Yes, that's right, The AntiCentenarian is on hiatus. Hopefully we'll come back with that thrilling commentary you've come to love. But until then...

Read a book or something...


Getting Worse Before Things Get ... Worse

This morning in Iraq a group of Sunni militants attacked an ancient Shiite temple in Samara, causing masstive damage. Thousands of Shiites are protesting, and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has declared 3 days of mourning for the destruction caused to the beautiful, golden-domed structure, which containes tombs of two descendents of Muhammad.

Things just got a whole hell of a lot worse in Iraq. Those Americans who thought this would be easy may be in for quite shock as American soldiers become increasingly intertwined in an Iraqi civil war, between Sunni, Shia, Kurds, and everybody else who has a stake in the country. America, however, will find it harder and harder to pull out- if we do, Iraq may fall into pure chaos. If we don't, American soldiers are exposed to even more indiscriminate and confusing circumstances than before. This could be the genesis of the movement from Insurgency in Iraq to Chaos.

Sunni militants are already attacking Shia holy sites in retaliation.


Light Blogging

Extremely light blogging through the week- sorry! Work demands it!


Apology Accepted

I love it. Harry Whittington, shot by Dick Cheney, actually apologized for Dick Cheney's inconvenience.
"We all assume certain risks in whatever we do," Whittington said. "Whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen."

Whittington, wearing a suit and tie, appeared with several bruises on his face and neck. His discharge from the hospital came earlier than expected.

"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week," Whittington said.
See? It was his fault!

We're Losing The Propaganda War

Donny had a busy day today. First up:
US lags in propaganda war: Rumsfeld
The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.

Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Pentagon chief said today's weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but ... our country has not adapted," Rumsfeld said.
And then, he discussed one of the pieces of the puzzle that serves to alienate the rest of the world and fuel the very extremists he's claiming are winning the war of propaganda:
Rumsfeld rejects calls for Guantanamo closure
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday rejected calls from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others to close Guantanamo Bay prison, and firmly denied accusations of torture and abuse.

"He's just flat wrong. We shouldn't close Guantanamo," Rumsfeld said of Annan. "We have several hundred terrorists, bad people, people who if they went back out on the field would try to kill Americans. ... To close that place and pretend that really there's no problem just isn't realistic."
Holy crap, Rummy! I can't possibly see how these things could possibly be related!

Coupled with the resurgence of the fact that America's has tortured sordid the enemy, under Rumsfeld's watch and perhaps under his orders to do so.

Why are the extremists winning propaganda war?

It has less to do with American's being slow to embrace new propaganda technology.

And much much more to do with America's being too-swift to arm the extremists with ridiculous, hipocritcal events that serve, directly, as propaganda for them. Rumsfeld does more every day to inflame the enemy's propaganda; and every time he staunchly refuses to accept appropriate ethical criticism, like the UN's report about Guantanamo, he just gives more propaganda right to them.

What a disgusting lack of perspective.


Freedom Pastries

Iran continues to prove that it has learned its best tricks in terms of international politics, embattled divisive ideology, electoral politics, and domestic propaganda from the best of all masters: The American State.

Here, while continuing to enrich their "preemptive" nuclear capabilities, they've also taken the high-road somewhere else, using the model of Washingtonian nonsense. Instead of engaging in meaningful and open debate with non-supportive parties or even ideological enemies, they're renaming their cafeteria food:
TEHRAN, Iran - Iranians love Danish pastries, but when they look for the flaky dessert at the bakery they now have to ask for "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad."

Bakeries across the capital were covering up their ads for Danish pastries Thursday after the confectioners' union ordered the name change in retaliation for caricatures of the Muslim prophet published in a Danish newspaper.

"Given the insults by Danish newspapers against the prophet, as of now the name of Danish pastries will give way to 'Rose of Muhammad' pastries," the union said in its order.

"This is a punishment for those who started misusing freedom of expression to insult the sanctities of Islam," said Ahmad Mahmoudi, a cake shop owner in northern Tehran.
Man. That sounds familiar...
"This action today is a small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," said Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Ney, whose committee has authority over the House cafeterias, directed the change, after colleague Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, circulated a letter suggesting such a move. Jones said he was following the example of a local restaurant owner in his North Carolina district.

"I represent a district with multiple military bases that have deployed thousands of troops," Jones said in a statement. "As I've watched these men and women wave good-bye to their loved ones, I am reminded of the deep love they have for the freedom of this nation and their desire to fight for the freedom of those who are oppressed overseas. Watching France's self -serving politics of passive aggression in this effort has discouraged me more than I can say."

The name change was criticized by one young man in a House cafeteria.

"That's completely ludicrous to me," he said.
Bob Ney, of course, is in the middle of of the Abramoff scandals and faces possible indictment. But more disturbingly, the Political Cortex exposes where Iran may have learned this trick of culinary indictment. Bob Ney personally lobbied Sec. of State Colin Powell to significantly reduce sanctions on Iran so that his cronies could sell US airplane parts to the sworn-enemie and axis of evil member.

[What's that that our friends on the Right call people who cozy up to the enemy...??]

Oh well. I'm sure we all get to look forward to anti-pastry ribbon magnets on every Toyota truck in Tehran in the coming weeks.

Guantanamo and the UN

In some tough timing that coincides with the relase of many new, gut-wrenching photos from Abu Ghraib torture, the UN is calling for Guantanamo to be closed, and detainees released or prosecuted immediately:
"The United States government should close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities without further delay," the human rights rapporteurs declared.

Until that happened, the U.S. government should "refrain from any practice amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", they added.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, who has frequently urged the United States to try the detainees or free them, told the BBC in London that the jail should be shut.

Many of the 500 inmates of the prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba have been held for four years without trial. The prisoners were mainly detained in Afghanistan.

Adding its voice to the clamour, the European parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday for a resolution urging the prison be closed and inmates given a fair trail.

The White House, calling the Guantanamo detainees "dangerous terrorists", dismissed the report as a reworking of past allegations and said that inmates were humanely treated.

It "appears to be a rehash of some of the allegations that have been made by lawyers for some of the detainees and we know that al Qaeda detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

He also indicated that the calls to close the jail would fall on deaf ears.

"These are dangerous terrorists that we're talking about that are there and I think we've talked about that issue before and nothing's changed in terms of our views," McClellan added.

But Amnesty International backed the call for shutting down Guantanamo, which it said represented "just the tip of the iceberg" of U.S.-run detention facilities worldwide.

"The U.S. can no longer make the case, morally or legally, for keeping it open," the London-based group said.

Harsh treatment, such as placing detainees in solitary confinement, stripping them naked, subjecting them to severe temperatures, and threatening them with dogs could amount to torture, which is banned in all circumstances, the report said.

"The excessive violence used in many cases during transportation ... and forced-feeding of detainees on hunger strike must be assessed as amounting to torture," it added.

The five investigators said they were particularly concerned by attempts by the U.S. administration to "redefine" the nature of torture to allow certain interrogation techniques.

Washington, which denies any international laws are being broken, accused the U.N. investigators of acting like prosecution lawyers with the report, selecting only those elements that backed their case.
Mr. McClellan - just so that you know- just so we're clear here: if the UN adopts language that "sounds like a rehash of some of the allegations that have been made by lawyers of detainees" throughout this process, then guess what- the UN agrees with those lawyers. That doesn't bode well for your case.

All this says is that the argument that human rights lawyers have been making for the past 4 years against Guantanamo is correct. And that you and The Administration have bankrupted your moral authority in support of keeping Guantanmo open.

The All Powerful

Dick Cheney, fresh from telling the world his woe and sadness after shooting his friend, has had another demon to face of late: Scooter Libby says Papa Dick told him to leak a covert CIA operative's name in the wake of Joseph Wilson's scathing editorial denouncing the most compelling Administration evidence that Iraq wanted nuclear arms. Thus, Cheney begat the Plame Affair.

Cheney's response to Libby's claim is of vital interest, and, like the media blackout of his hunting accident, telling of Cheney's disdain for American public values.

Cheney says he can assume any and all powers he wishes, including the power to declassify information at will in order to enact a political vendetta against political enemies; apparently including declassifying the identity of under cover CIA agents. Again- what's of vital harm here is the continued attempt by The Administration to claim any and all powers of government, up to and including what information is shared and what information is locked.

To Dick Cheney, you and I don't get to know anything unless he says it's okay to know it.


That's Not All

By the way... there's more to the illegal surveillance story - more spying programs, that is:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance.

Neither could he brief the inspector general of the NSA because that office is not cleared to hear the information, he said.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said they believe a few members of the Armed Services Committee are cleared for the information, but they said believe their committee and the intelligence committees have jurisdiction to hear the allegations.

"Congressman Kucinich wants Congressman Shays to hold a hearing (on the program)," said Doug Gordon, Kucinich's spokesman. "Obviously it would have to take place in some kind of a closed hearing. But Congress has a role to play in oversight. The (Bush) administration does not get to decide what Congress can and can not hear."

Tice was testifying because he was a National Security Agency intelligence officer who was stripped of his security clearance after he reported his suspicions that a former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency was a spy. The matter was dismissed by the DIA, but Tice pressed it later and was subsequently ordered to take a psychological examination, during which he was declared paranoid. He is now unemployed.

Tice was one of the New York Times sources for its wiretapping story, but he told the committee the information he provided was not secret and could have been provided by an private sector electronic communications professional.
Get that? The security clearance in these programs are so high that we can't even determine their legality.

All part of the master plan from The Administration- lock it so far out there nobody can even approach the key.

About To Be Derailed

While shooting somebody in the face with a shotgun is not illegal if it's accidetal, during a hunting trip, and the other guy's fault, setting up a spy ring to bypass existant surveillance law in order to dodge any congressional, judicial, or popular review, still is illegal.

And that's exactly why The Administration has done everything in their power to derail an official congressional investigation into the program:
Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. "It's been a full-court press," said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work.
The Administration views the closed-door sessions with Congress to be a great "concession," when in actuality, it is Congress who apparently is ready to concede.

We're concerned with two things when it comes to the domestic spying program by the president: a) the privacy and civil liberties of every American citizen, and b) the attempt to consolidate absolute power in the Executive branch.

And that's what's frightening: if Congress doesn't officially and openly represent the 50% of Americans who are very concerned about this program and it's effects, then they're just giving up whatever shreds of power they have. If our representative body concedes to these guys desires- then effectively they've forced it upon a public that doesn't agree.


Zane V. Keifer

America and Turkey seem to be playing out some not-so-hidden hostilities with one another through the lenses of cameras:
ISTANBUL -- In "Valley of the Wolves: Iraq," U.S. soldiers shoot small children at point-blank range, harvest kidneys from Iraqi prisoners for shipment to Tel Aviv, blow a Muslim cleric out of his minaret and, to top it all off, display utter contempt for Turkish foreign policy. The feature film set a box office record in its first weekend, after opening in more theaters than any movie in Turkish history.

Meanwhile, the American television series "24" did not open at all in Turkey last fall, despite high ratings over the three previous seasons for agent Jack Bauer and the swashbuckling Counter-Terrorist Unit. The problem: In season four, the terrorists intent on destroying America were Turks.

"It's kind of like firing missiles at each other!" Yasar Aktas said of the pop culture war now playing between the United States and Turkey. The unemployed cook was one of 1.75 million people who saw "Valley of the Wolves" in its first six days in Turkey. It opened last week in Europe, where the U.S. Army issued a notice warning U.S. service members to stay away from affected multiplexes and "to avoid getting into discussions about the movie with people you don't know."

That two NATO allies that often speak of mutual respect regard each other so darkly on-screen says a good deal about the uneasy state of relations between Turkey and the United States, each of them proud, a bit insular and deeply concerned about the war in Iraq. But as protests roil an Islamic world deeply offended by caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, whose depiction the faith forbids, the state of entertainment in Muslim Turkey also offers a lesson in how easy it remains for cultures to talk past each other, even -- perhaps especially -- in an era of global satellite communication. It's hard seeing eye to eye when perspectives are profoundly different.
The US various media industries used to be the absolute force in international culture. We could assert and redefine anybody through our ideological lens at will.

While it's easy to demonize the enemy in film [think cold-war era Russian enemies in Rocky, Die Hard, etc], the US never really has faced the inevitable. That's what makes this interesting: we're finding just how subversive the non-dominant media of the world can be. Al Jazeera, for instance, is a threat not because of its inaccuracies, but because the US media can't control it.

And here we see just how directly other countries and groups of people may express their disdain for American activities.

Minor Heart Attack

Harry Whittington, who suffered a shotgun blast to the face, shoulder, and chest from Vice President Dick Cheney, was moved back into the ICU today. One of the lead shotgun pellets lodged next to his heart caused an irregular heartbeat, and, ultimately, a "minor" heart attack. That's the scary, personal news.

Atrios points out the disregard on the right and in certain wings of the media for the seriousness of this injury up to this point here and here.

The scary Administrative news, however, is of the kind we all have come to know: complete disregard and non-disclosure.
For 22 hours, the White House concealed the fact that Vice President Cheney had inadvertantly shot a 78-year old man, Harry Whittington.

The White House continues to withhold critical information from the press. In a press conference today, hospital administrator Peter Banko said that the White House had been informed that Mr. Whittington suffered a heart attack between 9:30-10AM this morning.

But at today’s White House Press Briefing, which started after 12PM, Scott McClellan didn’t tell the press. CNN confirmed that McClellan “was notified [about the heart attack] just before the briefing.” But McClellan suggested to reporters that he had no new information
And this is the reason that Cheney's hunting accident is of vital public interest. It is another, deeply disturbing event where The Administration can play out their efforts of non disclosure and negligence to their public. In this event they remain emotionally and intellictually detached and disengaged while refusing to disclose any relevent information, or acknowledge any wrongdoing or error. It wasn't Cheney's fault, his hunting buddy, dressed in bright orange, snuck up on him; etc.

The same story as any of their screwups. Just that this time... Cheney shot a man in the face.