Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Requiem for a (disgraced) heavyweight
Columnist Carl Hiaasen sums it up nicely regarding former Reagan appointee and Miami-Dade Commissioner Art Teele, who took his own life in the lobby of the Miami Herald last week (and was buried this weekend):

Who did I piss off in this town?

That's what former Miami Commissioner Arthur Teele asked Herald columnist Jim DeFede over the phone last Wednesday afternoon. Not long afterward, Teele walked into the lobby of this newspaper and made a show of shooting himself.

For those who cared about him, and there were many, the grief is deep and scorching. It might seem a harsh time for blunt words, and there's no joy in delivering them.

But facts are facts. Teele was a complicated person who did many good things. He also veered disgracefully astray. Even through the tears and tributes, that cold truth looms. And although he's gone, it's not too late to answer his question: Who did he piss off?

He pissed off the law.

If the evidence is to be believed -- and there's a mountain of it -- he schemed, scammed and ripped off taxpayers. He took kickbacks. He lied. He stiffed the IRS. Worse, he betrayed the African-American community that he claimed to represent. It appears very much that he was corrupt, and that's why he got in trouble.

Read the rest here.

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 11:18 PM  
Crafty old John Roberts
If you can say one thing about likely future Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts, it's that he knows how to cloak his more bitter views in a wonderful sugar coating, and how to advise others to do the same. Roberts advised then-nominee Sandra Day O'Connor on how to fly below the radar when he was a Justice Department employee. His views on abortion rights are positively Seussian (he seems to oppose giving federal courts jurisdiction, which won't please his friends on the right...) And there's this little tidbit from last week's Boston Globe:

On matters of civil rights and affirmative action, there are several memos in which Roberts privately denounced a liberal program or position, but urged his bosses to try to avoid confronting the issue. In September 1982, for example, he wrote a memo preparing Smith for a meeting with Coretta Scott King, who wanted Smith to renew a $250,000 grant for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.

In reality, Roberts wrote, ''the only reason for the grant was the political ties" between Mrs. King and the former administrator of the grant program, and the money had been squandered by poor management. But in Smith's meeting with King, Roberts advised, the attorney general should praise the program's goals, express ''pleasure" that the federal government could be of assistance, but explain that no further funds were available.

And in a 1981 memo, Roberts wrote a deeply skeptical review of a report outlining the need for affirmative action. Roberts wrote that the report was the ''swan song" of the outgoing Carter-era chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights. ''The logic of the report is perfectly circular: the evidence of structural discrimination consists of disparate results, so it is only cured when 'correct' results are achieved through affirmative action quotas," Roberts wrote, later adding that a certain minority recruitment had failed because ''the affirmative action program required the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."

Nevertheless, Roberts wrote to Smith, there was no reason to be candid about that view: ''I have drafted an innocuous reply to [the civil rights commission chairman]. The report is attached, although I do not recommend reading it."

Again, Roberts will likely get through, and Democrats shouldn't waste too much energy opposing him (trust me, Bush could do worse, and probably will next time). But it's always good to know who you're dealing with ... This is especially interesting since Roberts' views on civil rights could very well emerge as the sleeper issue in his confirmation hearings.
posted by JReid @ 10:57 PM  
I wasn't originally planning on it but...
...I think I'm going to have to see "Hustle & Flow" ...
posted by JReid @ 1:28 PM  
Sunday best
The Christian Science Monitor serves up a piece on the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. If you're in L.A., a retrospective of his work is on show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Hi June-bug!!!)

From the NYT, a short but interesting piece on the murky concept of race. (Although I would think that by now most people, except possibly recalcitrant Klan members) now accept that the vast majority of, particularly those in the Americas, have at least some mixed background -- few White people are 100 percent "white" and even fewer Blacks are truly African. That's just reality, as Shabba Ranks used to say...) Still, there's this very interesting countervailing view from a 2002 research study (which also links to a study of Mexico's vanishing Black population.) The bottom line there: while there is definite genetic variation at work, it's often less than we'd think.

Two fascinating stories on the London bombers: The Independent replays what Italian papers are reporting on the confessions of one of the 7/21 bombers, who apparently has told investigators he did in fact have a bomb on him, but it wasn't meant to kill anyone (a likely story). More interesting, he claims he was not motivated by religion, or Osama bin Laden (though he read bin Laden's edicts online), but rather by the Iraq war. And NYT delves into the possible motives of the apparent leader of the 7/7 bomb cell -- in an account that reads like the diary of Mohammad Atta. The portraits that emerge from these two admittedly micro looks at the bomings is of two very different origins of terrorist activity: one motivated by what we've come to know as extremist Islamism, and another, the portrait of young, angry and politically charged radicals.

Staying with the Times, columnist Paul Krugman (in my opinion one of the best in the business) breaks down French family values when it comes to the economy and healthcare.

WaPo takes a look at Britain's surveillance society. Smile, you're on culprit camera!

Why is this the top e-mailed story on I have a cat, but I sure wouldn't write about it, let alone blog about it. What's the deal with all this online cat business? Sorry, but I just don't get it...

What is to blame for Africa's famine and woes? One economist says: it's the aid.

And speaking of woes, why isn't the Mombai tsunami getting more media attention, even as the death toll approached 1,000?
posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Friday, July 29, 2005
Friday fixes
WaPo does 'Confessions of a video vixen' -- an interesting look inside the world of commercial hip-hop. ... Lost adds a new mystery man to its cast ... and Jacko's new album apparently isn't so "essential..." (I think the problem may be the album cover: it's confusing...)
posted by JReid @ 12:04 PM  
Please elect this Marine
Paul Hackett, a veteran of the current Iraq war (including fighting in Fallujah), is running for Congress in Ohio. Here's link to a newspaper endorsement of him, from his web-site.

And last night, Hacket read George W. Bush thoroughly on Hardball, offering a succinct, straightforward definition of the term "chicken hawk."

Atrios has been following the race, and laments the fundraising challenges Hackett has faced (hopefully his Hardball appearance will generate smear campaign ... shock of all shocks!... against yet another veteran.
posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
What about Condi?
Commondreams pulls Condoleezza Rice into the PlameGate vortex. (Her then- NSC deputy, Stephen Hadley, is still on the board in the leak game, too.)
posted by JReid @ 11:23 AM  
The Judy Miller chronicles
The Wall Street Journal offers a look at the divergent interests of two reporters, Judy Miller and Matthew Cooper, in the PlameGate case. As TalkLeft breaks it down:

Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper decided his interests were not the same as those of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. It's true that Cooper cooperated about Libby early on, as did Russert, Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler, and then balked at getting a second subpoena for other sources. I've reported Judith Miller's take on that several times, most recently here.
And TalkLeft also gives the most thorough rundown I've seen of the Judy Miller connections.

Day two of the Judy Miller backgrounder at the Huffington Post. Arianna is truly blowing up La Femme Pentagon's spot.
The more I'm reading about Judy Miller and her actions leading up to and during the early days of the war, and then through the unfolding Plame-Rove-Libby-Gonzalez-Card scandal, the more I’m struck by the special access and relationships she enjoyed with many of the key players in the Iraq debacle (which, at the end of the day, is really what Plamegate is all about).

For starters, of course, we have her still unfolding involvement in the Plame leak. Earlier this month, Howard Kurtz reported that Miller and Libby spoke a few days before Novak outed Plame -- and I’m hearing that the Libby/Miller conversation occurred over breakfast in Washington. Did Valerie Plame come up -- and, if so, who brought her up? There is no question that Miller was angry at Joe Wilson… and continues to be. A social acquaintance of Miller told me that, once, when she spoke of Wilson, it was with “a passionate and heated disgust that went beyond the political and included an irrelevant bit of deeply personal innuendo about him, her mouth twisting in hatred.”

Miller’s special relationships go much further than Scooter Libby, Richard Perle and the rest of the neocon establishment. Take her involvement as an embedded reporter during the war with the Pentagon’s Mobile Exploitation Team (MET) Alpha -- the unit charged with hunting down Saddam’s WMD. As extensively reported by both Kurtz and New York Magazine’s Franklin Foer, Miller’s time with the unit was highly unusual.

First, there was the fact that she landed the plumb assignment in the first place. It would give her first dibs on the biggest story of the war… the hoped-for reveal of Saddam’s much-touted WMD (with much of the touting done by Miller herself and her special sources). Was this the reward for her pro-administration prewar reporting?

Foer cites military and New York Times sources as saying that Miller’s assignment was so sensitive that Don Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Once embedded, Miller acted as much more than a reporter. Kurtz quotes one military officer as saying that the MET Alpha unit became a “Judith Miller team.” Another officer said that Miller “came in with a plan. She was leading them… She ended up almost hijacking the mission.” A third officer, a senior staffer of the 75th Exploitation Task Force, of which MET Alpha was a part, put it this way: “It’s impossible to exaggerate the impact she had on the mission of this unit, and not for the better.”

What did Miller do to create such an impression? According to Kurtz, she wasn’t afraid to throw her weight around, threatening to write critical stories and complain to her friends in very high places if things didn’t go her way. “Judith,” said an Army officer, “was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the secretary of defense. There was nothing veiled about that threat.”

I think Robert Kuttner was right when he wrote in the American Prospect earlier this month:

In the Alice in Wonderland world of the Plame/Rove story, Judy Miller, who worked hand-in-glove with the Bush administration to publish bogus stories about Saddam Hussein’s alleged nuclear program, is a hero -- for going to jail to protect, once again, her friends in the administration. And Time-Warner, which turned over Matt Cooper’s notes (for the wrong reasons -- because of Time-Warner’s corporate interests -- but that’s another story) is the villain.

Yet it may be Cooper’s testimony that finally sinks Rove. So who’s the hero and what’s the public interest?
Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
Turd blossom rising
E&P asks: why would newspapers pull a Doonesbury comic for mentioning GWB's nickname for Karl Rove (that would be "turd blossom") but not another comic that makes fun of Howard Dean by saying he "throws his own poo"?

Sounds like the "liberal media" at work again. BTW here's today's Doonesbury... somebody's getting a big promotion...!
posted by JReid @ 10:27 AM  
Death of a local pol, part two
Today, true to the narcissistic (or self-reflective, depending on your point of view) tendency in the profession, coverage of the Teele episode turns to the question of the media's share of responsibility for pushing Teele over the edge, and over the Miami Herald's decision to fire columnist Jim DeFede (lots of stuff on Romanesko): whether it was unfair (many at the Herald believe it was), and whether the taping itself was illegal. To be fair, many of the questions are being fueled by angry members of the Black community, who are laying much of the blame for Teele's suicide at the doorstep of the press...

Columnist Leonard Pitts tackles the subject of the media's responsibility to investigate the powerful, and pushing a person too far:
I once saw promotional material for my colleague, columnist Carl Hiaasen, in which Carl said -- and I paraphrase -- ''They don't pay me to hold hands with my readers and sing Kumbayah.'' That quote has always stayed with me.

Because he's right. It is not the news media's job to spare feelings. Rather, it is media's job to put the corrupt, the inept, the mendacious, the venal, the hypocritical and the plain stupid ''on blast,'' as the kids say, i.e., to publicize their sins and misdeeds broadly. To speak truth to power and truth about power. To call spades spades.


It is an unavoidable byproduct of that process that we make people piñatas, objects for others to line up and take a whack. It happened to Bill Clinton, happened to Robert Bork, happened to John Rocker, happened to Arthur Teele.

I intend no apology for, denial of or absolution of those men's sins, real or perceived. My only point is that universal derision has this way of objectifying people, making them not people anymore at all, but caricatures, symbols of this social failing or that human weakness. It makes them seem not quite flesh, not really blood, so that you and I can take our whacks without concern that the thing on the receiving end really feels the blows.

But every once in awhile, you are reminded -- brutally -- otherwise.
The Teele case reminds me of another eerie "made for TV" suicide -- the 1987 suicide at a packed press conference by a Pennsylvania politician named R. Budd Dwyer. Dwyer had been convicted of taking a $300,000 bribe while he was state treasurer, though he continued to proclaim his innocence. On January 22, 1987, the day before his sentencing (at which he faced up to 55 years in prison), Dwyer called a national press conference, made a speech, handed out several envelopes, and then took out a gun and shot himself through the mouth. The case became a case study in media ethics for the choices each station made over how much of the grizly suicide video to show. I remember the case from having seen a contraband video of the shooting while working at a film school in New York City in 1991.

Like Arthur Teele, who killed himself in the lobby of the Miami Herald on Wednesday, Dwyer seemed to be sending a message to the media -- or seeking public sympathy for himself -- by taking his life so publicly. Thankfully Teele didn't call a press conference.

More on the coverage:

The Herald turns to the post-death investigation, including a focus on the canvas bag Teele had with him when he shot himself -- one whose contents may have been of interest to the federal grand jury that indicted him on corruption charges. The paper also provides a detailed account of the corruption allegations against Teele, and a chilling account of his final moments.

The paper also covers the anger of some in the Black community over Teele's death -- directed both at the media and at other Miami politicians... although I talked with a former constituent of Teele's who is active in pushing for the revitalization of Overtown, the heart of Teele's former district, who told me there are more than a few Black folk in the neighborhood who, while sorry for Teele's passing, found him utterly useless in actually producing results for the community he served -- something many people aren't ready to excuse him for.

The rival paper, the Sun-Sentinel, delves into Teele's unraveling also, and offers competing memories of the man -- good and bad.

Part one: Death of a local pol ... media overkill?
posted by JReid @ 8:37 AM  
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Mining the Huffpo: Judy, Judy, Judy
(Catching up from yesterday...) The Huffington Post adds meat to the Judy Miller theory of CIA agent outing:

Not everyone in the Times building is on the same page when it comes to Judy Miller. The official story the paper is sticking to is that Miller is a heroic martyr, sacrificing her freedom in the name of journalistic integrity.

But a very different scenario is being floated in the halls. Here it is: It's July 6, 2003, and Joe Wilson's now famous op-ed piece appears in the Times, raising the idea that the Bush administration has "manipulate[d]" and "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Miller, who has been pushing this manipulated, twisted, and exaggerated intel in the Times for months, goes ballistic. Someone is using the pages of her own paper to call into question the justification for the war -- and, indirectly, much of her reporting. The idea that intelligence was being fixed goes to the heart of Miller's credibility. So she calls her friends in the intelligence community and asks, Who is this guy? She finds out he's married to a CIA agent. She then passes on the info about Mrs. Wilson to Scooter Libby (Newsday has identified a meeting Miller had on July 8 in Washington with an "unnamed government official"). Maybe Miller tells Rove too -- or Libby does. The White House hatchet men turn around and tell Novak and Cooper. The story gets out.

This is why Miller doesn't want to reveal her "source" at the White House -- because she was the source. Sure, she first got the info from someone else, and the odds are she wasn't the only one who clued in Libby and/or Rove (the State Dept. memo likely played a role too)… but, in this scenario, Miller certainly wasn't an innocent writer caught up in the whirl of history. She had a starring role in it. This also explains why Miller never wrote a story about Plame, because her goal wasn't to write a story, but to get out the story that cast doubts on Wilson's motives. Which Novak did.

and this:

Amazingly, however, even as her reporting has been debunked -- and her sources discredited -- Miller has steadfastly refused to apologize for her role in misleading the public in the lead up to the war. Indeed, in an interview with the author of Bush's Brain, James Moore, she, in the words of Moore, "remained righteously indignant, unwilling to accept that she had goofed in the grandest of fashions", telling him: "I was proved fucking right."

As recently as March 2005, in an appearance at Berkeley, she stubbornly refused to express regret. Indeed, she showed that she shares a key attitude with the Bush administration: an unwillingness to admit mistakes when faced with new realities. She even compared herself to the president, saying that she was getting the same information he was getting… and suggested that since he hadn't apologized, why should she?

Very intersting, Arianna... Meanwhile, Blue Meme has a theory on how the GOP could use congressional hearings on PlameGate, to crush PlameGate.

Previous links re PlameGate and Judy Miller:
posted by JReid @ 5:52 PM  
Tucker Carlson unplugged
The Huffington Post nabs Tucker in six takes or less.
posted by JReid @ 5:34 PM  
Curse of the no-show president
Is George W. Bush jinxing the Boy Scout Jamboree by constantly failing to show up? From WaPo, some evidence that Bush's inability to turn up is having a tragic impact on the Scouts' luck:
President Bush postponed his visit to the Boy Scout National Jamboree in central Virginia until Sunday so that officials could be sure to make appropriate plans for handling any heat problems in the crowd, White House officials said today.

Officials said last night that Bush would come to the Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill today after storms that moved through the region forced him to cancel a planned appearance yesterday. But those plans were scrapped this morning as Scout officials dealt with the aftereffects from the weather. More than 300 Scouts had to be treated for heat problems, including dehydration and light-headedness, after waiting in the blazing sun for more than two hours in their dress uniforms to see Bush.

And from ABC News:
The Boy Scouts marched onto the field singing, plopping down in the grass to wait for President Bush. But hours later, the news that Bush couldn't make it was drowned out by sirens and shouts as hundreds fell ill because of the blistering heat.

The heat problems seemed to stem from the long security lines necesstated by a presidential visit:
... Despite temperatures in the high 90s yesterday, hundreds of Scouts stood in long security lines in the afternoon and then sat waiting in an open field for the president. Supplies of ice and water were provided to the Scouts, but still many succumbed to the heat. According to the AP, soldiers from the fort helped carry sick Scouts on stretchers to the hospital and emergency workers from surrounding jurisdictions were called in to help treat and transport them.

And further proof of the Bush Jamboree jinx:
At the last jamboree four years ago, Bush's trip was also canceled because of bad weather, in which lightning strikes caused minor injuries to two Scouts. He spoke to the group a day later by videotape.

What's with all the security, anyway? This is a Boy Scout Jamboree... are we fearing the Scouts have been infiltrated by al-Qaida?

What a tragic week for the Boy Scouts, particularly as they face losing their funding from the Defense Department, to the tune of $8 million. (Hang on, what is the Defense Department doing giving money to the Boy Scouts...? Are they somehow playing apart in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism...?) Anyway, as someone who a long, long time ago participated in Scouting, it's sad to see such bad luck hanging around...
posted by JReid @ 5:05 PM  
Death of a local pol ... media overkill?
I was at a meeting last night when a colleague came over and whispered in my ear that Art Teele, once one of the most powerful politicians in Miami and a former Reagan administration official, had blown his brains out in the lobby of the Miami Herald, just before the start of the 6:00 news. Teele had walked in the lobby, asked to give a message to a metro columnist named Jim Defede, whom he had known for more than a decade and who was more or less sympathetic to him, gave a security guard a message for his wife ("tell my wife I love her"), then put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. It's all the radio stations are talking about today down here.

The shooting came the evening before a splashy 9-page expose in a local weekly, running down the various criminal investigations and lurid allegations against Teele in excruciating detail, hit the news statnds. The article touches on every conceivable aspect of Teele's public and private life, including tales of a transvestite prostitute someone dug up out of a Miami jail to tell his tales on Teele. Defede, for his part, was fired this morning after he told his bosses he'd taped a phone conversation with Teele (illegal in Florida without the tapee's consent) hours before the former county commissioner killed himself. (Defede has said that allegations of homosexual affairs were especially fueling Teele's distress, because he worried how the transvestite's stories would effect his son. More on Defede's comments here.) Teele was also running out of money to fight the various charges, and according to a former opponent of Teele's whom I spoke with this morning, he felt burned that more of the people he'd helped in the past weren't standing by him.

Not surprisingly, the case has raised questions about the local news media's multi-year pursuit of Teele, which has been unlike anything since Miami Mayor Joe Carrollo captured the attention of the press years ago, and caused some soul searching:

"It was the first thing that crossed my mind, that this was a response to our story, and it filled me with dread" New Times editor Jim Mullin said. "Who knows? It's all speculation."

The writer of the New Times story, Francisco Alvarado, told the Herald it was a "surreal coincidence'' that Teele shot himself the same day his article was published."I really feel bad,'' he said. "I would never want anyone to harm themselves over something I wrote, but at the end of the day, I was just doing my job.''

... Not that the local news media's taste for salaciousness hasn't been pointed out many, many times before. Teele seems to have been sending a message to the media, and to the Herald in particular, by choosing that building and that lobby to end it all. The paper and other outlets had pursued him relentlessly for years, for alleged corruption:

The one-time Reagan-era appointee at the U.S. Department of Transportation won two terms on the Dade County Commission in the 1990s -- and was elected its powerful chairman three times. He withstood a bitter loss when he ran for county mayor against a rising Alex Penelas, but staged a remarkable second act, rebounding as a Miami city commissioner -- powerful enough to survive an effort to recall him from office.

Long haunted by financial woes and improprieties -- he was once accused of putting a woman arrested on prostitution and grand theft charges on the city payroll to fetch him coffee -- Teele saw his troubles multiply in recent years.

As an attorney, Teele was an influential voice on the City Commission, serving as head of the Community Redevelopment Agency created to renovate blighted areas of Overtown and nearby neighborhoods. But it was the CRA that proved his political unraveling. He was under surveillance in an investigation of CRA-related corruption allegations when he chased and threatened a police officer. And Friday -- just four months after a felony conviction for assault -- his troubles snowballed: He was arraigned on federal charges of fraud and money laundering.

(There's much more, read it here.)

There's lots of sympathy for Teele today, and the chatter on Black radio is that the pursuit of Teele by both investigators and the media was racist (one caller to a popular R&B station likened the Teele pursuit to "attempts to bring down other Black men like Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Jesse Jackson ... I guess you can't pick your martyrs...) And even on generic talk radio, the media is coming in for some tough criticism for it's taste for the salacious when it came to the once-powerful figure cut by Teele.

Having worked in local media, though, I doubt that, even with all the soul searching, much will change. "Car in canal" ratings fever is much, much to strong and contagious. Exhibit A, the picture on the front page of the Herald today was not a smiling, live Teele, but a gharish, bloody dead one.

It also strikes me that it may be time to rethink the notion of paying local politicians peanuts (in the case of commissioners when Teele was in office, abouty $6,000 a year) to do a job where they're in constant contact with multi-million-dollar deals. That seems to almost invite corruption. (Though members of Congress work full time and you can hardly argue there's not corruption there, too). It seems the temptations of money and power are almost irresistible to politicians (though, as more than a few people are saying down here, woe to the Black pol who gets himself caught...)

Should there be more restrictions on letting discovery evidence in a case go to the press before a person is tried? Yes. Should the media -- local and otherwise, take a hard look at just how hard it can pursue public officials who are accused, but not yet convicted, of crimes, before that pursuit turns into hounding a person into their grave? Absolutely. But don't hold your breath. Every news outlet and their Web-site is having boffo ratings right now.
posted by JReid @ 3:26 PM  
Unsurprising headlines (take 8)
Osama bin usin'?
Um ... Terrorism experts (and the DEA) have discredited that wacky New York Post Bin Laden coke plot "exclusive" as laugh-out-loud ridiculous ...

Ms. Malkin, Ms. 'Toldjah', Jawa people, this might be a good time to throw together your selections for this week's Bonfire of the Vanities... (don't worry, we've all been there...) As for Fox News, it's okay. At this point we all know that you guys don't know any better.

Previous unsurprising headlines:
posted by JReid @ 2:17 PM  
Nice touch
The district judge who sentenced the Millennium bomb plotter got in a good shot at "Bush justice" during the hearing:

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel," he said Wednesday. "The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."

He added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have made Americans realize they are vulnerable to terrorism and that some believe "this threat renders our Constitution obsolete ... If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won."

Another golden moment in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism...
posted by JReid @ 11:17 AM  
Good news from the New York Times!
Inexpensive wine is GOOD! You'll probably have to register for this one, but it's worth it for the interactive guide.
posted by JReid @ 10:53 AM  
Bochco's still got it
Watched the premiere of "Over There" last night and loved it. I haven't checked the wingersphere yet, but I have a feeling the right won't like it -- it's blunt and poses stark questions about the fighting of the war (P.R. over common sense). But it also presents soldiers as real people, sometimes gung ho, sometimes doubtful, always sticking up for the guy (or girl) next to him. Great show. I'll be watching it on the regular. (I often wonder, how can Fox's entertainment division be so good and their news division such crap...?)
posted by JReid @ 10:35 AM  
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The Springsteen defense
Plame and Wilson: Ticket scalpers for Kerry?

When the chips are down (and the prosecution is lurking), how does a pro-Bush tabloid rag fight back? From the NYPost today:

Outed CIA spy Valerie Plame last fall gave a campaign contribution to go toward an anti-Bush fund-raising concert starring Bruce Springsteen, it was revealed last night. It's the first revelation that Plame participated in anti-Bush political activity while working for the CIA.

The $372 donation to the anti-Bush group America Coming Together, first reported by Time magazine's Web site, was made in Plame's married name of Valerie E. Wilson and covered two tickets...

My God... the partisan wench attended a concert??? Well spring Judy Miller and lock up Plame and Wilson, stat! Key shifts in the investigation should now center on: who was that second ticket for? Was it Joe Wilson? Or maybe John Kerry himself ...? Has anyone looked into whether Ms. Plame -- or whatever she's calling herself these days -- could have scalped those two tickets, which at the time were commanding prices in the hundreds of dollars...? What did she do with the money? (Somebody check for previously undisclosed donations to Kerry-Edwards...) And did Valerie Plame Wilson falsely claim during her purhcase of the tickets that she was "retired" -- concealing her undercover status from the phonebankers at ACT? And if she did, could that be considered a violation of the 2003 CIA Employees Loyalty Oath to the President and Concert Non-Attendance Act?

I think there's no doubt that this is BIG -- almost as big as the Post's exclusive discovery of a secret Bin Laden- cocaine cartel plot...

Forget "Karl Rove" and all that leaked classified info, CIA agent outing, misusing secret information for a political hit job, criminal investigation stuff ... it's time to for Pat Fitzgerald to refocus his grand jury probe where it belongs: on those evil, Springsteen-loving Wilsons... Fire up the talking points, Fox -- it's time to open up a can of E-Street Band on those Bush-bashers in the CIA!

posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
Torture and the Hill
From TalkLeft today:
We wrote Sunday about Dick Cheney's personal visits to the Hill to lobby against the inclusion of an anti-torture Amendment in the Pentagon's 2006 spending bill. Today, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist canceled the planned hearing on the bill.
Seems Cheney has been reading the papers and might be looking to limit the administration's liability for ... issues arising from the global struggle against violent extremism ...
posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
It's not secret if you report it...
The NY Daily News says New York City's transit authorities are keeping a 'secret' database of people questioned for photographic bridges and tunnels. I guess that means the secret's out, and anyone who's been stopped or questioned for photographing bridges or tunnels is now duly warned.
posted by JReid @ 10:48 AM  
Hillary on the march
Update 2: WaPo picks up on the DLC friends from Daily Kos, Atrios, David Sirota (who argues correctly that Democrats have consistently given more material support to the military while the GOP gives mostly lip service, Ronald Reagan excepted -- something Democrats ought to publicize more) and other liberal denizens of the blogosphere. (Blogger Digby really goes off, but most are attacking not Hillary, but DLCer Will Marshall, who's latest criticisms of the left really igged the faithful...)

Trouble is, Hillary is following the well-worn path set by her political star husband, Bill Clinton. The Clinton DLC, and tacking to the center, particularly on military and social issues, is how the Democrats can win national elections. The left will not stay home. They want the White House back too badly. Hillary isn't running for Chelsea (the neighborhood, not the daughter) she's running for Denver, Tampa and Tempe.

Original post, 7/26 10:10 a.m.: She's now officially DLC, tapped to "direct a new initiative to define a party agenda for the 2006 and 2008 elections." I would be shocked if she didn't vote for Roberts, given her repositioning, and she has already staked out firmly centrist positions on Iraq, abortion and gay marriage...
posted by JReid @ 10:36 AM  
WaPo rising
Walter Pincus and Jim VandeHei put PlameGate right back on the front page on Wednesday. The latest:

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street. In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

The story goes on to pin down the fact that Fitzgerald was close to finishing his investigation when he ran into the Judy Miller stonewall. He is looking to delve into conversations she had with an administration official between July 6 and July 13, 2003, the same time period when the "Get Wilson" campaign was under way. And then there's this interesting tidbit:

In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the "yellow cake" uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a "CIA source."

Novak told the person that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA as a specialist in weapons of mass destruction and had arranged her husband's trip to Niger, Wilson said. Unknown to Novak, the person was a friend of Wilson and reported the conversation to him, Wilson said.

There are many more bombshells from Pincus and VandeHei in the piece, including the unsurprising fact that Robert Novak knew -- or should have known -- better than to name Valerie Plame:

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause 'difficulties' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name."

Sounds like there should be more than one reporter in jail.
posted by JReid @ 2:00 AM  
From GWOT to GSAVE in 60 seconds
The Dr. Seuss of the underworld is at it again. First he coined a basket full of "known-unknown" combo phrases that would make Sam throw up his green eggs and ham, and now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has gone and renamed the global war on terror. Let's see how long it takes the Bush robots on Fox and in the blogosphere to control-H their scripts and posts to change 'GWOT' to 'GSAVE'. Another day, another chance for John Gibson to poop on his father's legacy... (General Richard Myers, who as a military man, understands that, no matter what the guys at Fox News say, you can't stop global terrorism with the odd invasion, has officially been using the newfangled phrase for months.)

"So where did Rummy get the phrase that caused the GWOT to trot? (And were it known would anyone think that he could have not?) He got it from the only book worth reading on the shelf.
That wily Pentagonian, he got it from himself. "
posted by JReid @ 1:42 AM  
CSI: Aruba, part 7 -- the lady of the lake?
Word on the street is that someone in Aruba is getting sick of Nancy Grace. The CNBC defendant-squasher, whose show is apparently getting to be more popular than Santa Claus (but not more popular than Hannity), was one of a number of recipients of a teddy bear with an "I love Aruba" T-shirt from a wry island resident. The other gifted Hollowayteers: Sean Hannity (and that Colmes guy), Greta van Susteren, Geraldo Rivera, Larry King and Anderson Cooper ...

Message: go away.

Meanwhile, there was this bombshell on tuesday: Aruban authorities are draining a lake (it's more like a pond, apparently...) across from the Marriott Hotel where Natalee Holloway and her classmates were staying before she disappeared. More from AP:

Earlier Tuesday, Holloway's stepfather, George Twitty, said two new witnesses had come forward with information about the night she disappeared. One witness told investigators that he saw Joran van der Sloot, the 17-year-old who has been detained as the main suspect, driving to a nightclub across the road from the Marriott Hotel around 2:30 a.m. the night Holloway disappeared, Twitty said.

The witness said van der Sloot tried to hide his face with his hands as he drove to the Racquet Club with two Surinamese brothers, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, Twitty said. The Kalpoe brothers were detained as suspects and later released.

The stepfather said the account places the three individuals near the hotel beach where van der Sloot says he left 18-year-old Holloway alone the last night she was seen in public.

"What's interesting is the time — 2:30 a.m. — when the three were supposedly on their way home," said Twitty, referring to their previous accounts to investigators. The witness, a gardener whose name was not disclosed, gave his account to investigators on Friday, Twitty said.

The witnesses are significant because the Kalpoe brothers initially said they'd dropped Natalee off at her hotel around 2 a.m., but later changed their story, saying they had lied to protect their pal, and that Joran and Natalee were dropped off at a nearby beach. As for the second alleged witness:
A second new witness told a private investigator hired by Holloway's family that she saw van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers drive into the Racquet Club three times that same night. The woman, who lives near the nightclub, has not yet spoken with investigators, he said.

Hm. Funny that two potentially pivotal witnesses get a sudden rush of memory nearly 60 days after the young woman goes missing, in the highest profile case the island has probably ever seen ... Could be the real deal, or could be a couple of crackpots. Then again, there is that $1 million reward to help jog rusty memories island-wide ... I suppose the FBI will sort it out (hope they leave enough time for the war on terror ... I mean the "global struggle against violent extremism"...)

Just in case, though, Riehworldview provides a translation of an inside look at the search from a site called Exclusive Writing.

By the way, Aruba sholdn't feel singled out: apparently it's wise to be wary about traveling over the border to Mexico...

Related posts:
  • Has anyone seen this girl?
Previous "CSI: Aruba" episodes: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
posted by JReid @ 12:56 AM  
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
American Memins
Miami was looking for ghetto superstars.

The city's proposed summertime "ghetto show" and watermelon-eating contest for kids who participate in citywide affordable summer camps has drawn fire, and for good reason. According to the Miami Herald:

A city press release that promised a ''Ghetto Style Talent Show'' and ''Watermelon Eating Contest'' during a summer camp picnic in the heart of Miami's black community drew sharp outrage on Monday from some Model City residents who live near the park where the events are scheduled.

The press release said, "campers who think they know the true meaning of ghetto style will take to the stage to prove just how ghetto they are.''

''We're not trying to be ghetto, we're trying to come out of the ghetto and be a civilized people,'' said Model City resident Grady Muhammad, who added that the billed talent show portrayed the neighborhood's youth as ''subhuman'' or "animals.'' Likewise, the watermeloneating contest echoes unflattering stereotypes and is ''an insult to black history and black pride,'' said Marvin Dunn, a Florida International University psychology professor and an expert on Miami's historically tense race relations.

The press release has since been sanitized, and the ghetto extravaganza reduced to a "funky talent show," with no further desscription. The watermelon eating contest is still scheduled.

What were city officials thinking? There is just no place for glorifying "the ghetto" with children you're supposed to be inspiring and encouraging to make something of themselves. Nice job, Miami.

Flashback post of the day:
posted by JReid @ 10:25 AM  
Gore TV
It isn't just for schleps, and it debuts on Monday. Here's the scoop from NYT. Also from NYT, an inside peek at Puffy's clothing company.
posted by JReid @ 9:57 AM  
Cause and effect
My lurching back and forth on the cause-and-effect relationship between the disastrous Iraq invasion and the rise in nihilistic terror attacks across the globe continues. The Times of London takes another good crack at the issue.

Britons are ready to distinguish, as history will, between two largely separate threats to international security that have convulsed the world over the past four years. One, posed by Saddam Hussein until 2003, may have been exaggerated by the available intelligence but nonetheless left responsible leaders with difficult decisions. The other is the threat from terrorists, who claim to be Islamic, but are self-obsessed, nihilistic thugs. They are linked — but mainly by geography — in the continuing carnage wrought by suicide bombers in Baghdad.

The fact of Britain’s role in the invasion and occupation of Iraq clearly cannot be ignored as a consideration in this month’s bombings in London. But to see in them a simple, avoidable case of cause and effect — as some politicians who should know better, and others who plainly do not, have done — encourages in their listeners a grotesque confusion of reason and justification. It also bespeaks dangerous amnesia as to the recent, bloodsoaked history of terrorism carried out in the name of jihadi Islam.

I guess the point is, we can never really know what the linkage is, because it's almost impossible to understand what would cause seemingly ordinary people to engage in the kind of barbarism we've seen in London, Sharm el Sheik, and every day in Iraq (not to mention the 9/11 attacks in America). The visceral, emotional reaction is to blame the Iraq war. But that's probably just too simplistic. ...
posted by JReid @ 9:41 AM  
Out of Africa?
Seems the info in this earlier post was on track after all. British officials are pursuing an African connecton to the latest London bomb attempts. The two named suspects are both of African origin.
posted by JReid @ 9:36 AM  
A 'Dear Jane' letter
Dear Ms. Fonda (can I call you Jane?)

I'm writing to express my heartfelt feelings about your impending bus ride back to the anti-war stage. My understanding is that you intend to board a bus, and tour the United States rekindling your Vietnam-era anti-war activism (powered, apparently by a vat of vegetable oil). If I may comment on your plans in the most concise, and hopefully impactful way that I can muster -- let's see ... how do you spell "AAAAAAAAAARRRRGH!!!!"?

Those of us who opposed the invasion of Iraq, not because of a general sentiment against war or the uniformed military (and it's "industrial complex") but because we believed it was a strategic mistake, based on a non-existent threat, a poorly made case on WMD, and suspicious agendas that at best, seemed tangential to the security of the United States, don't need you.

That may sound harsh, but we don't need for you to single-handedly re-wave the bloody shirt of Vietnam in this battle over how to fix the mess we've made in Mesopotamia. Iraq may have a great deal in common with Vietnam (right down to "Iraqification" and an insurgency out of control,) but it is not Vietnam. We can't just load the last man onto a chopper and fly out of there like the last episode of M.A.S.H. (yes, I know that show was about the Korean war...)

There is a legitimate debate to be had over whether we should start to withdraw our troops sooner rather than later, in order to take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency, or whether we need to add more troops and stay longer, in order to set that country right. Why risk tainting the debate with an anti-war sideshow that can only rekindle memories of your controversial stunts back in the bad old days of Vietnam? Can't we just say we buried the nastiness of the Vietnam era with the 2004 presidential election, the savaging of John Kerry and the "Swifties?" After living through last year's virtual reenactment of the bile and rancor of that time, I found myself thanking God that I was too young to remember the genuine article. The Vietnam experience has reared its ugly head too many times in recent memory to be dragged out of the closet again. The reaction to your trip on the right will be predictable, and like it or not, the other side will try and use it to tar everyone who opposes or doubts the Iraq campaign. (Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of Democrats running away from you...)

Unfortunately, despite your mea culpas for sitting on that Vietcong gunship, your participation in the anti-Iraq war cause is of a peace with ANSWER and other groups whose mere appearance turns off even those Americans who have genuine doubts about the war (which at this point is most Americans), but no doubts about the worth and bravery of American troops. I'm not saying you don't respect the men and women fighting in Iraq, but no matter what you say on your tour this time, there will always be the nagging matter of what you did during the last war you publicly opposed:
During a 1972 trip to North Vietnam, Jane Fonda propagandized on behalf of the North Vietnamese government, declared that American POWs were being treated humanely and condemned U.S. soldiers as "war criminals" and later denounced them as liars for claiming they had been tortured. []
Are you sure you want to dredge all of that back up? To what purpose? Why hand the administration and its defenders -- most of whom have never served in the military, nor would they (or their sons and daughters) such an easy punchline?

For me, the most effective critics of the war have been the former soldiers, Marines and others who have served in Iraq. Let's let them, their families and the military strategists who see through the administration and its media allies' "good news" pabulum -- carry the load on educating the public about the war (or calling for our forces to be withdrawn).

Of course, you are entitled to share your opinion with whoever is willing to listen, and to pump monounsaturated fats into the moving vehicle of your choice. But you can't think that you are the the most effective spokeswoman for your cause. To take on such a public role is, I believe, irresponsible grandstanding at the expense of your ideas. You're going to get a lot of face time during Jay Leno's monologues, and probably make Letterman's top ten. The "Daily Show" segments on your trip will surely be priceless, and I'll likely need to be mildly sedated before I read what the conservative bloggers , the Milbloggers and the Freepers are going to do to you. (Here's a hint: there's already a T-shirt...)

And in the end, what will you have gained? Another chapter in your book? Another round of negatie publicity? One thing you won't do is change the admnistration's policy in Iraq.

So please stay home, Ms.Fonda. Make a movie. Make a great movie. Write another book, or even start blogging. Call up Arianna, I'm sure she'd be glad to post you in. Do whatever makes you feel happy and fulfilled and useful. ... except that bus trip. Don't do that. You're a great actress, and you've lived a fascinating life. But as an anti-war activist, to quote a recent book title, we're just not that into you.

Thanks for your time and attention.
posted by JReid @ 1:40 AM  
Meet 'the Russert deal'
Never one to keep his nose out of presidential scandal, Michael "Blue dress" Isikoff delves into the Plamegate waters, specifically the question of whether prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is probing, not just what Karl Rove and Scooter Libby may have learned from classified documents, but what they may have learned from reporters.

Rove, as we know, apparently told investigators he only learned of Valerie Plame "from a reporter," or from someone who heard it from a reporter. And word on the street is, he fingered NBC's Tim Russert as that reporter. Unfortunately for Rove, Russert and NBC struck a deal for the MTP anchor to talk to the grand jury, and he apparently contradicted Rove's "recollection." That's not new news, since it was previously scooped by Bloomberg and the American Prospect. But this tidbit from Isikoff is interesting:

The agreement between Fitzgerald and NBC avoided a court fight over a
subpoena for Russert's testimony about his July 2003 talk with Dick Cheney's top
aide, Lewis (Scooter) Libby. The deal was not, as many assumed, for Russert's
testimony about what Libby told him: it focused on what Russert told Libby. An
NBC statement last year said Russert did not know of Plame, wife of
ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, or that she worked at the CIA, and "he did not
provide that information to Libby."

This now appears significant: in pursuing Russert's testimony, Fitzgerald was testing statements by White House aides—reportedly including Libby—that they learned about Wilson's wife from reporters, not classified documents. Libby's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. A source close to Karl Rove, who requested anonymity because the FBI asked participants not to comment publicly, says the White House aide—who passed info about Wilson's wife to Time's Matt Cooper—only knew about her CIA job from either a reporter or "somebody" who heard it from a reporter; he can't remember which or who. Rove did not initially discuss his talk with Cooper with the FBI, but later volunteered info about it and called agents' attention to a subpoenaed e-mail he had written to national-security aide Stephen Hadley mentioning the conversation, the source said.
At some point in the investigation, Rove clearly realized that the reporters he talked to might cut deals and talk, and so he started talking, too. The question is, will Fitzgerald nail him for his initial failure to tell FBI agents about his convos with reporters, or on the conflicting testimony between him and Russert, or is this still about violating secrecy laws?

Or might Fitzgerald cut a deal with Karl to nab an even jucier fish? Now THAT would be great political theater...

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
Monday, July 25, 2005
What did the president know...
...and when did they know it, regarding the outing of Valerie Plame?

David Gergen wants to know, and the four-time White House advisor, who has himself been accused of peddling the White House spin on Karl Rove by Media Matters (I think they have him confused with the faux maverick, John McCain...), asked some pointed questions on Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. Transcribed by BradBlog:

GERGEN: I think this is a big, serious story and the interesting thing about this week...I think the story also started to move toward the President. What did Karl Rove know, what did Scooter Libby know, in the President's and Vice-Presidents office? turn what did the President know and when did he know it?

... GERGEN: There are two things about this. One about the President...If Scott McClellan was misled by Scotter Libby and by Karl Rove, was the President mislead?...


GERGEN: ...Or if he was not mislead and he was told the truth, how do they let Scott McClellan go out there with that statement?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Or does he think this is okay?

GERGEN: Yeah...Or does he think it's okay?...So I think...that's why I think this is increasingly gonna be about the President over time.
...and about the president's good friend, the attorney general, who apparently knew a great deal about the leak investigation before almost anyone else did. Al Gonzales, who at the time was White House counsel, apprently waited 12 hours before notifying his staff about the Plame lead probe after he found out about it. The question is, during that time, who DID he talk to? The president? Karl Rove? Or just chief of staff Andy Card (and who did he tell?)

Gergen ins't the only analyst who's picking up on the fact that the leak probe seems to be edging closer and closer to the White House. WaPo's Achenblog wonders if the prosecutor is eyeing the vice president.

Clearly, the White House is looking for a ready distraction, because today, they put out word that President Bush may soon sidestep Congress and recess appoint John Bolton to the post of Mr. Moustache ... I mean U.N. ambassador...
posted by JReid @ 3:36 PM  
Has anyone seen this girl...?
... she's not Natalee Holloway, but she's just as missing, and from just as beautiful a venue as Aruba. Claudia Kirschhoch, a 29-year-old travel writer from New York, was last seen walking on the beach in late May, 2000 while on assignment at a Sandals resort in Negril, Jamaica. Like Natalee, she never made her plane flight back home. No body has ever been found. Her family is now suing the Sandals resort, hoping to uncover some clues to their daughter's disappearance. The family has been following the Holloway coverage, which has got to be painful.

Claudia's story received some news coverage (though nothing like the Holloway media extravaganza), including a hit on "Unsolved Mysteries" in 2001, stories in the New York Times, Salon and in the Jamaican press (with interest probably peaked by the fact that she was a journalist), and there were even accusations of a cover-up on the island. But nothing came of any of it. So Claudia simply became one of a small number of people who simply vanish without a trace. Frightening thought.
posted by JReid @ 9:40 AM  
Trouble in America
The problems for American workers just keep coming. News of layoffs and desperation at Ford, disarray at GM, and layoffs everywhere -- don't bother breaking out the Kleenex, they're dumping people too. Think the Chinese currency re-valuation will help American workers? Think again. And now this: news of a mini-war within the labor movement. SEIU and the Teamsters, along with two smaller unions, are expected to bolt the AFL-CIO today.

What that means for the unions, organized labor as a whole, and frankly, for the Democratic Party, remains to be seen. But it seems clear that the labor movement, having reached its nadir after the heady days when more than out out of every three American (private sector) workers were dues-paying union members (now it's about 8 out of 100), has to adapt or die. Globalization, federal "free trade" policy, and the intense competition America faces abroad are forcing workers' organizations to take a hard look at their operations, just as it's forcing corporations to rethink their strategies (hint: overpaying CEOs and other management and pleasing stock holders at the expense of consumers -- not good).

The AFL shakeup may actually inject some energy into labor, and produce some innovation and new ideas. Let's wait and see.
posted by JReid @ 9:39 AM  
What Gonzalez knew
Add Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to the list of people who probably know more than they're telling in the PlameGate case.
posted by JReid @ 9:20 AM  
When rulings hit home
More on Justice Souter's close encounters with eminent domain, from WaPo. Sorry, but it's hard to feel sorry for the fellow.
posted by JReid @ 9:15 AM  
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Sunday best
A Fortune Magazine article asks a key, if uncomfortable question: can America compete with hungry, aggressive, education-centric countries in Asia? A clip:
"Can America compete?" is the nation’s new No. 1 anxiety, the topic of emotional debate in bars and boardrooms, the title of seminars and speeches offered by the liberal Progressive Policy Institute, the conservative economist Todd Buchholz, and countless schools and Rotary Clubs. The question is almost right, but not quite. We’re wringing our hands over the wrong thing. The problem isn’t Chinese companies threatening U.S. firms. It’s U.S. workers unable to compete with those in China—or India, or South Korea. The real question is, "Can Americans compete?"

The stakes are mammoth: Respectable analysts believe it’s possible—not certain, but possible—that the U.S. standard of living, after decades of steady ascent, could stall or even begin to decline. More worrisome is the chance that if the world’s most powerful nation finds itself getting poorer rather than richer, some kind of domestic or even global political crisis could follow.

And just to prove the competition comes from everywhere, seems Intel is planning to build a brand new chip plant ... in Israel. Not a pretty picture, especially since the answer seems to lie in part in changing American culture to value education and innovation more (the way we did, say, during WWII and the space race era), leisure and spending less...

Meanwhile, still enjoying Frank Rich while it's free. Today, he belittles the White House's attempt to shove John G. Roberts in front of the PlameGate freight train.

...And speaking of Roberts, word that will surely chill the Freepers: it's not all that clear that he's all that conservative, PFAW agonistes notwithstanding...

More explosions in Egypt, this type near the pyramids, and both British and Egyptian authorities are making rapid arrests in what now appear to be multiple al-Qaida attacks. I thought our Fearless Leader said we had al-Qaida on the ropes...? BTW the Pope has weighed in even more strongly against the terror attacks, and the relatives of that poor Brazilian are up in arms over his shooting. Unfortunately, it probably was unavoidable... BTW British police are seeking expansive new powers to detain suspects and crack down on jihadist web-sites, and the Christian Science Monitor does an in-depth piece on the rise in "jihadi suicide culture."

...and guess who's trying to become a hot tourist destination? Libya, man, as in Colonel Qaddafi Libya. Go figure.
posted by JReid @ 2:55 PM  
And now for something completely stupid
Just as I finish posting about the right of the Hollywood left to dislike -- even despise -- the president and the Iraq war, someone goes and does something stupid like this:
Vandals Torch U.S. Flags At Slain Soldiers Home
Let's hope that the investigators in the case are right and this WAS just some stupid kids and not a political statement.
posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
War of the words
From U.S. News & World Report a few days ago (I won't link to it there, so as to save you from a particularly aggressive and persistent interstitial ad. Here's the Yahoo! News version instead.), the apparent truth about "War of the Worlds" (no, not that Tom Cruise is an alien, we already knew that...)
David Koepp, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, says the Martian attackers in the film represent the American military, while the Americans being
slaughtered at random represent Iraqi civilians. I see it differently. I think the Martians symbolize normal Americans, while those being attacked are the numbskulls who run Hollywood. Perhaps the normals went a bit too far in this easy-to-understand allegory, but think of the provocation. [John Leo]
If that's true, it's a sad commentary on Mr. Koepp's understanding of the United States military. He should probably try having a conversation with an actual soldier, pilot or two and find out just how much they relish the deaths of civilians -- or in fact anyone, even the bad guys -- in wartime. I'm sure he'll come away surprised (and chastened). But Leo goes on to excoriate Hollywood as a whole, for its "eye-popping" anger at George Bush over Iraq, and lists a number of films he deems anti-administration (which curiously, has come to be synonymous for Bush supporters with anti-U.S. troops. Funny, that...).

I'd tend to agree that most Americans not indoctrinated into the Bush Cult dislike this president intensely, Hollywood included. And it's hard to argue that Hollywood is mostly anti-Iraq war (that's Iraq, not Afghanistan). And no, there haven't been any 9/11 movies yet, which is a shame, but probably due more to caution about commercializing the tragedy than a lack of interest in the subject. Leo, the Jawans and others might be as excited as I am about the upcoming F/X series "Over There," which will offer a first look at the war from the soldiers' point of view. Even as someone who opposed invading Iraq (because it was bad strategy and not worth the waste in American or Iraqi lives, not because I'm some sort of lefty peacenick), I for one will be watching the show.

As for Hollywood, let them be Hollywood. If the John Leos of the world want to make a movie glorifying George Bush and declaring him to be the Prince of Peace, they should get right on it, and see if the majority of Americans who have since determined that the Hollywood lefties were right about the Iraq war and occupation (that is, that it wasn't worth it), want to pay their $8 bucks to sing Hail to the Chief. Seems a shame to have to explain the free market to supposed conservatives.
posted by JReid @ 2:15 PM  
Questions for Mr. Bush
NYT poses them succinctly:
...did Mr. Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Mr. Rove, his longtime strategist and senior adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the C.I.A. officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Mr. Rove, whose career and Mr. Bush's have been intertwined for decades?

Then there is the broader issue of whether Mr. Bush was aware of any effort by his aides to use the C.I.A. officer's identity to undermine the standing of her husband, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting its prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program.

Here are a few more: Does the president believe that CIA operatives are "fair game" in a political battle? Did he routinely allow Rove, then a political advisor, not a cabinet member, to review classified material? Did he routinely allow his political staff to review statements by the CIA director and if so, would he consider that to be a politicization of intelligence? Who else was allowed to vet Mr. Tenet's statements? Does Mr. Bush believe in an independent CIA, free from political pressure from the White House? What do he consider to be firable offenses for his aides and staff? Has the administration estimated the cost to U.S. intelligence progress in the war on terror of blowing Plame's cover and negating her usefulness as an operative and wmd expert? What about the lost investment in taxpayer dollars used in creating and maintaining her cover in the first place...?

Meanwhile, here is the transcript of former CIA agent Larry Johnson's radio address for the Democratic Party. Johnson, a former Bush supporter, laid into the president for not taking action against the leakers of Valerie Plame's identity, and for countenancing the personal destruction campaign against Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson (you can also listen to the address at the link provided):

I voted for George Bush in November of 2000 because I was promised a President
who would bring a new tone and a new ethical standard to Washington.

So where are we? The President has flip-flopped on his promise to fire anyone at the White House implicated in a leak. We now know from press reports that at least Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby are implicated in these leaks and may have lied during the investigation.

Instead of a President concerned first and foremost with protecting this country and the intelligence officers who serve it, we are confronted with a President who is willing to sit by while political operatives savage the reputations of good Americans like Valerie and Joe Wilson.

This is wrong and this is shameful.

We deserve people who work in the White House who are committed to protecting classified information, telling the truth to the American people, and living by example the idea that a country at war with Islamic extremists cannot focus its efforts on attacking other American citizens who simply tried to tell the truth.

Read the whole thing. It's worth it. Also: Lawrence O'Donnel on the Luskin leaks (Rove's attorney).
posted by JReid @ 8:16 AM  
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The adventures of Happy Jack
Happy Jack wasn't old, but he was a man ...

He lived in the sand at the Isle of Man.

The kids would all sing, he would take the wrong key,
So they rode on ahead on their furry donkey.

The kids couldn't hurt Jack,
They tried, tried, tried.
They dropped things on his back,
They lied, lied, lied, lied, lied.

But they couldn't stop Jack,
'or the waters lapping,
And they couldn't prevent Jack
from being happy.

(Note: Happy Jack was later led away by the Secret Service and
given a stern talking to by his irate mom... )

Can't get enough of Happy Jack (real name John, of course ... like F. Kennedy? Watch the video here! And who else loves Happy Jack?

posted by JReid @ 9:25 AM  
There's sex in my violence!
Great piece from the Chronicle on the "Grand Theft Auto" controversy.
posted by JReid @ 7:54 AM  
Friday, July 22, 2005
Hometown headlines
Florida Dems hire 'spensive new chief of staff...
Florida fights to stop Pentagon base closures...
The inevitable: Bush pushing for oil drilling off Florida coast, state pols angry ...
Jeb says Roberts 2000 visit wasn't political ...
And of course, the obligatory Elian Gonzalez ...
Florida to get a taste of the Iraqi desert (sandstorm coming) ...
posted by JReid @ 11:55 PM  
Free Susan Buzzi!
The curator who appeared on a "Daily Show" episode about a controversial art show in Broward County (interestingly enough, called "Controversy") has been fired for her appearance! Susan Buzzi, who was executive director of the Broward Art Guild, which hosted a show this summer featuring ... ahem ... President Bush "over a barrel" with an Arab gentleman at his back, if you know what I mean ... and the Pope as a Nazi, was told to get packing after the guild's board of directors set their senses of humor to stun. Just heard the story on the local CBS affiliate, but it actually ran yesterday in Newsday (don't know how I missed that). Hell, this is awful! Contact the Daily Show! Get this woman her job back! Free Susan Buzzy!
posted by JReid @ 11:20 PM  
So much for fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here...
I have been reluctant to join the chorus placing the blame for the terrorist attacks in London at the feet of Tony Blair. After all, terrorists are terrorists, and this is what they do. But I think I'm changing my mind. Now it seems that rather than "fighting them on the streets of Iraq so we don't have to fight them on our streets" -- a cruel conception in the first place since it supposes that the deaths and misery caused by terror "over there" are less important, and the lives less valuable, than ours -- now, it seems we're fighting them everywhere. And it's getting harder and harder not to blame the whole bloody mess on the disastrous neocon project in Iraq. By invading Iraq, perhaps we really have opened the gates of hell. And now, thanks to Mssrs. Bush and Blair, we're fighting them in...


Not to mention the Philippines, Bali, Indonesia, across the African continent, in Colombia and Pakistan and Russia, Afghanistan and only God knows where else. I've always believed this war was a waste of time, blood and treasure, and a grave, grave mistake. Now I guess I'm with Ken Livingstone -- the blood of the world is on Mr. Bush's hands, and shame on Tony Blair for following him.

Update: A New York Times op-ed captures my angst.
posted by JReid @ 10:37 PM  
A straw in the Chinese float
Gret Palast drops the science on China's happy yuan float (when did it stop being the yen?) Anyway, here it is:

Friday Jul 22, 2005, by Greg Palast

In case you haven't the least idea what the heck it means for China to "float"its currency, let me put it in the language we economists use: China's floatdon't mean squat.

Yet our President, a guy whose marks in Economics 101 are too embarrassing topublish here, ran out to hail the fact that buying Chinese money will now costmore dollars.

The White House line to the media, swallowed whole, is that by making Chinesemoney (yuan) more expensive to buy with dollars, Americans will buy fewercomputers and toys from China -- and US employment will rise. This will happen when we find Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Economics Lesson #1: You can't change the value of goods by changing the valueof the currency on the price tag. As my comrade Art Laffer wrote me, "If cheapcurrency makes your products more competitive, all automobiles would be made inRussia." Driven a Lada lately?

Economics Lesson #2: Don't take economics lessons from George Bush. Or MiltonFriedman. Or Thomas Friedman. What that means, class, is don't believe the big,hot pile of hype that China's zooming economy is the result of that Red nation'sadopting free market economic policies.

If China is now a capitalist free-market state, then I'm Mariah Carey. China'seconomy has soared because it stubbornly refused the Free – and Friedman-Marketmumbo-jumbo that government should stop controlling, owning and regulating theindustry.

China's announcement that it would raise the cost of the yuan covered over amore important notice: China would bar foreign control of its steel sector.China's leaders have built a powerhouse steel industry larger than ours bydirecting the funding, output, location and ownership of all factories. And rather than "freeing" the industry through opening their borders to foreigncompetition, the Chinese, for steel and every other product, have shut theirborders tight to foreigners except as it suits China’s own industries.

China won't join NAFTA or CAFTA or any of those free-trade clubs. In China,Chinese industry comes first. And it's still, Mssrs. Friedman, the Peoples’republic. Those Wal-Mart fashion designs called, chillingly, "New Order," aremade in factories owned by the PLA, the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army.

In an interview just before he won the Nobel Prize in economics, Joe Stiglitzexplained to me that China's huge financial surge -- a stunning 9.5% jump in GDPthis year -- began with the government's funding and nurturing ruralcooperatives, fledgling agricultural and industry protected behind high, hightrade barriers.

It is true that China's growth got a boost from ending the bloodsoakedself-flagellating madness of Mao's Cultural Revolution. And China, when itchooses, makes use of markets and market pricing to distribute resources. Thetruth is, Chinese markets are as free as my kids: they can do whatever they wantunless I say they can't.

Yes, China is adopting elements of "capitalism." And that's the ugly part: realestate speculation in Shanghai making millionaires of Communist party bossrelatives and bank shenanigans worthy of a Neil Bush.

It is not the Guangdong skyscrapers and speculative bubble which allows China tosell us $162 billion more goods a year than we sell them. It is that China'sgovernment, by rejecting free-market fundamentalism, can easily conquer Americanmarkets where protection is now deemed passé.

And that is why the yuan has kicked the dollar's butt. America’s only response is to have Alan Greenspan push up real interest rates sowe can buy back our own dollars the Chinese won in the export game. The domesticresult: US wages drifting down to Mexican maquiladora levels.

Am I praising China? Forget about it. This is one evil dictatorship which jailsunion organizers and beats, shackles and tortures those who don't kowtow to thewishes of Chairman Rob -- Wal-Mart chief Robson Walton. (Funny how Mr. Bushnever mentions the D-word, Democracy, to our Chinese suppliers.)

Class dismissed.
More Palastian wisdom here
posted by JReid @ 9:51 PM  
Did Rove or Libby (or both) lie to investigators?

Today's big scoop came, not from the Wall Street Journal as expected, but from Bloomberg, whose breaking news story today confirms much of what was in Murray Waas' American Prospect scoop earlier this week (reported also by TalkLeft). Namely, that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, who the NYT reports were busy digging up dirt and talking points for a George Tenet rebuttal of Joe Wilson's Niger nukes op-ed, may have lied to investigators. According to Bloomberg:

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

These discrepancies may be important because Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administrationofficials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a covert intelligence agent.

ThinkProgress adds more fuel today, wondering aloud whether former Scott McClellan Ari Fleisher could also be in the hot seat, since NBC News and others now confirm that he was reportedly seen perusing the State Department memo containing Valerie Plame Wilson's name and identity as a SECRET CIA operative.

The plot thickens...

posted by JReid @ 12:01 PM  
Condoning rape?
TalkLeft, PageOneQ and other sites yesterday posted a dramatic account of two Iranian teenagers who were publicly flogged and then hanged. The TalkLeft headline, (also from Doug Ireland): "Iran Executes Two Gay Teenagers." But amid all the outrage, something important seems to have been lost: an apparent 13-year-old victim of rape. From today's Times of London:
Public execution for the teenagers convicted of rape

IRAN has publicly hanged two male teenagers convicted of raping a 13-year-old
boy at knifepoint
. After the Supreme Court upheld the verdict of child rape, they were executed on Tuesday in Edalat (Justice) Square in the city of Mashhad. The British gay rights group Outrage! has accused Iran of torturing the two into confessing that they had homosexual sex. It believes that the assault charges were a smokescreen to justify killing homosexuals.

Are Outrage!, TalkLeft and the other advocates objecting to the capitol punishment (we American "barbarians" have got that, too,) the age of the teens, or is it simply the fact that they appear to have been homosexual? And what about the charges -- that they didn't simply engage in consensual homosexual sex, but that they supposedly took part in the gang rape (perhaps with three other men -- of a 13 year old boy at knifepoint? Are gay rights groups excusing that? For the record, I'm against capital punishment and find the notion of hanging teenagers abhorrent. If those boys really did commit gang rape, they should have been locked up. I hope all of the outraged agree.
posted by JReid @ 10:10 AM  
Thursday, July 21, 2005
What the Wall Street Journal will report tomorrow
The Wall Street Journal, which was the surprise recipient of the juciest leak to date in the PlameGate affair, will report the following new information tomorrow, according to the paper's John Harwood on "Countdown" tonight:
  • The State Department memo discussing the Wilsons (and the agencies own doubts on the Niger uranium claim), which circulated aboard Air Force One referred to Valerie Wilson by name.
  • The portion of the memo referring to Wilson and her work with the CIA was marked "SNF" -- secret, no foreign, meaning the information was not to be shared, even with foreign intelligence services
  • Fitzgerald IS investigating the knowing outing of a secret agent, not just perjury and obstruction of justice (not that he's not investigating that, too).

Awaiting the latest push-back talking points to be distributed to faux maverick John McCain and other assorted GOP surrogates.

posted by JReid @ 8:35 PM  
This bears repeating: No Iraqi-Niger uranium quest
This goes out to all my friends on the right. It's time to put this issue to bed. Some snippets from the Friday, October 15, 2004 edition of the non-partisan Global Security Newswire

No Evidence Iraq Sought Foreign Uranium, ISG Says
By Mike Nartker

WASHINGTON — The Iraq Survey Group, the coalition unit that searched for evidence of prewar Iraq’s alleged WMD efforts, has found no evidence that Baghdad sought to acquire uranium from abroad following the 1991 Gulf War, according to a report released last week by U.S. chief weapons inspector Charles Duelfer (see GSN, Aug. 2).

Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. officials cited Iraq’s alleged attempts to obtain uranium as evidence of efforts by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to relaunch his nuclear program. Citing information received from sources such as the former head of Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, though, Duelfer dismissed allegations that Iraq sought uranium from Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — two countries cited as possible sources by U.S. intelligence. “ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991,” his report states.

... In his report last week, Duelfer described the claims made by the former head of Iraq’s pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, Jafar Jafar, regarding Iraq’s two contacts with Niger after 1998. Neither involved discussions on uranium, according to Jafar.

... The purpose of one visit in 1999 by Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See, Jafar claimed, was to invite Niger’s president to visit Baghdad. Duelfer’s report does not mention the possible purpose of the Iraqi invitation. Jafar also claimed, according to Duelfer, that a second contact between Iraq and Niger occurred when a Nigerien official traveled to Baghdad in 2001 to discuss purchasing petroleum products. The
trip did not involve, though, an offer by Niger to provide uranium instead of cash for the purchase, the report says.

... In addition, there is no sign that prewar Iraq sought to obtain uranium from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it may actually have rejected an opportunity to do so, according to Duelfer’s report.

Read the whole thing here, and pass it on to your favorite Freeper.
posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
Saving Private McClellan, take 2
[Update: here's a link to today's WH press briefing] Don't you just hate it when ...

Your Supreme Court nomination is so uncontroversial that it fails to keep stuff like this and this off the front page of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for more than a day...?

And doesn't it just suck when your head fake works for that one day, but then pisses everybody off afterward? WaPo's Howard Kurtz reports that some Washington journos ... and even some Republican operatives, are feeling used by the White House's disinformation campaign:

It doesn't help much that this information got out:

Bush accelerated his search for a Supreme Court nominee in part because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name, according to Republicans familiar with administration strategy.

Bush originally had planned to announce a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 26 or 27, just before his planned July 28 departure for a month-long vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, said two administration officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.

The officials said those plans changed because Rove has become a focus of Fitzgerald's interest and of news accounts about the matter.

But of course, that doesn't matter, because today, we're right back where we started from:

(Photo courtesy Crooks and Liars. Click here for the caption). The press corps is pissed, GOP "sources" feel burned by the white light of disclosure yet again, and you know that can only mean one thing: it's all going to be taken out on poor Scott McClellan.

...So who's leaking all this good stuff? Kos speculates that it's the CIA. But since the chain of custody for the memo went from the State Department to Air Force One (and where in between we don't know), don't rule out Foggy Bottom... Here's an interesting tidbit from TalkLeft:

Given that Colin Powell had the memo with him on July 7, 2003 on Air Force One when the President and his entourage left for Africa, and that Fitzgerald subpoenaed phone records for Air Force one during that period, Fitzgerald may be assuming that someone leaked information from the memo. So, who saw the memo on Air Force One besides Colin Powell?

Previous installments:

posted by JReid @ 11:22 AM  
More explosions, evacuations in London...
Updated: Two weeks to the day of the 7/7 attacks, the #26 bus in Hackney Road has had its windows blown out by a small bomb in the top deck (called the fam, since that's their route). Three tube stations (Warren, Oval and Shepherd's Bush) also evacuated after witnesses reported seeing and/or hearing a man's backpack explode. So far, there's word of only one injury ... looks like these were very weak bombs, but the bad news is, the incidents were synchronized, al-Qaida style. Could be copycats, too, so no conclusions yet jumped to. Tony Blair is expected to make a statement soon. Developing ...

Best sources for updates: ITV News, BBC, Sky News
posted by JReid @ 9:32 AM  
The Roberts file
Update 2: One hand washes the other -- The Miami Herald has more on Roberts' input in Florida to help get Dubya into the White House during the 2000 recount.

Update: WaPo has the press roundup for today. Bottom line, with no discernible ideology, Roberts should be a lock for confirmation.

Original Post (7/21, 10:13 a.m.): NBC's First Read has a good roundup of all the newspaper backgrounders on Roberts, including the interesting note that he gave Jeb Bush legal advice during the 2000 recount:

In the aftermath of the disputed 2000 presidential election, Judge Roberts played a key, if quiet, role in the Florida recount. ... Although his name did not appear on the briefs, three sources who were personally aware of Judge Roberts' role said he gave Republican Gov. Jeb Bush critical advice on how the Florida Legislature could constitutionally name George W. Bush the winner at a time when Republicans feared that if the recount were to continue the courts might force a different choice.
Hm... that should light Moveon's hair on fire... Bottom line: Roberts is rich, he's white (sorry, Hispanics), he's conservative, he's a guy (sorry Laura, and apparently, sorry Sandra Day...), he's a Harvard man (go Crimson!) he's not too risky, and most important for Bush, he pushes Karl Rove and questions of Bush's honesty and integrity off the front page at a time when seriously damaging information is coming forth. BTW isn't it ironic that the most damning information so far about possible criminality in the Plame leak case comes, not from the Nation or Mother Jones, but from the Wall Street Journal...?

See also:

posted by JReid @ 9:13 AM  
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Top ten reasons to be glad it's Roberts
Now, with bonus reasons! Keep it level, Kos ... Don't have a cow, NARAL ... MoveOn, PFAW, and somebody yank that laptop away from Ms. Van den Heuvel...! There are at least ten reasons to rejoice in the John G. Roberts nomination:

10. At least we won't have to endure cable news commentary from Ken "nuke Mecca" Salazar and Mel "Schiavo memo" Martinez, which would have been a dead certainty if the nominee had been Hispanic ...

9. No chance Rick Sanchez will move into the analyst chair on CNN (see #10 above).

8. Janice Rogers Brown.

7. Lazy, low key confirmation hearings will provide plenty of time for Ralph Neas to get his wig right for TV.

6. Roberts seems to be a straight-laced kind of guy, so no hairy Coke cans.

5. Uncomfortable nights ahead for Dubya -- Laura's gonna be pissed.

4. The comforting certainty that Janice Rogers Brown won't be in a position to encounter any hairy Coke cans ...

3. Hey, it could be worse. Bush could have disinterred Judge Bork.

2. Al Gonzalez lives to haunt the Freepers for another round.

1. Now that the conservatives are happy, SpongeBob can feel free to come out of the closet...

**Bonus reason #1: Ann Coulter doesn't like him (I think that means, I love him...!)

**Bonus reason #2: two words: Hasty Pudding

Roberts reactions from the right (via Wizbang) .. the left, via DailyKos, and the center, c/o the Moderate Voice. Feel free to come up with your own reasons to love John G. Roberts. After all, it's your world, I'm just blogging in it.
posted by JReid @ 12:23 AM  
Unfortunate pairings, part one
A national religious organization ... and sex advice.
posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
RoveGate Lives!
Murray Wass at the American Prospect serves up interesting insider info that suggests Colonel Karl may well have committed the Martha Stewart error: lying to investigators, in this case, from the FBI. (HT to TalkLeft) ... ABC has more on the "no Niger nukes" memo that circulated on Air Force One days before the Novak leak column, and why it's important to prosecutors. More on that memo from WSJ, and it could be key (HT to Talking Points Memo):
A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.

Meanwhile a group of CIA agents reinforce the point, saying, "sorry, Chris Hitchens and fellow naysayers, outing Plame was bad, and that ain't good..."
posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
I can't improve on this
From TalkLeft tonight:

Too Soon to Bash John G. Roberts

I think it's too soon to start opposing Judge John G. Roberts. Most of us knew nothing about him before tonight. He's only been a Judge for two years. Before that he was deputy solicitor general. The legal arguments he made while working for the Government or as a corporate lawyer may or may not reflect his personal values, or how he would rule as a Supreme Court Justice.

I'd like to know more about him before I make up my mind. I don't think it helps that liberal groups are coming out swinging so soon. It has the appearance that they would oppose anyone Bush would nominate.

It's obvious we're going to get a conservative Supreme Court nominee. Bush is President and the Senate is Republican-dominated. For now, I'm just happy it wasn't a rabid right-winger like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, Edith Jones (not to be confused with Edith Clement, who probably would have been okay,) Ted Olson or one of the Fourth Circuit judges that were reportedly under consideration.

I'm more worried about Bush's second pick, the one he will make when Chief Justice Rehnquist retires, when his key aides may be out from under the gun of, or already indicted by, Fitzgerald's grand jury.

I do not want to fall into the Administration's trap of getting so distracted by this judicial nomination that I don't pay attention to other injustices of the Administration, like the war in Iraq, the detainees, military tribunals, the potential abolition of habeas corpus in death cases, and Rove Gate, to name a few.

So, when there's something big to report on Judge John G. Roberts I will, but I'm done with the topic for now.
Amen. Time to move on to the next topic at hand.
posted by JReid @ 11:08 PM  
No Joy on the court
RedState's scoop was wrong (so was the Daily News). ABC News says the SupCo nominee will not be Joy Clement. But the White House has done a good job pulling the string and bone around the track all day for the media to chase after. Conventional wisdom says a woman or Hispanic is a lock. And you thought Republicans didn't believe in affirmative action ... ah, this must be "affirmative access..."

Update: Project 21, an unaligned Af-Am group, is calling for a speedy confirmation. I'm with them in hoping it's both speedy and rancor-free. This will be apostasy to my friends on the left, but let Bush have this one. He's the president, like it or not (and I definitely don't...) give him his friggin' nominee. I'm sure the right wasn't exactly jumping for joy over Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but they let her through. Unless Bush puts up a member of the House of Saud, who's ready to ban women from driving, I say just confirm them and let's move on. Newsflash: even if he managed to please the right and get an Roe-killing majority on the court before his term is out (which I doubt,) the worst that would happen is that the self-appointed culture warriors on the right would be forced to test the desire to outlaw abortion at the ballot box, 50 times -- and they'd lose this as an issue to run on in election after election. Maybe I'm just cranky but I can't get exercised.

Update 2: Well I'll be damned. Bush faked us all out -- he didn't go for the woman (he'll have to deal with Laura on that), he didn't play the Hispanic card (so much for my "affirmative access" jab). He went for the white guy. Go figure.

Roberts sounds like a very smart, qualified guy. He's been on all sides of the SupCo, from clerking for Rehnquist to arguing before the court as a Justice Department litigator and in private practice. So far, the Freepers are undecided. RedState is cleaning up from their earlier predictions.
posted by JReid @ 5:21 PM  
Iraq in real-time?
Just received this link via e-mail. According to the original sender, it's video of a U.S. AC 130 Specter gunship engaging a group of suspected Iraqi militants who were about two and a half miles away. The insurgents were apparently in the process of setting up a roadside bomb to ambush an American convoy that passed through shortly after these pictures were taken. After setting up the bomb, the insurgents pace off the distance from the bomb to where the convoy was expected to pass. The AC130 spotted them using night vision, and used electronically controlled cannons to "interrupt" the plot. No editorializing on my end. Just check out the video. **Warning, unedited content.**
posted by JReid @ 4:13 PM  
Iraqi blogger jailed
From TalkLeft today:
Raed of Raed in the Middle reports his brother Khalid Jarrar, the blogger who writes Tell Me A Secret , who had been missing, has turned an Iraqi jail - jailed by the new Iraqi mukhabarat.

Not good. Seems they learned a few things from the Russians after all ... Pass it on.
posted by JReid @ 4:05 PM  
War vets to Bush: you're either with us or against us
The fine folks at Operation Truth ran a full-page ad in the WaPo today, alling on the president to keep his promises to OIF veterans when it comes to healthcare. The ad references the previously announced $1 billion VA shortfall on health costs for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. The GOP-led House is now scrambling to find the money, after it was revealed that House Speaker Hastert had been warned well in advance that the shorftall was coming (I guess he was too busy giving himself a raise). OpTruth is calling for presidential leadership on the issue. "Without immediate action," the ad reads, four out of five returning Veterans could be turned away from care." Here's the link to where you can learn more about the ad, and how to get it run in your local paper.

Bush shold do the right thing and push for more money for these vets. After all, he and his administration are the ones who sent them over there. I'm generally for fiscal restraint, but the feds should spare no expense when these vets come home.
posted by JReid @ 3:43 PM  
Edited again: Paul at Wizbang's satirical jab on Monday at a California school district's Ebonics in the classroom plan has ignited a mini-blogswarm. (I reiterate my post from yesterday -- I get that the piece was satire, and I agree with Paul's basic point; that Ebonics is something that needs to be rooted out in the classroom, not nurtured. I'll stipulate that I like Wizbang -- I think it's one of the better conservative blogs. I won't even go so far as to call Paul a racist, because I don't know the man ... though if he uses the cotton picking line on me face to face, it's on...[satire alert]) ---Update note: the school system trying the Ebonics pilot is in San Bernadino County, not Oakland. Thanks J.J. ---

But Paul's post, which included the lines "Black kids are too stupid to learn English" and " I say we keep them stupid. If not, how will I ever get anyone to pick my cotton?" is still reaping blowback.

A Daily Kos poster who read the rant says "Get Wizbang!" (Update: Chadster is innocent. Someone scurrilously claimed to have posted to dKos in his name... and there's not a thing wrong with his movie reviews... sorry, Chadster) And other blogs have waded into the fight (mostly on Paul's side). But the big fight today is between Paul and someone he derisively calls the drama queen of the blogoshere, David at In Search of Utopia. The two are now trading insults, and today, David hit back with a vengeance, both at Paul and at a few Paul defenders on the ISOU thread who have called David a nigger or said his kids would be perfect little cotton pickers (that last one from some truly punkdafied wannabe movie reviewer named Lord Floppington.) As I said in David's comment section, I'll bet none of those anonymous posters would have the stones to call him a nigger to his face... Hopefully, Paul disassociates himself from those kids of remarks...

Just goes to show you where we are in the state of race in America: the blogosphere provides a valve where White people can play "Chappelle's Show" writer for a day, or make statements and jokes (like the out-of-order comments to David), that they wouldn't dare say out loud in mixed company. But racism (and the power that went with it) aren't what they used to be. What you can get away with online would buy you a beat-down in Brooklyn.

The overall verdict for me is mixed: Paul's post brought out some important issues on race, no doubt, and for that reason was a net plus (and I said as much to Paul on Wizbang). But at the end of the day it served that point better than it did the central point (on ebonics), which probably would have been better made straight-on.

While we're on the subject, and just to prove I do have a sense of hujmor, Independent Sources has come up with the best Ebonics titles of all time, including this sure-fire winner: "Ebonics is back, bitches!" and this close runner-up: "Sheeit..."

Previous post:
posted by JReid @ 3:24 PM  
Saving private McClellan
The White House proves they still know how to play the game, dropping the SupCo announcement in the early afternoon news block, but timing the announcement for 9 p.m. -- after the evening news -- the better to suck up all the news oxygen in between. Now, the White House press corps will spend all day ruminating on who the Court pick will be, and hunting down scoops on that, rather than focusing on the continued bad news on Iraq, the bombshell death toll of 25,000 civilians since the invasion, or the continuing pummelling of poor Scott McClellan (whom one Washington historian today speculated on MSNBC may not be long for his job...)
posted by JReid @ 1:41 PM  
Chemist cleared?
Egypt says the biochemist detained with much fanfare last week had nothing to do with the London bombings, and is not linked to al-Qaida. Interesting... and supports what Debka reported.
posted by JReid @ 12:52 PM  
The friend of my enemy ...
From my in-box today (hat tip):

By United Press International

Russia's secret service trained Al Qaeda's Number Two, a Polish newspaper has claimed. The Russian Federal Security Service, also known as the FSB, gave military training to Ayman Al Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's deputy, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported. Rzeczpospolita said that before deciding to join Bin Laden, Zawahiri received terrorist training in 1998 at a FSB camp in Dagestan in the North Caucasus.

Thereafter, he shifted his base to Afghanistan to become BinLaden's deputy, the paper quoted a former FSB agent as saying. The agent also claimed that Zawahiri was not the only link between the FSB and Al Qaeda, Asian News International said.

Disturbing enough for you? Read the rest here.

Russia has previously denied having trained Iraq's notorious Mukhabarat secret service organization, and many Bush supporters still blame Moscow for helping Iraq get rid of its WMD (which most experts now doubt they had...) before the March 2003 invasion. However if this latest development is true, it's yet another complicating mess in the GWOT (and another reason for George Bush to stop trying to read people's souls...)

posted by JReid @ 11:45 AM  
Sound and fury
On the Iraq-terror-Plamegate front today, plenty of blame is being passed around.

According to one San Francisco Chronicle writer, "err'ybody" who's anybody in Britain is blaming Tony Blair for the London bomb attacks. SFC writer Edward Gomez quotes the Muslim Association of Britain and the Stop the War Coalition, who staged anti-war rallies in Scotland over the weekend as "heaping scorn" on Blair insistence on playing follow-the-leader with George W. Bush. He then re-unearths George Galloway and the Chatham House report, and he adds this:

Apparently, Tony Blair just doesn't get it. ... Like President George W. Bush, who stubbornly insists that waging war in Iraq will deter terrorists from targeting the West, Blair refuses to acknowledge that his dogged allegiance to America's self-styled "war president" has come at a price; that price was made frightfully clear, many Britons believe, with the July 7 London bombings.

and this:

Although some Britons believe Blair and his supporters "will find it hard to dismiss [the] report" because Chatham House is politically unbiased and widely respected, as recently as last Saturday, Blair was still insisting that the London attackers had been "driven by an 'evil ideology' rather than [by] opposition to any policy."
Well, I think suicide bombers in general are driven by an evil ideology, no? Even fellow Muslims are calling the bombers' beliefs satanic... Just ask the beleaguered people of Iraq whether they think an evil ideology is at work. ... I agree that the Iraq war was a grievous mistake, and one for which the people of Iraq are paying dearly, including through the influx of newly radicalized foreigners who are seeping into the country to bring on the jihad... But I have to believe that something else is at work. Al-Qaida existed long before the U.S. and Britain invaded Iraq. Clearly something else -- something pernicious -- is at work in the minds of otherwise ordinary young men (and in some cases, women) of a jumble of ethnicities but with one thing in common: allegiance to a violent, nihilistic Islamic ideology. That's something Muslims will have to tackle head-on. Yes, the Iraq invasion poured fuel on the fire, but the cause -- which predates the war -- lies at the heart of the Muslim community itself. Sorry, but I'm not blaming Tony Blair for this one ...

Back to the Plame affair, Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe zeroes in on Scooter Libby, one of the neocons who's regime change dreams came true with the invasion of Iraq, but who now appears to be the second man in the crosshairs of the CIA leak investigation. Saying Libby's possible involvement "elevates the scandal to a whole new level," Jackson writes:

... Libby was in the thick of whipping up fear over the thinnest of evidence. The level to which Libby and Cheney stooped to get their war was highlighted by the momentous presentation of Saddam’s ‘‘threat’’ before the United Nations Security Council by then Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell gave a presentation six weeks before the war where he said, ‘‘every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions.’’ Those assertions resulted in grudging acceptance of the war from many Democrats.

Virtually all of Powell’s solid sources fell apart when the United States turned Iraq upside down, killing thousands of Iraqi civilians in the process. He would have looked much worse had he listened to everything Libby and Cheney tried to feed him. It was Cheney’s staff who wrote the first draft of Powell’s UN speech. It was Libby who suggested, in strategy meetings at the White House, playing up every possible, conceivable threat of Saddam — with the emphasis on the word ‘‘conceive.’’ A US News and World Report story in the summer of 2003 quoted a senior administration official as saying Libby’s presentation ‘‘was over the top and ran the gamut from Al Qaeda to human rights to weapons of mass destruction. They were unsubstantiated assertions, in my view.’ Powell, according to both US News and Vanity Fair, was so irritated by Libby’s hodgepodge of unsubstantiated facts that he threw documents into the air and said, ‘‘I’m not reading this. This is bull ...’’

Libby, whose nickname is Scooter, was particularly unhappy that Powell had thrown out sections of the presentation that would have attempted to link Al Qaeda to Saddam, including a discredited report that top 9/11 Al Qaeda airline hijacker Mohamed Atta had a meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague. According to Vanity Fair, ‘‘Cheney’s office made one last ditch effort to persuade Powell to link Saddam and Al Qaeda and to slip the Prague story back into the speech. Only moments before Powell began speaking, Scooter Libby tried unsuccessfully to reach [Larry] Wilkerson by phone. Powell’s staff chief, by then inside the Security Council chamber, declined to take the call. ‘Scooter,’ said one State Department aide, ‘wasn’t happy.’’’

But Christopher Hitchens, who never misses an opportunity to defend the Iraq war and anyone even tangetially associated with it, is having none of it. He writes in Slate today that the Plame affair is a non-scandal centering around a totally discredited lout (Joe Wilson) and being peddled by nincompoops who just can't accept that yes, yes, yes!, Saddam did try to procure nuclear materials, did collude with al-Qaida even if it's just contacts and not conspiracy, and damnit, deserved to be invaded full-stop, just like we ... I mean they ... went out and did! (Now get me a bourbon!) No, seriously, here's what Hitch had to say:

Thus, and to begin with, Joseph Wilson comes before us as a man whose word is effectively worthless. What do you do, if you work for the Bush administration, when a man of such quality is being lionized by an anti-war press? Well, you can fold your tent and let them print the legend. Or you can say that the word of a mediocre political malcontent who is at a loose end, and who is picking up side work from a wife who works at the anti-regime-change CIA, may not be as "objective" as it looks. I dare say that more than one supporter of regime change took this option. I would certainly have done so as a reporter if I had known.
Sounds like somebody's miffed that they didn't get one of those leak phone calls... Of course, Hitchens gets all tangled up in attacking the supposedly anti-war CIA, which ultimately bent under the White House and Pentagon pressure and pushed the Iraq WMD claims with an unwarranted certainty seconded only to the Pentagon neocons themselves. (Some CIA analyts definitely raised red flags on Iraq, and there were battles within the agency, over such sterling characters as Curveball, but again, their complaint was the politicization of intelligence, not some drive to keep Saddam in power).

Hitchens also seems to equate "contacts and exchanges" with ties to 9/11. Hell, if contacts with al-Qaida were the minimum standard for U.S. invasion, we'd have to invade half of the African continent, plus Saudi Arabia, Iran, most of the Balkans and probably Russia, too.

Let's stipulate that at some stage, Iraq had contact with al-Qaida. Let's even stipulate that like every other country within range of Israel's nuclear weapons, they were seeking long range missiles. The 9/11 report, and every other body that has studied the issue, including the Iraq Survey Group, have concluded that the U.S. had no evidence -- none -- that Iraq either possessed weapons of mass destruction or posed a clear and present danger to the United states.

Clear and present danger is why you invade countries. Otherwise, why did we sit back and allow Pakistan of all countries to get the bomb? Hitchens seems caught up in his own zeal to defend the war, and frankly, I don't care if he trashes Joe Wilson. Wilson isn't the point. No matter what the Bush defenders argue, the point is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and what lengths the men and women who work there would go to to silence a war critic. We'll soon find out if they were willing to violate the law, lie to investigators, and other "flotsam" like that.

I suppose Hitchens thinks the CIA was just being bitchy when it asked for an investigation into this non-scandal back in September of 2003. But clearly the prosecutor thinks it's more than just "Rove rage" -- he has gotten no fewer than eight judges to uphold his contempt citation against Judy Miller, and a grand jury to sit through an entire case worth of "nothing."
posted by JReid @ 10:38 AM  
Rage against the dying of the issue
With all the fuss about judges, which is mostly a fight about abortion, and the day after the ultimate extremist on the issue, Eric Rudolph, is finally put away for life, here's an interesting statistic: abortions have been on the decline for decades and are at their lowest rate since 1976. And what causes most abortions? Unintended pregnancies. Sounds like the next fight should be more widely available contraception, particularly for lower income women. I look forward to hearing conservatives celebrate America's progress.
posted by JReid @ 2:40 AM  
And now, for a truly stupid comment
Story courtesy of the folks at Jihad Watch, who watched it on Fox News so I didn't have to.

DENVER — A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons. Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.

Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. "Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca?" Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded. "What if you said, we recognize that this is the ultimate threat to the United States, therefore this is the ultimate response."

The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response." Spokesman Will Adams said Sunday the four-term congressman doesn't support threatening holy Islamic sites but that Tancredo was grappling with the hypothetical situation of a terrorist strike deadlier than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We have an enemy with no uniform, no state, who looks like you and me and only emerges right before an attack. How do we go after someone like that?" Adams said. "What is near and dear to them? They're willing to sacrifice everything in this world for the next one. What is the pressure point that would deter them from their murderous impulses?" he said.

Sounds like someone's angling for John Bolton's U.N. nomination spot...! Residents of my onetime home state must be so proud.
posted by JReid @ 2:39 AM  
The road to Africa?
The London bombings investigation just keeps getting more complex. NYT leads on Tuesday with a leaked report showing British intelligence had lowered the threat level to the UK in the month before the bombings, and apparently, MI5 was "looking for the wrong kind of terrorists."

Well have the British, newly hip to the crisis, begun pointing the media in the wrong direction, too, in an effort to shield the investigation from prying eyes? Interesting item Monday from DebkaFile (judge the reliability for yourself):

London Terror Inquiry Heads Secretly to the African Sahara
July 18, 2005, 3:05 PM (GMT+02:00)

The British authorities have mounted a tremendous publicity effort to emphasize that Pakistan and Egypt are the central areas of interest in their investigation of the July 7 transport bombings that killed 55 Londoners. This is a diversionary tactic.

Much of the intelligence offered to the media is irrelevant to the inquiry. There is nothing that was not known to British and US intelligence from early 2004 in the fact that three of the four bombers were of Pakistan origin and some studied at medressas run by Muslim extremists linked directly to terrorism. Even the fact that they visited Pakistan last year or were in contact with Muslims in Queens, New York, does not lead to the masterminds who sent them to their deaths on July 7. Even terrorists phone or visit relatives.

As for the Egyptian biochemist Magdi Mahmoud al-Nashar from Leeds, the Egyptian security authorities who are not known for their gentle handling of al Qaeda suspects have found no ties between him, al Qaeda and the London bombers. There was seemingly nothing to find beyond the fact that he rented them his apartment after a meeting at a local mosque. Yet British detectives are in Cairo day after day waiting to be allowed to interview the scientist.

The British government is feeding the public with a daily dose of suggestive, diversionary data for two purposes. One is to stop the mouths of Tony Blair’s enemies and throw off their efforts to link the attacks to Britain’s involvement in Iraq alongside the United States. This ploy was set back Monday, July 18, when the influential Chatham House came out with a report claiming Britain had been placed at magnified risk of terror attack by its role in Iraq and cooperation in the worldwide US-led offensive against al Qaeda. This contention was fiercely contested by the British defense and foreign ministers.

The other purpose is to deflect attention from the leads followed by the inquiry to the real source of the attacks. Last Friday, July 14, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed that a top-secret gathering took place Wednesday, July 13, in one of the most out-of-the-way towns in the world, Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania. It was attended by linchpins of the services responsible for the war on al Qaeda, the American Central Intelligence Agency, the British domestic and foreign secret services, MI5 and MI6, and the security chiefs of Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Last week too, a senior British official who specializes in intelligence and terrorism Kim Howells was dispatched to Morocco. Add these moves to the earlier DEBKAfile finding that the explosives came from Serbia and it is clear that the real investigation is focused on West Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East – not Pakistan and Egypt.

The idea here is that, at least according to Debka, the real genesis of the attacks lies with al-Qaida, and with remote, Qaida-linked tribes in West Africa, who are primarily engaged in smuggling arms from Serbia through the Balkans, to Africa and then Europe, in this case the U.K. The theory goes that the West African tries' Berber dialects are useful for al-Qaida as a sort of code not well known by European, Israeli or American spy agencies. An interesting theory...

Also today, the Times of London (which has done some of the best reporting on the bombings, including breaking the Jamaican jihadi angle,) reports that Pakistani authorities say they now know who the mastermind is, and it's not the "Egyptian chemist," but rather a British-born man who met with the alleged ringleader of the "backpack bombers," Mohammad Sidique Khan, the 30-year-old schoolteacher, and perhaps on or both of the Pakistani-British bombers, in Karachi.

Debka claims to ID at least one man Sidique Khan met with in Karachi as "Osama Nazir, a member of the now outlawed militant outfit, the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is led by Maulana Masood Azhar." Nazir, who is in Pakistani custody, claims there are 300 more Pakistani origin bombers just like the backpack four, waiting to carry out operations in the U.K. Which still leaves out the Jamaican jihadi, Germaine Lindsey, who still puzzles me to no end...
posted by JReid @ 2:00 AM  
Monday, July 18, 2005
Fighting Wizbang words...
Updated: Filed under "satire" today by someone called Paul at Wizbangblog, in reference to a story, entitled Ebonics suggested for district, about an Oakland, California school district's decision to incorporate "Ebonics" into the coursework for the heavily African-American student body:

I finally found something that I agree with California liberals on. ... Black kids are too stupid to learn english, we all know that. So why should we try to teach them? Let them stick to their own kind. If we teach them english then they'll be reading then the next thing you know they'll be taking our jobs and trying to move into our neighborhoods. I say we keep them stupid. If not, how will I ever get anyone to pick my cotton?

"Pick my cotton...?" Okay, well file this under "kiss my ass" [Disclaimer: the foregoing was meant purely as sarcasm. No offense was intended to any party, whether or not they were prepared to actually kiss my ass...]. The post touched off a furor on Wizbang over whether it was proper satire. I, for one, actually agree with Paul that it makes no sense to bring "ebonics" into the classroom (though he probably shouldn't quit his day job and camp out outside "Chappelle's Show" just yet.) Black kids, like kids of every other ethnicity, should be taught to speak standard English -- for their own sakes (they'll want to get jobs someday, not to mention getting into, and through, college) and for society's (an educated population is good for the economy). So the Oakland area school district is over the rainbow with their idea. Particularly frightening is this thought, also from the San Bernadino Sun article:
"Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs."
I'm just picturing with dread, some gawky, white science teacher strolling around the campus trying to figure a way to incorporate the phrase "fo shizzle" into the lesson. (Shudder). All this "affirming and recognizing" ebonics by school bureaucrats stikes me as goofball, nanny-state hoakum.

But... and it's a big "but..." There's also this from a California sociologist qoted in the article:
"For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. ... These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language."
If by that the sociologist means employing some of the same tools used in "ESOL" (English as a second language) to get the kids on track, then I concur. Use whatever tools are available to get these kids proficient in standard English. If ESOL is the best method, so be it, so long as their ebonics use is not being reinforced or even worse, modeled by goofy teachers... And school districts in tough areas, where poverty and lack of higher education abound, would do well to hire more teachers who understand the challenges faced by the students in front of them -- that means recruiting more Black teachers, and particularly, more Black male teachers, possibly even "borrowing" them from other fields, and paying them enough to make it worth their while to stay awhile and try to save some of these young Black kids from oblivion.

So "yes and no" on the ebonics in the classroom thing. But if you go there with the cotton picking thing again, it's your ass.

Update 2: The right weighs in. Kimberly Swigert at Number2Pencil asks a good question regarding the students in question: "If Ebonics is all that's keeping them interested, what's going to happen when they enter the real world, where Ebonics won't be the accepted form of communication?" LaShawn Barber showers brief but unmistakable contempt on the Cali proposal, and links to Malkin ("Ebonics be back!"), D.C. Thornton (who provides personal testimony that he didn't need Ebonics crutch to learn to speak properly ... ), and Michael King who is off the mark in saying the schools would be teaching Ebonics to kids -- the point is, the kids already know it, dog...
posted by JReid @ 10:57 PM  
My county says "We are definitely not family"
Broward County schools won't be showing the controversial "We are family" tolerance video (which touched off the Olbermann vs. Dobson fued earlier this year, over whether Dobson had suggested a certain untoward relationship between SpongeBob Squarepants and his little friend, Patrick the pink starfish -- Dobson said -- and I got emails insisting -- he never accused SpongeBob of being Ken Mehlm ... ahem... homosexual...) but Olbermann pounded him nightly nonetheless. Lashawn Barber's cheering the decision, picking up the story today, and linking to my old pals at NBC 6 (big ups to the one and only Ari Odzer...) A handful of bloggers on the left have picked up the story as well, and not surprisingly, they think the decision stinks.

Broward is one of five counties in the U.S. to "just say no" to the video and associated carriculum. It was voted down 10-7 in May by the county's diversity committee on the grounds that 1) the video supposedly sends mixed messages to kids about being wary of strangers (how can you be wary of them if they're part of the family), and "open the door to discussion about sexual orientation." It was then voted down again by a separate school board committee this month, killing its chances of coming up before the full board. I actually contacted the Broward School Board back in March when word of the video broke, to find out if it would be used in my childrens' school (to prepare myself for the controversy if it hit close to home). At that time, the school system was undecided, but the woman from the Board was very eager to talk to me and called me back three times... maybe she was fishing for parental feedback, but I had my poker phone voice on...

I'll be interested to see what impact the video has, if any, in the districts where it is used, i.e., Miami-Dade vs. Broward (it is being shown in one Broward school district, Wilton Manors, which is home to a large gay population). My guess is the kids who see it will pretty much forget about the video within 24 hours but annoy their parents with the theme song for the better part of the year.
posted by JReid @ 5:07 PM  
Coming soon...
"Over There" on F/X. Can't wait!
posted by JReid @ 2:19 PM  
Michigan GOP quietly sidelining McCain?
A move by the Michigan Republican Party to bar Democrats and Independents from that state's primary is being read by some tea leaf readers as a subtle move to knee-cap would-be GOP nominee John McCain. The thinking goes, McCain needs indies and disaffected Dems to win the primary, because he lacks the strength with hard-core, coservative Republicans. McCain is, at this point, the GOP favorite to win the nomination, the strongest challenger to Hillary Clinton should she win the Democratic nomination, he still gets a regular massage from the mainstream media, and polls very well with the vaunted "independents," but he has serious base problems. And serious GOP insider problems. Removing independents and Dems from his Michigan plate could actually hurt him.
posted by JReid @ 12:30 PM  
People are talking about...
Update 4 (3:47 p.m.): Hey Dubya, I'm not sure, but I think this gay Black guy just called you a pansy...

Update 2 (3:24 p.m.): Jsmooth995 at HipHopMusic is pissed that the only Black wizard in "Harry Potter" -- dubiously named Kingsley Shacklebolt ("Shacklebolt?" You mean like a compound word formed from "shackle" and "bolt," Shacklebolt? Oh hell no, I've got serious problems with that...) has been demoted to a secretary in the latest Rowling book.

... Meanwhile, jilted baby's mama Shar Jackson (mercifully unshackled from moocher Kevin Federline by man-stealer Britney Spears) is pissed that Star magazine baited her into what she thought was an interview plugging her carreer, but which actually ended up humiliating her. Um ... she trusted the tabloid to do a puff piece on her? I'm starting to see why she and Federline once made a good couple... (BTW Shar's now coupling with Quentin Tarantino ... no, seriously, there are pictures...)

Update (1:30 p.m.): Mo Rocca speculates on what would happen if Judy Miller encountered Lil' Kim in the slammer ...

Original Post: The Time story has landed. Here's the link (there are also a half dozen related stories including Cooper's "my story") and here's Howard Kurtz' rundown of the press reax. E&P wonders why Robert Novak still has a job at CNN... they've also got this interesting piece from over the weekend, saying Judith Miller could face an extended stay in jail if the charges against her are upped to "criminal contempt..." Oh, and Jude Law cheated on his girl. That made the front page of the London Daily Mail...
posted by JReid @ 11:35 AM  
Don't you sue me, Tom Cruise...! (part 3)
Tucked into an otherwise ordinary pop column about the apparent new hard-to-spell-their-names "it" couple Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson is this interesting paragraph relating to one of Hartnett's exes:
Johansson, of course, was reportedly recently booted from the Mission Impossible 3 film by Cruise because she wouldn't convert to Scientology. Katie Holmes is now considered a shoo-in for the role.

Well of course she was booted. Was joining the starship team too much to ask in exchange for a plum movie role...? My goodness, that fella really is insane...

Previous reasons for Cruise not to sue me:
posted by JReid @ 11:27 AM  
Big, fat factual errors on Plamegate
You've got to love the consistency of the Bush cult. They're still out there slogging away in the desperate belief that their beloved White House did nothing wrong as regards Valerie Plame. Here are Fat Steve's spin points from Friday, along with the inconvenient facts that go with them:

FAT STEVE: "The background of the story appears to be a dispute concerning whether Saddam should have been removed from power, with the CIA, and the State Dept. in the 'keep Saddam' camp."
Wrong. Elements within the State Department and individual analysts within the CIA and other agencies may have doubted the case being made for Iraq as a wmd/nuclear threat, but all of the evidence suggests that the CIA was a prime mover of neocon-friendly Iraq data. Recall that it was CIA director George Tenet who vigorously backed Bush's claims on Iraq, calling the wmd case a "slam dunk" in meetings with the president. As for the State Department, it may have been in the midst of a mini-war with the Pentagon over who would administer post-war Iraq, but it faithfully carried out administration policy on Iraq throughout the prewar period, whether by authoring the Future of Iraq Project -- a muti-year plan for post-Saddam Iraq begun in 2002, but that wound up being shelved by the Pentagon just months before the invasion, or making the case itself, through the then Secretary of State, Collin Powell, before the United Nations. So much for the "keep Saddam camp."

FAT STEVE: "Around the beginning of 2002, Vice-President Cheney heard that Iraq was trying to acquire Uranium, and asked the CIA what they knew about it. The CIA wasn't sure about this, and told Cheney so. Cheney dropped the matter, but on its own initiative, the CIA decided to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to check into things."
Wrong again. Cheney did more than "hear that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium" and casually query the CIA. The vice president affirmatively made the accustion that Iraq not only had acquired uranium, but that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted, first nuclear weapons themselves, and then his nuclear weapons program, which Cheney strongly suggested posed a clear and present danger to the United States. And it appears that Cheney was bolstered in his assertions from the supposedly dovish CIA. A 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report largely blamed the CIA for peddling bad intelligence on Iraq, stating that "Despite questions being raised by other U.S. intelligence agencies, the CIA insisted that Iraq was trying to import uranium ore from Niger and had tried to buy aluminum tubes to use in making a nuclear weapon" and that "the CIA repeatedly took interesting but ambiguous intelligence reports and punched them up into unqualified warnings about Iraq's alleged arsenal." [USA Today 7/11/2004]

Why was the CIA pressing the case so hard? It could be because of a high-pressure give and take with Cheney's office. Both the vice president and his deputy, Scooter Libby, practically haunted the CIA in the period just before the war, looking for more evidence of Iraq's nuclear and biochemical threat -- in repeat visits that career intelligence officials called unprecedented. Could it be that Cheney was looking for more evidence to back up statements like this:

March 16, 2003: "just three days before the war, [Cheney] zoomed far beyond the
evidence in telling NBC’s Meet the Press , “We believe he [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Asked about ElBaradei’s report just nine days before that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program, Cheney said, “I disagree...I think Mr. ElBaradei is frankly wrong.” []
So it seems that Cheney and the CIA were partners in pushing the Iraq case, not adversaries.

FAT STEVE: "In February, 2002, Wilson went to Africa, and reported that a Niger official thought Iraq had tried to acquire uranium. Wilson also reported his judgment that Iraq failed to get the uranium. His reasons weren't very persuasive, in my arrogant opinion."
Wrong again. Arit Fleischer and CIA director George Tenet tried to discredit Wilson by telling their friends in the press, including at WaPo, that Wilson's report had strengthened Bush's claims. But their claim that a former Nigerian official had interpreted overtures by Saddam's government to "expand commercial operations" in 1999 as an attempt to purchase uranium conflict with what Wilson actually reported, which was that "the official in question was contacted by an Algerian-Nigerien intermediary who inquired if the official would meet with an Iraqi about "commercial" sales — an offer he declined." [Time, 7/17, 2003]. Very different from an attempt to buy enriched uranium, however Fleishcer and Tenet chose to spin it.

FAT STEVE: "Wilson, a Lefty Democrat, and a former Foreign Service officer married to CIA employee Valerie Plame, was very much against removing Saddam from power, from the Gulf War till 2003. Wilson and Plame seem to have been convinced the 'Iraq tried to buy Niger Uranium' reports were wrong before he visited Niger."
Irrelevant. Wilson's opinions about American domestic politics are as irrelevent as his opinion about whether or not Iraq had tried to buy Niger's yellowcake. (Richard Clarke, another administration whistleblower the White House Rove squad tried to destroy, is a Republican.) Wilson wasn't off on a mission of his own in Niger, he was going there at the behest of the CIA, which we've already established was predisposed to believe the Iraq-yellowcake claim. His job was to assess, confirm, or dispel it.

FAT STEVE: "By September 2002, the British government was convinced that Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, though we do not know whether he has been successful. On October 1st, 2002, a National Intelligence Estimate was issued saying that Saddam had sought African Uranium. This represented the CIA's official position at the time."

Yes and no. A September 2002 British report on Iraq's wmd programs did float the Niger claim, accompanied by the equally bogus claim that Iraq was attempting to procure high strength aluminum tubes that then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said could "only be used to build nuclear centrifuges." But by October, cooler heads within the CIA were raising doubts about the Niger story, and by July 22, 2002 some analysts had warned Rice that the info might not be accurate (though the CIA officially continued to stand by the estimate). Also, the October NIE included dissents by the State Department's intelligence people, all of which were there for the gandering, should Rice, Cheney, Tenet and the other war-promoters cared to look.

FAT STEVE: "In January 2003, Bush's State of the Union message said "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." When we invaded Iraq and didn't find the WMDs that Wilson believed Saddam had, he started talking to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, and someone at The Washington Post. Wilson told them the pre-war intelligence had been distorted."
Wrong. The administration acknowledged on July 7, 2003 (the day after Wilson's op-ed ran) that Mr. Bush should never have made the African unranium claim in his January SOTU speech (it had been deleted from Bush's infamous "smoking gun, mushroom cloud" speech in Cincinnati in October 2002 and Collin Powell considered the claims so dubious, he refused to present them before the U.N.), particularly after the British government backed away from the claim after a parliamentary panel, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee , "said it was unclear why the British government asserted as a 'bald claim' that there was intelligence that Iraq had sought to buy significant amounts of uranium in Africa. It noted that the CIA had already debunked this intelligence, and questioned why an official British government intelligence dossier published four months before Bush's speech included the allegation as part of an effort to make the case for going to war against Iraq." (And by "someone" at WaPo, I think you mean Walter Pincus...")

FAT STEVE: "On July 6, 2003, Wilson published his infamously dishonest Times op-ed. The MSM proved it can't read, by failing to notice Wilson's artful sliding from 'Iraq didn't buy Niger uranium' to 'Iraq didn't attempt to buy Niger uranium.' "
Huh? There was nothing artful about it. Iraq didn't buy Niger uranium, as every credible intelligence assessment now acknowledges. Wilson's report stated that the former Niger official interpreted 1999 overtures by Iraq as an attempt to score uranium -- the key words there being "interpret" and "attempt." But even any thought of an attempt to purchase uranium has since been debunked, including by the aforementioned British parliamentary report of July 3, 2003 (three days before Wilson's op-ed). Four months before that, in March, an IAEA report concluded that the Niger uranium story was based on forged documents -- crudely forged, at that. An FBI investigation in 2003 probed whether the forgeries came from the Pentagon pets in the Iraqi National Congress, particularly since the documents were thought to have been key to fooling the CIA into strongly believing in the Iraqi nuclear program claims.

By the time Joe Wilson published his op-ed, on July 6th, he had good reason to wonder why Cheney had continued to make the nuclear claim even after the forgeries had come to light (the forgeries were announced March 7, Collin Powell acknowledged the fakery on March 8, Cheney had his MTP moment March 16, "shock and awe" commenced March 19), and to believe that the administration should have known that its wmd claims were dubious. Interestingly enough, days after Wilson's op-ed ran, a CIA source pushed the story of Wilson's March debunking of the Niger story to the BBC, perhaps in an attempt to shift blame for the wmd blunder away from the agency ...

FAT STEVE: "After Wilson's op-ed, reporters called Rove and Libby, asking about Wilson. Apparently, the reporters told Rove and Libby that Plame was CIA. Most reporters didn't write anything about this, but Robert Novak revealed that Wilson's wife was CIA."
Wrong yet again.Let's recall the timeline once again. The forgeries emerge March 7, are acknowledged by Powell March 8. Wilson goes on CNN that same day to say the administration was sitting on infomation that should have alerted them to thebogus nuclear intel. Condi Rice and other officials spend the next two months trying to explain the administration's position. The British explode their own prior Iraq claims on July 3, Wilson's op-ed runs July 6, the White House retracts Bush's SOTU remarks on July 7. It was that same day that the "war on Wilson," as Time's Matt Cooper later wrote (in the article he almost went to jail over), begins. There's even some speculation that Wilson may have been tipped off, possibly by a reporter, that the WH would be "coming after him" after his op-ed ran...

On July 11, Cooper writes an email saying he had spoken on "double super secret background" with Rove (he also apparently talked to Scooter Libby) about Plame. Yes, Cooper called Rove, but not "about Wilson" as you say. We now know from Cooper himself that in that conversation, Cooper first learned that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative from Karl Rove, not the other way around. Rove brought it up during a conversation about Bush's SOTU speech and how it was vetted. That same day, Tenet issues a statement falling on his sword over the "16 words" in Bush's SOTU and clarifying the fact that the CIA sent Wilson to Niger. Novak's column outing Valerie Plame dropped on July 14. Clearly, someone was circulating this information before Novak's column ran, and before Miller talked to Rove. Novak is the one who called Rove (and someone else) to confirm it.

FAT STEVE: "The MSM then lied in their teeth, claiming that the White House had called reporters seeking to out Plame. These stories have now collapsed."
You wish. The whole genesis of this story, and the grand jury investigation, is the fact that one or more White House officials (not Pentagon, not CIA, not anybody else...) contacted at least six reporters, including Cooper, Judy Miller, Novak, and NBC's Tim Russert, pushing the Plame info. Novak was simply the only one who used it. We also learned on Sunday that also on July 7 (seven days before Novak's column ran), a state department memo to Collin Powell, discussing "Wilson's wife", was circulated on Air Force One (it along with the plane's phone records, were subpoenaed last March). That sounds like a group of people in the White House were looking for "pushback" against Joe Wilson, dos it not? Naming his wife as the one who caused him to go to Niger was that pushback.

Yes, there is a question of whether one of the original sources of the Plame info was a journalist (maybe even Judy Miller), and apparently, neither Rove nor Libby used Valerie Plame Wilson's name, at least with Matt Cooper, but that doesn't take away from the legal jeopardy in this case. The statute doesn't require Plame's name to be used. Divulging secret info could be a crime unto itself, not to mention possibly lying to investiators or puerjury, both of which are still hanging out there... If these facts have collapsed, why hasn't the grand jury collapsed with them? And BTW don't you mean "through their teeth...?"
FAT STEVE: "The information Wilson gave for the two Kristof stories and the Post stories was at best wrong, at worst a lie. "
Wrong. Kristoff and Pincus' stories were based on the facts as most of the reality based community now knows them, along with Wilson's reporting to the CIA; findings which were almost universally upheld by the Senate panel that investigated them. What the committee concluded was that Wilson's findings did not change minds on either side of the Iraq nuclear issue. Also, Wilson never claimed that Cheney's office sent him to Niger. He always state that he was sent at the behest of the CIA. The worst that critics can say about Wilson is that he minimized his wife's role in recommending him for the job. However, Bush defenders are equally incorrect in stating that Plame "sent Wilson" to Niger. She certainly lacked that kind of authority.
FAT STEVE: "Wilson's report strengthened the case that Iraq sought uranium. "
Nope. Wilson's report didn't move experts either way. The "case-strengthening" argument you're putting forward is pure White House/George Tenet spin, was made solely by George "slam dunk" Tenet and Ari Fleischer. The Senate intelligence panel investiation largely upheld Wilson's claims that Iraq sought no such thing. However, a correction to the WaPo article referenced above and so prized by the Bush-cult ran with the following slightly embarrassing correction the next day: "In some editions of the Post, a July 10 story on a new Senate report on intelligence failures said that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV told his contacts at the CIA that Iraq had tried to buy 400 tons of uranium from the African nation of Niger in 1998. In fact, it was Iran that was interested in making that purchase, but no contract was signed, according to the report." Iraq, Iran, potatoe "potahto"...

FAT STEVE: "Inquiries in Britain and the U.S. say the intelligence was well-founded, and the CIA still won't say Iraq didn't try to buy uranium. "
Wrong. Tony Blair may have continued to stand by the Iraq wmd/nuke claims, even after the forgeries came to light (in March 2003) and a key document used to sell the war in Britain (the memorable "dodgy dossier") was found to (in February 2003) to have been cribbed from a graduate student's years-old paper, but Blair's determination to stand by the Iraq project wasn't shared by British intelligence or by members of his own cabinet. By April 29, 2003, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was dropping the bomb that Iraq's wmd would never be found. In May, the bio-trailers story fell apart, too. By September, the U.N. issued a report saying Iraq's wmd program was "in disarray" and that Saddam had lacked the capability to pursue a nuclear weapons program since the 1991 war. Also in September, 2003, Voice of America reported that “a senior official in Iraq's new science ministry says the country never revived its nuclear program after inspectors dismantled it in the 1990's. ... The scientist, now a member of the U.S.-backed administration in Iraq, 'says Iraqi scientists had no way to re-start the program because the inspectors took away all the necessary resources.'" Even the White House's own investigation found the nuke claim to be without merit.

FAT STEVE: The Administration did not distort intelligence, or pressure the CIA.
Okay, now you're doing comedy. Here's just one example: In an August 2003 story in WaPo, intelligence source cite "a pattern in which President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their subordinates -- in public and behind the scenes -- made allegations depicting Iraq's nuclear weapons program as more active, more certain and more imminent in its threat than the data they had would support. On occasion administration advocates withheld evidence that did not conform to their views. The White House seldom corrected misstatements or acknowledged loss of confidence in information upon which it had previously relied... "

• Bush and others often alleged that President Hussein held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, but did not disclose that the known work of the scientists was largely benign. Iraq's three top gas centrifuge experts, for example, ran a copper factory, an operation to extract graphite from oil and a mechanical engineering design center at Rashidiya.

• The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of October 2002 cited new construction at facilities once associated with Iraq's nuclear program, but analysts had no reliable information at the time about what was happening under the roofs. By February, a month before the war, U.S. government specialists on the ground in Iraq had seen for themselves that there were no forbidden activities at the sites.

• Gas centrifuge experts consulted by the U.S. government said repeatedly for more than a year that the aluminum tubes were not suitable or intended for uranium enrichment. By December 2002, the experts said new evidence had further undermined the government's assertion. The Bush administration portrayed the scientists as a minority and emphasized that the experts did not describe the centrifuge theory as impossible.

• The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it.

Two senior policymakers, who supported the war, said in unauthorized interviews that the administration greatly overstated Iraq's near-term nuclear potential. [Washington Post, August 2003]

As for Cheney pressuring hte CIA, it's treated earlier in the post, as well as here.
FAT STEVE: "The MSM continues, its spin and bias, trying to claim Rove or someone, was attacking Plame, but all the available evidence is precisely the opposite."
Yaaaaawn... sorry, got a bit bored with all the spin and bias stuff... By opposite, do you mean that the White House was trying to help and support Ms. Plame by blowing her cover? Of course Ms. Plame was not the target of the administration: Joe Wilson was, and this case was all about the administration's intense desire to discredit him. And another thing, if this case is so inocuous, why have so many administration officials, including Mr. Rove, felt the need to lie about their involvement?

FAT STEVE: "And despite claims that Plame was a covert officer, the evidence is that people all over Washington knew that Plame was working for the CIA. Meanwhile, the MSM keeps recycling their mistakes, and making new mistakes. "
Wrong. Peoeple inside the Beltway knew Plame worked for the CIA because she had long since moved to headquarters at Langley. But during the bulk of her career, she was thought to be a private consultant when she was in fact a clandestine officer -- working secretly for a CIA front company (and very much on her own if caught by an enemy). She was sufficiently valuable to the agency that it was the CIA which demanded an investgation into the leak. Blowing her cover might not have endangered her at this point, but it did blow the front company the CIA had carefully worked over decades to construct, jeopardizing all of her contacts and an important CIA operation in the process. How the Bush cultists can defend that, I'll never know.
posted by JReid @ 10:21 AM  
Sunday, July 17, 2005
What would you pay?
..Peep the war cost so far: $314 billion and counting -- nearing the cost of World War II, and a far cry from the Wolfowitzian estimate of $30 to $60 billion, to be paid for mostly out of Iraq's own oil revenue ... now ask yourself honestly, with a London bombing death toll every two days or so, more than 1,760 American GI's dead and tens of thousands injured, and Iraq less stable than ever, has it been worth the cost, just to see Saddam Hussein go to the docket? I would have like to see Mobutu Sese Seko go on trial too, but I wouldn't have asked a single U.S. soldier to die getting him there ...
posted by JReid @ 1:40 PM  
Leak, leak, leak, drip, drip, drip...
Cribbed from FireHimNow today for time and efficiency...:

A State Department memo that circulated on Air Force One shortly before Robert Novak wrote his infamous column naming Valerie Plame is the subject of the latest scrutiny over the Plame affair. According to the LA Times, prosecutors are looking into who on Bush's plane might have seen the memo, and how the information got to reporters.

Recall that last year, the phone records from AFO were subpoenaed by the special prosecutor, perhaps to try and figure out if the information was leaked to reporters from there. From NY Newday in March, 2004:

WASHINGTON -- The federal grand jury probing the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday. Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President George W. Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And of course, there was the confirmation today that Cheney's chief deputy, Scooter Libby, was Matthew Cooper's second source for his Time magazine story.

More on the memo:
WASHINGTON — Prosecutors investigating whether Bush administration officials disclosed the name of an undercover CIA operative to news reporters have focused on a 2003 State Department memo that investigators believe might help point to the source of the leak, according to those directly familiar with the proceedings.The memo detailed how a former diplomat was chosen to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from the African nation of Niger, and it included a description of the role that the CIA operative, who was the diplomat's wife, played in suggesting his name for the assignment.

... The memo was sent by State Department officials to then- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who according to news reports has testified before the grand jury. Powell had the memo with him on Air Force One when President Bush traveled to Africa on July 7, 2003, the day after Wilson's piece was published, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

What happened on Air Force One has been of interest to prosecutors, who want to know whether anyone who saw the memo learned Plame's identity and told it to journalists.Telephone logs from the presidential aircraft have been subpoenaed. Among those on the flight was then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who has testified before the grand jury.Fleischer declined to comment for this article, referring all questions to prosecutors. But in a Sept. 29, 2003, e-mail to The Times, Fleischer denied he was the source of the leak. "I have no idea who told Novak, but it was not me," he wrote. [LA Times]

According to the NYT, which originally broke the story, Witnesses in the case have been questioned about the memo, presumably including Libby and Rove, and could provide another source of corroboration for perjury charges if either of them lied to investigators.

So once again, we're back to focusing on the members of the White House Iraq Group (the WHIG): Andrew Card, Rove, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, communications guy James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; Condi Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, and Cheney deputy "Scooter" Libby, two of whom (Libby and Rove) are now confirmed as sources for Matt Cooper.

The fact that the memo was sent to Powell from within the state department renews my interest in the John Bolton theory of leak evolution, but so far, there's no hard evidence of that, and it certainly renews interest in Mr. Hadley.

But again, the key question here is did any of these people lie to investigators, and does the special prosecutor have something else, some other track he's investigating, besides possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (which most legal analysts say probably doesn't apply...)

The case stays interesting...

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posted by JReid @ 1:26 PM  
Cat in a tin foil hat, part troix
I turned away from the Lionel Show for just a moment at the end on Saturday, and caught part of the Laura Flanders show. Her guest host had on Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, and he threw out this interesting bit of tin foil relating to jailed Dame Judy Miller. Use it wisely, and only under the supervision of a medical professional.

In October, 1977, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote a piece for Rolling Stone in which he described the CIA's collusion with more than 400 American journalists over the course of decades, with the most fruitful relationship being between the agency and the New York Times. Ellsberg found it curious that Miller, who covers the WMD and intel beats for the times, and who therefore has a tight sourcing relationship with agencies like the NSC, the Pentagon and the like, has been so willing to go to jail to protect her ... er ... sources. (Caveat, the leak investigation came from a CIA request/demand, so it's unlikely that she would be so handled). But it is interesting that Miller is now being parried about as not just a mere witness in the Plame Affair, but a possible participant... Here's the Bernstein article, just for fun.

More fun with journo spies from the ultimate mad Hatters at Unknown News...

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 1:15 PM  
Sunday best
From the SF Chronicle, could George W. Bush wind up being James K. Polk?

In the WaPo today, a poigniant article on why so many Black men are falling away from the church:

What happened? Probably the same thing that has happened to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of African American men who now file into coffee shops or bowling alleys or baseball stadiums on Sundays instead of heading to church, or who lose themselves in the haze of mowing the lawn or waxing their cars. Somewhere along the way, for us, for me, the church -- the collective of black churches of the Christian faith, regardless of denomination -- lost its meaning, its relevance. It seems to have no discernible message for what ails the 21st-century black male soul.

While there are still many black men who do go to church, any pastor will admit that there are far more who don't. Jawanza Kunjufu, a Chicago educator and author of "Adam! Where are You?: Why Most Black Men Don't Go to Church," contends that 75 percent of the black church is female. The church's finger seems farthest from the pulse of those black men who seem to be most lost and drifting in a destructive sea of fatalism and pathology, with no immediate sign of the shore or of search and rescue crews. Without the church, most of those men are doomed. But it seems clear to me that the church does not -- will not -- seek us black men out, or perhaps even mourn our disappearance from the pews.

Instead, it seems to have turned inward. It seems to exist for the perpetuation of itself -- for the erecting of grandiose temples of brick and mortar and for the care of pastors and the salaried administrative staff. Not long ago, a preacher friend confided: "The black church is in a struggle for its collective soul -- to find itself in an age when it is consumed by the God of materialism."

This preoccupation with the material world is pervasive, and has bred a culture that has left a trail of blood and tears in black neighborhoods across the country with little collective outcry from the church. Still, it's one thing for the world to be ensnared by the trappings of materialism -- but the church?

I am incensed by Mercedes-buying preachers who live in suburban meadows far from the inner-city ghettos they pastor, where they bid parishioners to sacrifice in the name of God. I am angered by the preacher I know, and his wife and co-pastor, who exacted a per diem and drove luxury vehicles, theirmodest salariesboosted by tithes and offerings from poor folks in a struggling congregation of families, a number of them headed by single women. This at a time when the church didn't own a single chair and was renting a building to hold worship services.

And no Sunday would be complete without Frank Rich. This week, it's "Follow the Uranium."

WELL, of course, Karl Rove did it. He may not have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, with its high threshold of criminality for outing a covert agent, but there's no doubt he trashed Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. We know this not only because of Matt Cooper's e-mail, but also because of Mr. Rove's own history. Trashing is in his nature, and bad things happen, usually through under-the-radar whispers, to decent people (and their wives) who get in his way. In the 2000 South Carolina primary, John McCain's wife, Cindy, was rumored to be a drug addict (and Senator McCain was rumored to be mentally unstable). In the 1994 Texas governor's race, Ann Richards found herself rumored to be a lesbian. The implication that Mr. Wilson was a John Kerry-ish girlie man beholden to his wife for his meal ticket is of a thematic piece with previous mud splattered on Rove political adversaries. The difference is that this time Mr. Rove got caught.

Even so, we shouldn't get hung up on him - or on most of the other supposed leading figures in this scandal thus far. Not Matt Cooper or Judy Miller or the Wilsons or the bad guy everyone loves to hate, the former CNN star Robert Novak. This scandal is not about them in the end, any more than Watergate was about Dwight Chapin and Donald Segretti or Woodward and Bernstein. It is about the president of the United States. It is about a plot that was hatched at the top of the administration and in which everyone else, Mr. Rove included, are at most secondary players.

Damn I'm going to miss that guy when the Times starts charging for his column...
posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
Saturday, July 16, 2005
What's the gayest thing on Capitol Hill...?
Hands down, that's got to be Rick Santorum. Between his theories about Boston's liberal culture and the sexcapades of deviant Catholic priests and the communications director who talks about him with the kind of fondness you'd expect from the cookie baking half of an old married couple, we're talking serious R. Kelly (trapped in the closet) issues here... For Pete's sake, man, just run off to Vermont with Ken Mehlman and get it over with. You're driving us all insane...!

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posted by JReid @ 12:22 AM  
Friday, July 15, 2005
There's something about Judy
Forget the right-wing spin that the Plame case is unimportant. It is. In addition to the questions it raises about the White House's credibility and honesty, the possibility that it used classified -- or at least sensitive -- information for crass political payback, and the broader implications about the lengths the Bush administration was willing to go to sell Americans on the idea that Iraq posed a clear and present danger to the U.S. (when it didn't), there are the huge questions the Plame affair raises about the press. No, not the ones about whether or not reporters should be able to protect confidential sources. They should, particularly when those sources are government whistleblowers. I'm talking about questions of the Armstrong Williams variety -- namely, whether any of the reporters in this case essentially placed themselves in the service the Bush administration in its attempts to discredit Joe Wilson (wittingly or not.)

As ominous as that sounds, that seems to be the next big question in the Plame case, particularly as it relates to one of the six reporters to whom two somebodies, one being Karl Rove, peddled information about Ms. Plame's supposedly having "sent" her husband to Niger. Time's Matthew Cooper appears to be just another one of the six leak recipients -- and one who was actively writing a story (which is why his notes were demanded and time turned them over).

But Judith Miller is different. She wasn't writing a story (as former arms control official William E. Jackson, Jr. wrote in Editor and Publisher this week), or else the NYT would have been pressured to give up her notes too. But there were no notes. So what, exactly, was Ms. Miller up to? The questions go beyond the right-wing spin whose real aim is to exonerate Rove. It goes right to the left-wing spin, actually, because that's the camp that never trusted Judy Miller from jump street, having long since written her off as a peddler of Ahmed Chalabi and the administration's neocon nonsense on Iraq. Here's the crux of the E&P article dated July 12:

A novel theme emerging in some press coverage of the Plame case raises the possibility of unnamed journalists being participants in a potential crime, and not just witnesses. Carol Leonnig of The Washington Post wrote on July 6: "Sources close to the investigation say there is evidence in some instances that some reporters may have told government officials -- not the other way around --that Wilson was married to Plame, a CIA employee." Richard Schmitt wrote in the Los Angeles Times of July 9: "It appears clear that one possibility pursued by Fitzgerald is whether a journalist started a chain of conversations about Plame between reporters and White House officials."

This idea was first raised by me in an E&P column of April 7, based on conversations with legal sources, in which I suggested, among other scenarios, that Miller basically was a "carrier," around Washington, of the rumor about Plame's real identity, but not a reporter actively covering a story. She was "both a source for, and a witness to, disclosure by sources of Plame's identity."

She may have just been helping to spin the neo-conservatives' gossip. Her "source" is incidental, as she wrote nothing. No evidence has been presented that she even contemplated writing a story. .... But talking to someone at a high level somehow got her on Fitzgerald's list. She may have both received the information on Plame from a high official, who was trying to smear Wilson, and spread it as a "carrier" to another one. Or maybe she already knew what Plame's job was, as her government beat was WMD.

If this scenario is close to the reality of what happened, her "cover" is likely to be blown if and when the special prosecutor releases the information from those crucial redacted eight pages of court documents that persuaded one judge after another to hold her in contempt in the first place. What's in those pages is obviously key to the whole Miller case.

As the theory goes, Miller shared Plame's name with Novak, Novak called his old friend Rove (recall that according to the Bob Woodward's book "Bush's Brain," and the subsequent documentary, Rove was fired from the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 for leaking smear info to Novak) and a second source to confirm the information. They confirmed it, and then when the case hit the fan, Novak squealed on Miller (Radaronline), who really shouldn't mind since she has ratted out sources before, despite her claim to Joan of Arc status now. I wonder if Bob Woodward would be willing to serve the rest of Judy's jail term if that turned out to be true ...

The case makes sense enough that some on the right buy it too, to the extent that the "other journalist" in the Novak-Rove story is Miller (Ballonjuice for one). Of course, that still leaves open the question of who Novak's second source was -- it wasn't a journalist, but another "high level administration official." It doesn't remove the possible legal jeopardy for Rove, either for disclosing secret information or for lying to investigators. And it doesn't make the spin from today's leaky unnamed lawyer -- that Rove never even heard of such a person as Valerie Plame until Bob Novak, his old friend, told him about her, sound anymore reality-based.

And it doesn't in any way close the case for Rove affirmatively going after the Wilsons, not just casually discussing information in order to chase a reporter off a bad story. Reracking this story from to the American Prospect (c.a. March 8, 2004):

President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.
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posted by JReid @ 4:00 PM  
Cat in a tin foil hat, part deux
Updated again: The latest GOP tack in the Plamegate debacle: go on the offensive. And the target of their latest fusilade is the media itself.

The wires and major dailies provide the grist, quoting yet another unnamed source, (a lawyer who Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left so far doubts is Rove's attorney Robert Luskin --btw a must-read post for today) -- who has so far taken the time to peddle his or her story to the NY Times, The Washington Post and the AP. The source (who it's hard not to believe isn't an administration flak) says (in the course of divulging secret testimony) that Karl Rove testified to the Fitzgerald grand jury that he leared of Valerie Plame's name, not from some nefarious source, but from a journalist (whom AP says was Robert Novak but whom E&P speculates might be our old Chalabi friend, NYT's Judith Miller...) Do tell.

So now, the right wing message machine has a new line to peddle to the Freepers: this is a non-story. Rove had nothing to do with leaking Plame's identity ... no, that was two years ago ... Valerie Plame is a nobody ... oh, no wait, that would make it tough for her to have signed off on Wilson's trip (which according to the Senate panel, she didn't, although she did recommend him for it) ... Rove only mentioned Plame didn't mention Ms. Plame by name ... oh, no, that was last week ... ah, yes, he didn't even know who Plame was until a reporter told him.


  • Funny that Rove has so little knowledge of the existence of his fellow Virginia area Episcopal churchmates, Wilson and Plame, if not from personal experience, at least from the same media he's now blaming for the leak. Has he never heard of "Bush's Brain?" ...

  • Funny that Rove was just passing on widely known, unimportant flotsam to Matt Cooper, but felt the need to do so on "double super secret background" ...

  • Funny that Rove's so-casual leak was peddled not from Novak to Rove and then innocently to Cooper, but to a total of six journalists. According to Harper's in September, 2003, "An unnamed administration official told the Washington Post that two White House officials had revealed the agent's identity to at least six journalists. 'Clearly,' the official said, 'it was meant purely and simply for revenge.'" ...

  • Funny that if the story is so inocuous, Rove, Scott MClellan and others felt compelled to lie ... er. ... stonewall the press about it...

  • Funny that if this is such a non-story, a special prosecutor has convened a grand jury and jailed a reporter in the course of investigating it ...

  • And there's still the question of whether Mr. Rove, like Martha Stewart before him, failed to tell the truth to federal investigators ...
Yeah, your'e right, wingers, this is no story at all.

Back in the real world, let's turn to an actual expert on matters of law, lying and the White House: John Dean, who writes the following in FindLaw today:

There is no solid information that Rove, or anyone else, violated [the] law designed to protect covert CIA agents. There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated. In particular, I have in mind the laws invoked by the Bush Justice Department in the relatively minor leak case that it vigorously prosecuted, though it involved information that was not nearly as sensitive as that which Rove provided Matt Cooper (and possibly others).

The Jonathan Randel Leak Prosecution Precedent

I am referring to the prosecution and conviction of Jonathan Randel. Randel was a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst, a PhD in history, working in the Atlanta office of the DEA. Randel was convinced that British Lord Michael Ashcroft (a major contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, as well as American conservative causes) was being ignored by DEA, and its investigation of money laundering. (Lord Ashcroft is based in South Florida and the off-shore tax haven of Belize.) Randel leaked the fact that Lord Ashcroft's name was in the DEA files, and this fact soon surfaced in the London news media. Ashcroft sued, and learned the source of the information was Randel. Using his clout, soon Ashcroft had the U.S. Attorney in pursuit of Randel for his leak.

By late February 2002, the Department of Justice indicted Randel for his leaking of Lord Ashcroft's name. It was an eighteen count "kitchen sink" indictment; they threw everything they could think of at Randel. Most relevant for Karl Rove's situation, Court One of Randel's indictment alleged a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions.

Randel, faced with a life sentence (actually, 500 years) if convicted on all counts, on the advice of his attorney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 641. On January 9, 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation. This sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney to boast that the conviction of Randel made a good example of how the Bush Administration would handle leakers.

The Randel Precedent -- If Followed -- Bodes Ill For Rove. Karl Rove may be able
to claim that he did not know he was leaking "classified information" about a "covert agent," but there can be no question he understood that what he was leaking was "sensitive information." The very fact that Matt Cooper called it "double super secret background" information suggests Rove knew of its sensitivity, if he did not know it was classified information (which by definition is sensitive).

Lying to investigators, leaking sensitive information, whatever works for Fitzgerald. I can't wait to see what parts of Sandy Berger the right will try to throw at their hapless talk radio listeners if Rove is ultimately indicted...

Recent posts on this topic:

posted by JReid @ 3:32 PM  
Shown up

"If there's any single thing that I hold against George Bush more than any other, it's the way that, with almost animal instinct, he decided within days of 9/11 to use it as nothing more than a routine opportunity to destroy his domestic enemies, rather than as a unique and fleeting chance to unite the country and destroy our foreign enemies. That tawdry instinct came from Karl Rove and people like him, and it's that instinct that is destroying the modern Republican party. Someday the few remaining grownup conservatives will figure that out." --Kevin Drum
I have to admit, I love the British. Their droll sense of purpose, odd sense of humor and stiff upper lip (they really do have that) in the face of tragedy is commendable. To be sure, England has its problems -- and sometimes, Tony Blair is one of them (apparent permissiveness toward Islamic extremism has been another). But the British government's response to the London bombings has been nothing short of spectacular.

The Blair administration and Scotland Yard, particularly the other Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian, have been careful, measured, and methodical, worked in sync with the intelligence units of other countries, including the American FBI, and made incredible progress toward solving the London bombings case -- as they have correctly characterized as criminal terrorism, not a "war." In particular, the non-brothers Blair have absolutely shown up the Bush admnistration by confronting the British Muslim community, not with large-scale, scattershot arrests of any available Muslim men, new interrogation rules that disquiet the military itself, or with platitudes about Islam, but with tough laws that target terror-related activities directly (rather than library reading) and perhaps most importantly, with a direct appeal for specific action:

"It is not the police, it is not the intelligence services who will defeat terrorism, it is communities who will defeat terrorism," Metropolitan Police Commission Ian Blair told a gathering at the Minhaj-ul-Quran Mosque. "We must seize this moment, this weekend, next week, we have to seize a moment in which the Muslim communities of Britain, helped by everybody of good will, changes from a current position of shock and disbelief into active engagement in counterterroism."

Blair told Muslims that "I need you."

"We've got nearly a million Muslims in London ... I've only got 300 Muslim police
officers in London. I'm afraid that's not good enough. "I need your mothers and your fathers, your brothers and your sisters, your sons and your daughters."

Blair urged the Muslim community to change its attitude toward radical clerics such as Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is in prison awaiting trial for allegedly encouraging the murder of Jews and other non-Muslims, and Syrian-born Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, spiritual leader of the radical Muslim movement Al-Muhajiroun. "You're going to have move away from the very understandable position that lunatics like Bakri and Hamza are just lunatics and they're not important," Blair said.

"The trouble is, they only need to be important for half a dozen people. You have to find ways of identifying those preachers of hate and who they're talking to. We have to find ways in which we identify the young men and sometimes women who are vulnerable to extremism. That is a great challenge."

Blair said there was "nothing wrong with being a fundamentalist Muslim," or a fundamentalist of another faith. "The key issue is the slide into extremism," he said.

Well said, as opposed to "you're either with us, or against us..." The contrast with the Bush/Rove response to 9/11 is striking. Sadly, the U.S. administration seemed to see the terror attacks as an opportunity to burnish Mr. Bush's political legacy, silence his critics and hobble the opposition party. Had they not overplayed their hand and followed the neocons into Iraq, they might even have hit the trifecta. (When you look at their respective responses to outrageous terrorist attacks, I think it's fair to say that Mr. Bush was too hot, Bush pal Jose Maria Aznar of Spain was too cold, and Mr. Blair has gotten it close to "just right...")

When history looks back at this period, I think that it will record Mr. Bush's absolute squandering of the post-9/11 period as one of its low points, and the British response to 7/7/2005 as the moment things actually began to turn around.
posted by JReid @ 3:23 PM  
One person who's screwing up America
I caught the Bernie Goldberg appearance on the Daily Show last night (a day late of course), and can I say, it was a thing of beauty. Watching Goldberg attempt to match wits with the clearly superior Stewart on whether "Friends" and Barbara Steisand's blog have more impact on the state of the Republic than the policitians in charge in Washington was priceless.

Hey Bernie, I think Stewart called your book a waste of ink and paper ... and I think he thinks you're screwing up America ... BradBlog loved it (and so did I). Crooks and Liars Tivo'd it. If you missed it, catch it. Maybe Bernie can try doing "Chappelle's Show" when it comes back on -- he might get more laughs. Here's where you can get the video.
posted by JReid @ 1:50 PM  
Don't you sue me, Tom Cruise!
Better late than never ...? I finally got the "Tom Cruise caught in bed with Rob Thomas (by Rob's wife) so he paid Katie Holmes $8 million to marry him" e-mail. Defamer says it's not true, but who cares? It's a keeper!

... Defamer also reported a couple of days ago (same link) about lesser known Scientology wives Kirsty Alley and Kelly Preston Travolta's letter writing support for Cruise's crusade against psychiatry... what else can you say besides "Free Kirsty!"
posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
The man who knew too much
Seven paragraphs down in a story in the Arab News this morning is this paragraph:

Reports from US intelligence sources quoted in London suggest that Britain was warned two months ago that Al-Qaeda was planning a “Madrid-style” attack on the London transport network. Captured Al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, who was arrested in Pakistan and who is now in the custody of the Americans, has apparently briefed US intelligence interrogators to this effect.
Who is Al-Libbi? In May, he was the subject of a minor dispute between the U.S. and U.K., after President Bush hailed his arrest in Pakistan as a "critical victory in the war on terror":
According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.

British intelligence apparently believed that the U.S. had confused al-Libbi with another suspected terrrorist:

Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list — Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings — and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man.

“Al-Libbi is just a ‘middle-level’ leader,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence investigator and leading expert on terrorism finance. “Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance. He was never more than a regional facilitator between Al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups.”

According to Brisard, the arrested man lacks the global reach of Al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s number two, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, or Anas al-Liby. Although British intelligence has evidence of telephone calls between al-Libbi and operatives in the UK, he is not believed to be Al-Qaeda’s commander of operations in Europe, as reported. The only operations in which he is known to have been involved are two attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, in 2003. Last year he was named Pakistan’s most wanted man with a $350,000 (£185,000) price on his head.

No European or American intelligence expert contacted last week had heard of al-Libbi until a Pakistani intelligence report last year claimed he had taken over as head of operations after Khalid Shaikh Mohammad’s arrest. A former close associate of Bin Laden now living in London laughed: “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.”

It also appears that he also had some foreknowledge of the London attacks, which strengthens the theory of an al-Qaida link to the London operation. But if al-Libbi is so low level, how would he have known about such a major attack (assuming the story here is true...)?

Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities are holding the suspected bomb-maker in the London attacks, a chemistry expert who had left England shortly before the attacks and leased an apartment in his own name in Cairo. The chemist, Magdi al-Nashar, had studied in the U.S., at North Carolina State in 2000, and was teaching at Leeds University before the attacks. The international links just keep on coming...
posted by JReid @ 9:31 AM  
Cabana radicals
Update (7/18): Pictures of Germaine, and reports on his family's shock and anguish over his alleged involvement in the London bombings.

Update: The Times of London has more on the susected Jamaican jihadi in London:

THE fast-moving inquiry into the London bombings took a further twist yesterday when the terrorist on the Piccadilly Line train was identified as a Jamaican-born Muslim convert.

Lindsey Germaine, who was believed to be in his late 20s, was said by security sources last night to have died when he detonated his rucksack bomb as the southbound train pulled out of King’s Cross, killing at least 26 people and himself.

... Mystery surrounds Germaine. Police were uncertain about how he spelt his name and what or how many names he may have used. He had been living in a rented house in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, for only a short time before embarking on
what he will have believed to be his martyrdom mission. His wife, who is believed to be called Samantha, is a white woman said to have converted to Islam in the past two years. She is thought to have changed her name to Sherafiyah [and according to another source, was always seen wearing flowing abaya-type robes]. The couple had a young daughter.

But his appearance in the jigsaw of how this terrorist operation was planned and executed also answers some questions. It explains why the three bombers from Leeds travelled south by car instead of taking a train directly to King’s Cross. Germaine’s home in Aylesbury is 20 miles from Luton, where the West Indian Muslim met his Pakistani co-conspirators early last Thursday morning. Their controllers will have wanted the four to meet, to say a prayer, strengthen each other’s resolve and synchronise their watches before setting off to London.

Germaine, who is believed to have Islamicised his name after his religious conversion and to have called himself Jamal, was said to have been seen in Leeds with some of the other bombers. ... Security sources said last night that they were investigating the likelihood that Germaine first met his Leeds contacts during a trip to a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan.

Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper is reporting that islanders sharing Germaine's surname (there is confusion as to whether his name is Germaine Lindsey or Lindsey Germaine) have been swamped with calls from the various British tabloids, who are desperately seeking more info on the family, and of course, are in a race for the first picture of Germaine. And there's this:

Efforts to contact the president of the Islamic Council of Jamaica, Mustafa
Mohammed proved futile, but one high-ranking member who requested anonymity told The Gleaner that "Islam is a religion of peace, we do not agree with violence committed against innocent people". There are reportedly 4,000 practising Muslims in Jamaica. [Out of a total population of some 2.7 million people]

"No, I'm not surprised that a young Jamaican male may be involved. People don't understand the Koran but there are clear verses that instruct Muslims to destroy the opponents of Allah. The new radical Islam is spreading all over... and it is spreading all over the world so it is not surprising that a Jamaican may be involved, " Lloyd Cooke, a lecturer at the Jamaica Bible College in Mandeville, told The Gleaner yesterday. "Nationality has nothing to do with it, it has everything to do with conviction."

Indeed. But I think it's clear that now, British Jamaicans will join East Asians and Arabs in getting the scrutiny of customs officials, police and the intelligence services.

Original post (7/14, 6:36 p.m.): Word that the fourth suspected member of London's tube station death squad was a Jamaican-born Briton was a shocker. Like shoe bomber Richard Reid, Lindsey Germaine emigrated with his family to the U.K. from the Caribbean. Like Reid, he was a convert to Islam. But the question is, was he unusual. If not, then the mission to uproot radical Islam around the world has to make a sharp U-turn, from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, right to our American backyard. Lindsey seemed ordinary to his neighbors:

One neighbour said: "They are a couple, a black man in his early 30s and a woman in her 20s who has converted to Islam. They have a little boy who's about 18 months old.

"They moved into the house about six months ago. They were just about to renew the contract, I think."

He worshipped at the local mosque. And apparently, he entered the tube station at Russell Square on the morning of July 7th and blew up the contents of his backpack.

So just how prevalent is radical Islam, or regular Islam for that matter, in the Caribbean? The history of Islam apparently dates back to the slave trade, when Black Muslims from West Africa were brought to the islands. Islam surged during the 1950s and 1960s, in part inspired by politically active Black Muslims in the U.S., such as the Nation of Islam. During the 1980s, an Islamic Council of Jamaica was formed, which now includes at least six organizations or "jamaahs." (get more detail here.)

As to the more radical variety, it appears there is real cause for worry that groups like al-Qaida are looking more and more often to the Caribbean (not to mention to Latin America and even to gangs that overlap the U.S. border) for both recruits and target practice. This alarming article from the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, dated November, 2004, spells out the threat in Trinidad and Tobago. First the target practice:

ver the past several years, maritime attacks have become more violent, more frequent and clearly more organized. It is believed that militant groups, particularly in South East Asia, are practicing hijacking ships for their possible use as weapons. Of all types of vessels oil and chemical tankers are perhaps the most attractive targets for terrorists. These vessels are manned by smaller crews and loaded with volatile substances that could potentially cause significant damage. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) attacks against tankers are growing at an alarming rate.

While all eyes are placed on the area surrounding the Malacca Straits, the world oil bottleneck, and on the Indonesian coast off Aceh, very little attention is placed on the U.S. underbelly of the Caribbean and the softer targets in the region closest to America's back yard: Trinidad, Venezuela and the Bahamas. These Caribbean countries are among the short list of natural gas producing countries and liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) exporters. Trinidad and Tobago alone account for 80% (1st quarter 2004) of all U.S. LNG imports, up from 68% in 2002. Therefore, any incident involving an LNG tanker along the Caribbean routes could harm not only U.S. energy security but also the economies of the Caribbean islands, affecting tourism and other industries.

And then there's this:

Trinidad and Tobago is a beautiful country in the Southern part of the Caribbean. It is in fact the southernmost of the Caribbean islands and the last island before Venezuela. It is one of the most affluent of the Caribbean islands with, for several years, the highest foreign direct investment per capita in the entire western hemisphere except for Canada. The home of tourism, steel band, calypso and carnival is unfortunately also the home of one of the first attempts at violently establishing a modern Islamic extremist state in the region after the attempted Islamic coup in July 1990. 15% of the island's population is Muslim.

The questions is, how extensive is the problem, which clearly doesn't belong to England, Europe or the Mideast alone. In the U.S. we've had our Tim McVeighs - homegrown terrorists who strike seemingly out of nowhere. But the surge in active recruiting of disgruntled Muslims and Muslim converts by terrorist organizations represents a threat that can't be ignored, and suggests that we're being far too narrow in focusing our efforts on questioning and detaining mostly Arab men. Muslim converts in the "Stans" are white -- and thre are Moroccan, Sudanese and other African Muslims, Asians, Hispanics and on and on. You can't infiltrate every ethnic community in every large city with a large population, and you can't bug every mosque, charitable organization or youth meeting (at least not as far as I know, but don't quote me on the Patriot Act.)

So what exactly do you do?
posted by JReid @ 9:15 AM  
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Cat in a tin foil hat
Newsflash: Limbaugh outs Matt Cooper's wife! From yesterday's El Rushbo transcript:
"By the way, let me just tell you who Matt Cooper is married to just so we can connect all the dots here. Matt Cooper is married to Mandy Grunwald, and Mandy Grunwald is one of these high ranking Democratic Party operatives, and she currently is on Hillary's staff. So Matt Cooper married to Mandy. An incestuous bunch up there..."

He forgot to mention that, according to the documentary "Bush's Brain," Karl Rove "was fired by the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 for leaking something to Novak, so the two go back a long way. [And] to top it off, Rove attends services at the same Episcopal church" as Joseph and Valerie Plame Wilson ... So many sinister dealings, so little time ... Meanwhile, BradBlog reports on the latest Rove Exoneration Theories from the right's top RETologist, Rush Limbaugh:

back at Disinfo Central...If you missed the Rush Limbaugh show this morning, you missed quite the lolapalooza. He's become positively unglued vis a vis the Plame/Rove affair. And it was a hoot!The "theory" that Rush has been pummelling his Ditto Heads with all day: Joe Wilson has been a part of a double super secret background conspiracy with the DNC since day one, well before he was sent by the CIA to Niger.Yes, that's right. According to Rush, the entire plan to send George W. Bush's own father's Man in Iraq -- a decades-long expert in African and Middle-Eastern affairs to Niger -- was all just a ploy by Democrats "to undermine the War in Iraq and the Bush Presidency," as Rush repeatedly described it.

We suppose then, that Bush 41's letter sent to Wilson saying that he concurred with much of the article that Wilson wrote prior to the war in the San Jose Mercury News was also part of that conspiracy.Why is Dubya's own father trying to destroy Dubya's own "Presidency", dammit?!Rush's final words at the end of the show (referring to the Press Conference scheduled by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to happen shortly): "Chuck Shumer is Joe Wilson's 'handler' in this agency plot to bring down the President."Good lord, these Right Wing Tin-Foil Hat wearers never fail to entertain.

While Rush's theory is certainly hilariou... I mean, interesting, it isn't the first attempt at making the case that former Ambassador Joe Wilson orchestrated the entire Plame affair himself... Exhibit A, the Free Republic, dateline, October 2003:

The first charge that the Bush administration "outed" Wilson's wife in order to "punish" him comes in a piece by David Corn in The Nation on July 16—a scant two days after Novak's piece appeared. Titled, "A White House Smear," the piece begins with a suitably inflammatory Leftist spin:

"Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security-and break the law-in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?...It sure looks that way, if conservative journalist Bob Novak can be trusted."

Of course, Novak neither said nor implied any such thing, but pointing that out wouldn't suit Corn's purpose. Instead, without a shred of evidence, Corn claims, "Wilson caused problems for the White House, and his wife was outed as an undercover CIA officer." Corn then takes the Wilson statement about it "not being about me," and turns it into, "I will not answer questions about my wife. This is not about me and less so about my wife. It has always been about the facts underpinning the President's statement in the state of the union speech." In quotes, no less. So was this a new quote directly from Wilson to Corn, or did Corn deliberately rephrase the original quote in Novak's piece to make it stronger from Corn's point of view? In other words, is Wilson embellishing his tale, or is Corn lying?

Aha! What did David Corn know, and when did he know it...?
posted by JReid @ 4:15 PM  
Robert Novak: Lord of the journo flies
The NY Observer on media muscle-flexing in the Plame affair.

...Rather than lumbering into free-fire zones of public exposure, White House officials are now practiced hands in message discipline and Clinton-style semanticizing. That's why the press corps sniping at White House press secretary Scott McClellan on Monday--putting no fewer than 35 aggressive (and unanswered) questions to the doughy apparatchik--signified very nearly nothing. Mr. McClellan is the public point man for such questions precisely because he can offer no informed opinion. Indeed, in past exchanges on Mr. Rove's role in the Plame affair, he was reduced to lying as mind-reading-by-other-means: "I've known Karl for a long time, and I don't even need to go and ask Karl, because I know the kind of person he is."

Hounding a suit as empty as Mr. McClellan's into submission is far from a ringing vindication of the press' power. Indeed, like virtually everything else in the ghastly, backwards-spooling Plame saga, it exposes the press' sallow, retiring weakness in affairs of state. Just consider the other damning revelations in the e-mail from Mr. Cooper to his editor: the routine deference that a correspondent for one of the nation's largest-circulation weeklies shows in toeing the administration's line as it sets about its routine course of casual character assassination--even to the point of inadvertently compromising national security by exposing the identity of a C.I.A. operative. ...

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 1:25 PM  
Wrong on Wilson
John Fund just couldn't be more wrong. He just did a fine job parroting the GOP talking points on MSNBC's "Connected" -- but too bad his nemesis on the show, Jonathan Alter, hadn't read his Bloomberg today. If he had, he would have been armed with the following "rebuttal" points:

  • The main points of Wilson's article have largely been substantiated by a Senate committee as well as U.S. and United Nations weapons inspectors. A day after Wilson's piece was published, the White House acknowledged that a claim Bush made in his January 2003 state of the union address that Iraq tried to buy ``significant quantities of uranium from Africa'' could not be verified and shouldn't have been included in the speech.

  • Republicans are attempting to defend Rove by discrediting Wilson, saying the former ambassador misled the public about why he was sent to Niger and what he found there. ... [But] Wilson never said that Cheney sent him, only that the vice president's office had questions about an intelligence report that referred to the sale of uranium yellowcake to Iraq from Niger. Wilson, in his New York Times article, said CIA officials were informed of Cheney's questions. "The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office,'' Wilson wrote.

  • The ``Wilson/Rove Research & Talking Points'' memo distributed by RNC Director of Television Carolyn Weyforth contends, ``Both the Senate Committee on Intelligence and the CIA found assessments Wilson made in his report were wrong.'' Yet the Senate panel conclusions didn't discredit Wilson. The committee concluded that the Niger intelligence information wasn't solid enough to be included in the State of the Union speech. It added that Wilson's report didn't change the minds of analysts on either side of the issue, while also concluding that an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate ``overstated what the Intelligence Community knew about Iraq's possible procurement attempts.''

  • Wilson is vulnerable to some criticisms. The Republican talking points say Wilson has lied about the role his wife played in his trip. In his memoir, ``The Politics of Truth,'' Wilson asserted his wife was not involved in the decision to send him to Niger. ``Valerie had nothing to do with the matter,'' he wrote. ``She definitely had not proposed that I make the trip.'' The Senate Intelligence Committee report states that a CIA official told the panel that Plame ``offered up'' Wilson's name for the Niger trip and later sent a memo to a CIA official saying her husband had good relations with leaders in Niger. [But no information that she "sent him" or "authorized the trip, as the GOP TPM says...]

  • Finally, in July 2003, after Wilson's piece was published, the White House conceded that the uranium assertion should not have been included in the president's speech. Several administration officials have accepted responsibility for allowing it into the speech, including Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser and now secretary of state; Stephen Hadley, then Rice's deputy and now the national security adviser; and then-CIA Director George Tenet.

Wilson is right, John Fund and his friends in the GOP (apparently Fund is on the same mailing list as the Fox anchor crew...) are wrong. Bush should get on with it and fire Karl Rove.

Update: MarkInMexico couldn't be more wrong, either, but his daily breakdown of the percentages in the daily press beating Scott McClellan are both entertaining and informative. Yesterday's percentages:

The issues that the MSM should be asking about:

1. Terrorism/GWoT
2. Our troops in Iraq
3. Supreme Court justices
4. G8 / African hunger/debt
6. Social Security
7. Oil prices
8. Nuclear proliferation in Iran and Korea
9. A bloated, corrupt, inefficient United Nations
10. Economy

... The issues in which the MSM actually has great interest in the order in
which the questions are asked. ...

Karl Rove: 35 questions - 59%
Iran and Korea: 5 questions - 8%
Terrorism/GWoT: 9 questions - 15%
Supreme Court justices: 2 questions - 3%
Social Security: 2 questions - 3%
Economy: 2 questions - 3%
China: 2 questions - 3%
Space: 2 questions - 3%
Our troops in Iraq: 0 questions - 0%
G8 / African hunger/debt: 0 questions - 0%
HIV/AIDS: 0 questions - 0%
Oil prices: 0 questions - 0%
A bloated, corrupt, inefficient United Nations: 0 questions - 0%

Good points on the media's failure to tackle the myriad important issues of the day, but I have to disagree that the outing of Valerie Plame isn't a top drawer issue, since it goes directly to the credibility of the president, his staff's penchant for political blood sport at the expense of national security, and possible obstruction of justice by a -- if not the -- key Bush aide. In other words, real "cancer on the presidency" issues as opposed to Oval Office hand-and-mouth-jobs...

Update: The Left Coaster takes the GOP talking points apart, brick by brick.
posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
CSI: Aruba, part 8 - Unsolvable mysteries
The Natalee Holloway case may be all-but unsolvable, so it's apparently time to take the next logical steps in order to keep this ratings barn-burner alive.

Step 1: Send Greta back to Arbua -- STAT! To hell with the London terrorists and that damned space shuttle -- and for God's sake make sure her hotel is properly booked...!

Step 2: run irrelevant backgrounders on the suspects. Item -- Joran van der Sloot can't play poker. According to PageSix:

Miami club impresario Tommy Pooch, who played next to Van Der Sloot for more than two hours, tells us the Dutch-born youth "was as nice as can be, but he was a terrible poker player.

"He kept buying back in, and finally he got knocked out when they stopped buy-ins," Pooch said. "He was a terrible bluffer . . . He was a young, excitable kid. He wore the sunglasses and the baseball cap like they do on TV, but even that didn't help."

Van Der Sloot must have had a habit of losing money in the poker room of the Holiday Inn-Aruba. "It seemed like everyone knew him there," Pooch said. "It was his hangout. He knew all the dealers by name. He was a local yokel."

Step 3: Drop an unsubstantiated bombshell. Scarborough Country's the place for that sort of thing, and Joe didn't disappoint last night. Scared Monkeys is on the case:

SCARBOROUGH: Now, friend, let me tell you, I’m going to give you some information right now. It’s information that you’re not hearing on TV. It’s information that you haven’t heard certainly in the court system. Inside sources in this investigation tell me and have told me—and I found out earlier today that there are reports from people who are inside the bar that, actually, Natalee Holloway was approached twice by Joran van der Sloot.

Twice, he made passes toward her. Twice, she rebuffed him. The second time, she pushed him away. And a friend of hers from Birmingham from the school hit him with a closed—or, I’m sorry—Joran hit Natalee Holloway with a closed fist. Then this
friend tried to walk in between the two and tried to stop him from aggressively going after her and suggested that he take it outside. If he wanted to fight somebody, he should fight somebody his own size.

It’s going to be very interesting to see if that information comes out tomorrow in the court hearing, whether we find out, again, two times—and I’ll tell you what. This information, when I learned it today from somebody very close to the case, this information certainly changes what we’ve heard, which, early on, we heard, of course, that Natalee just jumped in the car and drove away.

Here's the transcript. A risky move for Scarborough, to be sure. No such news or even gossip appears on any of the Birmingham news sites, and it's hard to believe, honestly, that such a story wouldn't have hit the rumor mill long ago ... I suppose he can always claim later that he's technically not a journalist... Hyscience has more info on the case. There will be fresh hearings on the detention status of the three suspects today.

[Sidebar: The Natalee Holloway story may not be important to everyone, and there's a strong case to be made that it's time for the media to leave it alone (so much bigger global fish to fry), and for the U.S. and other governments to lay off the use of military jets for the purpose of finding one missing girl, but don't look for this story to go away anytime soon ... at least, not until the ratings start to drop...]

Previous episodes: 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
More info on London bombers
The Times has the latest on the London bus bombers, who turn out to be rather ordinary men -- which might be the scariest fact in this tragedy.

Scotland Yard has begun to release some of the CCTV images of the bombers, including the pic to the left of the 18-year-old suspected bus bomber, Hasib Mir Hussain. The police agency is stil hoping for help from the public in identifying the fourth bomber, who the Times reported might be another Richard Reid -- Jamaican-born. Yeesh...
posted by JReid @ 11:47 AM  
Kelo madness: an update
Totally cribbing Wizbang's update on the state of Kelo, which gives the latest from the Castle Coalition. Catching up from a day of server problems, meetings and such, so thank goodness for WBB. Yes, they're conservatives, but they're damned good reading.
posted by JReid @ 2:13 AM  
You know you're in political trouble when ...
...the most prominent Republican defending you is Tom DeLay, the other guy who's supposed to buck you up -- who's political career you basically invented out of phony ranches and phony nuclear winter -- won't even mention your name... (Mr. Rove: will you please be seated at the rear of the photo op) ...

... and your side's best defense is to try to recast you -- the seasoned, ruthless, political operative -- as a poor, hapless whistleblower.

posted by JReid @ 2:04 AM  
Finemanly speaking ...
Howard Fineman offers his thoughts on why the media is charging so hard after Karl Rove. One reason:
Several media, political and Washington vectors intersected to create an explosive Rove Reaction.

Third thoughts on pre-Iraq reporting

Take my word, there has been a lot of soul searching in the so-called Main Stream Media (MSM) over its performance, or lack of performance, in the months leading up to the American-led ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Specifically, did we replace what should have been professional skepticism with a certain mindless credulousness in assessing the reality of the Bush administration’s claims of imminent danger to the country and the world from Saddam’s supposedly vast stash of weapons of mass destruction, including — only months away, it was said — the nuclear kind?

Actually, yes.
If we failed, was it out of a misplaced sense of patriotic duty, or political cowardice or sheer incompetence — or all three?

I'm going to go with "all three..."
The press corps was spring-loaded with self-doubt over the WMD issue, and ready to snap over any story that would allow it to revisit what now looks to have been a massive — and embarrassingly successful, from the press’ point of view — propaganda campaign. So Rove was a spinner on the WMD front? After him!

Yes, "after him!" And the little fat press guy, too ...! I like seeing David Gregory fight the power instead of sucking up to it. Even that cute Norah O'Donnell will catch on eventually ... the president is not your dorm-mate, Norah ... not even during homecoming week... Hey, next week, can we get Andrea Mitchell to criticize Alan Greenspan? Suddenly I'm loving CSPAN again...

Quote of the week:
"We have secretly replaced the White House press corps with actual reporters..." -- John Stewart on "The Daily Show," July 13, 2005
posted by JReid @ 1:41 AM  
Must-read article
An Army of (no) one, on the military's Internet based recruiting tactics. The shame is that serving in the military is an honorable, good career, but the Iraq war has driven many young Americans (and especially their parents) away, while pushing recruiters to bend every possible rule to make their numbers. What a shame.
posted by JReid @ 12:35 AM  
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Shoot the messenger (literally)
New York ongressman Peter King left his passport behind and got his common sense stamped "just vacationing" in "Scarborough Country" last night, when he had this to say about the Valerie Plame case and White House aide Karl Rove:

SCARBOROUGH: The last thing you want to do at a time of war is reveal the
identity of undercover CIA agents.

KING: No. Joe Wilson, she recommended ... his wife recommended him for this. He said the vice president recommended him. To me, she took it off the table. Once she allowed him to go ahead and say that, write his op-ed in “The New York Times,” to have Tim Russert give him a full hour on “Meet the Press,” saying that he was sent there as a representative of the vice president, when she knew, she knew herself that she was the one that recommended him for it, she allowed that lie to go forward involving the vice president of the United States, the president of the United States, then to me she should be the last one in the world who has any right to complain. And Joe Wilson has no right to complain.

And I think people like Tim Russert and the others, who gave this guy such a free ride and all the media, they're the ones to be shot, not Karl Rove. Listen, maybe Karl Rove was not perfect. We live in an imperfect world. And I give him credit for having the guts. And I really ... I tell you, Republicans are running for cover. They should be out attacking Joe Wilson. We should throw this back at them with all the nonsense that has been said about George Bush and all the lies that have come out.


KING: Let's at least stand by the guy. He was trying to set the record straight for historical purposes and to save American lives. And if Joe Wilson's wife was that upset, she should have come out and said that her husband was a liar, when he was.

And that was after he said Rove should be given a medal. Way to keep it real, Peter.
posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The frogs of march
Update 4: on the record with Scott McClellan, via AP.

Update 3 (3:59): Rove is such a fat, tempting target, it's easy to get caught up in the zeal to get him gone, and to forget that he is not the be all and end all of this story. Karl Rove is a lot of things, but he isn't a CIA insider. Someone had to give him the information he passed on to Matthew Cooper. The question for Rove's legal future is whether that person also gave him Valerie Plame's name and status as a covert agent, and of course, whether he lied to eitherthe FBI or the grand jury about his involvement (the way Scott McClellan has repeatedly lied to reporters).

That other source might actually be in bigger trouble than Rove, since it was they, and not he, who knowingly divulged classified information. Also, remember that Novak said he had a couple of high level sources, not just one, so the Scooter Libby, Hadley gambit is still open on this one. TalkLeft and David Corn are all over the nuances of this story, and worth a look.

BTW is Rove's attorney this Robert Luskin?

Update 2: More pain and anguish via BradBlog -- Time to revoke Rove's security clearance pending the outcome of the grand jury investigation? New Jersey Senator Launtenberg says "yes, do."

Update: Link -- Fire Him Now (includes petition)

Original post (1:32) What is it that the White House and its hapless flak Scott McClellan don't get about the fact that stonewalling the press on the Rove/Plame leak story only pisses them off, and makes them push the story even more? (Link to the transcript of today's McClellan carnage.) At minimum, this story proves that the White House and its spokesman have been lying to the public all along about Rove's complicity in outing CIA agent Valerie Plame. At worst, it's been shielding a criminal. Political communications 101 would suggest cutting bait, firing Rove immediately, and trying to move the story off the front pages (not that that will work if Rove winds up like Martha Stewart -- minus the shawl and the clever prison nickname...) Says Howard Kurtz:

There are two issues here, it seems to me. Legally, what Rove said to Matt Cooper on "double super secret background" (according to this Mike Isikoff piece) may or may not have violated the law against identifying intelligence agents. There are questions about whether Rove knew that Plame was undercover, whether he was "knowingly" outing her, and so forth.

But politically, this is a bombshell. Rove, who has insisted he did not leak Plame's name, had something to do with this effort, even if he didn't "name" her. ( The defense: It all depends on the meaning of the word "leak?") He was attempting to undercut Wilson when he told Cooper that wifey had helped set up Wilson's fact-finding trip to Niger (where Wilson didn't find the facts the administration wanted on Saddam seeking uranium) and that the uranium business could still be true (it wasn't). And didn't the White House promise to fire anyone involved in the leak?What does Rove do now? Give a couple of interviews and explain his role? Or remain in the background while his lawyer issues carefully parsed statements?

Or here's another choice: resign now, and spare the president having to fire your roly-poly behind. Note to White House: the press and the Democrats will never let this go until he's gone. Why should they? If the situation were reversed, your side would be drawing up impeachment articles...

Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 4:29 PM  
Soldier arrested for blogging on Iraq
Just saw this on Alternet. An Arizona National Guardsman who had been blogging in opposition to the Iraq war has been arrested. Not much more known, but it seems to be somehow related to the blog.
posted by JReid @ 4:25 PM  
They got 'em!
Scotland Yard got it done. Either one or four of the London bus bombers were killed in the bombings, police have recovered personal documents and other material, traced the bombers' route from Yorkshire to the Kings Cross rail station via those ubiquitious London cameras, identified the bus bomber, and arrested one suspect following five raids on homes in Leeds and Yorkshire. It seems that part of what led to the suspects was a call from a family member of one of the bombers reporting him missing shortly after the blasts. It's not confirmed, but CNN Inernational was saying earlier that neighbors of some of the suspects had reported that their neighbors -- a group of possibly Pakistani men -- had gone missing. Scotland Yard still not willing to say the bombers were of the suicide variety. Fucking brilliant, those Brits. Fantastic news.

Best source so far of updates is SkyNews
Here's the BBC's arrest timeline
Also, more victims' names have been released
Times of London has a good story on the U.K. police's military-style raids as part of the investigation
CNN is saying one bomber killed, six arrest warrants issued
posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
Tough crowd

Update: the pain continues.

Original post (5:10 a.m.): On Monday, Scott McClellan had a very bad day. He just wanted to extend America's heartfelt condolences to the people of the Balkans, but the press had other ideas...:

MR. McCLELLAN: ...May God bless the people of the Balkan region, and the souls of the departed. And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions. Terry.

Q Does the President stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked relating to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point. And as I've previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation, and as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren't going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

Q Excuse me, but I wasn't actually talking about any investigation. But in June of 2004, the President said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak, to press of information. And I just want to know, is that still his position?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that's why I said that our policy continues to be that we're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium. The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium. And so that's why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation, or questions related to it.

Q Scott, if I could -- if I could point out, contradictory to that statement, on September 29th, 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one who said, if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired. And then on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation is when the President made his comment that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved. So why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you've suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, "We're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation"?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. That's something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow. And that's why we're continuing to follow that approach and that policy. Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.

Q So could I just ask, when did you change your mind to say that it was okay to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it's not?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe you missed what I was saying in reference to Terry's question at the beginning. There came a point when the investigation got underway when those overseeing the investigation asked that it would be their -- or said that it would be their preference that we not get into discussing it while it is ongoing. I think that's the way to be most helpful to help them advance the investigation and get to the bottom of it.

Q Scott, can I ask you this; did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation, and you have my response related to the investigation. And I don't think you should read anything into it other than we're going to continue not to comment on it while it's ongoing.

Q Do you stand by your statement from the fall of 2003 when you were asked specifically about Karl and Elliott Abrams and Scooter Libby, and you said, "I've gone to each of those gentlemen, and they have told me they are not involved in this" -- do you stand by that statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: And if you will recall, I said that as part of helping the investigators move forward on the investigation we're not going to get into commenting on it. That was something I stated back near that time, as well.

Q Scott, I mean, just -- I mean, this is ridiculous. The notion that you're going to stand before us after having commented with that level of detail and tell people watching this that somehow you decided not to talk. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said, and I will be glad to talk about it at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is when the investigation --

Q Why are you choosing when it's appropriate and when it's inappropriate?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you'll let me finish --

Q No, you're not finishing -- you're not saying anything. You stood at that podium and said that Karl Rove was not involved. And now we find out that he spoke out about Joseph Wilson's wife. So don't you owe the American public a fuller explanation? Was he involved, or was he not? Because, contrary to what you told the American people, he did, indeed, talk about his wife, didn't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, there will be a time to talk about this, but now is not the time to talk about it.

Q Do you think people will accept that, what you're saying today?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I've responded to the question. Go ahead, Terry.

Q Well, you're in a bad spot here, Scott, because after the investigation began, after the criminal investigation was underway, you said -- October 10th, 2003, "I spoke with those individuals, Rove, Abrams and Libby, as I pointed out, those individuals assured me they were not involved in this." From that podium. That's after the criminal investigation began. Now that Rove has essentially been caught red-handed
peddling this information, all of a sudden you have respect for the sanctity of the criminal investigation?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not a correct characterization Terry, and I think you are well aware of that. We know each other very well, and it was after that period that the investigators had requested that we not get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation. And we want to be helpful so that they can get to the bottom of this, because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States. I am well aware of what was said previously. I remember well what was said previously. And at some point, I look forward to talking about it. But
until the investigation is complete, I'm just not going to do that.

Q Do you recall when you were asked --

Q Wait, wait -- so you're now saying that after you cleared Rove and the others from that podium, then the prosecutors asked you not to speak anymore, and since then, you haven't?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're continuing to ask questions relating to an ongoing criminal investigation, and I'm just not going to respond any further.

Q When did they ask you to stop commenting on it, Scott? Can you peg down a date?

MR. McCLELLAN: Back at that time period.

Q Well, then the President commented on it nine months later. So was he not following the White House plan?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I appreciate your questions. You can keep asking them, but you have my response. Go ahead, Dave.

Q We are going to keep asking them. When did the President learn that Karl Rove had had a conversation with the President -- with a news reporter about the involvement of Joseph Wilson's wife and the decision to send --

MR. McCLELLAN: I've responded to the questions.

Q When did the President learn that Karl Rove had --

MR. McCLELLAN: I've responded to the questions, Dick.

Read the rest here. No, really, it's worth the time.
posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
I'm just sayin...

I mean you've got to admit, there are similarities. ... They both ran for president in 2004 ... they both have funny quotes (and here) ... they're both not worried... you can't tell me you don't see the humor in this...
posted by JReid @ 3:27 AM  
Monday, July 11, 2005
But who's dressing the Freepers?
Michelle Malkin's having some fun with Moveon's request to partygoers to leave the "Bush lied" T-Shirts at home. Says Malkin:

...the new costume of normalcy can't mask the underlying derangement of the Bush-haters. They can put items like these away when the Washington Post photographer comes to visit, but they're not fooling anyone.

Still, coupled with the move by the Daily Kos over the weekend to put leftist conspiracy-mongers on notice, it's an interesting sign that some liberals realize that the public face of the hate-pockmarked Left is in need of some heavy-duty concealer.

Alright, but would someone please pass out the Maybeline to some on the right, who have used the tragic, infuriating bombings in London to spew racist crapola like this?

From the Jawa Report's otherwise intelligent post on anti-Muslim backlash in Britain and New Zealand, a bit of anti-Muslim backlash from some of their favorite commenters:
Muslims out of civilized countries. Get them out now. New Zealand needs to send them back where they came from. Muslims bring nothing but trouble to the countries they move to. Islam is a disease and should be treated as such. -- Posted by: greyrooster at July 10, 2005 07:35 AM

A few clerics strung up from light poles might send the right message, then watch the goathumpers leave in droves. Muslims have well demonstrated cannot live among civilized people. -- Posted by: Improbulus Maximus at July 10, 2005 10:22 AM
and later...

Well Dave, I think they should be expelled by force, because that's the only thing they understand. To muslims, if you don't fight back, you're weak and deserve to be conquered, but if you do fight back, you're against islam. They are a viral plague, plain and simple, and must be eradicated. -- Posted by: Improbulus Maximus at July 10, 2005 10:42 AM
And of course, the Freepers: some of the comments on this thread about mosque torchings in the U.K. are downright disturbing...
Best time to hit is when the hive is full.
posted on 07/10/2005 9:20:55 PM PDT by ncountylee (Dead terrorists smell like victory)

The Muslim version of the "Reichstag Fire."
posted on 07/10/2005 9:21:56 PM PDT by dfwgator

We're taking up a collection to help the moslems with their burning mosques. How much do you have so far ? About 10 gallons so far........
posted on 07/10/2005 9:25:01 PM PDT by festus (The constitution may be flawed but its a whole lot better than what we have now.)

I was hoping the headline would read: "Ghurkas attack UK Mosques While Mosques are Full of Virmin Attending Prayer"
posted on 07/10/2005 9:26:31 PM PDT by ArmedNReady (Demand That Your Congressmen Declare islam a Terrorist Organization)
Nope, no need for concealer there... right wing pot, meet kettle.

Update: MarkinMexico, I see your "loyal opposition" T-shirt art and raise you these:

posted by JReid @ 2:50 PM  
First London bombing victim named
The first London bombing victim has been identified as 53-year-old Susan Levy of Cuffley, Hertfordshire. Her body was found at the Russell Square tube station."
posted by JReid @ 12:29 PM  
A Time Inc. sort of situation
Maybe I was wrong about the impact of the Judy jailing on the media world ... According to E&P:

CHICAGO Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton says the Cleveland daily is not reporting two major investigative stories of "profound importance" because they are based on illegally leaked documents -- and the paper fears the consequences faced now by jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Lawyers for the Newhouse Newspapers-owned PD have concluded that the newspaper would almost certainly be found culpable if the leaks were investigated by authorities. "They've said, this is a super, super high-risk endeavor, and you would, you know, you'd lose," Clifton said in an interview Friday afternoon."The reporters say, 'Well, we're willing to go to jail, and I'm willing to go to jail if it gets laid on me,'" Clifton added, "but the newspaper isn't willing to go to jail. That's what the lawyers have told us. So this is a Time Inc. sort of situation."

And this:
NEW YORK A new ethics policy to be issued this week at The Los Angeles Times instructs reporters to "never enter into any company computer unnamed sources," according to a New York Times report on Monday. Editor John S. Carroll said the policy was inspired by concern that even if reporters refused to divulge sources, prosecutors could unmask them by issuing subpoenas to the newspaper's technology support staff, or even the chief executive of the Tribune Company, which owns The Los Angeles Times. "They don't operate by the same rules as we do" in the newsroom, Carroll told The New York Times.
posted by JReid @ 12:06 PM  
Karl Rove's FBI problem
A story in the upcoming issue of Newsweek confirms that Karl Rove was the source who talked to Time's Matthew Cooper before Novak's infamous column ran (he had previously confessed only to moving the story around after the column came out) -- a fact Rove has confirmed through his attorney. Here's the bottom line:

Cooper, according to an internal Time e-mail obtained by Newsweek magazine, spoke with Rove before Novak's column was published. In the conversation, Rove gave Cooper a "big warning" that Wilson's assertions might not be entirely accurate and that it was not the director of the CIA or the vice president who sent Wilson on his trip. Rove apparently told Cooper that it was "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip," according to a story in Newsweek's July 18 issue.
I think it's safe to say Lawrence O'Donnell is vindicated...

Rob at SayAnything argues that since Rove apparenlty didn't mention Plame by name, and didn't appear to know she was a covert operative, ipso, facto no crime was committed. But Rove's real problem might be of the Martha Stewart variety: namely, whether he really said the following to the FBI:

According to the American Prospect (c.a. March 8, 2004):

President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

So Rove has two problems: one big one if he fudged his story to the FBI, and one huge one if he did the same in front of the grand jury. Remember, Ms. Stewart wasn't jailed for the stock sale, she was jailed for the lying to investigators... So when those on the right see no frog march in Rove's future, they could very well be wrong.

That still leaves open the question of who the other "high level White House official" who tipped Novak might have been, with growing suspicion that it could be Scooter Libby (see previous post).

Update: Powerline argues that:

It is highly unlikely that Rove (or any other as-yet-unidentified source) violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. That statute applies when:

1) a person having access to classified information that identifies a "covert agent" discloses the agent's identity to a person not authorized to receive the information, where the person making the disclosure knows that "the United States is taking
affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States";

2) same thing, only the person making the disclosure "learns the identity of a covert agent" through his access to classified information; or

3) a person discloses the identity of a covert agent "in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States."

One and three don't seem to fit Colonel Karl, but according tot he International Herald Tribune in an April 3, 2004 story:
Fitzgerald is said to be investigating whether the disclosure of Plame's identity came after someone discovered her name among classified documents circulating at the upper echelons of the White House.

Remember the WHIG? The group, including Rove, who were charged with marketing the war? The logical conclusion is that Fitzgerald is zeroing in on a person or persons who obtained classified information that was circulating around the White House, disclosed it, and then possibly lied about it to investigators. Sounds like count 2 of the statute to me...

Craig Crawford on Rove's accidental genius in possibly outing Rove, sparing himself the indictment on revealing classified info, and stifling the media all in one fell swoop.
Joho the blog says "kiss your assrove goodbye"
Kerfuffles says "not so fast"

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 10:28 AM  
Then and now...
Then (June 25, 2005):
US President George W Bush has told Iraq's prime minister he will set no timetables for withdrawing troops from Iraq and acknowledged that the road ahead will not be easy.

..."If you give a timetable, you're conceding too much to the enemy," he added with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari at his side at the White House. "You don't have to worry, Mr Prime Minister, about timetables." It was a blunt rejection of calls from some members of the US Congress for the administration to develop a plan to begin a withdrawal.
And now:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A leaked British memo outlining plans to bring more than half of U.S. troops home from Iraq within a year gives the clearest picture yet of how quickly Washington hopes Iraqi forces can take over.

The British government document, published by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, said Washington is discussing plans to cut its force -- now nearly 140,000 -- to just 66,000 by the middle of next year. Britain would cut its own force to 3,000 from 8,500.

Hm... So either the Bush administration didn't really mean it when they said "no timetables," or they've changed their minds. Either way, some on the right seem to be reacting so far with either upset that someone spilled the memo beans (thus giving hope to the enemy) or outright disbelief that the memo is even real.
posted by JReid @ 12:15 AM  
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Britain's most wanted?
British authorities have named one "person of interest" so far in the London train bombings:
Spanish security sources are said to have warned four months ago that Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, a 47-year-old Syrian, had identified Britain as a likely target.

Coded commands from the Syrian, thought to have included threats to other European countries including Britain, were found in a flat raided after the Madrid bombings in March 2004. Spanish investigators said Nasar, now believed to be in Iraq, had set up a “sleeper” cell of terrorists in Britain. But they believed he was planning an attack to coincide with the British general election in May, rather than the G8 summit last week.
Here are a couple of pics of the suspect, and a link to more info about him (scary how ordinary he looks when dressed up like your typical Westerner...). Two interesting notes: Nasar, who has dual Syrian and Spanish citizenship, is thought to be in Iraq, and already has a $5 million bounty on his head from the U.S., in connection with the 9/11 attacks:

From an AP story dated November 18, 2004:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Colin Powell posted a $5 million reward Thursday for information leading to the capture of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, an al Qaeda operative who ran a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. Also known as Abu Musab al-Suri, he trained terrorists in poisons and chemicals, the State Department said. Nasar is a Syrian with dual Spanish nationality. In September 2003, he was among 35 people named in an indictment handed down by Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon for terrorist activities connected to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda organization. Ten of the 35, including bin Laden, were charged with planning the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and using Spain as a base.
A May, 2004 article in National Review suggested Nasar may have hooked up with the Zarqawi terrorist opertaion in Iraq to plan attacks in and out of that country. Talk about your flypaper theory, except that in this case, the flypaper isn't just in Iraq, it's in Spain, London and God knows where else, too...
posted by JReid @ 2:10 PM  
Jeralyn Merritt (TalkLeft) makes a careful, painstaking but compelling case for Lewis "Scooter" Libby being the second source (with Colonel Karl Rove) in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. From Merritt's post:
On to Matt Cooper. It's important to remember that he was subpoenaed initially specifically about Lewis Libby, held in contempt, and then, because he got a personal waiver from Libby, agreed to be deposed by Fitzgerald. It was after that deposition that he got the second subpoena, asking about communications with other sources.
The prosecution seems to be zeroing in on whoever its target(s) are, with Cooper set to talk to the grand jury (and "J. Diddy" Miller in jail). Of course, there's still no evidence that either man is the target of the investigation and not simply witnesses. Still, the circumstantial case for Libby being at least one of the two leakers looks pretty good, and its clear that the vice president's office, where Libby is Cheney's number two guy, was in a unique position to benefit from the outing of Plame (or more accurately, the discrediting of former ambassador Joseph Wilson):

  1. It was the vice president's office (Libby is Cheney's chief of staff) that was pressuring the CIA to corroborate the Saddam-nuclear hypothesis, and it was their intensive questioning -- and insistence that evidence of Saddam's nuclear intentions be found -- that prompted the CIA to send former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger.
  2. When Wilson later discredited the president's "yellowcake" statement, he was specifically refuting statements by Cheney, including public statements (i.e., on "Meet the Press.").

From From a WaPo article dated August 10, 2003:

To gird a nation for the extraordinary step of preemptive war -- and to obtain the minimum necessary support from allies, Congress and the U.N. Security Council -- the administration described a growing, even imminent, nuclear threat from Iraq. The unveiling of that message began a year ago this week.

Cheney raised the alarm about Iraq's nuclear menace three times in August. He was far ahead of the president's public line. Only Bush and Cheney know, one senior policy official said, "whether Cheney was trying to push the president or they had decided to play good cop, bad cop."

On Aug. 7, Cheney volunteered in a question-and-answer session at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, speaking of Hussein, that "left to his own devices, it's the judgment of many of us that in the not-too-distant future, he will acquire nuclear weapons." On Aug. 26, he described Hussein as a "sworn enemy of our country" who constituted a "mortal threat" to the United States. He foresaw a
time in which Hussein could "subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail."

"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "Among other sources, we've gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law."

Of course, Cheney wasn't the only one pushing that line (think Condoleezza Rice...) However it has already been said publicly, by Novak, that the leak came from the White House, not the Pentagon or the CIA itself, so that rules out some of the other Iraq book-cookers like Feith, Cambone and Tenet. The Mr. Moustache Theory is tempting, but there's no evidence the leak came from the State Department (although the White House source certainly could have originally gotten the information from there, since we now know that John Bolton was in the habit of snooping on unnamed government officials....). In fact, it might be time to focus suspicion on the members of WHIG -- the White House Iraq Group, which was formed (coordinated by WH chief of staff Andrew Card) before the invasion to "market" the Saddam "threat" in the U.S. ... More vintage WaPo:

The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it. Two senior policymakers, who supported the war, said in unauthorized interviews that the administration greatly overstated Iraq's near-term nuclear potential.

According to the WashPost, the members of the group, which meet weekly in the WH Situation Room, were Libby, Rove, Card, Condi Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, communications strategiests Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James Wilkinson, and "legislative liaison" Nicholas Calio.

Merritt also adds this interesting clip from an April 3, 2004 story in the International Herald Tribune:

...At the same time, Fitzgerald is said to be investigating whether the disclosure of Plame's identity came after someone discovered her name among classified documents circulating at the upper echelons of the White House.

Of that group, who would have been most likely to have access to classified documents circulating "at the upper echolons of the White House?" Since it's possible but highly doubtful that a princpal, meaning Cheney himself or Rice, would have made the call to Novak, a deputy seems the most likely, since the leak was essentially a communications strategy (to discredit Wilson in the press). It's hard to believe that any of the communications staffers or the "legislative liaison" would have access to the classified file (Hughes at that point wasn't even a staffer, she was an unofficial advisor), Matalin somehow seems unlikely to have had the info, although she was Cheney's communications advisor -- she has already testified before the grand jury BTW -- so we're back to Rove, Libby, Hadley, and maybe Andrew Card ... although there is this:
Wilkinson, at the time White House deputy director of communications for planning, gathered a yard-high stack of intelligence reports and press clippings. Wilkinson said he conferred with experts from the National Security Council and Cheney's office.
As to where the information about Ms. Plame came from, the WaPo article starts out with something pretty intriguing:

His name was Joe, from the U.S. government. He carried 40 classified slides and a message from the Bush administration. An engineer-turned-CIA analyst, Joe had helped build the U.S. government case that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. He landed in Vienna on Jan. 22 and drove to the U.S. diplomatic mission downtown. In a conference room 32 floors above the Danube River, he told United Nations nuclear inspectors they were making a serious mistake.

... The Vienna briefing was one among many private and public forums in
which the Bush administration portrayed a menacing Iraqi nuclear threat, even as
important features of its evidence were being undermined. ...

Back to Colonel Karl, this flashback from the American Prospect (c.a. March 8, 2004) is interesting, in part because it suggests that if Rove said the same thing to the grand jury, and he turns out to be the leaker, he's in a serious perjury nightmare:

President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Rove and other White House officials described to the FBI what sources characterized as an aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife to the press, utilizing proxies such as conservative interest groups and the Republican National Committee to achieve those ends, and distributing talking points to allies of the administration on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rove is said to have named at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson.

A June, 2004 story in CapitolHillBlue (which also notes Bush's decision to retain a private attorney in the Plame matter), contends that sources say Rove approved of the name drop, meaning he might not have been the "high level White House official," (but still might have lied to the GJ). The article also reminds that Wilson named another suspect: NSC official Elliott Abrams (formly of Iran-Contra fame), which could drag Mr. Hadley back into center field.

It just gets curiouser...

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posted by JReid @ 12:08 AM  
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Why the left still loves Tony
If you want to know why so many centrist and left-of-center folk in the U.S. still have love for Tony Blair, despite everything, it's because of very un-Bush-like statements like this (sure to lower Blair's cool quotient on the right):
"I think this type of terrorism has very deep roots," Blair said. "As well as dealing with the consequences of this -- trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can -- you have to try to pull it up by its roots," he said.That meant boosting understanding between people of difference religions, helping people in the Middle East see a path to democracy and easing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, he said."Ultimately what we now know, if we didn't before, is that where there is extremism, fanaticism or acute and appalling forms of poverty in one continent, the consequences no longer stay fixed in that continent, they spread to the rest of the world" said Blair.
posted by JReid @ 2:39 PM  
Al-Qaida's big blunder
While I'm down here riding out Hurricane Dennis (pretty far inland, so mare like dealing with strong winds and rain, but not much else...) found this good bit of analysis on the London bombings at UPI:

Analysis: Al-Qaida's G8 mistake
By Martin Walker
7/7/2005 11:30 AM

LONDON, July 7 (UPI) -- While al-Qaida showed their customary ruthless skill in planning the London bombings, their choice of target may become a major strategic mistake.

London was not the only victim of the spate of bombings of the trains and buses of the London transit system. The bombers clearly meant to sow not only panic but financial disruption, hitting stations in the heart of the city of London, where most of world's daily $1.5 trillion trades in currency are made. That plan failed. The London markets -- which did not close -- quickly sank 3 percent, but then recovered.

The other symbolic target of the bombers, the G8 summit, may have been taking place 400 miles to the north, but the presence of U.S. President George W. Bush as a guest of Tony Blair, the twin authors of the war and the occupation of Iraq, made the Gleneagles summit into an event worth disrupting for al-Qaida. Or did it? By attacking the country currently hosting the G8 summit, al-Qaida has once again made it clear that its enemy is the West as a whole, all the advanced industrialized nations, including the next G8 invitees such as India, China and Brazil. And when the G8 leaders declared Thursday that the attack on London was an attack on them all, the real isolation of al-Qaida, and the utter emptiness of their political agenda, became brutally clear.

But this G8 was rather different. By bombing Britain at this time, al-Qaida also made it clear that it did not give a hoot about world poverty, about Africa, about the relief of debt, or about global warming. Al-Qaida's bombers also spat in the face of the millions of young people who turned up or tuned in to the Live 8 concerts over the weekend, who were moved by the appeals of the artists and singers to make a difference and use their voices and their votes and their civic pressure to urge their political leaders to tackle poverty and climate change.

To his credit, and despite formidable opposition in the Bush White House and the central banks of the world, Tony Blair tried to make this G8 summit stand for something different, for some serious commitments to issue that engage the passions of tens of millions of voters in Europe, Japan, North America and around the world. Blair went as far as a serious political leader can go to support the Live 8 campaigners, and to give Bono and Bob Geldof the blessing the British government on their political endeavors.

And now, thanks to al-Qaida, this G8 summit at Gleneagles will be remembered not for what it did for Africa (which was a very great deal, in securing debt relief), and not for what it achieved in bridging the gap between the rhetoric of the Bush White House and the Kyoto protocol, but for the London bombings. There is a contrast, if not a clash of civilizations. The West's leaders try to help Africa, and Islam's extremists try to explode their efforts by killing London commuters.

The al-Qaida website claims that "Britain is burning with terror and fear and panic." Not so. The world's TV audience can see that London is coping just as it did with Hitler's blitz, with the same stiff upper lip with which is greeted the bombs of the Irish Republican Army. It will take more than a few Islamist fascists, however vicious and ruthless, to make Londoners show fear and panic. More ironic still, the West is trying to help Africa clamber out of poverty; the sheikhs of Araby are plunging Africa deeper into penury. The oil bill for sub-Saharan Africa is this year going to be $10 billion higher than it was a year ago -- and most of that money is heading for the coffers of the country that produced most of the 9/11 terrorists.

These ironies will not be lost on a new generation of Westerners, of Japanese and Russians and Brazilians, and quite possibly of Indians and Chinese, just coming of age. The Live 8 concerts will probably make this G8 summit the first political event in which these young people took a serious interest, and they have seen it blown out of the headlines by bombers who view the grander goals of Live 8 with contempt and as an opportunity for the most bloodily vicious form of exploitation.

Read the rest here.
posted by JReid @ 2:29 PM  
Friday, July 08, 2005
The Israeli tip-off: believers on the right?
Questions over whether Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got an advance warning from British security ahead of yesterday's terrorist bombing in London still won't die, and they've touched off a mini-war between bloggers on the right and, mostly, Justin Raimondo of on the left. However I have to say I first heard of the question on the hardly left-wing Wizbangblog, which ran the initial AP story in question. That report stated Netanyahu got a call from the Israeli embassy telling him to stay in his hotel room (he was on his way to an economic forum) after Scotland Yard warned the embassy of a terror threat just before the first explosion. The Israeli foreign minister has said it's not true, and the government there issued a fresh denial today (from Haaretz):

According to embassy spokeswoman Shelley Davidovitch, all the inquiries indicated that no Israelis were injured or killed in the blasts. Davidovitch also strongly denied Associated Press reports indicating that British intelligence services had informed embassy security officers of terrorists' intentions to launch an attack on an Israeli target. According to the report, the British alerted the Israeli Embassy just minutes before the series of terror attacks in the center of the British capital.

The erroneous report apparently came to light after the embassy, the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade organized a special conference aimed at supporting investment in Israel and activities on the part of Israeli companies on the London Stock Exchange. The conference was scheduled to take place at the Great Eastern Hotel near the Liverpool Street subway station - one of three underground stations hit in the attacks. When the attacks started, Israel's ambassador to Britain, Zvi Hefetz, a number of his aides and some conference guests were already at the hotel. The conference was ultimately moved to an alternative location.

I'm not sure that answers the question, and other sources continue to stand by the story (which originally came from an anonymous source within the Israeli Foreign Ministry itself).

An AP story yesterday in Haaretz quotes Israeli F.M. Silvan Shalom as saying Netanyahu had been on his way to the the Great Eastern hotel near the scene of one of the four explosions, when "after the first explosion, our finance minister received a request not to go anywhere."

But the AP had run a story earlier, saying "British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday's explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to attend an economic conference in a hotel over the subway stop where one of the blasts occurred, and the warning prompted him to stay in his hotel room instead, government officials said."
"... Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy to say they had received warnings of possible attacks, the official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the economic conference. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his position."
That version is supported by an American counterterrorism consultant, Tommy Preston, who was interviewed in his hometown of Frankfort, Kentucky by the local ABC affiliate yesterday. I confirmed the story with him this morning by telephone and he is standing by his story, that his sources say that Netanyahu received a warning to stay in his hotel room, and that shortly after that, the first explosion happened. Preston, by the way, is a 48-year veteran of the counterterorism consulting business, has a company called Preston Global that advises individuals and corporate clients on issues of terrorism, personal security and workplace violence. He was a counterterrorism operative in the Army before going private, and he's no anti-war guy -- he strongly supports the Iraq invasion and says the war has made huge strides in reducing the global terror threat.

BTW Preston also had an interesting take on the mistaken Quranic quote that has some doubting the al-Qaida connection to the attacks: subcontracting. Preston said that with fewer major training bases, they increasingly subcontract their "work" out to smaller, less experienced terror cells, who might not be as "up on" their verses, or as skilled at explosives handling -- which could also explain a small bomb prematurely exploding on a double decker bus before it gets to its destination...?

Of course, it's possible that this is just a question of timing -- a call shortly before versus a call just after, the first explosion. And the warning, if any, would have been of a possible attacks aimed at the Israelis, not at the London transit system, so Raimondo and others are way out on a limb in implying some sort of conspiracy related to the tube and bus atacks. The real question, and its one also raised in the Australian press, is whether British intelligence had any chatter whatsoever relating to possible terrorist violence in London, and what they did about it, having lowered the threat level in the city just a few weeks before. It's entirely possible that they heard the chatter, and simply got it wrong, thinking Netanyahu and his conference were the target (they were certainly close enough to the first target).

Anyway, it's doubtful story will go much further, but it's an interesting question in this ongoing horror story...
posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
London death toll and the inevitable question...
Update: The bus driver's story.

British officials have now confirmed that the death toll in the terrorist bombings yesterday as at or above 50 (the toll from the bus attack, as expected, is up from 2, and currently at 13). Officials had seemed to be under-reporting the toll all day yesterday. And the Australian news services and AFP wire (which have provided the best info so far) are saying the bus bombing could either have been a suicide bomber, or a fourth "timer" type bomb that went off prematurely as it was being carried to the intended target location. The British authorities are being extremely cautious it seems, since if the bus was blown by a suicide bomber, it would be the first such attack ever in Britain, and a precedent they certainly want no part of. Another view of the bus:

Also, angry, shocked Britons are starting to ask the inevitable question of whether Tony Blair's insistence on following George Bush into Iraq is to blame for the attacks. George Galloway started it yesterday, but it's also a question being asked by individual Brits, although I spoke with my mother-in-law in London this morning (she spent about an hour walking home yesterday because her bus line passes through the heart of the city where the bombings took place), and she expressed what I think is a strong counterveiling view: that terrorists are terrorists. they do what they do because they're terrorists, not because of Tony Blair or Iraq.

Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
The next shoe to drop?

BradBlog is up with news from a source whose source he says is "golden," saying Rehnquist will announce his retirement from the Supreme Court this morning (Friday) around 10 or 11 a.m. ... hm... is hearing the same thing (okay at this point everybody is hearing it...)

If Rehquist does go, it would be a huge final gift to their party by these two highly partisan former law school mates (Rehnquist and O'Connor) -- sort of a bookend to the 2000 election thing, forcing PFAW and other groups on the left to either fight two nominees at once and drain their resources to the bucket, or just choose one, meaning one nomiee essentially gets through without a fight. Could that be Bush's Gonzales avenue? Prince of F'king Darkness Rober Novak seems to think so (he also calls GWB "the biggest obstacle to a conservative court..."). The thinking goes, with two nominees to put forward, Bush could slip Gonzales in alongside someone really conservative, and then, in Novak's formulation, elevate Scalia to Rehnquist's job as Chief Justice. That way, he could tell the wingers he gave them their nominee and the top spot on the Supco, and he could tell La Raza he's down with the homeboys, too.

Of course, doing that would also intensify the all out, bloody war within the GOP over the right's intense desire to see Bush put two more Scalias on the court, not a Scalia and a Souter, versus the pragmatic Republicans' desire to remain in the majority. The GOP will be under Freeper pressure like they've never seen...
posted by JReid @ 1:41 AM  
London death toll, terror timeline
Australia's prime minister John Howard has put the death toll at 52 and the injured at 700. That country's opposition leader Kim Beazley "condemned the bombers as 'sub-human filth' who should be hunted down and eliminated." The News Australia is also saying that there was a concern that British security services had lowered the alert level a few weeks before the attacks. Also, the discovery of the timers seems to be pretty much confirmed now, as well as the possibility that investigators have one or even two unexploded bombs... The jury is still out on whether the bus blast may have been a suicide attack. From the New Zealand herald this morning [Map to the left aslo from NZ Herald]:
"A few clues emerged early. Two of the underground blasts had been caused by high explosives packed into containers, possibly brief cases, taken on to the trains and left there. However, the bomb that ripped the roof off the double-decker bus in central London may have been detonated by the person carrying it. Police say it could have gone off accidentally while being transported for another Tube attack but they were also considering whether it was the first-ever suicide bombing in Britain."
... And just to show the kind of jitters in the U.K. right now, there was yet another bomb alert in Edinburgh, Scotland late Thursday after someone left a stray package on a bus.

Timeline of the attacks (from a variety of wire and other sources:

The first explosion, at 8.51 a.m. hits a Circle line train that was 100 meters into a tunnel between the Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations in the financial district in east London. At least seven people are killed and more than 90 injured. [Screen grab below from Sky News outside Aldgate station after the blasts - AFP]

8.56 a.m.: a second blast hits a Piccadilly line tube train between the King's Cross and Russell Square stations, killing 21 (confirmed so far) and forcing hundreds of commuters to make the dash from the underground train on foot. [Pic below from cell phone of commuter Alexander Chadwick, via Canadian Press]

9.17 a.m.: the third explosion hits a train as it pulls out of the Edgware Road station. The blast rips through two other trains, killing at least seven people. [An injured passenger is rushed out of the Edgware Road tube station in a photo that sort of became emblematic of the eerie attack scene on Thursday - AP]

9.47 a.m.: A fourth blast rips apart a double-decker bus just after it pulls over to the side of the road near Russell Square, so that the driver, who had left Hackney station and was headed on an alternate, unfamiliar route, was flagging down two parking attendants to ask for directions. The bomb, which was in the upper deck, shears off the top of the bus. Officially, only two people were killed, but that number could grow.

[source, above pic: Channel News Asia] BTW the pic above is the clearest on I've seen so far of the damage to the Tavistock Square double decker. The blast sheared the top and rear of the bus right off... (there's also this chilling but very thorough minute by minute account in the Guardian.)

Another Tavistock aftermath photo [Source: New Zealand Herald/Reuters]:

posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The real terror connection...?
I think I've figured it out. Rudolph Giuliani is a jinx. From now on if you're planning a vacation, just find out where he's headed, and don't go there.
posted by JReid @ 9:23 PM  
Blair out front

Here we go... less than 24 hours in and Blair is Churchill already. It doesn't take the media long to revert to type... at least they're not saying he's George W. Bush... That said, Blair's speech was quite good (though I still like London Mayor Ken Livingstone's comments too), and for whatever reason, despite his inistence on following Bush down the iraq sinkhole without even getting anything in return, I still have a soft spot for Blair -- maybe it's the fact that he can handle the fast paced Q&A at prime minister's question time...

Update 9:06: MSNBC is reporting that British security services are ruling out a suicide bombing in the explosion on the upper deck of the double decker bus at Tavistock Square at 9:47 a.m. (the fourth explosion - Timeline). ABC reports police have aparently also found at least two timing devices, and possibly even a couple of unexploded bombs in addition to the four that went off. That would be a coup for investigators. (BBC has more on the investigation, which the right should note, is for the most part a criminal investigation, as was Madrid, not a war action -- just a note...). On a more conspiratorial note, a site called HomelandSecurityUS claims its sources say that "one of the operatives" involved in the London bombing was recently released from Gitmo. Obviously, that's totally uncorroborated... I'm not sure how the Pentagon could know that yet since London security services have only begun analyzing the bombs, but there you go. (tip from Wizbangblog).

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 8:56 PM  
Here we go again

Update: NBC is reporting that security officials in London believe at least some of the bombs detonated in London were done with timers, while Debka File is still saying the bus was blown up by a suicide bomber...

Now the shock and awe is over, we're on to Liberals vs. Conservatives on the GWOT again. Bloggers on the right are pounding antiwar British M.P. George Galloway, who said this today:

"We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the Government ignoring such warnings."

Plus, apparently, this:

"We urge the government to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East. "

..while others righties don't quite know what to make of anti-Bush London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said this :

"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners. ... Black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindus and Jews, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, class, religion whatever. I know that you do fear you may fail in your long term objective: to destroy our free society. And I will show you why you will fail. In the days that follow, look at our airports, look at our seaports and look at our railways. Nothing you do, however many of us you kill will stop that life. Where freedom is strong and people can live in harmony, whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."

Well Gorgeous George's "it's not them, it's us" argument was particularly ill-timed today. Terrorists weren't targeting George Bush or Tony Blair or the other leaders who sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, or picking up weapons, donning uniforms and heading to the battlefield, they were targeting ordinary people like my inlaws in London who were just going to work in the morning, in hopes of scaring the hell out of them and reminding them that they aren't safe anywhere, hopefully causing contempt for the governments who can't protect them, and ultimately decreasing those government's moral or actual authority.

At this point, I don't think the jihadists even want us to leave Iraq. It's been way too good for recruitment. Their goal is simply to kill and cause mayhem. Changing Bush or Blair's policy would be a double-edged sword for them even if they could manage it, since it would take away their best suicide bomber recruitment tool. But of course they can't. They must know that blowing up innocent people in the heart of London won't cause troops to leave the Mideast -- if anything, it will encourage the West to keep them their longer, as well as to aim the military, law enforcement, intelligence and other resources of Europe and the U.S. right into the heart of the ethnic neighborhoods throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas where their al-Qaida cells may be hiding. In their dreams, that will mean more arrests, more detentions, more abuse complaints and Koran "mishandling" and more jihad, forever.

And that's the point. The Jihadists want the war on terror to continue, whether or not they are able to drive countries out of Iraq. They want it to continue because it's not about territory or victory on the battlefield, it's about each individual jihadist fighting "for God." We can't win this like a conventional war. We'll never get rid of them all. Invading Iraq gave them gasoline and motivation, and abu-Ghraib and Gitmo may help them gun the engine, but they already had the car.

So the point goes to Livingstone, who agrees with myself and others that the Iraq war was a huge tactical mistake, but that it hardly even matters now. We're bombed if we go, bombed if we stay. So we might as well figure out a way to beat these nut-jobs soundly and with some measure of our integrity left, before they blow anybody else up. If Tony Blair can do that he'll have my respect, Iraq or no Iraq.

Previous post:
London struck by terror attacks
posted by JReid @ 5:25 PM  
Taliban holding Missing SEAL?
Just spotted this at Jane's Defense Weekly:
07-Jul-2005 THE Taliban claimed on 7 July to be holding a US Navy Seal who went missing in Kunar province a week.
The story is also on the Chinese news service. ... The Taliban made that claim before, on July 1st, after which two of the three missing SEALs were found dead and a fourth evaded capture by the enemy and was recovered. The remaining SEAL was originally thought to be injured but alive at a private residence somewhere in the Afghan outback. The Taliban reiterated its claim about 11 hours ago:

Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said the guerrillas did not need to provide evidence that they were holding the man. "We don't need to do this because very soon we plan to execute him and then release his video to the world," he said from an undisclosed location. "There is no way the soldier is going to be released. He will be executed." The U.S. military says a four-man team of elite Navy SEAL commandos went missing during a clash with insurgents in the eastern province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan, on June 28.

...and of course, the car bombings continue in Iraq, and now London. What next!?? Meanwhile, the BBC offers a sobering look at what it's like for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, this from members of the 82nd Airborne, who survived a brush with Taliban forces at around the same time the SEALs' chinook went down... Clearly the war in Afghanistan is far from over. What's scary is that everything seems to be erupting at once, across Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We in the U.S. can only brace for what will happen if things start popping off here.
posted by JReid @ 4:15 PM  
London struck by terror attacks
Update 5 (1:15) Debka: "One bus was blown up by a suicide bomber at Russell Square in central London. At least three blasts at tube stations near the financial district closed London’s Underground." Blair headed to security meeting in London.

Update 4 (1:03): Jane's article on why London is especially vulnerable.

Update 3 (12:26) : The London bombings have revived the issue of sleeper cells, both in Europe and in the U.S. But Canada has the problem too, which has implications for us because of the still-porous Northern border.

(AP) Though many view Canada as an unassuming neutral nation that has skirted terrorist attacks, it has suffered its share of aggression, and intelligence officials believe at least 50 terror groups now have some presence here. They are from Sri Lanka, Kurdistan and points between and include supporters of some of the best-known Mideast groups, including al Qaeda, authorities say. Osama bin Laden named Canada one of five so-called Christian nations that should be targeted for acts of terror. The others, reaffirmed last year by his al Qaeda network, were the United States, Britain, Spain and Australia.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, counterpart of the CIA, said terrorist representatives are actively raising money, procuring weapons, "manipulating immigrant communities" and facilitating travel to and from the United States and other countries. Besides al Qaeda, those groups include Islamic Jihad; Hezbollah and other Shiite groups; Hamas, the Palestinian Force 17, Egyptian Al Jihad and various other Sunni groups from across the Middle East, CSIS said. CSIS said the Irish Republican Army, Tamil Tigers and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and major Sikh terrorist groups also have supporters in Canada.

And then there's the threat from South America, which also bleeds into the United States:

Al Qaeda Seeks Tie to Local Gangs
By Jerry Seper
September 28, 2004

A top al Qaeda lieutenant has met with leaders of a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with roots in Mexico and the United States — including a stronghold in the Washington area — in an effort by the terrorist network to seek help infiltrating the U.S.-Mexico border, law enforcement authorities said.

Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a key al Qaeda cell leader for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, was spotted in July in Honduras meeting with leaders of El Salvador's notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang, which immigration officials said has smuggled hundreds of Central and South Americans — mostly gang members — into the United States. Although they are actively involved in alien, drug and weapons smuggling, Mara Salvatrucha members in America also have been tied to numerous killings, robberies, burglaries, carjackings, extortions, rapes and aggravated assaults — including at least seven killings in Virginia and a machete attack on a 16-year-old in Alexandria that severely mutilated his hands.

Many of the cells originally were formed from alumni of the Afghan-Soviet conflict. Of course, hnow, the jihadists are mainly getting their combat training in, and being inspired by, Iraq. From Jane's Defense Weekly just two weeks after the September 11 attacks:

The Afghan alumni

While not all saw combat, some 5,000 Saudis, 3,000 Yemenis, 2,800 Algerians, 2,000 Egyptians, 400 Tunisians, 350 Iraqis, 200 Libyans and dozens of Jordanians served alongside the Afghani mujahideen in the war. Between 1,000 and 1,500 of them returned to Algeria and formed the backbone of the Islamic radicals who are continuing to fight against the government in what has been a nine-year civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Those who returned to Egypt became valued members of the Gamaa Islamiya and the Gihad group, but their success was severely limited by arrest campaigns and several mass trials in the 1990s under the title of 'the returnees from Afghanistan'. Some Egyptians, who saw that they would be imprisoned if they returned home, remained in Afghanistan or took refuge wherever they could. US authorities have said that as many as 200 Afghan alumni settled in the New York/New Jersey area, some of them congregating around the New Jersey mosque where Omar Abdel Rahman preached.

...not to mention those who spread out through France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.

Update 3 (11:10) : Debka: "According to unofficial estimates, at least 45 died in the terrorist bombings of London trains and buses and 150 were seriously injured out of a total of 1000 wounded. [A] group calling itself the Organization of al Qaeda Jihad in Europe claimed the London bombing in revenge for Britain’s participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Italy, Denmark and “all the Crusaders” were threatened with the same punishment unless they withdrew their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

Update 2 (9:40 a.m.): The death toll is still migrating in the London terror attacks. AP momentarily droped the death toll to 33, but is again saying "at least" 40 dead, 300 injured, SkyNews is sticking with 45/1,000 with 300 confirmed in hospitals.

There is some confusion also as to the name of the group claiming the bombings. The Dubai news services are saying it was Organisation of Al-Qaeda Jihad in Europe but most British and American news services are going with The Secret Organisation of al-Qaida in Europe. The Guardian and others also have a slightly different clip of the grou's statement:

The group's statement appeared on a website popular with Islamic militants, according to Elaph, a secular Arabic-language news website, and Der Spiegel magazine in Berlin, which both published the text on their sites. The statement, which also threatened attacks against Italy and Denmark, said: "Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Update (9:10 a.m.): A U.S. official is telling the AP that the death toll in London is at least 40, and that hospital records indicate more than 300 injured. That's a far cry from the official death count of just 2, which even Reuters reverted to after initially setting the toll at 12 (10 at Kings Cross and the 2 originally reported). (Wizbangblog has up a good rundown of the various death tolls). SkyNews is putting the death toll at 45 and the number of injured at 1,000 (given the density of the London transit system, the 2 dead story never really sounded realistic, unfortunately...).

Also: al-Qaida in Iraq is claiming that they have killed Egypt's top diplomat in Iraq. And Israel is scrambling to deny it had any advanced warning of the attacks. The AP report said the embassy received a warning of possible attacks, which prompted Israeli Finance Minister (and former P.M.) Bennjamin Netanyahu to change his plans... Here's the story running in Haaretz this morning, attributed to the AP:

Netanyahu stopped on way to London hotel for conference

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been on his way to a London hotel near the scene of one of the four blasts that ripped through the city Thursday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said.Netanyahu was the scheduled keynote speaker at an Israeli corporate investment conference at the Great Eastern hotel near the Liverpool Street subway station.

"After the first explosion, our finance minister received a request not to go anywhere," Shalom told Israel Army Radio.

But here is another AP report, worded quite differently:

Netanyahu Changed Plans Due to Warning

JERUSALEM - British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday's explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said.

Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to attend an economic conference in a hotel over the subway stop where one of the blasts occurred, and the warning prompted him to stay in his hotel room instead, government officials said.

... Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy to say they had received warnings of possible attacks, the official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the economic conference. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his position.


The attacks have stung the European markets, dropped oil prices, and are threatening to do a number on U.S. stocks as well. Of course that's nothing next to the loss of life, but it it is another goal of the terrorist networks -- money as well as mayhem...

Original post (8:40 a.m.): An al-Qaida-linked group is claiming responsibility for the London terror attacks this morning:

DUBAI : A group calling itself the Organisation of Al-Qaeda Jihad in Europe claimed Thursday's attacks in London and threatened similar ones in Italy, Denmark and other countries with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However there are questions about the group -- an NBC analyst/translator has said the group made a Koranic error on their site, which would be unlike al-Qaida...

It seems the IOC isn't just covering its posterior when it tries to distance the attacks from the decision to award London the Olympic Games in 2012, although its hard to believe the decision, along with the G8 summit in Scotland, weren't contributing factors in the timing:

The group said the attacks were "in response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan." "We have repeatedly warned the government and people of Britain, and we have now fulfilled our promise and have carried out a sacred military attack in Britain," it said. "We continue to warn the governments of Denmark, Italy and all the Crusaders that they will meet the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."
The bombings seem eerily similar to the Madrid train bombings last year -- mutiple, coordinated attacks on the transit system, designed to cause maximum casualties and fear. Scores of kids were trapped at school and their parents at work because public transportation is basically at a standstill. If you're in London and counting on the bus or train to get you home, at this point you're out of luck. (Called the relatives in London this morning, all are safe thank God, but they've no idea how they're getting home. )

What's so frightening about these kinds of attacks is, how do you guard against them? Public transportation is so difficult to secure -- any teenager can usually beat the fare, and the massive size of the terminals and the trains themselves -- or the remoteness of a bus terminal, make them so easy to target. London is one of the most heavily monitored cities on the planet, and security there is well-practiced from the bad-old days of the IRA. If an attack like this can happen there, it's pretty damned scary...
posted by JReid @ 1:15 PM  
Saudi king on the ropes?
The London bombings aren't the only thing pressing down on oil prices: according to Debka, Saudi King Fahd "is sinking fast."
posted by JReid @ 12:54 PM  
Monsters on the loose
The more you read about this Joseph Edward Duncan asshole, the more you wonder why on earth he wasn't stopped before he could get to Coeur d'Alene. Just one month before Shasta and Dylan Groene were kidnapped and the rest of the family bludgeoned to death, this is what Duncan was up to:

Duncan appears in court
Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A convicted sex offender from Fargo made his first court appearance Tuesday on charges he molested a 6-year-old boy near a Detroit Lakes, Minn., middle school last July. Joseph Edward Duncan III, 42, posted a cash bond of $15,000 after the appearance in Becker County District Court on charges of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempted criminal sexual conduct.

... According to a court complaint: On July 3, a man carrying a video camera approached a 6-year-old boy and his 8-year-old friend (at the time of the incident) at a school playground. The man pulled down the shorts of the younger boy and touched him. He tried the same thing with the other boy but wasn't able to, the complaint says. The younger boy described the man and his car to police, who used a sex offender database to match the descriptions to Duncan and his red Pontiac Grand Am. The boy also identified Duncan in a photo lineup. Duncan, who is considered by authorities to be a high-risk offender, was convicted of raping a 14-year-old boy in Washington in 1980, when Duncan was 16.

The reporter had his address and was able to contact him at home. In fact, it seems that everyone who was interested knew where to find Duncan, who was apparently going from state to state trolling for children to molest. So when the Groene children went mising, why didn't Fargo police think of checking in on ole' Joe?
posted by JReid @ 10:55 AM  
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
But enough about Judy, let's talk about US...
There is, I think, a certain amount of narcissism on the part of the press in the case of the Judith goes to Jail / Valerie Plame leak case. Reporters and media groups are beside themselves and threatening the fall of the republic because a federal prosecutor has made good on his threat to either get compliance from key witnesses in his case (Miller and Cooper), or throw them in the slammer.

Unfortunately, this is a pretty smarmy case on which to make the otherwise valid case that journalists must be as unconstrained as possible, and whistleblowers as well-protected as possible, so that together, the two can get vital, even damning, information to the public. But in this case, Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller weren't investigating who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak, they were fellow recipients of the potentially criminal leak. The leaker essentially tried to turn six reporters into accessories in the outing of a CIA agent, and so those reporters were a means to a nasty, political end, not intrepid finders of fact. Therefore the straight line from the prosecutor's demand that they give information to the grand jury investigating the crime, and the idea that future whistleblowing will be imperiled is wobbly at best.

Let's face it: the 24-7 media lives by scoops, and becuase reporters have so spoiled government officials, scoops come almost exclusively from anomymous leaks and "background" briefings. The leaks will continue, even as Judy Miller cools her heels, because both the leakers and the leakees need each other. Few reporters are out there these days sniffing out stories on their own. More and more, news gathering is a "receptive" process (i.e., Judith Miller's ubiquitous receipt of "news" from the Iraqi National Congress, which she reported before the war, and which turned out to be bunk), and those who hand out the info, whatever their motives, have few other ways to get their dirt out.

Maybe, with the blogosphere catching fire, future leakers will simply post their information online, or email it to a friendly blogger -- that would have a chilling effect, but only on the MSM's monopoly on news gathering. I doubt that the future Deep Throat will now clam up and abandon the garage for fear that the reporters will be forced to talk -- the only reason these reporters are being compelled to talk is because it appears that the leaker committed a crime. Miller and Cooper are witnesses to that alleged crime, and under the law, they have to testify before the grand jury. Journalists are not priests or lawyers -- and they don't have the right to essentially help a criminal to evade prosecution. That's what's at stake in this case, not the future of journalism or whistleblowing.

On the other side is this argument, which in my mind is the only one that's valid (and a darned shame, besides):

"...the power to threaten journalists with jail arising from this case will NOT be limited to the facts of this case. Good luck holding future prosecutors only to cases where sources allegedly committed treason. We will see this precedent cited in all sorts of attacks on the protection of sources."
Update: FoolBlog sez: If Rove did it, he'll be pardoned before Bush can say "I fell off my bike..."
Talkleft has the particulars on Cooper and Miller's legal situations.

Update 2: It's looking more and more like, while Matthew Cooper was shielding Karl Rove, Judith Miller may be throwing her body between the prosecutor and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.... Meanwhile the LeftCoaster proposes an even jucier theory: what if the man who discovered Plame's identity was none other than Mr. Moustache himself, John Bolton...?

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 8:12 PM  
Drinking again?
Dubya falls off his bike in Scotland.
posted by JReid @ 8:00 PM  
CSI: Aruba, part 7 - the Islanders fight back
The sense of frustration on the island of Aruba is growing as intense as the frustration of Americans who can't fathom why investigators there can neither get traction on the Holloway case, nor seem to hang on to most of the suspects...

The increasing resentment on the island is currently focusing on Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, who made comments yesterday pleading with countries around the world not to allow the Kalpoe brothers entry and essentially calling them criminals. A local paper, the Aruba Beam, reports this week that the Kalpoe and van der Sloot families "feel like prisoners in their own homes" because of the crush of mostly American press. And a psychologist on the island has pronounced the island "deeply hurt and profoundly offended" by the foreign press' portrayal of the island and by reaction to the case by many Americans, given the outpouring of support and assistance by Arubans toward the Holloway family (including massive volunteer searches and the Aruban government's having reportedly picked up the tab for the family's stay during hte search) ... A rival paper, the Aruba Post, also is running extensive coverage of the protests, including some calls for the family to "respect our Dutch laws or go home..."

A source on the island tells me the demonstrations seen today aren't a sign of anti-Americanism, just frustration: "We have been raised to be pro-American," the source said. "We love everything American, we have no chip on our shoulders . . . people here are feeling the pain now, the humiliation at the way we have be made to look, there is a great sense of injustice felt by islanders."

Meanwhile, some on the island are beginning to take a harsher tone, with rumors bubbling up about the Hollway's mother reportedly taking time off from her search to drop into a few choice jewelry stores and shop, "sightings" of Holloway's aunt lounging away on a beach chair near the ocean search site, and increasingly open resentment toward press questions about white slavery, drugs and other safety issues on the island, along with a bubbling up of questions of whether Arubans had anything to do with Natalee's dispapperance at all (is Nataleee off partying in Venezuela...?) Clearly the 24-7 coverage is beginning to get to people on the island ... though the prosecutor hasn't helped matters with all of the contradictions (suspects charged, then not charged, then released...) and failure to make a single break in the case...

Update: Riehlworldview and Scared Monkeys are live with an article translated from an Aruba paper that goes right after Natalee Holloway and essentially portrays American teenagers as debauched drunkards who come to the island looking for trouble.

Update 2 (July 8): Natalee's mom apologizes to Aruba
posted by JReid @ 2:29 PM  
News of the Baghdad Five
Lost in the media angst-fest over Judith Miller today and the continuing Aruba agonistes (not to mention London's Olympic defeat of the French,) was a pretty important headline: According to a wire story that ran in WaPo today:
The U.S. military in Iraq has detained five Americans for suspected insurgent activity, Pentagon officials said Wednesday. The five have not been charged or had access to a lawyer, and face an uncertain legal future. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to identify any of them, citing the military's policy of not providing the names of detainees. They are in custody at one of the three U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. One was identified by his family and U.S. law enforcement officials as Cyrus Kar, an Iranian-American filmmaker and U.S. Navy veteran.
The NY Times ran an in-depth story on Kar today:

Mr. Kar, 44, a naturalized American born in Iran, followed his dream where few others might have gone. In mid-May, he traveled to Iraq with an Iranian cameraman to film archaeological sites around Babylon. After a taxi they were in was stopped in Baghdad, the two men were arrested by Iraqi security forces, who found what they suspected might be bomb parts in the vehicle. Since then, Mr. Kar has been held in what his relatives and their lawyers describe as a frightening netherworld of American military detention in Iraq - charged with no
crime but nonetheless unable to gain his freedom or even tell his family where he is being held.

He is one of four men with dual American citizenship who have been detained in Iraq beginning in April, a Defense Department official said. But none of the others - all Iraqi-Americans suspected of ties to the insurgency - nor an accused Jordanian-American terrorist operative captured in a raid last year appear to have had anything like Mr. Kar's ties to the United States.

The ACLU is suing to get Kar out of lock-up, saying he's being unjustly accused. Meanwhile the Debka File has more detail on the nationalities of those being held:

The Jawa Reporters speculate on the possible ID of one of the other detainees:

Could the American suspected of involvement in a kidnapping be Mohammed Monaf? Mohammed Monaf has been indicted in Romania for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of 3 Romanian journalists.
More on Monaf here. He is an Iraqi-American and was working as a translator for three Romanian journalists who were taken captive this spring and held for two months. According to Romania's president, Monaf planned the kidnapping with a Syrian born businessman, and the motive was to help a third man beat a finance rap:
Romanian prosecutors have said the two men plotted the kidnapping while in Romania and the motivation for the ruse was that Hayssam, one of Romania's
wealthiest businessman, was under investigation for financial wrongdoing and
banned from leaving Romania. He apparently hoped that "saving" the journalists would help him get clemency, they said. Monaf allegedly carried out the kidnapping with the help of some friends, but lost control of the situation after a few days when a well organized Iraqi insurgent group intervened and took over the hostages, Basescu said.
There's no confirmation that Monaf is one of those being held -- it's all just speculation at this point. But the Debka File's breakdown of the nationalities of the detainees offers some interesting detail:

Pentagon officials say two of the five, an Iranian-American and a Jordanian-American, are US citizens and three Iraqis are also believed to hold US nationality. They were captured separately in Iraqi between Nov. 2004 and June 2005. The Iranian-American [presumably Kar] was arrested at a Baghdad checkpoint in a car packed with washing machine timers (used for roadside bombs.) One Iraqi was involved in a kidnapping, the Jordanian American is thought close to the Zarqawi network. The US in Iraq is holding 10,000 detainees, 400 of them non-Iraqi.

Which WaPo corroborates:

Three of those being detained are Iraqi-Americans, Whitman said. The fifth is a Jordanian-American the Pentagon previously had acknowledged holding. One of the Iraqi-Americans allegedly had knowledge of planning for an attack and a second possibly was involved in a kidnapping, Whitman said. The third was "engaged in suspicious activity," Whitman said, declining to be more specific. They were captured, one each, in April, May and June.

If I'm not mistaken, Monaf was bagged in May or June.

The Jordanian-American could be the unnamed naturalized citizen whom the U.S. acknowledged holding back in April, and who was the first American citizen to be arrested in connection with the Iraqi insurgency, and who was actually caught in 2004:

1 April 2005

WASHINGTON - US forces in Iraq are holding a senior operative of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who holds joint American-Jordanian citizenship, defense officials said on Thursday. The man was captured in a raid by US-led coalition forces in Iraq late in 2004, said Matthew Waxman, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.

“Weapons and bomb-making materials were in his residence at the time he was captured,” Waxman said. Waxman described the man as a personal associate of Zarqawi and an emissary to insurgent groups in several cities in Iraq. ... Defense officials also believe the captured American helped coordinate the movement of insurgents and money into Iraq, Waxman said.

Ordinarily this would have been a pretty big headline, but today, it got lost in the other news of the day (including the Olympics). If Monaf is one of the detainees, it would seem his crime is more criminal -- a kidnapping for cash -- than "insurgent." The others (or all five, if he's not the one) could be in serious jeopardy of a trial at Gitmo, with all the familiar civil liberties and WOT questions. The military acknowleded the tricky legal situation for the Zarqawi aide, who has no lawyer, is designated as an enemy combatant, but has reportedly been visited by the Red Cross. It will be interesting to see if these cases go the way of the Hamdi and Padilla (eternal disappearance and wrangling all the way to the Supreme Court) or , Walker-Lindh (plea bargain). And of course, we'll soon have a new Supreme Court to weigh the question of just what the administration can do to, and with, the "Baghdad Five" and other American citizens accused of aiding anti-U.S. forces...

posted by JReid @ 2:04 PM  
You're the man ... no, YOU're the man...
Some in the Senate are ignoring the Freepers and still pushing for Alberto Gonzales as a SupCo nominee anyway. The pro-Gonzales camp notes that he has already survived a confirmation vote, with the support of six Democrats (Landrieu (La.), Lieberman (Conn.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.). And let's face it, naming an Hispanic to the High Court still poses an attractive legacy option for the purportedly anti-affirmative action GOP... Among them are Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who ironically, is getting a little buzz as a potential nominee himself. posts the scenario from WSJ's John Fund:
As a sitting senator, it would be difficult for Democrats to filibuster [Senator Cornyn], especially since his voting record is clearly not extreme. Yet he's nonetheless considered a solid conservative and at age 53 would likely be on the court for a generation. Meanwhile, the departure from the Senate of Mr. Cornyn would also open up a vacancy that Texas Governor Rick Perry, an old Bush ally, would likely fill with Rep. Henry Bonilla, the only Hispanic GOP congressman in Texas. Mr. Bonilla was already raising money for a possible Senate run in 2006 in case Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison had decided to retire and run for governor. The betting now is that Mr. Bonilla could easily win the special election that would be called a few months after he was named to the seat.

That would give the GOP two Hispanic Senators to the Dems lone Black one (at least until Harold Ford graduates up from the House...). The GOP is likely doing the electoral math, and realizing that 41 billion Hispanic potential voters trumps a few million angry Freepers...

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 1:42 PM  
Choice words
Get the feeling special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has a problem with Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller? Not only did he shoot down their requests for home detention instead of jail in the Plame/CIA leak case, but he added a few swipes at the NYT reporter in particular (I'll bet Ahmad Chalabi never treated Miss Judy like this...):

Speaking of Miller, Fitzgerald wrote, "Certainly one who can handle the desert in wartime, is far better equipped than the average person jailed in a federal facility." Miller, of course, covered (some say, mis-covered) the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq following the U.S. invasion.Fitzgerald mocked Miller's claim that being denied cell phone and e-mail privileges would be adequate punishment: "Forced vacation at a comfortable home is not a compelling form of coercion."
and this:

"Special Counsel appreciates that Miller is also someone who thinks deeply. She is an investigative journalist who has won a Pulitzer Prize and authored several books, including one titled 'God Has Ninety Nine Names' that contains a chapter singularly insightful as to the history and orientation of Egyptian terrorist groups. Neither Special Counsel, nor this Court, should lightly conclude that Miller will spend months in jail without thinking more deeply about the issues discussed above and, in particular, thinking about whether the interests of journalism at large and, even more broadly, the proper conduct of government, are truly served by her continued refuals to obey this Court’s order to testify in an investigation in which she is an eyewitness and her putative source has been identified and has waived confidentiality....
Ouch. That's only a sample. Read more here. ... And I still say those who are defending these reporters miss the key point: they aren't defending some poor whistleblower, or acting "to protect the public" and its right to information, they are protecting a possible criminal who used them and classified information for a political vendetta. In effect, these two journalists are turning principle on its head by cloaking themselves in the notion of journalistic privilege in order to protect the government FROM the public's right to know. And as Craig Crawford points out, without a federal shield law, Cooper and Miller have no legal leg to stand on.

BTW it IS true that this case could have a chilling effect on newsroom managers' willingness to allow confidential sourcing in some cases, but if Jonathan Alter is correct in saying that such a move will reduce news to the reading of press releases, what does he think goes on in most newsrooms now? What was Ms. Miller was doing during the run-up to the war, if not re-gurgitating notes "from the desk of: the neocons and Ahmad Chalabi"? I doubt confidential sourcing will up and disappear because Miller and Cooper are forced to do the perp walk, or better yet, to talk. Government officials are far too spoiled by the practice of being able to hand out news items "on background," and news directors and managing editors are far too pressed for ratings to let the competition get all the "confidential" scoops. BTW Crawfort is right about another thing: whoever the source is that Miller and Cooper are protecting -- Karl Rove or not -- he (or she) is a rank coward.

Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 12:08 PM  
I see London, I see France...
I'll bet somebody wishes they could take back those food jokes now... This has been a rough patch for French President Jacques Chirac. First he and Tony Blair bicker about the war, about trade policy, and over the 2012 Olympics, and then London goes and wins the games right out from under him. As one Paris weekly put it, a lot was on the line for Chirac, who hopes to run for a third term in 2007, and the battle over the games could either have revived his sagging popularity and spurred him on to victory, or left him "standing there in his underwear."

Don't feel bad, Messr. Chirac, thanks to the fact that the entire world detests the U.S. president, New York didn't even have half the shot Paris did... and we don't have David Beckham, who clearly was the U.K.'s trump card. Our spice girl power couple was Michael Bloomberg and Hillary Clinton ... well, at least Mrs. Clinton will have the consolation of being president soon ... Or look at Moscow: their bid got muddied up by Chechen rebels, who all-but promised an Olympic Games there wouldn't be safe. And who knows what happened with Madrid... (oh, right, maybe this...). Anyway, don't feel too badly, Messr . Chirac. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day. And I think your underpants look rather dashing. Cheers, as they say in Lond... er ... sorry...

P.S.: Wizbang and other RW bloggers are having loads of fun with this one. And I haven't seen Monica Crowley look this happy on "Connected" since the day after that Duran Duran reunion concert...
posted by JReid @ 9:56 AM  
All in the family
Does son-of-a-Lucianne, Jonah Goldberg know who the leaker is? Apparently he thinks he does. From NRO's The Corner on Tuesday:
ROVE ETC [Jonah Goldberg] I've gotten a lot of email from over the weekend asking me who I think the Plame leaker was if I think it wasn't Rove. I'm sorry to say I can't say until I get a green light to say. But I'm working on it. And, it's not a just wild guess. I could be wrong but my confidence is high.Posted at 04:37 PM
posted by JReid @ 2:06 AM  
Put on a happy face
Who says the Bush White House doesn't understand the power of marketing? The latest on the White House attempts to hold back the gathering storm (the one within their own ranks, that is,) over their SupCo nominee (HT to the Washington Monthly). From NYT:

WASHINGTON, July 5 - The White House and the Senate Republican leadership are ushing back against pressure from some of their conservative allies about the coming Supreme Court nomination, urging them to stop attacking Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales as a potential nominee and to tone down their talk of a culture war.

In a series of conference calls on Tuesday and over the last several days, Republican Senate aides encouraged conservative groups to avoid emphasizing the searing cultural issues that social conservatives see at the heart of the court fight, subjects like abortion, public support for religion and same-sex marriage, participants said.
Instead, these participants, who insisted on anonymity to avoid exclusion from future calls, said the aides - including Barbara Ledeen of the Senate Republican Conference and Eric Ueland, chief of staff to Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader - emphasized themes that had been tested in polls, including a need for a fair and dignified confirmation process.

Mr. Ueland acknowledged that he and others had been working almost since the vacancy occurred last Friday with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation to persuade conservative activists to steer clear of divisive language.

"Every contact we have with these folks is 'stay on message, stay on purpose,' " Mr. Ueland said. "The extremism of language, if there is to be any, should be demonstrably on the other side. The hysteria and the foaming at the mouth ought to come from the left."

In other calls, emissaries from the office of Harriet Miers, the White House counsel, are urging conservatives to stop discussing individual nominees, especially Mr. Gonzales, whose views on abortion and affirmative action are viewed with wariness by some conservatives. Steve Schmidt, a White House spokesman working on the confirmation, joined some calls, participants said. In an interview Tuesday in USA Today, President Bush said, "Al Gonzales is a great friend of mine. I'm the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it."

The disagreement underscored the balancing act confronting Republican leaders seeking to rally passionate social conservatives behind a nominee while casting the candidate as moderate and middle of the road. "The only ones who could make somebody sound extreme," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative group, "are some of the president's allies talking in an inappropriate way and themselves sounding extreme, which then gets tagged to the nominees."

The story goes on to say the the WH is putting heavy pressure on groups like Focus on the Family to tone it down. Good luck holding back the Freepers...

BTW, according to a probably soon-to-be pulled thread, they'll have a tough time holding back a certain radio talk show hostess, too. Apparently Laura Ingram laid into the president's happy talk on Tuesday. From her site (I refuse to pay for a subscription just to read the transcript...):
In a slightly disturbing interview in USA TODAY, President Bush tells everyone to "tone down" the rhetoric. That's funny, that's what the Democrats are saying too. The President, in fact, needs conservatives to be mobilized, passionate, and strong in their suppor tof his nominee--toning it down never helps the GOP. (see, e.g., the
fights over Bolton, Estrada, and Bork.)

Here's the Freeper post about what was said on the show, and here's the link (while it lasts -- they're not allowed to dis the Dear Leader on FR, you know...):

Posted by Brian_BaldwinOn News/Activism 07/05/2005 9:37:54 PM PDT · 34 replies · 685+ views

Tone what down, Mr. Bush? Who are you talking to? To conservatives? I think he is.
And I think Laura Ingraham, thinks he is, too.

And, proud of God Knows What, he slighted the conservatives who are suppose to sit around and watch their hair turn white as year after year after year after year [sic]betrayal, and now having given so much to put the Republicans and the Bush family BACK in power, who believed the oath Bush gave to church leaders, to conservative leaders, in back door meetings, when lots of money exchanged hands, and money from common people hard earned, and who told the common people all over this nation that he will fight to put a conservative on the bench, and now this from Mr. Peepers he tells us to “tone it down”?

Laura Ingraham told Bush tonight, no YOU Bush, you tone it down. Don’t hush us. You hush. You listen. The House, The Senate, The White House, years and years in the making, and now it’s all yours, conservatives who ground down for you, and when it is time, you tell us to tone it down? Squander another 20 years? Oh, I see. Really. Well, maybe you tone it down Mr. President, or perhaps as some are now calling you Mr. Peepers. Or should I be more respectful? You tone it down when you talk to conservatives about this vital issue, this nomination to the Court. You better
listen. If you told us a lie, you are going to really see who can make hell regarding “Bush Lied”, and it won’t be coming from the Left who are going to make you eat your own words.

Mr. Peepers?
posted by JReid @ 2:04 AM  
As the swiftboat turns
An Asia Times article details what the writer says Swiftboat hackster, and Free Republic contribtor, Jerome Corsi has been up to lately:

Citing a "mission accomplished" in Iraq, President George W Bush told 25,000 soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas: "The establishment of a free Iraq is a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. That success is sending a message from Beirut to Tehran." Tasked by the Bush administration with sending that message from America to Tehran, and "winning hearts and minds" is author and "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" member Jerome Corsi. On May 16, Corsi's NGO, the Iran Freedom Foundation (IFF), inaugurated a 12-day "Iran Freedom Walk" from
Philadelphia's Liberty Bell to Washington, DC.

... This writer asked Corsi about the Iran Freedom Foundation's funding. He said the money came from sales of his book Atomic Iran and from private donations, adding that the IFF would apply for government funding when it became available. That funding may be on the way. On February 11, a promoter of the IFF,, announced that Corsi had helped Republican Senator Paul [sic]Santorum write the Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2005. The legislation was to authorize $10 million in assistance to pro-democracy NGOs that challenge the Iranian regime. Corsi called that figure a "starting point".

... Such "soft power" opposition activities are escalating. The May 29 New York Times quoted Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, as saying the Bush team was "taking a page from the playbook" of colored revolutions where US-funded pro-democracy NGOs helped nonviolently overthrow noncompliant governments.

...The IFF is also filming a documentary and has begun running TV ads entitled; "An Atomic 9-11: When Evil is Appeased", accusing Iran of plans to detonate a 150 kiloton nuclear bomb in New York City. (When Corsi was reminded that it was the US that began Iran's nuclear program in the 1970s, and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sat on the board of ABB, which sold North Korea its nuclear reactors in the 1990s, he refused to address the issue.)

The article also highlights some of Corsi's less than kind statements about Islam -- which are all the more ironic if he is indeed involved in this organization, as well as accusations that the IFF's activities were designed in part to disrupt the June elections. Interesting... here's a link to the IFF web site. More follow up on this would be good...
posted by JReid @ 1:49 AM  
The horrific, unfolding story of the abduction of Shasta and Dylan Groene by a known sex offender just gets uglier the more you look into it.

The biggest question, however, is how did Joseph Duncan evade Fargo authorities forso long? Why was never hauled in for questioning in the Groene case? Groene, on his own blog:
  • admits to being a convicted sex offender;
  • admits that he was being monitored by police, and to even talking with an officer who had confirmed his registration address after an incident in which someone broke into his home;
  • admits that at least one neighbor, as well as other acquaintances, knew of his past and status;
  • claims to be frequently harassed by police, and even directly challenges the Fargo police chief;
  • was a student at a local college and not hiding his identity;
  • operates a public web site dedicated to the issue of reducing the post-sentence penalties for sex offenders;
  • admits to being a fugitive in a post that directly precedes the abductions;
  • becomes increasingly irrational, even delusional, in posts that go right up to three days before the Groene murders and abductions...

Did he not trip the radar for anyone in Fargo when Shasta and Dylan Groene went missing? Did none of the hundreds of commenters on his site get the urge to call police and warn them about this nut-job? Where were all of the failsafes that were supposed to protect these poor children from this monster? And what the hell good is Megan's Law if it can't keep people like this either locked up for firmly under police surveillance? Perhaps its time to add monitoring the Internet activities of convicted sex offenders to the law enforcement "to do" list. Sheesh...

Previous post: scary pajama people

posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Jailbait, Rall and Rove
Patrick Fitzgerald ain't playin' when he says he wants Cooper and Miller to spill their guts. The prosecutor is demanding that Cooper testify before the grand jury, Time handover or no Time handover, and he went further, opposing home detention instead of jail for the two stubborn reporters, saying:
Allowing the reporters home confinement would make it easier for them to
continue to defy a court order to testify, he said. Special treatment for journalists may "negate the coercive effect contemplated by federal law," Fitzgerald wrote in filings with the court."Journalists are not entitled to promise complete confidentiality --no one in America is."
Why the hard line? TalkLeft's legal minds say the answer is "perjury," and that at this stage, that's what the federal investigation is all about...

Meanwhile, Ted Rall -- on Independence Day no less -- went medieval on Rove, writing Bush's brain, if he is the CIA name leaker, is worse than Osama bin Laden:
In war collaborators are more dangerous than enemy forces, for they betray with intimate knowledge in painful detail and demoralize by their cynical example. This explains why, at the end of occupations, the newly liberated exact vengeance upon their treasonous countrymen even they allow foreign troops to conduct an orderly withdrawal.
...and that's just the first paragraph. Leaving aside the accusations that the leaker collaborated with the enemy, or Rall's comparing himself favorably with Michael Moore (fine, sounds right) and Ward Churchill (Wha!!!?? Why would you want to be in the same paragraph with that guy?); I hate to agree with the Bush cult, whose minimization of the Plame outing remains a permament stain on their reason if not their character, but I think Rall may be hitting the sugar a little bit too hard on this one. Comparing Colonel Karl to a terrorist mastermind, or saying he -- if he is the leaker -- "made common cause with Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or any other officially designated 'terrorist' group" ... or that he may have "worked to undermine the CIA," gives the man far too much credit for motive. The leaker -- whoever he or she turns out to be -- was working to undermine critics of Bush's foreign policy, not the CIA, and he either committed a crime (either a knowing leak, or as said above, perjury), used classified information for naked political gain, and displayed a brazen disregard for the implications to American national security. I'm with Bush Sr. in calling such actions damn near traitorous, and they were certainly stupid, but I don't think they amount to "making common cause" with al-Qaida.

If Rove is the leaker, he should either resign, or as Ambassador Wilson said, be "frog marched out of the white house" in handcuffs. I'd certainly enjoy watching the latter. But even if he's not the leaker, Rove is still a Nixonian jerk who'd do anything short of killing his mother's dog to help Bush look like he knows what he's doing. Either way, he's no Bin Laden. It may feel good to turn the rhetorical tide on the man who called liberals a bunch of 9/11 weenies, but there's got to be some other nice, plump, juicy target who peddled American national security for his own gain that you can compare this guy too, right? How about Robert Hanssen, the convicted secrets-for-cash spy who leaked information to a dark-hearted reporter named Novak, who used the info to trash a government official (in that case, Janet Reno) and then outed his source in the end (though in that case, to everybody, not just a grand jury...?)

Update: Not everybody thinks there's a case against Colonel Karl. MarkInMexico breaks down his reasons for seeing no "there" there. Either way, Rove isn't talking to reporters, though some lawmakers would like to see him clear the air.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had called on Rove to clear the air on Sunday. "We've heard it from his lawyer, but it would be nice to hear it directly from Mr. Rove that he didn't leak the identity of Valerie Plame, and that he didn't direct anyone else to do such a dastardly thing," said Schumer.

...Rove's lawyer has asserted that while he was interviewed by Cooper he was not the key source who revealed Plame's identity as a CIA agent. Rove's critics, however, suggest that he could be charged with perjury if he did not tell the truth about this to a grand jury.

...Meanwhile, Lawrence O'Donnell, the MSNBC analyst who first broke the Rove/Cooper link on Friday, wrote on the Huffington Post blog today, that Rove's
lawyer had "launched what sounds like an I-did-not-inhale defense. He told Newsweek that his client 'never knowingly disclosed classified information.' Knowingly. "Not coincidentally, the word 'knowing' is the most important word in the controlling statute ( U.S. Code: Title 50: Section 421). To violate the law, Rove had to tell Cooper about a covert agent 'knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States.'"
Of course, that doesn't matter if, as TalkLeft says, the perjury's the thing.

Previous posts
posted by JReid @ 5:22 PM  
Can you hear me now...?
Okay, so now it's not just culturally untutored American Blacks who are criticizing the Mexican Memin Penguin stamps: it's Black Mexicans themselves:

The Asociacion Mexico Negro, which represents some 50,000 blacks living on the Pacific coast, said in a letter to Fox that Memin Pinguin, a 1940s comic book character drawn with thick lips and a flat nose, was stereotypical and racist.

"Memin Pinguin rewards, celebrates, typifies and cements the distorted, mocking, stereotypical and limited vision of black people in general," said the letter signed by leaders of the association.

The letter marks the first official complaint from a Mexican group over the stamps, which went on sale last week and provoked a storm of controversy in the United States. U.S. civil rights groups said they should be withdrawn.


"The stamps are 101 percent offensive, there is no doubt about it," said Rev. Glyn Jemmott, a Catholic priest in the 98 percent black village of El Ciruelo in Guerrero state, and one of the signatories of the letter.

"What is evident is the level of tolerance of racism that exists in the country. We are accustomed to racism to the point where anyone who dares question it runs the risk of being considered unpatriotic," he told Reuters by telephone.

So if we're being consistent, and racism is in the eye of the (Mexican) beholder, then the stamps are now officially racist, right...?

Previous post: Do you find this racist?
posted by JReid @ 4:53 PM  
Deja vu
Daniel Ellsberg, the former State and Defense Dept. employee who released the Pentagon Papers during Watergate, wrote in the LATimes on Sunday about the "familiarity" of Bush's defense of the Iraq war. From Robwire:

President Bush's explanation Tuesday night for staying the course in Iraq evoked in me a sense of familiarity, but not nostalgia. I had heard virtually all of his themes before, almost word for word, in speeches delivered by three presidents I worked for: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Not with pride, I recognized that I had proposed some of those very words myself.

Drafting a speech on the Vietnam War for Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara in July 1965, I had the same task as Bush's speechwriters in June 2005: how to rationalize and motivate continued public support for a hopelessly stalemated, unnecessary war our president had lied us into. Looking back on my draft, I find I used the word "terrorist" about our adversaries to the same effect Bush did.

Like Bush's advisors, I felt the need for a global threat to explain the scale of effort we faced. For that role, I felt China was better suited as our "real" adversary than North Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, just as Bush prefers to focus on Al Qaeda rather than Iraqi nationalists. "They are trying to shake our will in Iraq - just as they [sic] tried to shake our will on Sept. 11, 2001," he said.

... His speechwriters, like me, then faced this question from the other side. To meet the enemy's test of resolve, how long must the American public support troops as they kill and die in a foreign land? Their answer came in the same workmanlike evasions that served Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon: "as long as we are needed (and not a day longer) . until the fight is won."

I can scarcely bear to reread my own proposed response in 1965 to that question, which drew on a famous riposte by the late U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson during the Cuban missile crisis: "There is only one answer for us to give. It was made . by an American statesman . in the midst of another crisis that tested our resolution. Till hell freezes over."

Must be hell to be a Bush speechwriter these days.
posted by JReid @ 3:51 PM  
Scary pajama people
According to CNN, Joseph Edward Duncan III, the man arrested in connection with the kidnapping of little Shasta Groene and her brother, Dylan, maintained a web-site called The Fifth Nail (for the supposed fifth nail --for the heart -- that mythical gypsies are said to have hidden from the Roman police, rather than allowing it to be used in the crucifixion of Jesus). The subtitle of the site, according to a Google search, is "Sex Offender Registration is State Sanctioned Discrimination," which is pretty freaking scary in its own right. The associated blog portrays a person devovling into paranoia, rambling on about religion and arguing that "the only cure for crime is love" (February entry), and even arguing back and forth about the law with "Police Chief Magnus" (there is such a police chief, which makes you wonder how they didn't catch up with this guy sooner...) He also increasngly seems to be seeking some sort of religious reprieve, with the support of scads of commenters. The site has been taken down by, but the archive of the blog is still findable. Some clips (warning, they're pretty disturbing):

Friday, May 13, 2005
Still Confused

I wish I could be more honest about my feelings, but those demons made sure I'd never be able to do that. I might not know if it matters, but just in case, I am working on an encrypted journal that is hundreds of times more frank than this blog could ever be (that's why I keep it encrypted). I figure in 30 years or more we will have the technology to easily crack the encryption (currently very un-crackable, PGP) and then the world will know who I really was, and what I really did, and what I really thought. Also, maybe then they will understand that despite my actions, I'm not a bad person, I just have a disease contracted from society, and it hurts a lot.

I hope to complete this journal before I die (soon) or turn myself in (I still might do that, I think it is the right thing, but of course, I'm not sure). Speak of being sure; I wish I could be sure about my thoughts. But right now the only thing I'm sure about is that I'm sure about nothing. It is not a good position to be in considering my circumstances (being a felony fugitive and all).

Makes you wonder why no one reading the blog attempted to contact authorities and track down this "felony fugitive" doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
The Demons Have Taken Over

Thanks for the comments. As far as letting God take care of the Demons, too late. They've locked up the "Happy Joe" person in the same dungeon that "Happy Joe" kept them in for so many years. Now they are loose and I am very afraid. From now on I may refer to "Happy Joe" as "Jet" (me) and the demons as "The Bogeyman." If you are familiar with me or even my fifthnail website then you will understand the names (see

I have been asking God to help defeat the demons. In fact, last night I was on my knees begging him, crying out loud to him, to help me. He didn't answer, again. The problem is I am loosing my religion. I don't accept anything at face value, not even my own thoughts. So when I start having religious convictions I question the source. ...To be more specific, I am scared, alone, and confused, and my reaction is to strike out toward the perceived source of my misery, society.

My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die. ...

... I was in prison for over 18 years, since the age of 17. As an adult all I knew was the oppression of incarceration. All those years I dreamed of getting out...And getting even. Instead, I got out and I got even, but did not get caught. So, I got even again, and again did not get caught. So, I figured, well, I got even twice (actually more, but that's here nor there), even if I'm the only one who knows, so now what?

Decide for yourself if you think it's real or a fake -- the final blog entry is dated May 13, but Dylan and Shasta Groene weren't reported missing until three days later, May 16, when police discovered the bodies of their mother, brother and the mother's boyfriend at their Coeur d'Alene, Idaho home. Yet some commenters demand to know "where is Dylan...?" and make threats to "Joe" related to the missing kids. In the blog, "Joe" also denies an earlier molestation (Duncan was convicted of raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint in 1980 when he was 15 and sentenced to 20 years. He was released on parole in 1994). He also gets other details right, including Duncan's incarceration since age 17.

It's all way too creepy. The question is, is it really Duncan's site? This last clip seems to contradict the later "admissions" of "other acts against society", and is particularly chilling given what Duncan could now be charged with:

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
On Sex Offender Hysteria 11:04 a.m.

I committed a sex crime when I was very young. I was sentenced to a sex offender program for adults where half the men in my 'treatment group' sat and fantasized about me. After two years I was a 'senior member' when the state therapist paid a surprise visit to my mother's house and propositioned her saying it "would help your son in the program if you co-operate with me." When she told me about it I quit the program and was sent to prison where according to at least one official report that was written before I was sentenced, “Because of his appearance and age he would likely be abused by other inmates if sent to prison…” true story.

I thought I would only do a few years and get out not having to be around such 'evil' people who represent the system. But, because of 'sex offender hysteria' I ended up spending over 12 more years in prison before finally being awarded parole. All my psych reports say I am a low risk; I was just a kid acting out confusion over my own abuse and study's show conclusively that my type of offense is rarely repeated. And yet almost 30 years later, while I have no parole nor have I ever committed a new crime, the police insist on knocking on my door several times a year, and sometimes in the wee hours, as a matter of ‘Magnus Genius’ to check that I still live here.

I have no privacy at all. Anyone in the State, Country, even World can find out where I live, what I look like, and what I did when I was a kid just by typing my name on any Web browser. This does not only hurt me; if that was all I could accept it because what I did was bad. But it hurts my mother, my family, my friends, and even my neighbors who think I’m a great guy, until they find out, then they are afraid of me. It hurts society because it scares people into thinking every strange person is a suspect and at the same time deceives them into thinking the government can make them safe by telling them about “the really bad ones.” Even the Fargo Police web site admits few convicted sex offenders ever re-offend. The majority of sex offender convictions are first time convictions, most sex offenders do not re-offend after being caught. That is a stone cold fact that no one can deny in the face of the evidence, and yet people refuse to look at the direct implications; the truth!

So these laws only harasses convicted sex offenders and are an inherent waste of effort, in fact even more detrimental to the safety of our society since they create the classic victim mentality; the victims sense of false security allows ‘un-convicted offenders’ to put themselves in a position to abuse, then the victims ‘fear’ lets the offender get away with it for longer. It seriously hampers any attempts on the offender’s part to date women, and makes it difficult for them to even have good friends. So, some of the more ignorant people in the world will read this and think, "they deserve it.” I call these people ignorant because they don’t see the hurt they are causing, more children, more victims, just because they are afraid to admit their own secret desires.

Ironically, whether or not "Joe" is Joseph Duncan, he has made a slam dunk case for lifetime incarceration of sex criminals, despite himself. All in all, a pretty sobering reminder that the Web is full of fascinating people and ideas, but also home to some damn scary ones, too. Okay that's all I can stand. I'm going downstairs to make sure all my doors are locked...

posted by JReid @ 1:40 AM  
Monday, July 04, 2005
That '70s show (part 2)
Let's say for a moment that, denials aside, the U.S. is somehow able to prove that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a member of the student group that seized the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. What then?

Some relevant bits and pieces of the history of the Iran hostage crisis bear repeating:
  • Jan. 16, 1979, Shah Reza Pahlevi, the pro-Western ruler of Iraq since the 1940s, flees the country after an uprising by Islamic revolutionaries (led by the formerly exiled Ayatollah Khomeni). The uprising was nominally sparked by anger over unequal distribution of oil wealth, corruption, etc.;
  • Sept. 1979, the Shah is allowed to come to the U.S. for medical treatment;
  • Nov. 4, 1979, about 500 members of a revolutionary student movement storm the U.S. embassy and take 66 Americans and a few Iranian embassy employees hostage, nominally, out of anger over the Shah being admitted to the U.S. The hostage takers demand to exchange the hostages for the Shah, whom they demanded to try in Iran. About 15 days into the ordeal, the militants release 13 hostages -- the women and African-Americans, and one man who was sick with multiple sclerosis, leaving 52 in captivity;
  • Througout the rest of 1979 and 1980, President Carter's response to the crisis includes freezing millions of dollars worth of Iranian assets, halting oil imports and of course that disastrous April 1980 rescue attempt that resulted in three downed choppers, eight dead servicemen and one red-faced president. (Plus one secretary of state who resigned over the failed policy). All of this right in the middle of an election.
  • Sept. 1980, the Shah had died in Egypt some months before, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein invades Iran. Suddenly, Iran is in a mood to deal on the hostages;
  • November, 1980, Ronald Reagan wins the election, with the ongoing hostage crisis a factor in Carter's defeat. The out-going administration finally gets its deal, with the help of Algerian intermediaries (the conspiracy theory is that a deal wasn't worked out before because the Reagan "kitchen cabinet", including George Bush Sr., secretly negotiated to prevent an "October surprise" release before the election, but we won't go into that here...).
  • January 20, 1981, the hostages are freed on the day of Reagan's inauguration, after 444 days in captivity (great, theatrical start for Reagan, no?) That same day, the new administration releases $8 billion in Iranian assets and grants the government of Iran blanket immunity from lawsuits arising from the hostage crisis, per the Carter deal; [Sources: Infoplease, Wikipedia, BBC]

Fast-forward to 2000: some of the former hostages sue anyway, under a law passed during the Clinton administration, the Antiterrorism Act of 1996. The law allows U.S. citizens to sue foreign governments over cases of state sponsored terrorism (some former Iraqi captives sued that country under the same act, but the Bush administration has blocked them from getting their money, saying the "new Iraq" can't afford to pay up.) Anyway, back to Iran, the former hostages win their case by default in 2001 because Iran fails to mount a defense. And here's the rub: in 2001, the Bush state department pushed to have that lawsuit voided, saying it would interfere with the government's ability to carry out its foreign policy and negotiate international agreements. In the end it doesn't matter because a federal judge winds up dismissing the lawsuits altogether in 2002 (in a ruling upheld a year later by an appeals court), saying the 1980 agreement bars the government from awarding the hostages any damages resulting from their captivity.

So if that agreement is still in force, doesn't it follow that the U.S. government cannot now retaliate in any way against the government of Iran for anything having to do with the hostage crisis? Who are we going to punish? The vice president, who was the 1979 student movement's spokeswoman? President Ahmadinejad (and if so, how?) Or the members of the 1979 group who are now leading the opposition to the new, hardline president (who admits to being a co-founder of the movement, but so far, denies he had any role in the hostage taking itself...)

Bottom line, the U.S. has few cards to play in Iran, even if Ahmadinejad is the bad-guy some former hostges and others say he is, partly because of that 1981 agreement, and partly because of the military constrictions presented by the Iraq and Afghan engagements (and partly because of the sensibilities of the Europeans, who are determined to use all the carrots in their garden to woo Iran to the nuclear negotiation table). Another interesting question, is just what did the "revolutionary government" in Iran do with that $8 billion, as well as the arms later sold to them illegally by the Reagan administration in exhcange for siphoning off some of the funds for the Contras in Nicaragua? Perhaps they used it all up fighting Iraq...

Iran is thought to be much closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions than Saddam Hussein ever was. And then of course there are those sticky Iranian ties to the 9/11 hijackers (again, eclipsing anything the neocons and Bush supporters claim Iraq had going) to consider... Had we not invaded Iraq, that alone might have given the Bush administration leverage to take on Tehran, diplomatically if not militarily. But now, the Bushies are left with a revolutionary government of the same ilk that spawned the hostage crisis, but which we can't invade (not enough troops and zero international support for that), won't negotiate with directly, but can't isolate, because Europe and Russia won't have it.

I can't wait to see what the geniuses in the Bush kitchen cabinet come up with this time...

Previous episodes:

posted by JReid @ 11:55 PM  
CSI: Aruba, part 6 - Depends on what the meaning of "charged" is
Okay, I'm breaking my no-post rule for the day. Just try and make sense of this if you can. On Friday, the chief prosecutor in Aruba told the media that the three still-held suspects in the Natalee Holloway disapppearance had already been charged with her murder, and that prosecutors didn't need a body in order to proceed with a case. Today, a judge orders the Kalpoe brothers released. Huh? The wire stories have since been updated, but here is the text of the July 1 AP report, remember, this is just three days ago:

Report: Aruba Suspects Charged With Murder
Friday, July 01, 2005

ORANJESTAD, Aruba — The three young men detained in the Natalee Holloway case have reportedly been charged with murder. Aruba's chief prosecutor told The Associated Press that the murder charges were filed soon after the suspects were arrested more than three weeks ago. Those charged include Joran van der Sloot (search), 17, and his friends, Surinamese brothers Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, Aruban Attorney General Karin Janssen said.

Janssen explained that the charges weren't announced at the time they were handed down to protect the family of the missing honors student from Alabama. "At the time, we didn't want to upset the (Holloway) family talking about murder while they searched," Janssen said. Janssen, who has said several times in the past three weeks that no one was charged in the case, said they also kept the information quiet in order not to compromise their investigation. Authorities have said they have no physical evidence suggesting Holloway is dead.

Then, later that day came the following correction:

ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- After initially reporting that prosecutors in Aruba said that three young men they've been holding in the disappearance of an Alabama teen had been charged with murder, The Associated Press now says that is not the case.

In its corrected story, the AP says that Aruba's chief government spokesman says the three suspects have not been formally charged but could be as soon as Monday.

Earlier, Aruba's attorney general, Karin Janssen, told The Associated Press in a recorded interview that the young men had been charged with murder since their arrest three weeks ago. The government spokesman, Ruben Trapenberg, contacted the AP following the English-language interview with Janssen.

"This a question of semantics. It's been a problem since day one," Trapenburg said. "The charging is a formal process that happens later on. It could happen as soon as Monday."

Three weeks ago, three days from now, kept quiet so as not to hurt the family ... yeah, you're right, all a matter of mangled semantics. Maybe under Dutch law charges can be placed at the ready, to be formally invoked later on? Perhaps. And so today, on the day the suspects faced imminent formal charges, comes the news that two out of the three suspects aren't any closer to being charged than there were (or is that weren't...) three weeks ago:

The judge ordered 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe and his 18-year-old brother, Satish, freed after hearings Monday morning. Suspect Joran Van Der Sloot, 17, was ordered held for another 60 days while police continue to investigate.

Authorities have interrogated the suspects numerous times since their arrests June 9. The three have not been charged, and defense attorneys have said they are innocent. ...

Just what kind of game is the Aruban prosecutor playing, anyway? I don't buy that this is a case of the media getting it wrong, since AP was simply reporting what the chief proescutor was telling them -- complete with an explanation of why the "charges" weren't announced before. Either the anouncement Friday was meant purely as CYA, or charges were filed and then withdrawn (or junked by the judge for lack of evidence...)

The Holloway family has got to be in knots over the conflicting reports, including the very basic question of whether Aruban authorities believe Natalee Holloway is alive or dead, and whether or not authorities just released two suspects who are already charged -- or whom they intend to charge -- with murder. Do the Aruban authories even have a theory in this case? I know there aren't many murders on the tiny island and so investigators there have about as much practice at this sort of thing as the authorities who investigated the Jon Benet Ramsey murder in Colorado, but this kind of turnabout is odd to say the least...

Update: Scared Monkeys and Riehlworld view both report on the rumor -- and so far it's only that -- that Joran Van der Sloot's attorney may file a motion for his release as well:

SM: Joran’s attorney will file a motion for reconsideration (appeal) of the judge’s decision today. If the lack of evidence that forced the release of the Kalpoe brothers is true , we can expect the motion may be successful. This would mean Joran van der Sloot could be released by next weekend.

Riehl: It would require a judge to once again be brought in from Curacao for such a hearing and he could be released if it were ruled so. But that would call for today's judgment to, in effect, be over-turned.

Somehow it seems unlikely that a judge will order the Kalpoe brothers re-incarcerated, but in this case, clearly it's best to expect the unexpected.

Previous episodes: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Happy Independence Day!
Here's one story of how U.S. troops in Iraq are celebrating, along with a nice reminder of what the holiday is about: fighting for your own freedom... Another good article. Also, from Stars & Stripes, the names of the 16 troops killed in the Afghan chinook crash have been released. That's it for today, unless something really big happens. Keep your fingers away from the sparklers!
posted by JReid @ 12:53 PM  
With one hand tied behind their back
On this Independence Day, some Democrats seem to be having second thoughts about that "gang of 14" deal that averted a nuclear showdown in the Senate (in fact, some DUers are still fuming over the deal. One quote from today's boards: "The so called 'Deal' was nothing more than a way for the spineless democrats to hide from confrontation. Some were feeling the heat so they wanted to give in but needed something to cover their spineless asses and the 'Deal' was just that, democrats gave in -- again --- as they will keep on doing until we elect some democrats with spines that are willing to fight for America. ")

The trouble for Dems is, if they keep to the deal, can they successfully filibuster a Bush Supreme Court pick, and if so, under what "extreme circumstances"? And what if they can't keep another Scalia clone off the court? And what if, in NOW's worst nightmare, Bush packs the court with evangelical activists, and Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned (not anytime soon, since Bush would need two more resignations in addition to O'Connor to get an anti-Roe majority, but in theory, it could happen before he quacks out in 2008...) Would it be the end of women's rights as we know them, as liberal activists are frantically predicting in urgent emails?

Would total victory make the GOP unstoppable, or, would it simpoly plunge the party into civil war, as state after state is forced to wrestle with the abortion question? Where would Republican women stand, in, say West Virginia or Mississippi or Florida? Would wealthy GOP doyennes stand for having their daughters locked out of family planning (or forced to flee to Canada or Europe to "get it done") just so they can close the abortion clinics and deal the opposition a death blow? And how long with the libertarian wing of the party stand with the religious activists on the "life" issue when it really comes to roost, right in their backyards?

The trouble with Roe is that it has become a theoretical exercise for most people. It's "bad law" if you're a Republican, but it's not bad law you have to deal with, until it's gone. In other words, liberal groups may not want to acknowledge it, for fundraising and base-motivating reasons, but the abortion debate is potentially far more lethal for Republicans than it is for Democrats. Here's Peter Wallsten (a terrific writer who left sunny South Florida not too long ago for the L.A. Times):

...the political irony that few on either side readily acknowledge — but many are pondering — is that Roe's demise could transform American elections by crippling the conservative political majority that opposes abortion and by giving new life to hobbled liberals who support the ruling's preservation.

... the prospect of progress toward overturning Roe — and the realization that President Bush could have at least two chances to make transformative appointments to the court — has exposed a disagreement between conservatives who want abortion criminalized and pragmatic Republicans concerned that shifting the issue from the courts to the ballot box would lead to massive GOP losses. Of particular concern is the party's fate in closely contested battlegrounds such as Ohio, Florida and Michigan, where the resurgence of the abortion issue could alienate moderate voters who have helped Republicans make gains on all levels.

"Smart strategists inside the party don't want the status quo changed," said Tony Fabrizio, chief pollster for the 1996 Republican presidential campaign of Bob Dole. "This may cause Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger — who are strongly committed to being pro-choice — to flip or to push for a third-party movement," he added. "If they did outlaw it, it would ultimately turn the Republican Party into a theocratic-based party rather than an ideological party, and the party would necessarily start shedding people."

Strategists worry that overturning Roe would make abortion a top-tier political issue again, galvanizing liberals and moderates who have long assumed the issue was settled. At the same time, it would eliminate a major organizing principle of the evangelical movement that gained prominence in last year's elections. And Republican candidates, who have long sidestepped the issue by assuring moderate voters that judges had the final say on abortion, would suddenly be forced to say how they would vote on a woman's right to choose."A candidate could no longer say, 'I'm running for state representative, not the Supreme Court,' " said David Johnson, former director of the Republican Party of Florida, who has advised GOP campaigns, including that of John Thune, who last year defeated the Senate's top Democrat, Tom Daschle, in South Dakota. "That response would no longer be valid because their vote would matter."

So far, the evangelical base of the GOP is pushing forward without much regard to these considerations (while the leadership, including people like Tony Perkins, are being conspicuously cautious). The abortion debate is the glue that unites certain factions of the party, including the Pat Buchanan anti-Iraq war wing, the militant pro-Bush Freeper wing and the evangelicals. But what about the interventionist neoconservatives? Reviving the abortion debate would surely crowd out their ambitious globalist agenda for the party, and let's not forget, the neocons care almost exclusively about invading the Middle East. They're relatively moderate - to -libertarian on social issues. As for moderate Republicans, libertarians, corporate Republicans and fiscal conservatives? As usual, they're left completely in the cold on this issue, as on so many others. Losing electoral ground, and turning the GOP into the "party of abortion abolition" would harm GOP efforts to curb immigration, reign in the federal government, eliminate education spending, privatize Social Security and more. The question becomes, does the GOP really want to plunge America back into the abortion debate? And at what cost...?

Maybe the best thing that could come out of an end to Roe would be the emergence of a moderate Republican-Democrat coalition, not to mention the fact that it would force the theocrats on the right to test their convictions at the ballot box, state by state, rather than just in grandstanding culture clashes like the Terri Schiavo circus.

There's also the issue of George W. Bush himself. The president, who is a Methodist -- hardly the most fire breathing of the Protestant denominations, and one whose UK wing recently agreed to bless same-sex unions -- has never explicitly called for overturning Roe. More Wallsten:
Bush told Danish television last week that although he believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape and incest or when a mother's life was at risk, he understood that the nation was not ready for Roe to go away. "I'm a realist as well," Bush said. "I mean, this is an issue that has polarized the American political society. And in order to get good policy in place that protects the life of a child, we're going to have to change hearts."

Which brings up the question of just how fervently Bush really believes in the evangelical political cause, and to what extent he and his advisors have simply used the movement to win elections...

two more clips:
"Bush is in a real dilemma," said John Seery, a professor of politics at Pomona College, who has written about the politics of abortion. "The true-believer, pro-life person wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and the politics are secondary. But to political strategists who are concerned about the future of the Republican Party, this would be almost devastating."


Kenneth L. Connor, a former head of the Family Research Council who helped
engineer congressional efforts this year to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case, said overturning Roe would create political shockwaves that might force both sides to reach a consensus.But Connor, a former candidate for governor in Florida, said many Republican politicians had no desire to see Roe go away."The current situation allows them to furrow their brow, ring their hands, gnash their teeth but not do a dadgum thing about it," he said. "If the court were to put the decision in their hands, they would be mortified."

posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Le def jam
French President Jacques Chirac may be looking to give up his day job. Here are a few of his greatest hits, from conversations overheard by a reporter ahead of the G8 summit:

On the British:
"One cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad" (to big laughs from Schroeder and Putin)...

"The only thing they have ever done for European agriculture is mad cow disease..."

"After Finland, it is the country with the worst food..."

... Mr Chirac is also reported to have reminisced about an occasion when Lord George Robertson, the former Secretary General of Nato, had made him try a Scottish dish.

"That is where our difficulties with Nato come from..."

Any of you folks from out of town?
posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Consider the shark jumped
SayAnything links to proof that it may be time for ABC Radio Networks' commentator Paul Harvey to retire. Harvey's comments on the radio a couple of weeks ago are ... um ... colorful... and its hard to believe they didn't at least get picked up by Olbermann. Here's the money quote, as recounted by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune (link ot full quote):

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said that the American people…he said, the American people, he said, and this is a direct quote, “We didn’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy.” That was his response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That we didn’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy. And that reminder was taken seriously. And we proceeded to develop and deliver the bomb, even though roughly 150,000 men, women and children perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With a single blow, World War II was over.


"...We didn't come this far because we're made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.

"And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. So it goes with most great nation-states, which--feeling guilty about their savage pasts--eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy."

Wizbang picks up the story as well and points out that not everyone is mad at Harvey, with some suggesting that those who wince at his comments simply don't understand the war on terror (not an original right-wing argument, but there you go.) Left out of the above passage are Harvey's harsh assessments of our having "given a pass" to the Saudis and our post-9/11 restraint ("keeping our best weapons in our silos" and all...) as well as America's preoccupation with maintaining our "image" of being "more moral, more civilized" than our enemies.

Maybe Harvey's harsh outlook on war and sugar candy might be explained by his World War II experience -- he was just returning from two years of covering the U.S. Navy as a radio reporter in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii when the Japanese attacked. He then signed up to become an Army Air corpsman and served until 1944. (Interesting Wiki fact: ("The November 7, 1978, issue of Esquire magazine has an exposé of sorts on Harvey, including how he came to drop his last name of Aurandt: Briefly, he stole an airplane and was discharged from the Army Air Corps on Section 8 [mental illness] charges.") Ah, a second explanation -- mental instability.

What exactly is Harvey saying? That we're not fighting the war on terror hard enough? That despite all the complaints about our detention facilities and Iraqi civilian deaths and spiraling insurgencies that we're punking out ... what ... by not nuking Iraq, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East? What is it exactly that Harvey thinks is behaving like sugar candy? Surely not the U.S. military, which is doing the best job you can imagine under the circumstances (light troops, constant redeployment and a fraction of the salary of the provate contractors...). So maybe the Bush administration? Not being nasty enough with the Patriot Act for you?

I guess what Harvey is really getting at is that those who complain about U.S. tactics, whether at Gitmo or in Iraq, are soft-bellied sissies. Maybe, like Karl Rove, he only means Either way, comments like Harvey's are about as helpful to the American image-(re)building part of the war on terror as those Abu Ghraib photos. Just for a moment, imagine the transcript of that little radio ditty being read by an Al-Jazeera reporter... better yet, imagine how the Freeper world would have reacted if the same comments about America's "save past" of infecting Indians with smallpox blankets and using nukes and "greasing the skids" with slaves had been made by Katrina Van den Heuvel...

P.S.: This might have been a good quote to add to Michelle Malkin's "said what?" thread, if she did that sort of thing when a winger's involved...
posted by JReid @ 10:22 PM  
No yellow bracelet for me, thanks
Sorry, but I just can't get excited about all the teary-eyed coverage of Lance Armstrong. Isn't he the guy who dumped his wife -- the woman who nursed him through his cancer scare and is the mother of his three kids -- for Cheryl Crow? Forget that stupid Hillary book, man, the unauthorized bio of this guy is probably much better beach reading. By the way, here's one place you might not want to turn for love and financial advice (either that or Lance's ex should ask for a bigger settlement...)
posted by JReid @ 10:18 PM  
Conversations with Karl
Update July 4: Lawrence O'Donnell blasts Karl Rove on the question of "knowing" disclosure... This is either a case of O'Donnell defending his scoop, or a reporter who knows he has his man.

Orignal Post: Newsweek has gone to print with it's Karl Rove article, which confirms the conversations between Rove and Time reporter Matthew Cooper but clears up little else. And here's an exerpt from Lawrence O'Donnell's reaction:
On Friday, I broke the story that the e-mails that Time turned over to the prosecutor that day reveal that Karl Rove is the source Matt Cooper is protecting. That provoked Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, to interrupt his holiday weekend to do a little defense work with Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. On Saturday, Luskin decided to reveal that Rove did have at least one conversation with Cooper, but Luskin told the Times he would not “characterize the substance of the conversation.”

Luskin claimed that the prosecutor “asked us not to talk about what Karl has had to say.” This is highly unlikely. ... If what I have reported is not true, if Karl Rove is not Matt Cooper’s source, Rove could prove that instantly by telling us what he told the grand jury. Nothing prevents him from doing that, except a good lawyer who is trying to keep him out of jail.

Previous post: And the leaker is...
posted by JReid @ 10:14 PM  
These two words
Apparently the right has two words for President Bush when it comes to Alberto Gozales on the Supreme Court: "Hell no."

NRO has opened up an entire Benchwatch page, focusing mainly on the left's obsession with out-going Justice O'Connor and Roe v. Wade. Might be more intellectually honest to acknowledge that the religious right is equally obsessed with Roe. That is, after all, what this court fight is all about. The right won't be content with just holding the fort with another Sandra Day swing vote -- even though I agree with those on the right who say she wasn't nearly the friend she is now being claimed as by the left (and the mainstream press, which tends to treat her with often uwarranted kid gloves. This is, after all, the same Sandra Day O'Connor who made the most blatant political calculations of any justice during the Bush versus Gore fight, apparently telling colleagues at the time that she only wanted to retire under a Republican president, and thus calling into question her basic ethics in weighing in to essentially decide who would choose her replacement.)

The right, particularly religious conservatives, want the court moved, not maintained in its current state, and that means making the appointment as if it were Rehnquist, and not O'Connor, who is stepping down. Otherwise, what would be the point?
posted by JReid @ 3:29 PM  
Sunday best
The BBC has a great story about Napoleon Bonaparte's struggle to learn English while in exile, "so he could read what the London papers were writing about him."

Just in time for the Fourth, WaPo does variations on the Pledge of Allegiance, including inviting writers and other assorted thoughtful types to write their own updates. Most of them are pretty cynical, but loved this one (overall, Peggy Noonan got the sentiment right, I think):
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America - red and blue - and to the Republic for which it stands, despite all the extremely preposterous people in it.
- Christopher Buckley, humor writer
Meanwhile, back in the political fray, John Meacham of Newsweek posts a plea to religious Americans to help find an accord on the things that matter to all of us. If only that were likely to happen in the hyper-political state we're in, and given the stakes facing us in the Supreme Court battles to come...

Karl Rove's lawyer says his client is not the CIA name-leaker, but that he did talk to Time's Matthew Cooper during the critical week in 2003 when the name was dropped to Robert Novak and others... we'll see how that shakes out, but it does confirm the O'Donnel story to the extent that Rove's name appears in the notes Time turned over to investigators, making you wonder whether Rove was involved in moving the information around, if not in initially putting Plame on front street...

Over at the Times, Anne Kornblut reports on the dearth of flag lapel pins walking around Washington these days, and Frank Rich says Spielberg outdid President Bush when it comes to scaring the bejeezus out of Americans over 9/11:

Decide for yourself if "War of the Worlds" is more terrifying than "Jaws." Either way, it's scarier than the president's speech. Yet the discrepancy between Mr. Spielberg's ability to whip up fear and Mr. Bush's inability isn't merely a matter of aesthetics. On Independence Day 2005, this terror gap is an ideal barometer for gauging the waning political power of a lame-duck president waging what increasingly looks like a lame-duck war.

As we saw on Tuesday night, doomsday isn't the surefire hit it used to be for Mr. Bush. Now that the rhetorical arsenal of W.M.D.'s and mushroom clouds is bare, he had little choice but to bring back that oldie but goodie, 9/11, as the specter of the doom that awaits us if we don't stay the course - his course - in Iraq. By the fifth time he did so, it was hard not to think of that legendary National Lampoon cover:
"If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog."

Planned or not, the sepulchral silence of Mr. Bush's military audience was the perfect dazed response to what was literally a summer rerun. The president gave almost the identical televised address, albeit with four fewer 9/11 references, at the Army War College in Pennsylvania in May 2004. It's so tired that this time around even the normally sympathetic Drudge site gave higher billing to reviews of "War of the Worlds." Fewer TV viewers tuned in than for any prime-time speech in Mr. Bush's presidency. A good thing too, since so much of what he said was, as usual, at odds with reality. The president pledged to "prevent Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban" a full week after Newsweek and The New York Times reported on a new C.I.A. assessment that the war may be turning Iraq into an even more effective magnet and training ground for Islamic militants than Afghanistan was for Al Qaeda in the 1980's and 90's.

Here's one you probably won't read in the mainstream press: Bank Leumi reportedly wrote off more than NIS 600,000 (about $139,000) in debt owed by Israeli P.M. Ariel Sharon and his family back in 1996. It's interesting to see just how much scandal Sharon has been able to survive, maybe because his chief rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, has so many scandals of his own?

And at NRO, Rich Lowry attempts to dampen-down the Abramoff money train scandal by blaming the Indians for the corruption.

And from the Times of London comes the argument that for all the hype about the G8 summit, much of it created by Live8, the membership of the Group of Eight is "all wrong" given the shifting axis of economic power in the world, and that such summits may be in their final throes, as Dick Cheney would say (but real last throes in this case, not the Iraqi insurgent kind...)
posted by JReid @ 2:40 PM  
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Live 8 wrap
Update 5: I'm not the only one who hated MTV's coverage. Next time just show the performances, guys.

Update 4: You'll never guess who headlined the Moscow Live 8 concerts... From the BBC: Bob Geldof reports himself pleased with the outcome of Live 8, though the attendance figures in some countries (just 50,000 out of a hoped-for 1 million in Italy, 35,000 in Ontario and just 8,000 in Johannesburg, South Africa, seem to vindicate his contention that to draw big crowds, its better to have big names than indegenous acts... Geldof did give in to critics and throw a concert with African acts in London, which drew about 5,000 people. Money quote:

"I'm sure they all went to see Pink Floyd in London," said Cesare Cremonini, one of the stars at the Rome concert
The Washington Post posts a much needed reality check after the whirlwind Live 8 weekend:

On the world's poorest continent, however, feelings about debt relief and aid money are far more nuanced than many Westerners may realize. Africans interviewed this week, from farmers to artists to health workers, say they are grateful for the outpouring of sentiment, and glad to hear that glamorous musicians and actors are championing their cause and that college students are wearing bracelets with the slogan, "Make Poverty History."

But they also said there was a dangerous disconnect between what the industrialized nations see as solutions and what Africans believe they need. Instead of debt relief and more aid, many Africans said they wanted the G-8 to focus on ending corruption and on improving roads, courts, banking and secondary education.

Another useful step, many Africans said, would be to end Western countries' trade subsidies for their own farmers, which make it impossible for African industries to do much more than survive. Debt relief, some asserted, is actually hush money to get free trade advocates off the backs of European countries, the United States and Japan, which offer huge subsidies to their corn, cattle and cotton farmers and thus undercut African farmers' ability to enter the market.

At the end of the day rooting out corruption across the continent will be an even more ominous task than "dropping the debt" or even tackling famine and AIDS, because many people in Africa believe -- based on experience -- that whatever aid flows Africa's way generally flows right into the hands of corrupt government officials. Ever read anything about Equatorial Guinea, the Congo or Niger, or ever heard of the book "Confessions of an economic hit-man?" If you do read up, you'll get a taste of what the noxious combination of oil, global apathy and free-flowing foreign debt has done to warp the continent of Africa.

And as long as richer countries protect their own goods from those of developed nations -- agricultral products especially -- most African countries and other third world nations simply can't compete. It's a dillemma, since protecting home industries is key to any country's prosperity (though I've never been a fan of farm subsidies). African countries have to find a niche that they can fill, otherwise, the countries with oil, like Nigeria and Guinea, will continue to fester with corruptions as energy-needy nations like the U.S. and China look the other way while they fleece their people, and the others will simply contine to be ignored, while leaders use food and tribal war as ways to control the population and disguise their own incompetance and corruption.

That's not to put a damper on Live 8, which was an inspiring event, and not quite the sham some are making it out to be. But at the end of the day, star power can only accomplish so much. Much of what Africa has to do to right itself, it has to do on its own.

(Ed. note: the blogger's father is a native of, and continues to live in, the Democratic Republic of Congo.)

Update 3: Need to take some time to think about it, and to try and catch some of the missed performances on the MTV reruns, but all in all, I think it was a pretty good show. Biggest gripe: Too much chatter by the veejays and not enough full airing of the performances. They showed about 30 seconds of Joss Stone. How cold is that?

Update 2: Jay Z came really close to breaking the Gelof ban on Bush bashing, telling the 1 million -strong Philly crowd that (paraphrasing) "we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars to kill people, so why can't we spend billions of dollars to save people." The lead rapper from Linkin' Park seconded the comment. Ouch.

Update: BET gets the big thumbs-down for not simulcasting the concert like its sister stations, MTV and VH1. If the Black Entertainment Channel can't be bothererd with Africa, who can? It can't be about the "white lineup" -- Bob Johnson and company could have simply simulcast the Philly concert, which includes everyone from Jay Z to Kanye West. Shame on you, BET.


3:40 p.m.: Live 8 is on ...and pretty good so far. Some links: MTV's Live 8 page, Live8 homepage. Another good link: the One campaign. Also here's a link to BBC coverage.

As I've said before, I disagree with those who dismiss the concert as pointless, Geldofian "ageing white rocker" do-gooderism. It's undeniable that Africa's problems won't be solved by a single concert series or a momentary publicity push, but it's equally undeniable that Geldof, Bono and the other acts who participated today (including some Black acts like Jay Z) have their hearts in the right place. Africa desperately needs the attention -- it might be the only way to shame rich countries into untangling the continent from its nightmare of mineral-soaked debt. And seeing crowds of people of all races rocking together in cities all over the world ain't bad for this Fourth of July weekend.

I say put the band-race issues aside. This concert is a good thing.

Previous posts:

posted by JReid @ 11:21 PM  
And the leaker is...
Update, June 3: Rove's lawyer issues the denial.

Original post: According to Lawrence O'Donnell, the answer is unsurprising: Karl Rove.

Best Freeper response so far: "This can't be good if true." (that link won't last long -- the Freep police will be killing that thread any time now...)

If it does turn out to be Rove, it will sure strengthen the previously weak argument on the part of Democrats that Colonel Karl should resign... Here's O'Donnell's take on his own scoop:

"I revealed in yesterday's taping of the McLaughlin Group that Time magazine's e-mails will reveal that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source. I have known this for months but didn't want to say it at a time that would risk me getting dragged into the grand jury.

"McLaughlin is seen in some markets on Friday night, so some websites have picked it up, including Drudge, but I don't expect it to have much impact because McLaughlin is not considered a news show and it will be pre-empted in the big markets on Sunday because of tennis.

"Since I revealed the big scoop, I have had it reconfirmed by yet another highly authoritative source. Too many people know this. It should break wide open this
week. I know Newsweek is working on an 'It's Rove!' story and will probably break it tomorrow."

In other developments, Judith Miller is drawing strong support in her bid to stay out of jail:

Nine members of the Army with whom Miller spent time when she was covering the war in Iraq submitted letters on her behalf, saying that she is someone who keeps her word and would never reveal secrets or her confidential sources under any circumstances. One of the letters was from Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who is in command of training Iraqi security forces.
Miller's Chalabi-centric war coverage seems to finally be paying off. Petreus is almost a deity in D.C., and his support should help her out. I certainly wouldn't want to see anyone go to jail, but I have to say I'm more than happy to see her and Cooper's "source" outed -- this wasn't a traditional source leaking info, it was a political hatchet man using reporters to out an undercover agent -- and who was apparently willing to jeopardize America's national security for naked political retribution. Rove -- if he is the leaker -- doesn't deserve protection.
posted by JReid @ 12:56 PM  
Do you find this racist?
Update: Moving this post up to reflect updates.

July 2: Earl Ofari Hutchinson weighs in on the Mexican stamp controversy:

The Mexican government's sale of the racially offensive cartoon character Memin
Pinguin as a commemorative stamp is an outrageous sign that top Mexican officials still refuse to deal with the country's racism. But it's just that a sign. Racism goes much deeper in the country. Even while Mexican writers and politicians rail in articles against American racism, many Mexicans are quick to boast of differences in skin color among their own family members.

A few years ago, a Mexican-American friend made me acutely aware of the rigid race differences in the country. When I told him that I'd be traveling extensively in Mexico, he urged me to pay close attention to the workers doing the hardest and dirtiest work in restaurants and hotels, and who the beggars and peddlers on the streets were. They were overwhelmingly dark, and in most cases with pronounced Indian or African features.

Many Mexicans refer to dark skinned persons, both Mexican, and non-Mexican, as negritos or little black people. This is not seen as racially offensive, but rather as a term of affection even endearment. A popular afternoon telenovela has a comedian
in blackface chasing madly after light complexioned actresses in skimpy outfits. Ads have featured blacks in Afros, black face, and distorted features. The most popular screen stars in film and on TV, and the models featured on magazines and billboards, are white or fair skinned with sandy or blond hair. That's the standard of beauty, culture, and sophistication that's held up as the penultimate standard to emulate, and that standard is unabashedly commercialized, and peddled as top commodities
in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Mexican President Vicente Fox and most of Mexico's past presidents, top officials, business leaders, educators, and government leaders, for instance, are light skinned or Castellan Spanish. They routinely boast that they can trace their bloodlines to Spain (Fox's mother is from Spain...

Hutchinson's observations square with my experience both in Mexico and in viewing Spanish language media. I'll never forget traveling to Oaxaca, in the very south of the country, by car one summer in the early 1980s as an early teenager, and witnessing the stark difference between the city, where we stayed in one of several homes owned along a beautiful block by a Spanish-Mexican woman and her family, and the "colonias" -- hillside ramshackles where the Indian and other impoverished, dark-skinned Mexicans lived, literally overlooking their more affluent, Spanish-descended peers. We literally ate black beans and homemade tortillas every day that we stayed in the colonias (my mother was contributing to a book with an anthropologist) -- though they were really good, as I recall, and the people throughout the country were wonderful. And while I don't remember ever experiencing what I'd call racism from the people in that city or others where we stayed, we were sometimes treated as something of a curiosity at the time -- three Black, American kids and their mom, driving around in a station wagon, with trinkets like digital watches and radios that locals were somehow shocked that we could afford. (Then again, when I traveled to France as a junior in high school, people there couldn't believe we could afford to fly overseas, because the enlightened French seemed to assume all American Blacks were poor, criminals or servants...)

But the issue here isn't how Mexicans treat tourists, Black or otherwise. It's whether racism exists in the country, and whether the Memin character illustrates that it is so. Mexicans may not see the cartoon as racist, but try to think of it this way: remember the old American characterization of lazy, sleepy, slow-talking Speedy Gonzales as the typical hombre Mexicano? Why do you think that cartoon -- like Amos n' Andy and various other exaggerated ethnic parodies, isn't on American TV anymore? Think about it. (BTW, it used to be considered "endearing" for even White children to refer to adult Black men and women by their first names, rather than as "Mr." or "Mrs." That didn't make it "cultural, not racist.") Terms of supposed "endearment" can be as sinister as any racial slur.

Original Post (June 30):

Do you find this racist?

If you answered 'no,' I'd like to ask you a second question: are you from Latin America? Unfortunately, Latin America is still chock full of racism. It's not just true in Mexico, although blogger MarkinMexico makes a solid case for it there (also has more pics of the character depicted in the above cartoon, Memin Penguin, and also on the postage stamps causing so much uproar here in the states):

Memin was a popular comic book character for about 20 years in Mexico [Note: it's actually from the 1940s], up to about 1977. By our standards, it is blatatantly rascist. By Mexican standards it is not. Mexican society is a rascist society kind of like that of Japan. Intermarriage, even fraternization, between the mestizos and the indigenous peoples is frowned upon and is rare. Even more rare is intermariage or fraternization with blacks. By mestizos I mean the lighter complected Mexicans of mixed Spanish/Indian or European/Indian descent. In Mexico, the whiter your skin the better.

According to an AP story:

Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican Postal Service, said he stamps are not offensive, nor were they intended to be.

"This is a traditional character that reflects part of Mexico's culture," Caballero said. His mischievous nature is part of that character."

However, Penalosa said many Mexicans still assume all blacks are foreigners, despite he fact that at one point early in the Spanish colonial era, Africans outnumbered panish in Mexico.

... Ben Vinson, a black professor of Latin American history at Penn tate University, said he has been called "Memin Pinguin" by some people in Mexico. e also noted that the character's mother is drawn to look like an old version of the U.S. advertising character Aunt Jemima.

"The whiter your skin the better..." The same could be said of Brazil, Argentina (I'm told this is not a good example), Guayana, Aruba (just ask those two security guards), the rest of the Caribbean, India, America... you get the idea). The issue of complexion is perhaps the last bastion of the racial caste system, and it's prevalant almost anywhere you look in the world. It's why Halle Berry gets more parts than Nia Long, or why it was "safer" to cast a Latina actress opposite Will Smith in "Hitch" (so the movie could "travel"). As for full-on prejudice, if you've ever been to South Florida, particularly if you are Black, you know that it, too, is still alive and well, whether it's the Cuban-Americans who treat you with barely disguised contempt in Miami or the Venezuelan neighbors in Broward who won't let their kids play with yours. (Edit: by no means all, of course, and by no means only Latinos...).

If you ever get a chance, take a gander at Spanish language TV (Univision or Telemundo.) There you'll find images you might have thought went out of style with "Mammy" and Step 'n Fetch-it: everything from Blackface to Vaudevillian Black absurdism. Pet names like "negrito" (little black one) and "negrita" (the female version, even self-coined by the late Black Cuban singer Celia Cruz) are commonplace. Vicente Fox's slur about jobs "even the Blacks won't do" didn't even phase the populace.

To be sure, there's racism everywhere -- in England and France where "Moroccan" has become a curse word, to right here in the U.S., where things are much more P.C. but you still get the occasional Black men chased through the neighborhood with baseball bats.

The thing is, when racism does rear up in European or American society, it is quickly slapped back down by the P.C. machine, usually by other whites who are genuinely outraged and embarrassed by the assorted dodos in their midst. In Latin America, racism flows more freely, mostly, as MarkinMexico observes, because folks there don't see things like Memin Penguin as racist at all. It's just "cultural."

Update: The original post was, to be sure, my unedited initial response to the issue. That's the good, and bad, thing about the web. Hopefully this edit makes things more clear. There is certainly no blanket statement you can make about racism anywhere, because unfortunately, it is everywhere, in every group. (There's plenty of racism against Latinos out there, too...) The bottom line is, the Mexican cartoon isn't seen as racist by Mexicans, and that type of depiction of Blacks is, I would say, fairly uncontroversial in Latin American entertainment. That doesn't sit well with African-Americans, and the Jesse Jacksons of the world may even be able to make enough noise to force the stamps back into the desk drawer, but the cultural issue won't go away so easily.

Update 2: Vicente Fox says: the stamps stay.
posted by JReid @ 12:50 PM  
When in doubt, go with the wires
Fox News got out way ahead of the Idaho missing kids story this morning. FNC was the only network to report that both the missing girl, Shasta Groene, and her brother Dylan had been found alive, while all the other networks went with the wire account, which said that only the girl had been found, while the fate of her brother was unkown. Fox just retracted their online story and pulled back. The network was apparently relying on the word of a family member, who said Shasta Groene had told police that her brother was "at the house, alive." Apparently that's not so, at least as of now. Fox's backtrack:

The 8-year-old girl and her brother Dylan, 9, were missing from the murder scene and an Amber Alert was issued for them May 17, the morning after the killings.

Cheryl Morgan, the siblings' grandmother, told FOX News that Dylan had also been found alive at a house in the area after Shasta told authorities the location.

But at a press conference held at noon EDT, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department Capt. Ben Wolfinger disavowed that and said Dylan Groene had not been found.

That's got to suck to have to take that back on-air.
posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Rest in peace, Luther
What a loss, and what a tremendous talent...
posted by JReid @ 1:18 AM  
Friday, July 01, 2005
CSI: Arba, part 5
NBC News is reporting the three young men held in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway had been charged with her murder three weeks ago. The prosecutor says the charges weren't announced earlier because " the time, we didn't want to upset the (Holloway) family talking about murder while they searched." Seems rather odd to let the family linger on the island and keep searching for their live daughter when authorities were already acting on the suspicion that she was dead. That's going to be cold comfort to the family...
posted by JReid @ 6:05 PM  
He said it:
"Novak "should finally write the column he owes readers and colleagues perhaps explaining how his two sources - who may have truthfully revealed themselves to investigators - managed to get the prosecutor off his back." -- William Safire in June 28 column (though otherwise I disagree with his conclusions...)

Previous posts:
posted by JReid @ 1:25 PM  
Sure signs of the end of the world
"Driven by its summer reality hit "Dancing With the Stars" and the NBA finals, ABC won the week ended June 26 in adults 18 to 49, but CBS prevailed in total viewers." -- TV Week
posted by JReid @ 1:22 PM  
Live 8: the remix
The Philly Live 8 concert has officially become the tour's "urban show", now to include Kanye West. That likely won't assuage critics who have bashed the global lineup as too white, and at least one British journo will skip the concert altogether:

I simply do not think it is right that ex-pop star Bob Geldof should be the human catalyst for one of the biggest problems facing mankind - it is beyond the wisdom of Solomon, let alone Geldof. He is not up to the job.

He is making the same mistake in 2005 as he did in 1985 regarding black acts, surprising for someone so passionate about feeding Africans. His argument that the dominance of white faces among the Live 8 line-up reflects the need for big names ignores the importance of symbolism in mass spectacles like this.

I am very uncomfortable, for example, at the prospect of Celine Dion doling out spoonfuls of pop compassion to Africa's passive hungry.

I've said before that I don't necessarily have a quarrel with the lineup (Geldoff was looking for maximum audience, so he turned to the tried-and-true crowd bands), and that any attention paid to Africa is better than none (particularly with the emphasis shifted from dole to debt elimination). But I can see this bloke's point. A conert, even a really good one, will be a temporary blip on the world's radar, when what Africa really needs is extensive political and economic reform. There's also some reason to be skeptical about the idea of the world's rich countries really doing what it takes to help lift the continent out of its doldrums, given the magnitude of its debt (even with tremendous natural resources). Ironically, Geldoff himself has actually emerged as something of a conservative on these points, and essentially saying that concert or none, Africa will have to look inward to solve many of its problems.

Controversies aside, I give Geldof and Bono props for what they're calling their "final push" for Africa.
posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
It starts...
Bill Kristol was right: O'Connor is the first to go... (Suddenly this joke seems pretty funny.) So now the test begins for Bush: replace her with a moderate like Alberto Gonzales, and risk the wrath of the right, or bump up the conservative quotient on the court by replacing her with a religious conservative. Here we go...

Update: Kristol's first prognostication was correct. Here was the second half:
(2) President Bush will appoint Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to replace O'Connor. Bush certainly wants to put Gonzales on the Supreme Court. Presidents usually find a way to do what they want to do.

And his aides will have an argument to make to conservatives (like me) who would be unhappy with a Gonzales pick: Bush would not, after all, be replacing a conservative stalwart like Rehnquist with Gonzales. Gonzales would be taking O'Connor's seat, and Gonzales is likely to be as conservative as, or even more conservative than, O'Connor. Indeed, Karl Rove will continue, Gonzales is as conservative a nominee to replace O'Connor as one could find who could overcome a threatened Democratic filibuster. Bush aides will also assure us privately that when Rehnquist does step down, Bush will nominate a strong conservative as his replacement. They might not tell us that nominee would be as an associate justice, for Bush would plan to then promote Gonzales to chief justice--thus creating a "Gonzales Court," a truly distinctive Bush legacy...

It's important to note that not everyone on the right thinks a Gonzales nod would be such a bad thing, pointing out that it could help solidify a GOP majority by drawing support from Hispanics. From the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy on June 23rd:
But what if Bush can fend off the fiends and get AG2 on the SCOTUS? What are the implications of such a historic move? We’re talking about the first-ever Hispanic (eh) Supreme Court justice. Dems will have Thurgood Marshall, and the GOP Alberto Gonzales. As the amount of Hispanic voters continues to grow, it will be incumbent upon the GOP to take the strides necessary to lock this bloc up. Alberto Gonzales is well-respected in the Hispanic community, even securing the support of (by no means GOP-leaning) Hispanic groups like La Raza. The future effect of this move could help solidify a Republican majority in a potentially tumultous 2006 and beyond. The GOP is in danger of losing the Senate majority next time around (subtract Santorum, Chafee, Burns, and Frist’s seat from the majority), and being able to court more Hispanics with evidence of outreach and respect for the power of the new bloc could be just what we need to hold on to power. Sorry for being so Machiavellian here, but one must do what one must do lol.
Of course, Bush could get around the problem by simply appointing another Hispanic justice who is far more conservative than Gonzales, (someone like the other A.G. -- Emilio Garza -- but Gonzales is a strong Bush loyalist, whom Dubya has long wanted to put him on the court. And it's not at all certain that a Gonzalez confirmation would be any less bloody than if Bush nominated someone else, given the A.G.'s issues with the Geneva Conventions.

The Replacements? Slate's short list
posted by JReid @ 10:23 AM  
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
The House has finally done something worthwhile, voting to undercut the Supco's Kelo decision:

The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall. Historically, eminent domain has been used mainly for public purposes such as highways or airports.

The measure, an amendment to an appropriations bill, would apply to funds administered by the departments of Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Majority
Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said they will push for a more inclusive measure that would apply to all federal funds. [Washington Post]

The Kelo decision has brought about an unusual rash of bi-partisanship on the Hill, with both Democrats and Republicans agreeing that it stinks to high heaven:
Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said she is "outraged" by the decision. "It's the most un-American thing that can be done."

... "The Supreme Court voted last week to undo private property rights and to empower governments to kick people out of their homes and give them to someone else because they feel like it," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. "No court that denies property rights will long respect and recognize other basic human rights."

When those two are on the same page, you know something big is going on...

The Heritage Foundation's Ronald Utt makes a good case against the Kelo ruling, but also predicts that the near-universal revulsion to it could actually help to slow down so-called "smart growth," and the urban/suburban sprawl that the modern-day "takings clause" would otherwise encourage. (It's long, but worth the time).
posted by JReid @ 10:15 AM  
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