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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 07, 2006

More Iraq

From the Independent

Meanwhile yesterday, thousands of Shia Muslims marched in protest through Baghdad, accusing the Americans of hindering the war against insurgents in their attempt to appease the Sunni community.......

The main Shia party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), raised the spectre of an outright descent into civil war, warning that the continuing sectarian attacks by Sunnis would force Shia retaliation.

Moonie UPI:
As Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy warned last year, the very success of the Dec. 15 elections now threatens to backfire by dramatically boosting the popularity and recruitment potential for the insurgents. Its outcome was like pouring gasoline on a burning fire. And this week the fire exploded.....

Beyond fleeting and limited tactical successes, U.S. forces still have no idea how many insurgents they are actually killing or capturing per month, despite all the energy and scale of their own military operations. From August through November, the Department fo defense blandly announced that 3,000 insurgents per month were being captured or killed -- neither more nor less. This is not even a rounding off of roughly reliable figures, it has all the hallmarks of a wild guess made on no serious reliable statistical data whatsoever.


BAGHDAD, Iraq - A spree of bloodshed that killed nearly 200 people in two days, including 11 U.S. troops, threatened to provoke a backlash from Shiite militias. Iraq's largest religious group rallied thousands Friday against what it claimed was American backing for some Sunni Arab politicians they say have supported insurgents.

Other AP:
Asked whether he (Gen. Casey) thinks Iraq is on the brink of civil war, Casey said, "I don't believe so. I believe that's exactly what the insurgents are trying to foment. Clearly these attacks over the last couple of days are designed to take advantage of sectarian tensions at a very vulnerable time during the formation of the government."

WASHINGTON (AFX) - Sectarian rivalries and inefficient Iraqi ministries could turn the Iraqi security forces into 'militias or armed gangs,' Lt. General John Vines, the senior US operational commander in Iraq, told The New York Times. ....

'The ability of the ministries to support them, to pay them, to resupply them, provide them with water, ammunition, spare parts and weapons is not as advanced as the competence of the forces in the field,' Vines said.

And just as a comment, when officials refer to Iraqi units that are not able to operate independently, or without US logistical support, what they're euphemistically saying is that the Iraqi government cannot provide their army with food, water, gasoline, bullets, etc. That's a long way from "standing up."

Picture of the Day - 2

Wounded Soldiers

Two stories out on wounded soldiers in Iraq in the last day. The bigger story was in the NYTimes last night/this morning. (well worth a read.)
A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

I don't know enough about this to pass any more than a gut level judgement. I can accept the original decision was made because they feared the extra plates would slow them down and restrict movement. Quite frankly, they could put the marines in full body armor like those two bank robbers in LA, but they would then be so slow, that they would be sitting ducks for heavier armaments.

But, when the commanders started asking for the extra armor, it should have been delivered immediately. FDR didn't wait for some podunk contractor to expand his production capacity. I thought we were at war.

The article also mentions that the marines are still waiting for a vehicle to replace their unarmored Humvees because of production problems. Still.

The second article sounds what's becoming a theme, more seriously injured soldiers are being saved, thank god, but that means there will have to be substantial long term medical care. Vot for Vet benefits every chance you get. These guys held up their part of the bargain.

NSA spying on Amanpour.

Josh Marshall is on the case.
In a CNN report, David Ensor: "A senior U.S. intelligence official told CNN on Thursday that the National Security Agency did not target CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour or any other CNN journalist for surveillance."

What we may have here though is an issue of terminology.

Remember that what Andrea Mitchell said or asked in her interview of James Risen was this: "Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net? (italics added)"

To be 'swept up' in a net isn't the same as being 'targetted' -- just ask dolphins. And toward the end of Ensor's piece on the CNN website, there's some hint that this distinction might be what we're talking about ...

For why we're talking about Christane Amanpour specifically, look here.

Delay steps aside

Tom Delay is giving up his post as house majority leader.

(Light posting until later today, everyonce in awhile I have a life. - Mike)

Picture of the Day

Friday, January 06, 2006

New ethics rules are not the answer.

Just a quick slap in the head moment.

We don't need new ethics rules. We need new ethical politicians.


Now DHS is opening our mail?

No, I'm not kidding. (MSNBC)

Last month Goodman, an 81-year-old retired University of Kansas history professor, received a letter from his friend in the Philippines that had been opened and resealed with a strip of dark green tape bearing the words “by Border Protection” and carrying the official Homeland Security seal. .....

A spokesman for the Customs and Border Protection division said he couldn’t speak directly to Goodman’s case but acknowledged that the agency can, will and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it’s deemed necessary.

“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. ....

However, Mohan declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened, but said, “obviously it’s a security-related criteria.”

Pull up a chair - The Dukester wore a wire.

Oh baby, this is beautiful. Time is reporting that for at least a short time, Duke Cunningham wore a wire.
...sources tell TIME that in a separate investigation, ex-Rep. Cunningham wore a wire to help investigators gather evidence against others just before copping his own plea.

Sources familiar with the situation say Cunningham, a California Republican who pleaded guilty Nov. 28 to taking $2.4 million in bribes ..... wore a wire at some point during the short interval between the moment he began cooperating with the feds and the announcement of his guilty plea on Nov. 28.

This could be nothing, just having him do a walkaround to see what pops up, but I would think that because of the short window, they were going after just one thing, probably trying to get another briber confirming on tape. You know, the stuff of movies.

The secret meeting on the park bench in the dead of night, Duke asking, "they're breathing down my neck, what do you want me to do?" or "I need more money if you want me to keep quiet..."

And the guys in the van smiling from ear to ear.

I can hear the puckering from here.

Congressional analysis: Bush's war time powers "somehat dubious"

Congressiona Research Service is generally seen as bipartisan. No mention of who requested the report.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 - President Bush's rationale for authorizing eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants rests on questionable legal ground and "may represent an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb," according to a formal Congressional analysis released today....

While the Congressional report reached no bottom-line conclusions on whether the program is legal or not, it concluded that the legal rationale appears somewhat dubious. The legal rationale "does not seem to be as well-grounded" as the Bush administration's lawyers have suggested, and Congress did not appear to have intended to authorize warrantless wiretaps when it gave President Bush the authority to wage war against Al Qaeda in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the report concluded.

The IRS knows who you voted for

This is just so wrong. My god, how much of this will my country accept?
WASHINGTON – As it hunted down tax scofflaws, the Internal Revenue Service collected information on the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states.......

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

Props to Sen. Patty Murray (D -Wa.), my aunt's favorite senator, for digging this out and bringing this forward. There's also a list of the states in this article, my home state of Texas is one of them.

Picture of the Day - 2

A day of grief in Iraq.

Tom Delay - It rhymes with "trison"

Bloomberg has a story linking Delay's Alexander Strategy Group to Abramoff, the Duke Cunningham bribery, and a trip to South Korea by Delay that violated ethics rules.

Money sloshing around all over the place, $375,000 to Republican congressmen, Abramoff/Scanlon money, implied ties to Brent Wilkes money. There's a lot of shady stuff here.

Warner, McCain, and Graham blast Bush over torture.

When Bush signed the defense bill containing the torture amendment, it was hailed as a significant moment, but, at the same time, Bush also quietly signed an "interpretive signing statement" which states how the president intends to enact the law he just signed.

In this case, his letter maintained that he still had the power to torture via the same questionable legal arguments he's using for all the other powers Bush has claimed, renditons, spying on Americans, etc.

The problem is that this bill was overwhelmingly passed, spearheaded by Warner, Graham, and McCain specifically to stop Bush from torturing under this claim of executive power. So, needless to say, those are some angry republican senators.

So, effectively, Congress passed a law saying don't ever torture, the president signed that bill, and then signed a statement drafted by his staff saying that he could torture anyway.

As a side note, one of the earliest proponents of these presidential statements was Sam Alito. By using one of these statements on these senators' legislation just weeks before the confirmation hearings, I think Bush has guaranteed that those hearings will be more interesting that expected.

With the McCain, Warner, Graham votes, the democrats could maintain a filibuster. I wonder if that's what these three senators are threatening in their anger today.

(Host note: I don't feel that I'm writing very clearly today. Bear with me. I'm trying to work through it.)

Picture of the Day

A day of mourning in Iraq.

130 Iraqis and 11 US troops.

The Heart of Darkness

For almost nineteen years I have been watching the humanitarian disaster that is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, too lengthy to explain why. It is a country of roughly sixty million people, encompassing a territory roughly equivalent to Western Europe. The people of the Congo have suffered an estimated four million deaths since the six sided "civil war" flared up again in 1998 after refugees and armed forces spilled over from the Rwandan genocide.

The people of the Congo are subject to the very worst of African suffering, poverty, dictatorship, privation, disease, complete lawlessness, and the presence of six different armed forces at times who prey upon the local peoples stealing their food and resources, killing their men, raping their women, and kidnapping their children to serve as soldiers. This has all focused primarily in the northeast of the country, where there are significant gold, diamond, and other mining interests.

The UN has sent in a token peacekeeping force of 17,000. Undertrained, underfunded, and underequipped, this UN presence spends most of its time in force protection holding off attacks on their own bases.

Imagine living in an undeveloped village where people are dying from starvation and disease, and every few months armed gangs wash across your home like waves of destruction, taking your meager resources, killing your men, raping your women as an act of ethnic violence, conscripting your children....

There is no more infrastructure, no roads, no communications, no farms, nothing. Just roving bands of armed men, 12-25 years old, who do anything they want. Anything that crosses their mind.

Reports of young girls being held as sex slaves for the armed men are exceedingly common.

And all of this takes place completely unnoticed, completely forgotten.

The BBC is reporting today that an estimated 38,000 people are dying a month as a result of the civil war right now. And, quite frankly, the civil war is relatively quiet.

The DRC is perhaps the worst remnant of colonialism. I don't know why I'm writing this. Maybe it's just because I have this image in my head of the horror of Africa at the point of a gun, seeing these guys coming like roving bands from the middle ages sweeping down on defensless villages, raping, pillaging, killing.

Maybe it's just a wistful sadness that the deaths of four million Africans seems to be beneath mention.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Do Powell and Albright not think the Iraq policy is funny? (See next.)

5 to 10 minutes of consultation is enough for Bush

You gotta read this on the consultative meeting the Bush administration held today with former secretaries of state and defense. It's being presented as an effort of outreach, to accept sage consultation from the greybeards. Here's the NYTimes version of the meeting.

After an "upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq," ........ "Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes this morning for interchange with the group......" "Those who wanted to impart more wisdom to the current occupants of the White House were sent back across the hall to meet again with Stephen J. Hadley."

Iraq is burning, and they won't listen to the people who might know how to put it out. And, why does Colin Powell keep going back for more?

Risen is making some incredible claims

Thought I'd put together a couple of the incredible claims that James Risen is making in his new book "State of War" and in promoting that book.

The only CIA response so far has been "Readers deserve to know that every chapter of State of War contains serious inaccuracies," said Jennifer Millerwise, CIA Director of Public Affairs.

How long until he starts getting slimed by the Bush admin?


This is absolutely brilliant. I don't know if I agree with the strategy, but the diagnosis is incredibly well written. It's a little long, but I think it's worth the read. Glenn Greenwald at Digby.
There is no more important goal than exposing and undermining the cowardly and exaggerated fear which lies at the core of the Bush agenda. If, as has been the case, we are bullied into starting from the tacit premise that Islamic terrorism is a unique and unprecedented evil which threatens our very existence -- rather than one of many challenges which we must calmly face and overcome -- then it is a foregone conclusion that whoever advocates the most extreme “anti-terrorist” measures, no matter how excessive and regardless of whether they comport with legal niceties, will prevail.

Picture of the Day - 2

A video grab from Al-Iraqiya television shows a blood stain next to a sandal after at least 44 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a Shiite shrine in Karbala. (AFP/Al-Iraqiya)


I was against the Iraq war almost from the beginning. I thought it was a bad idea from the day of Colin Powell's UN presentation when El Baradei pointed out that that the Niger documents were forgeries. This war was poorly planned, poorly executed, and with an unreachable goal.

But at this point I say please, please, please please please, let the Iraqis stop the violence. There is a very small window here through which a peaceful political settlement, and end to this war, might be achieved. And that would benefit the US, the world, and the vast number of Iraqis who just want to walk down the street without being kidnapped or blown up.

I recognize these hopes may not be realistic at this point with a civil war already underway, but still, I'm crossing every finger I have.
KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers killed at least 85 people and wounded more than 100 in the Iraqi cities of Kerbala and Ramadi on Thursday in one of the country's deadliest days for months.

The attacks raised fears of an escalation in sectarian tensions, coming as they did in one of Shi'ite Islam's holiest cities, Kerbala, and the Sunni Arab stronghold of Ramadi. ....

Soon afterwards, another bomber blew himself up near a group of police and army recruits in the western city of Ramadi, a day after seemingly coordinated attacks across Iraq killed at least 58.

UPDATE: There's a newer Reuters report.
KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - Two suicide bombers killed at least 110 people and wounded more than 200 in the Iraqi cities of Kerbala and Ramadi on Thursday, the second consecutive day of concerted insurgent attacks.

Later: Reuters is reporting seven US soldiers killed by roadside bombs, five in Bagdhad, two more in Najaf. No mention of other casualties.


Apparently this is standard practice, but the US Border Patrol uses hollowpoints?

Bush made a number of recess appointments yesterday, a number of them controversial, unqualified Julie Myers(yes, a relation to Gen. Richard Myers,) new members of the Federal Elections Commission who were bad enough they couldn't get voted in, and high placed new members of Donald Rumsfeld's team. I guess the positions were so important that they couldn't wait until the Senate comes back on Monday. Firedoglake points out that one of the recess appointments was involved in the Fla. voter roll purge. (Appointed to the FEC?)

The Supreme Court allowed Jose Padilla to be transferred to civilian custody, but they left open the question of his "enemy combatant" appeal.

Jane Harman (D - CA) said that "the limited Congressional briefings the Bush administration has provided on a National Security Agency eavesdropping program violated the law." Harman is no shrinking violet on this, she has previously defended the practice.

TP and AMblog have a little more on the NSA possibly spying on Amanpour. And a bit from my response in yesterday's comments.

I would rate Amanpour as one of the most likely to have vast and wide contacts with the Arab world......Also, I didn't know this, her husband is James Rubin, former Clinton official, and adviser to the Kerry campaign. So, if the NSA was tapping her phone with the approval of the Bush admin, they most certainly also tapped a call or two from her husband to the Kerry campaign whether or not that made it out of the NSA.

And the FISA court is set to be briefed by the Bush admin on Monday regarding the NSA spying program. Their expressed concern is whether they apporved any FISA warrants based on this illegally obtained information.

Picture of the Day

Hong Kong police spraying a small number of South Korean WTO protesters with "pepper foam."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pay attention to this.

Earlier today, Amblog noticed an odd question from an interview by Andrea Mitchell to James Risen in an interview.

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Later, Atrios is saying that the Amanpour question and answer have been taken out of the "complete transcript of the interview."

I don't know if you believe me, but I looked it up earlier after I saw the Amblog post, to see the context, and it was there. And now it's not!!!!!!!

We're learning something about the NSA program here, although I'm not quite sure what.

Later: NBC's explanation?
Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.

Okay, so how does whether or not you've completed your reporting have anything to do with publishing a simple question and an answer. Is this some scoop that Andrea Mitchell let slip? Or just a poor excuse to retract something without any backing? Is his answer somehow invalid because you haven't completed your reporting? Or did you get one of those Keller type calls from the Whitehouse?

This is no answer at all.

Controversial Mike - On God's Will

Back in the middle ages it was considered an act of bad Christian faith to plan for the future. To put things aside for a rainy day implied a lack of faith in god to provide. Just a weird stray thought.

Picture of the Day -

Delay, Frist, Hastert, Libby, Rove, and, maybe, Cheney.

Maybe sixty(60) elected reps implicated by Abramoff. (WSJ)

Gotta give a little love upstairs, eh, Howard?

FEMA's failure was philosophical in nature

I was watching Abramoff so closely yesterday I didn't make the normal rounds and I missed alot of good blogging. Lesson learned.

Motherlode picked this one up, a Rolling Stone piece on the failures of FEMA.

So, too, is the fact -- now plain for all to see -- that the Department of Homeland Security, the arm of the federal government responsible for ensuring our safety in times of national emergency, has become little more than an arm of big business, a radical experiment in President Bush's brand of market-based government......

Bush appointed inexperienced friends to top posts, outsourced essential government services to the party's corporate backers and gave anti-terrorism programs priority over everything else, including disaster preparedness. Homeland Security became the only federal agency ever designed to hollow out government and enrich an administration's corporate cronies.

With scandal after scandal, the older ones seem to be forgotten. Katrina was only five months ago, but since then there has been so much.


Flipping around during a commercial and I heard Leno make a funny joke last night. (paraphrase)

President Bush's poll numbers have been ticking up lately. With the NSA spy scandal, is that really surprising? This was a phone survey

(pretending to talk on phone) Yes, Yes, I think the president is doing a marvellous job. Do you hear me, marvellous!

King's Fiat or Bush Rewriting Laws

Huge props to Greyhair for picking this up.

In an article headlined, Alito Once Made Case for Presidential Power, from Monday, the WaPo vaguely outlines Bush's use of "interpretive signing statements."

Such "interpretive signing statements" (as proposed by Alito in '86 - mike) would be a significant departure from run-of-the-mill bill signing pronouncements, which are "often little more than a press release," Alito wrote. The idea was to flag constitutional concerns and get courts to pay as much attention to the president's take on a law as to "legislative intent." .....

President Bush has been especially fond of them, issuing at least 108 in his first term, ....

The Bush administration "has very effectively expanded the scope and character of the signing statement not only to address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify, but also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to the Congress,"

From what I'm reading here, these are not in any way binding to the courts, but in the case of a dispute between the Whitehouse and Congress, the Whitehouse could claim "they knew what we were going to do." And Greyhair claims that within the Bush admin, these findings are treated as interpretations of the law until there's a court case saying they're not. (see - torture practices as an example.)

Just really interesting to me.

Also, notice that Alito supports an executive with "dictatorial powers" just like John Roberts did in Hamdi.

Abramoff: Not a dime to Dems

From Amblog, the "Dems did it, too" chorus just lost its accompaniment.

A list of political contributions made by Abramoff from FEC records. (These are reported, above board political donations from Abramoff as a private citizen.)

$172,933 - Republicans
$ 88,985 - Special Interest Groups
$261,918 - Total.

Not a dime to Democrats.

There's a ton here, but you can do a page search for your republican of interest.

And, Dkos has a great post on how Delay's "Celebrations for Children" charity was used for "perks and amenities to donors and Members of Congress for the 2004 Republican Convention."

Picture of the Day

President Bush visiting Bethesda.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More Abramoff notes

Just a couple of quick things I found interesting.

Interesting post on the possible conflicts of recess appointment and Abramoff prosecutor Alice Fisher, over at Firedoglake. Talk Left has a bit of one, too. And Digby shows her close to Delay's defense team. Don't know enough about it, but these are some of the better mainstream legal bloggers, so take note.

Ronnie Earle, the Texas DA prosecuting the Delay case down here, has issued subpoenas for information from Abramoff's records "looking for links between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and fundraising by the former majority leader."

It looks to me, reading all the stories, that Abramoff's deal is for roughly 11 years in prison, with the congress bribing and the Sun Cruz fraud out of Miami to be served concurrently and pay 25 million in fines. The possibility of lengthier penalties was left open by the federal prosecutors contingent upon the degree of cooperation and value of the information Abramoff offers.

Also, Dick Deguerin, Delay's lead defense attorney and one hell of a lawyer from down here in Texas, is already spinning. "Dick: There's no question that they are friends and Tom Delay's not the kind of person that's going to turn his back on a friend that's in trouble---Tom Delay is not going to abandon Jack Abramoff just because Abramoff has done some illegal things..."

Today is shock, by tomorrow morning the talking points will be out in full organized force. The question to me is the conviction with which they will be uttered. Who really wants to be out front in defending this.

And on a personal note, regular readers know that I am rooting hard for my Senator, Crazy Christian Cornyn. to get swept up in this. Not too likely as his questionably legal actions seem to have taken place when he was Texas' Attorney General, but here's hoping.

Tell me about again about detecting terrorists, Mr. Bush

Oh my! This doesn't look like a big deal, but it might be, depending on who the targets were.(Slate)

A former telecom executive told us that efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source, who asked not to be identified so as not to out his former company, reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a "data-mining" operation, which might eventually cull "millions" of individual calls and e-mails.

Couple quick points. This references call detail information, (number from, number to, length of call) not the monitoring of content, and there is some difference in how the law treats these two things.

Although I can't rule it out, this does not say in any way that American call details were collected. The whole point of the NSA's existence is to listen in on foreign electronic communications, and the fact that they might be scanned, tapped, or monitored through switches within the boundaries of the US, I don't think is particularly significant legally or morally.

But the big boomer here maybe that this was taking place prior to 9/11. Again, if this was just routine NSA work, massively monitoring foreign communications, that's no big deal. But, if they were monitoring calls with an American number at either end, that's a pretty big deal. Also, it sounds like they were running the same massive analysis software that seems to have been expanded into the current scandal scanning American calls. So, there may be something to learn there.

Oh, and as to that whole, "we're spying on you to make you safer argument," is the argument now, "we just weren't spying enough?"

UPDATE: And now the NYTimes is reporting on Pelosi's declassified letter, saying that the NSA was already delving into questionable legal areas before Bush fully signed off on it.

The Abramoff "defenses" are coming thick and fast

See this post predicting the spin patterns for context.

So far, I've already heard "business as usual" on Hardball which was met with disparaging disbelief from the other interviewee and Chris Matthews.

And, in the "Dems did it, too" category, I nominate Scott McClellan.

Q Scott, Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption and tax evasion here in the federal court in Washington. Already the DNC has put out a statement essentially saying that this is another example of what they are calling the "culture of corruption and abuse of power" that has been the hallmarks of the Bush administration. Any response?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've seen press reports that indicate that he has -- he and his clients have given to both Democrats and Republicans. So that's the first thing that I would say.

Atrios points out the clever wording here. His clients also gave money to the Dems, but Abramoff did not.

Abramoff brought down by jilted ex fiance?

Rawstory is reporting that this whole Abramoff thing first cracked when Scanlon's ex fiance turned him in after he had an affair on her.

Karma's a bitch, baby. It just bites back.

Picture of the Day - 2

Abramoff - The Breaking of the Line

I haven't been following every in and out of Abramoff because I figured at some point, since Scanlon and Kidan plead out, that Abramoff would reach a deal and we would get all the lurid details straight from the horse's ass.

And I'm certainly not gonna out-analyze the legal people in the blogosphere, so until the announcement later today, I just thought I'd share this personal mental picture of what's gonna happen going forward.

First, I would expect a revival of the old Republican favorite, "the dems did it, too" starting as a coordinated talking point up into tonight's news shows.

Now, perhaps I'm optimistic, but I think that Matthews, Lehrer, and the rest of them will helpfully point out that that's not altogether true, leading to more and more strident repetitions throughout the evening, and for those outside the inner circle, into tomorrow.

At some point in this process, I would expect the Repubs to start repeating poorly fitting historical parallels to try to justify 10% of their contingent being on Abramoff's list, and the "long time" (read: insider) reporters will start talking about Abscam.

Starting tomorrow, the core Repub talking heads will probably be coming out with a second wave of spin, maybe even as early as tomorrow morning. It will be one of two possibilities, either an effort to admit some collective guilt and then minimize the overall importance of 20 elected officials being alleged to have taken bribes, calling it "business as usual" or somesuch, or that the whole thing is somehow a partisan attack.

Although these could both give us some great quotes, I don't see either of these holding up against questioning very long.

And then will come my favorite part, I would guess sometime later in the week, certainly by the Sunday shows, the breaking of the line.

At this point, those Republicans that are clean, or want to be perceived as clean, will begin to try to put distance between Abramoff, the dirty congressmen, and themselves. They will begin to condemn the whole thing, and the names of Ney, Delay and the lot will begin to be spoken in a different tone.

And the beauty of this whole thing is that the people who are now the targets of this investigation all became successful through their ability to speak and spin, and so as the pressure mounts, they will react as if this is a political problem, not a legal problem.

There's a big difference. They will be making foolish statements, leaking half true stories, and attempting to shape the story to point the blame anywhere but at themselves. This will probably further complicate their cases and make some great TV.

Do you think for a minute that Delay wouldn't throw anybody else in the grease if it got him out of trouble?

I don't normally recommend it, but watching a few of the news talkshows this week might be worthwhile. A good guage of how the spin is going is to watch how many times the repub talking head repeats the key talking point of the day. I'm betting that "Let's not forget, democrats are in this, too," will be tonight's big winner. The more it is repeated and the less that is said beyond it, the more trouble republicans are really in.

And, by the way, anybody seen any bits on the Plame case lately? Luskin's not leaking and Fitzgerald has been out of sight since Christmas.

UPDATE: Thinkprogress has a great index on alot of the players involved in Abramoff.

And Pelosi covered her butt on NSA spying, too

Rawstory has a newly declassified letter written by Nancy Pelosi way back in Oct. 2001 expressing concerns about NSA activities and Presidential authority regarding them. Mostly redacted, so it's almost impossible to judge specifically what her concerns were, but put her on the record as having complained/questioned it, way back when.

Therefore, I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting. Until I understand better the legal analysis regarding the sufficiency of the authority which underlies your decision on the appropriate way to proceed on this matter, I will continue to be concerned.

Picture of the Day - Welcome Home

Great editorial in the WaPo

I don't normally read editorials, but this one, from a father who lost a son in Iraq .....

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. .....

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.

Abramoff plea deal after 3:30 today?

Talkleft has an excellent post on the likely details and sticking points of the pending Abramoff deal.

UPDATE: The deal has been done. Also funny, Drudge starts his heading "Hill Fright: Abramoff pleads..." I'm not afraid, are you?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Evidence Feith lied to the president about Iraq

NEWSWEEK has obtained declassified copies of slides made for the briefing. There are three sets: a version for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one for the then CIA Director George Tenet and one shown at a White House session attended by the then deputy national-security adviser Stephen Hadley and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Cheney's chief of staff at the time. The White House materials include a slide, not part of the other briefings, devoted to the alleged Atta meeting. (Rumsfeld and Tenet were told there was "one indication of Iraqi involvement with Al Qaeda specifically related to 9/11.") The White House slide, dated September 2002, cites publicized allegations from a post-9/11 Czech intel report that Atta met the April before 9/11 with Iraqi spy Ahmed al-Ani, and asserts the United States had "no other" intel contradicting the report.

Dig deep into Feith's OSP, Mr. DoD Inspector General. Your investigation may find the truth of what these guys did.

ALSO: James Risen's new book, the one with the NSA spying, has this:
In all, the book says, some 30 family members of Iraqis made trips to their native country to contact Iraqi weapons scientists, and all of them reported that the programs had been abandoned.

Bush is losing the military?

This is just one poll, so I wouldn't jump to any immediate conclusions, but this, I think, is pretty telling.

Approval of the president’s Iraq policy fell 9% from 2004; a bare majority, 54%, now say they view his performance on Iraq favorably. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60%, among readers of the Military Times newspapers (85% of those polled are on active duty) .

“Though support both for President Bush and for the war in Iraq remains significantly higher than in the public as a whole, the drop is likely to add further fuel to the heated debate over Iraq policy,” the report continued. “In 2003 and 2004, supporters of the war in Iraq pointed to high approval ratings in the Military Times Poll as a signal that military members were behind President Bush’s the president’s policy.”

Can you imagine being on the ground in Iraq, going out on patrol, thinking that the whole thing and the guys who sent you there were wrong? Hug a vet. They put up with alot more than danger.

Juan Cole reads the Iraq tealeaves

In relation to the WaPo story this morning stating that the Bush administration will request no further funds for Iraqi rebuilding, Juan Cole, who knows a little something about the Iraq situation, says this:
I'd say this is a good bellwether of administration intentions. If the US were staying in Iraq in a big way, and still hoping to make a significant place for the multinationals there, it would have to bite the bullet and continue to try to do reconstruction. If the Bush administration is throwing in the towel, then whether Iraqis have enough electricity really isn't its problem any more.

And, Think Progress has a piece pointing out that this cessation of funding runs in direct contradiction to the "Strategy for Victory in Iraq" the Bush administration offered just a month ago.

Who wants to take the first shot?

Picture of the Day - 2

November, Haiti, scene at a food distribution center.

Questions on the NSA spying case.....

Yesterday, the WaPo reported that the content of the illegal taps were spread through the Pentagon's DIA as well as other agencies. It has taken me a day to digest this, and after thinking about it again, I have two questions:

Who specifically, what government agency or group, requested these taps?

Were these agencies where the tap contents were eventually distributed, the requestors for those specific taps?

If so, I think that could be a really big deal if the DoD, again as example, was given the prerogative to spy on American citizens, tapping their phones and reading their email, using the NSA as a legal cutout.

We've heard alot about these taps, but I don't think I've seen anywhere what group within the government actually requested the NSA to tap somebody, or what group supplied the intelligence to suggest that somebody should be specifically monitored.

(It appears to me there are a number of programs which have been goperating under this NSA spying umbrella. I'm not referring to the apparent TIA type datamining here, but the specific monitoring of individuals within the US.)

A few stray thoughts: So far, beyond repeated non-detailed assertions that they believe they acted within John Yoo's interpretations of the law, all of the administration's defenses have been emotional in nature. "We're doing this to protect Americans." This could be because they don't want to divulge facts for practical reasons, but my general belief is that you argue emotion when the facts aren't on your side.

I know it's nitpicking, but despite Bush's repeated assertions, his oath of office was not to protect Americans, although I must say I generally support the "protecting Americans" plank of the platform. The presidential oath of office in article 2 of the constitution(sec 1 -8) is the following.
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

You swore to preserve protect and defend the Constitution, georgie boy, not circumvent it.

Lastly, I don't think we've really seen the body of this iceberg yet. Everything we've heard is elements of this program, things that were done, but not how the whole program worked from the beginning. That's what I was trying to get at in the questions at the top. The NSA was operating the technology, but who was actually pulling the levers. Something in this just smells fishy to me. Fishier than what we already know.

If we're done, can we go home how?

The rebuilding of Iraq is complete, so says the Bush administration.
BAGHDAD -- The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new funds for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a buildup of Iraq's criminal justice system and the investigation and trial of Saddam Hussein.

Picture of the Day

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Undercutting the Sunni moderates

After this, the credibility of every moderate Sunni leader will be called into question. To speak even one word against the violence will carry the presupposition of working for the Americans and put their lives and the lives of their families at serious risk.

The Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations company, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.

Everything the Bush administration tries to do in Iraq, seems to make things worse.

Picture of the day - 2

Don't know exactly what hapened here, but look at the girls' faces.

NSA spying info was spread widely

The scope of the NSA spying is becoming clearer. It was(is?) a HUGE program which passed call content of Americans to several other agencies.

Information captured by the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said.

The NSA has turned such information over to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and to other government entities, ......

At least one of those organizations, the DIA, has used NSA information as the basis for carrying out surveillance of people in the country suspected of posing a threat, according to two sources. A DIA spokesman said the agency does not conduct such domestic surveillance but would not comment further.....

DIA personnel stationed inside the United States went further on occasion, conducting physical surveillance of people or vehicles identified as a result of NSA intercepts, said two sources familiar with the operations, although the DIA said it does not conduct such activities.

This is getting really big. DIA conducting surveillance inside America? A tie in to the Talon program where the Pentagon was caught monitoring peaceful antiwar goups? The Bush admin may be in REAL trouble here if even one of those monitored isn't solidly linked to terror. And from the error rate on the renditions(reported around 10 %,) I think that's pretty likely.

As a bit of an editorial inclusion, I think as a statement of opinion by the WaPo, this article also has a sizeable rehash of the Nixon polices and the Church Commission(1975.)

And, could this be more buried than on New Year's Day?

UPDATE: I didn't notice earlier that this was bylined Walter Pincus. Pincus is well known for his connections/sources in the CIA. No judgement, just interesting.

ALSO: William Arkin says the Pentagon spying on Americans could be far worse than we thought and may be being operated in intentional violation of the law.

The Dems did it, too?

With the Republican efforts to define the Abramoff corruption as covering both sides of the aisle clearly failing, and Abramoff likely to start talking next week, suddenly this new "scandal" on "gift limits" just happens to pop up implicating alot of Dems?

In example, Nancy Pelosi, a very public Dem is mentioned in this article. The total involved in her "corruption?" $505. Hardly the $1,000,000 Delay is reported to have received in one payment from one source for one piece of legislation. (WaPo yesterday)

If this person is a true and honest whistleblower, I take my hat off, but I don't know.

With the timing, circumstance, and minor nature of this, it smells a little fishy to me. Sounds like the Repubs are trying a refined version of their old theme, "Clinton did it too," to try to buy some political cover before the Abramoff hits the fan.

James Comey - Honest man

The NYTimes has a good piece on the ethics of James Comey, and also, apparently, refused to sign off on the NSA spying.

The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House went to Mr. Ashcroft - who had been in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security - because "they needed him for certification,"

Comey has since left the administration.

Picture of the Day

Okay. It's time to sharpen those spikes, it's officially an election year.

(Ty Cobb)