May. 31st, 2003


May. 31st, 2003 08:44 am
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I was claiming my Blogshares shares (I'm rich! I'm rich! I'm fabulously wealthy! I'm a bloated capittlist tool of the oppressor, man! Bush, let me tell you, buddy, he's a-talking right to my happy privileged self!) and I lost my reciprocal sidebar links, which were out of date anyway.

I'll get them back up later today, which is OK because I had to update them anyway.

Sorry about that.
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President Bush, citing two trailers that U.S. intelligence agencies have said were probably used as mobile biological weapons labs, said U.S. forces in Iraq have "found the weapons of mass destruction" that were the United States' primary justification for going to war.

In remarks to Polish television at a time of mounting criticism at home and abroad that the more than two-month-old weapons hunt is turning up nothing, Bush said that claims of failure were "wrong." The remarks were released today.

"You remember when [Secretary of State] Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons," Bush said in an interview before leaving today on a seven-day trip to Europe and the Middle East. "They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two.

"And we'll find more weapons as time goes on," Bush said. "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."
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While Bush is trying to lay this debacle at Powell's doorstep, he might should have remembered that Powell has friends too.

Jack Straw and his US counterpart, Colin Powell, privately expressed serious doubts about the quality of intelligence on Iraq's banned weapons programme at the very time they were publicly trumpeting it to get UN support for a war on Iraq, the Guardian has learned.

Their deep concerns about the intelligence - and about claims being made by their political bosses, Tony Blair and George Bush - emerged at a private meeting between the two men shortly before a crucial UN security council session on February 5.

The meeting took place at the Waldorf hotel in New York, where they discussed the growing diplomatic crisis. The exchange about the validity of their respective governments' intelligence reports on Iraq lasted less than 10 minutes, according to a diplomatic source who has read a transcript of the conversation.

The foreign secretary reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims.

Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources.

Mr Powell shared the concern about intelligence assessments, especially those being presented by the Pentagon's office of special plans set up by the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.

Mr Powell said he had all but "moved in" with US intelligence to prepare his briefings for the UN security council, according to the transcripts.

But he told Mr Straw he had come away from the meetings "apprehensive" about what he called, at best, circumstantial evidence highly tilted in favour of assessments drawn from them, rather than any actual raw intelligence.

Mr Powell told the foreign secretary he hoped the facts, when they came out, would not "explode in their faces".

What are called the "Waldorf transcripts" are being circulated in Nato diplomatic circles. It is not being revealed how the transcripts came to be made; however, they appear to have been leaked by diplomats who supported the war against Iraq even when the evidence about Saddam Hussein's programme of weapons of mass destruction was fuzzy, and who now believe they were lied to.

People circulating the transcripts call themselves "allied sources supportive of US war aims in Iraq at the time"...

Now, when you add this up with the play the media are giving the unfortunate comments that Wolfowitz made in the latest Vanity Fair, the astonishing attack on Judith Miller, neo-conservative stenographer and Friend of Chalabi for the NYT by Howard Kurtz, administration stenographer for the Washington Post, the continuing emasculation of Tom Ridge in the pages of the Post, and the less-than-temperate run Someone in the White House is taking at Rumsfeld, what we got here is a cage match, folks. Loser gets to fall on their sword to distract people from the whole WMD debacle.

When the dust settles on this one, someone in the administration is what we in the business of bloggage refer to as "fucked".

Me for popcorn.
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Janet Collins, prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera House in the early 1950's and one of a very few black women to become prominent in American classical ballet, died on Wednesday in Fort Worth. She was 86 and lived there.

Ms. Collins taught dance, choreographed, performed on Broadway and in film and appeared frequently on television. But she was best known as the exquisitely beautiful dancer who was the first black artist to perform at the Metropolitan, four years before Marian Anderson sang there.

"She was a great inspiration to me as a child in Trinidad," the dancer and painter Geoffrey Holder said. "What she did by dancing the way she did Ñ to be prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House Ñ gave everybody hope."

Ms. Collins made her New York debut in 1949, dancing in her own choreography on a shared program at the 92nd Street Y. John Martin, dance critic of The New York Times, described her as "the most exciting young dancer who has flashed across the current scene in a long time," calling her style an eclectic mix of modern dance and ballet.

"There is a wonderful sense of aliveness in the dancer's presence and in her moving," Martin wrote. "She is not self-absorbed, but is dancing completely and wholesouledly for an audience. On the other hand, there is no air of showing off about it, no coyness or coquetry, but only an apparent desire to establish and maintain a communicative contact." He praised her for the sharp, clean precision, "the piquant tang, the arresting mental vigor" of her dancing and choreography.

Ms. Collins's next triumph came the following year on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical "Out of This World." Playing the role of Night, she danced an airborne solo created for her by Hanya Holm. She went from there to the Metropolitan, where she appeared as a principal dancer.

She performed lead roles in "Aida," "Carmen," the Dance of the Hours in "La Gioconda" and the Bacchanale in "Samson and Delilah."

It was not until two decades after she left the Met, however, that she was to receive major attention again in New York when, in 1974, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater paid homage to her and Pearl Primus as pioneering black women in dance...
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Statehouse reporters almost anywhere like to boast that the capital they cover is, hands down, the most craven, the most corrupt, the most inept. New York, which has a colorful history of official malfeasance and an almost comically pointless Legislature, is no exception. Betsy Kolbert, the astute Albany veteran who covers politics for The New Yorker, undoubtedly spoke for many of her colleagues when she wrote recently, with perverse but unmistakable pride, that "New York has always been something of a pioneer in the field of fiscal mismanagement."

Some experts, like Robert Kurtter of the Moody's bond rating agency, say New York is indeed almost incomparably bad. Others insist the state just seems that way because it has so much money to mishandle. Either way, the budget potboiler that has just concluded in Albany is worthy of your indignant attention. It has a lot to say about what a truly sorry state our states are in, and how they got that way. It is interesting, too, because Gov. George Pataki, who would not object to being elected president one day, has handled the mess in a way that raises doubts about both his executive abilities and his political acumen...
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In asserting last week that "we found the weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, President Bush presented a far less expansive estimate of Saddam Hussein's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities than the one his administration had used for months in justifying the war.

Since last August, Bush and his top lieutenants said it was an absolute certainty that Iraq remained in possession of significant quantities of banned weapons, particularly chemical and biological munitions. But Bush's remarks Thursday, in an interview on Polish television, made clear the administration had lowered its standards of proof. The president asserted that the discovery in Iraq of two trailers, with laboratory equipment but no pathogens aboard, was tantamount to a discovery of weapons.

"We found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush asserted in the Thursday interview, released Friday. "We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong. We found them."

Bush's assertion, one of many recent administration statements shifting focus from Iraq's weapons to Iraq's weapons programs, indicated the president would consider its accusations justified by the discovery of equipment that potentially could be used to produce weapons. But the original charges against Iraq, presented to the United Nations and the American public, were explicitly about the weapons themselves.

On Aug. 26, 2002, Vice President Cheney told the VFW National Convention: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."

On Sept. 12, 2002, Bush told the U.N. General Assembly: "United Nations inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons."

On Dec. 2, 2002, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Hussein would be "misleading the world" if he denied having the banned weapons. "You've heard the president say repeatedly that he has chemical and biological weapons," the spokesman said. A month later, on Jan. 9, Fleischer asserted: "We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

In Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28, he cited evidence that Hussein had enough materials to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin and as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agents. "He has not accounted for these materials," Bush said. "He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them."

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in the same speech to the U.N. on Feb. 5 in which he discussed evidence of the mobile weapons labs Bush referred to last week, argued: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, he's determined to make more." A month later, on March 7, Powell told the United Nations that Hussein has "clearly not" made a decision to "disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

In his Feb. 8 radio address, the president asserted: "We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

Finally, in delivering his March 17 ultimatum to Hussein to go into exile, Bush said in a national address: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."...

Hey, he's no Billmon, but whatever.
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...But at a certain point Washington's tenuous, often tacky connection to culture ceases to be a joke, and that point is now. Almost two months after the world first heard of America's failure to protect Baghdad's museum from looters and thieves, Iraq's treasures are still being pillaged - this time at the source, the archaeological sites themselves. According to The Economist, the Italian diplomat the United States put in charge of Iraq's cultural holdings is obscuring the dimensions of this new fiasco by refusing to allow reporters to accompany him on helicopter visits to the scenes of these crimes. Meanwhile, the plundering continues, and each day that it does, we lose more of our collective memory of our religious, literary and artistic roots in the centuries before Christ. Visit "Art of the First Cities" at the Metropolitan Museum - an exhibition of delicate Mesopotamian artifacts safely held by non-Iraqi museums - and weep for the many comparable pieces that are being destroyed or stolen as our occupation forces fail to secure the peace.

As if this weren't enough, our government is now trying to cover up its culpability in the desecration of the Baghdad museum with smoke bombs of spin. On May 7, Lt. Gen. William Wallace told reporters that "as few as 17 items" in the National Museum were unaccounted for - a figure that then allowed administration apologists to minimize the tragedy. But this and other low-ball American estimates of loss are, as one Unesco fact-finder told The International Herald Tribune last week, "a distortion of reality." The U.N.'s team of experts estimates that at least 2,000 to 3,000 pieces are missing from the museum and that the entire two million volumes in the National Library and Archives are ash. "It's only by comparison with the most dire initial reports that said everything was gone that it seems not so bad," said one member of the team, John Russell of the Massachusetts College of Art. "Yes, not everything is gone, but major things are."

Another derogation of cultural duty by Washington, and one hitting closer to home, is likely to become official tomorrow. That's when the Federal Communications Commission is expected to hand media giants like Viacom and News Corporation more power by letting them grab still more notches on the TV dial. The fix has long been in. The Center for Public Integrity revealed 10 days ago that the F.C.C. regulators and staff members making these decisions had taken some $2.8 million worth of free trips (some 2,500 junkets in all, many of them to Las Vegas) from the very industry they are supposed to be regulating. Michael Powell, the agency's Bush-chosen chairman, has alone freeloaded 44 times to rendezvous with show-business moguls even as he has largely disdained public hearings on the issues at stake. The template for this kind of stacked, behind-closed-doors policy making is Dick Cheney's secret energy task force, to which Enron executives got entree while environmental advocates received short (if any) shrift.

Do our entertainment conglomerates need the same kind of government favors being showered on Halliburton? In the recession year of 2002, Variety has reported, the seven major Hollywood studios saw a rise of 18 percent in revenues...
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On a rainy Friday in early May, 200 members of the Log Cabin Republicans, a political advocacy group of gay men and lesbians, boarded buses at Dupont Circle, a popular neighborhood among gays here, for a pilgrimage of sorts. Their destination, the White House, was about a mile away. But for many, it had long seemed out of reach.

To gay Republicans, the visit, which included a policy briefing with senior administration officials in the Old Executive Office Building, symbolized their progress under President Bush. Although Mr. Bush did not attend, gone are the days when Bob Dole, a Republican candidate for president, refused a campaign contribution from the Log Cabin group, founded 25 years ago to promote the interests of gays in the party.

"In '96, Bob Dole returned a check," Randy Boudreaux, 33, a Log Cabin leader from Louisiana, said as the bus rolled through the streets of the capital. "Now we're going to the White House."

But the emergence of gays as a more vocal presence in Republican politics is angering some leaders of conservative groups. In recent weeks, those groups have been sending pointed messages to the White House warning that President Bush's re-election is in jeopardy if he continues to court what they call the "homosexual lobby."

White House officials dismiss the complaints, saying President Bush is simply trying to be inclusive and find common ground with gays when he can - a strategy that political analysts say has worked well for Mr. Bush on other issues.

"The president," said Scott McClellan, a White House spokesman, "believes strongly that one of the roles of a leader is to bring people together around shared priorities."

But the current tension between gays and conservatives illustrates the risks of that strategy, suggesting that the two main tenets of Mr. Bush's brand of Republicanism - the "big tent" philosophy and the "family values" agenda - may be on a collision course, just in time for the 2004 election campaign...

While the concept of committed gay Republicans seems counterintuitive to me, to say the least, I say they go for it.

Keeping in mind that most of the money is coming from people who don't give a rat's ass who you sleep with if it doesn't cost them anything and most of the free labor is coming from people who pretty much don't raise their minds above the waist, I'm dying to see who bolts the big tent first.
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