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The Temple of Ultor
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November 28, 2005
Meanwhile, in Forgottenstan...
An onslaught of grisly and sophisticated attacks since parliamentary elections in September has left Afghan and international officials concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining support from abroad to carry out strikes that increasingly mimic insurgent tactics in Iraq.
Does it really need to be made more obvious that we should have consolidated things in Afghanistan instead of going charging off after Bush's bête noir?
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November 27, 2005
Sauce for the goose...
The White House for the first time has claimed possession of an Iraq withdrawal plan, arguing that a troop pullout blueprint unveiled this past week by a Democratic senator was "remarkably similar" to its own.

So I wonder if the people who were railing against Murtha last week are going to be saying the same things about the "remarkably similar" White House now?

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November 25, 2005
None Dare Call It Gulag
ABC News lists techniques used by the CIA that are "not torture".
  1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
    27. Beatings-of a kind that leave no marks. They use rubber truncheons, and they use wooden mallets and small sandbags. It is very, very painful when they hit a bone-for example, an interrogator's jackboot on the shin, where the bone lies just beneath the skin. They beat Brigade Commander Karpunich-Braven for twenty-one days in a row. And today he says: "Even after thirty years all my bones ache and my head too."
  2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
    In recollecting his own experience and the stories of others, he counts up to fifty-two methods of torture. Here is one: They grip the hand in a special vise so that the prisoner's palm lies flat on the desk-and then they hit the joints with the thin edge of a ruler. And one screams! Should we single out particularly the technique by which teeth are knocked out? They knocked out eight of Karpunich's.
  3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
    As everyone knows, a blow of the fist in the solar plexus, catching the victim in the middle of a breath, leaves no mark whatever. The Lefortovo Colonel Sidorov, in the postwar period, used to take a "penalty kick" with his overshoes at the dangling genitals of male prisoners. Soccer players who at one time or another have been hit in the groin by a ball know what that kind of blow is like. There is no pain comparable to it, and ordinarily the recipient loses consciousness.
  4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
    19. Then there is the method of simply compelling a prisoner to stand there. This can be arranged so that the accused stands only while being interrogated-because that, too, exhausts and breaks a person down. It can be set up in another way-so that the prisoner sits down during interrogation but is forced to stand up between interrogations. (A watch is set over him, and the guards see to it that he doesn't lean against the wall, and if he goes to sleep and falls over he is given a kick and straightened up.) Sometimes even one day of standing is enough to deprive a person of all his strength and to force him to testify to anything at all.
  5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
    For example, the Lefortovo punishment cells were entirely unheated. There were radiators in the corridor only, and in this "heated" corridor the guards on duty walked in felt boots and padded jackets. The prisoner was forced to undress down to his underwear, and sometimes to his undershorts, and he was forced to spend from three to five days in the punishment cell without moving (since it was so confining). He received hot gruel on the third day only. For the first few minutes you were convinced you'd not be able to last an hour. But, by some miracle, a human being would indeed sit out his five days, perhaps acquiring in the course of it an illness that would last him the rest of his life.
  6. 6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt
The quotes interspersed with the items are from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago. There is no quote for water boarding because nothing he describes sounds comparable. But there are other things in the list that sound like "stress positions" and the sort of humiliations that went on at Abu Ghraib. And those are just the techniques they're willing to admit they use.

When you stare long into the Abyss the Abyss also stares into you.
   - Nietzsche

Friday Random Ten...
  1. The Night Flight from Houston - Laurie Anderson (Talk Normal)
  2. Small Town - John Mellencamp (Scarecrow)
  3. Channel Noir - Housewife (SxSW 2005 Showcase)
  4. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - Philip Walker (Blues)
  5. To Tilephono Tis Xenitias - 3 Mustaphas 3 (Bam: Big Mustaphas Play Stereolocalmusic)
  6. Why I Don't Know - Lyle Lovett (Lyle Lovett)
  7. Peace and Love - Fountains of Wayne (Welcome Interstate Managers)
  8. The Lost Children - The Samples (Outpost)
  9. Price to Pay - Blues Traveler (Four)
  10. Where Your Eyes Don't Go - They Might Be Giants (Lincoln)
Baltimore In the Dark
Somone is stealing highway light poles in Baltimore. Yes, the 30 foot tall aluminum kind. Police don't know who's doing it or where the poles are going. Some of the thefts have occurred at night, some in broad daylight with the theives dressed as utility workers. My favorite part: they're leaving foot-high aluminum stumps with the electrical wires neatly wrapped with electrical tape.
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November 21, 2005
Reference - The Waxman collection
Prepared at the direction of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Iraq on the Record is a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq.
Reference - manipulating inteligence
Kevin Drum spells out how the Administration did everything with the intellgence it got except make it say it loved Big Brother.
Reference - "Congress had the same intelligence I had"
Once again, Think Progress does a fine job of fact-checking their asses.
November 18, 2005
Too many L's?
A fellow from Wales visits places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware that are named after places in Wales and writes about them.

He doesn't address my pet theory that when the Pacific islanders sailed from Micronesia to the Hawaiian islands by raft, they encountered a storm in which most of their consonants were blown overboard. They were later found washed up on the shores of Wales by the thrifty natives, who put them to immediate use.

It ain't over 'til it's over.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court filings that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, a possible sign he could seek new charges in the case.

In filings obtained by Reuters on Friday, Fitzgerald said "the investigation is continuing" and that "the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment" against Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

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  1. The Hissing of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell (The Hissing of Summer Lawns)
  2. Not one of her better known albums, but some really nice stuff here. This was the start of her serious jazz influence.
  3. Charles Mingus - Better Get Hit In Your Soul (Mingus Ah Um)
  4. If you don't like this album, you don't like jazz. It's that good.
  5. Bad Boy - Buster Poindexter (Buster Poindexter)
  6. David Johansen in his foppish club persona. Not one of the better cuts on the album, but there's some good stuff elsewhere.
  7. Blotto - It's Only Money (Collected Works)
  8. Local faves had one hit with I Wanna Be a Lifeguard. This isn't bad, but in the end it sounds like any of a thousand other local roots-rock outfits.
  9. Beer Exile - Grabass Charleston (SxSW 2005 Showcase)
  10. Not long for the rotation. The SxSW festival gave away about 3.5 GB of music from this year's festival. It's very uneven. This isn't one of the good parts.
  11. Wallflower - Peter Gabriel (Security)
  12. Mothership - Drop Trio (SxSW 2005 Showcase)
  13. Stood Up - John Hiatt (Bring the Family)
  14. More bluesy goodness from a guy who's more popular than he used to be, but still underrated.
  15. Shame on You - Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (Best of)
  16. Sugar Trade - James Taylor (Dad Loves His Work)
November 17, 2005
They're catching on.
The media is starting to come right out and say that Bush is lying now, even if they haven't stepped up to saying how he's been doing it all along.
Seemingly stung by polls showing that 57 percent of Americans now believe that he “deliberately misled” the nation into war with Iraq, President Bush did what a successful con man always does in a tight spot : He doubled his bet, resorting to falsehoods so brazen as to invite citizens almost to doubt the evidence of their senses. Who are you going to believe, your president or your lying eyes ? On Veterans Day, Bush chose another of the handpicked audiences he likes best—soldiers at a Pennsylvania Army depot—to accuse Democratic critics of a “deeply irresponsible” effort “to rewrite the history of how [the Iraq ] war began.” He alleged that Congress saw the same intelligence regarding Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction that the White House saw ; consequently, “when I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support.” The president also claimed that a “bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community’s judgments.” None of these things is true. (emphasis mine)
I'm in the wrong line of work.
I've always thought that one of the primary impediments to my getting rich is a silly ethical objection to ripping people off. Consider, for example, the "Dual Beam Ultra Clarifier" from Bedini Electronics. It claims to "significantly improve[s] the playback quality of all digital media recorded on compact disc" by "polariz[ing] the polymer in such a way as to maximize the laser's ability to retrieve stored data."

They claim that not only will it make your audio CDs sound better, it will make your photo CDs look better! And all for just $189.95. Good grief.

November 16, 2005
Reference - More myths about the investigation.
This batch from Media Matters.
November 14, 2005
I couldn't have said better.
I believe this editorial is orignally from the Miami Herald . I'm horrified and disgusted that we even have to ahve a discussion about this.
Well, I guess that settles that.

"We do not torture," President Bush said on Monday. Never mind all those torture pictures from Abu Ghraib. Never mind all those torture stories from Guantanamo Bay. Never mind the 2002 Justice Department memo that sought to justify torture. Never mind reports of U.S. officials sending detainees to other countries for torture. Never mind Dick Cheney lobbying to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture.

"We do not torture," said the president. And that's that, right? I mean, if you can't believe the Bush administration, who can you believe? No torture. Period, end of sentence.

But . . . What does it say to you that the claim even has to be made?

After the end of World War II, the US led the way in developing a (dare I say it?) new workd order, a more civilized and lawful world than the one which had allowed the atrocities of the Nazis and Japanes (yes, and our own as well). This was, as everything, not purely altruistic. We used it to make the Soviet Union look bad at every opportunity (and it wasn't difficult, nor undeserved). I guess the neocons figure that since the Soviet Union is gone, those old ways are....quaint.
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