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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Collette Gourley, holding her son, Colton, 3, is hugged by her aunt, Ottalyne Dinkelman, at Army Staff Sgt. Gregson Gourley's grave site Friday, March 3, 2006, at the military cemetary in Bluffdale, Utah. Her husband was one of four soldiers killed last week when their Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

US and UK forces out of Iraq by Spring '07

It sure is good to know we're going to make so much progress in Iraq over the next year.
LONDON (Reuters) - The United States and Britain are planning to pull all their troops out of Iraq by the spring of 2007, two British newspapers reported in their Sunday editions, quoting unnamed senior defense ministry sources.

I don't believe this necessarily, but I await seeing the Bush administration having to answer questions about it, having to argue that we should keep our troops in Iraq. With the polls where they are, and Iraq falling apart, that's going to be a very tough political battle to win. It will highlight the lack of progress thus far and force the question, "under what circumstances will you pull out troops."

It's another anchor being thrown at them.

(The two papers sourcing this are the Telegraph and Mirror. I don't know if they're corporately related.)

Also: Just interesting at this point. The Pat Tillman myth/coverup is coming back into the mainstream as well. Notice the word "criminal." Curious, eh?
The Army said Saturday it will launch a criminal investigation into the April 2004 death of Pat Tillman, the former professional football player who was shot to death by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan in what previous Army reviews had concluded was an accidental shooting.

Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman, said the Defense Department office of inspector general had reviewed the matter at the Army's request and concluded that a criminal probe was warranted.

- The Musical -

Thrills, Drama, Song, and Dance.

Reprising all your favorites
in one stunning show.

"There is no God but God"
"Going to Guantanamo"
"They'll Never Take Me Alive"

and everyone's chart-topping favorite

"Death to America"

"A rollicking show. It starts with a song and ends with a bang. Four Stars." - The Wichita Weekly Saver.

"I found the plot intriguing, but didn't really like the end." - NY Observer.

"It was entertaining, but implausible. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that these guys can go four and a half years without getting caught?" - Washington Post

(Notice: Osama bin Laden is unable to perform due to illness. Tonight, the role of Supervillian will be played by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.)

(If this isn't funny, I'm sorry. I know it's tasteless. I'm working outside my normal genre here. But it made me laugh out loud writing it.)

(Later: If you're here for the Koufax voting, today's weird and gossipy entries are totally atypical. Look back to the weekdays, or check back on Monday to get a better idea of what I do. But quite frankly, although I'm touched by the nomination, I'm going to vote for ThinkProgress. Yes, they have staff and a budget and are working out of a political organization, but they do a hell of a job. They dig up stories, do research etc. I'm just in that "crazy guy with a keyboard" category. But it is nice to be nominated.)

Picture of the Day - 2

It's hard to be the other woman, always in the background, eh Condi?

Just a quick look back to April 2004. (from a gossip column in New York.)

At a recent dinner party hosted by....., Rice was reportedly overheard saying, “As I was telling my husb—” and then stopping herself abruptly, before saying, “As I was telling President Bush.” Jaws dropped, but a guest says the slip by the unmarried politician, who spends weekends with the president and his wife, seemed more psychologically telling than incriminating. Nobody thinks Bush and Rice are actually an item. A National Security Council spokesman laughed and said, “No comment.”

On the Russia-Iran nuclear deal

Just a quick question on the proposed Russian solution to Iranian nuclear enrichment.

One of the primary elements of this plan is that all enrichment and post processing would take place in Russia so that the Iranians wouldn't have the base from which to build nuclear weapons. But doesn't this also mean that enriched uranium would be transported, presumably overland through either a Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, or a Gerorgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan route not to mention travelling through troubled southern Russia and northern Iran?

Now, this material would not be enriched to weapons grade, so it couldn't be seized and immediately turned into a bomb, but it would be 70% or so enriched, and the waste coming out of Iran would be even more radioactive in significant amounts, ideal for use in multiple dirty bombs.

I guess they could send it by boat across the Caspian, but this just doesn't sound like a good idea to me either. Quite frankly, I would think the Iranian government actually having nuclear weapons would represent a smaller risk.

Just thinking out loud.

(The US-India deal is similar but it involves a smaller transhipment of radioactive materials, but that would largely be by sea.)

Picture of the Day

From the India trip.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A rare observation on media coverage

Two quick observations on the news coverage today.

1) How many stories did I see on the "unprecedented" security on Bush's stopover in Pakistan? Details about the plane, the stay, the number of people involved all delivered in this amazed and breathless tone.

Hey, media whores. Did you not know that President Bush was hated in Pakistan? Are you seriously amazed by the fact that the country where Al Qaeda still finds support and refuge to this day might not like George Bush? Stop listening to the White House and read some foreign press.

On the ports deal, I've repeatedly heard various announcers make the observation that the democrats are trying to outflank the president from the right.

Think about the assumption there, that in order to take any action against terrorism, the democrats have to try to fight from the Republican side.

Because after all, the Republicans are the only ones who want to stop terror attacks.

Sorry, I don't do this media critique often as it's an endless black hole, but for some reason today, these both just got up my butt.

India with 500 nuclear weapons?

This is making the rounds, but it's worthy of it. In all the bright and brilliant press about Bush's nuclear deal with India, one little fact has remained out of the headlines.

In addition to all the predictable reactions (pro and con) to the landmark nuclear agreement reached in India yesterday, a powerful and unexpected new concern has emerged based on a last-minute concession by President Bush.

It appears that, to close the deal during his visit, Bush directed his negotiators to give in to India's demands that it be allowed to produce unlimited quantities of fissile material and amass as many nuclear weapons as it wants.....

But now the criticisms may focus on this question: By enabling India to build an unlimited stockpile of nuclear weapons, would this agreement set off a new Asian arms race?

And here's another question: Were Bush and his aides so eager for some good headlines -- for a change -- that they gave away the store?....

The pact also does not require oversight of India's prototype fast-breeder reactors, which can produce significant amounts of super-grade plutonium when fully operating.....

Last week, during a private meeting with a group of congressional leaders, [undersecretary of state for political affairs R. Nicholas] Burns suggested it was unlikely the sides would be able to quickly bridge significant gaps on the separation plan. But a last-minute decision by Bush to accept India's demands sealed the deal.

(also notice in this article that Israel isn't mentioned as one of the "other major nuclear powers." 200 bombs with delivery systems that reach Europe, Russia, and northern Africa rates you as a major nuclear power. Oh, that's right. We don't talk about Israel's nukes.)

Update: Saturday in the LATimes.
Ashley J. Tellis, a senior State Department official and a key architect of the new strategic policy on India, has argued that a buildup of India's nuclear arsenal is not only in New Delhi's interest, but Washington's. It will cause Beijing to worry more about India and less about the United States, Tellis says.

So, administration official Tellis is telling me that a South Asian arms race was the goal of Bush policy?

Picture of the Day - 3

Home from Iraq.

On the DHS list for paying down your credit card?

A retired Texas school teacher named Walter Soehnge got on a DHS watch list because of his credit card payment to JC Penny. I'm not kidding. The check was frozen until DHS okayed it. (slow article so skim the first third.)
They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted.

How scary is that?

Picture of the Day - 2

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but Bush's trip to India seems to have worked on me. I haven't put up a picture from Iraq since Tuesday.

How well has it worked on everybody else?

There have been some headlines, this one by Rumsfeld being my favorite: Defense chief cautions against too many troops in Iraq

They upped the recruitment age to 39 so I've still got three more years to enlist. Whoohoo! Sign me up.

It looks like Jaafari is clinging to power only with support of Moqtada al-Sadr.

And people are still dying in Sunni Shia violence. Still dying. Still dying.

But I'm talking about Bush in India. I hate it when I've been had.

Torture in Guantanamo outside the McCain amendment

I'm just going to put these two articles together and let you draw your own conclusions. First WaPo.

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

And then this from AFP
US military officers, breaking with domestic and international legal precedent, said that "war on terror" military tribunals at the Guantanamo naval base could allow evidence obtained through torture.

The US military officer presiding over the trial of an alleged aide to Osama bin Laden said he was not ready to rule out such evidence.

Defining Terrorism Down

On several occasions I've pointed out the extension of the PATRIOT Act to cover both ecoterrorism and narcoterrorism. Basically what this means is that the full force of the PATRIOT Act can be turned on environmental activists and drug criminals.

In this case, we don't know if elements of the PATRIOT Act were used during the investigation, but read the details of this case and tell me if these people are terrorists.

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A federal jury using an anti-terrorism law for the first time convicted six animal rights activists on Thursday for a campaign to drive a company out of business.

The jury in Trenton, New Jersey, found the defendants and their organization guilty of violating the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a federal law that was amended in 2002 to equate its offenses with terrorism. This marked the first trial and conviction under that law, federal officials said.....

During the three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson, jurors heard that defendants urged sympathizers to harass Huntingdon employees, vandalize their cars and publish the names, addresses and phone numbers of their families on a Web site.

SHAC members also used their Web site in an attempt to stop other companies from doing business with Huntingdon in the hope that if they succeeded, Huntingdon itself would be unable to operate.

Their tactics included sending thousands of e-mails to the targeted companies to disrupt their computers, and sending "black faxes" to prevent fax machines from operating.

Now, I have to say, I don't really agree with the tactics and it does sound like they broke the law, but TERRORISM? I can't tell from this article the level of harassment, but sending black faxes, flooding email servers? Does this qualify as terrorism?

US prosecutors have just utilized terrorism statutes to protect the business interests of a private corporation.

Tell me that doesn't scare you a little bit.

(By the way, I'm not against animal testing, but if you don't know what Huntingdon does, they are indeed a house of cruelty. They are, without question, the worst actors in the animal testing industry. I'm not going to link to any of them, but there are undercover videos and documentaries on Huntingdon that will make you blanche. It's truly horrific.)

(I really haven't done enough for lily's Corruptco blogfest this week.)

This website is blocked

I'm not a fan of wonkette, but every once in a while somebody links to something I find interesting there. Today, it's this that is taking place out of Iraq.
Just to let you know, the US Marines have blocked access to “Wonkette” along with numerous other sites such as personal email (i.e. Yahoo, AT&T, Hotmail, etc), blogs that don't agree with the government point of view, personal websites, and some news organizatons. This has taken effect as of the beginning of February. I have no problem with them blocking porn sites (after all it is a government network), but cutting off access to our email and possibly -not -toeing -the -government -line websites is a bit much.

I'm sure this was done on a blanket basis, block everything that contains the f-word for instance, but in order to get a website reopened, a soldier has to make a specific request to the USMC Network Operations Center in Quantico, VA.

If you were a soldier, would you really want that request in your file?

But in example, this website would be blocked because I have used the f-word a half dozen times, SEVERAL IN QUOTING THE VICE PRESIDENT.

But what does Pakistan get?

After reading some of the details of the India Nuclear agreement, legitimization of India's abrogation of the nonproliferation treaty, reopening nuclear and defense technology transfers, I'm left with the question, "but what will Pakistan get out of this?"

Historically, when the US offers something to one side of the India/Pakistan rivalry, the other side gets some sort of conciliatory grant, be it weapons purchases, a shift in trade laws, or a domestic allowance of some kind, in example, not criticizing Musharraf for his human rights violations.

So I'll certainly be keeping my eyes open probably for a big weapons deal although the Pakistani giveaway might be something not seen like allowing them to slack off operations in the tribal areas or looking the other way on their ongoing military operations against anti government forces in the south who have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

The US's payoffs are pretty clear in the deal. In attempting to draw influence with India, the US is trying to create a counterbalancing regional force against China.

That's the single sentence answer, but beyond the regional aspects, this is actually a pretty big play to try to bring India into the American camp. India has historically led the non-aligned nations movement which has worked against US foreign policy fairly consistently. Also, India is one of the two active and vocal partners in the BRIC(Brazil, Russia, India, and China) element in the international trade negotiations which has largely torpedoed the US's world trade deal plans.

So, this is a pretty big effort by the Bush administration to remake the global alliances that are underpinning the current geopolitical status. But, I gotta say, I shiver a little when I write the words "Bush" and "remake" after seeing the recent results of the previous efforts to "remake the middle east."

Update: We're already getting a little of it.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - President Bush rewarded this anti-terror ally Friday, minimizing U.S. concerns about democracy's pace and anti-American sentiment in favor of a high-profile visit to boost Pakistan's global standing.

Plame Gossip - the Woodward tapes

Editor and Publisher has a bit from the Fitzgerald affidavit that does seem to imply that Woodward taped his conversation. Decide for yourself.
One paragraph in Thursday’s filing, NBC reported, indicates that the unnamed official spoke both with Woodward and Novak, and "Libby has been given a redacted transcript of the conversation between Woodward and [redacted] and Novak has published an account briefly describing the conversation with his first confidential source [redacted]."

Does "transcript of the conversation" mean that there is an audio recording of the conversation between Woodward, Novak and the unnamed source? Or merely a detailed set of notes?

Also, TalkLeft tries to read through the black ink of the redaction to try to guess the identity of the Woodward/Novak source. Hadley or Armitage.

Picture of the Day

"Karl, I always forget, does rock beat paper? Dick and I are trying to figure out if we should bomb Iran."

"So the cheese goes right on top?"

"No, my hand's not shaking right now, but I just had a few belts before this call."

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Plame Gossip - Woodward tapes?

On Olberman tonight, he mentioned that the latest Fitzgerald filing implied that Bob Woodward may have recorded his conversations with his Plame leak source. I've looked and looked but can't find anything on it. I'll post it if I come across it.

More bad polls if you're watching

CNN/USAToday/Gallup - Bush 38% approval, 60% disapprove
Seventy-three percent of those polled said they believe a civil war is likely in Iraq within the year, while only 20 percent said such a conflict could be avoided. And only 44 percent said they believe the United States will win the conflict there -- down from 49 percent in a December poll.

The number of Americans who believe the United States will lose the conflict rose from 47 percent in December to 52 percent in this week's poll. And 55 percent said they believe the U.S. invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003 was a mistake.

LATimes/Bloomberg - Bush 38% approval, 58% disapprove - 75% against the port deal

FoxNews - Bush 39% approval, 54% disapprove

So, the CBS poll at 34% approval was an outlier, but the trend seems solid. As always, the best clearinghouse site for a broad look at multiple polls is pollingreport.com.

If you haven't guessed, the trend is floundering down.

Even George Will gets it.

Today, with all three components of the "axis of evil'' -- Iraq, Iran, North Korea -- more dangerous than they were when that phrase was coined in 2002...

Medicare's "Plan B"

This is reportedly from the March issue of Harper's. I don't know any more background than this, and, honestly, I have no idea how much rock this guy was moving, but it touched me nonetheless. From Adventus.

Originally republished by Harper's Magazine, March 2006. The magazine explains that this is part of a statement made by George Earl Lewis of Chickasha, Oklahoma. Mr. Lewis was arrested "after sellng two grams of crack cocaine to an FBI informant." Mr. Lewis is seventy four years old and lives on "$600 per month in retirement benefits and pays $350 a month for his wife's cancer medication." The court issued a ten-year suspended sentence.

I, Mr. George Earl Lewis, do agree that what I've done was not right concerning the law. I do not deny the fact whatsoever. However, I did what I did simply to keep my wife Thelma up in her medications and to pay any bills owed due to her illness. She was diagnosed with cancer. Her Medicare doesn't pay all of her expenses. So what I did was simply trying to meet the needs of my wife, whom I love very much. I can assure you that I have learned a valuable lesson. I will do all I can simply to live on our income, which is my retirement check. And pray that God will have mercy on me, to see me through this ordeal.

If granted probation, I plan to continue to mow yards during the summer and fall, and, whenever I am able, to pick up cans. I will continue to live with my wonderful wife whom I been married to for twenty-nine blessed years. I will slowly learn how to read and write the best way I can. I will spend time at home with my wife, looking at TV, and sitting outside together. Mainly the only activities I have are mowing yards, running people around, looking at TV, and sitting in the yard with my wife in the cool of the evening.

"Bush incompetent" count up on google.

Last night about 10PM central, I put up this post and, kind of as a joke, I put up the Google search "Bush incompetent" and noted that there were 2,220,000 hits for that search.

I don't know why, but I went back to look again this morning, (9AM central) and the number is already up to 2,420,000.

I'm not a google expert, so if I'm interpreting this wrong tell me, but...

In the last eleven hours Bush and incompetent have been written on the same page 200,000 times?!?!

I know the AP story on the Katrina video came out, but still....

I think I'm gonna have to keep an eye on this. Here's the search link.

Picture of the Day - 2

Bush's Bubble.

(Also, did anybody else get the absolute bitter irony of Bush at the Gandhi memorial? Especially with that big wreath with his name on it?)

Two more on the India trip. Michael left this about the Gandhi memorial visit in the comments.

Also, be sure to check out this on the comparison between the Clinton India visit in 2000 and the current Bush trip. If you want to see the shift in global opinion Bush policies have brought, it's eye opening.

Test case on NSA spying?

I'm not sure I really want this to be the test case on the warrantless DOMESTIC NSA spying program, I don't know enough about the charity and why it shut down. But it does seem that they have hard evidence in the form of government documents that the NSA tapped the calls of American citizens.

Oh, and add to that the American citizens who were tapped were also working as lawyers for the organization.

Iraqis better off under Saddam? Jaafari sidelined?

John Pace, who last month left his post as director of the human rights office at the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, said yesterday that Human Rights abuses are as bad now as they were under Saddam.

He also makes the allegation that the mortuary staff in Baghdad is being threatened from all sides to not investigate the deaths or to suppress evidence (BBC version,) so any numbers we're seeing shouldn't be trusted, whether it's the 1,300 reported by the WaPo or the 350 claimed by PM Al-Jaafari.

Oh, and while we're talking about Al-Jaafari, Bush's "strong leader,"
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari canceled a meeting Thursday with Iraq's top political leaders after they agreed to mount a campaign to deny him another term in a bid to jump-start stalled talks on a new government.

So, let me get this straight, he cancelled a meeting to help stop the "sectarian violence" to protect his political future?

(Interestingly, Juan Cole, who generally knows such things, says the Kurds and Americans are behind this effort to "sideline Jaafari." Hmmmm.)

The Condi Rice workout tape

Alot of you may have already seen this local news piece where Condi Rice shows her workout routine, but I question the wisdom of a Secretary of State voluntarily going on TV sweaty and dressed in her workout clothes.

Doesn't that image somewhat undermine her credibility when she gets into hard negotiations with Iran, China, or North Korea?

Do you think anybody who was serious about that job would do this on TV? Kissinger, James Baker, Madeline Albright, take your pick.

The Congolese Civil War

As some of you may know, I have a fascination with the situation in the Congo. Here's the latest.
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Congolese army soldiers fighting alongside U.N. peacekeepers against ethnic militiamen have mutinied and ransacked a U.N. camp in the east of the vast country, the United Nations said on Thursday.

Picture of the Day

"Just let me help..."

"Dad! I got it. Dad!"

(Mr. President, maybe you should listen to the old man a little more. He may have ended up unpopular, but during his presidency, there weren't 2,220,000 hits for "Bush incompetent" on Google.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Al Qaeda has infiltrated the UAE government?

I find it pretty unbelievable that this document just now emerges this late in this whole ports kerfluffle, but here it is over at ThinkProgress (my choice to beat me out for the Koufax award for best new blog.)

Short version, there's a translated communication(PDF) from Al Qaeda to the UAE government claiming infiltration. It's posted at the "Combating Terrorism Center" at West Point (USMA-marines.) I don't know what to make of it exactly, how seriously to take this letter, but there it is.

Also from ThinkProgress tonight (yeah, but they have a budget and staff and advertising) this link a CNN story.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A review of a United Arab Emirates-owned company's plan to take over a portion of operations at key U.S. ports never looked into whether the company had ties to al Qaeda or other terrorists, a key Republican lawmaker told CNN on Wednesday.....

King said the officials told him after he asked about investigation into possible terrorist ties: "Congressman, you don't understand, we don't conduct a thorough investigation. We just ask the intel director if there is anything on file, and he said no."

Update: Leslie points out in the comments that Baker Botts, James Baker's law firm founded by his grandfather, big into all kinds of strange international and oil power deals, just opened a Dubai office.

It's on tape Mr. President

This is gonna be everywhere soon, but the AP has got its hands on six days of videotape of the Katrina preparations in which Bush and Chertoff were warned in detail about exactly what might/did happen when Katrina came ashore.

And it's on video tape. I guess somebody could have anticipated the levees being breached after all, eh, Mr. President?

Picture of the Day - 3

"Fitzgerald's onta me.... (pant, pant)"

"I just shot a man in the face..."

"Jesus Christ, somebody left Bush in there unsupervised.... To the bunker! To the bunker!" (loosely from Michael)

(I know I used this picture already, but so much has changed for Dick Cheney since then. And I it's still the best Cheney picture I've got.)

Plame Gossip - The Coverup

There's a new story from Jason Leopold on the 250 pages of email that suddenly reappeared after Fitzgerald let it be known in a court filing that he knew they existed. Some of the correspondents in these emails, beyond Libby, were Cheney, Rove, Hadley, and Bolton. Dollars to donuts those are the majority of the conspiracy, although there were probably some minor players as well like Robert Joseph.

Anyway, back to the story of the missing emails.
But sources close to the investigation said that unnamed senior officials in Cheney's office had deleted some of the emails before Fitzgerald learned of their existence earlier this year, and others never turned them over to Gonzales as requested. Separately, according to people close to Fitzgerald's probe, there are some emails that Gonzales has refused to turn over to Fitzgerald, citing "executive privilege" and "national security."...

The emails from Cheney's office that were turned over to Fitzgerald earlier this month were written by senior aides and sent to various officials at the State Department, the National Security Council, and the Office of the President. The emails were written as early as March 2003 - four months before Plame Wilson's cover was blown in a report written by conservative columnist Robert Novak. The contents of the emails are said to be damning, according to sources close to the investigation who are familiar with their substance. The emails are said to implicate Cheney in a months-long effort to discredit Wilson - a fact that Cheney did not disclose when he was interviewed by federal investigators in early 2004, these sources said.....

Cheney and his senior aides did not disclose to federal investigators the fact that they either received or sent emails about either Joseph Wilson or Valerie Plame Wilson when they were first questioned about their knowledge and/or role in the leak in early 2004, people close to the investigation said.

So, we have "senior officials" in Cheney's office deleting emails and others hiding more from Gonzales. The emails are characterized as very damning and "to implicate Cheney in a months-long effort to discredit Wilson - a fact that Cheney did not disclose when he was interviewed by federal investigators in early 2004." And then Cheney and aides didn't mention these emails when asked about it by the investigation?

Tell me this doesn't smell like a coverup littered with chargable crimes. These emails appear to be a key that may crack open this conspiracy. But it does make me wonder, much like the Nixon tapes, what was so bad that risking charges of perjury and obstruction makes rational sense.

Oh, and Hadley's still very much in play.
Hadley's role in the leak is also being closely looked at by Fitzgerald and his staff, sources said, adding that new evidence has surfaced showing that the National Security Adviser played an intimate role in the effort to discredit Wilson and that he may be one of the still unnamed administration officials who spoke to reporters about Plame Wilson's work for the CIA.

Great work, Jason.

Also, The NY Daily News has two interesting revelations specific to the Libby case.

Seven officials have testified that Libby raised the CIA spy with them before columnist Robert Novak outed her. In the filing, Fitzgerald also revealed that his investigators also confiscated computers.

So, Libby's claim that he learned of Plame's status from journalists is not only rebutted by the testimony of those same journalists, but also from seven other administration officials. I guess that's why the "too busy to remember" defense is being tried. Ten or twelve people testifying that you're lying back to back to back tends to be difficult to refute.

And no proof, but what do you want to bet that those confiscated computers might have led to the missing emails. No description as to whose computers they were, but I'll bet that was a quiet day around the White House, everybody secretly mumbling into the phone trying to find a defense lawyer.

Bottom line. The investigation is ongoing and there appears to have been possible crimes committed in an effort to coverup and thwart Fitzgerald's investigation.

Regarding Fitzgerald, methodical means slow.

Who is this 30%?

Whenever there's a Bush poll published, not matter what the issue, there seems to be a hard 30% floor on the numbers. No matter what the question is 30% seem to approve of what Bush is doing.

After reading the latest polls on Iraq (30% approve Bush's policy in Iraq,) I got to wondering about this third of the polling base. I mean, how deep in the cult do you have to be to think that Iraq is going well?

But I think I've come to something here. It's not that they're crazy, it's that they're ignorant, perhaps willfully, of the facts. In example, I offer this late Feb 2006 Angus Reid poll which shows 30% of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was "personally involved" in the 9/11 attacks.

There's that 30% again. They believe George Bush no matter what he says. I don't know if that 30% will ever come to Jesus and realize that Bush has been lying to them.

You know, my own mother dropped the Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 line around Christmas, and that's despite listening to me and my father talk(argue) politics for literally a hundred hours since Bush came into office.

It's hard to write off your own mother, but apparently she's one of that 30%. If, or when, my mother shifts, the Bush presidency is over.

Picture of the Day - Props

Al Gonzales admits to more NSA spying programs?

I don't know quite what to make of this,

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration's original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.

At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it "and that is all that he has authorized."

But in yesterday's letter, Gonzales, citing that quote, wrote: "I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities." Using the administration's term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, "I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject" of the Feb. 6 hearing.

Iraq like early Bosnia

This is how it began in Bosnia. This is the early stage of ethnic cleansing.

BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Salim Rashid, 34, a Shiite laborer in an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab village 20 miles north of Baghdad, received his eviction notice Friday from a man at the door with a rocket launcher.

"It's 6 p.m.," Rashid recounted the masked man saying then, as retaliatory violence between Shiites and Sunnis exploded across wide swaths of central Iraq. "We want you out of here by 8 p.m. tomorrow. If we find you here, we will kill you."

Walking, hitchhiking and hiring cars, the Rashid clan and many of the 25 other families evicted from the town of Mishada had made their way by Tuesday to a youth center in Baghdad's heavily Shiite neighborhood of Shoula. There, other people forced from their homes were already sharing space on donated mattresses.

BAGHDAD, Feb. 28 -- Officials overseeing Baghdad's morgue have come under pressure not to investigate the soaring number of apparent cases of execution and torture in the country, the former U.N. human rights chief for Iraq said Tuesday.

Bush quote from Afghanistan

Wow, that president guy is deep, eh?

During a ribbon cutting ceremony at the official opening of the new U.S. embassy in Kabul, Bush said Washington was there for the long haul.

"My message to the people of Afghanistan is: take a look at this building -- it's a big, solid, permanent structure which should represent the commitment of the United States of America."

Could he ask for an attack on the embassy any more clearly?

From the AP version:
Bush's entourage flew into the city from Bagram Air Base in a flotilla of heavily armed helicopters. Two door gunners on a press helicopter fired off a short burst of machine gun fire at unknown targets as the aircraft flew low and fast over barren countryside.

Picture of the Day - 2 (repost from Jan 21)

Thought I'd repost this since proof of Saddam's crimes is back in the news.

We've all seen this picture, but has anyone else noticed that Saddam is currently being tried for crimes committed in 1982, a year before this picture taken in 1983?

Shouldn't somebody, somewhere in the press ask a question about that?

UPDATE: Michael left this wonderful history of Saddam Hussein. Take a look, it's flash with a nice Bing Crosby, "Thanks for the Memories" in the background. Worth a minute.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What hath Bush wrought?

This has been out there as a possible outcome of the Iraq war for awhile, but having it come from Negroponte really makes it a much more significant concern.
A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region's rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday.

"If chaos were to descend upon Iraq or the forces of democracy were to be defeated in that country ... this would have implications for the rest of the Middle East region and, indeed, the world," Negroponte said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats.

Arianna rips Tucker Carlson's tie off over Libby comments

So, it turns out that Tucker Carlson's dad is one of the key players in the Libby defense fund, including sending a check by courier to Libby's home the day of the indictment. Kind of puts Tucker Carlson's attacks on "the merits" of of the Libby prosecution in a different context, eh?

I just loved this because it is a prime example of great blogging.

Oh, and while we're talking about questionable coverage, Fox execs donated pretty significantly to Rick Santorum.

(Back to normal blogging tomorrow.)

The battle over language goes on

Just a quick update on "Civil War" vs. "Sectarian Violence," and yes, I think it's important as it shapes opinion on the Iraq policy.

The AP goes with "Civil War Looms" in their headline, while the WaPo opts for "Sectarian Violence" in theirs. So, no consensus yet.

Guess which Bush insists on...
VARGAS: What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?

BUSH: I don't buy your premise that there's going to be a civil war. There's no question that the bomber of the mosque is trying to create sectarian violence, and there's no question there was reaction to it.

Like how he batted that away?

Selective intelligence from the Bush administration

Okay, so the Bush administration based their case for invading iraq on the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that said Saddam was trying to reconstitute his weapons program. They liked that one so much that they leaked/declassified sections so they could appear on the front page of the NYTimes, byline Judy Miller. That NIE turned out to be wrong.

But, the NIE which predicted and established the background for the current Iraqi violence, the one that turned out to be right, it got read not so much.

The Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) which said that Iraq may have contacted Niger about Uranium, read and publicized.

The PDB titled Bin Laden Determined to Attack US, not so much.

Look at this closely and you can see that this administration is making policy completely divorced from any facts. (I know, shocker.) But take a step back and really think about that for a minute.

Picture of the Day - 2


I made the point a couple days ago that, after the Jill Carroll kidnapping, the wire services had shifted from western photographers to Iraqi photographers and that had substantially altered the content and presentation of the situation in Iraq.

Just looking at the coverage of this car bombing yesterday highlights the point exactly. As I was looking through some of the wire photos this morning, there were several that I felt were too graphic to put up here.

After almost three years of war, the last few weeks since this change marks the first time this is the case in these "mainstream" western sources.

So, what I'm going to try to do is link to the Yahoo pages for some of these pictures (I think it will work.) It offers a far starker vision of the violence the Iraqis live with. (Warning: these are somewhat graphic. I put them up so they get worse as you get farther along so you can quit if it gets too bloody. Shift left click to open them in a new window.)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 (sorry, the picture links are no longer valid. Yahoo seems to have moved on.)

See what I mean. I'm not alleging any sort of bias or self censorship among the western photograhers who were previously covering Iraq, but they were somewhat limited in their access and the fact that when they went out of the green zone, they generally travelled inside a US military escort.

The Iraqi photographers have far greater access perhaps because they don't have the choice to travel with US forces. They lack some of the compositional skills of the western photographers, who have done some amazing work under difficult circumstances, but that also gives their photos a raw/real quality that I find compelling.

I sense less intentional message in these photos, but that snapshot quality gives them a more credible feel.

Take a look, there's some blood, but I think you'll see the difference I'm talking about.

(I've got some life stuff today, so posting may be light til later.)

Bush doesn't care about "the troops"

It appears that when their use of the military as a patriotism bludgeon with which this administration can attack their political foes has ended, "the troops" are just another poor minority group that Bush can rob to maintain his tax cuts weighted heavily for the rich.

At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half — if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

The article presents this as budget chicanery by the Bush administration to make it's proclamations to half the deficit appear real, but this is not an area where stuff like that should be pulled.

And just one more thought. None of the current VA budget projections takes into account a recurrence of Gulf War Illness among the 600,000 or so troops who have rotated through theater. If this condition is indeed caused by exposure to expended depleted uranium, this group of veterans could suffer at an even higher rate despite better "safe practices" because of the substantial increase in the number of DU munitions used in this war and longer term of exposure. Roughly 50% of Gulf War I veterans have claimed medical care since that "casualty free" war ended.

American soldiers who served in Iraq may be living with the results of this war long after the "war patriotism" has gone away.

Support Veterans Programs, especially medical care. They held up their end of the bargain, we need to hold up ours.

The bottom line in the War on Terror?

For some reason this morning, I feel the need to repeat what I see as the bottom line assessment of the War on Terror.

There are more terrorists now than before the ill advised invasion of Iraq. There are more terror attacks now than before the invasion of Iraq.

That's it. There's no clearer judgement than that.

Bush is often lauded for his "strong leadership" in the aftermath of 9/11 based predominantly on the "bullhorn moment" at ground zero. But that took place several days after 9/11.

What I remember from 9/11 is a shaky and unsure president skipping around the country making unreassuring statements while his Vice President took charge in the war room, cutting Bush out of the loop and allegedly usurping a power delegated solely to the president by issuing a shoot down order on one of the commercial aircraft involved.

Okay, enough ranting.

Picture of the Day

President Bush dons protective gear as the brown stuff moves inexoribly closer to the air moving device.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Civil War or not

I've made alot of the media portrayal of the Iraq "sectarian violence" and it's potential impacts on US policy, but on the ground, it doesn't really matter what's it's called. People are dying in significant numbers. (WaPo)
BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing of a Shiite shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad's main morgue. The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media......

The bulk of the previously known deaths were caused by bombings and other large-scale attacks. But the scene at the morgue and accounts related by relatives indicated that most of the bloodletting came at the hands of executioners.

Nobody knows Delay when he's down and out

Funny thing, when you're under indictment for campaign fund fraud and money laundering, the donors just don't want to catch the stigma.
WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, is trailing his potential Democratic opponent, former Rep. Nick Lampson, in fundraising and cash in the bank, according to new financial reports that covered the first six weeks of the year.

Serves the guy right, really, after all the strong arming he used to extort contributions, but for some reason I can't get the old song out of my head.

"Once I lived the life of a millionaire,
Spending my money I didn't care.
Taking my friends out for a good time.
Bootleg liquor Champagne and Wine....

Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out."

CBS News has Bush at 34%

Again, I'm not a huge poll follower but, .... jesus, take a look at this most recent CBS poll. (Link is a PDF)

Bush's handling of the war on terror 43% approve, 50 % disapprove

Job approval 34%, 59%
Bush approval on Iraq 30%, 65% (Who the hell are these "30%" people?)

Does Bush care about people like you? Alot 17%, Some 30%, Not Much/None 51%

As bad as these numbers are, George Bush brought along his ugly friend to make him look good.

Cheney "favorable" 18%, unfavorable 46%

(Reading down to the bottom, I'm not quite sure as to their "weighting" of the poll, but it still marks an eight point drop from CBS last poll a month ago. Also, this does appear to be an outlier, but it is only one of two taken since the port deal blew up.)

A really weird theory

I just found this interesting.
Europe's "Little Ice Age" may have been triggered by the 14th Century Black Death plague, according to a new study.

Pollen and leaf data support the idea that millions of trees sprang up on abandoned farmland, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Picture of the Day - 2

Army Cpl. Sergio Antonio Mercedes Saez, 23, was manning the gun atop a Humvee on patrol south of Baghdad when the vehicle overturned and he was killed, said Army Brig. Gen. Ken Keen of the U.S. Southern Command.

What went on at Guantanamo?

I was listening to my local Pacifica station this morning, they had a segment with Janis Karpinski, the Brig. General on whom Abu Ghraib was pinned. One of the things she said is that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the guy who was in charge of Guantanamo and was later brought into Abu Ghraib, was a field artillery officer with no background in prisoner handling and interrogation before Rumsfeld placed him at Guantanamo.

Is it any wonder, then, that stuff like this was going on?
WASHINGTON - Military interrogators posing as FBI agents at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, wrapped terrorism suspects in an Israeli flag and forced them to watch homosexual pornography under strobe lights during interrogation sessions that lasted as long as 18 hours, according to one of a batch of FBI memos released Thursday.....

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of the prison at the time, overrode the FBI agents' protests, according to the documents.

The memos offer some of the clearest proof yet that the abuses and torture of prisoners in U.S. military custody weren't the isolated actions of low-ranking soldiers but a result of policies approved by senior officials, the ACLU said.

I'm not an expert, but, on top of everything else, military interrogators posing as FBI agents?

Bush vs Terrorists (Bush +3)

This just caught my eye.

February 27, 2005--Just 39% of Americans now believe the U.S. and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That's down from 42% earlier this month and from 44% in January. With just one exception, this is the lowest level of confidence ever measured by Rasmussen Reports.

Even more dramatic is the fact that 36% now believe the terrorists are winning. That's up five points over the past two weeks and up ten points since our January survey.

A plurality of women and a majority of Democrats now believe the terrorists are winning.

36% believe the terrorists are beating the US. Think about that a minute. How mismanaged has this whole thing been when a $500 billion defense department, plus another $135 billion for Iraq/Afghanistan, plus all the funding for the FBI, CIA, DHS, local grants, and all the rest, and people still think the terrorists are winning.

The US has a million and a half men(and women) under arms, again not counting FBI, CIA, DHS, and locals, fighting against maybe, what, 40,000 terrorists with less than a billion a year, and the perception is 50/50 on who is winning?

How happy will I be when I see that "Under New Management" sign out in front of the White House?

Wanna hear something really creepy?

I just got telemarketed with a bible verse. Romans 12:12. A robocall from something called Mission for Christ Ministries with a message to give me hope in the lord.

A Google search didn't turn up anything useful. Weird.

Picture of the Day

Are you kidding me?

President George W. Bush poses with a bronze bust commemorating his service in the Texas Air National Guard, in Washington, February 9, 2006. Bush is the nineteenth U.S. president to have served in the militia or National Guard. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

With all the questions around his guard service? Stop-lossing grandfathers so they have to stay in Iraq? A letter signed by all 50 governors blasting the administration for "stripping the National Guard of equipment and personnel needed to respond to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, forest fires and other emergencies?"

It's good to be the king.

(By the way, I know that's a pretty cruddy likeness, but this is a real Reuters photo.)

When talking points go bad.

This little repetition by Hadley of an older Bush talking point yesterday, just highlighted the rhetoric over substance Iraq policy.

Hadley added that the current situation in Iraq should not slow U.S. plans to start bringing some of the 138,000 U.S. troops home, which depends upon training of Iraqi forces.

"I don't see why this should be why this should derail that process. And, of course, that is the key. As the president said, as they step up, we can step down." he said on CNN.

Now, I want the troops to get out of Iraq, but I think any statement that the Iraqi forces are standing up is completely ridiculous. Remember, it was just Saturday that the AP reported Pentagon officials saying that the number of "independent" Iraqi battalions had gone from 1 to 0.

I think what galls me the most is that this is such a typical example of rhetoric over substance out of the Bush administration. The National Security Advisor, Hadley's nominal position, is supposed to focus on gathering accurate information and advising the president, not going on the Sunday shows lying to the American people.

Shouldn't the National Security Adviser be spending his time right now trying to figure out how to resolve Iraq?

UPDATE: And if you want to know what Hadley did to get the promotion to NSA? He screwed up. How else do you get ahead in this administration?

Just a little look at your money

Just a little look at three stories today about corporations and industry groups who have milked the legislative process to make billions.

The first and most obvious is the Pentagon's decision to reimburse Halliburton for almost all of its billings that were in dispute in Iraq on its no bid contracts. This story is being blogged everywhere so I'm not going to detail it.

Next, and far more interesting to me, is this Time magazine article about how the synfuel "industry" managed a small change in the massive budget bill which will net them billions in tax breaks. What they've done is increase their tax break subsidy, which was originally intended to help develop oil alternatives, by getting an artificially low oil price established, which determines the baseline for their subsidy, through lobbying and legislation.

I don't know if you remember the details on the synfuel "industry," but all that's required to gain this tax break is to "chemically alter" coal so that it qualifies. In some cases, the coal is simply sprayed with diesel before being transferred to the coal power plant next door. According to the legislation, this qualifies as an alternative energy program. Time estimates that from 2003-2005, before this new artificial price floor, this program cost $9 billion dollars.

Well worth a read.

Last, and certainly not least, is this WaPo article about the Bush administration once again disclaiming science for industry. Short version, after a fire in a national forest, "the Bush administration believes loggers should move in quickly, cut marketable trees that remain and replant a healthy forest."

The science is against this, but what grabbed me was this little bit down in the article. "Logging after fires is becoming more and more important to the bottom line of timber companies. It generates about 40 percent of timber volume on the nation's public lands, according to Forest Service data."

Hmmmm. I wonder which party the logging industry donates to.....

(This is my first entry lily's Corruptco blogfest, a week highlighting corrupt and questionable business practices. I'll do a couple more throughout the week.)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Bush meeting with Indian Prime Minister Singh.

"Yeah, yeah, we value your relationship."

Picture of the Day - 2

Mike's "man crush" continues.

I know it's the result of a repositioning effort by Gore and his people as they look at possibly running Gore in 2008, but I'm really starting to feel a positive sense of momentum for this guy.

I was quite heartened when I saw this Dick Morris piece in The Hill talking about a possible Gore candidacy in 2008.

Possible slogan: Re-elect Al Gore.

I won't go into all the whys I like him as a candidate right now, I just wanted to talk about the object of my current man-crush.

(Note: last time I had a picture of Gore up, every commenter told me to take a look at Feingold. I've been watching him since and would heartily support a Feingold candidacy as well. Smart. Fearless. No dilly-dallying or halfway positions. That's what I want to see in 2008 and that's what I'll probably support.)

A different picture of Iraq

The source for this article left Iraq two weeks ago, so it predates the current violence, but I thought it was important nonetheless. (The Independent - UK)

Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.

John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told The Independent on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.

Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution.

Americans think we're losing in Iraq

I can't quickly find an article with details, so for now I'm just going to post the brief Gallup summary. This is all that's up there unless you're a Gallup subscriber.
An update on Americans' views toward the war in Iraq finds some of the more pessimistic views Gallup has measured since the war began. A majority of Americans continue to say the war was a mistake and say that they oppose the war. Fewer than one in three Americans say the United States is winning, the lowest percentage Gallup has measured on that question to date.

I've been writing a lot about how the media presentation of the latest violence in Iraq would affect US support for the war. Just from my memory, the "not winning" number represents at least a ten point drop from the last poll I saw if not more.

Picture of the Day


They were near a car bombing. The father took shrapnel in the neck arm and head, and all he wants is just for his child to stop hurting.

I can hear him.

"It's okay. It's okay. It's okay. It's okay...."

(I know I've been pushing the line the last few days on the pictures, but they are just touching me deeply.

Also, just let me make a note here that there has been a transition in the wire photos. Shortly after Jill Carroll's abduction, the wire services pulled their people back inside the green zone which meant far less pictures from on the ground in Iraq.

Over the last few weeks, it's become apparent, if you look at the bylines, that the wire services have started employing Iraqis to go out and get photographs. Interestingly, this has resulted in a very different composition. Just looking tonight on the Yahoo Iraq tab, there are four pictures of injured small children and several bodies in the most recent 30 pictures or so whereas before you would rarely see one a week. The US and European photographers had been taking alot more pictures of US and British soldiers because that was who they were travelling with.

Previously, almost all the Iraqis pictured were insurgents or townspeople talking with US soldiers, whereas now, with the far greater mobility of local photographers, we're seeing the rest of the people. I don't know what impact it will have; it's just an observation.)