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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Picture of the Day - 2

Right Track/Wrong Track Numbers

Has anybody taken a look at the Direction of the Country polling lately? Wrong Track/Wrong Direction/Dissatisfied has had several polls in a row over 70%!!!!! There's always alot of coverage of the Bush Approve/Disapprove numbers, but the wrong track number crept over 70% in every poll in May without any real noise. That seems huge to me.

Maybe the lack of coverage is a sign that no one's surprised anymore.

US no longer fighting for "freedom"

As if we ever were.
BEIRUT, Lebanon - The daily carnage in Iraq is claiming another casualty — Arab reformers who have increasingly become the target of governments that no longer feel pressured by the United States to change.

We were never really fighting for freedom. It was all about establishing a lever to influence unfriendly regimes. In places the US was shut out by the country's leadership, it was believed that the US could affect policy by establishing anti-governmental blocs in parliament.

The US never really pressured the Saudis, or the Pakistanis, or even the Egyptions to democratize except when it was a useful lever against some policy or action the administration didn't like.

I'm turning into Jack Cafferty

I'm not kidding, I'm really kind of concerned about this. This is about the fourth time in the last month that I've let off a rant only to find out later that Cafferty was saying the exact same thing.

I feel too young to be the "irascible old man" character. Help.

(I do have to say, though, I am a bit heartened that all the coverage of the "Gay Marriage" press by Bush has prominently mentioned that it is merely a political ploy and not expected to pass, and most of the articles include quotes from "the base" that it's supposed to fire up saying it's all just more wind.)

Picture of the Day

Some Dirt on Rep. Jerry Lewis

There was news yesterday that lobbyist documents related to Rep Jerry Lewis (R - Ca), Chairman of the Appropriations Committee were subpoenaed by a grand jury. The NYTimes has a very interesting article focusing on the lobbyist and her relationship with Rep. Jerry Lewis.
WASHINGTON, June 2 — Letitia Hoadley White arrived on Capitol Hill 25 years ago as a 22-year-old receptionist with a bachelor's degree in fashion design, fresh from a job at Women's Wear Daily.

When her boss, Representative Jerry Lewis, Republican of California, assigned her to work with the appropriations committee in 1986, Ms. White found her calling: cramming spending bills with narrow provisions to finance lawmakers' pet projects. When she left the Hill three years ago, she quickly became K Street's queen of earmarks,.....

In the two years after she left, Mr. Lewis, then chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, was in a fierce competition for the chairmanship of the House appropriations committee, which has authority over all discretionary spending. The Republican leadership had begun assigning chairmanships in part based on how much campaign money a member had raised for other members. Mr. Lewis and his rivals for the post, Representatives Ralph Regula of Ohio and Harold Rogers of Kentucky, each began a fund-raising blitz. And each concentrated on the industry that had benefited from spending appropriated by their subcommittee, which in Mr. Lewis's case was defense.

Ms. White leapt to the forefront of Mr. Lewis's effort, organizing a steady stream of fund-raisers for him and other Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club, a social venue for members of the party.

Isn't that all you need to know? Under Republican House leadership Committee Chairmanships were up for auction to the highest fundraiser? You really couldn't design a system more likely to create improper lobbyist/Representative relationships.

Administration officials say the darnedest things

Tony Snow's honeymoon appears to be over. The hostility started when Snow tried to insist that Iraq Prime Minister Al Maliki had been misquoted when he said, "This is a phenomenon that has become common among many of the multinational forces. No respect for citizens, smashing civilian cars and killing on a suspicion or a hunch. It's unacceptable."

Then the press corp went after him for Bush's emphasis on gay marriage and wher that falls in the priorities of the nation.
Q So when you say you don't know how to attach a priority to it, I think you pretty well do, just like you do on other issues. So the President is making it a priority now, at a time when it is politically expedient. Do you dispute that?....

Q We've got Iran. We've got hurricane season beginning. We've got terrorism funding. And yet the President has chosen for his radio address the subject of the Federal Marriage Amendment. Does the President see gay marriage as such a gathering storm that he feels the need to focus on that?

Also: Rumsfeld had a doozy yesterday, calling on China to "demystify" their defense spending. How do you think big Don would react if China called on his department to make public all the US's intelligence and "black" programs?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Yeah. I think the president should spend the next three days focused on an anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendment that's not even expected to pass the Senate.

I mean, what else has he got going on?

Thousands demonstrate in Somalia

I've been tracking (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) the US's involvement with the warlords in Somalia for a month or so. On Monday, there was a very interesting Newsweek article which discussed dissent against the program by CIA, State Department, and NGO's.

Their main complaint was that US involvement, "many Americans with thick necks and short haircuts moving around, carrying big suitcases," could create a backlash among Somalis giving support to the Islamic Courts Union, and eventually leading to a"new Jihadist haven in Somalia."

Well, we don't know know the degree to which these protests might have been staged, but regardless, this is not good.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Mogadishu on Friday angrily condemning the United States for supporting warlords involved in clashes with Islamic militias that claimed 16 more lives overnight.

"America is responsible for the death of our children and the elderly," Sheikh Nur Barud, a respected cleric in Mogadishu, told the crowd chanting anti-American slogans.

"We are ready to defend our religion from the big American evil," read a banner held high by Mogadishu resident Ureji Yusuf at the rally protected by Islamic militia armed with machine guns, anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

I hope you enjoyed the Bush Boom

Because the macro economic party days look to be fading quickly.
The American economy added a surprisingly weak number of jobs in May, a sign that nervousness over a cooling economy may be spreading among the nation's employers.

So, What's going on with Rove?

I don't know. Another "scheduled" grand jury meeting came and went today with no apparent action.

It could be the holiday weekend put things on hold. It could be that Rove accepted the plea deal that was put on the table. It could be that some new bit of information complicated the case(Luskin's specialty.) It could be that someone else accepted a plea deal and so the new statements and evidence are being integrated. It could be alot of things.

The one thing I don't think it is, is that Rove has been let off the hook in some way, because if this were the case, I do not believe that the defense team or White House supporters would remain quiet about this. They would be trumpeting Rove's vindication and the end of the "political prosecution" to the high heavens.

The one curious element over the last week is the remarkable lack of statements, actions, or leaks from the Rove camp. The last frantic flurry was a week ago when the Rove team pushed the Armitage story as a trial ballon, then attempted to throw Novak under the bus. Over the last month, they've been spinning at least a story a week, but nothing this week.

So, I would gather that either the Rove team is completely in the dark and waiting like the rest of us, believe they've done enough to escape(I don't see how,) or Rove is indeed cooperating and was told to shut the hell up.

I just find the sudden, complete silence very odd. As soon as I see anything, I'll let you know.

Libby Update. Judge Walton ruled on alot of the discovery issues. (Ruling.) To me, it reads as greatly narrowing the scope to solely the perjury charges(which it should be.) This ruling is important because in aloowing access to summaries, the judge is getting rid of alot of the classification issues the Libby defense was hoping to use to greymail the case away.

Picture of the Day - 2 - The Pressing Issue

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.

Speaking with one irrational voice on Iran

VIENNA, Austria - The United States warned Iran it will not have much time to respond once it is offered an international package of rewards to encourage it to suspend uranium enrichment, suggesting that the window could soon close and be replaced by penalties.

"It really needs to be within weeks," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told NBC's "Today" show,

While yesterday,
Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte told BBC Radio's Today programme Tehran could have a nuclear bomb ready between 2010 and 2015.....

"We don't have a clear-cut knowledge but the estimate we have made is some time between the beginning of the next decade and the middle of the next decade they might be in a position to have a nuclear weapon, which is a cause of great concern."

Rep. Jerry Lewis may be in trouble.

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed "records connected to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis and a lobbying firm with strong ties to Lewis."

Maybe the Dem strategy for 2006 is to keep their mouths shut and wait for 15 Republican house members to be indicted.

Peter King is pissed!!!!

Rep. Peter King(R - NY) is spitting mad over the DHS's reapportionment of anti-terror funds away from New York. The reason this matters? Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee with direct oversight of DHS.
"It's a knife in the back to New York and I'm going to do everything I can to make them very sorry they made this decision."

King said he would launch "rigorous investigations" of the Homeland Security Department - including a $21 million DHS contract with a Virginia limousine service accused of arranging hotel trysts between lawmakers and prostitutes.

"They have cut $80 million in funding to New York City," King said. "Meanwhile, they gave a $21 million limousine contract to the company that was driving pimps and prostitutes around."

The "pimps and prostitutes" reference is because Shirlington Limo was the firm that allegedly ferried prostitutes across state lines for Brent Wilkes' poker parties and was granted a DHS contract despite the owner's criminal background.

I would bet this will go away, but it's fun to chuckle about the possibility of real oversight, even if it is just done out of spite. (I saw him on Hardball yesterday, and he's got the hearings on the schedule.)

DOJ does want access to what websites you visit

Update on yesterday's post about the Department of Justice requesting ISP's to maintain records of your web usage for two years. Yesterday it was revealed that the request by Alberto Gonzales and Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, included email information and web searches.

Today we get confirmation that they're also asking to the ISP's preserve your IP information "that would allow them to identify which individuals visited certain Web sites."

Also, notice the way that they are making this request, "the department appears to be trying to determine whether Internet companies will voluntarily agree to keep certain information or if it will need to seek legislation to require them to do so."

So, cooperate now, voluntarily, through a negotiation or we will get legislation passed that may not be as friendly to your concerns. I think I've seen that tactic on the cop shows, haven't I?
"It was clear that they would go beyond kiddie porn and terrorism and use it for general law enforcement," Mr. Rotenberg said.

Picture of the Day

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Through Haditha Darkly, (part 2)

This morning I wrote a post worrying about a possible sudden flood of reports of questionable killings in the wake of the Haditha story breaking and the possible implications. That wave seems to be here.

BBC: The BBC has uncovered new video evidence that US forces may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians. (Ishaqi)

AP: Military prosecutors plan to file murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman in the shooting death of an Iraqi man in April, a defense lawyer said Thursday. (unknown location)

AP: Separately, another group of five Marines in Kilo Company, including a lieutenant who commanded the platoon, are under investigation for injuring a suspect in their custody,....The Iraqi man was killed west of Baghdad on April 26, but few additional details have been released about his death.

NYTimes: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki lashed out at the American military on Thursday, denouncing what he characterized as habitual attacks by troops against Iraqi civilians.

And, earlier today, Reuters: U.S. forces denied on Wednesday a new accusation, from Iraqi officers, that American troops killed unarmed civilians in their home this month. (Samarra)

AFP: BAGHDAD (AFP) - Two women, one pregnant, were killed by US troops on the way to the hospital in the central Iraqi city of Samarra when their car mistakenly took a road restricted to military traffic, police said.

WaPo: U.S. military officials acknowledged Wednesday that American troops had fired at an angry mob that surrounded the scene of a traffic accident in the Afghan capital Monday morning. Officials previously had said the troops fired only into the air.

I'm just really worried that the deplorable acts of a relative few will stain the honorable service of all the rest. There have been so many mistakes of Vietnam repeated, this is one I really don't want to see. I said it better here.

Picture of the Day - 3

He knows when you've been bad or good,

So be good for goodness sake!
June 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is asking Internet companies including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and AOL to preserve records of customers' Web activity to aid terrorism and child pornography investigations....

The agency(DOJ/FBI) has asked Internet companies to retain records such as lists of e-mails sent and received or information on Web searches. Authorities wouldn't ask the companies to keep the content of e-mails and would use standard legal channels, such as seeking a subpoena, before obtaining information, Roehrkasse said.

The Justice Department has no legal authority to require companies to keep data on their customers and would need to ask Congress for that ability, Roehrkasse said. He said there has been no decision on how long companies would need to store the records.

They want a record that you came by here. When the hearings and investigations come, they can say "What were you doing visiting the websites of known XXXXXXX's and XXXXXXX sympathizers?" (XXXXXXXX to be filled in later with whatever public villian is useful at the time. Communist /Terrorist /Subversive/ Pedophile/ Ecoterrorist/ Narcoterrorist/ etc.)

And the ability to access data on every email sent?

Leaving aside obviously illegal acts like child porn, what if you did a search for VD or unwanted pregnancy, or just two examples from my own image searches that yielded results I wasn't expecting, "gay cowboy" and "Bush black?"

Have you ever accidentally clicked on a link and ended up at Stormfront, or a crazy religious organization, or a UFO site, or any site that might be deemed outside the mainstream? Do you know for a fact that websites you visit don't have child porn or bombmaking information somewhere deep inside? What if I linked to AlQaeda.com for instance under a blind link. Did you click on that?

Well, Al Gonzales and the FBI want the ability to know about it. This is the kind of thing J Edgar Hoover dreamed about as he fell asleep curled up in his flannel nightie.

We're all in Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office now.

(Okay, I know that this article doesn't outright say that websites visited will be tracked, but as it doesn't include chat room logs or even attendance, key to child sex prosecutions, I'm guessing that this isn't the full outline of the request. There has been previous reporting that websites visited might be included in the eventual agreement. And as there is no supporting law at this point, it's really up to the ISP's.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Spinning a moderate Bush

Alot of blogs are highlighting this section of David Sanger's article yesterday on the proposed negotiations with Iran as proof that Dick Cheney is a warmongerer. True, but I see something else.

I see the Republican's midterm election strategy, a leak highlighting a much more reasonable and moderate Bush resisting the more extreme elements.
"Cheney was dead set against it," said one former official who sat in many of those meetings. "At its heart, this was an argument about whether you could isolate the Iranians enough to force some kind of regime change." But three officials who were involved in the most recent iteration of that debate said Mr. Cheney and others stepped aside — perhaps because they read Mr. Bush's body language, or perhaps because they believed Iran would scuttle the effort by insisting that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty gives it the right to develop nuclear fuel. The United States insists that Iran gave up that right by deceiving inspectors for 18 years.

In the end, said one former official who has kept close tabs on the debate, "it came down to convincing Cheney and others that if we are going to confront Iran, we first have to check off the box" of trying talks.

The strategy, as I see it, seems to be to take Bush to the center in an attempt to take the fire out of the national rage. Immigration might be another example. The thinking would be that this would reduce the passion of those who might vote against their congressman as a vote against Bush.

On the other hand, this also would allow Republican Congressmen from deep red districts to both take up more extreme positions on issues like immigration to pull their base out to vote and also to show independence from Bush, lessening his effect depressing local Republican turnout.

So, the theory is, a more moderate Bush to stop the national centrist movement against the Republicans, but a more active local message to get the Republican turnout. It's a pretty brilliant strategy considering the hand the Republicans have been dealt, but it hinges on the ability to keep Bush a lower profile issue in local races, and it also presumes no other nationalized Republican fiascos, either massive administration errors, a further degradation in Iraq, or nationalized Republican scandal.

So, at this point, I think that is the strategy, and it has been declared. Now the question is, how do the Democrats respond to renationalize the election? I really think they're better off waiting til late summer to fire their shot. It will be interesting.

Through Haditha Darkly....

In the wake of the Haditha killings, I would expect to see alot more reports of questionable killings by US forces. Take, for instance, the horrible killing yesterday of the two Iraqi women at a checkpoint, one pregnant and on her way to the hospital for delivery.

Questionable killings at checkpoints have been going on since day one in Iraq and have been largely underreported. Now, looking through the filter of Haditha, these events are going to be presented very differently.

Also, other allegations of questionable killings will start coming out.
SAMARRA, Iraq (Reuters) - U.S. forces denied on Wednesday a new accusation, from Iraqi officers, that American troops killed unarmed civilians in their home this month.

And, every action will now be reframed.
KABUL, Afghanistan, May 31 -- U.S. military officials acknowledged Wednesday that American troops had fired at an angry mob that surrounded the scene of a traffic accident in the Afghan capital Monday morning. Officials previously had said the troops fired only into the air.

My point is this. What happened in Haditha was absolutely horrible, and those involved should and will be punished, but that event may act to reframe alot of the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan that has been going on for a long time.

I'm just a bit fearful that Haditha may broaden to stain the honorable service of so many men and women. There's certainly some bigger questions of overall policy and strategy that need to be addressed, but, as these reports pile up on the front pages, I'm just hoping that it doesn't turn into the kind of situation that touched almost every vet from Vietnam.

Let's not let that happen.

(Elsewhere, William Arkin has an interesting post on Haditha and the broader picture. I don't know if I agree with him point by point, but I found it very thought provoking.)

Picture of the Day

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Basra will be the test of Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has declared a monthlong state of emergency in Basra, during which "he pledged to deal with the Basra crisis with an "iron fist."" The bargain appears to be that the Shia dominated government's first major security initiative will be against other Shia factions in Basra while the US will continue operations in the major Sunni problem areas.

The logic of this is pretty reasonable, theoretically allowing Maliki to build some credibility by cracking down on other Shia before the Shia led government begins operations against Sunnis. But the big question/gamble in this is, will the Shia coalition survive these security operations?

There was a pretty interesting article over the weekend about the source of the current Basra flare up. One of the main agitants in the area is the Shia Fadhila party which holds the governorship. This group has pulled out of Maliki's government coalition and has issued a "go slow" on oil production/exports.

That's the other reason this battle is the one being chosen by Maliki. Almost all revenue on which the Iraqi government runs passes through the pipelines and export terminals of the region. In effect, it is a dispute over how much of the revenue will go to the official government, Maliki's coalition, and the local Shia militias.

So, keep an eye on Basra over the next month. If Maliki fails there, or it leads to a cracking of his coalition, it could have serious ramifications.

And, just as a complicating factor, the British military, who have been tasked with managing Basra for the last three years, are now saying that the upsurge there is being spearheaded by "foreign terrorists, led by fighters from Saudi Arabia." Also, it's not very clear where Iran might fall in all of this. They're very active in the area.

The NYTimes has a pretty good piece describing some of the elements of the Basra violence.

Actual Accountability?

This is how governments are supposed to work.

Picture of the Day - 3

Outgoing Treasury Secretary John Snow.

It's getting ugly out there

Robinson has already run a radio ad that features mariachi band music playing in the background. "If Miller had his way," says the announcer, "America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals."

"Send a brick" is astroturf!!

I don't know why this jumped out at me, but the 10,000 bricks mailed to congress (note the round number) that the NYTimes breathlessly reported as "spontaneous grass-roots pressure" on representatives to build a wall on the Mexican border, wasn't so spontaneous and wasn't so grass roots.

It was Astroturf.

Have you ever noticed how all the astroturf groups are on the right? My favorite astroturf organization, The Greening Earth Society, a group which for a long time promoted global warming as beneficial (longer growing seasons, better farming to the north, remember that?) has disappeared from the web for the last six months.

In recent years, they've shifted their message to be just another global warming denial group. (They're funded almost exclusively by the Western Fuels Association which represents coal power plants.)

Picture of the Day - 2

A US Marine threatens a looter. (Apr 14, 2003)

Rise in White Supremacist Rhetoric Coming from the Immigration Debate

Time magazine has an article discussing the rise of white racial hate groups coming from the immigration debate, Neo-Nazis, white supramecists, etc. It was almost inevitable that this would happen, that the extremist messages on race would begin to find some traction among the less extreme.

But for some reason lately, I find myself thinking back to the "militia" movement of the early nineties, gun toting, Republican voting white males collectively adopting a fantasy life in which only they and their guns could act to prevent the takeover of a UN one-world government. Remember all that?

The "militia" movement ended on April 19, 1995, the day Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Let's hope that somehow this current wave dissipates before we have another tragedy and more death. I'm not too optimistic, though.

I'm afraid the fervor on the anti-immigrant right is reaching a stage where only a dramatic shock will stop the momentum. The conflation of the immigration issue with the racial makeup of the immigrants may well lead to something very ugly.

And, remember, the Republicans chose this as an election year issue. If I knew this was coming, certainly they knew.

Chris Matthews asks a real question

I don't know if you saw Hardball yesterday, I usually record it and then skip through to the Shuster reports, but this little exchange really caught my interest. I'm still thinking about it this morning.

Bush met with a number of "experts" on Iraq yesterday, (Wayne Downing, Barry McCaffrey, Michael Vickers, Amir Taheri, Fouad Ajami, and Raad Alkadiri,) and from McCaffrey's description it sounds like they really talked problems and strategy rather than just holding a photo op. So, about this meeting, Chris Matthews asked,
MATTHEWS: Did he explain the presence of Karl Rove in the room?....

MATTHEWS: What was his political officer doing in the room?....

MATTHEWS: I thought he had taken the official statement from Josh Bolten, the new chief of staff at the White House, this guy is now doing politics only, no policy. So what the hell was he doing in a policy discussion? You’re smiling, General......

MATTHEWS: The reason I ask this and it has nothing to do about good or evil, Republican or Democrat, or the war which is so terrifying to the guys fighting it and their families -- it’s whether there is in fact a war component to the president’s campaign for Congress this year and whether they’re planning something. They’re going to do something over there to turn things around before November. But Karl Rove just sat there and watched apparently. General McCaffrey?

Neither McCaffrey or Downing offered any kind of comment at all, but that's a question I'd like answered.

(As an aside, Amir Taheri, an "expert" at this meeting, was the guy who recently propagated the completely false story that "Iran had passed a law requiring Jews to wear special identification.")

Picture of the Day

CBS reporter Kimberly Dozier was wounded in Iraq.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's not your imagination. Iraq violence has gotten worse.

The last three month period was the deadliest in post Saddam Iraq for US troops, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians according to a required quarterly report to Congress.

The Air Force General presenting the report pointed out that this period includes the bombing of the Askariyah shrine in Samarra. Indeed, that did lead to a significant rise in the number of deaths, but his logic, that this is merely a spike and these numbers require "perspective," assumes that other similar provacative acts will not occur in the future, that that bombing was not just a further stage in the violence.

From the AP story on this report, "the Iraqi insurgency seems likely to hold its strength the rest of the year," and it "offered a relatively dim picture of economic progress, with few gains in improving basic services like electricity, and it provided no promises of U.S. troop reductions anytime soon."

Also, as you read articles on the appointment of Iraqi Interior and Defense Ministers, keep your eyes open for some version of this line. (It's in almost every story on the vacant ministries.)
The Interior Ministry, which controls the police forces, has been promised to the Shiites. Sunni Arabs are to get the defense ministry, overseeing the army. It is hoped the balance will enable al-Maliki to move ahead with a plan for Iraqis to take over all security duties over the next 18 months so U.S.-led troops can begin withdrawing.

I understand the logic of a Shia Police force and a Sunni Army acting as balance, but also, you're talking about giving government backed armed forces to each side. The mechanism by which "balance" is achieved may not be as pleasant as this description sounds.

Last, Two more Iraq stories, one on the plight of a family of "the displaced," (I hate that euphemism) and a second on the plight of the burgeoning number of widows in Iraq.

Picture of the Day - 3

Paulson's first day

The US dollar fell sharply on Tuesday as Hank Paulson, Goldman Sachs’ chief executive, was named as the new US Treasury secretary, replacing the increasingly pressurised John Snow.

How messed up is this?

The man ultimately responsible for not preventing 9-11, the man who did nothing to disturb his August vacation upon reading the PDB Bin Laden Determined to Strike US, the man who has still not captured Bin Laden or Zawahiri....
WASHINGTON - President Bush invited relatives of some of the 40 passengers and crew members who are portrayed in "United 93" to join him for a screening of the film at the White House Tuesday night.

We're all just props to him.

Bush Marriage Breakup!!!!

Media Matters covers this Globe story as a matter of balance following the NYTimes article on the Clinton's marriage. It's tabloid, it's crap.

But what I find much more interesting is the politics of it. The trash tabloids you see at the checkout lanes are owned and run almost exclusively by huge right wing donors. In all your time in the checkout lanes have you ever seen a negative story about Bush before?

I would guess that there are two elements at play here.
1) "Give the people what they want." Broadly speaking, America no longer likes Bush, and thus, like so many famous figures before him, are looking for stories that tear him down.

2) The politics have reached a point where this is allowed.

As political indicators go, tabloids are a pretty poor one, but I think it's symptomatic of the distrust/dislike/disdain bubbling up from the American people. I would parallel it with the significant increase in Bush jokes on the late night shows since November of last year. (I don't have a link to the source study handy, you're gonna have to trust me. Up something like 30%.)

(Also, just as an aside, if you did click through to look at the Globe front page, didn't it titilate you a little? Aren't you the least bit curious? "Nasty Fights - Booze Problems - Laura Urges Counselling."

I'm actually headed to the grocery store momentarily, and I'm willing to bet when I get there, I'm probably gonna find a long line so I can flip through it.)

UPDATE: It took just a minute. I didn't even have to go to the grocery store. Here's the complete text and a scan of the splash page. (I don't know the source blog.) And, no, I don't believe it. But I find it fun nonetheless.

Picture of the Day - 2

Terror Threat Level - Yellow/Elevated

Yellow/Elevated - Significant Risk of Terrorist Attacks.

I don't know what put this in my mind this morning, but I went and checked the DHS Advisory and Bulletin page, and you know what, there has been only one advisory/bulletin issued since the flurry around the 2004 Democratic National Convention. One in almost two years.

And, that one is a warning from over a year ago to government employees not to utilize P2P file trading software as it might compromise security.

Remember the 2004 terror warning flurry about imminent attacks against major financial institutions that was based on very questionable and very dated information?

Juan Cole on Afghanistan

Juan Cole has a broad piece indicting the Bush administration's policy towards Afghanistan.

Iran covertly fires back?

I didn't see this yesterday, but one of the bombings in Iraq yesterday specifically targeted the MEK, the anti-Iranian terror organization allegedly being used by the US in cross border operations in Iran attempting to destabilize Ahmadinejad's government. (1 2)
The attacks began just after dawn, with one roadside bomb killing 10 people and injuring another 12 who worked for an Iranian organization opposed to the Tehran regime, police said.

That bombing targeted a public bus near Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad in Diyala province, an area notorious for such attacks, provincial police said.

All the dead were workers at the Ashraf base of the Mujahedeen Khalq, or MEK. The group, made up of Iranian dissidents living in Iraq, said the dead were Iraqi workers heading to their camp.

It looks like the Iranians, directly or through their Iraqi Shia influenced organizations, have decided that it is time to take a more active role in countering US covert activities. This is a pretty big deal in the state of play of both the Iraq conflict and the broader US/Iran issues.

The US has been employing the MEK going east across the border to Iran, without significant impact on the government thus far. Perhaps this is a warning shot back to the west across the border showing that the Iranians can have a greater impact on the stability of Iraq. I don't know, but it bears watching.

(Laura Rozen points out, "But it doesn't sound like the MEK is confined to Camp Ashraf anymore, does it?")

(This is also interesting as it comes two days after an agreement between Iran and Iraq to close their border.)

Picture of the Day

Monday, May 29, 2006

US backing Somali warlords - Part V

I know I have been talking about this alot(1 2), but Newsweek adds a very interesting article on the US's backing of Somali warlords in the recent battles in Mogadishu against the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamic militia working for the imposition of Sharia law in Somalia.
The policy has provoked dissent at both the CIA and the State Department, as well as in Europe. Some officials fear that America may be inadvertently creating a new jihadist haven in Somalia by generating an anti-U.S. backlash. Before the U.S. program began, the Islamists were only a small part of the population. ..... Giraldi is more blunt. "We're creating a new mess," he says. "Everything is tactical with this administration: catching a guy, catching a guy. I don't see that anyone has thought about the strategic issue of losing support." ....

Publicly, the administration will not admit to any policy of aiding warlords. But officials with the Red Cross and other aid groups in Mogadishu report seeing "many Americans with thick necks and short haircuts moving around, carrying big suitcases," says one aid official whose agency does not permit him to speak on the record.

Ah, yes. All the world around, people know that good things always follow those Americans wielding "big suitcases" filled with cash.

UPDATE: "NAIROBI (Reuters) - A top U.S. official handling Somalia has been transferred from his job after criticising payments to warlords that are said to be fuelling some of Mogadishu's worst-ever fighting, diplomats said on Tuesday."

The first drops of the Dem deluge?

It has to be said that since this is Duke Cunningham's former district, the anti-Republican push is probably stronger than it is/will be elsewhere, but this is a very solid red seat that shouldn't even be a close race.

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Bush exploiting the dead.

This is the worst, most manipulative argument, playing on the guilt and patriotism of Americans.
ARLINGTON, Va. - President Bush, delivering a Memorial Day message surrounded by the graves of thousands of military dead, said Monday that the United States must continue fighting the war on terror in the name of those have already given their life in the cause.

Later, of course, he conflated Iraq and the War on Terror implying that any suggestion of redeployment out of Iraq is tantamount to abandoning the War on Terror. By connection, if you speak against the current failing strategy in Iraq, you are dishonoring the dead.

And to top it off, he did all this standing on the graves of those soldiers who died in his war of choice. Bastard.

I didn't want to go political today, but I can't let this pass. According to the President's logic, we should continue to fight on in Iraq until there are no more body parts to be scattered by IEDs, until there is not one military wife without tears, until there is not one soldier left unharmed. To do any less would be to spit on the graves of those who have already died. Bastard.

Dear President Bush, You can take your rhetorical device and shove it up your ass.

(By the way, name one person who has ever suggested abandoning the "War on Terror." Name one person who has said that the US should not capture or kill Bin Laden. Iraq has served only to drain resources from that effort.

There were no terrorists in Iraq, no terrorist support, no WMD. Iraq was stable and not a threat. And yet it is now eating up more than 85% of the resources in the War on Terror. Would the chances of capturing Osama Bin Laden be increased or decreased if the US personnel searching for him was increased by 1600%.)

Also, I think Josh Bolten has reshuffled the speechwriting team. Take a look at the subtlety of this opening section from the speech.
I placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. I was honored to do so on behalf of the American people, as a sign of our solemn gratitude and our deep respect. The names of those buried there are known only to God, yet their souls have entered into the spirit of America,

Their names are known to God, yet their souls go to the spirit of America. The logical connection would be if their names go to god, their spirits would go to god, and thus, by this little twist, he is imbuing America with God. Very subtle, very clever, very self justifying.

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The LATimes has a interview with marine Roel Ryan Briones who participated in the "cleanup" operation at Haditha. I don't think there's any significant new detail here, although there seems to be some confirmation of an officer level coverup, but the emotional first person nature of the account adds a lot of depth. In the last third of the article, Briones describes his PTSD from the incident. It puts the Haditha events in a very human context.
"I used to be one of those Marines who said that post-traumatic stress is a bunch of bull," said Ryan Briones, who has prescriptions for anti-depressants and sleeping pills. "But all this stuff that keeps going through my head is eating me up. I need immediate help."

Talkleft has a post full of links on Haditha, although I'm not too happy talking about this today. It's Memorial Day.

Something like half a million soldiers have rotated through Iraq, 2,464 have died, around 18,000 have been wounded, with another 296 killed and 718 wounded in Afghanistan. The Haditha incident appears to have involved less than ten marines directly and then another ten plus in the coverup.

Haditha is a story, a horrible story, and I do think it's important that it is talked about, investigated, and resolved, but today, let's not let that overwhelm the rest.

(Note: LATimes is a subscription site, but it's free. It does require an active email, so I set up a temporary email to get registered then deleted it, but another temporary option I use alot is www.bugmenot.com linked on the right. It's a newsjunkie's best friend. You enter the site and it gives you a number of possible usernames and passwords. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's a good way to get a temporary login and not give away personal info. Here's the LATimes entry.)

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Non-Nuclear Trident Missiles

Worst idea ever. Do we expect an enemy to wait for one of these missiles to land to find out if the warhead is nuclear or non-nuclear?

And, more troublingly, these nuclear missile subs represent the "dead hand" response of the Mutual Assured Destruction US nuclear preemption strategy. Part of their preventative value is that potential enemies are unable to locate them meaning that destroying the US's nuclear response capability is virtually impossible, thus nullifying the value of an enemy's first strike.

And, we're going to reveal the location of these most critical defense assets to launch the equivalent of a cruise missile strike? Worst idea ever.

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Iraq chaos

The new Iraqi government appears to be fracturing. No resolution on the as yet unfilled Interior or Defense Ministries, and none appears close. The most likely resolution at this point is a Sunni Defense minister and a Shia Interior Minister. In theory, this could provide a balance of interests, but it could also well give each side an armed government force.

But more troubling to me is the apparent fractures within the Sunni and Shia factions. Yesterday I noted a major fracture in the Shiite coalition which is fueling much of the fighting in Basra and endangering oil production, the Iraqi government's main source of funds, now today, we have the reports of a Sunni tribal leader killed, presumably for his previous cooperation with US forces.

And, then to top it off, apparently there are Sunni elements pushing the impostion of sharia law, and killing those moderates who violate some precepts. Not only has Iraq fractured along sectarian lines, but violence is now breaking out within the Sunni and Shia factions.

Cheney's quest for power

Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe, the reporter who had the story on the historic 700+ signing statements by Bush, adds another layer to that story. Apparently, it's not the Whitehouse that is pushing so hard, it's the Office of the Vice President, mainly in the form of David Addington.
WASHINGTON -- The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials....

"Addington could look at whatever he wanted," said one former White House lawyer who helped prepare signing statements and who asked not to be named because he was describing internal deliberations. "He had a roving commission to get involved in whatever interested him."

Knowing that Addington was likely to review the bills, other White House and Justice Department lawyers began vetting legislation with Addington's and Cheney's views in mind, according to another former lawyer in the Bush White House.

This is unprecedented in the history of our country. For more, check out this Firedoglake blogpost on this article because it adds some broader context.

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Trey Klouda of Boy Scout Troop 241 of Canton, Ga. makes a check on flags the group placed at markers of graves in the new Georgia National Cemetery at Canton, Ga. Saturday, May 27, 2006. (AP Photo/Gene Blythe)

Nir Rosen on Iraq

The WaPo has an editorial on Iraq by Nir Rosen. It paints a pretty hopeless picture. Page 1 is mostly anecdotal reports, but it's on Page 2 that the systemic problems really come out.

Blair changes major speech for Bush

I would guess this is why they call him a poodle.

Tony Blair made significant changes to one of his most important foreign policy speeches after bowing to American objections, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

The Prime Minister changed key passages on possible action against Iran, climate change, and a proposed shake-up of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Objections by President George W Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations, which were made just before Mr Blair delivered his landmark address at Georgetown University in Washington, on Friday, British sources have revealed.

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"We will collect embarrassing information on every American and then threaten to release it unless they pay us........one million dollars!"
- or -

"Twenty bucks says the Smails kid eats it."