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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bush to photo op at the NSA

If Bush stages a photo op at the NSA Wednesday, he can no longer claim that anybody is destroying national security by talking about this. Also on the schedule, Mike Hayden the head of the NSA makes a speech Monday, Al Gonzales does the same on Tuesday, and then Bush takes the tour and photo op at the "ultra-secret NSA."

My guess is that the Whitehouse has come to the belief that the strained legal justifications aren't going to hold up, so they're going to PR. If that doesn't work, they'll have to find somebody to slime. It's the only thing they've proved consistently competent at in five years in office.

I'll go back to the old saw, "if the facts are on your side argue the facts. If the facts aren't on your side, argue the law. If the law isn't on your side, pull at their heartstrings." Speeches, photo ops, they're already down to heartstrings. Rarely do you get to watch someone actually slide all the way through this scale inside a month.

Holy Crap! Pointless self indulgent blogging.

I'm not sure what to make of this, it hardly looks official, but I thinks it's saying that I've been nominated for one of the Koufax awards, some sorta new blogger category or something like that. It doesn't look very official, though. (Found it doing a link search on Technorati)

This is not a plug for votes, if this is real. I don't really care that much. But I wanted to make a specific point to thank whoever it was that nominated me. That's quite a compliment and I really appreciate it.

One of the really interesting things about blogging is you never know who, if anybody, is reading what you write. It's really very emotionally difficult to write out into the void not knowing what gets read or what falls flat. That's one of the reasons I'm a bit of a comment whore, because it gives me some sense that things are being read.

Enough navel gazing. To whomever it was, a heartfelt thankyou. --- Mike

(By the way, Libby and Neil are on the list as well.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Nepal, government forces break up a pro-democracy rally in Katmandu.

I know absolutely nothing about what's going on in Nepal. But, I want to stand with that fearless woman. - Mike

Plame Gossip - repositioning

There were a flurry of stories relating to the Plame case Friday. None of them really impact the big picture as far as I can tell, but there are a few interesting wrinkles. So, if you're not watching the Plame investigation that closely, you could probably better spend the three minutes playing with your dog or something.

I'm gonna start with the Rawstory piece which states that Fitzgerald has met with the Grand Jury at least once since the new year, and also makes the point that Plame is not the only thing on Fitzgerald's plate. So, the Rawstory statement is that Fitzgerald is still moving forward, and that a lack of visible action may not mean a cessation of the investigation.

But that's not what the Whitehouse wants to present. Rove made a very public speech to a "safe crowd" at the RNC on the topic of strategy for the 2006 elections, his first speech since Libby was indicted. Obviously this was intended to show public confidence in Rove in a friendly setting, but I wouldn't be too sure of that.

The last update/leak we got referenced Fitzgerald meeting with Rove's attorney twice in December trying to work out a plea deal. (I run through all the permutations here.) But as far as is publicly known, there has been no new evidence introduced into the case which would have changed Rove's "under investigation" status.

So, I think this public appearance by Rove is intended more as a distractionary tactic to get the press and public attention away from the other Bush failures, Iraq, NSA spying, etc. After all, Iran's nuclear program at least five years from being able to produce a bomb, and yet that was the topic changer coming out of the Alito hearings. The Bush administration is desperately trying to buy a little time by putting anything in the public space to stop the dead cat bounce in the poll numbers.

Carrol Leonnig of the WaPo buried this at the bottom of her piece on Libby's defense strategy(next) confirms Rawstory's point that Fitzgerald is busy with other cases, including Libby's, and then offers this two sided pair of leaks.

But a person close to Rove said Fitzgerald so far this year has not indicated any change in Rove's status. Rove expects to hear a final decision from Fitzgerald soon and has told friends he is optimistic that he will be cleared.

Still, another person close to Rove said it was not a good sign that Fitzgerald has not already cleared President Bush's chief political adviser. Rove, this person said, has worked under the assumption that Fitzgerald is largely finished with his investigation and, because the prosecutor is sensitive to the political liability of a possible indictment hanging over the head of Rove, would publicly clear him quickly if he did not have enough evidence to charge him.

After reading Vandehei's stories for the last five months, (he contributed to this article) it's clear to me that one of his main sources is from Rove's defense team(I would guess the first one here) and another is from Libby's defense team(probably the second.) He also has occasionally quoted a third stream of leaks which I believe to be the legal team of someone not directly implicated but involved in the case.

So, what I'm reading here is that the Rove defense team wants to put out the rosy message, and that the second source, maybe from Libby's defense team is saying not so fast. Just reflexively, because of the sourcing, I would doubt the exculpatory leaks in the Vandehei stories because they all appear to be coming from Rove's defense team.

Lastly, there were a couple of articles on Libby's defense strategy. Basically, it appears that the Libby defense team is going into stall mode by questioning the production of documents in discovery. Short version, they want all the information regarding what reporters knew about Plame's covert status.

I'll be curious to see if Judge Walton allows this at the Feb 3 hearing because it is not germane to the charges of obstruction and perjury with which Libby is charged, and could reveal vital information regarding the outing of Plame in the middle of the still ongoing investigation.

Firedoglake and Talkleft have a more technical discussion of the Libby defense, if you want to get into the specifics of the motion.

Bottom line is that Rove is trying to position himself to appear guilt free no matter what's hanging over him, probably so that the republican base won't believe the charges and Libby's defense team is trying to stall the prosecution and scare off Fitzgerald by bringing in journalists and threatening to broaden the trial to the uncharged underlying crime of outing Plame.

One thing though, as interesting as it might be to have administration officials testifying in the Libby trial, it might be just as interesting to hear Judy Miller or Bob Woodward tell their story under oath.

(Side note to the other Plame followers: Jason Leopold is on "temporary leave" from Rawstory, and as he has been the main story source, I wouldn't expect too much from them til he comes back.)

Another neocon's dark past resurfaces

I'm just offering this up as an example that the neocons came in with some pretty dirty histories behind them. You may or may not know that Paul Wolfowitz was the ambassador to Indonesia and used Suharto's crackdown to elevate Indonesia as a foreign policy issue and, in turn, his own profile as a "democracy supporter" and foreign policy expert.

If you read between the lines, this old WaPo article pretty well tells the story. He remained quiet until the abuses rose to such a level that speaking out against Suharto would raise his profile in the Reagan adminsitration circles. Or maybe I'm just a cynic.

What brings this up today? Wolfowitz made his foreign policy "bones" over the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians.
The report, key portions of which were made available to The Washington Post, also charged Indonesia with using napalm against Timorese civilians and using "starvation as a weapon of war," condemning thousands of adults and children to death in camps for displaced Timorese.

"The commission finds that the government of Indonesia and the Indonesian security forces are primarily responsible and accountable for the death of 100,000 to 180,000 East Timorese civilians who died as a result of the Indonesian military invasion and occupation," ....

The report painted a grisly portrait of Indonesian practices, describing beheadings, rapes, the sexual enslavement of Timorese women and children, and the torture of victims in the presence of their families. In some cases, torturers burned people alive and stuffed them in snake-filled sacks.

Sorry to go off, but this one always bugged me.

Picture of the Day

A soldier's photo from Iraq. (click on the photo to enlarge)

Friday, January 20, 2006


You know I hate to blog with these catchall posts, but I'm trying to catch up after being out most of the day, and some interesting stuff happened that I wanted to note.

The prosecutors in the Tom Delay case are subpoenaing more records from a defense contractor in San Diego. The company in question is owned through a corporate chain by Brent Wilkes who was one of the two bribers in the Duke Cunningham case. (Houston Chronicle version)

Truly funny since Delay is trying to take over a seat on the Defense Appropriations Committee that was vacated by the same Duke Cunningham. (Corruption is a death penalty crime in China ya know.)

Related, Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm reported $1.4 million in contributions over eighteen months from an outfit out of Hong Kong significantly named "Rose Garden Holdings." (no, Scott McClellan gave me a non-denial denail about ties between Abramoff and the administration.) But, funny thing about that, The Standard out of Hong Kong says that no such company exists.

Also related, I don't know the bonafides of this outlet, but the Washingtonian is reporting that they've seen five photos of Bush Abramoff meetings and that they weren't all at Holiday parties and one of them even included some of Abramoff's tribal clients.(Say it ain't so Scotty.)

I noted when the DoJ issued written legal arguments that they were just asking for trouble making their legal justification in a written form because thousands of lawyers who opposed the program would collectively all act to pick the argument apart. Here's a good start by fourteen imminent constitutional lawyers in a letter published in the NY Review of Books. If you're interested in the legal side of this issue, this is pretty good.

Larry Franklin, of the Franklin/AIPAC spy ring got sentenced to twelve years today for giving classified information on Iran to Weissman and Rosen of AIPAC. This sentencing does not take into account any assistance that Franklin may yet give in relation to the prosecution of of others involved in the case. Remember, this guy may also have some knowledge of the Niger forgeries. I wouldn't expect him to spill that, but it is a possibility and looking at twelve years in a federal prion has a way of focusing you.

And there was a tiny bit of Plame gossip today. Rove returned from hiding to make a political speech to the RNC, and there was a report of Fitzgerald met with the grand jury at least once since the new year.

Oh, and Libby's defense attorneys are threatening to drag tons of journalists through the witness stand at his trial. Really more of a threat and a tactic to drag the proceedings out. There's a hearing Feb. 3 which should offer a little more clarity on what Judge Walton is going to allow. Nothing earthshaking, so I'll write a little on this tomorrow, when I have more time.

An answer to the question of violence

Thanks for all the responses on the last post. Between the comments and the emails I got, I've come to the conclusion that this blog should remain "R" rated at worst. I will tell you now that I will not go far beyond what I'm doing now. The general consensus seems to be that a little blood is okay, but not gratuitous and not too much.

Probably best said by Ed in an email, "Treat it like the sitcom joke about TV nudity. I'll do nudity so long as it's not gratuitous and is central to the plot."

So, no big changes. Sometime over the weekend, I'll put up a couple of links for some of the bigger collections of some of the more gruesome pictures as a resource if some of you other bloggers want to have them. But I will warn you that I have seen a few things that I can't seem to get out of my mind, so be aware of what you're getting into. I wouldn't recommend it, but it's your decision. -- Thanks again for the help. Mike

Picture of the Day - 2 - and a question

That's his father.

I'm looking for a few opinions on the pictures of the day. Throughout my collecting, I have run across vast numbers of pictures showing, what I'll euphemistically call, the real face of the Iraq war.

It's a lot of blood. A lot of blood.

I don't want to put them up here, because I want this blog to focus more on politics and policy and I think if I put these pictures up here, it will turn off many people. (Quite frankly, I ran across a collection the other day that was so extreme that it has invaded my dreams the last couple of nights.)

So, the question is this how do I handle these photos? Do I drop links to existing collections? Do I start another blog with these grotesque images on it? What are the morals on that? Am I exploiting these people's suffering? Do I just pretend they aren't there?

I don't know what to do. I've been going back and forth on it for months with no resolution. So I'm looking for advice, thoughts, comments. If you have an opinion, it would be a great help.

(Light blogging today as real life has intruded on my preferred life. I'll probably get some stuff up tonight with the Friday document dump. - Mike)

The Bargain for Your Life

The terms of Bin Laden's "truce" are deemed not worthy of discussion by the US foreign policy establishment. How many times in the last 24 hours have I heard or read the "we don't negotiate with terrorists" line?

But I find that somewhat dishonest. To a large degree, and for a long time, the US has been setting the terms of this engagement. If you look back well before 9-11, many experts were predicting that US foreign policy and presence in the middle east could easily spill over into terror attacks within our shores.

As an example, take a look at the Nunn-Lugar program, started in 1991, designed to decommision and destroy Soviet nuclear arsenals so that the materials would not fall into hands hostile to the US, or the Hart-Rudman Commission report from 1999 which said, "Americans will likely die on American soil, possibly in large numbers."

And, quite frankly, well before the 9-11 attacks, Bin Laden himself repeatedly warned the US to remove its military presence from Islamic lands.

So, by maintaining an aggressive policy in the middle east, backed by the presence of US troops, the US national security establishment was indeed setting terms in this conflict and accepting its known risks.

Somewhere along the line, a bargain was struck, an equation was written in the US national security evaluation, that the presence of US troops in the middle east was worth some risk of blowback in the possible form of terror attacks.

In other words, a US military presence in the middle east was worth some nominal risk to your life.

Now, I don't know enough about the great long term arc of the foreign policy path we are on to make a judgement on this evaluation, but I think it's important that we recognize that a decision has been made that some fractional risk to your well being is worth being undertaken to maintain US access and control over the oil reserves of that region.

And in that, we are negotiating with the Arab world. We have set the terms for this engagement by supporting the Saudi oligarchy and Mubarak in Egypt, as well as interference in all of the smaller oil countries of that region.

Bin Laden is merely a symbol of a larger rejection of US foreign policy across the Muslim world. People, a lot of kids, in this region buy posters and wear T-shirts with Bin Laden's face on them in very large numbers. If we were to capture or kill him, another symbol of that movement would arise so long as the US maintained its current policies.

Whether that new face would be more violent or less violent, whether it would command more support or less support, whether it would be a state leader, a religious leader, or another Bin Laden, I don't know.

But the issue is not that there are a set number of terrorists who can be rounded up and defeated; the issue is that US foreign policy in the region has alienated and continues to alienate significant numbers of Muslims who, in the face of their US backed governments, have very little course of response beyond terrorism.

So, this is the current bargain, the current state of terms in our negotiations with Bin Laden, or more precisely with the disaffection out of which his supporters come. And so long as the US maintains a hard line on the terms of its engagement in the region, we will have to be willing to accept the cost.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Picture of the Day - Open Mike

"You tell Osama to stop calling me and hanging up." -or-

"Lalalalalala...I can't hear you.... lalalalalala...." -or-

"I don't care what you read in the newspaper, I will tell you what the truth is!"

(Karen Hughes from late last year when she went on tour to change Muslim hearts and minds about the US's foriegn policy. How'd that go?)

Leave your captions in the comments. Generally, y'all are funnier than I am.

Picture of the Day - 3 - The Missing Picture of Iraq

Those of you who have been around here awhile know that I am an absolute picture junkie. I search the news services for news pictures and collect them. I don't know why, I just do.

So, I wanted to take a moment to make a point about a picture that's not there right now.

Over the last couple of months, there have been a decreasing number of Iraq "action shots" in the western press. You know, the embedded photographer taking action shots of US or British forces in action.

Since the first of the year, I haven't seen any of these "action shots" off any of the wire services.

It's completely understandable, but I think that there's a powerful statement there about just how bad Iraq has become. What does it say if the "war correspondents" of the NYTimes, AP, AFP, UPI and Reuters who have worked in Liberia and the Ivory Coast, Rwanda and the Congo, Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, believe that Iraq is too dangerous for them to travel even within an escort of US forces?

Tell me again about the good news.

We don't need no stinking badges....

This is important. The protections offered under the fourth amendment are on their last legs. Two stories.

First, the whitehouse has issued a white paper explaining why their black program, NSA spying, is legal. I haven't gone through it yet or read the reviews, but this is really good news because now the legal arguments will be out there. And even if the Bush admin has the greatest lawyers in the world, which they don't, their legal argument will now be picked apart by literally tens of thousands of lawyers across the country.

I see this release as desperate by the Whitehouse, coming as it does the day before the first Dem hearings on the matter in the house. If they felt they were winning, they would have stuck to the "protecting you from terror" stonewall.

Second, the Justice Dept has issued a subpoena for a massive amount of data which may contain the searches of literally millions of people, "including a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period." Google has refused to comply.

The Justice Dept's rationale is that it wants to see how often pornography turns up in searches. (It depends on what you search for, you idiots.) This subpoena was issued last year, and with Google failing to respond, this sudden publication of the subpoenas sounds to me like an effort by Justice to limit Google's customer's behavior by threat of future subpoenas.

It strikes me as very similar to the efforts to seize all medical records of women who had abortions just before he left. They retracted the policy, but after the public furor, I would guess that it might have factored into the thinking of women.

I don't know the law well enough to really get at this, but this doesn't seem right to me.

By the way, the pornography squad in Justice was a recent creation of Gonzales while Ashcroft spearheaded the subpoenas for the medical records. I guess that's why he got the job at Pat Robertson's grad school when he left.

Don't you guys have fucking terrorists to catch? There's been this one guy on my TV all day today. Can't you leave the porn for later and do something about this shmuck?

Picture of the Day - 2

See next.

Day Traders in Frist and Delay's offices? - Rumor

This may be something, and it really may not. I'm gonna put this up, but treat this with BIG SKEPTICISM at this point.

Last night on AirAmerica radio, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D - NY) made a statement that Frist and Delay had daytraders working out of their office (not for them but out of their office) making trades based on pending votes and legislation. (.wma, mp3 - Americablog link)She claimed that the rules committee would be issuing a report in two weeks called "The Selling of America."

She also said that Newsweek "has this written up" already.

She said "the most egregious example" that with the inside knowledge "that there would be no Asbestos bill" these traders set positions to profit. Because of the way she phrases this, it sounds to me like she got a peek at a draft of a letter or of the newseek article, so her version may not be dead on.

Honestly, I find it a little hard to believe that there were daytraders physically in their offices but a looser interpretation, the idea that information was leaking is pretty plausible. I wouldn't imagine that the trail would lead to Delay or Frist, even if by some foolishness they were involved. I wouldn't rule out that there might have been corrupt staffers leaking information to "friends" or selling information.

So, right now we have a second hand report of wisps of smoke, and that's a looonngg way from a fire, so accept that this is nothing but completely unsubstantiated rumor at this point.

The thing I'm going to look for is if Newsweek rushes this story out in the next couple of days. Their scoop has been blown and, if there's anything credible enough to write about, they'll probably be rushing it out. (I don't know what day of the week they officially publish that old fashioned paper version, but that would be the last likely day. If they don't put this out before or on that day, there's probably not much there.)

UPDATE: For whatever it's worth, Rawstory now has a piece up on this. More smoke.

"Culture of Corruption" - read Crooks

I'm still waiting for somebody to drop the niceities and throw out the more politically loaded word "crooks." (where are you Al Sharpton?) But for the time being, we'll have to be satisfied with the continuing uncovering of more criminal behavior in the republican congress. (USAToday)
One day after a New York investment group raised $110,000 for Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, the House passed a defense spending bill that preserved $160 million for a Navy project critical to the firm. The man who protected the Navy money? Lewis. .....

In the opinion of Larry Noble, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, the timing of the fundraiser within days of a favorable vote "looks like influence buying." Noble is a former chief lawyer for the Federal Election Commission.....

None of the people connected to Cerberus had ever given money to either Lewis or his political action committee before the fundraiser or the vote on the bill Lewis sponsored, a USA TODAY analysis of their political contributions shows.

This guy was not some little podunk congressman; he was the chairman of the appropriations committee, a post he credits to Cerberus' donations.

Tell me you're not a crook, rep. Lewis.

(He's also tied to Brent Wilkes of "Duke" Cunningham fame. And "safe seat" Duncan Hunter's name has come up around this one, too.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Picture of the Day - Open Mike

"If there was no organ failure it's not torture, old man. Now sign it." - or -

"Remember when you said you'd do anything to be pope.... Well, the boss sent me to collect." - or -

"I can't actually touch the Constitution or I melt like that witch in the Wizard of Oz, so, would you ....."

Loving the captions in the comments; this should be a good one.

CRS says the briefings on NSA spying were illegal, too

On Jan. 6, the Congressional Research Service released a report saying that the legal justifications the administration was citing for the NSA spying did "not appear to be well grounded." Tonight, they released another report saying that the "full briefings" the administration provided Congress on the issue are "inconsistent with the law."

And just to give you an idea of how questionable the practice on briefings is, Peter Hoekstra, Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is sitting on the fence,

The spokesman, Jamal D. Ware, said that Mr. Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, believed the briefings had been adequate for Congressional oversight but that he was open to expanding them.

"The chairman is taking it under consideration and does support some expansion of the number of Intelligence Committee members who are briefed," Mr. Ware said.

In other words, I'm not saying they were doing it wrong, but I'd like to do it right.

Also interesting that they placed the "non-partisan" label as the sixth word of the article, whereas in the last one it was in the last paragraph in an attributed quote.

ALSO tonight, kudos to the Democrats' communications people. (don't say that often) The top story on the WaPo's front page in huge type is "Democrats Assail Republican 'Culture of Corruption'". Getting that "Culture of Corruption" phrase out there. Good work. (It got published with that headline on the front page.)

Medicare drug benefit.

As I was driving to pick up lunch today, I drove past a Walgreen's(drug store) with a sign that said, "We accept all Medicare Part D. Problems - we'll try to help."

How sad is that?

Look, my parent's sat down with my grandmother at a computer for over an hour and couldn't figure this thing out. Dad is an LLD, and Mom has a PhD in education.

Picture of the Day - 2

The ghost of Joe Wilson walks these halls

You can try to kill the messenger by destroying his wife, but when the message is the truth, it proves much harder to kill.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 - A high-level intelligence assessment by the Bush administration concluded in early 2002 that the sale of uranium from Niger to Iraq was "unlikely" because of a host of economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles, according to a secret memo that was recently declassified by the State Department.

Also, Joe Wilson wasn't the only one. Why haven't I heard more about this?
A four-star general, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., was also sent to Niger to investigate the claims of a uranium purchase. He, too, came away with doubts about the reliability of the report and believed Niger's yellowcake supply to be secure.

Lastly, how did this State Dept assessment not get read?

The memo, dated March 4, 2002, was distributed at senior levels by the office of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A Bush administration official, who requested anonymity because the issue involved partly classified documents, would not say whether President Bush had seen the State Department's memo before his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2003.

Under what circumstance, does a president contemplating a war not read read an assessment given to him by his Sec. State? Did Bush not read any intel? Did he not listen to anyone but Cheney and Tenet?

(Aside: Does it seem to anyone else that the decision to print the NSA spying story opened the NYTimes floodgates? Maybe that's a misimpression on my part, but it's almost like somebody at the Times changed their mind suddenly.

Did they come into some information that recast their opinion of the Bush admin's commitment to national security? Had they been threatened repeatedly and finally decided to take the consequences? Keep an eye on their pages to see how many one on one interviews there are with "high level administration officials." Let's see if it was an access threat. If so, the decision indicates that the Times thinks they can get more stories from leakers than officials.

Or maybe it's a change in culture after the firing of Judy Miller....

Irresponsible speculation. It's great to be a blogger. )

RELATED: Newsweek is asking questions about Curveball and his connections to Chalabi.

Look at the protrayal of the Abramoff - Whitehouse connections

Just thought this was funny. Look at how the AP is portraying the exchange from yesterday's press briefing. Evasive and suspect.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with President Bush's staff.

Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" at the Bush White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House.

While the tinfoil hat is out

I just want to point out this little detail in the Pakistani missile attack story that I just can't nail down.

Originally, the day of the attack and the day after, CNN, as well as several other news sources, was reporting that several of the bodies of those killed in the Pakistani attack were removed by the US for DNA testing, to see if any of them were al Zawahiri, apparently sourced to the Pentagon. (I can look up CNN transcripts if anybody wants to argue this.) I always found this a little difficult to believe. Imagine the scene, lots of local villagers coming to see what happened, and US or Pakistani Gov't personnel tring to smuggle bodies away. (Today's WaPo story obliquely mentions this.)

Today, we get a different, more Pakistani politically friendly version, that Al Qaeda personnel removed the bodies. Were the first reports, up to 24 hours later, wrong? Or is this second story planted to calm the inevitable Pakistani uproar that the US has stolen the dead?

I don't know. But somebody's lying here. Personally, I would guess that the second story is being used to tamp the outrage of the first, but the first seems so unbelievable to me.

Picture of the Day - Open Mike

"How does this sound? Vice President Obama. Wait, wait, don't answer right now. Just .. think about it." - or -

"You're doing it wrong. See, it's the Democratic congressional strategy to imitate the mighty possum, King of the Forest." - or -

"Russert said I can't go back on his show unless I bring you."

I'm really enjoying the captions y'all are leaving in the comments. I've probably got enough pictures to go through the week.

Previous entries: Cheney, Bush. I think this one's a little harder.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Get your tinfoil hat out.

Okay, maybe I'm drawing a connection that's not there, but take a look at this.

Last night, the NYTimes publishes a story with massive publicity where agents of the FBI very directly criticized the Bush administration's secret NSA spying saying that it was more widespread than previously revealed and that it was spying on almost exclusively innocent people.

Today, with no news hook and no preciptous event, the AP is featuring a story critical of the FBI (AP top ten stories) that could have been published anytime over the last month or the next. And check the tone, "FBI Missed Internal Signs of Espionage"
By the government's own account, FBI analyst Leandro Aragoncillo was spying in plain sight. He rummaged through FBI computers for intelligence reports unrelated to his work and then e-mailed the classified documents to opposition leaders in the Philippines.

He had traveled more than a dozen times to the Asian country on personal business since 2000. And records show he carried debt of at least a half-million dollars — on Marine retirement pay and an entry-level FBI salary.

But for at least seven months, the bureau that makes catching spies its No. 2 mission after fighting terrorism missed signs of espionage in its own ranks — again.

We'll never know for sure, but a major article undermining the FBI's credibility just happens to be published the day after that NYTimes article? What a coincidence!!!!!

Picture of the Day - 3

Press Briefing Tango

It reads like a pretty good press briefing today. The video will be up on the Whitehouse.gov frontpage in the evening, but I usually read it because it's faster if you don't read the McClellan patter. But I may have to check it out today, just to get the visual of this exchange. Looks like it got nasty around the NSA, but I think the real gem comes out of the discussion about Abramoff's White House contacts.

Q Another topic, if you would. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and others sent a letter to the President today regarding Abramoff, asking for the President make public any contacts that he had with Abramoff, as well as senior administration officials; and any kind of benefits or access that they may have gained from this connection. ....

Q So would the White House be open to complying with the Democrats' request to go ahead and provide that kind of information, the contacts Abramoff had with senior staff, that type of thing?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I've already indicated to you a general description of any contacts that were there.

Q Can you be more specific about the contacts with the senior staff? You said you were going to get back to us on that. Can you give us --

MR. McCLELLAN: I did check. There were a few staff-level meetings. As I indicated there were -- I think I previously indicated that he attended three Hanukkah receptions at the White House. It is actually only two Hanukkah receptions that he attended. ............

Q Who was in the staff meetings?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't get into discussing staff-level meetings.

Q Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you got something to bring to my attention, Elisabeth, I'll be glad to look into it. If you've got something specific, I'll be glad to take a look into it.

Q Did he meet with Karl Rove, for example?

MR. McCLELLAN: We don't -- we don't ever tend to get into those staff-level meetings.

I think McClellan might've swallowed a filling on that one, eh? There's a testy exchange on this topic a little further down in the briefing.

Circumstantial Ledeen

Once again, Michael Ledeen has another set of links to the Niger forgeries. Rawstory is reporting that Ledeen has previous ties to Panorama, the Italian magazine that acted as middleman on the documents.

It's looking more and more likely that Ledeen might be one of those "US citizens who advocated the invasion of Iraq" who the FBI is investigating for the Niger forgeries.

And, as always, the most comprehensive work on the Niger Forgeries has been done by eriposte at TheLeftCoaster.

Picture of the Day - 2

With the NSA spying story getting very serious, how much longer until Bush pulls Karen Hughes out of the deepfreeze?

(Aside: For a "media guru" she gives some of the best/worst photos out there.)

Spying on innocent people (Reprint from last night)

I think this BIG NYTimes story tonight affirms that the US gov't was illegally spying on innocent people. No Al Qaeda connections, no more defense. I haven't said it before, but if this evidence is true, it may be time to really significantly discuss impeachment.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.

But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of foreign-related phone and Internet traffic.

Normally, I aim for a nuanced analysis, but this is black and white. This is spying on innocent citizens without a warrant and without enough justification to get a warrant. This is a crime.

UPDATE: The ACLU and the CRR are suing over the NSA spying. The defendants are mainly lawyers who have defended terror clients. Even without evidence they were specifically spied on, I think they have pretty good standing because of the likelihood from the public descriptions of the program.

In his WaPo Medianotes blog/column, Howard Kurtz puts it succinctly:

Translation: They spied like crazy, ignored the rules and still came up empty.

The Fear is Back!!!!!

I think the Bush admin is back to it's old fearmongering self. Despite the fact that every estimate I've seen puts Iran 5 years from workable nuclear weapons, they're gonna getcha. Bombing Pakistan to try and get Al Zawahiri, space terrorists, AlQaeda giving you AIDS, and now this interview out of the blue saying that a biological attack could come at any time and kill us all.

Dear Mr. Bush, If you have effective policy, you don't have to scare people.

Cheney to Mid East, Rice to Liberia

I feel the need to say this again. After Sharon's stroke and its possible implications for the Arab Israeli conflict, after the upping of the ante in the Iran crisis, with the results of the Iraq election in a more and more controversial limbo, what statement is the Bush admin making about their current policy outlook and the relative status of Secretary of State Rice?

Cheney is travelling to Egypt and Saudi to discuss these issues plus Syria-Lebanon.

Condi Rice was sent on a "wive's trip" with Laura Bush to witness the inauguration of new Liberian President Sirleaf.

How much further could they cut Rice's credibility? If I'm a foreign leader, who am I gonna call when I need to talk about a crisis?

And then, to top it off, all the interviews press and quotes from the Liberia trip are from Laura Bush. (who has a wonderful statement about Jenna being involved in charter schools. Sounds like my mom when she's embarassed about what I'm doing now.)

Losing ground

Great Knight Ridder piece. "Islamists gain ground from American push for Mideast Democracy."
"Freedom is crawling — over broken glass," said a State Department official, scaling back the president's frequent contention that "freedom is on the march." The official requested anonymity in order to speak more frankly.

Picture of the Day - Open Mike

Nuclear. Not Nukular, Nuclear. -or-

Let me put you on hold a sec, God, I've got another call. -or-

These Republicans aren't the droids you're looking for.

C'mon folks, you're funnier than I am at this stuff. Your Cheney captions were hysterical. Give me something good in the comments. It's an open mike.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Spying on MLK, spying on us all

LATimes has a good piece on Hoover spying on Martin Luther King titled "The Perils of Unchecked Power. (By Nicholas deB. Katzenbach... (who) was appointed attorney general by President Johnson in February 1965 and served until October 1966.)
In October 1963, Hoover requested Atty. Gen. Kennedy to approve a wiretap on King's telephone. At that time, taps had to be approved by the attorney general and did not require court approval in the form of a warrant. The basis for the tap was King's close association with Stanley Levison, who Hoover said was a prominent member of the Communist Party with great influence over King in civil rights matters. .....

But what we didn't know during this period was that Hoover was doing a lot more than tapping King's phones. As King's criticism of the FBI continued, and as Hoover became more and more convinced there must be communist influence even though no evidence ever materialized, he determined to discredit and destroy King. He went further, putting bugs in King's hotel bedrooms across the country.....

The FBI recorded tapes of King conducting extramarital affairs — and later had the tapes mailed to King anonymously, in one case actually encouraging him to commit suicide. Tapes were played for journalists, and the FBI sought to discredit King with foreign leaders, religious leaders, White House personnel and members of Congress. The bureau tried to kill a favorable magazine profile and encouraged one university to withhold an honorary degree.....

Today we are again engaged in a debate over wiretapping for reasons of national security — the same kind of justification Hoover offered when he wanted to spy on King. The problem, then as now, is not the invasion of privacy, although that can be a difficulty. But it fades in significance to the claim of unfettered authority in the name of "national security." There may be good and sufficient reasons for invasions of privacy. But those reasons cannot and should not be kept secret by those charged with enforcing the law. No one should have such power, and in our constitutional system of checks and balances, no one legitimately does.

Forcing the executive to explain its reasons for intrusive law enforcement is essential to maintaining not just privacy but freedom itself.....

Our freedom is too precious, and too much blood has been shed to preserve it, to entrust it to a single person, however sincere and however well intentioned.

According to the current state of the "enemy combatant" judicial reviews, the president has sole authority to determine the targets of his unitary presidential powers.

Don't poke the dragon.

The politics around the Iran referral to the Security Council are proving as interesting as predicted. Earlier today, a joint statement was agreed upon which condemned the Iranian nuclear program, but did not call for referral with reports of both Russia and China expressing reservations. But by nightfall in London, the story had changed.

The EU3 are now writing a proposal for referral, and the Russians appear to have come on board, at least to some degree. But, this brings up an interesting scenario down the road.

Although they have used their veto in the past, the Chinese absolutely hate being the lone veto vote on Security Council actions. They see a veto as a failure of politics to come to some arrangement before hand, although they will frequently allow negotiations towards an abstention. (like the Iraq resolution.)

Also, there was that bizarre trip that new German Chancellor Merkel took Washington to Moscow, from Bush to Putin. It appears that the US and the Euros are trying to trap China into an isolated position. I think pressing the outward passivity of China is a bad idea. They have taken the long view on geopolitcs as their economic position and influence is strengthening year by year, and I fear isolating them and forcing them towards confrontation just might wake the dragon.

Picture of the Day - 3

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do.....

Sweet home Alabama

Picture of the Day - 2

No paean to MLK. I do greatly respect what he accomplished through non-violence, but I thought his words would be far better than mine. (Text/Audio/Some Video)

"I Have a Dream"

"Beyond Vietnam - A Time to Break Silence"

"I've Been to the Mountaintop"

Quickhits - Bloggered

Blogger is running impossibly slow, so I'm just going to throw a whole bunch of quickies here.

Bachelet, a socialist, has taken the presidency of another South American country, Chile, which is telling because Chile has been one of the biggest supporters of free trade agreements with the US in the last decade or so.

The US, Russia, and China are meeting today to discuss Iran, but I wouldn't expect much as China is unlikely to accept sanctions on their oil supply, Russia appears to be on the fence. Don't put China on the spot for a Security Council vote, they don't respond well to that kind of pressure/embarassment. Interesting to see how this will be spun into a "win."

Related, I find it very interesting that German Chancellor Merkl's travels took her from Washington to Russia inside a week. Bush praised her endlessly, now she's in Russia praising a Russo-German bond that takes the breath away. Bush butters her up, she flies to Russia to butter Putin up. Any guesses on what message she's carrying?

Cheney goes to Saudi and Egypt to work on terrorism and the Israel Palestinian issue, while Condi Rice is sent to Liberia. It's good having a strong and respected Secretary of State, isn't it?

Iran ups the threats on oil supplies I noted yesterday.

Also, Shell is evacuating hundreds of workers from Nigeria in the face of growing violence. So, fill up the car today.

I hope Bob Ney finds stripes slimming. MSNBC has a story of Ney accepting "contributions" to get sanctions against Iran loosened; Time has a story on Ney accepting 10K for helping in the SunCruz deal. And just like Delay a year ago, Ney has been asked to temporarily step down from his committee chairmanship.

A great piece on Ralph Reed in the WaPo. "After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God," said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. "We are righteously casting him out." There're more quote like this.

And polls are showing that Iraq has become the number one issue to Americans. "The war is a problem that fouls up what we need to do in the world," said Peter Palys, a lawyer from Wheaton, Ill. "My feelings about Iraq have solidified over the last six months. ... We can't stay; we can't leave, and we can't win. Our success or failure is not in our hands."

That's why Murtha's prediction, that US troops will be substantially out of Iraq has merit.

And, lastly, take note of this. A US helicopter was apparently shot down by a missile in Iraq. (third copter down, second probably shot down this month.) Too early to know what sort of missile, but keep in mind that the turning point for the Russians in Afghanistan was when the US shipped all those Stinger hand held SAMS to the "Islamic resistance" now known as Al Qaeda. If the insurgents now have semi modern SAMS, the US forces lose a lot of their air cover and mobility. If a unit gets pinned down, the response will have to be far more cautious, read slow. No solid evidence yet, but very worrying.

(Sorry for this format, I really hate doing these catchall posts, but with blogger up and down this morning, I thought this was the best way to go. ---- Mike)

Picture of the Day

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A little from a speech by Ahmadinejad

I don't know why, I just found this interesting. Perhaps the veiled threat to impact the oil supplies, perhaps the vague threat in the second paragraph.
Addressing a rare press conference in Tehran, he appeared to issue thinly veiled threats against Western countries, implying that they could face serious consequences unless they backed down. 'You need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation,' Ahmadinejad said. 'Why are you putting on airs? You don't have that might.'

Reminding the West that it had supported the monarchical regime of the former Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi - overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution - he went on: 'Those same powers have done their utmost to oppress us, but this nation, because of its dignity, has forgiven them to a large extent. But if they persist with their present stance, maybe the day will come when the Iranian nation will reconsider.' He added: 'If they want to deny us our rights, we have ways to secure those rights.'

By the way, it appears that, at least temporarily, the Bush administration succeeded. People are talking about Alito and Iran, not Abramoff and Iraq. And NSA spying, that's so 2005. But it looks like Abramoff will be back in the spring as the staffers are all indicted, and unfortunately, Iraq will flare up again very shortly.

And, on the NSA spying, Specter whose judiciary committee will be holding the hearings early Feb,(oh, boy, more Biden and Hatch,) spoke of impeachment today if Bush broke the law. Not too likely, but that should sufficiently fracture the Republicans before the hearings with Al Gonzales.

So, at the same time the topic was changed, the Bush poll numbers staggered back down below 40%.

Picture of the Day - 2

Apparently, he deserves that medal. Because in interview after interview this weekend, he has said he did nothing wrong the whole time he was in charge of Iraq.

And no one challenged him.

Taste the Relativism. Mmmmmm....

I found this Telegraph piece off of Drudge who phrased it breathlessly, "Says country must prepare for return of Islamic 'messiah.'"
But listen carefully to the utterances of Mr Ahmadinejad - recently described by President George W Bush as an "odd man" - and there is another dimension, a religious messianism that, some suspect, is giving the Iranian leader a dangerous sense of divine mission. ......

The most remarkable aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's piety is his devotion to the Hidden Imam, the Messiah-like figure of Shia Islam, and the president's belief that his government must prepare the country for his return.

Anybody else get the cultural bigotry. (BBC)
President George W Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

I didn't want to play "hunt the Bush quote" this morning, but I think you get the idea.

Believing in a Christian God, good, noble, a necessary part of an upstanding man. Believing in an Islamic God, just plain crazy. Thinking God talks to you, okay, acceptable. Thinking that you are doing the work of Allah marks you as a madman. Believing in a second coming of Jesus makes you a faithful Christian and a hero to millions; Believing the same of Allah, makes you the biggest threat in the world today.

Our God good, your god bad. We bomb you now.

Picture of the Day - 1.3 Billion Muslims

Pakistani tribesmen gather to protest against an airstrike in Damadola, 200 km (123 miles) northwest of Islamabad, January 14, 2006. (Reuters)

Think about how different our position would be if the US had captured Bin Laden at Tora Bora and not invaded Iraq.

There's a reason the neoconservatives were in the foreign policy wilderness before Cheney and Rumsfeld brought them in to form their "cabal."

Accepting Dick Cheney as VP and trusting him to lead the transition team may have been Bush's biggest mistake. Almost every problem beyond the economic stems from that trust in Dick Cheney.

ALSO: There are very public calls for Musharraf's resignation from the right which is a pretty big deal considering the dictatorship that is Pakistan.

In college, I knew a number of kids from wealthy Pakistani families. My sense is that they would be against this, but I don't have any real feel for the depth of the calls against Musharraf. As usual, the press is portraying 150 million Pakistanis as all believing the same thing, but I have a sense that it is much more like Venezuela where there was a substantial minority of the wealthy, successful, and urban who supported the US politicians. From what I've read, support for the Islamic parties appears to be a majority, but I just don't have any sense of how broad that support really is.

Lampson is leading Delay!!!!

This is just a poll and it is way out in front of the reality of the election, but knowing the deep red politcal leanings of the folks down in Sugarland, this is still a bit of a story. Now, accept that Stockman, a republican running as an independent is draining the Delay vote, and that most of the undecideds would probably break Republican, this is still something. But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, political novice Richard "Dick" Morrison pushed Delay from the democratic side in 2004.
In polling conducted Tuesday through Thursday, 22 percent of respondents said they would vote for DeLay, 30 percent chose Lampson and 11 percent favored Republican-turned-independent former congressman Steve Stockman.

And let me just throw in my plug, Lampson's a good guy, a former Dem congressman who was redistricted out of office by Delay. He's no novice, he's won a number of elections.

As example, let me offer this quote from the same article. "Lampson's campaign manager, Mike Malaise, said the poll suggests that "people in the district want a congressman who will make headlines for the right reasons." Hah!