Author: BooMan

Things I Miss While Blogging

Pat O’Brien, the longtime host of Access Hollywood, has apparently had a major fall from grace.  I only discovered this because I saw Dr. Phil talking about the fiasco on Larry King Live: transcript.  Dr. Phil was promoting his major primetime CBS special, where he will confront Mr. O’Brien, on tape, about his dirty mouth and his drug and alcohol problem:

Dr. Phil McGraw will “confront O’Brien about the incidents that led up to his stay in the recovery program, the issues he faced while in treatment and the stories about his personal life that made headline news,” CBS said Friday.

The hour-long special will air Wednesday at 8 p.m. (ET).

O’Brien, host of “The Insider” syndicated entertainment newsmagazine, is expected back at work Thursday after undergoing treatment in an alcohol rehabilitation program. He exited the program April 24.

A recording of obscene phone messages left by what sounds like O’Brien’s voice hurtled around the Internet while he was gone and became frequent water cooler talk.

O’Brien will talk about how he will deal with his colleagues when he returns to work and how to approach life without alcohol, CBS said.

He’ll also appear May 5 on the syndicated “Dr. Phil” talk show.

Apparently I have missed out on one of the funniest celebrity humiliations since Bill O’Reilly threatened to take falafel sandwiches into the shower.

***none of this is work-safe***

Download Pat O’Brien’s Dirty Voice Mail Messages

See a whole web site dedicated to Pat O’Brien’s cocaine habit and dirty phone calls

Go here to watch a silly movie about Pat O’Brien’s sexual advances/harassment.

These are the things I miss while trying to take the world seriously.

Prepare the Handcuffs, DeLay is Losing Support

The majority of voters in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s district do not approve of his job performance, according to an exclusive Local 2 poll released Monday.

SurveyUSA asked 548 registered voters in the 22nd congressional district several questions about the embattled republican’s performance.

In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Tom DeLay is doing as Congressman?

51 percent disapproved

42 percent approved

7 percent were not sure

What letter grade would you give Tom DeLay for his job as congressman? An A, B, C, D, or an F?

A: 23 percent

B: 19 percent

C: 18 percent

D: 16 percent

F: 22 percent

Not Sure: 1 percent

Based on what you know right now, do you think Tom DeLay should remain in his position as House Majority Leader, he should resign as House Majority Leader but remain a member of Congress, or do you think he should completely resign from Congress?

39 percent: Remain House Majority Leader

21 percent: Resign Leadership

36 percent: Resign From Congress

4 percent: Not Sure

The poll had a margin of error of 4.3 percent, pollsters said.

“What I see is the people who have always been opposed to him, democrats and those that have been opposed to him, they are still opposed to him and they are more vocal,” said Eric Thode, with the Fort Bend County Republican Party.

Thode said DeLay still has strong support from republicans in his district, but believes the Local 2 poll did not represent enough Republicans.

Democrats said the Local 2 poll showed DeLay is vulnerable at the ballot box.

DeLay has faced ethics questions about money used to pay for some foreign trips, political fundraising for Texas elections and his ties to a lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

DeLay has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with violating any law.

Houston: Channel 2

Fair & Balanced? Give Me a Friggin Break

Thanks to Lapin, for finding this gem. Place appropriate rejoinders below.

Some examples:

‘Blame conservatives for African AIDS epidemic’
‘Blame Republicans for violence against women’
‘Blame the GOP for low science and math test scores’

You get the picture.

Bordeaux in 1914

This is another dispatch from the book I am reading:

Antwerp to Gallipoli – A Year of the War on Many Fronts–and Behind Them, by Arthur Ruhl.

I think this guy was a blogger before his time.  

Bordeaux, Monday.

Bordeaux is a day’s railroad ride from Paris−−twelve hours away from the German cannon, which even now are only fifty miles north of the boulevards, twelve hours nearer Spain and Africa. And you feel both these things.

All about you is the wine country−−the names of towns and villages round about read like a wine−card−−and, as you are lunching in some little side−street restaurant, a table is moved away, a trap−door opens, and monsieur the proprietor looks on while the big casks of claret are rolled in from the street and lowered to the cellar and the old casks hauled up again. You are close to the wine country and close to the sea−−to oysters and crabs and ships−−and to the hot sun and more exuberant spirits of the Midi. The pretty, black−eyed Bordelaise−−there are pretty girls in Bordeaux−−often seems closer to Madrid than to Paris; even the Bordelais accent has a touch of the Mediterranean, and the crisp words of Paris are broken up and even an
extra vowel added now and then, until they ripple like Spanish or Italian. “Pe−tite−a ma− dame−a !” rattles some little newsboy, ingratiating himself with an indifferent lady of uncertain age; and the porter will bring your boots in no time−in “une−a pe−tite−a mi−nute−a.”
The war is in everybody’s mind, of course−−no one in France thinks of anything else−−but there is none of that silence and tenseness, that emotional tremor, one feels in Paris. The Germans will never come here, one feels, no matter what happens, and as you read the communiqués in La Petite Gironde and La Liberté du Sud−Ouest the war seems farther away, I feel pretty sure, than it does in front of the newspaper bill−boards in New York.

In fact, one of the first and abiding impressions of Bordeaux is that it is a great place for things to eat−−oysters from Marennes, lobsters and langoustes, pears big as cantaloupes, pomegranates, mushrooms−−the little ones and the big cepes of Bordeaux−−yellow dates just up from Tunis. The fruiterers’ shops not only make you hungry, but into some of them you may enter and find a quiet little room up−stairs,
where the proprietor and his wife and daughter, in the genial French fashion, will serve you with a cosey little dinner with wine for three francs, in front of the family grate fire, and the privilege of ordering up anything you want from the shop−window below.  

There are attractive little chocolate and pastry shops and cheerful semi−pension restaurants where whole families, including, in these days, minor politicians with axes to grind and occasional young women from the boulevards, all dine together in a warm bustle of talk, smoke, the gurgle of claret, and tear off chunks of hard
French bread, while madame the proprietress, a handsome, dark−eyed, rather Spanish−looking Bordelaise, sails round, subduing the impatient, smiling at those who wish to be smiled at, and ordering her faithful waiters about like a drill−sergeant.

And then there is the Chapon fin. When you speak to some elderly gentleman with fastidious gastronomical tastes and an acquaintance with southern France of your intention of going to Bordeaux, he murmurs reminiscently: “Ah, yes! There is a restaurant there…” He means the Chapon fin. It was famous in ’70 when the government came here before, and to−day when the young King of Spain motors over from Biarritz he
dines there. Coming down on the train, I read in the Revue des Deux Mondes the recollections of a gentleman who was here in ’70−’71 and is here again now. He was inclined to be sarcastic about the present Chapon fin.

In his day one had good food and did not pay exorbitantly; now “one needs a quasi−official introduction to penetrate, and the stylish servants, guarding the door like impassable dragons, ask with a discreet air if monsieur has taken care to warn the management of his intention of taking lunch.”

We penetrated without apparent difficulty−−possibly owing to the exalted position of the two amiable young attaches who entertained me−−and the food was very good. There were diplomats of all sorts to be seen, a
meridional head waiter, and an interesting restaurant cat. One end of the room is an artificial grotto, and into and out of the canvas rocks this enormous cat kept creeping, thrusting his round face and blazing eyes out of
unexpected holes in the manner of the true carnivora, as if he had been trained by the management as an entertainer. The head waiter would have lured an anchorite into temporary abandon. Toward the end of the evening we discussed the probable character of a certain dessert, suggesting some doubt of taking it. You
might as well have doubted his honor. “Mais, monsieur!” He waved his arms. “C’est delicieux! … C’est merveilleux! … C’est quelque chose”−−slowly, with thumb and first finger pressed together−−”de r−r−raf−fi−we!”…

It is to this genial provincial city that the President and his ministers have come. They distributed themselves about town in various public and private buildings; the Senate chose one theatre for its future meeting−place and the Chamber of Deputies another. And from these places, sometimes the most incongruous−−one hears, for instance, of M. Delcasse maintaining his dignity in a bedroom now used as the office for the minister of foreign affairs−−the red tape is unwound which eventually sends the life−blood of the remotest province flowing up to its appointed place at the front.

There must be plenty of real work, for an army like that of France, stretching clear across the country from Switzerland to the Channel, could not live unless it had a smoothly running civil machine in the quiet country behind. Neither of the chambers is in session, and except that the main streets are busy−−one is told that one
hundred thousand extra people are in town−−you might almost never know that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Things must be very different, of course, from ’71, when, beaten to her knees and threatened with revolution, France had to decide between surrendering Alsace and Lorraine and going on with the war.

The theatres are closed, but there are moving−picture shows, an occasional concert, and twice a week, under the auspices of one of the newspapers, a conference. I went to one of these, given by a French professor of English literature in the University of Bordeaux, on the timely subject: “Kipling and Greater England.”
You can imagine the piquant interest of the scene−−the polite matinee audience, the row of erudite Frenchmen sitting behind the speaker, the table, the shaded lamp, and the professor himself, a slender, dark gentleman with a fine, grave face, pointed black beard, and penetrating eyes−−suggesting vaguely a restidigitateur−−trying, by sheer intelligence and delicate, critical skill, to bridge the gaps of race and instinctive thought and feeling and make his audience understand Kipling.

Said the reporter of one of the Bordeaux papers next day: “Through the Kipling evoked by M. Cestre we admired the English and those who fight, in the great winds of the North Sea, that combat rude and brave. We admired the faithful indigenes, gathering from all her dominions, to put their muscular arms at the service of
the empire…”

It would, indeed, have been difficult to pay a more graceful compliment to the entente cordiale than to try to run the author of “Soldiers Three” and the “Barrack Room Ballads,” and with him the nation behind him, into the smooth mould of a conference−−that mixture, so curiously French, of clear thinking and graceful expression, of sensitive definition and personal charm, all blended into a whole so intellectually neat and modulated that an audience like this may take it with the same sense of being cheered, yet not inebriated, with
which their allies across the Channel take their afternoon tea.

A Frenchman of a generation ago would scarcely have recognized the England pictured by the amiable Bordeaux professor, and I am not sure that in this entirely altruistic big brother of little nations the English would have recognized themselves. But, at any rate, polite flutters of applause punctuated the talk, and at the end M. Cestre asked his audience to rise as he paid his final tribute to the people now fighting the common battle with France. They all stood up and, smiling up at the left−hand proscenium−box, saluted the British ambassador, Sir Francis Bertie, with long and enthusiastic applause. A man in the gallery even ventured a “Heep! heep!” and every one drifted out very content, indeed.
In the foyer I saw one lady carefully spelling out with her lorgnette one of the words on the list posted there of the subjects for conferences.

“Ah!” she said, considerably reassured apparently, “Keepling!” But then she may have come in late.

Blair Hit By New Leak

Below I have posted the super top secret leaked memo that is referenced in Londonbear’s excellent diary:

The top secret minutes of a July 2002 meeting have been leaked and published by the Sunday Times. Present were Blair, senior members of the Government, Military, Intelligence Service and unelected government advisers including Alastair “sexed-up dossier” Campbell.

Let’s peruse it together.

SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL – UK EYES ONLY

DAVID MANNING
From: Matthew Rycroft
Date: 23 July 2002
S 195 /02

cc: Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Attorney-General, Sir Richard Wilson, John Scarlett, Francis Richards, CDS, C, Jonathan Powell, Sally Morgan, Alastair Campbell

IRAQ: PRIME MINISTER’S MEETING, 23 JULY

Copy addressees and you met the Prime Minister on 23 July to discuss Iraq.

This record is extremely sensitive. No further copies should be made. It should be shown only to those with a genuine need to know its contents.

John Scarlett summarised the intelligence and latest JIC assessment. Saddam’s regime was tough and based on extreme fear. The only way to overthrow it was likely to be by massive military action. Saddam was worried and expected an attack, probably by air and land, but he was not convinced that it would be immediate or overwhelming. His regime expected their neighbours to line up with the US. Saddam knew that regular army morale was poor. Real support for Saddam among the public was probably narrowly based.

C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.

The two broad US options were:

(a) Generated Start. A slow build-up of 250,000 US troops, a short (72 hour) air campaign, then a move up to Baghdad from the south. Lead time of 90 days (30 days preparation plus 60 days deployment to Kuwait).

(b) Running Start. Use forces already in theatre (3 x 6,000), continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli. Total lead time of 60 days with the air campaign beginning even earlier. A hazardous option.

The US saw the UK (and Kuwait) as essential, with basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus critical for either option. Turkey and other Gulf states were also important, but less vital. The three main options for UK involvement were:

(i) Basing in Diego Garcia and Cyprus, plus three SF squadrons.

(ii) As above, with maritime and air assets in addition.

(iii) As above, plus a land contribution of up to 40,000, perhaps with a discrete role in Northern Iraq entering from Turkey, tying down two Iraqi divisions.

The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action. There were three possible legal bases: self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case. Relying on UNSCR 1205 of three years ago would be difficult. The situation might of course change.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

On the first, CDS said that we did not know yet if the US battleplan was workable. The military were continuing to ask lots of questions.

For instance, what were the consequences, if Saddam used WMD on day one, or if Baghdad did not collapse and urban warfighting began? You said that Saddam could also use his WMD on Kuwait. Or on Israel, added the Defence Secretary.

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced that it was a winning strategy. On this, US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN.

John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.

Conclusions:

(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam.

He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU member states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.

(I have written separately to commission this follow-up work.)

MATTHEW RYCROFT

Terrorism in the Grip of Justice

Reporter, Peter Maass, has a very interesting article in today’s New York Times Magazine:

In a country of tough guys, Adnan Thabit may be the toughest of all. He was both a general and a death-row prisoner under Saddam Hussein. He favors leather jackets no matter the weather, his left index finger extends only to the knuckle (the rest was sliced off in combat) and he responds to requests from supplicants with grunts that mean ”yes” or ”no.” Occasionally, a humble aide approaches to spray perfume on his hands, which he wipes over his rugged face.

General Adnan, as he is known, is the leader of Iraq’s most fearsome counterinsurgency force. It is called the Special Police Commandos and consists of about 5,000 troops. They have fought the insurgents in Mosul, Ramadi, Baghdad and Samarra. It was in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, where, in early March, I spent a week with Adnan, himself a Sunni, and two battalions of his commandos.

The article gets into a lot of detail about how the U.S. military and men like General Adnan are fighting the ‘counterinsurgency’. It does a good job of exploring the moral ambiguity of putting down the Iraqi resistance. But, what interested me is Baass’s reporting on the new hit television program, Terrorism in the Grip of Justice.

The program we were watching was Adnan’s brainchild, and in just a few months it had proved to be one of the most effective psychological operations of the war. It is reality TV of sorts, a show called “Terrorism in the Grip of Justice.” It features detainees confessing to various crimes. The show was first broadcast earlier this year and has quickly become a nationwide hit. It is on every day in prime time on Al Iraqiya, the American-financed national TV station, and when it is on, people across the country can be found gathered around their television sets.

Those being interrogated on the program do not look fearsome; these are not the faces to be found in the propaganda videos that turn up on Web sites or on Al Jazeera. The insurgents, or suspected insurgents, on “Terrorism in the Grip of Justice” come off as cowardly lowlifes who kill for money rather than patriotism or Allah. They tremble on camera, stumble over their words and look at the ground as they confess to everything from contract murders to sodomy. The program’s clear message is that there is now a force more powerful than the insurgency: the Iraqi government, and in particular the commandos, whose regimental flag, which shows a lion’s head on a camouflage background, is frequently displayed on a banner behind the captives.

Apparently, the show is considered effective and useful propaganda. And perhaps it is effective and useful. The problem is that it is in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The real problem with the program, according to its most vocal critics — representatives of human rights groups — is that it violates the Geneva Conventions. The detainees shown on ”Terrorism in the Grip of Justice” have not been charged before judicial authorities, and they appear to be confessing under duress. Some detainees are cut and bruised. In one show, a former policeman with two black eyes confessed to killing two police officers in Samarra; a few days after the broadcast, the former policeman’s family told reporters, his corpse was delivered to them. The government’s human rights minister has initiated an investigation.

Al-Iraqiya is an American funded televison network. So, we’re paying for these human rights abuses. But, it’s interesting to see how some Iraqis justify the tactics and the program:

But as unsettling as the premise might be to judges at The Hague or professors at Harvard Law School, it makes for terrific television.

“There is no way that you can complain about human rights for these people–they are traitors,” said Alaa al-Saffar, an Iraqi journalist, offering a view so common that many Iraqis express bafflement that the treatment of the suspects might be considered unfair. “This is not like your country. This situation is so bad here. This is what we need to do.”
Chicago Tribune

Nothing is simple in Mess O’ Potamia. But, if the Iraqis want to violate their own human rights, I would prefer they do it on a non-American taxpayer subsidized network.

Open Thread

Hi folks. I’ve been out and about this morning. It is a really beautiful day here in Philadelphia. Now, I have to read all my email and see what happened on the Sunday Morning Pantomime Shows.

Did Andy Card’s head explode?

Cheech and Chong Meet Kafka

Tommy Chong is in a tight spot, man. To hear him discuss it, you’d almost think he’s describing the plot of one of the skits he used to do with his partner, Cheech Marin. But for a comedian who manages to find humor even in the nine-month prison term he recently served for selling bongs, his new legal woes aren’t exactly cracking him up. Forced, he says, by the terms of his parole to quit a stage production called “The Marijuana-Logues,” and uncomfortable with rejoining the cast even after his parole is over in July, Chong is now being sued by the show’s producers for breach of contract.

As the hippy half of Cheech and Chong, a bizarro stoned Abbot and Costello, Chong became a pop pot icon along with Marin upon the release of their eponymous 1971 debut. The album of skits and songs included the classics “Dave”—with Marin as a dealer on the lam, begging his blitzed roommate to unlock the door for him—and “Cruising with Pedro de Pacas,” which also plumbs the theme of dumb druggies dodging cops. But the real-life law caught up with the real-life Chong two years ago for having invested in a business that sells bongs online. On parole now, he tells NEWSWEEK that he can’t do “The Marijuana-Logues” legally until he gets off probation. Still, even after his probation expires, he says, “I don’t feel comfortable because I’m trying to get my record expunged. I’d still be thumbing my nose at the government [that] just finished putting me in jail.”
MSGOP

I have a libertarian streak, and the War on Drugs is one of my many pet peeves. I don’t think Angel Dust should be legal, but it’s appalling effects have pretty much doomed its appeal without any meaningful governmental intervention.

Marijuana, on the other hand, has never been linked to anti-social behavior. And it is very good for the packaged sweets industry. If you smoke pot, have smoked pot, or wish that you could smoke pot without breaking the law, you should feel Tommy Chong’s pain. He’s given me enough laughs to assure that I will always be a big supporter. Why this man cannot participate in The Marijuana Dialogues is beyond me. And to see him sued for trying to abide by his absurd conditions of probation, is just Kafkaesque.

Take the poll.

Open Thread

“It’s in our country’s interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm’s way.”

—George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2005