Notes From The Overground

Progressive-minded weblog devoted heavily to politics and media with some music and popular culture sprinkled throughout working on the assumption that anything that comes out of Washington or the mass media is bogus propaganda unless proven otherwise.

Created by Tom

RSS Feed

Friday, April 18, 2003
Another Winner!

Donald Rumsfeld's old employer Bechtel gets a major contract in the reconstruction of Iraq. Congrats to Bechtel on your hard work to earn that job!

Oh The Tangled Web They Weave

Baker Botts L.L.P., the Lawfirm of James Baker III (George H.W. Bush's Secretary of State, Bush family lawyer and the man who represented Dubya in the selection 2000 fiasco) is huge U.S. legal team hired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has sprung into action and begun a major counteroffensive against a landmark lawsuit seeking $1 trillion in damages on behalf of the victims of the September 11 terror attacks.
Here is the interesting part...

But in laying out their arguments, Sultan’s U.S. lawyers also presented highly detailed new evidence of the Saudi government’s role in funneling millions of dollars to a web of Islamic charities that are widely suspected by U.S. officials of covertly financing the operations of Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups.

Backed up by stacks of court affidavits and copies of cancelled checks, the Baker Botts team openly acknowledge in their brief that Sultan has for the past 16 years approved regular payments of about $266,000 a year to the International Islamic Relief Organization—a large Saudi charity whose U.S. offices were last year raided by federal agents. Sultan also authorized two additional grants totaling $52,000 to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, another Saudi-based group that has drawn the scrutiny of U.S. antiterrorism investigators.

This is all very ironic in light of the fact that the Bush spin cycle worked so hard to create an emotional tie that linked Iraq to 9/11 as a basis for "Operation Iraqi Freedom." While that was only one of their myriad propaganda "reasons" for the war, the logic is interesting when applied to Saudi Arabia. I point this out not to suggest Bush bomb the Saudis but more to illuminate the cynical hypocrisy of the White House.

Meanwhile, the firm of a lawyer with close personal and professional ties to the Bush family is DEFENDING the one government that is most conclusively tied to al-Quaeda and other zealot groups. What exactly does Bush's fanatical statement of "with us or against us" mean? Saudi Arabia is apparently "with us" financially, yet they tolerate/harbor/fund extremist terror groups. The black/white, with us/against us mentality is rather frightening yet it is also inconsistent. Apparently, actions that can be taken as "against us" are excusable if you are an important economic and geopolitical partner. Funny how under the Bush party line France is more "against us" than Saudi Arabia...

Interestingly enough, this Newsweek article (housed on only refers to Baker Botts as a one of "the toniest U.S. lawfirms." The article does not reveal the tie to the Bush administration until near the end of the article, and even then only in the most passively down-played manner:

Baker Botts, Sultan’s law firm, for example, still boasts former secretary of State James Baker as one of its senior partners. Its recent alumni include Robert Jordan, the former personal lawyer for President Bush who is now U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

"Still boasts" James Baker!? He's a senior partner! The firm partially bears his name (technically, his grandfather, James A. Baker I)!!! Is this not worth stating a little more boldly? Ah the media...

Thursday, April 17, 2003
The War Is Over (almost, supposedly); Do You Know Where Your Weapons Are?

Hans Blix, virtually ignored by the American press since the opening volleys of "shock and awe," has had plenty to say about the existence of WMD in Iraq.

The stated purpose of the war in Iraq was to defend the United States from Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. Thus far no weapons have been found. Moreover, according to United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix and two top Iraqi scientists who have given themselves up, there are none of any significance to be found.

Hans Blix has not been interviewed in the American media since the war began on March 19. However, he gave an extensive interview to the Spanish newspaper, El País on April 9 in which he made it clear that the United States' claim that intelligence sources had proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was doubtful at best. More...

In light of the absence of any smoldering guns thus far, the White House spin cycle has postemptively shifted the emphasis on the war to "liberation" (or occupation) rather than the initial stated reasons involving national security and WMD.

"I'm not dead!"

It's a Monty Python week...

CART MASTER: Bring out your dead!
CUSTOMER: Here's one.
CART MASTER: Ninepence.
DEAD PERSON: I'm not dead!
CUSTOMER: Nothing. Here's your ninepence.
DEAD PERSON: I'm not dead!
CART MASTER: 'Ere. He says he's not dead!
CUSTOMER: Yes, he is.
CART MASTER: He isn't?
CUSTOMER: Well, he will be soon. He's very ill.
DEAD PERSON: I'm getting better!
DEAD PERSON: I think I'll go for a walk.
CUSTOMER: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Look. Isn't there something you can do?
DEAD PERSON: [singing] I feel happy. I feel happy. [whop]
CUSTOMER: Ah, thanks very much.

Aside From Being Funny, This is Relevant How?...

The Smoking Gun reports that until a few days ago, CNN inadvertently housed ready-made obituaries for public figures still among the living on their public web server. It is common practice for news organizations to have such materials ready for speedy distribution so as not to be outscooped. Obviously, this CNN situation is unique as the public actually gets to see the rough copy. TSG saved some of the obits before they were taken off line. Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney, Pope John Paul II, and others are featured among CNN's living dead, still clutching valiantly to the mortal coil.

Instant obits — Just add mortality...

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
U.S. Admits to Killing Seven Iraqi Protesters

Seven of the "liberated" learn a unique interpretation of free expression...

MOSUL, Iraq (CNN) -- U.S. Central Command has admitted its soldiers shot dead seven Iraqis demonstrating in the northern Iraq town of Mould.

The troops are believed to have opened fire after a crowd had gathered in the city center to protest at U.S. Marines taking over a former Kurdish government building and allegedly raising the American flag. More...

To be fair the to the marines:

U.S. military officials said the Marines opened fire on the crowd after apparently being shot at by at least one sniper with an AK-47. They were also pelted with rocks and faced members of the crowd trying to scale the compound wall.

Nobody but those there will really know how it happened; those who took part have to live with it. Regardless, the event illustrates that the troubles from this war are far from over.

The Python Strikes

Terry Jones, Observer columnist of Monty Python fame, proves how humor and satire are wonderfully effective conduits of logic and truth. This week he congratulates all the "winners" who will reap the benefits of rebuilding Iraq. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for a collection of his previous articles.

More Moore Again

Michael Moore responds to his post-Oscar-speech "backlash."

Acting Out

Janeane Garofalo made an interesting point about the celebrity activism backlash in the mainstream (especially on Fox "News") and the trivialization of those against the war on The Randi Rhodes Show:

I think a lot of the mainstream media likes to marginalize the anti-war movement by booking actors because they know that most people don't hold actors' opinions in very high esteem — that's certainly understandable... They could be booking just thousands of people that people could respect, you know, there's plenty of military personnel... politically affiliated people, veterans, historians — all manner of people from all walks of life who are against the war on Iraq that they could have booked. But what they would prefer to do is book an actor so that they could therefore marginalize the anti-war movement and make it look rather foolish.

You know, if you were to flip that around, for the pro-war contingent, if you only looked at Ted Nugent and Kurt Russel and then on the anti-war side was all people from any other occupation that people respected against the war — do you see how the visions of the war would change?

The sound clip from this interview is here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Orwell That Ends Well

Check out this hysterical Realvideo clip from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

Stephen Colbert: One thing is certain: If Saddam is Dead it greatly reduces his ability to control Iraq... Remember, when this man appears in public, no one is sure it's actually him. And yet he's held an iron grip on power since 1979. 24 years of brutal dictatorship all while maybe existing.

Jon Stewart: You're saying you don't think Saddam Hussein ever existed?

Stephen Colbert: Oh, I'm sure he existed at one point, Jon. I've seen the pictures of him shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld. I'm just saying right now, fear keeps people in line. As long as people think he exists, he exists. Even if he doesn't really exist...
...we can kill Saddam Hussein, but we cannot win the war until we kill the idea of Saddam Hussein. So what we need to do is develop bombs that can kill ideas...

Of course it's satire with Stewart's and Colbert's tongues firmly implanted in their cheeks. But like the inhabitants of Orwell's 1984 where it was unclear if Big Brother or Emanuel Goldstein existed, nobody knows if Saddam Hussein (or Osama bin Laden, or Chemical Ali, etc.) is alive or dead, corporeal or just an abstract doppelganger. But fear keeps the idea alive, the masses in check and the war machine running.

Saddam Hussein Fired

William Rivers Pitt of dissects the aims of the Bush administration in their war on Iraq and the extent to which they were successful. They fired Saddam Hussein from the post the U.S. helped him obtain in 1979, but beyond that the center cannot hold...

We lost the war.

We defeated the Iraqi military, to be sure, and we fired Saddam Hussein. We have lost the real war, the important war, the war against those who attacked us on September 11. We lost the war because we betrayed the international community, whose help we desperately need in this wider war, by lying to them about Iraq's weapons and by disregarding their legitimate concerns. We have lost the war because our actions have given aid and succor to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, whose agents were and are nowhere to be found in Iraq despite the avowed words of the Bush administration. We have lost the war because the Iraqi people themselves already understand that the 'liberation' they were promised is as false as the evidence we used to invade their country. We lost the war because our moral standing to make it in the first place was utterly bereft of substance. We lost the war because the rest of the world sees the American government for what it is – a mob of hyperactive right-wing extremists with an army to play with and a dream of global dominance glowing like coals in their eyes.

There is no victory here. We lost the war before the first shot was fired.

This article is a must read as it fully encapsulates the failures and biases of the Bushites' "foreign-handed" foreign policy and lays bare the truth behind the hypocrisy and propaganda surrounding their war.

Seven Veils Fashioned From The Stars and Stripes

Interesting op-ed piece by Paul Krugman in today's NY Times on the Bushites' "compassionate conservative" maneuverings behind the smokescreen of war:

...our deficits are too large, and our current spending on the poor too small, for even the most Scrooge-like of governments to offer additional tax cuts for the rich without raising taxes or cutting benefits for the middle class.
But back to the amazing spectacle of the war's opening, when the House voted to cut the benefits of the men and women it praised a few minutes earlier. What that scene demonstrated was the belief of the Republican leadership that if it wraps itself in the flag, and denounces critics as unpatriotic, it can get away with just about anything. And the scary thing is that this belief may be justified.

For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works — that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues. More...

Monday, April 14, 2003
Dynasty? Oh. God. No!!!

From via

Jeb vs. Hillary
With Republicans expecting President Bush to roll to reelection in 2004, their focus is fast turning to 2008 and whom the GOP will run against expected Democratic nominee Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now, Whispers is told that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush looks strong. "If Jeb is in the mix" for the nomination, says a top GOP official, "it's his."

This is a doomsday scenario based on the supposition that Dubya will actually win in 2004. It would also be a clear illustration of the narrow exclusivity of Washington power and a sorry commentary on democratic "choice." A presidential election has not been without a Bush or a Clinton since 1976. If election 2008 actually does feature either Jeb or Hillary these two dynastic families would boast 28 years of power: that is eight presidential elections going back to 1980. The Bush family name has been virtually omnipresent, missing only one election race, 1996. That says a thing or two about American democracy.

That's The News and You are Outta Here...

Dennis Miller has jumped the shark.

He has become increasingly smarmy and more arrogant over the years while his humor and intelligence level has declined. Since 9/11 (after which he turned into a callous, reactionary, right-winged maniac) there is an inverse relationship between his egotistical smirk and the actual substance of what spews from his ranting pie-hole. He made the talk show rounds last week and I had the misfortune of catching him on Conan and The Daily Show while he recycled the very same "rants" verbatim on both shows and chuckled at himself -- he seems to be awed at his own grasp of vocabulary when in fact it is merely a smokescreen for the fact that he has nothing original or intelligent to say (nothing that you couldn't hear from some "America right or wrong" redneck at Wal-Mart). Apparently they were just quips from his big HBO performance, as some of the same jokes are quoted in an article featured on

April 14, 2003 | Al Gore. The French. The Catholic Church. Barbra Streisand. Dennis Miller should know that, no matter how precise and deadly his weapons might be, slaying slow-moving targets like these hardly makes him a champion marksman.

The way Miller gloats in his latest HBO special, "The Raw Feed" (which premiered April 12), you'd think he was the deadliest sniper around. Then again, gloating has always been a big part of his act. His latest fare, though, is a little too immediate and vitriolic to go well with a side order of self-congratulatory glee.

Miller can tackle weighty political issues with an admirable originality and energy (his summary of California's energy crisis: "We are buying energy at minibar prices"). But his take on our relationship to the rest of the world feels uncomfortably juvenile, exactly the sort of simplistic, reactionary American stance that gives us a bad reputation around the world. More...

So Miller has joined George Carlin among the ranks of the once gifted and insightful comedians/social commentators who have succumbed to bitterly hateful misanthropic sardonicism that is heavy in punch, but light in substance.

Click here to cast your vote now in the national referendum to stop the war in Iraq.