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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Something for a lazy Saturday.

Huffington Post is running some sort of contest called the Contagious Festival which has videos, graphics, and blog entries. Of the ones I browsed, most were not worth the time, but....

Here's one that I found really funny.

And this may be the best collection of Iraq photos I've ever seen. Unfortunately it's Flash so I can't lift them, but it's amazing, so take a look.

Permanent bases in Iraq

RAMADI, Iraq -- A U.S. Navy construction battalion fresh from Hurricane Katrina relief duty is battling the elements and daily insurgent attacks to build permanent bases in the dangerous Anbar province. (Wash Times - So customary Moonie advisory applies)

And, in case you aren't aware, Anbar province, where the "Navy construction battalion" is building these bases is nowhere near any body of water. It's the Western Desert region which borders Syria and Jordan.

(And there's been a whole lot of new Plame information over the last 24 hours. I'll probably have time to sit down and sort through it tonight or tomorrow. None of it's urgent stuff, but the circle around Cheney appears to be tighter than previously thought.)

Your government, your friend

In the "creepy, get the government out of my life" category, ...... the nominees are:

The Army's "How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk" program, also called "P.I.C.K. a Partner," for Premarital Interpersonal Choices and Knowledge. Basically, this is a program to "help" soldiers find mates who are more accomodating to the military lifestyle, long deployments, "life altering injuries," and this PTSD euphemism,

"Many come back better people, others worse-off — but either way, very changed from who they were when they wed."

It's filled with useless acronyms, cheesy oversimplicity, and, of course, it was created by an ex-evangelical minister and is pushed by protestant chaplains.

The second nominee is the DHS's new mascot Scaredy Cat who is intended to put a child friendly face on disaster preparedness. Not too bad of an idea until you read some of the literature. Scaredy Cat tells 8-12 year olds everything they might need to know about preparing for disaster with a crossword puzzle and other fun things to help the kids learn how to prepare for life on a charred, post-apocalyptic hellscape. It's fun!!

As a third nominee, I'm gonna reach back three weeks to nominate the Pentagon's utilization of "laugh consultants" to help take the stress out of the war in Iraq. "The guiding principle is to laugh for no reason. And that's one of the reasons it works so well for military families," Scott says. "There's a lot they have to be stressed over, a lot of worries, a lot of concerns."

They're all pretty messed up to me, so take your pick.

Picture of the Day - 2

Boehner's first act

So, Boehner's first act as House Majority Leader is to put the brakes on lobbying reform? And earmark reform? And privately funded trips? (WaPo A04)

Boehner blames the lobbyists, and Blunt blames the press for the problems of Republican corruption. Priceless.

In other words, the Republicans are going to continue their crooked dance so that they can keep that sweet, sweet money flowing in. Memo to Democrats: I know you may need some help, but this is what is commonly referred to as "an opening."

Halliburton hired to build 'the camps'

I don't know why this jumped out at me, but,
KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space, company executives said.

Maybe it's the implied intention to start rounding up large numbers of people for deportation. Maybe it grabbed my eye as a sign of coming trouble in the terror/Katrina aftermath. Maybe it's just the idea of my government building large scale "detention centers." (The NYTimes' description)

Rummy for politics

Okay, this is all just too much out of the blue. After yesterday's post listing all the many controversial statements by Rumsfeld since the Sotu, and now more this morning, this has to be intentional.

Somebody must have gone to Rumsfeld and said, "Don, we need you to make some headlines . We don't like the news that's currently out there, so go and bump some of that off the front page."

From Munich:

"Any argument that Iraq might have been a trigger (for terrorism) is inconsistent with the facts," he said.....

He described Iran, ..... as the worst sponsor of terrorism on the planet.
"The Iranian regime is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism," he said in prepared remarks. "The world does not want, and must work together to prevent, a nuclear Iran." ....

"They(terrorists) seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent," he said. "They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist Islamic empire."

My point is, that prior to this week, when was the last time Rumsfeld was allowed by the administration to say anything? And now, suddenly, all this, conveniently following the tepid reception of the Sotu.

(by the way, has anybody else noticed how little coverage there has been of Bush's 4 city speech tour following the Sotu?)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

We need a ......... strategy. I can't exactly think of the word for it. A "getting out" strategy? An "egress" strategy?

Can somebody help me out on this one?

Rumsfeld's world - Rummy off the leash

Somebody let Rumsfeld off the leash.

Thursday at the National Press Club, he said that the war on terror
"could be a generational conflict akin to the Cold War, the kind of struggle that might last decades as allies work to root out terrorists across the globe and battle extremists who want to rule the world." 20 years, he said. Then he "likened al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin" (SF Chronicle for both)

At the same appearance, he also said, (Fox News)

"we've seen some populist leadership appealing to masses of people in those countries. And elections like Evo Morales in Bolivia take place that clearly are worrisome."

"I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money," Rumsfeld added. "He's a person who was elected legally — just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally — and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others."

(by the way, do you see what he did there? He used the commutative property from my fifth grade math class. If Osama Bin Laden= Hitler, and Hugo Chavez=Hitler, then Hugo Chavez= Osama Bin Laden. Cute, huh?)

Also, at a press briefing, Rumsfeld had the balls to say about a war longer than either of the world wars, "
Mr. Rumsfeld was asked by reporters at the Pentagon, "Is Iraq going to be a long war?" Mr. Rumsfeld answered, "No, I don't believe it is." (Washington Times)

Then we've got these two:
WASHINGTON — America has made progress in the War on Terror, but the threat today may be greater than ever before because the available weapons are far more dangerous (FoxNews, National Press Club)

And: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Wednesday the Pentagon had not done a good job in the information war against enemies like al Qaeda, saying U.S. personnel felt constrained partly due to fear of criticism in the media....

"And they (defense personnel) say, oh my goodness, if you do anything in that area, you get penalized because there's bad press, there's bad news, someone doesn't like it, there's a congressional hearing, the newspaper has it on the front page because it's about the media and the media likes to write about the media," Rumsfeld said.

"And our people are chilled and reticent and uncomfortable," Rumsfeld added.

Do you see that connection? We've failed to make you more safe, but it's the fault of the media for "constraining" the Pentagon by reporting illegal activities. Sweet, Don.

Lastly, let's end with this gem.

Rumsfeld seemed to suggest that hidden weapons of mass destruction might still turn up in Iraq.

"So I don't know what we'll find in the months and years ahead. It could be anything," Rumsfeld said.

I don't know, I just kept running across a bunch of weird headlines on Rumsfeld, and I thought I ought to put them all in one place.

Oh, and we're pulling troops out of Kosovo and Korea.

How big a nerd are you?

Pacifica Radio network will be covering the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the warrantless NSA DOMESTIC spying live on Monday. Pacifica is only in 5 or 7 cities or something, but I'm sure their respective internet sites will be carrying it.

Links: Pacifica - scroll down on the left side to find links for WBAI or KPFA. My local said they're going to be carrying it at kpfti.org.

(And, by the way, you can download DemocracyNow in MP3, as well as other shows, off the Pacifica website. I like to put them on the MP3 player while I walk the dog or drive around town.)

And these hearings might be worth listening to, considering the Head of the FBI, Robert Mueller told Congress yesterday that four years of these warrantless taps has not lead to one Al Qaeda.

Plame Gossip

Libby's trial date is set for Jan '06, well after the midterm elections. The original proposed date was in Sept, but Libby's lawyer had another trial scheduled. From what I've read about Judge Reggie Walton, I doubt his setting of this date is political in any way. Thus far, he seems like a straight shooter.

Also, I've seen this allegation in two places, Firedoglake and Rawstory, but I don't see the ironclad connection here. Murray Waas reported yesterday on a classified memo that Cheney and Libby were "personally informed" that the African Uranium claims were false. Certainly, I see how that gives some meat to the bones of the conspiracy theory of the Plame crime, but I don't see how it really provides any new proof that such a conspiracy took place.

I firmly believe that Plame was outed as part of a coordinated conspiracy involving Cheney, but other than enhancing motive, I don't see any new concrete evidence there. But, if Fitzgerald was in possession of this memo, it certainly would indicate conspiracy to him.

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Judge Reggie Walton. Presiding judge in the Libby criminal trial.

"Addicted to Oil"

Did anyone else notice that Bush stuttered slightly when uttering the "addicted to oil" line? I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere, so I thought I'd ask.

Did anybody else see hesitation in that line? Almost as if he regretted it before he said it? As if it was difficult to deliver?

Just curious.

More dirt to come on Delay

Just a quickie. Ronnie Earle has issued supoenas "seeking bank records for the Texas Republican Party" from Aug 2002 through Jan 2003.

How many Delay skeletons are there in five months' records?


The early pictures being painted of Boehner are not flattering.(NYTimes 3rd and 4th paragraph)
(Boehner) who represents change — even if his track record has not always embodied it.

Easygoing and well liked, with a perpetual tan, a low golf handicap and an ever-present Barclay cigarette between his fingers, Mr. Boehner, 56, looks like a throwback to the 1950's — Dean Martin comes to Congress.

(LATimes paragraphs 1 and 2)
WASHINGTON — Rep. John A. Boehner, with his ever-present cigarette, seems like a throwback to the days of Capitol Hill's smoke-filled rooms.

He is hip-deep in political contributions from an industry he oversees. He was once scolded for passing out campaign checks from tobacco interests on the House floor. He was booted from a leadership post eight years ago.

(WaPo smoky office in 2nd para, this in the 6th page A01)
Boehner, who has extensive links to lobbyists, hardly represents a radical break from the past.

(WaPo different article page A05)
But Boehner has had his share of taint. He handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor in 1995 while lawmakers were weighing tobacco subsidies. In 2004, he allowed Sallie Mae to throw him a fundraiser while the student lending outfit was lobbying his committee. And he is a frequent flier on trips paid for by special interests.

It doesn't look like the press is going to be too kind to Mr. Boehner. No "fresh start" stories, no "reshaping the Republican House" stories. They all focus on his backroom maneuvering to get the job, and they all imply a history of corruption.

And they all mention his smoking and the "handing out tobacco checks on the house floor."

Regardless of the truth of Boehner's history, I find it fairly surprising that they're going after him on his first day. This may be a tremendous failure for the GOP House, trading "current scandal" Blunt for "past scandal" Boehner. This is their reformer.

ALSO, from three weeks ago, take note of this story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about Boehner's questionable ties to Sallie Mae. If the Dems don't make hay on this.....

Picture of the Day

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Bush has asked for more money for Iraq/Afghanistan pushing the total bill up " toward a staggering half-trillion dollars..... More money will likely be needed in 2007.(AP)" Straight math tells me that $1,666 in debt for each and every one of us. You wanna half the deficit, stop the war.

Murray Waas is reporting from a classified memo, that Cheney and Libby "were personally informed" that the African Uranium claims were false well before they went after Joe Wilson. I guess lies are to be more closely guarded than identities of covert agents.

And there's another British memo stating that Bush was set on war despite reality. "Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme." (The Guardian) (Channel 4 has some interesting tidbits on this as well.)

And ya'll told me to watch Feingold... I gotta give him points for this. (NYTimes)

In one pointed exchange, Senator Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, a Democrat, asked Mr. Negroponte whether there were any other intelligence programs that had not been revealed to the full intelligence committees.

The intelligence chief hesitated, then replied, "Senator, I don't know if I can answer that in open session."

The logic of this astounds me

(Wash Times - so customary Moonie alert.)
Despite statements by senior al Qaeda leaders, U.S. intelligence agencies do not have information indicating the group is ready to conduct a major attack, U.S. counterterrorism officials said.

This article then goes on to say that obviously since we don't know of any attacks pending, Al Qaeda's threats must be propaganda.

Talk about propaganda. No warning in Madrid, no warning in London, or Bali, or Jordan..... The fact that you don't know about anything worries me all the more because that could mean that it's not just some crazy locals who are caught up in the jihadi fervor, it's somebody who actually might know what they're doing. And the terrorist 'A' team would likely get the most resources.

So quit telling me that since you don't know anything that means that I'm safe. All you're really telling me is that you don't know anything. And I think that tells me I'm less safe.

Does anybody else see the irony here?

John Boehner was elected House Majority leader. Surprising, but that's not why I'm posting. Check this out from Roll Call.

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Iraq. A man held during a search.

(The wire service photographers seem to be going back out with US patrols.)

Plame Gossip

Reddhead at Firedoglake has an excellent, if very long, post on the Fitzgerald letter this morning, which spots something I didn't see which could offer some interesting new angles in this "ongoing investigation."

"We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time Magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson's wife. Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11." (PDF link because that's the only one I can find to the letter.)

So, the Africa trip is back in play. And, interestingly to me, this conversation took place the day before the "air force two conversation" mentioned in the indictment, where Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane what LIBBY should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper."

Also, notice the plural "government officials." To me this indicates the investigation is indeed looking at a coordinated effort, a conspiracy if you prefer.

Reddhead sees a cooperating witness in this, and, I agree with that analysis. It seems to be new information, so probably a new witness. Could this explain why the main investigation has gone quiet after the discussions of a Rove plea deal? Could this be why Rove suddenly started reappearing in public recently?

And if a Rove deal did go down, I am quite sure that Rove had to supply information on more than just Libby. Who, or what other crimes, would Fitzgerald deal Rove for? Maybe somebody higher up, maybe somebody guilty of more serious crimes, maybe more defendants? No telling.

But keep your eyes open, this investigation may soon be far more "ongoing."

Reverse Robin Hood

I can't really find the words to write this one, so, just look at these two articles side by side. (Today)
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The House of Representatives has narrowly approved a budget bill slashing some 39 billion dollars over five years from federal pay-outs to the elderly, indigent and students.......

"I'm proud that House Republicans have delivered our constituents a bill that not only has important savings, but will also make the federal government more efficient and effective," he said. (Denny Hastert)

April 22, 2005
Washington -- The House approved an energy bill Thursday that will provide billions of dollars in tax breaks to boost domestic energy production, over the objections of lawmakers who called the measure a costly giveaway to the energy industry.

Also, did anybody notice that in Bush's "addicted to oil" Sotu, that neither he nor anyone else mentioned raising the CAFE(mileage requirements on cars)?

Later: Oh, and I've got to add this one. Yesterday in Nashville.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - President Bush defended the huge profits of Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) Wednesday, saying they are simply the result of the marketplace and that consumers socked with soaring energy costs should not expect price breaks.

But Exxon should expect tax breaks?

Picture of the Day

Welcome home, soldier.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush changes State of the Union comments after a threat from OPEC

I mean, c'mon, this was delivered in the State of the Union Speech less than 24 hours ago,
WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

This is bad enough, but the truly frightening thing is not that this happened, but why this happened. Hours earlier, I ran across this in the Financial Times.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Wednesday warned that President George W. Bush’s proposal to reduce US dependence on Middle Eastern oil could badly jeopardise needed investment in Gulf oil production and refining capacity.

You mean to tell me that Mr. Super Commander in Chief, fearless warrior, crapped his pants, because the Nigerian President made a veiled threat through OPEC?

Great headline

I just loved this headline. (AP)

Bush Urges Confidence in His Leadership

Funny in so many ways. Look quick, cause I'll bet it gets changed soon.

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The weather sure changes quick around here, eh, Mr. Delay?

Now, that his indictment looks more likely, he has been marginalized in the House, and because of his stigma he can no longer really help anybody who gives him money, a funny thing has happened.

Tom Delay can't raise money anymore. His legal defense fund is deep in the red.

How funny is that?

Maybe Chris Matthews will make a donation.

Plame Gossip

There were a couple stories late yesterday on the Libby team fishing in the deep waters trying to get classified materials regarding Plame's undercover status(WaPo version here.) As I read somewhere else, I think this question of whether the CIA thought Plame was undercover was pretty much resolved as they were the ones who referred the outing to the Justice dept in the first place. If she wasn't NOC, the CIA wouldn't have referred the case. Duh!

But the interesting item today, came out of the NYDaily News, last paragraph.
Fitzgerald, who is fighting Libby's request, said in a letter to Libby's lawyers that many e-mails from Cheney's office at the time of the Plame leak in 2003 have been deleted contrary to White House policy.

Don't really know what this means, but it's the first official(?) mention of electronic shredding of documents. And, as we all know, the shredder doesn't hide innocence.

Josh Marshall has it with Fitzgerald phrasing it like this(I haven't seen the letter yet.)
"we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

Just curious at this point. Atrios goes back to the original 12 hour delay by Gonzales and Card between their notification of the investigation and their freeze on all documents. 12 hours is alot of time to shred in this electronic age.

(Oh, and I left this off this post earlier. I think we're entering "conspiracy," I prefer "criminal conspiracy," territory here. Because the shredding of these emails had to involve at least two parties. Either Gonzales or Card telling someone, and then that someone or someones going around scrubbing the records.)

Rawstory has the letter(pdf), and it's a broad slap down of the information requests by the Libby defense. The only part that relates to the "missing emails" is the excerpt I have above.

The most important question on NSA spying.

I posed this question two weeks ago as a curiousity, but I still think it may be the most revealing as to the nature and intent of the program if we ever get an answer.
Who was the requestor for the NSA eavesdropping?

In other words, what person or agency submitted a prospective target to the NSA and under what circumstances and methods did they come to determine that that individual should be tapped? And then, how did that information get back to them? For instance, was the NSA used as a cutout for the Department of Defense who is legally precluded from this sort of information collection?

There have been previous oblique mentions that some of the information obtained through the warrantless wiretapping was shared fairly widely among the different government agencies, reports of direct leads given to the FBI, and, more troublingly to me, some mentions that some of this illegally obtained information was given to the Defense dept. (Note: the NSA is under DoD in the governmental structural tree.)

I mention all this because Congressional Quarterly has a story on what I think is a rather significant memo written by the Army's top Intel officer in 2001 (post 9-11) which claims
"Not only that, military intelligence agencies are permitted to “receive” domestic intelligence information, even though they cannot legally “collect” it.” ....

“Remember, merely receiving information does not constitute ‘collection’ under AR [Army Regulation] 381-10; collection entails receiving ‘for use,’ ” he added.

Maybe something, maybe nothing. But, in the wake of the Talon database collecting info on antiwar protestors, it seems to further indicate that the US military may be involved in other questionable intelligence "receiving" activities.

I may not have described this adequately, so, if you're interested, read the CQ article and the short memo (2 page - .pdf) and see what you read there. To me, I'm seeing a bit of a justification for pushing the legal limits which bind military intel collection in the US. But, I can't say whether this specifically indicates an answer to the question above.

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What a different world it would be....

Every once in a while, I get that flash.

And, I haven't heard any rumblings about Gore running in 2008, but I think he could be a very strong candidate, assuming he has learned how not to talk to me like I have an eigth grade education and will never again utter the phrase "lock box."

Just on a passing thought, I like a Gore candidacy more than any of the others I've heard mentioned. (although I am intrigued by the "Draft Oprah" movement. I know, I know.)

UPDATE: Wow. The unanimous consensus among the commenters is that I should be looking at/talking about Feingold. I promise I will keep my eyes open.

"We are winning." (Republican applause)

Slowly, the radius of control has shrunk in Iraq. The thing to take note of here, beyond the echoes of so many other similar incidents, is that this took place inside the "secure" Green Zone in Bagdhad.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. troops in Iraq fired warning shots at the Canadian envoy's car on Tuesday after his convoy failed to slow down while approaching an American military convoy, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. ......

"The Canadian ambassador's vehicle did sustain damage yesterday from U.S. military gunfire," said the statement.

Elsewhere, (AP)
The lack of Iraqi troops has complicated not only the operation in Bidimnah early Sunday, but also the broader mission here in Anbar province.

American commanders said an entire Iraqi brigade, about 2,500 troops, has taken over parts of the nearby city of Khaldiyah and an adjacent agrarian area from U.S. troops. But U.S. military advisers who mentor the Iraqi unit said just over half those assigned Iraqi soldiers were actually present.

The Iraqi brigade already was short several hundred soldiers before they deployed to Anbar province from the northern city of Mosul, the advisers said, and about 500 more deserted when they arrived in late August and faced their first insurgent attacks.

But... But.... Last night, Bush said "we are winning" to thunderous applause from the Republicans.

If the Sotu was on Broadway.....

If the Bush's State of the Union speech was on Broadway, it would be closed in a week based on the critic's early reviews.

The NYTimes has a chart of certain words used in Bush's Sotu's throughout the years, "terror" "healthcare," "oil," etc. Kinda interesting. Maybe the best part is the collection of pictures of Bush through the years across the top.

And just short of calling Bush a failed president, David Sanger's "News Analysis" of the speech is worth a read. And the WaPo's analysis isn't much better. Or the USAToday's... Or the LATimes'

Maybe I'm missing something, but I'm going to go ahead and officially call it.

At 10:15 Eastern last night, the emperor, officially, had no clothes...... Quack, Quack.

(And, here's the AP fact check piece, pretty harsh as well. Gonna link off FoxNews solely for the irony.)

Picture of the Day

The deal still stands, right?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Okay, a little more rational now.

Feeling a little better now that the Dems have released some grownup responses.

John Kerry: "President Bush tonight described a very different state of our union than the one most Americans live with every day. In fact, he described a fantasyland....

President Bush uses national security as a political weapon while day by day we become less secure. We’re bogged down in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction while Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, North Korea has quadrupled its nuclear weapons, Iran is closer to nuclear weapons, and Hamas has come to power. Our brave men and women in uniform deserve presidential leadership equal to their sacrifice. Americans deserve the truth. President Bush needs to stop retreating from reality. We can’t afford leadership that still cuts and runs from the truth."

Harry Reid:
"As Americans, we are hopeful about our future, but the reality is our future is threatened by leadership that puts special interests, not families, first.....

Finally, there’s no honor in going around the law. The President has the authority to wiretap any calls from al Qaeda....."

Feeling a little better, so just going to throw some quick notes on the speech before I head off to bed.

First, what was with the ties on the rostrum? Red, blue, red? Are they an acapella group now?

Did anyone notice the weird and smasmodic blinking after the "never surrender to evil" line. The most forceful line in the speech.

And credit to the speechwriters for sticking clause that would draw applause from both sides at the end of controversial passages. I have a plan for victory and we all support our troops.

And the religious imagery was all over the place. That one and the goal of "delivering the oppressed."

Interesting descriptor used twice regarding Iraqi forces. They are "increasing." A positive word and yet without any real measure or level of success.

Then there was the "isolationism" strawman. Who exactly is saying that the US should pull back to within it's borders and not trade with the world?

And Saudi is a democracy? And Egypt held fair elections?

He's gonna cut the deficit in half by 2009, the first year he's out of office. No accountability problem there.

I also liked the vague republican base assuaging talk on establishing a culture of civility and love. Especially as the speech foloowed Fear Factor on one of the networks.

Last. I agree with coal gassification. It is, in fact, a superior and more efficient technology with greatly reduced emissions. I don't like the plan of subsidizing the conversion pay paying billions to the power companies, but this is something we can do to greatly reduce carbon emissions.

And maybe I'm wrong, but the applause from the right didn't seem as raucous.

Thinkprogress has a more fact based critique if that's what you're looking for. (that's why they're gonna win the Koufax I was nominated for.) Just thought I'd throw down some quick thoughts.

Just as a final, did anyone else think it strange with all this recent talk of empire, that Bush had a bomb-sniffing dog and his military handler present, at his invitation, in the House of Representatives? Did anybody elese do a Caligula double take on that?

No more tonight.

I made all kinds of notes on the SOTU. I had all kinds of things to say, then...

I just watched the Dem response with Tim Kaine. I don't know who chose him or why. I don't know why it wasn't Obama or Gore or....

I give up.

A little SOTU preview

There's a little pre-SOTU release from the Whitehouse with a few excerpts. The excerpts sound like he's going to attempt to be a domestic president. Just reading the Whitehouse's prepress, I got worked up. I still haven't decided if I'll watch it or read it afterwards. Here's a sample:
"Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility."

Has anybody seen a really good book on lying?

Just something I'm kind of curious about. I'm sure there are lots of books out there on the subject, language, context, behavior, facial effects, but I don't know how to guess which ones are good, and which ones are "make a million dollars through the power of the mind" kinda books. Looking for a reccomendation if anybody's got one.

Believe it or not, this curiousity has nothing to do with Bush speaking tonight.

Picture of the Day - 3

A topic in my State of the Union.

SOTU pre-spin

The buzzwords in the early pre-speech spin seem to be optimism and confidence. So when Chris Matthews describes the president as confident and the speech as "full of optimism," you will know that he's working from the RNC talking points.

I would say, try a drinking game on those two words, but, with the Republicans stinking of desperation, I don't think you would stay vertical through the speech.

Also, the WaPo prespin piece is reporting that Bush is going to make four policy speeches following the SOTU un as yet unannounced topics. Looking to the last few State of the Unions, I'll take a guess: "Hydrogen Cars," "Steroids in Sports," "Mars, bitches," and the failed Social Security proposal.

Or maybe just terror,terror, terror, terror.

I mean, sure Three Dog Night got sick of performing "Joy to the World," but that's what worked and that's what people expected from them.

Really, from the leaks, it sounds like he's going to try to attack healthcare in this country. No, from the few leaked bits I've read, I mean really attack the availability, cost, and quality of healthcare.

The plan seems to be to offer "Health Savings Accounts." It sounds like it's going to be as disastrous as the social security privatization, which thankfully fell flat, and the medicare drug benefit which unfortunately didn't.

Oh, and they're planning for 24 minutes of applause in a 36 minute speech. "We Love Big Brother. There is none so glorious as our emperor." (Foxnews)

Without applause, practice runs have taken about 36 minutes. The speech will likely extend to an hour as members of the joint session of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff applaud their favorite proposals and rhetorical flourishes.

UPDATE: The NYTimes says Bush will aim low with no major new initiatives. And the spin has shifted in the late afternoon to some alternative energy initiative.

Is the state of the union a waste of time?

Just a quick thought here.... I figure between practice speeches and discussing the language and topics and whatnot, the president of the United States probably spends more than a workday prepping for the State of the Union speech.

Isn't there a better use for that time?

(I also feel the same way about fundraising events and reelection bids. I mean what if Bush had spent 2004 working on Iraq rather than spinning Iraq for the campaign?)

Hearts and minds

According to the poll's findings, 47 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces, but there were large differences among ethnic and religious groups. Among Sunni Muslims, 88 percent said they approved of the attacks. That approval was found among 41 percent of Shiite Muslims and 16 percent of Kurds.

The real question to me is the depth of this opinion. Do they approve of the attacks in abstract, or are they willing to offer shelter and assistance to the attackers? I'm sure some of that 47% falls into both opinions, but the breakdown of how many fall into the second category and how that number is trending is hugely significant.

With civilian cover, or worse, growing civilian assistance, the violence will become far worse and will come from unexpected areas. This is the same kind of scenario in which the US found itself in Vietnam. There is no way to "clear" an area of insurgents if the local population is hiding and supporting them.

Also, 41% among Shias? That's a huge rise.

(And, as a quick note, I don't know the methodology or accuracy of polling in Iraq so take the absolute numbers with some skepticism.)

Picture of the Day - 2

(I tried to write a big sweeping piece this morning, but it fell flat. This picture may say it better.)

(If you're looking for something to read, the NYTimes has a pretty good board editorial on the SOTU, and Paul Sperry's got an interesting piece up at Antiwar where he points out that Bin Laden has hit 18 of the 20 nations he has threatened to hit. Reframes that last tape into something a bit more serious. Oh, and Rawstory has got an article on the Feith investigation and pre-war intel.)

Picture of the Day

Dance, Jenna, Dance.

Monday, January 30, 2006

And a little lighter

I'm always struck by the Paris Hilton plays Marie Antoinette nature of the Bush twins. It's just so galling to me in the face of the war deaths and casualties. (NYPost)
FUN-loving First Twins Barbara and Jenna Bush were spotted dancing on tables at a boozy "Broken Resolutions"-themed soiree at D.C. hot spot Play the other night. The Grey Goose vodka-sponsored blowout featured "cigarette girls passing out smokes, chocolates and even condoms," reports the Hill newspaper. "There were fishnet-clad dancers, sporting handcuffs and police hats, gyrating on a pole."

Just a heads up

Or maybe better said, a heads down.

Zawahiri released an extremely well produced video today, and the headline is obviously that he's alive. The second headline, at least in the American press, seems to be that he's "taunting" or "mocking" Bush. But that's not the real headline.

The real headline is that historically the pattern has been for Bin Laden to issue a statement politically framing an attack, followed by a message from Zawahiri which gives the "go" command. For this pattern to hold, this presumes that the two of them still have communications with each other and have had previous communications with the potential attackers.

Don't freak out by any means, the percentages against any one person being harmed by an attack are exceedingly slim, this is just an observation I haven't seen noted in most of the coverage of Zawahiri "mocking" Bush.

Fearless Harry Reid

Rawstory has a leak(?) of a preemptive strike/statement that Harry Reid will be delivering today according to their report. It's worth a read. Light'em up, Harry.

It's always the quiet ones....

The results of the Republican Southern Strategy

If you never saw this, I think it may be the best blogging I've done. Summarizing, it attempts to illuminate the likely long term failure for the Republicans of Nixon's Southern Strategy in the '72 election which appealed to the racism of Southern voters.

What brings this to mind today...
That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.....

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.

"Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."

The Republican appeals to the base on immigration and gay marriage are nothing new. They are just the latest outgrowth of the underlying bigotry the Republican party utilizes to get the "base" to vote against its own economic and social interests.

It's amazing to me how well hate and fear can be publicly managed to get people to vote their jobs to India and their healthcare to Never Never Land.

(Let me state very clearly that I am not saying, nor attempting to imply, that all Republicans are racist. I think the openly racist element represents a fairly small percentage of the Republican voter base, with a larger but still minority group sympathetic to the coded messages of racism.

However, with the current 50-50 party division in this country, this group, much like the Evangelical Christians, punches far above it's weight in terms of the size of the constituency vs their impact on the party message. Their 5% (?) or 10% (?) of the Republican vote is absolutely critical to the Republicans maintaing power.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Think he'll forget Iraq?

"The State of the Union is strong..."

OIL companies on both sides of the Atlantic will gush record profits this week, with America’s Exxon Mobil posting the world’s biggest-ever profit, and Shell setting a new record for British companies. ....

BP is expected to continue the trend on February 7 by revealing full-year profits estimated at $21.7 billion. This contrasts with earnings of $16.4 billion in 2004.

And then the locusts came.....

I don't know why this struck me, maybe because it's just one more thing heaped upon the people of Iraq....
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq - Iraqi and U.N. health officials said Monday a 15-year-old girl who died this month was a victim of the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, the first confirmed case of the disease in the Middle East.

"George Bush doesn't care about black people"

I always took a little issue with this Kanye West quote said in the heat of the catastrophe of Katrina. I honestly do not believe that George Bush is racist.

But I do believe that George Bush is classist. I believe that he sees himself as a success based on his own skills and blames the economically less fortunate for some flaw in their character which has left them to their fate. (I will leave aside the issue of Bush's perception of success on his own merit for now.)

It is a recurring theme among Republican propaganda which really gained a broad acceptance during the Reagan presidency, that people are poor because they are lazy, probably best typified by the myth of the "cadillac driving welfare queens." The Reagan presidency really was the turning point in organized labor and class identification in this country, putting to rest the working class acting as a self interested political force.

The Right has won the class war. The wealthiest percent gets huge tax cuts, while the majority of Americans have their healthcare taken away to pay for it.

Millions of low-income people would have to pay more for health care under a bill worked out by Congress, and some of them would forgo care or drop out of Medicaid because of the higher co-payments and premiums, the Congressional Budget Office says in a new report.....

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Mr. Bush plans to recommend a variety of steps to help people obtain health insurance and cope with rising health costs. But the bill, the Deficit Reduction Act, written by Congress over the last year with support from the White House, could reduce coverage and increase the number of uninsured, the budget office said.

Over all, the bill is estimated to save $38.8 billion in the next five years and $99.3 billion from 2006 to 2015, with cuts in student loans, crop subsidies and many other programs, the budget office said. Medicaid and Medicare account for half of the savings, 27 percent and 23 percent over 10 years......

This provision would delay Medicaid eligibility for 120,000 people, or about 15 percent of the new recipients of Medicaid nursing home benefits each year, the budget office said.

(By the way, the projected deficit this year is $337 billion according to the CBO, and this measure will save $8 billion a year. This legislation which will harm so many, is about the ideology of the right, not reducing the deficit.)

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi boy waits outside while his home is searched.

Think he'll forget it?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Picture of the Day - 2 - Hate Monger

Bigotry for midterm votes. I guess immigrants and gays are not a core Republican constituency.

"Senator Bill Frist has indicated he will try to bring the Marriage Protection Amendment to a full vote again this year," Allard spokeswoman Angela de Rocha told RAW STORY. "Senator Allard believes that a constitutional amendment is the best way to make it crystal clear that marriage is between a man and a woman."

Why don't you pass legislation requiring them to wear a pink triangle, that way your "true American base" will find it easier to pick them out in the gunsights.

Anything for a vote, eh, Mr. Frist?

50,000 involuntary soldiers caught in stop-loss program

I'm willing to argue over whether the "stop-loss" program is a backdoor draft, but involuntarily retaining soldiers who have fulfilled their contractual commitment seems very wrong to me. And there have been 50,000 cases, a football stadium's worth.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has forced about 50,000 soldiers to continue serving after their voluntary stints ended under a policy called "stop-loss," but while some dispute its fairness, court challenges have fallen flat.

An Honest Republican

You may not agree with his politics, but full credit to Chuck Hagel on This Week for offering an honest assessment of the Bush claims to extraordinary wartime powers and Republican exclusivity on dealing with terrorism. Crooks and Liars has the video.

A question on targeted killings

The LaTimes has a great article on the use of the Predator drones for "targeted killings" of terror figures, a policy which has worked soooo well for Israel, by the way.

This is another great example, like the "black site" prisons in Eastern Europe or the NSA DOMESTIC wiretapping, of the Bush administration using a controversial classified program which cannot be debated because of its classified status.

Little is known about the targeted-killing program. The Bush administration has refused to discuss how many strikes it has made, how many people have died, or how it chooses targets. No U.S. officials were willing to speak about it on the record because the program is classified.

Several U.S. officials confirmed at least 19 occasions since Sept. 11 on which Predators successfully fired Hellfire missiles on terrorist suspects overseas, including 10 in Iraq in one month last year. The Predator strikes have killed at least four senior Al Qaeda leaders, but also many civilians, and it is not known how many times they missed their targets. ......

The CIA does not even acknowledge that such a targeted-killing program exists, and some attacks have been explained away as car bombings or other incidents. It is not known how many militants or bystanders have been killed by Predator strikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is significant......

Although presidents Ford and Reagan issued executive orders in 1976 and 1981 prohibiting U.S. intelligence agents from engaging in assassinations, the Bush administration claimed the right to kill suspected terrorists under war powers given to the president by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is the same justification Bush has used for a recently disclosed domestic spying program that has the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants, and a CIA "extraordinary rendition" program to seize suspected terrorists overseas and transport them to other countries with reputations for torture.

It's a great article and definitely worth a read. LATimes does require registration, so here are two ways around that. First, just got to the Yahoo version. Or make use of the wonderful tool that is www.bugmenot.com a database of names and passwords for registration required websites. It's a must for the serious newsjunkie.

And, oh, my god, check out Doonesbury today.

Bomb, Bomb, Bomb.... Bomb, Bomb Iran

I found this a rather sane estimate in the "Bomb Iran" debate. This has been my other objection to the "bomb Iran" argument. The first being that Iran is still ten years or so from a working nuclear weapon.

(I have no idea how far away they are from those "nookular" weapons that Bush keeps talking about.)

Kenneth Pollack, an expert on Iran at the Brookings Institution, a U.S. think-tank, said the military option was "sub-optimal," but not impossible.

Although Israel has reserved the option of military force, Pollack said the United States would be the only country with the air power to carry out the "hundreds of sorties a day" required, possibly for weeks, to knock out Iran's air defenses and destroy anywhere between several dozen and several hundred facilities linked to its nuclear program.

"It would mean going to war with Iran and I think it's fair to figure that the Iranians would not sit by idly," he said.....

"If you think it's bad now (in Iraq), imagine 6,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards and intelligence agents joining in the insurgency."

Also, we're yet to see the revivals of the early eighties' populist propaganda. The Beach Boys "Barbara Ann" converted to Bomb Iran or some modern version of the "Aayatollah Assahole-ah" logo, etc.

The parties who want to start a war with Iran now,(they should have their foreign policy credentials yanked just for the stupidity of the proposal) haven't really crossed over to public propaganda yet. They're still at the "decision maker consensus" phase. With Iraq, that consensus was more or less achieved in the days after 9-11.

And, by the way, has there been a declaration of war with Iran? Or does the administration argue that the power to declare war now belongs to the "war time executive?"

I think the Bush administration in the main is still at the threat phase, but the pressure seems to be growing from his neocon foreign policy advisers.

Picture of the Day

Remember me?

"Dark clouds of a nuclear war are hanging low over the Korean Peninsula," the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary...