What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Shutting down for now

I'm putting this blog on hiatus for now. Please head on over to my main blog, What's In Scott's Head, for my most current postings.

I'm working on a new concept for this blog, and if it happens, I'll post a note at my main blog.

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Deceiving America

Does it come as a surprise that a Bush administration official edited a report on global warming to downplay the environmental impact of climate change?

Not at all. The Bush administration has been engaged in the act of deceiving America since Bush took office.

The editing of the global warming reports was done by Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Quick quiz: Cooney's former occupation was:

1) Scientist
2) Lawyer
3) Lobbyist for the oil industry
4) Both 2 and 3

If you guessed number four, you win! Who needs a scientific background to deal with a scientific issue? No one! At least, not if you are working for the Bush administration.

Someone who used to work for the Bush administration is Rick Piltz. Piltz resigned in March from the government office that coordinates federal climate change programs. According to Piltz, Cooney was the primary author of the global warming reports. The Bush administration has said many people were involved in the writing of the documents.

Pitz said that Cooney "played a central role, including having final review and signoff authority," and contends that Cooney's changes were aimed "at creating an enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty" about climate change and its impact, contrary to the views of professionals.

There are other examples where the Bush administration presented information that was not accurate or, indeed, factual. Take Bush's 2003 state of the union address, which contains at least one huge lie (or, in light of the fact that no WMDs were found in Iraq, you could say the entire state of the union address was just a pack of lies):

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."

The Africa uranium bit has been discredited as a lie, passed off in badly forged documents.

The Bush administration never offered a believable explanation about the uranium line in the state of the union address, while the CIA maintains it communicated doubts about the intelligence to the Bush administration.

There are other lies, big and small, that the Bush administration has presented to the American people. Check out David Corn's book, The Lies of George W. Bush. It's an eye-opening read, and chronicles many lies that would take me hours to add to this entry.

And let's not forget the Downing Street Memo, which outlines a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush on July 23, 2002. The memo, written by someone named Matthew Rycroft, appears to be the minutes of the meeting. In one paragraph, the author says, of Iraq:

"Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Bush, predictably, denied this, although based on what we know now about Iraq and WMDs, it certainly isn't inconceivable that facts were manipulated in order to build a stronger case for going to war. Right-wingers will also predictably downplay this information, claiming it to be a forgery or to discount it outright because it is "anti-Bush" or some bullshit. The good ole' blame the messenger mentality.

Speaking of Iraq, another way the Bush administration deceives us is to downplay how the war is going. Bush and his administration will say at press conferences that the war is going like gangbusters and democracy is springing up all over Iraq like a sort of plant. A weed?

The truth is, conditions in Iraq are not as great as we are led to believe. Conservatives can bluster that the so-called liberal media is only reporting the negative and not the positive. Well, you know, if soldiers are fixing up or building schools in Iraq, that's great. But is it safe for the children to attend those schools? Do they run the risk of an insurgent blasting the school (or kids) to bits?

Frankly, I don't know why conservatives support Bush so much. Maybe they're blind with power, who knows? Republicans do control the White House and the Congress. So what if George W. Bush has bankrupted the United States? It's just money.

Even before being elected president, Bush lied. At the South Carolina Republican Debate, Feb. 15, 2000, Bush said, of his proposal for huge tax cuts: "But by far the vast majority of my tax cuts go to the bottom end of the spectrum." Which was a lie. But so what? At least he wasn't lying about sex. That would have been horrible.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The John Kerry edition of the "Boston Globe"

Fresh John Kerry news from the Boston Globe: a report that John Kerry received some D's during his college years...and the more important news that Kerry had signed the military form 180 to release all of his military records. Right-wing nut jobs and other conservative pundits and bloggers had been demanding that Kerry sign the 180 and release the records. Well, he did what?

It's interesting that the Globe's lead story was about Kerry's college grades, (registration is required for the Boston Globe's web site) not the release of all of his military records, a point highlighted in a report by Media Matters for America.

Kerry's grades his freshman year were not the greatest, and the Globe makes a point of comparing Kerry's lackluster performance to George W. Bush's grades.

Now, I don't think in all cases good or bad grades are a reflection of a student's intelligence. There are plenty of high IQ students getting bad grades because they're so bored with their school work. I'm in the middle of my freshman year, and my math grades have been pretty bad. Doesn't mean I'm stupid. Re-learning math has been a difficult process since it was 20 years ago that I last sat in a math class.

Now, the thing with George W. Bush is that he seems genuinely...dim. Something's not quite right with the man. At least when it comes to forming sentences and then speaking those sentences. Jacob Weisberg at Slate has been collecting "Bushisms" since Bush took office. And Bush says shit that just boggles the mind. Like this:

"I think younger workers—first of all, younger workers have been promised benefits the government—promises that have been promised, benefits that we can't keep. That's just the way it is."—Washington, D.C., May 4, 2005

"If you're a younger person, you ought to be asking members of Congress and the United States Senate and the president what you intend to do about it. If you see a train wreck coming, you ought to be saying, what are you going to do about it, Mr. Congressman, or Madam Congressman?"—Detroit, Feb. 8, 2005

And there are so many more examples like the ones above...there are dozens if not hundreds.

Now, on to the release of all of Kerry's military records. The Boston Globe ran that piece on page A7 of the print edition. The full records are basically the same records that had already been released by Kerry. What was contained in the new records was praise for Kerry from the same people that went on to join up with the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth to criticize Kerry.

Those commanders praised Kerry during his service in Vietnam, with statements like "(John Kerry) is one of the finest young officers with whom I've served" and "is the acknowledged leader of his peer group" and for performance was "highly recommended for promotion."

(The Globe piece doesn't identify which officers praised Kerry, but I imagine we'll know soon, and you can put money down on this: one or more will be members of the Swift Boat Vets, apparently suffering from memory loss in 2004 in their recollections of Kerry).

There you have it, conservative bloggers and pundits: the 180 has been signed and the records released. Happy? Time to drop this one, wouldn't you say?

Of course, they will not drop it. They'll bitch about how long it took for him to sign the 180. And not a single one of them, the pundits and bloggers, will demand that George W. Bush release all of his military records.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Let Us Now Express Mock Outrage

Following the Friday night news dump of an investigation by the commander of the Gitmo detention center that confirmed cases of Quran abuse, the Bush administration was out to downplay the five confirmed incidents.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan came out swinging: "It is unfortunate that some have chosen to take out of context a few isolated incidents by a few individuals without making clear the policies and practices of the overwhelming vast majority, the 99.9 percent, of our military personnel," he said. He also went on to say he was referring to "some media coverage and some commentary."

Well, no shit, Sherlock. Of course we're going to comment on this. We have an enemy that wants to kill us, and we still can't get it into guard's heads not to do things that could possibly flame American hatred in the Muslim world? Do we really need to give the jihadists ammunition to use against us?

And let's not forget the firestorm that erupted following a piece in Newsweek where a detainee alleged that a guard had flushed a Quran down the toilet. The Bush administration was highly pissed at Newsweek -- Secretary of State Condolezza Rice called the Newsweek piece "appalling" while McClellan blamed the magazine for deaths that erupted in protests across the Middle East, especially in Afghanistan: "The report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged. I just find it puzzling."

What was puzzling was that McClellan didn't appear to be aware of something said by Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the Newsweek story and the resulting deaths, from May 12:

Q: Do either one of you have anything about the demonstrations in Afghanistan, which were apparently sparked by reports that there was a lack of respect by some interrogators at Guantanamo for the Koran. Do either one of you have anything to say about that?

GEN. MYERS: It's the -- it's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran -- and I'll get to that in just a minute -- but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that's -- that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn't -- he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.

Back to McClellan, who you'll recall was ready to tar and feather Newsweek for their reporting that a Quran had been flushed down a toilet. And while that specific incident did not happen, Newsweek was pretty close to the story, as we learned Friday night, June 3, that the Quran had in fact been mishandled a number of times at Guantanamo Bay.

Now, we know that the Bush administration employs folks who are good at deflection, that old technique used by magicians to get an audience to look at something else while they pull a rabbit out of a hat. Scott McClellan did just that in responding to the new, official report of Quran mishandling: "There were three times as many confirmed incidents of (Quran) abuse by detainees, a number which were far worse than the few isolated incidents of mishandling by a few individuals that violated military policies and practices," McClellan said.

Well, excuse my language, but what the fuck does that have to do with anything? The issue is that guards stepped on, wrote in and pissed on Qurans. Doesn't it stand to reason that the guards did those things in order to rile up the prisoners? If the detainees mishandled Qurans -- well, so what? Again, the issue is our behavior and our treatment of prisoners. And if rioting occurs and people die over this report, it'll be the Bush administration's fault. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged. Not that the Bush administration will admit to being at fault. They know where the buck will stop, and it's not going to be at Bush's desk.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Quran Mishandling

As is normally the practice with the Bush administration, news that might be considered...well...negative is dumped out to news outlets late Friday afternoon. Such is the case with the Pentagon confirming several cases of Quran mishandling at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In all, nine cases were investigated, and five were confirmed. The investigation was launched by the commander of the Gitmo detention center, Brig. Gen. Jay Hood.

Which means that Newsweek's report of the Quran being desecrated was, while not accurate in the specifics (no Quran was flushed down a toilet), was correct about the Muslim holy book being mishandled by guards at the Gitmo detention center. How will right-wingers react to this latest news, straight from the Pentagon?

The confirmed reports included:

-- a soldier kicking the Quran;
-- a guard stepping on the Quran;
-- thrown water balloons resulted in an unknown number of Qurans being splashed;
-- A guard's urine came through an air vent and splashed a detainee and his Quran (I suppose we'll have to wait to find out why a guard took a piss through an air vent);
-- A two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran (I suppose we'll have to wait to find out what the two-word obscenity was, but my money is on fuck you).

Isn't this great news? Just what we need: more ammunition to give to a group of people that want to kill us. And if this news sparks riots that result in deaths, will right-wingers be as angry with the Bush administration as they were with Newsweek magazine when it reported that a Quran had been flushed down a toilet? Will they hold the Bush administration accountable for any deaths that might happen because the Pentagon has confirmed five separate cases of the Quran being mishandled?

Prediction: no, the right wingers will not hold the Bush administration accountable. They haven't held the Bush administration accountable for anything yet, why would they now?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The American Gulag

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld came swinging yesterday as he attacked Amnesty International for its report likening the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as a "Gulag."

At a news conference, Rumsfeld said, of Amnesty, "Free societies depend on oversight and they welcome informed criticism, particularly on human rights issues. But those who make such outlandish charges lose any claim to objectivity or seriousness."

Or, if you're the Bush administration, deflect attention away from the real problem, which is, of course, the fact that detainees at Gitmo are being held without any charges, hidden away from the world. Since they are not classified as prisoners of war (they're classified as "enemy combatants"), they are not afforded protections under the Geneva Conventions, which means some of the detainees have been at Gitmo for three years without knowing what crimes they have been charged with.

More from Rumsfeld: "The people being detained at Guantanamo are, with good reason, suspected terrorists...many, if not most, have been systematically trained to lie, and to claim torture. At least a dozen of the 200 already released from Gitmo have already been caught, back on the battlefield, involved in efforts to kidnap and kill Americans."

More deflection. While Rumsfeld may be telling the truth, it still doesn't change the fact that the detainees are being held indefinitely, in unknown conditions. Yes, some of the detainees are probably terrorists. But, as Donald Rumsfeld said, they are suspected terrorists. Not confirmed terrorists. Just suspected.

I know, if you're a right-winger reading this (which would be pretty amazing that you'd read this far) you're thinking, "You support the terrorists!" Which isn't true. I do support the idea that basic human rights are upheld. It's easy to say "But look at all of the mass graves in Iraq! It was much worse under Saddam Hussein! Now that's violating human rights!"

Yes, Saddam Hussein killed his own people and conditions were horrible. That doesn't mean we should do the same, even if it's "not as bad." You can argue, like Rush Limbaugh did, that what happened at Abu Ghraib was the same as a fraternity hazing ritual. And that would be wrong. As I've said before, the United States should be the example to the world of how to humanely treat prisoners of war, and not give ammunition to our enemies in the event any of our soldiers are ever held captive.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Pax on Credibility

The Pax Television Network specializes in family-friendly programming, which is a lot of syndicated stuff (game shows, stuff featuring Chuck Norris) as well as "original" programming. And, at least with a show I watched yesterday, right-wing disinformation.

The show was Lie Detector. The premise is pretty basic: people who want to vindicate themselves for whatever reason (such as, your girlfriend thinks you're smoking pot; or, the White House didn't feed you questions to ask as press conferences) appear, are interviewed by show host Rolonda Watts, and then put through the polygraph wringer (helmed by "leading polygraph expert" Dr. Ed Gelb). Once done, we get the big reveal, and, BLAMO! The truth is revealed! Hallelujah!

The May 31 episode was the first time I had ever watched the show, so maybe other episodes aren't so heavy on the right-wing propaganda. I'm not planning on tuning in every Tuesday night, based on last night's show, but readers can let me know of other episodes that might feature a right-leaning cant.

First up: famed journalist Jeff Gannon, who wanted to clear his name of charges that the Bush administration had fed him questions to ask at press conferences. Rolonda Watts launches into her "interview" where Gannon gets to bitch about the "liberal" media and how it was out to get him. The "interview" goes on for a few minutes and Gannon is off to be tied up to the polygraph machine, where he is asked a handful of questions. Interestingly, one question asked is something along the lines of "have you engaged in any illegal activity prior to 2003," which I presume is a reference to the whole male escort business.

We finally get the results of the polygraph, which is that Gannon had been telling the truth that he hadn't been given questions to ask by someone from the Bush administration. Fair enough. But then host Watts completely ignores the question asked about Gannon's involvement in illegal activities! Why do you suppose that was? I mean, why did Dr. Gelb even ask the question at all during the polygraph session, only for it to be ignored in the follow-up segment?

Second guest is some guy. I didn't watch this segment.

The third and final guest is Steve Gardner, one of those Swift Boat Vets for The Truth. He was on the show to convince America he's been telling the truth that John Kerry deliberately forged official Navy documents, and thus was not fit to be president. Or something like that. For more on Gardner, check out Media Matters for America, as they show that the truth and Gardner never served aboard the same Swift Boat.

Rolonda Watts conducts another "interview" and Gardner lays out the same lies we heard before from the Swift Boat Vets. But he's there to discuss a particular incident, something the Swifties have pushed in the past, the "Sampan incident" (Daily Howler has good info on this particular charge).

So, according to Gardner, in this particular incident, while John Kerry was below deck, Swift Boat 44, on patrol, encountered a sampan (a flatbottom skiff) and, thinking they saw a man on board the boat reach for a gun, opened fire; when the smoke cleared, two civilians were dead.

Now, keep in mind during the whole exchange Watts basically lets Gardner tell his story unchallenged. And doesn't say much when Gardner says that John Kerry falsified reports of the incident, playing up the incident to say that five VC had been killed and two captured. Fair and balanced, I guess, only applies to Fox.

Gardner is hooked into the polygraph and in the questioning, is not asked if he believed John Kerry had falsified documents.

John Kerry is not mentioned by name AT ALL during the polygraph session. Gardner is asked if information had been left out of the report. That's it. Not "Did John Kerry falsify a report" but just "was information left out of the report."

The results come in, and...he's telling the truth! About information left out of the report. Not about John Kerry, since Gardner was not asked about John Kerry during the polygraph session. But as Watts talks to Gardner about the polygraph results, the show puts up a graphic that says: "Proven: John Kerry falsified reports," or something along those lines. But a lie, all the same, which I guess is a bit ironic considering the show is about finding out the truth.