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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Slow Saturday Catchall

Saturday's are always slow blogging, so here are a few "fixes" if you're looking.

At a town hall meeting, Senator Tom Coburn (R - OK) said that he expects at least seven lawmakers to go to jail in the Abramoff scandal.

Also, I saw this on CNN on Your World Today, but didn't blog it because I wasn't sure of this guy's credentials. Colonel Sam Gardiner repeats and affirms Sy Hersh's claim that US ground troops are already carrying out operations in Iraq.

Expect the GOP to try to limit freedoms in an effort to appeal to their base. Anti-gay, anti-flag burning, anti-abortion are all on the menu for reelection seeking Republicans. Because, after all, those are the real issues, not the two abscessing wars or the $1,200+ per person per year growth of the debt.

Lastly, two quick stray thoughts from today.

How ironic is it that at the birth of our country, the military was put under civilian control with the stated intention of limiting the generals from being too warlike, and now we're in a situation where the generals are criticizing the civilians for the exact same reason. It really tells you how far out this administration is.

Second. As the US is pouring trillions of dollars into defense, weapons systems, and wars, China is investing heavily in infrastructure and their economy. Which strategy is more likely to prevail?

Picture of the Day - 2

From the funeral of Timmy Brown who died in Iraq.

More Rumsfeld leaks to come?

It just occurred to me as I was reading a summary of the Salon article that claims "U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed an "abusive and degrading" interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee in 2002," that this next week might be the "leaky week" on Don Rumsfeld.

With Rumsfeld's position wobbly at best, those who want Rumsfeld out will be scouring the files looking for anything that might be released to the press to make him look bad. I doubt there will be anything huge, but I would think there may be a fair number of unflattering revelations that shed some light on the war's buildup, conduct or detention policies.

Maybe that's one of the reasons that Bush interrupted his vacation to issue a surprisingly strong statement of support on the afternoon of Good Friday, to try and stem this likely tide.

I mean, he didn't interrupt his vacation for Katrina or for the "Bin Laden Determined to Attack US" PDB. So, we may be in for an interesting week.

Also, FoxNews has started the chorus, "Retired Generals Targeting Rumsfeld: Hurting Troop Morale?" Because, after all, at FoxNews, if you criticize the president, you are an enemy of America.

Dear FoxNews: At long last, have you no shame? Have you no decency left?

Picture of the Day

Time Magazine - Cover March 3, 2003

Friday, April 14, 2006

Support the troops?

The general news narrative seems to be that one of the reasons Bush is not letting Rumsfeld go is domestic politics. To fire Rumsfeld or let him resign would be too much of an admission of mistakes in Iraq and would affect the president's poll ratings adversely.

Think about that for a minute. If you accept that Rumsfeld's poor decisions and actions are responsible for the current state in Iraq, then his replacement could lead to an improving situation and a reduction in fatalities.

And that is being prevented, at least in part, by Mr. Bush's concern with the polls.

Also, Did anybody else notice that about a day after Cindy Sheehan made the announcement that she was heading back to Crawford over Easter, the Presidential schedule had him spending the holiday at Camp David for the first time in his presidency?

Today - 2 marines dead, 22 wounded.
Yesterday - 3 fatalities
April 12th - 5 fatalities
April 11th - 4 fatalities

Picture of the Day - 3


I just went through to update all the links on the right, and found a whole buncha people that were linking here that I didn't have on the list.

I try to keep up through Technorati, but it catches maybe half of y'all, so if you're linking here and not on the list to the right, please let me know so I can add you.

(And, I know it appears a mess, but it's in chronological order.)

If you're looking for something to read....

It's kinda long, but I just found this fascinating, Mike Davis on the History of the Car Bomb. (Part 2 here.)

It starts with the first "carriage bomb" on Wall St., passes through Palestine, the IRA, CIA and others use in Lebanon, the '93 WTC attack, on into Iraq. With descriptions of uses, technological advances, and comparisons as the "poor man's air force" to major power's air strikes, I found it quite thought provoking.

Foxnews we alter the content, you decide.

I don't normally play media gotcha because it's an endless game, but this is soooo messed up.

Nothing concrete, but it seems like FoxNews added chirping birds to all their outdoor shots in this piece to emphasize just how pleasant and peaceful Iraq is.

Take a look.

Finishing up my taxes today

Quick thoughts on taxes:

1) Should April 15(April 17 this year) be a "patriotic" day with flags and the whole bit? I mean, it is the day when, symbolically at least, Americans all contribute to our country. (Sort of an enforced PBS pledge drive.)

2) How will this tax day affect Republican's opinions of Bush? Taxes certainly generate a fair amount of animosity, will it come out as a dislike of the Republican's rampant spending policies? Or will their "tax cut the country into debt" message be the opinion?

3) Is it any coincidence that tax day just happens to be about as far away from election day as you can get? I don't think so either.

Unrelated, I drive a diesel car with a big tank that gets roughly 30 mpg and I don't drive all that much so I end up filling up about once every three weeks. It really creates quite a shock when gas prices rise quickly. I paid $2.75/gallon for diesel this morning.

In 1999, I remember paying $0.75 per gallon for regular down near Corpus Christi.

I think it's called sticker shock.

Picture of the Day - 2


I am often amazed that even in the face of the worst disasters, the Pakistani earthquake, the African drought, the tsunami, Katrina, Iraq, that mothers just keep on.

It is truly a bottomless well of love.

A marine comes home disillusioned

I now know I wrongfully placed my faith and trust in a presidential administration hopelessly mired in incompetence, hubris and a lack of accountability. It planned a war based on false intelligence and unrealistic assumptions. It has strategically surrendered the condition of victory in Iraq to people who do not share our vision, values or interests. The Bush administration has proven successful at only one thing in Iraq — painting us into a corner with no feasible exit.

I will never trust any of them again.

Christopher H. Sheppard is a former Marine captain who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a combat engineer. He currently is finishing his master's degree in mass communication and lives in Marysville.

I just wonder how many other soldiers are having this same experience but translating it as their personal failure rather than attaching it to the Bush administration.

Evidence of torture in Afghanistan?

The LATimes has been doing phenomenal work on this story of US flash drives stolen from bases in Afghanistan and then sold on the black market "not 200 yards" from Bagram. Short version, an LATimes reporter went and bought some of these stolen flash drives and has been reporting on what they've found.

The data on these drives includes info on US military personnel(names, addresses, family info, assignments, etc,) tactical information, planning and after action reports, identification of Afghanis who have been providing intel, all kinds of really bad stuff. (If you look on the right of this page under "related", you can check out the other stories in the series.)

This being a big fairly easy story, NBC sent one of their producers out to the black market to buy some of these flash memory cards for their own reporting. Pretty much the same results, except for this:
Among the photos of Americans are pictures of individuals who appear to have been tortured and killed, most too graphic to show. NBC News does not know who caused their injuries. The Pentagon would not comment on the photos.

There is no way at this point to know if the effects shown in these photos(I'm guessing private photos,) were the result of US actions, US sponsored action, or whether "they found them like that," but I would certainly hope NBC would follow up.

Especially with reporting in late February that a prison in Bagram has become the new Guantanamo.

Resegregating Omaha's Schools

There's always more to stories like this than the salacious "headline" indicates, and I know nothing of the troubles or history of Omaha, Neb. school systems, but when I come across a story like this, I feel obliged to mention it.
LINCOLN, Neb. - In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the Legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts — one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.

Again, I don't know the local politics, or the history, or the details, but with the Republican "values" folks trying to "return" this country to some idealized version of the fifties, this story of segregation jumped out at me.

What freaks me out about the "return to values" crowd is that the world they want to "return" to never really existed, it's a collective archetype formed largely out of memories of television programs from baby boomer's childhoods. (See Also: There were no blacks in Mayberry.)

Picture of the Day

Rumsfeld Rebuked by Retired Generals.

Whitehouse Defends Rumsfeld's Tenure.

More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfeld's Resignation.

I don't have a funny caption tonight, I just figured I'd better start using the Rumsfeld photos in the little time we have left.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Johnny Ratz

You can take the pope out of the Nazi party, but you can't take the.....
In a series of Good Friday meditations that he will lead in Rome, the Pope will say that society is in the grip of a kind of “anti-Genesis” described as “a diabolical pride aimed at eliminating the family”. He will pray for society to be cleansed of the “filth” that surrounds it and be restored to purity, freed from “decadent narcissism”.

"Cleansed of the filth," "Restored to (racial) purity?" OK these aren't his words, but when ex-Nazi Johnny Ratz starts talking anything near this, my ears prick up.

Planning for Iran war since 2003.

Bill Arkin today. He doesn't foresee a war in Iran, but he does see real planning for one in the "near term." Apparently operations planning for war in Iran began in earnest in May 2003.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has been conducting theater campaign analysis for a full scale war with Iran since at least May 2003, responding to Pentagon directions to prepare for potential operations in the "near term."....

As I've said before in these pages, I don't believe that the United States is planning to imminently attack Iran....But the United States military is really, really getting ready, building war plans and options, studying maps, shifting its thinking.

It's long and detailed, but it's not fully clear if this operations planning signals intent or is just the next step along the precautionary line. Whether you agree with his judgements or not, at this point, Bill Arkin is offering the best window onto military planning.

Picture of the Day - 3

Hypocrisy on Terrorism

Earlier I posted about Condi Rice's hypocrisy on "democratic ideals" when she criticized the democratic credentials of the elected government of Iran during a joint press conference with one of the worst dictators in the world, Equitorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang, a man she called "a good friend."

Now, I'd like to throw up a few articles on the administration's hypocrisy on terrorism. First,
MIAMI (AFP) - US authorities have decided not to extradite two Venezuelans accused of 2003 bomb attacks in Caracas because they might be persecuted or tortured, one of their lawyers said.

This is from the government on the same day that John Negroponte, the top US intelligence figure, announced that,

NEW YORK (AFP) - About three dozen of Al-Qaeda's worst will likely remain in secret CIA prisons indefinitely, US spy chief John Negroponte said in an interview.

"These people are being held. And they're bad actors. And as long as this situation continues, this war on terror continues, I'm not sure I can tell you what the ultimate disposition of those detainees will be,"

Are those the same secret prisons where Khalid Sheik Muhammed was subjected to waterboarding? (link here and here) So, CIA and administration sanctioned waterboarding is OK, but localized police brutality in Venezuela is grounds to release terror bombers without charge?

Oh, then we also have this today.
One of the operational assets being used by the Defense Department is a right-wing terrorist organization known as Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which is being “run” in two southern regional areas of Iran, both bordering Pakistan....

According to all three intelligence sources, military and intelligence officials alike were alarmed that instead of securing a known terrorist organization, which has been responsible for acts of terror against Iranian targets and individuals all over the world – including US civilian and military casualties – Rumsfeld under instructions from Cheney, began using the group on special ops missions into Iran to pave the way for a potential Iran strike.

(If you don't know, MEK are REALLY bad guys in the terror scene. And, what a surprise, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Cambone ran this operation.)

I guess when Bush said this on Feb. 24, 2006, he had conveniently forgotten that his administration was working with the MEK.

The President: Secondly, I've set a clear doctrine: America makes no distinction between the terrorists and the countries that harbor them. If you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists, and you're an enemy of the United States of America. (Applause.)

I guess that depends on what your definition of a terrorist is, eh, Mr. Bush? Bombing, killing civilians, killing Americans?

George Bush, "an enemy of the United States." He said it, not me.

Also, I didn't mention Louis Posada Cariles, a former US asset trained at the School of Americas strongly suspected of blowing up a Cuban airliner killing 73, who is currently in the US which has refused to extradite him to either Cuba or Venezuela to stand trial for the bombing.

I figured I'd confine the argument to Bush administration actions aiding terrorists who have conducted terror attacks since 9-11.

Picture of the Day - 2

This is the third "displacement camp" picture I've come across. The first and second were of a Shia camp and Sunni camp.

This third picture is of a Shia camp outside Baghdad which is receiving security and some services from Sadr.(photo - AFP - Ahmad al-Rubaye.)

More troubling to me is this BBC article which cites 65,000 current refugees, and then continues, "Figures given to the BBC by the Ministry for Displacement and Migration show a doubling in the last two weeks of the number of Iraqis forced to move."

This is the beginnings of ethnic cleansing, a key step in the establishment of territoriality before an open civil war.

The Revolt Against Rumsfeld

Fred Kaplan in Slate:
It's an odd thought, but a military coup in this country right now would probably have a moderating influence.....

It is startling to hear, in private conversations, how widely and deeply the U.S. officer corps despises this secretary of defense. The joke in some Pentagon circles is that if Rumsfeld were meeting with the service chiefs and commanders and a group of terrorists barged into the room and kidnapped him, not a single general would lift a finger to help him.

Also: Take a look at Condi Rice's blatant hypocrisy as she calls for democracy in Iran while holding a post meeting press conference with her "good friend" President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, listed as one of the world's 10 worst dictators for four years running.

Going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing the difference is that Eq. Guinea sells oil to the US.

Picture of the Day

This is twenty coffins. There have been thirty-seven US fatalities in the first twelve days of this month.

(picture source - The Memory Hole)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Iran as a political crisis

The NYTimes points out once again that all sane analysis shows Iran is 10 years from a nuclear weapon.

And Americablog has a pretty good post on how the Republicans are using the Iran crisis to put them back on top on National Security. Remember, in December, Karl Rove made a speech where he said that the Republican midterm strategy would be to run on national security.

It's really a pretty brilliant strategy. We react to the hype and they reap all the benefits. Although I'd be much more impressed if the strategy didn't involve the very real possibility of accidentally starting a war.

But, apparently, Americans still like to bomb Muslims. (Here's the LATimes article the next blurbs are sourced from.)
Asked whether they would support military action if Iran continued to produce material that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, 48 percent of the poll's respondents said yes; 40 percent said no.

Also, in the blurb,
However, a majority (54%) of the poll's respondents indicated that they don't believe President Bush will make the "right decision."

Stupid or evil?

The White House's defense to the biolab trailers story is that they had bad intel.

So, of the choices, they chose stupid and incompetent over competent and evil. Interesting choice.

Something interesting

I don't know how tech everybody is, but have you ever visited the A-Infos Radio Project, better known to me as www.radio4all.net? What they do is archive MP3 versions of radio shows and speeches, mostly political, mostly left, from pubilc radio and microFM stations from across the country.

I like to download a show or two and then put it on the MP3 player as I walk the dog or drive around town.

There's alot of crud on there, but it can be pretty cool. My suggestion as a start is to look for a show with a speech or interview of someone you recognize. That's what I use it for. I was listening to a recent Chomsky speech today.

Other good sites for MP3 talk filler are www.Pacifica.org and www.democracynow.org.

It's Official

For the third year running, Baghdad is the suckiest place on earth.
LONDON (Reuters) - Zurich is the city with the highest quality of life in 2006, while Baghdad, for the third year running, has the lowest, a survey published Monday shows.

Tell me again about the "good news."

Picture of the Day - 3

Still funny, huh?

Think it's an accident that Cheney got booed?

I was just sitting here laughing at the video of Cheney getting booed at the Washington Nationals home opener. Apparently, it's a long held tradition that the first pitch of the season opener is thrown out by the President or VP stretching way back to the Washington Senator's days.

Funny, Bush chose to go to Cincinatti for his first pitch moment this year, where he took catcall protection in the form of wounded US military personnel who went out before him.

Then he delegated Cheney to go out and take the boos from the Washington crowd. Afraid of the perception of being openly booed, Mr. President?

Iran as North Korea

Alot has been made, quite logically, about the similarities in actions and rhetoric between US potential actions in Iran and the previous actions in Iraq. But I thought I'd point out another abscessing failure that might offer a different type of parallel, North Korea.

With recent reports that the US is rejecting all negotiations with Iran, I find myself thinking halfway across the globe to the continued bizarre rejection of bilateral talks with North Korea, only accepting meetings within the framework of the 6-party talks.

The parallels are there, North Korea enjoys the backing and protection of the Chinese.(with Iran it's Russia.) They have the capability to strike America's allies and protectorates in the region, S. Korea and Japan. (with Iran it's Israel) The other parties involved, Japan, S. Korea, the UN, even the EU are engaging in almost constant negotiation with North Korea, and yet the US refuses to even sit at the table.

North Korea is still building weapons. The refusal to negotiate has not produced any result except to heighten tensions making military conflict more likely, not less so. And, quite frankly, the North Korean nuclear program is now mainly one of defense.

The main conditional requirement of the North Koreans for any type of openness and disarmament is a security guarantee from the US that it will not take agressive action against them. But the US will not even accept that as a negotiation point.

Amidst all the Iran hype that is going on right now, have you heard anyone, ANYONE, in a position of prominence mention the possibility that the US might offer some sort of a security guarantee to the Iranians in exchange for them scaling back their nuclear efforts?

Have we come this far?

It frightens me that this country finds itself so deeply trapped in the cage of empire that no one seems to even conceptualize the possibility that the US might not have the right to launch military attacks on any country, anytime.

Truly this is the success of the Bush preventative war doctrine. They have shifted the rhetorical landscape to a position where such questions are no longer asked.

After all, the "no negotiations" strategy has worked so well in North Korea.

Also: A little of the Bomb Iran drumbeat from the choir. Condi Rice menacingly mentions "Strong Steps" in dealing with Iran through the Security Council.

And, even better, Stephen Rademaker, a junior warhawk, offers the possibility that IRAN COULD PRODUCE A NUCLEAR WEAPON IN 16 DAYS!!!! Pretty scary until you read down the article where he states with current capabilities it would take 13 years. If we lived in a sane world, warmongering would be a crime.

And: We've still got people dying in your last ill conceived war.

Picture of the Day - 2

Mobile "biological laboratories" were a proven lie.

You've probably already seen this elsewhere, but if not, read at least the first five paragraphs of this front page WaPo article that describes the heralding of the finding of Saddam's mobile biological labs even though they knew it was a lie.

Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Funny how that word is slowly taking over for the careful euphemisms "misrepresented" and "manipulated" that were used for so long.

Bomb Iran talk - the fouth benefit

I've been talking alot about the three probable elements of the "bomb Iran" leaks to the WaPo and Hersh, 1) there is real planning, 2) the leak is leverage in negotiations, 3) there are worried souls who want this public to prevent it, but there is a fourth element/benefit to the administration.

The failure in Iraq has been moved off the front pages. This little episode, with all the headlines and talk shows featuring should we/shouldn't we with Iran, has bought this administration a week or two while the Iraqi government still hasn't formed.

Sure, Iraq is mentioned in the Iran conversations, but the failure is not the lead. And if you believe the experts and polls, that failure, and the constant reminders of Iraq, are the main factor dragging Bush down.

So, is the fourth element of this Iran talk, topic change? Is it in the administration's political interests for the Iran topic to go away so we can go back to talking about the real stories, the leak, the lying about intel, and the utter failure and lack of ideas of this administration which has led to the open wound that is Iraq?

Unbelievable Richard Cohen

I've started wandering back onto the editorial pages lately, and I'm quickly remembering why I stopped reading them in the first place, the maddening stupidity of politics based reality.

This editorial by Richard Cohen blames the military generals for the failure in Iraq. No, I'm not kidding. You see, by his logic, it is all their fault because they didn't speak loudly enough about this administration's incompetence. See, it's not the administration's fault for being incompetent, it's the military's fault for not openly defying Rumsfeld and Cheney.

What's next? The use of bad intel to lie the country into war by the administration is the fault of the American people for not figuring out they were lying?

Because apparently, it's never the administration's fault.

No more editorials. It's just not worth the aggravation.

Picture of the Day

"You're really over the edge on this Iran thing."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I can't even spell the guy's name, but he's been one of the most perceptive foreign policy theorists since the Soviet Union fell. (Yes, I know he did a thing or two before that, but his post Soviet understanding has been his zenith.)

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, makes a similar argument about Iran. "I think of war with Iran as the ending of America's present role in the world," he told me this week. "Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it's still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we'll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world."

Brzezinski urges President Bush to slow down and think carefully about his options -- rather than rushing to stop Iran's nuclear program, which by most estimates is five to 10 years away from building a bomb, even after yesterday's announcement. "Time is on our side," says Brzezinski. "The mullahs aren't the future of Iran, they're the past." As the United States carefully weighs its options, there is every likelihood that the strategic picture will improve.

The rest of the editorial is pretty average.

Also: If you're looking for something to read, Billmon has a long post on the use of a nuclear weapon on Iran and what it could mean for the empire and the world. I'm not sure I wholly agree, but it covers alot of mental ground and got me thinking a little differently.

Picture of the Day - 3

The Saudis go to the Russians for 'protection' from the US?

All the Iran gossip today centers around either the Hersh/WaPo stories that attacks are being planned, speculations about what might happen(no one ever mentions a possible coup in nuclear Pakistan), or this interesting Bill Arkin blurb.

But as I was knocking around getting ready for dinner, I came across this.
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia, fearing that US military action against Iran would wreak further havoc in the region, has asked Russia to block any bid by Washington to secure UN cover for an attack, a Russian diplomat said on Tuesday....

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former longtime ambassador to the United States who is often tasked with delicate missions, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on April 4.....

Bandar earlier visited China, another permanent UN Security Council member with veto power, a trip diplomats in Riyadh believe was also linked to the standoff over Iran’s nuclear activities.

We've driven the region's superpower to China and Russia. Not only that, but it happened in the person of Bandar "Bush," the ex-Saudi ambassador to the US who was so tight with the Bush family.

Did he approach the US administration first and was rebuffed?

Prince Bandar is the guy that allegedly guaranteed the lowering of oil prices before the 2004 election to help Bush, the guy who had the private meeting with Bush on the White House balcony shortly after 9-11, the guy who arranged the "special flights" to get Saudis out of the US after 9-11 when nothing else was allowed to fly. He was also involved in setting up some of the bank accounts for Iran Contra and was briefed on the Iraq invasion plan months before it happened and two days before then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

And he felt that he had to go to the Russians and Chinese instead of to the Bush family with whom he has "vacationed" at Crawford and Kinnebunkport on multiple occasions?

I'm not sure what's going on here, but I think it may be significant. I see one of three things. Either there's been a completely unpublicized falling out or he's using this simply as an opportunity to strengthen ties to Russia and China, or, the worst case, he talked to the US and got the answer that we're going to bomb them no matter what.

I don't like this development at all.

American deaths as "meanwhile"

I recognize that I write sloppily sometimes, and sometimes I write too quickly, but this....
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Bitter rivalry between two powerful clans for leadership of Iraq's Shiite Muslims snarled efforts Tuesday to agree on the next prime minister, the key issue that is blocking a national unity government. Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported the deaths of five more soldiers, including three killed Tuesday in a roadside bombing north of the capital.

Five US soldiers died and they've reported it as a backstory.

Have we become desensitized? As there is to be no change in plans, policies, or strategy for the foreseeable future, are the soldier's deaths being deemphasized because the sorrow is incovenient and unresolvable? I'm not alleging conspiracy here, but instead denial on a cultural scale.

We don't talk about it anymore because it's awful and it's not going to change. (Like racism, poverty, the environment....)

Picture of the Day - 2

Meet the new boss,

Same as the old boss.....

Rumsfeld, Kissinger, and Nixon.

Poll analysis - The Charlie Cook version

Charlie Cook is making my point about hardening negative opinion in the polls citing 'strong diapproval' of the Bush presidency between 42-47 percent in the last three major polls. But it's this paragraph that caught me.
There comes a point for some unfortunate presidents when the American people begin to hit the mute button; they just stop listening. Or to put it differently, when the public turns strongly against an elected official on an issue, they begin to turn on that official on everything. In this case, Iraq has become a ball and chain for President Bush, weighing him down on every issue. The separation between his weakest issue, Iraq, and his strongest, terrorism, is just five points.

Now does the mute button extend to Congressional Republicans? I don't know.

Another political rat disowns Iraq

Yesterday Colin Powell disowned Iraq, and today it's Gingrich.
VERMILLION - Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, told students and faculty at the University of South Dakota Monday that the United States should pull out of Iraq and leave a small force there, just as it did post-war in Korea and Germany.

"It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003," Gingrich said during a question-and-answer session at the school. "We have to pull back, and we have to recognize it."I'm finding all of these disavowals of Iraq quite worrisome. Anyone who didn't vote for this war seems to be trying to add distance from the issue which tells me that the expectation among insider Republicans is that things are going to get irretrievably worse.

I know that the idea that Iraq is going downhill isn't a revelatory insight, but looking at this as a political move, it tells me that Republicans outside the administration are so certain of a bleak future in Iraq they are willing to stake their political futures on it.

Powell and Gingrich are not outside analysts, they have access to insiders and do talk to the "commanders in the field." So read these disavowals on Iraq as a consensus opinion.

This is not a lame duck. It is a failed presidency.

Plame Gossip

This report from David Schuster is probably the best, most complete TV reporting on the leaks. He's been good on Plame throughout, but yesterday's report on Bush's "declassification" is excellent. C'mon MSNBC, let's give the guy his own show.

Also, Christy at Firedoglake adds a nasty little insinuation that the "throw Cheney under the bus" movement may have Karl Rove planting stories. Particularly interesting when coupled with the current indictment threat by Fitzgerald, and Rove's ability to take a plea and suddenly turn state's evidence against Cheney.

If this is true, the "throw Cheney under the bus" movement is simply prelude to Rove opening up to Fitzgerald. Think Fitzgerald would accept the only testimony that Rove thinks expedient? Am I too far out on a limb to revive the "Fitzgerald's hunting Cheney" line?

I don't know. Reading tea leaves is mostly charlatanism, but even a fake fortune teller is right once in awhile.

ThinkProgress links to a Gallup poll on the Plame case: "Overall, 63% of Americans believe Bush did something either illegal (21%) or unethical (42%), while 28% say he did nothing wrong." (no idea of the internals.)

Picture of the Day

(Reuters - Ceerwan Aziz)

"Date the Iran Bombing" Contest

Okay, I've officially started the pool. Your challenge, pick the date that the first bomb will drop in Iran. Entries can be made in the comments of this post or by email. The prize is yet to be determined, but if someone actually does hit the date on the head, I'll have something for you.

The following dates are already claimed.

April 19 - Vic
April 22 - Nolocontendre
June 19 - Micheal the Tubthumper
July 7 - Fredo
August 15 - voteforme_imfree
Aug 27 - Bruce O
Labor Day weekend - Quaker Dave
Sept 7 - Wild Bill
Sept 19 - me
Sept 25 - Praguetwin
Oct 9 - Topsider
Oct 17 - Jobsanger
Oct 20 - Greyhair
Oct 21 - Sindy
Oct 29 - Kathy
Oct 30-31 - Reality Based Educator
Nov 4 - Left Over
Nov 17 - Time
Nov 22 - Lew Scannon
Dec 2 - motherlode
Dec 7 - Judy
Dec 12 - "G"

Jan 27 - Lew Scannon
March 15 - Libby
July 4 - Justin Barker
Oct 11 - Copy Editor

Recruit your friends.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Bill Arkin on Iran planning

Bill Arkin, the WaPo national security writer, has some very sane thoughts about the Iran stories and hype on his "Early Warning blog.

Picture of the Day - 4

Donating blood in Iraq.

I don't know how to go about it, but if somebody wanted a massive goodwill program to the Islamic world, they would organize an American Blood Drive for Iraq. Either political side could do it, either anti war or even the government as a 'hearts and minds' program.

But I think it would be a massive show of solidarity with the Iraqi people, concrete proof from America that we don't want them to die.

How would you get something like this started because it's not like I could just do this on my own? Red Cross?

Another bad poll for Bush

The real jump out item here is in the sub headline: Forty-Seven Percent of Americans 'Strongly' Disapprove of Handling of the Presidency.

Like the polling reality post I wrote on Friday, these are people who are strongly disaffected and are not likely to turn back quickly.

Now, the election is a long way away, but maybe we should start really discussing the Bush Anchor Effect. (By the way, it was phrased specific to "your congressional district.")
A majority of registered voters, 55 percent, say they currently plan to vote for the Democratic candidate in their House district while 40 percent support the Republican candidate.

Also, I think I'm going to start a pool on what day the first bombs will fall on Tehran. I don't know what the prize will be yet, but I'm going to go out and claim Tuesday, Sept. 19. Any other guesses?

"Wild speculation" is the phrase that pays

Sometimes I wonder if the folks at the White House have a bet on who can get the daily talking point reprinted in the most newspapers.

Funny, in all the repetitions of calling Hersh's reporting "wild speculation," there's no actual denial by anybody that it's true.

(And remember, Hersh wasn't the only one reporting about planning for strikes, the NYTimes had one, and the WaPo had two over the weekend. I'm still really torn as to whether this was an intelligence/political operation designed to scare the bejesus out of the Iranians that just got out of hand, or whether the planning hit some new plateau and worried insiders, seeing the insanity of it, called every reporter they knew. Frankly, I think it was a bit of both. Opinions?)

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"So, that little misshapen thing in the corner? That's my legacy?"

"Those crazy-assed fundies think that's a person?"

If you've got a good caption, leave it in the comments. Open mike.

Plame Gossip - Bush knew of Plame identity in June.

Jason Leopold once again advances our understanding of what exactly went on around the Plame investigation.
In early June 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney met with President Bush and told him that CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson was the wife of Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson and that she was responsible for sending him on a fact-finding mission to Niger....

The article then goes into an exploration as to whether this "knowledge" by Bush contradicts his earlier responses to Fitzgerald. (It must be said that Bush did not testify under oath, and that, according to this article, Fitzgerald has no real interest in Bush.)

But, it does paint a picture of Richard Bruce Cheney totally obsessed with Plame Wilson, and shows that the coordinated "pushback" was a major topic among the top white house officials.

The attorneys and officials close to the case said over the weekend that the hastily arranged meeting was called by Cheney to "brief the president" on Wilson's increasing public criticism about the White House's use of the Niger intelligence and the negative impact it would eventually have on the administration's credibility if the public and Congress found out it was true, the sources said....

A more aggressive effort would come a week or so later when Cheney - who, sources said, was "consumed" with retaliating against Wilson because of his attacks on the administration's rationale for war - met with President Bush a second time and told the president that there was talk of "Wilson going public" and exposing the flawed Niger intelligence. ...

Throughout the second half of June, Andrew Card, Karl Rove, and senior officials from Cheney's office kept Bush updated about the progress of the campaign to discredit Wilson via numerous emails and internal White House memos, these sources said, adding that some of these documents were only recently turned over to the special counsel.

But, maybe the most interesting tidbit to me, is this bit on the timeline. Previously, the White House had been very cagey on the declassification timeline, but this is a good ten days before the July 8 Judy Miller "declassification."

One attorney close to the case said that Bush gave Cheney permission to declassify the NIE and that Cheney told Libby to leak it to Bob Woodward, the Washington Post's assistant managing editor, which Libby did on June 27, 2003.

This whole thing depicts a far broader and far more coordinated effort to discredit Wilson than what has previously been out there. And once again, the all signs point to Dick Cheney running off the rails trying to defend the bad intel on which he propagandized the Iraq war.

If you've been keeping close tabs on the Plame investigation, this article, like all of Jason's stuff, is a must read.

Also, Bush offered his first comment on the recent stories of his politically motivated declassification. He admits to the declassification. Reuters has an early version.

Now Colin Powell talks of "serious mistakes" in Iraq

I really think alot of this is reputation protecting, that those who admit errors first can point the first finger at others. Of note, this was in the prepared remarks, it wasn't something that just spilled out.
"We made some serious mistakes in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad," Powell told a crowd of thousands at the McCormick Place conference. "We didn't have enough troops on the ground. We didn't impose our will. And as a result, an insurgency got started, and . . . it got out of control."

Just how effective are the Iraqi troops 3 years on?

The AP has a story of an Iraqi army patrol. I'm assuming that this was intended to be a PR piece showing the increasing capabilities of the Iraqis, but if you check the details, it doesn't offer much confidence.
RAMADI, Iraq - The troops didn't go far, the mission didn't last long and the neighborhood wasn't the most dangerous in town. But when Iraqi army troops moved out on a recent patrol in central Ramadi, they took a crucial step forward, rolling out in their own armored Humvees for the first time....

Taking a drag off a cigarette a few blocks on, Ahmed was startled to see two of his own vehicles — they had taken a wrong turn — coming in the opposite direction. "Follow me!" he yelled into the radio. "Follow me!"....

Marines weren't taking chances Friday, though, and had a separate supporting patrol that halted traffic so the Iraqi convoy could move unhindered.

The Iraqis didn't go far. The base's barbed-wire-topped wall was often visible as the Humvees repeatedly circled past it. Following the Marines' advice, the Iraqi gunners kept their heads down in their turrets to avoid snipers. Less than two hours later, Ahmed was back on base....

But they are struggling to retain those who've already joined up. Some quit because of the hazards of duty, others because of low pay.

Iraqi troops deployed here get one week of vacation after every three-week stint. "Every month, two, three, five members of each company don't come back," Jabar said. "At this rate, our companies will be reduced to single platoons."

And this was the model operation the military wanted the AP reporter to go on to report back "progress." Sounds like they're ready, eh?

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You've got to be kidding me.

The Bush administration is in all sorts of political trouble for leaking classified information through Scooter Libby. Officially, they claim they're not able to comment "on an ongoing legal proceding."

So, they confirm the story through a leak attributed to "a senior administration official."

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Using Jesus to attack gays

Because, after all, if Jesus was about anything, he was about attacking others.
Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

Flash Drives a breach of security in Afghanistan

I had to read this all the way through. It's just about as bad as it sounds.
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar....

A reporter recently obtained several drives at the bazaar that contained documents marked "Secret." The contents included documents that were potentially embarrassing to Pakistan, a U.S. ally, presentations that named suspected militants targeted for "kill or capture" and discussions of U.S. efforts to "remove" or "marginalize" Afghan government officials whom the military considered "problem makers."

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But some organizations, such as the Minuteman Project, a national anti-illegal immigration group, oppose the demonstrations. Stephen Schreiman, director of the Maryland chapter, said only U.S. citizens should have the right to protest on U.S. land.

"Unfortunately, American laws do not ban foreigners from protesting on our soil," he said. "They've got the legal right to go out there and protest."

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Disingenuous headlines

The intentionally deceptive AP.
Tens of Thousands March in Dallas

DALLAS — Tens of thousands of people banged drums, waved U.S. flags and marched in a protest today urging federal lawmakers to pass immigration reform that would legalize an estimated 11 million undocumented workers.....

Then further down in the article,
Police estimated the crowd at 350,000 to 500,000. There were no reports of violence.

So the headline is tens of thousands when the reality is hundreds of thousands. If this isn't intentionally deceptive..... What is this reporter trying to pull?

The WaPo picked it up. It's their version of what happened.

By the way, down at the bottom is this nugget.

Different organizers have different agendas, but they do agree on the need to convert energy from protests into massive voter registration drives.

Voter registration and citizenship education initiatives are set to begin in several states after a "Day Without An Immigrant" campaign planned for May 1, an event that asks immigrants nationwide to stay home from work and school, and refrain from buying U.S. products.

"Marches will only get you so far," said Armando Navarro, coordinator of the National Alliance for Human Rights, a network of Hispanic activist groups in Southern California. "There has to be an electoral component to get the Republicans out of the majority."

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A Sunni refugee camp outside Fallujah. (photo Mohammed Faisal)

Last Monday I put up a picture of a Shia "displacement camp" in Diwaniyah where Shia refugees who had been driven South were staying.

This picture is of a refugee camp for Sunnis who have been driven north out of the Shia areas.

What has "freedom" brought these people?

Sy Hersh on CNN

Crooks and Liars has the Sy Hersh interview on CNN this morning in which he discussed his recent New Yorker story about the Bush administration planning to use Nukes on Iran. It's a little long at 12:30, but I found it interesting and there are a few new bits.

He calls Bush "messianic" and says that the military generals are near revolt. Also, he repeats the claim that US ground troops are operating in Iran right now.

Oh, and to the Iraqis, Happy Freedom Day.

A little taste of a megachurch

Those of you who don't live in an area with a "megachurch" really can't appreciate the local weirdness they produce. Here in Houston we have three huge Baptist megachurches that each hold several services every Sunday and seat over 10,000 at each service.

Just as an idea, take a look at this. Second Baptist in Houston, the biggest and richest of the Houston megachurches, is taking their Easter services out of the amphitheater-like church and holding services in Minute Maid Park, the 40,000+ capacity baseball stadium that is home to the Houston Astros. (admission is free)

This things gonna have freaking Clay Walker and CeCe Winans performing. (at half time?)

They have been running these TV ads promoting this thing which features the two pastors in Astros jerseys holding baseball bats telling everybody to come on out to Minute Maid Park for "Resurrection Day." (I haven't found a picture yet on the web.)

Second Baptist, like most megachurches in Houston, was closed on Christmas in 2005.

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Anyone but Jaafari

The Bush administration has very publicly called for another prime ministerial candidate from the Shias to lead a future Iraq, but is this not worse than just letting Jaafari take the chair?

Let's just presuppose that the Bush administration gets their wish and another candidate is put up instead of Jaafari, how much legitimacy will that candidate have? At a time when Iraq inarguably needs a very strong leader, the US is creating a situation where any candidate besides Jaafari will be hamstrung by charges of being in complicity with the US.

Jaafari has the support of Sadr and his militias which are the most influential force in Iraq right now, is it really wise to set up a new Prime Minister to whom this group will be immediately opposed?

Another foreign policy masterpiece by Condi Rice.

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