.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

I didn't have a very good blogging day today, nothing really lit me up. I tried to put together the piece I was talking about earlier, but it just felt like it was going nowhere. I'll try again tomorrow. So, Picture.

This is the doctor in charge of Guantanamo (unnamed at the source for security reasons.) And here's what he's doing.

(AP) A prisoner at Guantanamo Bay said the U.S. military has taken aggressive new steps to end a hunger strike, from force-feeding detainees in a restraining chair to confiscating their blankets, according to notes released by his lawyer Thursday.....

officials warned detainees on Jan. 9 that hunger strikers would be strapped tightly to a restraint chair and force-fed with a thicker tube than had been used earlier.

He also said that detainees would no longer receive throat lozenges to ease the pain of the feeding tubes and that they would have their shoes, blankets and towels taken from them and confined to a room that was deliberately kept colder than normal if they refused food. ......

Rick Murphy, a lawyer for another detainee, however, said medical records released by the Department of Defense under a court order show that one of his clients began to be "chair fed" on Jan. 11 shortly before he too decided to quit the strike.

"After 12 days of this treatment, he gave it up after he had been on the strike for over 140 days," Murphy said. "You can draw some conclusions from that."

Abramoff/Bush pictures are out

The NYTimes and Time have 'em. Looking at the picture, you think, what's the big deal, why are they hiding this?

But, notice in the articles that this picture was taken during a meeting with state legislators at which Mr. Abramoff, and his soon to be client had no official business. In other words, Abramoff, in order to sign a contract with Kickapoo chief and fellow embezzler Garza, gained access to an event at which he had no reason to be. Somebody at the White House got him into that function, into that room.

I said it once before, I'm not too concerned about Bush/Abramoff meetings, I'd be far more interested in Rove/Abramoff meetings. Remember that Susan Ralston, Rove's top assistant used to be Abramoff's top assistant. Note the NYTimes cryptic inclusion, "also shows in partial profile Karl Rove."

Also, the NYTime says they have two more pictures from Garza of Abramoff/Bush.

Picture of the Day - 2

I hope they fired whoever designed this set.

Tell me he doesn't look like he's giving a 3rd grade book report.

Facts are anti-Republican

I wrote that long post yesterday about the different media strategies of the political parties where I stipulated that the Dems are far behind in the media war because they still see the media in its journalistic role of reporting the facts while the Repubs have moved on to utilizing the contextual elements of TV media to get their message out more effectively.

One of the odd outgrowths of this difference in strategies is that, in Republican eyes, the more "factual" a news source is, the more innaccurate and left leaning they are. A contemporary sample from RNC chair Mehlman.
He urged his audience of conservative activists to take the GOP message directly to friends and neighbors, rather than trusting major news organizations that he said have failed to understand the appeal of conservative ideas and leaders.

"We can't depend on the . . . mainstream media to do it for us," he said. "They got Ronald Reagan wrong, just like Democrats did, and they're still getting conservatives wrong."

Also, Frist is going to reintroduce the same sex marriage amendment which he said "is needed to protect the majority of Americans, whom he said oppose same-sex marriage, from "the whims of a few activist judges" who seek to "override the commonsense of the American people." He added, "When America's values are under attack, we need to act."

I am going to finish "The Rise of Stupid" piece this afternoon. It's time.

A little anti-evolution Saturday reading

I'm hoping to get my brain together later to write a larger post on "The Rise of Stupid," but for now, I found this pretty interesting Saturday morning reading. (LATimes)

WAYNE, N.J. — Evangelist Ken Ham smiled at the 2,300 elementary students packed into pews, their faces rapt. With dinosaur puppets and silly cartoons, he was training them to reject much of geology, paleontology and evolutionary biology as a sinister tangle of lies.

"Boys and girls," Ham said. If a teacher so much as mentions evolution, or the Big Bang, or an era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, "you put your hand up and you say, 'Excuse me, were you there?' Can you remember that?"

The children roared their assent.

"Sometimes people will answer, 'No, but you weren't there either,' " Ham told them. "Then you say, 'No, I wasn't, but I know someone who was, and I have his book about the history of the world.' " He waved his Bible in the air.

"Who's the only one who's always been there?" Ham asked.

"God!" the boys and girls shouted.

"Who's the only one who knows everything?"


"So who should you always trust, God or the scientists?"

The children answered with a thundering: "God!" .....

Answers in Genesis is the biggest of these ministries. Ham co-founded the nonprofit in his native Australia in 1979. The U.S. branch, funded mostly by donations, has an annual budget of $15 million and 160 employees who produce books and DVDs, maintain a comprehensive website, and arrange more than 500 speeches a year for Ham and four other full-time evangelists.

With pulpit-thumping passion, Ham insists the Bible be taken literally: God created the universe and all its creatures in six 24-hour days, roughly 6,000 years ago.....

Emily Maynard, 12, was also delighted with Ham's presentation. Home-schooled and voraciously curious, she had recently read an encyclopedia for fun — and caught herself almost believing the entry on evolution. "They were explaining about apes standing up, evolving to man, and I could kind of see that's how it could happen," she said.

Ham convinced her otherwise. As her mother beamed, Emily repeated Ham's mantra: "The Bible is the history book of the universe."

The LATimes also has a pretty good story on Abramoff's misuse of charities to evade taxes, bribe, and move money money around under the radar.

Ken Starr still crooked?

It's really petty, but I just thought I'd link to this. Ken Starr is still dirty.
SAN FRANCISCO - Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California's governor to spare the man's life, prosecutors said Friday.

Picture of the Day

Friday, February 10, 2006

South Dakota House Votes to Ban Abortion

Boy, they didn't wait long after Alito got seated did they?

Facts: there is no exemption for rape or incest in this legislation and a proposed five year jail term for doctors who perform the procedure. There are 800 abortions performed in South Dakota each year.

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- One brave legislator who voted against freight-train legislation that would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota said what others were undoubtedly thinking: Vote no and risk political wrath at the polls. ....

Elliott, a teacher, said he opposes abortion but could not vote for HB1215 because the House refused to provide an exemption for victims of rape and incest.....

Abortion, even in cases of rape, is wrong, countered Rep. Keri Weems, R-Sioux Falls, who describes herself as a stay-at-home mother.

"Taking the child's life doesn't take away the rape," she said. "We can't take away the life of the child because the father has committed a horrible crime."

There is one loophole in the bill, which is designed solely as a test case that supporters hope will cause the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion: Doctors cannot be prosecuted for doing lifesaving abortions on women who otherwise would die.

The penalty for doing illegal abortions, however, would be a maximum of five years in prison.

Filled with abortion foes, the Legislature is likely to pass the bill. The measure next faces a hearing in the state Senate on a date yet to be set.

Wild Bill and Graeme(I know you're North Dakota, Graeme) your observations would be valued.

Picture of the Day - 2

With Michael Brown testifying and pointing fingers today, it got me thinking. This isn't about political gotcha, this is about people finding their family and friends and neighbors dead.

People who didn't all have to die if the response had been quicker.

(Let me point out that much like in Iraq, the people on the ground did their dead level best, but they were let down by poor planning and poor management from above.)


Yesterday, there was this big foofarah when Bush announced that a terror plot was stopped to bomb what was once the Library Tower in LA. The LA mayor blasted him, the press tore apart McClellan in the gaggle(see"footless terrorists,") and just about every mainstream terror expert raised their eyebrows.

Bush was trying to justify the NSA Domestic eavesdropping program, but turns out he might have exaggerated just a little. (surprise)
(AP) A Malaysian recruited by al-Qaida to pilot a plane in a second wave of Sept. 11-style attacks on the United States pulled out after observing the carnage of the 2001 assaults, Southeast Asian officials said Friday......

The plan never appeared close to the stage where it could be put into execution.

UPDATE: Holden at First Draft has got it all. The footless terrorists, and a wonderful exchange with a reporter had with Frances Townsend, assistant to the president for Homeland Security, whose qualification was that she was dept. spokesperson.

Bush wins on Pre-Iraq Intelligence Debate

(The lower half of this post is probably worth reading, so don't tune out if you've already read the WaPo Pillar story)

There's a pretty major story in the WaPo this morning about Paul R. Pillar, "considered the agency's(CIA) leading counterterrorism analyst." and later, "by the end of his career, he was responsible for coordinating assessments on Iraq from all 15 agencies in the intelligence community."

Mr. Pillar accuses the Bush administration of "'cherry-picking' intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war." This is actually a pretty big story, and well worth a read, but I'm here to say it will soon go into the dustbin with all the rest. Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, it doesn't matter, because the Bush administration has won the battle on this one.

There are a number of reasons this issue has died, an issue which I think is one of the most substantial and grave crimes in our country's history. Part of it is the spin and PR of the White House, and part of it is their understanding of how the modern media works.

(I'm going to leave aside the various White House spin techniques for now, because I think I've hit on something in the next section.)

But more troublingly to me, has been the manipulation of the media. I think that there is a fundamental difference in how the Republican and Democratic politcians and consultants view the media, and that this difference accounts for the differing success in getting their message out.

I believe the Democrats largely still view the media through its historical reporting function, the idea being that the media's prime role is to uncover and report facts. This is the newspaperman's view of the media, and by and large, in print, the Democrats do get their message across. I mean, how many times have we heard that every one of the major print outlets are "left biased" when they are simply reporting facts. (All the majors besides the WSJ. NYTimes, WaPo, LATimes, etc.)

The Republicans, on the other hand, have jumped full force into the cable news method of media spin. It's a far more cynical approach, but far more effective in the TV media environment. By the nature of its construction, television is not as good as print at conveying facts, but it is tremendous at conveying stance or impression. As example, think back to the famous Nixon/Kennedy debate where radio listeners significantly thought Nixon won the debate.

TV news thrives on its images and on conflict. Therefore, as has been complained about sixty million times on blogs, a Republican can completely abandon the underlying facts in a political attack, so long as he appears forceful in doing so. This leaves the Democrat trying to argue the facts appearing weaker and defensive even though he may be right. This also serves the news network by giving them viewer ratings through the ensuing conflict. This is why it is replayed and encouraged, "Mr. Obama, what do you have to say about Harry Belafonte's comments?"

It's not about soundbytes, it's about method. The Democrats still cling to the optimistic belief that facts matter in television media. Their understanding is lightyears behind the Republicans. They are just beginning to try to enter the era of coordinated soundbytes, a phase the Republicans went through in the 1994 elections.

The Republicans are two phases beyond that now. The first was the "making news" phase, where the politicians actually generate news stories agauinst their opponents, most notably in the Clinton impeachment, the second, current phase is the shorthand phase.

The Republican spin folks have been so effective over the years at conveying their metamessage that Dems are weak etc, they can now make a whole host of charges simply by allusion. Look at the stigma that has been attached to the word "liberal" as example. It's truly very powerful, and because the argument is made by allusion, it's almost impossible to combat.

There are still large groups of people who believe the phrase "tax and spend Democrats" even though fourteen years of facts present the Dems as the party of fiscal reponsibility.

Enough. You get my point. The Dems are working on soundbytes while the Repubs are ten years ahead of them.

This is why Bush lying us into war doesn't matter as politics. It kills me to write that, but that's the bottom line. We were intentionally led into a war through lies and deception, what I consider to be one of the greatest crimes in our country's history, and that doesn't receive condemnation; it wins elections.

The Republicans have established a media strategy where the facts no longer matter. The implications of this I'll leave for a later post.

Renaming everything after Reagan.

Talking Points, in a much longer piece looking at Abramoff ties to Alaska's rep. Young, linked to this little gem. In an effort to sway Republicans on a trip to the Marshall Islands, their legislature voted to rename the nuclear test site atoll, the Reagan Test Site.

I take issue with alot of the Reagan tributes and renamings, but naming a nuclear test site after Reagan, solely to impress visiting US congressmen is just perfect, I think.

I'm sold on Feingold

Maybe two weeks ago, a whole bunch of commenters piped in on a post telling me that I should sincerely look at Sen. Russ Feingold as a possible candidate for President in 2008. I don't know how he conducts himself in a campaign, and I saw some early fundraising numbers that showed him well below the presumptive big dogs, but I've gotta say, so far, I'm really impressed.

Feingold is there on every issue fighting hard. It's too far away to make the full pledge of fealty, but I would encourage everybody to keep their eyes open for this guy as you read articles on the big issues. He's there, and he seems fearless. Just keep an eye open.

Here's a sample of a statement he issued after Gonzales testimony Monday.

Picture of the Day

Palestinian elections.

She voted for Hamas.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cheney as Nixon Redux

This is from Jason Leopold who had some of the leading leaks on the Plame case, so I can't dismiss this out of hand, but it seems pretty implausible that Cheney was utilizing CIA personnel to dig up dirt on political opponents. Not that I don't think Cheney is incapable of an enemies list, but that he would utilize CIA personnel to do so seems an amazing mistake. So judge it for yourself. (Albright is David Albright, former UN weapons inspector.)

The National Security Council and CIA officials said Cheney had visited CIA headquarters and asked several CIA officials to dig up dirt on Albright, and to put together a dossier that would discredit his work that could be distributed to the media.....

The officials said a "binder" was sent to the Vice President's office that contained material that could be used by the White House to discredit Albright if he continued to comment on the administration's war plans. However, it's unclear whether Cheney or other White House officials used the information against Albright.....

The CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March 8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's office chaired by Cheney, and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson. Those who attended the meeting included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October for lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak, Hadley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser, the officials said.

"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress."....

The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false, they said.

If this is true, Fitzgerald really is hunting the big bear.

McClellan's new buzz phrase

Twice in the Gaggle today, Scott McClellan used the phrase, "relitigate this" in regards to the administration's invasion of Iraq.

(Bush: See, litigate is associated with lawyers so you know that anybody who wants to talk about why we're in Iraq simply wants to "nail" the president on "a technicality." They're not simple folks like us, they're trying to cheat the system.)

In Usage:
Q Can I go to something on Iraq? Just following up on something Helen said. The President and you often say that it was Saddam Hussein's decision to make. What could he have done, given the fact that you haven't found weapons of mass destruction, to stop the invasion?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Martha, I don't think we need to go back and relitigate all this, but it was spelled out very clearly what he needed to do, and he continued to defy the international community -- 17-some resolutions.

This was a test run, but I would expect to start seeing elsewhere. And they were just all over McClellan today on Katrina, the footless terrorists in 2002, Abramoff emails and alot more.

(I know this is small in the face of everything, but from time to time, I like to trace the arc of spin phrases. Speaking of which, I think the phrases "Saddamists" and "dead enders" have gone away.)

The Daily Show

I don't know if you saw it, but I thought this bit on the Daily Show on the Gonzales hearings is funny as hell. 3:25 but worth it. (Oh, and that's my state's shame Sen. Cornyn in the foreground in the fade out while Lindsey Graham rocks back and forth.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Smokin' Paul Hackett

I wanna vote for this guy. This is a guy I would follow. Paul Hackett for Senate (Ohio.)
"That’s low politics, punk!” a heavy-set man sneers as he marches toward the poll.
Hackett wheels around. “Pardon me?”

“You know, that radio ad that says, ‘You don’t know Schmidt.’” He’s talking about one of Hackett’s attack ads against Republican Jean Schmidt. The man spews a stream of epithets, and Hackett lets out a crybaby whimper: “Waaaaaaa!”

“What’s that, punk?” the big man growls.

A TV crew is setting up nearby, but Hackett doesn’t seem to care. “What’s your fuckin’ problem?” the candidate snaps. “You got something to say to me? Bring it on!” Hackett, all 6 feet 2 inches of him, is nose to nose with the heckler. “Problem?” he taunts. The man turns around and storms away.

“These guys in the Republican Party adopted this tough-guy language,” Hackett tells me, still steamed, an hour later. “They’re bullies. They’re offended when somebody takes a swing back at them.”

Libby 'Authorized' to leak Classified Information

This is not a Plame Gossip column, because Murray Waas does not say that the Plame leak was authorized, BUT....
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Okay, so what "superiors" does Libby have besides Cheney? I count one.

Rereading the "delegation of powers" letters off Fitzgerald's site, this would appear to me to fall outside his investigatory scope, but it does strike me as the heart of the pre-war intelligence operation run out of the WHIG. And, you figure, like the Niger forgeries, Fitzgerald must have come across a fair amount of information about the pre-war/post-war intel op.

Curious question. No real details are offered as to how this came up in Libby's grandjury testimony, probably in response to, "have you ever disclosed classified information?" But would the extension question be asked to Cheney, "have you ever authorized the release of classified information?" Think he'd perjure himself on that?

UPDATE: Different snippet are going to be floating around, but Libby's lawyers seem to be making a finely worded point on this. They are specifically saying that Cheney didn't authorize the outing of Plame, leaving open the possibility that he ordered the release of other classified info to promote his political goals.

Your Blog may get you on "the DHS's List"

Christian Science Monitor has an interesting story on another, more aboveboard, offshoot of the TIA that examines transactions, web traffic, and BLOG POSTINGS. (pertinent if you're here, eh?)
The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.....

But ADVISE and related DHS technologies aim to do much more, according to Joseph Kielman, manager of the TVTA portfolio. The key is not merely to identify terrorists, or sift for key words, but to identify critical patterns in data that illumine their motives and intentions, he wrote in a presentation at a November conference in Richland, Wash.

For example: Is a burst of Internet traffic between a few people the plotting of terrorists, or just bloggers arguing? ADVISE algorithms would try to determine that before flagging the data pattern for a human analyst's review.

This is a currently operational program with more functionality being added. Think about the four year old on the no fly list or the nuns who had their bank account frozen by DHS, and tell me it couldn't happen to you.

This tells me that my attempt to draw some government traffic through the use of "keywords" a couple weeks ago certainly must've worked.

I don't run a counter(your privacy is your own,) but I would be curious to see the government sourced hits I get. Almost every political blog gets some. Think about that.

UPDATE: Leslie ties in the article from yesterday on Topsail, and also digs out a (maybe significant) defensetech reference on ADVISE that points out the cross referencing of this info to Federal and Local law enforcement.

Steny Hoyer making jokes?

Just made me laugh. Steny Hoyer at the National Press Club dinner.
In a gag on this city's never-ending spin cycle, Hoyer played off the Bush administration's renaming of its controversial wiretapping program, which it recently dubbed the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Hurricane Katrina, he said, had become the Terrorist Submergence Program, and K Street would be renamed Anti-Terror Avenue. Bush poll results would henceforth be described as terrorist propaganda.

Picture of the Day

Tom Delay, working the room.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Reform, my ass

Okay, so the new House Majority leader Boehner is being presented as a model of reform, but he rents his Washington apartment from a Lobbyist he's done business with, has taken $150,000 in junkets paid for by lobbyists since 2000 (wouldn't you love to travel on $30,000/year) and then there's that infamous handing out of tobacco checks on the house floor right before a vote on tobacco legislation.

Then there's the fact that his first act as House Majority Leader was to put the breaks on lobbying reform.

But that's not enough for the Republicans in the House. When Duke Cunningham was indicted for receiving bribes to the tune of $2.1 million including a yacht and a Rolls Royce, his seat on the Appropriations committe came open. Yeah, that committee which is responsible for allocating all the monies the House budgets for the government to spend.

So, who gets the seat, indicted for campaign fraud and moneylaundering Tom Delay. And not only has the indicted Representative been given a seat there, but also a seat on the committee that oversees the Justice Department who is looking into his dealings with Abramoff as well.

No closer line. I'm just agog.

Jack Cafferty is agog, too.

TIA lives!!!!

In the midst of this "web exclusive commentary" under the Newsweek banner which proposes and praises far more surveillance of Americans, is buried this little gem.
Yet today, very quietly, the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail (minus the futures market), two officials privy to the intelligence tell NEWSWEEK. It is in programs like these that real data mining is going on and—considering the furor over TIA—with fewer intrusions on civil liberties than occur under the NSA surveillance program.

This is about the only thing worthwhile in the whole piece, but that's new information to me.

Dying only pays if you're already rich.

This just says it so well.
The contrast in President Bush's new budget could not be more stark. On one hand, he wants to eliminate what he likes to call the "death tax" -- a levy imposed on a handful of the nation's biggest estates. On the other, he wants to end Social Security's lump sum death benefit -- a $255 check that the families of many of the nation's poorest use to help pay for their funerals.

Picture of the Day - 3

In praise of Gopal Chitrikar.

This photographer working for Reuters in Nepal is phenomenal. Look at all the different emotions captured in that one picture.

Abramoff emails about Bush.

Thinkprogress, who should probably win the Koufax new blogger of 2005 award I'm up for, has a great post linking to some emails Abramoff wrote about Bush. Very familiar, meeting Bush “in almost a dozen settings,” and details how he was personally invited to President Bush’s private ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Not too much surprising in it, but it definitely establishes more of a relationship than the Bush administration would have us believe.

CNet speculates on the mechanics of NSA wiretapping

CNet has an interesting piece looking at some of the physical possibilities and limitations of tapping "international" communications. It's pretty vague, a little long, and not very clearly written, but the bottom line is that, by far, the easiest way to do this would be to walk into the major telecoms and gain access through their switches. If this is what was done, the tapping was done on US soil with the cooperation of the major telecoms, they could be in some real legal trouble.
"Under federal law, any person or company who helps someone "intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication"--unless specifically authorized by law--could face criminal charges."

Also of note, USAToday Reported Monday that AT&T, MCI, and Sprint have been cooperating with the NSA, and there seems to be some question as to whether they received a warrant or any other such documents, a letter from Gonzales for instance.

Picture of the Day - 2

On Heather Wilson's call for an NSA investigation.

Much has been made in the lefty blogworld about Republican Rep. Heather Wilson's call for an investigation into the NSA spying program. This morning I've read praises of her character and explanations that she's doing this to help her reelection in a close district.

Maybe I'm just not that trusting, but I'm not willing to jump on her bandwagon until I really see what she's going to do.

Is it any coincidence that the day when the press was filled with criticism of Gonzales's testimony, she comes forward? If I were a WhiteHouse operative, I would have been looking for a friendly, malleable House member in desperate need of campaign funding and support to conduct an "investigation" in the House.

Maybe better said, after watching Arlen Specter give the Senate inquiry a bipartisan tone, maybe I would look for somebody I could leverage to step forward to run the House "investigation." Her payoff is that she gets to come forward to her electorate as an "honest politician" in a close district.

Maybe I'm too cynical, maybe she's genuine, but I'm not ready to sing her praises just yet. I think I see the shadowy hand of Karl Rove in this.

Iraq - Failure Buried.

Gen. Pace got headlines with his statement that the number of National Guard troops is Iraq would be reduced by a third, but maybe this little item, in the same hearing, should have been the BIG story.
Pace said only one Iraqi army battalion is capable of fighting without U.S. help. That is the same number as in September, when U.S. commanders disclosed that the number of such highly trained battalions had dropped from three to one, prompting criticism from lawmakers.

Dropped from Three to One. And remember, when they say a unit is unable to fight without US support, that represents a broad span of incapability. Very often, "US help" means food, and water, and gasoline which the Iraqi government cannot supply "their army."

(Interestingly, the more recent rewrite in the first link(different author), doesn't even mention Pace's comment.)

NAFTA as the spur for Mexican Immigration

Down here in Texas, NAFTA was, and still is, probably a far bigger deal than it is to most of the rest of the country. The manufacturing job losses have been felt disproportionately in the older industrial areas of the country, East Coast, Rust Belt, Detroit, but down here in Houston, we really are one of the two main transit points for the goods coming in from Mexico.

One of the things I strongly remember as a selling point of NAFTA was the claim that it would greatly lower illegal immigration by raising the standard of living of the average Mexican. Remember that?

Well, today, I ran across this very interesting interpretation/theory/analysis(?) in a WAPO editorial pointing out the disaster that NAFTA has been for the agricultural poor and working class Mexicans, and how this has led to an increase in illegal immigration.

But NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, could not have been more precisely crafted to increase immigration -- chiefly because of its devastating effect on Mexican agriculture. As liberal economist Jeff Faux points out in "The Global Class War," his just-published indictment of the actual workings of the new economy, Mexico had been home to a poor agrarian sector for generations, which the government helped sustain through price supports on corn and beans. NAFTA, though, put those farmers in direct competition with incomparably more efficient U.S. agribusinesses. It proved to be no contest: From 1993 through 2002, at least 2 million Mexican farmers were driven off their land.

The experience of Mexican industrial workers under NAFTA hasn't been a whole lot better. With the passage of NAFTA, the maquiladoras on the border boomed. But the raison d'etre for these factories was to produce exports at the lowest wages possible, and with the Mexican government determined to keep its workers from unionizing, the NAFTA boom for Mexican workers never materialized. In the pre-NAFTA days of 1975, Faux documents, Mexican wages came to 23 percent of U.S. wages; in 1993-94, just before NAFTA, they amounted to 15 percent; and by 2002 they had sunk to a mere 12 percent.

The official Mexican poverty rate rose from 45.6 percent in 1994 to 50.3 percent in 2000. And that was before competition from China began to shutter the maquiladoras and reduce Mexican wages even more.

So, who did NAFTA really benefit? Not the American worker. Not the Mexican worker. It appears to have benefitted only the corporations who shifted the jobs out of America.

I just thought this might be worth a mention with CAFTA on the table.

Picture of the Day


Is it getting colder in here?

She looks like somebody just told her she has to spend the morning in a room full of black people.

Oh, that's right.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Too much breaking tonight.

I'm just going to throw up some quickhits tonight, maybe more tomorrow on them if they still seem as important.

This is everywhere, but if you haven't seen it, go read it. A true Republican Bush lackey Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. (NYTIMES) Honest and out of the blue, or part of a political play? I can't tell yet.

And this gem today. The United States will always rely on foreign imports of oil to feed its energy needs and should stop trying to become energy independent, a top Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said on Tuesday.

The twenty four year old Bush appointee at NASA who tried to silence public discussion of global warming and insisted that every mention of the Big Bang be accompanied by the word theory( for non-religious reasons, of course,) resigned today just a few days after the NYTimes blasted him for censoring the top climate scientist there. (NYTIMES) Turns out he didn't even graduate from college. His qualification seems to be that he worked on Bush's reelection campaign. Mr. Brown, Paging Michael Brown.

Also, no real details, but I found this fascinating. The CIA's top counterterrorism officer was relieved of his position yesterday after months of turmoil atop the agency's clandestine service, according to three knowledgeable officials. (WaPo)

And Knight Ridder with some of the best reporting as usual, State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties.

The Next Hurrah has a pretty interesting take on the Plame/Dickerson article today. Also, Jeff has some pretty troubling time inconsistencies with Dickerson's version of events.

And lastly, Newsweek on Boehner's dirty present questioning his appointment as a reformer. "Since 2000, Boehner has taken more than $150,000 worth of junkets paid for by private interests—ranking him in the top 10 of all members of Congress."

Also, Drudge has a blurb up on Boehner, no link, "Boehner Rents Apartment in DC owned by lobbyist" (maybe true, maybe not. HE never retracts when he's wrong, they just disappear. Also, no link for Drudge) "Boehner Rents Apartment in DC owned by lobbyist."

See, to many stories to blog one by one. So, take what you like, throw out the rest.

Picture of the Day - 3

Danish cartoon protest in Indonesia.

Plame Gossip

Firedoglake does a far better job than I can cutting out the relevant details from the James Dickerson piece in Slate. If you want the full detail, I would recommend it, but it is very looonngg. (Dickerson in Slate. Part 1 - Part 2)

So, here's an abbreviated, shorter version. James Dickerson was another reporter who received information regarding Plame's relationship to Joe Wilson from "senior administration officials."

Now, Dickerson has not been subpoenaed which is significant as he cowrote the original story that got Matt Cooper threatened with jail time. Just extrapolating from his version I would wager that's because his sources have fully cooperated.

In other words, no one outed Plame to this guy, they just said, "look into the origins of Wilson's trip," and that would not be too legally dangerous individually. But there is a growing number of tidbits indicating that Fitzgerald may be looking at this case as a conspiracy to disclose classified information, and that changes the "not too legally dangerous" into a net that sweeps up everyone involved for the worst acts of any one conspirator.

As for evidence of a conspiracy, I give you Reddhead.
Here's what I see from reading Dickerson: He spoke with two "senior Administration officials" during his trip to Africa, on two completely separate occasions, but each within an hour of the other's conversation with Dickerson -- both of whom fed him the exact same line on questioning Joe Wilson's credibility and that Dickerson ought to look into who sent Amb. Wilson to Africa in the first place. He finished talking with them around 10:30 am DC time.

During that same time period, Rove contacted Matt Cooper and planted the same seeds -- with one addition, that Joe Wilson's wife was the one who sent him on the trip. (Never mind that this was false, but that's a whole n'other post.) And Scooter Libby served as the confirming source for Cooper on this fact. (Can you say WHIG damage control group? I sure as hell can.)

Dickerson and Cooper spoke around 1:00 pm DC time, and compared notes -- remarkably similar notes, but for the Rove addition of Wilson's wife. Strange how so many people in the Administration scattered across the four corners of the globe -- from DC to far-flung, difficult communication areas on the African continent -- all had the same story line to feed to the press, isn't it? Almost as though there was substantial coordination of message and facts, or something. (Can you say conpiracy? I thought you could.)

And just a little interesting from Dickerson in Slate:
All administrations discredit their critics through whispers to reporters, but we hadn't seen high-level Bush people do anything like this in the past. It suggested desperation and unsteadiness in a national security team that had often been heralded for its smooth competency.....

I came back from the trip harboring a suspicion that only fully made sense when I learned Plame's CIA cover had been blown. It seemed obvious that the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find. Yet they were really careful not to let the information slip, which suggested that they knew at the time Plame's identity was radioactive.

If you want all the details, go to Firedoglake. They have been, by far, the best on the Plame case. But, I thought I'd offer a shorter version.

Afterthought: I'm becoming more and more convinced that Fitzgerald may be hunting Cheney. He could be looking to leverage individuals through plea deals, Rove as example, to unmask the entire group, but I just have this feeling that this is working up several chains at once rather than trying to reveal a circle of peers. Either is possible. It's just a sense.

Rove is counting the NSA votes

Got this link through First Draft, one of the better small blogs not on the list to the right that I read every day. (Insight Mag/Wash Times ao Moonie warning)
Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November. ....

"It's hardball all the way," a senior GOP congressional aide said. The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.....

Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.

Picture of the Day - 2

Cheney visited Louisiana yesterday

Dick Cheney visited Louisiana yesterday . . . for a fundraiser. Did he stop by to check in on FEMA? Visit with the local New Orleanians to see what more needs to be done? At least stop for a photo op?

Of course not. According to the article he didn't even talk about the largest disaster in American history just five months ago.
The vice president flew into Alexandria International Airport at the airpark about 4 p.m., and he left the reception shortly after 5:30 p.m. to go back to the airport to depart.

In a speech, Cheney touched on many of the subjects emphasized by President Bush in last week's State of the Union address, including Iraq and the War on Terrorism.

Terrorism. He came to Louisiana, about 200 miles from New Orleans, and talked about terrorism.

Does anybody wonder why the people of New Orleans are having to look elsewhere for help?

Nagin, who has hosted a steady stream of foreign dignitaries since Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, says he may seek international assistance because U.S. aid has not been sufficient to get the city back on its feet.

"I know we had a little disappointment earlier with some signals we're getting from Washington but the international community may be able to fill the gap," Nagin said when a delegation of French government and business officials passed through on Friday to explore potential business partnerships....


I think I can speak for majority of Louisiana when I say,
"Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney."

Lenin's Tomb

I'm surprised they don't just encase him in glass and display him permanently in the Capitol Rotunda.
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - President Reagan was remembered on what would have been his 95th birthday Monday for his efforts to end the Cold War and restore national pride after a period of malaise.

In the pre-election hype, think anybody will propose a "Reagan Day" national holiday?

Picture of the Day

"What? What's that? Bomb who?" -or-

"Shhh. I'm trying to bend this spoon." -or-

"It's called cognitive dissonance, sir" -or-

"They said I couldn't think my way out of a paper sack, well... I'll show them." -or-

"Go to your happy place, George. Go to your happy place." -or-

"This is your brain on drugs."

Monday, February 06, 2006

NSA spying is illegal. And he should know.

Jimmy Carter, under whose stewardship the FISA laws were passed through a cooperative effort of both parties and both the executive and legislative branches, said in a speech yesterday that in this DOMESTIC wiretapping, President Bush has broken the law.

He also blasts Gonzales and his tortured(intended) legal justifications.
"If my voice is important to point of the intent of the law that was passed when I was president, I know all about that because it was one of the most important decisions I had to make."

NSA hearing clips

Alot of blogs have some of the major clips up, I watched sporadically, and these, I think, catch my main concerns on the matter.. (transcript at the WaPo)

SPECTER:Under your interpretation of this, can you go in and do mail searches? Can you go into e-mails? Can you open mail? Can you do black-bag jobs? .....

LEAHY: Did it authorize the opening of first-class mail of U.S. citizens? That you can answer yes or no.....

SCHUMER: You said, Mr. Attorney General, that the AUMF allowed the president -- that's one of the legal justifications, the Constitution, to go ahead with this program.

Now, under your legal theory, could the government, without ever going to a judge or getting a warrant, search an American's home or office?....

FEINSTEIN: Can the president suspend, in secret or otherwise, the application of Section 503 of the National Security Act, which states that no covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies or media? In other words, can he engage in otherwise illegal propaganda?


These are all different versions of the question that the administration is desperately trying to avoid answering. How many times did Gonzales use the words "limited," "narrow," or "focused" to try to minimize the program and, in turn, to try to minimize the argument that the administration is making?

Alberto Gonzales was not making a "limited" or "narrow" argument today. Largely, he was sitting before the Senate arguing that the under the current interpretation of the law, the president's power is largely uncheckable by the legislature.

(Oh, and my state's shame, John Cornyn did it again. At this point, I don't care if we elect another Republican, we just need to get this guy out of there. Every time the Bush administration needs a puppet talking in the Senate, there is Cornyn. Torture, Cornyn says anything you want, Mr. President. And, let's not forget his previous statements on this issue. "None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead." He's the last speaker on this page, and look how willingly he walks Gonzales through every one of the administration's defenses.

I'm hoping the Abramoff scandal sweeps up Cornyn from his time as Texas AG when he was hip deep in Reed and Abramoff's efforts to block Texas casinos.

C'mon Texas, you know your state. We can do so much better than this guy.)

Picture of the Day

(Blogger has got all kinds of problems today, so I will post as I can.)

A question of priorities

Why is it when the matter of social programs are brought up, Republicans talk about not wanting to just "throw money at the problem," and yet when the issue is defense or terrorism, that is all they want to do?

No matter what you think of the state of our educational programs, as example, they have performed far better than our intelligence agencies did on, and prior to, Sept. 11, or in Iraq. And yet, teachers are told by this administration to accept accountability while the intel structure has not even suffered a single demotion and has had increased budgets for its absolute failure in the last five years.

Medicare is cut to eliminate waste in the system, while the Pentagon lost track of assets worth 1.3 trillion dollars.

It's just wrong.

A money funnel to Venezuela

The Christian Science Monitor has a story up about the Office of Transition Initiatives which appears to be a funnel for funds to Venezuelan opposition groups. There has been a fair amount written on the NED and its involvement in "reinforcing democracies," but this is the first I've read of OTI, a branch of USAID.

OTI was designed in the 1990s to help former Soviet Union countries make the transition to democracy. It now works in areas such as Iraq, Haiti, Sudan, and the West Bank.

Even though Venezuela is not experiencing the kind of civil strife seen in countries where OTI operates, OTI devoted $4.5 million to its Venezuelan program in 2005, more than six times NED's budget.

This is just the kind of story we see very rarely. It is exceedingly unusual for a US news organization to report on agencies which serve to subvert other nation's governments.

NSA hearings webcast

If you're somehwere without CSPAN, Pacifica Radio is webcasting their coverage of the NSA hearings today.

And a bad early start, Specter is pushing for Gonzales to not be sworn in.

Picture of the day - 3 (Reprint)

It's not about a cartoon.

It's about a feeling that their religion, their interests, and their entire way of life are under threat from the West.

It's about the Iraq war, a feeling of powerlessness, and the same perceptions that lead Muslims into Al Qaeda.

So, don't paint me this simple storyline of irrational Arabs torching buildings because they didn't like a cartoon, Mr. Newsman.

Their rage is real and it is rooted in something much bigger, something far more burdensome to criticize in our "patriotic" society. They are reacting against a century of Western interference in their society, maintaining convenient despots and toppling unfriendly governments.

We, as a society, have no hope to end terrorism until we recognize this anger and deal with it.

In this decade of growing anti-Western sentiment, we are possibly witnessing a key turning point in the Great American Empire. If we attempt to respond to this growing disquiet with the brutal application of force, as so many other empires have in the past, we will fail and default our treasury as they did. This is why Iraq was/is such a major failure to the long term future of our country and its greater world interests.

The Iraq War created more "terrorists" than there were before.

Its failure can be stated no more clearly than that.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

There are no limits on presidential authority

This is the logical extension of the legal claims of presidential authority used to justify the NSA domestic spying as well as torture, renditions, and unconstitutional detentions like that of Padilla.
Feb. 13, 2006 issue - In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States.

Under this interpretation of presidential powers, there is no need for a judiciary, and with the applications of signing statements towards legislation, only a limited need for a legislature.

Picture of the Day - 2

Details on Warrantless Domestic Surveillance

The Wapo has a fairly significant (A01), and somewhat detailed, story on warrantless domestic spying the day before the Senate hearings tomorrow. I would put the first page and a half at the "must read" level because they offer some concrete details.
"About 5,000" people have been monitored by humans, but

"the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears."

Now, this doesn't say whether this is hundreds of thousands over the years, or as I believe, hundreds of thousands at any given moment. I need it explained to me how this isn't a huge warrantless fishing expedition, a tremendous monitoring filter that looks at every electronic communication out of the US. (Perhaps just to some countries?)
Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, "wash out" most of the leads within days or weeks. ....

Supporters speaking unofficially said the program is designed to warn of unexpected threats, and they argued that success cannot be measured by the number of suspects it confirms. Even unwitting Americans, they said, can take part in communications -- arranging a car rental, for example, without knowing its purpose -- that supply "indications and warnings" of an attack. Contributors to the technology said it is a triumph for artificial intelligence if a fraction of 1 percent of the computer-flagged conversations guide human analysts to meaningful leads.

A Fraction of One Percent is a "best case" success. Warrantless spying on 99% of the people for no reason is a success.
The minimum legal definition of probable cause, said a government official who has studied the program closely, is that evidence used to support eavesdropping ought to turn out to be "right for one out of every two guys at least." Those who devised the surveillance plan, the official said, "knew they could never meet that standard -- that's why they didn't go through" the court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

That's it. That's the crux of the whole issue. The Bush administration went around the FISA court because the warrants wouldn't have passed muster. That's illegal. That's impeachable.

The only real defense on offer is whether the president has "extraordinary powers" in his war time role of commander in chief of the military. That defense is based upon the established use of sigint to monitor the an enemies' activities. BUT, if the monitoring is scraping up "a fraction" of one percent, this is simply illegal.
Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well.

Sorry to go so long on this, but this is a hugely significant article in the public discussion of this program. Hundred of thousands are monitored to net ten people a year. Read it. It's important.

And just as a teaser for tomorrow's Senate hearings, (Carried live by Pacifica Radio and on their station's webacasts(internet only in Houston)) let me offer this from the AP.
Sen. Arlen Specter, whose committee has scheduled hearings Monday on the National Security Agency program, said he believes the administration violated a 1978 law specifically calling for a secretive court to consider and approve such monitoring.....

"I think that contention is very strained and unrealistic. The authorization for use of force never mentions electronic surveillance," Specter said.

Frist for President.

The Wapo has a pretty funny article on Bill Frist in New Hampshire, not running for president. I don't see how, Schiavo diagnosing, insider trading, crazy religious Frist could ever win a national vote. And to top it off, he always seems so ham handed in his presentation. What caught my eye as an example.....
While standing for the Pledge of Allegiance, Frist will keep his hand rested on his heart for a few seconds longer than everyone else while photographers snap away.

I don't know why, but this to me is the essence of Frist, very public, somewhat comical displays of what he ought to support. It's a pretty funny article if you read the second page, and if it's indicative of the coverage he'd get running for president, I'm looking forward to it.

Picture of the Day