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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Two on politics

First, Sounds like a plan to me. I'd vote for that:
Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.

Second, on roughly the same topic from EJ Dionne.
If Rick Santorum wants you to look at his record in a way that makes him a paladin for the poor and if Dennis Hastert wants you to know that he's suspicious of the oil companies, the political weather is changing. When one side starts making the other side's argument, you don't need to be a pollster to know which belief system is in the ascendancy.

Anecdotal evidence way, way, way out in front of the election, but it's far better than bad news.

(Later) While we're talking about the Dems pushing things Americans want, "Democrats on Saturday pressed the U.S. Congress to slash tax breaks for profit-flush oil companies."

(One More) Apparently I'm doing election politics tonight. In one of their "notebook" style articles the WaPo notes that Lance Tarrance a Republican pollster thinks "This administration may be over."

Also, further down in the article is a very complimentary piece on my choice for '08, Clark Kent(Al Gore). "He is the most successful signature on an e-mail that we have ever had," said DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.). Do it, Al. We want you to run.

(Of curious interest, three of these four articles showing a pro dem shift are from the WaPo. Different sections of the paper, but it seems to be their newsrooms conventional wisdom. Hmmmm...)

Picture of the Day - 3

Goss's weird comment

What is this?
As Goss left his home Saturday on his way to give a commencement address in Ohio, he declined to explain his resignation, telling CNN that "it's one of those mysteries."

Just interesting after the deliberate statements this morning from Whitehouse spokesman Dana Perino, "Reports that the president had lost confidence in Porter Goss are categorically untrue," Perino said.

So, they don't want it to be incompetence. They desperately want it to be a personality clash.(How many rapid phone calls did they have to make to get that to be yesterday's interpretation against the evidence?) So, what is it really?

Also, the evening news shows seem to have just accepted the resignation and explanation and spent most of their time on Hayden as the likely successor.

Delay's office knew the golf trip was illegal

Remember this is all Abramoff, entirely separate from the current trial in Texas.
WASHINGTON - Prosecutors have e-mails showing Rep. Tom DeLay's office knew lobbyist Jack Abramoff had arranged the financing for the GOP leader's controversial European golfing trip in 2000 and was concerned "if someone starts asking questions."

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting free trips from lobbyists. DeLay, R-Texas, reported to Congress that a Republican advocacy group had paid for the spring 2000 trip that DeLay, his wife and top aides took to Scotland and England.

Texas - District 22 - Open Seat.

Porter Goss to do with Iran Policy? - a wild-assed theory

I have nothing to back this up, and I don't think it's really the likely cause, but just as an interesting backburner theory, let me reintroduce from yesterday the possibility that Porter Goss wasn't producing enough incriminating evidence on Iran to advance the policy the hawks wanted. This NYTimes article hints around it,
But as Mr. Goss leaves the agency, the intelligence watchers say that huge uncertainty remains in estimates of Iran's weapons, complicating the task of persuading the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions or take other measures.

But perhaps it's more useful to look at the shift in relationships. Goss and Negroponte had problems. Negroponte is close to Cheney. Goss's presumed replacement Michael Hayden "has a close rapport with Vice President Cheney."

One of the elements of the CIA power shift is that the Defense Intelligence Agency and the NSA have both been taking over traditional CIA roles, such as foreign operations out of the embassies and surveillance functions. And, I believe I'm safe in saying that Rumsfeld has a certain "rapport" with Cheney.

I don't think this is likely the cause of Goss's sudden departure, but one of the results will be that all of the major intel agencies will now be "friends of Dick."

(Remember it was just Thursday that, quite controversially, Cheney lambasted Russia. Then, there were also the recent reports that the terror group MEK, and other anti-Iranian groups were being protected, supplied and run across the border into Iran by elements of military intelligence(not the CIA.))

I don't know if there's a direct connection, it's just something that's been rattling around my head today. But, suddenly, maybe by side effect, Dick Cheney holds fairly direct sway over all the intel gathering in the US. After his use of intel in Iraq, and the threats he's issued regarding Iran, this really scares the hell out of me.

(And I know that Goss wasn't particularly hostile to Cheney's viewpoint, but now we're looking at another level of devotion beyond the law. Michael Hayden managed and defended the dubiously legal NSA warrantless wiretapping which was Cheney's baby. John Negroponte famously managed the death squads in Central America, and you know Rumsfeld and Cambone.)

Not just hookers, but gay hookers?

I don't know if I buy this, but the only thing that could make a scandal involving politicians and hookers even more salacious is if they were gay hookers. I'm just mentioning it for the titillation.

Also, Reality Based Educator has a NY Daily News article quoting a "senior law enforcement official" saying that it is all about Dusty Foggo. The only problem I have with this is that if Goss is only guilty by association, why was it so necessary to let him go immediately, and let Dusty Foggo apparently decide for himself to resign next week.

I mean, if Goss is only guilty by association, I don't think the "former official" title is as important. Certainly a resignation might be in order, but again, why so quickly if Goss is clean?

Picture of the Day - 2

I must say, I'm not too impressed with Josh Bolten so far. This is from a photo op at Frager's hardware store in DC yesterday designed to talk up the economy. With people worried about the economy, is this the image you really want to project, President Bush looking out of place at a hardware store in his $5,000 custom made suit?

I guess that's the whole premise of the economic benefits of tax cuts for the wealthy.

(He's holding up a little rawhide bone he bought for Barney.)

Zarqawi as a clown - 2

Thursday night, I wrote a post (video there) on the bizarre press conference where Gen. Rick Lynch showed "outtakes" of Zarqawi intended to make him look foolish. Here's a little more on the story that makes the whole thing just a little more curious.
But several veterans of wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as active-duty officers, said in telephone interviews yesterday that the clips of Mr. Zarqawi's supposed martial incompetence were unconvincing....

"But as a military guy, I shrug my shoulders and say: 'Of course he doesn't know how to use it. It's our gun.' He doesn't look as stupid as they said he looks."....

But the retired and active officers said the public presentation of the tape did not address elements that were disturbing, not amusing: the weapon was probably captured from American soldiers, indicating a tactical victory for the insurgents. And Mr. Zarqawi looked clean and plump.

"I see a guy who is getting a lot of groceries and local support,"

Again, I understand the strategy of that mocking press conference by the US military, but as I said before, if you want to prove the guy's incompetent, perhaps having him evade capture for three years while still managing to conduct operations isn't the best way to do it.

I certainly hope the military commanders take Zarqawi as serious as he is, maybe that's what bugged me about all of this. The US military making jokes about this guy who is out there killing people and successfully fomenting the civil war, the guy who orchestrated the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra. I just don't see the humor Gen. Lynch was going for when Zarqawi appears to be free and achieving his goals.

And, as a reminder, the reason the military thinks they are hot on his trail is they have evidence he is moving his operations into Baghdad.


KABUL, Afghanistan - A U.S.-led coalition military transport helicopter crashed while conducting combat operations in the remote mountains of eastern Afghanistan, killing all 10 American soldiers on board, a U.S. military spokeswoman said Saturday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goss fired for incompetence

The WaPo page A01 story says that Goss was fired because he was incompetent. (This is the article Dana Priest was talking about earlier.)
But senior administration officials said Bush had lost confidence in Goss, 67, almost from the beginning and decided months ago to replace him. In what was described as a difficult meeting in April with Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, Goss was told to prepare to leave by May, according to several officials with knowledge of the conversation.

But this doesn't explain why it was apparently rushed out today, or why there was no successor or acting director standing by to be named. I just find this "it was planned" characterization doesn't fit the facts. Why did the DoD folks not know this was coming? Why did Negroponte not know? Why did Bush suddenly cut short an appearance to make this happen today?

The only way this incompetence theory works is if Bush, already unhappy, threw a massive fit and fired him on the spot or Goss just up and resigned. But what would prompt that? And, even then, why rush this out? Why abandon any attempt to handle this in a politically sensitive way? Why did it have to happen so quickly?

In the same article, Dusty Foggo, the guy who was so innocent in his dealings with Cunningham briber Wilkes, just happens to be resigning next week. (WSJ is officially reporting that "Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, is under federal criminal investigation in connection with awarding agency contracts.")

There's still more story here. There's something that we don't know.

(And, not really a surprise I guess, the current favorite to replace Goss is Gen. Michael Hayden who is best known for implementing the dubiously legal NSA warrantless wiretapping. Is it any surprise then, that Hayden also "has a close rapport with Vice President Cheney?")

In view of Cheney gaining influence over the CIA, is it time to bring back the Date the Iran Bombing Contest?

Picture of the Day

"You still got that Censure Resolution lying around somewhere?"

A little more Porter Goss

Here is Larry Johnson's take. Short version, it centers around Wilkes and the hookers. Dusty Foggo was just a good guy who happened to play poker with Brent Wilkes, and was unaware that Wilkes was using the poker suite to run prostitutes. Porter Goss is completely innocent in this scenario, but resigned because of poilitical affiliations.

I don't know if I buy Foggo as innocent bystander. Don't I remember him being involved in getting Wilkes a sweet contract with the CIA? And all the questions about Wilkes getting questionable contracts in the black programs?

And Foggo and Wilkes just happen to be lifelong friends. But, despite appearances, it is possible that Foggo isn't the cause of this sudden resignation. Don't rule out the possibility mentioned in the Ken Silverstein piece, that Goss himself might be the cause.
I've learned from a well-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees—including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post.

And, one more note to dispute the Whitehouse spin that this was planned and was the result of longer term tensions: Olberman tonight mentioned that Bush cut short a scheduled appearance today(photo op) so he could get back to the Whitehouse for the announcement.

Last, Let me offer one other possibility that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere. There is the outside possibility that Goss resigned out of protest or ethics. Either he found out something he refused to be a part of, or he was fired for his refusal to do something. I don't think this is true, but it is an outside possibility. Negroponte said jump and Goss said no.

Plame Gossip - Rove next week?

David Schuster was on Olberman tonight talking about today's Libby hearing, and he paraphrased Judge Walton as saying that evidence involving Rove would soon be available as he expected a resolution to the Rove matter soon. Also, there was a diligent effort by Fitzgerald not to mention Rove in any way which he would do if he were intending to seek an indictment against "Official A."

Schuster also said the "tea leaves" say that Rove will be indicted. So, do your shopping now. I'd guess Wednesday or Friday unless Luskin pulls another gimmick.

Later: Another point Schuster made is that Libby's defense mentioned in oral arguments an effort to obtain "documents and emails" wherein Rove communicated with other administration officials regarding Plame's identity. Note the plural.

I don't know if that's just an open ended generic term used for discovery purposes, or if we just learned that Fitzgerald might have more than just the Rove-Hadley email as evidence of perjury.

Bottom line, it doesn't look good for Rove next week.

Also, if you've got your tin foil hat handy, RawStory had a big teaser up that there was going to be a big Abu Ghraib story developing (related to Goss?,) and then their site almost immediately became unavailable with an unresolvable address. "Currently awaiting resolution...." Don't know, don't know, it might be nothing, but it is odd. (Still not there 5 hours later.)

Picture of the Day - 3

Look at the WaPo site tonight tomorrow.

From Laura Rozen's site:

Dana Priest is on MSNBC right now saying we'll have to wait for tomorrow's paper to find out why he resigned.

So, it is a Washington Post story tomorrow, although I'd be surprised if the lid stays on that long. (Later: Here's the vid clip in question. )

Maybe Dana Priest didn't take too kindly to her friend Mary McCarthy being scapegoated by Goss on the secret prisons story. Whattya think?

(And, note, that if it's a Dana Priest article, it may well not be about Wilkes, etc. I still think that's the likely cause, but she hasn't been writing about Wilkes, etc, and her beat is normally national security, so don't rule out other possibilities.)

UPDATE: ThinkProgress points out just how sudden this is.

In fact, Porter Goss was apparently supposed to attend a regularly scheduled afternoon meeting that takes place right about this time in the afternoon. The Defense Department has representatives there and, according to sources, none of the people at that meeting had any advance word that Porter Goss was going to be tendering his resignation.

So it indicates the sudden nature that this took place, and again it just fuels the speculation of what the real backstory is here.

So, here's my working theory at this point. Dana Priest is working a major story. She has the story written and contacts Goss's office for a comment this morning. And within hours Goss is sitting with Bush resigning. So, what's the story so explosive that he would resign same day....?

Also, Negroponte, Goss's nominal boss, didn't know either when they met this morning?

UPDATE: Huffington Post has a one liner up, We're Hearing... Resignation Of A Pentagon Under-Secretary Also Imminent...

Also, although Goss's resignation letter doesn't address any cause which is a little suspicious, he does say he intends to stick around the CIA for a couple of weeks, which tamps down my belief of a megascandal somewhat. But if that was the case, wouldn't Negroponte know. (Bill Kristol points out that it is "sticking around for a few weeks," not serving until a new director is confirmed. That's a good point.)

Why Porter, Why?

Porter Goss suddenly resigned after almost exactly a year on the job.

NOTICE THERE WAS NO SUCCESSOR WAITING IN THE WINGS. This was a sudden move, the question is who initiated it and why.

Right now only speculation as to why, but here's a few possibilities.

1) Josh Marshall has been talking about the Wilkes/Cunningham hookers and limos scandal. Apparently, the guy Goss put in charge of procurement,Dusty Foggo, was unqualified and a lifelong friend of briber Wilkes. Goss actually felt it necessary to issue a denial as to whether he was at any of Wilkes' Poker and hookers parties. Dusty Foggo was, and Duke Cunningham has been cooperating with investigators.(ThinkProgress has alot more.)

2) Haven't seen it mentioned yet, but there was the recent firing of Mary McCarthy, announced in the leaked memo from Goss. She was fired for improper contacts with a reporter, but Goss et al, tried to pin the leak of the secret prisons on her. She denied any involvement in the leak.

3) There's this very weird case of CIA officer "Jerry Doe" who is suing the CIA for wrongful termination after he claims he was fired for not lying on Iraq intel.

4) Also, there's a secret prisons and torture investigation taking place at the UN today.

Not to mention all the other stuff, torture, renditions, etc. I smell a very big story coming. I don't know. I'll keep looking. These are just off the top of my head. He's only held the post a year after all.

From Laura Rozen: CIA public affairs just told me they will be releasing a statement this afternoon.(She also says there may be photos from the "poker" parties.)

The first blogger consensus response seems to be that it's related to the Wilkes/Cunningham/Foggo bribery scandals. It's so nice they added hookers in to keep the interest up.

(And how thankful is RI rep. Kennedy about now. He was all the news all day until this broke.)

Also: Goodbye, Scott McClellan. Already held your press briefing, you picked a good day to leave. And Snowjob, welcome. My first question is, "Is it true that the president's hand picked appointee to head the CIA was involved in a bribery scandal that endangered the national security of the country?"

ABC's The Note is really annoying

ABC's The Note keeps reporting that the Grand Jury considering Rove's status is "scheduled to meet" as if it's a news item, but it's not. This is not a special grand jury only considering the Rove case; it is a normal grand jury that that has any number of cases before it. The grand jury is scheduled to meet several times a week. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, they may considering other cases....

So, don't buy into The Note's noise. Until you see "scheduled to meet with Fitzgerald," or "Fitzgerald is meeting with the grand jury," don't get too excited. Also, there is a hearing on the Libby case today.

Picture of the Day - 2

3 more voted off American Idol

No, not really, I have no idea. I just thought that headline might gain a little attention for the three men who lost their lives yesterday serving in Iraq.
BAGHDAD, May 5--A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers south of Baghdad on Friday morning, U.S. military authorities said in a statement.
It seems to be a pretty slow news day. What does it mean when three US soldiers dying in Iraq doesn't even get a mention on the news anymore?

My guess would be that the media has slipped into a malaise in their coverage of the war, that as no changes in policy or resolution of the situation seems to be coming, they've decided that there is no story there. But these are people, real people. Americans dying in Iraq, and we seem to have shifted to covering their deaths as an increase on a tote board.

I think Josh Marshall may have found a very good description of the current policy.
describes the president's strategy as "muddling through the rest of the Bush Presidency, without being forced to admit defeat, until January of 2009, when the war will become a new President's problem."

This really is the issue. Brazen it out, burn off men and money, not admit there's any real problem and then pass it off on the next guy who will take the blame.

Now, that's a story. A US president stalled in a war, consigning the country to another thousand deaths because he doesn't want the failure on his record. Think about how many more are going to die in two years and eight months, how many more deaths won't be covered.

(oh, and by the way, the tote board says 2,415)

Unable to show the flag

I know the world cup means nothing to most of you, but take this little anecdotal story as a symbol of bigger issues.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - The official team bus to be used by the United States during the World Cup will not bear a flag for security reasons.

The 32 official buses were presented Thursday in Frankfurt and the other 31 buses have large national flags of the their teams painted on rear sides.

Picture of the Day

A US Marine, stateside, gets a tattoo to remember his friends who died in Iraq.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

How dare they?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The makers of combat video games have unwittingly become part of a global propaganda campaign by Islamic militants to exhort Muslim youths to take up arms against the United States, officials said on Thursday.

Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.

I mean, the only proper way for these games to be played is the way they're written with Muslims as the bad guys, right?

I find myself from time to time, amidst the jingoism, thinking back to that awful Chuck Norris movie Delta Force. How would you feel if in every movie that comes to town, your people are the enemy and the white Americans are the heroes?

Maybe I should ask the Native Americans.

(To really appreciate the irony of this article, go take a look at America's Army, an online game which just happens to have been developed, sponsored, hosted, marketed, and made available for free by US Army recruiting.)

Also: Reading the article again, ""Battlefield 2" ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition."

Funny how they might not want to play that scenario. It just sounds like they changed the skins and inserted a different start video. It's not a nefarious plot of technological genius. I do that with some of my games.

Picture of the Day - 3

McClellan's Second to Last Day

You know, I'd think they'd be nicer to Scott McClellan on his second to last day.
Q Scott, a follow-up on Moussaoui. A family member today said he lost confidence in this administration to find bin Laden; that he looks forward to the next administration to bring him to justice. How high of a priority is it for the President while he's still in office that bin Laden is caught?

Making Zarqawi a Clown

I don't know why this is so odd to me. The US military came across the raw footage that was edited down to Zarqawi's last video release, and then made a big presentation of displaying it to show how incompetent he is.

Leaving aside the specifics, this doesn't really seem to characterize the level of incompetence that Gen. Lynch is trying to portray. But how weird is this as a US PR move? (video clip - 2 minutes)

It's an obvious tactic with the intention of undermining support, but doesn't this also smack of some desperation? Is this little presentation likely to stop the inflow of foreign fighters?(maybe) Wouldn't capturing the guy after three years be more effective than lampooning him?

Another article this morning from the same briefing had Gen. Lynch saying that the US was hot on Zarqawi's trail, because of the finding of this tape, as he brought his terror operations into Baghdad.

There's just this odd quality about it that I find strange. I don't know exactly what it is.

Picture of the Day - 2

A report says U.S. government public diplomacy efforts, including steps to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world, are not working. (VOA News)

Also, did anyone else notice that Karen Hughes wasn't a part of the White House shakeup?

(This is a reused picture of the day. Sorry, I try to avoid that, but it so captures the 'hearts and minds' failure.)

US backing Somali warlords?

There have been sporadic reports of US special forces operating in the Horn of Africa, but all the reporting has been non-specific. I can't say whether this allegation is true, but it does echo recent past tactics whether the Afghanistan operation or the black programs supporting the Columbian paramilitaries, the third wheel of the government/rebels/paramilitary civil war in Columbia.
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somalia's President Abdullahi Yusuf expressed concern on Thursday over U.S. support for warlords fighting hardline Islamic militia in Mogadishu as part of Washington's declared war on terrorism.

Some 90 people were killed in March in battles between fighters linked to the influential Islamic courts and those tied to a self-styled anti-terrorism coalition in Mogadishu, comprising most of the capital's powerful warlords.

By the way, "self-styled anti-terrorism coalition?" Just concerned warlords doing their bit?

Cheney chides Russia

Does anyone else see the irony of Dick Cheney criticizing Russia on it's rollback on rights? The same Dick Cheney who espouses torture, warrantless wiretapping, secret prisons, indefinite non-reviewable detentions, is the greatest proponent of "strengthening the executive" and the classification of everything?

He also criticizes Russia for interfering in the governments of other countries.

Beyond the ridiculous hypocrisy, tell me again how this helps us in Iraq and Iran?

Oh, and on his Democracy and Freedom Tour, he's also making a stop in Kazakhstan, home to one of the world's worst torturing dictators.

Iraq catchall

A Reuters analysis piece makes the point that all the negotiations inside the protected green zone might well have no impact on those outside.

(Reuters)Most armies punish soldiers who desert, in some cases with courts martial. However, the Iraqi army, being rebuilt from scratch since the fall of Saddam, is struggling to attract recruits in the face of unrelenting insurgent attacks and allows soldiers to leave without punishment.

(The Australian)The question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build the biggest embassy on earth?

(Reuters) For three consecutive days, residents of the capital, Baghdad, have received less than one hour of electricity per day.

(WaPo) Yesterday, "Iraqi police also discovered 37 bodies in several Baghdad neighborhoods, all of them handcuffed, blindfolded and shot dead."

Juan Cole translates Dar al Hayat as saying that "the morning corpse patrol has become a regular part of Iraqi police work."

(Sorry, if this is messy, just trying to force a little quick blogging into my morning routine.)

My internet connection was down.

Sorry, I woke up this morning with my internet connection down.

I spent a few minutes flipping around the morning "news" shows as an alternative, but quickly came to the conclusion that I'd rather take my chances on being killed in a terror attack than continue watching.

I'm catching up now.

Picture of the Day

Take a second look at her expression.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Lobbying reform?

Take a look at this AP Fact Sheet on the major provisions of the supposed House lobbying reform that passed today.

Lobbyists have to file quarterly rather than semi-annually(oooh, that's tough,) no change in travel restrictions except that members must fill out paperwork(uhoh, that's too tough,) and lobbyists have to take a separate plane(too tough, too tough.) It offers non-mandatory ethics training for members(ouch, that's tough,) and removes retirement benefits if a member is convicted of bribery(not the Dukester?)

And, of course, limits 527's, the only fundraising tool where the Dems outperform the Repubs.

And it still only passed by four votes. They could've just voted on a blank sheet of paper with "Clear Government Initiative" at the top.

Picture of the Day - 3

RoveWatch starts now

By my calculations yesterday, I think today may be the first day when we have a real possibility of leaks on the direction of the Rove case. (I just love writing that!!!) So, if anybody comes across anything, please let me know. Just leave a comment in the top post and I'll pick it up.

I still don't have any real feeling for whether Friday is Rove's D-Day, but from earlier comments Friday is the first possible/likely D-Day. As Rawstory says today, "Recent reports suggests the jury will continue to meet in the next two weeks as they decide on the fate of presidential adviser Karl Rove." But those 10-day, or 2 week, timelines started when Rove testified a week ago, so...

For some reason, I really have a feeling it will go into next week.

ABC's The Note is reporting that the grand jury may meet today, but the grand jury may meet every Wed or Fri, so that's not saying very much without any other reporting.

Why are the Repubs pushing immigration?

Charity, humility, and kindness? Or pro-war, pro-torture, anti-minority?
In the immigration debate, for example, white evangelicals took the hardest line of any religious group towards immigrants, with 63 per cent agreeing that newcomers posed a threat to traditional American values, compared with 39 per cent of seculars.

Jesus would roll over in his grave. Well, it's just a figure of speech.

Picture of the Day - 2

Maamoun Sami Rashid al Alwanu, US installed governor of the "restive" or "volatile" Anbar province.

A suicide car bomber rammed into a convoy of U.S. and Iraqi vehicles accompanying the governor of the volatile Anbar province through the city of Ramadi today, leaving a number of casualties, police and hospital officials in the provincial capital said. Gov. Mamoun Sami Rasheed's condition was unknown.

Iraq coverage

Sorry to go on about this, but it's really bugging me. (NYTimes today)
At least 20 people died, including 16 police recruits killed by a suicide bomber in Fallujah and four Shiite students pulled from a bus in Baghdad and shot, and 34 bodies of execution victims were reported found, according to Iraqi officials.

Apparently, the 34 bodies of execution victims don't qualify as dead. Yesterday it was 10 dead and fourteen bodies "found." The people releasing this information are playing all kinds of games with the body counts right now, saving up the enemy casualties to announce big numbers while attempting to disqualify fatalities from the civilian counts.

Also, these death squad killings are being seriously underrepresented. 20 a day, at least, are found dead with their hands bound often with signs of torture.

No comment

BAGHDAD is to get its first water park and wave machine - thanks to a Scottish company.Murphy's Waves are in talks with the developers of the indoor water park and recreation centre planned for the Iraqi capital.And a team from Iraq are due to fly to Glasgow next week for talks to finalist the plans.Engineers for Murphy's hope to start work on the project before the end of the year.

Spring Break!!!!!

I'm a huge believer in legalization for a number of reasons, but reading about Mexico's drug legalization, all I keep thinking is that Rita Cosby and Greta Van Sustern, and all the rest of those that have exploited the Natalie Holloway story, might as well just go ahead and buy a place in Cancun.

Picture of the Day

Can you spot the elephant in this room?

(hint: it's name is Iran.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Team Abramoff at the White House every working day

Abramoff was a $100,000 fundraiser for Bush and lobbying records obtained by the AP show his lobbying team logged nearly 200 meetings with the administration during its first 10 months in office on behalf of one of his clients, the Northern Mariana Islands.

First, this would represent a meeting between the White House and Team Abramoff at rate of just under one per working day. Second, note that all of the meetings reported here were marked down to just one client. So, either Team Abramoff credited all their meetings to this client whether true or not, or this was billing fraud, or this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Nope, we never met the man.

The visitor logs are due to be delivered to Judicial Watch on May 10.

Outside the Matrix

Every once in awhile, I have this weird moment where I sort of step outside the Matrix of the media debate, and grasp just how really badly things are going on a historical scale. I can't really describe it, but it's kind of fearful awe at the magnitude of fuckedup-edness of where we are today. Overextended, rocketing into debt, fighting two wars at less than a stalemate, having lost the aid of generational allies.... Mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake. All with long term consequences.

It happened tonight while I was watching Hardball as Chris Matthews went through a series of yes or no questions describing the level of lies used to sell Iraq as a war against terror and WMD.

I just can't describe the feeling.

USA World Cup Team Announced

The US named it's World Cup squad. No huge surprises. All my favorites are in.

Just one of those, off topic interests.

Picture of the Day - 3

This is from the "turning the corner in Iraq" press briefing the other day. Not too happy, eh?

It looks to me like Condi Rice just lost the argument.

Afternoon quickhits

Josh Marshall: Ken Mehlman spoke at the American Jewish Committee's 100th anniversary event this morning. And I hear that when he told the crowd that Iraq is less of a threat or a challenge today than it was under Saddam he got roundly booed.

According to Shelby Steele, we're losing Iraq because of white guilt. Because, you see, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the policies, disbanding the Iraqi army, calling off Jay Garner's elections in the first 90 days, going in with too few troops, et. etc.

You can go to this website to thank Stephen Colbert. (I don't know the site, so you might want to use a fake email.)

ThinkProgress has been blasting Bush all day over his recent claim that the National Anthem should only be sung in English. In the 2000 campaign it was sung in Spanish at his events, and, oh yeah, at the inaugural ceremony. Hypocrisy.... Race Demogogue... Can't.... Breathe....

A bit more on "displaced" Iraqis and the quickly deteriorating conditions in the refugee camps.

Finally, the evidence is mounting around the massacre of women and children in Haditha.

Plame Gossip - What to look for.

I've gotten a couple of comments and emails asking what to look for next in the Rove investigation. (I just have fun writing that phrase, much like writing Tx. 22 - Open Seat. That was Tom Delay's seat.)

Last week after Rove testified, Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, made very sure he got the message out that there would be no "decision" by Fitzgerald for ten days. I would bet that the wording given to Luskin was not no decision but no action, and if that's the case, that would make Fitzgerald's earliest decision/action day on Rove this Friday. It could well be into next week though.

Anyway, what's probably going to go down if Fitzgerald intends to indict Rove, following the script and guidelines from the Libby indictment, is that the morning Fitzgerald intends to ask for indictment, Fitzgerald will send a target letter to Luskin. The Grand Jury will meet, and if an indictment is voted on, Fitzgerald will schedule a press conference.

My point in all this is show how this story is likely to break. First, we might have a leak out of Fitzgerald's office a day or two before once the decision has been made. Next, we might get some sort of murmur or gossip out of the whitehouse reporters, as Karl Rove gets his target letter. The next possibility is overly excited reports of Fitzgerald meeting with the grand jury. The big guaranteed tell will be if a news conference is scheduled.

If Karl Rove is to be submitted for indictment, the excitement in the press will be palapable well before the actual story breaks. Certainly, if a target letter is transmitted, the rumors would start and the White House press corps would begin working sources. So, if this does go down, we are likely to get warning in a crescendo of coverage throughout the day long before any official announcement is made. And, that's assuming Jason Leopold doesn't scoop them all again a day or two in advance.

If you believe its going to be Friday, which I'm not sold on, start watching truthout and Rawstory Wednesday night.

Picture of the Day - 2

Sorry. This should have been the picture of the day yesterday.

From the website of the company that sells this thing: The figure captures the good ol’ boy essence of the original George, from his rugged Texas back country good looks and characteristic placid political face. Its resemblance to the 43rd President is amazing, duplicating his crystal blue eyes, engaging smile and chiseled features.

This is the same company that produced the vile Ann Coulter talking doll.

(By the way, a quick google of their website does not include the phrase "made in America.")

Warning: Inflation Ahead

Just a quick "what might be coming" post. With oil prices near historic records and Bush's Energy Secretary warning that it could be three years before oil prices begin to seriously fall, news of a falling dollar is particularly bad.

The inflation that is coming will probably be felt disproportionately by the poor as gasoline makes up a larger part of their spending, and the purchasing power of their "Walmart shopping" will be greatly undermined if the dollar slides raising the cost of cheap imports. This is really bad news for those on fixed incomes.

And yet the tax cuts for the wealthiest will stay in place. Mainstream America has been convinced that the US no longer engages in class warfare, but the monied interests have been pushing their burden onto the middle class since Reagan.

Spinning Iraq

It appears the US military has begun to take a different tack in its announcements of "successes." Instead of announcing the insurgents killed each day in each operation, the new strategy seems to be to withhold the announcements of insurgent kills until a bigger, more headline grabbing number has accumulated. Today's example:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed more than 100 insurgents last week in the town of Ramadi in the rebel heartland of Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

I first noticed this new media strategy on Saturday(bottom.)

To me, this echoes the desperate attempts to show success through body counts in Vietnam.

Also of interest, Reuters found it necessary to try and confirm this announcement(they couldn't.) That questioning of announcements from the podium is a telling story in itself.

This tactic has been successful on one front. The fact that another US soldier was killed(2,406) yesterday and tortured and bound bodies continue to turn up around Baghdad was not Reuter's headline story out of Iraq.

(Or maybe it's just the recurring "turning point" rhetoric that brings back echoes of Vietnam. I imagine a political cartoon with Bush walking on a square road with turning point signs at each corner with Bush back at the start.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

(AP-Khalid Mohammed)

Bolivia just jumped ahead of Iran

After signing a trade agreement Saturday with Venezuela and Cuba "cast as an alternative to U.S. plans for a free-trade pact with the Latin American region," Bolivia has just tody, more or less, nationalized their natural gas industry.
LA PAZ, Bolivia - President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to occupy Bolivia's natural gas fields Monday and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they give Bolivia control over the entire chain of production.

The breakdown in US hegemony is directly connected to the long and unsuccessful invasion and occupation of Iraq. With the US militarily tied down, those countries who wish to fight against US influence are now emboldened.

Iraq was bad policy for so many reasons.

Our Iraqi Army

Our Iraqi Army is Sadr's Iraqi Army.
SOON after he graduated near the top of his class at the American-run police academy, Alah defected. He did not bother to inform his superiors. The young Iraqi police officer simply walked into a recruitment office in a rundown neighbourhood of Baghdad and signed on for the Mahdi Army, the private militia run by the radical young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that has been blamed for some of the most savage atrocities in this city in recent weeks.

The 23-year-old absconder described it as “a career move”. The pay was better, the duties less onerous and there was far less chance of being killed.

These switchovers are not only trained for Sadr for free, but they also take with them the tactics book for the Iraqi Army. And, just so you know the Shia section in the Iraqi army isn't the only mess, a thousand Sunni "graduates" "cast off their tunics, and rejected deployment orders."

Chalabi in US/Iran negotiations

This is Rawstory, so you can't say that it is written in stone, but they're reporting that Ahmed Chalabi is acting as a middleman between the US and Iran.

Abramoff visits to the White House

I don't always agree with the politics of Judicial Watch, but on numerous occasions they have nobly served the goal of open government. And that's a good thing.
WASHINGTON --The Secret Service has agreed to turn over White House visitor logs that will show how often convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff met with Bush administration officials -- and with whom he met.

It's also "law day"

Did you know that by executive order the President declared today "Law Day?"

Not only that, but this year's law day theme is "Separate Branches, Balanced Powers."

Can't... Breath.... Hypocrisy.... Too.... Thick....

Picture of the Day - 2

From the funeral of Shawn Pahnke who died in Iraq.

Mission accomplished was three years ago today.

Did you know....
Monday marks the third anniversary of President Bush’s jet landing on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and his speech declaring major fighting in Iraq over, all in front of a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner.

This is from E&P, and they also have excerpts of the NYTimes coverage around the "Mission Accomplished" speech, lauding Bush as a hero and the operation as mostly a success. If you want to take a trip in the Koolaid wayback machine, this is the place.

Suddenly, pollution becomes an issue.

I think these scientists are catching on. Environmental damage that destroys habitat and threatens the future of the human race just isn't sexy enough to prompt any significant response.

But when you start talking about pollution decreasing penis size, now you've got a threat the old men in Washington might show a little interest in.

Quickhits - Snapshots on Oil

This is perhaps the greatest failure of the Bush administration, a collection of articles around oil from the last couple of days. I hate to do it this way, but if you look at all of these in total, you really begin to get an idea of just how poorly this administration has run their foreign policy.

One of the intents of the PNAC theories was to establish American dominance through the control of oil. Whether the failure was in the design or execution, this policy has produced resistance among oil suppliers, left the US perilously overextended, and strengthened the positions of major rivals. (The last two articles are on the strengthening of Russia and China.)

LATimes: WASHINGTON — Gasoline prices will remain high for years to come and will be largely unaffected by a new White House plan to bring them down, Bush administration officials said Sunday.

Reuters: Nigerian unrest has cut production by 25%, and Oil climbed a dollar on a refinery fire in Italy.

AP: DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - With oil prices above $70 a barrel fouling the world economy, dismay is focusing on Iraq, whose exports have slipped to their lowest levels since the 2003 invasion. ''Iraq could be making a tremendous difference,'' said Dalton Garis

AP: ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The Iranian deputy oil minister said Sunday he did not believe the United Nations would impose sanctions on Iran because that would boost oil prices even higher.

Reuters: After over a decade when the relationship between Moscow and Washington was nearly always upbeat, the mood in the two capitals has turned "sour," according to one Western diplomat..... The attitude is: "It is not us that need the rest of the world, it is them that need us," Lukyanov said.

And Finally, AFP: BEIJING (AFP) - In one week in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Kenya, Chinese President Hu Jintao mounted all-out and unabashed "petroleum diplomacy" aimed at quenching his nation's growing thirst for oil.

Flush with the world's largest foreign exchange reserves, Hu reaffirmed that those who help China acquire the black gold needed to drive his country's booming economy would be rewarded both politically and commercially.

One more note: I was watching Bush speak the other day(I don't know why,) and he made the comment that when he took office, oil was in the $20/barrel region.

Picture of the Day

Helen Thomas. Who else?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Congressional Republicans are this unpopular

How unpopular do you have to be for people to reject your efforts to give them money?
WASHINGTON, April 30 — The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.

Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November....

Angry constituents have asked, "Do you think we are prostitutes? Do you think you can buy us?" said another Republican senator's aide, who was granted anonymity to openly discuss the feedback because the senator had supported the plan.

If you really get down into this stunt, the logic is just bad. In response to record oil company profits, the Republican solution is to reimburse the public(through debt) with government money to cover the costs of the record profits by these private companies.

Another genius political move by Bill Frist. I wonder if he diagnosed the solution while looking at an Exxon supplied videotape.

Don't buy anything tomorrow

I will probably not be going to the local immigration rally in Houston, but I will still be doing my little bit by not spending any money. Not spending money tomorrow is a very easy way to show solidarity. (If you're in Houston and inspired, 11AM Memorial Park is the place to start.)

I was talking to a couple guys I know in Houston who are kind of tied into this thing, and their impression is that it's going to be big. I'm not so sure, but I'm hoping it will be. There's a whole bunch of restaurants that are planning to be closed including the whole Taqueria Arandas chain, although I don't know if that's in sympathy or simply because the majority of the customers will not be eating out tomorrow.

Anyway, here's hoping it will be big, and I will be doing my little bit by eating out of the fridge.

(Is it accidental that this is occurring on May Day, the international "worker's holiday" which is celebrated almost everywhere but the US? I assume not, but I haven't seen any connection made in any of the media coverage.)

Picture of the Day - 3

El Presidente Bush

This is making the rounds all over the place, but it's important.
WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

I must say, that to call torture "military rules and regulations" does minimize what we're talking about somewhat.

Also, that 750 number is only in relation to signing statements of laws passed since he took office. It does not take into account many of the other acts that he has claimed are legal, NSA warrantless wiretapping, secret offshore prisons, the application of military tribunals to Guantanamo as well as the suspension of Geneva Conventions and/or Habeus, not to mention the apparent suspension of forth amendment rights and much more.

Also: Unrelated, but odd. Dick Cheney claims his office is exempt from executive ordered reporting of classification activities. Just odd.

Your ISP may soon be required to spy on you by law.

It didn't take long for the idea of forcing Internet providers to retain records of their users' activities to gain traction in the U.S. Congress.....

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette's proposal says that any Internet service that "enables users to access content" must permanently retain records that would permit police to identify each user. The records could not be discarded until at least one year after the user's account was closed.
I know, but still....

Picture of the Day - 2

Oh my god! They're spawning.

Colbert at the Correspondent's Dinner.

Stephen Colbert hosted the White House Correspondent's Dinner in his Colbert Report character.

Crooks and Liars has the video. Freakin' hysterical, although the press corps at times seemed afraid to laugh. Take fifteen minutes out of your Sunday to laugh. I promise you, it's worth it. (this other slightly edited version is clearer.)

E&P on the president's reaction, "as Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately."

The best line I've come across so far, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq," Colbert said in a typical zinger."

(Also, I keep thinking that The Daily Show and now the Colbert Report are the equivalent of the turn of the century political cartoonists who had so much impact on the politics of the day.)

First Draft has a slightly edited and bigger version. Again, I promise you it's worth it.


Look at all the election year stuff that the Republicans are trying to pack into the Iraq-Katrina emergency spending bill. I would assume that these are just the most contentious and egregious examples.

Iraq's Army unable to function without US support

I've written about this several times before, but I think it's important. When the US talks of a "lack of readiness" in the Iraqi troops, even today, the problem is much larger than training and coordination.
The ability to pay its troops is just one of the many basic services for which Iraq's military remains almost totally dependent on American forces.

None of Al Anbar's Iraqi brigades — among the newest and most strategically important — perform independently. Logistics is their greatest weakness. Many rely on U.S. forces for food, transportation, uniforms, identification cards, drinking water, weapons and virtually every other necessity.

The Iraqi government lacks the infrastructure to supply food and water to their own troops.

There're some other interesting bits in this LATimes piece. Desertion rates at 40% in some places, and a US trainer talking about sleeping with one eye open out of fear of his Iraqi trainees.

Also: Does this announcement sound like padding the truth? The headline is US, Iraqi troops kill more than 20 foreign rebels.

Sounds like a successful operation, right? Look how well it's going. The headline does seem to paint a picture of one or two good days, but in the first paragraph we learn that these "kills" took place over "the past few weeks."

I don't know why this bothered me. Maybe it's because in the wake of the revelations about the planting of "truthful, positive" stories in the Iraqi press by Pentagon contractor Lincoln Group, this just smells of bald PR. I mean, the Pentagon didn't pay to have this story printed in the US press, but if it were legal, I think they would have. It's not lying, but it's a deceptive way to present facts.

(The NYTimes/AP version, with virtually the same headline by the way, doesn't mention "weeks" until the fifth paragraph.)

Picture of the Day

Memorial for Stephen Perez who died during a mortar attack in Camp Fallujah.