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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, February 25, 2006

While we're piling on

I just wanted to make the quick point that this result in Iraq is, in some part, the result of Bush's "loyalty." Often described as "strength of conviction," clearly putting a positive religious tilt on stubbornness, this "loyalty" has kept Don Rumsfeld in a job through all the previous failures in Iraq that led up to this moment. Promoting an obviously overwhelmed Condi Rice to Sec State? Still listening to Dick Cheney?

You can't say for sure that the outcome would have been different had Bush made such obvious personnel changes years ago, the initial mistake of invasion might have made this course inevitable, but at least it would have given the Iraqis a chance.

Why in the world did George Bush not accept Rumsfeld's resignation when he offered it around Abu Ghraib, twice?

What sort of incompetent manager wouldn't have fired this guy years ago?

Picture of the Day - 3

First, do no harm.

Buhriz, Iraq.

Iraq - Ethnic Cleansing

On NPR this morning Ann Garrelts(sp?) reported a terrifying new element in the Iraqi civil war, armed Shia men going house to house in Baghdad looking for Sunnis. She also reports that there are incidents of Shias protecting and hiding Sunnis from these armed gangs, so it's not across the board, and no real idea how widespread, but....

This is a very significant development in the conditions there. Often, you'll hear some of the armchair "military experts" on the CNN, or on the MSNBC, opining that perhaps the best solution is to simply segment Iraq into it's three ethnic sections. That's quite an ideal solution were the situation on the ground that clean.

The large cities of Iraq, and the regions themselves, do have majority populations, but they are not 100% anything. In the fragmentation model, there would have to be significant ethnic cleansing with varying levels of possible violence, in order for that solution to work. Imagine large convoys of refugees marching hundreds of miles through their "enemies' territory," all their property and possessions left behind. Little food and water, a weak target for anyone who wants to attack them. Women, children, the elderly. Over a half a million from Baghdad alone?

So, whenever one of these guys comes on espousing this as America's solution in Iraq, remember just what he's talking about, just what level of human suffering he is proposing.

And, no, I don't have a solution at this point. And the Bush administration's failures are just going to make it worse. In the WaPo this morning (AP)
The number of Iraqi army battalions judged by their American trainers to be capable of fighting insurgents without U.S. help has fallen from one to none since September, Pentagon officials said yesterday.

This is all going to get so much worse. And it didn't have to be. No WMD, no connection to Al Qaeda, a war of choice sold through misrepresentation of the intelligence. This horror will be Bush's legacy.

And this all leaves out the possibility, and I stress possibility, that other nations may intervene to protect ethnic minorities with which they sympathize. Turkey stepping in to protect Turkomens in the northern Kurdish region. The Saudis or Jordan stepping in to help the Sunnis, or Iran stepping in to support the Shia, or Kuwait, or Syria.....

Question: What previous US policies have caused this level of human suffering? The Central American interventions in the 80's? Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon in Vietnam? Hoover remaining laissez faire as the depression consumed America? The extermination of the American Indians?

Just thinking out loud.

Santorum channelling charity money to staffers?

Funny, after all that rhetoric from the Republicans blasting trial lawyers, it's boomtimes for defense attorneys in DC.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sen. Rick Santorum's charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period, well below Better Business Bureau standards - paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll.

And no, he's not charged with anything yet, but I'll bet he's talking to a lawyer by Monday.

Guantanamo II

The Bush administration loved Guantanamo so much, they made a sequel, but as with most sequels, it has all the memorable elements, but is far, far worse.
While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges.....

From the accounts of former detainees, military officials and soldiers who served there, a picture emerges of a place that is in many ways rougher and more bleak than its counterpart in Cuba. Men are held by the dozen in large wire cages, the detainees and military sources said, sleeping on the floor on foam mats and, until about a year ago, often using plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, they rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard.

And this article also poses the question, "without Gunatanamo, and now Bagram, where would we keep terrorist suspects?"

That's such a loaded question in that it takes so much of the administration's talking points for granted. The answer is simple.

You bring them here. You house them in prisons. You take them to court. You provide evidence. And you convict them. If there is not sufficient evidence, then you let them go. That is the law. Supposedly, that's what we're fighting for.

The ports deal is dead.

I haven't really written on the ports deal as an issue, when 95% of the cargo comes in unchecked, I don't think it really matters who waves it through, but politically, it's become a story in itself. The administration's position has been politically tenuous thus far and against the public mood, and I think this revelation may put a nail in this one.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Homeland Security Department objected at first to a United Arab Emirates company's taking over significant operations at six U.S. ports. It was the lone protest among members of the government committee that eventually approved the deal without dissent.

The department's early objections were settled later in the government's review of the $6.8 billion deal after Dubai-owned DP World agreed to a series of security restrictions.

So, the "secret agreement" reported by the AP Thursday night between Dubai and the White House was simply a requirement to get Homeland Security to sign on? I don't think that's going to sway the public mood to the White House's side.

Picture of the day - 2

Iranian riot police keeping protesters from reaching the British embassy.

Plame Gossip - the discovered emails

Last night I mentioned the 250 emails that just sudddenly turned up,
And the AP has reported that the White House has suddenly located and turned over those 250 emails from the Vice President's office that were missing and were not properly archived from the critical time period. Funny how those emails just suddenly turned up after two years when Fitzgerald made their "missing" status public just three weeks ago.

But Jason Leopold has a little late night something that might give some of you some hope that this investigation is stll warm. (Remember, Fitzgerald is described as methodical and methodical means slow, and slow doesn't mean stopped.)
The emails are said to be explosive, and may prove that Cheney played an active role in the effort to discredit Plame Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s prewar Iraq intelligence, sources close to the investigation said.

Sources close to the probe said the White House “discovered” the emails two weeks ago and turned them over to Fitzgerald last week. The sources added that the emails could prove that Cheney lied to FBI investigators when he was interviewed about the leak in early 2004. Cheney said that he was unaware of any effort to discredit Wilson or unmask his wife’s undercover status to reporters.

It is important to note that Cheney was not under oath when he was interviewed and said that he knew nothing of Wilson, knew mothing of the trip or the report.
However, the emails say otherwise, and will show that the vice president spearheaded an effort in March 2003 to attack Wilson’s credibility and used the CIA to dig up information on the former ambassador that could be used against him, sources said.

So, if Jason's characterization is correct, Fitzgerald now has in his possession hard evidence that Cheney was "spearheading" an effort to go after Wilson. If that included outing his wife, I thinkFitzgerald has found the top element of the conspiracy.

Also, there's that mention again of the use of the CIA to dig up dirt on a political opponent. Now, this is a matter of characterization as well. If Cheney said, "find out everything you can about Wilson so we can assess his judgement on this matter," that's ugly, but okay.

But if Cheney used the CIA to dig up dirt on a political opponent solely to discredit him, we're seeing something clearly Nixonian here, and the use of the CIA for this purpose is seriously illegal.

Also, as an answer to an earlier question, we also learn in this article that Alberto Gonzales, the AG and chief law enforcement officer in the country has also withheld emails from Fitzgerald under executive privilege claims.

Did you ever notice how executive privilege always seems to come up around illegal actions by the white house? I guess it's the president's "privilege" to listen to his subordinates propose illegal activities and then protect them.

Picture of the Day


Friday, February 24, 2006

Plame Gossip - Libby motions and more

All sorts of Plame news today. The headline story is that Judge Reggie Walton pretty much did what was expected and told Libby's defense team to sit down and shut up. Libby's attorneys had filed a whole raft of motions with slim chances in an effort to bog down or dismiss the case. A short list of some of those motions:

1) that Libby should be given access to 275 or so Presidential Daily Briefs to help refresh his memory. (a blatant effort at greymail because the administration could cripple the prosecution by refusing to declassify them.) The decision on this was put off until a later date, but I see it as highly doubtful.

2) that Libby should be given the name of the original leaker of Plame's identity. (thrown out because he is being tried for PERJURY, not outing Plame, although the Defense Fund was pulling hard for that one as it would've helped the other investigatees.)

3) my favorite, that Fitzgerald's role is unconstitutional. (Nice try. Maybe it'll keep Libby out of prison for a year while they appeal.)

But the real news today came from off the beaten path. Jason Leopold reported that two State Dept employees who cooperated with the probe have been punished by removing them from their jobs to less important busy work. Reprisals of people cooperating with the investigation? I thought the President said his administration would cooperate fully.

And the AP has reported that the White House has suddenly located and turned over those 250 emails from the Vice President's office that were missing and were not properly archived from the critical time period. Funny how those emails just suddenly turned up after two years when Fitzgerald made their "missing" status public just three weeks ago.

So, the tectonics are shifting a bit. In the motions exchange over the last couple of weeks, Fitzgerald very intentionally showed a little of his hand and changed the dynamics of the other side a bit. He told them that he knew who leaked Plame's name and that he knew that certain possibly illegal acts had been undertaken to make his finding that out tougher.

Basically, he told the other investigatees through oblique clues in the Libby motions, I know what you did, and I know more than you think I do, and if you look at Libby, you'll know I'm not afraid to charge you with obstruction. If you don't tell me what I want to know, you could be the one in Scooter's shoes.

It seems to me like he is trying to alter the pressure to get one of the conspirators to flip and take a plea deal. The conspiracy would be much simpler to charge and prosecute with one of the conspirators singing loudly.

I'm not an expert on this by any means, but Fitzgerald seems to be playing this masterfully. I still think he's going to indict several other administration officials, but the descriptions of Fitzgerald always include the word "methodical." Unfortunately, for those watching this case, that translates to very slow.

Picture of the Day - 3

FoxNews - Are you freaking kidding me?

(I'm not normally a big fan of Media Matters as they sometimes pick nits just to score points, but I'm going to link them on this.)

And while we're at it, on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Terry Jeffrey said "I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy."

If you weren't worried about Iraq before, this level of blind to the facts spin should terrify you, because they spin the most when it's worse than anybody knows.

Duke Cunningham isn't the end

Talking Points has a couple of posts on the Mitchell Wade plea agreement, and it looks like this investigation is far from over and may garner several other figures beyond the Dukester.
Wade was able to exploit the [defense] procurement system in three distinct ways: by bribing a sitting United States Congressman; by conspiring to give favors to Department of Defense officials responsible for procuring services from Wade's company; and by funneling illegal campaign contributions to two Members of Congress.

There's a much more comprehesive version here outlining all the details.

So we're looking at least one more congressman and several Department of Defense officials who are being ratted out by the guy who corrupted them. Stay tuned, it's gonna get better.

"Civil War" or "Sectarian Violence" as the narrative on Iraq

Rawstory caught the NYTimes shifting their description of the Iraq situation.
The New York Times declared on its website early Friday in a headline that the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had warned to U.S. was on the "precipice of full-scale civil war." Their headline? "U.S. Envoy in Baghdad Says Iraq Is on Brink of Civil War."

Within an hour and without explanation, the Times yanked the headline in favor of "U.S. Envoy Says Sectarian Violence Threatens Iraq's Future."

I know I'm talking alot about this relatively minor linguistic distinction, but I think that what language the media choses to describe the current situation in Iraq, regardless of the reality on the ground, matters a whole lot in the greater politics of this war.

The reason I think this is important is because an Iraqi Civil War has been for years portrayed as a worst case outcome in Iraq, and if the perception is that this has indeed come to fruit, the American people will be far less willing to allow the current stay the course "strategy for victory."

Whether you want the troops out of Iraq now, or you want more thrown in, the bottom line is that the current set of strategies and policies are failing and have failed. The sooner this reality is understood by the American people, the sooner the current policies will be abandoned and replaced. And that is in everyone's interest. (except of course Bush's political interest.)

So, by using minimizing language, "sectarian violence" rather that the more politically meaningful "civil war," the media is making it far easier for the administration to maintain it's current status quo on policy.

And that doesn't help at all.

Picture of the Day - 2

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - Echo Company marched up one last arid road this Friday morning, a gently curved swath to a Southern California Marine base that marked the final 100 yards of a long, brutal voyage.

Seven months and 22 deaths after they shipped out, the Marines kept formation in the face of something that might make even the most disciplined warrior break ranks: a parking lot full of weepy moms and almost weepy dads, wives, scantily dressed girlfriends and beer-toting brothers, decorated family dogs and still-unseen newborns, their signs, banners, balloons and windshield decals all welcoming their boys home from Iraq.

(Note: this picture is not from the event related in the article excerpt. Those pictures were flash and I couldn't lift them. This picture is from a Texas National Guard homecoming. This article is also a year and a half old, but it just moved me when I read it this morning.)

Half of Iraq detainees innocent?

There have been a number of stories on just how Iraqis are selected for detention, most seeming to be detained with little or no evidence. With that in mind, I found this little bullet point at the bottom of a CNN piece on Iraq today very telling.

Half of the detainee cases reviewed resulted in a recommendation of release.

The U.S. military said Thursday that "about 95 male detainees were released" during the past several days. The Iraqi-led Combined Review and Release Board has reviewed the cases of "more than 28,500 detainees" and recommended release for more than 14,900 of them.

I have no idea what percentage of the Iraqi detainee population this represents or whether the 28,500 were selected because of existing questions on their detention, or whether they are the reult of a broader overall review. But 50%.....

Buy gas this morning

With Nigeria still embroiled in "sectarian violence," and now this early report of a possible attack on a Saudi refinery, it might be a good idea to fill up the tank soon.

On the South Dakota abortion ban

Just a little detail update on the South Dakota abortion ban.

(CBS/AP) South Dakota moved closer to imposing some of the strictest limits on abortion in the nation, as the state Senate approved legislation that would ban it except when a woman's life is in danger.

The bill, designed to wage a national legal fight about the legality of abortion, passed 23-12 Wednesday.....

Supporters of the ban have said an anonymous donor has pledged to provide South Dakota with $1 million to help defend the law in court.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, February 23, 2006

US marines investigationg Iranian factions

What, starting a civil war in Iraq isn't enough? This might be valid contingency planning, but.... (Financial Times)

The intelligence wing of the US marines has launched a probe into Iran’s ethnic minorities at a time of heightened tensions along the border with Iraq and friction between capitals.

Iranian activists involved in a classified research project for the marines told the FT the Pentagon was examining the depth and nature of grievances against the Islamic government, and appeared to be studying whether Iran would be prone to a violent fragmentation along the same kind of fault lines that are splitting Iraq.

And, which one of these explanations do you believe?

US intelligence experts suggested the marines’ effort could indicate early stages of contingency plans for a ground assault on Iran. Or it could be an attempt to evaluate the implications of the unrest in Iranian border regions for marines stationed in Iraq, as well as Iranian infiltration.

Other experts affiliated to the Pentagon suggest the investigation merely underlines that diverse intelligence wings of the US military were seeking to justify their existence at a time of plentiful funding.

Picture of the Day - 3


I know this crosses my usual guidance lines on gore, but if you haven't noticed over the last couple days, I'm having alot of trouble getting my head around, or finding the words to express, my absolute horror at what I see going on in Iraq now and in the near future.

I'd thought about and discussed the ongoing civil war many times, but even then it was never real. In my picture obsession, I've seen some of the most truly horrific pictures out of Iraq, horrible things done to innocent people, to children. In my head I knew about it all.

But for some reason now, it's all coalescing in me and this picture somehow captures that. After seeing pictures of Iraqis for so long, of firefights, of victims, something in my mind has transitioned and I am now seeing them all in a reflection of blood.

Quite frankly, I'm having alot of trouble with this.

Sorry, it's not funny. Sorry, it's not witty. Sorry, it's not informational. But it's the truth.

So, you're just going to have to be patient as I work through this. - Mike

Friday Mosque

Just a stray thought on Iraq. Really, by this time tomorrow, after the Friday Mosque, we'll have a much better idea where we stand, of just how open this civil war is going to be.

Also, the various US government apparatuses that have a stake in Iraq are desperately trying to tamp down the characterization that Iraq is in civil war. Military, State Dept, and I would expect others to follow.

I usually take issue with the use of language intentionally altering understanding of reality, but this one I do understand. You don't want the US to be the one firing the starting gun for the increased bloodletting that seems sure to follow, because the moment the administration admits to a civil war, any hope of a government forming in Iraq is gone.

The US media seems to have backed off the "civil war" language a bit in favor of the phrase "increasing sectarian violence." I'm not so much a fan of that. It's their job to report the reality.

Not Iraq, but while we're talking about "sectarian violence," in Nigeria over the last few days more than 120 people have died in clashes between Christians and Muslims. In Onitsha, bodies were burned in the streets.

Are you better off that you were 8 years ago?

It's not just your imagination.
WASHINGTON - The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace.

Picture of the Day - 2

They really had no fucking idea, did they?

Iraq is on fire

Police said two bombs that had been planted at the mosque overnight exploded at dawn. Some local officials in Samarra said the bombers were dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi security forces. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, in one of several televised news conferences and appeals by Iraqi and U.S. leaders, said preliminary investigation into the bombing pointed to "infiltration'' of Iraqi security forces.

We have reports of Shia death squads operating in uniform. We have reports of Sunni bombers operating in uniform. And then there's the very public reporting that the Kurds have intentionally loaded the Northern Security Forces with members of their own militias.

Is the US training effort effectively training the combatant sides of the civil war?

Also, let me say very clearly I don't think this is a bad idea, but I include it to give an idea of just how dangerous Iraq has become.
U.S. military units in the Baghdad area were told Thursday morning to halt all but essential travel. Commanders feared that convoys might be caught up in demonstrations or road blocks.

And, despite the effort by US officials to downplay the possibility of a Civil War (Voice of America - written by a State Dept official,) there's this cold reality....

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's main Sunni Muslim bloc pulled out on Thursday of negotiations for the formation of a new government, blaming the ruling Shi'ite alliance for sectarian violence that has killed dozens of Sunnis in the past 24 hours.

"We are suspending our participation in negotiations on the government with the Shi'ite Alliance," Tareq al-Hashemi, a top official of the Iraqi Accordance Front, told a news conference.

give a quick thought to the photographers and reporters who are risking their lives in an effort to cover this violence. Although their motivations are usually quite complicated, the reporters who work in war's hot zones do a great service to us and to history. One Al-Arabiya TV correspondent and two other journalists have already been reported killed in Samarra.

As a recent example of reportorial heroism, DemocracyNow had a phenomenal interview with Ahmed Mansur and cameraman Laith Mushtaq who were inside Fallujah, unembedded, in the US's April 2004 offensive. The world knows far more about what happened there solely because of these two men.

Picture of the Day

Three months ago. Nov. 11. Veteran's Day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Two Cheney shooting bits before bed

On the Daily Show last night, John Stewart made the observation (paraphrase,)

"How powerful do you have to be to shoot a man in the face and have him apologize for causing you difficulty?"

Second, HUGE disclaimer on this one. The site on which this is published seems to have a habit of printing the worst of unsubstantiated rumor. Treat it like the National Enquirer, and read it not for the facts, but for the entertainment value,

Because if you're here, you so want this to be true.

Scathing in Newsweek

If you like you're Bush criticisms hot, you're gonna love this Newsweek online commentary by Michael Hirsh.

Listening this week to the latest excerpts from Osama bin Laden's and Ayman al Zawahiri's taped messages, it is hard not to marvel at how lucky these would-be revolutionaries have been in their enemy. Who would have thought that, four and a half years on, facing down the mightiest power in history, this sociopathic pair would still be out there talking trash, their continued existence a daily desecration of the memory of the 9/11 dead? Or that bin Laden and Zawahiri would have been able to whip what had been a bare ember of “global jihad”—one barely smoldering on 9/10/01—into a global conflagration? .....

It is time to have an accounting of just how badly run, and conceived, this "war on terror" has been.....

On 9/10/01 America had adversaries, but mainly on the fringes. The invasion of Afghanistan brought barely a peep from the Arab street. No one had much use for Al Qaeda, even in the Islamic world. Global polls like those taken by Pew and the German Marshall Fund showed a remarkable degree of global consensus in favor of a one-superpower (in other words, American-dominated) world. The silver lining of 9/11 was a chance to reaffirm the legitimacy of America's role as trusted overseer of the international system.....

How then did we arrive at this day, with anti-American Islamist governments rising in the Mideast, bin Laden sneering at us, Qaeda lieutenants escaping from prison, Iran brazenly enriching uranium, and America as hated and mistrusted as it ever has been? The answer, in a word, is incompetence.

A shift in the Iraq narrative.

With the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra today, there seems to be a shift in the overall US media narrative on Iraq. A civil war in Iraq that has been largely presented only as a possibility, seems to be transitioning to a presentation that a civil war is imminent, inevitable, or ongoing.

(I recognize that this specific bombing marks an artificial point along a continuum of increasing sectarian violence, but, quite frankly, the narrative presented to the American people is far more important in altering perceptions than the reality.)

If the narrative is changing, this could have major implications on US politics, Iraq policy, and our sense of ourselves as a nation.

What happens to Bush's Iraq policy as it becomes more clear to Americans that there is no nation left to build? Does he stick to his "victory plan?" Are we looking at Nixon in Vietnam? How does that impact broader foreign policy especially in relation to Iran?

Bush has often said that we need to see Iraq through so that we maintain credibility to deter future threats, and yet it was his decision to enter this needless war that seems to have exposed that lack of credibility. Before we invaded Iraq, smaller nations feared us, and now they think of us as a paper tiger.

Beyond the unusable nuclear deterrent, we have offered nations a workable game plan on how to tie down and exhaust the US army.

And what does failure in Iraq mean going forward with the American public when the US has lost two of it's last three major wars? What does that do to our sense as a nation? What impacts does that have?

One of the core philosophical precepts of the Neocons is that ideas can change the world, and in that, I think they're right. They believed that the concepts of freedom and democracy would act to transform the middle east. The jury's still out on that.

What I'm asking today is what would a mass realization of failure in Iraq mean?

Many people already recognize the Iraq war as a failure, so is there really an impact in all this? Using myself as an example, I know that the policy was a failure, but somehow it feels very different today staring the results of that failure square in the face.

I keep thinking I should've done more.

Just some stray thoughts on a cloudy afternoon.

By the way, if you haven't been there yet today, pop by Juan Cole's site, or try Today in Iraq, less interpretation, more facts.

(Later: Looks like I'm not the only one to notice the change in tone. Also, sorry if this post was a bit of self indulgent navel gazing, but somehow today I was hit with the reality of all these eventualities and what they really are going to look like. Today, for the first time, I started to see the rippling implications of George Bush's failed war of choice. What we've done to the people of Iraq is horrific. What we've done to ourselves is shameful.)

Picture of the Day - 3

An Iranian woman wearing the US flag on "Revolution Day."

I don't know what message she intended, I just really liked the depth of this picture.

Olympic Hockey Wednesday

A little less blogging this afternoon because we've got tons of great olympic hockey and a kickass UEFA Champions League game Chelsea v Barcelona. I'm taping some of it, so please no spoilers and no comments on this post.

Interrogating artists' political views in Britain

Life imitates art. (BBC)
The actors who star in movie The Road to Guantanamo were questioned by police at Luton airport under anti-terrorism legislation, it has emerged.

The men, who play British inmates at the detention camp, were returning from the Berlin Film Festival where the movie won a Silver Bear award.

One of the actors, Rizwan Ahmed, said a police officer asked him if he intended to make any more "political" films.

Picture of the Day -2


What goes on at Guantanamo....

There's a pretty good article in the NYTimes in which
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, head of the United States Southern Command, said soldiers at Guantánamo began strapping some of the detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed them and isolate them from one another after finding that some were deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed. ....

But what got me was this. After a lengthy discussion of how the new more aggressive force feeding techniques were causing pain, bleeding, and vomiting as the feeding tubes were repeatedly and forcefully run through the nasal passage,

General Craddock suggested that the medical staff had indulged the hunger strikers to the point that they had been allowed to choose the color of their feeding tubes.

A man strapped to a chair, arms restrained, head strapped back saying, "no. no. not again, no more."

And then somebody tells him he gets to choose the color of the tube. Now, that's indulgence.

More Sellout McCain

Can't say that I'm surprised.
SUN CITY WEST - Sen. John McCain said Tuesday night that he stands behind the Bush administration's decision to approve a deal that gives an Arab company control over operations at six major U.S. ports.

"I trust the president of the United States," McCain, R-Ariz., told nearly 800 West Valley residents during a town-hall meeting in Sun City West.

Mr. McCain, I remember just a few months ago that you didn't trust the president when you were going through all your theatrics on your "torture amendment" political play. What changed?

Oh, that's right, Bush gave you his donor list. John McCain has sold his soul to George Bush so that he can be president. Tell me again about the independent, maverick Senator.

(And while we're talking sellouts, Lieberman appears to be with Bush on this as well. (last couple paragraphs.))

South Dakota to ban abortion.

This is an update from this post two weeks ago.

PIERRE, S.D., Feb. 21 — Lawmakers here are preparing to vote on a bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions in South Dakota, a measure that could become the most sweeping ban approved by any state in more than a decade, those on both sides of the abortion debate say.

The South Dakota Senate bill appears identical from a quick reading of this NYTimes article. No exemption for Rape or Incest and a five year prison term for any doctor convicted. This legislation is designed as a test case. How many people will be affected while this works through the courts?

Picture of the Day

An Iraqi girl looks on at the aftermath of a car bomb outside her window.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Port Security as a Republican scam.

UPDATE/RETRACTION: The early consensus seems to be that I am totally wrong on this speculation, so I'm going to abandon it. So, in the ethics of blogging, I'm going to retract it, but leave it up. Read it if you want, but understand that I think I may be wrong on this one. - Mike

Shoot me down if you want, I sometimes see things that aren't there, but I see a political play for the midterms in all this. Let's step back a month or so, when Karl Rove came out of hiding to lay out the Republican strategy for maintaining control of Congress. His plan came down to two words, "National Security."

Other analysts have pointed to the drag that Bush has been on incumbent Republican polling and that the best strategy for the incumbents would be to establish some "independence" from Bush.

So, now, we suddenly have an issue on which incumbent legislators can claim both. "I am so concerned about protecting you from terrorists that I am willing to be independent of the president." That's an awfully convenient confluence. Also in this, Bush gets to come out in defense of Arabs.

Now, I recognize there are downsides if this is indeed a strategy including further political damage to Bush, but what if you were to compare that to what would happen to the Republicans if they lost a chamber of Congress and the Dems suddenly had the ability to call hearings, launch investigations, and issue subpoenas? What would that due to the Republican's standing?

Also, I still consider this somewhat of a non-issue for the reasons in the post below, but I also find the response strangely racist. All that would effectively change through this sale is the ownership and perhaps a few management positions. The on the ground staff would still be the same Americans that were working for the previous British owners.

But the imagery being created around this seems to be of brownskinned men conspiring with Al Qaeda to manage the transfer of "the package." It's movie-like and not real. It's plays upon a stereotype that has been planted in all of us by movies and TV shows since the eighties. So, I see this as a soft appeal to racism in all the rhetoric.

And whenever I see an appeal to racism no matter disguised, I see a Republican ploy for votes. Who was against interracial marriage, same sex marriage? What party hosts the people against affirmative action? Those who paint welfare as a black phenomena? Which party supports racial profiling? Those who want to repeal the voting rights act? Immigration?

Maybe I'm just a cynic, but when I see bigoted sterotypes being ginned up around an issue, I see the ugly side of the Republican party.

(I recognize that there are other ways that the Repubs could claim national security credentials. But the issues they would use Iraq, Patriot Act, NSA spying are not proving all that popular. If you're looking at an election, do you seriously want to sign up for what Sen. Roberts has been getting over the past week for caving to the Bush admin on the NSA spying? Do you really want to take a strong position for Iraq right now?

No. Let's find a brown bogeyman to rally against. That's always been an effective Republican ploy. Willie al Horton.)

So in this theory, Bush takes a hit, but holds onto both houses of Congress. That, I would argue, is far more important than his approval ratings at this point.

This is just an off the top of the head conjecture, and I'm more than willing to change or abandon it in the face of good argument, so....

Whattya think?

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The Leader of The Free World.

This was taken today at the energy photo op.

No Terror Warnings in 2005?

I don't know why I got to thinking about this today, but after all the 2004 the terror alerts that served to highlight Bush's security reelect numbers, how long has it been since we've had a terror warning? (From the way I phrase this, I hope it's clear that I feel the quick trigger on these warnings was solely for political reasons.)

But, in the face of steadily falling Bush approval numbers, we haven't had one in awhile. Why is that? Is it no longer a guaranteed bump in the polls? Do they want to save the tactic for the midterms or 2008? Would a terror threat be seen to emphasize that the war on terror has largely failed thus far? Just thinking out loud.

(By the way, I haven't been writing about the port operations sale to the UAE, because, quite frankly, I think it's next to nothing. The US allows over 95% of cargo containers through ports and to their destination unchecked. What real difference does it make who waves them through?

But Bush was pissed about it today.)

Libby defense fund opens a website.

If you don't have the facts or the law, confuse them.

Remember this is a simple perjury obstruction case. The Libby Defense Fund is putting a whole lot of money into spinning this because they are are defending the politics rather than the charges, because there are written grand jury transcripts of Libby perjuring himself. Straight up, dead on perjury.

There is no classified intel component to the case; there is no patriotism /public service issue to the case. Lewis Scooter Libby knowingly lied to investigators and a grand jury, and he was nailed on it. Don't try to tell me what a great guy he is, he's a felon. (allegedly)

US is funnelling arms to Rwanda(maybe?)

The Sunday Times had an article a couple days ago(duh, Sunday,) which reported that the CIA rendition flights had been using bogus call numbers from another private airline. That's a story, but I had kind of assumed it, how else are they going to pull it off.

BUT, I didn't read far enough down in the article because near the bottom is an indication of some of the non-rendition illegal acts the CIA may be using these planes for.

While the Learjet was on the ground at Tuzla, an Ilyushin 76 was loading a cargo of 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition sold off by the Bosnian military and destined for Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo.

The Ilyushin left Tuzla, flew over Italy and headed south in the direction of Africa. The American Learjet took off 55 minutes later.

In a report exposing arms trafficking to war-torn central Africa, Amnesty International has suggested that “US security authorities were engaged in a covert operation to ferry arms to Rwanda in the face of political opposition from the European Union”.

So, the official story is that these arms are headed for Rwanda which is illegal, but, looking at the history of CIA arms shipments, Iran Contra for instance, I can't say with certainty that Rwanda was the ultimate destination. They could be passing through Rwanda into the Congo civil war, or headed somewhere else entirely, maybe in Africa, maybe not. (after all, the subterfuge of false flight reporting is the whole point of the article.)

But something improper is certainly going down here and I think this is the story. The US is arming some nation or faction and it doesn't want it publicly known. So I thought I'd do what I could to make it so.

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Bush visiting Walter Reed.

Abramoff paid to set up presidential meetings and other Republican corruption

Jack Abramoff received $1.2 million to set up a 2002 meeting between the Malaysian Prime Minister and Bush, but the strange thing is, the Malaysian Prime Minister....
"told reporters he was aware a payment was made to Abramoff, but he didn't know who made it. He said he had been persuaded by the U.S. think tank Heritage Foundation to meet with Bush at the time."

Doesn't that seem a very odd arrangement, the implication obviously being that the Heritage foundation "arranged" the $1.2 million for Abramoff? I would be very curious to know which crazy right winger set this all up and why.

Also, appreciate that despite all the administration's denials of Abramoff having no contacts and influence in the White House, that when some rich right winger, who certainly knew the field of play, had $1.2 million to set up a meeting with the president, they went through Abramoff.

I want to know a whole lot more about the "two decade" Abramoff/Rove relationship.

(By the way, makes that Clinton "Lincoln bedroom" thing look not so bad, eh?)

has gotten around a little, but Bush is scheduled to make an appearance today at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. Funny thing, bad news disappears, when the president needs a backdrop.
The lab, with a looming $28 million budget shortfall, had announced it was cutting its staff by 32 people, including eight researchers. But in advance of Bush's visit, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman over the weekend directed the transfer of $5 million to the private contractor that runs the lab, so the jobs can be saved.

Also, if you haven't seen it, somebody's gunning for Santorum on ethics charges. Not only is he being connected with an elitist private bank financing his home, but somebody's been digging into and leaking his PAC spending including expenditures at Starbucks, Target, Walmart, etc. It may be legitimate, but the story is spun so that it appears he's crooked.

It would be interesting to know the genesis of this piece. (I'm not a fan and he may be crooked, but I just find the charges of impropriety in this article are mostly insinuation. And it's getting outsized play coming from Prospect.)

Did you hear about this?

If you're here, you're somewhat of a newsjunkie, so just as a check on the media's coverage of Iraq, let me ask a question. Buried in a NYTimes story on Khalilzad warning against a sectarian government was this line.
Mr. Khalilzad spoke at a news conference on a day of fresh violence across Iraq. It was the bloodiest day in almost two months.

Have you seen ANY media coverage of Iraq's "bloodiest day?"

And what does that mean in the greater politics of the conflict?

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Plame Gossip - Conspiracy Theory

Another Plame article from Jason Leopold with a couple interesting bits. He names Robert Joseph, formerly the director of nonproliferation at the National Security Council, as a possible point source for the leak, but the real news to me in this is that he names the conspiracy.

The sources said it was during this time that Libby, Hadley, Joseph, Hannah and Rove plotted to silence Wilson by leaking his wife's name to a specific group of reporters, saying that she chose him for the fact-finding mission to Niger and as a result his investigation was highly suspect. It's unclear what role, if any, Cheney played, but the sources said Fitzgerald is trying to determine if the vice president was involved.

The sources said Hannah is one of the cooperating witnesses in the probe.

If this conspiracy of five is charged, it would cripple the White House, even without Cheney. If Cheney is implicated, the scandal would be huge. Charges around this leaking would be notoriously tricky, and perhaps that's why Fitzgerald is moving so slowly and trying to get each and every one of them to turn. Jason says to expect the investigation to stretch into spring.

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Coming Home.

Cheney tried to hide he was the shooter?

A very cryptic description of events in the Cheney shooting from Time magazine.
At about 8 a.m. Sunday, a Cheney aide called strategist Mary Matalin, who regularly advises the Vice President. The aide read her a statement about the accident that Cheney had considered releasing before he decided to encourage Armstrong to go to the Caller-Times. But the statement "didn't say much of anything," Matalin says--not even that Cheney was the shooter. Matalin then spoke with a second aide and with Cheney's family and heard different versions of what had happened in the shooting. She decided no statement should be released amid the confusion. Matalin spoke with Cheney, and, she says, they agreed that "a fuller accounting, with an eyewitness," would be preferable.

I'm not sure if this is saying that Cheney was trying to hide his role from the public or from the White House, but it sure is interesting. This is after they woke up the next morning.

Also, talking with different aides and family members garnered different stories? This doesn't inspire my confidence. I may have to get the tinfoil hat back out.

Fukayama unloads

Fukayama unloads on the Neocons (his word) and their invasion of Iraq. Fukayama still shares several of the neocon's philosophical presumptions, but with the knowledge of an insider, he tears apart the neocon philosophical rationale on Iraq.

This is a bit of a wonk piece, but if you're interested in the neocon ideological debate, this long article is worth a read. It's also quite interesting to me in that it shows how far from realism these guys are in their think tanky foreign policy analysis. It's more about making a coherent theoretical argument than dealing with the real world.

And the soldiers and the rest of us are left to deal with the real world results.

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LATimes' Snark an administration's privacy board

I just liked this from the LATimes because the snark level of the intro is off the charts.
WASHINGTON — For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.

Also in the LATimes today is a comprehensive article on the efforts the Bush administration has been making to limit corporate liability for banks, drug companies, the auto industry, and let's not forget asbestos companies. (Have you seen the ads?) If you want to see an example on the use of gov't power to help corporations over citizens, take a look.

Hagel did it.

There was an article last night that surprised me, somebody very connected in the Senate or White House told a very unflattering story to the WaPo about how the White House was interfering in the Senate's attempts to conduct an investigation on warrantless wiretapping.

At the time, I asked who could have done it, but that's only because I'm a doofus. I had already blogged the answer on the same day, and it wasn't until MadMustard (very funny by the way) pointed out Hagel's presidential ambitions that it all connected.

Let's quickly run through it. The Bush administration gave McCain the key to the party, the Bush's fundraisers list, reported on the 18th by Novak, but it certainly took place earlier. On the 17th, Hagel's local paper prints a scything quote by Hagel about the Cheney shooting that was certain to get national coverage, and then last night, he tells the WaPo everything he knows about the White House's efforts to cover their illegal spying.

Hagel is one pissed off Senator. Keep an on it, as he is the swing vote on the Intel committee, it could get really fun.

Iraqi troop readiness.....

The NYTimes has a fairly prominent article talking about the increasing effectiveness of some new Iraqi spec op forces. After writing in clancyesque terms about their raid, and their capability, a couple of qualifiers are mentioned.
The Iraqi special operations forces are rapidly moving toward full self-sufficiency in carrying out the combat part of their missions, American officers say, and there is general agreement these Iraqis are the best in the new military here. Even so, it is clear that some American troops will have to stay in Iraq for some time to come. American officers say that is because they share the burden of supplying food, fuel, weapons, ammunition, spare parts, maintenance and, perhaps most of all, intelligence on individual targets and a disciplined planning process.

These are the Iraqis' very top troops, and they still need the US to supply food, fuel, ammunition, etc. That sounds so much worse than the Pentagon's euphemism, "needing continued logistical support." The Iraqis CANNOT FEED their very best soldiers.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Who is telling this story?

I can't figure out who is telling this story on the Senate Intel Committee's backdown on investigating the warrantless wiretapping. It makes Olympia Snowe look better than anything else I've read about her waffling on this, so it may be her office putting it out but for some reason, I don't think so. She's never been one for close in fighting.

I really can't tell, but the source knows a whole lot that took place on the Senate side, but doesn't name names or cite specific events on the House side, so it's from somebody trying to land a few blows on or for one of the four Senators named, Snowe, Roberts, Hagel, or DeWine and the White House.

Just interesting, this is a very public play by somebody. If I'm guessing, it's Hagel's staff. All the facts would be known to them, and he has publicly blasted Roberts before. If so, it's not a very subtle effort to point out Roberts' kneepads for the Whitehouse, and the administration's desperation to avoid an investigation at all costs.

I'll be really curious to watch the movement over the next couple of days on this to see who is really playing this game in the WaPo. I'll be looking for something public back at Hagel, probably from a White House surrogate. If you see it, let me know.

(By the way, the administration's desperation to avoid any sort of investigation tells me that they went way over the line on this one and their exposure must be significant. If you're on the Intel committee and you want a bridge named after you, now is the time.)

Quote of the Day.

You may have seen this by now, I've run across it several times today, but it's still pretty scathing considering it comes from Republican tough guy Chuck Hagel on Dick Cheney who desperately sought and received FIVE deferments to avoid Vietnam.
And Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican and Vietnam war veteran, told The Omaha World-Herald, "If he'd been in the military, he would have learned gun safety."

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Not feeling real bloggy right now,

I'm not feeling real bloggy today, so here's some stuff I found interesting Sunday reading.

The Bush talking with anti-global warming hero Michael Crichton is getting too much blog space today.

The NYTimes has a great article on a Kentucky coal mine trying to bring in "Hispanic workers," because the "work ethic of the Eastern Kentucky worker has declined from where it once was."

And this AP article is one of those now standard "list every bad event in Iraq today" articles. It's long. Another really good source for daily Iraq events that don't make the main headlines is Dancewater's Today in Iraq. Take a look, you'll see what I mean.

Muslims in Indonesia tried to storm the US embassy there, ostensibly over 'the cartoon', but does anybody believe that's waht this is about anymore? In the same article, Pakistan had to seal off Islamabad to prevent a major protest there, and they still had to fire tear gas and live rounds to disperse the people who made it through.

The Republicans have decided to do the old foot drag on lobbying reform. I guess when you're the ones who set up the current corrupt system, you're abit hesitant to let your fundraising advantage go.

One of our top oil suppliers, Nigeria, is edging ever closer to an open civil war.

Finally, the last page of this Newsweek roundup article on Cheney's shooting has an interesting look back at Cheney's influence and actions including that he ordered the shoot down without Bush on 9-11.

Bombing Iran is now out

This is a great move for the parties involved and a horrid mistake by the US. The Iranians get significant political cover including a possible security council veto on sanctions and military strikes, and the Chinese get below market oil an gas. Playing bully was playing this situation all wrong.
SHANGHAI, Feb. 17 -- China is hastening to complete a deal worth as much as $100 billion that would allow a Chinese state-owned energy firm to take a leading role in developing a vast oil field in Iran, complicating the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern nation and roll back its nuclear development plans, according to published reports. ....

But the speed with which China and Iran are moving to conclude their agreement and begin development appears to signal Beijing's intent to limit the United States-led drive for sanctions against Iran to curb what the Washington describes as Tehran's rogue effort to develop nuclear weapons.

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The McCain torture amendment.

In light of these previous two posts about McCain being chosen by Bush as his apparent successor, it got me thinking about the whole McCain torture amendment sham. He did it again.

McCain took a "principled" stand pushing the anti-torture amendment into law, but when George Bush issued a signing statement saying that he reserved the right to torture, and the spotlight moved away from McCain, he let the issue drop.

So let's see, McCain gets the public press of being independent, a reformer, and principled, and then on the back side, he gets goodies from Bush for letting the issue more or less stay in the same situation. Watch his lobbying reforms, it'll be a different version of the same thing.

I know I'm harping on about McCain, but I am a supporter scorned.

The successor?

Giuliani's national hopes have faded, and it looks like Sellout McCain is the annointed Bush successor. Rove gave him the family jewels, the 'major donor list.'
Major political contributors to George W. Bush who have never given a dime to prospective 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain received letters, dated Feb. 8, asking for donations to the senator's Straight Talk America political action committee.

Obviously using President Bush's direct mail list, the letter signed by McCain asks for $1,000 or $1,500 to support candidates agreeing with McCain on "key issues."

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