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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Pakistani tribesmen stand by a unexploded ordinance at their house which was damaged in an alleged US air strike the day before in the Bajur tribal zone near the Afghan border. (Hats off Thir Khan(AFP) for this picture.)

The politics of a UN referral on Iran.

I think the international politics surrounding a UN referral for Iran could be extremely interesting. It will offer a fair picture of the current relationships between the US, Russia, and China.

Western countries are now seeking to persuade other members of UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to agree to refer Iran to the Council.

European, Russian, Chinese and US officials are due to meet in London on Monday, when they are expected to set a date for the crucial IAEA meeting.

Russia, through a series of actions has been supporting many of the thorns in the side of US foreign policy, offering surface to air missile sales to Iran and Syria, getting the US thrown out of Kazakhistan and shorttermed in Uzbekistan. Also, there is some evidence that the breakdowns in the Korean negotiations have come from a softening of the Russian position.

This change in relationship comes mainly as a result of the US fomenting populist rebellions in Ukraine and other former Soviet states. So, it appears the Russians have decided to distract us elsewhere in order to keep us out of their backyard.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have been soft playing the US, not directly operating against US interests, but coming in behind the many US foreign policy blunders to snap up oil rights and solidify political and trade relationships.

While the Russians have taken a more confrontational approach, the Chinese have proven more subtle, allowing the US to overextend and then taking advantage of US errors, a far longer sighted strategy.

Interestingly, the Bush administration does appear to have played the Euros quite well, offending them over Iraq only to have them more or less forced back to the US side on Iran. There is not the same strength in the relationship because of the offense, but the bottom line is that the Euros are back on board.

The Bush administration's foreign policy has been decidedly unsubtle and that has cost the US alot in terms of influence and persuasion around the world. I think we may be about to get a very instructional look at the current state of the strategies of the major powers.

Picture of the Day - 2

More on the Swiftboating of Murtha

Look, media assholes, the "swiftboating" of John Murtha only exists if you are complicit. CNS can put whatever lies they want on their website and only the few regular people who go to that site will ever be aware of the false claims.

But when you take the bait, when you act as an amplifier for people who are attacking honorable veterans, you give their claims credence and breadth that they could only dream of.

Do you think the "swiftboating" of John Kerry could have taken place had you not featured its proponents "claims" and spokespeople on your news shows? You treated it as a controversy, a he said/she said story without even checking out the facts. Those guys started out with only enough money to run a couple of ads in a couple of local markets. A tiny little blip. That's all.

Then for two weeks, you had these guys, and their unfounded claims, on my every TV news show in the country for hours and hours and hours, repeatedly replaying their ads to a national audience for free. You gave their claims credibility. You gave them media access. All without even checking out their story.

The rightwing didn't conduct the "Swiftboating," Wolf Blitzer did. And Chris Matthews, and Tim Russert.

So, maybe, before you give free airtime to destroy another veteran who VOLUNTEERED for Vietnam and served there honorably, you could maybe check out the facts.

I guess I'm expecting too much(WAPO Page A05).

Oh, and by the way, do you not see the bullshit that this hits the press a day or two before Murtha's 60 Minutes interview where Murtha claims that the Bush administration will pull back almost all the troops from Iraq for purely domestic political reasons prior to the 2006 midterm elections?

(Sorry for all the cursing, but this media behavior is just so irresponsible. It makes me crazy.)

Picture of the Day

More chaos from the Medicaire Drug Benefit

Yesterday, the LATimes had a story on their state stepping in to cover the gaps in George Bush's flagship legislation. Today, the USA today is reporting that at least 13 other states are doing the same. This isn't just some free market experiment; People may die because of this.
Medicare's new prescription-drug program is causing thousands of low-income seniors and disabled Americans to lose their drug benefits, prompting at least 14 states to pay for their prescriptions.

The problem affects thousands of the 6.2 million people whose drug coverage was automatically transferred from Medicaid to Medicare this month. At drugstores nationwide, pharmacists are telling beneficiaries that they're not enrolled, or their drugs aren't covered, or they must pay deductibles and larger co-payments than they can afford, interviews with federal, state and local officials show.....

To quote Chris Rock

Regarding Martin Luther King Day, just how racist do you have to be not to want to take the day off work?
GREENVILLE, S.C. - Greenville County geared up Friday for what local black leaders called MLK Dream Weekend, as it became the last of South Carolina's 46 counties to officially mark the birth of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, January 13, 2006

9/11 didn't change everything on NSA spying

Jason Leopold is reporting this bombshell. Read the whole thing.
The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups......

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

And here's the link for the declassified document(warning .pdf).

So, a quick read tells me that the Bush administration was overstepping the law in this area from almost day one. I think this also completely disproves the argument that this program is the only thing preventing another 9/11. After all, it didn't prevent the first one.

It also lays to rest the "war president" defense of extraordinary powers vested in the commander in chief in times of war. If he was utilizing these powers prior to 9/11, there was no war within which to claim these powers.

Also, the second support that the Bush admin has offered, that somehow the Afghanistan resolution authorized these programs, similarly wouldn't apply.

So, this could be huge. Under what authorization or arguments does the Bush administration possibly think this was legal prior to 9/11. I wonder if the starting date is one of the "classified details" that Al Gonzales won't disclose at next months Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

Also, this has a familiar echo back to the Bolton confirmation hearings where we learned that Bolton had requested and had been given some of the names from the American side of some recorded international phone conversations.

(Lastly, Jason, I know you come by from time to time, so I would offer this: In this NSA case, you're treading in some pretty deep waters. I know this one is declassified, but I don't think they're messing around with the leakers on this thing, so be careful. I will start the legal defense fund, but I really don't want to have to. As always, anything I can do, man - Mike)

Picture of the Day - 3

Barely knew him.

Swiftboating Murtha

You know, if for nothing else, and that's alot, this administration should be blasted for it's treatment of people who served in the active military.

We can argue about what a hero is, or what actions constitute valor, but people who VOLUNTEERED to go to Vietnam, when everybody else was trying not to go, should be treated with a special respect.

Now they're claiming that Murtha didn't deserve his purple hearts.

Losing Afghanistan, too

Afghanistan has never been a huge success, but largely not the tremendous failure of the Iraq endeavor. In the "win-hold" force doctrine of US military planners(win one war while holding another at stalemate,) Iraq was supposed to be the win, and Afghanistan, once the Taleban were removed from power, was to be the hold.

Over the last year an equilibrium of sorts had been established in which the Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants controlled the mountains along the Afghan-Paki border, but kept the violence out of the cities, responding only when attacked. The warlords and poppy barons controlled the rest of the countryside with the coalition forces controlling a few large cities and encountering violence whenever their mission took them outside those "controlled" areas.

But, as many experts have pointed out, that equilibrium appears to have been a delaying action by the Taleban/Al Qaeda alliance intended to regroup, resupply and grow their numbers. The violence has been increasing over the last few months, but if the intel in this Scotsman piece is right, it may be about to get far hotter.

HUNDREDS of foreign Islamic fighters are gathering in Afghanistan ahead of the deployment of 4,000 British troops to the country in the spring.

British intelligence sources have told The Scotsman Islamic radicals sympathetic to al-Qaeda see Afghanistan as their new frontline and are starting to shift the focus of their anti-western campaign from Iraq.

There's more than just this to indicate a hotting up. Up to 500 attacks a month now. For the first time in a year, in the past three weeks, there have been two large engagements where "large groups of insurgents openly battled with US troops and allied Afghan forces."

And the "hawks" in and around the administration are threatening Iran with military action? It's not just Iraq where the Iranians could cause trouble. The whole area is destabilizing. Iv'e read a couple of mentions that Musharraf in Pakistan is coming under increasing pressure.

I don't know, but I think it's all gonna get worse.

UPDATE: Greyhair pointed me to this phenomenal AsiaTimes article on the current state of play regarding the US and Pakistan. His original point was to show that Karzai has begun negotiations with the Taleban, but there's a lot more here. It fairly comprehensively suggests a US falling out with Musharraf. The most interesting bit to me is the itenerary of a "a person close to the US Central Intelligence Agency" which led from New Dehli to Pakistan to former leader Bhutto in the UAE.

" A sudden upsurge in the activities in Pakistan of the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy - which Bhutto supports - followed."

If you're interested in the area, this is definitely worth the read. It says very little openly, but there are some interesting shifts implied.

Picture of the Day

I am envious of this Picture of the Day. I have been bettered.

Picture of the Day - 2

Can't say they didn't warn us.

War is really very funny.

See, you've got it all wrong with all this doom and gloom and worry. USAToday:

When the stress of the war in Iraq becomes too severe, the Pentagon has a suggestion for military families: Learn how to laugh.

With help from the Pentagon's chief laughter instructor, families of National Guard members are learning to walk like a penguin, laugh like a lion and blurt "ha, ha, hee, hee and ho, ho."

Is this funny, too?

This administration should be banned from passing or proposing any further legislation. It seems everything they do hurts people. On the Medicare Drug benefit....

SACRAMENTO — California officials ordered emergency action Thursday to cover drug costs for 1 million elderly citizens, many of whom have been denied life-saving medications or charged exorbitant amounts because of glitches in the new federal prescription drug program.

Many of whom have been denied life-saving medications.

The McCain torture amendment

Once again, the Whitehouse completely used John McCain to accomplish their political ends. Bush accepted the McCain torture amendment, but at the same time Bush signed an interpretative signing statement, a practice originally promoted by Alito under Reagan, which effectively claimed that his administration wasn't bound by the law.

Now, a second element of the questionable "anti-torture" deal has come into practice, this was added on at the last minute as part of the "compromise."

The Bush administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to dismiss a challenge to President George W. Bush's power to create military tribunals to put Guantanamo prisoners on trial for war crimes.

The administration's argument was based on a law signed by Bush on December 30 that limits the ability of Guantanamo prisoners caught in the president's war on terrorism to challenge their detentions in federal courts.....

The administration cited the same new law in moving last week to dismiss more than 180 cases in U.S. district court in Washington involving Guantanamo inmates who have challenged their detention.

So, out of McCain's "principled stand," the President maintains the ability to torture solely at his discretion, and now has the legal ability to block all access to judicial review on Guantanamo detentions. Worked out kinda like McCain's Campaign Finance Reform, didn't it?

Betting on the SOTU

I was looking for something else, and came across this in an Aussie paper:
The latest craze is gambling on US President George Bush's State of the Union address, which falls midway between Christmas and the Superbowl - another great betting event.....

The online betting agency bodog.com claims it has already recorded its highest ever volume in political action in five years.....

The 8/1 odds on 70 or more standing ovations represents good value. At the other end of the scale, they are offering 5/1 on 15 or fewer.

Most of the money is going on how many times Bush uses the words "evil", "Iraq" and "Patriot Act".

Around 90per cent of the action is on the President saying "Iraq" 16 times or more, which is priced at 7/2.

The smart money says he will use the word "evil" twice (2/1) and Patriot Act six to nine times (3/2).

The over/under is 70 standing ovations in a speech under an hour? I know we're supposed to love dear leader, but isn't that a little creepy even for the Stepford congressmen. ("We all love deficits now.") I mean, if this presidency we're a movie, wouldn't you have walked out by now?

And I'd like to put some money down that he's not going to say Bin Laden, that he's going to say the word victory 5 times, and that there's going to be a "new" word that will be overemphasized, like the sudden emergence of "victory" in December. I'm not sure what that word will be yet, but we should get some set up in the days before the speech.

Picture of the Day

"I just found out they're not torturing on the South Lawn."


"The daylight, it burns!! It burns!!!!"


"Damned enlarged prostate!"

Suggestions? I just can't nail this one down.

UPDATE: Read the comments, there're some good ones in there.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Just not a good blogging day. I've stayed out of Alito because I lack the knowledge to adequately address the legal specifics involved, and I really don't like to play he said/she said cat fight for the rest of it.

And nothing else has really lit me up today. I've really tried, I've gone everywhere and read everything. t's almost like the media decided not to waste their good stories underneath the inevitable Alito headline. So, I'll get back at it tomorrow. If my guess is right, there should be three days of stories backed up, so I'm sure I'll have something to offer.


Picture of the Day - 4

Why politicians don't solve problems.

Many years ago, before my internet connection rendered it obsolete, I was watching the Weather Channel to try to find out what the weather would be on the coming Saturday. (Had something big planned, I'm sure.)

So, I sat in front of that TV for fifteen minutes waiting for the Weather Channel to give me the weekend forecast, but they kept talking about the weather elsewhere and running ad after ad after ad, all the while promising that local weather was "coming up next."

As I watched and waited, growing more and more frustrated, I suddenly had an epiphany. It is not in the Weather Channel's interests to actually supply me with the information I was seeking. As soon as I got the weekend forecast, I would stop watching their channel, stop watching their advertisements, and turn to something else.

Actually, it was in their best interest to keep me in a continual state of anticipation that they would supply me with the solution for my problem if I would just stay tuned a little longer.

This is why politicians don't actually solve problems. If they solve the problems, we tune out, stop giving them money and stop voting for them. This has been a genius political stroke, used more frequently by the Republicans, utilized over the past three decades.

Let's look at Roe. I would argue that it is really not in the greater Republican interest to have Roe v Wade overturned. For thirty years, the Republicans have recieved as loyal a voting block as possible by promising to resolve this issue. If they were to ever actually overturn Roe, not only would the anti-Roe voters grow less passionate, but the center of the country would likely turn against them.

Roe is just one example, probably a little too charged with the Alito hearings going on, but this also applies in almost every other area.

Is it in George Bush's interests to actually defeat terrorism? It's a fine line. Certainly, I wouldn't argue that he would be hoping for another attack, but at the same time, he certainly benefits by having the fear hang over America. Polls still show that Bush and Republicans' highest ratings come in relation to the war on terror.

If you look at the Pew poll yesterday, the Dems outpolled the Repubs on EVERY OTHER ISSUE. Foreign policy, Iraq, the economy, health care.... Everything except terrorism. With Bush's approve/disapprove numbers at 38/54, that one single issue becomes the last leg propping up his presidency.

So, the question is, "Is Bush better off actually resolving terrorism? Or is better off pulling a "weather channel" and creating the belief that he, and only he, will provide the solution just after the next commercial break?"

I'm not arguing that Bush is intentionally tanking the terror issue, but at the same time, it would be a hard argument, after the 2004 election, to say that the Bush administration is unaware of the political benefits of its continuation.

The underlying problem with this "weather channel" model is that when it breaks down, it is no longer fixable. Iraq, as a political issue, is in the process of breaking down right now. A shifting majority are no longer willing to believe that Bush has a solution coming.

The weather channel never won me back after that day of frustration and understanding despite their best efforts, and I just wonder how deep the disbelief really is in America right now. Polls show that political independents across America are turning off the Bush/Republican channel right now. The question is, will they come back?

Also, I still get the feeling that Bush is teetering right now in public opinion, like a wobbly boxer who has taken alot of jabs. He's fatigued, he's distracted by the pain from all the punches he's taken so far, and he's covering up, occasionally blindly throwing his favorite punch "patriotism" out of habit.

I'm wondering if there will be a knockout blow, and if so, where it will come from.

(Allright, I know this rambling diatribe stuff isn't why you come here, but I just can't find any news source that I want to blog on today. So, we make due.)

Riffing on End Times Theology.

On this quiet news day, I'm just gonna open up and see what comes out. To start, somebody sent me this article (CSM) which discusses the growing of a Islamic version of an end time theology in Iran, the obvious parallels with US apocalypticists (?) was the point of the email.

But this got me thinking about the nature, or maybe better said, the cause of the rise of end times theologies. (I'm pulling all of this out of my butt with no supporting evidence except that from my own beliefs and biases. So blast me if you want.)

There was this funny little Alan Arkin movie from 1980 named Simon that included this priceless observation (paraphrase) "Do you think happy, well-adjusted scientists come up with something like the black hole that just sucks up everything until it devours the universe?"

See, I'm a bit of an apocalypticist myself, I enjoy the Science Channel's preposterous what if shows about giant meteors hitting earth or the Yellowstone supervolcano erupting. But over time, I've grown aware that I only enjoy these spooky what if scenarios when I'm fearful of things I can't control, money being a frequent example.

So this led me to wonder if the growth in endtimes theology bases itself on similar fears, that somehow its believers feel out of control in their world, and thus embrace this endtimes theology for the same sorts of comfort.

I would argue we do see some of the outcroppings of that fear in the proliferation of "missing white woman" news stories we had awhile back, or in the AFA's bizarre attacks on homosexuals, and even in the immigration debate. As the cultural mix of America changes, more minorities, more open expressions of gay sexuality, the progress of women's equality, as well as tremendous economic stresses on the middle and lower class, there is a certain sector that feels somehow threatened by all this. I don't understand why, but they do.

And these are the people, white, middle and lower class, that have turned to endtimes theology in significant numbers. In their conclusion, they would have all of these objectionable people cast to Satan, their money worries allieved, as they are lifted up in the rapture.

In a way, despite the ridiculous fights to try to put gays back in the closet and women back in the kitchen, this end times theology is an expression of defeat. They now are looking for God to step in and take care of their "problems" in their version of a final divine retribution, because on some level they recognize they no longer can. Fearful of the world.

I also think the violent nature of that final disposition of the non-believers is significant in that it reflects the intensity of the fear and emotion that resides behind all this.

I may be wrong here, I'm straying way outside my areas of expertise, so, again, feel free to come at me on this one. But my personal beliefs are that Jesus didn't preach hate, and that alot of these far right "Christian" organizations are literally heretical in their politics and teachings.

Oh, and by the way, in this model of fear driving people to apocalypticism, the Republicans have played a very clever game. By working to instill fear and insecurity in their base, and the country at large, they have driven more and more people into these fervent religious beliefs which obviously benefits them. People, I would argue, are far more likely to switch candidates than religions.

In other words, it is not in the Republican party's interest to actually alleviate the problems that are driving people to become their "base voters." (more on that later.)

Picture of the Day - 3

These are women in the US army at a base somewhere in Iraq.

No editorial comment, just came across a bunch of soldier's photos showing some things that don't make the news.

(Nothing is inspiring me to write today, so, I'm just doing photos til something comes along. If you click on the photo, you will get a larger version where you can see the faces of all the men in their ARMY tees behind.)

Picture of the Day - 2 - Suzy Q

Wahington Redskins cheerleaders in Iraq.

Picture of the Day

With Blair threatening Iran, I thought I'd pull this creepy picture out of the basket.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Guantanamo Miller takes the fifth

Don't have the time right now, but big, big implications in this. This may be the smoke that indicates the fire we all know is there.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The move by Miller -- who once supervised the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and helped set up operations at Abu Ghraib -- is the first time the general has indicated he might have information that could implicate him in wrongdoing, according to military lawyers.

Picture of the Day - 3

I'm guessing that's the seven year old right there. Looks like a real kid friendly crowd, huh? See next.

Bush's Town hall

Left-over pointed me to a great Reuters article, but for context, first a question from the press briefing.
Q Are those questions pre-screened, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, they can ask whatever -- the people at this event can ask whatever they want.

Okay, so we know it's a non scripted even, right? (Reuters)
Asked by a 7-year-old in the audience at the Louisville Convention Center how people could help in the war on terrorism, Bush replied, "One way people can help as we're coming down the pike in the 2006 elections is remember the effect that rhetoric can have on our troops in harm's way and the effect that rhetoric can have in emboldening or weakening an enemy."

So many, many things wrong with this. First, somebody just happened to bring their seven year old to this boring political rally, and the kid just happened to be informed about the war on terror... I've got a niece of eight, and I just don't see it. Second, as Left-over pointed out, the words "rhetoric" and "emboldening" are in every seven year old's vocabulary, right?

Also, notice that the harm that Bush implies is related to the 2006 midterm elections. The democrats running in 2006, after all, are the enemy. Also, just how powerful is this seven year old in the school yards of America that what he says is gonna embolden Al Qaeda.

What a bizarre lesson to teach this kid, that saying the wrong thing will get your father or uncle or brother killed.

Oh, and Scott McClellan apparently lied, again.

Once you've seen the emperor naked, no matter what he tries to wear, you still see him naked.

Something Wonderful

Just wanted to do a little housekeeping here. I wanted to let everybody know that I'm still reading their blogs.

I have been pulled into a new project that I'm tremendously excited about. There's a possibility that it may become one of those seriously big sites. Of course it may also flop spectacularly, but I'm not thinking that way at this point.

The current schedule is to lift off the new thing in about three weeks, but, knowing how these things go, it may be longer than that. I will be maintaining this site throughout, so no major changes here, but I will offer more details on the other when I'm authorized to talk about it.

With this thing coming, I had to come up with a little more time. I had to cut back some of the time I was spending blogging, so I've been seriously limiting the comments I leave on other sites. My choices were to cut back here, cut back on the number of blogs I read, or cutback on the comments.

I chose the last because it seemed the least important, but I just thought I'd leave an explanation as to why you might not see my footprints as much.

And on the other, as soon as I can say anything, I will. - Mike

(Also, Frodo, leave a link to your site in the comments, I've lost the bookmark, and a search for Frodo or middle earth, as you might guess, brought back an untenable number of search returns. You have your blogger profile turned off, so I can't get it there and I want to drop a link to you.)

Interesting Pew Poll

I'm not a big fan of polling because methodology makes it all so uncertain, but every once in awhile, one catches my eye because the results are not what I would expect. Pew poll.

Party best able to handle Iraq: Dems 50, Repubs 31.
Foreign Policy: Dems 46, Repubs 16.

Okay, then I don't get this one, Terrorism: Dems 34, Repubs 52.

The dems can handle Iraq and foreign policy overwhelmingly, which are the main sources for terrorism, but not terrorism itself? Wouldn't it greatly resolve terrorism to fix its causes?

Bush approval: 38, 54

Picture of the Day - 2

I haven't seen it anywhere else, so I'm gonna do it.

(AP) Just over 7 percent of American workers drink during the workday — mostly at lunch — and even more, 9 percent, have nursed a hangover in the workplace, according to a study.

Ghorbanifar again

Manucher Ghorbanifar has come up again in relation to bad intel on Uranium in Iraq Rawstory is reporting. Remember that Ghorbanifar has long links to some in this administration which stretch back to his key role as arms dealer in Iran Contra.

I don't see too much here, Weldon's terror credentials get shot to crap because he believed the lies despite CIA and DIA efforts to dissuade him. Also, another mention of the 2001 meeting between Ledeen, Rhode, Franklin(yes, Larry Franklin,) significant Iranian political officials, SISMI(Italian intel,) and Chalabi who reportedly brought the Niger forgeries. (Good article on that meeting here. And James Risen has one here.)

The only other new element I see is that according to this Rawstory article, is that Ledeen's trip was put on hold by Hadley at the NSC, but was secretly green lighted by Feith's OSP without telling anybody else about it.

This all seems to be circling around the same channels and people as the Niger forgeries. Without the question, the best work on this has been done by eriposte over at the Leftcoaster. If I'm giving the awards, this is the best, most complete bit of blogger reporting I have ever seen.


The head of the Shiite's most powerful party is now saying there will be no significant changes in the Iraqi constitution in direct contravention of the agreements when the US forced a hasty, cobbled together agreement last summer.

One of the sources for James Risen in the NSA spying case, Russell Tice, has come forward. Smart move really, they were going to catch up with him sooner or later, and the offer to testify before congress burnishes his whistleblower credentials. There are a few interesting technical details in this, NSA scanning all communications for keywords, popping in and out of conversations, in effect possibly monitoring millions of people. Worth a read. (I'll write more on this later when I have a little time.)

Thinkprogress reports that Tom Delay appears to be hiding behind his daughter who also appears to have had a near phantom job.

And, I don't know what to make of this allegation by Reuters that Kim Jong Il is secretly in Russia. It could be an attempt to work on the nuclear negotiations with a sympathetic ear, or it could be the Russians establishing another beachhead among the US's "enemies." Both Russia and China have been capitolizing on Bush's destructive foreign policy by stepping up contacts with those who aren't "with us." China in Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi, Bolivia, etc, etc, Russia with the Kazakhs, Uzbecks, Syrians, and Iranians. So, no idea what this Kim Jong Il meeting could mean, but it represents something.

Picture of the Day

What have we done?

Her father was killed in front of her.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tom Delay Should Hang for This

Look, corruption is bad. Corrupt politicians deserve to go to prison. But I would reserve a special place in hell for this.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to pressure the Bush administration into shutting down an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed — shortly after a tribal client of Abramoff's donated to a DeLay political action committee, The Associated Press has learned.

The Texas Republican demanded closure of the casino, owned by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, in a Dec. 11, 2001 letter to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Two months to the day after Sept. 11, and Tom Delay, the second highest official in the REPUBLICAN controlled house, is plotting and planning how to work his bribery scheme called TRMPAC.

Tom Delay wasn't worried about Anthrax through the mail, he wasn't worried about follow on attacks, Tom Delay was worried about shutting down an Indian casino because a client of Abramoff asked him to look into it.

Screw national security, screw the safety of Americans, who cares how many more might die, Tom Delay has more important things to focus on than stopping suitcase nukes. After all, they paid him $1,000.

Oh, and just to add to my disgust, my congressmen John Culberson (R - TX 7) was a signee to the same letter, along with Sessions and Brady, both from Texas. If you know anyone in those districts, be sure to tell them about it.

I'm gonna go hunting for any related contributions Culberson might have received. If you've got any good sites for campaign finance info, PLEASE leave them in the comments for this post.

Plame Gossip Fix.

Thanks to Jason for his excellent reporting, best on Plame by far, and to Greyhair(note the new address) for pointing me to this piece. There are some interesting possibilities here arising from a possible Rove plea deal. (Truthout, Jan 10, 2006)
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is said to have spent the past month preparing evidence he will present to a grand jury alleging that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove knowingly made false statements to FBI and Justice Department investigators and lied under oath while he was being questioned about his role in the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity more than two years ago, according to sources knowledgeable about the probe......

But sources knowledgeable about the case against Rove say that he was offered a plea deal in December and that Luskin had twice met with Fitzgerald during that time to discuss Rove's legal status. Rove turned down the plea deal, which would likely have required him to provide Fitzgerald with information against other officials who were involved in Plame's outing as well as testifying against those people, the sources said......

Luskin said. "I am not acknowledging that it did or didn't happen, I am just saying that I have never commented about that before and I am not going to start doing that now."

Ooooh, that feels soooo gooooood. My evil, dark Plame mistress how I've missed you.

A quick read tells me that Fitzgerald is still prepping the case, looks very likely to present for indictment, but that it's not a simple slam dunk. Not revelatory, but it shows a little more caution than I was previously reading.

Also, I find it interesting that Rove turned down a plea deal. Several possibilities: Either the punishment terms were still to severe for Rove to accept, perhaps Fitzgerald refused to take jailtime off the table, Rove was too loyal(?) to give up the other people Fitzgerald wants to pursue in this matter, or Rove thinks he's better off rolling the dice as to whether he will be indicted or convicted.

But be sure, that to me, the big revelation in this is that Fitzgerald was looking at a plea deal which would involve Rove providing information and, eventually, testimony against "other officials who were involved. First, this means that Rove may very well not be the end of this investigation.

And second, just who, on what crimes, would be worth cutting a deal with Rove? Really, there are only two people higher than Rove in the structure, so if Fitzgerald is following the "bigger fish" prosecutorial model we have just two possible candidates. Fitzgerald could also be looking to wrap up an entire conspiracy, I prefer the phrase "criminal enterprise," which could consist of a number of people below Rove's status, but wrap up all of them, completing the investigation.

It could also be someone lower down the chain who committed a far more heinous crime of some sort, although we've seen no evidence of anyone doing so in relation to the Plame case.

Or Fitzgerald might have just been throwing the option of a plea deal open, not offering too much, but taking a chance that Rove might be willing to turn on others, simplifying the endgame of the investigation.

No real answers at this point, but the fact that Luskin met with Fitzgerald on two occasions indicates an offer, counter offer situation, so the terms of the deal were close enough for a little face to face discussion. This may be why Fitzgerald has been "going slow" since the new year; he may be waiting to see if Luskin/Rove come back to the table.

And, it looks unlikely, but if Rove does cut a deal, even if it's limited to information only related to Plame, it will throw gasoline on the fire, others will be brought in, and Libby will certainly get convicted. I think at that point, we will then be back to discussing the "underlying crime."

How strange would it be if all of this so far has just been the first act, establishing pressure points with which to guarantee testimony to go after the actual outing of Plame? If that's what's happening, we may be watching one of the most brilliant prosecutions of our day.

If that's what happens, I suggest we call it Comey's revenge.

(By the way, take a minute to appreciate that Jason Leopold, a guy with a pretty good media background, has been scooping the NYTimes, the Wapo, and all the networks repeatedly while working more or less on his own. The power of the internet, the power of one person.)

(Sorry, I went on and on, but it's been awhile, and for some reason this case is my dark pleasure. Somewhere in it, there is something which makes it irresistible to me.)

UPDATE: Talkleft is theorizing that a deal will be worked out and that the sticking points are testifying in court against others and/or the charges he will plead to. Just guesses like everybody else.

Was this leak leaked to move the negotiations forward? - Mike

Duke on a wire

Originally, Drudge and others breathlessly stated that Time magazine had been wrong when it reported that Duke Cunningham had worn a wire. Implicit in these challenges of the Time story was the usual challenge of liberal media going after Republican politicians for a political end.

First off, Drudge, I wouldn't use Duke Cunningham as your test case; it's not like he's really an innocent victim here. Secondly, you might want to parse this statement a little more closely before you get all excited. (LATimes)

"The press, citing unnamed sources, continues to report that Duke Cunningham wore a tape recording device, or wire, to surreptitiously gather evidence on behalf of the government. This story is false.

"Duke has never worn a body wire during any conversations with his former congressional colleagues or any other public official, and he has not surreptitiously gathered evidence against any public officials."

Blalack, contacted at his Washington, D.C., office, declined to clarify whether Cunningham may have gathered evidence against those who are not public officials, such as lobbyists or military contractors.

One of the few benefits I've found during the Bush administration is that I have gained a much greater understanding of how prosecutors conduct their investigations in corruption and white collar crime cases. (Funny that.)

So when I read this vehement denial that Cunningham did not wear a wire against any of his former colleagues(a strange sense of morals from a man who took 2.1 million in bribes) that does not mean that other elected officials might not be on the hook in this thing. It could very well mean that the prosecutors in the case are simply lining up the smaller fish before going after other elected officials.

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The Bush wayback machine

A little slow this morning, so I thought I'd take a trip in the wayback machine. Today, we're going waaaaayback to Dec 14, 2005(less than a month ago.) Bush on Foxnews with Brit Hume.

BUSH: Well, first of all, I feel Duke Cunningham was wrong and should be punished for what he did. And I think anybody who does what he did should be punished, Republican or Democrat. Secondly, I'm — you know, the Abramoff — I'm frankly, not all that familiar with a lot that's going on up there on Capitol Hill. But it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties. Yes, I mean, it's really important for all of us in public life to have the highest of ethics. So we can only trust the American people.

HUME: Do you home and expect that Tom DeLay will return to be majority leader?

BUSH: Yes. At least, I don't know whether I'm expecting it. I hope that he will.

HUME: Why?

BUSH: Well, I like him. When he's over there, we get our votes through the House. We had a remarkable success of legislative victories. A remarkable string of legislative victories. We've cut the taxes and delivered strong economic growth and vitality. We've had an energy bill that began to put American on its way to independence.

HUME: You know a thing or two about Texas politics. What is your judgment of the prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle?

BUSH: I'm not going to go there, simply because I want — I want this trial to be conducted as fairly as possible. And the more politics that are in it, the less likely it's going to be fair.

HUME: Do you just — do you believe he's innocent?

BUSH: Do I? Yes, I do.

Many reporters asked questions about this at the time, but maybe a month later it deserves another look. (AP)

After repeatedly maintaining that President Bush continued to support DeLay, the White House pivoted abruptly on Saturday, issuing a statement that endorsed DeLay's move. "We respect Congressman DeLay's decision to put the interests of the American people, the House of Representatives and the Republican Party first," said Erin Healy, a spokeswoman for Bush.

Jonesing for Plame Gossip

I've been desperately looking for any Plame news since the new year. There has been nothing. So please accept that today's Plame news is so small I shouldn't even put it up. WaPo, Judge Hogan released some papers relating to the Russert testimony against Libby. Turns out Russert didn't want to testify, but eventually did.

Wow, earthshaking, huh? Not even worth the read.

On the brighter side, I'm not alone in my jones. This pitiful little article that says absolutely nothing was one of the WaPo's most viewed this morning.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Bremer asked for 500,000 troops in Iraq?

The Bush administration has acknowledged that its top civilian official in Iraq once called for tripling U.S. forces there. In a new book, Paul Bremer -- who headed the U.S.-led coalition for 13 months -- says he urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in May 2004 to deploy 500,000 troops.

I guess technically he wasn't a commander, so Bush wasn't lying, right?

Also: I think this "leaked" memo outlining the Dem's strategy may have been written to be leaked because it reads like a statement.

Recess appointments have to be reconfirmed.

Read a New York Times board editorial on Bush's recess appontments, talking about how odd it is that Bush has to use this process to get nominees by a Senate controlled by his own party. (bad selections, inexperienced and incompetent according to this editorial.)

Reading this, it suddenly hit me that all those recess appointments will have to go through Senate confirmations after the next congressional election. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the dems win the Senate somehow, what do you think the Bolton hearings would look like? Or maybe the hearings on the completely unqualified Julie Miers, or maybe Hans von Spakovsky, nominated to the FEC, who was significantly responsible for the purge of the Florida voter rolls in 2000.

I think the Republicans really thought they would rule forever, and that all their little political fudges would never be brought to light because nobody would have the capacity to challenge them.

Speaking of which, aren't we still waiting for a status report from Sen. Roberts on the Phase II portion of the WMD investigation? Didn't Harry Reid shut down the senate to force an agreement that it would be done? Anybody heard anything? Anybody?

Inverted bond yield curve

Crap. Everybody's talking about the stockmarket today, but this may be a more meaningful set of numbers. Could be just a month blip, could be something worse.

Update: Leslie pointed me to this article which could also impact the current situation. Not good news either, really.

Gonzales and Ashcroft and Comey, oh my!

Regarding the Judiciary committe's investigation into warrantless wiretapping:
Asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" whether Gonzales had agreed to appear, Specter said, "Well, I didn't ask him if he had agreed. I told him we were holding the hearings, and he didn't object. I don't think he has a whole lot of choice on testifying."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for former Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and former Deputy Atty. Gen. James Comey to testify at the hearings.

I'm sure there's going to be a lot of "I can't answer that as it is related to a classified program," but like the press briefings, I think it will be the questions that are important. And, way to go Arlen. As head of the committee, you don't have to ask him to show up, you can tell him.

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Reprint from Yesterday

This got a pretty strong response yesterday, not many comments, but several emails. (a little creepy because I don't publish my email) So I thought I'd reprint the section that brought the response because the weekday crowd is a little different from the weekend crowd.

Twelve US soldiers died in Iraq in a helicopter crash yesterday. Just horrible.

Do you think CNN is going to devote five days of coverage to this the way they did to that horrible mining tragedy, 12 dead in each? Interviews with the grieving relatives live on screen? Comments about all the previous mistakes at the employer that may have lead to the deaths? More or less, we're discussing two horrible industrial accidents, but they will not be treated the same.

This is the success of the Bush PR offensive surrounding "patriotism" and the offensive on the media. CNN, and the other cable channels, have been cowed into silence by the repeated assaults by the Bush administration. Somehow, the reporting of deaths has been made a political issue rather than a recounting of facts.

Look, the tragedy in West Virginia was significant and I'm not attempting to minimize it. I'm trying to point out the exploitation of those poor people's tragedy by the media by showing that they were singled out for that exploitation because their story was deemed politically "safe."

These are two extreme examples of a flaw in the the way these networks conduct themselves. In West Virginia, they wrung out every bit of emotion from the relatives that they could put on the screen, live, with no real care for whether it was in their best interests or not. Just get me the footage.

In Iraq, they are going to mention the deaths as the lead in a larger Iraq story that reports a lot of things, but largely ignore them because they don't want to be accused of being "political."

It's all so messed up.

Targets of the Abramoff investigation

I think everybody may be missing a key part of this story. Time magazine(via rawstory, I'm not paying the Time subscription fee) is reporting that they've obtained an email from Michael Mason director of the FBI's DC field office.

The wording that first jumps out is the reference to Abramoff as the "middle guy" in the investigation implying, for sure, that their targets are still to come. Probably as we expected, congressmen, maybe a senator, not too much of a surprise, really.

But what caught my eye was the metion that there were two dozen field agents in 13 field offices across the country working the case. So that begins to offer some kind of scope of the investigation thus far, the number of areas where the FBI and Justice are pursuing cases.

Figure that one of those field offices, and probably alot of those two dozen agents are in DC, and that leaves us with AT LEAST a dozen other individuals under pretty serious investigation. I want to add, "not limited to" to that dozen, as I would think that it's reasonably likely that some of the field offices, like the one here in Houston, may be looking at more than one individual. Delay and some of his staff for instance.

Not all of these may bear fruit, but this gives some idea of the current state of play in the investigation. I also wouldn't take this as a final number, as cases may be abandoned and others added as Abramoff talks, but this does offer something of a snapshot of the scope of the current investigation. In other words, it is probably going to net more than just Ney and Delay.

Dick Cheney's got health coverage

Cheney to hospital. He's fine, so I thought I could make the joke. Talk about your pre-existing conditions!

(And by the way, does anybody else find it funny that his spokeswoman's name is a combination of two young female country/rock stars: Lea Anne McBride. (leann rimes and martina mcbride))

Also: Firedoglake has a little on my state's shame Sen. Cornyn getting a free pass yesterday on meet the press when they were talking about Abramoff. Cornyn was Texas AG when Abramoff and Ralph Reed killed state gambling at the behest of Louisiana tribes. There are Reed emails out there outlining the contacts with Cornyn.

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Don't let him get away, Mr. Fitzgerald.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Speculation, no more.

One of the two congressmen who publicly started the petition to have Tom Delay removed from his post as majority leader was Jeff Flake(R - Az.) That name rung a bell, and so I went back in my mind and remembered that not too long ago, after the Nov. elections, when Santorum and several other people in the House and Senate were dodging the question, "would you want Bush to campaign for you?" Jeff Flake stepped up and invited Bush down.

Flake also stood by the president on his recent immigration tour, loudly trumpeting Bush's guest worker program. Medicaire drug benefit, social security accounts, Flake was there with Bush on every one of these bad ideas.

One of the questions that came up before Delay stepped aside was who was gonna have the guts to be the one to publicly ask for it. My wildassed speculation here is that it was in fact somebody in the Bush administration who sent Flake out there to take down Delay guaranteeing Flake political cover from the Whitehouse.

After all, Flake has stood up there like a little monkey doing anything else they asked of him.

How far is this from witchdoctors?

During the last world cup I remember a couple of different articles discussing the use of witchdoctors by some African teams to bless/curse the field, goal frame, etc. One of the articles mentioned that during the Africa Nations Cup in 2002, there were international observers brought in to watch over the fields and stadiums to make sure none of this hanky panky took place.

I offer this story as context for this piece in the WSJ from a couple of days ago.

WASHINGTON -- Insisting that God "certainly needs to be involved" in the Supreme Court confirmation process, three Christian ministers today blessed the doors of the hearing room where Senate Judiciary Committee members will begin considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on Monday.

Capitol Hill police barred them from entering the room to continue what they called a consecration service. But in a bit of one-upsmanship, the three announced that they had let themselves in a day earlier, touching holy oil to the seats where Judge Alito, the senators, witnesses, Senate staffers and the press will sit, and praying for each of the 13 committee members by name.

"We did adequately apply oil to all the seats," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, who identified himself as an evangelical Christian and as president of the National Clergy Council in Washington.

Now, Schenck is pretty out there, definitely not mainstream, but still, this is pretty hocus-pocus magic spell kinda stuff. God as my personal talisman to wave at my enemies and make the world turn out the way I want. So wrong. So very, very wrong.

Howard Dean, unapologetic

Howard Dean was on fire today. I caught him with Wolf Blitzer on the CNN talk show today, and he was outstanding. Dean may occasionally say some things I wish he wouldn't, but at the same time, he is an unapologetic Democrat. And there aren't many of those. (By the way, to his critics, he seems to be raising money hand over fist.)

The Dems need more political firebreathers. I was thinking this morning that somebody needs to go and dig out Al Sharpton and turn him loose on the scandal plagued Republicans. Again, he may say some things across the line, but Reverend Al generates scything soundbites.

Here's Dean with Blitzer. (WMV or Quicktime.)

Turn Dean loose, bring out Reverend Al, bring out the rhetorical cavalry.

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The Iraqi civil war is coming.

More Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Twelve Americans were killed when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Iraq early Sunday, the military said.......

The military also announced the deaths of five U.S. Marines in three different Iraqi towns Saturday and Sunday.

Insurgents in Falluja killed three Marines during separate gunbattles Sunday. Falluja is about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of Baghdad in restive Anbar province.

On Saturday, roadside bombs killed two Marines, one near al-Karma and another near Ferris. Both towns are near Falluja.

Later: Do you think CNN is going to devote five days of coverage to this the way they did to that horrible mining tragedy, 12 dead in each? Interviews with the grieving relatives live on screen? Comments about all the previous mistakes at the employer that may have lead to the deaths? More or less, we're discussing two horrible industrial accidents, but they will not be treated the same.

This is the success of the Bush PR offensive surrounding "patriotism" and the offensive on the media. CNN, and the other cable channels, have been cowed into silence by the repeated assaults by the Bush administration. Somehow, the reporting of deaths has been made a political issue rather than a recounting of facts.

Look, the tragedy in West Virginia was significant and I'm not attempting to minimize it. I'm trying to point out the exploitation of those poor people's tragedy by the media by showing that they were singled out for that exploitation because their story was deemed politically "safe."

These are two extreme examples of a flaw in the the way these networks conduct themselves. In West Virginia, they wrung out every bit of emotion from the relatives that they could put on the screen, live, with no real care for whether it was in their best interests or not. Just get me the footage.

In Iraq, they are going to mention the deaths as the lead in a larger Iraq story that reports a lot of things, but largely ignore them because they don't want to be accused of being "political."

It's all so messed up.

Don't quit, Tommy

A terrifying possibility revealed today in my local paper.

In the end he(Tom Delay) decided against quitting Congress because "I still have a lot to contribute to the Houston-Galveston area," he said.

I really want Delay to stay in the race, both because it will give a far better shot of a popular Nick Lampson taking his seat, and also because of the drag he will have on other races across the nation.

Delay now has a republican challenger, Steve Stockman, running as an independent.

So, if Delay is still around by November, we're looking at a probable split of the Republican vote, giving Lampson a real shot at taking this very red district in Sugarland, Tx.

And, don't worry, Delay is gonna get his when the law catches up with him.

George Bush has deep pockets

Just struck by the parallel. Not that he looks like he wants to, but George Bush Jr, may someday be unable to travel outside the US for fear of prosecution under similar statutes elsewhere.
MIAMI - A federal appeals court reinstated a $54.6 million verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals accused of torture during the civil war in their home country two decades ago....

The victims.... sued under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act. The law allows U.S. courts to assess damages against perpetrators of human rights abuses committed abroad.

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