with Scott Ritter, who was then working as a liaison for the U.N. program. At the time, the U.N. had been unable to account for a number of weapons—including nearly nine thousand litres of anthrax—that Saddam’s regime said it had dismantled. U.N. inspectors had exhausted other sources of intelligence. Chalabi claimed to have operatives who had penetrated Saddam’s circle, and offered to help.
The meeting took place in Chalabi’s apartment, on Conduit Street in Mayfair. Half a dozen Arab servants served tea, Ritter recalled. Chalabi sat on a couch, taking notes, “playing the overlord.” (Ahmed Alawi, an I.N.C. official, also attended the meeting.)
“I should have asked him what he could give me,” Ritter said. “Instead, I let him ask me, ‘What do you need?’” The result, he said, was that “we made the biggest mistake in the intelligence business: we identified all of our gaps.” Over the next several hours, Ritter said, he outlined most of the U.N. inspectors’ capabilities and theories, telling Chalabi how they had searched for underground bunkers with ground-penetrating radar. He also told Chalabi of his suspicion that Saddam may have had mobile chemical- or biological-weapons laboratories, which would explain why investigators hadn’t been able to find them. “We made that up!” Ritter said. “We told Chalabi, and, lo and behold, he’s fabricated a source for the mobile labs.” (The I.N.C. has been accused of sponsoring a source who claimed knowledge of mobile labs.) When Ritter left the U.N., in August, 1998, there was still no evidence of mobile weapons laboratories. Chalabi’s people, Ritter said, eventually supplied detailed intelligence on Saddam’s alleged W.M.D. programs, but “it was all crap.”
thanks to War and Piece
On June 30 we hand over "sovereignty" to Iraq. Who in Iraq has been the mystery. Now we think we know who, but it's still a mystery. The only thing that is not a mystery is that it appears that Chalabi's fingers are everywhere.
Talking Points Memo
I continue to think that something very important happened in this selection of Iyad Allawi. Precisely what, though, remains unclear. After all the twists and turns over the last 24 hours it seems to have been something very close to what I suggested early yesterday afternoon, a coup de main by the IGC. Or, more specifically, a coup de main launched by Allawi himself and either helped along, or facilitated or encouraged by the other members of the IGC.
Now, if the IGC were either a representative or popular body -- in other words, if it were perceived as legitimate -- that would probably be a good thing. It would be good to have them take the lead. For any sort of transition to be successful in any way, the people who become the new Iraqi government cannot simply be handed power in their own country. They must take it, assert it, probably even in some degree over and against us. If nothing else this is just a matter of national dignity, which is a key part of what we're dealing with here.
The problem is that the IGC isn't perceived as a legitimate body at all. Nor do the folks on it -- particuarly the ones most identified with us, like Chalabi and Allawi and others -- have any large followings.
So who is taking over here? And is their assertion a product of our disarray?
There could be no better introduction to the premiership of Iyad Allawi than the confusion and intrigue surrounding its announcement. Early yesterday, the Governing Council declared it was unanimously backing Allawi, one of its own, for the post of interim Iraqi prime minister. Not that the Council is charged with that decision; that brief lies with U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who hadn't yet announced any replacement for Hussain Shahristani, a Brahimi-favored candidate whom Shia Council members rejected. According to The Washington Post, right after the Council resolved to back Allawi, L. Paul Bremer burst in the room to offer U.S. support. The missing piece was the United Nations, which was completely outmaneuvered by the U.S.-Governing Council announcement. Fred Eckhard, a spokesman for Kofi Annan, acknowledged that Allawi was "high on [Brahimi's] list," but indicated that Brahimi was not happy with the push to install him. While Eckhard told reporters that Brahimi "respects" the Council's choice, he pointedly added that "respect" was a "carefully chosen word." Nevertheless, the U.N. essentially conceded the move, and pledged to work with the new prime minister-designate in forming an interim government.
Iraqi National Discord
I'm tempted to call this appointment a complete disaster, since it clearly dooms the interim government (which was probably the last, best chance to get a UN-guided political process on track) and also may undermine the one leader - Sistani - who can prevent Shi'a Iraq from splintering into warring factions. But I think we've learned from past experience that when it comes to the Bush administration and Iraq, no disaster is complete - there's always more to come. And I suspect over the next few weeks we'll find out what that "more" is.
Meanwhile, the US seems to be retreating once again.
U.S. Retreats After Failing to Capture Militia Chief
United States forces agreed yesterday to withdraw from the Shia holy city of Najaf and end fighting with the militia of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. In a climb-down by the Americans, who had vowed to kill or capture Sadr, it now appears he will be allowed to remain free. His Army of Mehdi militia will also withdraw under the deal.
The Americans appeared to have given up their two main demands to end the fighting in Najaf: that Sadr surrender to them and that the Mehdi Army be disbanded immediately.
The American agreement to withdraw without capturing Sadr will be seen in Iraq as a second embarrassing capitulation in as many months, after US forces ended their April siege of the Sunni city of Fallujah without capturing those responsible for killing and mutilating the bodies of four American contractors - the original reason for the siege in which hundreds of Iraqi civilians are believed to have died.
And what about our "success" in Fallujah?
Resembling an Islamic mini-state, Fallujah may be a glimpse of Iraq's future
With U.S. marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state - anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "western" hair cuts.
My son-in-law will be moving from South Korea to Fallujah in August.
The Bush Orthodoxy is in Shreds
A Series of Investigations has shattered Neocon Self-belief
by Sidney Blumenthal
Washington, just weeks ago in the grip of neoconservative orthodoxy, absolute belief in Bush's inevitability and righteousness, is in the throes of being ripped apart by investigations. Things fall apart: the military, loyal and lumbering, betrayed and embittered; the general in the field, General Sanchez, disgraced and cashiered; the intelligence agencies abused and angry, their retired operatives plying their craft with the press corps, seeping dangerous truths; the press, hesitating and wobbly, investigating its own falsehoods; the neocons, publicly redoubling Defense of their hero and deceiver Chalabi, privately squabbling, anxiously awaiting the footsteps of FBI agents; Colin Powell, once the most acclaimed man in America, embarked on an endless quest to restore his reputation, damaged above all by his failure of nerve; everyone in the line of fire motioning toward the chain of command, spiraling upwards and sideways, until the finger pointing in a phalanx is directed at the hollow crown.
Jonathan Greene's new track bike, at fixed gear gallery, is an example of the metal worker's art.
Richard Sachs - from start to finish, creating a modern classic
For master builder Richard Sachs, the customer’s brief was clear: build me a frame using 70’s standards materials and 70’s standards building.
Why? Well, some see the 1970’s as the high-point in the evolution of frame-building. Sure, there have been advances since then, with oversize, air-hardened tubes, TIG welding and investment cast lugs, but in the 1970’s , there was less of a diversity in materials; lugs were nearly all pressed steel, tubing almost exclusively the ‘classic’ inch and inch-eighth diameter configuration. So, with a level playing field as far as materials were concerned, for a framebuilder to stand out from the rest called for a display of superior building skills and expert finishing. Lugs required a high degree of shaping and manipulation before building; evidence of skill and care with the torch a visible commodity, while the degrees of accuracy in setting the tubes before and after brazing became evident in the ride quality. In other words; no room for error, no shortcuts to success. Word of mouth and customer satisfaction were the marketing tools of that era, not the multi-million dollar sponsorship deals of today.
The bottom line is a frame that stands out from the rest; a frame head and shoulders above the ‘me-too’ art-décor paintjobs and soulless, production-line assemblies. A frame, as Richard put it “….remind(s) me of how beautiful frames once were—the result of hours of skilled hand labor. Those days are gone, but many of the bikes are still around. If you have one, hold onto it. If it is damaged, it can be fixed, and you can ride it almost forever, as its maker intended.”
The above link has additional links to a complete set of pictures of the building of this frame as well as some articles by the builder — Richard Sachs.
Further Thoughts on Lugs
by Richard Sachs
But, grab a lug and use it and you pay homage to a process chosen and perfected when the streets of time and money were less likely to intersect. And when you wouldn't find a time-clock to punch at the local framebuilders.
Lugs are often brazed by the hands of a person who thinks less and feels more. A concern with quality and integrity will overide thoughts of trends or market share. When you coast down the road on your frame brazed with lugs, its maker is riding with you. And will for decades. Maybe more.
Simply stated, my decision to use lugs is not made to bring along the past or to venerate it. Lug assemblies are the most rational way to make a frame superbly well, to ensure the optimum ride characteristics, to maintain the quality of the steel, and to maximize its service life too. Add to this mix some clean brazing, artsy design elements, unique embellishments, cool cutouts ... and your cake has icing ready to taste!