The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

There are Shia in Iraq? Who knew??

Iraqi Democracy Watch

The big, successful elections in Iraq last month were earlier than the US wanted, but al-Sistani demanded them. Since the Sunnis in central Iraq for the large part did not participate, the Shia in southern Iraq dominated the election. This outcome was surprising to exactly no one. Yet, we are treated to this hilariously titled article, “Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision”. Here is a knee-slapping excerpt about this “surprising” result:

When the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq two years ago, it envisioned a quick handover to handpicked allies in a secular government that would be the antithesis of Iran's theocracy -- potentially even a foil to Tehran's regional ambitions.
But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.

But don’t worry. This administration’s favorite hand-picked con man, Chalabi, is first in line for the top post. We are going get our puppet dictatorship yet!

Armageddon Watch

Slacktivist, an excellent, thought-provoking blog, provides some background on why certain scary elements of our society might welcome war in the Middle East, environmental disaster, and so forth. It’s because we can force Jesus to float down from the clouds by screwing up the planet enough. He ends his analysis, “Cursed are the peacemakers” with “And that is why many American Christians oppose any effort to bring peace to the Middle East. No, really, that's why. Because of Daniel 8:25.“ Go read the reasoning for yourself. It will make your skin crawl.

While we are on the subject of millennial nutcases and Slacktivist, may I again recommend his painstaking series which deconstructs the “Left Behind” series? He does an excellent job of showing just what kind of violent, egotistic, religious whackjobs the authors are.

Treason Watch

Thanks to Gary for this article, which describes how two reporters (one of them, Judith Miller, is responsible for getting almost all of Ahmed Chalabi’s pre-Iraq war lies published in the NYT) are being forced to comply with a subpoena to reveal the sources who outed Valerie Plame. This could get interesting.

Voting Problems Watch

Thank you to Paul who found this webpage on the tenuous state of voting in this country. The 20 amazing facts listed on this site are:

  1. 80% of all votes in America are counted by only two companies: Diebold and ES&S.
  2. There is no federal agency with regulatory authority or oversight of the U.S. voting machine industry.
  3. The vice-president of Diebold and the president of ES&S are brothers.
  4. The chairman and CEO of Diebold is a major Bush campaign organizer and donor who wrote in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."
  5. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel used to be chairman of ES&S. He became Senator based on votes counted by ES&S machines.
  6. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, long-connected with the Bush family, was recently caught lying about his ownership of ES&S by the Senate Ethics Committee.
  7. Senator Chuck Hagel was on a short list of George W. Bush's vice-presidential candidates.
  8. ES&S is the largest voting machine manufacturer in the U.S. and counts almost 60% of all U.S. votes.
  9. Diebold's new touch screen voting machines have no paper trail of any votes. In other words, there is no way to verify that the data coming out of the machine is the same as what was legitimately put in by voters.
  10. Diebold also makes ATMs, checkout scanners, and ticket machines, all of which log each transaction and can generate a paper trail.
  11. Diebold is based in Ohio.
  12. Diebold employed 5 convicted felons as consultants and developers to help write the central compiler computer code that counted 50% of the votes in 30 states.
  13. Jeff Dean was Senior Vice-President of General Election Systems when it was bought by Diebold. Even though he had been convicted of 23 counts of felony theft in the first degree, Jeff Dean was retained as a consultant by Diebold and was largely responsible for programming the optical scanning software now used in most of the United States.
  14. Diebold consultant Jeff Dean was convicted of planting back doors in his software and using a "high degree of sophistication" to evade detection over a period of 2 years.
  15. None of the international election observers were allowed in the polls in Ohio.
  16. California banned the use of Diebold machines because the security was so bad. Despite Diebold's claims that the audit logs could not be hacked, a chimpanzee was able to do it! (See the
  17. 30% of all U.S. votes are carried out on unverifiable touch screen voting machines with no paper trail.
  18. All -- not some -- but all the voting machine errors detected and reported in Florida went in favor of Bush or Republican candidates.
  19. The governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush, is the President's brother.
  20. Serious voting anomalies in Florida -- again always favoring Bush -- have been mathematically demonstrated and experts are recommending further investigation.

The site has links for all of its assertions, some from very reputable sources and others less reputable. I’ve not followed them all to see how strongly those statements are made in the supporting articles, but they are consistent with other allegations I’ve read. Clearly, continuing to vote on these machines without investigating them further is just asking for vote counting fraud. Yet we continue to do it.

Also on that site is “A Tale of Two Brothers”, which tells the story of the ownership of these companies in story form.

Presstitute Watch

Slacktivist contributes a good review of the Gannon/Guckert situation. You can review a shortened list of the questions he asked at press conferences. And please do not miss this video, from David Brock, of his appearance with Catherine Crier to discuss the issue. Brock does a good job of sticking to the relevant issues and not being sidetracked by the sex, as the GOP and the media are so desperate to do.

Humor Watch

Finally today, this hilarious montage of photos (with two of Gannon/Guckert at the bottom), showing why he might have been Bush’s favorite “reporter”.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Guckert and the Press Corpse

Watchdog Media Watch

You may or may not be hearing about a (for now) small scandal concerning the White House press corps. What happened, in a nutshell, is that a GOP party operative and pornographer with no press credentials and no journalism background except four days working for a website was given access to CIA documents (probably those outing Valerie Plame as an undercover agent) with the White House’s blessing. He also has had the chance to sit in on press conferences for two years and pitch softball questions to Scotty McClellan when the latter was being questioned too closely. He also probably has a role in the “Rathergate” passing of forged (but true) documents to CBS. His connection with that piece of Rovian ratf*cking has yet to be established. The subject in question is James Guckert, AKA Jeff Gannon.

If this is all true, and we had an actual press corps, instead of a press corpse, we might expect them to mightily ticked off. After all, a gig as a White House correspondent is pretty much the pinnacle of news journalists’ careers. Most of those people in that room have earned their right to be there. Yet, planted in their midst is a GOP operative, acting like one of them, and feeding softball questions to the Mouth of Sauron. (Gannon was even allowed to ask a question to Bush at his last press conference). Why aren’t the media outraged about this? Could it be that they all feel like they are doing the same as Gannon, shilling for this administration?

Two very excellent spots on this have appeared so far on cable news. The first was on Aaron Brown’s show, which featured two online writers. One, from the excellent Americablog was especially on point and focused on delving into the implications of these revelations. Another really good spot was on Keith Olbermann’s show, in which Keith and Dana Milbank discuss the issue. This second link also contains a montage of sychophantic, butt-kissing questions that “Gannon” has posed, so you can hear them yourself.

What else stinks about this? It’s one more example of how news journalism in this country has failed to mean anything. It’s all show, no substance. Why doesn’t the White House hold press conferences in front of a room completely full of handpicked shills? Because they don’t have to.

“Gannon” worked for a website called Talon News Service, which was also owned by the website (they have adjacent IP addresses, and So, to the extent that “” is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rove and company, so was Gannon.

For more information, please see this essay by Will Pitt. Here’s an excerpt:

"Gannon" wasn't just some gomer who got a day pass. He had serious access, as displayed by his knowledge of a CIA memo that no one else had ever heard of or seen. He bragged publicly about playing a key role in an act of treason perpetrated by members of this administration, something he would not have been able to do had he not had friends inside the Bush White House. Scott McLellan claims to not know him. I, for one, think that is a bald-faced lie.

This is journalism today, and "Gannon" isn't alone in disgrace. Conservative columnist Armstrong Williams got paid more than a quarter of a million dollars by the Bush administration to peddle No Child Left Behind. Conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher got $21,500 to peddle Bush's ideas on marriage. Conservative columnist Mike McManus got $10,000 to pitch the same policy as Gallagher.

This particular administration can't sell its policy initiatives on the merits, but has to pay journalists to pimp them by proxy. As bad as that is, it is far worse to know that there are journalists out there who would willingly play that role. Most of them don't even have to get paid to preach the party line. The aforementioned careerism, and the simple fact that a lot of 'reporters' these days are little more than vapid, blow-dried spokesmodels trying to get famous, is enough to get too many of them to roll over and sing for their supper.

Wolf Blitzer and Howard Kurtz got ten minutes of television time with a guy who was involved in blowing the cover of a CIA operative tasked to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, and the best they could do was to let him talk about how sad he is that all these bad people are after him. That pretty much says it all. The combination of careerism, an absence of journalistic standards, and the notorious allergy the mainstream media has when it comes to self-critique, has proven to be a poisonous cocktail.

Outrage Overload Watch

This corrupt administration really has reached critical mass lately, to the point where it is almost physically impossible to keep up with, to keep track of, all of the stories of their corruption and incompetence. We have GOP propaganda paid for with taxpayers’ money. War plans for Iran forming. Trade deficits with China going way up. Bush’s outrageous budget proposal. We’ve learned with no doubts that Enron was definitely behind the California energy crisis. Nukes are proliferating all over the Korean peninsula. Delay operatives are appointed to head the ethics committee to oversee Delay’s ethics violations. Torture continues in our gulags. Rice is making huge, arrogant diplomatic blunders in Europe. Newly declassified documents show that Richard Clarke did indeed brief Rice about Al Qaeda, just as he said and which she denied. And the delay of a scathing 9/11 report (suspiciously released AFTER the election) shows that the FAA’s internal intelligence reports cited warnings about Al Qaeda and Bin Laden 52 times between April and September 11th, constituting half of the FAA reports during that time. This same release of information shows that on the morning of 9/11, as soon as the airliners’ transponders were turned off, NORAD was on the phone with the FAA begging them to authorize fighter intercepts of the airliners, but Benedict Sliney, who although he had almost 40 years experience in air traffic control, was at his very first day as the FAA operations manager, wasted time until it was too late. Even though there had been an average of about 10 such intercepts per month in the years prior to 9/11, the terrorists were “lucky” enough to try their plan on a day when the new FAA operations manager would be “confused” about his ability to authorize such intercepts. Those lucky terrorists.

What does it all mean? Is this the Bushies plans, to overwhelm us with scandal? Weird.

Shafting the Poor Watch

And just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse, Congress is again pushing for a “bankruptcy reform law” which will essentially make it illegal for people to declare bankruptcy. No word on where the new debtor’s prisons will be built. When the housing bubble bursts and this economy is still in the toilet, and those second and third mortgages and credit cards come due, it is good to know that debt will now have to follow our citizens like the plague for the rest of their life, and be passed on to their children. Personally, I think people should try to manage their debt, not get themselves in over their heads . . . but on the other hand, perhaps credit agencies should manage their risk a little better, too? Just a thought.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” Watch

(No, this has nothing to do with Dan Rather.) In the floridly titled “The Emperor’s New Hump”, FAIR details that the New York Times had investigated the Shrubbery’s “bulge” under his jacket at the first debate, but spiked the story, presumably because they do whatever they are told by the White House. The Times confirmed that it spiked the story. It’s great how our media works these days, isn’t it?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Freezing to death for Feudalism for Jeeeeeesus

“Jesus is my favorite political philosopher” Watch

If there was ever any doubt that the overarching plan of the crowd now in charge is to create feudalism here at home and global hegemony abroad, it can be laid to rest in light of W’s recently released budget. Here is how this works: You take a country which is flourishing, and you do everything you can to create a completely regressive distribution of wealth. This creates a permanent underclass. You pour all of the resources of the government into “war”. (Orwell in 1984 argued that the state of constant war would allow a government to siphon off all of the wealth that might otherwise be used to improve a citizenry’s lives). Continuous war has several effects: 1) It drains wealth from the government, making it less able to watch out for the poor. 2) It makes all of the rah-rah jingoists line up to shout down all opposition, and it 3) enriches war profiteering companies.

How do you create feudalism in the US? You have to destroy the middle class. You do this by enriching the already rich and impoverishing the very poor, and squeezing the crap out of the middle, so that they all fall down. Bush is doing a great job with this agenda. First, he establishes tax cuts for the very wealthy, which even in times of great economic need can of course never be rolled back. The horrors of taxing the wealthy are too great to contemplate. Then you need to start a war to drain resources from the government for social programs (check! Thanks Bin Laden!). Then you need to say, “Well, since we can’t tax the rich and are spending gobs of money on this expensive war (and since we’ve been so irresponsible that we are getting to the point of economic collapse because of our debt), we have to cut social programs!”

And that is just what these thieves have proposed. Bush’s new budget cuts funds for clean water initiatives, for public health programs, for the heating oil programs that help the elderly poor in the winter, for block grant for poor communities, for Medicaid for working poor families with children, for housing and urban development, and most of all for education. Altogether 150 programs that help the poor are cut.

We are rapidly moving towards a poorly educated, underpaid, cold, hungry, and ill underclass, who will toil for their corporate masters, while the government is converted merely to a means to control our overseas military. Corporations like Halliburton no longer serve the military, rather, the military serves them, as a means to draw taxes from the people. Therefore, it is in Halliburton’s interest to start lots of wars and increase the need for Halliburton.

Someone please tell me how cutting off a poor old ladies access to home heating money is in ANY way resembling the Christianity that W claims to love so much?

Good News for a Change Watch

In a sign that Democrats (at least those NOT in Washington DC) have a bit of a clue for once, it seems that Howard Dean will be elected the next chair of the DNC. Dean talks as if he actually gets it, unlike most DC Democrats who are afraid to point out horrendous GOP policies. We have a long, long way to go, but this is a good sign that state level Democrats are tired of losing.

Great Quotes Watch

Just how scripted are Bush press events? Here is an example of an actual exchange between Bush and one of the “citizen”s/actors they use as stage things:

MS. STONE: I would like to introduce my mom. This is my mother, Rhoda Stone. And she is grandmother of three, and originally from Helsinki, Finland, and has been here over 40 years.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Same age as my mother.
MS. STONE: Just turned 80.

He’s like the Great Carnac – he knew the age of that woman’s mother before she even said it! What a genius.

And via Digby, here’s another great moment in wordage from our dear Shrubbery, where he is trying to explain his great Antisocial Insecurity rip-off:

“Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.

“Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.

“Okay, better? I'll keep working on it.”

“help solve the red”??? “help on the red”??? WTF? Yes, Dumbya, it’s kind of muddled all right, you stupid shit.

Humor Watch

Just when you need a laugh, there is Betty Bowers of the Landover Baptist Church, asking the eternal musical question: “Is Bush Gay?”

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Good vs. Evil Movie Mentality

Shoot ‘em up Watch

I love escapist movies. Stories in which valiant, righteous heroes vanquish unambiguously evil foes have been a staple of human storytelling since before stories were written down. What makes escapist fantasies so powerful, seductive, and satisfying is rooting for the good guys as they deal justice and death to irredeemable bad guys who clearly deserve it.

Americans have been served that storyline in movies for decades, to the point where protagonists can be easily identified as the characters that are killing bad guys. It is easy to dismiss critics of violence in Hollywood movies by arguing that watching fictional villains get what they have coming to them is therapeutic for the frustrations of everyday living, and that people can separate fiction from reality. However, recent events suggest that our exposure to these storylines has more pernicious effects.

Very few people respond to problems in their personal lives with murderous violence. There are numerous clever and effective ways of dealing with troublesome bosses, intimidating rivals, even people who stalk or threaten us, that do not involve taking up weapons against them. We would never advise a friend who was having a property dispute with his neighbor to murder him. The ridiculousness of that idea is evidence that we can still separate the black and white world of the movies from the grayscale reality of living peaceably in a complex society. Yet, on a national and international level, we have fallen into a bad movie storyline, told to us by our leaders.

The Bush administration, having failed to protect our country from a deadly, criminal attack despite months of forewarning, immediately began casting itself in the role of movie hero. America, they said, would respond to this attack by killing Bad Guys: shadowy, nefarious, shifty, Bad Guys. In the language of the movies, killing Bad Guys makes us the Good Guys. Because we are the Good Guys, we never have to question our actions, motives, or strategies. We can kill innocent people, even children. We can torture prisoners. We can preemptively invade countries that have no connection to the attack. We can establish a system of international gulags that completely abolish our previously cherished notions of due process and the humane treatment of prisoners. We can threaten, bully, bribe, and cajole the rest of the world to go along our program of aggressive violence. Good Guys would never do anything wrong. To suggest otherwise implies that one is paying insufficient attention to the script. In our movie, anyone who we do not like is one of the Bad Guys, and they deserve what they get.

Facing a real physical threat, but not an existential threat, to our country, the Bush administration turned away from numerous intelligent, real world solutions. They could have craftily starved the terrorists of funding, shored up international police cooperation, strengthened ties to moderate Islam, and frustrated, marginalized, and outwitted Bin Laden’s organization at every turn. Not having the wit or wisdom to execute an actual effective strategy, the Bush administration chose the worst possible alternative, pandering to our primitive bloodlust, and painting us into this fantasy version of St. George and the Dragon. As we squander billions of dollars that could be used to improve our domestic situation, as thousands of American servicepeople are killed and maimed in mind and body, as our inhumane actions provide an endless list of recruiting points for our radical enemies, and as the bodies of thousands and thousands of our demonstrably innocent victims pile up, it is clear that our steady diet of “good guys are people who kill bad guys” movies has left us unprotected against politicians who sell us that storyline.

Enlightened philosophies and religions like Christianity advance the idea that people should not be engaged in the business of killing others, because we are too flawed and foolish to be able to determine who the “bad guys” are accurately. If we cast ourselves in the role of protagonists who kill bad people, we risk becoming the bad guys who kill innocent people ourselves. Our country has willfully and directly fallen into that very trap, in just a few short years. Maybe it is time for us all to lay off the simplistic, violent, escapist fantasy movies for a while. It is clear that they leave us poorly equipped for dealing intelligently with life in the real world.

Iran Watch

As if one or two horrible, amoral conflicts aren’t bad enough, we now are getting quite clear signals from our government that they would like to start a third. It is with fascinating horror that we watch our leaders' plans unfold right before our eyes, and nothing seems capable of stopping them. We learned a few weeks ago that Cheney is now making noise in public about nuclear weapons in Iran. Will the American people follow them down THIS rabbit hole? A quote from this article is quite chilling:

"You look around the world at potential trouble spots, (and) Iran is right at the top of the list," the vice president intoned, noting that Washington's chief concern with Tehran had less to do with democracy or even terrorism but rather with its "fairly robust new nuclear program."

And while Cheney stressed that Washington still hoped Europe's efforts to persuade Tehran to abandon any ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon would succeed, he grimly observed that Israel might well decide to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, presumably before the Bush administration, "and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."

"We don't want a war in the Middle East, if we can avoid it," he concluded as cheerfully as he could – at least until he was caught up short by the cowboy-hatted Imus, who reminded him that the U.S. already has a war there.

To former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Cheney's remarks sounded "like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis" to carry out an attack.

I don’t even know what to think of this. Is this group evil enough to do this? Yes, I think we know that they are. Are they stupid enough to start something with Iran? That really is the only question remaining.

Today’s LiberalOasis reviews Rumsfeld’s appearance on a Sunday talk show, which implies that the neocons in the administration think that all it would take would be one big airstrike on Iran to “topple the regime” there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you believe that a limited strike could cause a regime to topple?

RUMSFELD: Who knows?...

...I’ve been amazed in many times in my life. I was amazed at how rapidly the Shah of Iran fell, and the Ayatollahs took over that country. It happened, just seemingly, like that...

...And you look at Romania, when that fell, it was fast.

Read the rest of the article on why this tip o’ the Rumscap to Romania is so chilling. That issue of LiberalOasis also points us to the website No War on Iran, another of these international photo meeting places. See this picture for an example of the messages people are already sending about this madness.

The last time I checked, attacking a foreign country was declaring war on it. Are we going to have a vote in Congress on starting a war with Iran? (Sociological note: Iranians are not ethnic Arabs, which I didn’t know. They are Persians, and Bush’s unspoken “war against A-rabs” will widen considerably if we attack them).

The whole idea is so tiring and ludicrous that it doesn’t even seem worth detailing the objections to it. I don’t even feel like I have the energy. Others will try, of course. Here is David Kay, our intrepid WMD hunter from Iraq, trying to reason with our increasingly insane leaders in the Washington Post:

There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq war. The International Atomic Energy Agency has announced that while Iran now admits having concealed for 18 years nuclear activities that should have been reported to the IAEA, it is has found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Iran says it is now cooperating fully with international inspections, and it denies having anything but a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Vice President Cheney is giving interviews and speeches that paint a stark picture of a soon-to-be-nuclear-armed Iran and declaring that this is something the Bush administration will not tolerate. Iranian exiles are providing the press and governments with a steady stream of new "evidence" concerning Iran's nuclear weapons activities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned that Iran will not be allowed to use the cover of civilian nuclear power to acquire nuclear weapons, but says an attack on Iran is "not on the agenda at this point." U.S. allies, while saying they share the concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions, remain determined to pursue diplomacy and say they cannot conceive of any circumstance that would lead them to use military force. And the press is beginning to uncover U.S. moves that seem designed to lay the basis for military action against Iran.

Now is the time to pause and recall what went wrong with the assessment of Iraq's WMD program and try to avoid repeating those mistakes in Iran. Five steps are essential.

Whatever, David Kay. Save your breath until we can round you up with the other long-haired peaceniks.