Drawbacks of Online Advertising

On an October day when fires were raging all over Southern California, readers who wanted to be awed by the events were greeted with a very awkwardly placed Macy’s ad on the Los Angeles Times web site. Right next to the photo gallery that showed the awesome destruction that the Marek fire was causing Simi and San Fernando valleys was this strangely cheerful Macy’s ad for a Columbus Day Sale. 

Yes, the internet is taking over everything, but there clearly remain many, many kinks to work out. It’s highly unlikely that Macy’s wanted this event advertised on this particular page.

Then again, maybe the average Angeleno responds to disasters by shopping at Macy’s.

Macy's may not have wanted its ads on this Los Angeles Times Page
Macy's may not have wanted its ads on this Los Angeles Times Page


Why Mess with Texas?

Two dead in Texas freeway shooting spree | Reuters 

Texas polygamist ranch report details child abuse | Reuters

Judging by these two headlines coming out of Texas today, one might guess that it is a very dysfunctional state. 

This must be why Texans like to say “Don’t mess with Texas”. It seems like it’s a pretty shitty place already.


Bush and Rumsfeld are Torturers

Bipartisan Report: Rumsfeld Responsible for Detainee Abuse   |  washingtonpost.com

What a shock! Yet another bipartisan study of the Bush Administration has concluded that the Administration is composed of a pack of incompetent cronies who are up to no good. This time the damning conclusion is that Bush, Rumsfeld and others deliberately planned and executed the illegal, inhumane, abusive and ineffective detentions in Guantananmo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The report has the imprimatur of no less an authority on torture than John McCain.

What is especially striking about the report is its unsparing criticism of the upper echelons of the chain of command. The report is absolutely unforgiving of every authority figure all the way up to President Bush himself, and it levels especially damning accusations against Rumsfeld.

The conclusions ought to be a matter of national shame, and, in as much, they are worth repeating in their entirety. Will anyone feel shame over such disgraceful abdication of duty? Probably everyone except the culprits. The arrogance of warmongers will never be suppressed, and perhaps the nation ought to feel more shame than outrage for having elected such arrogance twice.

The arrogance, the incompetence and the total corruption of the Bush Administration is no longer a matter of dispute. It has been thoroughly documented in definitive reports: The 911 Commission Report and the WMD Commimssion Report (both linked in the sidebar) and, now, the Senate Armed Services Committee report have unanimously concluded that the Bush Administration has been incompetent in its setting and pursuit of prioirities, completely dishonest in its dealings with the public and the world community, and irresponsible in its compliance with the Constitution of the United States and international laws and treaties to which the United States is signatory. In other words, the entire Bush Administration is corrupt.  

Of course, nobody in the Bush Administration has ever disputed any of these findings. Thus, they have accepted these findings as the truth. The status of the nation will improve only if the populace finally views confessed criminals as criminals. 

Senate Armed Services Committee Conclusions

Conclusion 1: On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 2: Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed. National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA’s interrogation program during that period.

Conclusions on SERE Training Techniques and Interrogations

Conclusion 3: The use of techniques similar to those used in SERE resistance training – such as stripping students of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, and treating them like animals – was at odds with the commitment to humane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. Using those techniques for interrogating detainees was also inconsistent with the goal of collecting accurate intelligence information, as the purpose of SERE resistance training is to increase the ability of U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations and the techniques used were based, in part, on Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to elicit false confessions.

Conclusion 4: The use of techniques in interrogations derived from SERE resistance training created a serious risk of physical and psychological harm to detainees. The SERE schools employ strict controls to reduce the risk of physical and psychological harm to students during training. Those controls include medical and psychological screening for students, interventions by trained psychologists during training, and code words to ensure that students can stop the application of a technique at any time should the need arise. Those same controls are not present in real world interrogations.

Conclusions on Senior Official Consideration of SERE Techniques for Interrogations

Conclusion 5: In July 2002, the Office of the Secretary of Defense General Counsel solicited information from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) on SERE techniques for use during interrogations. That solicitation, prompted by requests from Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II, reflected the view that abusive tactics similar to those used by our enemies should be considered for use against detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 6: The Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) interrogation program included at least one SERE training technique, waterboarding. Senior Administration lawyers, including Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President, and David Addington, Counsel to the Vice President, were consulted on the development of legal analysis of CIA interrogation techniques. Legal opinions subsequently issued by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) interpreted legal obligations under U.S. anti-torture laws and determined the legality of CIA interrogation techniques. Those OLC opinions distorted the meaning and intent of anti-torture laws, rationalized the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody and influenced Department of Defense determinations as to what interrogation techniques were legal for use during interrogations conducted by U.S. military personnel.

Conclusions on JPRA Offensive Activities

Conclusion 7: Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) efforts in support of “offensive” interrogation operations went beyond the agency’s knowledge and expertise. JPRA’s support to U.S. government interrogation efforts contributed to detainee abuse. JPRA’s offensive support also influenced the development of policies that authorized abusive interrogation techniques for use against detainees in U.S. custody.

Conclusion 8: Detainee abuse occurred during JPRA’s support to Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation operations in Iraq in September 2003. JPRA Commander Colonel Randy Moulton’s authorization of SERE instructors, who had no experience in detainee interrogations, to actively participate in Task Force interrogations using SERE resistance training techniques was a serious failure in judgment. The Special Mission Unit Task Force Commander’s failure to order that SERE resistance training techniques not be used in detainee interrogations was a serious failure in leadership that led to the abuse of detainees in Task Force custody. Iraq is a Geneva Convention theater and techniques used in SERE school are inconsistent with the obligations of U.S. personnel under the Geneva Conventions.

Conclusion 9: Combatant Command requests for JPRA “offensive” interrogation support and U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) authorization of that support led to JPRA operating outside the agency’s charter and beyond its expertise. Only when JFCOM’s Staff Judge Advocate became aware of and raised concerns about JPRA’s support to offensive interrogation operations in late September 2003 did JFCOM leadership begin to take steps to curtail JPRA’s “offensive” activities. It was not until September 2004, however, that JFCOM issued a formal policy stating that support to offensive interrogation operations was outside JPRA’s charter.

Conclusions on GTMO’s Request for Aggressive Techniques

Conclusion 10: Interrogation techniques in Guantanamo Bay’s (GTMO) October 11, 2002 request for authority submitted by Major General Michael Dunlavey, were influenced by JPRA training for GTMO interrogation personnel and included techniques similar to those used in SERE training to teach U.S. personnel to resist abusive enemy interrogations. GTMO Staff Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Diane Beaver’s legal review justifying the October 11, 2002 GTMO request was profoundly in error and legally insufficient. Leaders at GTMO, including Major General Dunlavey’s successor, Major General Geoffrey Miller, ignored warnings from DoD’s Criminal Investigative Task Force and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the techniques were potentially unlawful and that their use would strengthen detainee resistance.

Conclusion 11: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers’s decision to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by his Legal Counsel, then-Captain Jane Dalton, undermined the military’s review process. Subsequent conclusions reached by Chairman Myers and Captain Dalton regarding the legality of interrogation techniques in the request followed a grossly deficient review and were at odds with conclusions previously reached by the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Criminal Investigative Task Force.

Conclusion 12: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II’s effort to cut short the legal and policy review of the October 11, 2002 GTMO request initiated by then-Captain Jane Dalton, Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was inappropriate and undermined the military’s review process. The General Counsel’s subsequent review was grossly deficient. Mr. Haynes’s one page recommendation to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld failed to address the serious legal concerns that had been previously raised by the military services about techniques in the GTMO request. Further, Mr. Haynes’s reliance on a legal memo produced by GTMO’s Staff Judge Advocate that senior military lawyers called “legally insufficient” and “woefully inadequate” is deeply troubling.

Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Conclusion 14: Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes II’s direction to the Department of Defense’s Detainee Working Group in early 2003 to consider a legal memo from John Yoo of the Department of Justice’s OLC as authoritative, blocked the Working Group from conducting a fair and complete legal analysis and resulted in a report that, in the words of then-Department of the Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora contained “profound mistakes in its legal analysis.” Reliance on the OLC memo resulted in a final Working Group report that recommended approval of several aggressive techniques, including removal of clothing, sleep deprivation, and slapping, similar to those used in SERE training to teach U.S. personnel to resist abusive interrogations.

Conclusions on Interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan

Conclusion 15: Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense’s December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO. SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions. SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

Conclusion 16: During his assessment visit to Iraq in August and September 2003, GTMO Commander Major General Geoffrey Miller encouraged a view that interrogators should be more aggressive during detainee interrogations.

Conclusion 17: Interrogation policies approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, which included the use of military working dogs and stress positions, were a direct cause of detainee abuse in Iraq. Lieutenant General Sanchez’s decision to issue his September 14, 2003 policy with the knowledge that there were ongoing discussions as to the legality of some techniques in it was a serious error in judgment. The September policy was superseded on October 12, 2003 as a result of legal concerns raised by U.S. Central Command. That superseding policy, however, contained ambiguities and contributed to confusion about whether aggressive techniques, such as military working dogs, were authorized for use during interrogations.

Conclusion 18: U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) failed to conduct proper oversight of Special Mission Unit Task Force interrogation policies. Though aggressive interrogation techniques were removed from Combined Joint Task Force 7 interrogation policies after CENTCOM raised legal concerns about their inclusion in the September 14, 2003 policy issued by Lieutenant General Sanchez, SMU TF interrogation policies authorized some of those same techniques, including stress positions and military working dogs.

Conclusion 19: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.


Dog in Charge

Among the many wonderful things that one gets in a dog-friendly city is this portrait of a very beautiful and very hip golden retriever which had taken over this snazzy BMW.


The Nimble British Bureaucracy

Bloomberg.com: U.K. & Ireland | Bernie Madoff is Disqualified in the UK

This reminds me of a very politically incorrect Buddy Hackett joke. 

The Poles and the Italians are playing football. The lunch bell at the nearby factory goes off. The Italians think the game is over, so they leave the field.

Two plays later, the Poles score.

So, we got a guy out of jail and under house arrest, and the speedy British Financial Services Authority finally deems it worthwhile to disqualify the man from providing financial services in the United Kingdom. 

Of course, their failure to scrutinize the scoundrel Madoff for ten years (just like the SEC‘s failure) explains the doldrums of the British economy quite well. The results of the peculiar experiment are quite unequivocal: the American model doesn’t work. The only economy in the European Union to have emulated the American model of “capitalism” (corruption masquerading as capitalism, to be honest) is now failing like the American economy. 

No thanks to Bernie Madoff and the “capitalistic” governments that tolerated and deified such scoundrels.


Republican Party Unravels

United States Supreme Court Decision Vacates Temporary Restraining Order in Ohio

In a shocking display of business as usual, the United States Supreme Court vacated an absurd restraining order that the Ohio Republican Party had managed to obtain in order to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters. 

Should the above link fail to open the beautifully formatted (looks like Latex!) pdf file, download the terse decision from the local copy on my server.

One wonders if the gang of thugs masquerading as a political party will be chastened in the least by this decision. It is quite clear that the party is not willing to compete on any platform based upon ideas, morals, decency or ingenuity. It is clear that the GOP sees this as some sort of war, and it is willing to fight as dirty a fight as possible. After all, if the Republican Party had any claim at all to morality and decency, it would be bringing such lawsuits in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New Mexico where it is far more likely to be voter fraud than in Ohio. 

Mercifully, even the Supreme Court has lost its patience with the Grand Old Party. Or, with the gang of unrepentant reprobates that have seized control of this once useful and progressive party. 

Sadly, it is highly doubtful that the Republican Party will learn to compete on the merits of its ideas now that it has been utterly defeated. It will continue to resort to cheap tricks, skulduggery, baseless lawsuits and senseless propaganda because thirty years of ideological pruning have left the Republican party devoid of any high-ranking members endowed with intelligence, scruples, charisma or even literacy, if George W Bush is ever to be considered a Republican. 

Who knows? After its undoing at the hands of a select group of utterly incompetent cronies, the GOP may well become a party of ideas again. We shall have to wait and see how long the great purge will take. Certainly, the Supreme Court dramatically hastened the demise of the neoconservative grip on the Republican Party, and real conservatives would have rejoiced had the destruction of their beloved party not left them feeling so bereft.

And, perhaps by the time the GOP regains power, the Democrats may have managed to build yet another powerhouse economy with a Federal surplus for the GOP to destroy and to squander. 

In God we must trust. Having faith in Republicans has proven to be a grotesque error. 


Man Throws Shoes At Bush

YouTube – Man Throws Shoes At Bush

In the aftermath of the event itself, automaton Bush dismisses the act as a singular, selfish stab at publicity. He plays it with sincerity, too, that one is inclined to believe that W is utterly incapable of understanding why there might be any resentment from the citizens of a country that was destroyed by Bush’s orders.

All this man did to get attention was throw shoes at a dignitary, and Bush is, perhaps, angry that this simple act detracted from the attention that the Iraq war had garnered Bush. Poor W. He flew out all the way to Iraq under the cloak of secrecy to look cool and diplomatic, and this lowly Iraqi steals his thunder. 


When Men Can’t Admire Women

It is perhaps in the character of mankind, perhaps even in his genes, to admire things. History was in part written by various men’s desires to admire a thing of beauty, an object of power or a woman of distinguished character. This desire spawned countless pageants and contests that claim to decide what or who possesses the greatest intelligence, beauty, speed, etc.

The greatest of all these contests are, of course, beauty contests, and because men are endowed with this innate desire to admire and to procreate, women are nearly always the subject of such contests. These contests vary from the mundane to the profane, but they are always about women. 

The attached picture from the Mazayan al-Maaz competition appeared in the Washington Post’s daily pictures section recently. It answers the question that one would not have thought of posing. What do men admire when they cannot admire women? Winner of the Saudi goat beauty contest.

Saudi Arabia follows the most stringent codes regarding the appearance of women. These codes require, in fact, that women be nearly invisible, that they have no appearance at all, in effect. Thus, the code physically implements the strict Wahabi proscription against admiring women. 

Absent women as a subject, to what do Saudi men turn their desire for admiration? Expand the picture and read the caption. There is no dispute. Saudi Arabia is home to the most beautiful goat(s) in the world. You can take that to the bank.

Of course, they have spectacular horses, too, but isn’t a goat competition somewhat underwhelming? Isn’t the Westminster Kennel Club’s competition a bit more compelling in its search for beauty?