Saturday, December 31, 2005

FBI ignoring its own Intelligence Analysts...STUPID!

From the Washington Post:

The FBI's 2nd-Class Citizens
By Melanie W. Sisson
Saturday, December 31, 2005; Page A19

Why is the FBI having so much trouble keeping its intelligence analysts -- the kind of people who are vitally important to its post-Sept. 11 mission?

The problem was laid out at a congressional hearing a few months ago by the Justice Department's inspector general, Glenn A. Fine. He noted that the FBI is suffering a high rate of attrition among its most recently hired and most highly educated analysts, and he concluded that the bureau needs to stop assigning them duties that have nothing much to do with analysis and to offer better retention incentives.

Fine is right on both counts, but a lot more than that is needed. The pace and scope of attrition in the ranks of the FBI's analysts suggest root causes that are more serious in nature and more systemic in effect than the inspector general and the bureau realize. It wasn't the photocopying or the lack of promotion potential that compelled me to leave my job as an FBI analyst this year -- it was the frustration of working in a system that does not yet recognize analysis as a full partner in the FBI's national security mission.

In January 2003, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III established an Intelligence Program to transform the bureau's closely held national security function into one responsive to the needs of the intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement and defense communities. To bring about this transition, the Intelligence Program recognized the need for an analytic body within the FBI capable of assessing, producing and appropriately disseminating case information, and it quickly began hiring analysts in unprecedented numbers. Perhaps too quickly, since it hadn't really been determined yet just what resources and procedures were needed to enable the bureau's analytical function and ensure the quality of its product.

As a result, analysts who joined the FBI with the goal of contributing to national security discovered that there was no system in place to promote or support the kind of work they do. Analysts found that in many cases they had to operate with a dearth of information and intelligence resources. For example, not all the people carrying the title "All Source Analyst" in the division for which I worked even had desktop access to the Internet or to intelligence community e-mail and intranet servers.

More inhibiting has been the absence of uniform and institutionalized procedures for providing analysts with intelligence collected by the FBI itself. There is no guidance giving field offices the information they need to direct case reporting to the appropriate analytic groups, and no policy mandating that they do so. In this vacuum, the analyst's access to investigative data becomes almost entirely a function of personal relationships cultivated with agents in the field -- a difficult task for those whose work it is to assess threats emerging across the nation and overseas.

A system in which analysts are not guaranteed access to investigative information, one in which they must ask to be given the intelligence they were hired to assess, marginalizes analysts professionally and demoralizes them personally. It is a circumstance that not only breeds frustration and dissatisfaction but, by tacitly condoning the perception that analysis is of secondary importance to the FBI, perpetuates the bureau's traditional "cop culture," in which everything is focused on the agent and the case -- a culture that Mueller has committed himself to changing.

Most important, limited access to case information prevents FBI analysts from doing what they are hired to do: provide decision makers with quality intelligence products that contain the best information available. Without the satisfaction of believing our work meets that standard, it's not hard to understand why many of us have chosen to leave.

Ultimately there will be no more meaningful measure of Mueller's success in transforming the culture of the FBI from that of cops to that of spies than the extent to which analysis becomes recognized as a full and integrated partner in the bureau's national security mission. This will require an observable increase in the director's commitment to enhancing the visibility and authority of analysts within the FBI, to providing analysts the resources they need, and to ensuring timely and effective transmission of information from operational to analytical personnel. Until these shortcomings are remedied, the quality of the FBI's work will suffer, and too many analysts will continue to find their jobs more frustrating than fulfilling.

The writer was an intelligence analyst at FBI headquarters from December 2003 to May 2005.


Lynndie England in San Diego...

From AP via NBC San Diego:

Lynndie England Hurt At Miramar Brig [Note: That's Marine Air Station, Miramar, San Diego]
Soldier Convicted Of Abusing Iraqi Prisoners Burned In Kitchen Accident
POSTED: 8:31 am PST December 30, 2005
UPDATED: 11:28 am PST December 30, 2005

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier who posed for some of the most infamous pictures of detainee abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, suffered burns at the prison where she is serving her sentence, her family said Friday.

IMAGES: Humiliated Iraqi Prisoners

England was injured about three weeks ago in a kitchen mishap at Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar, her father, Kenneth England, said in a telephone interview from his home in West Virginia.

The young reservist was reaching for a pan of chicken when grease splattered on her neck and chest, Kenneth England said. She was taken to the hospital, where they told her to put ice on it. She later had to ask for burn cream.

"When it happened, she didn't get nothing," her father said.

He last spoke with his daughter on Christmas, when she told him she was doing better. He said he expected to hear from her this weekend.

"As far as I know, she's doing fine," Kenneth England said.

England, 23, received immediate medical condition and follow-up care, Navy Lt. William Marks said Friday.

"She was treated for a first-degree burn, which was a minor superficial burn," Marks said. "No medication was prescribed, and, in addition, during a follow-up visit, no infection was noted and no further treatment was required."

England, who was convicted of six counts involving prisoner mistreatment, was shown posing with a pyramid of naked detainees and pointing at the genitals of a prisoner while a cigarette hangs from the corner of her mouth. The photos were among several that sparked outrage and severely damaged America's image in the Muslim world.

England blamed the abuse on reputed abuse ringleader Pvt. Charles Graner Jr., whom she said took advantage of her love and trust while deployed in Iraq. Graner was sentenced to 10 years. England said Graner was the father of her young son, who is being cared for by her parents.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.


BushCo in action...catapulting the propaganda...

From Rolling Stone:

The Magical Victory Tour
While Iraq burns, the president keeps playing the same old song
December 7th, 10:44 a.m., the sixty-fourth anniversary of Pearl Harbor day.

I've just woken up with a line of drool on my face in the back row of a ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., where any minute now President George W. Bush will give the second address of his barnburning four-speech "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" tour.
There are no T-shirts for this concert tour, but if there were, the venue list on the back would make for one of the weirder souvenirs in rock & roll history. U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, November 30th, no advance publicity, closed audience: check. Here at the Omni, December 7th, again no advance warning, handpicked audience, ten reporters max (no one else knew about it), with even the cashiers in the hotel's coffee shop unaware of the president's presence: check. Dates three and four, venues and dates unknown for security reasons: check and check.

This is how President Bush takes his message to the people these days: in furtive sneak-attack addresses to closed audiences of elite friendlies at weird early-morning hours. If you want to catch Bush's act in person during this tour, you have to stalk him for days and keep both ears open for last-minute changes of plan; I actually missed the Annapolis speech when I made the mistake of briefly taking my eye off him the day before.

Here at the Omni I showed up early, determined not to repeat my mistake. I was not going to miss the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, no sir. But for all my preparations, I did almost screw it up again. I fell asleep an hour before the event and only awoke in the middle of the introductory remarks by Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the stodgy, status-quo think tank hosting the event. I pried my eyes open just in time to see Bush, looking spooked and shrunken, take the stage.

Bush in person always strikes me as the kind of guy who would ask a woman for a hand job at the end of a first date. He has days where he looks like she said yes, and days where the answer was no.

Today was one of his no days. He frowned, looking wronged, and grabbed the microphone. I pulled out my notebook . . .

A few minutes later, I felt like a hooker who's just blinked under a blanket with a prep-school virgin. Was that it? Is it over? It seemed to be; Bush was off the podium and slipping down the first line of the crowd, pumping hands for a minute and then promptly Snagglepussing toward the left exit. By the time I made it five rows into the crowd, he had vanished into a sea of Secret Servicemen, who whisked him away, presumably to return him posthaste to his formaldehyde tank.

I looked down at my notes. They indicated that Bush had opened his remarks by comparing the Iraq War to World War II ("We liberated millions, we aided the rise of democracy in Europe and Asia. . . . "). From there we learned that we were fighting an enemy without conscience, but all was not lost, because the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Iraq. Of course there had been setbacks, because in the past after we took a city, we left it and the terrorists would just take it back again. But we've stopped doing that now and so things are better. In conclusion, Sen. Joe Lieberman visited Iraq four times in the past seventeen months and, goddamn it, he liked what he saw.

In the Obey Your Thirst/Image Is Everything era of American politics, Bush's National Victory campaign is a creepy innovation. It features the president thumping a document -- the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" -- that was largely written not by diplomats or generals but by a pair of academics from Duke University named Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi. Essentially a PR document, the paper is basically a living political experiment, designed to prove that Americans will more readily accept military casualties if the word "victory" is repeated a great many times in public.

"This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency," Gelpi told The New York Times. "The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion."
In other words, this was really a National Strategy for Victory at Home. It was classic Bush-think: Instead of bombing the insurgency off the map, he bombs the map -- in lieu of actually fighting the war, a bold strategy, to be sure. But would it work?

Both the record and my notes indicate that the audience applauded on two occasions. The first came after the line "And now the terrorists think they can make America run in Iraq, and that is not going to happen so long as I'm the commander in chief." My notes say, "Scattered but by no means unanimous applause." The second time came at the end of the speech, after the last line, "May God continue to bless our country." This time the reaction was more enthusiastic, but at least one person -- me -- was clapping because it was over.

The Council on Foreign Relations was good enough to pass out a list of the expected attendees at the speech. Here are some of the names that one could find in Bush's audience: Frank Finelli, the Carlyle Group; Adam Fromm, Office of Rep. Dennis Hastert; Robert W. Haines, Exxon Mobil Corp.; Paul W. Butler, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP; Robert Bremer, Lockheed Martin Corp.; Scott Sendek, Eli Lilly and Co.; James H. Lambright, Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The point is obvious; Bush's audience was like a guest list for a Monster's Ball of the military-industrial establishment. And even in this crowd full of corporate lawyers, investment bankers, weapons makers, ex-spooks and, for Christ's sake, lobbyists, the president of the United States couldn't cook up more than two tepid applause lines for his Iraq policy -- and one of those was because he was finishing up and, one guesses, freeing the audience to go call their brokers.
God bless George Bush. The Middle East is in flames, and how does he answer the call? He rolls up to the side entrance of a four-star Washington hotel, slips unobserved into a select gathering of the richest fatheads in his dad's Rolodex, spends a few tortured minutes exposing his half-assed policies like a campus flasher and then ducks back into his rabbit hole while he waits for his next speech to be written by paid liars.

If that isn't leadership, what is?

Not many people in the Omni audience hung around to be interviewed when it was over. The few who did make themselves available tried to put a brave face on the situation.

"Well, he did the best he could under, uh, difficult circumstances," said council member Jeffrey Pryce.

Did he detect anything new in the new strategy?

"No," he said, shrugging. "But he's in a tough spot."
I'd been following the national tour for more than a week. If the reception at the Omni was stale, that was nothing compared to how it was going over in the White House briefing room. On the day before the Omni speech, I actually worried that gopher-faced administration spokescreature Scott McClellan might be physically attacked by reporters, who appeared ready to give official notice of having had Enough of This Bullshit.

In fact the room at one point seemed on the verge of a Blazing Saddles-style chair-throwing brawl when McClellan refused to answer the cheeky question of why, if we weren't planning on torturing war-on-terror detainees in foreign prisons, we couldn't just bring them back to be incarcerated in the United States.

"I think the American people understand," McClellan said, "the importance of protecting sources and methods, and not compromising ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism . . ."
When a contingent of audibly groaning reporters pressed, McClellan shrugged and tried a new tack: "I'm not going to talk further about intelligence matters of this nature," he said.
A reporter next to me threw his head back in disgust. "Oh, fuckin' A . . ." he whispered. The room broke out into hoots and howls; even the usually dignified Bill Plante of CBS started openly calling McClellan out. "The question you're currently evading is not about an intelligence matter," he hissed.

I looked around. "Man," I thought. "This place sure looks better on television." On TV, the whole package -- the deep-blue curtains, the solemn great seal -- suggests majesty, power, drama. For years I'd dreamed of coming here, the Graceland of politics.

But in real life the White House briefing room is a grimy little closet that's peeling and cracking in every corner and looks like it hasn't seen a bottle of Windex in ten years. The first chair in the fifth row is broken; the fold-up seat doesn't fold up and in fact dangles on its hinge, so that you'd slide off if you tried to sit on it. No science exists that could determine the original color of these hideous carpets. Reporters throw their coats and coffee cups wherever; the place is a fucking sty.

It's a raggedy-ass old stage, and the act that plays on it isn't getting any fresher, either. All partisan sniping aside, this latest counteroffensive from the White House says just about everything you need to know about George Bush and the men who work for him.

Up until now this president's solution to everything has been to stare into the cameras, lie and keep on lying until such time as the political problem disappears. And now, unable to comprehend that while political crises may wilt in the face of such tactics, real crises do not, he and his team are responding to this first serious feet-to-the-fire Iraq emergency in the same way they always have -- with a fusillade of silly, easily disprovable bullshit. Bush and his mouthpieces continue to try to obfuscate and cloud the issue of why we're in Iraq, and they do so not only selectively but constantly, compulsively, like mental patients who can't stop jacking off in public. They don't know the difference between a real problem and a political problem, because to them, there is no difference. What could possibly be worse than bad poll numbers?

On this particular day in the briefing room, it's just more of the same disease. McClellan, a cringing yes-man type who tries to soften the effect of his non- answers by projecting an air of being just as out of the loop as you are, starts pimping lies and crap the moment he enters the room. He's the cheapest kind of political hack, a greedy little bum making a living by throwing his hat on the ground and juggling lemons for pennies.

Putting his hat out for the Strategy for Victory, he says nothing new -- there is no real strategy, remember, just words -- and it quickly becomes clear that the whole purpose of this campaign is not to offer new information but to reinforce the administration's most shameless and irresponsible myths about the war: that we invaded to liberate Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, and so on. McClellan does this even in the context of responding to angry denunciations of this very tactic.

For instance, when a reporter asked why the administration still insists on giving the impression that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, McClellan answered, "I don't think that [it] does. But I think what you have to understand about September 11th is that September 11th taught us some important lessons: one, that we need to take the fight to the enemy and engage them abroad . . ."

Implying, in other words, that the enemy who attacked us was in Iraq. Same old shit.
After hearing McClellan talk for what seemed like the thirtieth time about our continuing efforts to spread democracy, I finally felt insulted. Giving in to the same basic instinct that leads people to buy lottery tickets, I raised my hand. I figured I'd ask nicely, just give him a chance to come clean. C'mon, man, we know you're lying, why not just leave it alone? I asked him if he couldn't just admit, once and for all, that we didn't go to Iraq to spread democracy, that maybe it was time to retire that line, at least.

"Well," he said, "we set out the reasons we went to Iraq, and I would encourage you to go back and look at that. We have liberated 25 million people in Iraq and 25 million people in Afghanistan . . ."

"But that wasn't the reason we went --"

"Spreading freedom and democracy," he said, ignoring me. "Well, we're not going to re-litigate why we went into Iraq. We've made very clear what the reasons were. And no, I don't think you define them accurately by being so selective in the question . . . that's important for spreading hope and opportunity in the broader Middle East . . ."

"Just to be clear," I said, exasperated, "that's a different argument than was made to the American people before the war."

"Our arguments are very public," he said. "You can go look at what the arguments are. That's not what I was talking about."

He smiled at me. There's your strategy for victory in Iraq: Fuck all of you -- we're sticking to our story.

Posted Dec 15, 2005 11:45 AM


Friday, December 30, 2005

Using India's poor as guinea pigs...


Testing Drugs on India's Poor
By Scott Carney
Wired News
Tuesday 20 December 2005

India has been the focus of medical research since the time when sunburned men with pith helmets and degrees from prestigious European medical schools came to catalog tropical illnesses.

The days of the Raj are long gone, but multinational corporations are riding high on the trend toward globalization by taking advantage of India's educated work force and deep poverty to turn South Asia into the world's largest clinical-testing petri dish.

The sudden influx of drug companies to India resembles the gold rush frontier, according to Sean Philpott, managing editor of The American Journal of Bioethics.

"Not only are research costs low, but there is a skilled work force to conduct the trials," he said. In the rush to reap profits, Philpott cautions that drug companies may not be sensitive to how poverty can undermine the spirit of informed consent. "Individuals who participate in Indian clinical trials usually won't be educated. Offering $100 may be undue enticement; they may not even realize that they are being coerced," he said.

For decades, pharmaceutical research in India didn't rely on clinical testing. Scientists mostly reverse-engineered drugs already developed in other countries. But in March, everything changed when India submitted to pressure from the World Trade Organization to stop the practice and implement rules that prohibit local companies from creating generic versions of patented drugs.

Now, pharmaceutical companies can rest assured they won't lose profits to a domestic market, and India is suddenly a profitable location for performing the expensive tests required for Food and Drug Administration clearance of any drug. Though it is still too soon to tell how much the legislative change has boosted drug development, observers say the number of studies conducted by multinational drug companies has sharply increased since March.

Given the rising cost of drug research in the United States and Europe, more and more drug companies are conducting clinical trials in developing countries where government oversight is more lax and research can be done for a fraction of the cost. According to a 2004 study by Rabo India Finance, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Rabo Bank, clinical trials account for more than 40 percent of drug-development costs. The study also found that performing the studies in India can bring the price down by about 60 percent.

By 2010, total spending on outsourcing clinical trials to India could top $2 billion, according to Ashish Singh, vice president of Bain & Co., a consulting firm that reports on the health-care industry.

Regardless of where clinical trials are performed, the FDA requires the same evidence showing that a drug is safe and effective before it will approve any drug, according to a written comment from Ken Johnson, senior vice president of The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America Foundation.

And it's the responsibility of the institutional review boards at the medical institutions where the studies take place to "actively pursue issues of informed consent," according to another written comment from Jeff Trewhitt, a spokesman for the pharmaceutical industry trade group.

Nevertheless, even before the anti-generic rules were enacted, companies performing clinical trials in India saw their share of problems. In 2004, two India-based pharmaceutical companies, Shantha Biotech in Hyderabad and Biocon in Bangalore, came under scrutiny for conducting illegal clinical trials that led to eight deaths.

Shantha Biotech failed to obtain proper consent from patients while testing a drug meant to treat heart attacks. Biocon tested a genetically modified form of insulin without the proper approval from the Drug Controller General of India or the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee.

In another incident, Sun Pharmaceuticals convinced doctors to prescribe Letrozole, a breast cancer drug, to more than 400 women as a fertility treatment in a covert clinical trial - and used the results to promote the drug for the unapproved use.

Shantha Biotech, Biocon and Sun Pharmaceuticals did not return e-mails seeking comments for this story.

Pfizer and Eli Lilly have been conducting clinical trials in India for many years, and Novo Nordisk and GlaxoSmithKline have also set up trials in the last two years. The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

Companies are attracted to India not only because of the huge patient pool and skilled workers, but also because many potential study volunteers are "treatment naïve," meaning they have not been exposed to the wide array of biomedical drugs that most Western patients have, said Stefan Ecks, a lecturer in social anthropology at the School of Social and Political Studies in Edinburgh who recently published a paper on the marketing of antidepressants in India.

"Doctors are easier to recruit for trials because they don't have to go through the same ethics procedures as their Western colleagues," Ecks said. "And patients ask fewer questions about what is going on."

After the outcry against Shantha and Biocon, the Indian government adopted stricter ethical guidelines for clinical research, but it's too early to know whether companies are abiding by the new rules.

Also, critics say study volunteers may be taking risks without the potential for reward. Since many pharmaceutical companies are developing the drugs for markets in industrialized nations, it is unlikely that India's poor will have access to most of the new medicine.

"Third World lives are worth much less than the European lives. That is what colonialism was all about," said Srirupa Prasad, a visiting assistant professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Vet does not like Bush...

From Capitol Hill Blue
The Rant
A vet speaks out about Bush
Dec 30, 2005, 06:34

Tim Abbott is a Vietnam veteran who lives in the Southwestern Virginia town of Hillsville, a conservative, blue-collar community that tends to vote Republican and bleed red, white and blue.

But, like an increasing number of veterans, Abbott is fed up with President George W. Bush.

“Bush talks a lot about freedom, courage, transparent government and the rule of law. He talks,” Abbott says. “His speeches are carefully choreographed before audiences of his faithful -- often Christian fundamentalists or, to paraphrase Bush, Christian-fascists -- and they must sign loyalty oaths to Bush. He speaks before audience after audience of soldiers and sailors who cannot speak except as directed by the White House.”

Normally, such comments would be risky in a mountain town where Patriotism rules supreme but Abbott expressed his views this week in an op ed article for The Roanoke Times and found many people agreeing with him.

“When I think of Bush, I do not think of liberty and courage, compassion and justice. No, I think of arrogance, greed and lies,” Abbott wrote. “He is a thug, a buffoon and a coward. Not only is he incompetent, he is corrupt.”

In normal times, these would be fighting words and Abbott would do well to avoid lunch at the Hillsville Diner, the Main Street eatery where the locals gather to discuss politics. But George W. Bush’s times are not normal times and Abbott is greeted warmly on the streets of Hillsville.

“In his Mission Accomplished foray, (Bush) wore a military uniform, something no president has done since Washington, and Washington only wore the uniform to quell a rebellion,” Abbott says. “Around the world he has replaced the Soviet Gulag with the Bush Gulag, where men may be tortured.”

Abbott’s comments come when this web site revealed that the Pentagon has ordered soldiers home from Iraq for holiday leave to give pro-war interviews to their hometown newspapers and television station. This does not surprise a veteran who learned about military duplicity in Vietnam.

“Others before whom he speaks may ask no questions. He runs from journalists, as we have seen in China, even on those rare occasions that he speaks before them,” Abbott says of Bush. “Even worse, he has paid journalists to say good things about him and his policies. He also produces propaganda from government offices that he offers as news reports. And any protests against his policies are diverted well away from his sight and hearing.”

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with dozens of vets of Vietnam, Desert Storm and the present invasion of Iraq and most speak with anger towards Bush and his policies.

Soldiers serve under a code of honor, something they say Bush lacks.

“Bush is of a kind with the dictators; a strutting, sanctimonious buffoon who talks democracy but acts like Saddam Hussein,” Abbott says. “Bush might differ in degree from Hussein, not having been in power as long, but in behavior, with torture and the corruption of government, they are of a kind.

“While al-Qaida is an enemy of the values and principles of the United States and Western civilization and must be confronted, it can do no more than kill people and destroy property. “Bush can subvert our principles and institutions. He is the greater enemy.”

© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue


Thursday, December 29, 2005

DeLay's in debt. Good.

From Political Wire:

The Wall Street Journal:

"New monthly report from Rep. Tom DeLay's political action committee shows it took in eight November contributions totaling $39,000 while paying $62,671 in expenses. Those expenses included more than $20,000 in legal fees. The PAC reported $69,322.79 cash on hand and $145,931.81 in debts."


American teen in Iraq shocks AP editor....

via Drudge Report:

AP: U.S. Teen Runs Off to Iraq by Himself
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 41 minutes ago

Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

Hassan's dangerous adventure winds down with the 101st Airborne delivering the Fort Lauderdale teen to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which had been on the lookout for him and promises to see him back to the United States this weekend.

It begins with a high school class on "immersion journalism" and one overly eager — or naively idealistic — student who's lucky to be alive after going way beyond what any teacher would ask.
As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book "The New Journalism," an introduction to immersion journalism — a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.

Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.

"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told The Associated Press.

Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on Dec. 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.
Given his heritage, Hassan could almost pass as Iraqi. His father's background helped him secure an entry visa, and native Arabs would see in his face Iraqi features and a familiar skin tone. His wispy beard was meant to help him blend in.
But underneath that Mideast veneer was full-blooded American teen, a born-and-bred Floridian sporting white Nike tennis shoes and trendy jeans. And as soon as the lanky, 6-foot teenager opened his mouth — he speaks no Arabic — his true nationality would have betrayed him.
Traveling on his own in a land where insurgents and jihadists have kidnapped more than 400 foreigners, killing at least 39 of them, Hassan walked straight into a death zone. On Monday, his first full day in Iraq, six vehicle bombs exploded in Baghdad, killing five people and wounding more than 40.

The State Department strongly advises U.S. citizens against traveling to Iraq, saying it "remains very dangerous." Forty American citizens have been kidnapped since the war started in March 2003, of which 10 have been killed, a U.S. official said. About 15 remain missing.

"Travel warnings are issued for countries that are considered especially dangerous for Americans, and one of the strongest warnings covers travel to Iraq," said Elizabeth Colton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Colton said the embassy's consular section can provide only limited help to Americans in Iraq, though once officials learn of a potentially dangerous situation every effort is made to assist.
Inside the safety of Baghdad's Green Zone, an Embassy official from the Hostage Working Group talked to Hassan about how risky travel is in Iraq.

"This place is incredibly dangerous to individual private American citizens, especially minors, and all of us, especially the military, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure this youth's safety, even if he doesn't acknowledge it or even understand it," a U.S. official who wasn't authorized to speak to the media said on condition of anonymity.

Hassan's extra-mile attitude took him east through eight time zones, from Fort Lauderdale to Kuwait City. His plan was to take a taxi across the border and ultimately to Baghdad — an unconventional, expensive and utterly dangerous route.

It was in Kuwait City that he first called his parents to tell them of his plans — and that he was now in the Middle East.

His mother, Shatha Atiya, a psychologist, said she was "shocked and terrified." She had told him she would take him to Iraq, but only after the country stabilizes.

"He thinks he can be an ambassador for democracy around the world. It's admirable but also agony for a parent," Atiya said.

Attempting to get into Iraq, Hassan took a taxi from Kuwait City to the border 55 miles away. He spoke English at the border and was soon surrounded by about 15 men, a scene he wanted no part of. On the drive back to Kuwait City, a taxi driver almost punched him when he balked at the fee.

"In one day I probably spent like $250 on taxis," he said. "And they're so evil too, because they ripped me off, and when I wouldn't pay the ripped-off price they started threatening me. It was bad."

It could have been worse — the border could have been open.

As luck would have it, the teenager found himself at the Iraq-Kuwait line sometime on Dec. 13, and the border security was extra tight because of Iraq's Dec. 15 parliamentary elections. The timing saved him from a dangerous trip.

"If they'd let me in from Kuwait, I probably would have died," he acknowledged. "That would have been a bad idea."

He again called his father, who told him to come home. But the teen insisted on going to Baghdad. His father advised him to stay with family friends in Beirut, Lebanon, so he flew there, spending 10 days before flying to Baghdad on Christmas.

His ride at Baghdad International Airport, arranged by the family friends in Lebanon, dropped him off at an international hotel where Americans were staying.

He says he only strayed far from that hotel once, in search of food. He walked into a nearby shop and asked for a menu. When no menu appeared, he pulled out his Arabic phrase book, and after fumbling around found the word "menu." The stand didn't have one. Then a worker tried to read some of the English phrases.

"And I'm like, 'Well, I should probably be going.' It was not a safe place. The way they were looking at me kind of freaked me out," he said.

It was mid-afternoon Tuesday, after his second night in Baghdad, that he sought out editors at The Associated Press and announced he was in Iraq to do research and humanitarian work. AP staffers had never seen an unaccompanied teenage American walk into their war zone office. ("I would have been less surprised if little green men had walked in," said editor Patrick Quinn.)
Wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt in addition to his jeans and sneakers, Hassan appeared eager and outgoing but slightly sheepish about his situation.

The AP quickly called the U.S. embassy.

Embassy officials had been on the lookout for Hassan, at the request of his parents, who still weren't sure exactly where he was. One U.S. military officer said he was shocked the teen was still alive. The 101st Airborne lieutenant who picked him up from the hotel said it was the wildest story he'd ever heard.

Hassan accepted being turned over to authorities as the safest thing to do, but seemed to accept the idea more readily over time.

Most of Hassan's wild tale could not be corroborated, but his larger story arc was in line with details provided by friends and family members back home.

Dangerous and dramatic, Hassan's trip has also been educational. He had tea with Kuwaitis under a tent in the middle of a desert. He says he interviewed Christians in south Lebanon. And he said he spoke with U.S. soldiers guarding his Baghdad hotel who told him they are treated better by Sunni Arabs — the minority population that enjoyed a high standing under Saddam Hussein and are now thought to fuel the insurgency — than by the majority Shiites.

His father, Redha Hassan, a doctor, said his son is an idealist, principled and moral. Aside from the research he wanted to accomplish, he also wrote in an essay saying he wanted to volunteer in Iraq.

He said he wrote half the essay while in the United States, half in Kuwait, and e-mailed it to his teachers Dec. 15 while in the Kuwait City airport.

"There is a struggle in Iraq between good and evil, between those striving for freedom and liberty and those striving for death and destruction," he wrote.

"Those terrorists are not human but pure evil. For their goals to be thwarted, decent individuals must answer justice's call for help. Unfortunately altruism is always in short supply. Not enough are willing to set aside the material ambitions of this transient world, put morality first, and risk their lives for the cause of humanity. So I will."

"I want to experience during my Christmas the same hardships ordinary Iraqis experience everyday, so that I may better empathize with their distress," he wrote.

Farris Hassan says he thinks a trip to the Middle East is a healthy vacation compared with a trip to Colorado for holiday skiing.

"You go to, like, the worst place in the world and things are terrible," he said. "When you go back home you have such a new appreciation for all the blessing you have there, and I'm just going to be, like, ecstatic for life."

His mother, however, sees things differently.

"I don't think I will ever leave him in the house alone again," she said. "He showed a lack of judgment."

Hassan may not mind, at least for a while. He now understands how dangerous his trip was, that he was only a whisker away from death.

His plans on his return to Florida: "Kiss the ground and hug everyone."

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press.


MVPs of 2005 ...

From The Nation:

The Most Valuable Progressives of 2005
By John Nichols

It is hard to complain about a year that began with George Bush bragging about spending the "political capital" he felt he had earned with his dubious reelection and ended with the president drowning in the Nixonian depths of public disapproval.

But the circumstance didn't just get better.

A handful of elected officials, activist groups and courageous citizens bent the arc of history toward justice.

Here are this one columnist's picks for the Most Valuable Progressives of 2005:

* MVP -- U.S. Senate:
This is an easy category. While California Democrat Barbara Boxer deserves credit for refusing to go along with the certification of the dubious presidential election results from Ohio, and Arizona Republican John McCain merits praise for forcing the administration to back down from its pro-torture stance, there's no question that Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold was the essential senator of 2005. He was the first member of the chamber to call for a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq -- a stance that initially was ridiculed but ultimately drew support from many of Feingold's fellow Democrats and even a few Republicans. And he ended the year by forging a bipartisan coalition that beat back the Bush administration's demand for the long-term extension of the Patriot Act, scoring one of the most significant wins for civil liberties that Congress has seen in years.

* MVP -- U.S. House:
There are plenty of members of the House who deserve credit for standing up to the administration on critical issues -- from Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who led the fight against Central American Free Trade Agreement, to Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who was the point man in the battle to fix the Patriot Act, to North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, who courageously broke with the administration to oppose the war. And, of course, there was Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, the decorated Vietnam veteran who forced the House to get serious about the war he called for a speedy withdrawal. But the essential member of the House in 2005 was Michigan Democrat John Conyers, the ranking member of his party on the Judiciary Committee. No one used their bully pulpit better in 2005 than Conyers, who gathered damning information about electoral irregularities in the 2004 Ohio presidential voting and then led the challenge to the certification of the results, held hearings on the Downing Street Memo's revelations regarding the Bush administration's doctoring of pre-war intelligence, and ended the year by moving resolutions to censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney for lying to Congress and the American people -- and to set up a committee to examine the issue of impeachment.

* MVP -- Executive Branch:
Yes, there was one. It's Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the retired U.S. Army colonel who served as chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell until Powell exited the State Department in January, 2005. After leaving his position, Wilkerson began revealing the dark secrets of the Bush-Cheney interregnum, telling a New America Foundation gathering in October that during his years in the administration: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made." Wilkerson warned that, with "a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either," the country is headed in an exceptionally dangerous direction. "I would say that we have courted disaster, in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran, generally with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita and I could go on back, we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time," Wilkerson explained. "And if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence." That is truth telling of a quality and a scope all too rarely witnessed in the Washington of Bush and Cheney.

* MVP -- Law Enforcement Branch:
While Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald deserved all the headlines and the credit he got for indicting I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the now former chief-of-staff for Vice President Dick Cheney and a key player in faking up the "case" for war with Iraq, Fitzgerald's work is just beginning. His most important indictments are yet to come. The prosecutor who took the greatest risks and who secured the most consequential indictment of 2005 was Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who brought down House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The man who ran Congress for most of the Bush years has not been convicted -- yet -- but DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader and no one who watches Washington thinks he will ever regain that position. Earle got his man, and began the long process of cleansing a Congress that, after all these years of being run by a pest-control specialist, is in serious need of fumigation.

* MVP -- Citizen Branch:
In August, when Democrats leaders in Washington were still talking about working with the Bush administration on Iraq -- effectively leaving Americans who were growing increasingly ill-at-ease about the war without a voice in the chambers of power -- the mother of a slain soldier followed Bush to his Crawford, Texas, ranchette and asked him to take a few minutes away from his month-long vacation to talk about the quagmire. Cindy Sheehan put the issue of the war back at the forefront of the national agenda, forcing even the dysfunctional White House press corps to start covering dissenters and getting D.C. Democrats to wake up to the reality that the American people had lost faith in the president and his military misadventure.

* MVP -- Watchdog Branch:
The media did a slightly better job of monitoring political wrongdoing in 2005 than it did during the first four years of the Bush-Cheney presidency -- when it actually would have mattered. But the real work of exposing the misdeeds of the administration is still being done by activist groups. And the most inspired of these in 2005 was After Downing Street, the coalition of groups that describes itself as "working to expose the lies that launched the war and to hold accountable its architects, including through censure and impeachment." In conjunction with Progressive Democrats of America, the able activist group that seeks to create an actual opposition party in America, After Downing Street is pushing the political envelope in exactly the direction it needs to go. Check out their website at website and keep ahead of the action in 2006.


Fools and damned fools... Here's one...

via Drudge Report:

Airbus pilot maroons drunken passenger on desert island
By Nigel Bunyan
(Filed: 30/12/2005)

A drunken holidaymaker has been dumped on a desert island after launching a foul-mouthed tirade at the crew of a passenger jet.

The unwilling Robinson Crusoe will only be able to leave Porto Santo, a tiny patch of land off the North African coast, if he books a two-and-a-half hour ferry trip to Madeira. He will then have to book a flight to his intended destination, Tenerife, or return to Britain.

Monarch Airlines has yet to decide whether to sue him for the cost of the unscheduled diversion, estimated at "many thousands of pounds".

The unnamed passenger's difficulties began on Tuesday evening at 35,000 ft when he began abusing the cabin crew of flight ZB558 from Manchester. He refused to calm down and then turned his attention to the other 210 passengers.

Eventually the pilot decided that he posed a risk to safety and had to be removed.
Rather than continue for a further 45 minutes to Tenerife he diverted his Airbus A321 to Porto Santo. Within moments of the plane touching down the passenger was escorted to the terminal.

Last night he remained a castaway on the Portuguese-controlled island. His New Year home is a mere 10 miles long by three miles wide with a population of 4,000. There is little entertainment apart from walking on the sand dunes.

Porto Santo's only cultural claim to fame is to have been the place where Christopher Columbus met his wife, the then governor's daughter.

Jo Robertson, of Monarch, refused to name the drunken passenger. She said that he was asked to sign a form admitting his disruptive behaviour, but had refused.

Despite enduring a four-hour delay, other passengers were "fully supportive" of the decision to dump the man.

Last night it was unclear either how or when he would return to Britain.

"He certainly won't be flying back with us," said Miss Robertson.


RFID....a real hair-stander...

From Information Clearing House:

Are You Being Tracked?: Big business thinks Radio Frequency Identification tags are great. Privacy-rights advocates fear the tiny chips will invite corporations and the government into our personal lives.


Renditions...both Bush and Clinton...

From Information Clearing House:

CIA renditions began under Clinton: agent
12/29/05 "

ABC" -- -- The US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) controversial "rendition" program was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counter-terrorism agent has told a German newspaper.

Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who resigned from the agency in 2004, has told Die Zeit that the US administration had been looking in the mid-1990s for a way to combat the terrorist threat and circumvent the cumbersome US legal system.

"President Clinton, his national security adviser Sandy Berger and his terrorism adviser Richard Clark ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al Qaeda," Mr Scheuer said. "We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said 'That's up to you'."

Mr Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, says he developed and led the "renditions" program.

He says the program includes moving prisoners without due legal process to countries without strict human rights protections. "In Cairo, people are not treated like they are in Milwaukee," he said."

"The Clinton administration asked us if we believed that the prisoners were being treated in accordance with local law. "And we answered, 'yes, we're fairly sure'."

He says at the time the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself. "That was done by the local police or secret services," he said, adding the prisoners were never taken to US soil. "President Clinton did not want that," he said.

Bush changes
He says the program changed under Mr Clinton's successor, President George W Bush, after the attacks of September 11, 2001. "We started putting people in our own institutions - in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo," he said.

"The Bush administration wanted to capture people itself but made the same mistake as the Clinton administration by not treating these people as prisoners of war." He accused Europeans of being hypocritical in criticising the US administration for its anti-terrorism tactics while benefiting from them. "All the information we received from interrogations and documents, everything that had to do with Spain, Italy, Germany, France, England was passed on," he said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended renditions on a trip to Europe this month as a "vital tool" for fighting international terrorism but insisted that the US does not condone torture.

- AFP© 2005 ABC


Lie, military tells homeward bound soldiers..or else.

From Capitol Hill Blue

CHB Investigates. . .Pentagon propaganda program orders soldiers to promote Iraq war while home on leave
By DOUG THOMPSONPublisher, Capitol Hill Blue
Dec 29, 2005, 05:44

Good soldiers follow orders and hundreds of American military men and women returned to the United States on holiday leave this month with orders to sell the Iraq war to a skeptical public.The program, coordinated through a Pentagon operation dubbed “Operation Homefront,” ordered military personnel to give interviews to their hometown newspapers, television stations and other media outlets and praise the American war effort in Iraq.

Initial reports back to the Pentagon deem the operation a success with dozens of front page stories in daily and weekly newspapers around the country along with upbeat reports on local television stations.“We've learned as a military how to do this better,” Captain David Diaz, a military reservist, told his hometown paper, The Roanoke (VA) Times. “My worry is that we have the right military strategy and political strategies now but the patience of the American public is wearing thin.”

When pressed by the paper on whether or not his commanding officers told him to talk to the press, Diaz admitted he was “encouraged” to do so. So reporter Duncan Adams asked:“Did Diaz return to the U.S. on emergency leave with an agenda -- to offer a positive spin that could help counter growing concerns among Americans about the U.S. exit strategy? How do we know that's not his strategy, especially after he discloses that superior officers encouraged him to talk about his experiences in Iraq?”

Replied Diaz:“You don't. I can tell you that the direction we've gotten from on high is that there is a concern about public opinion out there and they want to set the record straight.”

Diaz, an intelligence officer, knows how to avoid a direct answer. Other military personnel, however, tell Capitol Hill Blue privately that the pressure to “sell the war” back home is enormous.

“I’ve been promised an early release if I do a good job promoting the war,” says one reservist who asked not to be identified.

In interviews with a number of reservists home for the holidays, a pattern emerges on the Pentagon’s propaganda effort. Soldiers are encouraged to contact their local news media outlets to offer interviews about the war. A detailed set of talking points encourages them to:--Admit initial doubts about the war but claim conversion to a belief in the American mission;--Praise military leadership in Iraq and throw in a few words of support for the Bush administration;--Claim the mission to turn security of the country over to the Iraqis is working;--Reiterate that America must not abandon its mission and must stay until the “job is finished.”--Talk about how “things are better” now in Iraq.

“My worry is that we have the right military strategy and political strategies now but the patience of the American public is wearing thin,” Diaz told The Roanoke Times.“It’s way better now (in Iraq). People are friendlier. They seem more relaxed, and they say, ’Thank you, mister,’” Sgt. Christopher Desierto told his hometown paper, The Maui News.

But soldiers who are home and don’t have to return to Iraq tell a different story.

“I've just been focused on trying to get the rest of these guys home,” says Sgt. Major Floyd Dubose of Jackson, MS, who returned home after 11 months in Iraq with the Mississippi Army National Guard's 155th Combat Brigade.

And the Army is cracking down on soldiers who go on the record opposing the war.

Specialist Leonard Clark, a National Guardsman, was demoted to private and fined $1,640 for posting anti-war statements on an Internet blog. Clark wrote entries describing the company's commander as a "glory seeker" and the battalion sergeant major an "inhuman monster". His last entry before the blog was shut down told how his fellow soldiers were becoming increasingly opposed to the US operation in Iraq.

“The message is clear,” says one reservist who is home for the holidays but has to return and asked not to be identified. “If you want to get out of this man’s Army with an honorable (discharge) and full benefits you better not tell the truth about what is happening in-country.”

But Sgt. Johnathan Wilson, a reservist, got his honorable discharge after he returned home earlier this month and he’s not afraid to talk on the record.

“Iraq is a classic FUBAR,” he says. “The country is out of control and we can’t stop it. Anybody who tries to sell a good news story about the war is blowing it out his ass. We don’t win and eventually we will leave the country in a worse shape than it was when we invaded.”

© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue


CA's Repub SecState says Diebolds okay? Hah....

Blogged by Brad on 12/29/2005 @ 11:11am PT...

'All is Well' Says CA Sec. of State About ES&S Voting Machines
(Without Telling Us What Was Wrong in the First Place)

Some Quick Damage Control After Secret Letter Uncovered Threats of Decertification for Voting Machine Company by SoS in the Golden State

Everything's fine. Nothing to worry about. These aren't the droids you're looking for. That was the message out of Sacramento yesterday in regards to the newly exposed concerns about ES&S voting machines in California as recently revealed by a secret letter from California's Secretary of State. That letter was written and sent five weeks ago privately, but only reported publicly for the first time last week after it was uncovered by an AP reporter.

Of course, CA SoS Bruce McPherson's office has yet to actually inform the voters (you remember them, don't you, Mr. McPherson?) of the "problems experienced by counties utilitizing ES&S voting equipment and software" as discovered during the recent November Special Election which "deeply concerned" the SoS enough to threaten ES&S with decertification in the entire state, according to the letter.

But the message out yesterday is that all is well, and no -- you pesky voters don't need to worry your pretty little selves about a thing!According to the Vallejo Times-Herald (note how the concern in the lede here is for Elections Officials as opposed to Voters!):

Solano County leaders could breathe a sigh of relief Tuesday when the state announced it would not decertify voting machines used here.If the state had gone forward with its threat to decertify the Election Systems and Software used in Solano and in 10 other California counties, it likely would have meant Solano would have to replace its voting machines for the second time in nearly two years.Yea! The Solano County leaders don't have to worry about a thing! Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!

But after threatening potential decertification of the ES&S voting machine company, a Secretary of State's office spokeswoman said Tuesday the state was satisfied the company would make necessary improvements. Specifically, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Bradley J. Clark warned he'd start the process of decertifying ES&S machines for use in California if senior officials didn't address concerns with vote counts and verification, problems that surfaced during the state's Nov. 8 special election. The concerns needed to be dealt with immediately, the letter said.

"They've thoroughly met our needs," Secretary of State spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said Tuesday, adding that the company addressed the concerns "one by one."

What exactly are those needs, Ms. Kerns? Do the California Voters have any right to know about them? Or will it require investigative reporters and bloggers with bad attitudes to uncover still more secret letters and documents sent to the Voting Machine Companies that we, the Voters (you remember us, don't you, Ms. Kern?), are paying with our tax-dollars to privatize our public elections?!

State Senator Debra Bowen had previously called on you "to immediately release all corrspondence to all vendors, and all documentation related to the certification of any and all voting equipment and voting systems." Have the SoS's office done so? It would certainly be appreciated, so we could judge for ourselves about those "one by one" needs that ES&S has "thoroughly met".

And we speak as California Voters ourselves here, by the way.

Bowen also asked, "When is the public entitled to know?" Which, of course, we'd like to know as well. She also added "This kind of secrecy is completely unacceptable." And, of course, we agree to that as well.

So, Mr. McPherson or Ms. Kerns -- or whoever it is that is making decisions up there in Sacramento while you suppose that few are paying attention between Christmas and New Years -- would you like to answer the Senator's call on behalf of the voters of California for whom you work?Our lines are always open. We'll be happy to help you disseminate all of that information. If you actually care about such things. We'll even try and get rid of the bad attitude when we do just for fairness sake. But you'll have to meet us halfway. If you work for us (as you're supposed to), then we'll do our best to work with you.

(Hat tip to the eagle-eyed John Gideon, who, unlike Diebold, actually means it when he says he "never rests".)


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Where the BushCo neocons started...PNAC...

From the Information Clearing House:

Shock, awe and Hobbes have backfired on America's neocons Iraq has shown the hubris of a geostrategy that welds the philosophy of the Leviathan to military and technological power
By Richard Drayton

"The Guardian" -- -- The tragic irony of the 21st century is that just as faith in technology collapsed on the world's stock markets in 2000, it came to power in the White House and Pentagon. For the Project for a New American Century's ambition of "full-spectrum dominance" - in which its country could "fight and win multiple, simultaneous major-theatre wars" - was a monster borne up by the high tide of techno euphoria of the 1990s.

Ex-hippies talked of a wired age of Aquarius. The fall of the Berlin wall and the rise of the internet, we were told, had ushered in Adam Smith's dream of overflowing abundance, expanding liberty and perpetual peace. Fukuyama speculated that history was over, leaving us just to hoard and spend. Technology meant a new paradigm of constant growth without inflation or recession.

But darker dreams surfaced in America's military universities. The theorists of the "revolution in military affairs" predicted that technology would lead to easy and perpetual US dominance of the world. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters advised on "future warfare" at the Army War College - prophesying in 1997 a coming "age of constant conflict". Thomas Barnett at the Naval War College assisted Vice-Admiral Cebrowski in developing "network-centric warfare". General John Jumper of the air force predicted a planet easily mastered from air and space. American forces would win everywhere because they enjoyed what was unashamedly called the "God's-eye" view of satellites and GPS: the "global information grid".

This hegemony would be welcomed as the cutting edge of human progress. Or at worst, the military geeks candidly explained, US power would simply terrify others into submitting to the stars and stripes.

Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance - a key strategic document published in 1996 - aimed to understand how to destroy the "will to resist before, during and after battle". For Harlan Ullman of the National Defence University, its main author, the perfect example was the atom bomb at Hiroshima. But with or without such a weapon, one could create an illusion of unending strength and ruthlessness. Or one could deprive an enemy of the ability to communicate, observe and interact - a macro version of the sensory deprivation used on individuals - so as to create a "feeling of impotence". And one must always inflict brutal reprisals against those who resist.

An alternative was the "decay and default" model, whereby a nation's will to resist collapsed through the "imposition of social breakdown".

All of this came to be applied in Iraq in 2003, and not merely in the March bombardment called "shock and awe". It has been usual to explain the chaos and looting in Baghdad, the destruction of infrastructure, ministries, museums and the national library and archives, as caused by a failure of Rumsfeld's planning. But the evidence is this was at least in part a mask for the destruction of the collective memory and modern state of a key Arab nation, and the manufacture of disorder to create a hunger for the occupier's supervision. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in May 2003, US troops broke the locks of museums, ministries and universities and told looters: "Go in Ali Baba, it's all yours!"

For the American imperial strategists invested deeply in the belief that through spreading terror they could take power. Neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the recently indicted Lewis "Scooter" Libby, learned from Leo Strauss that a strong and wise minority of humans had to rule over the weak majority through deception and fear, rather than persuasion or compromise. They read Le Bon and Freud on the relationship of crowds to authority. But most of all they loved Hobbes's Leviathan. While Hobbes saw authority as free men's chosen solution to the imperfections of anarchy, his 21st century heirs seek to create the fear that led to submission. And technology would make it possible and beautiful.

On the logo of the Pentagon's Information Awareness Office, the motto is Scientia est potentia - knowledge is power . The IAO promised "total information awareness", an all-seeing eye spilling out a death-ray gaze over Eurasia. Congressional pressure led the IAO to close, but technospeak, half-digested political theory and megalomania still riddle US thinking. Barnett, in The Pentagon's New Map and Blueprint for Action, calls for a "systems administrator" force to be dispatched with the military, to "process" conquered countries. The G8 and a few others are the "Kantian core", writes Barnett, warming over the former Blair adviser Robert Cooper's poisonous guff from 2002; their job is to export their economy and politics by force to the unlucky "Hobbesian gap". Imperialism is imagined as an industrial technique to remake societies and cultures, with technology giving sanction to those who intervene.

The Afghanistan war of 2001 taught the wrong lessons. The US assumed this was the model of how a small, special forces-dominated campaign, using local proxies and calling in gunships or airstrikes, would sweep away opposition. But all Afghanistan showed was how an outside power could intervene in a finely balanced civil war. The one-eyed Mullah Omar's great escape on his motorbike was a warning that the God's-eye view can miss the human detail.

The problem for the US today is that Leviathan has shot his wad. Iraq revealed the hubris of the imperial geostrategy. One small nation can tie down a superpower. Air and space supremacy do not give command on the ground. People can't be terrorised into identification with America. The US has proved able to destroy massively - but not create, or even control. Afghanistan and Iraq lie in ruins, yet the occupiers cower behind concrete mountains.

The spin machine is on full tilt to represent Iraq as a success. Peters, in New Glory: Expanding America's Supremacy, asserts: "Our country is a force for good without precedent"; and Barnett, in Blueprint, says: "The US military is a force for global good that ... has no equal." Both offer ambitious plans for how the US is going to remake the third world in its image. There is a violent hysteria to the boasts. The narcissism of a decade earlier has given way to an extrovert rage at those who have resisted America's will since 2001. Both urge utter ruthlessness in crushing resistance. In November 2004, Peters told Fox News that in Falluja "the best outcome, frankly, is if they're all killed".

But he directs his real fury at France and Germany: "A haggard Circe, Europe dulled our senses and fooled us into believing in her attractions. But the dugs are dry in Germany and France. They deluded us into prolonging the affair long after our attentions should have turned to ... India, South Africa, Brazil."

While a good Kleinian therapist may be able to help Peters work through his weaning trauma, only America can cure its post 9/11 mixture of paranoia and megalomania. But Britain - and other allied states - can help. The US needs to discover, like a child that does not know its limits, that there is a world outside its body and desires, beyond even the reach of its toys, that suffers too.

· Dr Richard Drayton, a senior lecturer in history at Cambridge University, is the author of Nature's Government, a study of science, technology and imperialism© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


Pentagon intel will outrank Military Chiefs ...

From the LA Times:

1:42 PM PST, December 28, 2005 : National Politics

Chiefs Demoted in Pentagon Succession Line
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON -- The three military service chiefs have been dropped in the Bush administration's doomsday line of Pentagon succession, pushed beneath three civilian undersecretaries in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's inner circle. A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army chief, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.

The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and mirror the administration's new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in 21st century warfighting. Technically, the line of succession is assigned to specific positions, rather than the current individuals holding those jobs. But in its current incarnation, the doomsday plan moves to near the top three undersecretaries who are Rumsfeld loyalists and who previously worked for Vice President Dick Cheney when he was defense secretary.

The changes were recommended, said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, because the three undersecretaries have "a broad knowledge and perspective of overall Defense Department operations." The service leaders are more focused on training, equipping and leading a particular military service, said Whitman.

Thomas Donnelly, a defense expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said the changes make it easier for the administration to assert political control and could lead to more narrow-minded decisions. "It continues to devalue the services as institutions," said Donnelly, saying it will centralize power, and shift it away from the services, where there is generally more military expertise and interest.

Under the new plan, Rumsfeld ally Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary for intelligence, moved up to the third spot while former Ambassador Eric Edelman, the policy undersecretary; and Kenneth Krieg, the undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, hold the fourth and fifth positions. The first to succeed Rumsfeld remains the job of the deputy secretary, a position currently vacant because the Senate has not confirmed Bush's nominee -- Navy Secretary Gordon England. Senators have already approved Donald Winter to be England's replacement as Navy chief, and it is expected that Bush will eventually move England into the No. 2 Pentagon job without congressional approval through what is known as a recess appointment.

Bush tinkered with the succession line last June, temporarily making England, as Navy secretary, the No. 2 in the succession hierarchy until the deputy's job was filled. Last week, Bush changed that, ordering that the acting deputy secretary -- also England -- would succeed Rumsfeld, until a deputy is appointed.

The new succession order bumps the Navy secretary to near the bottom of the line of succession -- eighth behind the deputy, the three Pentagon undersecretaries and the Army and Air Force secretaries. The Army secretary historically has been third in line, right behind the deputy secretary.

As a precursor to the Defense Department, the Army was once considered the backbone of the nation's military. The Department of War was the country's military agency from 1789 to 1949, when it became the Department of Defense. At that time, the War Office was renamed as the Army, which became a component of the Defense Department.

Since the terrorist attacks, intelligence gathering has taken center stage. Earlier this year, Bush named former ambassador John Negroponte as the country's first director of national intelligence, charged with overseeing the government's 15 highly competitive spy agencies. And in the spring of 2003, Rumsfeld installed Cambone -- one of his closest aides -- in the new job of intelligence undersecretary.


What to do? We NEED our police forces!!!

From the NY Times:

Police Forces, Their Ranks Thin, Offer Bonuses
SEATTLE, Dec. 26

Among the depleted ranks of police departmentsthroughout the country, it has come to this: desperate want ads offering signing bonuses to new recruits, and cops paying other cops to find new cops. It seems nobody wants to be a police officer anymore, officials say. As a result, departments are taking a page from recruiters in sports and the corporate world. Here in King County, the most populous in the Pacific Northwest, the Sheriff's Office is trying a kind of bounty hunting: any deputy who can bring in someone who eventually becomes an officer will get a bonus of 40 hours of extra vacation time, worth up to $1,300.

"This job used to be more enticing, and we didn't have to do a lot of marketing," said Sheriff's Deputy Jessica Cline, the chief recruiter for the King County force. "Over time, it's become less attractive. We needed to do something."

But it is a competitive world out there among police recruiters. San Diego County, for instance, has already gone King County one better. "Put a star in your future - now offering a signing bonus of up to $5,000," goes theWeb advertisement for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

In a generation's time, the job of an American police officer, previously among the most sought-after by people with little college background, has become one that in many communities now goes begging. Experts find that the life has little appeal among young people, and those who might be attracted to it are frequently lured instead by aggressive counteroffers from the military. The problem is compounded by better pay at entry-level jobs in the private sector, where employment opportunities have recently brightened.

The resulting shortage of new officers, says Elaine Deck, who tracks recruitment matters for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, is the top concern among issues facing law enforcement across the country. Nearly every police department at a recent statewide meeting in California reported being at least 10 percent short of the officers it needed.

TheLos Angeles Police Department has about 700 officers fewer than its full complement of 10,000, says Cmdr. Kenny Garner, who oversees recruiting there. "When I started out in the 1970's, there were lines around the block of people waiting to take the police test, and I had to sleep overnight in an elementary school to get my place," Commander Garner said. "It's not an easy sell anymore."

Similarly, the test to join King County's ranks now draws only a small fraction of the 3,000 who used to take it. In the face of developments like those, police agencies have tried a variety of enticements.

"Walk-ins accepted for immediate testing!" says an advertisement from the Los Angeles police force, which at one point sent recruiters to Florida to troll for prospective officers among college students lying on the beach during spring break.

There, Fort Lauderdale's come-on for police academy prospects says "no maximum age," along with "up to five weeks' vacation."

The New York Police Department recently placed advertisements in newspapers in and around Buffalo, part of a broad sweep to find recruits in the economically depressed upstate region.

Many cities have raised salaries well above the rate of inflation and are offering benefits like discount mortgages. Lexington, Ky., will give new officers up to $7,400 for a down payment on a home. The Los Angeles police are offering $500 to any city employee who can bring in a police recruit who makes it through the academy, and another $500 if the prospect becomes a sworn officer. But the bonus, along with recruit inducements that include a retirement payment of $250,000 after 20 years in addition to a pension, has yet to turn the tide.

"We're trying to cook up some other things so we can get back in the game," Commander Garner said, in a bow to the competition. The pay in most departments remains competitive with that in other jobs that do not necessarily require a college degree. A rookie officer in LosAngeles will start at $51,000 a year - certainly better than the starting salary for many teachers, of whom a degree is demanded. Police jobs also typically come with comfortable vacation, health care and retirement packages.

Further, most height and weight restrictions have been thrown out at major police departments, after lawsuits challenging them on grounds of gender and race. As for strength and stamina, a recruit in King County need be able to do only 30 situps in a minute and run a mile and a half in less than 14 minutes 31 seconds. "You don't have to be Superman," said Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Lange, a 14-year veteran of King County, where the vacation bonus has led deputies to start recruiting on their own, looking for friends, relatives or just casual acquaintances who might want to wear a badge.

But whatever the attractions to the job, a powerful constraint is working against them, experts say. "The people we are now trying to recruit look at life and jobs in a very different way than baby boomers do," said Ms. Deck, of the police chiefs association. "People used to live to work. This younger generation works to live. Working late, working weekends, that's not attractive. They want to make money and retire early."

Then there is the competition from the armed services. At some military bases, commanders will not even allow police recruiters on the grounds, for fear that they will steal troops who might otherwise re-enlist, said Lt. Mike Barletta of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

King County has been sending recruiters to distant cities, where they scour job fairs, employment offices and even other police departments to find new people to wear the sheriff's uniform. "We went to Houston, made a presentation after their roll call, spent eight days in the city, and at the end of it all we got was only one new officer out of it - and he didn't last," said Detective Robert Burrows, who does recruitment screening at the King County Sheriff's Office.

What proved to be a bidding war of sorts between King County and San Diego County broke out this year when the sheriff's office here bought radio advertisements and sent recruiters south. The selling point was that houses are cheaper in the Pacific Northwest than in Southern California. "We sell the lifestyle, and the cost of living, less crime, the mountains," said Deputy Cline, the chief recruiter for King County. "And in turn,we're looking for diversity, for someone with good people skills, someone who can go from a missing-child call to a bar fight."

San Diego countered by describing the Seattle area as a damp, cold outpost far from the beaches of Southern California. "We say, 'Would you rather live in Washington State, where it's gloomy and gray, or live here with the sunshine and beaches?' " Lieutenant Barletta said. "Our biggest obstacle is housing prices. Young people can't afford to buy a home here." To help with housing costs, San Diego started a Cop Next Door program, arranging with certain lenders to offer discount home loans to officers willing to live in less desirable neighborhoods. But the program has yet to show much promise, Lieutenant Barletta said. "We've got all the sunshine anyone could want," he said, "but not enough officers. It's been bad for some time, but it's getting worse."


Ignored: the Navy at Normandy Invasion!

From :

Navy Normandy Monument Project Underway
Captain Gregory Streeter, USN (Ret.)
December 27, 2005

Sixty-one years following the largest naval operation in world history, the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the only service not recognized by any monument or memorial at Normandy is the United States Navy.

Hundreds of ships and thousands of men were involved in transporting allied forces from England to Normandy in the largest armada ever assembled, in constructing and operating artificial harbors and in supplying the forces once they were ashore.

Walking the beaches of Normandy today and observing the many plaques and monuments there will give little clue that the U.S. Navy ever was there.

The Naval Order of the United States, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, associations of Merchant Marine and Sea Service veterans in the United States discovered this oversight during a presentation made to a chapter of the Naval Order in 2003 by Mr. Ray Pfeiffer, who conducts tours of WWII battlefields in Europe.

Mr. Pfeiffer related that he and his wife conduct frequent tours of Normandy and they try to emphasize the Navy’s role since it tends to otherwise get minor, if any, recognition in the ongoing remembrances of D-Day. He also mentioned in his presentation that the necessity for doing so was magnified by the fact that the Navy is the only service with no Monument at Normandy.

This lack of recognition is enormous when considering that the naval component of the operation comprised 1,213 allied warships, the preponderance of which was American. Their main task was to provide shore bombardment firepower for the troops going ashore, to guard the transports, and to conduct minesweeping and antisubmarine patrols on the flanks of the invasion corridor.

Allied forces, again primarily American, also provided 4,126 amphibious craft, including a variety of specialized landing craft, such as LSTs, LCIs, and LCTs.

More than 3,500 of these landing craft were actually used during the Normandy invasion and would provide the crucial troop-carrying capacity to land the thousands of men, vehicles, and artillery along the 50-mile wide target area.
The final full-scale monument will be placed at a location on Utah Beach, which already has been designated by the French authorities.

The Monument was designed at his own expense by sculptor Stephen Spears of Fair Hope, Alabama. It will be composed of three realistic figures, each representative of an element of the operation, planning and execution, implementation, and aftermath.The planning and execution figure will be exemplified by the figure of a Navy Captain in a “take charge” attitude. Around his feet will be various representative objects relating to the planning aspects of the invasion, charts, codebooks, and plans.

The sailor figure will represent the action of implementation. The superb training and execution of their duties in the invasion is represented by the loading of one of the thousands of shells fired before and during the assault to both prepare for the landings and later direct support fire.
The third figure represents the immense strain on the Navy Combat Demolition Units (NCDU), which had to both precede the invasion by removing mines and other explosive devices and then follow during and after to further insure the safety of the beachhead.

The concrete pentagonal base will be rimmed with a continuous bronze plaque that wraps around the upper portion of the five sides and will list all of the Navy vessels that participated in the Normandy invasion. Plans are also under consideration to design bas-relief scenes of various aspects of the operation such as amphibious craft on the beaches, shore bombardment, etc., to be mounted on the faces of the base.

The total project is estimated to cost $400,000. The target date for unveiling the monument is the sixty-third anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2007. The Naval Order is seeking donations across the board from individuals, Associations and Corporations. The Monument will be entirely privately funded with no government involvement. Tax-deductible donations should be made out to “NOUS Foundation” (Normandy on the memo line) and mailed to Capt. R.E. Piotrowski, USNR (Ret.), 2432 Fontana Drive, Glenview, IL 60025-4815.

For further information on the project, contact Capt. Greg Streeter, USN (Ret), Chair of the Naval Order’s Navy Normandy Monument Committee, 780 Queens Harbor Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32224-7468. E-mail:

Retired Navy Captain Gregory Streeter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. His first duty station was USS Glennon DD 840, which was the second Glennon; the first Glennon was sunk by a mine at Normandy. During his 28-year Naval career, Captain Streeter’s commands were USS Barry DD 933 and USS Wm R. Rush DD 714. His Squadron commands included DesRon 24 and DesRon 12. He is a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif., and the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Federal Air Marshals vs Homeland Security

from the December 28, 2005 edition -

Air marshals stretched thin
By Alexandra Marks
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW YORK - They're America's flying enforcers, the federal air marshals - the last line of defense in the case of an attack on an airborne plane.

But since two marshals shot and killed an unarmed mentally ill man earlier this month, problems within the small, secretive agency have again come to light. The Federal Air Marshal Service is beset by persistent challenges from morale to training to top-heavy management, sources say - so much so that the nation risks having too few marshals to protect commercial aviation.

Although the exact number of air marshals is a closely guarded secret because of national-security concerns, two officials within the service provided estimates to the Monitor out of concern that, as one of them put it, "the public is at risk." Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they risked sanctions by speaking openly. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which oversees the service, counters that the public, even during the heavily traveled holiday season, is adequately protected.

"We'll be the first to admit that we can't be on every flight," says TSA spokesman Dave Adams. "But [for people traveling by air], this holiday season there's a good chance that there will be a federal air marshal on one of their connecting flights."

On average, about 25,000 to 30,000 commercial airline flights take off each day. The service's goal, which is called the Flight Coverage Index, is to ensure that air marshals are on 3 percent of the flights, according to several sources. But they contend that goal is rarely reached because there aren't enough marshals.

A published estimate has put the total of air marshals at roughly 3,000; the Monitor's two independent sources contend that the number of active, frontline marshals ranges from 1,900 to 2,100. And in some of the service's 21 field offices, as many as 25 percent of them are grounded for health and other reasons, says one of the sources. Since they work in teams and fly what the TSA calls "targeted, critical flights" - such as New York-Los Angeles and from Latin America - covering the requisite number of flights can be challenging.

Those numbers are not accurate, says the TSA's Mr. Adams, who says frontline personnel do not have access to the same information as management. Furthermore, he says, the TSA has made strides in addressing many of the concerns.

Still, hundreds of air marshals plan to leave the service and that could jeopardize the public, the sources say.

"If you're a politician or a bureaucrat, this is a great program to make people feel good and to show that you're doing something to make them safer," says Andrew Thomas, an aviation-security expert at the University of Akron. "But obviously, there's a big difference between what's presented to the public and how the program actually works."

The service, created in 1968 to deal with the threat of hijackers, had dwindled to 33 active marshals prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In their aftermath, Congress ordered that the numbers be increased significantly, reportedly to around 5,000. Thousands of law-enforcement officers applied.

But they soon found themselves in what many believed was an untenable security situation, says a former air marshal. They were required to wear jackets at all times - which some marshals referred to as the "kill me first" dress code because it made them stand out. They had to identify themselves to airline personnel, often in front of passengers. They complained of long hours, unresponsive management, and no coherent way to report problems - as well as the lack of a career path.

Many of those who complained found themselves retaliated against, either given desk jobs or investigated more than once for alleged infractions of policy, sources say. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of one air marshal. In the meantime, the service was bumped from agency to agency within the Department of Homeland Security, compounding management problems.

After peaking at 4,800 in 2002, sources say, the force shrank dramatically, due to attrition and compounding health problems from excessive flying.

While the TSA has changed some of the most controversial policies, like the required dress code, the service still "lacks adequate management controls to help ensure that mission-related incidents that affect air marshals' ability to operate discreetly are recorded, tracked, and addressed," the Government Accountability Office said in a November report. It also recommended the service do more to ensure a good career path to help with "retention and morale."

To address those issues, the service has set up a working group of marshals from around the country so they can bring their concerns to management in Washington, according to Adams. Earlier this month, it tested a new program that would have air marshals also work alongside local law enforcement in patrolling trains, bus stations, and ferries. That would allow the service to expand and create more ground-based career opportunities.

"We're actually taking a wait-and-see attitude with this," says John Amat, executive vice president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents about 1,300 air marshals.


Impeaching Bush...about time...

From :

Impeachment Buzz
By Ruth Conniff
The Progressive
Tuesday 27 December 2005

What sense does it make that some of the same Washington media and political leaders who countenanced the Clinton impeachment over a semen-stained dress, somberly intoning about the "rule of law," consider impeaching Bush beyond the pale?

No sense at all.

The question about impeaching Bush has nothing to do with legal grounds, and everything to do with politics.

But in the last few weeks, the political climate has been changing, so that more people are seriously considering whether Bush has committed one or more impeachable offenses. The revelations about Bush's spying on Americans through the NSA helped change things a bit.

Representatives Johns Conyers and John Lewis and Senator Barbara Boxer are talking, in public, about impeachment now.

Way at the left end of the dial, there's been chatter about impeachment for a long time-at least since the grounds for war in Iraq began to fall apart. Last May, a group called After Downing Street began working on an impeachment drive.

While no member of Congress took up the call to draft articles of impeachment, the group's efforts launched Cindy Sheehan's crusade against Bush's war.

Now these same activists are organizing a grassroots campaign to support Representative John Conyers's bills to investigate Bush's conduct, with an eye toward impeachment (HR365) and censure Bush and Cheney for blocking Congress's access to information on intelligence manipulation, torture, and other misdeeds (HR366 and HR367).

On January 7, there will be town hall meetings around the country to drum up public awareness and support for Conyers's effort, and to publicize a report by the Democratic staff on the Judiciary Committee entitled "The Constitution in Crisis: Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-Ups in the war in Iraq." You can download the whole thing from the web site

As more constitutional scholars, members of Congress, pundits, and American citizens talk about the grounds for impeachment, and examine the record, the drumbeat can only get louder.

The only barrier is a sense of despair.

True, since the Republicans control both houses of Congress, it is unlikely that impeachment articles could garner the votes to pass. But some members of Bush's own party were turning against him as Congress adjourned for the holidays, on issues like McCain's anti-torture bill, the Patriot Act, tax breaks. and budget cuts.

And, of course, groups like Progressive Democrats of America, who are pushing impeachment, hope the Dems can pick up enough seats in 2006 to take back the House.

There is even a PAC, called ImpeachPAC, which has raised $40,000 to support any member of Congress willing to support impeachment. The group points to a Zogby poll that shows 53 percent of Americans support impeachment if it can be proved that Bush lied about Iraq.

At the very least, this Administration's abuse of power-the violations of civil liberties, torture of prisoners, and an arrogant insistence that the executive should be above the law when it comes to spying on Americans or launching a war-is subject to serious and open questioning.

And that's a good thing.