Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The blogging of the president - SOTU edition
Well, this is no longer the guy who eschewed nation building ... Oh, and you're gonna have to face it, we're addicted to oil. ...

Overall, I think it was a good speech (see, Jay? I am capable of responding to Bush with something other than frothing Moonbattery...) Very elegant at the end, and it hit the major points that Bush needed to: freedom (15 mentions), victory (5mentions), staying the course in iraq (14), terror (15), globalism (4 mentions of "isolationism"), and a sort of compassionate global hegemony articulated by Mr. Bush in a series of flourishes about the need to spread democracy (9 mentions), liberty (2 mentions) and a sort of Christianity-based, tax and disease-free life (7 nods for AIDS and 10 mentions of the U.S. and global economy.) It's all just lovely, if only you could shut off the actual world and the crap that's overrunning it under Bush's leadership... He also bowled for the history books, putting his decisions on foreign policy in the same light as the historic chess moves of FDR, JFK and Reagan (history got 7 mentions). Now all he needs is for Iraq's new fundamentalist Shiite leaders not to do anything too crazy, at least for the next two years. ...

I think I'll associate myself with the comment of Newsweek's John Meacham on the speech: Bush has cast himself as a Republican Woodrow Wilson, pushing this idealistic, highly ideological vision of an American war to end all wars, and an unbroken global American social science project that will make the whole world peaceful, free (well, not free of us...) and abstinant! He's now officially a neocon -- but without the intellectual stuff...

Bush "named the enemy" as some pundits (Lou Dobbs) have urged him to do, mentioning "radical Islam" twice and calling out the mullahs in Iran. He also spoke directly to the Iranian people, saying he hoped the U.S. and Iran would one day be "the best of friends" but also warning that the U.S. cannot allow the current regime to obtain "nucular" weapons (I wonder if Bush makes his staff say "nucular" too...) I think he's treading on thin ice with the "let freedom and elections ring" stuff directed at Egypt, where the Hamas/al-Qaida-linked Muslim Brotherhood would win any "free and fair" elections, Syria (where Hezbollah would take over from the Baathists) and Lebanon (ditto). But hey, neocons don't deal with that sort of reality-based drivel.

Bush defended the NSA spy program and got big applause from the Republicans with his in-your-face assertion that he has not just Constitutional authority (I suppose in the Constitution inside her own mind...) but also statutory authority to eavesdrop. The Democrats could make him eat those words if they take over the House or Senate in the Fall... He even dug up Osama bin Laden (2 menitons) who has been tremendously helpful to the administration in pushing its eavesdropping scheme, and he kept the "September the eleventh" references to a merciful two. I didn't think he'd have the cojones to mention the Palestinian elections, given the way they went for him, but he did, and you've got to love the "Jew cam" that seeks out Joe Lieberman like a laser-guided missile every time anyone mentions the word "Israel..." (there's also a Black guy cam that finds John Lewis at any mention of civil rights or Dr. King, the Obama "African-American-cam," the Hilary cam (various uses) and the Laura cam that catches the first lady's lovely Xanax and martini smile -- and her fabulous suit. (Off white was a good choice, Mrs. President! Loved it.)

The Dems got in a good dig when they all stood up for Bush's statement that the Congress failed to pass his Social Security reforms. (Bush's supposed signature reform, on which he was to spend his "political capital" last year, got only two mentions...) Bush also apparently does like black people! He touched on New Orleans for about 2.2 seconds, and mentioned African-Americans a couple of times, including an opening remark about Coretta King and one nod in relation to the higher incidence of HIV and AIDS. I'm sure kanye West is writing an updated, pro-Bush version of "Jesus walks" just for Dubya even as we speak. John McCain basically clapped alone for the lobbying reform stuff. And darnit, no Tom DeLay cam there ...

Oh, and Bush has decided that he's for scientific research and wind farms. Go figure. I guess John Kerry can feel comforted that at least a small part of him got elected. And the theme of the second have of the speech can be summed up in one word: "competitiveness." Bush is apparently all for it. Okey-dokey.

Overall, I think it was a well written speech, well delivered for Bush, but not much news (there never is with these things). Bush talked a lot about changing the tone (Karl Rove exempted of course), and made a coherent case for Americans being able to debate without hating one another. (Yeah right, tell that to the Freepers and the "Democrats are Communists who should be shot" crowd...) And he gave the obligatory big SOTU laundry list of cleverly named programs for this and that lovely thing that the federal government shouldn't be poking its nose into, including something on compassion or some jazz that Laura's going to be in charge of but that will be well forgotten in about a week (remember Bush's vow to get us to Mars? I didn't think you did...) I was expecting to see that dog who served in Iraq, or at least for Cindy Sheehan to light herself on fire and swan dive from the balcony to try and take out Dick Cheney in a ball of flames and high-pitched, nasal fury, but hey, you can't have everything... She did apparently manage to get herself arrested for wearing the wrong shirt, which should really help kick-start her Senate bid. (I wonder if that lady who yelled at Ed Schultz today for not being liberal enough lives in California...better get her registered to vote...)

In general, these speeches are pretty useless, except as a way for presidents to impress their detractors at how well they can deliver the laugh lines despite dire political circumstances (Bush's best line tonight was the one about himself and Bill Clinton being two of his father's favorite soon-to-be sextagenarians... although he didn't say sextagenarians... this, after all, is George W. Bush... Seriously, what's interesting about Bush is his unfailing ability to come off as a completely harmless, goofy sort of get-along guy, who wouldn't dream of starting an unnecessary war, tearing up the Constitution, granting himself unlimited war powers, sanctioning torture, opening the southern borders to Mexican wage slaves and tapping Christiane Amanpour's phone. ... oh dear... maybe I'd better start over...

... oh yeah and Tom Kaine said something boring afterward that no one really listened to. ... except Howard Dean. He liked it a lot.

Speech grade: B (points taken off for failure to cause Sheehan to ignite)

Predictions: Bush will get a four point bump in the polls, Chris Matthews will declare the speech a masterpiece and in a surprise move, will kiss Rudy Giuliani full on the lips (sorry, off topic...) Cindy Sheehan won't have enough money for bail and will be sprung by an anonymous donor hamed Chugo Havez, and Norah O'Donnell will put a copy of the speech transcript under her pillow.

Update: More reax from the blogosphere:


Update 2:Matthews is so far resisting the Giuliani oral magnetism. In fact, he's actually disagreeing with him! ... oh, no wait he's kissing his behind again... (By the way am I the only one for whom the thought of Rudy Giuliani with limitless presidential police state powers triggers a reaction involving cold sweats and throwing up?) ... Anyway, Andrea Mitchell and Chip Reid sure are downers tonight -- both waxed pessimistic on the speech, and Reid made a good point that it's a little odd for Bush to be calling for a bipartisan love and respect-fest after his side turned sliming the other side into an art-form...

Want more? Get audio commentary from the Juicecaster podcast...

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posted by JReid @ 10:06 PM  
Make that Bush 39...
Setting the table for the SOTU: Americans think things suck. Mr. President -- you're on.

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posted by JReid @ 11:23 AM  
Oscar loves the gay cowboys!
Let's not kid ourselves. Hollywood does have an agenda beyond just making lots of money, and it is pretty darned liberal (not that there's anything wrong with that, and I think liberals err by denying it for no reason...) That's why every year, the movies that win awards often make as much of a political statement as they do an artistic one. (As do the ones that don't. Remember when Denzel Washington lost out on a Best Actor Oscar probably because the character he played in "The Hurricane" had in real life been convicted of murder? And don't think the "Lord of the Rings" sweep in 2004 had nothing to do with that film's serreptitious jabs at the "Mordor" who lives at 1600 PA Ave...)

So what are we to make of the 8 Oscar nods for the gay cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain?" (Not to mention the nods for George Clooney's "Syriana" and Spielberg's "Munich?" Exactly what the right is going to make of it. Hollywood is making a dual statement. Good films, messages they endorse. Nuff said.

By the way, go ahead and stamp "bona fide star" on Heath Ledger's forehead. I still haven't seen the movie (too queasy, sorry. Hey, I may have been born in Broooklyn, but grew up in Colorado for God's sakes. As far as I'm concerned, cowboys are supposed to shoot people and rope cows. Don't spoil my mental imagery...) but people apparently can't stop talking about the guy...

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posted by JReid @ 11:09 AM  
Coretta King passes

The thing about icons is that they're also human beings, flawed and occasionally phenomenal. God rest the souls of this invaluable couple. They're together now in peace. Here's a timeline of Mrs. King's life, and link to some of the King papers (including one of the best pictures I've seen of a young Mrs. King), and a link to the current TIME story.

Cross -posted on the Reid Report Juicecast.

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posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Monday, January 30, 2006
The world's shortest fillibuster...
...ends as unceremoniouly as it began.
posted by JReid @ 5:29 PM  
The West plays hardball
Okay, so the E.U. and the U.S. are playing hardball in their drive to upend the recent Palestinian elections (declare them invalid? re-do them more to our liking? who knows...) and the weapon of choice is a good one: money. The demands on Hamas vary, but generally revolve around two things Hamas must do in order to keep the about $1 billion a year in western aid flowing: renounce violence as a political tactic, and recognize Israel (which is now withholding tax payments due to the Palestinian authority). Something tells me Hamas isn't going to put away its weapons (unless Israel renounces violence, too, which ain't gonna happen) and getting down on one knee to the Israelis is likely to make the Hamas leader who does it a big, fat assassination target.

So what now? Well, the West could mess around and push the Palestinian people (like we already have done with the Iraqi Shia) into the arms of Iran... and not just the Hamas members, who already are in bed with the Iranians -- the regular folks running shops or taking theid kids to school every day. Want to radicalize the entire Palestinian population? Cut them off entirely.

Now that's what I call a revolting development...

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posted by JReid @ 4:47 PM  
Feithwatch
From Raw today:
The second part of the Senate investigation into bungled pre-war Iraq intelligence is still being held up by an internal Pentagon investigation of Douglas Feith, one of the war's leading architects, RAW STORY has learned.

As previously reported by Raw Story, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) inquiry -- titled Phase II -- is waiting on a report from the Pentagon inspector general as to Feith's alleged role in manipulating pre-war intelligence to support a case for war. Feith, who is also being probed by the FBI for his role in an Israeli spy case, resigned in January 2005.

More broadly, a RAW STORY investigation has found that Feith's access to classified information and his alleged wrongdoing can likely be laid at the feet of more senior officials in the Bush Administration -- namely Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who would have had to have overruled Pentagon background checks to reissue Feith's clearances after he was booted from the National Security Council for allegations of espionage in the mid 1980s ...
Of course, the Israeli spy case is the Franklin/AIPAC case, which could yet reach out and touch the Pentagon war hawks. Read the rest of the Raw story here. And more on the AIPAC spy follies in this previous post.

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posted by JReid @ 3:22 PM  
The Jay Tea Moonbat Test
Okay so I surf over to Wizbang to see what the wingers are up to today, and I come across this, in which he freaking called me a dude... oh, sorry, I meant this:

Last week, I brought up a really stupid "survey" one leftist whacko cooked up in his fried little brain to "test" the depths of their support. I turned it around, taking an almost-as-hyperbolic hypothetical situation and asked anti-Bush readers to answer that one.

In the comments, though, they wouldn't take the bait. But a couple of them in particular proved my point in their refusal. jreid (mentioned earlier today and No Exit both exhibited the frothing moonbat mentality in fine fettle. In fact, No Exit so captured the lunacy, his remarks ought to be printed out and saved in the Smithsonian as an examplar of the species.

But one recurring theme was that the Bush backers (like me, presumably) are mindless automatons, unthinking, willing puppets who just voice their support regardless of whatever he does, and defend his decisions, policies, and actions without any thought for themselves.

This is a load of crap, and sheerest projection. As Synova pointed out, Bush supporters tend to be far more issue-oriented than focusing on the individual. It's the Left that automatically denounces and gainsays Bush.

You want proof? Fine. Let's do a little compare and contrast.

A few months ago, Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. At that time, a lot of his traditional base differed with him -- and quite vocally, to the point where he had to withdraw her and replace her with Samuel Alito. I was one of those voices. Also, when I endorsed Bush for re-election, I specifically cited several instances where I disagreed with his positions.

So, let's see how things are on the other foot. I challenge liberal bloggers to go back and find a single posting where they -- no matter how reluctantly -- supported a single Bush policy, decision, statement, or action. If you don't have a blog of your own, go poking through the archives of some of the bigger left-lurching blogs and find one there. Kos, Atrios, TPM, Cousin Oliver Willis -- find ONE INSTANCE where they didn't just mindlessly oppose Bush.

I'm betting you won't.
Come again? Now let's keep in mind that I like Wizbang. It's almost always a good read. But Jay? You're just dead wrong. Here is JReid's huffy response:

Sweet Jesus, Jay. You cite THIS as your example of disagreeing with George Bush?:
"For just a few examples, I think he's wrong on the issues of abortion, stem-cell research, and gay marriage. But I also believe that he has derived his positions from sincere beliefs and ethical principles, and that is something I can respect."
Why not add that you also love him desperately, just the same? As one of the supposed "frothing moonbats" who can't stop hating George W. Bush, permit me to say that it IS the issues, man! If Mr. Bush (whatever my personal feelings about his intellectual candle wattage or other personal characteristics -- the inarticulateness, the smirk, the radio pack on his back... oh, sorry, frothing again...) were to suddenly espouse a policy I agreed with, I would certainly say so (and I wouldn't feel the need to qualify my support).

However, my problem with Mr. Bush is the very "principles" (your word) by which he seems to have come to all of his policy prescriptions: like hiring corporate cronies to oversee their former industries and then having the PR flaks massage the cronies' boosterism for their former industries into good governance talking points for the regurgitating devices on MSNBC, Fox and CNN to read. Or his habit of hiring campaign flaks (to run the Iraq CPA, FEMA, and now ICE) and shrugging off their clear incompetence and lack of qualifications. Without those things, Mr. Bush's proposals for New Orleans, his stewardship of the mining industry, his ideas for healthcare, social security etc. would be coming from a very different place, and I might even be able to support those ideas.

Then there's this habit Bush has ... or rather, that Cheney has for him ... of discovering new and expansive powers for the president that aren't in the Constitution. I dunno, somehow that bothers me, man...

On Iraq, we have the same problem. Mr. Bush began with a principle I cannot accept (and that other non-Moonbats like George Will and Pat Buchanan don't accept either): namely that it is a proper use of America's military to attack a country that didn't attack or threaten us, and which we have failed to prove could do so in the forseeable future. And then to do it BADLY, without enough troops to pacify the damned country and hand it back to its people in one, rather than a million little pieces? I should support that, why? Bush's roll of the dice with the mad neocons has doomed his presidency, shattered America's prestige, soiled its good name with the dregs of torture, prisoner abuse, secret jails and other Saddam-lite crap, and has brought his fundamental judgment into such question for me, that I really can't see how I support his foreign policy ideas going forward. And Bush seems to be making the same bad judgment calls on everything from Iran to North Korea to Latin America. Am I just supposed to support him because he's the president? (didn't work for Clinton) Because you say he's "principled?" ... or just because you say so?

In other words, I think your question is rather absurd. My disagreements with Mr. Bush ARE about issues -- they're about his POLICIES. His personal attributes are simply made more galling and annoying because he is a total incompetent as president. And by the way, why is it required that opponents of the president, who by definition oppose his methods of arriving at policy, "find something to agree with?" What's the point? To prove that we can? If you ask me, it's far more alarming to watch Bush bot types like yourself prostrate yourselves before the man and insist that he must be supported, even when his policies violate your own supposedly conservative principles (on immigration, for instance).

Trust me, Jay, if Dubya manages to do something -- anything -- right over the next three years, I'll be the first to stand up and cheer.

...oh wait! Marriage. ... I support Bush on marriage. Yes! I KNEW I could do it!

Okay, so I got a bit off topic. But you get my point.

Upate: To be fair, I decided that I really should take Jay up on his challenge. So I'm searching my archives to see if I can find anything -- a single post -- in which I agreed with George W. Bush. Okay Jay? Happy?

... searching ... searching ... (developing...)

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posted by JReid @ 1:01 PM  
Feel free to thank us later...
One of my most searing memories from growing up was a pre-travel get-together my sister and I attended before we became two of three minority kids to participate in a summer in Europe program when I was 16 years old. The other dozen or so participants in the program were mostly rich, white kids from St. Mary's Academy prep school. The other minority kid was a huge, Mexican-American kid named Moises, who was traveling on scholarship (my sister and I were on partial scholarship, those scholarships being based on your grades and an essay, btw...) At one point, one of the trip sponsors, an old lady who had to be kicking 70, offered a comment on Moises' inclusion in the group. "He's just so grateful," she beamed in that special way only a person who considers the 1950s the "good old days" can. If I hadn't been raised right I would have "accidentally" spat on her shoe.

Now it's the Iraqi people's turn to get a pat on the head, not from some goofball old lady, but from the American people, their liberators. So here you go, Iraqis! We blew all the rebuilding money on strippers and Cuban cigars for the occupation authority and stuffed the rest in Paul Bremer's foot locker, but we did give you Moqtada al-Sadr in parliament and a couple hours a day of not getting blown up! Are you grateful yet???

Other Iraq War news:

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posted by JReid @ 12:37 AM  
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Cindy Sheehan shoots the shark

Cindy Sheehan has not just jumped the shark -- she has shot it in the head with buckshot and dragged it out of the beach house. Now, granted, I think the Iraq war was the biggest strategic blunder by any U.S. president since LBJ led us into Danang. And I supported this Iraq war mom in the beginning, having found her plaintive, solo protest outside George W. Bush's Texas ranch to be a poignant and meaninful statement about the losses suffered by a small percentage of Americans in this war. I also thought Team Bush erred by not having the president meet with her (remember that shot Bush's motorcade speeding past Sheehan and her supporters on his Crawford ranch last summer? Not a good look.)

But that was then. Now, Cindy Sheehan appears to have taken leave of whatever good sense God at some point surely must have given her. What in the name of God is she doing roaming around Venezuela, cuddling up to leftist dictator in training Hugo Chavez, and getting his endorsement for her next round of protests, not to mention her apparent bid to oust Diane Feinstein in the United States Senate (here's Sheehan's postcard from the edge, courtesy of Little Green Footballs, in which she threatens via a press release, to "challenge Feinstein's seat" if she doesn't agree to lead a fillibuster of Sam Alito -- also here for verification purposes is the version from AfterDowningStreet.org.) It reads in part:
Caracas, Venezuela – Gold star mother Cindy Sheehan has decided to run against California Senator Diane Feinstein if Feinstein does not filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. While in Venezuela attending the World Social Forum, Sheehan learned that several Democratic Senators had announced their plans for a filibuster but that Senator Feinstein, who’s up for re-election in November, had stated she would vote against the nomination but not filibuster it. "I’m appalled that Diane Feinstein wouldn’t recognize how dangerous Alito’s nomination is to upholding the values of our constitution and restricting the usurpation of presidential powers, for which I’ve already paid the ultimate price," Sheehan said.
If this sounds like a big non-sequitor to you, permit me to join you in a great big "... huh???" What in the God's name does Samuel Alito have to do with Sheehan's son dying in Iraq? Isn't this what we call "losing the plot...?"

In addition to Chavez, Sheehan has hooked up with Medea Benjamin, the Global Exchange founder and Code Pink activist who remains an ardent supporter of the other Hugo Chavez; Fidel Castro. ... Earth to Cindy, assuming you're still here on the planet: permission to blast off to the far-away planet of our choosing. Go grieve in private for your son. Right now, you're embarrasing yourself and proving every right winger's point about the far left being totally freaking insane. (You're also forcing me to use the same Yahoo! pic as Michelle Malkin, and to agree with her on something, for which I actually hate you...)

I've had a few run-ins with dyed in the wool lefties who with a straight face will tell you that Fidel is a misunderstood victim of American aggression and that his "revolution" is something that American workers should long to see replicated. I remember arguing into the wee hours of the morning with one such Fidelista during the Kerry campaign -- and we were, at least for the purposes of the election -- on the same side (working for the same 527). Now I feel like I'm seeing her replicated on CNN, live from Caracas and Crawford... and that's not a good look, either...

Related: Jesus, Mary and Joseph I actually agree with Rob Port... (especially this sentence: "If ever there were a group of people who needed to heed the warning "Be careful what you wish for lest you receive it," it is the American socialists.") I sure hope he agrees that allowing the feds to spy on our phonecalls without a warrant is muy Castroista as well ...

Updated note: Pat Buchanan agreed with me on the war and on Sheehan way back in August of '05... my doubts about her started to escalate right about here...)

Great line alert: Ok, ok, no more winger links, but you've got to admit this post is pretty damned funny ("Say "NO TO CAPITALISM!" or, BUY OUR SHIRTS! . . .or our, um, pins. . . or this crap. . .")

Update: Matt O (Not Iglesias. My bad, Matt...) at Second Civil War has Diane Feinstein's way too frantic reaction to Mother Cindy's possible Senate challenge. And he makes the very good point that Ms. Sheehan's one issue candidacy is something of an affront to those who have formed, shall we say, more complete views on politics...

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posted by JReid @ 9:37 PM  
Make that Bush 42...
Bush is trowelling around in Nixon territory in the polls. If he can squeeze five poll points out of his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, he still won't crack 47 percent approval (he's at 42 percent now.) ABC News & Wapo combine for the survey. ABC's writeup focuses on the GOP ethics problem, (43 percent of respondents think the level of honesty and ethics has fallen since Bush came into office to "restore honor and integrity to the White House" -- just 24 percent thought the same about Bill Clinton... and Dems are trusted 46 percent to 27 percent over Republicans to "stand up to lobbyists and special interest groups." ... Sorry, Tim Russert, no spinning this one as "bipartisan," though I know you and Katie will do your best to do so anyway, over there at GE...)

Meanwhile, WaPo fixes in on the big, ugly picture for Bush and his party going into the SOTU. On Bush, only 25 percent strongly approve of his job performance, while 42 percent strongly disapprove (overall he's at 42-56). 60 percent disapprove of the situation in Iraq, 57 percent on immigration, it's 51-38 on the downside for the prescription drug plan and 64 percent frown on the deficit. (52 percent are negative on the economy, Larry Kudlow -- see, cause only really rich people can get geeked up about the Dow. The rest of us poor schmucks don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock options...

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posted by JReid @ 2:42 AM  
Hear hear
Sometimes the Times just nails it. This is one of those times.
Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust.
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posted by JReid @ 2:31 AM  
When a televangelist calls
Just in time for Sunday brunch: the Reid Report Juicecast takes on Pat Robertson (just pretend it's Friday...)

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posted by JReid @ 2:19 AM  
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Beetlejuice
Okay, putting aside the rather pathetic fact that I'm watching Book TV on a Saturday night ... Peter Beinart is dismantling Fred "Beetle" Barnes and his ridiculous new book piece by pathetic, Bush-bum-powdering piece. Beinart challenged Barnes on his exceptionally positive book, his failure to interview a single Bush critic from among former Bush staffers or members of the administration, let alone outside the "family," and Barnes' apparent forgetfulness when it comes to the rudiments of journalism. (Beinart: "would you counsel a young journalism student to only interview sources who confirmed the thesis of an article? And wouldn't your arguments be stronger if you tested them against opposing points of view...?" Barnes response: "I ... I ... uh ... I did talk to John Dilulio ... he's a friend of mine ... I know his criticisms of Bush and didn't find them to be particularly weighty...")

Apparently, Barnes had a "thesis" ("it's a short book ... I had a short deadline ... uh ... I didn't think I needed to interview Howard Dean to find out what I think about George Bush ... you little bastard...") and he wasn't out to test it. At all. He is "generally favorably disposed toward the posture of the Bush administration," so he saw no need to write about anything not favorably disposed toward the following adjectives: strong, bold, manly, "hunky ..."

Beinart (and this is while actually giggling, by the way) stunned the poor bastard on his contention in the book that Bush has significantly strengthened America's position in the world, with not a mention of Iran and North Korea's growing nuclear potential and assorted other international disasters that have unfolded under Dubya's watch. (From Barnes, more "uh ... uh ... I didn't think I needed to interview Al Gore about that either ..."

More Barnes gems:

  • He originally wanted to call the book "The insurgent president" ... unfortunately the Iraq totally freaking sucking as a war messed that up...

  • His biggest surprises in doing his "research" for the book: Bush really, really IS in charge! And "he's a reader" -- reads five books for every one Condi Rice does (and two of five those books aren't even about fart jokes! In your face, Bush haters!)

  • The inspiration for the book was a 1,000 word article Barnes wrote for the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Luckily all he needed to add was another 400 words and little hearts over all the i's and it was straight to press!!!

Note to Barnes: Stick to the Fox News circuit. You can be damned sure Hannity will support your book. In fact, your only problem out of him might be an elbow in the gut as he dives over you to grab the presidential knee pads...

Previous Fred Barnes bouquets:
  • Oh God yes, it WAS helpful!

  • Short takes

  • Oh God yes, it WAS helpful!


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    posted by JReid @ 8:28 PM  
    It talks!
    Sweet Jesus, I'm slow! The audio edition of the Reid Report, affectionately known as the Reid Report Juicecast (aka podcast), is finally (fingers crossed) on and popping. This should provide confirmation to all the rightie bloggers I've argued with by blog over the past year that yeah, man, this particular Reid is a girl... 

    You can surf on over to our new little thought experiment (in honor of Mr. CNN, Bill Bennett) here. Like Glenn Beck, we're trying something new. The podcasts are being served by a new company called Juice Wireless, and the product their serving it on is called the Juicecaster. We're still working on getting all the bells and whistles added to the main site and the blog, so this will all makes sense to you eventually...
     
    Playing catch up this week, be sure to check out the belated edition of a weekly feature that's going to add audio to our semi-regular Intelligent Design Fridays posts, featuring our old friend Pat Robertson (previous text only installments here and here ). And of course we'll be PodBlogging and regular blogging the president's State of the Union speech on Tuesday (haven't seen the speech, but I'm thinking it will go something like this: "Osama Osama Osama, terror, terror, TERROR!!!! Boogie men! AAAAAAUGHhh!!!!")
     
    ... and don't forget to look for Mrs. Alito weeping copiously in the special seating section of the congressional rotunda, warming up the seat the Bushies yanked Ahmad Chalabi out of after that unfortunate 16 word incident in 2003... 
     
    Holla! 

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    posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
    Friday, January 27, 2006
    State of the union
    It's piss poor, apparently...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:16 AM  
    WWJPOCRS (What would Jesus put on the cover of Rolling Stone?)
    Nope ... no real reason for putting this up... just like pissing off the Super-Christians ... especially that wacked-out Bill Donohue. I wonder what he's going through ... right ... now...

    ("That... that's not Jesus ... Goddammit where are the blue eyes???? Where's the pasty white skin!!!??? For Chrissakes, Jesus didn't look like some Goddammed jigaboo like this guy West ... what good is he, is he even funny like that Chris Tucker guy from the movies? 'Don't mess with a Black man's radio boy, hehe you gotta love that ... Our lord and savior Jesus Christ looked more like ... like freaking Heath Ledger than this guy... well ... Heath Ledger without the sodomizing ... on the freaking broke back prairie dog mountain ... oh yeah... prairie dogs ... ohhh yeah ... oh CRAP, I think I just busted a blood vessel...")

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    posted by JReid @ 12:04 AM  
    On the burden of governance...
    ...and what it could well do to moderate Hamas and the other Islamist democratic movements around the Mideast. Excellent piece in today's Telegraph. (Hey, the Likud was once the Irgun and Stern Gang -- both of which used terror as a political weapon -- so anything is possible...)

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    posted by JReid @ 12:00 AM  
    Thursday, January 26, 2006
    Five true things

    1. Whatever else you want to say about her, Oprah knows how to do an apology. She comes off as a stand-up gal despite the million little screwup...

    2. George W. Bush needs a thesaurus and a dictionary ... now... (and apparently he's afraid of little old Helen Thomas...)

    3. John Kerry is trying too hard. And his entire soul-crushing PR ineptitude is encapsulated in the following passage:

    Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, is cutting short a trip to Switzerland to fly back to Washington Friday to lead the filibuster effort.

    Mr. Kerry, you have a fascinating back story and clearly you would have done a better job as president than the current clod prince of Pennsylvania Avenue. Now kindly go away.

    4. Actually, there is no honor among thieves...

    5. There's more than one way to skin an investigation...

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

    The prosecutor, Noel L. Hillman, is chief of the department's public integrity division, and the move ends his involvement in an inquiry that has reached into the administration as well as the top ranks of the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.

    The administration said that the appointment was routine and that it would not affect the investigation, but Democrats swiftly questioned the timing of the move and called for a special prosecutor.

    Good luck Dems, you guys are like farm team players going up against the Evil All Stars...

    Tags: , , , , , , , , James Frey, ,

    posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
    The fall and fall of CNN
    First they dumped Aaron Brown so they could further exploit Anderson Cooper ... then they forced us to endure the axis of Kagan, Kyra and Wolf all afternoon, five days a week... then came Glenn Beck and J.C. Watts added to the lineup... now, they're asking us to take the Bookie of Virtues, Bill Bennett, seriously again. I'd call it a gamble on CNN's part, but that would just be too easy... why don't these clowns just bring Pat Robertson and David Duke over to the network and get it over with?

    Flashbacks:

    Tags: , ,

    posted by JReid @ 9:28 PM  
    The 'I miss Aaron Brown' reader
    This guy was good. CNN's brass are a bunch of putzes. Here's the first dispatch I've heard from Aaron Brown since he was unceremoniously ousted from CNN.
    posted by JReid @ 4:00 PM  
    The gang that couldn't GWOT straight
    The U.S. issues a terrorist wanted poster ... with a picture of the wrong guy...

    Tags: , Current Affairs, Terrorism,
    posted by JReid @ 3:55 PM  
    Down with democracy?

    President Bush doesn't like democracy so much today. Bush took questions today on whether the U.S. would deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. He same some stuff about how good it is for people to say "hey, vote for me!" ... (Let's review: it was Washington that pushed the Palestinian Authority to hold elections now, and to allow Hamas to participate. It was also Washington that called off the Israeli hawks to allow Hamas to campaign in East Jerusalem. Both supportable decisions, but decisions the U.S. must now live with, like it or not.) Here's an interesting quote from Dubya today:

    "Well, aren't we surprised at the outcome?" or this, that or the other. If there is corruption, I'm not surprised that people say, "Let's get rid of corruption." If government hadn't been responsive, I'm not the least bit surprised if people say, "I want government to be responsive."

    Glad you feel that way, Mr. President ...

    On the warrantless wiretaps, Bush essentially said "they're legal because I say they're legal" -- and he referred to FISA, not as a law he is duty bound to follow, but as a "tool..." interesting take... Bush also pinned down the origin of the spying program (call it the "prosecute the other guy" gambit):

    Right after September the 11th, I said to the people, "What can we do? Can we do more?" -- the people being the operators, a guy like Mike Hayden -- "Can we do more to protect the people? There's going to be a lot of investigation and a lot of discussion about connecting dots. And we have a responsibility to protect the people, so let's make sure we connect the dots."

    BUSH: And so he came forward with this program. It wasn't designed in the White House. It was designed where you expect it to be designed, in the NSA.

    And he said he ain't showing no stinking Abramoff pictures, because they'd be used in the wrong way by his political foes.

    Best question of the day:

    QUESTION: Your explanation on the monitoring program seems to say that when the nation is at war, the president, by definition, can order measures that might not be acceptable or even perhaps legal in peacetime. And this seems to sound like something President Nixon once said, which was, "When the president does it, then that means that it's not illegal in areas involving national security."

    So how do the two differ?

    See any number of RNC talking points for Bush's answer. Not much different...

    More on the presser from Newsday

    Transcript of the presser from WaPo

    BTW Blogger is down (no surprise there!) so I'm emailing it in, which means no edits. (sigh).

     

    posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
    Holy crap...

    Hamas ... won ...??? outright...???

    hmm...

    Allow me to adjust what I said before. Hamas winning some seats -- even lots of seats -- would have been a tidal wave, and one which would have clearly changed the negotiating posture of the Quartet and the Israelis. This is more like a tsunami. The very real possibility now exists that Hamas will be the only biggest negotiating game in town (The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas (of the Fatah party), is still in power, and will be the big man in the new coalition government, so Fatah still has his voice, plus 43 out of 132 seats in Parliament. Also, turns out the U.S. spent $2 million in USAID money to try and help Abbas' party out, boosting the party founded by the man Bush wouldn't even talk to, Yasser Arafat. Not that it worked, Condi... and now Dr. Rice is scampering around trying to get Europe to bail us out again) And the hope that a Hamas that's heavy with the burden of governing will choose politics over war seems more like an imperative.

    If the Palestinian people are smart, they will keep a firm hand on the mandate they've given to the new guys. The last thing the world needs -- and the Palestinians themselves -- is to have the desperate Palestinian Diaspora looked upon (by more than just the Likudnik Israelis and the neocons in the U.S.) as an Islamist/terrorist state in waiting. Arafat screwed up big time by not taking the deal at Camp David in 2000 (or the second shot at it at Taba in January 2001). And the Fatah crowed blew it by cuddling up to Saddam Hussein. It is now, apparently, Hamas' turn to have a go.

    Here's hoping they get serious about helping their people get a state, renounce the blustery talk and the violence and come to the table.

    Worth a re-read: Ian Black's prescient article in the day-before-the-election Guardian...

    Update: Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian's main negotiator with Israel over the years and whom you frequently see on television as a very coherent spokesman for the Palestinian cause (he's a former journalist, it turns out), won his legislative seat, as did the person I have found the most compelling among the Palestinian leadership over the years, Hanan Ashrawi. Neither of them sounded too hopeful today:

    Fatah legislator Saeb Erekat said the party does not want to join a Hamas government. "We will be a loyal opposition and rebuild the party," Erekat said, after meeting Abbas.

    But Nabil Shaath, another senior Fatah lawmaker, said the party's leadership would make a decision later on Thursday. ...

    ... Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who apparently was re-elected on a moderate platform, said the Hamas victory was a dramatic turning point. She said she is concerned the fighters will now impose their fundamentalist social agenda and lead the Palestinians into international isolation.

    She said Fatah's corruption, Israel's tough measures and international indifference to the plight of the Palestinians were to blame for Hamas's strong showing.

    Some in Hamas were trying to be reassuring:


    "Don't be afraid," Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, told the BBC. "Hamas is a Palestinian movement, it is an aware and mature movement, one which is politically open in the Palestinian arena, and to its Arab and Islamic hinterland, and similarly open to the international arena."

    And clearly, the people who voted for the new guys had one thing on their mind: change.

    For Maher Riyad, 55, owner of an electrical store, Thursday was a day of celebration. He said Hamas worked for the people and not themselves, and this was why he had voted for them.

    "Fatah had opportunity after opportunity, but they squandered them all," said Mr Riyad.

    While some Palestinians are concerned that the Islamic nature of Hamas will lead to greater conservatism in Palestinian society, most seem happy that Fatah has been defeated.

    This morning in Ramallah, it was almost impossible to find someone who had voted for Fatah.

    The party seemed to have been swept from the streets, just as it has been swept from its dominant position in the Palestinian legislature.

    Unfortunately, the history of "people powered" movements not turning into the same old corruption with different faces isn't too good. And earlier hopes that the PA could attract billions in investment are now teetering. God only knows what happens next.

    Update:

    The obligatory Who's who in Hamas (amazing how many of these guys have been Israeli assassination targets...) And a good analysis of the situation from the Times of London. By the way good luck to Israel trying to get the EU to ignore the new Palestinian parliament. Fixing the Balfour mess is a large part of what Britain is all about, and the Germans and other countries are keen to get a settlement as well, I'd guess Hamas or no Hamas, especially if Abbas stays on and tries to form a coalition. If he goes, I guess all bets are off... and Washington hasn't much credibility or sway over there anymore, so I can't see how the Bush administration can improve things. At the least, this election result probably strengthens the extreme right in Israel, and gives the expansionists reason not to negotiate... not good.

    Tags: , , , , ,

    posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
    Now they tell us
    Alberto Gonzales is just doing his job, which in the case of this White House and this attorney general, is to shill for the president even at the expense of your own integrity as an advocate for the rule of law. However, about three years ago, a different odor was emanating from the DOJ:
    White House Dismissed '02 Surveillance Proposal

    By Dan Eggen
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, January 26, 2006; A04

    The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.

    The proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) would have allowed the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants for non-U.S. citizens if they had a "reasonable suspicion" they were connected to terrorism -- a lower standard than the "probable cause" requirement in the statute that governs the warrants.

    The administration has contended that it launched a secret program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency in part because of the time it takes to obtain such secret warrants from federal judges under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

    The wiretapping program, ordered by President Bush in 2001, is used when intelligence agents have a "reasonable basis to believe" that a target is tied to al Qaeda or related groups, according to recent statements by administration officials. It can be used on U.S. citizens as well as foreign nationals, without court oversight.

    Democrats and national security law experts who oppose the NSA program say the Justice Department's opposition to the DeWine legislation seriously undermines arguments by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, who have said the NSA spying is constitutional and that surveillance warrants are often too cumbersome to obtain.

    "It's entirely inconsistent with their current position," said Philip B. Heymann, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration who teaches law at Harvard University. "The only reason to do what they've been doing is because they wanted a lower standard than 'probable cause.' A member of Congress offered that to them, but they turned it down."
    Hmm... does anybody else smell trouble? ...I sure hope Mike DeWine has his retraction ready tomorrow -- either that or that he doesn't have any Vietnam-era medals, cause if he does they're gonna get trashed tomorrow...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:50 AM  
    The Ben Franklin (Mis)reader
    Not content with the singular achievement of having coined the word "Dowdifying," Michelle Malkin labors mightily to prove the intellectual superiority of the pro-COINTELPRO right. Let's see how she does...

    Writes Malkin, apparently a noted authority on Bartlett's Familiar Quotations online Ben Franklin:
    The Ben Franklin quote that has been so misused and abused by the civil liberties absolutists since Sept. 11 originally appeared in 1755:
    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    The version that appears on the Statue of Liberty's pedestal reads:
    They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    The omission of those key qualifiers--"essential" and "little"-- makes all the difference in the world. Ben Franklin has been hijacked to endorse an untenable and deadly view that no sacrifice of any liberty for any amount of safety at any time should ever be made.
    Damn those "civil liberties absolutists!" Don't they know key qualifiers when they see them? All right, Michelle. Why don't you explain to the class what the word "essential" means. Since we're searching the web for pro-Bush gotchas, let's go to Dictionary.com:


    es·sen·tial ( P) Pronunciation Key (-snshl)adj.
    Constituting or being part of the essence of something; inherent.
    Basic or indispensable; necessary: essential ingredients. See Synonyms at indispensable.

    Now then. Which of the liberties promised to all Americans in the Constitution would you describe as "dispensible"? Which amendments do you find "inessential"? The First? The Second? The Fourth? (apparently, that's the one...) And which of the essential, indispensible liberties that gave rise to this great country your parents immigrated to are you willing to lay on the table, so that George Bush can chase the dusky boogeymen out from under your bed?

    Putting aside, of course, that this argument isn't just about liberties -- it's about whether the president of the United States is required to obey a duly written law passed by Congress; one whose constitutionality has not been challenged and which, as far as I know, can't be rendered moot by a terrorist attack or simply shoved aside because it would inconvenience the president and his boy genius of an attorney general (who to be fair, only advocated breaking the really cumbersome laws...) Since no such "liberty" to set aside laws exists in the Constitution, I'm going to go with "yes he is."

    You know? I think the right and I can agree on one thing: the Iraqis have demonstrated that democracy requires courage. The way I read the quote, it means that he who would part with the indispensible liberties that are the natural rights of a free person, for a temporary feeling of security is a fool deserving neither. And a rank coward at that. Maybe that's what the "chicken little" protesters at Georgetown were trying to say.

    Malkin also quotes a fellow traveler who points out gleefully that Benjamin Franklin, to whom Michelle's bombshell corrected quote is attributed, participated in the gathering and dissemination of enemy communications from Britain during the Revolutionary War. Take it away, "reader Jeff T:"

    The misquotation of Franklin in the argument about "domestic wiretapping" strikes me as particularly amusing in light of Franklin's role as one of the premier intelligence agents during the Revolutionary War. The CIA has a nice summary of the intelligence activities undertaken in that war, and no one is so prominent as Franklin, including in covert activities. More to the point here, Franklin was a member of the original committee, appointed by the Continental Congress, to review and publish intercepted communications from England. Hmm, Benjamin Franklin: Domestic Spy! If he meant what the liberals think he meant, we're going to have to change his statues to read "Printer, Inventor, Statesman, Hypocrite"!
    Right, but Jeff forgets to mention the rest of the story:

    The Continental Congress regularly received quantities of intercepted British and Tory mail. On November 20, 1775, it received some intercepted letters from Cork, Ireland, and appointed a committee made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Johnson, Robert Livingston, Edward Rutledge, James Wilson and George Wythe "to select such parts of them as may be proper to publish." The Congress later ordered a thousand copies of the portions selected by the Committee to be printed and distributed. A month later, when another batch of intercepted mail was received, a second committee was appointed to examine it. Based on its report, the Congress resolved that "the contents of the intercepted letters this day read, and the steps which Congress may take in consequence of said intelligence thereby given, be kept secret until further orders." By early 1776, abuses were noted in the practice, and Congress resolved that only the councils or committees of safety of each colony, and their designees, could henceforth open the mail or detain any letters from the post.
    Oh Ben! You guys and your silly Congress making all those rules and regulations and ... laws ...! If you knew what Michelle knew you'd hand those foreign letters over to George W(ashington) to do with as his commander in chief vibe instructs him and just have Scott McClellan brief a couple of Whigs!

    Oh, and by the way, all you scholars on the right: Go back and Google that quote again. It's kind of like "I didn't chop down that cherry tree" -- makes for nice cliches, but the guy never said it. He did say this, though:

    "Who has deceiv'd thee so oft as thy self?"

    Cheerio!

    Related: The Conservative Cat explains that the right to privacy is, like, totally different from liberty ... well OK give him a break, he's a cat... they pretty much just lick themselves and eat dried food. What the hell do they know about the Constitution... Still, anyone up for a "Carnival of the clueless?"

    The Stop the ACLUers quote Thomas Jefferson in the context of the real, 18th century threat of a European invasion of the nascent American republic to make the case that Dubya breaking a few laws is nothing when THE TERRORISTS ARE PREPARING TO TAKE OUR COUNTRY AWAY!!! Who knew there were that many of them and that they were that organized? (Somebody better tell Osama because if he thinks taking over a country of 22 million Arabs is a bitch, wait till the Islamist occupiers get a load of South Central L.A. ... they got guns and stuff over there, man...)

    Tags: , , Politics, FISA, NSA
    posted by JReid @ 12:12 AM  
    Wednesday, January 25, 2006
    Let's play "daffynitions"!
    The White House thinks you need to know the definitions of the words "domestic" and "international" and they're helping you out in today's wonderfully helpful (they hope, in the legal sense...) press release:

    Domestic Calls are calls inside the United States. International Calls are calls either to or from the United States.

    Domestic Flights are flights from one American city to another. International Flights are flights to or from the United States.

    Domestic Mail consists of letters and packages sent within the United States. International Mail consists of letters and packages sent to or from the United States.

    Domestic Commerce involves business within the United States. International Commerce involves business between the United States and other countries.
    Thank you, President Bush's lawyers! Now here's a definition for you!

    Irrelevant is information having nothing to do with the problem at hand.
    You see, Mr. President's lawyers, your problem is the following passage from something thing called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act! And here it is!

    TITLE 50 > CHAPTER 36 > SUBCHAPTER I >
    § 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order":


    (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 [Bushbot cliff notes: that would mean both parties are "international..."]

    (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; [Bushbot cliff notes: that's like an embassy or somethin' like 'at...]

    (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; ...
    Oops! Did they say "to which a United States person is a party????" I think that means neither part is in the United States -- on a phone call that's "domestic" or "international"...

    Well, looks like it's time for another definition!

    Screwed.

    Have a nice day!

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 8:20 PM  
    Sympathy for the devil?
    Aha! A British tabby has caught that dissembling, Iraq-obsessed, lying sack of innuendo shaking hands all cozy-like with the Hussein family -- that's the Saddam Hussein ...! Yep. There he was, giving love to the sonofabitch who forced us to invade his country with his "weapons of mass destruction..." Go get 'im, journos...!


    Um... hang on ... oh dear ... is that Donald Rumsfeld...??? oohhhhhh...

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 6:11 PM  
    Quick take headlines: Bloody 'ell, Harry!
    If Prince Harry's unit goes to Iraq, he's going with them, he says...
    Good Google ... bad Google...
    Oh, lord ... Iran's leaders are writing their own material again...
    Hillary takes Al Gore's broadside and raises it a slap-down... (she also gets low "definites" in a useless poll that doesn't pit her against an opponent...)
    That guy from the first Survivor is an idiot...
    Remember the New Orleans police department? Yeah, they're still screwing up...
    Be honest ... do you really care to see this guy punished?

    Tags: ,
    posted by JReid @ 5:44 PM  
    Um ...
    Michael Jackson is shopping in drag again...

    Tags: , Entertainment, News, Jacko, gossip, Celebrities,
    posted by JReid @ 4:33 PM  
    Finally, some decent entertainment!
    Ascendancy of the guttersnipes: Stewie is getting his own Web-based, late night talk show.

    ... in other entertainment news, did anybody even watch the boring "Book of Daniel?" I didn't even get through the first episode. And what was with that dorky Jesus...? I don't think it was the Christians who killed that show, I think it was God himself... out of sheer boredom.

    Update: ..on the sportstainment front, I'm no hater (okay no, that's a lie, I do hate the Lakers...) but doesn't one guy scoring 81 points in a game mean he never passed the freaking ball? As Danyel at Nakedcartwheels put it, "Basketball is a team sport, and it's the Ws that count the most."

    Tags: , TV, Television, Culture, , Family Guy, Humor,
    posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
    Consider the source -- Bushpeachment edition
    Insight Magazine (the Moonie sister publication of the Moonie Washington Times) is running a piece claiming that the Bushies are hunkering down and preparing for the worst: impeachment hearings over his administration's violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (could that be why they're trying so hard to get the words "domestic spying" out of the public lexicon...?) Makes you say hmmm...

    By the way, from the mother of WaTimes and Insight, UPI, guess who's suing Dubya and Tony Blair...?

    Update: Could aother possibility for holding the president's feet to the fire in the House of Representatives be contempt of congress...? the legal particular here. On the other hand, what makes anybody think the GOP stooges in the House and the just less than total GOP stooges in the Senate would pull the trigger on impeachment at all? Unless... unless they lose big in the mid-terms... if that happens, cue the just less than total Democratic Bush stooges...

    Previous:

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    posted by JReid @ 1:51 PM  
    Les encompetents

    From Harold Meyerson in today's WaPo:

    Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

    In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government's special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, "by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy." At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That's when you'd think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq's reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq -- indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn't require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

    It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.
    I was just having a conversation about this with someone the other day. Can you think of anything -- I mean anything -- that this crowd has done right? I guess Tom Oliphant's upcoming book is going to be right on target: Republicans are damned good at winning elections and piss poor at governing.

    I mean, the Bushies destroyed FEMA, lost New Orleans, and now they won't even help with the inquiry. They put a former mine executive in charge of the agency that regulates mine safety, and religious wing-nuts in charge of all the agencies that help get contraception and AIDS medicines to the Third World.

    This crowd is supposed to excell at "keeping the country safe," but as I recall, they were in power on 9/11. Condi Rice was a disaster as National Security Advisor ("I think it was titled, 'Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States..."). And which one of these geniuses is in charge of preventing the Mexican military and a whole lotta low wage slave laborers from invading our southern border -- with maps...??? With the help of Joe Lieberman, they cobbled together this mess called the Department of Homeland Security that spot checks my 10-year-old daughter at the airport and rescues airline passengers from nose hair clippers. ... The Justice Department under Ashcroft spent most of its time on porn and its major terror prosecutions boil down to a Chicago gang member gone wrong who isn't even a dirty bomber anymore, a couple of dolts in Florida who couldn't pull off their dastardly jihad plot because their credit cards got declined a gun show, pathetic Johnny Walker Lindh and wacked-out Zacarias Moussaoui. Under the current JD, they're justifying torture and focus grouping new names for Nixonian domestic spying. Even their spying is screwball -- targeting animal rights activists, Quakers, and people holding deadly plates of peanut butter sandwiches...

    They chased Richard Clarke, the one guy who knew anything about terrorism, out of their government, elevated the supremely incompetant and deluded neocons to positions of power, put their faith in Ahmad Chalabi, invaded the Middle Eastern country next to the one that's building nuclear weapons, pissed away a millenia of artifacts and antiquities and they can't find Osama bin Laden, even though they claim to know when anyone in America is phoning his al-Qaida underlings (as opposed to dialing their cousin in Dubai to check on the latest Michael Jackson sighting...)

    Yes, I think that counts as incompetence...

    Update: They've also damned near destroyed the Army, and the dimwits seem to be getting their GWOT policy from watching "24" ...

    Update: How many kittens would Dubya have to bludgeon to get any of the above to matter to Republicans? (or, the winger faithful in the Wizbang comment pool practice their love on the president...)

    Tags: , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 12:35 PM  
    The ballot or the bullet
    I've been very open about the fact that I take a very European -- or I suppose African -- attitude toward the Palestinian people: I sympathise with them and have for a long time. I think they, having been on that land since long before the Jewish emigres arrived after World World II (some of the refugees still cling to the deeds to their houses and olive orchards on the other side of the Green Line, probably in vain,) and having been promised to have their rights protected by the British since the Balfour declaration, they deserve to have their state. (What's that old saying about if it's cowboys and Indians, I'm an Indian? ... especially now that cowboys are kinda icky for me ...)

    [Anytime you write or say anything about the Palestinians it's obligatory to say it so I will: those Palestinians who are blowing themselves up in discos and on city buses to advance their "Intifada" or uprising, against the Israeli military occupation and settler land grab, do not deserve the support for any civilized person. What they're doing is sick, and it's counter-productive to their actual political goal. Of course it can also be said that the Palestinians learned some of what they know from the Israelis, who via the Likudesque Irgun, the Stern Gang and other outfits (which included such luminaries as Menachem Begin and Yitzak Shamir) used terrorism to drive the British out of Palestine... but anyway, there it is...]

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see if the right crows about the latest round of ink-stained fingers, this time in the Palestinian territories, where the first elections in ten years just wrapped up. (okay, they're not gonna crow much if Hamas does well...) On the face of it, they seem to be a net plus for the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. It may, however, not be seen as such a plus for Israel, which may be staring down the barrel of a politically powerful Hamas once the votes are counted -- akin to the rise of Hezbollah as a political force in Lebanon, where they are a major party in parliament. the hope would be that having gained both the power and the responsibility of governing, the leaders of Hamas will have better things to do than plan terrorist operations in Israel and will shut down their militants on their own, as Jimmy Carter has called on them to do, even by force. That's the hope -- but then this "democracy on the march" thing hasn't exactly worked out the way the neocons in Washington said it would, has it. And Hamas is as much driven by religion as are the settlers in the West Bank and formerly in Gaza. Still, beyond Islam, their rise to power was also fueled by many of the same things that helped the conservatives in Canada and that could yet help the Dems in the States: the demonstrated corruption of the party in power. Since they are promising to clean things up, they obviously have credibility with many of the Plaestinian people. It won't be easy to ignore them after this vote, or for that matter, to go around blowing up their cars... From Ian Black in today's Guardian:
    In practice, the outcome of tomorrow's election, in which the Islamic Resistance Movement (to use its full name) is thought likely to win 30-40% of the vote, is going to require a subtle diplomatic response - especially as the US has been energetically, if selectively, promoting democracy in the Middle East since the Iraq war. Washington supported Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in his decision to let Hamas run in this contest in the hope that it would be drawn away from violence into politics. The US also ensured that Israel did not sabotage the ballot.

    Assuming that the election does produce a good result for Hamas - and barring surprises that now seems certain - governments will have to think again - hard.

    There are signs the Israelis are edging closer to saying "f-it. We have to make a deal." Ehud Olmert (interim Israeli P.M.) is signaling that Israel needs to start pulling out of the West Bank, finishing the surprising task Ariel Sharon started. His arguments for a smaller but Jewish Israel vs. a larger, mostly Arab (and necessarily apartheidesque) one, sound a lot like those reportedly made by Golda Meir at the start of the Jewish state, as reported in the book How Israel Lost by Richard Ben Cramer (a book given to me by my pal at my former station, who was a bureau chief in Israel -- he disagrees with most of what's in the book, though...)

    And if the Palestinians can lure anything close to the $5 billion in new investment they are seeking from investors at an upcoming financial conference, they will be on their way to making the critical choice to focus on nation-building, rather than eternal war. What's key about the investment push is that it focuses on fellow Arabs, and on the Palestinian Diaspora outside the territories. That way, the new nation, once it happens, will feel more independent.

    Who knows, maybe this democracy thing could work out after all, ironically, in the one place in the Middle East the U.S. has mostly ignored for the last five years. You don't have to be a Mideast expert to realize that if you want to reduce terrorism in that part of the world, solving the "Palestinian problem" will get you a lot closer to Nirvana than invading and occupying an Arab, Asiatic (or a Persian...) country. ...

    Interesting reading:

    A detailed history of the Balfour declaration, from Mideast Web

    Tags: , , Politics, Democracy, ,
    posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
    Tuesday, January 24, 2006
    Oh, loathesome me
    Yes, yes, Michelle "The Internmenator" Malkin was number 49, beating out Geraldo and his horrible mustache (Malkin is slammed as "...a curious case of racial Stockholm syndrome with a palpable lust for violent ideological oppression and displays of imperial power" and sentenced to be "detained indefinitely without charge and waterboarded hourly for looking at a cop “all slanty-like.”) But that's not even close to the best of what's in the Buffalo Beast's annual ranking of the 50 most loathesome people in America. Read it, love it, savor it. They even dis my girl Hillary, but it's all good...

    Tags: , ,
    posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
    Torture, International
    It's semi-official:
    It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the ''rendition'' of more than a hundred persons affecting Europe, according to Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, whose interim assessment was made public today in an information memorandum. Citing statements made by American officials and others, Mr Marty also said there was ''a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture''. He welcomed the arrival yesterday of detailed information he had requested from Eurocontrol and the EU's Satellite Agency. At the opening of the debate this morning, Dick Marty expressed his concern at the pressure put on the media in the United States not to report on this affair. ''Our aim is to find out the truth that is being hidden from us today'', he said.
    Read the memo for yourself here.

    Tags: , ,
    posted by JReid @ 2:51 PM  
    Where attitudinal sista girls and hormonal teens with no acne come together
    Oh no they didn't! The new CW network (is that pronounced "cwah...?") makes UPN and The WB obsolute, girlfriend! Ohmigod, does this like mean Britney and K-Fed are getting renewed, or just that Brandy's brother is getting his own show. Tell me tell me tell me, I'm like, so interested!!!

    Tags: ,
    posted by JReid @ 2:44 PM  
    Wolfowitz off to a rough start at the World Bank
    ...He gets poor marks from the career staff and from the Financial Times...

    Tags: , , World Bank
    posted by JReid @ 2:39 PM  
    Right and wrong
    In his LAT column today, Joel Stein makes some coherent points about the guilty, knee-jerk reaction that kicks in for so many Americans who oppose the Iraq war (particularly given the successful Republican effort to equate any dissent from the war with unpatriotic tendencies):

    Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

    Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

    The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.

    I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

    After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
    But then he goes on to offer a wholly unsupportable case against those same Laguna Beach peep show-needed jarheads, because, as he says, he doesn't support the war, so saying he supports the troops is downright "wussy" ...

    The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

    I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

    But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

    And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany.
    Ineffecient...? So people in the military who don't support the policy of their civilian leadership -- which is their boss, by the way -- should simply make the moral choice on the battlefield not to fight? Otherwise they're serving as "willing tools of American imperialism?" That makes about as much sense as telling cops who don't like the new mayor to ignore those dispatch calls (aren't they really just dispatches from the Enemy?) or telling firefighters to hold the hoses in objection to the administration's policies on clean water. Except in the case of clearly illegal orders -- to commit genocide or torture -- soldiers have to follow orders. [That's why the Abu Ghraib grunts are in prison (and why the officers in charge of them, and the Pentagon wackos in the Office of Special Plans should be).]

    Dude, soldiers don't make policy. They make war. They serve administrations they like, and president's they don't like so much, and they do their jobs for Democrats or Republicans, regardless of their own party affiliation. And let's get real for a second -- most of these guys weren't "tricked" into fighting in Iraq. If you talk to them, most will give you the gung ho line in support of the war. Almost to a man. It can be maddening, but it's also reality. I'd guess that most of the guys in uniform over there believe in the mission, maybe because of partisan politics or perhaps because they listen to too much Rush Limbaugh, but more likely because they believe in themselves and each other -- whatever the odds, in Somalia or in Iraq or wherever they are, soldiers will tell you that they believe that if you give them the time and the tools, they can get it done. Personally, I can't help but admire their determination.

    Those in the military who don't support the war -- and there are more of them are out there han the right wants you to know -- will often still say they want to stay in the fight, in order to support their brothers who are over there. And then there are those who just want out. Fortunately, they have several means of registering their objections to administration policy: they can resign their commissions (or try to) and they can publicly criticize the policy from the outside (as Anthony Zinni, Mr. Shinseki, the guys from Operation Truth and others have). (They can't blog, or criticize from inside, or they can get in real trouble...) They can raise collective objections to specific policies or missions (though there are consequences to that if they're still in uniform) or try collective action to avoid serial service, as some Guardsmen have done regarding stop-loss. Would-be recruits who object to Bush's foreign policy can choose not to enlist (or re-enlist) while this crowd is in power, as many have. And they can vote for the other party in the next election (assuming their votes are counted and not tampered with, of course...) Stein should have pointed out some of those options, rather than throwing out his flippant and unexplicated call to "just say no."

    And why no parades? These guys are going through hell over there in the 130 degree heat, with no decent leadership or strategizing in Washington, not enough healthcare and other resources when they get home, not enough pay while their protecting $1,000-a-day Halliburton contractors, and not enough body armour. When they get home, assuming they come home alive and in one piece, they've got to live with the images in their heads -- the cheating death every minute, being wary of women and children at checkpoints, the shooting people and seeing their friends blown up -- for the rest of their lives. You're damned right they deserve a parade. Those who oppose the war certainly don't have to attend if they don't want to, but they shouldn't object to the idea. And if that makes me a wussie who objects to the war but supports the troops, roll me out some ticker tape and a bumper sticker. (HT to Dr. Rusty at Jawa, even though we don't entirely agree... and as for Ms. Malkin -- sorry, lady, but you are pretty loathesome... I don't know if you can hold a candle to Geraldo, but then, who can...)

    Tags: , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 12:56 PM  
    Who's blowing stuff up in Iran (and who's thinking about it)?
    From Bloomberg a couple hours ago:

    Two bombs killed at least six people and wounded 35 others in the oil-rich Iranian city of Ahvaz in Khuzestan province, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to give a speech today.

    Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi said those responsible for the ``terrorist'' acts were trained ``outside'' Iran's borders. One explosion occurred in a bank in Kianpour district in the southwestern city, and the other in Manabe Tabiee, state television said. Ahvaz is near the Iraqi border.

    President Ahmadinejad canceled his visit to Ahvaz because of bad weather, his press office said. The bombs didn't explode at the location where he was due to speak, the office said.

    Iran holds the world's second-largest oil reserves and is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Khuzestan, its largest oil-producing province, has witnessed unrest in recent months that the government attributes to ethnic Arab separatists. Arabs, who make up the majority in Ahvaz, account for 3 percent of Iran's population.

    Most of Iran's crude oil reserves are in Khuzestan, which is located close to the border with Iraq and to the Persian Gulf. The province is also home to two of the country's largest undeveloped oil fields -- the Azadegan and Yadavaran deposits.

    A story in the Jerusalem Post quotes Iran's official news agency as describing the city of Ahvaz as " a city in southwestern Iran with a history of violence involving members of Iran's Arab minority" and it adds:

    Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said the attacks were related to last year's bombings in the city and were foreign inspired.

    "Today's explosions are a continuation of the same indiscriminate attacks directed from outside the country," IRNA quoted Pourmohammadi as saying.
    And according to GlobalSecurity.org:
    Ahvaz, capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, has been the scene of intermittent unrest among the predominantly Persian country's Arab minority.

    A major bombing in the city in October that authorities blamed on Britain and on ethnic Arabs killed several people and injured scores.

    A local journalist in Ahvaz, Mojtaba Gahestuni, suggested to Radio Farda that today's explosions resembled blasts that killed more than a dozen people and wounded more than 100 in the same city in June and October. Gahestuni noted that in each case an initial blast was followed shortly thereafter by a second explosion, and that the attacks took place in crowded parts of the city.
    There were also 'splosions at the Nigerian offices of a large Italian oil company called Agip. In that case:
    It is unclear if robbery was the sole motive for this latest attack, but it comes just days after militants who have kidnapped four foreign oil workers and attacked a Shell oil platform said they were preparing to carry out more raids.

    The rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, says it wants a share of the Niger Delta region's enormous oil wealth, and is demanding the release of two local leaders.
    Meanwhile, Iran is planning to hold a Holocaust skeptics conference, and threatening to ramp up its nuclear enrichment program to industrial levels if it is referred to the U.N. Security Council, while the U.S. is making threatening noises of its own, while officially saying it hopes to avoid confrontation with Ahamadinejad and Co. ... Gotta love this quote from Dubya:
    "I'm concerned about a non-transparent society's desire to develop a nuclear weapon. The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon," Bush said during a speech in Manhattan, Kansas.
    Yeah buddy, you oughta know about non-transparency...

    Must-reads: this piece on the est's impossible choices on Iran by Christopher Dickey, and this one by Fareed Zakaria.

    And last but not least, this new and stunningly rational assessment of the Iran-Israel axis of conflict:
    Notwithstanding the United States' overwhelming military superiority and the asymmetry of warfighting capabilities between Iran and the US, it makes perfect sense, strategically speaking, for Iran to resort to the remedial targeting of Israel, the United States' strategic partner in the region.

    In other words, Iran's current expressions of hostilities toward Israel are better understood from the prism of the US and Iran and how Tehran benefits in its incessant search for regional allies to offset US power. This it does through its anti-Israel posturing, using threats against Israel as the United States' Achilles' heel.

    This brings us to the notion that Tehran's road to Washington, that is detente between the two countries, goes through Tel Aviv, and that Iran's cessation of hostilities toward Israel is the sine qua non for Washington's willingness to normalize ties with Tehran.

    This is wrong, and the sooner US politicians realize it the better. Iran's US policy goes first: its Israel policy is a component of this. Put simply, Tehran's road to Washington does not travel through Jerusalem; rather, indulging in metaphors for a moment, it is a straight highway with several exit lanes, one of which is Israel.

    Consequently, should a war break out between Iran and Israel in the (near) future, retrospectively it will most likely be interpreted by future historians as yet another example of how misperceptions cause war. Robert Jervis, in his important book Perception and Misperception in International Politics, has aptly detailed how the 1967 war was instigated by an Israeli misperception of the intentions of Egypt's leader, Gemal Abdul Nasser, who was vilified then as an "Arab Hitler" out to destroy Israel.

    It turns out that Nasser's fiery anti-Zionist rhetoric was mostly for domestic consumption and his decision to remove the United Nations buffer forces from the Sinai and the like were not in preparation for war but simply maneuvers meant to bolster Syria's position.

    Sadly, it appears that the same misperceptions are sowing the seeds of yet another bloody conflict in the Middle East, and one only hopes that learning from the past can make a difference, much as it is currently difficult to distinguish facts from misperceptions, public postures from policies and intentions.
    Read the rest here.

    From the vault:
    Tags: , News, Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Israel, ,
    posted by JReid @ 11:43 AM  
    Gone fishin'
    Let me get this straight... Antonin Scalia objected to Oregon's assisted suicide law based in part on the federal government's use of its powers to protect "public morality..." something he considers himself an arbiter of ... but not only did he skip John Roberts' swearing in to the Supreme Court, he did so in order to indulge in an all expense paid jaunt to an exclusive resort, where he plaid a spot of tennis and also did some fly fishing? I mean I know you were pissed you didn't get the job, but daaaamn...! (Kind of makes the NASCAR jacket and expensive Bible Clarence Thomas got look like the affirmative action schwag...)

    Tags: , Politics, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, ,
    posted by JReid @ 1:27 AM  
    Short takes
    Ford is apparently trading some 30,000 of its U.S. workers for magic beans...

    The U.S. illegally transported terror suspects overseas to be tortured, an EU report finds. Okay refresh my memory... what are we trying to change about the Middle East again...?

    Conservative Paul Craig Roberts takes the notion of Diebold-delivered elections dead seriously (as should we all...)

    Okay, so P.C. silliness has gone too far. You mean the "American Idol" judges can't comment on a contestant not being masculine enough to be marketable? Aye, dios mio!

    Yahoo! and MSN try to clean up the P.R. from their cooperation with Big Brother in handing over search data. (Stay strong, Google!)

    Apparently the Russians and British as spying on each other, and doing it quite badly...

    ...and according to Drudge, Dubya is so far declining to get on the Brokeback bandwagon. Ya think???

    Tags: , , , , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 12:51 AM  
    The Department of Useless Information
    WaPo has the scoop on early warnings received in the White House situation room about just how bad Hurricane Katrina could get. The scoop is by future NSA wiretap target Joby Warrick:
    In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

    A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

    The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

    In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse. ...

    ...The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration's foreknowledge about Katrina's potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
    Not doing a goddamned thing with important information when it could do some good? Priceless.
    Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Politics, hurricane,
    posted by JReid @ 12:28 AM  
    Thou shalt not covet (Canada)
    Do you think it's true that the things we say we hate the most and the things we most covet are very often one and the same? If it is true, it would explain the American right's captivation with the giddy thought of "turning" Canada... (one they share with their Tory brethren in the UK...) So what hath Canada wrought? According to an analyst in the Toronto Star:
    In their collective wisdom, Canadian voters struck a cautious balance between determination to separate the Liberals from power and concerns about what the Conservatives would do with it. The result is a surprisingly weak Stephen Harper Conservative minority government with an uncertain future.

    Putting an end to 13 years of what often felt like one-party rule, Canadians streamed to the polls on an unusually mild winter day first to toss out tired and tainted Liberals and then to impose onerous conditions on the Conservatives and their 46-year-old leader.

    They gave the Liberals and the resurgent NDP the strength to defeat this minority, a fascinating dynamic that pushes the Bloc Quebecois toward the sidelines and should make Canadians breathe easier about any real or imagined neo-conservative threat to social values.
    I'm not sure whether that means the righties won or lost... But one thing's for sure -- call it aloneness in the increasingly leftist, Cuba and China-centric, anti-Bush hemisphere (or hell, the whole world except for Tony Blair...) or just an extreme case of right wing paranoia, but I think the conservatives are lonely, and trolling for an international friend...

    It's all rather sweet, really...

    Tags: , Politics, News,
    posted by JReid @ 12:03 AM  
    Monday, January 23, 2006
    Oh God yes, it WAS helpful!
    Michelle Malkin inadvertently uncovers the best book review ever, this one disrobing Fred "Beatle" Barnes' doe-eyed, romantic new book on Bush (otherwise known as "Brokeback Pundit...") Here 'tis:
    29 of 43 people found the following review helpful:
    They didn't have a zero star rating., January 22, 2006
    Reviewer: OGould - See all my reviews

    I completely recommend this book if you like being underwhelmed, or if you want to be whipped into a catatonic stupor. If you must read it, get it from the library so you won't feel like you did when you bought the Ding King from the TV commercial. (As for the writing style, I'm not sure our president can push a subject against a predicate, at gunpoint.) If this was written by a ghostwriter, he or she should be taken out and shot.

    Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this)
    Mr. (or Ms.) OGould, mark me down as number 30 of 44. Your review was indeed most helpful.

    BTW, are Captain Ed and Michelle Malkin the same person...? It sure would explain a lot...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:41 PM  
    The dirty water defense
    So Newsweek's lead blue dress chaser Michael Isikoff (finally putting his talents to good use, apparently) is reporting that the Department of Defense has been conducting its own domestic spying program that even some insiders are saying has gone too far. The program, called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or "CIFA," was supposed to be a top secret national security program aimed at protecting defense facilities. But apparently it also targeted anti-war, anti war profiteering protesters, including a small group that last summer was handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton's corporate headquarters in Houston as a protest against the company's gouging of the U.S. military for food for the troops in Iraq. Writes Isikoff:
    ...To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.

    A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention—although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. ...
    And the right wonders why so many Americans are suspicious of Bush's Nixonian no-warrant spy activities at the NSA. Key question: who is it that one would want to wiretap who was supposedly talking to al-Qaida, but whom the Bushies would have to worry the FISA court wouldn't give NSA a warrant for? Because if it's al-Qaida on the line, wouldn't they get a warrant in a New York minute?

    Bush bots, grow up. If you really have such innocent, childlike trust that your beloved president wouldn't dare use warrantless spying on political enemies, diplomats (we've already bugged U.N. Security Council members, remember?) or even members of Congress... you really need a nanny.

    Oh yeah, and this one hits close to home:
    Four months later, on Oct. 25, the TALON team reported another possible threat to national security. The source: a Miami antiwar Web page. "Website advertises protest planned at local military recruitment facility," the internal report warns. The database entry refers to plans by a south Florida group called the Broward Anti-War Coalition to protest outside a strip-mall recruiting office in Lauderhill, Fla. The TALON entry lists the upcoming protest as a "credible" threat. As it turned out, the entire event consisted of 15 to 20 activists waving a giant BUSH LIED sign. No one was arrested. "It's very interesting that the U.S. military sees a domestic peace group as a threat," says Paul Lefrak, a librarian who organized the protest.
    I remember that strip mall recruiting office. It was near where our headquarters were for the Dem 527 I worked for was located. The office is located in a part of Lauderhill that's almost entirely Black and heavily West Indian, lower middle class to middle class. Just what recruiters are looking for... I've got to tell you it's about as much a hotbed of al-Qaida activity as the family kitchen in "Soul Food." But then, I'm not a super secret DoD analyst or NSA "expert..."

    ... Meanwhile, what has Halliburton -- the "military-like entity" DoD was spying so hard to protect -- been doing with all that extra security (when they're not bilking Congress and the DoD, overcharging for gasoline in a country with 15 percent of the world's crude supply, trading with enemies of the United States or bribing the Nigerians? Why, they've been busy piping dirty, contaminated water to our men and women in uniform in Iraq. (The MSM is just catching up -- that story actually broke last September on the advocacy site HalliburtonWatch...)

    The Republican circle of life continues.

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    posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
    The stink grows at Justice
    Think there's any politics going on at the Justice Department's voting rights division? Nah...
    The Justice Department's voting section, a small and usually obscure unit that enforces the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws, has been thrust into the center of a growing debate over recent departures and controversial decisions in the Civil Rights Division as a whole.

    Many current and former lawyers in the section charge that senior officials have exerted undue political influence in many of the sensitive voting-rights cases the unit handles. Most of the department's major voting-related actions over the past five years have been beneficial to the GOP, they say, including two in Georgia, one in Mississippi and a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) in 2003.

    The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section's decisions on hiring and policy.

    "If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost," former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: "The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this." ...

    ... The 2005 Georgia case has been particularly controversial within the section. Staff members complain that higher-ranking Justice officials ignored serious problems with data supplied by the state in approving the plan, which would have required voters to carry photo identification.

    Georgia provided Justice with information on Aug. 26 suggesting that tens of thousands of voters may not have driver's licenses or other identification required to vote, according to officials and records. That added to the concerns of a team of voting-section employees who had concluded that the Georgia plan would hurt black voters.

    But higher-ranking officials disagreed, and approved the plan later that day. They said that as many as 200,000 of those without ID cards were felons and illegal immigrants and that they would not be eligible to vote anyway.

    One of the officials involved in the decision was Hans von Spakovsky, a former head of the Fulton County GOP in Atlanta, who had long advocated a voter-identification law for the state and oversaw many voting issues at Justice. Justice spokesman Eric W. Holland said von Spakovsky's previous activities did not require a recusal and had no impact on his actions in the Georgia case.

    Holland denied a request to interview von Spakovsky, saying that department policy "does not authorize the media to conduct interviews with staff attorneys." Von Spakovsky has since been named to the Federal Election Commission in a recess appointment by President Bush.
    Al Gonzalez, you're doing one heck of a job...

    Tags: , Politics, Elections, Republicans,
    posted by JReid @ 11:41 AM  
    Built Ford crappy
    Part of the cruel calculus of capitalism is that some companies fail because of bad luck, and others fail because they deserve to. Ford, in my opinion, is one of the latter. The company is jettisoning another 30,000 American jobs as part of an Orwellian-titled "way forward" plan aimed at stemming the losses from the poor decision-making, vapid car design, failure to keep up with technological advancements (clean fuel cars anyone?) and the losses and embarrassments from recall-tainted crap on wheels they've been hawking for more than a decade. (Am I biased? Yep. I've owned a Ford (Expedition) -- one of the recalled ones the company threw together but refuses to take responsibility for now that it's scrap metal...)

    Bottom line: Ford's cars are junk, their management are fools and they deserve to go out of business, in pure capitalist style. I'm just sorry for their workers, who should by no means be shown the door before their worthless managers and executives are. But if Ford goes the way of the Edsel and is replaced by a smarter, better U.S. car-maker (maybe the Apple Computer or Jet Blue of the auto industry is just waiting to be born in the dorm room of some whiz kid car designer? One can only hope so, and that the Bush feds won't swoop in to rescue Ford so it can buy up the new guy before he beats the crap out of them...) then in the end, U.S. consumers will be the winners.

    Tags: , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 11:24 AM  
    George and Jack and Scott and uh-oh...
    From Sunday's Time online:

    "Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff's visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few "staff-level meetings" that were not worth describing further. "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him," McClellan said.

    The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s. ...

    ... Abramoff was once in better graces at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, having raised at least $100,000 for the President's re-election campaign. During 2001 and 2002, his support for Republicans and connections to the White House won him invitations to Hanukkah receptions, each attended by 400 to 500 people. McClellan has said Abramoff may have been present at "other widely attended" events. He was also admitted to the White House complex for meetings with several staff members, including one with presidential senior adviser Karl Rove, one of the most coveted invitations in Washington.

    Michael Scanlon, who is Abramoff's former partner and has pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a Congressman, in 2001 told the New Times of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that Abramoff had "a relationship" with the President. "He doesn't have a bat phone or anything, but if he wanted an appointment, he would have one," Scanlon said.

    And by the way, one of the tribal leaders apparently pictured with Jack 'n Dubya at a meet and greet set up by Abramoff and Grover Norquist: he's under indictment for embezzling $200,000 from his tribe. Oh, the company you keep...



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    posted by JReid @ 11:14 AM  
    Friday, January 20, 2006
    A thousand little book sales
    Looks like Osama bin Laden has a potentially lucrative sideline on afternoon TV, turning barely noticed manuscripts into best-sellers. Case in point, the book Bin Laden mentioned in his ten-minute "proof of life" diatribe released yesterday. ... And he didn't even have to negotiate syndication rights with King World...

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    posted by JReid @ 2:46 PM  
    A message from Jack Abramoff's dad
    You're glib, Clooney ... glib... and there's more!

    In a telephone interview with The Desert Sun this morning, Frank Abramoff said Clooney was “an idiot” and described the actions as “pure, unadulterated stupidity.”

    “You want to make fun. You can do that, but you don't make fun of someone else's hardships and misery,” the 78-year-old Abramoff said. “We’ve gone through quite a bit in our family. But the political end of it and the media end of it and all the other areas are one thing. When you see something like that on a show for 500 million people, it was not only a slap in my son’s face but in my father’s.”
    Yes, hardships and misery ... like getting busted for stealing $20 million from Indian tribes and shaking down Washington with Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay riding shotgun. Poor Jack...

    Update: BTW dad, looks like little Jack-off was at those White House meetings after all...

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    posted by JReid @ 2:30 PM  
    From AIPAC to Iran in three indictments
    Former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for spying -- passing classified information to an Israeli diplomat and to members of AIPAC (who then allegedly routed the information to the Israelis as well). So why should anyone care about the indictment of a sole administration official caught "helping" our ally, Israel?

    First, recall that Franklin was the "Israeli mole in the office of Douglas Feith" -- the fiercely Likudnik neoconservative who served under Stephen Cambone and Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (Feith was undersecretary for policy, Cambone for intelligence, before Feith stepped down last year). The information Franklin passed on to the Israelis and AIPAC was about Iran, likely the next target on the U.S. neoconservative military hit list. According to the American Prospect (same link as "Israeli mole..." above):


    ... a September 1 report by NBC speculated that the reason the Israelis may have broken their declared post-Pollard policy of not spying on the United States is because of Israel’s preeminent concern about Iran’s nuclear program, and its view that the United States may not be prepared to act assertively enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

    The Post piece seems to imply that Franklin is more of an anti-Tehran zealot than anything else and wasn’t engaging in espionage per se. But as the Post article and the June meeting between Green and the FBI seem to indicate, the FBI is looking into the possibility there's been communication between Israeli elements and U.S. officials, including several who work for Feith and have access to sensitive intelligence on Iran and its nuclear program.
    The Green is Stephen Green, a former candidate for Congress and an expert on U.S.-Israeli releations (and Israeli spying) who was swept up into the FBI investigation into said mole. The FBI didn't seem all that interested in Franklin, though:


    Green, as the FBI agents knew, had a special expertise in the field of Israeli espionage in the United States. In the 1980s, he had taken time off from his job at the UN to look into the U.S.–Israeli "special relationship." He spent years combing through public records, filing and litigating Freedom of Information Act requests, and tracking down current and retired government officials. He eventually wrote two books, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations With Israel and Living By The Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East. The Times of London and Foreign Affairs commended his work, describing it as "praised by those who believe the United States has damaged its own security, and Israel's too, by uncritical and often secret support of Israel's actions, no matter how extreme." Yet, as Foreign Affairs reported, Green's work also caused "sputter[ing] with indignation" among "those who believe… that American and Israeli interests are identical."

    Green returned to the UN in 1990 and followed the subject from there. Earlier this year, he published a piece in the newsletter CounterPunch, recapping previously reported -- though long-forgotten -- government investigations of prominent neoconservatives for their suspected espionage or improper information-sharing with Israel. And that's where the FBI comes in.

    According to the FBI agents who contacted Green, as he recounts, the article had come to their attention when one of Green’s sources -- a retired national security official they were interviewing -- shared it with them.

    And so on June 22, Green found himself sitting across an oval-shaped conference table from two FBI agents at an undisclosed northern Virginia venue. The meeting lasted nearly four hours.

    "They were extraordinarily well-informed; it was apparent they've been at this for awhile," Green says. "I asked them if there was a current reason for them asking questions about things that go back over 30 years, and they sort of looked at each other and said, 'Yes, it's a present issue,' but wouldn't say specifically what. Though they did ask very specific questions about one individual in particular."

    Green said the agents asked about several current or former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and Stephen Bryen.
    "The tenor of their questions was such that it defined where these people were in terms of the nature of their focus," Green says. "They also asked about a couple other Office of Special Plans people, including Harold Rhode. Ironically, about the only name that didn't come up was Larry Franklin."
    AIPAC has been under FBI investigation since 1999, and two of its former officials are dangling over the legal precipice too (while AIPAC for now refuses to pay their legal bills.) But these three indictments aren't the end of the story. What's interesting is where the investigation could lead:


    First, the indictment says that from "about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004" Franklin, Rosen and Weissman "did unlawfully, knowingly and willfully conspire" in criminal activity against the United States. So far, no one has explained what triggered an investigation that began more than six years ago. But it reveals how long the three indicted conspirators and "others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury," engaged in such criminal activity. In any case, what appeared at first to be a brief dalliance between Franklin and the two AIPAC officials now—according to the latest indictment, at least—spans more than five years and involves at least several other individuals, at least some of whom are known to the investigation. What triggered the investigation in 1999, and how much information has FBI surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative efforts collected?

    Second, the indictment makes it absolutely clear that the investigation was aimed at AIPAC, not at Franklin. The document charges that Rosen and Weissman met repeatedly with officials from a foreign government (Israel, though not named in the indictment) beginning in 1999, to provide them with classified information. In other words, the FBI was looking into the Israel lobby, not Franklin and the Defense Department, at the start, and Franklin was simply caught up in the net when he made contact with the AIPACers. Rosen and Weissman were observed making illicit contact with several other U.S. officials between 1999 and 2004, although those officials are left unnamed (and unindicted). Might there be more to come? Who are these officials, cited merely as United States Government Official 1, USGO 2, etc.?

    Third, Franklin was introduced to Rosen-Weissman when the two AIPACers "called a Department of Defense employee (DOD employee A) at the Pentagon and asked for the name of someone in OSD ISA [Office of the Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs] with an expertise on Iran" and got Franklin's name. Who was "DOD employee A"? Was it Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy? Harold Rhode, the ghost-like neocon official who helped Feith assemble the secretive Office of Special Plans, where Franklin worked? The indictment doesn't say. But this reporter observed Franklin, Rhode and Michael Rubin, a former AEI official who served in the Pentagon during this period and then returned to AEI, sitting together side by side, often in the front row, at American Enterprise Institute meetings during 2002-2003. Later in the indictment, we learn that Franklin, Rosen and Weissman hobnobbed with "DOD employee B," too.

    Fourth, Rosen and Weissman told Franklin that they would try to get him a job at the White House, on the National Security Council staff. Who did they talk to at the White House, if they followed through? What happened?

    Fifth, the charging document refers to "Foreign Official 1," also known as FO-1, obviously referring to an Israeli embassy official or an Israeli intelligence officer. It also refers later to FO-2, FO-3, etc., meaning that other Israeli officials were involved as well. How many Israeli officials are implicated in this, and who are they?

    Sixth, was AEI itself involved? The indictment says that "on or about March 13, 2003, Rosen disclosed to a senior fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank the information relating to the classified draft internal policy document" about Iran. The indictment says that the think tank official agreed "to follow up and see what he could do." Which think tank, and who was involved?

    The indictment is rich with other detail, including specific instances in which the indicted parties lied to the FBI about their activities. It describes how Franklin eventually set up a regular liaison with an Israeli official ("FO-3") and met him in Virginia "and elsewhere" to communicate U.S. secrets.
    Who are these "other officials", described in the above article as "nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well"? Maybe after they finish suing AIPAC over their unpaid legal bills and the organization's unceremonious snubbing of them (who are those guys? Never heard of them...) Rosen and Weissman will be mad enough to start spilling their guts... They have already claimed that they shared the allegedly classified data with their boss at AIPAC, and are arguing that their activities were common practice at the lobby, as were high level contacts with the likes of Feith and (surprise, surprise) Michael Ledeen, with whom the rhetorical case for war with Iraq was shaped and who may now be linked to the Italian newspaper that first proffered the Niger forgeries. (Franklin, once he was caught, allegedly helped the FBI set up a sting against AIPAC, and his calls a number of pro-Chalabi types in Washington, as well as with CBS News reporters, were monitored. One of the monitored calls was allegedly with Richard Perle...)

    According to the French news entity Petras:

    In August 2004, the FBI and the US Justice Department counter-intelligence bureau announced that they were investigating a top Pentagon analyst suspected of spying for Israel and handing over highly confidential documents on US policy toward Iran to AIPAC which in turn handed them over to the Israeli Embassy. The FBI had been covertly investigating senior Pentagon analyst, Larry Franklin and AIPAC leaders, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman for several years prior to their indictment for spying. On August 29, 2005 the Israeli Embassy predictably hotly denied the spy allegation. On the same day Larry Franklin was publicly named as a spy suspect. Franklin worked closely with Michael Ledeen and Douglas Feith, then Undersecretary for Defense in the Pentagon, in fabricating the case for war with Iraq. Franklin was the senior analyst on Iran, which is at the top of AIPAC’s list of targets for war.

    As the investigation proceeded toward formal charges of espionage, the pro-Israeli think tanks and ‘Zioncon’ ideologues joined in a two-prong response. On the one hand some questioned whether “handing over documents” was a crime at all, claiming it involved “routine exchanges of ideas” and lobbying. On the other hand, Israeli officials and media denied any Israeli connection with Franklin, minimizing his importance in policy-making circles, while others vouched for his integrity.

    The FBI investigation of the Washington spy network deepened and included the interrogation of two senior members of Feith’s Office of Special Plans, William Luti and Harold Rhode. The OSP was responsible for feeding bogus intelligence leading to the US attack of Iraq. The leading FBI investigator, Dave Szady, stated that the FBI investigation involved wiretaps, undercover surveillance and photography that document the passing of classified information from Franklin to the men at AIPAC and on to the Israelis.

    The Franklin-AIPAC-Israeli investigation was more than a spy case, it involved the future of US-Middle East relations and more specifically whether the ‘Zioncons’ would be able to push the US into a military confrontation with Iran. Franklin was a top Pentagon analyst on Iran, with access to all the executive branch deliberations on Iran. AIPAC lobbying and information gathering was aggressively directed toward pushing the Israeli agenda on a US-Iranian confrontation against strong opposition in the State Department, CIA, military intelligence and field commanders.

    Franklin’s arrest on May 4, 2005 and the subsequent arrest of AIPAC foreign policy research director Steve Rosen and Iran specialist and deputy director for foreign policy, Keith Weissman on August 4, 2005 was a direct blow to the Israeli-AIPAC war agenda for the US. The FBI investigation proceeded with caution accumulating detailed intelligence over several years. Prudence was dictated by the tremendous political influence that AIPAC and its allies among the Conference of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations wield in Congress, the media and among Fundamentalist Christians and which could be brought to bear when the accused spies were brought to trial.
    At the time Rosen and Weissman were first being investigated, Congressman John Conyers was calling for a larger probe into whether their outfit passed classified information to opponents of Saddam Hussein, including Ahmad Chalabi, to help spur on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Such an investigation should happen (though it probably won't, since both parties are beholden to AIPAC, as is much of the press -- right Wolf Blitzer...?) before the same crew pushes us into war with Iran.

    Related: The Franklin-APIC spy case

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    posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
    Friday short takes
    The WaPo pulls one of its blogs after the ombudsman pisses off savvy Democrats (she should start reading blogs, in which case she would have been hip to the Abramoff gave only to Republicans thing)...

    Who are all these people going to see Brokeback Mountain? I'm sorry I just don't get it -- it's not a family film... I'd think teenagers would rather see cowboys dealing with a whole different kind of six-shooter ... no straight guy is gonna be seen buying that ticket unless he's a paid film critic ... it's not exactly a couple film (cue the squirming straight guy...) and it's not a "chick film" either -- why would a girl want to see two good looking straight actors shagging each other? I guess I just don't understand the modern culture. Either that or gay people have a crap load of money to spend on movies ...

    Blimey! There's a whale in the Thames...!

    I think it's safe to say that every mine accident will now be a top news story...

    There's a Black Jesus movie... Can't wait for the Bill Bennett/Pat Robertson commentary on that ...

    I wonder who Israel could find to blame for those recent suicide bombings whom it coincidentally also would like to pound with airstikes... hmm... Oh here are a couple of countries!

    Phrase of the week (just drop it into conversation as Mark Marin used to say) "enthusiasm deficit..."

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    posted by JReid @ 12:11 PM  
    Praying for Jill Carroll
    Time may be running out to find or win the release of kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll. Reuters is out with a corrected story saying Iraqis will not be releasing six female detainees after all (pressure from the White House, perhaps...)

    More on Jill Carroll from PBS. And an update on the pan-Islamic calls for Carroll's release, via her employers at CSM. And of course, her mom's appeal to the kidnappers to let her daughter go.

    Previous: American journalist kidnapped in Iraq

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    posted by JReid @ 1:07 AM  
    Who will benefit from the GOP ethics meltdown?
    This picture says it all.

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    posted by JReid @ 12:54 AM  
    The more I read about Colin Powell...
    ...the less respect I have for him... and the more respect I have for his former deputy, Mr. Wilkerson.

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    posted by JReid @ 12:48 AM  
    Thursday, January 19, 2006
    Beyond regulation
    "Some presidential powers, particularly in the area of national security, are simply "beyond Congress' ability to regulate..." That's the Al Gonzalez Justice Department's legal rationale for Bush's illegal NSA wiretapping scheme? It would be funny if it weren't so damned disturbing... and you've got to love the coordination of the leaked 42-page document and Cheney's speech at the Manhattan Institute. Priceless. A voice of reason, please:
    But Robert Reinstein, dean of the law school at Temple University, said in an interview that he considered the eavesdropping program "a pretty straightforward case where the president is acting illegally," and he said there appeared to be a broad consensus among legal scholars and national security experts that the administration's legal arguments were weak.

    The foreign intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978 represents the Bush administration's biggest legal hurdle, he said. "When Congress speaks on questions that are domestic in nature, I really can't think of a situation where the president has successfully asserted a constitutional power to supersede that," he said.

    Two leading civil rights groups brought lawsuits this week aimed at ending the N.S.A. program, and several lawyers representing defendants in terrorism cases are also seeking to challenge the program on the grounds that it may have been improperly used in criminal prosecutions.

    Mr. Reinstein predicted that the court would ultimately declare the program unconstitutional. "This is domestic surveillance over American citizens for whom there is no evidence or proof that they are involved in any illegal activity, and it is in contravention of a statute of Congress specifically designed to prevent this," he said.
    Good prediction, but there's that small Alito problem to contend with ...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:58 PM  
    Osama bin helpful
    Okay, I've figured it out. Osama bin Laden is either a clever fiction cooked up by Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove, or he's a paid employee of the White House. Otherwise, why does he always manage to resurface at precisely the moment the Bush administration needs him most? Prior to the election, he seemed to egg the American people on, daring them to re-elect George W. Bush. Now, he pops up just in time to help Bush rev up the fear machine and give the GOP fresh talking points to try and shore up those illegal wiretaps.

    Additional proof: Even the guy who shot the pope wants to find Osama more than the Bush administration.

    Related: Care to read the entire Bin Laden transcript, rather than the same snippets fed to you by the sanitizing committees at AP, MSNBC, CNN, etc.? Here you go, courtesy of the BBC. It's pretty chilling stuff. Clearly we're not dealing with some bug-eyed crazy scurrying through the caves of Pakistan hoping to create a global Caliphate. This guy is calculating, political, and in his own words, has nothing to lose:
    I would like to tell you that the war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever as the wind blows in this direction with God's help.

    If you win it, you should read the history. We are a nation that does not tolerate injustice and seek revenge forever.

    Days and nights will not go by until we take revenge as we did on 11 September, God willing, and until your minds are exhausted and your lives become miserable and things turn [for the worse], which you detest.

    As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way. ...

    ... I swear not to die but a free man even if I taste the bitterness of death. I fear to be humiliated or betrayed.
    So in the global propaganda war for the hearts of the Muslim world, it's this guy vs. Karen Hughes... I feel safer already.

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    posted by JReid @ 11:45 PM  
    New GOP payola scandal?
    A comment on Air America's "Majority Report" Wednesday night (who knew that show was still on?) has apprently prompted a Democratic Congressional inquiry into whether aides to Sen. Bill Frist and Rep. Tom DeLay gave insider tips to well heeled Wall Street investors who also happened to have been big contributors to the GOP. Rawstory has the scoop, and a letter from a Democractic Congressman from Washington State asking the ethics committee to look into the matter. Of course, the ethics committee hasn't actually convened in God knows how long, to avoid having to deal with GOP scandals from DeLay to Duke Cunningham... The Raw story links to a February 2005 story in The Hill regarding the practice -- which obviously flew way under the radar at that time. The suspect firms aren't named in eithe rpiece, but this sure is interesting...

    Related: Abramoff traded cash for face time with Bush...

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    posted by JReid @ 2:23 PM  
    Spying on professors (for pay) too
    Looks like Dubya really is leading his party. Even the college Republicans are picking up his methods (and losing one former GOP official with a modicum of morality in the process.)

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    posted by JReid @ 1:06 PM  
    Not + legal = illegal
    From today's WaPo:
    The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday.

    The Congressional Research Service opinion said that the amended 1947 law requires President Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of such intelligence activities as the domestic surveillance effort.

    The memo from national security specialist Alfred Cumming is the second report this month from CRS to question the legality of aspects of Bush's domestic spying program. A Jan. 6 report concluded that the administration's justifications for the program conflicted with current law.

    Yesterday's analysis was requested by Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, who wrote in a letter to Bush earlier this month that limiting information about the eavesdropping program violated the law and provided for poor oversight. ...

    ... The only exception in the law applies to covert actions, Cumming found, and those programs must be reported to the "Gang of Eight," which includes House and Senate leaders in addition to heads of the intelligence panels. The administration can also withhold some operational details in rare circumstances, but that does not apply to the existence of entire programs, he wrote.

    Unless the White House contends the program is a covert action, the memo said, "limiting congressional notification of the NSA program to the Gang of Eight ... would appear to be inconsistent with the law."

    So I suppose the next gambit will be to stamp the entire NSA program as "covert." More importantly, though, it remains to be seen what, if anything, the congress will do about it if that's not enough to clear the president of breaking the law.

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    posted by JReid @ 12:59 PM  
    Picking a fight with Iran
    Update: Hillary tracks to Bush's right in criticizing the administration's belated focus on Iran. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer is beating his head against a wall in agony over the West's unwillingness to take the neocon plunge and bomb the holy crap out of Tehran...

    Original post: One journo says the West is picking on the wrong Islamic state.
    Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

    All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot Western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for Western strategists is which of these people they want to help. ...

    ...On Monday, Washington’s knee-jerk belligerence put this coalition under immediate strain. In two weeks the IAEA must decide whether to report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. There seems little point in doing this if China and Russia vetoes it or if there is no plan B for what to do if such pressure fails to halt enrichment, which seems certain. A clear sign of Western floundering are speeches and editorials concluding that Iran “should not take international concern lightly”, the West should “be on its guard” and everyone “should think carefully”. It means nobody has a clue.

    I cannot see how all this confrontation will stop Iran doing whatever it likes with its nuclear enrichment, which is reportedly years away from producing weapons-grade material. The bombing of carefully dispersed and buried sites might delay deployment. But given the inaccuracy of American bombers, the death and destruction caused to Iran’s cities would be a gift to anti-Western extremists and have every world terrorist reporting for duty.

    Nor would the “coward’s war” of economic sanctions be any more effective. Refusing to play against Iranian footballers (hated by the clerics), boycotting artists, ostracizing academics, embargoing commerce, freezing foreign bank accounts — so-called smart sanctions — are as counterproductive as could be imagined. Such feel-good gestures drive the enemies of an embattled regime into silence, poverty or exile. As Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian pages after a recent visit, Western aggression “would drain overnight its still large reservoir of anti-regime, mildly pro-Western sentiment”.

    By all accounts Ahmadinejad is not secure. He is subject to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His foe, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, retains some power. Tehran is not a Saddamist dictatorship or a Taleban autocracy. It is a shambolic oligarchy with bureaucrats and technocrats jostling for power with clerics. Despite a quarter century of effort, the latter have not created a truly fundamentalist Islamic state. Iran is a classic candidate for the politics of subtle engagement.

    This means strengthening every argument in the hands of those Iranians who do not want nuclear weapons or Israel eliminated, who crave a secular state and good relations with the West. No such argument embraces name-calling, saber rattling, sanctions or bombs.
    Worth reading the whole thing. The piece concludes "If ever there were a realpolitik demanding to be “hugged close” it is this one, however distasteful its leader and his centrifuges. If you cannot stop a man buying a gun, the next best bet is to make him your friend, not your enemy."

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    posted by JReid @ 12:39 PM  
    The new Downing Street memo
    A new leaked memo reveals that the Blair government knew -- and knows -- more than it's telling about illegal "torture flights" arranged by the CIA, which may have transported prisoners captured by British troops for "rendition" to foreign gulags. Reports Richard Norton Taylor in today's Guardian:
    The government is secretly trying to stifle attempts by MPs to find out what it knows about CIA "torture flights" and privately admits that people captured by British forces could have been sent illegally to interrogation centres. A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.

    The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers' denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.
    Dated December 7 last year, the document is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary's private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair's office. It was obtained by the New Statesman magazine, whose latest issue is published today.

    It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice "on substance and handling" of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice. ...

    ...The document advises the government to rely on a statement by Condoleezza Rice last month when the US secretary of state said America did not transport anyone to a country where it believed they would be tortured and that, "where appropriate", Washington would seek assurances.

    The document notes: "We would not want to cast doubt on the principle of such government-to-government assurances, not least given our own attempts to secure these from countries to which we wish to deport their nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism: Algeria etc."

    The document says that in the most common use of the term - namely, involving real risk of torture - rendition could never be legal. It also says that the US emphasised torture but not "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", which binds Britain under the European convention on human rights. British courts have adopted a lower threshold of what constitutes torture than the US has.
    The New Statesman article by Martin Bright goes into more detail on the contents of the memo and concludes, bluntly:
    the truth is that the government is involved in a cover-up, not so much of what it knows about this shady business, but what it doesn't know. The one thing it is pretty sure about, however, is that if it has happened, and if Britain had a role, then the government has broken the law.
    Related: Blairwatch also on the case.

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    posted by JReid @ 10:54 AM  
    He's baaaaack...
    Bin Laden reportedly sends a threatening message.

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    posted by JReid @ 10:37 AM  
    Short takes
    Book Report: Fred Barnes is a pathetic kiss-ass and his book is Bush-bot garbage...

    Condi Rice is shaking up the State Department. Diplomats who want promotions will have to take assignments in the neocon hit-list zone, and the new USAID chief used to run Eli-Lilly. Just the guy to sell 'spensive patented AIDS drugs to dying Africans...

    Jill Carroll's mom pleads for her release ... as the Arab world begins to speak out...

    The Democrats have a plan to clean up Washington and blow up the "K Street Project." Republicans have Rick Santorum...

    ...by the way, if you don't like "plantation?" How about "auction house...?"

    Surprise! ... The Bush/GOP prescription drug bill sucks. (Sure hope whoever's vetting the speech this time doesn't accidently allow the word "sucks" into the State of the Union...)

    There'll be no creationism in Cali...

    But there will be Kelly Clarkson songs on "Idol." Not that I care -- I'm watching "Lost" on Wednesdays.

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    posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
    What Gore said
    Update: David Broder breaks down Gore's indictment of the president for his apparent unwillingness to be constrained by the Constitution or the law, and says there should be real hearings -- not CSPAN showmanship -- on the matter. Says Broder:

    the administration's resistance to setting and enforcing clear prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism raises legitimate questions about its willingness to adhere to the rule of law. From the first days after Sept. 11, Bush has appeared to believe that he is essentially unconstrained. His oddly equivocal recent signing statement on John McCain's legislation banning such tactics seemed to say he could ignore the plain terms of the law.

    If Judge Samuel Alito is right that no one is above the law, then Bush's supposition deserves to be challenged.

    Gore's final example -- on which he has lots of company among legal scholars -- is the contention that Bush broke the law in ordering the National Security Agency to monitor domestic phone calls without a warrant from the court Congress had created to supervise all such wiretapping. If -- as the Justice Department and the White House insist -- the president can flout that law, then it is hard to imagine what power he cannot assert.

    Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has summoned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to a hearing on the warrantless wiretap issue, and that hearing should be the occasion for a broad exploration of the willingness of this administration to be constrained by the Constitution and the laws.
    Meanwhile on Slate, former Gore speech writer Bruce Reed makes a compelling argument that despite the draconian excesses of both Nixon and Bush, Democrats must learn to love the presidency again. A great read.

    Original Post 3:53 p.m. Jan. 18: Two passages from Al Gore's MLK Day speech that deserve to be read over and over again:
    At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

    A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: “The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.”

    An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

    Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, “On Common Sense” ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that “the law is king.”
    Then there's this passage, which ends with a question every right wing blogger, TV anchor, pundit, radio host and "movement" member should be called upon answer:

    The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

    Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

    Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

    The President’s men have minced words about America’s laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the “kind of surveillance” we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

    This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically – and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

    When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: “To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.”

    This is precisely the “disrespect” for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

    It is this same disrespect for America’s Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

    For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer—even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

    The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

    At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

    Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

    This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then – until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

    The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

    Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan – one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons – registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: “This material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful.”

    Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is “yes” then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?
    Gore goes on to give some ideas:

    The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch’s claims of these previously unrecognized powers: “If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution.”
    So there it is, then. What can't the president do, winger faithful? Is there anything you deem beyond his powers? Do the above possibilities square well with the AJ Stratas, Michelle Malkins, John Hinderakers, anti-ACLU paranoids the random, Constitution challenged wingers and Freepers of the world? If so, say so. And then admit that what you want is a king to keep you safe from the Muslim boogeymen, not a democracy to keep you free from the boogeyman the Founding Fathers feared most: tyranny.

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    posted by JReid @ 10:08 AM  
    Wednesday, January 18, 2006
    They don't know Jack?
    The White House is stonewalling on the question of who Jack Abramoff kibbutzed with at 1600 PA Ave.

    Oh, and Rick Santorum knows nothing about the "mysterious" K Street Project. Riiiiiight...

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    posted by JReid @ 3:31 PM  
    Hil' and Al's excellent adventure?
    Could the Hillary and Al Gore speechifying over the MLK weekend be a portent of presidential primaries to come? The HuffPo says "yee-haw!"

    Also: John Leo on the GOP's "synthetic shock syndrome." Quick! Raise your hand if you're Black and you can recall hearing Republicans telling you to "get off the Democratic plantation." All hands of the politically active should be up.

    Related:

    Full text of Gore's remarks here, and video available here.

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    posted by JReid @ 1:44 PM  
    Roberts watch
    It remains to be seen whether I was completely suckered by John Roberts' charm and intelligence during his confirmation hearings. But there are interesting signs:
    • Roberts' dissent in the Oregon assisted suicide case -- a case in which Roberts did not write an opinion but in which fellow dissenter Antonin Scalia asserted the Court's right to defend "public morality..." whatever that has to do with federal vs. state power... (more from Talkleft including the right's push to get the wingers in Congress to pass a John Ashcroft, MD law in response to the Oregon rout.) Recall that during his hearings, Roberts demurred on the "right to die" issue, which Jeralyn Merritt points out really wasn't the central issue in the Supco case -- it was more about the right of states to make their own laws regulating physicians.) More on Roberts and the Oregon case here.
    • The Roberts Court's refusal to hear a case by NYC firefighters and other rescue workers who claim they were given faulty radios on 9/11...
    • The Court's refusal to hear a case brought by a man who was arrested for protesting a visit by President Bush in an area designated by Secret Service agents as off-limits...
    • And a case brought by a reputed mob associate accused of looting a printing company's pension fund, in which his lawyers argue that prosecutors withheld evidence found during a Miami raid...
    These may at first blush seem like bad omens, but read the rest of the stories and judge for yourself. In each case, as a non-lawyer, the cases don't look that strong. The 9/11 families agreed to take the federal settlement, and it's arguable that indeed opted them out of later lawsuits. The protester was in fact in an area roped off by Secret Service, and -- like it or not -- that's they way it works at events with elected officials (what's more troubling is that after his arrest, the protester's, movements, phones and emails were probably tracked by the FBI and Pentagon...) And the mobster isn't exactly a model case for prosecutorial misconduct.

    And then there's the murkier -- and unanimous -- ruling today essentially dodging the first abortion case to pass Roberts' desk. More on that ruling from TalkLeft, and ScotusBlog has more on why the ruling -- while on its face a win for pro-choicers, might wind up effectively limiting abortion rights...

    So I guess I'll withhold judgment for now. What's really troubling is the likely addition of Sam Alito to the Sca-Thomas voting block.

    Tags: , , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News
    posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
    Glenn Beck hired
    ...by CNN. Don't know if that makes CNN News Group executive vice president Ken Jautz the "worst person in the world" as Keith Olbermann dubbed him last night, but I do doubt that the network that ditched Aaron Brown and extended AIPAC flak Wolf Blitzer's air-time (and which sports Kyra Phillips, Mrs. Rush Limbaugh -- Daryn Kagan, Andrea Koppel and Candy Crowley -- no offense to big girls but perhaps the most inappropriately named person in the world...) needs a conservative voice to "balance it out."

    Mind you I listen to part of Glenn Beck's show almost every morning (sorry, I like Jerry Springer but there's only so much Air America I can take...) just to see what the other side is up to, and he's not always as bad as this. However, Beck can be surly, self-riteous (for a self-described reformed alcoholic "scum bag") and even downright mean-spirited, and his blank-slate defenses of the Bush administration are disturbing for a guy who appears to be pretty smart. But he's definitely not the worst thing CNN could have come up with. They could have gone with the fact-challenged, former Clarence Thomas Coke-can coquette and faux-Beverly Hillbilly Laura Ingraham, after all...

    Then again, that's probably CNN's next "suck up to the right wing" move, and the network has already undermined what's left of its credibility by hiring Mr. Moroning in America himself: Bill Bennett. ... And is it any wonder that in its breathless chase for Fox News viewers, CNN looked at the radio ratings list and unable to hire number one -- Limbaugh -- having him and his main squeeze on the same payroll would be too sleazy even for CNN; and with number two -- the block-headed Hannity -- already taken, it went for the next guy down on the totem poll? Y'know what? Strike what I said before. CNN's newsgroup EVP is the worst person in the world...

    Related: Media Matters urges readers to tell MSNBC to bring Chris Matthews back to reality.

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    posted by JReid @ 11:42 AM  
    Tuesday, January 17, 2006
    Ledeen and the Niger forgeries
    Also hat tipping Mike V, neocon think-tanker (and advocate for war with Iraq, Iran and any other Muslim country he can get our hands on) Michael Ledeen (who the American Conservative has likened to an old-time fascist) probably should be looked at in the reopened FBI investigation of the forged documents purporting to show that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear materiel from Niger.

    Raw Story reports on Ledeen's ties to the Italian newspaper that first proferred the forgeries.

    Tags: , , , , forgeries, plame, wilson
    posted by JReid @ 3:54 PM  
    Diplomat: Freedom is 'crawling over broken glass' in Mideast
    Great link courtesy of Mike Votes (Born at the Crest of Empire). Looks like the main beneficiaries of Mr. Bush's "march of democracy" in the Middle East are the same fundamentalists Islamists he claims we're fighting in Iraq. Nice.

    Tags: , , , Middle East, , Terrorism, Foreign Policy
    posted by JReid @ 3:49 PM  
    Sift the messenger
    The WaPo's characterization of the united Western-Eastern front against Iran strikes me as phony editorialisation. Says the increasingly Bushite WaPo:

    U.S. Wins Support In Iran Dispute
    China, Russia Join Call to Suspend Nuclear Program
    By Mary Jordan and Dafna LinzerWashington Post Foreign ServiceTuesday, January 17, 2006; A01

    LONDON, Jan. 16 -- China and Russia agreed with the United States, Britain, Germany and France on Monday that Iran must completely suspend its nuclear program, the British Foreign Office said. Although the countries failed to agree on whether Iran's case should be referred to the U.N. Security Council, the Europeans applied new pressure on the Iranian government by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Feb. 2.

    With all six nations declaring that they sought a diplomatic solution to the escalating confrontation with Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a glimmer of hope for a compromise. Putin said the Iranian government was considering a proposal from Moscow that Russia would produce enriched uranium for Iran, to ensure the material could be used only for peaceful purposes.
    But says the Times of London:
    Blair plays down international splits over IranBy Simon Freeman and agencies

    Tony Blair today said that he remained hopeful of a diplomatic solution to the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme, as efforts began to play down public divisions between world powers.

    A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that the international community was united in its condemnation of Tehran for breaking the seals on its nuclear plants, and was working towards an acceptable solution. He said that the Islamic republic was slowly but surely becoming more isolated, despite the split in opinion abroad.

    Germany, France and the UK - who comprise the E3 which has been in negotiations with the Middle Eastern country for two years - have voted to convene an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Commission on February 2, the first step in a referral to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions.

    However, Russia and China, which both have major trade and energy links with Iran, today appeared to undermine the threat. Both countries wield a veto as permanent members of the Council and hinted that they could not support such measures.
    The extent of the split emerged today as the various world leaders gave their pronouncements following a seven-hour meeting in London yesterday.

    Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, said: "Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem." Mr Lavrov referred to the ongoing instability in Iraq as an example of how international sanctions could fail to rein in a rogue state.

    Russia has a $1 billion contract with Iran to build its first civil nuclear reactor and is also reluctant to risk its relations with the republic, which wields influence in the turbulent Caucasus.

    A spokesman for the Chinese Government said that punitive measures would "complicate" the issue. China obtains 12 per cent of its oil from Iran.
    And the BBC:

    Powers disagree over Iran crisis

    The UK has taken a hard line on an Iranian offer to continue discussing its nuclear programme, indicating major powers disagree on how to proceed.

    Russia says a compromise offer is still on the table, and China has urged all parties to continue negotiations. But the UK, France, Germany and the US want the UN Security Council to consider punishing Iran.

    Iran broke seals on three nuclear facilities last week, but says it does not aim to build nuclear weapons.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says a compromise offer is still on the table which could see Iran sending uranium to Russia for enrichment - which would be an obstacle to Iran developing nuclear weapons of its own.

    Iran has also offered to return to talks with the EU-3 of France, Germany and the UK.

    But on Tuesday the UK Foreign Office appeared to reject both that offer and the Russian compromise. Unnamed Foreign Office officials were quoted by news agencies as saying the Iranians were stalling.
    Whom to believe? I guess it's all in how you spin it, and these days the WaPo seems increasingly eager to spin it the Bushies' way...

    Related: CNN gets the boot

    Tags: , , Middle East, Nukes, Nuclear,
    posted by JReid @ 1:45 PM  
    Hil and Al go off
    Hillary calls the GOP House a "plantation" and says the Bush administration will go down in history as one of America's worst...

    ...Meanwhile, Al Gore demonstrates what happens when a politician no longer has anything to lose...

    Update: Torquemada responds to Gore.

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    posted by JReid @ 1:25 PM  
    Yeah, that helps
    California executes a blind, crippled old man, who would probably have expired on his own had they left him in prison a little longer... helluva way to blow a couple million dollars (and this guy was so elderly and ill, California managed to double its spending -- on essentially a lifetime of medical treatment and housing, plus the costs of the actual execution.) Brilliant.

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    posted by JReid @ 1:19 PM  
    Alphabet soup
    So not only was the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program probably illegal, it also sidetracked the FBI by bogging agents down with dead-end leads that invariably ensnared innocent Americans. From the NYT story today:
    Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends
    By LOWELL BERGMAN, ERIC LICHTBLAU, SCOTT SHANE and DON VAN NATTA Jr.

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.
    But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

    F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.

    As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

    President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."

    But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

    "We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."
    and this:
    Some F.B.I. officials said they were uncomfortable with the expanded domestic role played by the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies, saying most intelligence officers lacked the training needed to safeguard Americans' privacy and civil rights. They said some protections had to be waived temporarily in the months after Sept. 11 to detect a feared second wave of attacks, but they questioned whether emergency procedures like the eavesdropping should become permanent.
    That discomfort may explain why some F.B.I. officials may seek to minimize the benefits of the N.S.A. program or distance themselves from the agency. "This wasn't our program," an F.B.I. official said. "It's not our mess, and we're not going to clean it up."

    The N.S.A.'s legal authority for collecting the information it passed to the F.B.I. is uncertain. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires a warrant for the use of so-called pen register equipment that records American phone numbers, even if the contents of the calls are not intercepted. But officials with knowledge of the program said no warrants were sought to collect the numbers, and it is unclear whether the secret executive order signed by Mr. President Bush in 2002 to authorize eavesdropping without warrants also covered the collection of phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

    Aside from the director, F.B.I. officials did not question the legal status of the tips, assuming that N.S.A. lawyers had approved. They were more concerned about the quality and quantity of the material, which produced "mountains of paperwork" often more like raw data than conventional investigative leads.

    "It affected the F.B.I. in the sense that they had to devote so many resources to tracking every single one of these leads, and, in my experience, they were all dry leads," the former senior prosecutor said. "A trained investigator never would have devoted the resources to take those leads to the next level, but after 9/11, you had to."
    The Times drew some connections to possible indictees on terrorism and other matters who might have come through the NSA sieve. Not surprisingly, every name that pops up is a potential lawsuit against the federal government...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:04 PM  
    Remember Afghanistan?
    It ain't looking good...
    posted by JReid @ 1:02 PM  
    Pretty cowboys in love (or, last gasp of gay chic?)
    Apparently, the Golden Globes pretty much awarded statues to anything with a homosexual character in it last night. I didn't watch, but that's what the papers say so it must be true. Now if we're truly in the post "Will and Grace"/post-"Queer Eye" era, when gay is no longer the hottest trend going (metrosexuality kinda cancels it out, right? And the last "Real World" had all straight characters, so that's gotta tell you something...) then I'd say it went out with a bang ... er ... perhaps not the best choice of words ... with a lot of awards.

    ...Or maybe this was the Hollywood foreign press's way of goading Pat Robertson into another absolutely priceless soundbite...

    Anyway, the Times UK cautions that we shouldn't think all the accolades for U.S. film and TV projects means the foreign press has fallen back in love with the U.S.A. After all, they did award a British guy for playing a better American character (Hugh Laurie in "House") than his American co-nominees...

    That's all I'm saying about the awards shows. To tell you the truth, I'm really not that interested in them, except to hope that George Clooney wins lots of whatever he's up for (thanking Jack Abramoff... priceless...)

    Tags:
    posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
    The new gang of three?
    The three dissenters in the Supremes' decision to uphold Oregon's assisted suicide law: Scalia (check), Thomas (check) ... Roberts...

    Tags: , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News, ,
    posted by JReid @ 12:28 PM  
    Jacko of Arabia
    Well, it turns out wonders never do cease. Michael Jackson is looking for a job... in Bahrain. ... advising the government on building theme parks and such-like...
    The singer, his reputation in tatters at home after winning a grueling molestation trial in California last year, is negotiating a position as a consultant with a Bahrain-based company that plans to set up theme parks and music academies in the Middle East, according to a press release.

    AAJ Holdings Ltd., owned by Bahraini businessman Ahmed Abu Bakr Janahi, said it wanted to hire the 47-year-old Jackson to give advice on setting up entertainment businesses.

    AAJ, which focuses mainly on urban development projects, played a key role in designing Bahrain's ongoing Financial Harbor development and Oman's Blue City, a multibillion-dollar tourist resort with golf courses, hotels, and several dozen kilometers (miles) of sandy beaches.

    According to the statement, Janahi believes Jackson could play an important role in the company.

    "Stagnant architectural structures need content in the form of entertainment to revive them and that's where Michael Jackson will play an integral role," the statement said.
    ...indeed they do...

    Oh, and don't think you're going to escape that Jacko Katrina relief song. Looks like the Bahrainis are paying for that, too.

    Tags: , Music, Entertainment, News, Jacko
    posted by JReid @ 12:22 PM  
    Monday, January 16, 2006
    Happy Martin Luther King Day
    Here's a link to the King Center web-site. The site leads with a great audio clip: "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve." And here's the King Institute at Standford. Enjoy the day.
    posted by JReid @ 12:25 AM  
    Sunday, January 15, 2006
    The swiftboating of Jack Murtha
    The HuffPo has more on the Murtha smear campaign, and its apparent origins in the West Wing...

    The Huffington Post has learned the Bush administration recently asked high ranking military leaders to denounce Congressman John Murtha. Congressman Murtha has called for the Bush Administration to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

    The Bush Administration first attacked Rep. Murtha for his Iraq views by associating him with the filmmaker Michael Moore and Representative Jean Schmidt likened him to a coward on the floor of the House of Representatives. When those tactics backfired, Dick Cheney called Murtha "A good man, a marine, a patriot and he's taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion."

    Though the White House has backed off publicly, administration officials have nevertheless recently made calls to military leaders to condemn the congressman. So far they have refused.
    The obvious question here would be whether any of the military leaders in question is willing to come forward and say the got such a phonecall, and then from whom. If true, this is a pretty nasty scandal.

    Just to back up a bit, here's a clip from the January 13 Murtha smears story from right-wing/Bushophilic "news" site CNS News:
    Having ascended to the national stage as one of the most vocal critics of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha has long downplayed the controversy and the bitterness surrounding the two Purple Hearts he was awarded for military service in Vietnam.

    Murtha is a retired marine and was the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress. Since 1967, there have been at least three different accounts of the injuries that purportedly earned Murtha his Purple Hearts. Those accounts also appear to conflict with the limited military records that are available, and Murtha has thus far refused to release his own military records.

    A Cybercast News Service investigation also reveals that one of Murtha's former Democratic congressional colleagues and a fellow decorated Vietnam veteran, Don Bailey of Pennsylvania, alleges that Murtha admitted during an emotional conversation on the floor of the U.S. House in the early 1980s that he did not deserve his Purple Hearts.

    "[Murtha] is putting himself forward as some combat veteran with serious wounds and he's using that and it's dishonest and it's wrong," Bailey told Cybercast News Service on Jan. 9. Murtha served in the Marines on active duty and in the reserves from 1952 until his retirement as a colonel in 1990. He volunteered for service in Vietnam and was a First Marine Regiment intelligence officer in 1966 and 1967.

    Murtha and Bailey, once allies, were forced to run against each other in a Democratic congressional primary in 1982 following redistricting. Murtha won the election.
    And that election was bitterly fought, according to an exhaustive contemporaneous account in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Bailey's Wikipedia bio, which also stated that after a series of failed re-runs for office, Bailey came darned near being elected to office as a Republican -- so close, that it seems misleading to characterize him as some sort of sunny fellow Democrat.

    And the Swiftboating isn't Bailey's first crack at taking down Murtha. The same day CNS ran the Murtha military service smear, Bailey was the source of a was the subject of a second story by the same writers -- Marc Morano and Randy Hall -- claiming Murtha was also hiding other scandals -- of a criminal nature:
    CNSNews.com) - Members of the press have given extensive and glowing coverage to Rep. John Murtha's criticism of the war in Iraq, but have overlooked a number of other controversies the Pennsylvania Democrat has experienced over the past 25 years. This includes his reported role as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Murtha has denied any wrongdoing, but Cybercast News Service has learned that one of Murtha's former allies, a Democratic congressman who served on the House Ethics Committee in 1981 and says he lobbied colleagues not to censure Murtha, now believes Murtha lied to him about his role in Abscam. ...

    ... Since Murtha's Nov. 17, 2005, call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, one CNN anchor has called him "one of the most highly respected members of Congress," the Associated Press has referred to Murtha as "one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats," and ABC News has noted that he is "a decorated marine who served in Vietnam."

    But a search of the Nexis online database by Cybercast News Service found only three newspaper articles over the past two months connecting Murtha with the FBI's Abscam (short for "Arab scam") sting operation that led to the arrest of several congressmen for accepting bribes.

    According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Murtha was one of eight members of Congress lured to a Washington, D.C., townhouse by a team of FBI agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheik. They handed out briefcases filled with $50,000 in return for helping the sheik gain residency in the United States."

    Noting that Murtha "is not squeaky clean," the Brattleboro, Vt., Reformer reported that the congressman "did not take the cash" offered by the agents. Instead, "he asked the fake sheik to consider investing some money in his struggling home town, Johnstown."

    The Washington Post referred to the incident as "an ethical scrape" in which Murtha was "named as an unindicted co-conspirator and testified against two House colleagues."

    But, a videotape of a Jan. 7, 1980 Abscam-related meeting involving Murtha shows that the congressman's rejection of the offered bribe was less than definite. "I'm not interested. I'm sorry," Murtha told the FBI agent, but added that he meant "at this point. See Video.

    "You know, we do business for a while, maybe I'll be interested, maybe I won't," Murtha said on the FBI videotape.

    The congressman told the undercover FBI agent that he was a member of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and acknowledged: "If you get into heat with politicians, there's no amount of money that can help."

    In November 1980, the Justice Department announced that Murtha would not face prosecution for his part in the scandal. "I did not consider that any money was offered, and certainly none was taken," Murtha told reporters. "The FBI who taped the entire conversation knows damn well no money changed hands."

    Eight months later, the House ethics panel also chose not to file charges against the Pennsylvania Democrat. ...
    Bailey also claims that he "saved Murtha" from censure or worse at the hands of Congress...
    "I worked hard, and I argued," and members of the committee "agreed with me," Bailey stated. "Part of my argument was that the FBI was overdoing it and there wasn't evidence that [Murtha] was doing anything wrong."

    In 1982, as a result of congressional redistricting, Murtha and Bailey were forced to run against each other in a Democratic primary. Murtha emerged the winner.

    In 2002, Murtha's ethics again became an issue in the congressional election. Bailey issued a public letter, the contents of which have been published on the Internet and confirmed by Bailey. In the letter, Bailey admits that his opinion about Murtha's involvement in Abscam had dramatically changed by 2002.

    "I was, to be honest, critical about how you misled me about Abscam where you convinced me you had voluntarily told federal agents about the offer of money to you," Bailey wrote Murtha in the letter.

    "I learned later, after I had successfully defeated the ethics charges against you, that you had merely manipulated the system to cooperate with federal agents to avoid prosecution," Bailey added.

    On Jan. 9, Bailey told Cybercast News Service that he now believes Murtha was "pretty damn stupid" during the Abscam sting.

    "The idea that somebody is going to trot out $50,000 in cash in front of you and you don't know that is wrong is pretty damn stupid to me," Bailey said. "What bankers or investors run around with $50,000 in cash?"

    Just hours after the July 1981 House Ethic Committee vote sparing Murtha from charges, E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., special counsel for the panel's Abscam investigation, abruptly resigned. At the time, Prettyman refused to discuss with the press his reasons for stepping down.

    When contacted by Cybercast News Service regarding the investigation, Prettyman called the Murtha situation "very interesting," but declined further comment, citing the need to maintain attorney-client privilege.
    The CNS article then goes on to accuse Murtha of undercutting the power of federal law enforcement, and whines that opponents of the war are turned into "Instantaneous heroes" by the media...

    Meanwhile, the inimitable Murray Waas writes about GOP ties of one of Murtha's accusers, and the sloppy reporting of the WaPo's Howard Kurtz and his writing partner for their version of the Murtha smear:
    The Washington Post yesterday morning gives major play to an attack of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) on the website of the (until now) obscure Cybercast News Service. It accuses Murtha -- who had won eight military awards, including a Bronze star, and a Distinguished Service Medal of the United States Marine Corps, for his 37 years of military service -- of purportedly saying that he had not deserved to win two Purple Hearts also awarded him for his service during the Vietnam war.

    The Post story, by reporters Howard Kurtz and Shallagh Murray, quotes extensively David Thibault, the editor in chief of the (who ever heard of them before the Washington Post decided to give them such prominence?) Cybercast News Service, as saying that Murtha's medals from 1967 are relevant now "because the congressman has really put himself in the forefront of the antiwar movement."

    But the article tells us very little about Thibault himself. Had the reporters done a simple Internet search, they would have discovered this biography of Thibault posted online which describes him as a "senior producer for a televised news magazine" broadcast and sponsored by the Republican National Committee. I dunno, but I for one, would have wanted to know that. ...
    There's more. Read it all here.

    And one more thing: Could the boys at CNS have been inspired to challenge Murtha's war hero status by a December 1 column by none other than Ann Coulter? Sure would shine an interesting light on their "journalism" (and Howard Kurtz's judgment) if they did...

    Related: Murtha tells '60 Minutes' why and when we're getting out of Iraq... And the 'party of patriotism and the military" smears another veteran, says Bob Cesca.Link

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    posted by JReid @ 11:59 PM  
    Oh for Pete's sake!
    How do we manage to keep screwing this up? The Guardian/Observer on our latest military and public relations fiasco in the War on Terror:
    The drone, the CIA and a botched attempt to kill bin Laden's deputy

    In the hunt for al-Qaeda, a missile attack on a mountain village killed women and children. The attack was precise, the intelligence was flawed, and the strained relation between Pakistan and the US has been pushed to breaking point

    Jason Burke and Imtiaz Gul in Islamabad
    Sunday January 15, 2006
    The Observer


    The missiles were deadly accurate. In the pitch dark of a night in Pakistan's sparsely populated North West Frontier Province, they not only located the three targeted houses on the outskirts of the village of Damadola Burkanday but squarely struck their hujra, the large rooms traditionally used by Pashtun tribesmen to accommodate guests.
    Yesterday some of the results of the strike were very clear: three ruined houses, mud-brick rubble scattered across the steeply terraced fields, the bodies of livestock lying where thrown by the airblast, a row of newly dug graves in the village cemetery and torn green and red embroidered blankets flapping in the chilly wind. Four children were among the 18 villagers who died in the brutally sudden attack on their homes.

    Yet evidence emerging appeared to indicate that, though the technology that guided the missiles to their targets at 3am on Friday was faultless, the intelligence that had selected those targets was not. Even as American military and intelligence sources spoke of the possible death of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda and the man considered to be the brains behind the militant group's strategy, Pakistani officials said that there was no evidence any 'foreigners', shorthand locally for al-Qaeda fighters, were among the 18 victims, though they said that 'according to preliminary investigations there was foreign presence in the area'.

    In a bid to distance themselves from what was looking like a tragic and counter-productive tactical error that had cost many innocent lives, Pakistan announced it would file a formal protest with the Americans. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference that the Pakistani government wanted 'to assure the people we will not allow such incidents to recur,' adding that the government had no information about al-Zawahiri. ...
    And today, the protests, putting even more pressure on our pet dictator in Pakistan.

    Perhaps the Pakistani protests this time will be more effective than protests past...

    Tags: , Osama bin Laden, News, Terrorism,
    ,
    posted by JReid @ 7:08 PM  
    We all knew it was coming
    Crooks and Liars has the scoop and the link to the Murray Waas undressing of the latest GOP smear campaign, this time the Swiftboating of Jack Murtha. The only surprise is that it took the right so long to do it.

    Update: Murtha gets support from the people who really count -- the troops. -- even if Fox News hides them under a bushel...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
    Bremer to world: Don't bother reading this book
    Paul Bremer on Meet the Press this morning managed to prove himself a liar, a quizzler and a suck-up, all in one interview. He disavowed every criticism of the administration, the troop deployments to Iraq, and Donald Rumsfeld, that is in his new book, "My Year in Iraq," and danced around Tim Russert's dead-on (for a change) interrogation of him on the statements he made during his tenure as CPA director in Iraq. Unfortunately for Bremer, he seems to have had a habit of privately sounding alarms about the insurgency and making it clear that he (and Ricardo Sanchez) clearly saw the need for more troops, while publicly -- often within a week or two of his unanswered letters and memos to Rummy -- putting out op-eds (written by him, or perhaps, a White House PR flak ya think?) praising the Iraq operation and claiming the insurgency was a tiny problem with "bitter-enders" (Rumsfeld's term) and the troop levels were A.O.K.

    So which Paul Bremer should we believe? The privately critical "Bremer of Arabia" in his book, who confronted the administration with its myriad miscalculations on the occupation, or the Bremer who now seems to be walking away from those very criticisms, even while pushing the book on TV, and who at the time he was supposedly fighting the power, was publicly shilling for the administration's Iraq policy? Even putting aside Bremer's many personal screwups: dissolving the Iraqi army, authorizing the Iraqis to ban the upper echelon of the Baath party en masse from public service and not keeping control of the rebuilding money -- a man like Bremer, so willing to be used by the administration then, and now apparently so fearful of not getting his phonecalls returned in Washington that he can't even support the contentions in his own book -- and the words he himself committed to print, strikes me as someone not to be taken seriously, not to be believed, and not to be given another second of TV time.

    Awaiting the MTP transcript and the video link from Crooks and Liars...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:47 AM  
    Friday, January 13, 2006
    Bush doesn't trouble his 'beautiful mind' with the blight in New Orleans
    From today's NYTimes (must be read through to the end)

    In New Orleans, Bush Speaks With Optimism but Sees Little of Ruin

    By ELISABETH BUMILLER

    NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 12 - President Bush made his first trip here in three months on Thursday and declared that New Orleans was "a heck of a place to bring your family" and that it had "some of the greatest food in the world and some wonderful fun."

    Mr. Bush spent his brief visit in a meeting with political and business leaders on the edge of the Garden District, the grand neighborhood largely untouched by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina, and saw little devastation. He did not go into the city's hardest-hit areas or to Jackson Square, where several hundred girls from the Academy of the Sacred Heart staged a protest demanding stronger levees.

    Mr. Bush's motorcade did pass some abandoned neighborhoods as it traveled on Interstate 10 into the city.

    "It may be hard for you to see, but from when I first came here to today, New Orleans is reminding me of the city I used to come to visit," the president told the local leaders at the Convention and Visitors Bureau, an independent group set up to attract business and tourism to the city.

    Mr. Bush added that "for folks around the country who are looking for a great place to have a convention, or a great place to visit, I'd suggest coming here to the great New Orleans."

    Mr. Bush, who appeared to be trying to spread optimism in a city that is years away from recovery, did not tell the group or the city's residents what many were hoping to hear: that he would commit the federal government to building the strongest possible levees, a Category 5 storm protection system.

    Instead, on a day when the Bush administration revised the deficit upward to more than $400 billion and blamed it largely on Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Bush restated his support for spending $3.1 billion of federal money on building "stronger and better" levees.

    Local engineers say those levees would protect against the 100-mile-an-hour winds of a Category 2 hurricane and the low barometric pressure of a Category 3 or weak Category 4 storm. Hurricane Katrina peaked as a Category 5 storm in the Gulf of Mexico and hit land as a Category 3 storm.

    The president ignored questions about the city's new rebuilding plan, introduced Wednesday night to enormous community criticism, and White House officials traveling with Mr. Bush declined to offer opinions. The plan, which depends on nearly $17 billion more from the federal government, gives neighborhoods in low-lying parts of the city from four months to a year to attract sufficient numbers of residents or be bulldozed.

    The federal government has so far authorized $85 billion in relief to the Gulf Coast, with $25 billion spent. ... (deleted four graphs about Blanco not being in town and it supposedly not being a snub either way... OK, on to the best part...)

    ... From New Orleans, Mr. Bush traveled to Waveland and Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, where he viewed destruction along the Gulf Coast. He then headed for Palm Beach, Fla., for a closed-door $4 million fund-raiser for the Republican National Committee and Republican candidates at the home of Dwight Schar, a homebuilder and a co-owner of the Washington Redskins.

    Unbelievable.

    Tags: , , , Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans
    posted by JReid @ 12:11 PM  
    Rip-and-run Friday
    Got waaaay too much to do to blog much today, so I'll just leave you with these thougts:

    1. Who was the jackass who designed the PT Cruiser? It has got to be the ugliest piece of crap car on the planet. And damn Enterprise Rent-a-car for sticking me with one today...!

    2. A Maryland law survived a veto and a fillibuster by the GOP governor and legislators and now will require Wal-Mart to offer its employees health benefits. 30 other states are considering making the same move. And with that, Wal-Mart spokesman Nate Hurst delivers the quote of the day:
    "This vote was never about health care," Hurst said. "In allowing a bad bill to become a bad law, the General Assembly took a giant step backward and placed the special interests of Washington, D.C., union leaders ahead of the well-being of the people they serve. And that's wrong."

    Nah, actually it's about Wal-Mart's crappy health benefits.

    3. Ther will soon be 300 million Americans, most of whom won't even remember when everything in their homes wasn't made in China or Japan (and serviced in India...)

    4. New Jersey should have gone with "Most of our elected officials haven't been indicted..." or maybe "New York is that way..."

    5. Alito vote count prediction: 59 votes to confrim in the full Senate. Welcome to the Supreme Court, you crazy, no Black people at Princeton club forgetting guy. Don't forget to recuse yourself for something on your way in!

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    posted by JReid @ 11:54 AM  
    Thursday, January 12, 2006
    I have sinned against yoooooouuu.....
    Things (the new, mostly apologetic) Pat Robertson could say to get back into Israel's good graces and regain his piece of that $60 million Christian megaplex development project:

    1. "Oh, did I say God said that crap about Ariel Sharon? I meant Jackie Mason... is this thing on...?"

    2. "You'll never believe this ... God called back, and ... you're gonna love this...! He never passed his realtor's exam! Dudes, he doesn't know jack about dividing the land!"

    3. "I'm sorry, I was on drugs."

    4. "Crack, specifically..."

    5. "Okay, when you heard 'Sharon is paying the price for dividing God's land,' what you really should have received was "Sharon Stone has really big hands..." That's what I actually said...

    6. "If you don't forgive me you're all going to hell ... just like you will if you Jews continue to reject Christ as your personal savior ... okay not that last part..."

    7. "Please baby baby baby please baby baby..."

    8. "Now I think I'm having a stroke. But you can cure me, by letting me back in the Christian center deal..."

    9. "God called me again, fellas! And this time he told me to tell you I'm a jackass! Does that help me with you?" ... and last, but not least...

    10. "If you let me back in the deal, I'll ask my friends in the Bush administration to bomb the hell out of Iran."

    Update: Best headline ever: Robertson tries to save Jesusland after Sharon gibe. Hat tip to Tikun Olam...

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    posted by JReid @ 9:14 PM  
    The First Lady of the American Theater
    ...so James Wolcott names the weeping wife of Sam Alito (sweet Jesus, they're calling him a raaacist!!!). Wolf Blitzer practically jumped out the Situation Room window when the water works started yesterday, and the right-wing base of the MSM has had a field day with it. Talkleft gives a thorough review, smokes out a savvy, right-wing PR firm showing no shame in taking full advantage of Mrs. Alito's delicate emotional state, and raises additional probing questions about just who's prepping the Alito clan for these hearings.

    According to Russ Feingold a few moments ago, the released list of "murder board" preppers for Mr. Alito includes Benjamin Powell, Harriet Miers and other lawyers involved in prepping Alito for the hearings were also involved in devising the legal justifications for Bush's domestic spying policy

    Related: Which side has made up its collective minds about Alito? ThinkProgress and MediaMatters have the handle. (Hint, think Orrin Hatch and Supreme Court knee pads...)

    Update: Paul at Wizbang feels Mrs. Alito's pain. You know Paul, you're right. These hearings are supposed to be about praising the nominee and kissing his fat dimpled bottom, not asking him questions about his membership in racist clubs and his failure to recuse himself on cases involving financial institutions he's associated with! My god, why can't all the other Senators be more like Orrin Lewinsky ...er ... Hatch!!!??? Oh, the humanity!

    Update 2: David at In Search of Utopia feels mine...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
    Miller takes the 'Fifth'
    From WaPo today:

    Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case.

    The move by Miller -- who once supervised the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and helped set up operations at Abu Ghraib -- is the first time the general has given an indication that he might have information that could implicate him in wrongdoing, according to military lawyers.

    Harvey Volzer, an attorney for one of the dog handlers, has been seeking to question Miller to determine whether Miller ordered the use of military working dogs to frighten detainees during interrogations at Abu Ghraib. Volzer has argued that the dog handlers were following orders when the animals were used against detainees.
    Meanwhile, Miller just might have himself an Abramoff-Scanlon problem, in which he's Abramoff:

    Miller's decision came shortly after Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, accepted immunity from prosecution this week and was ordered to testify at upcoming courts-martial. Pappas, a military intelligence officer, could be asked to detail high-level policies relating to the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

    He also could shed light on how abusive tactics emerged, who ordered their use and their possible connection to officials in Washington, according to lawyers and human rights advocates who have closely followed the case. Pappas has never spoken publicly. Crawford said Miller was unaware of Pappas's grant of immunity. "This could be a big break if Pappas testifies as to why those dogs were used and who ordered the dogs to be used," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "It's a steppingstone going up the chain of command, and that's positive. It might demonstrate that it wasn't just a few rotten apples."
    Invoking Article 31 rights is apparently highly unusual for senior military officers. And who is Miller? He was the subject of a big chunk of Seymour Hersh's work, accused of devising the humiliation, dog attack and other tactics to use against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, and than taking those tactics to Abu Ghraib when he and his trainers were transferred there to "Gitmoize" that facility and improve the intel coming out of the Iraqi prison. This at a time the U.S. was desperate to get a handle on the growing Iraqi insurgency. According to Hersh's reporting, the man behind much of the ratcheting up of U.S. tactics against Iraqis and detainees in Cuba was Pentagon Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone -- the number three man at DoD. Hersh has described the tactics as a Special Access Program (SAP) gone wrong when it was taken out of the hands of a small group of Special Ops guys and handed over, willy-nilly, to a bunch of kids from Appalachia -- perhaps like the NSA SAP that had the agency spying on probably thousands of international phonecalls made by Americans?

    And of course, if Miller's program wandered up the chain of command to Cambone, and to the other civilian Machiavelli in the Pentgon, Douglas Feith, you've got to assume it got to (or came from) Rumsfeld, too.

    The real problem, of course, is that assuming all of this can be proven, who in their right mind believes the Pentagon, the Gonzalez Justice Department, the president or the Republican Congress will take any action?

    Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Torture, Foreign Policy, Abu-Ghraib
    posted by JReid @ 10:49 AM  
    U.S. Army criticized ... by U.K. Army...
    From today's Guardian:

    A senior British officer has criticised the US army for its conduct in Iraq, accusing it of institutional racism, moral righteousness, misplaced optimism, and of being ill-suited to engage in counter-insurgency operations.
    The blistering critique, by Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was the second most senior officer responsible for training Iraqi security forces, reflects criticism and frustration voiced by British commanders of American military tactics.

    What is startling is the severity of his comments - and the decision by Military Review, a US army magazine, to publish them.

    American soldiers, says Brig Aylwin-Foster, were "almost unfailingly courteous and considerate". But he says "at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism".

    The US army, he says, is imbued with an unparalleled sense of patriotism, duty, passion and talent. "Yet it seemed weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, a predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head-on."

    Brig Aylwin-Foster says the American army's laudable "can-do" approach paradoxically led to another trait, namely "damaging optimism". Such an ethos, he says, "is unhelpful if it discourages junior commanders from reporting unwelcome news up the chain of command".

    But his central theme is that US military commanders have failed to train and educate their soldiers in the art of counter-insurgency operations and the need to cultivate the "hearts and minds" of the local population.

    While US officers in Iraq criticised their allies for being too reluctant to use force, their strategy was "to kill or capture all terrorists and insurgents: they saw military destruction of the enemy as a strategic goal in its own right". In short, the brigadier says, "the US army has developed over time a singular focus on conventional warfare, of a particularly swift and violent kind".

    Such an unsophisticated approach, ingrained in American military doctrine, is counter-productive, exacerbating the task the US faced by alienating significant sections of the population, argues Brig Aylwin-Foster.

    What he calls a sense of "moral righteousness" contributed to the US response to the killing of four American contractors in Falluja in the spring of 2004. As a "come-on" tactic by insurgents, designed to provoke a disproportionate response, it succeeded, says the brigadier, as US commanders were "set on the total destruction of the enemy".

    He notes that the firing on one night of more than 40 155mm artillery rounds on a small part of the city was considered by the local US commander as a "minor application of combat power". Such tactics are not the answer, he says, to remove Iraq from the grip of what he calls a "vicious and tenacious insurgency".

    Brig Aylwin-Foster's criticisms have been echoed by other senior British officers, though not in such a devastating way. General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the army, told MPs in April 2004 as US forces attacked Falluja: "We must be able to fight with the Americans. That does not mean we must be able to fight as the Americans."
    There's more. Read the rest here. And read Aylwin-Foster's full report here.

    This criticism, while unsettling in its own right, raises the question of what happened to Donald Rumsfeld's vaunted "transformation" of the U.S. military? Seymour Hersh has written much about Rumsfeld's disdain for the Army and its old school tactics of conventional warfare (pooh-poohing overwhelming force, armored vehicles and body armor and all that old-fashioned stuff...) but what has Rummy done to adapt the "military he went to war with" to the insurgency he's got?

    This is just one opinion by a British officer, arguably no expert on the U.S. military. But the British are viewing the U.S. military in the theater, and some of his criticism, particularly about the officer corps, are echoed at places like the web-site of the late Col. David Hackworth, (fitting tribute here) who himself constantly criticized the way U.S. forces were being trained and utilized in Iraq, and who famously called Rummy an "asshole" who totally screwed up the war planning -- with much of Hack's info coming from U.S. troops in Iraq ...

    Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Military
    posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
    The anti-whistleblower rule?
    According to today's Washington Times, NSA whistleblower Russ Tice has been told that he cannot testify about what he calls illegal wiretapping of Americans by his former agency unless he first talks to probably the last person you'd expect to make sure the information is acted on in the public interest: Donald Rumsfeld. Says the WT:
    Renee Seymour, director of NSA special access programs stated in a Jan. 9 letter to Russ Tice that he should not testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not have the proper security clearances for the secret intelligence.

    Miss Seymour stated that Mr. Tice has "every right" to speak to Congress and that NSA has "no intent to infringe your rights."

    However, she stated that the programs Mr. Tice took part in were so secret that "neither the staff nor the members of the [House intelligence committee] or [Senate intelligence committee] are cleared to receive the information covered by the special access programs, or SAPs."

    "The SAPs to which you refer are controlled by the Department of Defense (DoD) and ... neither the staffs nor the members ... are cleared to receive the intelligence covered by the SAPs," Miss Seymour stated.

    Special access programs are the most sensitive U.S. intelligence and weapons programs and are exempt from many oversight mechanisms used to check other intelligence agencies.

    Miss Seymour also said that Mr. Tice, who was dismissed in May, failed to notify either the Pentagon or NSA of the improper behavior that he is charging.

    As a result, she stated that Mr. Tice must first give statements to the Defense Department and NSA inspectors general before he provides any classified information to Congress from the SAPs.

    Miss Seymour also said Mr. Tice must first "obtain and follow direction" from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, through the inspectors general on the proper procedures for contacting the congressional oversight committees.
    Isn't that a bit like requiring Jeffrey Wigand to take his case to the president of Brown and Williamson before going public?

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    posted by JReid @ 9:13 AM  
    Wednesday, January 11, 2006
    The hypothetical situation room
    Nothing can stop Chris Matthews, Norah O'Donnell and our old friend Wolf Blitzer from chasing down the Democratic angle to the Jack Abramoff scandal-fest. Said Wolf today during a news-break from the Alito hearings, to a reporter covering today's news of two possible Congressional indictments:
    WOLF (paraphrasing): What are the chances that there will be some Democrats who are indicted in this case?
    Well, Wolf, it depends. If Alberto Gonzalez makes the decision, I'm sure he'll go out on a limb and attempt to indict a Democrat or two in order to make Ken Mehlman's talking points seem credible. But if the JD follows Abramoff's money -- all of which went to Republicans, I wouldn't hold your breath. You see, it has alredy been firmly established that no Democrats -- that would be NONE -- took money from Black Jack. But let's not let the truth get in the way of CNN and MSNBC's "fair and balanced" reporting ...

    Update: Wolf just characterized Republicans as questioning the nominee and Democrats as "nibbling away" at his nomination. Unbelievable...

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    posted by JReid @ 4:51 PM  
    Yeah, yeah, says you...
    Cuban-Americans in Miami resuscitate their annual threat to withhold their votes from the Republican Party over the repatriation of 15 Cuban migrants.

    Here was the same threat in 2003 (also here), before Bush increased his share of the Hispanic vote in Florida by an estimated 7 percent. News flash: much of that vote is weighted down by Cuban-Americans, who are, and will likely remain, solidly Republican. Believe me, I wish it weren't so, and worked closely with a great group here in Miami determined to get more Cuban-Americans to take a realistic look at what they're getting from the GOP in exchange for their votes. Let's not kid ourselves that the latest bleating from the elected Cuban-American lobby here in South Florida is anything but useless noise from a group who feels neglected since the GWOT grabbed all of Dubya's attention and left them hanging...

    Note to "Cuba lobby" -- regime change against Fidel ain't happening. You've already got the best immigration deal campaign money can buy (ask the Haitians) and until your leadership gets serious about spreading the votes around, the GOP is going to keep on treating you the way the Dems treat Black people: like crap that turns into roses six weeks before Election Day.

    Related: Carl at Simply Left Behind asks (and answers) the question whether Jeb will pitch an Elian-style fit over the return of the refugees...

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    posted by JReid @ 4:07 PM  
    And the children of Israel looked upon Mad Marion, and gagged
    Okay, so if God zapped Ariel Sharon as punishment for dividing the land of Israel, but Sharon is getting better ... but Israel is now dissing Pat Robertson; the guy God supposedly shares his hit-list with ... doesn't it follow that either:

    A) There is no God...
    B) There is a God, but he likes Ariel Sharon a whole heckuva lot better than Pat Robertson, or
    C) There is a God, and the Israelis have his phone number too...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:27 AM  
    What the public wants, part 2
    More poll numbers on the issue of domestic spying. Richard Morin hawks up an ABC-WaPo poll which finds the usual partisal split:

    Most Americans said they have paid close attention to the controversy over the program, and a bare majority of those surveyed, 51 percent, said it is an acceptable way to fight terrorism, while 47 percent said it is not. Beneath those overall findings, however, were sharp partisan divisions.

    Among Republicans, 75 percent said the Bush program is acceptable, while 61 percent of Democrats said it is unacceptable.

    Independents called the program unacceptable by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

    More generally, two in three Americans said it is more important to investigate possible terrorist threats than to protect civil liberties. One-third said the respect for privacy should take precedence. [65%-32%]

    Republicans overwhelmingly favored aggressive investigation, with more than four in five saying that is their preference, while Democrats were split 51 percent to 47 percent on which should take precedence. Independents favored relatively unfettered pursuit of possible terrorism by nearly 2 to 1.

    The poll sample of 1,001 adults broke down this way: 31 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican, 34 percent independent, 5 percent other and 1 percent absolute idiots with no opinion. The poll had more conservatives than in the past 10 or so polls, with 37 percent of respondents identifying themselves as such vs. 20 percent liberals and 40 percent moderates.

    What's also interesting is that the percentage of those who "strongly disapprove" of "the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president" was 39 percent, ten points higher than the percentage who strongly approve. 52 percent disapprove of the way Bush is handling "ethics in government" vs. 45 percent who approve.

    On the WOT, Bush gets better markes -- 53 percent approve and 45 percent do not. (55 percent disapprove of how Congress is doing its job and only 41 percent approve there). Read the tabs for the poll yourself here.

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    posted by JReid @ 11:04 AM  
    I'd hate to be his kid
    In day three of his confirmation hearings, Samuel Alito fielded a softball about what experiences have shaped him (the old "Tell us: who is Sam Alito?" gambit). He said that when he looks at a case, he has to think of his own family members or people he knows and admires who may have been in the same situation at some point in time -- whether in the area of discrimination, or being an immigrant, etc. He also said in cases involving a child, he has to think of his own child and how he would want his child treated under similar circumstances.

    So, um... Sam ... about that 10-year-old girl getting strip searched...

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    Tags: , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News, ,
    posted by JReid @ 10:57 AM  
    Best Love Life EVER: Celebrity Wife-Swap Edition
    In Hollywood, Skank + Ho equals... Baby! ... and with that, Brangelina join the ranks of all-time Hollywood hussies and the men who ditch their wives for them... No more waiting, here are the charts:

    At number five: our red hot, do-gooding duo, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, for shoving Friends star Jennifer Anniston aside while she was still married to Brad, even as Angelina continues to refuse to speak to her dad, Jon Voight, because he cheated on her mom -- and all this while giving great face in those fabulous photo ops with starving kids from Africa ... you GO girls!


    At number four: super-cyclist Lance Armstrong and girl rocker Cheryl Crow, who scooped up Lance before the ink was dry on his divorce from the wife that nursed him through brain cancer! Somebody call the cycling commission: this romance is on steroids!


    At number three: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (otherwise known as Bennifer 1.0), for taking speed dating while married to a new level... J.Lo ditched husband number one, Ojani Noa, to hang with P. Diddy (sorry, P. Diddy's once and future live-in girlfriend, Kim Porter...), then dumped Diddy to marry Chris Judd, then skated on Judd to almost marry Ben Affleck! But Brad got the last laugh, jumping ship on La Lopez before the wedding to bust up those two cute kids from Alias (giving us Bennifer 2.0). It's enough to give you a brain freeze!


    At number two: America's sweetheart, Julia Roberts, for snatching Danny Moder out from the deathgrip of that wife of his after going through more co-stars than a snuff-film actor... not so pretty, woman!


    And at number one: who can top them? Britney and Kevin! Mr. Blackwell's tacky, over-the-hill Lolita traded in Justin Timberlake for the deadbeat on Shar Jackson's couch -- while Jackson was eight months pregnant with Kevin's second child! Now who got the short end of that stick...?


    Congratulations, Shar! Whitney and Bobby may be bathing in crack water and Ashton Kutcher may be married to his mother, but you're having the best love-life ever...!


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    posted by JReid @ 9:23 AM  
    Tuesday, January 10, 2006
    Mr. Lonely
    The Times will apparently report that Jack Abramoff is now po, broke 'n lonely ... meanwhile, more info on just how hard Tom DeLay worked for his former pal. And BradBlog has news on one of Bad Jack's other pals: Bob Ney -- and his curious connection to the good people at Diebold...

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    posted by JReid @ 5:34 PM  
    More spying on Quakers
    RawStory has what it says is proof that the NSA has joined the FBI in spying on American peace groups, including a Baltimore Quaker group opposed to the war in Iraq. Here's the link to the documents the writer, a Marilyn Senate candidate named Kevin Zeese.

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    posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
    Sam's Club: Orrin Hatch on 'magnificence'
    Orrin Hatch just told Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room that Democrats on the judiciary committee were "blown away" by Samuel Alito's "magnificent" performance so far. Well Orrin, someone was "blown" in that hearing... but it wasn't the Democrats. Mr. Alito -- your cigarette, sir. ...

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    Tags: , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News, ,

    posted by JReid @ 5:04 PM  
    What the public wants
    The AEI's John Schneider on CNN just cited a new CNN/USAT poll showng a slight majority of Americans favoring Bush's warrantless spying gambit, with the majority produced by an 80-20 Republican split in favor of the president's policy. But hang on -- here is a contemporaneous poll by CBS, which shows that Americans oppose the idea of wiretapping random Americans in order to fight terrorism (not willing beats willing 68-28), even when they don't believe their own phones or emails would be bugged. The differenct, as this poll shows, is when you throw in that the specific Americans being tapped are "suspected" of terrorist activity. Then the vote flipped to willing over not williing 69-26.

    The poll also shows the public views the Democrats as more capable (42% to 33%) of "writing laws which help the government find terrorists without violating the average person's rights." And when asked: "Which concerns you more right now -- that the government will fail to enact strong anti-terrorism laws, or that the government will enact new anti-terrorism laws which excessively restrict the average person's civil liberties?" respondents said they feared the loss of liberties over the failed strong laws by 46-38.

    There's also this gem:

    "During wartime, some presidents have either received or assumed special war powers, which give the president more authority to act independently when he feels it is necessary. In the current campaign against terrorism, is it a good idea or a bad idea for the president to have the authority to make changes in the rights usually guaranteed by the Constitution?"
    Answer: Good idea - 36%, bad idea - 57%. In December it was 64-29 the other way.

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    posted by JReid @ 4:51 PM  
    P.S.: Your novel sucks
    P.J. O'Roarke hates Wonkette's novel. Wizbang makes a snippet of O'Roarke's gutter-sniping their quote of the day. I'd thank them for the tip, but I'm not sure I entirely care about Wonkette's novel ... no, wait, now I'm sure. I don't care.

    What is interesting, though, is how Wonkette subtly altered something that used to be considered fundamental to blogging: personal voice. Wonkette, to my knowledge, was the first "persona" blog -- one in which someone is hired to blog as a character created by someone else. By the way, Ana Marie Cox has since quit Wonkette to ... um ... write novels... (don't tell P.J. -- especially if there are sharp objects nearby...) Her part will now be played by a guy.

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    posted by JReid @ 3:14 PM  
    Brokeback Committee Room
    10:18 a.m. The answer is 'no': Samuel Alito is shifting in his chair with more twtichery than George W. Bush. How is it that he was unable to answer Sen. Patrick Leahy's very simple, straightforward question: is there any circumstance under which the president can, as the Bush Justice Department asserted in what's called the "Bybee Memo" (often dubbed the "torture memo") that the president, as commander in chief, can in wartime set aside any law passed by Congress which he thinks impedes his power to "wage war" (including relaxing the rules on torture) and can immunize anyone under his command to set aside those laws as well, without the fear of prosecution?

    The answer, for any sane person, is no. But Alito didn't give that answer. He babbled on about circumstances and specifics he'd need in order to decide... man, those are the circumstances and specifics! If you think there are ever, ever any circumstances under which the president can ignore the law, and then go further, to immunize others to disobey the law ... my God, man, what court do you think you're applying to? This is no star chamber you're trying to get onto, dude, this is the SUPREME COURT of the UNITED STATES! No, the president can't set aside the law or immunize others to do so!!! You don't have to be a judge, or even a freaking lawyer to know that...! Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!!

    ...(sigh)

    Leahy gave Alito several chances to extricate himself, citing the case of Bushes illustrious signing memo on the clearly decided issue of torture, opposition to which passed overwhelmingly in Congress. Alito hedged again, saying such cases fall into the "twilight zone" of cases under Justice Jackson's "third scenario," wherein the executive asserts powers in contravention to a clear expression of Congressioonal will. Huh? I don't see the twilight. If the Congress says "don't do it" and passes a statute, the president is duty bound to uphold it. But Alito couldn't bring himself to say that. Stunning.

    10: 25 a.m.: Leahy is now quizzing the illustrious judge on his membership in the organization Concerned Alumni of Princeton, an illustrious organization that opposed to expansion of Princeton's entrance rules to include women and minorities, and which was so far off, even Bill Frist diagnosed it as wack-job. Alito is trying to claim he doesn't remember being a part of the group (the same way he doesn't remember saying he'd recuse himself on cases regarding a couple of financial services firms, I suppose...) and then he tried to blame his membership on Princeton's ill treatment of the ROTC. Give me a break...

    10:40 a.m.: ... Oh, look, Orrin Hatch is putting on his Supreme Court knee pads to save Alito from the CAP flap... typical Hatch tough question: "did you enjoy your time in the ROTC?" "You're an extremely ethical man, aren't you, judge?" "Golly, you're really a swell guy. Can I be on top next time...?" Jeez...

    11: 10: Wrap time. Show's over for now. Would somebody please get Orrin Hatch some mouthwash and a $20 bill ...? He's got to be exhausted...

    11:21 a.m.: Kennedy is questioning Alito on the Vanguard recusal problemita now. BTW here's something that's actually interesting: According to ThinkProgress, Sen. Lindsey Graham has not only made up his mind on Alito (he's for him) he also helped coach the judge for these hearings. If that's true, that could be an ethics violation -- not that the GOP-run Senate punishes ethics violations ...

    11:41 a.m.: Kennedy basically took Alito to the woodshed on the "gestapo-like" strip search of a ten-year-old girl, which Alito alone upheld in the case of Doe v. Groody. He's now quizzing Alito on not only never meeting an aspect of police power he didn't like, but also of believing in the almost unlimited power of the president. On the strip search, Alito claims that "I'm not happy about the strip search of a 10-year-old girl" and that his dissent only had to do with his belief that the warrant authorized authorities to search "anybody on the premises" of the targeted drug dealer. But he didn't seem particularly upset about it, either. Here's what Alito said during the hearing of that case:



    ''Why do you keep bringing up the fact that this case involves the strip search of a 10-year-old child?" Alito said, according to Solomon, lawyer for the girl.
    Why, indeed. Maybe because every other judge on the Third Circuit, including the now Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, found the search of the child to be inappropriate and not authorized by the warrant, that's why. And because it's pretty freaking outrageous, Sam... You do think strip searching little girls is outrageous... right...?

    Update: Kennedy quizzed Alito on the judge's previous statements about the "unitary executive" -- Armando at Kos has more about what that means... And staying with Kennedy for a moment, John Hinderaker at Powerline continues to stretch the boundaries between madman and fool. See if you can guess who he's talking about in this passage (courtesy of a Hinderaker fan at GOPbloggers):




    Their logic can't withstand the most elementary scrutiny, and their leader is a dimwit who, after being thrown out of Harvard for cheating, graduated last in his law school class. While a law student, he endured the humiliation of being arrested by a highway patrolman while cowering in the back seat of his car, pretending not to be the driver. He subsequently drove off a bridge, thereby drowning a young woman whose only crime was assuming that he was a competent escort. She probably could have been saved if he had gone for help, but instead of trying to rescue her, he spent the night looking for someone who would pretend to have been the driver of the car, discussing legal strategies with his family's advisers, and trying to establish an alibi. And now Ted Kennedy purports to sit in moral judgment over a brilliant, self-effacing public servant like Sam Alito.
    Were you thinking George W. Bush? Close... Never mind that the man Hinderaker would follow into the abyss is perhaps our most dim-witted president in 43 tries, has a history of lawbreaking consistently fueled by alcohol, likely broke the laws against the use of illicit drugs, dodged his military service during the Vietnam war despite having secured a cushy spot hermetically sealed from the draft, and who is alleged to have only cleaned up this act -- supposedly -- at the tender age of 40. That's not even to mention what Hinderaker's war hero has wrought at his present age, as president. Why anyone still listens to Powerline's resident nut-job is beyond me...

    11:55 a.m.: Oh, Chuck Grassley is up now. He just said "we want to prove that these allegations (the Vanguard recusal issues) are absurd..." Yes, that's your job, Chuck. Pass the knee pads on over, Orrin!

    12:10 (side note): Just surfed over to Michelle Malkin's place. Seems she's making the most of her brown bag lunch... "Kennedy blah blah spftt! drinking ... red face... pfgthhtwt! ack!"

    Back to the hearings, Grassley isn't as solicitous as Orrin Hatch with his softballs. He's asking Alito to expound upon what Constitutional principles guide him on deciding where the judiciary fits into the process...

    12:44 p.m.: Alito is now attempting to answer Sen. Joe Biden's 4,942-word question... it's about Alito's apparently lax attitude toward employment discrimination...

    2:50 p.m.: Took a bit of a break. CPSAN's back on now. Sen. Herb Kohl is taking on the nominee on the issue of abortion, and Alito is defending his judicial finding that women can be required by law to notify their husbands before getting an abortion. Not sure this is the Dems' best argument against him, but there it is ...

    3:45 p.m.: Missed it, but I'll definitely have to grab a transcript of Mike DeWine's anti-abortion rant. Sedatives people, sedatives. Diane Feinstein is questioning Alito now, focusing on the commerce clause.

    4:17 p.m.: Jeff Sessions of Alabama is taking his turn larding up Sam Alito. I think it's safe to say the Republicans' conduct during these hearings has been nothing short of embarrassing. Not a single salient question was asked between them. Laudatory statements about the nominee stated in the form of a question doesn't sound like a hearing to me. It sounds like a coronation. If the Democrats were harsh, good. Something is needed to balance the back-slapping, obsequious love-bombing that passed for questioning on the other side. The closest thing to active participatioon on the GOP side was Arlen Specter's gentle questioning of Alito on the issue of presidential power. These Senators -- in whose hands the future of the Supreme Court and in some ways, the balance of power between the three branches of government -- rests in part, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    4: 32 p.m.: Back to Sessions just walked Alito through a civics lesson on the varying powers of the federal branches of government (long story short, the president can't cut the Supreme Court members' pay). Then he expounded on the notion of liberal "judicial activism" forcing a liberal social agenda down Americans' throats (we'll just ignore the mostly Republican make-up of the Court for about a generation...) Sessions just asked if judges allowing personal, social or other beliefs to colour their rulings could ultimately undermine public respect for the law. Nice softball over center plate. What Sessions hasn't addressed is why, if he sees such dangers on the horizon, Sessions and his ideological bretheren are so keen to impose an abortion ban on that same public, based on their personal, social and "other" beliefs... Having tossed the ball around for a bit, now it's on to that kiddie strip search.

    5:10 p.m.: Russ Feingold brings up the practice sessions. Feingold asked Alito whether in his "moot court" practice sessions preparing for the confirmation hearings, the subject of the president's legal bases for wiretapping around FISA came up. Pity Feingold probably is barred by the Senate rules from addressing who was at those sessions, to the possible embarrassment of his colleague Mr. Graham ...

    More on Alito and the wiretapping here. Feingold is staying on this point/

    5:19 p.m.: Okay, this long and torturous process just paid off. Russ Feingold just took his Republican colleagues to task for dismissing questions about Alito's failure to recuse in the Vanguard and other cases as "ridiculous" and "a joke." He also said that (paraphrasing) "I think the idea of insulating yourselves and insulating the nominee is not conducive to the kind of hearings that this chairman and this ranking member intended for this committee." He added that asking questions -- including some unpleasant questions -- of the nominee "is our job" -- something the GOP members ought to remember from time to time.

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    posted by JReid @ 2:56 PM  
    Is Bush the man to stop Alito?
    An LA Times writer suggests that Bush administration's power grab may be the Democrats' best weapon in opposing the nominee. As a genuine Libertarian once told me, the framers designed the constitution to be competitive -- with each branch jealously guarding its prerogatives and pushing back against the other two. Even the GOP Senate at some point, will recall that it, and not the executive, is the first branch of government. It remains to be seen if enough Republicans choose their power over their president. Here's the article, and the key point:

    ... no one expects Alito to be as effective testifying as Roberts was.

    But to defeat Alito, Senate Democrats will need more than a clutch of 20-year-old policy memos and unsettling judicial opinions. They will have to portray Alito as a genuine threat to some core American value — and not merely to the right to privacy, on which all the moves and countermoves are already choreographed.

    President Bush's decision to engage in warrantless wiretapping of Americans in apparent violation of the statute regulating spying for national-security purposes raises a constitutional issue of staggering importance. In undertaking this program — and other policies on the use of torture, detention and the designation of enemy combatants — in its prosecution of the war on terror, the administration asserts an inherent constitutional authority to commit acts that Congress has explicitly deemed criminal.

    The question of whether the president is, to put it bluntly, above ordinary law whenever he invokes his constitutional authority as commander in chief will have to be decided by the Supreme Court. Whether it will transform the political landscape remains unclear. But it may be the only issue on which Alito is truly vulnerable. He is on record supporting a very broad view of presidential authority and, as a judge, has shown great deference to the acts of executive branch officials, including advocating legal immunity for the attorney general against lawsuits charging him with illegal wiretapping.

    Alito will resist questions on these matters on grounds that presidential authority will be the subject of cases on which he would sit.

    But the president's power to flout the will of Congress in secret, and solely on his say-so, should be an issue of transcendent importance. If Senate Democrats pursue it, Alito may face the prospect of separating himself from the president who nominated him or risk a filibuster.

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    posted by JReid @ 1:37 PM  
    Sam Alito's creative memory
    Sam Alito pleaded ignorance on his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Well, Sam, here's a refresher.

    • You seemed to remember joining the organization in 1985, when you cited your membership as a reason for the Reagan justice department to promote you (the organization folded a year later) ...
    • You have to this day, including during today's hearings, never disavowed the group, despite its long history of extreme views on the "comingling of the sexes" and races...
    • The organization was founded in 1972 (the year you graduated from Princeton, coincidentally...) on the following basis, according to Wikipedia:
    Among other things, the group opposed the university's switch to coeducation from an all male model as well as the policy of affirmative action designed to increase minority attendance at the Ivy League institution. Generally speaking, the group in its early years regarded itself as a defender of an all male, explicitly Christian Princeton.
    • The group also published a magazine, with these tidbits that students at other colleges in your day, including Joe Biden and Bill Frist, remember quite well:
    "Prospect" was founded in October 1972 by the then-newly-formed CAP, which was co-chaired by Asa Bushnell '21 and Shelby Cullom Davis '30. The latter, who was the University's largest donor at the time, was a strong traditionalist, firmly opposed to the many of the new directions Princeton was taking, including coeducation.

    He wrote in "Prospect": "May I recall, and with some nostalgia, my father's 50th reunion, a body of men, relatively homogenous in interests and backgrounds, who had known and liked each other over the years during which they had contributed much in spirit and substance to the greatness of Princeton," according to an account in "The Chosen," a book by Jerome Karabel on the history of admissions at Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

    "I cannot envisage a similar happening in the future," Davis added, "with an undergraduate student population of approximately 40% women and minorities, such as the Administration has proposed."
    • What the Prospect writers and founders apparently failed to write much about, was the ROTC, ostensibly your reason for joining the group...
    • The CAP records are neatly tucked away in the Library of Congress archives. Might you support releasing them?

    More on Alito's record regarding the broad area of "discrimination" here and here. And by the way, don't look for the National Association of Woman Lawyers to stand up on behalfof Alito. They declined to support his nomination...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:07 PM  
    Iran breaks the seals
    Nuclear work under way...
    posted by JReid @ 12:14 PM  
    Things people say when they're on the Fox News Channel
    "I said if I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t do it. I don’t think I made any mistake at all. She was not – I don’t believe she was an undercover agent, I never have. The CIA never told me that it would cause any damage, because I don’t think it would. So that is not the regret. But it’s caused me a lot of difficulty. In this town, if you’re perceived as being in trouble, people run away from you. So just from the standpoint of self-protection near the end of your career, I probably would have just as soon not done it."

    -- Douchebag of Liberty Robert Novak, lying his ass off about the Valerie Plame leak -- and expressing his concern for the one thing that truly matters to a journalist at the end of the day: self-preservation -- on "Hannity and Colmes" Monday.

    Meanwhile, from Crooks and Liars we get a new word for the lexicon: Hannidate...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:28 AM  
    American journalist kidnapped in Iraq
    A freelance journalist was abducted in Iraq on Saturday and her Iraqi translator was killed, but apparently not before he was able to tell "soldiers" -- U.S. or Iraqi, not sure -- about the kidnapping... So far, the abduction of Jill Carroll has received little play in the States. (The story hits the WaPo and other U.S. papers Tuesday). Carroll was on assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, which apparently wanted the story held (she was grabbed on Saturday. The AFP version of the story ran in international papers and websites on Saturday.) The Monitor has issued this statement for Tuesday:


    Jill Carroll, a freelance writer currently on assignment for The Christian Science Monitor, was abducted in western Baghdad on Saturday morning, local time. Her Iraqi interpreter was fatally wounded in the kidnapping. Her Iraqi driver escaped unharmed. At this point, no one has claimed responsibility.

    Jill, 28, is an established journalist who has been reporting from the Middle East for Jordanian, Italian, and other news organizations over the past three years. In recent months, the Monitor has tapped into her professionalism, energy, and fair reporting on the Iraqi scene. It was her drive to gather direct and accurate views from political leaders that took her into western Baghdad's Adil neighborhood on Saturday morning.

    The Monitor joins Jill's colleagues - Iraqi and foreign - in the Baghdad press in calling for her immediate and safe release.

    "Jill's ability to help others understand the issues facing all groups in Iraq has been invaluable. We are urgently seeking information about Ms. Carroll and are pursuing every avenue to secure her release," says Monitor Editor Richard Bergenheim.
    ...along with its own verson of the story:


    "I saw a group of people coming as if they had come from the sky," recalled Ms. Carroll's driver, who survived the attack. "One guy attracted my attention. He jumped in front of me screaming, 'Stop! Stop! Stop!' with his left hand up and a pistol in his right hand."

    One of the kidnappers pulled the driver from the car, jumped in, and drove away with several others huddled around Carroll and her interpreter, said the driver, who asked not to be identified. "They didn't give me any time to even put the car in neutral," he recounted.

    The body of the interpreter, Allan Enwiyah, 32, was later found in the same neighborhood. He had been shot twice in the head, law enforcement officials said. There has been no word yet on Carroll's whereabouts.

    The kidnapping occurred within 300 yards of the office of Adnan al-Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni politician, whom Carroll had been intending to interview at 10 a.m. Saturday local time, the driver said.

    Mr. Dulaimi, however, turned out not to be at his office, and after 25 minutes, Carroll and her interpreter left. Their car was stopped as she drove away. "It was very obvious this was by design," said the driver. "The whole operation took no more than a quarter of a minute. It was very highly organized. It was a setup, a perfect ambush."

    The kidnapping marked the end of a very bloody week in Iraq, including the deaths of a dozen American servicemen and civilian contractors. It also comes just after a French hostage was freed and amid the revelation that a German woman recently freed from captivity in Iraq may have been a government spy.

    What a week.

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    Tags: , , Middle East, War, Kidnapping, Foreign Policy, Spies, Spying

    posted by JReid @ 12:58 AM  
    Out-Foxed
    "Thanks, Keith..."

    Miss MSNB-Fabulous had the big Farris Hassan interview (long story short, rich Iraqi kid flies to Baghdad, gets in danger, goes to food market, can't speak Arabic without book, family contacts get him the bomb sources Reuters would envy...). Among the revelations in an otherwise rote interview: Hassan initially contacted Fox News from his bunker at the Palestine Hotel, where he holed up to be near other Western journalists once he realized it was way too dangerous to trapse around Baghdad with his American accent and Nike sneakers showing.

    The Fox producer Hassan contacted for help basically blew him off -- twice. Had the Foxie been more savvy, FNC would have had the Farris scoop all to itself. As it turned out, Hassan got his help -- got his work published, and got his story told -- by the Associated Press. Rita seemed to enjoy rubbing it in the noses of his or her former colleagues at the Dear Leader's official spokeschannel. And I enjoyed it right along with him/her.

    (...I'm telling you this show is like a chocolate sandwich -- you know it's bad for you and you definitely can't stand it everyday or you'd be sick, but when it's good... it's good...)

    Part two of the M-Fab interview is tomorrow after Keith (sweet Jesus, no more Norah O'Donnell sitting in at Hardball, though, guys... I'm out of Shiraz and I can barely put up with Matthews ...)

    More headlines from the House of Keith (who also dissed the Foxies something lovely last night, come to think of it... about those "Keen Eddie" ratings...) But I digress:

    And a few from Fox News:
    • Oh, sweet President .. oh, sweet Dow!
    • John Gibson: Harry Belafonte is a f--ing TRAITOR!!! (Now get me my Dubya plushie doll so I can go to sleep...)
    • Brit Hume exclusive: Ted Kennedy is a f--ing TRAITOR!!! (Are those my RNC talking points there under your desk? Thanks, I need them for the next segment...)
    • Cavuto: Al those whiners pouting for "more mine regulations" just 'cause a few non-union guys bought it are f---ing TRAITORS!!!
    • O'Reilly: You think you know more about Iraq than me, buddy? I was in combat in Iraq, okay...?
    • Greta: Who's missing in the Caribbean this week... anybody...?
    Ahem. That's all for now folks. Back to you, Norah...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:17 AM  
    Monday, January 09, 2006
    Impeach the bastard! ... No, not that bastard, the other one (and other tales of leaky woe)
    Tony Blair's still in the thick weeds over Iraq ... He has been for some time.

    Maybe that's why two Labor MPs saw fit last year to defy his order not to release the transcripts of a meeting between Mr. Blair and George W. Bush in which Mr. Bush reportedly talked/joked/or whatever, about bombing the Al-Jazeera television network. The two MPs apparently passed the docs on initially to an American -- who at the time declined to release them ahead of the 2004 election. They wound up being published by the Daily Mirror. (Boy, if they hate Al-Jazeera, the Bushies are really gonna despise Hamas TV...)

    The American recipient was John Latham, a 71-year-old retired electrical engineer from San Diego and a contributor to the DNC. I'm sure we'll hear more about him forthwith.

    By the way, interestingly enough, of the two men charged with actually leaking the document -- David Keogh and Leo O'Connor -- neither is an MP. ... The trial for the non-MP leakers resumes Tuesday.

    Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Impeachment, Tony Blair, UK, Leaks
    posted by JReid @ 11:55 PM  
    Oh God it's Norah ...
    Turning off Hardball now. The news can wait for Keith Olbermann at 8...

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    posted by JReid @ 7:05 PM  
    Der spy games
    Remember the German woman who was kidnapped and briefly held hostage by Iraqi insurgents? Get this:

    Corridors of Power: The lady was a spy
    By ROLAND FLAMINI
    UPI Chief International Correspondent

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Susanne Osthoff, the German archeologist kidnapped by Iraqi gunmen on Nov. 25 and released before Christmas was connected with her country's intelligence service, the BND, and had helped arrange a meeting with a top member of the terrorist organization al-Qaida, possibly Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi himself, according to well informed German sources Sunday.

    The sources confirmed German press reports that the 43-year-old woman had worked for the BND in Iraq on a freelance basis, and had for some time even stayed in a German intelligence safe house in Baghdad.

    A convert to Islam and a fluent Arabic speaker, Osthoff had lived in Iraq for over a decade, and was at one time married to an Iraqi. Archeology is a classic intelligence cover: T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) posed as an archeologist in the Middle East in the early part of the last century. But archeology is Osthoff's real profession. One Washington-based German source said Osthoff had been working on arranging a rendezvous with an al-Qaida member on behalf of a German intelligence agent in Iraq. Whether the meeting ever took place has not been revealed, but another source in Berlin, reached by telephone, said experts believed that the kidnapping may have been the work of a rival group, possibly within the same organization.

    A day after Osthoff's release, the Germans had quietly freed and sent home to his native Lebanon Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Hezbollah militant serving a sentence for killing a U.S. Navy diver in a hijacked TWA jetliner in 1985. Berlin officials denied any connection between Osthoff's release and Hamadi's after serving only 19 years of a life sentence. They said Hamadi had qualified for parole and the decision to free him had been taken by the state government in North Rhine Westphalia, where he was being held, not the Federal government. He was captured in Frankfurt in 1987 for his part in hijacking the TWA jetliner and killing the American navy diver, who was a passenger on the plane. The United States requested Hamadi's extradition, but the Germans refused, and instead tried and convicted him.

    But both German sources said the real deal involving Osthoff's release had been the payment of a ransom to her terrorist captors by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The ransom and Hamadi's release could well constitute a double embarrassment for Merkel on her scheduled "maiden" visit to Washington next week. Washington has always opposed pay ransom money on the grounds that it encourages more kidnapping.

    Although Merkel has carried on her socialist predecessor Gerhard Schroeder's policy of staying out of Iraq, German intelligence is operating in the area, cooperating with U.S. counterparts both on the ground and in Washington, the sources said.

    Kind of puts a fresh new spin on the release of that TWA hijacker, which outraged family members of Navy Seabee Robert Dean Stethem, who was killed by the hijackers and dumped onto the tarmac in Lebanon, where the plane ws diverted. At the time, the German government denied any link between the release of Hamadi and the relase of Osthoff, but curiously, the U.S. did not raise a particularly big stink. From the December 21 L.A. Times:
    [State Department spokesman Sean ] McCormack said U.S. officials knew of plans to release Hamadi before he was sent to Lebanon. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not personally intervene, he said.

    (Hamadi was arrested at the Frankfurt airport two years later with explosives in his bag, Germany refused to extradite him to the U.S. because of our good old, useful death penalty.)

    Meanwhile, Bluto, blogging at Jawa, has the back story on the release of a French hostage.

    Tags: , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Spies, Spying
    posted by JReid @ 3:24 PM  
    Holy crap
    Maybe there'll be a fillibuster of the Alito nomination ... Then again, maybe God will simply smite the Democratic members of the committee...

    Tags: , , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News, Religion, Religious Right
    posted by JReid @ 3:18 PM  
    Finally! A reason to love Howard Dean
    HoDo tore Wolf Blitzer a new one on a recent edition of the "Situation Room." Read the transcript here, but more importantly, watch the video.... Courtesy of Past Peak by way of Atrios). The rub: Sorry Ken Mehlman Wolf Blitzer, there are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff. (snicker...)

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    posted by JReid @ 2:51 PM  
    Farris has better intel than the CIA
    Farris Hassan's big adventure in the Mideast apparently included a sit-down chat with members of Hezbollah, the political/terrorist group, in Beirut...

    "I had to travel through alleyways and I finally walked - this was in the southern Shiite section of Beirut, the poorest section. So walking through alleyways, going up crooked staircases with bullet holes in the walls. And there was no sign saying, this is the Hezbollah office, of course not," Farris Hassan tells MSNBC's Rita Cosby in an interview airing tonight. ...

    ... For the two-hour meeting with the militant group's head of media relations - arranged by family friends Farris stayed with in Beirut - the teen says he posed as an American student writing a sympathetic article about Hezbollah, a group known to support Palestinian suicide bombers.

    "I actually sort of nailed him on one point. He told me that Palestine belongs to the Palestinians because they've been there for centuries and all the Jews there should go back to Europe.

    "And I told him, well, the Christians have been in Lebanon long before the Muslims, and 50 years ago, they were indisputably the majority. Under your same premise, shouldn't the Shiite newcomers return to their homelands?"

    Farris claimed they shared a hearty laugh after the man realized "he, in fact, was stumped" by the kid's logic.
    Cue the NSA wiretaps on Farris and his "family friends..."

    Anyway, at least he's sorry:

    A sheepish Farris, 16, also tells Cosby he's been racked with guilt about the worry he caused his parents, and he worries about "copycats."

    "I will feel so guilty if some copycats go to Iraq and cause the military all kinds of trouble. And God forbid one of them gets their head cut off," he said.

    ...or their phones tapped by the Bushies...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:35 PM  
    The awful truth
    From UPI editor-at-large Arnaud de Borchgrave: unfortunately, history proves it hands down -- violent insurgency and terror often works to achieve political goals.

    Commentary: Murder rewarded

    The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., in a recent TV interview, said murder was never a winning strategy and the sooner Iraqi insurgents understand this, the quicker peace will return.

    Hello!

    It would be interesting to find out where and how Gen. Casey derived such a notion and from which history books. This reporter, over the past 50 years, has covered a number of insurgencies where torture and assassination were indeed the weapons that delivered spectacular victories to the insurgents.

    Algeria's FLN (National Liberation Front) murdered French settlers for eight years and achieved what for the insurgents was a spectacular victory in 1962: the forced evacuation of one million French settlers, most of them born in Algeria and who had never so much as visited metropolitan France, and the exit of 500,000 French soldiers.

    South Africa's ANC (African National Congress) murdered white South African civilians and tortured to death those who betrayed them. In the 1980s, the ANC "necklaced" thousands by forcing them to drink gasoline, and then placing a gasoline-filled tire around their necks that was set on fire. The ANC achieved victory: the end of the country's racist apartheid regime.

    In Kenya (1952-59), the Land Freedom Army terrorists, dubbed Mau Mau, murdered innocent white farmers. Africans who declined to swear an oath of allegiance were tortured to death -- and the man who inspired them from prison became independent Kenya's first president: Jomo Kenyatta.

    Ordered by the Central Committee of the North Vietnamese Communist Party in 1959, the Vietcong was created in South Vietnam, which then embarked on a campaign of torture and murder to cower fence-sitters to join the cause of the "National Liberation Front." As we remember all too painfully, Vietnamese Communists eventually (16 years later) defeated the world's most powerful nation.

    The Phoenix program, launched by the U.S. in South Vietnam, was a campaign of targeted assassinations of suspected Vietcong cadres.

    Before Fidel Castro's 1959 victory in Cuba, murder and torture were part of the arsenal that overthrew the Batista regime. Assassination was an integral part of Sandinista strategy that chased the Somoza regime out of Nicaragua.

    The Israelis say Hezbollah had nothing to do with their strategic withdrawal from southern Lebanon. But any journalist who was covering the Middle East at that time knows about that particular cause and effect. Hezbollah was murdering Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon.

    Israel's decision to withdraw from Gaza was a no-brainer. But what finally convinced Prime Minister Sharon the time had come to evacuate 8,500 Israeli settlers was the murder of innocent Israeli settlers by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel also responded with "targeted killings" of individual leaders of these two terrorist organizations.

    In Palestine as early as 1938, Menachem Begin's Irgun was setting off random bombs in Arab market places that slaughtered scores at a time. This was repeated again after World War II.

    Yitzhak Shamir and his smaller and more disciplined "Stern Gang" (also known as the LEHI organization) despised Irgun as a bunch of "talented thugs" and Begin as a "blowhard." They focused on the targeted assassination of British intelligence officers and their support staff. And Shamir, who assassinated Eliyahu Gil'adi, a friend suspected of treason, rose rapidly from the rank and file to become one of LEHI's three top commanders.

    It was terrorism that convinced the British their mandate was unsustainable. Both Begin and Shamir served as Prime Ministers in the state of Israel they fought to create.

    From imperial Russia in 1917 to Eastern Europe after World War II to Cuba in 1959 to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975 to Nicaragua and Afghanistan in 1979, communists seized power by assassination of political opponents and the murder of innocent civilians to consolidate their absolute power. Communist China, in Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (1966-76), about 5 percent of the then population of 800 million, or 40 million people, was killed.

    In the American War of Independence, George Washington fought a clean war. He was merciful and refused to shed innocent blood. But in the south, the same war was a merciless civil war. American Tories and Patriots slaughtered each other viciously. One tactic was even to decapitate entire families and leave their heads on their own mantelpiece.

    In some 6,500 wars in 5,000 years of recorded history, cold-blooded murder and assassination of political and military leaders, has been an integral part of a winning strategy.


    The inherent question, then, is why should things be any different in Iraq? What does the present admnistraton know that history does not? It seems to me that the neocons should have paid better attention in history class. We can still perhaps put down the Iraqi insurgency, but we can't sustain a long term occupation of that country -- no matter how lofty we try to hoist the ultimate goals of "freedom" and "democracy."

    The cry of "give me liberty or death" may be all-but dead in this country, where a majority of terrified and psychologically terrorized Republicans are ready to cede every available liberty they've got if their president will only keep them safe from "the terrorists!" but elsewhere around the world, it still applies.

    Tags: , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy
    posted by JReid @ 11:13 AM  
    Just as tragic, not as hyped
    28 Americans have been killed in Iraq since last Thursday -- deaths just as tragic and senseless as those of the miners in West Virginia, but unfortunately, deaths America -- or at least the American media, -- seems increasingly numbed to...

    Tags: , , , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy, Media
    posted by JReid @ 11:09 AM  
    Caution on the Alito poll
    The ABC-WaPo poll showing most Americans favoring Sam Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court has some interesting caveats. Apparently, most of those polled gave Bush's nominee the thumbs up because they think he's a moderate who won't overturn Roe v. Wade... From ABC News:
    Fifty-three percent of Americans want the Senate to confirm Alito to the Supreme Court, 27 percent oppose his confirmation, and 20 percent are undecided. Support for Alito has not changed substantially from when his nomination was first announced in late October; in terms of public sentiment, he's in about the same position as John Roberts was at the opening of his hearings to become chief justice.

    Interest in the Alito hearings is also in line with early interest in the Roberts' nomination: Sixty percent plan to pay close attention to the Senate proceedings, with about one in five saying they'll be following them "very closely." Among the reasons people are likely to tune in is to hear what, if anything, Alito may say about abortion-rights cases, particularly the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

    Asked how they think Alito will handle abortion cases if he's confirmed, 38 percent say they think he'll leave Roe as is, a quarter believes he'll vote for greater restrictions, and 18 percent say he'll likely vote to overturn Roe entirely. The remaining 18 percent say they don't know how he'll vote.

    And many seem to project their own attitudes onto Alito: Fifty-eight percent say the way they expect him to vote on Roe is the same way they'd want him to vote.

    Expectations for Alito's handling of abortion cases link directly to support for his confirmation: About two-thirds of those who think he'll vote to either limit Roe or leave it intact support him, whereas a majority of those who think he'll vote to overturn the decision oppose his nomination. Previous polling indicates majority support for Roe, but also substantial support for the court's making it harder for women to get abortions — 42 percent in the last month's ABC/Post poll.

    Also interesting to note: Alito's support among independents is at just 47 percent, just seven percentage points higher than his support among Democrats...

    For that reason, don't expect Alito's confirmation hearings to be the relative love-fest John Roberts was treated to in the Judiciary Committee. He's going to get grilled on everything from civil rights to abortion to presidential power. And if the Democrats can succeed in bloodying him up on any of these issues, particularly the latter two, there is a slim but existant chance that he could go the way of Robert Bork, or at least escape the committee hearings without a recommendation.

    Tags: Tags: , , Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News,
    posted by JReid @ 9:51 AM  
    The biggest tragedy of all
    With the funerals for the 11 dead WVA miners beginning over the weekend, the families are also having to cope with what might be the cruelest cut of all. Their loved ones were less than one hour's unobstructed walk away from safety. From Saturday's New York Times:
    It is perhaps the most heartbreaking question raised by a heartbreaking accident. Did 12 miners die deep inside the Sago Mine because, instead of trying to walk to safety after an explosion, they waited for help that took too long to arrive?

    They apparently had enough oxygen in their respirators to last an hour or more and no wall of debris blocked their escape, mine company officials said. They could not have known it, but there was breathable air inside the mine, possibly just 2,000 feet away.

    Cut off from communications with the outside, surrounded by thick smoke and deep darkness, they might have believed a fire was raging ahead of them, or that the mine roof was in danger of collapsing. They might have become disoriented by carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Whatever the answer, they did what the textbooks instruct: they built a simple barricade out of plastic cloth in an alcove 13,000 feet from the mine portal and hunkered down to wait for help. That help arrived more than 40 hours later, when all but one were dead.

    "If they had been able to walk another 1,500 feet, they might have made it," said Dennis O'Dell, the health and safety administrator for the United Mine Workers of America, who helped in the rescue.

    Autopsies by the state's chief medical examiner found that the 12 miners died of carbon monoxide intoxication, John Law, a spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said Friday.

    An anonymous poster to JuiceeNews made the same chilling point last week:
    EXCLUSIVE: A first-hand account of the West Virginia mine
    Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

    I thought you might want a first hand account of what happened with the mining tragedy in WV. The incident occurred just 30 minutes from where I am from in West Virginia….Both my Uncle and my cousin were underground in the mine when the explosion occured. Fortunately, both were able to make it out, as they weren’t as far down as the 12 that were involved. All of this information is coming directly from my Uncle via my aunt.

    First of all, apparently, the miscommunication arose from a man who happened to pick up cell phone conversations from the command center on his home scanner. Apparently, the transmission was broken up, and he mistakenly took that the 12 were alive. My cousin’s father in law was on the rescue crew that found the 12. He said that when he found them, they were all sitting in a circle holding hands, and all were dead except one.

    According to my uncle, had the 12 tried, they could have walked out of the mine after the explosion occurred. There was no cave in or blockage in the mine. He says that most likely they checked their air monitors and decided that an explosion had occurred and that either it was too safe to try to walk out or that their way would be blocked. So instead, they built the barricade and tried to wait it out. My uncle and cousin were to go on the first car with the 12, but the car was full and they weren’t able to get on, which saved their lives. Instead, they got on the 2nd car, which was some ways behind the 1st. ...
    Very chilling, as is the news that one of the miners kept a log that chronicled the miners' ordeal hour by hour...

    Add to that the slowand cumbersome rescue operation, and you have a clear recipe for tragedy. Here's hoping the one survivor pulls through, and that the likely brief moment when America pays attention to the dirty and dangerous job of getting our energy prompts some changes.

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    posted by JReid @ 8:49 AM  
    Happiness is...
    ...increasingly rare...
    posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
    Saturday, January 07, 2006
    Dwindling legal arguments for the Bush faithful
    From today's WaPo:
    Report Rebuts Bush on Spying
    Domestic Action's Legality Challenged

    By Carol D. Leonnig
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 7, 2006; Page A01

    A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments.

    The Congressional Research Service's report rebuts the central assertions made recently by Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about the president's authority to order secret intercepts of telephone and e-mail exchanges between people inside the United States and their contacts abroad.

    The findings, the first nonpartisan assessment of the program's legality to date, prompted Democratic lawmakers and civil liberties advocates to repeat calls yesterday for Congress to conduct hearings on the monitoring program and attempt to halt it.

    The 44-page report said that Bush probably cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001. Congress expressly intended for the government to seek warrants from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before engaging in such surveillance when it passed legislation creating the court in 1978, the CRS report said.

    The report also concluded that Bush's assertion that Congress authorized such eavesdropping to detect and fight terrorists does not appear to be supported by the special resolution that Congress approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which focused on authorizing the president to use military force.

    "It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here," the authors of the CRS report wrote. The administration's legal justification "does not seem to be . . . well-grounded," they said.

    Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has pledged to hold hearings on the program, which was first revealed in news accounts last month, and the judges of the FISA court have demanded a classified briefing about the program, which is scheduled for Monday.

    "This report contradicts the president's claim that his spying on Americans was legal," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), one of the lawmakers who asked the CRS to research the issue. "It looks like the president's wiretapping was not only illegal, but also ensnared innocent Americans who did nothing more than place a phone call."
    And this:
    Some law professors have been skeptical of the president's assertions, and several said yesterday that the report's conclusions were expected. "Ultimately, the administration's position is not persuasive," said Carl W. Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor and an expert on constitutional law. "Congress has made it pretty clear it has legislated pretty comprehensively on this issue with FISA," he said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. "And there begins to be a pattern of unilateral executive decision making. Time and again, there's the executive acting alone without consulting the courts or Congress."

    Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the report makes it clear that Congress has exerted power over domestic surveillance. He urged Congress to address what he called the president's abuse of citizens' privacy rights and the larger issue of presidential power.

    "These are absolutely central questions in American government: What exactly are the authorities vested in the president, and is he complying with the law?" Rotenberg said.

    The report includes 1970s-era quotations from congressional committees that were then uncovering years of domestic spying abuses by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI against those suspected of communist sympathies, American Indians, Black Panthers and other activists. Lawmakers were very disturbed at how routinely FBI agents had listened in on U.S. citizens' phone calls without following any formal procedures. As they drafted FISA and created its court, the lawmakers warned then that only strong legislation, debated in public, could stop future administrations from eavesdropping.

    "This evidence alone should demonstrate the inappropriateness of relying solely on executive branch discretion to safeguard civil liberties," they wrote. The lawmakers noted that Congress's intelligence committees could provide some checks and balances to protect privacy rights but that their power was limited in the face of an administration arguing that intelligence decisions must remain top secret.
    Meanwhile, Rasmussen or no Rasmussen (and with the superior methodology of AP/Ipsos...) the majority of Americans get it just fine.
    Over the past three weeks, President Bush and top aides have defended the electronic monitoring program they secretly launched shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, as a vital tool to protect the nation from al-Qaida and its affiliates.

    Yet 56 percent of respondents in an AP-Ipsos poll said the government should be required to first get a court warrant to eavesdrop on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when those communications are believed to be tied to terrorism.

    Agreeing with the White House, some 42 percent of those surveyed do not believe the court approval is necessary.

    "We're at war," Bush said during a New Year's Day visit to San Antonio. "And as commander in chief, I've got to use the resources at my disposal, within the law, to protect the American people. ... It's a vital, necessary program."

    According to the poll, age matters in how people view the monitoring. Nearly two-thirds of those between age 18 to 29 believe warrants should be required, while people 65 and older are evenly divided.

    Party affiliation is a factor, too. Almost three-fourths of Democrats and one-third of Republicans want to require court warrants.
    I'm proud of you, America (well, at least 56 percent of you...) Thank God there's still a majority who believe in fundamental liberty and the freedoms this country was founded on. ...Next?

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    posted by JReid @ 8:26 PM  
    Buh-bye...
    DeLay out as Majority Leader...

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    posted by JReid @ 8:23 PM  
    Friday, January 06, 2006
    Quote of the week -- and they call him the smart brother...
    "Yeah, but I don't think it should actually be part of the curriculum," Bush responded. "And people have different points of view and they can be discussed at school, but it does not need to be in the curriculum." -- Jeb Bush on whether he believes in Darwin's theory of evolution.
    Read more about the once and future Article II King here...

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    posted by JReid @ 10:19 PM  
    The 'uh-ohs' keep coming
    Who's the guy from The Hotline who's always on MSNBC dismissing the idea of Democrats making electoral gains from the woes of the president and the GOP? Maybe he should sit out the next few episodes of "Hardball..."
    WASHINGTON - In an ominous election-year sign for Republicans, Americans are leaning sharply toward giving Democrats control of Congress, an AP-Ipsos poll finds. Democrats are favored 49 percent to 36 percent.

    The poll was taken this week as Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to tax evasion, fraud and corruption charges and agreed to aid a federal investigation of members of Congress and other government officials.

    President Bush’s job approval remains low — 40 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll. About as many approve of his handling of Iraq, where violence against Iraqis and U.S. troops has surged. ...

    ... About a third of the public, 34 percent, approves of the job Congress is doing, and nearly twice as many, 63 percent, disapprove, according to the poll of 1,001 adults taken Jan. 3-5. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points. Public opinion of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress has been mixed, recent polling found.
    Which might not matter so much -- and clearly, it's way too early for this to be concrete -- except that:
    In the Senate, 33 seats will be on the ballot in November, 17 of them currently in Democratic hands, 15 controlled by Republicans, and one held by Sen. James Jeffords, a Vermont independent. Democrats now have 44 Senate seats and need to pick up seven to gain a majority, six if Vermont independent Bernie Sanders replaces Jeffords.

    All 435 House seats are on the ballot this fall, and Democrats need to pick up at least 15 to become the majority party and take control of the House.
    The only issue remaining is non-competitive seats -- but if the present environment extends through the summer, it could all depend on what the meaning of "competitive" is...

    What Republicans have to worry about is that every voter who isn't a hard-core Republican -- and that means the all important swing voters -- could very well be moved by an argument that we need divided government in order to curb the corruption and rot in Washington, and in order to force bi-partisan solutions to the big problems facing us, particularly in Iraq. If the Dems make that argument persuasively: vote for divided government -- vote Democrat... and if enough Republicans are brought low by the Abramoff-DeLay scandal taint, a change in the lower, and especially the upper, chambers is very much a possibility.

    Of course, the other side could be energized by the notion of John Conyers chairing the judiciary committee...

    While this poll feels like a blockbuster, the fact is, the public has been trending Democrat in the preferences for Congress since last Fall. Take a look at the trends for yourself.

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    posted by JReid @ 7:36 PM  
    On shaky ground
    Legal analysts from the Congressional Research Service say the administration (and its apologists') legal justification for the NSA's spying on American callers is mad shaky...
    ...two attorneys in the organization’s legislative law division, Elizabeth Bazan and Jennifer Elsea, say the justification that the Justice Department laid out in a Dec. 22 analysis for the House and Senate intelligence committees “does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor of that letter suggests.”

    The National Security Agency’s activity “may present an exercise of presidential power at its lowest ebb,” Bazan and Elsea write in the 44-page memo.

    Bush and his top advisers have defended the program, which allowed the highly secretive agency to eavesdrop without court approval on international calls and e-mails of people who were inside the United States and suspected of communicating with al-Qaida or its affiliates.

    The Bush administration says it was legal under Article 2 of the Constitution, which grants presidential powers, and Congress’ September 2001 authorization to use military force to conduct the war on terror.

    But the memo concludes: “It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has ... authorized the NSA electronic surveillance operations here under discussion.”

    Apparently the administration isn't the only one sporting a bogus legal theory, however. ThinkProgress calls out Michelle Malkin on her big, fat, legal stretch, and for a brief, shining moment, she relents...

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    posted by JReid @ 5:48 PM  
    GOP: It's what's for dinner
    Looks like Randy "Duke" Cunningham wore a wire and agreed to implicate others before he went down in disgrace. Damn it's getting hot in D.C. ...

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    posted by JReid @ 3:54 PM  
    News from the Animal Farm...
    A vendor to the IRS tracked the political affiliations of taxpayers under investigation in 20 states and the District of Columbia. The states involved: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. Been audited lately? I guess if you don't quite pay your taxes you'd better be a Republican, if you know what's good for you...

    The NSA not only conducted illegal surveillance on U.S. callers, it reportedly later destroyed the evidence for fear of what Congress would do if it found out, and out of a fear of lawsuits (and that nasty process that goes with them: discovery)... Doesn't sound like an agency acting under the clear Constitutional authority of the president to me... Says Truthout:
    NSA lawyers advised the agency to immediately destroy the names of thousands of American citizens and businesses it collected shortly after 9/11 in its quest to target terrorists in this country. NSA lawyers told the agency that the surveillance was illegal and that it could not share the data it collected with the CIA or other intelligence agencies.

    The lawyers said the surveillance could result in numerous lawsuits from people identified in the surveillance reports, two former US officials told the Houston Chronicle in an October 27, 2001, report, and was illegal despite any terrorist threat that existed in the days following 9/11.

    By law, the NSA cannot spy on a US citizen, an immigrant lawfully admitted to this country for permanent residence, or a US corporation. But, with the permission of a special court, it can target foreigners inside the United States, including diplomats.
    According to Raw Story, a secret military operation under the direction of Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone sought to score a public relations coup by finding missing Gulf War pilot Scott Speicher (his supposed captivity apparently being yet another of Chalabi's lies) and to "solve" the no WMD problem in Iraq even ahead of securing the country...

    By the way, the NSA is denying it spied on CNN staffers including Christiane Amanpour. More accurately, the agency says no such reporters were targeted for surveillance, which doesn't necessarily mean their conversations weren't monitored, just that they weren't the primary targets of the eavesdropping, right?
    The senior official said that from time to time NSA surveillance overseas "inadvertently" acquires recordings or copies of communications involving Americans -- or what the government calls "U.S. persons," which includes most U.S. residents and employees of American companies. By law, however, such materials are required to be erased or destroyed immediately, the official said.
    CNN seems pretty eager to knock this story down, don't they? I'd be interested to see what NBC's investigation digs up...

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    posted by JReid @ 3:33 PM  
    Contempt of Congress?
    Bush's writ of bypass on the torture memo pisses off John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham. (HT to Mike Votes) From yesterday's Boston Globe:

    John W. Warner Jr., a Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, issued a joint statement rejecting Bush's assertion that he can waive the restrictions on the use of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment against detainees to protect national security.

    ''We believe the president understands Congress's intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees," the senators said. ''The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation. Our committee intends through strict oversight to monitor the administration's implementation of the new law."

    Separately, the third primary sponsor of the detainee treatment law, Senator Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, told the Globe in a phone interview that he agreed with everything McCain and Warner said ''and would go a little bit further."

    ''I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any . . . law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified," Graham said. ''If we go down that road, it will cause great problems for our troops in future conflicts because [nothing] is to prevent other nations' leaders from doing the same."

    The White House did not return calls yesterday about the senators' statements. On Friday, in signing the ban on torture, Bush issued a ''signing statement," saying he would interpret the restrictions in the context of his broader constitutional powers as commander in chief. A ''signing statement" is an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

    A senior administration official later confirmed that the president believes the Constitution gives him the power to authorize interrogation techniques that go beyond the law to protect national security. But in enacting the law, Congress intended to close every loophole and impose an absolute ban on all forms of torture, no matter the circumstances, Graham said.

    David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said the senators' statements ''mean that the battle lines are drawn" for an escalating fight over the balance of power between the two branches of government.

    ''The president is pointing to his commander in chief power, claiming that it somehow gives him the power to dispense with the law when he's conducting war," Golove said. ''The senators are saying: 'Wait a minute, we've gone over this. This is a law Congress has passed by very large margins, and you are compelled and bound to comply with it.' "

    Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First, said the senators' statement should send a clear warning to military and CIA interrogators that they would be subject to criminal prosecution if they abuse a detainee.

    ''That power [to override the law] was explicitly sought by the White House, and it was considered and rejected by the Congress," she said. ''And any US official who relies on legal advice from a government lawyer saying there is a presidential override of a law passed by Congress does so at their peril. Cruel inhuman and degrading treatment is illegal."

    But Golove said that it is politically unlikely that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales would prosecute an official for taking an action Bush ordered him to take. Still, he said, Congress has a number of tools for compelling the president to obey the law. Congress can withhold funds for programs. It can subpoena administration officials to testify under oath. It can pass stricter laws or block legislation Bush needs. In an extreme and politically unlikely scenario, it can impeach the president.

    This is a continuation of the Bush administration strategy, supported by the likes of Judge Sam Alito, of setting aside any law that he feels impedes his eternal "war powers," and by issuing statements that seek to interpret the laws he's signing.

    Hopefully the Congress will push back hard against what looks like a blatant attempt to dismiss the authority of Congress in the passing of laws and to grab the judiciary's power to interpret them.

    Previous:

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    posted by JReid @ 1:40 PM  
    Bush's 5-minute mixer
    The New York Times account of Bush's "historic" confab with geriatric secretaries of state and defense includes a little bit of attitutde:

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 - Colin Powell said nothing - a silence that spoke volumes to many in the White House today.

    His predecessor, Madeleine Albright, was a bit riled after hearing an exceedingly upbeat 40-minute briefing to 13 living former secretaries of state and defense about how well things are going in Iraq. Saying the war in Iraq was "taking up all the energy" of President Bush's foreign policy team, she asked Mr. t Bush whether he had let nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea spin out of control, and Latin America and China policy suffer by benign neglect.

    "I can't let this comment stand," Mr. Bush shot back, telling Ms. Albright and the rare assembly of her colleagues, who reached back to the Kennedy White House, that his administration "can do more than one thing at a time."

    The Bush administration, the president insisted, had "the best relations of any country with Japan, China and Korea," and active programs to win alliances around the world.

    That was, according to some of the participants, one of the few moments of heat during an unusual White House effort to bring some of its critics into the fold and give a patina of bipartisan common ground to the strategy that Mr. Bush has laid out in recent weeks for Iraq.
    and a whole lot of nothing, all for a grand total of 5-10 minutes of face-time with Dubya:

    But if it was a bipartisan consultation, as advertised by the White House, it was a brief one. Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes this morning for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of another difficult war, the one in Vietnam: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger. Then the entire group was herded the Oval Office for what he called a "family picture."

    Those who wanted to impart more wisdom to the current occupants of the White House were sent back across the hall to meet again with Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. But, as several of the participants noted, by that time Mr. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had gone on to other meetings. ...

    ... Lawrence Eagleburger, a secretary of state under the first President Bush, told reporters that Mr. Bush had come in for some criticism but that it had been mild. "When you are in the presence of the president of the United States, I don't care if you've been a devout Democrat for the last hundred years, you're likely to pull your punches to some degree," Mr. Eagleburger said.
    And this helps get us closer to "total victory" in Iraq, how...?

    Update: Brad DeLong tags the WaPo for its kitten purr version of the five minutes at the photo op with George story (sorry Van de Hei, you deserve this spanking...)

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    posted by JReid @ 1:27 PM  
    A day in the life of the new Iraq
    The death toll in the latest Iraqi violence surge rises over 140, including 11 U.S. troops ...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:15 PM  
    The nuclear blueprint that got away
    Did the CIA inadvertently start Iran down the path to nuclear proliferation? Yet another bombshell allegation from the book to get hold of right about now, by James Risen. Mike Votes lists more of Risen's incredible claims on his blog.

    Meanwhile, Iran skips a crucial meeting with the IAEA...

    Related: Will the U.S. attack Iran? Wayne Madsen (scroll down), Times of India, Al-Jazeera, The New Yorker, Global Research Center all vote "yes"...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:10 AM  
    The Chronicles of Marion II: Fire in the Holy Land
    Hello friends, it's me, Pat Robertson again ... and I'm often on TV! Isn't that exciting!!???

    I'm coming to you today from deeeeep within an Appalachian mine ... I like to come down here on occasion, because my good friends in the Bush administration tell me the fresh air is good for my concentration! Isn't it wonderful how they care so much about my well-being!!!??? Sometimes I get the feeling they'd like me to just stay down here and concentrate for years, and years, and years and never come out ...

    Anyway, it looks like our loving God has put out a contract on another unbeliever. And I'm sorry to say that my good friend Ariel Sharon is feeling the pimp slap of God's unchanging hand, for trying to divide the Lord's real estate with those heathens in the Gaza Strip! Now I'm not wishing by buddy Ariel ill -- but just like Hugo Chavez, the entire state of Pennsylvania and the other blasphemers on God's ethereal hit list, he hath sinned and now must taste the danger!!!

    I love saying that -- "taste the danger..." it makes me feel so ... well... dangerous!!! ...

    So friends, what have we learned today? If God gives you a beach house, don't go letting in the sand... If he blesses you with a double-wide trailer, don't drive it into a Wal-Mart parking lot and start selling sandwiches out of the convenience hatch. It just isn't Christian! And neither is all this Commie talk about sharing, and peace and living together side by side. Sounds like a scene from that gay cowboy movie to me. Not that I'd know anything about that... (blink blink blink)

    Well, friends, that's all for now! Don't forget to watch me on TV, where I often sell salad dressing and occasionally dress up like the Mad Hatter and dance around the studio in just my underwear! Oh, I'm just joshing you, friends... Except about the dressing. ...

    ... And remember, God loves you! (well not all of you but you know who you are...) Deal with it!
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    posted by JReid @ 12:15 AM  
    Thursday, January 05, 2006
    Why bug Christiane?
    Besides Christiane Amanpour's complaints about the media's self-censorhip during the run-up to the Iraq war, Attytood speculates on why she might become a target of the Bush spy-op:


    ...Well, given the current administration's views on civil liberties and Arabs,the most cynical answer we could offer is because she is of Iranian descent. But while her father was an Iranian airline executive, Amanpour was born in London and mostly raised there, attending Catholic schools, and her family fled Iran in 1979 "during the Islamic Revolution."

    Not exactly a terrorist profile.

    The least cynical answer would be because her recent reporting would have brought her into direct contact with members of al Qaeda. In August 2002, not long after Bush began to authorize the warrantless spying program, Amanpour worked with CNN's Nic Robertson on a special that was billed as an inside view of al-Qaeda....

    Then there is the issue of Amanpour's husband, Jamie Rubin, former official in the Clinton administration State Department. You may have forgotten (we did, frankly), but Rubin re-emerged in 2004 -- as a foreign policy advisor to John Kerry. Do husbands and wives use the same telephones and computers? Is the Pope German?

    But frankly, the concept that scares us the most, as a journalist, goes back to that lovely quote from the Fox News spokeswoman at the very top of this post -- and the episode that inspired it. Because Christiane Amanpour was highest profile, and also the most forceful, critic of the media's pliency toward Bush after the 9/11 attacks.

    Here's what she said in Sept. 2003:

    "I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did."

    The next day, Fox blasts her as an "al-Qaeda spokeswoman." And two years later, we are left to wonder if she was spied upon by the American government.

    Coincidence?

    We sure hope so.
    Indeed. So was Ms. Amanpour a target of "FIRSTFRUITS" -- a CIA-turned-NSA domestic eavesdropping program targeting journalists, as Wayne Madsen alleges? And what about Madsen's other claims:


    New information provided to WMR expands on our initial reports about the Bush administration using NSA to spy on politicians, including phone conversations between then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson concerning diplomatic back channels to North Korea's UN ambassador. Informed sources also report that Arizona Republican Senator John McCain was also subject to NSA eavesdropping. Of particular interest to the White House was McCain's actual commitment to Bush during the 2004 presidential campaign, evidence his Indian Affairs Committee collected on GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's tribal casino activities, and details of McCain's medical condition. McCain is recovering from skin cancer...
    I'd write it all off as tin-foil stuff, but why does so much of it seem to come back to the 2004 campaign? Clearly the idea that the administration might have wiretapped its political foes, or even the Kerry campaign, is floating around the blogosphere, and I think it's a legitimate question. Since we don't know who was being wiretapped, and the Bush administration asserts to right to wiretap at will, with no warrants, anyone it suspects of "communicating with the enemy" during this endless war on terror, how do we know they didn't turn their terror-focused operation on domestic enemies?

    Just asking...

    Update: Inquiring minds in Congress also want to know...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:46 PM  
    Myers, you're doing one heck of a job...
    Nice of Dubya to hook up failed (but Medal of Freedomed!) former Joint Chiefs chairman Dick Myers' niece and other cronies with recess appointments to jobs they're not even remotely qualified for. Some things never change...

    Update: Reax in Bloggerville --

    -- Malkin: the Myers appointment stinks ...
    -- National Review's The Corner: it What a mad world it is when Malkin agrees with ...
    -- Kos: Hear ye, Hear ye.... King George hath hereby dissolved the Congress...
    -- Debbie Schlussel: unhappy New Year...
    -- Religious Ron in Texas: Not quite losing his Bush religion, but not pleased ...
    -- Digger at Digger's Realm is pissed (and he's got some helpful links on pest control and gardening...)

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    posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
    The whistleblower speaks up
    The NSA whistleblower (one of a dozen, according to James Risen's blockbuster book -- other tidbits from MikeVotes here) wants to testify before Congress.

    A former National Security Agency official wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

    Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.

    "I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency," Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times.

    The letters were sent the same day that the New York Times revealed that the NSA was engaged in a clandestine eavesdropping program that bypassed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The FISA court issues orders for targeted electronic and other surveillance by the government.

    ...The letters were sent to Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican. Mr. Roberts is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Hoekstra is chairman of the House counterpart.

    The plot thickens...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:44 PM  
    Military intelligence
    The Mystery Pollster has interesting news about the opinions of active-duty servicemen as fleshed out in a 2005 Military Times poll. The rub:
    It shows that while morale remains high, "support for President Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped significantly in the last year among members of the military's professional core." Those last few words are critical. As we will see the Military Times readership comes disproportionately from those who have made the military their career and - as the Military Times article correctly stresses - "should not be read as representative of the military as a whole." However, as a consistent, standardized sampling of opinion among the "professional core" of the military, it is worthy of our attention.
    And something to consider:
    However, the response rate alone is less important than the possibility of any response bias. In other words, were the 70% who did not return their survey different from those who did, and if so, how different were they? That question is, of course next to impossible to answer or quantify, since as usual we know nothing about the non-respondents. However, the Military Times article includes this bit of information which should at least serve as a caution:
    As in the previous two years, Military Times Poll respondents were reluctant to express opinions, even anonymously, about the commander in chief or his policies. About one in five refused to say whether they approved of the president's performance on Iraq or overall.
    "That's my boss," Army Lt. Col. Earnestine Beatty said in a follow-up interview. "I can't comment." Kohn said he worried that asking such questions of military members and publishing the results could tarnish the military's image as a nonpartisan institution.
    Whether any such reluctance affected the response rate or created any sort of response bias is, again, something we can only speculate about. However, Trowbridge points out that among respondents, the reluctance to answer questions was evident mostly on questions about George Bush, Congress or the military brass. On other questions, such as those about morale, the "don't know" percentages were in the single digits.
    That said, what were the results?
    Approval of the president’s Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54 percent, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60 percent, among active-duty readers of the Military Times newspapers. Though support both for President Bush and for the war in Iraq remains significantly higher than in the public as a whole, the drop is likely to add further fuel to the heated debate over Iraq policy. In 2003 and 2004, supporters of the war in Iraq pointed to high approval ratings in the Military Times Poll as a signal that military members were behind President Bush’s the president’s policy.

    The poll also found diminished optimism that U.S. goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003.
    And these additional tabs:
    • Positive feelings about Congress, civilian and uniformed Pentagon leaders and the media all fell.

    • Respondents also were less likely than in the past to believe other segments of the country viewed the military favorably. In 2004, 37 percent said civilians viewed the military very favorably; that fell to 24 percent this year. Last year, 77 percent said politicians saw the military very or somewhat favorably; 63 percent said so this year.

    • There was somewhat more support for opening military service to openly homosexual Americans: 59 percent said open homosexuals should not be allowed to serve, down six points from last year.

    • Opposition to the draft fell slightly, from 75 percent last year to 68 percent this year.

    • Nearly two-thirds said the military is stretched too thin to be effective, though that figure is down substantially from two years ago.

    • Job satisfaction and approval of pay, health benefits, training and equipment remain high — though in many cases, the support is less enthusiastic than in past years, based on responses.

    • For the first time in the three-year history of the poll, more than half of respondents said they had deployed in support of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    But few of those shifts appear as significant as those on the president.
    How to spin those findings in Bush's favor?

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    posted by JReid @ 12:24 PM  
    The Mystery Rasmussen
    ... while we're on the subject of the Mystery Pollster, check out his breakdown of the Rasmussen effect, whereby Bush's job approval ratings appear to levitate over those reported in all other polls...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:22 PM  
    The Bloggies are coming!
    Go on over and vote!

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    posted by JReid @ 12:21 PM  
    NBC News: don't ask, don't transcribe
    Correction:Caught by AmericaBlog, stumbled on by me via Eric Jaffa at SpeakSpeak News: NBC News busted for a major "oopsie..." Apparently the network altered the transcript of an "NBC Nightly News" interview by Andrea Mitchell of NYTimes reporter James Risen. Here's how it went, according to Jaffa:
    Andrea Mitchell interviewed him for the January 3 edition of “NBC Nightly News.” The interview was longer then the video which NBC aired. NBC put the transcript of the full interview online, but then took out part of it.

    The deleted portion:
    Andrea Mitchell: You don’t have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

    James Risen: No, no I hadn’t heard that.
    How NBC explains the deletion:
    Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on ‘NBC Nightly News’ nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.

    (Same story updated with NBC's confirmation that they're investigating the possible Amanpour-tapping by TV Newswer, ht to ThinkProgress) ... Now you may recall that Ms. Amanpour, probably CNN's best overseas journalist, had been critical of the news media's conduct during the Iraq war, including her own cable outfit. Amanpour claimed about a year ago that the press succumbed to a "climate of "fear and self-censorship" fostered by the Bush administration and its self-appointed mouthpiece, Fox News, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

    If she was wiretapped, which again, we can't know because the administration conducted its surveillance without even informing the FISA court, it would give more credence to the Wayne Madsen scenario described in this previous post, whereby several journalists including Risen and Sy Hersh (not to mention menbers of Congress and even employees at the NSA) were targeted by administration espionage programs. Tin foil hattery? Maybe. But remember that this crowd even felt the need to spy on Quakers, Catholic relief workers and vegans...

    Update: Read AmericaBlog's update here, in which John Aravosis takes us down the logic path if the Amanpour wiretap allegation turns out to be true...

    Why would Bush do this? Because, as I reported a few weeks ago, journalists have some of the best contacts out there and it's not unusual for journalists to talk to both sides of the story, or in this case, the good guys and the "evil doers." What a better, if not illegal, way to find the terrorists and their associates?

    But before you say "yeah, go for it," consider the implications of tapping Christiane Amanpour's phones:

    1. Such a wiretap would likely include her home, office, and cell phones, and email correspondence, at the very least.

    2. That means anyone Christiane has conversed with in the past four years, at least by phone or email, could have had their conversation taped by the US government.

    3. That also means that anyone who uses any of Christiane's telephones or computers (work or home) could also have had their conversation bugged.

    4. This includes Christiane's husband, former Clinton administration senior official Jamie Rubin, who was spokesman for the State Department.

    5. Jamie Rubin was also chief foreign policy adviser to General Wesley Clark's presidential campaign, and then worked as a senior national security adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

    6. Did Jamie Rubin ever use his home phone, his wife's work phone, his wife's cell phone, her home computer or her work computer to communicate with John Kerry or Wesley Clark? If so, those conversations would have been bugged if Bush was tapping Amanpour. ...
    Read on, it gets worse...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:37 AM  
    Update: Ariel Sharon - 'serious but stable'
    ...the description fits the current medical condition of the Israeli prime minister, but also his person. For Israelis, the qualities that provoked dread in bleeding hearts like me clearly elicited a sense of safety and stability. Whatever happens next, all that's certain is uncertainty now.

    To stiplate: I have never been a fan of Ariel Sharon. He remains, in my mind, a rather thuggish figure, eternally linked to the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which by rights should have driven him from public life. He also is the "father" of the disastrous (and still expanding) settlement movement that has brought Israel to the brink of self-destruction by shipping religious militants from Brooklyn and Europe along with impoverished Russian jews into the occupied territories in order to hold onto "Biblical real estate" that the United Nations, and essentially everyone but the United States (both political parties) says belongs to the Palestinians -- and by holding onto 2 million Palestinians who don't want to be ruled by them... (I also have a more personal reason: Sharon and the Israeli governments close involvement with Apartheid South Africa and the training of rebels in my father's country, the then-Zaire, during the 1980s when Sharon was defense minister...)

    That said, I agree with those who say that without Sharon (and even if he survives his massive stroke, it's highly unlikely he'll return as P.M.) peace between the Israelis and Palestinians has less of a chance than ever. The Israeli left is commendable in my opinion, but it has no credibility where it counts: with Israelis. Likudniks like Netanyahu are just plain scary. Maybe it really does take a former tough guy general to finally figure out a way to make peace.

    In many ways, the two "old men" of the occupied terrotories -- Yasser Arafat and Sharon --have pretty much had their thumbs on the scales of peace in that region for as long as I've been alive and aware. How ironic that the the death of the one with the Nobel Peace Prize was seen as opening the door, while the grave injury of the one reviled by many, especially in Europe and of course, across the Arab world, could very well shut it. In the end, neither man got the job done for his people. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians are understandably nervous today.

    Original post: Israel's Ariel Sharon was rushed to the hospital earlier and is now said to have suffered a major stroke. Ehud Olmert has taken over Sharon's duties as prime minister ... this could obviously be a major development if Sharon's condition -- described as "grave" -- does not improve...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:00 AM  
    If there's nothing to explain...
    The Bushies will brief the FISA judges on the FISA-free surveillance program previously unknown to most of them...


    Several judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said they want to hear directly from administration officials why President Bush believed he had the authority to order, without the court's permission, wiretapping of some phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Of serious concern to several judges is whether any information gleaned from intercepts by the National Security Agency was later used to gain their permission for wiretaps without the source being disclosed.

    The court is made up of 11 judges who, on a rotating basis, hear government applications for surveillance warrants. But only the presiding judge, currently Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, was notified of the government eavesdropping program. One judge, James Robertson, who also serves on the federal bench in Washington, resigned his seat on the surveillance court in protest shortly after the wiretapping was revealed by the New York Times in mid-December.
    Perhaps the administration simply wants to explain their reading of Article II to the judges...
    Meanwhile, Congresswoman Jane Harman pulls no punches...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:55 AM  
    Padilla's odyssey continues
    The Supremes release him to the Justice Department on the grounds that he is now charged in traditional civilian criminal court, without ruling on the subject of the administration's right to detain and charge him on secret, "wartime" terrorism charges...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:40 AM  
    Wednesday, January 04, 2006
    The dirty five-dozen?
    The caution flags of various NBC news analysts such as Pete Williams aside, the Jack Abramoff snitch list appears to be growing, not shrinking, from the initial 12. The magic number today: 60 Congressmen potentially tied up in Abramoff's Gordian knots, according to the Wall Street Journal (exerpted here by RawStory).

    Not that this number is new. Bloggers back in November were quoting a Newsweek reporter, Eamon Javers, whose sources were pegging the number at five-dozen. And the DNC at that time was naming two Virginia Congressmen, Eric Cantor and Virgil Goode (both Republicans) as being embroiled in the scandal. Following the Scanlon plea a couple of months ago, the WSJ and other papers fingered Tom DeLay, Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, Rep. John Doolittle of California, and Senator Conrad Burns of Montana as potential targets of a wider probe. And of course there's Denny Hastert, Bill Frist and the heads of every Senate and House committe, all Republicans, all juicy bribe targets I'd think...

    The California list of possible targets includes Doolittle, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, Rep. Mary Bono (wife of the dearly departed Sonny), Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Jerry Lewis (no relation to the comedian), and of course, our old buddy, disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

    So how high will this thing go? As the Christian Science Monitor points out for Thursday's edition:
    It's not a crime to accept contributions from lobbyists. It's a bribe only if there's evidence of an agreement to perform an official act in exchange. But the political damage can go further.

    "Careers usually end when the indictment is brought, whether [the accused] are cleared or not. Very few survive an election, once an indictment has been brought," says Stanley Brand, a Washington defense attorney who advised House Speaker Tip O'Neill during the 1978 ABSCAM bribery case, an FBI sting operation that convicted five House members and a senator.

    Many on Capitol Hill say the Abramoff affair could eclipse ABSCAM. With Abramoff's help, federal prosecutors say, they are unraveling an "extensive" corruption scheme. While prosecutors have not disclosed the number of lawmakers under investigation, speculation runs from a half-dozen to as many as 60. At least a dozen FBI field offices are now involved in the investigation.
    Meanwhile, Howard Fineman sums up the winners and losers in the Abramoff scandal. (Hint: third party politics and John McCain -- UPGRADE! Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and Dennis "the figurehead" Hastert -- DOWNGRADE!)

    ...Plus, as politicians all over D.C. scramble to jettison their Abramoff cash and erase his number from their cell phones, Dubya dumps $6,000 but keeps $92,000 in Abramoff "pioneer" bucks. How's that work? (Wanna know who's dumping what? Click here. Yes, I counted 14 Dems out of 62 dollar dumpers on the list, including Hillary, Dick Durbin, Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan. But that list is just of those who are dumping funds, not the much more important upcoming list of the investigated and indicted. Sorry, Limbaugh old boy, but I'll go out on a limb and say most of those folks will be with the GOP...)

    More on that in a bit. For now, back to Bush and Jack. Scott McClellan makes like Bush barely knows the guy. He should read his Newsweek magazine:
    the Bush-Cheney campaign is returning only a fraction of the campaign contributions it received with Abramoff connections. During the 2004 campaign, Abramoff was a top fund-raiser for the Bush re-election effort, raising more than $100,000 for the campaign. While exact figures on how much he raised for the campaign aren’t known, Abramoff told The New York Times in July 2003—months before active fund-raising began—that he had already raised $120,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign. “And I haven’t even started making phone calls,” the lobbyist told the Times. An Orthodox Jew, Abramoff was considered an important intermediary between Jewish groups and the Bush campaign, which worked heavily to make inroads with the voting bloc. When fund-raising began for Bush's re-election effort, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a prominent Seattle radio host and activist, urged friends and colleagues to steer campaign checks to Bush via Abramoff.

    For now, the Bush-Cheney campaign has no plans to donate or return funds raised by Abramoff from other individuals. “At this point, there is nothing to indicate that contributions from those individual donors represents anything other than enthusiastic support for the [Bush-Cheney] re-election campaign,” RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said.

    Yet Abramoff’s ties to the administration extended well beyond campaign checks. In 2001, Bush tapped the lobbyist as a member of his Presidential Transition Team, advising the administration on policy and hiring at the Interior Department, which oversees Native American issues. Abramoff’s former top aide, Susan Ralston, currently serves as the top aide to Karl Rove, one of the president’s closest political advisers. Still, the White House has moved to put distance between Bush and Abramoff. On Wednesday, McClellan called Abramoff’s actions “outrageous” and reiterated to reporters that Bush was not friends with the lobbyist and does not recall ever meeting him—though he said it was possible that Bush met Abramoff at a fund-raising function or at a White House holiday party. (According to McClellan, Abramoff was a guest at three White House Chanukah receptions.) When asked about Abramoff’s contacts with other White House officials, McClellan said, “I don’t keep track of staff.”
    Of course you don't, Scott. You're far too busy figuring out which ongoing investigations the president is willing to comment on to pay attention to all the people charging their clients $25,000 a pop for face time with the president or arranging $9 million White House confabs for the President of Gabon... (By the way as to Rush's rather sad direct lifting of Ken Mehlman's talking point that "We know for a fact he spread money around to both parties," Newsweek's Wolffe reports that "While Abramoff personally only wrote checks to Republicans, his clients gave to both parties, including Democratic Sens. Harry Reid, Mary Landrieu and Byron Dorgan. " (The Hotline puts it even more bluntley here, saying Abramoff "never gave a penny to Democrats or Democrat committes... True -- he encouraged or "directed," as the Washington Post says, his clients to give generously to politicians of parties, which they did. And several associates who worked closely with Abramoff were, indeed, "equal money dispenser[s]" as Bush said. But not Abramoff himself...") An important distinction and not surprising given that some of his clients likely wanted to court certain Democrats on certain issues. Reiterating, somehow I doubt we'll say many Democratic names in the final scandal tally. Abramoff was a hardcore GOP activist, not an equal opportunity player, no matter whom his cliens donated money to...)

    More from the Hotline Blog Wednesday:
    Some of the "Abramoff-related" money linked to Dems comes from Greenberg Traurig's political action committee. Greenberg is a huge bipartisan legal/lobby firm. It regularly gives money to members of both parties.

    Abramoff had no hand in the PAC's donation distribution, according to Greenberg. So is Greenberg money really Abramoff money? (To be fair, the same question can be posed to Dems who say Greenberg contributions to GOPers are inherently tainted.)
    True, true, true. BTW there's more evidence of the Bush-Abramoff "non-relationship" relationship here, here and here.

    As for what the Jack Attack was doing with all that money he skimmed from his "troglodyte" Indian gaming clients? Well apparently, he was shipping part of the loot off to extremist settlers in the West Bank to "fight the Intifada." Nice.

    Related:

    - The Alternet Abramoff Primer
    - George Bush's Wise Guys: Bush mega-fundraisers Noe, Abramoff, Reed, and the Wyly Brothers all under federal investigation)

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    posted by JReid @ 11:03 PM  
    A swing and a miss
    Dick Cheney plays the "warrantless spying could have stopped 9/11" card -- and comes up snake-eyes...

    As part of an effort to sell Americans on the administration's recently disclosed program to eavesdrop on telephone and e-mail communications between the United States and people overseas without a warrant, Cheney told a small group of conservatives at the Heritage Foundation that instead of being able to "pick up" on the terrorist plot "we didn't know they were here plotting until it was too late."

    But Cheney did not mention that the government had compiled significant information on the two suspects before the attacks and that bureaucratic problems -- not a lack of information -- were primary reasons for the security breakdown, according to congressional investigators and the Sept. 11 commission. Moreover, the administration had the power to eavesdrop on their calls and e-mails, as long as it sought permission from a secret court that oversees clandestine surveillance in the United States.

    The bigger problem was that the FBI and other agencies did not know where the two suspects -- Cheney's office confirmed that he was referring to Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar -- were living in the United States and had missed numerous opportunities to track them down in the 20 months before the attacks, according to the Sept. 11 commission and other sources.

    In his speech, scheduled as part of a White House offensive to defend the recently disclosed surveillance program, Cheney painted an ominous portrait of U.S. security without the controversial practice. Critics said the surveillance has been unconstitutional, carried out without explicit congressional approval or court oversight. The administration said it gained broad powers from a congressional resolution after Sept. 11.

    Cheney said the National Security Agency program, combined with the expanded surveillance powers authorized by the USA Patriot Act, has saved lives -- and thwarted terrorist attacks.

    "No one can guarantee that we won't be hit again, but neither should anyone say that the relative safety of the last four years came as an accident," Cheney said. "America has been protected not by luck but by sensible policy decisions."

    What Dick forgot to mention was that had U.S. intelligence agencies known where the two terrorists in question were, they could easily have wiretapped them, tailed them, bugged their apartments and much more -- using the FBI. Or they could have gotten a good old FISA warrant and tapped away through the NSA. But, of course, that would have prevented the president from "protecting us from the terrarests!!!"

    Sorry WaPo, please continue:

    Cheney said if the administration had the power "before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon."

    Even without the warrantless domestic spying program, however, the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies had important clues about the Sept. 11 plot and the hijackers before the attacks, according to media reports and findings by Congress and the commission.

    For example, the NSA intercepted two electronic messages on Sept. 10, 2001, that warned of the attacks -- but the agency failed to translate them until Sept. 12. The Arabic-language messages said "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour," intelligence officials said.

    U.S. intelligence sources have said that NSA analysts were unsure who was speaking on the intercepts but that they were considered a high enough priority for translation within two days.

    Cheney's apparent reference to Alhazmi and Almihdhar is also incomplete, leaving out the fact that several government agencies had compiled significant information about the duo but had bungled efforts to track them.

    According to the Sept. 11 commission's report, released in 2004, the NSA first identified Alhazmi and Almihdhar in December 1999, passing the information to the CIA but conducting no further research.

    In 2000, the CIA failed to place Alhazmi and Almihdhar on a watch list despite their ties to a terrorist summit in Malaysia. The CIA also mishandled efforts to follow them after the summit and failed to share information about them with the FBI, including the crucial fact that both men had U.S. visas, the commission found.

    By late August 2001, the FBI finally had information that Almihdhar had recently entered the United States. But the search for the suspected al Qaeda operative was treated as routine and assigned to a rookie agent, according to the commission report.

    Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads Rand Corp.'s Washington office, said it is unclear what communications could have been intercepted if the FBI and other agencies did not know where Alhazmi and Almihdhar were.

    Hoffman also said Cheney's comments ignore the breadth of the government failures before the attacks, which were due to structural problems rather than a single missed lead.

    "It's not that legislation was lacking; it was a systemic failure," he said.
    A systemic failure on Mssrs. Bush and Cheney's watch, I might add...

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    posted by JReid @ 10:55 PM  
    The ex-secretary bail-out option?
    According to Debka:
    In an unconventional move, the White House has invited all living secretaries of defense and state to White House on Thursday for discussion with Bush about Iraq policy...
    Interesting if confirmed...

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    posted by JReid @ 6:37 PM  
    Operation Homefront
    Robwire thinks he's found an example of the Pentagon's domestic propaganda program involving U.S. troops home on leave from Iraq. Read the story from the Roanoake (VA) Times and judge for yourself.

    (Meanwhile, milbloggers who aren't down with the program apparently aren't blogging for long...)

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    posted by JReid @ 1:17 PM  
    The 'A-bomb' part two
    Abramoff's next plea: five counts of fraud and conspiracy in a Florida case involving gambling boats, a dead guy named Gus and more than one member of Congress (hold me, Tom DeLay!). Related: Slate's John Dickerson on the Jack Attack...

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    posted by JReid @ 12:48 PM  
    About that coal mine...
    The right is in fully sympathy with the families of those poor miners, as they should be. But some are also blaming the media for the mess the mining company's spokespeople made of the initial blunder that led family members to think all but one miner had survived, followed by the horrifying revelation that all but one of the 13 miners had perished. On the radio this morning, the fill-in host for Laura Ingraham lashed out at one miner family member who declared she'd defninitely be suing.

    I'm not one to defend the mainstream media. I know they can be headline graveling, administration toadying putzes at times. But not all the time. And in this case, I'm with TV Newser in saying they were only part of the problem (and not the biggest part) despite their typical saturation coverage, which probably provoked the over-eagerness on the part of spokespeople to get the "good news" out.

    Pity, though, that few on the right have the temerity to criticize International Coal Group, the company that owned that clearly unsafe mine, which had been cited 21 times last year alone, for allowing combustible materials to build up in the area where men were working miles below the ground. There were 273 citations for safety violations at the mine in just the last two years. (Michelle Malkin inches toward criticizing the company, and has a roundup of RW blogosphere reax).

    So who is this stellar example of the efficiencies of the Ownership Society? Here's a bit of what the company had to say about itself in a June 15, 2005 SEC filing:

    The company was formed by WLR and other investors in May 2004 to acquire and operate competitive coal mining facilities. As of September 30, 2004, ICG, Inc. acquired certain key assets of Horizon through a bankruptcy auction. These assets are high quality reserves strategically located in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin, are union free, have limited reclamation liabilities and are substantially free of other legacy liabilities. Due to our initial capitalization, we were able to complete the acquisition without incurring a significant level of indebtedness. Consistent with the WLR investor group's strategy to consolidate profitable coal assets, the Anker and CoalQuest acquisitions further diversify our reserves. On or about the same time as the Anker and CoalQuest acquisitions, we will complete a corporate reorganization. With the proceeds of this offering, we expect to retire substantially all of our debt, including debt assumed through the Anker and CoalQuest acquisitions, and, thus, we will be strategically well-positioned.
    In fact, the company is being modest. It acquired Sago and the other Appalachian mines union-free after bankruptcies forced those mines to void their union contracts. A contract spelling out safe working conditions sure would have come in handy for those 13 men trapped 2 miles below ground in a soup of carbon dioxide...

    Family members of the dead miners have been telling the news media they and their loved ones knew the mine wasn't safe. That didn't deter International Coal, which had the benefit of being regulated by its friends in the Bush administration; friends like former coal industry executive and lobbyist David Lauriski, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety, who, along with ex-mining industry bigwig Gail Norton at Interior, is one of several former energy industry honchos at work in the regulatory agencies of the president government. According to the folks at the Project for the Old American Century:

    Shortly after taking office, Lauriski bragged to a group of coal industry executives that his regulatory agenda "is quite a bit shorter than some past agendas." Indeed, death warrants usually tend towards brevity. Part of Lauriski's abbreviated agenda is to reduce the number of times a mining company has to sample coal dust levels inside the tunnels, a move that is certain to increase incidence of black lung disease. And yes, Lauriski wants to get rid of the chest X-ray program that tests miners for black lung disease. Lauriski also wants to slash the number of mine inspectors by 25 percent.
    Nice work if you can get it. There's also this guy:

    Stan Suboleski: Mine Safety and Health Review Commission

    Suboleski is an executive with the A.C. Massey Coal Company which, according to the United Mineworkers, has one of the worst safety records in the industry. Massey is also the company responsible for the annihilation of more than 70 miles of streams in eastern Kentucky when 300 million gallons of coal sludge spilled from one of its mines. It was the worst ecological disaster in the US since the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Stan's appointment was a recess appointment, meaning that his appointment was made during a senate recess, freeing him from requiring senate confirmation hearings.

    I suppose we should be thankful that at least this time, Mr. Bush didn't say the company heads and regulators were doing one heck of a job... Dubya's tender words for the families aside, his administration is the one that initiated new rules that quadrupled the amount of coal dust mining cmpanies could legally expose their employees to (oh, what a little Bush pioneering can do). And clearly all those citations and fines from the government agencies supposedly regulating the coal mining industry came to dust at International Coal. They kept right on trucking without fear of real reprisals from the friendly regulators at the Bush administration, and their workers -- with no union contract to back them up -- had two choices: go into the mine and take their chances, quit, or get fired.

    Unfortunately, they don't have those choices anymore.

    Mind you, I'm not saying that unions are perfect. But there are certain industries -- particularly those of the 19th and 20th century variety -- that still need them. This is one.

    Update: Here is the single most ridiculous thing I think I've ever read. Ever. I'm not even sure why I'm linking to it. Wow. We really do have some pieces of work down here in Florida... Dude, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you just posted that to get Michelle Malkin's attention.

    Also, California Conservatives beautifully captures the uneasy feeling I've long associated with getting one's news from Geraldo.

    Update 2: ThinkProgress has more on the administration's absentee oversight of the coal industry...

    Update: Apparently, Mr. Lauriski is no longer doing one heck of a job. Got himself in a little jam over some no-bid contracts it seems ... go figure... No replacement has been named so far...

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    posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
    Trust us. We're only listening to terrorists...
    Do you really believe that the Bush administration's clearly broad-based domestic spying program, between the Pentagon, FBI and NSA, was really limited to listening in on 500 or so al-Qaida sympathizers chatting away on their cell phones to their handlers in Harare? If you do, stop reading. You've already gone down the rabbit hole. If you have doubts, read on.

    Remember this from the May 2 edition of Newsweek?

    Spying: Giving Out U.S. Names

    The National Security Agency is not supposed to target Americans; when a U.S. citizen's name comes up in an NSA "intercept," the agency routinely minimizes dissemination of the info by masking the name before it distributes the report to other U.S. agencies. But it's now clear the agency disseminates thousands of U.S. names. U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton told a Senate confirmation hearing he had requested that U.S. names be unmasked from NSA intercepts on a handful of occasions; the State Department said he had made 10 such requests since 2001, and that the department as a whole had made 400 similar requests over the same period. But evidence is emerging that NSA regularly supplies uncensored intercepts, including named Americans, to other agencies far more often than even many top intel officials knew.

    According to information obtained by NEWSWEEK, since January 2004 NSA received—and fulfilled—between 3,000 and 3, 500 requests from other agencies to supply the names of U.S. citizens and officials (and citizens of other countries that help NSA eavesdrop around the world, including Britain, Canada and Australia) that initially were deleted from raw intercept reports. Sources say the number of names disclosed by NSA to other agencies during this period is more than 10,000. About one third of such disclosures were made to officials at the policymaking level; most of the rest were disclosed to other intel agencies and, perhaps surprisingly, only a small proportion to law-enforcement agencies. Civil libertarians expressed dismay at the numbers. An official familiar with NSA procedures insisted the agency maintains careful logs of all requests for U.S. names and doles out such info only after agency officials are satisfied "that the requester needs the information [and that it's] necessary to understand the foreign intelligence or assess its importance."

    —Mark Hosenball
    Okay, stop there for a moment, and consider that we now know that the NSA initiated its domestic spying operations on its own, in contravention to the rules in the very Reagan executive order the then head of the agency cited as justification -- and before going to the president.

    And now, consider this story from a D.C. independent investigative journalist named Wayne Madsen, which if true, is even more explosive than the NSA spying itself (note, WMR in the piece below stands for "Wanye Madsen Report"):

    NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, journalists, and members of Congress

    By Wayne Madsen

    NSA spied on its own employees, other U.S. intelligence personnel, and their journalist and congressional contacts. WMR has learned that the National Security Agency (NSA), on the orders of the Bush administration, eavesdropped on the private conversations and e-mail of its own employees, employees of other U.S. intelligence agencies -- including the CIA and DIA -- and their contacts in the media, Congress, and oversight agencies and offices. [emphasis added]

    The journalist surveillance program, code named "Firstfruits," was part of a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) program that was maintained at least until October 2004 and was authorized by then-DCI Porter Goss. Firstfruits was authorized as part of a DCI "Countering Denial and Deception" program responsible to an entity known as the Foreign Denial and Deception Committee (FDDC). Since the intelligence community's reorganization, the DCI has been replaced by the Director of National Intelligence headed by John Negroponte and his deputy, former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden.

    Firstfruits was a database that contained both the articles and the transcripts of telephone and other communications of particular Washington journalists known to report on sensitive U.S. intelligence activities, particularly those involving NSA. According to NSA sources, the targeted journalists included author James Bamford, the New York Times' James Risen, the Washington Post's Vernon Loeb, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, the Washington Times' Bill Gertz, UPI's John C. K. Daly, and this editor [Wayne Madsen], who has written about NSA for The Village Voice, CAQ, Intelligence Online, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

    In addition, beginning in 2001 but before the 9-11 attacks, NSA began to target anyone in the U.S. intelligence community who was deemed a "disgruntled employee." According to NSA sources, this surveillance was a violation of United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) 18 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The surveillance of U.S. intelligence personnel by other intelligence personnel in the United States and abroad was conducted without any warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The targeted U.S. intelligence agency personnel included those who made contact with members of the media, including the journalists targeted by Firstfruits, as well as members of Congress, Inspectors General, and other oversight agencies. Those discovered to have spoken to journalists and oversight personnel were subjected to sudden clearance revocation and termination as "security risks."

    In 2001, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rejected a number of FISA wiretap applications from Michael Resnick, the FBI supervisor in charge of counter-terrorism surveillance. The court said that some 75 warrant requests from the FBI were erroneous and that the FBI, under Louis Freeh and Robert Mueller, had misled the court and misused the FISA law on dozens of occasions. In a May 17, 2002 opinion, the presiding FISA Judge, Royce C. Lamberth (a Texan appointed by Ronald Reagan), barred Resnick from ever appearing before the court again. The ruling, released by Lamberth's successor, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelley, stated in extremely strong terms, "In virtually every instance, the government's misstatements and omissions in FISA applications and violations of the Court's orders involved information sharing and unauthorized disseminations to criminal investigators and prosecutors . . . How these misrepresentations occurred remains unexplained to the court."

    After the Justice Department appealed the FISC decision, the FISA Review court met for the first time in its history. The three-member review court, composed of Ralph Guy of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Edward Leavy of the 9th Circuit, and Laurence Silberman [of the Robb-Silberman Commission on 911 "intelligence failures"] of the D.C. Circuit, overturned the FISC decision on the Bush administration's wiretap requests.

    Based on recent disclosures that the Bush administration has been using the NSA to conduct illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens, it is now becoming apparent what vexed the FISC to the point that it rejected, in an unprecedented manner, numerous wiretap requests and sanctioned Resnick.

    Note that Risen, along with fellow Timesman Eric Lichtblau, is one of the journos who first blew the lid off the NSA spy scandal, and Hersh has bedeviled the administration from day one. If Risen was been under surveillance, it's possible the administration already has a good idea who leaked the NSA story to him for his belated NYT story and more importantly, his book.

    In that case, regarding who the administration will now target in its investigation of the spy scandal leak? The obvious place to begin would be Risen, and the righties are clearly hoping Bush investigators at Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department will use the Judy Miller precedent to jail him (nice spelling out of the differences betweent the two cases here and here). And since only a small universe of people in and out of the administration were read into the program, the pool of "suspects" is small, including those NSA agents ordered to carry out the wiretaps.
    So where to go next if you're the administration? Consider Madsen's front pager from his web-site yesterday:

    January 3, 2006 -- Recent revelations that it was then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey who said that Bush's use of NSA to target U.S. persons by going around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was illegal and refused to approve the wiretaps point to a high level Bush administration official or officials being involved with the "leak" of the so-called classified surveillance program.

    Comey is an old friend and New York federal prosecutor colleague of Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the illegal leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's name and cover company to the media. It was Comey who recommended Fitzgerald for his special prosecutor job and placed a protective firewall between him and the political leadership of the Justice Department.

    There is some speculation about whether Comey was one of the whistleblowers for the NSA surveillance story. If the Bush administration decides to go after Comey that will put them at loggerheads with Fitzgerald, resulting in a showdown within the Justice Department between career prosecutor and political hacks like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Comey is now a Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Lockheed Martin. That would place him in a potentially tenuous position since Lockheed Martin is a top Pentagon and intelligence agency contractor and neocons are rife in both the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

    Recent word from NSA is that long time employees of the agency are livid that its signals intelligence has been misused by the neo-cons for political purposes. The bottom line: expect more leaks.

    CNN's national security correspondent David Ensor is reporting that the "leak" of the wiretap program is very serious according to his intelligence sources. However, the Bush administration asked the New York Times over a year ago to sit on the story about the surveillance "program," meaning the Bush White House knew there was a leak for at least a year but waited until the publication of the New York Times story to begin a criminal probe. This is an indication that the criminal probe is as much a political misuse of government assets as is the NSA surveillance.

    NSA sources report that the head of security for the agency is actively investigating possible leakers at the Fort Meade headquarters, continuing a witch hunt and purge that began prior to 911. The head of NSA security is Kemp Ensor. It is not known if the two Ensors are related.
    Madsen has been around for awhile, and his previous targets have included Karl Rove and what he calls Bush's "Christian blood cult." But while he's definitely no friend of the Bushies, Madsen is no kook. He's a former Naval officer who once worked for the NSA. He also is or was a senior fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), described as "a non-partisan privacy public advocacy group in Washington, DC." and with whom he has advised members of Congress on security matters. As a freelance investigative journalist (and columnist), he obviously has sources. We'll see if his allegations begin to filter out into the MSM...

    The administration has clearly known for over a year about Risen and Lichtblau's knowledge of the NSA program -- the NY Times told them about it -- but they waited until now to pursue this supposedly dire and important investigation into the leak. Why? And why, for the umpteenth time, did they go around the FISA court? Was there something even they knew was shady about their requests, like, perhaps, the targets included American journalists and members of Congress? None of this is proven of course, but then, nothing is known about whom the administration wiretapped. The information is supposedly so sensitive it can't be revealed. We are supposed to trust President Bush, that he is telling the truth when he says the targets were all "communicating with the enemy."

    Well, I don't trust him. At this point, why would anyone?

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    posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
    On whose authority?
    The right has been very disciplined in its "The Constitution gives him the power" defense of the President's NSA spying gambit (and equally disciplined in failing to provide a single shred of evidence from the text of the Constitution to support the meme). But now, the latest from the House of Lichtblau at the Times suggests that the NSA may have acted, not on the president's supposed authority, but on the authority of someone called Lt. Gen. Hayden. So AJ and company, does Article II also give General Hayden the authority to spy on Americans without a warrant...? From today's NYT:

    Files Say Agency Initiated Growth of Spying Effort

    By ERIC LICHTBLAU and SCOTT SHANE

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 - The National Security Agency acted on its own authority, without a formal directive from President Bush, to expand its domestic surveillance operations in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

    The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed.

    Ms. Pelosi's letter, which was declassified at her request, showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency's domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.

    The letter from Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, also suggested that the security agency, whose mission is to eavesdrop on foreign communications, moved immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks to identify terror suspects at home by loosening restrictions on domestic eavesdropping.

    The congresswoman wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then head of the N.S.A., to express her concerns after she and other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees received a classified briefing from General Hayden on Oct. 1, 2001, about the agency's operations.

    Ms. Pelosi, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, "I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting."

    The answer, General Hayden suggested in his response to Ms. Pelosi a week later, was that it had not. "In my briefing," he wrote, "I was attempting to emphasize that I used my authorities to adjust N.S.A.'s collection and reporting."

    It is not clear whether General Hayden referred at the briefing to the idea of warrantless eavesdropping. Parts of the letters from Ms. Pelosi and General Hayden concerning other specific aspects of the spy agency's domestic operation were blacked out because they remain classified. But officials familiar with the uncensored letters said they referred to other aspects of the domestic eavesdropping program.

    Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order set guidelines for the collection of intelligence, including by the N.S.A.

    "He had authority under E.O. 12333 that had been given to him, and he briefed Congress on what he did under those authorities," said Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Beyond that, we can't get into details of what was done."

    So what is Executive Order 12333? Have a look for yourself. It mainly spells out the duties of various governmental agencies and heads of agencies involved in intelligence gathering, including the CIA, Departments of State and Defense and the NSA. In Part 2 of the order, however, we get to the meat of the matter:
    Conduct of Intelligence Activities

    2.1 Need. Accurate and timely information about the capabilities, intentions and activities of foreign powers, organizations, or persons and their agents is essential to informed decisionmaking in the areas of national defense and foreign relations. Collection of such information is a priority objective and will be pursued in a vigorous, innovative and responsible manner that is consistent with the Constitution and applicable law and respectful of the principles upon which the United States was founded.

    2.2 Purpose. This Order is intended to enhance human and technical collection techniques, especially those undertaken abroad, and the acquisition of significant foreign intelligence, as well as the detection and countering of international terrorist activities and espionage conducted by foreign powers. Set forth below are certain general principles that, in addition to and consistent with applicable laws, are intended to achieve the proper balance between the acquisition of essential information and protection of individual interests. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to apply to or interfere with any authorized civil or criminal law enforcement responsibility of any department or agency.

    2.3 Collection of Information. Agencies within the Intelligence Community are authorized to collect, retain or disseminate information concerning United States persons only in accordance with procedures established by the head of the agency concerned and approved by the Attorney General, consistent with the authorities provided by Part 1 of this Order. Those procedures shall permit collection, retention and dissemination of the following types of information:

    (a) Information that is publicly available or collected with the consent of the person concerned;

    (b) Information constituting foreign intelligence or counterintelligence, including such information concerning corporations or other commercial organizations. Collection within the United States of foreign intelligence not otherwise obtainable shall be undertaken by the FBI or, when significant foreign intelligence is sought, by other authorized agencies of the Intelligence Community, provided that no foreign intelligence collection by such agencies may be undertaken for the purpose of acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons;

    (c) Information obtained in the course of a lawful foreign intelligence, counterintelligence, international narcotics or international terrorism investigation;

    (d) Information needed to protect the safety of any persons or organizations, including those who are targets, victims or hostages of international terrorist organizations;

    (e) Information needed to protect foreign intelligence or counterintelligence sources or methods from unauthorized disclosure. Collection within the United States shall be undertaken by the FBI except that other agencies of the Intelligence Community may also collect such information concerning present or former employees, present or former intelligence agency contractors or their present or former employees, or applicants for any such employment or contracting;

    (f) Information concerning persons who are reasonably believed to be potential sources or contacts for the purpose of determining their suitability or credibility;

    (g) Information arising out of a lawful personnel, physical or communications security investigation;

    (h) Information acquired by overhead reconnaissance not directed at specific United States persons;

    (i) Incidentally obtained information that may indicate involvement in activities that may violate federal, state, local or foreign laws; and

    (j) Information necessary for administrative purposes.

    In addition, agencies within the Intelligence Community may disseminate information, other than information derived from signals intelligence, to each appropriate agency within the Intelligence Community for purposes of allowing the recipient agency to determine whether the information is relevant to its responsibilities and can be retained by it.
    Sounds like Reagan knew a hell of a lot more about the Constitution than the wingers who supposedly revere him.

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    posted by JReid @ 10:02 AM  
    A corruption scandal of his own
    Bush's friend Ariel Sharon has his own corruption scandal going, regarding illegal foreign donations to his political campaigns. The Larouchies at Executive Intelligence Review in 2003 sought to expose Americans who've paid into Sharon's coffers and there are some interesting names on the list, including Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, Bush family crony Henry Kravis and Estee Lauder cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder. (The Guardian in 2004 had more info on the scandal and Bloomberg updated the case yesterday). Interesting...

    , ,
    posted by JReid @ 8:25 AM  
    Tuesday, January 03, 2006
    Where's the democracy?
    Why aren't Hanan Ashrawi and other Palestinian politicians permitted to campaign in Arab East Jerusalem? And where's the international outrage over what looks like an attempt to stifle nascent democracy in the Palestinian territories...?

    Meanwhile, the once-kidnapped Briton talks about her and her family's ordeal in Gaza...

    Side note: I saw "Munich" this weekend -- the commercials are right, it's Spielberg's best thing since "Schindler's List..." More on that later...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:48 PM  
    Uh-oh...
    Abramoff pleads guilty, will cooperate...

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    posted by JReid @ 1:21 PM  
    Monday, January 02, 2006
    Comey don't play that
    Newsweek digs deeper into the NYT story of Ashcroft' and his chief deputy James Comey's discomfort with the NSA spying "program" and they don't hedge, as the Times did, on just how high Croftie was willing to let the eagle soar (ht to Talkleft for ferreting out the key paras):

    in March 2004, White House chief of staff Card and White House Counsel Gonzales visited Ashcroft, the seriously ill attorney general, to try to get him to overrule Comey, who was officially acting as A.G. while Ashcroft was incapacitated. Ashcroft refused, and a battle over what to do broke out in the Justice Department and at the White House. Finally, sometime in the summer of 2004, a compromise was reached, with Comey onboard: according to an account in The New York Times, Justice and the NSA refined a checklist to follow in deciding whether "probable cause" existed to start monitoring someone's conversations.
    ...and this regarding the objections of the then acting A.G., Comey (who was standing in for the hospitalized Ashcroft, prompting Bush's team to make that special journey to J.A.'s sick bed):

    According to several officials who would not be identified talking about still-classified matters, Comey (among other government lawyers) argued that the authority for the program—the 2001 "use of force" resolution—had grown stale. It was time to audit the program before proceeding in any case, Comey said.
    ...Kind of makes you wonder whether it really was a faulty gallbladder that chased Ashcroft out of the AG chair and ushered Torquemada Gonzalez in...

    Also, some good questions from Mike Votes:

    Yesterday, the WaPo reported that the content of the illegal taps were spread through the Pentagon's DIA as well as other agencies. It has taken me a day to digest this, and after thinking about it again, I have two questions:

    Who specifically, what government agency or group, requested these taps?

    Were these agencies where the tap contents were eventually distributed, the requestors for those specific taps?

    If so, I think that could be a really big deal if the DoD, again as example, was given the prerogative to spy on American citizens, tapping their phones and reading their email, using the NSA as a legal cutout.
    Mike's also got a timely reminder of just whom -- or should I say what -- Mr. Bush swore an oath to "protect" ...

    Meanwhile, ThinkProgress has a reminder of just why Bush's NSA spy gambit is just too risky... and William Safire delivers a surprise opinion based on his own experiences with the original Richard Nixon (courtesy of Crooks and Liars)...

    Some good digging by Digby on Comey, and on what the Bushies have really been up to...

    From the "and you call yourself a journalist?" file, Michelle Malkin doesn't get that there are, in fact, good and bad leaks... Good thing she wasn't running the Washington Post during Watergate...

    Update: I thought right wingers couldn't stand "trahl lawyers...?" AJ Strata has apparently gone mad, and he's taken The Anchoress and someone called (and this one's for all the irony...) "Dr. Sanity" -- with him... So we're going to sue the press, to get them to behalf more like the good people at Granma? Is there any part of the United States Constitution and American liberty that conservatives don't loathe...? Fear really is a powerful hallucinogen...

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    posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
    More brilliant work by the Lincoln Group
    This time, paying Muslim scholars to butter up the U.S. ...

    Tags: , , Middle East, War, Propaganda
    posted by JReid @ 10:03 AM  
    Sam Alito for one-man government
    You may recall that I, like some other bloggers like Jeralyn Merritt at Talkleft, supported the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, and his elevation to Chief Justice. I thought the initial reaction to him was, frankly, hysterical, and I felt that he was so clearly qualified, and so solidly intellectual, that opposing him seemed petty, even given my disagreement with many of his positions on issues (and the fact that if he ran into me in a restaurant, he'd probably try to give me his dinner order...) Okay, and maybe I have a wee little pro-Harvard bias...

    That said, I was, frankly, baffled by Bush's choice of "Golly Gee" Harriet Miers and was glad to see her go (despite the hypocrisy of the right's "Borking" her after all that "confirm them" garbage) and was then disappointed to see her replaced by Sam Alito (McConnell would have been better, and interestingly, I think so Luttig would have, too...) though I also initially felt the Democrats should deny the GOP base a protracted fight over his nomination...

    Well, as they used to say on SNL, never mind... Go ahead and knock yourselves out trying to stop "Scalito" from getting onto the Court, ladies and gentlemen of the left, because this guy's a nut.

    Case in point: Alito apparently is just the man for the Bush style of monarchical governance, believing, in essence, that the executive branch shouldn't just sign and uphold laws, it should act as Court and Congress, too -- interpreting the laws itself, and of course, choosing which ones to uphold and which to discard:
    Alito Once Made Case For Presidential Power

    By Christopher Lee
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, January 2, 2006; A11

    As a young Justice Department lawyer, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. tried to help tip the balance of power between Congress and the White House a little more in favor of the executive branch.

    In the 1980s, the Reagan administration, like other White Houses before and after, chafed at the reality that Congress's reach on the meaning of laws extends beyond the words of statutes passed on Capitol Hill. Judges may turn to the trail of statements lawmakers left behind in the Congressional Record when trying to glean the intent behind a law. The White House left no comparable record.

    In a Feb. 5, 1986, draft memo, Alito, then deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, outlined a strategy for changing that. It laid out a case for having the president routinely issue statements about the meaning of statutes when he signs them into law.

    Such "interpretive signing statements" would be a significant departure from run-of-the-mill bill signing pronouncements, which are "often little more than a press release," Alito wrote. The idea was to flag constitutional concerns and get courts to pay as much attention to the president's take on a law as to "legislative intent."

    "Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress," Alito wrote. He later added that "by forcing some rethinking by courts, scholars, and litigants, it may help to curb some of the prevalent abuses of legislative history."

    The Reagan administration popularized the use of such statements and subsequent administrations continued the practice. (The courts have yet to give them much weight, though.)

    President Bush has been especially fond of them, issuing at least 108 in his first term, according to presidential scholar Phillip J. Cooper of Portland State University in Oregon. Many of Bush's statements rejected provisions in bills that the White House regarded as interfering with its powers in national security, intelligence policy and law enforcement, Cooper wrote recently in the academic journal Presidential Studies Quarterly.

    The Bush administration "has very effectively expanded the scope and character of the signing statement not only to address specific provisions of legislation that the White House wishes to nullify, but also in an effort to significantly reposition and strengthen the powers of the presidency relative to the Congress," Cooper wrote in the September issue. "This tour d' force has been carried out in such a systematic and careful fashion that few in Congress, the media, or the scholarly community are aware that anything has happened at all."

    Bush may be acting without fanfare for a reason. As Alito noted in his memo, the statements "will not be warmly welcomed" on Capitol Hill.

    "The novelty of the procedure and the potential increase of presidential power are two factors that may account for this anticipated reaction," he wrote. "In addition, and perhaps most important, Congress is likely to resent the fact that the president will get in the last word on questions of interpretation."
    Have a nice trip to Capitol Hill, Sam...

    Tags:, Politics, SCOTUS, Law, News,
    posted by JReid @ 9:33 AM  
    If it gave Ashcroft pause...
    For those who missed it, here's what the Times reported on Sunday:
    Justice Deputy Resisted Parts of Spy Program
    By ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN

    A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

    The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

    The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.

    With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House went to Mr. Ashcroft - who had been in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security - because "they needed him for certification," according to an official briefed on the episode. The official, like others who discussed the issue, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

    Mr. Comey declined to comment, and Mr. Gonzales could not be reached.

    Accounts differed as to exactly what was said at the hospital meeting between Mr. Ashcroft and the White House advisers. But some officials said that Mr. Ashcroft, like his deputy, appeared reluctant to give Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales his authorization to continue with aspects of the program in light of concerns among some senior government officials about whether the proper oversight was in place at the security agency and whether the president had the legal and constitutional authority to conduct such an operation.

    It is unclear whether the White House ultimately persuaded Mr. Ashcroft to give his approval to the program after the meeting or moved ahead without it.
    For Gods sake, when even Ashcroft is dubious about the program, you've really got to question its legality...

    And here's today's update by Lichtblau, with Bush's defense of the program and continued finger-wagging at the leaker.

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,
    posted by JReid @ 9:11 AM  
    ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
    Listen now:


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    "I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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