ABC accidentally caught a portion of a post-debate chat between Hillary Clinton and John Edwards at the NAACP convention on Thursday:

The private discussion between Clinton and Edwards began when the former senator walked over to the former first lady to shake hands at the conclusion of the forum. The candidates were not aware that the microphone that Clinton was wearing was still transmitting sound.

“We’ve got to talk because they, they are, just being trivialized,” Clinton said to Edwards.

“They are not serious,” Edwards responded.

“No,” Clinton said in agreement. “You know, I think there was an effort by our campaigns to do that. We got somehow, you know, detoured. But we’ve got to get back to that . . .”

Initially, I was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that the “they” Clinton referred to was the lower-polling candidates like Kucinich who has definitely been trivialized by allocation of smaller portions of time, but on a little more reflection, I think that they’re discussing the debates themselves, and are probably going to call for the other candidates (like Mike Gravel, who lit into Bill Clinton’s part in NAFTA) to be dropped in an effort to “un-trivialize” the show. I predict that they’ll still be trivial. Raise your hand if you agree.

Clinton Did It (He Said ‘Did It’, Heh-heh)

The outrage — outrage! — that the Bush administration would put a muzzle on Surgeon General Richard Carmona is fine, I guess. Carmona chose to keep his mouth shut rather than face getting fired from his cushy job doing what I don’t know — I’d really never heard much about him, so I guess the muzzling was pretty complete.

Who could blame him for assuming that if he crossed the administration that he’d be canned. After all, look at what happened to a previous Surgeon General who made remarks the boss didn’t like. Jocelyn Elders was dumped by President Bill Clinton right quick when she said at a UN conference that teaching children about masturbation might be a way to prevent riskier sexual behavior and slow the spread of AIDS. Now that’s what I call muzzled.

I can’t find a clip of Elders saying the words that got her canned in context, but portions of it are in this piece assembled by someone who must have really loved Rush Limbaugh years ago at — of all places — Tualatin Valley Community Access.

Are You Going To Bermuda?

One thing I remember with great fondness during my brief stint in the mid-’80s as a volunteer disc jockey was running across the music of Texas garage band legend Roky Erickson, whose material was going through a bit of a revival. Pink Dust Records put out an album called Don’t Slander Me in 1986, which I played to death in the cassette deck of my Pacer.

Don’t Slander Me is a vocal extravaganza, like virtually everything of Erickson’s. It was recorded several years earlier, after Erickson got out of the mental institutions where he spent much of the ’70s.

The title track, “You Drive Me Crazy”, and “Burn the Flames” — a wild rant that equals Arthur (“I am the God of hellfire!”) Brown’s best — are probably the best-loved by Roky fans, but I’ve always been partial to “Bermuda”, which sets an amazing pace and drives to an exciting, hoarse finish.

Roky Erickson lived on the edge of everything for years, claiming that he was inhabited by a Martian, having trouble getting by on Social Security, until very recently when his brother managed to get guardianship and see that Roky got the treatment he needed.

He’s started performing again the past couple of years, and today a documentary has been released about his story. He’s scheduled to play at Bumbershoot in Seattle and rumor says he’ll be here in Portland for MusicFest NW in September.

The DVD of the documentary is supposed to be here tomorrow.

La Question

Little bits and pieces of reality just seem to continue to confirm my sad conclusion that national security issues in this country are the province of people who are not too bright. at best.

Paul Aussaresses
In 2000, former colonel Paul Aussaresses talked more-or-less openly about his role in assassinations and torture during the Algerian War.

The 3-DVD set of Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers from The Criterion Collection includes a number of interesting extras that total more than four hours worth of material.

Paul Teitgen
Secretary-General of the Police, Paul Teitgen recounts the name (after General Marcel Bigeard) given to the countless bodies dumped at sea by the authorities. Teitgen had ordered that all arrests were to be recorded. Comparisons of records to prisoner rolls showed that more than 3,000 of 24,000 men taken into custody had “disappeared” in a year, which prompted Teitgen to resign.

Twenty-five minutes of that, though, is a disheartening discussion on the film and terrorism tactics between ABC News’ Christopher Isham, former State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan, and former NSA counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke (the latter two are directors of Good Harbor Consulting). I say disheartening, because both of them seem to have entirely missed one of the most important and obvious points of the film and the real story of the Algerian War.

The Question
Journalist Henri Alleg was arrested and tortured, then held in prison camps. His account of his torture was smuggled out of the country and released in France as a book entitled The Question

First, let’s start with the missed facts. In real life as well as in the movie, the FLN guerilla group in Algiers targeted soldiers and police until elements of the police and French civilian population started bombing apartment buildings in the Casbah section of the city. The FLN responds by planting bombs in restaurants and other civilian targets in the European sector. In the movie, the FLN leaders are shown preventing a mob from taking to the streets and being massacred by French police after the Casbah bombings by promising to avenge the dozens of deaths. Clarke and his friends elide the French bombings to use the film as an example of how terrorists attack civilians in an attempt to provoke a heavy-handed reprisal that will push the population over to their side. Maybe the story of the angry mob responding to an attack is false, but if it’s not, then Clarke seems to have slipped a cog.

Much of the discussion between the three men focuses on the topic of how best to deal — both militarily and politically — with a terrorist insurgency. How do you tamp it down? How do you eradicate the leaders and defang the movement? How do you make the population love you and not the terrorists? Many words were bloviated but one very simple method was never referenced or even hinted at: stop oppressing the population. Stop torturing them. Stop massacring them. Stop handing a group of guerillas an enormous gift of all the reasons you suck. But no, Clarke and Sheehan never take on the question of whether you should be operating as a colonial occupier in the country in the first place.

Independence Day — For Criminals!

A.Q. Khan / AP photo
Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan recovers from prostate cancer treatment. AP photo.

I see that Edward Gomez at has already noted another bizarre juxtaposition of stories:

Around the world, it’s summertime for criminals! Throw another shrimp on the barbie!

In the U.S., George W. Bush, Jr., with a stroke of his omnipotent pen, has pardoned [well, commuted -DP] Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s one-time top aide. Now, Libby, who committed perjury [and obstruction of justice] in a court case that investigated the violation of national-security law (in the revelation of the name of a former C.I.A. agent), will not have to go to jail. The faithful Republican has been rewarded for taking a hit for his most senior bosses – and has learned that crime pays.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where the U.S.-backed, democracy-crushing regime of dictator-general-president Pervez Musharraf has been increasingly, openly challenged by opponents demanding real democratic reform, reports have surfaced “that the government had eased restrictions on disgraced nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan.”

Last Straws

The Scooter Libby decision seems to have driven a few people over the impeachment edge, for the moment at least. Because they’re so mad about it. I just have to think, that of all the things you could be mad about, of all the things this administration has done that overreach authority and abuse power, Scooter Libby’s commutation is about the most piss-poor excuse for impeachment I can think of. This was my response to one “last straw” rant.

You know, while I respect the urge to impeach, I really don’t think it should be done because Bush and his buddies are smug, or that you or someone in Congress has finally reached the breaking point. Impeachment isn’t a tool for retribution or payback. It actually has no penalty. It is not a replacement for criminal or civil trials. What it does is remove the reins of power from someone Congress deems unfit to hold them. That’s not punishment. The power belongs to the people of the United States, and if their representatives decide to remove an officer of the United States, that is entirely within their rights and obligations.

It’s the Constitutionally-prescribed method for preserving the democratic form of government in the United States of America. It’s the bulwark that’s supposed to shield the country from rule by fiat (small “f”, not the Italian car company).

Which is why I — as a long-standing advocate of impeachment — have been wondering at the attitude of a lot of people on and on the other side of the fence for a long time now. Because for quite a while we’ve been derided as the crazies, the irrational fringe Bush-hating leftists who didn’t have a lick of sense about the “reality” of impeachment. Sure, there are some nutjobs on the impeachment train, just as there were nutjobs against the Iraq war. David Duke was against the Iraq war. That didn’t make the position inherently wrong any more than people who thought Bush was the Anti-Christ made impeachment wrong.

So I have to shake my head a bit that your anger is what drives you into the arms of the impeachment crazies. It should be common sense. It should be a rational decision, based on a knowledge of the facts and the realization that another eighteen months of this administration could be very, very ugly for America and the world.

It’s irresponsible not to support a move to make the administration accountable. It might not work. But there’s no reason to think that things are going to get any better in 2009, or that the Democrats have a lock on the White House, or that they’ll continue to hold majorities in the Congress. A lot can happen between now and November 2008.

If Libby Did It

The juxtaposition of the Libby commutation and the news (via Tom Tomorrow) about the family of murder victim Ron Goldman buying the rights to O.J. Simpson’s cancelled If I Did It made me wonder how long it would be before this book was being peddled around. I’ve mocked up the cover, just to help move things along.

If Libby Did It

Diogenes the Texan

TBogg notes that the attempt to cast George Bush as a deep thinker continues with its own surge from the Washington Post:

At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

What I thought of reading that passage was that the writer was somehow trying to cast Bush as Diogenes and how far off that observation was. Then, while I was checking my reference (because I read that story about the lantern and the “honest man” long, long ago), I looked at Wikipedia’s entry on Diogenes and thought maybe the Post hadn’t gotten it all that wrong:

The most shocking feature of his philosophy is his rejection of normal ideas about human decency. Performance artist, exhibitionist and philosopher, Diogenes is said to have eaten (and masturbated) in the marketplace, urinated on the man who insulted him, defecated in the ampitheatre, and pointed at people with his middle finger. Sympathizers considered him a devotee of reason and an exemplar of honesty. Detractors have said he was an obnoxious ragpicker and an offensive churl.

I guess that’s the part they didn’t put into the Golden Book Encyclopedia versions of the lives of the philosophers.

Bush Gives You the Finger

The Good News

More from that Washington Post story titled “A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease”:

Since winning reelection 2 1/2 years ago, Bush has had few days of good news, and what few he has had rarely lasted.

FDR had over three terms of bad news. There was a Depression going on through his first couple of terms. Despite his efforts, it was a grim slog for the most part and he was aware of an oncoming threat from fascism in Europe and Japanese expansionism. The Nazis attacked Poland, France, England and elsewhere in his second term.

Then in his third term, the US was attacked at Pearl Harbor. I dare say that there may have been a few days of good news on the order of “The attack went well and not as many people on our side died as we thought would die,” but it wasn’t all vodka gimlets and sailing on the Potomac, wot?

Then he died at the beginning of his fourth. What a whiny Bush.