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Sometimes Life is Difficult, Even for the Secretary of State

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 11:58 AM EDT

I find this endlessly entertaining. Propaganda doesn't pay, occasionally.

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Bush Administration Official Part of Reality-Based Community

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 10:34 AM EDT

The Bush Administration for years has packed the executive branch with political appartchiks apparatchiks who pervert the business of the nation to better serve their White House masters. Consider the U.S Attorneys scandal, the most recent appointee for Surgeon General, and about a thousands other examples.

But recently that's been changing, at least in the realm of national security. The new ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, publicly complained about the lack of qualified employees at the Baghdad embassy; the new Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, has called for the closing of Guantanamo; and the war czar actually advocated withdrawal before being hired (and doesn't attack my patriotism for agreeing). Maybe they ran out of hacks, or maybe they realized excluding dissenting voices hadn't turned out very well.

Today, we find that Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, agreed in 2006 with the now widely-accepted claim that the Bush Administration twisted pre-war intelligence to make it support their phony claims about the urgent need for war. Two paragraphs from Stephen Hayes's upcoming biography on Dick Cheney, caught by Tim Russert and highlighted by Think Progress:

McConnell was honored to be asked [to be DNI], but he had serious reservations. He had been unimpressed with many aspects of the Bush administration and its conduct of the war on terror, particularly what he felt was a politicized use of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war. […]
"My sense of it is their political faith and convictions influenced how they took information and interpreted [it], how they picked up and interpreted outside events. … I've read much more about the current set of players and they did set up a whole new interpretation because they didn't like the answers. They've gotten results that in my view now have been disastrous," [McConnell said].

That sounds about right. Oh, and McConnell was critical of the Pentagon intelligence office that we like to call The Lie Factory.

Update: Should have mentioned this. As DNI, McConnell was responsible for the recent NIE that argued that four years in Iraq had only strengthened al Qaeda and that belligerence towards Iran would lead to terrorist attacks on the U.S. and its interests across the world.

More on Bush's Anti-Torture Order: Not So Impressive

| Mon Jul. 23, 2007 10:24 AM EDT

For a fuller examination of Bush's executive order from Friday afternoon banning torture and other forms of degrading interrogation, check out this David Cole piece in Salon. From Cole's perspective, the order feels like a wolf in sheep's clothing: another attempt by the Bush Administration to create loopholes while trying to appear on the up and up. Moreover, in places where the order does move us back in a humane and sane direction, it doesn't go far enough. Concludes Cole,

With a different administration and a different history, one might be less inclined to read President Bush's latest executive order so skeptically. But this administration has shown repeatedly that it approaches the prohibitions on coercive interrogation the way a particularly creative tax lawyer might treat the tax code. Instead of striving to uphold what we thought were our country's moral principles, the Bush administration seeks to exploit every loophole it can find or manufacture. As a result, the administration has lost the trust of the nation and of the rest of the world. Executive orders like this one are not likely to win it back.

Bribery Charges for KBR

| Sat Jul. 21, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Buried at the bottom of page A-6 in today's Times is news that Halliburton spin-off KBR and its subcontractor Eagle Global Logistics built bribery charges into the cost of delivering basic supplies to U.S. troops in Baghdad. An Eagle executive pleaded guilty yesterday to bribing KBR employees to continue to hand Eagle the lucrative subcontract. Eagle then took 50 cents in overcharges per pound of food, fuel, and other necessities it delivered to troops. KBR is officially claiming ignorance, but it takes two to commit bribery, and five KBR employees are included in the indictment.

Question is, how is this not also treason? After all, the well-placed companies refused to deliver basic necessities to American troops on the ground in Baghdad without first lining their pockets with taxpayer money, even as the taxpayers and their congressional representatives searched for a way to end the war without stranding the troops in dangerous territory.

Guerilla Art

| Sat Jul. 21, 2007 2:13 AM EDT

Banksy.

Friday Music News Wrapup

| Fri Jul. 20, 2007 6:43 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hetfield2.jpg

  • James Hetfield of Metallica says the whole airport-security beard fiasco never happened. The blogosphere responds: "Oops." (Rolling Stone)

  • UK singer MIA has received her US entry visa on the eve of a New York performance. She had been forced to cancel US appearances after being denied entry; many suspected her outspoken lyrics were to blame, but she says no. (NME)
  • Where's your head at, indeed: Basement Jaxx are teaming up with Yoko Ono for their new album. (Yahoo! Music)
  • mojo-photo-neworder.jpgNew Order will continue without Peter Hook. Bassist Hook announced the band was splitting up last month, but fellow members Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris released a statement this week saying, basically, "er, guess that means you're not coming to practice." (NME)
  • Annie Lennox has recruited basically every single female singer in the universe for an AIDS charity single: Fergie? Check. Maddy? Check. Dido? Check. Bonnie, Celine, Melissa, Gladys? Check, check, check, check. (Billboard)
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    Researchers Develop Inexpensive Solar Panels

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

    Researchers have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. Someday homeowners will be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers, say the inventors from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations. "Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine," says author Somenath Mitra of NJIT. . . Bring it on. There are millions of us waiting. JULIA WHITTY

    Intel Committee Chair: What Does the Executive Order Mean?

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 6:07 PM EDT

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, reacts to the news posted by Jonathan Stein below, that Bush has signed an executive order governing CIA interrogation techniques that supposedly bans cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment.

    Rockefeller:

    I just received the news this morning from General Hayden. We now need to determine what the Executive Order really means and how it will translate into actual conduct by the CIA. The only way to do that is to have the CIA come before the Committee and explain in detail how it intends to apply the Executive Order. It is also absolutely essential that the Department of Justice provide the Committee with its full legal analysis.
    The stakes are too high and the issue too important to provide any comment until the Committee has been given the opportunity to fully evaluate the President's action.

    Rockefeller's skepticism is fully warranted, says former Justice Department official Marty Lederman: "It is, in a word, worthless. ... As I've explained in several posts, however ... non-criminal does not equal legal." Lederman's post is worth a close read.

    The Evil Thomas Edison

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 5:47 PM EDT

    Still paying for his evilheart in so many ways. JULIA WHITTY

    BREAKING: Bush Administration to No Longer Break Domestic and International Law

    | Fri Jul. 20, 2007 5:26 PM EDT

    WHOA! Talk about a Friday afternoon news dump! Caught this in the Post right before I left the office.

    President Bush today signed an executive order governing the interrogation of terrorism suspects by the CIA and barring torture, degrading treatment and serious acts of violence, the White House announced.

    Friday afternoon announcements are reserved for things the administration wants to hide; I love that they want to hide the fact that they are now following the law.

    Only one explanation here: Bush had to take drastic action so Cheney didn't torture like a million dudes when Bush goes under the knife tomorrow.