Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, December 30, 2005
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posted by JReid @ 8:52 PM  
Just for wingers: Find the wiretap authority in Article II
Update 4, 8:51 p.m.: I'm returning to my bunker and abandoning my ongoing comment battle with AJ for the night. I've got better things to do than exhaust myself further in an argument where we clearly will never agree on fundamental principles. Anyway, I enjoyed it, man. Maybe next time we can place bets on how many corrupt Republicans Jack Abramoff will take down with him. 2006 is gonna be a blast...! Later on, my conservative brethren. Even if we think each other are morons, we're all still Americans. And God bless us all (except Dick Cheney...)

Update 3: Sweet Jesus, now they're citing irrelevant FBI surveillance cases (scroll down to Curt's comment) to justify the president's NSA spying. For the love of God, somebody get these people an encyclopedia! First of all, let's get a coupld of definitions straight. The FBI is a domestic law enforcement agency, which, by its very nature operates on U.S. soil. We're not talking about the FBI, which has also been surveilling Americans, but which is not the subject of the particular controversy unearthed by the New York Times... Here's the agency we're talking about:
The National Security Agency / Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) is the largest United States government intelligence agency. It is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and for the security of US government communications against similar agencies elsewhere. Established by a U.S. presidential executive order, the NSA works closely with the Department of Defense and is typically directed by a military officer...

Do you people not understand that different agencies operate under different statutes? If Mr. Bush had some probable cause to conduct a domestic law enforcement operation via the FBI, he STILL would have needed a warrant... We're talking NSA here -- essentially a component of Bush's military enterprise (which is probably why he used it instead of the FBI, to shield himself under the John Yoo cloak of "wartime powers") As for the Truong case -- the supposed legal precedent cited by Curt, Powerline and other desperate wingers in defense of Mr. Bush, ThinkProgress debunks this particular myth better than I could:

The Truong case was decided in 1978 — the same year FISA was passed — and did not deal with the FISA law. As the court noted right before the excerpt, "Truong dealt with a pre-FISA surveillance… it had no occasion to consider the application of the statute…” The Truong case dealt with the President’s power in the absence of a congressional statute. So the right is citing caselaw that predates the law in question ...

More relevant is the Katz case, which seems to be the prevailing caselaw relevant to our current mess, having been decided in 1980, two years after FISA became law:

Warrantless ''National Security'' Electronic Surveillance.--In Katz v. United States,151 Justice White sought to preserve for a future case the possibility that in ''national security cases'' electronic surveillance upon the authorization of the President or the Attorney General could be permissible without prior judicial approval. The Executive Branch then asserted the power to wiretap and to ''bug'' in two types of national security situations, against domestic subversion and against foreign intelligence operations, first basing its authority on a theory of ''inherent'' presidential power and then in the Supreme Court withdrawing to the argument that such surveillance was a ''reasonable'' search and seizure and therefore valid under the Fourth Amendment. Unanimously, the Court held that at least in cases of domestic subversive investigations, compliance with the warrant provisions of the Fourth Amendment was required.152 Whether or not a search was reasonable, wrote Justice Powell for the Court, was a question which derived much of its answer from the warrant clause; except in a few narrowly circumscribed classes of situations, only those searches conducted pursuant to warrants were reasonable. The Government's duty to preserve the national security did not override the gurarantee that before government could invade the privacy of its citizens it must present to a neutral magistrate evidence sufficient to support issuance of a warrant authorizing that invasion of privacy.153 This protection was even more needed in ''national security cases'' than in cases of ''ordinary'' crime, the Justice continued, inasmuch as the tendency of government so often is to regard opponents of its policies as a threat and hence to tread in areas protected by the First Amendment as well as by the Fourth.154 Rejected also was the argument that courts could not appreciate the intricacies of investigations in the area of national security nor preserve the secrecy which is required.155

The question of the scope of the President's constitutional powers, if any, remains judicially unsettled.156 Congress has acted, however, providing for a special court to hear requests for warrants for electronic surveillance in foreign intelligence situations, and permitting the President to authorize warrantless surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information provided that the communications to be monitored are exclusively between or among foreign powers and there is no substantial likelihood any ''United States person'' will be overheard.157
What part of "unanimously," "foreign powers", "warrant", and "required" does the right not understand???

Update 2: Forget the more charitable stuff I said about Strata, he or she can't abide those who don't agree with him/her, and is pretty much content to make sweeping statemens about "the Constitution" without a shred of support for those statements. What is it about the right that they'd rather make emphatic statements than actually deal with the facts? The Constitution isn't a Rubic's Cube, it's a pretty straightforward document. I read, re-read, and re-read Article II , and just don't see these self-evident wiretap powers Strata and others are so smugly asserting that every 10th grader is aware of. Take a civics class, people...

Update: My earlier snarkiness notwithstanding, Strata is a smart guy. But he (I think he's a he, though these days, AJ could be the new "Sydney") and other rightie bloggers are just plain making up this "Constitutional power that trumps FISA" thing. And how you apply "hot pursuit" entry into the home of a fleeing fugitive to three years of domestic data mining four years after 9/11, with no impending or just-happened crime to pursue and no plans to let the Congress or the Court in on the ongoing rationale, is beyond me... Next they'll be arguing that Bush can tap our phones in the same way cops can give you a traffic ticket before you've gone to court...!

Original post 4:01 p.m.: Come on, righties, show me the authority. I double-triple-super-secret dare you. Here's the entire text. I'll even get you started with Article II, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
And while we're at it, here's the good old Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Now, for your reading pleasure, a look at just how lax the FISA law was regarding the above amendment, which raises the obvious question: why go around it, Mr. President?

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posted by JReid @ 6:20 PM  
Some leaks are bigger than others...
The Justice Department dives in to investigate who leaked Bush's secret NSA spy program to the New York Times. Too bad Gonzales and company aren't as concerned with possible lawbreaking from within the administration on the CIA leak, and for that matter, the NSA program itself...

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin catches sudden leak outrage syndrome, while accusing those of us who were outraged at the leak of Valerie Plame's leak of being the ones with a double standard... So is Ms. Malkin ready to support Fitzgerald's probe of the Plame leak, now? Macsmind and other rightie bloggers have a bad case of the double standards, too...

Also via Malkin, Bush's state-run cable outlet apparently says Bush will comment on the new leak probe. I guess this one doesn't count as an "ongoing investigation..."

And the blogger at Strata-sphere gives us the shape of things to come: the Bush Justice Department is going to launch an aggressive, full-throated attack on the journalistic institutions the president was unable to bring to heel the old fashioned way (by asking nicely that they kill stories)... So Strata, I've noted your outrage at "those who would risk our lives" by leaking. Do you then support the Fitzgerald investigation into who leaked the covert identity of Valerie Plame, who worked on crucial WMD intel for the CIA? I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that you don't see the import of that particular investigation... Love this Strata quote, btw:

The left is planning to impail themselves on the question of whether or not we should be monitoring our enemies in order to stop their efforts to kill us. And they will use as the core of their argument their unbridled partisan hate to rationalize why we should not protect ourselves and take down Bush. Every 1oth grader knows FISA cannot trump the constitution, and decades of court precedence backing up the constitutional claims just seals the case.
Strata, I love the way you say "the Constitution" so smugly as if you've read it. And sadly I doubt that 2 in 10 Americna tenth graders has any idea what you're talking about. Kindly point out to me the passage in that document that gives the president the authority to override FISA and conduct domestic wiretaps, and recall that the then Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, has said in no undertain terms that the Congress turned down the president's request to expand his war powers onto American soil. And don't try the old Article II gambit. It doesn't apply to domestic surveillance... and we have reason to believe that such surveillance was used on American citizens -- folks like Jose Padilla for instance -- and if it was, that, my friend, is illegal under Article II, FISA, the Fourth Amendment or whatever point of law you want to cite. The president is not above the law -- he is sworn to uphold it and the Constitution. Every tenth grader knows that... (here's your chance: show me the president's authority and where it is derived from Article II...)

Y'know, I hate to say it, but the right has sunk to the point where they have become more partisans than patriots. They care more about protecting George W. Bush -- even if he may have broken the law -- than about protecting the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Partisanship really is a poison to democracy.

That said, I think the J.D. should go right on ahead and investigate. We need a clarifying moment in this country on several fronts: we need to clarify what powers belong to which branches of government, what role a free press should play in society (the right apparently feels the role should sound something like Pravda, circa 1973) and what role whistleblowers can legitimately play in protecting citizens from abuses by their government (or by private entities like corporations). I'm ready to have that debate. I doubt the right is.

Okay, rant's over. Here's the ACLU's response the DOJ's protect-the-boss/punish his tormentors gambit:

"President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens. But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistleblowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."

"To avoid further charges of cronyism, Attorney General Gonzales should call off the investigation. Better yet, Mr. Gonzales ought to fulfill his own oath of office and appoint a special counsel to determine whether federal laws were violated."
...and Stop the ACLU's predictable reply...

And finally, here's a dose of sober, cold, hard fact from the invaluable John Dean, who knows something about wiretaps and presidential malfeasance:

There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

These parallel violations underscore the continuing, disturbing parallels between this Administration and the Nixon Administration - parallels I also discussed in a prior column.

Indeed, here, Bush may have outdone Nixon: Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope. First reports indicated that NSA was only monitoring foreign calls, originating either in the USA or abroad, and that no more than 500 calls were being covered at any given time. But later reports have suggested that NSA is "data mining" literally millions of calls - and has been given access by the telecommunications companies to "switching" stations through which foreign communications traffic flows.

In sum, this is big-time, Big Brother electronic surveillance.

Given the national security implications of the story, the Times said they had been sitting on it for a year. And now that it has broken, Bush has ordered a criminal investigation into the source of the leak. He suggests that those who might have felt confidence they would not be spied on, now can have no such confidence, so they may find other methods of communicating. Other than encryption and code, it is difficult to envision how.

Such a criminal investigation is rather ironic - for the leak's effect was to reveal Bush's own offense. Having been ferreted out as a criminal, Bush now will try to ferret out the leakers who revealed him.
Well, Mr. Dean, it's just Bush giving the base the Dubya they want. Read the rest of the article. It's well worth it...


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posted by JReid @ 4:19 PM  
My year-end list
Sorry, Cindy Sheehan, when it comes to the mess that was Iraq in 2005, I'd single out for most heroic wartime truth-teller, Captain Ian Fishback, the West Point graduate who blew the whistle on abuses of Iraqi prisoners, and whose letter to John McCain was key to securing the Congressional ban on torture and in blowing the whistle on the Bush administration's trashing of the Geneva Conventions. More on Fishback here, and more on the soldier from Iraq war supporter Andrew Sullivan here.

Overall, I'd say the United states military should be singled out as the group that put up with the most crap in 2005 and which was placed under the most unnecessary strain. As such, the military would be, in my opinion, the group most deserving of more respect and support from ordinary Americans...

For best political play using truth as a weapon: Congressman "Jack" Murtha's surprise call for an end to the U.S. military operation in Iraq

(By the way, the biggest bar-fight mis-match of the year had to be Murtha and the dude whose ass he whipped in the verbal sense: Dick "Five Deferrments" Cheney...")

For most honorable Republican: Sen. Chuck Hagel... (sorry John McCain, I like you on the torture issue and think you're sincere about it, but I still think that in terms of raw politics, you're a phony, and the media should stop kissing your butt...)

For best political play using the rules as a weapon: the Democrats' "closed session" gambit to force the GOP to investigate the administration's use of prewar intelligence...

Biggest political blunder of the year: Mean Jean Schmidt's idiotic attack on John Murtha on the House floor...

Catch-phrase of the year: Stuck on stupid by the very cool Gen. Honore of New Orleans...

Biggest story of the year: I'd call it a tie between Hurricane Katrina, the Asian Tsunami (actually, that's technically a 2004 story...), and the rapid-fire collapse of president Bush's credibility on everything from Iraq to domestic preparedness to Social Security and immigration...

TV Newsman of the year: hands down, Keith Olbermann ...

Reporter of the year: four-way tie between Murray Waas, Walter Pincus, Dana Priest and Seymour Hersh... and I'd say the paper I found the most valuable, despite the malodorous presence of Mr. Woodward, would be the WaPo...

Worst newspaper of the year: no competition: the story-burying, Busy-toadying New York Times. An no, I ain't payin' for no bloody premium subscription...

Most under-villified reporter: Viveca Novak...

Best pundit: the man, the legend, Craig Crawford...

Best military analyst: William Arkin

Best collaboration of the year: Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush...

Most inspiring humanitarian: Bono although I do have to give it to Bill Gates, he is living the vision, even if his company is the direct spawn of Satan ...

The Monica Lewinski award this year would have to be a tie between Kyra Philips and Norah "the Bush-bot" O'Donnell (sorry Chris Matthews, you just missed this one, gushing praise for Dubya notwithstanding)...

The throw your boy under the bus award would have to go to Dick Cheney for the speed with which he jettisoned Scooter Libby ...

Best comeback: the separation of powers, with a special dispensation for The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, for finally throwing out the Bush monarchical kool-aid, and for the FISA judge who showed Collin Powell how a person registers dissent with honor. Maybe next year Congress can get in the running...

The most useful blogs for me in 2005 were MediaMatters , TalkLeft and ThinkProgress on the left, and Jawa and Wizbang on the right (Jawa for the WOT scoops and Wizbang because they always give me something to argue about, and those who know me know I looove to argue...)...

On the pop culture front: the best TV show this year for me would be a tie between "Lost" and "The Shield" (the worst season ender: mos definitely "Nip/Tick"... it sucked...)

The people I never, ever, ever want to hear about again: big-time tie between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and Lance Armstrong. Got no use for any of them. I DO want to hear more about that trailer-fabulous couple of the year: Britney and Kevin -- Do me proud, Rita Cosby -- they are a scream... (and they take the heat off poor Whitney and Bobby...)

The creepiest person of 2005: Michael Jackson, although washed up British rocker Gary Glitter is fighting for position...

Looking ahead to 2006, the person I most hope exceeds expectations: John Roberts...

The person I expect to behave exactly as advertised: John Bolton...

The person whose opinion I expect to find most valuable: John Dean...

And the person I'm most interested in hearing more from in 2006: Patrick Fitzgerald. No doubt.
Last but certainly not least, my "most valuable player" of 2005: my husband Jason. I know, I know, and I'm definitely not the schmaltzy type, but he really was.

That's my list, feel free to holla by post or email with one of your own. And have a safe and happy New Year everybody!

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posted by JReid @ 2:04 PM  
First Annual Separated at Birth Awards, 2005
Andrew Sullivan stumbles on the quote of the year with his 2005 Begala Award winner:
"The religious right's position on embryonic stem cell research is clear: consign Alzheimer's and Parkinson's sufferers to death on the off chance that a blastocyst will crawl out of the garbage pail to work the breakfast shift at Burger King." - Jerry And Joe Long, at Huffblog.
So this year, I decided to create my own Reid Report Award, for the best "separated at birth" couples of 2005. There were so many to choose from:

There are perennial favorites, like: George W. Bush and Alfred E. Newman...

Ann Coulter and Icabod Crane...

... Coulter definitely was in the running for quote of the year with this gem from a recent column:

Which brings me to this week’s scandal about No Such Agency spying on "Americans.” I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo. ...

Thanks, Ann. Thanks for being completely psychotic. ... Anyway, this year, we chose the following separated at birth all-stars:

Honerable mention: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and "the Iranian hostage taker guy" ...

Runner up: Judge Sam Alito and Niles from "Frasier"...

And our winner: Karl Rove and Egghead Jr.

...But can he play baseball... Happy New Year!!!

Update: You know, sometimes when there's more to give, you give. Here are a few more honorable mentions for this year.

For best duo whose public policy positions are abhorrent but whose voices could make the phone book funny: Henry Kissinger and Ben Stein...

For best odd couple with leather bar moustaches: John Bolton and the dad from "American Chopper"...

For doing a heck of a job on both sides of the Bush spectrum: Mary Mapes and Michael "Brownie" Brown...

For best possible match-up from the present and the hereafter: Pope Benedict XVI and the late Agatha Christie...

For most frightening: The greedy Orc from "Lord of the Rings" and Dick Cheney...

(Honorable mention for scariest duo: Our good friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and their fellow alien/human coupling, Lilo and Stitch)...

Once again, Happy New Year!

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posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
Paul at Wizbang apparently thinks he's got a scoop regarding the timing of the release of the documents underlying the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan's charge that the UK benefited from anti-terror information gleaned from the torture of persons subjected to Extraordinary Rendition (Paul's link, from Wikipedia).

Paul claims the left-wing blogosphere has "been had" and that the timing of the release of the documents today is suspiciously correlated to the pending release of the fired ambassador's book. Well first off, if the bloggers were duped, the British press was, too. We know that book timing matters, as the New York Times has demonstrated. And all that falls under the umbrella of press and media has an element of theatricality to it when it comes to the timing. (Case in point, everything Bob Woodward...) But in this case, the persons most manipulating the timeline appear to be the British government. I'm on the email list of "foreign" bloggers who have received copies of these memos, which the Blair admin has declared verboten to publish inside the UK. The documents consist of confidential telegrams between then Ambassador Murray and the British foreign office, outlining his concerns about U.K. and U.S. policy in the war on terror, plus, in the words of the BlairWatch Project: "a copy of legal advice the Foreign Office sought, to see if they were operating within the Law in accepting torture intelligence, and according to Michael Wood the FCO legal adviser; it is fine, as long as it is not used as evidence."

Jack Straw and Tony Blair repeatedly have denied being a party to renditions or torture, and officially, the British government has taken a position that they oppose the practices (even feinting with fake outrage over the supposed use of UK facilities to move the CIA renditions program through Europe).

According to BlairWatch, the publication of Mr. Craig's book has been held up as legal wrangling over whether their publication constitutes a violation of Britain's strict secrecy laws rages:

The Foreign Office has had the draft of Craig's book for clearance for over 3 months now, and they are doing everything they can to try and prevent him from publishing his side of the story. Their latest attempt to cover their own backs was to inform him, the night before Christmas Eve, that these two documents cannot be published, and that he was to return or destroy all copies immediately.
And Craig explains the timing of the release this way:

I am in discussion with the FCO over what I am and am not allowed to publish in my book. The FCO is seeking to gut the book of all evidence of complicity with the Uzbek regime.

With Bliar cornered on extraordinary rendition, they are particularly anxious to suppress all evidence of our complicity in obtaining intelligence from Uzbek torture.

In particular, they have demanded I do not publish the attached documents, and that I hand over all copies of them.

The obvious answer to this is to post these documents as widely on the web as possible. This is also potentially very valuable in establishing that I am not attempting to make money from these documents - you don't have to buy my book to see them, they are freely available. If you buy the book, you are only paying for the added value of my thoughts.

This will only work if we can get the [documents] very widely posted, including on sites in the US and elsewhere outside the UK … there is a chance that those who … post this stuff will get threatened under the Official Secrets Act.
So which is it: a desire to stick a finger in the eye of the Blair administration by releasing documents he wants sealed or a clever ruse to use lefty bloggers to sell books? Paul makes the case that because Craig has gotten extensive publicity for his charges, and because he has made them widely, that proves that his claims of censorship are bunk... and therefore, what? Craig's story isn't true? Well, Paul, Britain's Official Secrets law doesn't cover Craig's complaints and press appearances, it covers the release of documents, which had not before been put into the public bloodstream.

Craig himself concedes that the story isn't new (It has also been on "60 Minutes') and he's released other documents pertinent to the Uzbek-U.S.-U.K. nexus story that are neither new nor secret. But how does that change the import of the story? Seymour Hersh's revelations certainly helped sell his latest book (including to me) and the same can be said of every revelatory work of non-fiction, whether from Bob Woodward or from Richard Clark. The fact that the author is using the blogosphere to get the word out -- and in this case, to scoop his own book by releasing the documents prior to publication -- in my opinion neither adds nor subtracts from the substance.

It is the Blair government that has thrown down the gauntlet at the press, starting with the Al-Jazeera memos affair, demanding that media not release memoranda damaging to the government. By Craig's having done so in this way, we simply now know a bit more about what the British and American governments have been up to. And I'd rather know more than less. I don't see how Paul's case damages Craig's...

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posted by JReid @ 1:37 PM  
Blair complicit in torture, too?
Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan (isn't that the place where they boil people...?) charges that his government benefited from anti-terror information gleaned from torture... The difference is, there's a chance the British parliament might do something about it...

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posted by JReid @ 12:49 PM  
Bushie, you're doing one heck of a job
Bush's quote of the year was an obvious pick.

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posted by JReid @ 1:23 AM  
Pray for the Chrobog family
TWN has more.

Tags: , Terrorism, Kidnapping
posted by JReid @ 1:19 AM  
My only complaint: The Nation's "Most Valuable Progressives" list left off Chuck Hagel in the Senate. Progressiveness isn't purely a Democratic phenomenon, and Hagel is about the best thing going in the GOP, particularly his honesty on Iraq (which predates Jack Murtha's...)

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posted by JReid @ 1:15 AM  
The propagandists
CHB is reporting that the Pentagon has been ordering soldiers on leave from Iraq to sell the war, and the Bush administration, to their local press. One Reservist even claimed to have been promised an early discharge for doing "a good job selling the war." Talking points to look out for (these will sound familiar):
In interviews with a number of reservists home for the holidays, a pattern emerges on the Pentagon’s propaganda effort. Soldiers are encouraged to contact their local news media outlets to offer interviews about the war. A detailed set of talking points encourages them to:

--Admit initial doubts about the war but claim conversion to a belief in the American mission;

--Praise military leadership in Iraq and throw in a few words of support for the Bush administration;

--Claim the mission to turn security of the country over to the Iraqis is working;

--Reiterate that America must not abandon its mission and must stay until the “job is finished.”

--Talk about how “things are better” now in Iraq.
Duly noted.

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posted by JReid @ 1:07 AM  
The Bush who would be king
"In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action," said A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004. "But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations."
From the WaPo account of Bush's unprecedented CIA black ops "war on terror..."
And where does Mr. Bush think he gets this authority?
The administration contends it is still acting in self-defense after the Sept. 11 attacks, that the battlefield is worldwide, and that everything it has approved is consistent with the demands made by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, when it passed a resolution authorizing "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks."

"Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

The interpretation undergirds the administration's determination not to waver under public protests or the threat of legislative action. For example, after The Washington Post disclosed the existence of secret prisons in several Eastern European democracies, the CIA closed them down because of an uproar in Europe. But the detainees were moved elsewhere to similar CIA prisons, referred to as "black sites" in classified documents.

The CIA has stuck with its overall approaches, defending and in some cases refining them. The agency is working to establish procedures in the event a prisoner dies in custody. One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources.
And back to the why:
"The executive branch will not pull back unless it has to," said a former Justice Department lawyer involved in the initial discussions on executive power. "Because if it pulls back unilaterally and another attack occurs, it will get blamed."

Which was just the conclusion I drew in this post. It may sometimes seem that GWB is mentally out to lunch, and in a lot of ways I think he is (particularly his childish glee at the grisly business of war, torture and nasty means of intelligence gathering,) but make no mistake, this guy was willing to do anything, violate any law, ignore any court and do whatever he had to do not to have a second 9/11 on his watch.

But isn't that what we want, you might ask? To be safe from terrorism at all costs? My answer would be "no." I'd rather have my country and its values and Constitution intact. I have enough faith in our armed forces and career intelligence professionals that they could follow the rules, clean up the problems in their operating procedures, and not get 9/11'ed again without turning the president into a king and the intelligence agencies and military into his secret police. I'm not the only one -- and not all of those who agree with me are Democrats (unless Phyllis Shclaffley and Bob Barr have suddenly changed sides.) Let's let conservative pundit Larry Sabato phrase it, shall we:

“The lesson is obvious, Mr. President: You're a lot closer to Nixon than you are to Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton. And that's not where you want to be. Nixon's second term ended rather badly, as you will recall.”

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posted by JReid @ 12:48 AM  
Tug of war
The latest wrangling in the Jose Padilla case is proof positive that a true showdown is looming between the president and the two other co-equal branches of government over the extraordinary powers grabbed by the White House since 9/11... From WaPo:

U.S. Defends Conduct in Padilla Case
Supreme Court Asked To Overrule 4th Circuit

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 29, 2005; A04

A federal appeals court infringed on President Bush's authority to run the war on terror when it refused to let prosecutors take custody of "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla, the Justice Department said yesterday, as it urged the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene.

The sharply worded Justice Department filing was the latest salvo in an increasingly contentious battle over Padilla, a U.S. citizen arrested in Chicago in 2002 and initially accused of plotting to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb." Padilla was held for more than three years by the military before he was indicted last month in Miami on separate criminal terrorism charges.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit refused last week to allow prosecutors to take custody of Padilla from the military and rebuked the Bush administration for its handling of the high-profile case. The Bush administration took strong issue yesterday with the Richmond-based court's decision and appealed it to the Supreme Court.

It was another remarkable turn in Padilla's case, which has evolved into a legal spat between the executive and judicial branches of government. The dispute is especially unusual because it involves the 4th Circuit, which has been the administration's venue of choice for high-profile terrorism cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The 4th Circuit has given the government extraordinary latitude on national security matters, ruling for prosecutors in the cases of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Yaser Esam Hamdi. Hamdi and Padilla are the two U.S. citizens held as enemy combatants as part of the government's campaign against terror since Sept. 11.

The Justice Department brief said the 4th Circuit had mischaracterized the events of Padilla's incarceration and engaged in "an unwarranted attack on the exercise of Executive discretion." Prosecutors accused the court of going so far as to "usurp" Bush's authority as the nation's commander-in-chief and his government's "prosecutorial discretion."

In Padilla's case, the same three-judge panel that is now drawing the government's ire strongly backed the president's authority to hold Padilla without charges or trial in an earlier ruling. That decision, like the one refusing to authorize Padilla's transfer, was written by Judge J. Michael Luttig, who was a contender to be nominated by Bush to the Supreme Court this year.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts is the Supreme Court justice who oversees cases from the 4th Circuit, but it was unclear yesterday whether Roberts would rule himself on the government's request for Padilla's transfer. The full court is considering whether to take up the merits of Padilla's detention by the military.
Central to this case is the question of whether the president can essentially act as policeman, prosecutor, judge and jury by seizing and indefinitely detaining an American citizen on suspicion of terrorist activities the government isn't even prepared to prove in court. Padilla has been held incommunicado for nearly four years on that basis, and the 4th Circuit has allowed it. Now, it seems, the judges, (including Mr. Luttig) like Congress, are waking up and smelling the Constitution, and are refusing to hand Padilla over to the uncertainty of presidential discretionary lawmaking by fiat. (If Michael Luttig has gotten here, things must be really, really bad.) Because if the president has that power -- think about it -- he literally has been given the power of life and death over every man, woman and child inside this country, not to mention on whatever foreign "battlefield" he sees fit to scour for "the enemy." As writer Mike Whitney wrote in CounterPunch earlier this year:

The presumption of innocence is foundational to any democratic form of government. Without that presumption, the state is free to exert whatever control it arbitrarily chooses in the incarceration or punishment of its citizens. This effectively destroys the firewall that safeguards the individual from the vagaries of government power and intrusiveness. It is absurd to talk about democracy if the most fundamental of protections for its citizens are not provided. When the presumption of innocence is denied, justice is denied, and democracy withers.

For the first time in American history this principle is being challenged outright in the government's case against Jose Padilla. The Bush Administration is claiming that the president has the authority to strip a citizen of his constitutional rights in the name of national security. If they are successful in their efforts, the "inalienable" rights of man will cease to be. Citizens will no longer be protected by clearly articulated due process rights interpreted by an independent judiciary, but quickly dispatched by executive fiat. Justice will be dispensed at the discretion of the president.
Saddam Hussein couldn't have asked for more. What makes this case even more outrageous is that the government has already dropped its original reason for holding Padilla -- the supposed "dirty bomb plot" -- ratcheting the charges down now to a series of vagueries about plotting to maim and destroy inside the U.S. Yet the new justice department under Al Gonzalez asserts the same right to hold Padilla indefinitely as the old Ashcroft J.D. did when it thought he was a dirty bomber. New crime -- new, less urgent wartime rationale, same result: indefinite detention at the discretion of the president. As Luttig's original opinion refusing to hand Padilla over to Torquemada Gonazlea read (coutresy of Laura Rosen at the War and Piece blog):

For, as the government surely must understand, although the various facts it has asserted are not necessarily inconsistent or without basis, its actions have left not only the impression that Padilla may have been held for these years, even if justifiably, by mistake –- an impression we would have thought the government could ill afford to leave extant. They have left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this time, that the President possesses the authority to detain enemy combatants who enter into this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within, can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror –- an impression we would have thought the government likewise could ill afford to leave extant. And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts, to whom it will one day need to argue again in support of a principle of assertedly like importance and necessity to the one that it seems to abandon today. While there could be an objective that could command such a price as all of this, it is difficult to imagine what that objective would be.
In other words, the Bush administration is losing its credibility before this court. Let's see how The Dashing John Roberts rules on this one.


Tags: , , , Terrorism, Law, Padilla, enemy combatant,
posted by JReid @ 12:14 AM  
A soldier's fears
Brilliantly written for the WaPo.
I'm a Soldier, Not a Spy

By Grant Doty

Friday, December 30, 2005; Page A27

As Americans take stock of the news that the government has been involved in domestic warrantless eavesdropping as well as surveillance of "potentially threatening people or organizations inside the United States," many people are troubled, including me.

Although the government may be interested in my ACLU membership, my wife's participation in war protests or my affiliation with the liberal United Church of Christ, my real anxiety stems from the fact that I am a soldier and may now be under suspicion from my friends and neighbors.

Specifically, given the information slowly leaking out of Washington, it may not be farfetched for some to think that when I "stumble across people or information" that might be of interest to the government, I might report it to the Pentagon's three-year-old Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA).

While such a conclusion would be false (I hadn't heard of CIFA before reading about it in the news this month), in an Orwellian world, the protestations of someone labeled the "eyes and ears" of the state are reasonably suspect.

What makes me think that the people with whom I interact regularly will somehow believe I won't report suspect words and actions? When I walk to my bus stop in Bethesda each morning, I see who has a "War Is Not the Answer" yard sign. One of the people I regularly see on my commute wears a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals button on her overcoat. My church, which prayed for me during my year in Iraq, has an e-mail list that informs me about local civic actions, including war protests. I attend night law school, frequently in uniform, and through the social network of law students know when the gay, lesbian and bisexual organization is planning to lead the picketing of Judge Advocate General Corps recruiters who come to campus.

Now that we've learned that the military may be collecting such "raw, unverified information" in the form of "Talon reports," my fear is that when friends and neighbors see me, in or out of uniform, their speech could be chilled. I wonder: Will I begin to see a change in behavior? Will my neighbors draw their shades more often? Will they think twice about putting a bumper sticker on their car? Will I be deleted from the church list? Will my law school class discussions be more reserved?

"Paranoia," some may say. The only people who need to worry are those with something to hide. This may be true. In fact, being with the president or against him in the war on terrorism may be the current controversy, but I can envision a time when antiabortion groups and churches might fear soldiers attending meetings or services if such groups are labeled "threats" by a subsequent administration. Are they sincere pro-lifers or moles? Perhaps gun owners' groups might feel that soldiers are joining to get access to membership lists or activities if such groups are deemed "dangerous." Is one a Second Amendment defender or domestic spy?

Yes, I took an oath to defend the United States against all enemies "foreign and domestic," but the implication of domestic intelligence-gathering by the military, even by a limited number of soldiers, should be sufficiently disturbing for American citizens in and out of uniform that we think long and hard about crossing the line, even a little.

The writer is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. The views expressed here are his own.

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Book rights, movie rights, major blog...
...and admission to any journalism school he wants ... tuition-free. This kid is set for life. He's also reckless, but clearly has more of the spirit of real journalism than the entire New York Times or Washington Post editorial staffs and management (good-bye, Bob Woodward, hello Kevin Sites...) And he was smart enough not to go anywhere near the Iraqi police...

My advice: Harvard, Yale or Northwestern, get yourself a good entertainment/media lawyer and a reputable gent (and call me if you need help with the screenplay!) Best of luck, kid (but then, having pulled this thing off and come out alive and not kidnapped, you're pretty damned lucky already...)

Here's some of Farris' essay.

Tags: , War, Middle East, ,
posted by JReid @ 8:32 PM  
So you like polls now, do ya?
Okay wingers, now that you've discovered a sudden love for polling data, here are some more surveys to go with your Rasmussen breakfast:
  • Just 46 percent of Americans have a favorable view of President Bush, according to CNN/USA Today/Gallup. (They like Laura, though) ...
  • 33% of Americans would like to vote Dubya off the Survivor island first if they had the chance, just behind Paris Hilton, according to a new Parade Magazine poll ...
  • Two-thirds of Americans think the country is on the wrong track under Mr. Bush's and the Republican Congress' leadership, according to the latest NPR poll by Stan Greenberg and Public Opinion Strategies... (though as often happens in polling, the two pollsters' analyses of the data differ according to their political leanings...)
  • A GMI global attitudes poll finds Americans among the most gloomy and pessimistic people in the Western world regarding our economy and the direction of our country, and blowing more and more money on escapism to ease the pain...

Would you like fries with that?


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posted by JReid @ 8:08 PM  
Norah O'Donnell: dizzy ... embarrassing ... Bush-bot
"OK didn't you just love that article today about how the president and his team are figuring out how to get back on track. I mean, wow. Is the president growing day by day, or what? ... you've got Karl telling him to attack, and Dan-Dan telling him to be more forthcoming ... it's just like, sooooo exciting...! And ohmigod, I mean like, wasn't Karl just in his element at the White House Christmas party? I know! He was just wandering around, taking pictures with everyone. I mean, wow! (giggle giggle)... Wouldn't it just take three or maybe even ten people to replace him if he were to step down? I know, right? 'Superman Karl Rove'... (giggle giggle gurrggle...)"

Ugh. That's about when I turned "Hardball" off tonight. Somebody get that girl a beret... or at least a job at Fox...

Keith Olbermann, once again you'll have to step in and save this thing. See ya in fifteen...

Part one: Norah O'Donnell: Bush-bot

Previous: Pimp my reporter

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posted by JReid @ 7:45 PM  
The world's most dangerous arms race
According to one analyst, it's the one between Israel and Iran... What makes it worse is that both countries have shown a propensity to arm not-so-nice people when they're ready, including the South African Apartheid-era government, the nasties in Angola and the Nicaraguan Contras, who were armed by the Israelis throughout the 1980s (and let's not forget, Israel also was an original benefactor of Hamas...) or Hezbollah and other terrorist groups -- not to mention the Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq -- who continue to get succor from Iran. That makes that old Black magic talk from the neocons about the nexus between states, WMD and "bad actors" seem a lot more colorful ...

By the way, how's the spread of democracy in the Middle East going? Apparently, not well...

Tags: , Iran, Israel, Iraq, Politics, Terrorism,
posted by JReid @ 4:59 PM  
Ah, now I get it...
No wonder so many Americans still march in lock-step with Dubya, even when he's spying on us:

ROCHESTER, N.Y., Dec. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- More than four years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, many U.S. adults still believe some of the justifications for the invasion of Iraq, which have now been discredited, according to a new Harris Poll. For example:

-- Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein had
"strong links to Al Qaeda."
-- Twenty-two percent (22%) of adults believe that Saddam Hussein "helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11."
-- Twenty-six percent (26%) of adults believe that Iraq "had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded."
-- Twenty-four percent (24%) of all adults believe that "several of the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11 were Iraqis."

However, all of these beliefs and others have declined sharply since the questions were asked in February 2005. For example:

-- Those who think Saddam Hussein had strong links to Al Qaeda have fallen from 64 to 41 percent.
-- Those who believe that Iraq was a serious threat to U.S. security are down from 61 to 48 percent.
-- Those who think Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11 are down from 47 to 22 percent.
-- Those who think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction are down from 36 to 26 percent.
-- Those who think Iraqi hijackers attacked the United States on 9/11 have fallen from 44 to 24 percent.

Although public support for the war in Iraq has been waning, a 56 percent majority of all adults believe that "the Iraqis are better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein." However, this has also fallen from 76 percent since February.

These are the results of a nationwide Harris Poll of 1,961 U.S. adults surveyed online between December 8 and 14, 2005 by Harris Interactive(R).

These new poll findings and trends show how slowly most people change their minds once they believe something to be true. Nevertheless, they also show that, over time, beliefs can change greatly. [Source: P.R. Newswire]
Kind of puts that Rasmussen poll in perspective, doesn't it... And it explains posts like this one in the right-wing blogosphere... I'm tempted to conclude that a lot of Americans just aren't very bright... but y'know, since it's Christmastime, I'll just say they're "misinformed..."

Related: The Rasmussen boobie poll

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posted by JReid @ 4:32 PM  
Achtung, baby
You've got to admit, the concept is hillarious...

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posted by JReid @ 4:23 PM  
How to talk to a conservative about the NSA spying scandal (if you must)
Courtesy of Media Matters, all the myth debunking your little heart could desire.

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posted by JReid @ 11:56 AM  
The Loony Bin Archives
This week's Loony Quote of the Week:
Which brings me to this week’s scandal about No Such Agency spying on “Americans.” I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo. -- Ann Coulter, in her wacky syndicated column, December 31, 2005
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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Common Ills spots another buried NYT headline (from AP):
The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most files of that type.

The files, known as cookies, disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week. Agency officials acknowledged yesterday that they had made a mistake.

Nonetheless, the issue raised questions about privacy at the agency, which is on the defensive over reports of an eavesdropping program.

"Considering the surveillance power the N.S.A. has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."

Until Tuesday, the N.S.A. site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035.
So if you visited the NSA site (before Tuesday), you left behind the ability for the agency to track every site you visit thereafter, until the year 2035. All of this supposedly "by accident." What next?

As Common points out: would be interesting to know if this "policy" was only implemented at the NSA or if it was a sort of "total awareness" going on at all government sites under the Bully Boy. The article states that the CIA did use them in 2002 until Daniel "Brandt called it to the agency's attention." Following cookies being placed upon anti-drug online ads (this would be in the Clinton years), "strict rules" were set in place in 2000 but as of 2001 at least 23 agencies were found by Congress to still be using them.
Any blogger who links to the White House, Pentagon or other web-sites should wonder... unless of course they're conservatives who think the president should have any and all the power he can grab, with nothing to hold him back but the good Lord's whispers in his ear...

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 AM  
...By the way... the strike worked...
This one's for you, Neal Boortz...

Tags: , , Labor, Politics, workers, strike
posted by JReid @ 11:19 AM  
The Rasmussen boobie poll
Update 3, 12/30, 11:54 a.m.: More of Rob's response to my response, plus a guy called Carrick who points myself and others to Article II of the Constitution. Duly noted, but I say they're applying the Constitutional war powers in the wrong place -- we're talking about domestic intelligence collection and wiretapping persons on U.S. soil -- possibly including Americans, both of which are expressly disallowed under the FISA rules. (And yes, guys, even a "wartime president" is sworn to uphold United States law. An no, Carrick, there is no universal agreement that Congress' force authorization green-lighted Bush on the wiretaps, else, what are the upcoming hearings for? The Congress' health???)

One thing Rob and I seem to agree on, though, is that Congress went way too far and was much too vague in giving Bush a blank check "use of force authorization" which Bush has stretched into unlimited war-making powers both abroad and at home. Time for Congress and the courts to step up and check this guy, as the Constitution intended...

One very useful link by Carrick, but one in which I can find no support for his arguments, this case law on the Fourth Amendment (protecting against unlawful searches and seizures). Here's a clip:
The Berger and Katz Cases.--In Berger v. New York,140 the Court confirmed the obsolesence of the alternative holding in Olmstead that conversations could not be seized in the Fourth Amendment sense.141 Berger held unconstitutional on its face a state eavesdropping statute under which judges were authorized to issue warrants permitting police officers to trespass on private premises to install listening devices. The warrants were to be issued upon a showing of ''reasonable ground to believe that evidence of crime may be thus obtained, and particularly describing the person or persons whose communications, conversations or discussions are to be overheard or recorded.'' For the five-Justice majority, Justice Clark discerned several constitutional defects in the law. ''First, . . . eavesdropping is authorized without requiring belief that any particular offense has been or is being committed; nor that the 'property' sought, the conversations, be particularly described.

''The purpose of the probable-cause requirement of the Fourth Amendment to keep the state out of constitutionally protected areas until it has reason to believe that a specific crime has been or is being committed is thereby wholly aborted. Likewise the statute's failure to describe with particularity the conversations sought gives the officer a roving commission to 'seize' any and all conversations. It is true that the statute requires the naming of 'the person or persons whose communications, conversations or discussions are to be overheard or recorded. . . .' But this does no more than identify the person whose constitutionally protected area is to be invaded rather than 'particularly describing' the communications, conversations, or discussions to be seized. . . . Secondly, authorization of eavesdropping for a two-month period is the equivalent of a series of intrusions, searches, and seizures pursuant to a single showing of probable cause. Prompt execution is also avoided. During such a long and continuous (24 hours a day) period the con versations of any and all persons coming into the area covered by the device will be seized indiscriminately and without regard to their connection with the crime under investigation. Moreover, the statute permits. . . extensions of the original two-month period--presumably for two months each--on a mere showing that such extension is 'in the public interest.'. . . Third, the statute places no termination date on the eavesdrop once the conversation sought is seized. . . . Finally, the statute's procedure, necessarily because its success depends on secrecy, has no requirement for notice as do conventional warrants, nor does it overcome this defect by requiring some showing of special facts. On the contrary, it permits unconsented entry without any showing of exigent circumstances. Such a showing of exigency, in order to avoid notice, would appear more important in eavesdropping, with its inherent dangers, than that required when conventional procedures of search and seizure are utilized. Nor does the statute provide for a return on the warrant thereby leaving full discretion in the officer as to the use of seized conversations of innocent as well as guilty parties. In short, the statute's blanket grant of permission to eavesdrop is without adequate judicial supervision or protective procedures.''142

Both Justices Black and White in dissent accused the Berger majority of so construing the Fourth Amendment that no wiretapping- eavesdropping statute could pass constitutional scrutiny,143 and in Katz v. United States,144 the Court in an opinion by one of the Berger dissenters, Justice Stewart, modified some of its language and pointed to Court approval of some types of statutorily-authorized electronic surveillance. Just as Berger had confirmed that one rationale of the Olmstead decision, the inapplicability of ''seizure'' to conversations, was no longer valid, Katz disposed of the other rationale. In the latter case, officers had affixed a listening device to the outside wall of a telephone booth regularly used by Katz and activated it each time he entered; since there had been no physical trespass into the booth, the lower courts held the Fourth Amendment not relevant. The Court disagreed, saying that ''once it is recognized that the Fourth Amendment protects peo ple--and not simply 'areas'--against unreasonable searches and seizures, it becomes clear that the reach of that Amendment cannot turn upon the presence or absence of a physical intrusion into any given enclosure.''145 Because the surveillance of Katz's telephone calls had not been authorized by a magistrate, it was invalid; however, the Court thought that ''it is clear that this surveillance was so narrowly circumscribed that a duly authorized magistrate, properly notified of the need for such investigation, specifically informed of the basis on which it was to proceed, and clearly apprised of the precise intrusion it would entail, could constitutionally have authorized, with appropriate safeguards, the very limited search and seizure that the Government asserts in fact took place.''146 The notice requirement, which had loomed in Berger as an obstacle to successful electronic surveillance, was summarily disposed of.147 Finally, Justice Stewart observed that it was unlikely that electronic surveillance would ever come under any of the established exceptions so that it could be conducted without prior judicial approval.148
This doesn't sound like much of a defense of Bush's unlimited domestic surveillance powers under Article II to me...

Update 2: 9:11 p.m.: Ezra Klein has more rewording suggestions for the crack researchers (no pun in... never mind...) at Rasmussen...

Update 5:30 p.m.: Rob at Say Anything takes issue with criticisms from myself and other bloggers about the wording of the Rasmussen poll (see below) while conceding the question should have included the fact that the searches were done without warrants. Well, Rob misses the point. True, Rasmussen didn't bother to ask about the warrants issue, but that's neither here nor there, since most Americans probably don't really understand the warrant concept anyway, nor do many of them care when it comes to terrorism, so the results would have been the same.

Rasmussen has succeeded only in testing support for the generalized concept of federal eavesdropping on terrorist suspects -- something all but the most savvy civil libertarians would probably support. What is at issue here is not wiretapping, per se, or even the warrants -- it is the president's ignoring the law about wiretapping and warrants. Let Rasmussen test that and then we'll talk.

On the question of "people living in the U.S. " vs. "Americans" -- actually, Rob, that phrasing makes quite a bit of difference, since people will naturally have a different reaction to out of the box things being done to "foreigners on U.S. soil" versus American citizens. Researchers are supposed to take such things into account. And Rob's assertion that "we don't know who was tapped sow polsters can't ask" is spurious. Again, it is the president's going around the law and the court that matters here. He could have wiretapped his mama for all I care, so long as he obtained a FISA warrant as the law requires. Had he obtained the warrants, there would be no story.

Original post: Rasmussen polls have been called "crack for weak people" (during the election cycle they come out every day, luring you to go back to the site for another hit.) Well Sistah Toldjah and others on the "spy on me!" right are scrambling to get their fix of the latest Rasmussen street product, which assures them that:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not sure.
And the coup de gras:

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Republicans believe the NSA should be allowed to listen in on conversations between terror suspects and people living in the United States. That view is shared by 51% of Democrats and 57% of those not affiliated with either major political party.
All-righty then, putting aside the fact that supposedly the right doesn't believe in "dem biased damned polls," let's have a closer look at the Rasmussen product, for those who haven't been involved in polling before. Lesson number one: it's all about the question. If I asked you "do you believe George W. Bush should be authorized to place a bug in your phone?" I'd get a much different response from you than if I asked "do you believe George W. Bush should be able to place a bug in the phone of an American suspected of conspiring with al-Qaida...?"

That's essentially what Rasmussen asked. Here's the way they worded their Big Question:

"Should the National Security Agency be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?"
To which they got the predictable 64-23 answer spread. Then they asked:

"Is President Bush the first President to authorize a program for intercepting telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?"
And since two-thirds of respondents claimed they were "following the story" which is thoroughly infected with the GOP's Clinton-Carter talking point meme (debunked here, by Andrea Mitchell, no less...) 48 percent of respondents dutifully answered "no."

But wait -- shouldn't the president be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between Qaida members and "persons" -- who may or may not be Americans even -- living in the United States? What, were the 23 percenters on methamphedamine? Of course he should! Investigating and preventing terror attacks is a clear responsibility of law enforcement, and the president is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. But note, clever Rasmussen, that that's not what the president is accused of doing. The FISA law (assuming you folks on the right still care about laws, since you obviously believe the president can take them or leave them...) states that the president, the NSA and other agencies cannot intercept phone calls placed from one domestic phone to another -- NSA only is able to collect intelligence "exclusively between or among foreign powers" (which by extension includes "agents of foreign powers," which is why the Clinton administration was able to monitor communications between Aldrich Aimes and his foreign handlers -- with warrants...) In other words, had Bush only authorized the agency to monitor phonecalls coming into the United States from a foreign power or from al-Qaida to foreign agents in the U.S., he'd be A.O.K. Had the FBI been surveilling suspected terrorists on U.S. soil, he'd be OK there, too.

But Bush did more than that -- he authorized electronic eavesdropping that resulted in taps on domestic and international calls originating in, and in some cases, terminating in, the U.S. -- violating both the FISA law and his own ground rules for the NSA surveillance.... For that, he neeeded FISA warrants. And he chose not to get them, because getting the warrants -- even after the fact -- inconvenienced him. As such, Bush probably ordered the NSA participants to commit a crime. What's worse, Bush's electronic dragnet swept in almost every U.S. phonecall -- not just those between "terr'rists," and since all of this was done in secret, we simply don't know what calls they were listening to -- including he secretly used "The Program" to spy on political foes, anti-war protesters and the like. We simply don't know, because the president has declared all of the information secret, "for national security purposes." After all, he had the Pentagon and FBI watching American anti-war and environmental activists, too... On what do we base the "good faith" that the president didn't abuse this new power he and Tricky Dick found for him?

(Of course, the right doesn't mind being snowed in this manner, because we're at war, and the president should do whatever God tells him is best, and keep errything secret... so the terr'rists won't hear ... shhhhh!!!...)

So here's another way Rasmussen could have framed the Big Question:

"Should the president be allowed to bypass the law requiring court warrants to monitor domestic phonecalls for what he deems are national security purposes?"

If 64 percent of Americans still answer "yes" to that, then thank God the Founders and their constitution protect me from the civics-challenged majority.

Update: Here's Zogby's crack (no pun intended) at the same question:

A narrow plurality of likely voters nationwide believe President Bush acted within his Constitutional powers when he authorized the interception of international communications without the approval of a federal judge, but the public is closely divided on the issue, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Nearly half – 49% - said they think he has the power to authorize the intercepts, while 45% said he does not, the survey showed.

The interactive survey of 1,929 likely voters nationwide, conducted Dec. 20-21, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Asked if the President’s actions made Americans more safe or less safe, 50% said the nation was safer because of his actions, while 18% said the actions put the country more at risk and 26% said it made no difference in our level of safety.

However, 44% said they were concerned that the communication intercepts were a step toward stripping Americans of their privacy. Another 23% said they believe the secret intercepts are important in rare cases to fight terrorism, and 29% said they were necessary to combat enemies.
...Which tells me that just over half of those respondents aren't clear on what the president's powers are, or on the law. There, I fault the lazy media (Norah O'Donnell, you're first on my list) who have failed to explain the law or make the matter plain (excepting Andrea Mitchell, who's been surprisingly un Bush-bot lately...)


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posted by JReid @ 9:46 AM  
Norah O'Donnell: Bush-bot
Add Norah O'Donnell's to the Bush-bot hall of fame ... Her performance as fill-in host on Hardball last night was one of the worst cases of presidential boosterism by a reporter that I've ever seen on television... not that she ever performs much differently. Hold on, MediaMatters, I think you've crowned the wrong Misinformer...

O'Donnell's shrieky interview with the author of a book claiming the U.S. had Osama bin Laden cornered and let him escape -- complete with a screaming demand to know if he is a Democrat (he's not -- he's a former CIA guy who was on the ground at Tora Bora while Tommy Franks was in Florida at CentCom...) was an embarrassment to MSNBC and NBC News. Isn't Nora the same chick who rode the Bush bus during the 2000 campaign and became Dubya's "favorite reporter?" Move over, Kyra, girl, Norah's trying to take your man...! (Photo credit: Norah hanging out with former White House Iraq flak Dan Senor and other pals at a swank party thrown by Washington Times social editor Kevin Chaffee at D.C.'s swank Harbor Club in the summer of 2002... Oh, and if you're wondering about Dan, he's now flacking for Fox News... More fun and fabulous pics of Norah and her pals here.)


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posted by JReid @ 9:28 AM  
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Padilla update
More on the Padilla vs. the federal eavesdroppers filing. And yeah, I'm real fed up today...

Tags: , , , Terrorism, Padilla, enemy combatant,
posted by JReid @ 2:29 PM  
3 Britons kidnapped in Gaza
From UPI wire... More on the Britnapping from the Times of London:

A British woman and her parents were kidnapped by a group of unidentified gunmen today in the southern Gaza Strip.

Kate Burton, 25, who worked for Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza City, was bundled into a white Mercedes car with her mother and father this afternoon only a few hundred yards from the Rafah border with Egypt.
So far no demands, and murky details on who the kidnappers might be. Debka has it differently, calling the abductees, "a woman, man and child" which doesn't seem supported by the facts as we know them. But they also hve this:

Armed men snatch three Britons – a woman, man and child – in Egyptian Sinai and carry them by force through the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip

According to one report, the abductors are members of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees who recently threatened to "cleanse" the crossing terminal. Last week, the British Foreign Office warned citizens not to enter the Gaza Strip for any reason for fear of kidnapping or other forms of terror.
The Guardian has it this way:
Local reports indicated that the hostages were a 25-year-old human rights worker and her visiting parents, and said they had been snatched in the town of Rafah.

"We are in a position to confirm reports of three Britons missing in the occupied territories ... at this stage, we have no further details," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

It was reported that the woman worked at the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights.

It was said the three Britons had been travelling in a car 200 yards away from the border crossing when they were approached by gunmen in a white Mercedes.

They were bundled into the attackers' car and driven off at high speed. The Mercedes was pursued by a security vehicle, but got away.
In not quite related terrorism news, insurgents are back in business in Iraq... And members of a German family may have been kidnapped in Yemen... (Gaza, Iraq and Yemen... not exactly places with strong civil liberties, and gee, look what-a-gwan...)

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posted by JReid @ 2:25 PM  

The mastermind of the Munich kidnappings during the 1972 Olympics says he has no regrets... And guess who's helping Stephen Spielberg promote the controversial film?

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posted by JReid @ 2:04 PM  
Who's side are they on??? The Times spins for Collin
Yet another example of why Michelle Malkin and her crowd should love, not hate, the New York Times (and Collin Powell for that matter...):

Powell OK with Bush's spying tactics
The New York Times, December 26, 2005

WASHINGTON - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday that it would not have been ''that hard'' for President Bush to have obtained warrants for eavesdropping on domestic telephone and Internet activity, but that he saw ''nothing wrong'' with the decision not to do so.

''My own judgment is that it didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants,'' Powell said. ''And even in the case of an emergency, you go and do it. The law provides for that.''

But Powell added that ''for reasons that the president has discussed and the attorney general has spoken to, they chose not to do it that way.''

''I see absolutely nothing wrong with the president authorizing these kinds of actions,'' he said.

Asked if such eavesdropping should continue, Powell said, ''Yes, of course it should continue.''

Powell said he had not been told about the eavesdropping activity when he served as secretary of state.

He spoke on the ABC News program ''This Week'' about the disclosure, first reported in The New York Times, that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications by Americans without approval from a special foreign intelligence court.

Though Powell stopped short of criticizing Bush, his suggestion that there was ''another way to handle it'' was another example of his parting company on a critical issue with the president he served for four years. ...

Huh??? Does the Times headline writer even interact with the reporter or editor... at all...? Sheesh...


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posted by JReid @ 1:39 PM  
A day in the life of: The New Iraq
Exactly who controls Iraq's gulags prisons these days? Plus, gun-fight at the Iraq ain't OK corrall...

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posted by JReid @ 1:33 PM  
Go ahead and spy on me (the right loses its collective mind)
Michelle Malkin kicks off the crazy with this rant about the totally predictable lawsuits in the wake of Mr. Bush's domestic spy-fest, and this piece in good ole (in which she so cleverly weaves in the cool catch-word "idiotarians..." (wowee, you're a clever girl...!) accusing the New York Times of all papers -- of being "anti-American" for belatedly doing its job and exposing clear lawbreaking by the president of the United States.

That would be the same New York Times that has bowed and scraped at the president's feet since the build-up to the Iraq invasion, which coddled insubordinate Judy Miller as she embarked on a one-woman Iraq WMD crusade in which she was paid by the paper to carry the water of Iranian spy Ahmad Chalabi... the same New York Times that held the NSA domestic spying story for a full year, granting the president a clear path to reelection in exchange for a later scoop designed to help sell the reporter's book... I could go on, but the Prospect makes the anti-Times/anti-establishment press case quite well here... Malkin accuses that New York Times of "giving aid and comfort to The Enemy..." And the Bush-bots shout "Amen!" God, give me strength... These people want to live in a totalitarian state so badly it's killing them (but at least "the terrorists" arent... right???) What ever happened to the American spirit of "Give me liberty or give me death?" These days, it's "Give me safety and you can have my liberty for nothing!" Here's a sample post from the Bush Faithful, and my response. Keep in mind, this is an actual post by an actual supposed conservative:

What side are you on?

... I have a question to American journalists in general.

In your heart, would you rather be a good American or a good journalist?

It is obvious these days journalists don’t feel like they can be both. I understand journalists are supposed to be the “watchdog” over our government by covering and reporting on its activities; however, under no circumstances should this be tolerated at the expense of our national security.

I don’t want to know what top secret programs we have.
I don’t want to know how we are spying on our enemy.
I don’t want to know in which countries the CIA is holding prisoners.
I don’t want to know all of our interrogation methods…

…because if I know, our enemy knows. That is dangerous for America.

It is time for the journalists of America to become Americans first.
That was someone called JR Wilson at The Political Page. Perhaps he should change it to "Sweet Jesus don't tell me how, just keep the Eyerackees from under my bead Weblog" or the "Shred the Constitution! I put my faith in my Republican Supreme Leader Daily"...? I posted the following response to him, and with all due respect ... Ok never mind I totally disrespect that post...

What an absolutely absurd question. And here's one for you: What country do you want to live in? You apparently would be very much at home in the old Soviet Union, where bugging your phone and your kitchen were de regeur... or maybe you could cozy up in a little cabin in Havana, where the government watches your every move, and there's nery a terror attack? Wake up, whoever you are! This country was founded on the principles of freedom -- primarily freedom from oppressive, intrusive government. If you don't like that, and you'd rather be spied on in order for your daddy, the president to "keep you safe", move to North Korea.
Darn, I sure hope I spelled "de regeur" correctly... that would really suck... More posts from the Constitution-abandoning right:

Powerline's Scott Johnson praises Malkin's Times-busting piece here, and muses that domestic spying is both legal and "good for you" here (with some minor questions of separation of powers "process...")

The Texas Rainmaker reaches for entirely irrelevant case law to try and prove that Clinton did it too!!! (see the subsequent post) and posits that if only Valerie Plame had been al-Qaida, the Times would have blessed the leak. Huh? I'm still waiting for your side to condemn the leak of that classified information. ... Still waiting... waiiiiitiiiiing...

I'll just go ahead and quote Zardozz:

Washington needs to step up to the plate and take the gloves off with respect to MSM's apparent mission to stoop to new depths in order to throw obstacles in front of the NSA, the CIA and the Administration. They do this in the name of protecting individual rights -- but most every thinking American knows there's a political agenda behind it. Mainstream America is supportive of our government doing everything it can to protect it's citizens from indiscriminate murder. Even if it means invading the privacy of suspected terrorist conspirators that happen to be living in this country! U.S. Citizens or not! That's how we feel about it here.
The FReepers post and react to a Rasmussen survey that makes me question the sanity of two-thirds of Americans (or at least whether they paid any attention at all in civics class...

The Cap'n at Captain's Quarters says if a terrorist attack does occur, Americans are gonna blame the Democrats and the New York Times... And he goes on to ... wait for it ... blame the FISA court for obstructing the president's exercise of absolute power...

Okay, I need a dose of sanity. Philly Inquirer, take it away:
Nobody ever said it was a risk-free proposition to stand by the U.S. Constitution.

Not the nation's founders, certainly: They risked their very lives in waging the war for independence that led to enshrining the Constitution's democratic ideals in the first place.

And now the threat of terrorism sharpens the risk posed by living in an open, democratic society.

As long as the nation values and protects by law the rights of everyday Americans to be spared from unwarranted snooping, its enemies could find ways to exploit that openness - as they assuredly did on Sept. 11, 2001.

Citizens have a choice. They can live with that risk, understanding it for the central role it plays in making this a nation worth preserving. Or they can surrender to fear - out of a misguided sense that no civil liberty is so cherished as to risk another terror attack by its defense.

In President Bush's first formal defense to Congress of his secret, warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, there is the scent of surrender.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Congress from the Department of Justice, the Bush administration argued that national security trumps the privacy concerns of individuals.

While giving a nod to the "important and legitimate privacy interest at stake," a top Justice Department lawyer said it "must be balanced... against the government's compelling interest in the security of the nation."

It sounds like a classic example of trying to justify the means by the ends. Security is all-important, therefore the normal requirement to obtain court approval for surveillance had to be short-circuited?

That reasoning is an affront to Americans who hold dear both their liberty and their lives...
Thank God there are still some people left in this country who cherish its founding principles. I lived in New York. I live in the southern sieve called Florida where terrorists could float right up to the coastline and be cheered on entry by repoters, just by pretending to be Cubans. I don't want to be blown up in a terrorist attack anymore than anyone else. But damned if my parents came to this country to bear their children in a police state. If the right has its way, the press will lie down at the feet of the president and dutifully report the daily "good news" of his beneficent rule, the people will ignore their liberties and forget there ever was a Constitution, and we'll all be just as "safe" as the old Soviets, the Cubans or the Maoist Chinese.

God help us all.

Update: The Counterterrorism Blog fleshes out the coming court challenges, making the point that the legal challenges (to begin, where else but in Florida, as early as next week) give new urgency to the job of ferreting out the legality/illegality of the Bush wiretaps...

Talkleft digs into the cases as well...

A timely quote from my favorite pundit, Craig Crawford... and another one. Dude, Bush isn't the only Republican who's been watching too much "24"...

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posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Kill the 'Clinton and Carter did it too' meme
The WSJ editorial page takes a stab at giving the president's FISA lawbreaking Constitutional cover, actually suggesting the Founding Fathers would have approved of Bush's secret spy tactics. Perhaps the Board meant the founders of the U.S.S.R ... And of course, they waive the now tattered "Clinton-Carter did it too!" bloody shirt:

Keep in mind that while the Carter administration asked Congress to enact the FISA statute in 1978, Attorney General Griffin Bell emphasized that the law "does not take away the power of the president under the Constitution." And in 1994, when the Clinton administration invited Congress to expand FISA to cover physical as well as electronic searches, the associate attorney general testified: "Our seeking legislation in no way should suggest that we do not believe we have inherent authority" under the Constitution. "We do," she concluded.

Of course, there are inconvenient facts which should, by now, be known to all, but since we're dealing with a country populated by approximately 40 percent mindless Bush-bots, here it is in black and white, courtesy of no less a liberal stooge than Mrs. Alan Greenspan, first in a pre-Christmas conversation with "go ahead and tap myphone!" Bush stooge Sen. George Allen:

ALLEN: Well, generally speaking, it is much better. I agree with you that it makes more sense if it is practicable to have independent judicial review, do the FISA courts. However, the president needs to have flexibility.

The law, his constitutional rights and duties and responsibilities, allow him to do so. President Bush is not the first president to do this. His predecessor, President Clinton, did. President Carter did.

And if one wants to look at various cases, like the United States versus Trong, had to do with—it was a 1980 case, during the Jimmy Carter administration, where they don‘t have time to be going through all this paperwork.

And the number of hours or days that it may take to get that warrant means that that information is not gleaned, the information is not acquired, and maybe we don‘t corral some of these terrorists as quickly as we could or it‘s a complete missed opportunity .

MITCHELL: Let me just clear the record up, Senator, because we‘ve checked today, with both the Carter and the Clinton White Houses, and every lawyer that we‘ve spoken to says that they did not do this.

They did not do what this administration has now conceded and, in fact, claims credit for doing, which is to use the National Security Agency to spy on Americans, to spy on people making calls to and from the United States without a court warrant.

ALLEN: Well, I‘ve actually—well, the documents I saw that President Clinton actually authorized the attorney general, then Janet Reno, and certain key people to give the authority for such warrantless eavesdropping ...

MITCHELL: For the FBI, but not for the NSA is my understanding.

ALLEN: Well, right, for the FBI, OK.

MITCHELL: I think the big difference is that it‘s this super secret spy agency that many people are suggestions doesn‘t have any controls over it other than this intelligence court.

Well, let me take you beyond that, because the intelligence court itself has had one resignation, admittedly a Democrat. A Clinton-era appointee has resigned from this 11-person court and we talked—NBC News talked to another member, not a Democrat, and he says that he has some concerns—not deep concerns but some concerns—of the other remaining 10 judges are going to meet within the next two weeks. So people involved in this are concerned about the president.

ALLEN: I think it‘s completely legitimate to be concerned, but people also need to understand the law, the responsibilities and in fact, the constitutional authority of the president of the United States. If they don‘t like it, I suppose they can propose amendments to the Constitution.

But the president is trying to—in this effort, trying to identify terrorist threats, determine those threats, and then act. And one of the ways you have to do it is to try to intercept some of these calls.

They get all sorts of information off of laptops, off of different means about these terrorists and al Qaeda in particular, and they need to act on it. And no one‘s actually been harmed by this. This is not as if somebody is being detained or they‘re ...

MITCHELL: Well, how would we know?

ALLEN: Well, they‘re not being ...

MITCHELL: We actually don‘t know whether anyone‘s been harmed.

ALLEN: Well, being detained is a different thing. No one‘s talking about suspending the writ of habeas corpus, which has been done by presidents in time of war in previous years in our history of our country.

MITCHELL: But the point is that we don‘t know whose privacy has been invaded nor what records are being kept. So there‘s no way to know what‘s out there. You wouldn‘t know if your phone calls were intercepted.

ALLEN: That‘s true. That‘s true. And it‘s one of those risks or one of those judgment calls we have to make that is it worth it to allow the president and our intelligence agencies, our national security agencies, allow them the flexibility ... especially the way communications are now, whether it‘s the Internet or cell phones that move around all over the country and all over the world, do we want them to have that ability to act quickly, flexibly to protect America from terrorist threats? I‘m willing to take that risk.
Well are you, now? Okay, let's dispense with Allen (yeah right, he'd make a greeeeat president...) take a commercial break and then let Ms. Mitchell move on to round two:

MITCHELL: Welcome back. We‘ll be talking to Senator Joe Biden about the domestic surveillance program and Iraq in a moment. Today, Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics with the White House spy story. The RNC sent out this press release saying, quote, “Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter both authorized search/surveillance without court orders.”

The RNC press release goes on to cite an executive order from President Clinton on February 9th, 1995 that says, “The attorney general is authorized to approve physical searches without a court order.”

But that actually leaves out a crucial part of the sentence. So let‘s clean that up. The actual executive order from President Clinton reads, “The attorney general is authorized to approve physical searches without a court order if the attorney general makes the certifications required by that section.”

And that section refers to a requirement that the attorney general certify that the search will not involve quote, “The premises, information, material, or property of a United States person.”

In other words, U.S. citizens or anyone inside the United States. It‘s the same story about how the RNC is framing former president Jimmy Carter‘s executive order, which is taking it out of context.
Thanks Andrea. Nice segment. And now for a word from the Canton Repository:
OK on domestic spying leaves Bush on thin ice even with right-wing radicals
Tuesday, December 27, 2005 If our government had checks and balances without all of the governmental branches belonging to only one political party, the impeachment process would have already begun.

Even without this balance, this administration is going down the spiral to political suicide just as fast as it can make decisions.

Finally it bit the one bullet that will explode in its face. Even partisan politics cannot cover up a president’s running a covert intelligence operation that violates our Constitution. This president doesn’t have a clue he is treading on the one sheet of thin ice even right-wing radicals will abandon him on.

Mr. Bush — since he is not acting like our president, he should not be addressed as such — has thrown down the gauntlet, stating he has every right to bypass a court set up specifically to deal with terrorist activities. Mr. Bush cannot use the excuse of expediency, as this court even allowed wiretaps without permission with a 72-hour window before the court was notified to set wiretaps. What more could one want? How easy would it be? Evidently not easy enough for this power-grabbing bunch.

Now Mr. Bush says he is doing these illegal wiretaps to “protect the people.” Not one president was ever sworn in to office to “protect the people.” When you are sworn in as president, the oath you swear is to protect the Constitution — something Mr. Bush must hate, with the blatant disregard he has shown it.

Henry Pabian, Plain Township
Amen, Henry. A thousand times, Amen.

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posted by JReid @ 11:24 AM  
Eric Alterman is on fire
Read his entire December 27 post. It's worth it. A few highlights:

Alterman links to this poll which ranks Dubya at the bottom of the presidential heap:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush ranks as the least popular and most bellicose of the last ten U.S. presidents, according to a new survey.

Only nine percent of the 662 people polled picked Bush as their favorite among the last 10 presidents. John F. Kennedy topped that part of the survey, with 26 percent, closely followed by Bill Clinton (25 percent) and Ronald Reagan (23 percent).

Bush was also viewed as the most warlike president (43 percent), the worst for the economy (42 percent) and the least effective (33 percent). But he was rated most highly in response to a question on who would do the right thing even if it were unpopular.

The survey was conducted by the Chicago-based National Qualitative Centers, a marketing research company, as part of research for a forthcoming book on popular preferences, one of its authors, Ken Berwitz, said on Friday.

And he serves up Chris Matthews, Media Matters' Presidential Suck-Up Misinformer of the Year:

As you may remember, last year our staff conducted an extensive review of all the misinformation we identified and corrected in the early days in order to name the first annual "Misinformer of the Year." We singled out one particularly egregious purveyor of falsehoods and awarded Bill O'Reilly the dubious title. O'Reilly graciously accepted the award on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.

This year, of all the news anchors, columnists, pundits, and reporters whose work we've critiqued and corrected, one man stands alone as a clear successor to the O'Reilly throne. We are pleased to announce broadcast journalist, former newspaper bureau chief, former presidential speechwriter, and best-selling author Chris Matthews has earned the title of 2005's "Misinformer of the Year." At times, it has even been difficult to tell the difference between 2005's Misinformer of the Year and his predecessor.
Chris (heart) George, indeed. And he still hates Bill (with a passion). I'll never forget when Matthews came to Miami for a speech and during the Q&A, I asked him why, as such a history buff, literature and get this, theater lover and downright Northeastern dandy, Matthews was so enamored of the anti-literate Bush and so hostile to Bill Clinton. His answer: basically jealousy. Clinton is the sort of guy who flaunts his cigars and his girlfriends and his charisma 'bout the place, and it just pisses Matthews off. I'm paraphrasing but that's basically what he said.

Anyway, read the MMFA post. Matthews apparently thinks Dubya is as warm and wonderful as Santa Claus...

Ho ho ho.

By the way, Alterman links to a WSJ article by New Republic Deocon Lawrence Kaplan designed to "scare the Jews into getting back in line with the Neocon global plan" or some such-like. Here's a link to the article without the need for a subscription. (Reading it should erase any doubt that The New Republic is little more than a neocon/neoliberal rag, no different in substance from the Weekly Standard but designed to sell the Kool-Aid from the other side of the aisle.)

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Capitol Hill Blues
Yes, guys, you are that good... More from CHB on the Bush fed's total upsweep of information about Americans -- and we're not just talking terrorist suspects... including the use of private companies to do some of the dirty work... And a previous CHB headline indicated that the Bushies are also stepping up their spying on journalists. Sorry Michelle, they're not seizing them from their beds and torturing them yet... (And Anchoress, dear, wouldn't you be more at home in Havana...?)

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posted by JReid @ 12:54 AM  
Eight facts about Iraq by Lawrence Vance (2004). Plus: I got shipped out to Iraq and all I got was this corny Christian rap CD... (memo to Al Franken: you're a good egg...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:11 AM  
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Why spy
Defenders of the president and his secret domestic spying program keep accusing critics of trying to "tie the hands" of the commander in chief "in a time of war." Bush himself insists that the in-house spying was limited, and only used to thwart terrorism. Okay, so what anti-terror purpose was served by spying on the U.N.? Remember that story that quickly died as the run-up to the war turned into the war? The Bushies spied on members of the United Nations Security Council -- in New York, mind you, and without a word from the New York Times -- not to protect the United States, but to determine how those members would vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. (Rawstory claims to have an email proving that those wiretaps were approved by none other than "dream" GOP presidential candidate Condoleezza Rice...)

So let's get our story straight. The administration has shown itself willing to spy on international friends for strictly self-serving purposes, and they've already been caught sicking military eavesdroppers on environmental and anti-war groups, but we're supposed to trust than when they turn on the surveillance equipment at home, they're strictly listening in on bomb plots, and not, say, political opponents, or, hell, the opposition candidate in a presidential election...? If the right wingers believe that, they'd have made good Germans in the 1930s...

The three little piggies

Meanwhile, three names will likely keep popping up as the NSA spy story continues to unravel: Harriet "Golly Gee" Miers, John "Parking on the Dancefloor" Ashcroft, and Alberto "Torquemada" Gonzalez, all of whom gave Mr. Bush the shoddy "legal advice" upon which he and his administration based their ill-gotten spy scheme. Can you spell "disbarrment?" Nice reminder by the Boston Globe:
By the standards of past attorneys general, Ashcroft and Gonzales were well qualified for the job. Still, neither of them had much occasion to consider the legal limits of presidential power before they took office. Ashcroft taught business law and later became attorney general of Missouri. He then spent 14 years as a governor and senator before becoming Bush's first-term AG. Gonzales was a partner at a corporate law firm before Bush became governor of Texas. He served as a legal adviser to the governor, and was briefly Texas secretary of state and a justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

By the standards of past White House counsels, both Gonzales and Miers were lightly qualified, since neither of them had Washington experience before guiding the president. By contrast, two of President Clinton's White House counsels, Lloyd Cutler and Abner Mikva, were eminent attorneys with decades of experience in assessing the limits of federal power.
Ah, Harriet. You're the gift of underqualification that keeps on giving...

So we're still left with the question of why the administration chose to bypass what seems like a very friendly FISA law and tapped away without court approval. Here's an idea:
Secret court modified wiretap requests
Intervention may have led Bush to bypass panel


WASHINGTON -- Government records show that the administration was encountering unprecedented second-guessing by the secret federal surveillance court when President Bush decided to bypass the panel and order surveillance of U.S.-based terror suspects without the court's approval.

A review of Justice Department reports to Congress shows that the 26-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court modified more wiretap requests from the Bush administration than from the four previous presidential administrations combined.

The court's repeated intervention in Bush administration wiretap requests may explain why the president decided to bypass the court nearly four years ago to launch secret National Security Agency spying on hundreds and possibly thousands of Americans and foreigners inside the United States, according to James Bamford, an acknowledged authority on the supersecret NSA, which intercepts telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and Internet communications.

"They wanted to expand the number of people they were eavesdropping on, and they didn't think they could get the warrants they needed from the court to monitor those people," said Bamford, author of "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency" and "The Puzzle Palace: Inside America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization." "The FISA court has shown its displeasure by tinkering with these applications by the Bush administration."
Bamgord, by the way, likens the Bushies NSA spy program to the worst abuses of the Nixon administration, to whose "bad old days" he says we've returned.

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posted by JReid @ 11:06 PM  
In case you missed it -- Barrons to Congress: consider impeachment
As they say, when you've lost Barrons... Here's the full text for the unsubscribers:
Unwarranted Executive Power

The pursuit of terrorism does not authorize the president to make up new laws

Unnatural Disaster

AS THE YEAR WAS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, we picked up our New York Times and learned that the Bush administration has been fighting terrorism by intercepting communications in America without warrants. It was worrisome on its face, but in justifying their actions, officials have made a bad situation much worse: Administration lawyers and the president himself have tortured the Constitution and extracted a suspension of the separation of powers. [Emphasis added]

It was not a shock to learn that shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct intercepts of international phone calls to and from the United States. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to gather the foreign communications of people in the U.S. -- without a warrant if quick action is important. But the law requires that, within 72 hours, investigators must go to a special secret court for a retroactive warrant.

The USA Patriot Act permits some exceptions to its general rules about warrants for wiretaps and searches, including a 15-day exception for searches in time of war. And there may be a controlling legal authority in the Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution that authorized the president to go after terrorists and use all necessary and appropriate force. It was not a declaration of war in a constitutional sense, but it may have been close enough for government work.

Certainly, there was an emergency need after the Sept. 11 attacks to sweep up as much information as possible about the chances of another terrorist attack. But a 72-hour emergency or a 15-day emergency doesn't last four years.

In that time, Congress has extensively debated the rules on wiretaps and other forms of domestic surveillance. Administration officials have spent many hours before many committees urging lawmakers to provide them with great latitude. Congress acted, and the president signed.

Now the president and his lawyers are claiming that they have greater latitude. They say that neither the USA Patriot Act nor the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually sets the real boundary. The administration is saying the president has unlimited authority to order wiretaps in the pursuit of foreign terrorists, and that the Congress has no power to overrule him.

"We also believe the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander-in-chief, to engage in this kind of activity," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The Department of Justice made a similar assertion as far back as 2002, saying in a legal brief: "The Constitution vests in the president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that Constitutional authority." Gonzales last week declined to declassify relevant legal reviews made by the Department of Justice.

Perhaps they were researched in a Star Chamber? Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.

Some ancillary responsibility, however, must be attached to those members of the House and Senate who were informed, inadequately, about the wiretapping and did nothing to regulate it. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, told Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003 that he was "unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities." But the senator was so respectful of the administration's injunction of secrecy that he wrote it out in longhand rather than give it to someone to type. Only last week, after the cat was out of the bag, did he do what he should have done in 2003 -- make his misgivings public and demand more information.

Published reports quote sources saying that 14 members of Congress were notified of the wiretapping. If some had misgivings, apparently they were scared of being called names, as the president did last week when he said: "It was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Wrong. If we don't discuss the program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.
Well said, Mr. Donlan. Meanwhile, what do you think the controversy over the administration's domestic spy efforts -- and their probably illegality -- is going to do to pending terrorism-related cases already headed to court? Take a wild guess.

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posted by JReid @ 3:21 PM  
NYO Confidential
The New York Observer has the story on how and why the NYTimes caved for a year, then decided to publish the NSA spying story against the wishes of the president, and some nine days after Bush personally pressed the Times' Sulzberger and Keller not to let it go to print. An interesting note in the piece: the co-author of the spy scoop, whose book stands to benefit from the story (though Keller denies the book had anything to do with the publication date), has had past run-ins with the paper over his desire to do stories countering the WMD enthusiams of former Times scooper-in-chief Judy Miller...

Also in NYO: the ed board slams the NY Transit Union boss as arrogant, a writer sifts the mist of Fareed Zakaria's Iraqi Island utopia, and (no surprise here) Joe Conason calls for Mr. Bush's impeachment...

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posted by JReid @ 3:05 PM  
If you see me smirking today...
It's because of this:

BAGHDAD, Dec. 26 -- Unexpectedly low support from overseas voters has left Ahmed Chalabi -- the returned Iraqi exile once backed by the United States to lead Iraq -- facing a shutout from power in this month's vote for the country's first full-term parliament since the 2003 invasion. ...

... With 95 percent of a preliminary tally from the Dec. 15 vote now completed, Chalabi remained almost 8,000 votes short of the 40,000 minimum needed for him or his bloc to win a single seat in the 275-seat National Assembly, according to election officials. Without a seat in the assembly, Chalabi would presumably be unable to obtain a post in the resulting government. ...

... Chalabi's supporters here had hoped he would do well among exile voters who were allowed to cast ballots overseas. But results announced Monday showed he received just 0.89 percent of the "special vote,'' from Iraqi citizens in foreign countries, hospitals, the army and prisons. Kurdish politicians received the largest share of the special vote, with the backing of millions of Iraqi Kurdish exiles and members of the security forces, while the current governing coalition of Shiite religious parties has so far won the most votes overall.

Chalabi's bloc has done poorly across the country, according to the preliminary tally, which left it statistically unlikely that the bloc could win a seat outright. Final results are expected by early next month.

Chalabi pulled out of the governing Shiite alliance ahead of the elections, opting instead to form a small party of his own, after the alliance refused to guarantee him the top job of prime minister, his aides said at the time. ...
I suppose you can lead a horse to democracy, but you can't make him elect the con-man that sold you the saddle... *Smirk...*


What now, Ahmad

Tags: , , Chalabi, Elections
posted by JReid @ 1:26 PM  
No more Monday Night Football on ABC ... and the Patriots won ...

Tags: , Sports, Football
posted by JReid @ 1:22 PM  
Blog is the new propaganda
The administration's latest gambit in spreading the 'good news' about Iraq? Bloggers. Embedded with U.S. troops and writing stories, often with "tips and story suggestions" from military brass... Two bloggers are highlighted in the WaPo article: Bill Roggio of The Fourt Rail and Powerline or some of the other Bush-bot blogs you know what I mean, as opposed to the right-wing but more independent voices at places like RedState and Jawa, and even Malkin, who criticizes the Bushies when she's ready.) Either way, it's a judgment call each blogger can make for themselves. Personally, I wish more would err on the side of independence.

Meanwhile the military, for its part, is training future Iraq fighters how to deal with the press (lesson number one: lay off Rumsfeld...)

Tags: , , href="">War, Embeds, Bloggers, Media
posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
Big Questions for the year's end
Can you go to hell for stealing a sticky bun...?

...How f---d up is the Miami criminal justice system, and just where did this guy get all those bed sheets?

...Is it time to begin ignoring the 'charity celebrity' (with the exception of Bono) and can we start with Angelina Jolie and her skanky fiance?

...And how did we forget the Asian Tsunami (and Katrina) so soon?

...Why do the Israeli objections (and the objections of people like this guy) to "Munich" make me want to see it more? (Could it be that the objections mean Spielberg has hit some grain of truth? Other movies on the must-see list: "Syriana", "Good Night and Good Luck." Gotta love George Clooney...)

...Are the native and Vaudeville scenes in "King Kong" racist (or is the movie itself racist), or are those elements a more realistic treatment of 1930s American attitudes toward the "dark races" than the anachronistic Black ship's mate who orders all the White people around? (Worth a read: King Kong: Race, Sex and Rebellion by David Rosen, from about a generation ago...)

...How can Microsoft's Bill Gates do so much good, while his company appears to do so much bad...?

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 PM  
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays
Don't eat too much...
posted by JReid @ 3:17 AM  
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Political motives
I've been trying to figure out why the Bush administration would be so reckless in disregarding even the most pliable of laws in pursuing their eavesdropping schemes, when it's clear that the FISA court would have given them whatever warrants they needed to conduct domestic or international surveillance.

One explanation is sheer arrogance: they did it because they felt that they were unstoppable, and to hell with Congress and the Courts. Another explanation, which works given who this crowd is (everything is political) is that while they were motivated partly by a genuine search for improved national security, they were mostly engaged in a full-stop attempt to cover the president politically and win reelection.

In short, the Bush administration couldn't afford to allow another attack on American soil -- they were running for reelection specifically on being the ones best able to protect the American people from terrorism. And with the fig leaf quickly coming off Iraq, they were willing to do anything -- break any law -- to ensure that Bush didn't have a second "My Pet Goat" moment. They were so focused on preventing another 9/11 on Bush's watch that they neglected everything else: disaster preparedness, immigration reform, the economy and the housing bubble -- because they paid little or no attention to the process of actually governing. They even neglected the critical details of getting Iraq right. Instead, they threw everything they had at preventing another attack, including casting aside Congress and the FISA court to create a broad, total surveillance society where they knew, heard and saw all they could -- and this is the key -- before Congress or anyone else who might put the Democrats on even ground.

It's just a theory, but it's as good an explanation as any...

Tags: , , , Government, Spying, Politics, NSA
posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
Friday, December 23, 2005
This call is being recorded for (classified) purposes...
Do you make overseas phonecalls? I know we do in my household. Next time we dial mums I suppose we should be sure to also say "goodbye" to the NSA robot on the line:
Spy net may pull in all U.S. calls overseas
Many Americans' privacy is at risk, some say


WASHINGTON -- The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to al-Qaida, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA. ...

... The Bush administration and the NSA have declined to provide details about the program the president authorized in 2001, but specialists said the agency serves as a vast data collection and sorting operation. It captures reams of data from satellites, fiber-optic lines and Internet switching stations and then uses a computer to check for names, numbers and words that have been identified as suspicious.

"The whole idea of the NSA is intercepting huge streams of communications, taking in 2 million pieces of communications an hour," said James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, who was the first to reveal the inner workings of the secret agency.

"They have a capacity to listen to every overseas phone call," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has obtained documents about the NSA's using Freedom of Information Act requests.

The NSA's system of monitoring e-mails and phone calls to check for search terms has been used for decades overseas, where the Constitution's prohibition on unreasonable searches does not apply, declassified records have shown.

But since Bush's order in 2001, Bamford and other specialists said, the same process probably has been used to sort through international messages to and from the United States, though humans have never seen the vast majority of the data.
More from the NYT:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said. ...

...Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation. ...

... Officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program say the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties. ...
So is this one legal? Inquiring minds want to know... Here's William Arkin writing for the WaPo:

The Curious Section 126 of the Patriot Act

What is it that the National Security Agency began doing after 9/11 that necessitated Presidential authorization for warantless surveillance?

We have all learned in the past week that the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act of 1978 contains provisions that allow the government to conduct quick reaction surveillance of an individual and go to the court afterwards for a warrant.

So what would the NSA need to do that isn't covered by the provisions of FISA?

My guess is the government decided after 9/11 to monitor everyone. [emphasis added]

Thanks JMC for pointing out that the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act Of 2005 contains a Section 126, inserted by the House, requiring the Attorney General to submit a report to Congress "on any initiative of the Department of Justice that uses or is intended to develop pattern-based data-mining technology."

Data-mining is defined in Section 126 as:

"a query or search or other analysis of one or more electronic databases, where--

(A) at least one of the databases was obtained from or remains under the control of a non-Federal entity, or the information was acquired initially by another department or agency of the Federal Government for purposes other than intelligence or law enforcement;

(B) the search does not use personal identifiers of a specific individual or does not utilize inputs that appear on their face to identify or be associated with a specified individual to acquire information; and

(C) a department or agency of the Federal Government is conducting the query or search or other analysis to find a pattern indicating terrorist or other criminal activity.
In English?

Congress is seeking assurances that "the privacy and due process rights of individuals" is protected in the course of the government using massive databases of non-publicly available data; both proprietary databases and its own compiled intelligence and law enforcement databases to "search" for terrorists and terrorist connections.

In this program, the subject of monitoring is not one individual but everyone. Pattern-based data-mining is used to find links that might indicate terrorist activity.
Arkin supposes that "the new computer-based data mining isn't looking for an individual per se, it is looking at information about all individuals (at least all who make international telephone calls or send e-mails overseas or travel to foreign countries according to the government) to select individuals who may be worthy of a closer look. " It's essentially a federal fishing expedition, as Arkin puts it, to see if the next Mohammad Atta can be uncovered via patterns of telephone and e-mail behavior. Sounds logical enough, but the question is, is it legal, and also, do we want the government to have that kind of fishing license... Perhaps Sam Alito could tell us...

The feds have also been monitoring Muslim groups and sites (including private homes and mosques) for elevated radiation levels that might indicate a "dirty bomb" -- again, without search warrants...
In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.

Meanwhile, John Conyers has begun to see some success in seeking Congressional inquiries into possible impeachable offenses (or at least censurably ones) by Bush and Cheney. Merry Christmas, Bushies!

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posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
Evolution honored
...yet another knock against "intelligent design..."

Tags: , Intelligent Design, Science, Religion, Creationism
posted by JReid @ 6:46 PM  
Miss Bin Laden Dufour if you're nasty
Osama's niece says it isn't easy to bring the sexy when you're a member of that particular clan... But will shedding her last name really help her marketing? After all, I'd think "Bin Laden" is at 100% name recognition, whereas "Dufour" isn't exactly "Madonna..." Still, you've got to give the girl credit for trying...

Update, 12/30: Wizbang's weekend caption contest starts ... now...

Tags: Media, Bin Laden
posted by JReid @ 2:42 PM  
What now, Ahmad
So Ahmad Chalabi rides into Washington on his black horse, claiming that he, and only he, can lead the United States out of the morass building in increasingly Iran-centric Iraq. Only he can tame Tehran (perhaps when he's not spying for them...) Only he can unite the splintering Iraqi people. ... Only he didn't get any freaking votes in the recent election... oops.

NEW YORK The politician and onetime administration and U.S. newspaper source, Ahmed Chalabi, "appears to have suffered a humiliating defeat at the recent Iraq polls," NBC News reports today, according to the uncertified preliminary results.

It said that preliminary results in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad indicate that Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress scored a minuscule 0.36 percent of the votes.

In the Shiite city of Basra, the results indicate Chalabi, the current deputy prime minister who some neocons thought might soon head the country, had an equally dismal showing of 0.34 percent of the vote. In the Sunni province of Anbar, 113 people voted for him.

"The election results in Iraq may present Chalabi’s ardent U.S. supporters with a quandary: Chalabi, as well as other losing candidates, is alleging fraud in the election, even though the Bush administration hailed the vote as a historic step for democracy in Iraq," NBC reports. Indeed, the country is now in political turmoil over this.

During the election, Chalabi’s campaign posters proclaimed, "We Liberated Iraq."

Just last month, with the help of major U.S. lobbyists, he toured this country, meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and appeared widely on American television.
I guess he wasn't such a "top contender" after all, WaPo... So as "The New Iraq" lurches toward Shiite theocracy, what's a neocon-baiter to do? (As many analysts are pointing out, there's not much that can be done at this stage...) Well, here's an idea: turn to Syria for your next big adventure...! Read it and weep...

Related: Is the U.S. preparing to strike Iran and Syria? Ask Porter Goss...
Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Chalabi
posted by JReid @ 2:17 PM  
Daschle begs to differ...
...on whether Congress gave President Bush the authority to eavesdrop on Americans...

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posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
The NewsMax file: Fear of a black pant-suit
It must be getting tight for Rick Santorum if he's walking running away from the PA intelligent design law group that defended that defeated Dover school policy...

"I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said Wednesday. He said he would end his affiliation with the center.

The leading Democratic challenger in Santorum's 2006 re-election battle, state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., accused him of backtracking on intelligent design.

Casey spokesman Larry Smar said Wednesday that Santorum's statements were "yet another example of 'Election Year Rick' changing his positions for political expediency." Casey has led Santorum in recent polls.
Yeah, Rick might not want to pull this op-ed out of the vault just now. Says Santorum Exposed:
In an opinion piece from January 2005, here's what Rick Santorum said about the Dover Area School Board and intelligent design:
Recently, the Dover Area School District in York County updated their biology curriculum in an attempt to create a more balanced approach to teaching evolution. A statement regarding the status of evolutionary theory and the existence of alternative theories will be read to all students during the time evolution is studied in the high school biology course. Additionally, students will be able to voluntarily view reference books in the library that present a variety of cutting-edge scientific views both supporting and opposing Darwinian theory. The Dover Area School District has taken a step in the right direction by engaging in the debate and attempting to teach the controversy of evolution. (emphasis ours)
Yesterday, one day after the Dover Area School District was told by a federal judge that their new "more balanced approach to teaching evolution" was unconstitutional, Rick's point of view seems to have, um, grown an opposable thumb.
Ah, evolution ...

Also in NewsMax: Dick Cheney gets a pay hike...

And Congressman Larry Craig offers a novel rationale for his big-time vote against renewing the Patriot Act: HILLARY!!!!

"There will come a day when there will not be a George W in the White House," Sen. Craig warned, after calling top conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday to explain his position. "And tragically enough, and I hope never, it could be a Hillary Clinton."

Craig wondered aloud: "Who will be her attorney general, and what might he or she do to your liberties and mine? There's the question."

The Idaho Republican told Limbaugh: "You know, I've been here a little while, and I remember Janet Reno, and I remember Waco and Ruby Ridge."
... yes, the Clintons just shredded our civil liberties with all that peace and prosperity, didn't they...?

Would you buy some freedom from this Senator...?

And the best NewsMax headline of all: 22 Congressmen Hate Christmas. Ho ho ho, baby!

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
The Yoo nobody knows
I've said before (and you can read why here and here) that people should get to know the name John Yoo. He is to America's newfound zeal to set aside 200-plus years of traditional values on everything from torture to civil liberties and government snooping, what Paul Wolfowitz was to the invasion of Iraq. More on Yoo here.

Professor Yoo apparently doesn't believe there are any serviceable limits to presidential power and authority over American citizens -- his views would be more at home in the old Soviet Union or modern day North Korea, Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe than they are in the United States, but here he is, giving life to Dick Cheney's dark vision of a surveilled and subjugated America, ripe for the picking by big corporations, and scared stupid into worshipping the president like pitiful lemmings (otherwise known as "conservatives.") Yoo is one of the former Clarence Thomas clerks running around the place (Laura Ingraham is another). He wrote about Thomas here, when Uncle Thom's name was being circulated as a possible Chief Justice ...

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posted by JReid @ 12:28 AM  
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Dubya's year-end lameduckapallooza
I used to live in Colorado (practically grew up there.) So I was personally embarrassed by that state's governor, Bill Owens' performance on Hardball tonight. Owens attempted to argue -- with a straight face - that there have been a "series of legal opinions" upholding the president's power to conduct domestic surveillance thorugh the NSA. Andrea Mitchell tried to save his behind, gently reminding him that those powers involve the domestic-themed FBI, not the foreign-focused NSA, but Owen's wouldn't bite, insisting that these phantom rulings exist. (Mitchell took down likely presidential candidate Sen. George Allen of Virginia on exactly the same points on Wednesday) ... Hey ... does the governor's complete lack of understanding of American civics or law mean he's qualified to be the next ding-bat governor elevated to commander in chief...?

Anyway, enough of that rant. Here's what's up in Bush's ham-handed bid for dictatorship.

An anonymous GOP Senator places a hold on the annual year-end intelligence bill, possibly to derail two amendments by Ted Kennedy and one by John F. Kerry, which called for the White House to turn over PDB's (presidential daily briefs) Clinton and Bush received on Iraq, and which require NID John Negroponte to turn over to the intel committees information on America's secret prisons abroad. Bets on the anonymous Senator: Frist?

Howard Fineman has some thoughts on the coming impeachment chatter... while another Newsweek writer compares the Bush spyministration to Apartheid-era South Africa...

Not surprisingly, Charles "the Killer" Krauthammer says, "impeach Bush??? Sheeeeeiit! Strap an AK-47 on him and ship him over to Iraq to execute Saddam Hussein PERSONALLY!!!!!@##&&&!!!" Okay, he really didn't say that...

The White House loses another one -- the Patriot Act gets renewed for just one month to allow more wrangling...

WaPo says the Congress is finally standing up to the Bushies... (sort of -- I don't think they're exactly holding his feet to the fire --not while the GOP is still in control.) One really fascinating thing: this quote from a fairly unlikely source:

"What you have seen is a Congress, which has been AWOL through intimidation or lack of unity, get off the sidelines and jump in with both feet," especially on the national security front, said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).
...then again, he was always a McCain guy. Here's an even more candid assessment:

"This is partly a function of approval ratings," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). "People pay attention [to polls] and start saying, 'Lets take a more independent tack.' It is frankly self-interest, self-preservation."
Surprise-surprise, the Homeland Security Department has always sucked.

NYC Mayor Bloomberg has his own domestic spying scandal, though in the case of the city, it was the police department, not a federal agency purposed to collect foreign intelligence, that did the looking...

Meanwhile, in the "now they tell 'em" category, the lead judge ignored by the Bush administration in conducting its secret wiretaps on American soil will belatedly brief her fellow FISA judges on why they're irrelevant to the Bush administration...

Tags: , , News, Current Affairs, Bush, Society, ,
posted by JReid @ 11:30 PM  
Playing catch-up
Wow, what a day! I had no time to post anything, so now I'm playing catch-up on some headlines.

I actually got this on my phone yesterday, but no surprise that Jeanine Pirro is dropping out of the NY Senate race. Why face the humiliation of a 30 point defeat when you can run far more credibly for attorney general... much better to lose to Mark Green or Andrew Cuomo...

The transit strike is over -- I know my peeps in New York are happy about that.

Lots of good stuff on the WaPo's Early Warning blog (by one of the best military analysts out there, William Arkin), so I'll just link you to it. Key stuff:

The Pentagon is violating the law with its domestic spy program, says Arkin:
The Department of Defense now says that analysts may not have followed the law and its own guidelines that require the purging of information collected on U.S. persons after 90 days. The law states that if no connection is made between named persons and foreign governments or transnational terrorist organizations or illegal activity, U.S. persons have a right to their privacy and information about them must be deleted.

Thanks to RL, I now know that the database of "suspicious incidents" in the United States first revealed by NBC Nightly News last Tuesday and subject of my blog last week is the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN) database, an intelligence and law enforcement sharing system managed by the Defense Department's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA).

What is clear about JPEN is that the military is not inadvertently keeping information on U.S. persons. It is violating the law. And what is more, it even wants to do it more. ...
And even more key re the NSA's domestic spying, and just who the target of that spying is:

Yesterday's New York Times editorial on National Security Agency spying in the United States refers to "your mail and your e-mail" and "your telephone conversations" being monitored.

The connotation of course is that the "you" is some New York Times reading Cappuccino drinking upper middle class Manhattan intellectual, that thousands if not tens of thousands of similar Americans are having their phones tapped and e-mails intercepted.

Come on. The government is not just repeating the targeting of political opponents a la J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon. It is not picking out a Seymour Hersh or a Cindy Sheehan to find their links to foreign influences nor seeking to ruin their lives by developing incriminating evidence on them.

I know I sound like some Fox news watching, flag waiving, gun toting, Cappuccino hater defending the national security state.

The New York Times and the government may not want to say the obvious, that by and large, it is Muslims in America who are being monitored in the 9/11 Order. It is not the liberal or the literary in the back of the New York City taxicab that is the target. It is the driver.

If the government is going to find the next Mohamed Atta in our midst, it is going to do so, it thinks, through the intercepted phone call to uncle Mohamed in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. It is going to correlate the purchase, the airline ticket, the license plate at the Mosque.

What has happened since the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks is as pernicious and as damaging as any abuse or panic or misstep of the past: We must pledge allegiance to a certain post 9/11 Order, abandon the rule of law, compromise our values, turn against our neighbors, enlist in a clash of civilizations, all in the name of defeating the terrorists.

We are being asked to destroy our country in order to save it.
That's all well and good, but I for one don't trust this government not to also be wiretapping political opponents and anti-war groups. It's just too much in their M.O.

And apparently it's also in the M.O. of the NYC police (I guess there's still a little 'Giuliani Time' in them...

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posted by JReid @ 6:47 PM  
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Lame ending for Nip/Tuck
Sorry, but the Nip/Tuck finally sucked, big time. How many plot inconsistencies does it take to screw up a storyline? Okay, okay, so we all figured the creepy wack-job was the Carver -- who else could it have been? But the ending??? Give me a break... And what's with the crazy redneck with the torture shop in his basement? Man, I LIVE in South Florida. I'm just not seeing it... More later.

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Early vote results are in. You might want to wash that purple paint off your finger before reading this...
The success of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of Shia religious parties, has been far greater than expected according to preliminary results. It won 58 per cent of the vote in Baghdad, while Iyad Allawi, the former prime minister strongly supported by Tony Blair, got only 14 per cent of the vote. In Basra, Iraq's second city, 77 per cent of voters supported the Alliance and only 11 per cent Mr Allawi. ...

... Another victor in the election is the fiery nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia fought fierce battles with US troops last year. The US military said at the time it intended "to kill or capture him".

Mr Bush cited the recapture of the holy city of Najaf from the Mehdi Army in August 2004 as an important success for the US Army. Mr Sadr will now be one of the most influential leaders within the coalition.

All the parties which did well in the election have strength only within their own community. The Shia coalition succeeded because the Shia make up 60 per cent of Iraqis but won almost no votes among the Kurds or Sunni, each of whom is about 20 per cent of the population. The Sunni and the Kurdish parties won no support outside their own communities.

The US ambassador in Baghdad, Zilmay Khalilzad, sounded almost despairing yesterday as he reviewed the results of the election. "It looks as if people have preferred to vote for their ethnic or sectarian identities," he said. "But for Iraq to succeed there has to be cross-ethnic and cross-sectarian co-operation." ...

...The election also means a decisive switch from a secular Iraq to a country in which, outside Kurdistan, religious law will be paramount. Mr Allawi, who ran a well-financed campaign, was the main secular hope but that did not translate into votes. The other main non-religious candidate, Ahmed Chalabi, won less than 1 per cent of the vote in Baghdad and will be lucky to win a single seat in the new 275-member Council of Representatives.

"People underestimate how religious Iraq has become," said one Iraqi observer. "Iran is really a secular society with a religious leadership, but Iraq will be a religious society with a religious leadership." Already most girls leaving schools in Baghdad wear headscarves. Women's rights in cases of divorce and inheritance are being eroded.
Is there such a thing as a "mulligan" in the New Iraqi Constitution...? (BTW, think the Independent UK isn't "unbiased" enough? Here's the self-same story, courtesy of the Voice of America...) Kind of reminds me of my favorite Iraq joke: "What do you call Iraq without Saddam Hussein?" "Iran."

Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Democracy, Foreign Policy, Elections
posted by JReid @ 1:31 AM  
The spying game
Remember when the president snapped at reporters during his press conference and dispatched his talking point minions to argue that under Bush's own orders, any calls tapped under "The Program" as our friends at Fox News call it, had a foreign caller at one end? Well... apparently, not so much...


(archive of Spy headlines on the Reid Report here.)

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posted by JReid @ 1:25 AM  
Clinton talks to the Independent UK
Good, comprehensive interview with new stuff on Iraq. There's also this:
Salvatore: In your book, My Life, you wrote very movingly about wanting to save your marriage. Mr President, what insights and modifications have you felt that you have wanted to focus on to keep your marriage now healthy and strong?

Clinton: I think the most important thing, particularly for us, because Hillary has to go to Washington every week, is to maintain the communication. To me, the most important thing is for people, particularly when their children are grown, to stay involved in each other's lives. You have to continue to be each other's best friend.

That's what we really work on. Sometimes we're better at it than other times. But we've built a whole life together. It's always easy to bag it. It's harder to stay. But you know, after a certain point it seems like a lot of trouble to start again, too. There's something to be said for sticking.
Hear hear. And it's true when the kids are little, too...

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posted by JReid @ 1:20 AM  
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The presidential crime blotter
"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny." -- Thomas Jefferson

"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place, oblige it to control itself." -- Alexander Hamilton
WaPo's big headline for Wednesday: one of the judges on the FISA court has resigned in protest over the president's secret spy program, which he apparently believes has undermined the court and its work (another judge has apparently wondered out loud whether the Bush administration has turned FISA into a "Potemkin court.") And WaPo also has more on the Bush administration's quest for almost limitless executive power to fight this neverending "war" against terrorism...

Over the weekend, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean called George W. Bush "the first president to admit to an impeachable offense" in the NSA domestic spying scandal (BTW, Media Matters has cold busted the WaPo polling outfit on its refusal to ask the "I" question in its polls, and a poster on TPM Cafe answers the key legal question posed by Barbara Boxer, who first reported the Dean quote, and who is now seeking advice from four presidential scholars specializing in impeachment...) Also, George Will asks the simple but unavoidable question: "why didn't he (just) ask Congress?" Despite the pooh-poohing of the Bush-bot crowd, I find it hard to see what legal ground the president can possibly be standing on. Says the TMP Cafe poster:
Bush has admitted to a violation of FISA without colorable defense. He is liable to prosecution with sentence for each illegal wiretap of up to five years in the penitentiary.

50 USCS § 1809 (2005)
§ 1809. Criminal sanctions
(a) Prohibited activities. A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally--
(1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or
(2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.
(b) Defense. It is a defense to a prosecution under subsection (a) that the defendant was a law enforcement or investigative officer engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction.
(c) Penalties. An offense described in this section is punishable by a fine of not more than $ 10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.
(d) Federal jurisdiction. There is Federal jurisdiction over an offense under this section if the person committing the offense was an officer or employee of the United States at the time the offense was committed.

He has no colorable defense - not in the Use of Force Resolution nor in some unenumerated "plenary power" of dictatorship in the Constitution

Bush has dared the Congress to impeach him. I think that the Congress should oblige him, and if this Congress refuses, let it stand before the American people next year to tell us why.
According to the very statute we're arguing over, the only defense against the illegal wiretapping of people on American soil is being an investigating officer operating under a court order or search warrant. Bush has openly, and rather brazenly, admitted that there were no warrants, no court orders, because his administration couldn't be bothered to go to the FISA court, even after they'd done their "critical" phone surveillance. What possible argument could there be for this distortion of the president's role? The Cheneyesque notion (shared by uber-neocon Bill Kristol and other supporters of the Endless War) of almost limitless and unchecked presidential power, both abroad and on American soil, is chilling in the Old Soviet sense of the word. Someone ought to send this band of neocon Trotskyites and Jacobins back to the Tolstoy novel from whence they came... They're ruining America.

Related: David Ignatius says the Bushian national security structure is coming apart, and the professional intelligence gatherers aren't exactly unhappy about it. Writes the columnist:
The civil liberties debate is indeed a welcome sign that we are returning to normality. We wouldn't be anguishing over these issues if terrorists were continuing to fly airplanes into our skyscrapers. As we learned after Sept. 11, a frightened nation loses its sense of balance. Now that the nation feels more secure, we insist anew on the rule of law. Presidents may claim extraordinary powers in times of crisis (and Bush is hardly the first), but the checks and balances inherent in our system push us back toward the center line drawn by the Founders.

One little-noted factor in this re-balancing is what I would call "the officers' revolt" -- and by that I mean both military generals in uniform and intelligence officers at the CIA, the NSA and other agencies. There has been growing uneasiness among these national security professionals at some of what they have been asked to do, and at the seeming unconcern among civilian leaders at the Pentagon and the CIA for the consequences of administration decisions.

The quiet revolt of the generals at the Pentagon is a big reason U.S. policy in Iraq has been changing, far more than Bush's stay-the-course speeches might suggest. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is deeply unpopular with senior military officers. They complain privately about a management style that has stretched the military to the breaking point in Iraq. For months they have been working out details of troop reductions next year in Iraq -- not just because such action will keep the Army and Marine Corps from cracking but because they think a smaller footprint will be more effective in stabilizing the country.

A similar revolt is evident at the CIA. Professional intelligence officers are furious at the politicized leadership brought to the agency by ex-congressman Porter Goss and his retinue of former congressional staffers. Their mismanagement has peeled away a generation of senior management in the CIA's Directorate of Operations who have resigned, transferred or signaled their intention to quit when their current tours are up. Many of those who remain are trying to keep their heads down until the current wave of political jockeying and reorganization is over -- which is the last thing you would want at an effective intelligence agency.

The CIA, like the military, wants clear and sustainable rules of engagement. Agency employees don't want their careers ruined by future congressional or legal investigations of actions they thought were authorized. Unhappiness within the CIA about fuzzy rules on interrogation, and the risk of getting clobbered after the fact for doing your job, was a secret driver for Sen. John McCain's push for a new law banning cruel interrogation techniques.

President Bush needs to do what he so often talks about, which is to provide strong leadership. In place of the post-Sept. 11 emergency structure, the country needs clear rules that Congress can debate and finally endorse. It may be, for example, that the NSA does need more agile and more flexible techniques for wiretapping suspected terrorists, like those the president secretly imposed in 2001. If so, it's time to amend our laws. Framing clear rules that meet traditional American legal standards is a sign of the nation's recovery from Sept. 11 -- and it's a process that will serve, above all, the professionals fighting terrorism on the front lines.
Well said. On the flip side, appeals court judge/law professor Richard Posner defends so-called "data mining", says our domestic intelligence services are in crisis, and says the government must sweep in large amounts of raw data, including form the innocent, in order to protect the U.S. from another terrorist attack.

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posted by JReid @ 10:34 PM  
The truth (without jokes)
Dick Cheney finally lays out the truth about what he and other members of the Bush administration are trying to do to the country:

In his first discussion of the underpinnings of the Bush administration's decision to eavesdrop without warrants on communications between the United States and abroad, Vice President Dick Cheney cast the action today as part of a broader effort to reassert powers of the presidency that he said had been dangerously eroded in the years after Vietnam and Watergate.

Talking with a small group of reporters on Air Force Two as he flew from Pakistan to Oman, Mr. Cheney spoke in far broader terms about the effort to expand the powers of the executive than President Bush did on Monday during an hourlong news conference.

"I believe in a strong, robust executive authority and I think that the world we live in demands it," said Mr. Cheney, who was in many ways the intellectual instigator of the rapid expansion of presidential authority as soon as Mr. Bush came to office.

Today, he made no effort to play down his central role in aggressively seizing those powers, citing his early battle to keep private the names of people he consulted while drawing up recommendations for Mr. Bush on energy policy. That effort was ultimately upheld in the courts.

Mr. Cheney appears to have been the first senior administration official to brief a very small number of Congressional leaders on the program and the underlying technology that has permitted the National Security Agency to find and immediately tap into "hot numbers" - telephone calls and e-mail messages suspected to contain communications between terror suspects in the United States and abroad.

Ordinarily, any tap that includes one party inside the United States has required obtaining a warrant from a secret court that oversees the enforcement of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - itself an effort to address of the abuses during the Watergate scandal.

Mr. Cheney was unapologetic about circumventing the legal protections, echoing President Bush's declarations that it was an appropriate use of executive authority, and going further than Mr. Bush by insisting that it has prevented subsequent attacks.

"The fact of the matter is this is a good, solid program," he said on CNN during his stopover in Pakistan. "It has saved thousands of lives, we are doing exactly the right thing, we are doing it in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, and it ought to be supported. This is not about violating civil liberties, because we're not."

Later, aboard Air Force Two, he said, "I'm sure there is going to be a debate," adding, "It's an important subject." But having served in Congress as chief of staff to President Ford - a period when he first became concerned about infringements on presidential power - he said he believed the pendulum had swung back too far after the Nixon resignation.

After expressing respect for the powers of Congress, he told reporters: "But I do believe that especially in the day and age we live in, the nature of the threats we face, the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy."

He described the War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973 in a post-Vietnam effort by Congress to prevent the president from committing troops without sharp congressional oversight, as "an infringement on the authority of the presidency" and suggested it could be unconstitutional. Similarly, he said budget legislation passed in the 1970's restricted the president's ability to impound money.

"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam both during the '70's served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney's philosophy on both the wiretap issues and detention and interrogation policy took legal form in a series of memorandums and briefs, many of them written by John C. Yoo, then a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's office of legal counsel.

Professor Yoo, a mild-mannered legal scholar from Boalt Hall, the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, has told friends that he was taken aback when he became the best-known proponent of pushing the envelope of presidential powers. But many of the documents he and his colleagues wrote described broad and unilateral executive power to combat terrorism, including detaining people without charge indefinitely, subjecting detainees to harsh interrogations and to eavesdropping without first obtaining warrants, under some conditions.

For example, in a Sept. 21, 2001, memorandum, administration lawyers said that eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages without a court's permission could be proper, notwithstanding the Fourth Amendments ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The government may be justified," Mr. Yoo wrote in the memorandum, "in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties." Four days later, Mr. Yoo wrote that Congress cannot place "limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response."

"These decisions," wrote Mr. Yoo, who left the administration two years ago, "under our Constitution, are for the president alone to make."
Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, Four GOP Senators are holding fast against renewing the Patriot Act as it is currently written. The four: Larry Craig of Idaho, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Sununu of New Hampshire and my favorite Republican of all, Chuck Hagel.

Tags: , , , War, Spying, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 9:35 PM  
Sanity rules in Dover, PA
From todays NYT:
HARRISBURG, PA., Dec. 20 - A federal judge ruled today that it is unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses because intelligent design is a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, Judge John E. Jones III issued a broad, stinging rebuke to its advocates and a boost to scientists who have fought to bar intelligent design from the science curriculum.

The judge also excoriated members of the school board in Dover, Pa., who he said lied to cover up their religious motives, made a decision of "breathtaking inanity" and "dragged" their community into "this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Eleven parents in Dover, Pa., a growing suburb about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, sued their school board a year ago after the board voted to read students a brief statement introducing intelligent design in ninth grade biology class. The statement said that there are "gaps in the theory" of evolution and that intelligent design is another explanation they should examine.

Judge Jones concluded that intelligent design is not science, and that in order to claim that it is, its proponents admitted that they must change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations. He said that teaching intelligent design as science in public school violates the First Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits public officials from using their positions to impose or establish a particular religion.

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Judge Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

The six-week trial in Federal District Court in Harrisburg gave intelligent design the most thorough academic and legal airing it has had since the movement's inception about 15 years ago, and was often likened to the momentous Scopes case that put evolution on trial 80 years before.

Intelligent design posits that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source. Its adherents say that they refrain from identifying the identity of the designer, and that it could even be aliens or a time traveler.

But the judge said the evidence in the trial proved that intelligent design is "creationism relabeled." The Supreme Court has already ruled that creationism, which relies on the Biblical account of the creation of life, cannot be taught as science in a public school.

The decision by the judge, a longtime Republican nominated for the federal bench by President Bush during his first term, is legally binding only for school districts in the middle district of Pennsylvania. It is unlikely to be appealed, because the school board members who supported intelligent design were unseated in elections in November, and replaced with a slate that opposes the intelligent design policy and said it would abide by the judge's decision.
Good for you, Judge Brown. And in the interesting reading category, a few thoughts on the psychological disorder phenomenon that is religous fundamentalism from Spot in Minnesota.

Tags: , evolution, Science, Creationism, Religion,
posted by JReid @ 9:21 PM
For all the good it will do with the cover-the-administration's-behind club running the Congress:
Stand with Congressman Conyers: Demand Censure for Bush-Cheney Misconduct, Investigate Impeachable Offenses

I am taking steps against the Bush Administration’s handling of the Iraq War and its collection of intelligence. I am going to need you to stand with me in fighting for accountability.

Join me to demand censure for Bush and Cheney in addition to the creation of a Special Committee to investigate impeaching the Bush Administration for its widespread abuses of power.

I have sought answers from the administration to questions arising from the Downing Street Minutes, the Valerie Plame leak, and scores of other abominable abuses of power that pervade the activities of this White House. 121 Members of Congress and many citizens like you have joined me in asking these questions of the President.

I have just completed a thorough review of this administration’s misconduct and have produced a 250-page report that provides evidence suggesting further steps to be taken. [A copy of the report may be found at, and also at where additional action items may be found.]

It is time to take bolder measures in our pursuit of justice. This White House has responded to questions about its conduct with misleading statements, obfuscation, and vicious attacks against their critics. We must take the next step towards restoring accountability in our federal government. To this end I have:

• Introduced a resolution of censure for both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney, and;

• I am calling upon Congress to create a select committee similar to the Ervin Committee, which investigated President Nixon’s Watergate crimes. This select committee should investigate those offenses which appear to rise to the level of impeachment.

This administration must be held accountable for its misdeeds. We have considerable work to do and I am going to need your help to make this effort successful. Join me in sending a message to the President, the media, and the American people that we are not going to stand for an imperial presidency any longer.


John Conyers
Here is Conyer's actual letter. Here's the Censure Bush Web-site (put up by Bob Fertik and the other folks of and Bush's domestic spying, from both the NSA and the Pentagon, is worthy of at least censure, and Conyers is a good man (actually, he's been mulling the impeachment thing regarding Bush for more than a year...) but I doubt there is the political will in the GOP to do it. Maybe if he had schtupped a young female aide or something really important...

Tags: , , , War, Spying, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
Shame on the New York Times
Critics on the right who are accusing the NY Times of releasing the domestic spying story (or as it's known, on FNC: "The Program...") when it did, just so it could stick it to Bush before the Patriot Act vote are, I think, giving the paper far too much credit, as is anyone who is lauding the paper for striking a blow against presidential tyranny. What we now know is that the Times knuckled under to the administration by failing to report what it had learned before the 2004 presidential election -- depriving voters of important information that they deserved to know about the man asking for reelection to the office of president, and violating, I should think, every possible journalistic principle regarding the press' proximity to power. We also now know that the paper finally released the story, not for some high-minded social or journalistic reason, but to help the reporter's book. Nice job, Sulzberger and Keller. You're really raising the bar.

By the way, more than a few people are asking whether Bush's actions, and apparent violations of the FISA law (one of those laws he's sworn to uphold as president) constitutes an impeachable offense...

Plus, Talkleft on analog vs. digital snooping...


Tags: , , , War, Spying, Foreign Policy, Media

posted by JReid @ 10:31 AM  
Monday, December 19, 2005
Toodloo, caribou
Congress scrapes up $40 billion in budget cuts over five years (vs. $430 billion in new Pentagon spending), mostly on the backs of poor people, old people, and Alaskan wildlife. Compassionate conservatisim in action...

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
After all, there were no weapons...
"Dr. Germ" and other Saddam era officials are freed in Iraq...

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Saddam
posted by JReid @ 11:48 AM  
Shultz's murder apparently confirmed on tape
A militant group has posted a video claiming to show the killing of contractor Ronald Shultz. Jawa has the video.

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Terrorism
posted by JReid @ 11:23 AM  
Bush's presser
First off, Bush is not answering the reporters' questions, such as they are. He is instead making broad, vague assertions ("the authority comes from the Constitution...") and avoiding asking why he saw fit to bypass FISA rules. The reporters, for their part, have fallen back into a swoon, asking Bush what his biggest mistake has been (for the umpteenth time) and failing to hit the obvious follow-ups (when Bush called disclosing classified information a "shameful act" ... hello, Valerie Plame... or mentioned Iraq emerging from a dark past of secret torture prisons, I'd call that a slow pitch right over the plate... Stretch? ... Stretch...????)

Update: One brave reporter managed to find his manhood and ask Bush whether the seemingly perpetual war on terror means no end to "the unchecked power of the executive." That one really got under the emperor's... Supreme Leader's ... president's skin...

Conversely, there are several ringers in the audience, including one whose question was "what are your hopes and goals for the next three years and what's your best case scenario for Iraq," and another whose burning question was "do you really expect Democrats to reject partisanship and support your policy in Iraq?" Clearly that was the Fox News question. Also, where is David Gregory? Was he even invited...?


Here's Al Gonzalez's lame spying defense. According to NBC News:

The president, as commander-in-chief, has certain authorities under the onstitution, Gonzales said, and those were expanded by Congress to include electronic surveillance a few days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The president’s use of that authority is “consistent with law in my judgment,” he said, adding that he had met Sunday night with Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., and other senior lawmakers to explain the authority.
Well I wish he'd explain it at this press conference, because such authority -- let alone any mention of wiretapping powers -- just isn't mentioned in the force authorization post-Sept 11.

Update 2: Lame, lame questions (even April's question sucked...) Final score: The reporters get a D on this one. Bush clearly got the better of them.

Update 3: Reax from the rightward end of the blogosphere are generally favorable (not surprising, since their guy was the clear aggressor.)

Michelle Malkin liked the combative tone and questions for Democrats who voted for the Patriot Act...

The Noonz Wire also found the president's aggressive tone more appealing than his sad sack speech Sunday night, and he gets the press part right:

John Roberts of CBS confirmed that that particular media organization is still not to be taken seriously when he used his time to re-ask the ridiculous question of whether or not the President believes he has made any mistakes.

I have to stop writing now, but in closing I have to say that based on the insipid questions coming from the press, the only person in the room who is truly concerned about our national security is the President himself.
Well I don't know about that last bit, but insipid is exactly what that questioning was. ... and pretty lame, too...

Over on the left end of the blogosphere, Scott Shields at MyDD just read the transcripts (probably a good way to avoid frustration), but also finds the amount of press chuckling distressing... and he didn't appreciate Bush's silly story about the Iraqis who want to off Saddam Hussein without a trial (is he sure that was Iraqi "voters" who came to his office and not Charles Krauthammer...?)

Kos finds an even better press conference: the one prior to Bush's by Alberto Gonzalez:
Q You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation. There may be some members of Congress who might say, we never --

Q That's your interpretation. That isn't Congress' interpretation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I'm just giving you the analysis --


Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.
Did you get this? Gonzales says it was okay to spy on Americans without authorization because the war resolution gave them that power. But when asked why they didn't ask for specific congressional authorization, he says, well, Congress wouldn't have given them that power.

Wow indeed...


Tags: , , , War, Spying, Foreign Policy, Media

posted by JReid @ 9:28 AM  
Before and after
From a National Security Agency slide presentation back in April of 2000, before the Bushies (and 9/11) came to town:

Slide 1:
Slide 2:

Slide 3:

Slide 4:

Slide 5:

Slide 6:

(Text) Legal Protections for U.S. Persons in the U.S.:
Must Be for a Foreign Intelligence Purpose
Probable Cause Standard Applies
Must Be an “Agent of a Foreign Power”
Spy, Terrorist, Saboteur or Someone Who Aides or Abets Them
Requires a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court Order

Question one is whether Congress made statutory changes to the above after 9/11, whether Mr. Bush authorized the NSA to change the procedures without consulting Congress, or whether he simply acted as he wished, without regard to the eixstence of the FISA rules. Question two, and it might be the bigger question, is if the 9/11 attacks have forced us to scrap these basic, common sense protections for American civil liberties and to turn our country essentially over to strongman rule, doesn't that mean the terrorists have won...? View the entire slideshow (in text or graphic version) here.

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posted by JReid @ 1:43 AM  
I am not a lawyer, Tim...

MR. RUSSERT: What are the other authorities?

SEC'Y RICE: Tim, again, I'm not a lawyer, but the president has constitutional authority and he has statutory authorities.

RUSSERT: What Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, what is the authority that you keep citing? What law? What statute? Where in the Constitution does it say that the President can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?

RICE: Tim, the President has authorities under FISA which we are using and using actively. He also has authorities that derive from his role as Commander in Chief and his need to protect the country. He has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority. Now, I am not a lawyer and I am quite certain that the Attorney General will address a lot of these questions. (Full Transcript) -- Pic and links courtesy of Crooks and Liars, where you can also find the video...

Condi Rice's defense of Bush-approved domestic spying at her former agency was embarassing in its failure to answer a simple Russert question: under what law or what section of the Constitution does the president derive the authority to wiretap Americans without a court order? (Another good one might have been "how can we expect the Iraqis to create and uphold a democratic constitution when our own president sets ours aside in favor of monarchial power?" Between the torture allegations and secret prisons, the Abu Ghraib scandal, the renditions to old Soviet gulags and Middle Eastern tyrannies and the apparent military-domestic spy network infiltrating peace groups and spying on American citizens' phone conversations, just as we did with members of the U.N. security council before the war, Mr. Bush is sounding more like Saddam Hussein every day...)

Perhaps Ms. Rice (or some enterprising right wing blogger) could peruse the links on this page (including links to the text of both the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act/FISA) to find a scintilla of support for the notion that Mr. Bush acted with the appropriate statutory and constitutional authority when he authorized Ms. Rice's agency to spy on people inside the United States. What makes this story even more incredible (beside the fact that the New York Times seems to have held the story in part to obey the administration and in part to help out a reporter's book...) is the fact that FISA provided Mr. Bush with all the authority he needed to surveil potential terrorists. All he had to do was get what amounts to a rubber stamp court order. He could have even gotten the order after the spy deeds were done. But under the FISA law, which I somehow doubt Mr. Bush has the authority to unilaterally suspend, there are a few things the president cannot do:


§ 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General; reports to Congressional committees; transmittal under seal; duties and compensation of communication common carrier; applications; jurisdiction of court


(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that—

(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—

(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or

(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and (C) the proposed minimization procedures with
And what of the penalties for breaking the FISA law? For that, we turn to:


§ 1809. Criminal sanctions

Release date: 2005-03-17

(a) Prohibited activities A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally— (1) engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute; or (2) discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through electronic surveillance not authorized by statute.
There's a five-year prison term and $10,000 fine that goes with that...

Now let's have a look at the Patriot Act, which Ms. Rice also seemed to grope for in the darkness of her argument. Here, the relevant section appears to be Sec. 201, the section on intercepting communications, which reads in it's entirety:


Section 2516(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

(1) by redesignating paragraph (p), as so redesignated by section 434(2) of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132; 110 Stat. 1274), as paragraph (r); and

(2) by inserting after paragraph (p), as so redesignated by section 201(3) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (division C of Public Law 104-208; 110 Stat. 3009-565), the following new paragraph:
`(q) any criminal violation of section 229 (relating to chemical weapons); or sections 2332, 2332a, 2332b, 2332d, 2339A, or 2339B of this title (relating to terrorism); or'.


Section 2516(1)(c) of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking `and section 1341 (relating to mail fraud),' and inserting `section 1341 (relating to mail fraud), a felony violation of section 1030 (relating to computer fraud and abuse),'.
Where's the authority there? For some help, let's surf over to Title 18 of the U.S. Code... The edited section -- 2516(1) -- spells out the definition of various criminal activities as indicated above. Nowhere does it even discuss presidential authority. (There is some stuff in there about transporting fireworks across state lines, though...)

And last but not least, let's have a look at the Congressional authorization to use force against Iraq, which Ms. Rice also cited as a source of Mr. Bush's authority to tap your phone. Once you get past the "whereases," the resolution states that Congress authorizes some very specific things:

The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.
So far so good, but no wiretap authority there either...

Perhaps what Condi meant to refer to were the following "whereases" in the resolution:
Whereas Congress has taken steps to pursue vigorously the war on terrorism through the provision of authorities and funding requested by the President to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such persons or organizations;

Whereas the President has authority under the Constitution to take action in order to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States, as Congress recognized in the joint resolution on Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40);
Alright then, let's have alook at that authorization. After the preamble, it has only two brief sections, all dealing with the president's authority to act against foreign terrorists and potential state sponsors. It even attempts to keep for Congress the authority to declare war (which we now know was a bit of a joke, wasn't it...)

This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for Use of Military Force'.


(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
I'm sorry, but whwere is this authority Condi speaks of?

Bottom line: Ms. Rice couldn't cite a statute authorizing Mr. Bush to replicate the acts that got Richard Nixon impeached because such a statute does not exist.

I can see that and I'm not a lawyer, either.


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posted by JReid @ 1:11 AM  
Goodbye, Rosie
The AP's Ron Fournier on Bush's primetime Iraq speech:
His credibility now in tatters, Bush injected a dose of reality into his rhetoric. He used some form of the word "sacrifice" four times, spoke three times of the "loss" caused by war and braced Americans for more to come: "There is more testing and sacrifice before us."

He said Iraq has been more difficult than expected, a rare admission of error. This is exactly what many senior Republicans had urged Bush to do — speak bluntly about war as Franklin Roosevelt did during World War II and eloquently about the cause and sacrifice as Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War.

"Tonight was a high water mark in his acknowledgment that mistakes have been made and that he has to accept his share of the blame," said Republican Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Did it work? That's for Americans to judge, but even with a softening of his rhetoric Bush is still giving doubters little leeway. People are still either with him — or for defeat.

"Defeatism may have its partisan uses," he said, "but it is not justified by the facts."

In related news, on MSNBC tonight after the speech, it was noted that Cheney's speech to U.S. troops during his surprise, 10-hour junket to Iraq was received "with a surprisingly muted response..."
Tags: , , , Middle East, href="">War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 12:50 AM  
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The Madness of King George
Once again, I turn to George Will for wisdom. Will on "This Week" put the matter very succinctly, when he said that (paraphrasing) "the founders clearly intended that no branch of government should be the one to decide the scope of its own power."

This country was founded precisely on the basis of removing from the people of this country the shadow of the king (at that time, George III). The notion that today, our president has the power, in wartime (this particular war being perpetual), to ignore whichever laws he chooses "in order to protect the American people" should be shocking and frightening to anyone who believes in the founding ideals of America. George W. Bush has gone too far.

Now the links:

The Sunday WaPo discusses the Bush administration's expansive definition of presidential power, as evidenced by the probably illegal authorization by the president of the NSA to spy on American citizens without the approval of a FISA court, and the use of the military to spy on peace protesters.

Also in WaPo, Bush defends his domestic spying actions and has the cheek, with all we now know about what his administration has been up to, urges Congress to renew the Patriot Act. The polar responses from the Hill:
Some of them were further incensed by Bush's remarks yesterday. "The president believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed," Sen. Russell Feingold (Wis.) said. "He is a president, not a king." Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) said the administration "seems to believe it is above the law."

Rep. Dan Burton (Ind.) was among Republicans responding. "The liberal media and its liberal allies are attacking the president" for spying tactics that are legitimate and legal, he said on the House floor yesterday afternoon. "The fact is, the president is defending the United States of America."

... in addition to Burton, the other Constitutional wimps and sycophants in our first branch of government think they might finally like to give a bit of presidential oversight a go... From that article:

Democrats have long complained about a dearth of congressional investigations into Bush administration activities, but their criticism has been gaining validation from others after the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, problems in Iraq and ethical lapses.

Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said this fall that "the people's representatives over on the Hill in that other branch of government have truly abandoned their oversight responsibilities [on national security] and have let things atrophy to the point that if we don't do something about it, it's going to get even more dangerous than it already is."

In an interview last week, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said "it's a fair comment" that the GOP-controlled Congress has done insufficient oversight and "ought to be" doing more.

"Republican Congresses tend to overinvestigate Democratic administrations and underinvestigate their own," said Davis, who added that he has tried to pick up some of the slack with his committee. "I get concerned we lose our separation of powers when one party controls both branches."

Democrats on the committee said the panel issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration, two to the Energy Department over nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and one last week to the Defense Department over Katrina documents.

Some experts on Congress say that the legislative branch has shed much of its oversight authority because of a combination of aggressive actions by the Bush administration, acquiescence by congressional leaders, and political demands that keep lawmakers out of Washington more than before.

"I do not think you can argue today that Congress is a coequal branch of government; it is not," said Lee H. Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman and vice chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, told reporters this month: "It has basically lost the war-making power. The real debates on budget occur not in Congress but in the Office of Management and Budget. . . . When you come into session Tuesday afternoon and leave Thursday afternoon, you simply do not have time for oversight or deliberation." ...

... Specifically, Democrats list 14 areas where the GOP majority has "failed to investigate" the administration, including the role of senior officials in the abuse of detainees; leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame; the role of Vice President Cheney's office in awarding contracts to Cheney's former employer, Halliburton; the White House's withholding from Congress the cost of a Medicare prescription drug plan; the administration's relationship with Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi; and the influence of corporate interests on energy policy, environmental regulation and tobacco policy.

Meanwhile, the House ethics committee has not opened a new case or launched an investigation in the past 12 months, despite outside investigations involving, among others, Cunningham and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
And the money quote:

"Republicans have made a mockery of oversight," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), the committee's ranking Democrat. "There was nothing too small to be investigated in the Clinton administration and there's nothing so big that it can't be ignored in the Bush administration."
...No truer words...


On ABC's "This Week..." Russ Feingold calls Bush's actions illegal, and adds:

"We have a system of law," Feingold said. "He just can't make up the law. … It would turn George Bush not into President George Bush, but King George Bush."
And from the paper that first broke the story... the NYT editorial page weighs in:
In Friday's Times, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau reported that sometime in sometime in 2002, President Bush signed a secret executive order scrapping a painfully reached, 25-year-old national consensus: spying on Americans by their government should generally be prohibited, and when it is allowed, it should be regulated and supervised by the courts. The laws and executive orders governing electronic eavesdropping by the intelligence agency were specifically devised to uphold the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

But Mr. Bush secretly decided that he was going to allow the agency to spy on American citizens without obtaining a warrant - just as he had earlier decided to scrap the Geneva Conventions, American law and Army regulations when it came to handling prisoners in the war on terror. Indeed, the same Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo, who helped write the twisted memo on legalizing torture, wrote briefs supporting the idea that the president could ignore the law once again when it came to the intelligence agency's eavesdropping on telephone calls and e-mail messages.

"The government may be justified in taking measures which in less troubled conditions could be seen as infringements of individual liberties," he wrote.

Let's be clear about this: illegal government spying on Americans is a violation of individual liberties, whether conditions are troubled or not. Nobody with a real regard for the rule of law and the Constitution would have difficulty seeing that. The law governing the National Security Agency was written after the Vietnam War because the government had made lists of people it considered national security threats and spied on them. All the same empty points about effective intelligence gathering were offered then, just as they are now, and the Congress, the courts and the American people rejected them.

This particular end run around civil liberties is also unnecessary. The intelligence agency already had the capacity to read your mail and your e-mail and listen to your telephone conversations. All it had to do was obtain a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The burden of proof for obtaining a warrant was relaxed a bit after 9/11, but even before the attacks the court hardly ever rejected requests. ...

...President Bush defended the program yesterday, saying it was saving lives, hotly insisting that he was working within the Constitution and the law, and denouncing The Times for disclosing the program's existence. We don't know if he was right on the first count; this White House has cried wolf so many times on the urgency of national security threats that it has lost all credibility. But we have learned the hard way that Mr. Bush's team cannot be trusted to find the boundaries of the law, much less respect them. ...
Hear hear...! And lest we forget the other elements of the administration's journey to monarchy, the CS Monitor reminds us of Jose Padilla's unprecedented treatment at the hands of the Bush administration...

On the blogs:

Pennywit begins to see the tinfoil for the trees...
"Isn't Congress supposed to provide more oversight regarding these sorts of programs? Moreover, considering the programs that have been revealed so far, does anybody else wonder what else the Bush administration might be up to, what other domestic surveillance programs we don't know about? ..."

Yes and yes.

A couple of days ago, Michelle Malkin went all wacky on Drudge over the outrage... not of the spying, but of those who would dare to report it:
the Drudge Report--HUGE RED FONT and all--chose to aid and abet the civil liberties Chicken Littles at the N.Y. Times. That's a shame. The real headline news is not that President Bush took extraordinary measures to protect Americans in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but that the blabbermouths at the Times chose to disclose classified information in a pathetically obvious bid to move the Iraqi elections off the front pages. And to help sabotage the Patriot Act reauthorization, which went down in the Senate this afternoon.

Whatever, Michelle. I wouldn't even want them to bug your wacky household...

Meanwhile, Hugh Hewitt continues to play the role of Bush's Monica Lewinsky, and Joshua Micah Marshall reasons that by the Bush reasoning, the president could, with no added authority, override John McCain's torture amendment, too...


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posted by JReid @ 12:24 PM  
From the mouth of: Colin Powell
From Powell's interview with the BBC's Sir David Frost this weekend:

On the furor in Europe over those "extraordinary renditions":
"There's a little bit of the movie Casablanca in this, where, you know, the inspector says 'I'm shocked, shocked that this kind of thing takes place'.

"Well, most of our European friends cannot be shocked that this kind of thing takes place... The fact that we have, over the years, had procedures in place that would deal with people who are responsible for terrorist activities, or suspected of terrorist activities, and so the thing that is called rendition is not something that is new or unknown to my European friends."
On world opinion of the United States:
"The United States is going through a period right now where public opinion world-wide is against us.

The state department's plans for post-war Iraq were discarded

"I think that's a function of some of the policies we have followed in recent years with respect to Iraq and in not solving the Middle East's problem and perhaps the way in which we have communicated our views to the rest of the world, we have created an impression that we are unilateralist, we don't care what the rest of the world thinks.

"I don't think it's a fair impression"
On pre-war intelligence (and sorry, but this one doesn't ring true...)
"I was deeply disappointed in what the intelligence community had presented to me and to the rest of us, and what really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to us."
And proof positive that Powell was often out of the loop:
"Often maybe Mr Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney would take decisions into the president that the rest of us weren't aware of. That did happen, on a number of occasions."
I'm not a huge Powell fan anymore, but interesting quotes nonetheless...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 PM  
Sunday headline roundup
Lawyers for a detainee at Guantanamo claim MI5 colluded with the CIA in his and his business partner's renditions... Colin Powell downplays concerns about the practice ... and Cuba avoids friction with the U.S. over the use of Guantanamo...

Surprise! Mr. Cheney goes to Baghdad...

More ethics problems for Bill Frist ...

Aussie violence watch: Sydney police close the beaches... and seize some disturbing contraband: "swords, iron bars and petrol bombs ..."

Who knew? Albert Einstein was also a genius at investing ...

Charity rules: Bill and Melinda Gates share Time's "person of the year" honors with Bono...

Congress prepares to allocate another $29 billion in Katrina relief...

Another poor government response, this time in Egypt following last summer's terror bombings...

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
What kinds of leaks are illegal?
From President Bush's address yesterday:
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies.

Yesterday, the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have.

And the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.
Mr. President, why are leaks that disclose apparent lawbreaking and domestic spying by you and your administration illegal in your judgment, but the leaking of the identity of a clandestine CIA operative is no big deal? Just asking...

Tags: , , , White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 11:43 AM  
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The Celebrity Rapture continues
First Richard Pryor, now the guy form the West Wing... The rapture normally culls in threes, so God only knows who's next...

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posted by JReid @ 2:21 AM  
Meanwhile, overseas...
The BBC is sure to get slammed by the right over its warning to its employees against the willy-nilly use of the word "terrorist"...

Apparently, a member of IRA/Sinn Fein spied for Britain for 20 years...

The South Korean cloning scientist says no, he didn't fake his research...

The commander of British ground forces in Iraq warns that despite the success of this week's election, that country still is at risk of breaking apart...

And "pro-U.S." Gulf leaders will meet to discuss Syria and Iran (and their poor relations with the West.)

Tags: News,
posted by JReid @ 2:10 AM  
Random thoughts: The 'isms'
I haven't watched The Apprentice since the first one, but a friend of mine let me know that a brotha won it this time. Fabulous! So what's all this talk about the finale being racist? And while were at it, is King Kong racist, too, because I really want to see that one and I just love Jack Black (no pun intended) ... hey, Mary J. Blige sure is upset for someone who supposedly is much happier now (but she looks fantastic, doesn't she...?) ... and is Stephen Spielberg both Jewish and anti-Semitic? Are Nick and Jessica really splitting up...??? I know that has nothing to do with apparent racism and to tell you the truth I don't really care, but ... sweet Jesus I think it's time for a chiraz...

Tags: , , , Movies, TV, Culture
posted by JReid @ 1:51 AM  
Going their own way
Wow. Congress has suddenly discovered that they are a co-equal branch of government. It's about damned time. First, a majority in the Senate rebuffs the Patriot Act, then, key members of Congress go ballistic over the White House's domestic spying initiatives (well, not all of them. I'm sure Duncan Hunter is cool with it on the House side, and Trent Lott really isn't sweating it in the Senate...) and finally, they go entirely their own way on immigration (short take: no guest worker program). Can you say "lame duck...?" And catch this little bombshell from Diane Feinstein on Bush's secret NSA wiretapping gambit:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the intelligence and judiciary committees, called the program "the most significant thing I have heard in my 12 years" in the Senate and suggested that the president may have broken the law by authorizing surveillance without proper warrants.
And can Al Gonzalez really be taken seriously as the chief legal officer of the United States after this:

"Let me just say that winning the war on terror requires winning the war of information," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told reporters. ". . . And so we will be aggressive in obtaining that information, but we will always do so in a manner that's consistent with our legal obligations."
Yeah, so who's gonna look after our civil liberties, Al? Harriet Miers? More on the spying:
The Washington Post, citing an informed U.S. official, reported that the NSA's warrantless monitoring of U.S. subjects began before Bush's order was issued in early 2002 and included electronic and physical surveillance carried out by other military intelligence agencies assigned to the task.

Since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s, the NSA has adhered to tight restrictions on its activities in the United States and has devoted its efforts almost exclusively to obtaining intelligence overseas. Domestic spying, much of which is handled by the FBI, is governed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and overseen by a special and highly secretive court that meets at Justice Department headquarters in Washington.

The order issued by Bush in 2002, however, allowed the NSA to monitor without a warrant international telephone calls, e-mails and other communications between people in the United States and those overseas. The Associated Press reported last night that Bush reauthorized the order 36 times.

A government official familiar with the NSA order said the president urged that the change be explained to only a very limited group of people on a "need-to-know" basis. That meant that, for nearly four years, only two people in the judicial branch of the U.S. government knew about the warrantless searches: U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who presided over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and rotated off the court in May 2002, and U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who succeeded him.

The official said that then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and top officials in the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review first briefed a few key officials on the plans to change the 25-year prohibition on most domestic surveillance. In a series of meetings, officials also answered Lamberth's questions about what some informally called "the president's program," and they asserted that no information gained through warrantless surveillance would be used to gain the court's authorization for secret wiretaps and warrants.

Under the president's plan, only the presiding judge of the secret court was allowed to hear cases in which warrantless surveillance may have played a role, the government official said.

Lamberth and Kollar-Kotelly declined to comment yesterday. According to the government source, both raised questions about whether the program was constitutional but neither suggested they had a basis for asserting that Bush did not have the authority he claimed. They focused, instead, on the integrity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
And more on the president's broad interpretation of his own powers from the NYT, which broke the NSA spy story (not to be confused with Lisa Myers' Pentagon spy story for NBC,) but reportedly held off on publishing it for more than a year, under some pretty odd circumstances (including an upcoming book by one of the spy scoop article's co-authors). Get to know this name: John Yoo (more on his unique take on the Geneva Conventions and rpesidential prerogatives here and here plus a few words from the horse's mouth)...


Headline wrap: Catch and release
Who's watching you?

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posted by JReid @ 1:19 AM  
The Abramoff corruption vortex sucks in a columnist
Who knew there were so many ways to make money off being a conservative...? This column product placement / fake news thing is a goldmine!

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posted by JReid @ 1:00 AM  
Friday, December 16, 2005
When good pranks go bad
Think you want to radio prank your significant other? Check out this cautionary tale first...

Tags: , , Entertainment, Pranks, Relationships
posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
Just say no... the Patriot Act. Go Senators Feingold and Craig! Nice work. In case you're taking names:
Five Republicans voted against the reauthorization: Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Craig and Frist. Two Democrats voted to extend the provisions: Sens. Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Frist, R-Tenn., changed his vote at the last moment after seeing the critics would win. He decided to vote with the prevailing side so he could call for a new vote at any time. He immediately objected to an offer of a short term extension from Democrats, saying the House won't approve it and the president won't sign it.
This news today can't have helped, but even without it, I'd like to think the same vote would have been taken.

Tags: , , Homeland Security, War on Terror, Senate, Politics, Bush Administration
posted by JReid @ 2:54 PM  
Headline wrap: Catch and release
From CNN, news that Iraqi forces had Zarqawi in custody, until they didn't...
And from NYT, word that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, including eavesdropping on their phone calls, without a court order... nice.

Gotta dash. more later...

Tags: , , Zarqawi, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Bush
posted by JReid @ 9:29 AM  
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Staying the course
In case you missed this (as I did) a couple of days ago, here's an email update I received on Katherine Harris on December 13th:

Hello Everyone:
> Katherine Harris was on Sean Hannity's radio program as a guest today and
> she flatly denied that she is dropping out of the Florida Senate race!

> Harris promoted her website on the air and
> Hannity pledged to donate the maximum amount of money to her campaign!
> We will see what happens!

Well with Sean Hannity on her side, how can she go wrong...? In The Hill today, more on Kathy's fundraising woes:

The Senate campaign of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) is becoming increasingly beleaguered because of poor fundraising at the national level, according to some Republican officials.

Far from using the fourth quarter to turn around the dismal results for money raised in the second and third quarters, the campaign is already indicating in advance of the Dec. 31 reporting date that 2005 will end on a sour note for Harris, according to a well-placed source.

The second-term congresswoman’s weak fundraising figures are at the heart of what has gone wrong for the former Florida secretary of state who played a major role in the 2000 presidential race. In July, an official affiliated with the campaign said Harris was seeking to raise $15 million to $20 million.

When her fundraising raised eyebrows in the second quarter, the campaign explained it had not yet shifted into high gear. At the end of September, Harris had raised $1.3 million and had only $470,000 cash on hand. The campaign said those numbers were low because of hurricanes that had recently struck Florida.

The fourth quarter is not going well, either.

A source close to the campaign said, “The quarter has been slow. People will not be jumping up and down when they see the figures.”

When those statistics are released next month, some Republicans believe, they will trigger other Republicans to announce their candidacies.

Also in that piece is the nugget that Harris is being advised by GOP strategist and frequent TV pundit Ed Rollins. And still, her campaign is being called "unfocused and unimpressive" and it seems her hometown operatives are missing in action. What gives, Kathy?


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posted by JReid @ 12:16 PM  
On liberalism
I suppose it isn't so smart to write this given the fact that I'm competing for something called "best liberal blog" at the Weblog awards, but in all honesty, I sometimes struggle with whether I am, in fact, much of a liberal (let alone a "liberal blogger...) To be sure I side with liberals on most things -- issues of poverty, anti-discrimination, economic and wage fairness, more rights for workers vs. the managers and CEOs who so often use and discard them, etc. But on other things, I find myself often out of doctrinal compliance.

For example, I fail to see the heroism in radical socialism of the kind practiced by Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro (with whom some extreme liberals sympathise -- trust me, I've gotten the e-mail lectures slamming me for speaking of such leaders in a negative light...). And while I know many terrific gay men (I haven't been so lucky with the lesbian women in the friendship arena...) I share the right's misgivings about deconstructing marriage (and the implications I often hear from gay marriage & adoption supporters that men and women are both interchangeable and dispensible in the lives of children) ... as well as the military's concern about privacy if "don't ask, don't tell" were to be abolished.

I grew up in the shadow of Lowry Air Force base in a town where it seemed like one in two kids paricipated in ROTC, and perhaps because of that, I'm reflexively pro-military (in fact, I think military service is in the finest tradition of Democrats, who tend to serve (JFK, George McGovern, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, "Jack" Murtha, Gen. Wesley Clark and others) where the Republicans simply run off at the mouth and sound the war bells (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Feith, GWBush...) I even think military recruiters should be given equal access to college, law school and other campuses, with some restrictions to the kind of recruiting that can be directed at minors... I just don't like the way our military is being used by the current civilian leadership. I don't believe in "regime change," democracy experiments, benign hegemony or any of the other Wilsonian nonsense spouted by the neocons, who really should be called "neo-Trotskyites" because they share more in commen with Bolshevik revolutionaries than with actual conservatives...

And while I vehemently oppose the Iraq war on those grounds, and on the grounds that the war did not do a damned thing to enhance America's security (and therefore in my opinion, was extra-Constitutional in the sense that the American president has no authority to "spread freedom and democracy around the world,") even as it helped to destroy America's hard-won international reputation, I find the extreme left wing of my political party -- the ANSWER crowd, with their seemingly anti-military, not just anti-war, message -- irritating to say the least.

At the same time, I could never, ever be a Republican. I find them callous and selfish, greedy and Dickensian-Orwellian in the worst sense of those words. The utter disdain for the struggling, the naked craving for absolute economic loot and political power (and their clear willingness to manipulate people of few means and people of faith) that I see in that party's leadership is enough to keep me a Democrat for life. There is something rotten -- even wicked -- at work in the GOP, despite the presence of the odd good man like Chuck Hagel. ... And yet... I ran into Bob Kunst, the Hillary Now! guy at the Democratic Party convention in Orlando last weekend, and walked away shaking my head. If he and others in his camp really think Democrats can only win by tracking to the extreme left on social and other issues, he's in lala land just like our Mr. Bubble president.

Anyway, a friend emailed me the following definition of a liberal, which I thought was as good a definition as any I've seen:

"lib-er-al (lbr-l, lbrl) adj. 1). Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. 2) Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded."
I hope that describes me. If it doesn't, I'll work on it.

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posted by JReid @ 11:36 AM  
Quick take headlines - purple finger edition
It's a purple finger news day here in the states. The MSM will spend the day pouring over the third Iraqi election of the year, in all its subtleties and splendour. If you see a purple fingered American or two walking around your town, feel free to tell that person to get a life. ... (No, really I'm happy for the Iraqis. They should get something out of this mess. Of course, we're all hoping that what they don't get is a state that looks just like Iran...)

(Speaking of Iran, its president is really honing his global alienation skills, this time calling the Jewish Holocaust "a myth...")

In other news you won't hear much about today because CNN and MSNBC are doing wall-to-wall coverage of The Happy, Voting Iraqi (and Fox is spending the day on its knees at the presiden't feet):

- Questions have arisen over whether, in addition to abducting a German citizen, spiriting him off to Afghanistan and accusing him of being a terrorist, only to later release him without charges, the U.S. also tried to buy him off...

- The White House is sort of denying the latest issuance from the mind of Ye Olde-ass Prince of Darkness, Bob Novak, who snapped at a Raleigh luncheon the other day that President Bush surely knows exactly who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to him (Novak) and that ""I'd be amazed if he doesn't." Added TPOD: "So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug (Washington Post reporter) Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is." Yeah, and stay off my lawn!!!

- Some GOP House members are steamed over a last-minute gift to the president in the way of language favoring Mr. Bush's guest worker idea shoved into an immigration bill. Someone's being naughty right before Christmahannukwanzika!

- The Pentagon is being subpoenaed for documents related to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Not to worry though. Later today the Lincoln Group will "improve" that headline for international media consumption to read "Pentagon heralded for bringing democracy to the American Gulf Coast..."

- Of course, if that doesn't work out, they could always torture their criti... oh, no wait, they can't... The House has voted 308 to 122 to support John McCain's anti-torture language. Who are those 122 Congresspeople?

- The cursed war on Christmas reaches new lows. Oh, Rudolph! If only I could have saved you from the Jesus-haters who don't understand your relevance to the Christ child...! (actually you WILL here about this today. I'm thinking Chris Jansing -- full bore coverage...)

- Getting around in New York City tomorrow could be a bitch if that transit strike happens ... Get their money right, Bloomberg!

- Hold that Mini Me Christmas order! Fake data questions have arisen over that revolutionary cloning experiment in South Korea...

- Gavin Newsom tries -- and fails -- to look like less of a knee-jerk, P.C. jackass over that silly San Francisco cop video he overreacted to last week... Meanwhile the cop who produced it defends himself... (Hey Gavin, aren't you the guy who basically killed the election for John Kerry and touched off nationwide amendment mania with your lovely marriage stunt? That's what I thought. Now kindly go away...)

- Lance Armstrong will stand trial for defamation after calling an Italian cyclist -- whose testimony makes those doping allegations look a lot more solid -- a liar. Maybe Armstrong's wife could testify as a character witness for him ... oh, that's right, he dumped her for Cheryl Crow...

More headlines to come as they devleop...

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posted by JReid @ 9:47 AM  
Last day to vote!
Polls for the Weblog Awards close today!!! If you've voted already for The Reid Report (for best liberal blog), thank you very, very much. If you haven't yet, surf on over, to support this or any other blog you enjoy reading. It's not a huge, imporant deal, but it is free and gets you out of having to buy me a Christmas gift. Think about it...

Shameless self-promotion

posted by JReid @ 8:00 AM  
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The "war on Christmas" escalates with the introduction of a bloody, serial killer Santa... damn those anti-Christian bastards...! ...or ar they pro-Christian bastards ... damnit, I'm all confused...
Meanwhile, Sam Seder has the best War on Christmas quote ever... and what a war on Christmas without the Fox News Channel? From Romanesko by way of Media Orchid, we now find out...

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posted by JReid @ 3:22 PM  
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Who's watching you?
More proof of the utter corruption of the United States government by the Bush administration's endless "war on terror": the Pentagon apparently is spying on Americans.

Update: Floridians on the Pentagon watchlist, plus a link to the full database. From Infomaniac.

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posted by JReid @ 8:02 PM  
Money for nothing
More of your tax dollars at work. This time the U.S. poured money into public relations help for the new Afghan government, only the Afghans didn't want the help. From today's Chicago Tribune:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- When The Rendon Group was hired to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai with media relations in early 2004, few thought it was a bad idea. Though Rendon's $1.4million bill seemed high for Afghanistan, the U.S. government was paying.

Within seven months, however, Karzai was ready to get rid of Rendon. So was Zalmay Khalilzad, then the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and now the American envoy in Iraq, according to interviews, e-mails and memos obtained by the Tribune. The complaint: too much money for not enough work.

Despite such grumbling, The Rendon Group, based in Washington, managed to secure even more U.S.-funded work with Karzai's government, this time a $3.9 million contract funded by the Pentagon, to create a media team for Afghan anti-drug programs. Jeff Raleigh, who helped oversee Rendon in Kabul for the U.S. Embassy, and others in the U.S. government said they objected because of Karzai's and Khalilzad's opposition but were overruled by Defense Department superiors in Washington.

"It was a rip-off of the U.S taxpayer," said Raleigh, who left the U.S. Embassy in September.

Rendon departed Afghanistan in early October when its $3.9 million contract expired. But diplomatic sources said it is in line for another multimillion-dollar Afghan contract: a three-year deal to work on counternarcotics public relations.

The company's work in Afghanistan is just a sliver of the more than $56 million the Pentagon has paid Rendon since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it became one of the leading media consultants in the Bush administration's war on terrorism. It also is doing work for the Pentagon in Iraq.

Its performance, and the Defense Department's use of the company to shape its anti-terrorism message, has come under renewed scrutiny amid reports that the Bush administration hired Rendon to track foreign media and reporters and to help foreign governments shape their own anti-terrorism messages and images.

Advocates say Rendon helps fight propaganda from Islamic fundamentalists. Critics say the Pentagon's use of media firms such as Rendon blurs the line between public relations and propaganda.
...not to mention the fact that the work Rendon has been doing apparently could have been done for one tenth the cost. And we want Republicans in charge of the money why?

Related: from this morning's Independent UK: Iraq: 1,000 days of war.

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Propaganda, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 7:51 PM  
No mercy in Cali. No mercy from the Roberts Court. Peace out, Tookie. I wonder if anyone will ask the families of the victims (be they your victims or someone else's, since you still claim to be innocent of the crimes...) if they feel better. Any money says they won't. As for Arnold, he's not likely to give you a second thought. What a shame. Go ahead and rest, though, brother. There's mercy on the other side. On this side, we're riding with Iran and China and Saudi Arabia ...

Related: execution methods by country

Update: Former death row inmate Billy Wayne Sinclair on redemption...
David Zirin on why Arnold didn't have the guts to deliver his rant to Tookie Williams' face

The Terminator
Running out of options

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posted by JReid @ 3:00 AM  
Two true things
1. We are getting out of Iraq.
2. There is NO CONNECTION between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. None. Zip. Zero. Print that.

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 1:41 AM  
Deconstructing Dubya
The Guardian posts the thoughts of deep thinkers (cue Howell Raines... and Kitty Kelly!)
Steve Bell explains the chimp thing...
Newsweek's Thomas and Wolffe bring you bubble boy...
Not sure Brian Williams accomplished much in his interview other than exploring new realms of suck-upperty and getting Bush to reiterate that he doesn't read the newspapers. I'd rather have seen Mike Wallace do it...

btw, anti-Vietnam war Senator Eugene McCarthy is dead. Ironies...

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posted by JReid @ 1:30 AM  
Monday, December 12, 2005
Nobody likes Kathy
In the rumor mill: Katherine Harris may drop out of the Florida Senate race. The rumor is sourced to the Prince of Darkness himself: Bob Novak, who says that Harris is suffering from fundraising blight and constant staff turnover, and that she may cede the race to Rep. Mark Foley, who has much more cash. Says Novak:
... Foley has $2.35 million cash on hand, compared with Harris' $470,000. Nelson had $6.5 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30.

If Foley did run, and Charlie Crist became the GOP gubernatorial nominee, you could have the prospect of two undeclared, but assumed, gay Republican men running in big ticket races (and climbing over each other to get to the political right...) with a marriage amendment on the ballot. How crazy would that be...?


Related: Famous heterosexuals who are definitely not gay...

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posted by JReid @ 5:26 PM  
Bush on the war
An interesting quote from the president's Iraq monologue (with questions!) today, as picked up by Chris "tag the neocons" Matthews:
So the fundamental question is, do we have the confidence and universal values to help change a troubled part of the world. If you're a supporter of Israel, I would strongly urge you to help other countries become democracies. Israel's long-term survival depends upon the spread of democracy in the Middle East.
Remember all that "the road to Palestinian-Israeli peace goes through Baghdad" malarky? It's baaack... And Bush is getting pretty deft at delivering the Stephen Cambone theory of Iraq-9/11 convergence:
Q Mr. President, I would like to know why it is that you and others in your administration keep linking 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq when no respected journalist or Middle Eastern expert confirmed that such a link existed.

THE PRESIDENT: What did she -- I missed the question. Sorry. I didn't -- I beg your pardon, I didn't hear you. Seriously.

Q I would like to know why you and others in your administration invoke 9/11 as justification for the invasion of Iraq --


Q -- when no respected journalists or other Middle Eastern experts confirm that such a link existed.

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. 9/11 changed my look on foreign policy. I mean, it said that oceans no longer protect us, that we can't take threats for granted; that if we see a threat, we've got to deal with it. It doesn't have to be militarily, necessarily, but we got to deal with it. We can't -- can't just hope for the best anymore.

And so the first decision I made, as you know, was to -- was to deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan because they were harboring terrorists. This is where the terrorists planned and plotted. And the second decision, -- which was a very difficult decision for me, by the way, and it's one that I -- I didn't take lightly -- was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He is a declared enemy of the United States; he had used weapons of mass destruction; the entire world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations had declared in more than 10 -- I can't remember the exact number of resolutions -- that disclose, or disarm, or face serious consequences. I mean, there was a serious international effort to say to Saddam Hussein, you're a threat. And the 9/11 attacks extenuated that threat, as far as I -- concerned.

And so we gave Saddam Hussein the chance to disclose or disarm, and he refused. And I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country. (Applause.)
"That and Cheney and Rumsfeld told me to..."

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Bush, Foreign Policy, Israel
posted by JReid @ 5:11 PM  
The Terminator
Schwarzenegger won't spare Tookie Williams. Cali will be killing him at midnight. So much for the "culture of life."

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posted by JReid @ 2:04 PM  
More on that Iraqi poll
More detail on the poll:

    • 76% Confident Elections Will Produce a Stable Government
    • 70% Want Iraq to Stay Unified; 57% Favor a Democracy
    • 71% Say Their Own Lives are Going Well
    • Just 44% Say Things are Good for Iraq, but 69% Expect Improvement
    • Half Think U.S. Invasion was Wrong; 65% Oppose Presence of U.S. Forces, but No Consensus on When U.S. Should Go
    • Just 18% Call Reconstruction Very Effective; 52% Call it Ineffective or Nonexistent
    • Confidence in Iraqi Army and Police is High
    • Vast and Growing Differences in Mainly Shiite vs. Mainly Sunni Provinces
Also, this "Iraqi initiative to end the occupation" purporting to come from something called the Iraqi National Resistance, is circulating in right wing circles. Read it and decide for yourself how authentic it is. The document calls for an agreement by the Americans to withdraw by a six month timetable in exchange for a ceasefire by the insurgents. It then calls for the UN to work with the resistence groups to agree on an interim prime minister. Then it calls for the Iraqi government to invite military forces from neighoring Arab countries to improve security. The October 15 constitution, which this document delcares illigitimate and resulting from a "rigged" process, would be scrapped.

So who is the Iraqi National Resistance? has info on a group calling itself the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance, of which it says the following:
The Iraqi National Islamic Resistance (1920 Revolution Brigades) was reported by Al-Zawra to have first emerged on July 16, 2003. The group's name is a reference to Iraq's history of fighting British colonialism. It is believed that their aim is to liberate Iraq from military and political occupation by foreigners and to establish a new Iraqi state grounded in Islamist beliefs.

The Iraqi National Islamic Resistance has claimed responsiblity for anti-American attacks, many of which primarily occur west of Baghdad. This region includes AbuGhurayb, Khan Dari, and Al-Fallujah. It has also been reported that the group has been involved in illegal activities in the governorates of Ninawa, Diyala, and Al-Anbar. The group released a statement on August 19, 2004 and claimed to have carried out an average of 10 operations a day. The group further claimed to be responsible for shooting down two helicopters in the first two weeks of August 2004.

In a statement to Al-Jazeera, the group implored Arab and Islamic countires to send troops to Iraq.
And there's plenty of information across the Web about the Iraqi resistance in general, which it is becoming increasingly clear is nationalistic -- not Qaida-centric -- in origin (another main group, the Iraqi National Foundation Conference, is particularly prolific. They liken themselves to the Palestinian PLO or the South African ANC). There is, of course, an added element of foreign jihadi terrorists of the Bin Laden mold (the Zarqawi forces) acting in concert with the resistence (but not necessarily for the same goals), but it seems logical that if our forces weren't there, these two elements would be more likely to turn on each other (that's the Murtha, Bob Baer, Larry Korb, General Odom theory, and it's much more plausible than the Cheney-Wolfowitz theory of an America-loving, democratic Iraq...)

More on the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance from Wikipedia (we can still trust them, right...?) including the claim that this is the group that held Lebanese-American Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun hostage for 19 days back in 2004. (He was later charged with desertion.)

Tags: , , Middle East, href="">War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 11:56 AM  
Quick take headlines 2
  • The EU was secretly in on the CIA renditions after all...
  • The State of Maine will trade with Cuba...
  • Richard Pryor was funny as hell. R.I.P. ...
  • Another MSM giant takes a stumble. This time Viveca Novak is on the spit for failing to inform her editors of her involvement in the CIA leak case, even as she continued to report on the case...
  • Two headlines the right will love today: Some Sunnis, including known insurgents, plan to vote this week... and a new poll finds unexpected optimism among Iraqis...
  • Prince Charles gets questioned about that letter from Princess Di alleging a plot to kill her, hatched by Charles...
  • Oh and guess who's having ethnic street riots now...? Oy!
  • More headlines are on the main Reid Report page so feel free to surf on over...
  • The Roberts Court will review Tom DeLay's 2003 Texas redistricting scheme...
  • In defense of "happy holidays..." Christmas and Hannukah both fall on December 25th this year. Take that, right wing Christmas warriors...!

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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
Running out of options
Tookie Williams loses his appeal to the California Supreme Court. It's all in Arnold's hands now, with the deadline set for midnight...


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posted by JReid @ 9:26 AM  
First the writer of the false post that maligned John Seigenthaler's dad was busted by the blogosphere, now comes the apology, and a resignation, over what apparently was nothing more than a cruel joke by someone who says he "didn't know the free Internet encyclopedia called Wikipedia was used as a serious reference tool." Well, now you know ...

Can Wikipedia be trusted?

Tags: Media, Wikipedia, News
posted by JReid @ 9:08 AM  
Convention wrap
Longish drive (3 hours or so) for the Florida Dem Party convention, but worth it... The Democrats have a good slate going into '06 (though it could use more ethnic diversity on the ticket) and I think they'll do well, given the political climate in the country and state (though caution: Jeb Bush is still popular, and there's a marriage amendment percolating out there...)

Back to the convention, Edwards' speech was the highlight for me (I didn't stay for Obama's keynote address Saturday night -- I had to drive back to South Florida to rest up for a Wish Foundation dinner on Sunday.) Edwards rocked the house at the lunch session Saturday (BTW we had amazing seats, right up front at a reserved table for the luncheon. Trust me, he's as pretty in person as on TV, and from having seen him live before, the man hasn't missed a beat in terms of public speaking, even being out of politics for nearly a year...) He struck exactly the themes the Party should be pushing: a return to the bedrock Democratic values of caring for the least in society (including remembering the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who also became, in Edwards' words, the beneficiaries of the shortest war on poverty in history,) economic fairness, educational and job opportunity, and a reality-based vision on Iraq. Edwards reiterated that his vote to authorize the president to use force in Iraq was wrong, and that the war has been a collossal mistake for America. He got, and deserved, a standing ovation for his address. Here's more on Edwards, Vilsack and Warner from the AP (Democratic theme for 06-08: "community...") And here's the AP's take on Barack Obama's "Social Darwinism" speech:
"It's called the 'Ownership society' in Washington. This isn't the first time this philosophy has appeared. It used to be called Social Darwinism," Obama said late Saturday at the Democrats meeting at Walt Disney World.

"They have a philosophy they have implemented and that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. They basically don't believe in government. They have a different philosophy that says, 'We're going to dismantle government'," Obama said.

Republicans running the federal government believe, "You are on your own to buy your own health care, to buy your own retirement security ... to buy your own roads and levees," Obama said, referring to flood barriers that gave way in New Orleans during Katrina last August.

Obama, the only African American now in the U.S. Senate, gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of Florida Democrats.

Social Darwinism applies Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection from biology to human culture. Popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the theory advocates free competition and a minimalist role for government in society. Darwin himself rejected the application of natural selection to human society.
Damn, I wish I'd stayed around a bit longer for that address. You go get 'em, Barack!

I left the meeting feeling pretty good about the party's near-term prospects in Florida. And if the party can make the themes from the convention resonate across the country, they'll be in pretty good shape for the midterms. The biggest problems: getting to a coherent position on Iraq, and systematizing the messaging across the media, so that the themes the party decides to go with (whether that's "community" or ending the war with honor) resonate from the blogosphere to the MSM. It can be done. The Dems just have to find a way to get it done...

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posted by JReid @ 8:53 AM  
Saturday, December 10, 2005
No blogging on the dancefloor...
...I'm not blogging much today. Instead, I'm attending the Florida Democratic Party convention in the Happiest Place On Earth!!! (Orlando). Anyway, the short version is: Jim Davis sure sweats a lot but he's going to be the gubernatorial nominee. Rod Smith gave a good speech, but Davis is more polished, more telegenic, and more electable...

Barney Frank gave a good speech earlier, and still to come are John Edwards and Barack Obama (I've seen both live before and so I'm not hanging around -- they're both great on the stump though, and should be good.) Happy weekend!
posted by JReid @ 11:46 AM  
Another great scoop from the NY Daily News, this time from gossip guy Lloyd Grove:
"Syriana" writer-director Stephen Gaghan had an off-the-record lunch yesterday in Washington with White House officials who, he says, acknowledged that the U.S. occupation has gone from bad to worse.

"They think we're in a disastrous state of affairs in Iraq and that there was no plan for the aftermath," the 40-year-old Oscar-winner revealed to Lowdown. "They're the people who provide the talking points, and they said they were guilty of hubris at the highest level, that kind of stuff."

Also from Grove: Is ABC's David Marash headed for Al-Jazeerah?

Tags: , , Middle East, href="">War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 12:26 AM  
Friday, December 09, 2005
Quick take headlines
  • The scandal deepens over U.S. abduction of terror suspect from Germany ...
  • Remember Scott McClellan's "Iraqi oil revenues belong to the Iraqi people?" Turns out Australia has raised objections to U.S. diversion of some $20 billion in Iraqi oil revenues to "questionable projects..."
Recent UN and US Government investigations found the CPA grossly mismanaged Iraq's money. A US inspector found that $US8.8 billion of Iraqi funds the CPA disbursed to ministries could not be accounted for. The inspector said "severe inefficiencies and poor management" hampered administration of the funds.

Minutes of the board's June 2004 meeting show Mr Mules and Britain's member, Yusuf Samiullah, were concerned that inadequate funds would be left for the Iraqis. They called for no new proposals to be approved unless they were "urgent and a matter of national security". But the US representatives argued that this was not in keeping with the board's charter.

When the interim government took control on June 28 last year, the Development Fund for Iraq had little more than $US3 billion left in it. The CPA had spent more than $US19 billion of Iraqi funds in 13 months.
  • Poland is blackmailing bargaining with the U.S. to keep its troops in Iraq in exchange for aid...
  • A gambling addict in California apparently robbed banks to support his habit...
  • The U.S. is on its own on climate change after walking out on Europe talks...
  • Chinese police are shooting demonstrators again... interestingly enough, this time it's not about democracy, but something strangely like eminent domain...
  • Passengers on that Miami plane are disputing the marshals' account of what Rigoberto Alpizar was yelling -- or not yelling -- as he ran down that gangway.
  • Researchers in Africa believe they may have found a new ocean...
  • And Illinois officials may soon make sure the kids in that state don't "got milk" -- and good for them. The stuff is vile...
  • Don't forget to watch Chris Matthews' CIA Leak special Sunday night on MSNBC at 7 (you'll have to TiVo "60 Minutes' if you're a true news junkie...)
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posted by JReid @ 11:01 PM  
The West Wing
Testimony by Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin doesn't match that of Time reporter Viveca Novak... (what was she doing tipping Luskin off, anyway...?)
In another twist, the lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, was deposed on the same issue last Friday, a source close to the case said.

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's questions in both sessions focused on the same subject: the conversation that Luskin and Novak, longtime friends, had over drinks sometime in the first half of 2004 about Rove's potential exposure in the probe. ...

...According to sources familiar with Rove's status, Luskin persuaded Fitzgerald in late October to postpone indicting Rove by alerting Fitzgerald to Luskin's previous conversation with Novak, among other things. Luskin argued that these private discussions helped show Rove did not intentionally conceal his conversation with Cooper from investigators. Rove has argued he forgot about the chat he had with Cooper on the phone in the summer of 2003.

Sources familiar with their conversations say Novak's and Luskin's accounts to Fitzgerald appear to conflict on when they spoke.

Does that spell trouble for Rove?

Lawrence O'Donnell at the HuffPo says Bush staffers in Plame jeopardy should quit or get fired before getting indicted, just like they do on the "West Wing" -- do people still watch that show? And on a related note, how schlocky and irritating has that Mac the President show gotten? Jeez...

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posted by JReid @ 8:44 PM  
Krauthammer throws a tantrum
The WaPo's house neocon says Saddam Hussein should be shot like a dog, not given an opportunity to show off at his trial...
Both President Bush and his opponents in Congress are incessantly talking about "benchmarks" to guide any U.S. withdrawals from Iraq. But there is one benchmark that is always left unspoken: We cannot leave until Saddam Hussein is dead, executed for his crimes. No one will say it, but everyone knows it. As long as he is alive and well-dressed, every Iraqi will have to wonder what will happen to him and his family if Hussein returns. Only Hussein's death will assure them that he will not return.

Which is why the lateness of this trial is such a tragedy. And why its bungling is such a danger. Our only hope, as always with Hussein, is that he destroys himself with his arrogance and stupidity. He has stupidly walked out of his own trial. This is our opportunity. He should not be allowed back, certainly not without a glass booth. Only Saddam Hussein can save us from our own incompetence. We should let him.
Is Charles Krauthammer living in the right country? I'm thinking China might be a fitting new home...

Tags: , , Saddam Hussein, Krauthammer, Neocons, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
Hello, Orwell
WaPo's Howard Kurtz summarizes the findings on the Bush administration's "creative" use of information (plus a bit on Howard Dean):
...we're approaching critical mass in terms of the debate over the Bush administration's veracity: WMD. Paying off pundits. Bogus news releases. Planting stories in Iraqi papers. Plamegate and the promise to fire anyone involved. Condi's tortured explanations of what constitutes torture and whether the United States is engaged in it.

Not to mention a president who rarely meets the press, at least in full-blown news conferences.

But is this substantially different from the self-serving reality peddled by previous administrations or different only in degree? Does it seem worse because of the passions surrounding the war and the polarization over Bush? Or will the anti-Bush partisans have a more tolerant view if a future Democratic president engages in factual flimflammery?

One strike against the administration is the people who leave (Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke) and then offer evidence of dishonesty of their former employer. Do some Bush loyalists, as an unnamed White House aide told journalist Ron Suskind, believe that reporters and others are members of the "reality-based community"? ("We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.") Or do we have to wait for more memoirs to find out?

Slate Editor Jake Weisberg tries to make the case that the Bush approach is far, far worse:

"A calculated and systematic effort to manage public opinion, it transcends mere lying and routine political dishonesty. When the Bush administration manufactures fake 'news,' suppresses real news, disguises the former as the latter, and challenges the legitimacy of the independent press, it corrodes trust in leaders, institutions, and, to the rest of the world, the United States as a whole . . .

"For the Bush team, rolling-your-own news has the further advantage of supporting the revolving-door conservative welfare state that has flourished in five years of expanding, undivided government. The administration's need to outsource its propaganda work--for reasons of deniability, not efficiency--has promoted the emergence of a new kind of PR-industrial complex in the nation's capital. Outfits like the Ketchum's Washington Group, the shadowy Lincoln Group, and the even more flourishing, even more shadowy Rendon Group are the parasitic fruit not just of unchecked self-puffery but of a lucrative new patronage network.

"In a way, what's most troubling about the Bush's administration's information war is not its cynicism but its naivet. At phony town hall meetings, Bush's audiences are hand-picked to prevent any possibility of spontaneous challenge. At fake forums, invited guests ask the president to pursue his previously announced policies. New initiatives are unveiled on platforms festooned with meaningless slogans, mindlessly repeated ('Plan for Victory'). Anyone on the inside who doubts the party line is shown the door. In this environment, where the truth is not spoken privately or publicly, the suspicion grows that Bush, in his righteous cocoon, has committed the final, fatal sin of the propagandist. He is not just spreading BS but has come to believe it himself."

Another example of the administration's approach to press relations has given us a new phrase: "reporter compensation." Which sounds suspiciously to me like payoffs:

"A U.S. investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army," says USA Today .

"The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

"The Army acknowledges funding the club and offering 'reporter compensation,' but insists officers did not demand favorable coverage. 'Members are not required nor asked to write favorably,' said Lt. Col. Robert Whetstone. 'They are simply invited to report on events.'"

And just how do they decide who gets into this "club"?

The latest flap over Dean? The New Republic's John Judis says the DNC chief is getting a bum rap:

"Howard Dean is being vilified again--not only by Republicans in the White House and Congress, but by his fellow Democrats as well. And once again it's for making a critical comment about the administration's conduct of the Iraq war. In an interview Monday with a San Antonio radio station, Dean, comparing the conflicts in Iraq and Vietnam, said, 'The idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.' Dean also likened the Bush administration's lack of candor about the war to that of the Nixon administration. 'What we see today is very much like what was going on in Watergate,' he said."

The question, says Judis, is whether Dean's "judgment on Iraq has been sound. And there I would say that it certainly has been. During the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, and during the invasion and occupation, Dean has been almost consistently correct in his statements. He has been the Democrats' and the nation's Cassandra--willing to reveal bitter truths about which Republicans and his fellow Democrats would prefer that he remain silent.

"Dean's statements perfectly fit Michael Kinsley's definition of a 'gaffe'--an assertion that is impolitic but true."
Impolitic, but true.

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posted by JReid @ 8:24 PM  
Burning questions: Why are Christians so crazy about 'Narnia'?
Maybe I was out sick that week in lit class, but I've just been scratching my head over this right wing fascination with "The Chronicles of Narnia" (based on C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.") I remember watching the movie decades ago, and it was a-aight... but I'm not sure I'm ready to rush out and declare it a second coming of "The Passion of The Christ" (after all: no Pretty Jesus...) So what's the deal? Isn't this a movie about talking lions and witches and other characters more reminiscent of Greek mythology than the New Testament? I guess I just don't get it. (Then again, I don't see the link between Christmas trees and Jesus, either...)

On the other hand, a few lines from a truly sick-making review in NewsMax give you the idea of just how gaga those who apparently do get it are about this movie:

Sumptuously produced, intelligently directed and written, "Narnia" is a treat from beginning to end, and does full justice to the original novels by C.S. Lewis.

Again, this is a classic theme both in fairy tales and world mythology - children who are cut-off from the God-like protection of their parents and guardians, must fend for themselves in a dangerous world, and are only saved in moments of crisis by a sudden visitation of the divine or magical. It is the moment of crisis that forces the child (or adult) to suspend disbelief and open herself up to faith. The older the child, the more conditioned she has been by worldly experience, the less able she is to suspend disbelief and enter the world of faith - as symbolized by the magical land of Narnia. That is why the younger siblings, Lucy and Edmund, are able to enter Narnia before their older, more skeptical siblings, Susan and Peter.
...Ugh... and this from the same "Hollywood Confidential" e-Mag that normally snarks on about Barbara Steisand and Michael Moore. ...Of course, the Max is also carping that Disney isn't pushing the movie's supposed Christian themes enough...

Apparently, C.S. Lewis was quite the Christian. From the Christian Science Monitor:

The legacy of one of the 20th century's most influential religious figures is suddenly up for grabs, thanks to a new family film intended to make millions at the box office.

That's because Walt Disney's "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," set for release nationwide Friday, has helped fuel fresh interest in the beliefs of its late creator, C.S. Lewis. Though perhaps best known for his entertaining children's books, Lewis has attained a following among millions of Christians drawn to explore - and debate - what he believed to lie at the heart of Christianity.

"He still gives one of the best rational defenses of the Christian faith," says David L. Neuhouser, director of the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends at Taylor University, an evangelical school in Upland, Ind. "His view of biblical truth in particular might not be where fundamentalists would like him to be, but in the important things [such as doctrinal claims], I think he is one with evangelicals.... Evangelicals do claim him, certainly."

Others, however, insist that Lewis cared chiefly about bringing the worldwide Christian family together. Since he helped advance a vibrant ecumenical movement in his day, he must not be reduced to a sectarian champion posthumously, according to the Rev. Dr. Clair McPherson, associate priest at the Church of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal congregation in lower Manhattan.

Lewis "makes it very clear ... that his purpose is not to be biased toward any denominational point of view or even any theological point of view within Christianity," says Reverend McPherson, who's been leading about 50 adults this fall in a four-week study of Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." "I would never say to evangelicals, 'you can't have him.' I would say, 'he belongs to all of us.' "
Slate's Meghan O'Rourke explains why I so clearly missed all of the Jesus when the "Lion-Witch-Wardrobe" movie aired all those years ago (again, I just thought it was about talking animals...):
First of all, Lewis' Christianity was always of a very strange sort. As Adam Gopnik pointed out in a recent New Yorker piece, it seems to have developed out of an adoration of Norse mythology and Lewis Carroll. Born in Belfast in 1898, Lewis had from his youngest days a love affair with mythology and imaginary animals—one form of constancy throughout what proved to be a fraught childhood. He wrote stories about a mouse world in which adults were the threatening forces of discipline; his elaborate construction of these alternative worlds gave him a sense of "momentous joy," one that he associated with the grand fantasias of Wagner and Teutonic legend. When Lewis was 9, his mother died painfully of cancer. After her death he was sent to a boarding school in England where the headmaster was so brutal to his students that a parent eventually sued him; the experience permanently alienated Lewis from his father and thrust the harsher realities of life abruptly upon him. Years later, an Oxford don and an atheist, he was still dabbling in his beloved myths and legends when his colleague J.R.R. Tolkien encouraged him to see the world's "mythical" aspects as Christian in origin. Even after he converted, Lewis' religion was always of the "fable-first" kind, as Gopnik puts it. Therefore, the Narnia books are never about Christianity in the way that, say, Dante's Inferno is. Lewis' love of fantastical worlds was as essential to their conception as his experience of religious belief. In fact, that love was his original experience of religious belief.

... Narnia is a land with roots in "deep magic," and its population of smart-aleck fauns and dwarves—not to mention Bacchus and a group of ecstatic maidens—would surely have horrified many traditional Christians. It is hard to see in what ways these figures, or wonderful animal characters such as Puddleglum the depressed "marsh-wiggle," contribute to Narnia's "allegorical" purposes. Even Aslan, the magisterial lion who is the series' explicit Christ figure, is an invention as radical and original as it is religious; he communicates almost wordlessly with the Pevensie children, who find solace burying their hands in his mane and often flinch while looking in his terrible eyes. He is a symbol, to be sure, but he is also a character any agnostic child can relate to—one who resists neat categorization, like the animals in Where the Wild Things Are who "gnash their terrible teeth" yet are mysteriously alluring.
...OK, so I haven't gone mad. But the fact that Narnia is as much mythological as evangelical hasn't stopped right-wing talk radio hosts and others sympathetic to Jerry Falwellism from clinging to the movie for dear life, or Christian book stores from happily hawking Lewis' books (apparently, along with my state's governor, as reported by the almost comically cynical Polly Toynbee:
ASLAN THE LION shakes his mighty mane and roars out across Narnia and eternity. Christ is risen! However, not many children these days will get the message. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe opens on Boxing Day to take up the mantle left by The Lord of the Rings. C.S. Lewis' seven children's books, The Chronicles of Narnia, will be with us now and for many Christmases to come. Only Harry Potter has outsold these well-loved books'85 million copies.

How suitable that one fantasy saga should follow on from the other, despite the immense difference between the writings and magic worlds of these two old Oxford dons. It was J.R.R. Tolkien who converted C.S. Lewis to Christianity during one long all-night walk that ended in dawn and revelation. Narnia is a strange blend of magic, myth and Christianity, some of it brilliantly fantastical and richly imaginative, some (the clunking allegory) toe-curlingly, cringingly awful.
Cringing away, my dear ... cringing away ...
Disney is deliberately promoting this film to the religious - it has appointed Outreach, an evangelical publisher, to promote the Christian message behind the movie in British churches, for example. The British Christian radio station Premier is urging churches to hold services on the theme of The Gospel According to Narnia. Even the Methodists have written a special Narnia-themed service. And a parish in south-east England is giving away ££10,000 ($A23,150) worth of film tickets to single-parent families. (Are the children of single mothers in special need of the word?)

US born-agains are using the movie. The Mission America Coalition is "inviting church leaders around the country to consider the fantastic ministry opportunity presented by the release of this film". The president's brother, Jeb Bush, the Governor of Florida, is organising a scheme for every child in his state to read the book. Walden Media, co-producer of the movie, offers a "17-week Narnia Bible study for children". The owner of Walden Media is both a big Republican donor and a donor to the Florida governor's book promotion - a neat synergy of politics, religion and product placement. It has aroused protests from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which complains that "a governmental endorsement of the book's religious message is in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution".

Disney may come to regret this alliance with Christians. For all the enthusiasm of the churches, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ bombed outside the US and warehouses are stuffed with unsold DVDs of that stomach-churner. There are too few practising Christians in the empty pews of most other secular nations to pack cinemas. So there has been a queasy ambivalence about how to sell the Narnia film. Its director, Andrew Adamson (of Shrek fame), says the movie's Christian themes are "open to the audience to interpret". One soundtrack album of the film has been released with religious music, the other with secular pop.

Most children will be utterly clueless about any message beyond the age-old mythic battle between good and evil. Most of the fairy story works as well as any Norse saga, pagan legend or modern fantasy, so only those familiar with Christian iconography will see Jesus in the lion. After all, 43 per cent of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn't say what Easter celebrated. Among the young - apart from those in faith schools - that number must be considerably higher. Ask art galleries: they now have to write the story of every religious painting on the label as people no longer know what "agony in the garden", "deposition", "transfiguration" or "ascension" mean. This may be regrettable cultural ignorance, but it means Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers. ...

... Tolkien hated Narnia: the two dons may have shared the same love of unquestioning feudal power, with worlds of obedient plebs and inferior folk eager to bend at the knee to any passing superior white persons - even children; both their fantasy worlds and their Christianity assumes that rigid hierarchy of power - lord of lords, king of kings, prince of peace to be worshipped and adored. But Tolkien disliked Lewis' bully-pulpit.

Over the years, others have had uneasy doubts about the Narnian brand of Christianity. Christ should surely be no lion (let alone with the orotund voice of Liam Neeson). He was the lamb, representing the meek of the earth, weak, poor and refusing to fight. Philip Pullman - he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials - has called Narnia "one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read".

Why? Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be C.S. Lewis' view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis' earth.
Ugh! Why has Florida always got to wade hip deep into the holy water?!

Back in 2001, the NYT reported that HarperCollins Books planned to publish a de-Christed version of the CS Lewis "Narnia" books. But as Slate reported at the time:
Fifty years later, Lewis is surely looking down from heaven in horror. The New York Times recently reported that his beloved "Chronicles of Narnia" series will soon be supplemented by new, secularized installments; HarperCollins plans to bring us, as the title of Doreen Carvajal's article put it, "Narnia Without a Christian Lion." All the Narnia books, new and old, will be marketed aggressively, and according to a memo obtained by the Times, "no attempt will be made to correlate the stories to Christian imagery/theology."

If this is the case, the new books will differ quite markedly from the originals. "The whole Narnian story is about Christ," Lewis once wrote to a school-age fan. "That is to say, I asked myself, 'Supposing that there really was a world like Narnia and supposing it had (like our world) gone wrong and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?' " Aslan the Lion, the hero of the "Chronicles," dies, is resurrected, and saves people with his blood. (Lewis figured Christ as a lion because the lion is the king of the beasts, but also because the Bible refers to Christ as the Lion of Judah.) Other characters also recall figures from the Bible or church history. In The Horse and His Boy, for example, Bree the horse suffers from the heresy of Docetism (the heresy, named after the Greek for "to seem," that Jesus only appeared to be human and suffer). Bree muses that when the other Talking Beasts speak of Aslan as a lion, they must be speaking metaphorically—"they only mean he's as strong as a lion. ... If he was a lion he'd have four paws and a tail, and Whiskers!" Aslan then appears to Bree and shows him that he is a "true Beast," not only refuting the Docetist heresy, but also recalling the risen Jesus' appearance to Doubting Thomas in the Gospel of John.

But Narnia's "Christian imagery" goes beyond a sprinkling of biblical allusions; the entire story line mirrors the Christian salvation story. The Magician's Nephew tells the creation story and the way evil seeped into Narnia; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ; Prince Caspian tells how right religion was corrupted and then restored; and so on, until the final volume, The Last Battle, where Ape (the Antichrist) tries to take over Narnia, which leads to Aslan's second coming. In addition to all the usual challenges of attempting a sequel to a classic, HarperCollins will have to figure out what it could possibly add to such a complete, iconic tale. Will the publishing house insert amusing anecdotes and preteen adventures amid all the divine revelation?

Jesus, Mary and Joseph... I'm a Christian myself, but I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get through this picture without an air-sickness bag... I think I'll stick with the "Lord of the Rings" books -- the bow and arrow guy isn't supposed to be John the Baptist or something, though, right...?

Tags: , Fantasy, Movies, narnia, chronicles-of-narnia, walt disney pictures
posted by JReid @ 7:44 PM  
The rot that got us there
The more you uncover about the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the uglier it looks. It now seems clear that long before the pictures from Abu Ghraib soiled the international reputation of the United States, which is now an accused beneficiary and abetor of torture, according to the U.N., the Bush administration was changing the rules that we live by.

The latest disclosure: that the "evidence" -- cited with authority by Dick Cheney, and even by Collin Powell -- of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida (sorry, Stephen Hayes, but you're the only person who believes the admninistration didn't work to foster a widespread belief in that canard) -- was obtained through the torture of terror suspect Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 - The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda on detailed statements made by a prisoner while in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said the captive, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, provided his most specific and elaborate accounts about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda only after he was secretly handed over to Egypt by the United States in January 2002, in a process known as rendition.

The new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of Qaeda members and others detained as part of American counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Mr. Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

The fact that Mr. Libi recanted after the American invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the C.I.A. in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But American officials had not previously acknowledged either that Mr. Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Mr. Libi contended that his statements had been coerced.

A government official said that some intelligence provided by Mr. Libi about Al Qaeda had been accurate, and that Mr. Libi's claims that he had been treated harshly in Egyptian custody had not been corroborated.

A classified Defense Intelligence Agency report issued in February 2002 that expressed skepticism about Mr. Libi's credibility on questions related to Iraq and Al Qaeda was based in part on the knowledge that he was no longer in American custody when he made the detailed statements, and that he might have been subjected to harsh treatment, the officials said. They said the C.I.A.'s decision to withdraw the intelligence based on Mr. Libi's claims had been made because of his later assertions, beginning in January 2004, that he had fabricated them to obtain better treatment from his captors.

At the time of his capture in Pakistan in late 2001, Mr. Libi, a Libyan, was the highest-ranking Qaeda leader in American custody. A Nov. 6 report in The New York Times, citing the Defense Intelligence Agency document, said he had made the assertions about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda involving illicit weapons while in American custody.

Mr. Libi was indeed initially held by the United States military in Afghanistan, and was debriefed there by C.I.A. officers, according to the new account provided by the current and former government officials. But despite his high rank, he was transferred to Egypt for further interrogation in January 2002 because the White House had not yet provided detailed authorization for the C.I.A. to hold him.

While he made some statements about Iraq and Al Qaeda when in American custody, the officials said, it was not until after he was handed over to Egypt that he made the most specific assertions, which were later used by the Bush administration as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons.

Beginning in March 2002, with the capture of a Qaeda operative named Abu Zubaydah, the C.I.A. adopted a practice of maintaining custody itself of the highest-ranking captives, a practice that became the main focus of recent controversy related to detention of suspected terrorists.
Add to that, the extraordinary discoveries of reporter Sy Hersh, who writes about the neocon-fueled degradation of U.S. legal and human rights standards and bad pre-war intel, including the Niger forgeries -- which were well known to be fakes at the CIA, but which were stovepiped to the White House and in particular, to Dick Cheney and his team, anyway -- in his book "Chain of Command." Here is what Hersh had to say about administration "stovepiping" in a New Yorker interview in October of 2003:
One basic problem is that the Bush Administration changed the process in a very dramatic way. They worked it so that the raw intelligence, the reports that they wanted to hear, got to the top right away. The pro-war hawks rigged the system so that negative information about Iraq, no matter where it came from—and in many cases, we now know, much of it came from defectors who were relayed through the Iraqi National Congress, the group run by Ahmad Chalabi—was stovepiped directly to the leadership without any assessment. And so you had a situation in the Pentagon, and in the State Department, in the office of Under-Secretary John Bolton, and in the Vice-President’s office, too, in which the professionals were cut out of the process. That’s how you get to a position where Secretary of State Colin Powell can show up at the United Nations, as he did in February, and make a series of very boisterous claims about Iraq, most of which now appear to be wrong.

Q: Was this, then, a matter of the Administration lying to itself as much as to anyone else?

One of the great questions is “Were they lying? Did they know the truth?” And the answer, I think, to a large degree, is that, whatever they may have suspected, they didn’t know the truth, because the truth was simply impossible for them to see. The system had been set up so that they saw only what they wanted. And, you know, these people, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in particular, came to the office openly suspicious of the intelligence community and the bureaucracy. They thought they were too soft on Iraq, not tough enough with Saddam, not able to make the decisive choices. So what you have is a bunch of people who weren’t lying; they simply had fixed the system so it couldn’t give them information they didn’t want to hear. One of the intelligence guys I talked to used a wonderful analogy. He said, “It’s as if you all had gone into a planetarium and the software for the sky show had gone bad and you were seeing the wrong sky, and you walked outside, and you looked up and you said, ‘Hey, what’s going on. This isn’t right.’ ” And that’s what they had done: they had gone into the planetarium, they set themselves up with the wrong software, and then they were surprised to find that the rest of the world didn’t conform—the war began, and there were no W.M.D.s.
(read the rest here)

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Torture, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 7:16 PM  
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Shameless self-promotion
If you haven't voted in the Weblog Awards yet, surf on over and vote for ME, ME, ME of course! That Wonkette doesn't need anymore attention anyway... I'm a little bit slow on the uptake on this one (I think the voting started a few days ago) so you've only got until December 15 to vote, so whaddya say? Hook a sista up. Here's the link:

Other recommends:
for best Latino/Carib blog, do hook up Mark in Mexico here
Best blog overall, for scoops alone (and with much pain), I'm going with the HuffPo (or TPM...) Hm...

posted by JReid @ 11:44 PM  
The last sentimental thing I'll ever post

I happen to have been born on December 8th (sorry, not giving out the year...) and so I remember when John Lennon was shot, even though I was in elementary school at the time ... It was Monday Night Football night (I was a football fanatic...) and while I wasn't in the right generation to be a full-on Beatles fan, his death really shook me, not to mention absolutely wrecking my birthday (hey, I was a kid)... I used to learn Beatles songs in my piano class (the Beatles and Elton John were the only pop music my teacher would let me do, with the exception of "Bridge Over Troubled Water.") And of course, there was "Yellow Submarine" (which I didn't get at the time...)

Lennon was undoubtedly a genius. "Imagine" -- in my opinion -- is still one of the most subversive songs ever written (imagine there's no heaven? Imagine what Bill O'Reilly's or James Dobson's take on that lyric would be if it were written today...) And you can only imagine where he'd be situated on the war... What's most eerie about early death is the way it freezes a person into a kind of newsreel -- giving them a mythic quality that otherwise would simply have faded away as they aged (think Paul McCartney.) Lennon instantly attained that kind of immortality, like Bobby Kennedy and JFK (and JFK Jr.), Dr. King, James Dean and Marylin Monroe -- thanks to a psychotic guy named Mark David Chapman. Funny how that works.

Anyway, RIP John Lennon. You definitely made the most of your time.

posted by JReid @ 10:21 PM  
The WTF??? File
Paul "oh please, sweet Jesus let's invade Iraq!" Wolfowitz now says the war could have been averted, if only...
Addressing the National Press Club in Washington, the former US deputy defence secretary said as an alternative, the administration would have given more support to Iraqi opposition groups to oust Saddam Hussein.

“If we could have been convinced - and I’m not sure based on the evidence we know now that we could have been absolutely convinced - that there was absolutely no danger ... that weapons of mass destruction would not possibly be used, one could have contemplated much more support for internal Iraqi opposition and not having the United States take the job on in the way we did,” said Wolfowitz.
Oh, and he goes to funerals. Thanks for nothing, Wolfowitz. Sure hope that World Bank job helps assuage your conscience...

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Foreign Policy, Wolfowitz
posted by JReid @ 6:58 PM  
The rumor mill
The Daily News keeps the juicy scoops rolling... The latest: Rumsfeld out -- Lieberman in?
posted by JReid @ 6:52 PM  
So what's up with your son?
Mike Wallace breaks it on down for the Boston Globe's Suzanne Ryan:
Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?

A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so [expletive] up?
I guess we can assume Chris is the Alex P. Keaton of the family... (and I guess that presidential interview won't be forthcoming anytime soon...)

Tags: , , Media, Mike Wallace
posted by JReid @ 5:47 PM  
It's a good thing Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Bill Bennett and some of the other professional radio moralists (throw in snarky Laura Ingraham) weren't on that hill at Calvary. When the thief hanging beside Jesus turned to him and asked whether a place could be made for him in paradise, Prager, Medved and Bennett would have stepped all over the Savior's message by shouting "hell, no!" (Ingraham would have done schtick and made fun of the poor slob's crucifixion wounds...)

The funny thing about moralistic rightists is that their compassion tends to extend only to unborn children, vegetative adults and President Bush. When it comes to doing the hard work Jesus did: communing with sinners and, while admonishing them to sin no more, forgiving and redeeming them, they're just not that into it.

Forget "vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord," these guys are into bloodthirsty vengeance full-tilt: flipping the switch and frying the bastards for the wrong they've done.

At least the Catholic extremists are consistent: pro-life on everything from abortion to euthanasia to war to the death penalty. That at least is a respectable position. But to listen to Prager, Medved et. al. over the last few weeks regarding Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the middle-aged Crips gang co-founder whose life is literally in the hands of a guy nicknamed "the terminator," it's easy to imagine what the angry crowds of ancient times (or the hanging crowds of not-so-ancient times) were like.

Don't get me wrong: I immediately think "electric chair" when I see child molestors and killers paraded across the TV screen, or when mass murderers make the 6:00 news. But what in the end, is the just and moral answer to evil? In the end, killing is killing. It seems to me that killing murderers through the mechanism of the state is no better than what they did to their victims. Add to that the lingering questions over Tookie Williams' guilt and his clear moral progress and positive contributions to society since his conviction, and at the least, you've got to conclude that he's worth more to the world alive than dead. The victim's family may understandably want revenge, but is it really the state's job to provide it? Justice and revenge are not the same thing, after all, and the idea that the death penalty brings "closure" to the victims just isn't borne out by common sense -- nothing can bring closure when you've lost a loved one, except maybe time. ... As Earl Ofari Hutchinson put it so succinctly in the lead-in to a recent article on Williams: "Williams' death will be a great tragedy and a monumental waste of human potential, but it won't give closure to the victims' families or reduce violent crime in this country. "

The United States is one of a handful of countries on earth that still kills people by state and federal decree (others include China, Libya, Singapore, Iran and Saudi Arabia are others...) If we were a country in Europe, we couldn't even join the EU with our current death policy. And this from the country which supposedly is pushing the "culture of life." The death penalty stains us and our public leaders (including, in his worst public moment, former Texas governor George W. Bush.) We should put it to bed forever, and get serious about making our criminal justice system work (so that it sifts out the innocent from the guilty more accurately and based on more than just income and celebrity) and for the truly guilty, making "life in prison" mean just that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is under tremendous pressure on both sides in the Tookie Williams case. I for one hope he decides in favor of life.

Petition for clemency
Redemption (movie on Tookie Williams' life starring Jamie Foxx)
posted by JReid @ 2:35 PM  
Breaking: Iraq hostage apparently killed
Update 2: MSNBC has the confirmation on the murder of U.S. contractor Ronald Shultz. Shultz was taken hostage after the four Christian Peace Team members, I believe, and he is the first American hostage killed in Iraq for over a year. Hard to imagine this tactic weakening as the elections near, and as America's skittishness about Iraq increases. Bottom line is, hostage taking works on a visceral level among the public, in the U.S. as in Europe or anywhere else. They'll keep doing it as long as we're over there... From NBC News:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An Iraqi insurgent group said Thursday in an Internet posting that it killed a U.S. security consultant it had taken hostage. The claim’s authenticity could not be immediately verified.

It was the first time in more than a year that an insurgent group announced the slaying of an American hostage. Thursday’s statement, posted on an Islamic militant Web forum, did not identify the hostage and provided no evidence he had been killed, but said pictures of the slaying would be released later.

The Islamic Army in Iraq said it had killed “the American security consultant for the Housing Ministry,” after the United States failed to respond to its demand of the release of Iraqi prisoners.

The group Thursday blamed President Bush for failing to respond to its demands.

“The war criminal Bush continues his arrogance, giving no value to people’s lives unless they serve his criminal, aggressive ways. Since his reply (to the demands) was irresponsible, he bears the consequences of his stance,” the statement said.

“Therefore the American security consultant for the Housing Ministry was killed after the end of the deadline set to respond to the Islamic Army’s demands,” it said.
And from Reuters, with additions about the overall bloody day today in Iraq:

The reported killing came as Iraqi security forces were braced for a spike in violence ahead of next Thursday's election.

A suicide bomber killed 30 people and wounded at least 25 on a Baghdad bus earlier, taking the death toll from suicide attacks in the Iraqi capital to 66 in just three days, after a relative lull in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, suicide bombers breached security at Baghdad's police academy and killed 36 police officers and cadets.

Police said Thursday's bomber boarded a crowded bus as it was about to leave a bus station in central Baghdad for the southern Shi'ite city of Nassiriya and blew himself up.
The elections are on December 15 -- probably a good idea for any Americans in Iraq to watch their backs extra close until then...

Update: Bumping this post up. Looks like it's confirmed. A U.S. hostage has been killed in Iraq. HT to Dr. Rusty S. at the Jawa:

Reports have begun circulating that Ronald Schulz has been murdered.The website used by The Islamic Army in Iraq, though, has not carriedthis message. Instead, it was posted at an Islamic bulletin board. Itsometimes takes a few hours for these messages to become 'official'.We had earlier reported that the deadline had passed without word fromthe group.
MPJ should have video confirmation when it's fed in.

Original post 11:34 a.m.: NBC News is reporting that Iraqi kidnappers are claiming they killed an American contractor. Developing...

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Hostage
posted by JReid @ 1:16 PM  
Iran's pres strikes again
Says "move Israel to Europe"

Update (Bienvenu au l'Israel): Wizbang makes this Ahmad Amadinejad zinger (I can finally write that without looking it up) their quote of the day (and their readers curiously vote for France...):
"You believe the Jews were oppressed, why should the Palestinian Muslims have to pay the price? You oppressed them, so give a part of Europe to the Zionist regime so they can establish any government they want. We would support it. So, Germany and Austria, come and give one, two or any number of your provinces to the Zionist regime so they can create a country there... and the problem will be solved at its root."
I hate to admit that Mr. Amadinejad has a point ... but it was the German government of the 1930s and the Vichy French who perpetrated and abetted the Holocaust (and a plurality of the Israelis are former German nationals, plus lower castes consisting of Eastern Europeans, Russians, Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean and at the bottom of the social pyramid, Falasha Africans ...) It does seem a tad cheeky of the British to have unilaterally awarded the victims land belonging to living Palestinians as restitution. After all, God is not a real estate broker. He can't just give you land 1,000 years ago that you can come back and claim today.

Tags: Iran, Israel, Middle East
posted by JReid @ 1:08 PM  
Who screened this guy?
The real question in my opinion about the shooting of the passenger at Miami International Airport isn't about the marshalls -- I think they did their jobs the best way they could under the circumstances. The real question is how it could have been credible to anyone on board that American Airlines flight that the late Rigoberto Alpizar had a bomb in a backpack that we've got to assume went through TSA screening? Did someone forget to hand him a basket so he could put it on the bag check conveyor belt? And what about his mental condition? Was that pointed out to the flight crew (preferably by his wife) before he got onto the plane (or before he started careening down the aisle)?

How much money are we spending on TSA screeners again? I know the expense of getting a world class system has been an issue for Miami International, and two years ago, my former station uncovered lax security policies at MIA that allowed passengers to get through security checkpoints without passing through the metal detectors. Can we assume now that those holes have not been filled?

MIA isn't the only airport to have been called on the carpet for lax security policies. Following the 9/11 attacks, experts discerned that the hijackers had to have had inside help at the airports (Dulles, Logan and Newark), to get onto the planes. But subsequent investigations, years later, of various U.S. airports make that seem less and less likely. More likely: our airports are suffering from a shocking lack of strong security policy, overemphasis on yanking people's tweezers and making little old ladies and kids (mine included at least twice) take their shoes off and be subjected to extra checks, and just plain laxity at the checkpoints. (There's also been theft, to go along with the underfunding, foot dragging, and of course, the understaffing of screeners, which was pointed out for the umpteenth time since 9/11 by Democratic members of Congress just last year, and by former members of the 9/11 commission this month.)

MIA is by no means the cream of the Florida crop when it comes to airport security. But it's not the only airport with problems, either. The TSA is operating with a budget of $5.3 billion this year alone, described on the DHS website as:

"... an increase of $890 million over resources appropriated in FY 2004. These funds will be used to continue to improve the quality and efficiency of screening operations through additional screener training, stronger management controls of screener performance, and technology automation. The funding includes $400 million to continue deploying more efficient baggage screening solutions at our nation's busiest airports."
Yet time and again, we hear stories about how TSA just can't quite get its act together.

And while the agency is quibbling over beard trimming scissors, they're failing to implement what they themselves claimed was their top priority in reversing the small, sharp objects ban earlier this month: "... focus[ing] instead on searching for what the TSA views as a more serious threat: improvised bombs."

Well hello? If the unfortunate Mr. Alpizar had been carrying an improvised bomb in his backpack, couldn't we call that a bit of a blip in the policy?

Update: According to ABC News:

Federal law enforcement sources tell ABC News they had been on the alert for a possible shoe bomber when a federal air marshal opened fire at the Miami International Airport today....a passenger was stopped six days ago at New
York's John F. Kennedy tested positive five times for the explosive substance TATP....after holding him overnight, airport security in New York released him......Now the FBI has put out a nationwide alert... (hat tip to The Bos'un Locker: ABC News Exclusive: Shoe Bomber Alert Preceded Airport Shooting)
Released him? Huh??? So basically, this apparently mentally ill guy in Miami is dead in part because airport security in New York failed to hold onto a potential shoe bomber? What? Did the Miami guys think that it was explosive shoes he had in his backpack or what? The alleged NY shoe guy is Egyptian -- Alpizar was Hispanic, which to some people, looks about the same. Is that the explanation we're going to go with? If so, there are deeper problems with Homeland Security (another "genius" idea from Joe Lieberman) than I thought...

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posted by JReid @ 12:24 PM  
The raw story on violence in Iraq
From Der Spiegel...

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Foreign Policy
posted by JReid @ 11:25 AM  
Girl...? Interrupted
My God, look at that adam's apple ... you can see it from the space station...! oh I almost forgot, Ann Coulter got her speech interrupted the other day...

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posted by JReid @ 10:54 AM  
Lala Land - part 2
General Motors doesn't want a government bailout -- oh no, perish the thought! They just want a "level playing field" (with federal money on it to pay for their employee healthcare costs). Thanks, Mr. Wagoner...

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posted by JReid @ 10:41 AM  
Lala Land
Oh now I get it... things aren't all f---d up in Iraq. It's just the media failing to tell the story of all the schools and soccer fields our soldiers are rebuilding (apparently, that's why we invaded: so the children can play and learn, not for all that silly talk about WMD and national security...) Thanks, Don Rumsfeld.

Update: Psst! Rumsfeld! Maybe you should get that good news to these guys... they're all confused about the progress and still blowing people up...! Oh, and by the way the Islamists called to say thanks for all the new democracy in Egypt!

Tags: , , Rumsfeld, War, Foreign Policy, Media
posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
Big on Thursday
Big on American TV:
The Miami airline shooting (echoes of the UK subway shoot? Maybe so...)
Bush's better? (not so much) poll numbers...
The Dems on Iraq... the soldier fams on Iraq... Troop cuts in Iraq ...

Big for the rest of the world:
Condi's European torture tour (torture for her, that is...)
The ongoing Iraq hostage drama...
Playwright Pinter's anti-U.S./U.K. broadside on Iraq ... protests against Iraq war ... accusations of U.S. war crimes over the use of white phosphorus in Iraq....

Big for Laura Ingraham and the other radio noise machiners:
The war on Christmas. (sigh)

Tags: , , , Media
posted by JReid @ 1:55 AM  
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
How Joe lost his 'mo'
Joe Lieberman is in the doghouse ... again.

The guy is a neocon, we just don't call him that because he's a Democrat. But Lieberman is more purely what a neocon is -- a liberal who's long on support for Israel, short on patience for the Muslim world (let alone the Palestinians) and prior to our invasion, eager -- to the point of obsession -- to topple Saddam Hussein. Because of his hawkish politics on the war, Lieberman's popularity in his party of choice (it might not be much of a choice -- he had to run as a Democrat to win in Connecticut) has been on a downward spiral since Al Gore's historic choice of him as his veep candidate in 2000 (a huge mistake by Gore, who should have picked Florida's Bob Graham, won Florida with the help of the popular Graham and become president...)

But now, Lieberman is throwing off any pretense of being other than he is -- a commited neoconservative who wants to "stay the course" at any cost, who's willing to push the propaganda (a few Senate junkets and he thinks he knows more about what's going on in Iraq than TIME's Baghdad bureau chief Michael Ware or an expert like Robert Baer, both of whom insist we're spinning our wheels and making a mess of Iraq...) and who has completely drunk the Bill Kristol/Natan Sharansky Kool-Aid. Lieberman's latest proposal: a "war council" made up of Democrats and Republicans, joining hands to make the president's policy work in Iraq. After all, Bush "will be commander in chief for three more years..." need he remind us? Well, Lieberman's war council idea went over like a lead balloon. In fact, at this point, Joe Lieberman is a lead balloon. He is now so isolated within the Democratic Party, he might as well switch (he could create a new War Party with John McCain, perhaps...) And despite the administration's embrace of him, surely Joe knows deep down that whatever he (and McCain and Bill Kristol) may want, we are pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq before next year's midterm elections (not all of them of course, and not our permanent bases...)

Lieberman may share the neocons' dreams (and their delusions) but he lacks their political potency because he is acting largely alone. That could change, if as the rumors go he becomes Rumsfeld's replacement, or if he takes the logical step of switching political parties. For now, he's Zell Miller: the Democrat right wingers love to love, and Democrats love to hate.

Tags: , , Middle East, War, Politics, Foreign Policy, Lieberman
posted by JReid @ 11:59 PM  
(Don't nobody bring me) no bad news
How do you deal with lousy poll numbers and negative opinions about the U.S. oveseas? Delete and ignore them, apparently. From WaPo:

Killing the Messenger?
Has the United States government decided that Americans don't care about what the world thinks of their country? You might get that impression from the State Department's Web site.

Last week the department stopped posting surveys of how the international press is covering significant developments in U.S. foreign policy. Based on reporting from U.S. embassies around the world, the surveys quoted newspaper and broadcast reports in just about every language.

It wasn't exactly scintillating reading, and the surveys didn't generate much buzz beyond qualifying for the the Librarians' Internet Index of "Web sites you can trust." But the information, posted regularly since 1998, constituted a comprehensive documentary record of the impact of U.S. foreign policy on global public opinion.

In recent months, the surveys had covered media reaction to President Bush's appearance at the Latin American summit, the Iraqi constitutional referendum, and the six party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. In past years, the surveys detailed world reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks, the Abu Ghraib photographs, the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, and the effort to provide aid to victims of the South Asia tsunami.

No more. The Web address of the Office of Media Reaction -- -- now yields a "page not found" error. The archive of past surveys is also unavailable. The page states, "The USINFO website is undergoing significant design changes." There's a link to the surveys from the main State Department press page, but it's dead.

The changes involve more than just the "design," according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

"The Web site is directed, by law, at foreign audiences. It doesn't make sense for us to put up what foreign newspapers are saying," he said.

The official said that the move was not ordered by Karen Hughes, the new Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
The Post points out that the idea to begin culling and posting the international poll results was a Clinton administration initiative, which may explain why its not so popular with the Bushies. But it sure took them long enough to notice that they didn't want it. Something tells me the fact that the decision has been made now, when serious questions over the U.S. use of secret CIA rendition flights and murky prisons have set European public and political opinion on fire (and mucked up Condi Rice's Europe trip), is no coincidence.

The inescapable fact, as serial Pew polls have shown, is that the image of the U.S. around the world has cratered since this president took office, most accutely since he led us into a clearly unnecessary war in Iraq -- against the apparently better judgment of the rest of the planet (with the exception of Jose Maria Asnar, John Howard in Australia and Tony Blair). As the June Pew assessment pointed out: "the United States remains broadly disliked in most countries surveyed, and the opinion of the American people is not as positive as it once was. The magnitude of America's image problem is such that even popular U.S. policies have done little to repair it."

And as long as the U.S. continues to fight the idea of withdrawing from Iraq, and continues to undermine -- and to help major oil companies to try and thwart -- Kyoto style climate change pacts (even as we insist on fighting 16th century battles over Biblical creation and whether the holiday season is exclusive to Jesus,) America's once-enviable reputation will continue to wallow in the mud, just where Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and their gang of ideologues has dragged it.

Related: Arab opinions of the U.S. are 'very negative,' a new poll shows.

Tags: , War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, polls, America,
Opinion, Torture,
posted by JReid @ 11:26 PM  
The president who stole Christmas
I'm developing a theme here today (sorry, Mr. President.) This time, religious conservatives are mad at the president for sending out those darned, P.C., bitch-ass "holiday cards..." No, seriously, they're really mad about it:
"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

Religious conservatives are miffed because they have been pressuring stores to advertise Christmas sales rather than "holiday specials" and urging schools to let students out for Christmas vacation rather than for "winter break." They celebrated when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) insisted that the sparkling spectacle on the Capitol lawn should be called the Capitol Christmas Tree, not a holiday spruce.

Then along comes a generic season's greeting from the White House, paid for by the Republican National Committee. The cover art is also secular, if not humanist: It shows the presidential pets -- two dogs and a cat -- frolicking on a snowy White House lawn.
Here's the evidence, on the White House "holiday cards" web page. Look at the Christmas card Bush's father and his first lady sent out and ask yourself: where's the Jesus??? And note the headings on the page:
Holiday Photo Essays
Presidential Homes Decking the Halls Decorations Holiday Cheer

White House Tree Presidential Holiday Cards National Tree Menorah Lighting Hot Chocolate Recipe
Nope, no Christmas there either! Damn them! There is some Christmas on the "All Things Bright and Beautiful" White House's main holiday page, but apparently that's cold comfort to the Christmas warriors out there fighting but the Christ back in Christmas. I suppose it would be pretty un-Christian to remind them that pagan Christmas trees (not to mention Santa Claus) have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with a very secular, shopping-centered "holiday" (read retail) season... Ho ho ho!

Tags: ,, White House, ,
posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
Patriot problems
More on the Al-Arian acquittals, and why the case might really be a blow to the Patriot Act.

Al-Arian Acquitted

Tags: , , War on terror, Terrorism, Ashcroft
posted by JReid @ 11:44 AM  
Oh no he didn't!
Fidel Castro urges the president's "fat little brother in Florida" to get fit... Jeb says he's honored to be hated on by the Cuban dictator... From the Miami Herald yesterday:
TALLAHASSEE - In a recent harangue about how a suspected anti-Cuba terrorist entered the United States, Fidel Castro singled out Gov. Jeb Bush -- and went straight for the gut.

Castro called the governor ''the fat little brother in Florida'' and wondered if Bush had helped Luis Posada Carriles into the country, according to a transcript released Monday of the Nov. 17 address to University of Havana students, who erupted in laughter.

The Cuban leader didn't stop there.

'Forgive me for using the term `fat little brother' '' Castro said. ``It is not a criticism, rather a suggestion that he do some exercises and go on a diet, don't you think? I'm doing this for the gentleman's health.''

The governor's office wouldn't ''dignify this with a response,'' a spokesman said. In an e-mail, Bush declined Monday to discuss Castro's comments, saying questions about it were the product of a ``slow news day.''

During a question-and-answer session Monday with the press, a reporter asked if there were anything in this week's special lawmaking session that gives him ``heartburn.''

Joked Bush: ``I thought you were talking about my diet. I didn't have breakfast today.''
And from today's WaPo:
"I'm flattered and honored," Bush replied with a smile, but then turned serious.

"I will take any criticism from Fidel Castro, of all people, as an honor given the fact that, you know, 8 million people, I believe, live on the island, 8 million people are repressed and they've been that way for 40 or 50 years," Bush said.

"To be criticized by a man like that who has repressed people for such an extended period of time is a high honor," the governor added. "He can call me whatever he wants."...

...Undoubtedly, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 52-year-old governor has put on a few pounds since taking office in 1999. He weighs 225 pounds, said Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj.

The ideal weight for a man of his height, frame and age ranges from 181 to 207 pounds, according to Weight Watchers International. ...
Hey, give the guy a break. It's got to be tough being the head of an entire government. You spend all your time working and having meetings and trying to balance the budget and balance politics against the public interest, and that just leaves you with no time to hit the gym or work out ... um ... hm...

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
Worse than James Buchanan?
"Poor James Buchanan" the article reads... he's widely considered to be the worst American president ever (this quite decent White House bio explains some of the reasons why, as does this bio...) But an emerging consensus among presidential historians suggests that our current president will not do much better in the rankings:

By Richard Reeves

[Exerpt] ...Buchanan set the standard, a tough record to beat. But there are serious people who believe that George W. Bush will prove to do that, be worse than Buchanan. I have talked with three significant historians in the past few months who would not say it in public, but who are saying privately that Bush will be remembered as the worst of the presidents.

There are some numbers. The History News Network at George Mason University has just polled historians informally on the Bush record. Four hundred and fifteen, about a third of those contacted, answered -- maybe they were all crazed liberals -- making the project as unofficial as it was interesting. These were the results: 338 said they believed Bush was failing, while 77 said he was succeeding. Fifty said they thought he was the worst president ever. Worse than Buchanan.

This is what those historians said -- and it should be noted that some of the criticism about deficit spending and misuse of the military came from self-identified conservatives -- about the Bush record:

  • He has taken the country into an unwinnable war and alienated friend and foe alike in the process;

  • He is bankrupting the country with a combination of aggressive military spending and reduced taxation of the rich;
  • He has deliberately and dangerously attacked separation of church and state;
  • He has repeatedly "misled," to use a kind word, the American people on affairs domestic and foreign;
  • He has proved to be incompetent in affairs domestic (New Orleans) and foreign (Iraq and the battle against al-Qaida);
  • He has sacrificed American employment (including the toleration of pension and benefit elimination) to increase overall productivity;

  • He is ignorantly hostile to science and technological progress;

  • He has tolerated or ignored one of the republic's oldest problems, corporate cheating in supplying the military in wartime.

  • Quite an indictment. It is, of course, too early to evaluate a president. That, historically, takes decades, and views change over times as results and impact become more obvious. Besides, many of the historians note that however bad Bush seems, they have indeed since [sic] worse men around the White House. Some say Buchanan. Many say Vice President Dick Cheney.
    Not sure if that "since" should have been "seen" or if it was meant to read "there have been worse..." Anyway, you get the point. (Read the entire article here). The survey Reeves referred to was actually conducted in 2004 (here's a link with a more detailed analysis of the informal poll. A key point: "Contrary to the conservative stereotype of academics as anti-American, the reasons that many historians cited for seeing the Bush presidency as a disaster revolve around their perception that he is undermining traditional American practices and values. As one patriotic historian put it, “I think his presidency has been the worst disaster to hit the United States and is bringing our beloved country to financial, economic, and social disaster.”").

    Of course, there are historians who are sympathetic to Mr. Bush, like Richard Brookhiser, Kenneth Pollack and at times, Robert Dallek, and conservatives will likely point out that there may be a certain snobbery involved in the historical assessment of Mr. Bush, who despite his educational credentials, is not considered to be too bright (though the assessments of the very bright Mr. Buchanan seem to dash that theory). But the bottom line is that I think that because times and technologies have changed, the histories of presidents are nowadays, largely written in the present tense. Mr. Bush is being assessed based on the trajectory of events now, not on their long-term effects. If in 20 years Iraq is a model democracy, perceptions of Mr. Bush may abate. But I suspect that because of the high drama of his presidency after 9/11, the fact that new information is constantly being discovered now, rather than unearthed in years to come a la Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson, and because of the distinctively ideological and some would say reckless way he has run the country, Bush won't fare well in the long run of history, or get better with time as Reagan did.

    The other problem for Mr. Bush is that unlike those previous presidnets (throw in Clinton too) there are no undeniably positive effects of his presidency to contrast with the negatives. For Clinton, hisimpeachment looks more and more political with time, while his sterling economy, efforts in the Middle East and Ireland, and the quick, no casualties victory in Kosovo stand. With Reagan, the chugging economy offsets the deficits and the "feel good" resurgence of American pride, plus the fall of the Soviet Union on his watch hold Iran-Contra at bay. Nixon has China and a host of domestic do-gooderism to go with his Watergate and Vietnam. Johnson has the civil rights acts to go with his 'Nam. Kennedy has the Cuban missile crisis and Berlin to go with Fiddle and Faddle, and at least Jimmy Carter has the Camp David accords and his sterling post-presidency. Bush's dad doesn't have much -- except kicking Saddam out of Kuwait. And his son has even less. Tax cuts for the wealthy don't lively up the history books. A disastrous hurricane, a worse war, squandering 9/11 and waging a religious jihad against science kinda do.

    Sorry Dubya.

    For true history junkies only, here's a virtual eight-course meal of historians' takes on Mr. Bush and his decision to invade Iraq.

    Tags: , ,
    posted by JReid @ 10:16 AM  
    Tuesday, December 06, 2005
    Message to colleges: just don't take the money
    When I was in college, we had this big brouhaha over the CIA recruiting on campus. I also had friends in ROTC who had to attend military drills off campus because of this spat over the military's policy on homosexuals. Now the Supreme Court is weighing the issue.

    I'll say now what I said then. If law schools don't like the military's policy on gays, and they don't want to give them the same access as other potential employers, they shouldn't take the federal government's money. If they want the money, they should give the military the same courtesy as anyone else. Don't Ask/Don't Tell is the policy of the federal government of the United States. If you don't like it, try to change it (though it seems there are fundamental issues of privacy that would have to be worked out if you did drop the ban...) But for now, sorry fellow progressives, I'm with the milbloggers (and it seems, John Roberts) on this one. (And no, it's not the same as the O'Reilly foolishness re San Francisco -- no one is suggesting anyone blow up Harvard Law...)

    Tags: News, gays, military
    posted by JReid @ 7:06 PM  
    Al-Arian acquitted
    Right wing bloggers and radio types are fretting about the acquittal today of former university professor Sami Al-Arian on eight of 17 terrorism charges in his Tampa trial. I for one am not surprised, at least not now. Had Al-Arian been tried a year ago, or even before the 2004 election, he would have surely been found guilty. But the climate in the U.S. has changed, and that means prosecutors have to rely on evidence -- not fear or John Ashcroft-style hype -- to win terror convictions. Think the government doesn't get that? Why do you think they are fighting so hard not to try Jose Padilla in open court?

    Back to Al-Arian. Many on the left fondly remember this picture:

    ... which shows Al-Arian communing with a politician he once supported and got face-time with: George W. Bush. (The associated article describes how many Muslims, after enthusiastically supporting the Bush family and voting for Dubya, soured on him as he cozied up to Israel's Arial Sharon...)

    Al-Arian was accused of being essentially the leader of an American wing of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- an anti-Israeli political terror group based in the West Bank. The evidence against him consisted mostly of wiretaps and other supposedly "coded" conversations with his three co-defendents (also acquitted on most counts, with some deadlocks) about staging terror attacks against targets unknown. The Tampa jury didn't buy the federal government's case, however, acquitting Al-Arian of the following counts:

    • Conspiracy to commit racketeering
    • Conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad
    • 2 counts of conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization2 counts of mail fraud
    • 2 counts of obstruction of justice

    ...and deadlocking on the other counts. After he was indicted, Al-Arian was fired from his job as a computer science professor at the University of South Florida, and his case became an issue in last year's Florida Senate race, with Republican Mel Martinez accusing former USF president Betty Castor of not acting on the Al-Arian "menace." Today, the university issued this statement:

    "The university will have no further comment today beyond the following statement. USF President Judy Genshaft is out of the country and will not be available for comment."The University of South Florida is watching the recent legal developments. USF ended Sami Al-Arian's employment nearly three years ago, and we do not expect anything to change that." way to tell what happens next, whether Al-Arian will be released or retried, and whether he is even eligible to get his job back (or will he be deported...) Al-Arian is undoubtedly pro-Palestinian (and not a fan of Israel.) The question is, does being for the Palestinian cause necessarily make you a terrorist? The logical answer, it seems, is no. And the jury seems to have simply come to this logical conclusion.

    As an aside, I participated in the coverage of this case at my former job at a network affiliate and personally, found the case to be more hype than substance (ditto the Padilla case and others touted by John Ashcroft when he was our head of War on Terror Publicity ... I mean our attorney general... the prosecution was so haphazard, at one point federal clerks inadvertently destroyed the search warrant used to secure a raid on the professor's home... and Ashcroft's record on actually convicting people of terrorism? Well ... it kinda sucked...)

    I'm not the only skeptic (apparently the jury was dubious too...) Salon's Eric Boehlert in 2002:

    The prime-time smearing of Sami Al-Arian
    By pandering to anti-Arab hysteria, NBC, Fox News, Media General and Clear Channel radio disgraced themselves -- and ruined an innocent professor's life.
    Editor's note: This story is anthologized in the Salon book "Afterwords: Stories and Reports From 9/11 and Beyond." To buy the book, click here.

    - - - - - - - - - - - -
    By Eric Boehlert

    Jan. 19, 2002 It may not provide him much comfort, but tenured University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, recently fired after his appearance on a conservative talk show revived discredited, years-old allegations of ties to anti-Israel terrorists, may be the first computer science professor ever mugged by four of the nation's most influential news organizations.

    USF administrators fired the Kuwaiti-born professor after he appeared on national television for five minutes of punditry last fall. His crime? Not telling viewers that his views did not necessarily reflect those of the school. It was a tortured rationale that all but guaranteed future litigation. ...

    ...In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, all four media giants, eagerly tapping into the country's mood of vengeance and fear, latched onto the Al-Arian story, fudging the facts and ignoring the most rudimentary tenets of journalism in their haste to better tell a sinister story about lurking Middle Eastern dangers here at home.

    The story went national when Al-Arian was invited on the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" show back on Sept. 26. Host Bill O'Reilly revived inflammatory charges against Al-Arian dating back, in some cases, 15 years. Those charges were that a now-defunct Islamic think tank Al-Arian founded and ran in conjunction with USF operated as a sort of home away from home for radical Palestinians and terrorists. The charges had been thoroughly investigated and rejected by USF, and an immigration judge; the FBI has been looking for years and has never filed any charges.

    Not even his harshest critics suggest Al-Arian has done anything in the last five years that could be even remotely construed as aiding terrorist organizations. The entire controversy sprang from the fact that viewers became enraged after old allegations were re-aired, albeit often in mangled form, by O'Reilly.

    O'Reilly's accusatory and hectoring interrogation of Al-Arian, filled with false statements and McCarthy-like smears, climaxed in a chilling parting shot in which the host repeatedly told his stammering guest that if he were with the CIA, "I'd follow you wherever you went" -- clearly implying that he believed Al-Arian was a terrorist. Not surprisingly in the fearful and hysterical climate after Sept. 11, the show resulted in a torrent of angry calls, including death threats against al-Arian, to USF.

    Before firing him, USF placed Al-Arian on paid leave, saying his presence made the campus unsafe and pointing to an avalanche of hate mail and death threats.

    But the Gulf Coast hysteria was entirely created by the media. Without the Tampa Tribune, which undertook a dubious seven-year crusade against al-Arian, there would have been no story to begin with. Without "The O'Reilly Factor" -- a showcase for noisy right-wing ranting whose producers apparently didn't even know that Al-Arian had been cleared of charges before they handed him over to their equally ignorant hanging-judge host -- the controversy would never have been revived. Without incendiary, know-nothing Clear Channel radio jocks, led by a gentleman named Bubba the Love Sponge, there would almost certainly have been far fewer USF death threats. And without NBC's sloppy work on "Dateline" there would probably have been no firing. ...
    The bottom line in the case is that there wasn't much of a case -- it was more of a ratings grabber for Fox than it ever was a solid prosecution in the "war on terror" (Chris Short of the Jawa Report concludes the verdict is no WOT setback, as do I, but probably for very different reasons...) Chad Evans, In the Bullpen, concludes the prosecution failed because of undisclosable classified evidence (sorry, pal, but I think the prosecution had exactly what they showed the jury -- evidence of Al-Arian's pro-Palestinian fervor and anti-Israeli statements, and little else...)

    More on Al-Arian from Wikipedia and from the St. Pete Times which has done much coverage of the Al-Arian case... Plus some news links courtesy of Michelle Malkin (What? No "curse that 9/10 thinking rant???)

    Tags: , , War on terror, Terrorism, Ashcroft
    posted by JReid @ 6:22 PM  
    Got any good ideas on Iraq?
    No, really, got any good ideas on Iraq...?

    (Okay not you, Bechtel, you've gotten enough pork already...)

    Tags: , , Middle East, War, Foreign Policy, Media
    posted by JReid @ 12:22 AM  
    A few choice headlines
    Just in case my Tuesday is as hectic as my Monday, here's some of what I won't have enough time to roll my eyes over:

    EXCLUSIVE: Sources Tell ABC News 10 out of the 11 Top Al Qaeda figures and being held in our not-so-secret CIA prisons in Europe -- no wait! In North Africa...

    Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.
    (Time has more on how Condi Rice will tackle this very hot potato while she's in Europe) ... so far, she's not going over so well... More from the BBC on that... Here, she defends "rendition"...
    NBC News reports the CIA used an elaborate ruse to mislead the Italian government and spirit an Islamic cleric out of the country ...
    Meanwhile, AP reports that a senior Saddam lieutenant died in U.S. custody --great! That should help clean things up with this prison thing...
    BTW apparently Saddam is absolutely buck wild in court... get that guy on Ritalin and Cheetos, stat!
    HoDo steps in it again... no need to listen to Laura Ingraham tomorrow, her show's pretty much written on Drudge's top line...
    (Rawstory has ...zzzzzzz... oh, sorry, John Kerry! ... saying Rummy should be replaced ... but would he be replaced by a heavy dose of Jomentum...? Let's see... Democratic neocon/Likudnik placed in charge of policy on pacifying emerging Shiite theocracy. Yeah, that sounds like a plausible Bush strategy...) WaPo's Cohen comes to the same conclusion on Rumsfeld (and perhaps, dear Howard, on the war...)

    On a completely different note:
    The 9/11 commission says, actually, the U.S. is not ready for another terror attack... (The Village Voice asks 10 very good questions we still don't have answers to regarding 9/11...)
    Tom DeLay's money laundering charges were upheld (the conspiracy charges were thrown out)
    Documents Show FEMA Knew Response 'Broken' (and they knew it...)
    The right says, support Sam Alito... he'll save Christmas... (seriously)
    Rapper Foxy Brown may be a hellion in the nail salon, but don't bother hating on her about it because she can't hear you anymore...
    And a report says... Hillary Clinton To Co-Sponsor Anti-Flag Burning Bill! Marvelous! (sigh...)

    Tags: , , War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
    posted by JReid @ 12:03 AM  
    Brangelina... ick! Brit'n Kev... ack!!! Dr. Phil... is there still a God!!!??? This Muslim Briton wants to be Miss World to big up her adopted country! Now THAT's a great pop culture headline...
    posted by JReid @ 12:00 AM  
    Monday, December 05, 2005
    Busy busy busy
    Man, I haven't blogged all day ... too much work to do! I sure hope there's nothing interesting going on ...
    posted by JReid @ 10:30 PM  
    Focus on the Florida
    James Dobson and Focus on the Family are officially focusing on the Florida constitutional amendment for marriage drive (it hasn't gotten much visibility nationwide up to now.) Here's the email Dobson is sending out:
    Protect Marriage in Florida: Sign the Petition Today

    Dear Friends in Florida,

    Florida is moving toward amending the state constitution to protect traditional marriage. The Florida Family Policy Council is leading a coalition of individuals and organizations working to see that this happens. The coalition – – is in the process of gathering the valid signatures needed to place the amendment on the ballot in November 2006.

    The only way to protect marriage from redefinition by rogue judges such as those who legalized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is to enshrine marriage in the state constitution. This means that marriage would be defined in the Florida Constitution as the union of one man and one woman only.

    Every time citizens of a state have been given the opportunity to protect traditional marriage in their state constitutions, voters have overwhelmingly defined marriage as between one man and one woman only. Floridians deserve the opportunity voters in 19 states have had.

    If you have not already signed a petition, please go to and download the petition and circulating instructions. It is very important that you follow the instructions when signing the petition. After completely filling out and signing it, mail the original petition back to the address at the bottom of the petition.

    If you need additional copies of the petition, just download and print out multiple copies of the petition and the circulating instructions while at Be sure to get your family, friends, fellow church members and even your coworkers to sign a petition as well and return those to the address on the bottom of the petition as soon as possible. needs to collect just under half a million petitions by December 31, 2005. As you can see, this is a tremendous task, and they need your help to get the job done – so download and sign a marriage amendment petition today.

    I predict the amendment will get the signatures, and it will pass. The only question is, will it bring out more Republicans than the chance to elect a Democratic governor (or to keep Katherine Harris out of Bill Nelson's chair) brings out Democrats. Remains to be seen, and Florida seems strangely impervious to the anti-Bush fever sweeping much of the country (possibly because the president's brother remains persistently popular here...)

    Tags: Tags: , Marriage, Dobson
    posted by JReid @ 10:26 PM  
    Sunday, December 04, 2005
    Feaver pitch
    So who wrote President Bush's "strategy for victory in Iraq?" Try a Duke University professor sympathetic to the president, who was recruited by the White House after a few choice op-eds... Here's the NYT story:
    Although White House officials said many federal departments had contributed to the document, its relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war.

    Despite the president's oft-stated aversion to polls, Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed.

    That finding, which is questioned by other political scientists, was clearly behind the victory theme in the speech and the plan, in which the word appears six times in the table of contents alone, including sections titled "Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest" and "Our Strategy for Victory is Clear."

    "This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency," said Christopher F. Gelpi, Dr. Feaver's colleague at Duke and co-author of the research on American tolerance for casualties. "The Pentagon doesn't need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion."

    Dr. Gelpi said he had not discussed the document with Dr. Feaver, who declined to be interviewed.

    Dr. Feaver, 43, who is also a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Reserve, wrote three books on civilian-military relations. He worked on military issues on President Clinton's National Security Council staff in 1993 and 1994, but he has written critically of Mr. Clinton and other Democrats and sympathetically of President Bush in The New York Times and other publications.

    Last year in an op-ed article in The Washington Post, noting Mr. Bush's determination to invade Iraq in 2003 in the face of doubts, Dr. Feaver wrote, "Determined commanders in chief have the mind-set and the resolve to act in spite of the political climate and military resistance."

    He was recruited by the White House this year as public support for the war declined steadily in the face of mounting casualties and costs. A Newsweek poll this month showed that just 30 percent of those interviewed said they approved of the president's handling of the war, while 65 percent disapproved - an almost exact reversal of the numbers in May 2003, shortly after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

    A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Wednesday underscored the need for a clear, straightforward summary of the administration's Iraq policy. Asked whether they thought President Bush had a plan to achieve victory in Iraq, 55 percent said no and 41 percent said yes.

    Based on their study of poll results from the first two years of the war, Dr. Gelpi, Dr. Feaver and Jason Reifler, then a Duke graduate student, took issue with what they described as the conventional wisdom since the Vietnam War - that Americans will support military operations only if American casualties are few.

    They found that public tolerance for the human cost of combat depended on two factors: a belief that the war was a worthy cause, and even more important, a belief that the war was likely to be successful.

    In their paper, "Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq," which is to be published soon in the journal International Security, Dr. Feaver and his colleagues wrote: "Mounting casualties did not produce a reflexive collapse in public support. The Iraq case suggests that under the right conditions, the public will continue to support military operations even when they come with a relatively high human cost."

    The role of Dr. Feaver in preparing the strategy document came to light through a quirk of technology. In a portion of the document usually hidden from public view but accessible with a few keystrokes, the plan posted on the White House Web site showed the document's originator, or "author" in the software's designation, to be "feaver-p."

    According to Matt Rozen, a spokesman for Adobe Systems, which makes the Acrobat software used to prepare the document, that entry indicated that Dr. Feaver created the original document that, with additions and editing, was posted on the Web. There is no way to know from the text how much he wrote.

    Asked about who wrote the document, a White House official said Dr. Feaver had helped conceive and draft the plan, though the official said a larger role belonged to another N.S.C. staff member, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, the deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, and her staff. The official would describe the individual roles only on condition of anonymity because his superiors wanted the strategy portrayed as a unified administration position.

    More on Feaver:

    His bio here...

    And here's Feaver in an October 12, 2004 op-ed in the Washington Post:
    Despite an extraordinary effort to woo the military, then, the Democrats still have not overcome their traditional tone-deafness when it comes to civil-military relations. Kerry's scorched-earth critique of the Iraq war may excite the base, but it alarms the military. The point is not that members of the military are blinded to mistakes or difficulties in Iraq. Rather, the point is that Kerry has unwittingly revived two specters that haunt the military.

    The first is the ghost of Vietnam, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means "fighting a war that domestic critics have made unpopular to the American public." Kerry is long on critique and short on what he would do differently from, or even better than, Bush. What the troops probably hear most loudly is red-meat rhetoric like "grand diversion," "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time," and other statements likely to undermine public resolve to see the war through to a successful conclusion.

    The second ghost is President Bill Clinton as commander in chief, which to the military (rightly or wrongly) means an indecisive leader who wavers in response to shifting political winds. Kerry may believe that he has never changed his position on the Iraq war, but it is doubtful the military buys that spin.

    ...and here's clip from a review of Feaver's book on civilian-military relations in the National Review:
    The central issue of civil-military relations is civilian control. In order to ensure its security, society delegates the use of force to a subgroup within society. How does society ensure that this subgroup does what it is supposed to do, without turning on society itself? If the military is weakened in order to ensure that it will not turn on society, it may face defeat on the battlefield. If the military is given everything it needs to ensure that it will prevail on the battlefield, it may be in a position to launch a coup. But even short of a coup, there is always the possibility that the military will simply not obey the civilian authorities.

    For some five decades now, Huntington's theory has dominated this field. His main empirical claim was that civil-military relations were shaped by three variables: the external threat, the constitutional structure of the U.S., and the ideology of liberalism. Huntington argued that the Soviet threat meant that the U.S. would need to maintain a large military establishment for a long time, but that the other two variables stood as obstacles to the necessary allocation of resources for defense; unless the "ideological constant" of liberalism changed, the U.S. would not be secure.

    Huntington's primary prescriptive contribution was to identify a way to meet the Soviet threat without giving up civilian control; he called his approach "objective control" of the military by civilians. This objective control simultaneously maximized military effectiveness and efficiency on one hand and subordination of the military to civilian authority on the other. The key to this approach is military professionalism. This requires a bargain between civilians and soldiers. On one hand, civil authorities grant a professional officer corps autonomy in the realm of military affairs. On the other, "a highly professional officer corps stands ready to carry out the wishes of any civilian group which secures legitimate authority within the state." Huntington contrasted this vision with a worst-case scenario he called "subjective control": the systematic violation of the autonomy necessary for a professional military. Huntington argued that forcing the military to defer to civilians in the military realm would lead to failure on the battlefield.

    Feaver argues that, as elegant as Huntington's theory is, it doesn't fit the evidence of the Cold War. To begin with, the U.S. prevailed in the Cold War despite the fact that it did not abandon liberalism: "The evidence shows that American society as a whole almost certainly became even more individualistic and more antistatist than when Huntington warned of the dangers of liberalism in 1957." Furthermore, during the Cold War, the military became more "civilianized," through the politicization of the officer corps; and civilians habitually intruded into the military realm. "According to many of the indicators Huntington cited as critical, civilians did not adopt the objective control mechanism" that Huntington himself claimed was so important. Huntington's theory fails to fit the available evidence, and so -- Feaver argues -- another theory is required.

    To provide such an alternative, Feaver turns to "agency theory," which was originally developed by economists to analyze the relations between principals and the agents to whom they delegate authority. The problem that agency theory seeks to analyze is this: Given different incentives, how does a principal ensure that the agent is doing what the principal wants him to do? Is the agent working -- or shirking?

    The major question for the principal is the extent to which he will monitor the agent. Will monitoring be intrusive or non-intrusive? This decision depends on the cost of monitoring: The higher the cost, the less intrusive the monitoring is likely to be. The agent's incentives are affected by the likelihood that his shirking will be detected by the principal and that he will then be punished for it: The less intrusive the monitoring, the less likely it is that the agent's shirking will be detected. Feaver acknowledges the unsuitability of the term "shirking" when describing the action of the military agent when it pursues its own preferences rather than those of the civilian principal. But the phenomenon is no less harmful in the military than shirking is among civilians. The most obvious form of military shirking is disobedience, but it also includes foot-dragging and leaks to the press designed to undercut policy or individual policymakers.

    Feaver says four general patterns are possible: 1) civilians monitor intrusively, military works; 2) civilians monitor intrusively, military shirks; 3) civilians monitor unintrusively, military works; and 4) civilians monitor unintrusively, military shirks. Huntington's "objective control" corresponds to pattern 3, and "subjective control" to pattern 1. And Feaver contends that pattern 1 is actually the one that corresponds most closely to the reality of the Cold War: Civilians monitored intrusively, military worked. Huntington's theory predicts that this outcome will occur when a number of conditions are met -- one of which is that the military thinks the likelihood of punishment for shirking is fairly high. Of critical importance, says Feaver, was the firing of a popular military hero (MacArthur) by an unpopular president (Truman): This dramatic action shaped the expectations of the military concerning the likelihood of punishment for shirking during the rest of the Cold War period.

    Feaver explains the post-Cold War "crisis" in civil-military relations in a way that integrates a number of events of the 1990s: the end of the Cold War, a growing gap between civilian and military elites, the personal history of President Clinton, the creation of a powerful chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Congress in 1986, and the occupation of this office by a popular, politically savvy general, Colin Powell. Feaver argues that as a result of these developments, the 1990s were characterized by pattern 2: Civilians monitored intrusively, military shirked. The cost of intrusive monitoring went down, but the preferences of civilian and military elites diverged in many important ways -- increasing incentives for the military to pursue its own preferences. Finally, the expectation of punishment for shirking decreased as a result of the election of Clinton, whose equivocal relationship with the military made punishment unlikely. Thanks to the presence of a powerful and popular military leader in General Powell -- and an absence of consensus on security affairs across the executive and legislative branches -- the civilian principals were in a relatively weakened position vis-a-vis their military agents.

    "Even when the military is right," Feaver concludes, "democratic theory intervenes and insists that it submit to the civilian leadership that the polity has chosen. Let civilian voters punish civilian leaders for wrong decisions. Let the military advise against foolish adventures, even advising strenuously when circumstances demand. But let the military execute those orders faithfully. The republic would be better served even by foolish working than by enlightened shirking." After all, the claim that the military should not do what civilians want because what they want is bad for the country shapes the rhetoric of every coup leader who justifies his seizure of power; Feaver's book is an invaluable contribution to a proper understanding of the issues at stake.

    I'm sure there's more out there... but what's interesting is the almost any port in a storm strategy the administration is adopting...

    Tags: , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 12:50 PM  
    Friday, December 02, 2005
    The real McCain
    I've often heard Sen. John McCain described as a media hog and a phony by certain conservatives, who suspect -- particularly given his past attacks on the religious right, and his supposed personal antipathy toward President Bush -- that he's not really one of them. But particularly since the 2004 election, I'm more apt to think that they are right, but not for the right reasons. McCain is a phony -- a gauzy confection created by a solicitous media in need of heros, and which adores him (and Rudy Giuliani) merely because he fits an attractive archetype: "The Maverick".

    So what makes McCain such a maverick? The fact that he dared to take on the son of a president and challenge his coronation in 2000 (winning New Hampshire and "shocking" the bored political world in the process?) The fact that despite being a Vietnam vet, son of an admiral and a former POW, he was mercilessly slimed by the Rove-Bush team and assorted nasty adjunct groups in South Carolina, including whispering campaigns about his being the Manchurian Candidate, and abandoner of fellow vets, or the father of an illigitimate "nigger baby?" (his adopted daughter is Southeast Asian). Or is it the fact that he supposedly stands up to the president and his party, maverick style? Or was it ... as I suspect ... that damned bus?

    Well I'm not buying it. I have no idea whether John McCain likes, dislikes or is indifferent to George W. Bush. I also think it doesn't matter. McCain tethered himself to the president last year -- even after the 2000 antics and even after the president snubbed him repeatedly, even leaving him out of the signing for his own bill (McCain-Feingold) --because it was politically expedient, and he will stay with Bush as long as it remains so, and push him away (i.e., on torture, which I take it at face value that the Senator is sincere on) whenever he needs a maverick jolt. Whatever happens in private, what counts is that McCain hugs and kisses the president in public, defends the administration even on the pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and never to my knowledge has he EVER criticized Bush on television. (On Hardball, he often creates the unusual spectacle of kissing Bush's ass while Matthews kisses his...) McCain also stands up to the GOP when it's advantageous to him, particularly from a media standpoint, and to build his bona fides as the ultimate Good Senator. As his fellow members of Congress get increasingly mired in the corruption swamps of Jack Abramoff and other assorted scandalss, taking them on seems like a better and better strategy for McCain, whose half-assed back-up to John Kerry against the Swiftboat gang last year, combined with his refusal to take even a single step away from the neocons on the war makes him a suspect maverick at best, if you ask me.

    I'm not the only one. Ted Rall has written unkindly of McCain's faux populism (and Kerry's attempt at wooing him last year). So has Counterpunch, which calls McCain "the Senator most likely to start a nuclear war." The folks at MyDD have had his number, too. I admit I briefly flirted with the idea that a Kerry-McCain ticket would make sense, but the Arizona Senator's actions during and after the election have left me cold. McCain has 90 percent ratings from the conservative John Birch Society and 83 percent from the Christian Coalition. Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council gave him 100 percent ratings in 2004. If you think the Jerry Falwell wing of the party won't forget the past and collapse into his arms after their candidates are picked off in the 2007 primaries and follow him all the way to November 08, you're kidding yourself.

    If McCain can get through the primaries -- which is by no means certain, given the FReeper antipathy toward him and his continuing fights with them over immigration, but which is growing more likely every day -- he would be the GOP's most formidable candidate in the general election, including against Hillary, who he beats in every poll so far (if by shrinking margins...) if for no other reason than the fact that the media adores and worships him. McCain, because he is a politician, not a maverick, knows that, and he's setting the table for his 2008 run -- from sucking up to the president to going super-hawk on the war (unless he really is a neocon, which is even scarier if you think about it), to making amends with the religoius right, he's laying it on thick and preparing to capture the White House.

    But don't take it from me. Take it from this guy at The Nation:
    The détente with conservatives that began with his vigorous embrace of Bush during the 2004 campaign has become a full-on charm offensive. "If he decides to run for President, the friendship has to be re-established," says McCain political consultant Max Fose. "There haven't always been town halls. There hasn't always been a dialogue." McCain isn't just reaching out on the home front. His office holds regular meetings with conservative leaders in South Carolina, where his approval rating sits at 65 percent. He has met with the Rev. Jerry Falwell, whom he denounced as one of the religious right's "peddlers of intolerance" after the 2000 South Carolina primary. After the antitax Club for Growth began running ads against McCain in New Hampshire, a state he won in 2000, he reversed positions and supported a procedural repeal of the estate tax. He has endorsed conservative Republican Ken Blackwell for Ohio governor. At the suggestion of conservative activist and longtime nemesis Grover Norquist, he campaigned for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed referendum initiatives in California, particularly the "paycheck protection" provision targeting unions' political activities. McCain's likely to be the most requested Republican campaigner in 2006 races. "He's the closest thing to a rock star in the Republican Party today," says Michigan Republican Party chair Saul Anuzis.
    Like it or not, McCain is probably the Republican to beat in 2008. Santorum is toast. Frist is a joke. Nobody knows who George Allen is. Rudy is a wife-dumping serial cheater with scumbag friends (like Bernie Kerik), and an authoritarian, racially divisive past in New York City that has been temporarily stayed by his outstanding one-day performance on 9/11 (it won't stay stayed if he runs, trust me). It's all about McCain, and with Bush weakened and unable to resist by putting up a candidate of his own, with the Senator from Arizona being the next best chance to extend the mission in Iraq (unless Joe Lieberman switches parties), and the best show to hold on to the Whtie House, so the GOP will get with it.

    Hopefully the public -- and more importantly the media -- will take a much harder look at the man, and not make the same mistake they did in 2000; giving him a pass because he fit the narrative they wanted to hear.

    Tags: , , , , , ,, , ,
    posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
    La Face
    The face transplant surgery isn't just astounding medicine, it's astounding medical ethics. The patient apparently was injured when her dog tried to wake her after a suicide attempt ... there are questions as to whether this was the only way to help her, and even whether the surgical team was up to the job. I hate to say there was a "let's try this, man" attitude on the part of eager medical pros, but you've got to wonder... anyway, here's the story from BBC.

    Tags: , ,
    posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
    Iraq updates

    Tags: , News, War, Propaganda, Foreign Policy

    posted by JReid @ 2:34 AM  
    Can Should these people be saved?
    More than a few bloggers are breaking down the lefty religious activist group Christian Peacemaker Team, four of whose members are being held captive by a nebulous insurgent group in Iraq. More on the group from Newsday...
    Clearly they went to Iraq just before the war with the notion that they were "taking the side of the Iraqi people" ostensibly against the notion of bombing said people in a war -- which for those on the right means they're against the U.S. (though I'm not sure how that could be, since supposedly, we're on the side of the Iraqi people, too... and were theoretically bombing not them, but their Baathist jailors...) Nonetheless, the group's back story, and its criticism of the U.S. and U.K., which the group has blamed for the kidnappings, puts it squarely in what you might call the ""peace" camp:
    "...The Christian Peacemaker Teams has kept a presence in Baghdad since before the invasion. The group, which has offices in Chicago and Toronto, for years has sent teams to Afghanistan, Colombia, the West Bank city of Hebron and other war zones.

    The Baghdad team published reports about the U.S. military's abuse of prisoners months before photos from Abu Ghraib prison made the issue a global scandal. The team is encouraging conciliation between Sunni and Shia Muslims as extremists from both sects fight a civil war.

    This year, the group helped Iraqis form a small Muslim Peacemaker Team in the Shia city of Najaf. The Christian team took Shia peacemakers to the war-shattered Sunni city of Fallujah to spend a day clearing rubble and garbage from the city's streets. This month, team members helped this correspondent visit Fallujah to report on its condition.

    Last month, Fox helped lead one of the team's more grueling missions, helping 19 Palestinian refugees who were trying to migrate to Syria because of rising animosity against Palestinians in post-Hussein Iraq. Team members rode with the Palestinians to the Syrian border and camped with them in the desert for a portion of the five weeks it took to get the refugees entry. Fox, who is tall and thin, later joked that the trip had been a great weight-loss program. ..."
    Now of course, this kind of do-gooderism sounds a lot more compatible with Christ's teachings about reaching out to the poor and downtrodden than the Dennis Prager/Sean Hannity version of Christ's love, which mostly consists of blowing things up and killing people (between war and the death penalty, the right wing Jesus is a mean S.O.B., isn't he?) But I digress.

    The main issue now, for many on the right, is whether the group's assumed "anti-Americanness" now means they should be left to their fate with the terrorists. To his credit, Rusty Shackleford at Jawa took his shots but concluded that "[d]espite the misguided efforts of the pacifist organization, these four activists are victims of Islamist aggression. We condemn the hostage takers and pray for the immediate release." ... of course he added that "unlike the 'Christian Peacemaker Teams', we hope that the terrorists die at the hands of an angry Marine..." Nice.

    Wizbang's Jay Tea agonized a bit more, but basically concluded that their salvation should at best be an afterthought:

    I don't think we should put a single US soldier at risk to save them from the hands of their erstwhile allies cum abductors. But I think those abductors need to be found and killed. If, in the process, we happen to save the CPT folk, all the better. I wish them no harm.

    But I know that should their lives be spared by acts of violence, they will never forgive those that save them. It would be a gross violation of their stated ethical principles, and a repudiation of all they stand for. As someone who believes in respecting the beliefs and principles whenever possible, I think that must be honored.
    All Things Beautiful focuses on "the Islamofascist manifesto," pointing out in quite beautiful fashion I must say, the personal agony that the hostage's families are going through -- which should bely any thought that they should be left to rot.

    Chachi of the Spanktuary sat right down and wrote the peaceniks a letter, but after the berating, dutifully wished them godspeed. ...

    The Dread Pundit Bluto sees a hostage circus afoot, complete with sinister Muslim activists from the U.K. ...

    Neil Boortz and that total Wack-job Michael Savage basically wished the hostages very, very ill on their shows today (I guess they didn't get the "wish them well in the last sentence" memo from Ken Mehlman...)

    I for one am damned glad the United States military doesn't make tactical decisions based on who passes some right wing ideological test, or who professes the most love for George W. Bush. The military is what it is -- a fighting and war-making machine. It isn't an instrument of God's divine retribution (sorry, Mr. President) or of the wannabe divine retribution of one political party or another. The military blows things up and kills people. It also rescues people, often in dramatic fashion, but usually with lots of gunfire and violence. Jesus loves, teaches and forgives people. One deals with the bodies, the other with the souls. Two very different disciplines, I'd say.

    So from a military standpoint, it doesn't matter what these people think of the United States. If it is deemed feasible, if the opportunity arises, and the risks are acceptible to the commanders in charge, these folks will get pinched from their captors whether their attitudes comport with Rush Limbaugh's Lewinskiing of the President or not. More likely, their group's history of sympathy toward Muslims, and especially toward Palestinians, will probably result in their eventual release. That's my guess, anyway.

    As for the question of whether they deserve to be "left to their fate" with the "side they've chosen in this war," that strikes me as unique in being both irrelevant, and damned un-Christian.

    Update: Jawa grabs the Guardian scoop that the hostages were kidnapped from the same mosque as Iralian anti-war journo Giulian Sgrena, who was similarly nabbed, then released, earlier this year. Dr. Shackleford presumes this is good news for the hostages:

    ...Up to this point we have refrained from speculating that this hostage crisis could have been staged by the terror organization so that they could later release the hostages in a show of 'goodwill'. Our many readers and fellow bloggers have not been so restrained. However, in light of this new information...well, consider it a thought in the back of our collective heads which we just can't help thinking. In no way would this have to mean that the hostages were in on the hoax, only that the threat against their lives might not be real--especially if they were known by the terrorists to sympathize with their cause.

    Why would terrorists do this? Well, look what happened during the Giuliana Sgrena crisis. Sgrena, who's sympathies were with the terrorists anyway, was more than happy to cry on cue and demand that Italy withdraw immediately from Iraq. The reaction from the Italian Left was overwhelming and the pressure mounted on the Burlesconi government to leave. Terrorists are not stupid. They choose tactics that they believe work. If it seemed to work once...
    MPJ concludes, and I agree, that if this be the case, these guys will eventually be sprung. ... God-willing...

    Update 2: An influential Sunni Muslim group in Iraq has called on the hostage-takers to release the CPT activists, citing their history of helping Muslims... And here's the story on the British anti-war activist who's headed to Iraq to try and pull a Jesse Jackson and win the release of the hostages (in case you don't feel like wading through Bluto's rant to get to it -- although do wade through -- nothing wrong with that)... Also, what's up with the German hostage and her driver? Ms. Merkel sure doesn't seem to be making any headway there...


    Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism

    posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
    Thursday, December 01, 2005
    This is a suicide bomber?
    The headline in the Belgian mag La Derniere Heure reads: "This is our Belgian Kamikazi killed in Iraq." From the BBC story:

    Belgian woman bomber identified

    The bomber allegedly targeted US soldiers in Iraq
    Stunned Belgians are starting to get a clearer picture of the Belgian woman identified as a suicide bomber killed in Iraq last month.

    La Derniere Heure newspaper published a photo of the woman it said was the bomber, and interviewed her mother.

    The paper says she is Muriel Degauque, 38, from Charleroi, who converted to Islam after marrying a radical Muslim.

    Federal prosecutors would not confirm the woman's identity, only that she was a Belgian of European origin.

    Just try to profile that, would you...

    Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
    posted by JReid @ 3:47 PM  
    The best news money can buy
    Update: The U.S. military basically admits to buying good press in Iraq, and presents a novel defense: "Zarqawi did it first!!!"
    Questioned about the issue, a US spokesman in Baghdad said Iraq's most-wanted militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was also using the media.

    "He [Zarqawi] is conducting these kidnappings, these beheadings, these explosions, so that he gets international coverage to look like he has more capability than he truly has," Maj Gen Rick Lynch said in Baghdad.

    We do empower our commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public but everything we do is based on fact

    "He is lying to the Iraqi people. We don't lie - we don't need to lie," he added.

    "We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public but everything we do is based on fact, not based on fiction."

    Well that sure clears that up... (sigh)

    Original post 1:32 p.m.: The New York Times expands on the bought and paid for news we're planting in the Free Iraq:
    WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 - Titled "The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq," an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders' pessimism about the country's future.

    "Western press and frequently those self-styled 'objective' observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation," the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

    But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.

    The article was one of several in a storyboard, the military's term for a list of articles, that was delivered Tuesday to the Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations firm paid by the Pentagon, documents from the Pentagon show. The contractor's job is to translate the articles into Arabic and submit them to Iraqi newspapers or advertising agencies without revealing the Pentagon's role. Documents show that the intended target of the article on a democratic Iraq was Azzaman, a leading independent newspaper, but it is not known whether it was published there or anywhere else.

    Even as the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development pay contractors millions of dollars to help train journalists and promote a professional and independent Iraqi media, the Pentagon is paying millions more to the Lincoln Group for work that appears to violate fundamental principles of Western journalism.

    In addition to paying newspapers to print government propaganda, Lincoln has paid about a dozen Iraqi journalists each several hundred dollars a month, a person who had been told of the transactions said. Those journalists were chosen because their past coverage had not been antagonistic to the United States, said the person, who is being granted anonymity because of fears for the safety of those involved. In addition, the military storyboards have in some cases copied verbatim text from copyrighted publications and passed it on to be printed in the Iraqi press without attribution, documents and interviews indicated.

    In many cases, the material prepared by the military was given to advertising agencies for placement, and at least some of the material ran with an advertising label. But the American authorship and financing were not revealed.

    By the way, this not only flies in the face of anythingthig you could passingly call democracy, it also endangers the Iraqi recipients, who now look like tools of the occupation to any potential insurgents who might want to go from targeting restaurants and shops, to targeting what they see as American pawns in the Iraqi media... That sure didn't make it into Bush's no-news speech yesterday...


    Tags: , Military, War, Foreign Policy, Media, Propaganda

    posted by JReid @ 3:35 PM  
    'Nuff said
    The UK take on Mr. Bush's Iraq speech yesterday:

    Bush accused of 'recycling tired rhetoric'
    Jack Murth's take on Mr. Bush's Iraq speech yesterday:

    'Yeah, man whatever... Most of the troops will be out in a year... '
    "I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course," Murtha said, referring to Bush. "Staying the course is not a policy."

    Tags: , Murtha, War, Bush, Foreign Policy, News
    posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
    Memogate II.2 - Mr. Boombastic
    Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball (who never gets to go on "Hardball" I've noticed...) of Newsweek pick up the "bomb Al-Jazeera" story.

    The Case of the Secret MemoThe White House denies plans to bomb Al-Jazeera. But a warning sent out to British newspaper editors has given the controversy a fresh twist.

    Nov. 30, 2005 - A British government crackdown on government leaks may have backfired by calling world attention to an ultrasensitive secret memo whose alleged contents have embarrassed President George W. Bush and strained relations between London and Washington. The document allegedly recounts a threat last year by Bush to bomb the head office of the Arabic TV news channel Al-Jazeera.

    U.K. authorities consider the memo, described as minutes or a transcript of an April 16, 2004, White House meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, so diplomatically sensitive that Blair’s attorney general last week warned U.K. media by e-mail that they could face prosecution under the country's draconian Official Secrets Act if they reported on its contents. But all the legal threat appeared to do was call more attention to the still-mysterious document and, at a minimum, appear to confirm its existence.

    Bush administration officials initially dismissed the memo’s allegations about Bush’s threat against Al-Jazeera as “outlandish.” U.S. officials later suggested that if Bush did talk with Blair about bombing Al-Jazeera, the president was only joking. Asked directly today about Bush's purported threat to bomb Al-Jazeera, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said: "Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd." McLellan did not respond to follow-up questions as to whether Bush actually said what the memo says he did.

    But a senior official at 10 Downing Street, Blair’s official residence, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, recently seemed to give credence to the Al-Jazeera threat. The official told NEWSWEEK London Bureau chief Stryker McGuire: "I don't think Tony Blair thought it was a joke."

    The Dialy Mirror journalist who claims to have been privy to the memo -- but not to have had a copy of it -- concluded that "...the U.K. government was very keen to keep the document under wraps, and that other contents he had heard about include details of a “full and frank” discussion between Bush and Blair about U.S. military operations at the time in Fallujah." Recall that this was around the time of the "retaking" of that city by U.S. Marines after our having pulled back and lost control of it the first time, and the memo supposedly might contain information on troop movements, as well as "intelligence sources." There's nothing really new in the Newsweek story. Still as Isikof and pal point out, the memo probably wouldn't have caused the stir it did had the British government not issued its dire warnings to members of the press not to publish it.


    Memogate II.1
    Dangerous thinking
    The bad news bombs
    Secrets, lies and bombing Al-Jazeera
    Memogate II

    Tags: , Middle East, War, Al-Jazeera
    posted by JReid @ 1:20 PM  
    Can Wikipedia be trusted?
    An interesting story of woe by the father of NBC News reporter John Seigenthaler. HT to Pajamas Media... Actually, I rely heavily on Wikipedia, and think most of the time it's a pretty good source. But as with everything else you find online (or for that matter, in any odd Judy Miller article...) keep your salt handy...

    Tags: Media, Wikipedia, News
    posted by JReid @ 11:39 AM  
    PropIraqaganda (or, the price of good news)
    Update: The White House is "concerned..."

    Hat tip to the Randi Rhodes Show web-site; from The LA Times by way of Newsday:

    U.S. military covertly pays to run stories in Iraqi pressTroops write articles presented as news reports. Some officers object to the practice

    By Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi
    Times Staff Writers

    WASHINGTON -- As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

    The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

    Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

    Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

    The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

    The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are pledging to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption.

    It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society." Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations.

    Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.

    The military's information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military's credibility in other nations and with the American public.

    "Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media. ...

    Your tax dollars at work. (Read the whole thing, it doesn't get better). And apparently the U.S. effort doesn't just stop at planting paid-for stories:

    One of the military officials said that, as part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the last year, the task force also had purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece.

    The official would not disclose which newspaper and radio station are under U.S. control, saying that naming them would put their employees at risk of insurgent attacks.

    U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out psychological operations or planting propaganda through American media outlets. Yet several officials said that given the globalization of media driven by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon's efforts were carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the foreign press inevitably "bleeds" into the Western media and influences coverage in U.S. news outlets.
    So if you're a "free" Iraqi, you have know way of knowing whether the news you're getting is real or being spoon fed to you by the American government... wait a minute, the same goes for you if you're a "free" American who watches Fox News... OK never mind, we ARE remaking Iraq into an American-style democracy.

    So who is this Lincoln Group? Here's their homepage. According to Sourcewatch:

    According to the Group's website, "Lincoln Alliance Corporation, with the assistance of a cadre of investors, formed Lincoln Group to pursue private sector opportunities in Iraq. Lincoln Group brings a unique combination of expertise in collecting and exploiting information; structuring transactions; and mitigating risks through due diligence and legal strategies." [4] (

    In September 2004, the major PR contract for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq was awarded to Iraqex, a "business clearinghouse company formed specifically to provide a swath of services in the war-torn country." The Washington DC-based Lincoln Alliance Corporation, a "business 'intelligence' company that handles services from 'political campaign intelligence' to commercial real estate in Iraq," set up Iraqex last year. Iraqex has four Iraq offices, including in Baghdad and Basra. Iraqex will develop video and print publications, purchase TV and radio time, and oversee public affairs and advertising for MNC-I, to ensure "that the Coalition gains widespread Iraqi acceptance of its core themes and messages." [5]

    Iraqex has subsequently changed its name to Lincoln Group, after its holding company, Lincoln Alliance Corporation. Lincoln Group has a $6 million, 3-year PR contract for the U.S.-led Multi-National Corps-Iraq, for which it "develops video, audio and print products to support MNC-I initiatives." It also publishes Iraq Business Journal, a "monthly publication on contract opportunities, life in Iraq and classifieds." The publication recently interviewed Grand Ayatolla Ali Al-Sistani, who said foreign investment is acceptable, as long as the investor is not with the "occupation forces" or taking "advantage of any instability." Lincoln Group is still looking for interns.[6] (

    ... In September 2004, "Christian Bailey, an executive at Iraqex/Lincoln, told O'Dwyer's his company [had] established four offices in Baghdad and other outposts, including an additional operation in Basra. He said Iraqex began handling PR work for private entities in sectors like manufacturing and finance within the country last year and has established close ties with 300-400 members of the Iraqi media."

    "The company, which submitted a proposal of $5.5 million for the first year of the sweeping PR and advertising contract, beat five other firms. A contracting officer for the military did not disclose the competitors" to O'Dwyer's "or an email address to this website or in an e-mail to the losing bidders." [7]

    Back in June, blogger Billmon did a little bit of digging on Iraqex and it's "young, British, Republican on-the-go" Christian Bailey, and found links to corporate and campaign "opposition research" work, the hiring of a bunch of GOP political hacks (not surprising), and some wierd ties to military gaming:
    Lincoln also appears to have its fingers in several projects that have a strong intelligence community coloration to them. These include techniques for allowing analysts to process distributed bits of classified data without ever seeing the whole picture, as well as (shades of Admiral Poindexter) something called: Role Based Online Gaming for Unconventional Environments (ROGUE)

    "In essence, ROGUE is a massive multiplayer game that allows private individuals to compete against government and military forces in unconventional scenarios. ROGUE incorporates a motivation and e-commerce system that rewards successful gamers with money and fame."
    (If Lincoln really is part of some Pentagon-funded political black op, at least someone has a sense of humor about it.)

    So to sum up: We have a tiny start-up venture, controlled by persons unknown, that suddenly materializes in late 2003 doing "private equity" deals in the middle of a war zone, and then obtains a huge PR contract from the Pentagon, and then hires a bunch of unemployed GOP campaign operatives to execute that contract, and then is absorbed by a shadowy DC company that specializes in corporate and political detective work and that may have close ties to both the Republican Party and the intelligence community, which then is awarded an even bigger contract to produce even more Pentagon propaganda.

    Now maybe that's just the way business is done in George Bush's government, but it doesn't make me any less creeped out by what I was able to dig up with a few online searches. You don't have to have too much of a taste for paranoid conspiracy theories to imagine scenarios in which such contracting relationships could prove very useful for the Bush administration and the GOP machine.
    I'm sure there's more out there. And Billmon has an update today which is worth checking out.

    Tags: , Military, War, Foreign Policy, Media, Propaganda
    posted by JReid @ 11:33 AM  
    ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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