Thursday, September 22, 2005

Other Items

Waving pistols and assault rifles, Iraqi police officers led an angry anti-British demonstration in the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, and the provincial council voted unanimously to stop cooperating with British forces in the area until Britain apologized for storming a police station to free two of its soldiers.
At least 200 people, mostly officers who work in the police station that was damaged in the raid, rallied outside Basra's police headquarters, demanding an official apology from Britain and the resignation of Basra's police chief, Hassan Sawadi, Iraqi officials said.
Later, Basra's 41-member provincial council voted unanimously to "stop dealing with the British forces working in Basra" until it received an apology for the raid on Monday, The Associated Press reported. In the raid, British tanks crashed through the police station's outer wall and freed two officers who had been detained by the Iraqi police.

The above is from Robert F. Worth's "Anger Grows in Basra After British Raid" in this morning's New York Times. Look, I'd love to take a pass on the Iraq coverage. I don't have a great deal of faith in the paper's coverage.

But note these paragraphs:

The details of the raid and its origins remain murky, with British and Iraqi officials offering different accounts. British commanders and government officials have said the Iraqi police handed the men over to Shiite militia members, who largely control the Iraqi police and military in Basra. After breaking into the police station, British officials said, British soldiers found the two men in a nearby house. Initially, some Iraqi officials confirmed that account.
But on Wednesday, Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, disputed the British account, telling the BBC that the soldiers had not been handed over to anyone else and that the British had acted on a rumor. A spokesman for Muhammad al-Waili, the governor of Basra Province, said the same thing in an interview, adding that the British were "claiming that to justify their illegal behavior." The arrest and detention of the British officers, who were in Arab dress, was handled appropriately, said the spokesman, who agreed to discuss the episode on the condition of anonymity. A judge issued an arrest warrant and informed both the Basra governor and the city council about the case, he said.

Polly provides these two BBC stories that address the differences in where the two soldiers were obtained from: "Basra soldiers tell of fire drama" and "Leaders firm after Basra unrest."

Polly, Gareth, Pru, James in Brighton and three other members (UK members) all write in to praise Worth's article. They aren't fans of the Times. Nor do they suffer from the "in fairness" syndrome. Worth's pleased them by noting the issues and the debate. It's a rare instance when the paper is praised for their Iraq coverage, so we'll note it. Let's hope it's not a lapse but a sign of stronger reporting from the Times.

Patrick J. Leahy also deserves to be noted. From Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "Committee's Top Democrat Will Vote Yes on Roberts:"

"I know this won't be popular with many of my constituents," the senior Democrat, Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, said in an interview, after praising Judge Roberts as a "man of integrity" in a speech on the Senate floor. "But I really didn't come here to win a popularity contest."

"I really didn't come here to win a popularity contest." No danger of that, Pat.

And may your remarks haunt you, the way John Breaux-Breaux's love fest to Clarence Thomas should haunt him but everyone seems to act as though he didn't make the statements he did on the Senate floor about Thomas. Give Leahy a big, fat Breaux-Breaux and remember that in 2001, he voted for Terry Wooten (to the federal court) even though David Brock swore an affidavit that Wooten had leaked FBI files to him during Hill-Thomas.

Leahy is the Breaux-Breaux of 2005, may he soon become a lobbyist, a profession more suited to his moral flexibility.

Eli e-mails to note Douglas Jehl's "Senators Accuse Pentagon of Obstructing Inquiry on Sept. 11 Plot:"

Senators from both parties accused the Defense Department on Wednesday of obstructing an investigation into whether a highly classified intelligence program known as Able Danger did indeed identify Mohamed Atta and other future hijackers as potential threats well before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The complaints came after the Pentagon blocked several witnesses from testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee at a public hearing on Wednesday. The only testimony provided by the Defense Department came from a senior official who would say only that he did not know whether the claims were true.
But members of the panel, led by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said they regarded as credible assertions by current and former officers in the program. The officers have said they were prevented by the Pentagon from sharing information about Mr. Atta and others with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A Pentagon spokesman had said the decision to limit testimony was based on concerns about disclosing classified information, but Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said he believed the reason was a concern "that they'll just have egg on their face."

Yesterday, I noted that I hadn't looked at the editorials. I did later and there was no editorial on this subject. The Times is silent on this again today. However, an e-mail alerts us to the fact that Rory O'Connor hasn't been silent. From "Pentagon Pushes to Hide 9/11 Mistakes" (Media Channel):

Will the press and the public be excluded from this week's Senate Judiciary Committee hearings concerning a once-secret military intelligence unit called "Able Danger" that identified four of the 9/11 hijackers in 2000?
Yes, if the Pentagon has its way. According to Fox News, military officials have been exerting pressure to close the hearings for at least a week. But Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Penn., is said to be resisting their request to classify the "intelligence information sharing" hearings, expected to feature testimony from several Pentagon sources.
Why should you care? In addition to the fact that members of the once clandestine intelligence unit say they identified Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as threats a year before the attacks, former Able Danger analysts also claim that they tried to turn the information over to the FBI -- but were repeatedly ignored.
Although Pentagon officials originally cast doubt on Able Danger's very existence, they now confirm that five former members of the unit remember Atta's picture or name being on a chart in 2000.

Lastly for the Times this morning, Erika e-mails to note this from David S. Cloud's "G.I.'s Role in Detainee Abuse Is Starkly Contrasted at Retrial:"

The trial, which is expected to last until next week, will also further lay out a seamy slice of military life, involving serious breakdowns in discipline in the military police unit guarding Abu Ghraib and questions about whether officers overseeing the prison have been held sufficiently accountable. But the outcome of the court-martial may well rest on how the all-male jury of five officers views the two starkly different portrayals of Private England.
Prosecutors made clear on Wednesday that they planned to depict Private England not as easily manipulated and mentally slow, but as an enthusiastic participant in the abuse who later admitted that it was done for the amusement of guards.
Flashing a few of the roughly 30 photographs of abuse expected to be introduced as evidence, Capt. S. Charles Neill said, "You see Pfc. England smoking and smiling derisively and pointing in a humiliating and mocking way at the detainees."
At least one juror questioned during the jury selection process on Wednesday seemed inclined to blame officers in charge of the prison for the abuse. "I would say there was a definite failure of leadership," Col. Gregory A. Brockman said.

Sorry Lloyd, but Jennifer beat you to The Progressive today and e-mails to note Matthew Rothschild's "The Oblivious Fed" (This Just In, The Progressive):

Alan Greenspan is going out in a blaze of vainglory.
Supremely arrogant, he's telling American workers and consumers essentially to deal with it.
Deal with Katrina.
Deal with skyrocketing gas prices.
Deal with the looming spike in home-heating oil this winter, which is expected to be as high as 70 percent.
On top of that, deal with rising interest rates, which Greenspan again imposed on Tuesday.
These rising rates will further dampen the economy.
They will lead to more unemployment, since the borrowing cost for businesses will go up, and companies will be forced to cut back on other costs, which translates into a pile of pink slips.

Lloyd was the first to note Barbara Ehrenreich's "Perverse Rewards" (The Progressive):

Typically, experiments involving the administration of random rewards and electric shocks are conducted on rats in laboratories. These experiments--all hellish enough to serve as PETA recruiting material--have revealed much about rodents' reactions to cruel and totally arbitrary environments, in which there is no "right" or "wrong" and consequently nothing to learn. But if you look outside of the cage--I mean, the box--you will see that the same kind of experiment is now being conducted using human subjects, and on a population-wide scale.
Consider the case of Stephen Crawford, former co-president of Morgan Stanley, who was rewarded for three months of presiding over the company's decline with a $32 million pay-off. That's $32 million for screwing up, or, if we generously assume he put in ten hours a day at this task, about $30,000 per hour. Contrast that to the person who cleaned Crawford's office during his brief tenure and is likely paid far less than $30,000 a year for doing first-rate work. At least no one is attributing Morgan Stanley's problems to a buildup of dust bunnies in the executive suites.
Within the corporate culture in general, achievement is no longer connected to reward or failure to punishment. CEOs routinely see their earnings rise by millions while their companies' stock plummets. Meanwhile, at lower levels in the hierarchy, white collar folks get laid off simply because they have been successful enough to make their salaries a tempting cost cut. Thus, the relationship between accomplishments and success seems to have been inverted. "Wall Street has traditionally rewarded people who succeeded," a consultant on executive pay told The New York Times. "Now they are rewarding people who fail."

Susan e-mails to note Democracy Now!'s Jeremy Scahill's "Blackwater Down" (The Nation):

The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior US diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene in another devastated Gulf. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. Officially, the company boasted of its forces "join[ing] the hurricane relief effort." But its men on the ground told a different story.
Some patrolled the streets in SUVs with tinted windows and the Blackwater logo splashed on the back; others sped around the French Quarter in an unmarked car with no license plates. They congregated on the corner of St. James and Bourbon in front of a bar called 711, where Blackwater was establishing a makeshift headquarters. From the balcony above the bar, several Blackwater guys cleared out what had apparently been someone's apartment. They threw mattresses, clothes, shoes and other household items from the balcony to the street below. They draped an American flag from the balcony's railing. More than a dozen troops from the 82nd Airborne Division stood in formation on the street watching the action.
Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.

Scheduled topics, via Rod, for today's Democracy Now!:

We talk to Peter De Mott, one of the anti-war activists who is facing federal conspiracy charges in the trial of the St. Patrick's Four. And we look at some of the concerns around re-building New Orleans with Bob Moses and Naomi Klein.

The e-mail address for this site is