Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Must-have gifts
...for 2006. (HT to RawStory)
posted by JReid @ 10:10 PM  
So we all agree, then
According to a new poll out on the NYT web-site, 72 percent of U.S. troops serving in Iraq, want the mission brought to a close within one year. Meanwhile, more bombings in Baghdad...

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posted by JReid @ 10:49 AM  
Is our neocons learning? (Iranian oil bourse edition)
The neocons aren't finished with the Middle East. Having learned nothing from the disaster that is Iraq, they want the U.S. to attack Iran in the worst way. Here's a taste of their case against Iran, courtesy of Jay Tea at Wizbang, plus my response to him:

Oh, the parallels of history:

"Iran is led by a Prime Minister who has a history of ordering and carrying out the executions of his enemies, both at home and abroad. He has been tied to the deaths of dozens, if not hundreds, of Iranian dissidents around the world. He has repeatedly proclaimed his belief in the Islamic version of Armageddon, has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map, and insists on unfettered research into nuclear physics -- saying it is strictly for peaceful purposes, but meanwhile asserting his nation's right to possess nuclear weapons. ..." [JT]

Meanwhile...

The United States is led by a president who has a history of ordering the indefinite detention and sanctioning the torture of individuals, including minors, many of whom were later found to be bystanders rather than al-Qaida terrorists, and others of whom were tortured into giving their interrogators false information later used to justify the misuse of American armed forces in Iraq. He has disappeared American citizens without trial, festooned the globe with secret prisons that are tied to the deaths of an uncounted number of people, and ordered the secret wiretapping and surveillance of political opponents and God only knows who else (journalists, maybe?). His administration outed a covert agent working on non-proliferation issues, threatening her safety and the safety of everyone she ever dealt with, simply because her husband criticized the political policy of invading Iraq. He has repeatedly proclaimed that the United States is spreading freedom around the world, and that democracies are peaceful, yet his "democratically elected" administration ordered the invasion of a country that had not attacked and did not threaten us. He and his administration manipulated intelligence to justify a war that has killed upwards of 100,000 Iraqis and more than 2,000 U.S. troops, and which has injured nearly 20,000 others.

Two-thirds of our troops now apparently believe the mission should be brought to an end (NYT poll today). And he has propped up a dictator in Pakistan, an oligarchy in Saudi Arabia, whom, along with the UAE, he and his family have repeatedly taken money from, and to whom he is now prepared to hand over operational control of 21 U.S. ports (after having thrown open the U.S. southern border to an unlimited hoarde of barely paid corporate slaves. He decries the search for nuclear weapons by countries seeking a deterrent against Israel, which is armed to the teeth with them, while continuing research on next-generation nuclear weapons for our use.

What a world.

Among the most dillusional of the remaining neocons (Fukuyama having jumped ship, is Charles Krauthammer. He wants to invade Iran so badly he can taste it...

Syria is weak and deterred by Israel. North Korea, having gone nuclear, is untouchable. That leaves Iran. What to do? There are only two things that will stop the Iranian nuclear program: revolution from below or an attack on its nuclear facilities.

The country should be ripe for revolution. The regime is detested. But the mullahs are very good at police-state tactics. The long-awaited revolution is not happening.

Which makes the question of pre-emptive attack all the more urgent. Iran will go nuclear during the next presidential term. Some Americans wishfully think that the Israelis will do the dirty work for us, as in 1981 when they destroyed Saddam's nuclear reactor. But for Israel, attacking Iran is a far more difficult proposition. It is farther away. Moreover, detection and antiaircraft technology are far more advanced than 20 years ago.

There may be no deus ex machina. If nothing is done, a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the ``Great Satan'' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive strike.
Hm. Iran's president may be nutty, but to my knowledge he hasn't said he wants to destroy America. A Google search found the following statement by Ahmadinejad about the "Great Satan":
"America's unilateral move to sever ties with the Islamic Republic was aimed at destroying the Islamic revolution...

"America was free to sever its ties with Iran, but it remains Iran's decision to re-establish relations with America."
Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel. Perhaps for Krauthammer and other neocons there is no distinction, but there certainly is a distinction for me, for American taxpayers, and for the United States military, which is pledged only to defend us... (Israel has a quite well armed military of its own, don't ya know...)

The thinking in many quarters is that the attack on Iran is already in the cards, with the CIA already circumventing Congressional restrictions to begin carrying out covert operations there. And as the conspiracy goes, the attack will happen next month, and it won't be about nukes -- instead it will be all tied up with Iran's decision last year to convert its oil sales from petrodollars to petroeuros, and to launch a competitive, Intenet-based oil market that will rival London and New York.

From an article by broadcaster Alan Simpson last August:
Washington, August 8th, 2005 -- The announcement that Iran is to begin pricing its petroleum products in euros and create an "Iranian Oil Bourse" for trading oil, in direct competition with New York and London has sent the Oil Barons into a tail spin.

Convinced that their grab of Iraqi oilfields after Saddam dared to announce that he was moving to the Euro should have taught the Iranians a lesson, the NeoCons under Cheney and Rumsfeld seek to up the stakes in their "Old Mans Poker Game". Any moron who still believes that Iraq was either invaded for the threatening Weapons of Mass Destruction and to create a democratic state in the Middle East should stop reading now, and take their medication. But now the stakes are much higher, and the odds are not in our favor. NeoCon military planners even go so far as to contemplate using first strike nuclear weapons.

Others, outside of the carefully controlled mainstream media are warning against such folly. William Clark wrote:

"In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater "offense" than Saddam Hussein's conversion to the euro for Iraq's oil exports in the fall of 2000. Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York's NYMEX and London's IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism.[7] The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran's objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly – but actively – planning for a possible attack against Iran. In September 2004 Newsweek reported:

Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries…'"

A PetroEuro would shatter the illusion, swallowed by the gullible voters, that all is just fine in the US Economy. At present the printing presses can churn out as many dollar bills as the President needs for his latest folly. It doesn't matter if all the US factories and workshops are closed down, and everyone is in paper debt up to their ears, just print more money and give them a tax break to keep them quiet. Then collect all the paper debt together and get another loan from China.
This is not just theoretical. Conspiratorial thinking? Yes. But theoretical? You wish. Read on:
What is the Iranian Bourse and what has a Russian natural gas curtailment got to do with it?

Well, to answer the second question; in future, some gas delivered to Ukraine and perhaps on to Western Europe via pipeline will be Iranian.

And, according to Iranian officials, the Iranian Bourse will be a state-owned international oil, gas and refined products exchange, operating principally over the Internet, with transactions denominated principally in Euros.

The Iranian Bourse will be competing directly with London’s International Petroleum Exchange and New York’s Mercantile Exchange, both of which are owned by US corporations, and whose transactions are denominated in Dollars.

At present, the Dollar is the global monetary standard for petroleum exchange. Hence, all petroleum consuming countries – including China and Japan – must buy and keep a large cache of dollars in their central banks.

What would be the effect of an Iranian Bourse operating on petroeuros rather than petrodollars?

Well, back in 2000, Saddam Hussein converted Iraqi bank reserves from the Dollar to the Euro, and began demanding payments in Euro for Iraqi oil. Central banks of many countries – most notably Russia and China – began keeping Euros and Dollars as monetary "reserves" and as an exchange fund for oil.

And, perhaps at least partially because of Saddam’s conversion to it, by 2003 the Euro was stronger than the Dollar.

So, there are some observers who fervently believe that the real reason Bush-Cheney launched a war of aggression against Iraq was to restore the primacy of petrodollars and to demonstrate to any country – such as Iran, who had begun serious planning for the Iranian Bourse in 2000 – what would happen to them if they followed Saddam’s lead.

Of course, once occupied by the US-UK-Halliburton coalition, Iraqi oil sales were once again denominated in petrodollars.
Still not buying it? Google the words "Iran oil bourse" and see what you get. You'll get lots of links you can wave off as conspiracy mongering. And then there's this from the staid Energy Bulletin:
The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse
by Krassimir Petrov

I. Economics of Empires

A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. The imperial ability to tax has always rested on a better and stronger economy, and as a consequence, a better and stronger military. One part of the subject taxes went to improve the living standards of the empire; the other part went to strengthen the military dominance necessary to enforce the collection of those taxes. ...

...Early in the 20th century, the U.S. economy began to dominate the world economy. The U.S. dollar was tied to gold, so that the value of the dollar neither increased, nor decreased, but remained the same amount of gold. The Great Depression, with its preceding inflation from 1921 to 1929 and its subsequent ballooning government deficits, had substantially increased the amount of currency in circulation, and thus rendered the backing of U.S. dollars by gold impossible. This led Roosevelt to decouple the dollar from gold in 1932. Up to this point, the U.S. may have well dominated the world economy, but from an economic point of view, it was not an empire. The fixed value of the dollar did not allow the Americans to extract economic benefits from other countries by supplying them with dollars convertible to gold.

Economically, the American Empire was born with Bretton Woods in 1945. The U.S. dollar was not fully convertible to gold, but was made convertible to gold only to foreign governments. This established the dollar as the reserve currency of the world. It was possible, because during WWII, the United States had supplied its allies with provisions, demanding gold as payment, thus accumulating significant portion of the world’s gold. An Empire would not have been possible if, following the Bretton Woods arrangement, the dollar supply was kept limited and within the availability of gold, so as to fully exchange back dollars for gold. However, the guns-and-butter policy of the 1960’s was an imperial one: the dollar supply was relentlessly increased to finance Vietnam and LBJ’s Great Society. Most of those dollars were handed over to foreigners in exchange for economic goods, without the prospect of buying them back at the same value. The increase in dollar holdings of foreigners via persistent U.S. trade deficits was tantamount to a tax—the classical inflation tax that a country imposes on its own citizens, this time around an inflation tax that U.S. imposed on rest of the world.

When in 1970-1971 foreigners demanded payment for their dollars in gold, The U.S. Government defaulted on its payment on August 15, 1971. While the popular spin told the story of “severing the link between the dollar and gold”, in reality the denial to pay back in gold was an act of bankruptcy by the U.S. Government. Essentially, the U.S. declared itself an Empire. It had extracted an enormous amount of economic goods from the rest of the world, with no intention or ability to return those goods, and the world was powerless to respond— the world was taxed and it could not do anything about it.

From that point on, to sustain the American Empire and to continue to tax the rest of the world, the United States had to force the world to continue to accept ever-depreciating dollars in exchange for economic goods and to have the world hold more and more of those depreciating dollars. It had to give the world an economic reason to hold them, and that reason was oil.

In 1971, as it became clearer and clearer that the U.S Government would not be able to buy back its dollars in gold, it made in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for dollars could only increase. Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil.

The economic essence of this arrangement was that the dollar was now backed by oil. As long as that was the case, the world had to accumulate increasing amounts of dollars, because they needed those dollars to buy oil. As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured, and the American Empire could continue to tax the rest of the world. If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. It also dictated that oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren’t strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.

The man that actually did demand Euro for his oil was Saddam Hussein in 2000. At first, his demand was met with ridicule, later with neglect, but as it became clearer that he meant business, political pressure was exerted to change his mind. When other countries, like Iran, wanted payment in other currencies, most notably Euro and Yen, the danger to the dollar was clear and present, and a punitive action was in order. Bush’s Shock-and-Awe in Iraq was not about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, about defending human rights, about spreading democracy, or even about seizing oil fields; it was about defending the dollar, ergo the American Empire. It was about setting an example that anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars would be likewise punished.

Many have criticized Bush for staging the war in Iraq in order to seize Iraqi oil fields. However, those critics can’t explain why Bush would want to seize those fields—he could simply print dollars for nothing and use them to get all the oil in the world that he needs. He must have had some other reason to invade Iraq.

History teaches that an empire should go to war for one of two reasons: (1) to defend itself or (2) benefit from war; if not, as Paul Kennedy illustrates in his magisterial The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, a military overstretch will drain its economic resources and precipitate its collapse. Economically speaking, in order for an empire to initiate and conduct a war, its benefits must outweigh its military and social costs. Benefits from Iraqi oil fields are hardly worth the long-term, multi-year military cost. Instead, Bush must have went into Iraq to defend his Empire. Indeed, this is the case: two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated, the Iraqi Euro accounts were switched back to dollars, and oil was sold once again only for U.S. dollars. No longer could the world buy oil from Iraq with Euro. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. Bush descended victoriously from a fighter jet and declared the mission accomplished—he had successfully defended the U.S. dollar, and thus the American Empire.

In which case, one has to ask, if Iraq is now trading oil, such as it can under the present circumstances, in dollars, then no matter how badly things are going there, the U.S. mission there can only fail if a government winds up in place which goes back to the Euro.

Why do nations go to war? Krauthammer style Islamophobia? Dick Cheney and George Bush weren't even neocons before they came to power -- in fact I doubt George W. Bush ever gave a moment's thought to world politics and democracy before he was fed the Straussian line by Wolfowitz and company. But what's in it for Cheney? A few more million in Halliburton deferred stock? What about Rumsfeld? What has always bothered me about the Iraq war is that it never made any sense. In my opinion, the neoconservative dreamers are simply deluded narcissists whose desire to wipe out the enemies of Israel stems from some deep-seated sense of lack at not having been a part of the violent (they'd say heroic) birth of that nation which so many hold dear. But they are Machiavellian too. The PNAC makes it clear that the search for "full spectrum dominance" isn't about freeing those dear little brown people over there -- neocons are generally viciously anti-Arab and disdainful of Muslims. They seemingly could give a damn about their freedom. What they want is to control Europ and Asia by controlling the basic resources those regions need to grow and to compete with us. It's not a theory, it's in the text of their many, many documents.

So the war in Iraq had to be about something concrete -- not "democracy." And oil for its own sake made no sense. Sure we could control the exports, but why not control the currency and the trading environment too?

That makes the possibility of war with Iran sound plausible to me, and it makes the invasion of Iraq even more sinister, but also more realpolitik than we on the other side give the neocons credit for. This is not to say that I don't think Iran wants nuclear weapons. I think it's pretty clear that they do. The question is, why do they want them? What is it that they're trying to deter, or to defend? Is it really about obliterating Israel? I think not. Israel would nuke them into the stone age if they even looked like they were going to attack. So what? Could it be that they're playing a massive game of chicken against us, in an effort to protect their oil bourse? It's definitely something to consider.

Do I really think we're going to strike Iran? Who knows. But if we do, I won't believe for a moment that it's about what the administration says it's about. ...

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posted by JReid @ 9:54 AM  
Selling the electric grid, too
From the Independent (UK):

National Grid, the owner of Britain's gas and electricity transmission networks, yesterday became the third largest energy supplier in the US after buying one of America's leading gas distributors in a £6.8bn cash deal.

The debt-financed acquisition of KeySpan, which is based on the north-eastern seaboard, is Grid's fifth US takeover since 2000 and means that it will now make more of its profits in America than the UK. ...

... Steve Holliday, who takes over as Grid's chief executive at the end of the year, signalled there was more American expansion to come as the company added to its gas distribution business. He did not rule out moving beyond the north-east of the US, which Grid has made its home since the initial £2.6bn purchase of New England Electric System six years ago.

This latest deal will increase Grid's US customer numbers to 7.7 million - making it the country's third largest gas distributor and seventh biggest electricity supplier. KeySpan is the biggest gas supplier in the north-eastern US, with 2.6 million customers in New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It also has an electricity transmission and distribution business in Long Island serving 1.1 million customers and 6,700 megawatts of electricity-generating capacity. ...
Meanwhile, DPW is still trying to silence Lou Dobbs. ... I wouldn't bet on it...

BTW Keyspan is variously described as the largest natural gas distributor in the Northeast and the fifth largest overall in theU.S. The largest natural gas distributors in the U.S. are Texas-based Atmos Energy (#1) which services the Southwest, and the other is probably Pacificorp in the West, which takes care of California, Oregon, Washington State, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. Pacificorp was bought six years ago by a European company called Scottish Power. More on that from the Telegraph UK:
The company insisted that its empire building would not come unstuck in the same way as ScottishPower's disastrous acquisition of Pacificorp in the mid-west six years ago. The company was eventually sold to Warren Buffett last year for $5.1bn.

Steve Holliday, who will succeed Roger Urwin as chief executive in December, said this deal was different because National Grid already operates subsidiaries in neighbouring states and only a tiny minority of its workers - just 20 out of 10,000 - are expatriates. "It is run by Americans. This is very different from ScottishPower's model," he said. ...

...The deal is subject to five separate regulatory clearances and should be completed by summer 2007. Executives telephoned local politicians on Sunday evening, including New York senator Hillary Clinton, to explain the deal and ensure that it was politically acceptable.

U.S.-based Consolidated Edison of New York (aka ConEd if you've lived in the NYC...) wanted to buy KeySpan, which it used to own, but it faced anti-trust problems, and so lost out to the UK co.

It's called globalization, folks, and it isn't coming, it's here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:59 AM  
As if he needed this today...
The report on Bush's bike accident at Gleneagles Scotland last year is out. ... sorry, Bushbots, this just isn't your month...
The report details how the police unit, dressed in riot gear, was guarding a road outside the Gleneagles Hotel when Mr Bush cycled up on a damp road.

"As the president passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting 'Thanks, you guys, for coming'.

"As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs," it says.
... well at least he didn't get the injured security officer to apologize to him on national TV...

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posted by JReid @ 12:46 AM  
Past bottom
Will all the pundits who said Bush's approval ratings bottomed out at 40 percent please stand up. I have something unpleasant for you:

As Bush prepares to be ringed by a 5,000-MAN SECURITY DETAIL in India, there's more trouble on the homefront. Says a new CBS News poll:
The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement. ...

...In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September’s poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall. ...

... For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.

In a bright spot for the administration, most Americans appeared to have heard enough about Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

More then three in four said it was understandable that the accident had occurred and two-thirds said the media had spent too much time covering the story.

Still, the incident appears to have made the public's already negative view of Cheney a more so. Just 18 percent said they had a favorable view of the vice president, down from 23 percent in January. ...
Ouch.

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posted by JReid @ 12:21 AM  
Fukuyamin' hell
Sorry, but can't link to this enough: Fukuyama declares neoconservatism DOA. He now joins the apostasy...

Related: Alternet - The con, the former neocon and the con man...

Slate - Papa cries 'Uncle'

American Hot Sausage: How to argue with a neocon...

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posted by JReid @ 12:18 AM  
Blame it on the Times
The NYT is suing the Pentagon to get the names of those surveilled by the NSA...

Count the Jawans not happy... and once again, count the Times accused of aiding "the ter'rists..."
Strata's on a rampage, too (surprise, surprise -- good to see his favorite whipping boys -- the media -- back in action I suppose ...) He thinks "the leakers" of this security damaging info are Rockefellar and Durbin! (Hm... I thought the leakers of the security damaging info were Scooter "subpoena the press" Libby and Karl Rove... uh, I mean ... "Official A..." go figure.)

As for me, I think the NYT suit, if it's successful, will uncover a fact that links the Libby and NSA stories: that among the "al-Qaida assets" being listened to by the NSA (when a ter'rist calls Americuh), were journalists, just like the ones Scooter plans to subpoena... And maybe a few Senators, too. Wouldn't that be interesting. Although, as Glen Greenwald has said, "when forced to choose between conservative principles or loyalty to Bush, Bush followers will expressly toss conservatism overboard and disclaim an association with its principles."

Personal freedom -- of the press and of the people from onerous government intrusion are supposedly among those conservative principles. Oh, sorry, forgot -- those are pre-9/11 principles...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 AM  
Monday, February 27, 2006
Dubai-bye
Prediction: The Bush administration will use the 45 day "cooling off" period to find a way to kill the Dubai port deal. If they don't, the Republican lead Congress will kill it for them. Either way, the port deal is dead. DOA. DNR. No coming back. And you can quote me on that.

Why? Because Republicans can't afford to take a bath in the Senate in November (see the next post), or to do badly in the House, either (though the miracle of gerrymandering makes the House a virtual incumbency bonanza). Still, if the GOP loses one branch of the legislature, particularly the Senate, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down: investigations, subpoenas, or worse could be in the cards. There certainly are enough scandals out there to make their lives, and the president's, a living hell for the next two years: Plamegate/the Scooter Libby trial, the AIPAC spy scandal and the associated Iraq/Iran scandals in the Feith/Cambone wing of the Pentagon, ongoing controversies over torture, domestic spying, and the possible disintegration of Iraq...

Make no mistake, the ports deal is a loser for the GOP. It's a loser because it carries with it the baggage of three very bad things in the eyes of average Americans, which even Republicans are beginning to associate heavily with the national GOP and President Bush: globalism (read open borders and free trade, plus that Indian call center that pisses you off every time you call tech support...), big business in control of government (read Enron, Worldcom, Ford, General Motors, layoffs, pay cuts, corruption, bribes, no health care and Wal-Mart...) and Muslims (or Arabs if you like, since most Americans really don't perceive a difference)-- the latter of the three the Bush administration has spent four long years pounding into our heads that we should fear the way a child fears the boogeyman. So now, we're handing our ports over the boogeyman, why??? Most Americans just can't make the leap. (No, no dear, not these Arabs ... these Arabs are our fiends...) Yeah, buddy. Whatever. Most Americans, so well trained by the constant terrors of the Bush-Cheney message machine, could give a damn about the complexities. (And it's confusing: we're supposed to loathe the Muslims because they're pissed off at the Danish cartoons, loathe the Palestinians because ... well, they're there ... smack the Iraqis with one hand and hand over $1 trillion to them with the other, and now this???) I'm afraid it's all just too much, which is why four in five Americans oppose the deal, even as:
Just 39% of Americans know that the operating rights are currently owned by a foreign firm. Fifteen percent (15%) believe the operating rights are U.S. owned while 46% are not sure.

From a political perspective, President Bush's national security credentials have clearly been tarnished due to the outcry over this issue. For the first time ever, Americans have a slight preference for Democrats in Congress over the President on national security issues. Forty-three percent (43%) say they trust the Democrats more on this issue today while 41% prefer the President.

It is important to note that the question about trust on national security issues was asked first, before any mention was made of the Dubai Ports issue. [Source: Rasmussen Reports]
Same point made by Paul Krugman here. (Take THAT, Times Select!!)
Let's go back to the beginning. At 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld gave military commanders their marching orders. "Judge whether good enough hit S. H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time - not only UBL [Osama bin Laden]," read an aide's handwritten notes about his instructions. The notes were recently released after a Freedom of Information Act request. "Hard to get a good case," the notes acknowledge. Nonetheless, they say: "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

So it literally began on Day 1. When terrorists attacked the United States, the Bush administration immediately looked for ways it could exploit the atrocity to pursue unrelated goals - especially, but not exclusively, a war with Iraq.

But to exploit the atrocity, President Bush had to do two things. First, he had to create a climate of fear: Al Qaeda, a real but limited threat, metamorphosed into a vast, imaginary axis of evil threatening America. Second, he had to blur the distinctions between nasty people who actually attacked us and nasty people who didn't.

The administration successfully linked Iraq and 9/11 in public perceptions through a campaign of constant insinuation and occasional outright lies. In the process, it also created a state of mind in which all Arabs were lumped together in the camp of evildoers. Osama, Saddam - what's the difference?

Now comes the port deal. Mr. Bush assures us that "people don't need to worry about security." But after all those declarations that we're engaged in a global war on terrorism, after all the terror alerts declared whenever the national political debate seemed to be shifting to questions of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, the administration can't suddenly change its theme song to "Don't Worry, Be Happy." ...

...Mr. Bush shouldn't really be losing his credibility as a terrorism fighter over the ports deal, which, after careful examination (which hasn't happened yet), may turn out to be O.K. Instead, Mr. Bush should have lost his credibility long ago over his diversion of U.S. resources away from the pursuit of Al Qaeda and into an unnecessary war in Iraq, his bungling of that war, and his adoption of a wrongful imprisonment and torture policy that has blackened America's reputation.

But there is, nonetheless, a kind of rough justice in Mr. Bush's current predicament. After 9/11, the American people granted him a degree of trust rarely, if ever, bestowed on our leaders. He abused that trust, and now he is facing a storm of skepticism about his actions - a storm that sweeps up everything, things related and not.
Righto? Now for more on the ports deal.

Surprise! The Dubai firm seeking to take over the 21 U.S. ports enforces the boycott of Israel...

The Homeland Security Department (perhaps the most ironically named agency in U.S. government history) wasn't the only Bush team player to oppose the Dubai deal before they approved of it:
Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard raised concerns weeks ago that it could not determine whether a United Arab Emirates-based company seeking a stake in some U.S. port operations might support terrorist operations.

The disclosure came during a hearing Monday on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to assume significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. It also clouded whether the Bush administration's agreement to conduct an unusual investigation into the pending takeover's security risks would allay lawmakers' concerns.

The administration said the Coast Guard's concerns were raised during its review of the deal, which it approved Jan. 17, and that all those questions were resolved. ...

..."There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that precludes an overall threat assessment" of the potential merger, an unclassified Coast Guard intelligence assessment said.

"The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities," said the half-page assessment. Officials said it was an unclassified excerpt from a larger document. ...

... The Coast Guard assessment raised questions about the security of the companies' operations, the backgrounds of people working for the companies, and whether other foreign countries influenced operations that affect security.

"We were never told about this and have no information about it," Michael Moore, DP World's senior vice president, said of the excerpt. However, he said it shows "serious and probing" questions were asked and that the initial approval of the deal indicates those questions were answered.
Oh, and the Saudis are running U.S. ports, too, including one in Brooklyn... Sleep well!

Tags: , Dubai, Ports, Terrorism, Politics, UAE, News, Republicans
posted by JReid @ 11:08 PM  
The horse race
According to Larry Sabato last month...
posted by JReid @ 10:51 PM  
Bye-bye, Cheney?
Will Dick Cheney retire after the midterms? Hm... From Insight Magazine:
Senior GOP sources envision the retirement of Mr. Cheney in 2007, months after the congressional elections. The sources said Mr. Cheney would be persuaded to step down as he becomes an increasing political liability to President Bush.

The sources reported a growing rift between the president and vice president as well as their staffs. They cited Mr. Cheney's failure to immediately tell the president of the accidental shooting of the vice president's hunting colleague earlier this month. The White House didn't learn of the incident until 18 hours later.

The sources reported a growing rift between the president and vice president as well as their staffs. They cited Mr. Cheney's failure to immediately tell the president of the accidental shooting of the vice president's hunting colleague earlier this month. The White House didn't learn of the incident until 18 hours later.

Mr. Cheney's next crisis could take place by the end of the year, the sources said. They said the White House was expecting Mr. Cheney to defend himself against charges from his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, that the vice president ordered him to relay classified information. Such a charge could lead to a congressional investigation and even impeachment proceedings.

"Nothing will happen until after the congressional elections," a GOP source said. "After that, there will be significant changes in the administration and Cheney will probably be part of that."

Already, senators expect Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate whether Mr. Cheney authorized Mr. Libby to divulge classified material. Mr. Libby has told a grand jury that unnamed "superiors" directed him to relay the content of a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in July 2003.
I've been saying for a long time that ultimately, the issue that will bring down the house of cards at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be those 16 words in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, and the fallout therefrom. Via the Fitzgerald investigation, that could just happen.

Tags: , , Dick Cheney, , , , , , Karl Rove, , White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 6:09 PM  
Governors: Bush AWOL on Guard, GOP issues
Note that all 50 governors signed a statement saying essentially that Bush's budget cuts and the lingering war in Iraq are hurting the National Guard... that's all 50, including Jeb... (BTW would it be cruel to point out the irony of George W. Bush appears to be neglecting and disdaining the Guard for the second time in his life...? )

George W. Bush has some fence mending to do with the Republican governors, who allong with GOP members of Congress are catching hell at home over the White House's missteps. Says AP:
The GOP governors reluctantly acknowledge that the series of gaffes threatens to undermine public confidence in President Bush's ability to provide security, which has long been his greatest strength among voters.

"You've got solid conservatives coming up speaking like they haven't before, it's likely that something's going on at the grass roots," said Republican Mark Sanford of South Carolina. "Whether it's temporary or not remains to be seen."

The unease was clear in interviews with more than a dozen governors over the weekend, including nearly half of the Republicans attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. The annual conference was taking place in a capital enthralled by the political firestorm over government plans to approve takeover of operations at some terminals at six U.S. ports by a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government.

Democrats see opportunity, and even those in conservative states say the administration's missteps will have a ripple effect politically at home. "I do think there's a considerable degree of skepticism about what's been happening at the federal level," said Democrat Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. "If you didn't pick it up on Katrina, you did when you tried to help your parents" get drugs through the new Medicare program.

But it wasn't Bush's political opponents alone who saw weaknesses. So did his allies — listing the days of chaos in New Orleans after the hurricane, the nationwide confusion over the drug prescription program that forced many states to step in to help seniors get medications, and the ports security debacle that has drawn criticism from leading Republicans in Congress and the states.

"I don't think he was well served on the port issue by the bureaucracy," said Republican Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, who is leading a united front of governors pushing back on potential reductions to National Guard forces. "He's at the forefront on national security. When you combine this flap on the ports, and these potential cuts on the military, you need to make sure that issue doesn't slip away. It's one of his strengths."

He also said the lack of communication from the administration on the Guard issue has been a problem. "There has been too much we have learned outside the loop. It's time we be inside the loop."
Add to those woes the slowdown in housing starts -- an indication that perhaps the biggest thing propping up the economy: real estate speculation in places like Flrorida -- is beginning to look a bit leaky...

Forget the "three C's" being touted by the DNC (Competence, cronyism and corruption). The three dirty little words for the GOP come November are: Immigration, Iraq and Incompetance. The ports issue feeds into the already simmering Republican discontent with Bush's open borders policy, and his coziness with both multinational corporations and foreign oil interests. Had it not been for the immigration thorn, the base might have been more ready to listen to Bush's arguments on the port deal. But Republicans on the ground are growing disaffected -- although as this Zogby poll points out, neither party is exactly electrifying its base...

Tags: , , Dubai, Ports, Terrorism, Politics, Iraq, News, Republicans
posted by JReid @ 3:31 PM  
Stategery
Update: Hillary says Karl Rove obsesses about her...

Will she or won't she?

Hillary Clinton was in Florida for fundraisers last week (I missed the two events in Miami, darnit -- too busy...) and she's raising so much money for her walkaway Senate race that the inevitable question is being heard: What's all that dough for if not for 2008?

Well, I think she's going to run. In fact, I'm one of a dwindling number of Democrats who actually think she can win. Many others are urging her to stay out, fearing she'll rout the primary but lose the general election.

Drudge is reporting that Dubya and his brain think Hillary will run, and that she can easily be beaten in the generals. Actually, the reporting isn't exactly his own:
Reporter Bill Sammon, who joins the WASHINGTON EXAMINER as Senior White House Correspondent, is set to launch his new book, STRATEGERY.

In the Book, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned, Rove is quoted on the-record and is unleashed on Hillary:

There is a “brittleness about her” that could prove a weakness in November 2008.

But Rove added that the “hard-driving” Clinton will easily vanquish Democratic primary rivals like New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who are merely “preening for the vice presidential slot.”

President Bush cautioned that Hillary Clinton should not be underestimated.

“She is a smart person, and obviously has got a lot of experience,” the president said in an exclusive interview for the book STRATEGERY, which is being published Monday. “It is helpful, to a certain extent, to have seen the presidency and presidential campaigns firsthand.”
Why the consensus on the left and right? Because she's polarizing.

Right. Well, guess who else is polarizing? Here's a hint -- he's in the White House ... for a second term...

Polarizing isn't what loses you elections. Polarizing means you have a fervent base, and that you also have a fervent opposition. The only question is, which one is larger.

And the other question is one of marketing. Hillary has about 100 percent first name only name recognition among U.S. voters. And the power of the Clinton name, should she even need to use it, is equal to or even better than the brand name "Bush."

Can she win? Of course she can. What Hillary needs is three things: money, strong base support, and the power of inevitabilility. If she can be marketed as the inevitable president, she can win. (If she's smart enough to put an African-American on the ticket with her, she's in even better shape with the base. Right Barack Obama? And remember, Dubya and Rove have already taught us that you don't need much of the other side's base. You need your own to come out strong, and you need a solid gorund operation. The other side likely won't be with you, so leave them alone. As for the "centrists," they're only really a problem for Hillary if she faces John McCain, and in that case, her campaign's job will be to define him as a Bush clone -- which, conveniently enough, he basically IS -- he'll escalate the Iraq war, he's a neocon on the Middle East and so could start another one, and he's sucking up to Dubya so hard his lips are purple. And then there's his stupid little snit at Barack...)

Second, the ones doing the marketing if Hillary runs in '08 won't be the extreme lefties who love to hate her, or the timid Dems who are scared shitless that she'll make people angry. (Perish the thought!) It will be her inside team -- a group who know how to win (Carville, Begala, et. al.), how to raise money, and how to run like you don't give a good goddamn what Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have to say.

Third, she'll have a guy named Bill advising her. 'Nuff said.

Hillary can win if she runs. The left and the right had better get used to it.

More later. Gotta run.

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posted by JReid @ 12:24 PM  
Iraq on the brink
An analysis from the UPI...

Meanwhile, why is the Pentagon paying Halliburton after a Pentagon audit found that the company defrauded the U.S.?

... and let's not forget that Halliburton is stil paying a few folks, too...

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posted by JReid @ 11:39 AM  
Burning down the house
Update: LaShawn Barber weighs in...
Why am I watching this again? Oh, yeah. So I can make an informed assessement of the “State of Black America.” ...
...then weighs in again, while attacking D.C. schools...

The Conservative Voice says Hannity and Limbaugh noticed Farrakhan's remarks. I'm sure their analyses were scintillating...

Conservative blogger James Estrada says Farakhan quoted the wrong text:
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was quoting the Bible this weekend at the 2006 State of the Black Union Conference. He was talking about how the Bible calls for a “baptism of fire” and, in his judgment, “America must burn.” Isn’t the Bible the holy book of infidels – Christians and Jews? Why would a Muslim quote the Bible? Farrakhan also spoke of how Osama bin Laden may not have done what he’s “accused” of doing. Most rational people know Farrakhan is a lunatic. So who were those people applauding this guy?

If the majority of blacks find comfort in this kind of rhetoric, then it is they that need to experience a true baptism of fire. Unfortunately, black ministers of the Christian faith are busy cow-towing to the Democrat Party.


Original post: The seventh annual State of the Black Union conference was held over the weekend in Houston. I was bracing for fireworks from the appearance of fiery actor/activist Harry Belafonte. But on the same panel with him, and Cornell West, was Min. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.

That's where the fireworks should be today... BET's "man of the year" called on the African-American nation to essentially separate itself from white America, and to let the American house "burn down."

News coverage of the event has focused on Farrakhan's comments (and on his comments the following day at a Savior's Day rally). And as always happens when a group of Black folk get together to talk about public policy (or for a high profile funeral...) the coverage has also focused on criticism of the Bush administration during the event.

It should be noted that Smiley invited several prominent Republicans, including Michael Steele, an African-American candidate for governor in Maryland, Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a gubernatorial candidate, and members of the Bush administration, including most notably, HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, to be panelists at the conference, but all either decliend, or accepted the invite but then failed to show up on panel day. (The exception was a lone woman who's a Republican state senator from I believe it was Ohio.) Jackson, for one, was apparently staying in the same hotel as Smiley, but still didn't make it to his place on the dais. It's hard to argue that only one side was represented at a conference when the other side doesn't show up... It makes you wonder whether the conservatives/Republicans themselves really believe they have an argument Black America wants to hear... (and the excuse that the audience wouldn't have been receptive is bunk. President Bush got a very respectful reception, as did his father, at the Coretta King funeral. Now the speeches he had to sit through were another matter, but if you don't like the speeches, don't do stuff to bring them on...)

Meanwhile, Illinois Gov. Blagoyevich is under fire (in the MSM and the blogosphere) for including a NOI advisor on his hate crimes panel...

More on the conference from Black America Web, including some disconcerting statistics about the state of black America.

This year, Tavis Smiley, who puts the conference together, went beyond just the panel and actually had a group of economic, legal, political and sociological experts contribute to a book, called the Covenant With Black America (linked here). The goal of the book, according to Smiley's foundation, which also organizes the conference, is to

"…outline(s) how individuals, groups, communities and the body politic can move forward to make this nation better. When we make Black America better, we make all of America better. We all want an America as good as its promise."
Despite the good intentions, Smiley is sure to catch flak today over Farrakhan's participation in the conference, which is a shame since very important issues -- from home ownership to economic empowerment and money management -- were tackled at the conference, which spanned three panels over about six hours on CSPAN (and not, by the way, on BET...)

The context for this and other discussions about the economic and social state of the Black community takes place amid a general dimunition in economic opportunity for middle class and lower middle class Americans, and a yawning wealth gap that goes beyond the color line.

Farrakhan essentially argued that Black Americans need to pull away from the American mainstream, and form our own institutions (including a department of education, a division of cultural affairs and for some reason, a department of foreign policy...) but his calls for separation, ones he's made before, aren't really all that relevant today. Separation is not an option. We African-Aemricans (those of us who come from immigrant stock and those here since slavery) live in America, are Americans, and have to succeed or fail here. We need to be a part of the various institutions that make up this country. Tavis and other panelists, including Belafonte, made that point emphatically after Farrakhan had made his waves and left the building.

Let's see if the coverage of the event includes a serious treatment of all the issues raised at the conference, rather than just the fireworks.

More on the conference from the Ipinions Journal...

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posted by JReid @ 7:23 AM  
Do you remember?
The death toll in Louisiana from Hurricane Katrina hit 1,104 over the weekend, at least officially, but not everyone believes the number is that low. Conspiracy theories are cropping up suggesting the Bush administration is deliberately holding down the numbers. (More on the theories, and the goings on, from blogger Robert Lindsay here...)

Meanwhile, the charges of incompetence, fraud and even bribery continue to roil FEMA, even as unidenfied bodies are being buried in time for Fat Tuesday (during a Mardis Gras described by the New York Times, no less, as the "whitest" in memory...)

... And the money donated by generous people all over the world to help Katrina victims? Two-thirds of it has already been spent...

...Here's hoping the hospitals are in better shape now...

...Check out the Voices of Katrina blog (from New Orleans)...

...Get updated news on New Orleans at NOLA.com...

...More on the two federal Katrina reports from Bloomberg...

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posted by JReid @ 6:35 AM  
Saturday, February 25, 2006
How to get your hands on 21 U.S. without even trying
$100 million for Katrina relief goes a long way...

Tags: , , , , UAE, Dubai
posted by JReid @ 2:02 PM  
Don't mess with Grassley
From yesterday's UPI report: First of all, it's not 6 ports that DPW is set to take over, it's 21. Also:
At issue is a 1992 amendment to a law that requires a 45-day review if the foreign takeover of a U.S. company "could affect national security." Many members of Congress see that review as mandatory in this case.

But Bush administration officials said Thursday that review is only triggered if a Cabinet official expresses a national security concern during an interagency review of a proposed takeover.

"We have a difference of opinion on the interpretation of your amendment," said Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, comprised of officials from 12 government departments and agencies, including the National Security Council and the Department of Homeland Security, approved the deal unanimously on January 17.

"The structure of the deal led us to believe there were no national security concerns," said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson.

The same day, the White House appointed a DP World executive, David C. Sanborn, to be the administrator for the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation. Sanborn had been serving as director of operations for Europe and Latin America at DP World.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R- Va., said he will request from both the U.S. attorney general and the Senate committee's legal counsel a finding on the administration's interpretation of the 1992 amendment.

Adding to the controversy is the fact Congress was not notified of the deal. Kimmitt said Congress is periodically updated on completed CFIUS decisions, but is proscribed from initiating contact with Congress about pending deals. It may respond to congressional inquiries on those cases only.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley stated in a letter to Bush on Feb. 21 that he specifically requested to be kept abreast of foreign investments that may have national security implications. He made the request in the wake of a controversial Chinese proposal to purchase an oil company last year.

"Obviously, my request fell on deaf ears. I am disappointed that I was neither briefed nor informed of this sale prior to its approval. Instead, I read about it in the media," he wrote.
But hang, on, there was an objection, from the Homeland Security Department... if a brief one...

And if the administration is pissing off Republicans like Grassley, do they really expect even this kiss-up Congress to do its usual lay down and do what the White House says act? I woudn't count on it...

Tags: , , , , UAE, Dubai
posted by JReid @ 1:43 PM  
ReidReport Podcast # 9
Part two of "an offer he can't refuse..." on the Juice Wireless network. Here it is!

Previous podcasts:
#8: Capitol Hill Rock: I'm just a bill
#7: An offer he can't refuse... (part 1)
#6: Quail Hunter's Rhapsody
#5: Pat explains the cartoon riots
#4: Parsing the Cartoon Wars
#3: State of the union
#2: When a televangelist calls
#1: The Jump-off, part II (part 1)

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,
posted by JReid @ 1:33 PM  
Who's watching you?

The Bush administration was ordered by Congress to shut down the Total Information Awareness data mining program two years ago, but according to a report in the National Journal, they have done no such thing... Exerpts from the NJ story below, with a HT to Rawstory:


A controversial counter-terrorism program, which lawmakers halted more than two years ago amid outcries from privacy advocates, was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens.

Research under the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program -- which developed technologies to predict terrorist attacks by mining government databases and the personal records of people in the United States -- was moved from the Pentagon's research-and-development agency to another group, which builds technologies primarily for the National Security Agency, according to documents obtained by National Journal and to intelligence sources familiar with the move. The names of key projects were changed, apparently to conceal their identities, but their funding remained intact, often under the same contracts.

Two of the most important components of the TIA program were moved to the Advanced Research and Development Activity, housed at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., documents and sources confirm. One piece was the Information Awareness Prototype System, the core architecture that tied together numerous information extraction, analysis, and dissemination tools developed under TIA. The prototype system included privacy-protection technologies that may have been discontinued or scaled back following the move to ARDA.

A $19 million contract to build the prototype system was awarded in late 2002 to Hicks & Associates, a consulting firm in Arlington, Va., that is run by former Defense and military officials. Congress's decision to pull TIA's funding in late 2003 "caused a significant amount of uncertainty for all of us about the future of our work," Hicks executive Brian Sharkey wrote in an e-mail to subcontractors at the time. "Fortunately," Sharkey continued, "a new sponsor has come forward that will enable us to continue much of our previous work." Sources confirm that this new sponsor was ARDA. Along with the new sponsor came a new name. "We will be describing this new effort as 'Basketball,' " Sharkey wrote, apparently giving no explanation of the name's significance. Another e-mail from a Hicks employee, Marc Swedenburg, reminded the company's staff that "TIA has been terminated and should be referenced in that fashion."

Sharkey played a key role in TIA's birth, when he and a close friend, retired Navy Vice Adm. John Poindexter, President Reagan's national security adviser, brought the idea to Defense officials shortly after the 9/11 attacks. The men had teamed earlier on intelligence-technology programs for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which agreed to host TIA and hired Poindexter to run it in 2002. In August 2003, Poindexter was forced to resign as TIA chief amid howls that his central role in the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s made him unfit to run a sensitive intelligence program.

It's unclear whether work on Basketball continues.
What is clear is that you don't want John Poindexter anywhere near your personal shit. More on Poindexter here here. And just what is TIA? According to one watch-dog site:
Admiral John Poindexter, notorious for his role in Iran-Contra, says the new Pentagon system will provide DoD and other government agencies with instant access to E-mail, calling records and credit card and banking transactions -- as well as travel records. All of these "searches" will be conducted without a search warrant according to Markoff.

Poindexter has said it is necessary that the government "break down the stovepipes" that seperate commercial and government databases, as Markoff says. The DoD, once gaining access to the vast sea of data stored in airline, bank and hotel computers will then use "data mining" techniques to determine patterns that appear suspicious. If this plan goes into effect you can expect a visit from the FBI if you travel too much, or a friendly visit from an unidentified man in a suit if you use your credit cards in "strange" ways.
(Markoff is John Markoff. More on him here.)

Now what's this all about? National security? Maybe. But consider the fact that the government has never been so close to major multinational corporations as it is during the current GOP hegemony and under the Bush administration. For the Bushies, national security came second in the Dubai port case, so the presumption that everything they do is done to prevent another 9/11 no longer holds water.

What is it that they do want? Open borders -- cheap foreign labor, like the Saudis enjoy -- a smaller middle class where more young people can be culled into the armed forces, but fewer into high technology jobs -- lower wages closer to those in the international markets -- no unions -- and an economy based almost entirely on consumption rather than manufacturing...

And now consider this: they're conspiring with big telecommunications companies to steal the Internet, and make you pay for it.

And if the government could cull data about everything you do, everything you read, buy, or what information you look up on the Internet, coudn't the corporations they work so closely with create personalized marketing just for you, that ensures maximum purchases and minimal ad waste?

TIA is nothing more than a marriage of Napster and Google -- it's specific search plus peer to peer file sharing. Beside the obvious uses for defense, TIA has tremendous potential to enrich both major multinational corporations, and the government officials they own.

The war on terror is about one thing, folks: money. Your money, and the people seeking to part you from it, and hoard more and more of it for themselves.

That's a pretty damned cynical conclusion, but it makes more sense than the mumbo jumbo coming out of the Bush administration about the global war on terror...

Tags: , , NSA, surveillance, Bush, spying, , War on Terror
posted by JReid @ 1:06 PM  
Lost and found
Those missing CIA leak emails have magically re-appeared...

Tags: , , , , , Karl Rove, , White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 1:02 PM  
Guess who initially objected to the Dubai port deal?
The ever-bungling Homeland Security Department. Of course, they were persuaded to put those objections aside and the deal passed without objection. My question is, why the change of heart? And why weren't the objections of supposedly our country's lead domestic security agency so easily pushed aside? From AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Homeland Security Department objected at first to a United Arab Emirates company's taking over significant operations at six U.S. ports. It was the lone protest among members of the government committee that eventually approved the deal without dissent.

The department's early objections were settled later in the government's review of the $6.8 billion deal after Dubai-owned DP World agreed to a series of security restrictions. ...

...A DP World executive said the company would agree to tougher security restrictions to win congressional support only if the same restrictions applied to all U.S. port operators. The company earlier had struck a more conciliatory stance, saying it would do whatever Bush asked to salvage the agreement.

"Security is everybody's business," senior vice president Michael Moore told The Associated Press. "We're going to have a very open mind to legitimate concerns. But anything we can do, any way to improve security, should apply to everybody equally."

The administration approved the ports deal on Jan. 17 after DP World agreed during secret negotiations to cooperate with law enforcement investigations in the future and make other concessions.

Some lawmakers have challenged the adequacy of a classified intelligence assessment crucial to assuring the administration that the deal was proper. The report was assembled during four weeks in November by analysts working for the director of national intelligence. ...

...The report concluded that U.S. spy agencies were "unable to locate any derogatory information on the company," according to a person familiar with the document. This person spoke only on condition of anonymity because the report was classified.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and others have complained that the intelligence report focused only on information the agencies collected about DP World and did not examine reported links between UAE government officials and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.
More on the semi-conscientious objector:


Stewart Baker, a senior Homeland Security official, said he was the sole representative on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States who objected to the ports deal. Baker said he later changed his vote after DP World agreed to the security conditions. Other officials confirmed Baker's account.

"We were not prepared to sign off on the deal without the successful negotiation of the assurances," Baker told the AP.

Officials from the White House, CIA, departments of State, Treasury, Justices, and others looked for guidance from Homeland Security because it is responsible for seaports. "We had the most obvious stake in the process," Baker said.

Baker acknowledged that a government audit of security practices at the U.S. ports in the takeover has not been completed as part of the deal. "We had the authority to do an audit earlier," Baker said.

The audit will help evaluate DP World's security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials at its seaport operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

The administration privately disclosed the status of the security audit to senators during meetings about improving reviews of future business deals involving foreign buyers. Officials did not suggest the audit's earlier completion would have affected the deal's approval.

New Jersey's Democratic governor, who is suing to block the deal, said in his party's weekly radio address on Saturday that the administration failed to properly investigate the UAE's record on terrorism.

"We were told that the president didn't know about the sale until after it was approved. For many Americans, regardless of party, this lack of disciplined review is unacceptable," Jon Corzine said.

Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said there was no going back on the deal.
Well at least they're sticking to their principles...

Meanwhile, a federal judge is siding with New Jersey...

And Bob Dole says Elizabeth Dole's decisions are not influenced by Bob Dole...

Previous:
Tags: , , , , UAE, Dubai
posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Friday, February 24, 2006
Don't ask, don't ... appear in gay porn...?
Okay this is just disturbing ...

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posted by JReid @ 8:11 PM  
The battle of Medway
Bill Clinton: still the man...

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posted by JReid @ 8:08 PM  
Libby won't get the name
... of "Official A..." (doesn't he know already?) He can have some of his notes, though.


Tags: , , , , , Karl Rove, , White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 8:04 PM  
On failure
Authentic conservative thinker William F. Buckley recently held forth on the "venal character of the vice president of the United States." Now, he's taking a shot at the U.S. "democracy" mission in Iraq. He long ago famously said of Iraq:
“With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago. If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”
Now, Mr. Buckley has gone farther:
It Didn’t Work

"I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes — it is America." The New York Times reporter is quoting the complaint of a clothing merchant in a Sunni stronghold in Iraq. "Everything that is going on between Sunni and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. The same edition of the paper quotes a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Reuel Marc Gerecht backed the American intervention. He now speaks of the bombing of the especially sacred Shiite mosque in Samara and what that has precipitated in the way of revenge. He concludes that “The bombing has completely demolished” what was being attempted — to bring Sunnis into the defense and interior ministries.

Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.

The Iraqis we hear about are first indignant, and then infuriated, that Americans aren't on the scene to protect them and to punish the aggressors. And so they join the clothing merchant who says that everything is the fault of the Americans.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elucidates on the complaint against Americans. It is not only that the invaders are American, it is that they are "Zionists." It would not be surprising to learn from an anonymously cited American soldier that he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and the Shiites from each others' throats. ...
There's more. Read it here.

This had to be a tough editorial for the neocons at National Review to reprint, but they can't exactly say no to their spiritual father. (They didn't feature the Buckley piece on the NRO web-site, of course. You have to do a search on the site to find it, while yet another gung ho article about how things are better in Iraq than they seem sits alone under the Iraq link...) The piece ends with these two devastating paragraphs:
Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

Meanwhile, why should the American people give Mr. Bush another $75 million to try out his absurd democracy experiment in Iran, the one in Iraq having gone so badly?

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posted by JReid @ 7:32 PM  
Watch what you say
Bush, Cheney and Rove's four years of fear-mongering on the issues of national security and terrorism are biting them back, big time, on the ports issue. How ironic that they are now on the defensive on the very issue they've used to bludgeon the country into submission since 9/11...

... Bush has long been successful in persuading Americans they were under constant threat and he was the best man to protect them, although polls reveal paradoxes in attitudes.

Last month, some 75 percent of Americans said in a Zogby survey that they expected the country to suffer a major terrorist attack within the next two years, but a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll found that 64 percent of Americans had confidence in Bush's ability to prevent an attack.

Fears have not subsided, pollster John Zogby said, although the United States has not suffered a major attack since September 11, 2001. Bush two weeks ago revealed a plot foiled in 2002 to fly an airplane into the West Coast's tallest building and said the terrorist threat had not abated.

"That's what makes this story so ironic. I guess you can't have it both ways," Zogby said.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said, "Bush is a victim of his own rhetoric. This deal flies in the face of the Bush administration's general posture, which has been that there is much to fear out there and they have been vigilant in protecting the country."
Oh, the irony... actually, Dubya's second term has been filled with ironies: the Palestinian elections, where Democracy and terrorism united as one, the now laughable idea that a free Iraq delivered by the United States military would also be a peaceful and loving Iraq (but apparently, we weren't told, also a fundamentalist Shia one...!) the seniors hate the Medicaid, the security administration couldn't secure the people of the American Gulf, the Bush boom is producing declining household income and the real estate bubble is creating foreclosures almost faster than it's creating homeowners.

It just doesn't end!

Related: Iraq's civil war
Deep in the bowels of the Pentagon, military professionals privately admit what the Bush Administration publicly fails to recognize - the United States veers dangerously on the precipice of its worst wartime embarrassment since Vietnam as Iraq plunges into an irreversible civil war.

"The civil war has started and the U.S. planners had better get used to it," says retired Marine and military affairs expert H. Thomas Hayden, now a writer for Military.Com. "Shiites have always planned to align themselves with Iran but the Pentagon dominated planners in the Administration have never understood the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite and the great religious gulf between them that has existed for almost a thousand years."

Jeremy Bowen, Middle East editor for the British Broadcasting Corporation, agrees.

"The destruction of the al-Askari shrine takes the danger of a civil war in Iraq to a new level," Bowen says. "It has produced bigger protests than the killing of humans."

Pentagon professionals have long warned President Bush that if civil war erupts in Iraq the U.S. will have to admit failure in its efforts to create a stable, democratic government. As he has with most warnings from those who fight wars for a living, Bush ignored the advice.
Read it all. It will make your weekend. ...



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posted by JReid @ 3:54 PM  
So he said
While looking up stuff for the previous post, I came across this golden quote from Bush's 2004 election victory speech, courtesy of his friends at Fox News:
"Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope," Bush added, pledging to continue economic progress, strengthen Social Security, make public schools "all they can be," uphold the country's "deepest values of family and faith" and help emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"With the good allies at our side, we will fight this War on Terror with every resource in our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace," the president said before turning his remarks toward those who voted for his opponent.

"Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent: to make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America." ...
or not...

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posted by JReid @ 3:37 PM  
Rise of the machines
Electronic voting machines are back in the headlines ... and the headlines ain't good. Via Bradblog:
AP -- yes, AP -- is now reporting the just released audit information obtained from Palm Beach County, Florida's 2004 Election. And the picture of the Sequoia paperless touch-screen voting machines used that night is not pretty. The information was obtained and released tonight by BlackBoxVoting.org...From the AP story...

BlackBoxVoting.org, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group, said it found 70,000 instances in Palm Beach County of cards getting stuck in the paperless ATM-like machines and that the computers logged about 100,000 errors, including memory failures.Also, the hard drives crashed on some of the machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, some machines apparently had to be rebooted over and over, and 1,475 re-calibrations were performed on Election Day on more than 4,300 units, Harris said. Re-calibrations are done when a machine is malfunctioning, she said."I actually think there's enough votes in play in Florida that it's anybody's guess who actually won the presidential race," [BBV's Bev] Harris added.

This is not an unserious story, in that it raises fresh questions not only about the outcome of the 2004 election, which hinged on Ohio and Florida (either one could have delivered the presidential race to John Kerry), but also about the soundness of electronic voting machines themselves.

I have been reluctant -- very reluctant -- to get on the "machines were fixed" bandwagon regarding the 2004 election, even though I think 2000 was a clear case of outright election theft by the GOP. I was assured by a Broward County election official last year that the electronic voting machines used in my county couldn't be fixed en masse, although subsequent investigations, including by BBV, have called that into question.

But the bottom line is, if the machines are subject to error, or worse, to fraud, then using them imperils the most fundamental aspect of our democracy (such as it is under the current regime).

This should be looked into...

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posted by JReid @ 3:27 PM  
London calling
Trouble for the London mayor over a Nazi comment...
Trouble for Tony Blair over human rights...
posted by JReid @ 3:08 PM  
Podcast 8: Just a bill
The latest ReidReport Juicecast is up. Feel free to sing along...

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posted by JReid @ 2:10 PM  
A world of chaos
Make no mistake about it... Iraq isn't on the brink of civil war, it's in the midst of one...

[U.S. Amb. Zalmay] Khalilzad, in a conference call with reporters, said: "What we've seen in the past two days, the attack has had a major impact here, getting everyone's attention that Iraq is in danger."

The country's leaders, he added, "must come together, they must compromise with each other to bring the people of Iraq together and save this country."

Mr. Khalilzad's comments are the most explicit acknowledgment so far by an American official of the instability of the situation. The killings and assaults across Iraq that began Wednesday have amounted to the worst sectarian violence since the American invasion.
The death toll in the latest wave of violence has included seven U.S. troops and ten Iraqi imams... Says the Independent UK:

It is a measure of the degree of violence that seven American soldiers were killed by bombs on Wednesday in the separate struggle between the resistance and the US occupation. Although the presence of 130,000 American troops is justified by saying that they are preventing a civil war, it is not clear what they can do to prevent it happening.
Meanwhile, religious leaders in Iraq use the Friday call to prayer to call for calm and to plead for unity...

They're also hoping a daytime curfew will stem the sectarian violence, as it's euphamistically being called by the U.S. media...

At the HuffPo, Jack Murtha says we've already lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people...

U.S. and U.K. leaders have got to be shitting right now... (although did you see Richard Perle on Hardball last night? He's living in a fantasy world, actually appearing to believe things really aren't that bad... wow...)

The Guardian's Simon Tisdal describes the chaos in Iraq as the Middle East's perfect storm...

But if you think this means we're getting out of Iraq sooner rather than later, think again...

Iraq isn't the only place where chaos is unfolding. The Philippines is in the midst of a serious coup crisis pitting the U.S. backed president, Glorida Arroyo, against members of her own Army...

The Saudis barely averted a suicide bomb attack at a major oil facility ...

...and Christians and Muslims are killing each other in Nigeria...

So when Bush says in another canned speech today, that:
Some critics have pointed out that the free elections in the Middle East have put political power in the hands of Islamics and extremists, in the case of the Palestinian elections, a notorious -- notorious terrorist organization. Critics argue that our policies of promoting democracy are backfiring and destabilizing the region...
He can count me among the critics.

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posted by JReid @ 1:22 PM  
All the president's bag men, part 2
The latest Murray Waas scoop is a potential blockbuster, that could further undermine the Bush administration's claim to be a stalwart in the area of national security (as if the Dubai ports scandal, and the Katrina disaster hadn't done enough). Here's what Waas has to say, via the HuffPo:

Did the Bush administration "authorize" the leak of classified information to Bob Woodward? And did those leaks damage national security?

The vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) made exactly that charge tonight in a letter to John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. What prompted Rockefeller to write Negroponte was a recent op-ed in the New York Times by CIA director Porter Goss complaining that leaks of classified information were the fault of "misguided whistleblowers."

Rockefeller charged in his letter that the most "damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of intelligence agencies."

Later in the same letter, Rockefeller said: "Given the Administration's continuing abuse of intelligence information for political purposes, its criticism of leaks is extraordinarily hypocritical. Preventing damage to intelligence sources and methods from media leaks will not be possible until the highest level of the Administration cease to disclose classified information on a classified basis for political purposes."

Exhibit A for Rockefeller: Woodward's book, Bush at War.

Here is what Rockefeller had to say:
In his 2002 book Bush at War, Bob Woodward described almost unfettered access to classified material of the most sensitive nature. According to his account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison relationships. It is no wonder, as Director Goss wrote, "because of the number of recent news reports discussing our relationships with other intelligence services, some of these partners have even informed the C.I.A. that they are reconsidering their participation of some of our most important antiterrorism ventures."

I wrote both former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to determine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures contained in Bush at War. The only response I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration. The CIA has still not responded to a follow-up letter I sent a year and half ago on September 1, 2004, trying to pin down which officials were authorized to meet with Mr. Woodward and by whom, and what intelligence information was conveyed during these authorized exchanges.
Were leaks of classified information "authorized" to Woodward? Rockefeller's letter says exactly that. And among other things, it is well known and has been reported long ago that one of Woodward's sources for both of his books about the Bush presidency was then-VicePresidential chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who is portrayed in quite a flattering manner in both.
(Read the entire post, it's worth it...) If true, Waas, or rather Rockefellar (who is emerging as the real kingslayer in the Democratic insurgency), may have unearthed a sort of reverse Watergate, where the leaks flow from inside the administration out, placing classified information in the political sphere, to be used at will and in secret by the administration for purely political, or even P.R., purposes. Can that kind of carelessness with secret information go completely unpunished?
From the Plame leak to the secrecy over domestic wiretapping, to the selling of the war using hastily declassified, but selective information, to the unwillingness to share basic information about the Katrina aftermath to the secret Dubai ports deal, this administration has shown almost a flagrant disregard both for Congress, for the concept of national security, for the seriousness of the classification process, and for the rule of law.

How much longer does this go on before Congress takes the next logical step, by forcing the president to account to them by means of impeachment? That doesn't mean the president would be removed from office, but given the administration's dismissive attitude toward the Congress, impeachment hearing would seem to be the only means of forcing the administration to come to the table.

If you agree, vote Democrat in November, because I doubt the GOP has the stomach to play 1972 Congress to Bush's Richard Nixon.

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posted by JReid @ 12:59 PM  
Follow the money...
The uproar continues over the UAE port deal, even as Dubai Ports World agrees to help their good friend President Bush out by delaying its takeover of P&O's U.S. port operations pending further review. Meanwhile, the focus is shifting more and more toward economics, rather than security, and the spotlight has finally hit the president and his family, long known for their ties to the oil-bearing Arab world (don't let all that Sharon buddy-buddy stuff on Dubya's part fool you, these guys are super-tight with the Sheikhs...)

From the About.com liberal politics blog by Deborah White:
CNN's Lou Dobbs on Bush Family Dealings with UAE; Dubai Co. Agrees to Delay US Port Take-Over

From the transcript of the February 22, 2006 broadcast of Lou Dobbs' program on CNN:
DOBBS: President Bush's family and members of the Bush administration have long-standing business connections with the United Arab Emirates, and those connections are raising new concerns and questions tonight in some quarters about why the president is defying his very own party leadership and his party in defending the Dubai port deal.

Christine Romans reports.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is a major investor in The Carlyle Group, the private equity investment firm where President Bush's father once served as senior adviser and is a who's who of former high-level government officials. Just last year, Dubai International Capital, a government-backed buyout firm, invested in an $8 billion Carlyle fund.

Another family connection, the president's brother, Neil Bush, has reportedly received funding for his educational software company from the UAE investors. A call to his company was not returned. ...

Then there is the cabinet connection. Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman of railroad company CSX. After he left the company for the White House, CSX sold its international port operations to Dubai Ports World for more than a billion dollars.In Connecticut today, Snow told reporters he had no knowledge of that CSX sale. "I learned of this transaction probably the same way members of the Senate did, by reading about it in the newspapers."

Another administration connection, President Bush chose a Dubai Ports World executive to head the U.S. Maritime Administration. David Sanborn, the former director of Dubai Ports' European and Latin American operations, he was tapped just last month to lead the agency that oversees U.S. port operations."


After testy Senate Armed Forces Committee briefings today between a Treasury Department underling and the press, on the deal to cede US port control to the United Arab Emirates, C-SPAN hosted a call-in program for Americans to comment on the briefings. As is normal for C-SPAN call-in programs, separate phone numbers were provided for Republicans, Democrats and Independents. I was astonished during the 30 minutes I listened to the callers....

About 80% were Republicans, and every last one of them was fighting angry at the Bush Admnistration. One Republican senior threatened to switch to the Democratic Party for the first time in his life. Another conservative shouted that the Bush family cares only about money, and not national security. Every single caller, regardless of partisan affiliation, expressed fury at the deal and at George Bush. Many were livid with all Republicans..
Here's the video of the Dobbs piece courtesy of Bradblog, along with a devastating critique of Bushian free trade policy courtesy of David Sirota ... And this afternoon (yesterday, sorry), I swear I heard Glenn Beck say he fears he's now a Democrat, and can no longer be sure he backs the administration, thanks to this issue and Mr. Bush's apparent globalist leanings, and his refusal to take border security seriously. BTW, Bush supporters are now blaming Dobbs for the ports dustup... sorry, guys, he'll probably consider that a badge of honor...

Make no mistake, the administration's mishandling of border security is THE sleeper issue of 2006. There's a reason Dobbs is obsessed with it, and with the "war on the middle class." These are interlinked bread and butter issues, and the Dubai port deal is in many ways an illustration of what people perceive as this administration's willingness to put the concerns of global corporations ahead of the needs of the American people. On this issue, Bush has lost the "Lou Dobbs Republicans."

Bank on it. The 2006 elections will turn on this issue, perhaps even more than on Iraq...

The Impostor

BTW tonight (I guess that's last night at this point) Dobbs had on Bruce Bartlett, the Reaganite author of "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy" -- a book that got Bartlett fired from his conservative think tank due to its devastating critique of George W. Bush. (Pat Buchanan has been making the same case about Bush not really being a conservative for four years. Bartlett is late to the dance, but he's getting all the punch...) And hey, I've been saying the same thing on this blog for months... Still, give Bartlett credit for courage in directly taking on the notoriously vindictive Bushies and their allies.

Some counterpoint on the ports storm here...
Take the GWB-Nixon nexus quiz here...
More on what the ports storm is costing GWB politically here

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posted by JReid @ 12:57 AM  
Pop life
Sources say Whitney was a "vision in white" at the Winter Olymp...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz ... although the white was reportedly rather powdery ... but not at the airport ... (not a good look in that link, Whit...) BTW are Bobby and Whitney cracking up (no pun intended?) Signs reportedly point to yes, if you believe the gossip rags...

...Are Star Jones and Al Reynolds having conjugal problems? Don't tell TomKat... this one might hit too close to home...

Also in the pop files: Governor Rod Blagojevich doesn't get the 'Daily Show'...

...and Damon Wayans has a great ... make that really bad idea for his new clothing line...

Last, but not least, meet Halle Berry's new man, 30-year-old Canadian model Gabriel Aubrey, sources say they're all in love and stuff (sorry, Eric. Better to have loved and lost and all that...) I guess after so many swings and misses in the romance category, my girl is trying "Something New"...!

Okay, since it's Friday, this is really the kind of stuff you wanna read. So here's the ReidReport Do-it-yourself gossip locator. Check these sites for maximum gossip enjoyment:

Jossip
Defamer
GossipList
Ohnotheydidnt!
PerezHilton
Hello!
Mirror (UK)
Wonkette
Daily Blabber (iVillage)
Megastar (UK)
and just for the ladies: FemaleFirst (UK)

Happy Friday!

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posted by JReid @ 12:49 AM  
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Another law ignored?
As always, it's the pattern of behavior that's troubling. Tucked in the WaPo's late night breaking news headline: that Dubai Ports World has agreed to a surprise delay in the part of its P&O takeover affecting the six major U.S. seaports (plus more than a dozen others in the U.S., btw), is this passage regarding today's action on Capitol Hill:
Despite the entreaties of the administration, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said bipartisan legislation will be introduced next week -- when Congress reconvenes -- to scuttle the deal, or at least to force a 45-day investigation into the deal's national security implications.

The administration's refusal to conduct such an investigation was at the center of a debate yesterday during the first public briefing on the deal since it was approved Jan. 17. Under a 1992 amendment to the law that created the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the CFIUS panel "shall" conduct such an investigation if a company operating in the United States is purchased by a firm controlled by a foreign government, and if anyone in that company could affect national security.

Kimmitt said the Bush administration, like previous administrations, believes the law gives it the discretion to decide whether such a review takes place, even if the low threshold set by the law is met. Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England said that in a review that was "definitely not cursory" and "definitely not casual," no national security concerns were raised by the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency or the U.S. Transportation Command that would have triggered further investigation.

The administration's interpretation of the CFIUS law was met with skepticism during yesterday's briefing, attended by four Democratic senators and only one Republican.

"Ambiguity has been found in a statute that is unambiguous," said Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to draft a memorandum explaining how the review of the ports deal was consistent with the law, and he requested a separate review by the Senate's legal counsel.

Sound a lot like the liberties the administration took with the FISA law, doesn't it? It seems to me that we're now skating so close to open contempt for Congress by this administration that even Hastert and Frist have got to see it. (Not Orrin Hatch, though... no, he still believes the president is Santa Claus...)
And from the New York Times, this piece comes about as close to a must-read as you can get, regarding how the U.S. and Britain, once major maritime powers, have effectively ceded that business to countries in Asia and the Middle East (much like we've ceded electronics manufacturing and more recently, telephonic and online customer service...)

And also from the WaPo: you've gotta love a city-state run by a guy named "Sheikh Mo...":
The rapid growth of DP World mirrors the swift expansion of Dubai into a commercial power that is less and less dependent on oil wealth, which is modest by Persian Gulf standards. The glittering city-state has the Middle East's leading airline, Emirates, and has been snapping up other foreign assets, including the Essex House hotel in New York.

Dubai's leader, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktum, known as Sheik Mo, is the driving force behind the city's foreign investments and domestic building projects that include man-made islands shaped like palm trees, the world's tallest tower, an underwater hotel and a theme park to dwarf Disneyland.
Sounds like a place Michael Jackson would enjoy ... hey, I think that IS the place Michael Jackson is enjoying...!

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posted by JReid @ 11:31 PM  
Surviving the Bush boom
From the AP today:
Survey Says Average U.S. Family Income Declines
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 9:57 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The average income of American families, after adjusting for inflation, declined by 2.3 percent in 2004 compared to 2001 while their net worth rose but at a slower pace.

The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that the drop in inflation-adjusted incomes left the average family income at $70,700 in 2004. The median, or point where half the families earned more and half less, did rise slightly in 2004 after adjusting for inflation to $43,200, up 1.6 percent from the 2001 level.

The median, or midpoint for net worth rose by 1.5 percent to $93,100 from 2001 to 2004. That growth was far below the 10.3 percent gain in median net worth from 1998 to 2001, a period when the stock market reached record highs before starting to decline in early 2000.

The Fed's results were published in the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, a document which provides a comprehensive view of how Americans are faring on such pocketbook issues as incomes and net worth.
Missing Bill Clinton yet? I know I am...

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posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Newsflash! The WSJ sides with Bush
...on the Dubai deal
posted by JReid @ 12:45 PM  
Port insecurity
The revelations just keep coming in the Dubai port story:

The White House had a secret deal with DPW, considered unprecedented in its gentleness... (Note: link updated, as the AP has moved the story on...)

Under a secretive agreement with the Bush administration, a company in the United Arab Emirates promised to cooperate with U.S. investigations as a condition of its takeover of operations at six major American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. government chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

In approving the $6.8 billion purchase, the administration chose not to require state-owned Dubai Ports World to keep copies of its business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to orders by American courts. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate requests by the government.

Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

Dubai Ports agreed to give up records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at the U.S. ports, according to the documents. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment. It also pledged to continue participating in programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If White House officials negotiating the deal had predicted the firestorm of criticism over it, "they might have made them sound harder."

The conditions over the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. were detailed in U.S. documents marked "confidential." Such records are regularly guarded as trade secrets, and it is highly unusual for them to be made public. ...
Or, the Bush White House was totally unaware of the port deal until they heard about the uproar over it on TV. Your choice...

Meanwhile, guess who was lobbying Capitol Hill on behalf of Dubai?

Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., said she was "deeply concerned" about the deal even as it was announced that her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, had been hired as a lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates -- the Middle Eastern country that owns the company that would run six U.S. ports unless the deal is blocked.

Mike Marshall, a spokesman for Bob Dole, said the former senator will be involved in lobbying Congress on the deal, but would not be lobbying his wife. ...
Good to know. And now, for the John Snow report:'

Snow's golden parachute...

Snow's CSX stock interests

Snow's claim that he was uninvolved in the deal that skates so close to his former company...

Meanwhile, by way of counterpoint, ThinkProgress' Faiz says the Dubai uproar has little to do with national security and everything to do with politics.

1) Well before Dubai Ports World purchased the port operation services over 6 U.S. ports, the management over those ports had already been outsourced to the British-owned Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company. China’s biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports inside the U.S. We should have a legitimate debate over whether the U.S. government should take control over all port operations as a matter of homeland security, but that is not the debate that is currently going on.

2) If Dubai Ports World had not won the ports deal, a Singaporean company would have won it. Would there have been a similar outrage about having outsourced our port operations to that country?

3) Not a single security violation or breach has been alleged against Dubai Ports World. It has had a good international track record for its port operations. The arguments against DPW’s acquisition consist mainly of guilt-by-association tactics, tying the ports operations of DPW to any and every act of terror associated with the UAE. The fact that the nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan was able to game the ports of Dubai should cause the ports deal to receive heightened scrutiny, but is not in itself a reason to reject the deal.

4) The UAE is not an official state sponsor of terror. It is not under U.S. sanctions. In fact, as James Dobbins documents, the record shows that the UAE has been a valuable ally in the war on terror since 9/11.

5) If we’re truly afraid of an Emirates company having direct access to import weapons or bombs into our country, shouldn’t we shut down Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport in New York? That’s where the Emirates Airlines operates out of and where it has the ability to direct cargo both on and off their planes. Should we also shut down the state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines from sending flights into Washington, D.C. ?6) If Dubai Ports World were to finalize the port acquisition deal, Americans would work at these ports. DPW would not touch cargo, and it would not be in charge of port security. Coast Guard, Customs, and the respective state/local port commissions would manage the security. Dubai Ports World would have to follow the U.S. port regulations. There can and should be a serious inquiry into whether those regulations are being enforced. More generally, this should be an opening for us to debate the Bush administration’s poor record on port security.

Good points. Not sure they'll change the direction of the debate however. This ball is rolling, and I suspect Mr. Snow could be rolling out of the administration before too long.

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 AM  
Welcome to the apocalypse
The Shrine bombing threatens to tear Iraq apart... 50 bodies found in revenge attacks, and now Iran is jumping in...

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posted by JReid @ 6:16 AM  
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Anthrax
...not terrorism related, though. Three other people are being treated with antibiotics. For now, it looks like a totally accidental case. He was working with goat skins... note to self: no goat skins. It's actually right downtown in Brooklyn near where I used to live. Hm.

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posted by JReid @ 4:05 PM  
Justice for Martin
...or the beginnings of it, anyway.

The Bay County, Florida sheriff has decided to close the now-notorious boot camp where 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson died after a half-hour confrontation with up to nine guards. The guards alternately beat, restrained, kneed and then tried to revive teen who had been in the camp less than two hours, having been sent there for violating probation after going joyriding with another teen in his grandmother's car. According to this morning's St. Pete Times:

Sheriff to shut boot camp

A Panama City juvenile boot camp will be shut down and Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober will investigate the death of a teenager who had been beaten by guards at the camp.

In rapid-fire developments Tuesday, the treatment of another boy raised new questions about operations at the camp, and the medical examiner who concluded the teenager died of a blood disorder renewed his medical license, which expired last month.

Despite the controversy, Gov. Jeb Bush reaffirmed his support of Florida's five boot camps.

"I believe that boot camps are worth having," said Bush, who appointed Ober as special prosecutor. "We need to learn from this tragic case and make some standard, regulatory proposals to the Legislature."

Boot camps are military-style programs designed to shock juvenile delinquents into complying with the law and to teach them discipline, study skills and work habits. They require rigorous physical training such as pushups and running.

Several lawmakers want all the boot camps closed in light of a security video showing guards at the Bay County facility beating Martin Lee Anderson even as he gave little or no resistance.

Medical Examiner Charles Siebert concluded the teenager died of sickle cell trait, not from the beating. But even Bush questioned that conclusion.

"If he wasn't beat up, that undetected illness wouldn't have caused death," Bush said.

The governor appointed Ober to investigate the death. Bay County State Attorney Steve Meadows begged off because of his close ties to Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.

Ober's investigation will include the autopsy, Bush said, "to take a look at that evidence and put some new eyes on it."

McKeithen operates the boot camp under contract with the state Department of Juvenile Justice. He has not spoken much about the tragedy, saying he wanted to wait for the investigation to conclude.

But Tuesday McKeithen announced he would cancel the boot camp contract with the state in 90 days. He declined comment, saying he would issue a written statement today.

"I believe the integrity of the boot camp in Bay County has been compromised, leaving the effectiveness of this program virtually paralyzed," he wrote to Anthony J. Schembri, who heads the Department of Juvenile Justice. He wrote that he decided to close the camp "after endless days of intense, thorough and careful consideration."

McKeithen, who said he has seen "some very positive results" from the boot camp, wrote that he wants to create a new juvenile program "which we have been working on for several months."

Let's hope that new program doesn't include nine-on-one inmate "restraint."

Meanwhile, there now could be a witness in the case, should it go forward at Justice (there will also be a civil suit, which a state legislator has vowed to pass an item having the state fund beyond Florida's $200,000 liability cap.) From the Tallahassee Democrat:
Local woman says son told her 'they killed that boy'
By Stephen D. Price

A Tallahassee mother said Tuesday her 14-year-old son was in juvenile boot camp with Martin Lee Anderson, and he described what guards did to Anderson as "murder."

That revelation came the same day Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen announced he would close the county's boot camp where guards struck 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.

"I feel really bad for this lady and every other child that doesn't deserve this type of treatment," said Shauna Manning, referring to Anderson's mother, Gina Jones. "That's why I'm here, to speak out on behalf of her child." ...

... Manning visited her son, Aaron Swartz, at the Bay County boot camp three days after Anderson's incident with the guards, she said Tuesday in the law office of Tallahassee attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Anderson's family.

"He said they killed that boy," Manning said.

She said her son told her guards had pegged Anderson for a troublemaker when he first arrived at the camp because he wore braids. The day the incident occurred, Anderson was being cooperative and had run 15 laps of the 16-lap run he was required to do, until he began having breathing problems.

The guards then confronted Anderson, Manning said her son told her, and began hitting him.

Manning's son was later transferred to another boot camp.
Manning's son also has alleged that his asthma was ignored by doctors at the camp,and he complained about authorities at the camp forcing ammonia capsules up his nose, and using restraint and "pressure" techniques similar to those seen on the security videotape that captured the preamble to Anderson's death.

There's also this from the SP Times story above, regarding medical examiner Charles Siebert:
... When Siebert concluded Martin died of natural causes, he was practicing without a medical license. His license expired Jan. 31 and he did not renew it - until Tuesday.

He renewed it in person in Tallahassee, said Doc Kokol, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health. Siebert will be fined $385 for practicing without a license for a month.

First-time offenders like Siebert generally aren't disciplined further, Kokol said. Fewer than 3 percent of physicians whose licenses must be renewed fail to do so in an average year, Kokol said.

The teen's family is challenging his report, though they have not said how they will do so.

Options include filing a complaint with the state Medical Examiners Commission and asking an independent pathologist to review the files, photographs and slides that Siebert made during the autopsy. The family also could exhume the body for a new autopsy.

"We haven't ruled anything out," said Crump, the attorney.

The Medical Examiners Commission looks to see "if something was just blatantly overlooked, or somebody had drawn the wrong conclusions," said Stephen Nelson, commission chairman and Polk County's medical examiner.
Let's open all this up. And we'll see then whether Florida's boot camp program, now just four camps strong, is really worth saving.

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posted by JReid @ 9:50 AM  
Blacklash
I was wondering when Black folk were going to start saying this kind of thing out loud with regularity (maybe they have been and I have just not been listening...)

I'm entering my ... wow, how many years?... of boycotting BET. The network that started with so much promise 25 or so years ago, and which once boasted Donnie Simpson, but also Bev Smith and Tavis Smiley, quickly shed any semblance of decent public affairs or informational programming, even Teen Summit, and when strictly ass crack and crunk rap all day long. I guess they're programming for the 12-29 demographic ... in the projects.

Meanwhile, from the same web-site, here's about the harshest take on hip-hop I've seen in a long time. Truth be told, the music is really struggling in the commercial zone anyway, to be relevant to anyone over 14. There is good hip-hop out there, but it's not on the radio, which is why I don't listen to the radio much. Even the artists -- notably Jay Z, don't seem to take it all that seriously anymore. What's sad is that hip-hop at one point had tremendous promise, and amazing artistic reach. Now it's mostly noise, T&A and grills.

What a shame.

More pop culture erosion: The founder of the Body Shop disses Britney and Beyonce in a single quote... But excuse me, what does this mean?
Dame Anita told the Standard: "A lot of people seem to think it's cool to be a pimp or a whore. It's not cool. The reality is dark and evil and appalling and unregulated. ..."

Unregulated...?

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posted by JReid @ 2:39 AM  
All in the family
So far, President Bush isn't backing down on the Dubai port deal, despite the political firestorm it has stirred up for him (and the wedge it's redrawing between him and "the base...")

I still predict he'll eventually fold, as in the Harriet Miers experiment, but for now it's a showdown, and apparently one the White House is unpleasantly surprised by ...Bush is making it clear to lawmakers in his party that they may be running for reelection, but he's not. In fact, some cynics might say that two years away from the end of his presidency, Dubya's cleaning out the safe and the china cabinet on the way out the door. Too harsh? Well consider the following:

- CIFA (the Committee on Foreign Investment), which approved the Dubai port operations deal for six major U.S. ports, reports to the Treasury Department...

- The Treasury Department is run by Secretary John Snow, and it was Snow who ultimately signed off on the deal allowing Dubai Ports World to buy P&O...

- John Snow used to be chairman of the railroad company CSX until he left in 2003 to join the Bush administration... One year later, in 2004, CSX sold its international port terminal businesses to Dubai Ports World for $1.15 billion ... And then there's David Sanborn, who runs DPW's European and Latin American operations. He was recently tapped by the Bush administration to head the U.S. Maritime Administration, which would also have a hand in the ports pot.

See how neat and tidy that is?

Blog reax:

Malkin: Bush digs in...
The conservative Age of Reason quits Dubya...
MyDD ponders the nuances, and the Chinese...
Glenn Greenwald is torn...
Kevin Aylward declares Bush 'a uniter, not a divider...'
It's only Wednesday and Dr. Rusty S at Jawa already has the quote of the week:

Bush to Veto UAE Port Legislation
Wow. And all this time I thought it was some Rovian plot just to make Bush look like a dumbass.
With HT to The Moderate Voice... the Garlic says Cheney to the Rescue...!

Glenn Reynolds, who normally never met a Bush policy he didn't like, is against the ... well, the White House's selling of the port deal...

A.J. Strata, who surpasses only Reynolds and Rush Limbaugh in the TUBS (total, unconditional Bush support) category, doesn't disappoint...

In the pro-Bush, OK with the port deal column, count milblogger Blackfive, who says it might be nice to have the UAE owe us for playing straight with them...

And at the conservative Ratnest, it's 'trust, but verify...'

More manana...

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posted by JReid @ 12:52 AM  
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Technically, I'm an African orphan...
... Oprah... pal... girlfriend ... buddy ... and I don't need much -- just a couple mil...

Also Oprah-related: it's been a rough year for Jen. First Brad cheats on her with that skanky lady with the bad fake British accent, then he leaves her for the skanky lady with the bad fake British accent, then she options the wrong book that got Oprah real, real mad ... and Vince Vaughn isn't as handsome.

Hey, Jen, don't worry. At least Brad's not asking you for money...

Tags: , , Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Celebrities, Celebrity, Vince Vaughn,
posted by JReid @ 3:10 PM  
SaveMyHide.com
Scooter Libby's got a brand new web-site... and check out the advisory committee list... not to mention the endorsements...

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posted by JReid @ 12:20 PM  
It's not you, it's me...
Now entering the ring in the ports controversy: Hillary Clinton ... she says she's gonna stop that Dubai deal, with the help of fellow Senate Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey:

Mrs Clinton's legislation would prevent US ports from being owned by any foreign government, but much of the concern in this case arises because DP World is owned by the government of the UAE. The country was used to wire money to the September 11 hijackers, say US officials, though it has been a staunch ally of President Bush in his war on terror. DP World said yesterday that it had exactly the same security certifications as P&O.
The "any" foreign government part is important, because it gives the president a way out of this mess, essentially letting him say, "it's not YOU, United Arab Emirates -- it's not because you're an Arab government -- not at all! It's us. It's that we don't want ANY foreign government or entity controlling our ports..."

BTW this puts Mrs. Clinton on the opposite side of the issue as former President Jimmy Carter, (not a bad place to be if you're a would-be Democratic candidate for president trying to escape the label of liberal sorceress...) Carter surprised many by defending the president yesterday (although Carter is pretty much an Arabist, of the State Department variety, as I am, and so people shouldn't have been surprised. However, I'm with Hillary on this one...)

Carter didn't say it, but other people are already tying opposition to this deal to the "R" word (that's "racism" to you...):
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington group that seeks to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims, said some of the reaction smacks of prejudice.

''No one seems to be criticizing the company itself, but they're most concerned with the religion and ethnicity of its owners,'' said spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. ``It's what we have to deal with in the post-9/11 era.''
In fact, Glenn Beck this morning proferred the typical tortured white guy defense against that charge -- he and his compadre Stu said "it's not that we're afraid of Arabs, we're afraid of the people in the Arab and Muslim world who want to do us harm, which lately is most of them..." Okay. Look. I think we need to get real, here. It IS because it's an Arab firm. No doubt. Otherwise why did no one scream when these same ports were controlled by a British firm, which is now poised to be taken over by the Dubai company?

But atmospherics matter in public policy. And the atmospherics here are these: this isn't a private, Arab-owned firm taking over operation of six major U.S. ports (plus a huge chunk of the stevedoring of armaments to our Army.) This is the government of an Arab country with ties to questionable aspects of the "war on terror." When Michael Eric Dyson today asked why people don't demand that we stop doing business with white guys from Oklahoma City after Tim McVeigh committed a terrorist act there, he missed the point, I think (and I rarely have the temerity to disagree with Dr. Dyson.) Timothy McVeigh was an American citizen, terrorist though he was. Had he been, say, Peruvian, it would have looked terrible for the U.S. government to turn the operation of federal buildings throughout the U.S. to the government of Peru.

That's the point.

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posted by JReid @ 12:16 PM  
Pimp my ports
It has happened again. George W. Bush has united left and right, Democrats and Republicans, in this country against one of his decisions. The first time it happened was with the choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, a job for which she was about as qualified as Bush's twin daughters. Now, it's the decision of a federal board overseen by the Treasury Department, to OK a deal that would effectively outsource the operation of six major U.S. seaports: New York, New Jersey, Philly, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans, to a state-owned company in the United Arab Emirates.

Not that there's anything inherently wrong with people from the United Arab Emirates, but can you imagine how Tony Blair would look if, say, his government authorized all London tube operations to be outsourced to the government of Pakistan, or how Spaniards might feel if suddenly their train operations were in the hands of Morocco? This master stroke is the textbook example of what happens when bad atmospherics meets even worse public policy.

Now granted, for the last five years, the ports have been run by Peninsular Ports and Oriental, a British outfit. But Peninsular is being bought not by a private firm -- but by a company (Dubai Ports World) owned and operated by the government of one of just three countries to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan before 9/11 -- the other two also being FOB's (friends of Bush): Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. How politically tone deaf -- and homeland security unconscious (or at this point is it literally unconscious) -- do you have to be to allow such a thing to happen on your watch??? The risks to U.S. security are simply too great, even if you could fix the P.R. -- which you can't...

So today was the day the Bushies got shellacked across the ideological board. Jack Cafferty on CNN's "Situation Room" on Monday declared that the "lunatics have taken over the assylum." Lou Dobbs' panel of conservatives -- Bill Schneider, Ed Rollins and a reporter from the New York Daily News, couldn't scare up a word of support for the administration, instead collectively declaring the Bush presidency dead in the water on the one issue they still had going for them: security. In fact, Bush lost the Dobbs crowd a long time ago on the biggest sleeper issue in American politics today: border security. And he has risked being thrown completely off the conservative island if he doesn't beat that ten-day window to intervene with the Committee on Foreign Investment, which ultimately answers to the White House, and scuttle this deal.

(Sidebar: Someone please let Karl know that having the prez cozy up to Vicente Fox for a "border security deal" isn't a good P.R. move at this point, either...)

Prediction: Karl Rove will sit Bush down and explain to him that when Michael Chertoff is out defending the policy by saying we need to balance critical security with the need to have a robust global trading environment, it's time to pull the plug. I give Bush until Friday to reverse this decision. As Cafferty put it:


Since 9/11, the priority number one has been to protect this country from another terrorist attack. President Bush rode our fear of that very thing to a second term in office. The War in Iraq is advertised as part of the War on Terror. A half a trillion dollars and 2300 dead Americans soldiers, so that we can quote “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here”. But what about over here?
That's the rant. And now the headlines.

Two GOP governors have joined Democratic mayors in Baltimore and Philly and Democratic and GOP lawmakers on the Hill (including Evan Bayh, Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Lindsay Graham and Peter King, to show you how eclectic this bunch is) in opposing the UAE port deal... In fact, Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich is seeking legal maneuvers to kill it entirely.

Chuck Schumer says he'd even prefer Halliburton to run the ports over the UAE company...

By the way this deal would also allow theh UAE to control shipments of military equipment to the United States Army...

Also via Michelle Malkin, Frank Gaffney details the Army stevedoring and other bad news:


Since a column raising an alarm about CFIUS' decision appeared in this space last week, three new factors have come to light that compound the strategic folly of the UAE deal:

# First, in addition to the six affected ports mentioned above, two others would also have part of their operations managed by DP World -- on behalf of none other than the U.S. Army. Under a newly extended contract, the owner of P and O will manage the movement of heavy armor, helicopters and other military materiel through the Texas seaports of Beaumont and Corpus Christie. How much would our enemies like to be able to sabotage such shipments?

# Second, while advocates of the stealthy CFIUS decision-making process point to the involvement of the Defense Department in its DP World decision, it is unclear at what level this bizarre proposition was reviewed in the Pentagon. Many top jobs remain unfilled by presidential appointees. Past experience suggests the job may have fallen to lower-level career bureaucrats who give priority to maintaining good relations with their foreign "clients," like the UAE.

# Then, there is the matter of financing the DP World takeover of Peninsula and Oriental. The UAE evidently intends to raise nearly all of the $6.8 billion price for P and O on international capital markets. It must be asked: Who will the foreign investors be, and might they have malign intentions towards the U.S.? If American sources of capital are being sought, will the possible danger this transaction may create for this country be properly disclosed? For that matter, will the underwriters, Barclays and Deutchebank, reveal to prospective funders the real risk that the deal will ultimately fall through? ...

...Call it a Harriet Meirs moment. Politics being the art of the possible, it is time to recognize that the Dubai Ports World deal is neither strategically sensible nor politically doable. It is time to pull the plug, and to reform the secretive interagency CFIUS process that allowed this fiasco in the first place.
BTW it seems Ms. Malkin's blog is now being blocked in the UAE. Yep, sounds like just the kind of country we want to be doing port business with...

...just as we should be just itching to turn six -- actually eight -- of our major ports over to a country believed to be a major transfer point for nuclear material peddled by notorious Pakistani proliferator A.Q. Khan -- the "father" of the near-east bomb. Nice.

Cafferty is right. Lunatics, welcome to as
ylum management.

For more news you can use: The Port Security, Maritime Security, and Homeland Security Blog

Oh, and slightly off topic, but a chance to catch up with Riehl, guess who owns a big, healthy chunk of Fox News???

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posted by JReid @ 12:45 AM  
About Mr. Siebert...
Here come the inevitable questions about the Bay County medical examiner who made that ludicrous diagnosis of death by sickle cell trait in the boot camp beating case... it seems he has had dodgy diagnoses before:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The medical examiner who ruled last week that a teenager died of natural causes after he was struck by Panama City boot camp guards earlier signed mistake-filled autopsy reports on a man and his adult daughter killed in a September 2004 tornado, their widow and mother said Monday.

Donna Faye Reed's autopsy report, which was signed by Dr. Charles F. Siebert Jr. , said "the prostate gland and testes are unremarkable" _ organs that are part of the male genitalia. The autopsy of her father, James Terry, failed to mention major wounds on his body that were obvious, his widow says.

"I was extremely upset about my daughter having testicles _ any mother or daddy would be," Frances Terry said. "And my husband not having any visible scars really upset me, too."

She said she has been complaining about Siebert to officials for a year, with little success.
And the nurse who was seen on the videotape of the beating (my sources say she stood by and watched for a full 20 minutes. The beating is said to have lasted 30...) is also drawing fire (note: there's a slideshow of pretty damning stills at that link to my old outfit in Miami):
Some state lawmakers have already called for Kristin Schmidt's job, saying she failed to take proper action when Martin Lee Anderson, 14, appeared to show signs of distress. Anderson later died.

Now, a review of public records shows the nurse was disciplined in 1993 by the state nursing board and fined $250. However, the documents do not say what she did wrong.

Schmidt has not been disciplined by the sheriff's office in connection with the Anderson case.
It's not known what the nurse was previously disciplined for, but dereliction of duty in this case comes to mind...

Another note, Martin Lee Anderson was no troubled kid. He was an honor student and a generally good kid. My sources tell me that not only was he not the driver of the joy-riding jeep which belonged to his grandmother, the grandma originally declined to press charges. She was convinced to do so by either a state attorney or another official, who assured her that allowing Martin to go through the system would ensure he stayed out of trouble. The result, was clearly far more tragic.

There will be more on this story as it develops, including what Fla elected officials in both political parties are gearing up to do about the Martin Anderson case...

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posted by JReid @ 12:25 AM  
Monday, February 20, 2006
Quick take headlines: February 20
Might the Democrats actually be searching for a firm position on Iraq? It looks like at least some leading Dems are edging toward making the Murtha position the party position. Namely, collectively backing "strategic redeployment" of U.S. troops out of the hot zone, and to neighboring countries ... hey, maybe they could redploy to Dubai and then from there, be put in charge of guarding our ports...!

And just proving the Dems do pay attention, the plan they're congealing around was written by a guy worthy of respect on the matter of Iraq: former Reagan admnistration defense honcho Larry Korb (he's actually a Republican, but he now works for the Center for American Progress think tank, which was established just for this sort of purpose -- thinking out sound policy positions.) I've talked to Korb and listened to him at length about Iraq, and he's as smart as they come. If this is true, good move, Dems.

...Headline 2: Iran is working out an oil deal that would make that country the number one supplier of oil to China. Not a bad move, since China is on the Security Council, and thus in a position to veto any sanctions against Tehran...

...Hugo Chavez gets all sassy with Condoleezza Rice...

...Osama bin Laden, assuming he really still exists and not just as a figment of the Bush team's political strategy, apparently has said he'll never be caught alive...

...The first U.S. embassy has been targeted in the ongoing cartoon riots...

...Can you actually go to prison for denying the Holocaust? Apparently so, in Austria... Take note, Ahmadinejad. You may want to avoid Austria...

...and in entertainment news, Spike Lee slams Hollywood as "all white" at the executive level. Says Lee: "They (studios) might think there's diversity because four white women run studios." Ouch!

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posted by JReid @ 1:57 PM  
Crazy talk
A 9/11 dad says President Bush has 'gone insane'... why? It's that darned port deal, which has the U.S. turning over operations at a half-dozen U.S. ports -- our most vulnerable defense point, to a state-owned company out of the United Arab Emirates. According to the NY Daily News, this is what Peter Gadiel, whose son James died in the World Trade Center, had to say at a weekend press conference with Sen. Chuck Schumer:


"I'm a lifelong Republican and I think the President's gone insane," said Gadiel, 58, who heads 9/11 Families for a Secure America.

Two of the 19 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Dubai, the Arab emirate whose bid to run ports in New York, New Jersey and four other cities was okayed by the White House even though investigators have found signs that money used to finance terrorism flowed through Dubai banks.

"How the hell could this happen?" fumed Bill Doyle, 58, a retired Staten Island stockbroker whose son Joseph also died when the Trade Center fell.

"We're not securing our country in any way by selling our ports to foreigners," he said.
As I reported in this post, an American company that operates out of the Port of Miami is suing the Bush administration over the plan, which Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff continues to defend, even in the face of bi-partisan opposition.

Clearly, the administration's fetish for outsourcing has gone too far. Get 'em, Lou Dobbs...

Update: Despite all the criticism, from Democrats and Republicans alike, guess who's not afraid of the Dubai-runs-the-ports deal? You guessed it: Joe Lieberman... One has to begin to wonder if there's anything the Bush administration can come up with that Mr. Lieberman won't fall for...

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posted by JReid @ 12:54 PM  
The GOP translator
From Matthew Ortega's new home (The Great Society), a Republican-to-English dictionary you should not be without...

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posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
Cheney's power play
In case you missed this article last week, NRO's Byron York caught the real news made by Dick Cheney during his soft-ball interview with his friend Brit Hume at Fox News:
The Little-Noticed Order That Gave Dick Cheney New Power
Have you ever heard of Executive Order 13292?

In addition to discussing his hunting accident, Vice President Dick Cheney, in his interview on the Fox News Channel Wednesday, also pointed to a little-known but enormously consequential expansion of vice-presidential power that has come about as a result of the Bush administration's war on terror. ...

...Near the end of the interview, Fox anchor Brit Hume brought up a controversy arising from the CIA-leak case, in which prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court papers that former top Cheney aide Lewis Libby testified he had been authorized "by his superiors" to disclose information about the classified National Intelligence Estimate to members of the press. "Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?" Hume asked.

"There is an executive order to that effect," Cheney said. ...

...Cheney was referring to Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003, which dealt with the handling of classified material. That order was not an entirely new document but was, instead, an amendment to an earlier Executive Order, number 12958, issued by President Bill Clinton on April 17, 1995.

At the time, Bush's order received very little coverage in the press. What mention there was focused on the order's provisions making it easier for the government to keep classified documents under wraps. But as Cheney pointed out Wednesday, the Bush order also contained a number of provisions which significantly increased the vice president's power.

Throughout Executive Order 13292, there are changes to the original Clinton order which, in effect, give the vice president the power of the president in dealing with classified material. ...
Read the entire article to see the actual substantive changes President Bush made to a 1995 Clinton executive order which, in the Clinton era, limited declassification authority to the president, but that under Bush, gave those powers to the vice president as well, an unprecedented move that in effect, changes the Constitution, which in its text gives the vice president no real power at all. I'll reprint just one of them, one directly relevant to the CIA leak case, here:
In another part of the original Clinton order, there was a segment dealing with who was authorized to delegate the authority to classify material. In the Clinton order, the passage read:
(2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President or by an agency head or official designated...
(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; an agency head or official designated...
In the Bush order, that segment was changed to read (emphasis added):
(2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated...
(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated...
And what was Ms. Plame's covert position within the CIA classified as? SNF -- "Secret, no foreign," meaning top secret information not to be shared even with friendly governments. (Valerie Plame was reportedly working on WMD proliferation issues related to Iran...). If Cheney unilaterally declassified that information, along with any other information he believed would undermine Joe Wilson and undercut others challenging the rationale for invading Iraq, he can not claim to have done so legally, under the cover of executive order 13292. Game, set, match, unless Pat Fitzgerald has some other trick up his sleeve.

Cheney isn't just a theoretically powerful veep, York concludes -- President Bush has taken steps to give him real, concrete, unprecedented, and clearly, because of his unique relationship with the president, largely unchecked -- power.

And in dropping that little bomblet on Fox, Cheney not only made that point, he also laid the groundwork for a defense for Scooter Libby, and for himself.

And by the way, Bush issued that executive order on March 25, 2003. Joe Wilson's article, which started the ball rolling on the outing of his wife's secret identity, was published on July 6th. (He had actually been a regular cable news commentor on the possible invasion since the previous year.) But that wasn't the first time his criticisms of the case for war would have come to the attention of the Bush administration. Wilson was first quoted in the Nation Magazine saying that with regard to Iraq, "America has entered one of it periods of historical madness," months earlier -- on March 6th. On March 8th, According to a letter Wilson wrote to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
-- On March 8, 2003, the intelligence report on my trip was disseminated within the U.S. Government according the Senate report (pg. 43). Further, the Senate report states that "in early March, the Vice President asked his morning briefer for an update on the Niger uranium issue." That update from the CIA "also noted that the CIA would be debriefing a source who may have information related to the alleged sale on March 5." The report then states the "DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the high priority of the issue." The report notes that the CIA briefer did not brief the Vice President on the report and the Vice President let the matter drop.
Yet, on March 16th, Vice President Cheney appeared on "Meet the Press," again making the case for invading Iraq and famously boasting that the U.S. would be "greeted as liberators" by the conquered Iraqis.

Kind of puts that executive order issuance date in a whole new light, doesn't it?

An excellent history of the lame affair can be found here, from John Dean writing for FindLaw...

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
Radio days
In the shameless self-promotion category, I did my first segment for the local Radio One station here in South Florida (WTPS, 1080 AM) this morning. The segment is basically a "blog report," touching on the main issues running the road in the blogosphere. Hopefully this will become a regular segment in the James T and Tamara G morning show (WTPS recently switched from a brokered Spanish-language station to an all-talk format, like the other Radio One stations around the U.S.,) and once their web stream is up and running, you'll be able to catch it online. Today's segment was at 9:30 a.m., but tomorrow's will be at the top of the hour, at 9:05. Tune in if you're in SoFla, and definitely holla back with feedback, either by comment or email (joy@reidreport.com).

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posted by JReid @ 10:47 AM  
Cheney shooting story in its 'last throes?'
Not so you'd notice. Drudge says the MSM is giving it another week, and he has the TIME and Newsweek covers to prove it... ThinkProgress has Mary Matalin's hedges on "just one beer..." (while many of their readers say it's time to move on...) Seeing the Forrest is still on board with the story (and I think they should consider adding a Cheney as Elmer Fudd pic to their very timely banner...)

...and last, but certainly not least, Jon Swift has the rest of the conspiracy theory...

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Tags: Cheney, Dick Cheney, , Hunting
posted by JReid @ 2:19 AM  
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Death for joyriding?
Another videotaped beating, this time in Florida, is raising serious questions not only about Florida's juvenile justice system, but about whether county officials can be trusted to investigate their own.

The medical examiner for Bay County, Florida says Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old boy who had been sentenced to boot camp after he and another boy took Anderson's grandmother's Jeep for a joyride, (Anderson later violated his probation by trespassing at a school, and was then sentenced to the camp...) died "naturally," of internal bleeding due to sickle cell trait, a relatively common blood abnormality found in one in 12 African-Americans.

But Anderson died on January 5th, just one day after he arrived at the boot camp, where he spent less than two hours before guards spent a full half-hour beating, wrestling, restraining, kneeing and kicking him until he was unconscious.

How much of a coincidence is that!

The 80-minute videotape (described in detail here) of the confrontation between Anderson and the deputies, which was released by authorities only after news organizations sued, shows Anderson being restrained and manhandled by as many as nine guards at a time, while intermittently, a nurse in a white lab coat looks on, eventually checking the boy after he goes perfectly limp on the ground and the five remaining deputies begin to look alarmed (there is no sound on the tape). In fact, Anderson is limp during much of the last part of the tape. He had complained of shortness of breath during the running and exercises that are required of new inmates at the camp, and when he became "uncooperative," according to guards, he was "restrained," including by being shoved against a tree, kneed in the back, and hit with what look like closed fists. As for the bruises and other external injuries that showed up in the autopsy?

The autopsy by county Medical Examiner Charles Siebert found bruises and scrapes on the boy's body but said they were linked to attempts to resuscitate him. It blamed his internal bleeding on sickle cell disorder, which is present in one in 12 African-Americans but doesn't show up in routine blood work.

The Anderson case is being investigated for possible civil rights violations by the Justice Department (though this is the same justice department that has all-but frozen its civil rights prosecution division.) The boy's parents want the guards and the nurse fired and tried for the teen's death, but don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen, either.

Has there been a cover-up in this case? Siebert apparently initially called the request for an autospy in Bay County (where the boot camp is located) rather than in Escambia County, where the hospital where the boy died is located,) "highly unusual", although he denies having said that, now. Why would it be unusual? Because it looks like the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) asked that the death be examined in friendly Bay County, where the FDLE commissioner, Guy Tunnell, used to be sheriff. And the Escambia County M.E., a guy named Jeff Martin, says his county passed the autopsy back to Bay county as a "courtesy" to his counterparts in Bay County and to FDLE... By the way, Tunnell founded the boot camp where Anderson died. Unusual, indeed.

And how common are deaths from sickle cell trait, anyway? Not very. According to federal statistics, there were more than 2 million carriers for sickle cell trait in the U.S. in 1999. Of those, 72,000 actually had the more dangerous sickle cell anemia. And of those, 501 died in 1999. That's a ratio of 0.70% in terms of deaths vs. prevalence of the trait. And if deaths from sickle cell anemia are rare, deaths from simply carrying the trait are almost unheard of (fellow medical examiners and experts have called Siebert's conclusions "preposterous."

And what about the possible complications of sickle sell? Could Martin have died from one of those? They can include the following:

... note that spontaneous internal bleeding isn't among them.

Experts who have talked to the Miami Herald have had lots to say about the exculpatory autopsy:

Two South Florida experts on sickle cell also expressed considerable doubt that a healthy teenager with only the trait, not the disease, would die abruptly unless he was seriously deprived of oxygen.

Dr. Stuart Toledano, director of the University of Miami medical school's division of pediatric hematology and oncology, has been studying sickle cell for more than three decades. He said he is not aware of any teen dying from sickle cell trait unless they were oxygen-deprived, such as in ''high-mountain climbing'' or on an unpressurized airplane.

[....]

''I've been in the field since the early '70s, and I cannot remember a child with sickle cell anemia, let alone sickle cell trait,'' who bled to death from exercise, Toledano said.

[Medical examiner] Siebert may have based his conclusion on findings that several of Martin's blood cells were ''sickling,'' a process in which healthy cells mutate into a sickle shape, Toledano said. But Toledano said he would expect that the blood cells of a youth with the trait would normally sickle upon the teen's death.

''Lacerations and contusions, that is not a part of sickle cell anything,'' Toledano said. ``I don't see how I can say that any more bluntly.''

Dr. Thomas Harrington, director of the Adult Sickle Cell Clinic at Jackson Memorial Hospital, said that for someone with the ''very common'' sickle cell trait to die abruptly of complications from the disease would mean that his body had to be under enormous stress, probably dehydrated and oxygen-deprived. ''I don't see where the natural causes come in,'' he said after having the report read to him. ``You have to be under pretty severe physical stress to die with sickle cell trait.''

So why would this medical examiner come to such a controversial conclusion? Perhaps to spare the deputies, the boot camp, and the county major embarrassment? Or perhaps to avoid a messier conclusion: even before the videotape was forced out into the open, the Associated Press obtained copies of memos written by Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen ordering drill sergeants at the boot camps to stop using ammonia capsules on teens who "faked being unconscious." The memo was written on January 5th, the same day Anderson died. Coincidentally (of course...) lawyers for Anderson's family say the guards forced ammonia capsules up the boy's nose in an effort to keep him conscious at some point during the beating.

Is this evidence of a cover-up? Who knows. But it's worth looking into. (In addition to the Justice Dept, the FDLE is looking into it, but since the department runs the state's boot camps, it seems to be a case of law enforcement investigating itself.)

[Sidebar: Siebert was nominated to his post by the State Medical Examiners Commission in 2002 after being nominated to fill a vacancy by State Attorney Jim Appleman. Before that, he was an Associate Medical Examiner and Largo and West Palm Beach, Florida. (By the way, Appleman was once at the center of another odd case, in which he became the first of three state attorneys who declined to prosecute a wealthy man who had recently been named Panama City medical examiner in the suspicious death of his wife...)]

Martin Anderson was the third teenager to die in state custody in Florida in as many years. He was one of about 600 boys aged 14-18 languising in the state's five boot camps (soon to be four, after one in Martin County closes this year.) When the boot camp concept came to Florida in 1993, five years before Jeb Bush became governor, by the way, there were nine such facilities.

The other deaths were, like Anderson, of African-American boys:

Willie Lawrence Durden III of Jacksonville, Florida, was found unconscious in his cell at the Cypress Creek Juvenile Offender Corrections Centre in Citrus County, Florida, last October and Omar Paisley, also 17, died from a burst appendix that went untreated in June 2003 at a juvenile detention facility in Miami.

So many questions remain in this case, it would take another ten blog entries to detail them all. The NAACP is now involved in the case, and the family is planning to file a lawsuit. Even a Republican elected official, Gus Bareiro, has jumped into the case, demanding answers along with Democratic elected officials like Tony Hill and Fredricka Wilson. Stay tuned.

A roundup of news on the case can be found here.

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posted by JReid @ 8:51 PM  
Ranchaquiddick, take 6: Fun with Dick and Pam
So who is this Pamela Willeford, anyway?

Well, since July 30, 2003, she's been the ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, a singular honor, I'm sure...

She's a Texan, and used to be chairman of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, after being appointed to that board by then-Governor George W. Bush. According to her bio, "She has been an Executive Committee Member of the Texas Book Festival since its inception in 1996, and served as Advisory Committee Chairman for The Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries."

She is married to Dr. George Willeford, III., and he was on that little hunting trip, too (although Lynn Cheney was not...). BTW her husband's nickname is "Boots," which presents a whole other host of comedic possibilities... and it seems that Boots and the other members of the hunting party weren't around when the Whittington turkey shoot occurred. But Ms. Willeford apparently was. In fact, it's not clear why Vice President Cheney represented Mrs. Armstrong as the witness, when to hear Ms. Willeford tell it, it was she who witnessed the quail pop gone wrong...


"We really thought he [Mr. Whittington] was way back behind us," said Pamela Willeford, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland since October 2003.

She was on a brief vacation visiting her husband, Dr. George "Boots" Willeford III, a gastroenterologist in Austin. Dr. Willeford was also hunting at the Armstrong Ranch but in a different field at the time of the shooting about a mile away.

Mrs. Willeford said Mr. Whittington was perhaps 90 feet away when the vice president, who was tracking a quail that had flown up and dipped back down, shot him. She said only she, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Whittington were hunting at the time.

Two others were waiting in a car nearby – Ms. Armstrong and her sister, Serita Hixon – in keeping with a safety rule that limits the number of hunters to three at a time, she said.

"The three of us were out of the vehicle hitting a covey," she said. "Harry Whittington dropped back to pick up a bird he'd shot. The vice president and I moved on to shoot another covey, and unbeknownst to us, Harry had picked up a bird and caught up with us. He had walked up, and we didn't realize that he had caught up with us," she said.

"He was back behind us, and we turned off to the left to shoot another covey. ... The bird came up and was going back down, and you know how you swing on it, with your gun, following a bird," she said.

Mrs. Willeford said she'd hunted once before with Mr. Cheney and would do so again.
"Absolutely," she said. "He's a great shot. He's very safety-conscious. This is something that unfortunately was a bad accident, and when you're with a group like that, he's safe or safer than all the rest of us. He feels terrible about it." [Dallas Morning News, Feb. 14]
Hm. Sounds like she's the one who should have been designated to called the press. ...

Oh, and rumors are flying that she's having a fling with the veep. Now get that picture in your head and let it marinate for a while ...

So the idea is that the "real" reason Cheney waited so long to tell the press, or the president, about his little hunting mishap wasn't because he was drunk (or wasn't only because he had been on the sauce), or because he was worried Whittington might die (which he had to have been) but rather to scuttle Mrs. Willeford out of the eyes of curious news types before they got the wrong idea... ahem...

So is Mrs. Willeford Cheney's Monica? Who knows. Ultimately, who cares (hell, I'm not gonna speculate -- she's got a rifle and I don't...) But she sure does know a lot about how Mr. Cheney feels...

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posted by JReid @ 1:34 AM  
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Ranchaquiddick, take 5: Who shot ya?
The MSM may be all-but done with the Cheney shooting story, but that doesn't mean the story adds up.

AP has a roundup of the lingering discrepancies, including the fact that the supposed witness, Mrs. Armstrong, was no witness at all...

And a lot of people familiar with firearms are having a hell of a time squaring that 30 yards with the fact that more than 100 pellets wound up hitting Mr. Whittington at would have been a downward arc, including one that pierced his jacket, his clothing, his skin, muscles, bones and viscous tissue, to wind up in his heart. (As Dr. Bernadine Healy put it bluntly, Mr. Whittington wasn't "peppered," he was shot in the heart.

And then, there's the question of that pesky 18-hour delay... Why so long? The drinking? True, the official police and Parks Department reports say alcohol wasn't a factor in the accidental shooting, but those reports aren't based on police work or even a routine investigation. They're based on statements by Cheney and his hunting party, hardly objective observers of the situation. The authorities, in fact, declined to investigate the shooting, instead taking those statements as fact. It's as if police were called to the home of a shooting victim and asked her husband, "did you do it?" And when he says "of course not, officers," the cops enter his statement into the record and close the case.

As Ted Rall wrote last week:
Attorney Alan Dershowitz speculates that Cheney may have stalled to cover up drunkenness. "One possibility is that it takes approximately that period of time for alcohol to dissipate in the body and no longer be subject to accurate testing," Dershowitz writes. "It is fairly common for people involved in alcohol-related accidents to delay reporting them until the alcohol has left the body." Cheney has a history of public intoxication, having been twice convicted of DUI.
...and of course, there's this:

Sirius Radio's Alex Bennett says that "Cheney and Whittington went hunting with two women (not their wives), there was some drinking, and Whittington wound up shot." Bob Cesca alleges that one of the two women, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland Pamela Willeford is rumored to be "Cheney's Lewinsky." (Major difference: Lewinsky is hot.) Cesca elaborates: "The vice president's Secret Service detail had to decide what to do with Willeford by way of perhaps covering up her relationship with Cheney, and thus the delay in reporting the news."
Wha??? Let's go to William F. Buckley for more on the "who was there" angle:
Who all was there? Well, Pamela Pitzer Willeford, ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and her husband, a physician; the hostess, Katharine Armstrong, and her sister, and her husband. Also Nancy Negley, an art philanthropist; Ben Love, a West Texas rancher; and the victim, Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old lawyer, and his wife. Also several outriders, whose duty was to flush the birds. Also a dozen American pointers and Labrador retrievers. Close to 5:30 p.m., the two shooting groups had bagged about 40 quail each, and were working now on the last covey.

About 100 yards away from the Jeep carrying the hostess and her sister (daughters of the fabled Anne Armstrong, whom Gerald Ford had once asked to run for vice president), "Mr. Cheney, Mr. Whittington and Ms. Willeford were walking in a line in a low spot on gently sloping ground. After Mr. Whittington bagged his birds he dropped out of sight, along with one of Ms. Armstrong's bird dogs." (Her name -- not originally disclosed to the press -- is "Gertie.") "Then, suddenly, he was in a dip about 30 yards away against the sun just as Mr. Cheney fired a blast from his Italian-made 28-gauge Perazzi shotgun." That is when Mr. Whittington "caught the spray of birdshot on the right side of his face, neck and chest."
Nope. That story ain't over folks. This is the blogosphere, y'all.

More Cheney talk from:
  • Taylor Marsh (all the conspiracies fit to print)
  • An interesting prediction from the Larouchies last year: Cheney will start making mistakes...
  • Neal Gabler bites the hand that feeds him, and pulls off the quote of the week on Fox News Watch (how did I miss this!): "when the Vice-President shoots somebody in the face, it's big news. I don't care where you live, even on Fox News, it's a big story."
  • "Hahvahd" proff Niall Fergusen writes in the conservative London Telegraph that "trigger happy Cheney is a dangerous man to have on your side"
  • And R.J. Eskow writes about why the Whittington shooting will be Cheney's Chappaquiddick.

Indeed he is. So the question is, will the hunting incident be a prelude to seeing Dick out the door? After all, his scandals run deep, and the CIA leak case could bring them to a head, as could the "phase II" Senate Intelligence Committee investigation (if Pat Roberts ever lets it happen...) and as could other lingering scandals with Cheney written all over them -- scandals like this one... (background here).

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Tags: , , , Dick Cheney, , Hunting, Pamela Willeford

posted by JReid @ 10:50 PM  
Save the Port of Miami
An American company operating at the Port of Miami is suing to try and stop the Bush administration deal to turn over port operations at several U.S. ports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. Good for them.
posted by JReid @ 10:48 PM  
Shut up, Flemming Rose
The brilliant mind who published the incendiary Muhammad cartoons tries to explain himself, but winds up making ridiculous excuses like this:

We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions. And by treating Muslims in Denmark as equals they made a point: We are integrating you into the Danish tradition of satire because you are part of our society, not strangers. The cartoons are including, rather than excluding, Muslims.

The cartoons do not in any way demonize or stereotype Muslims. In fact, they differ from one another both in the way they depict the prophet and in whom they target. One cartoon makes fun of Jyllands-Posten, portraying its cultural editors as a bunch of reactionary provocateurs. Another suggests that the children's writer who could not find an illustrator for his book went public just to get cheap publicity. A third puts the head of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party in a lineup, as if she is a suspected criminal.

One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.
Alladdin??? The bomb in the turban pic was supposed to evoke Aladdin???

Not to respond to one religious insult with another, but Jesus, man, do you think we're all idiots? The cartoon is what it is, and if it needs that much explication, it's not a very good cartoon.

In his piece, Mr. Rose describes several incidents that depict Muslim reaction -- in his view overreaction -- to perceived religious slights. If he knows that, then he surely knew that the reaction to his cartoon contest would be vehemently negative. He chose to publish the cartoons anyway for the same reason right wing bloggers are still posting them to this day: as an in-your-face challenge to Muslims. No such challenge is routinely proferred to Christians, even with extremists like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in our midst.

Sorry, but there's no getting around the fact that the Muhammad cartoons were at best a blunder, at worst, evidence of callousness and/or Islamophobia on the part of Mr. Rose and his paper. He should accept his share of responsibility for the outcome, just as Muslim extremists who have stoked the cartoon wars and encouraged violence among legitimately angry Muslims in the streets of various capitals should accept their share.

If you'd like to share your thoughts with Flemming, he has been kind enough to post his email address: flemming.rose@jp.dk.

But please, no calling him names, you might offend him -- although, apparently he believes that offending someone is just another way of saying "you're one of use, and we care about you."

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posted by JReid @ 10:23 PM  
Priceless news stories
Ken Starr, sender of fake clemency letters...

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posted by JReid @ 10:17 PM  
Dirty deeds...
The Hackett rub-out by the Democratic leadership, led by Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, continues to stink to high heaven, and this article in the Feb. 16 issue of Mother Jones has more details. Among them: a whispering campaign questioning Hackett's service in Iraq -- not from Swiftboating Republians, but from his own side.

If I were in Ohio, I might consider staying home on primary day. After all, what is there to vote for when the party bosses have left you no choice?

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Tags: Politics, Ohio, Congressional, Democrats, Election, Hackett
posted by JReid @ 10:11 PM  
All the president's bag men
A New York Times editorial on Friday opens with the following damning question:
Is there any aspect of President Bush's miserable record on intelligence that Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not willing to excuse and help to cover up?
The answer, if you've observed Roberts much, appears to be "no." (The editorial as aptly titled "Doing the president's dirty work.")

After making independent sounding noises about the Bush domestic spying program for about a day, Roberts has trying mightily to squirm out of his earlier contention that the NSA spy program should be brought under the supervision of the FISA court, where the law, by the way, says it should have been all along.

Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spends most of his time these days trying to find a way to forestall the "phase II" investigation of the administration's use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq -- something he has been promising for nearly a year to begin. Now, along with another Bush bag-man, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine, Roberts seems poised to do as the president wishes: to establish, after the fact, the legality of the domestic eavesdropping without a warrant. Says ABC News:
Roberts told the Times that he does not believe much support exists among lawmakers for exempting the program from the control of the FISA court. That is the approach Bush has favored and one that would be established under a bill proposed by Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio.

White House officials have said their bar for agreeing to any legislative changes would be high. They have signaled they are open only to legislation that would "further codify" in law the authority the president insists he already has without Congress' approval, something officials believe would be accomplished with DeWine's proposal.
Question for the Bushies: why would the Congress need to "further codify" something already true under the law? Answer: Because there is no warrantless spying authority in the law. Get it?

Bottom line: whatever comes out of the Roberts committee can't be good for the Fourth Amendment, or for the basic civil liberties of the American people. Roberts is a hack who apparently hasn't enough respect for his own branch of government to act as anything more than a trussed up lackey for the president. He and his fellow court jester, DeWine, should be laughed out of committee and preferably, sent packing by their constituents in favor of Senators who actually want to serve in a co-equal branch of government with the executive.

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posted by JReid @ 9:51 PM  
Evangelicals: Pat Robertson makes us look crazy!
... and so they're giving him the cold shoulder. And yet ... they seem strangely immune to how nutty intelligent design, demands for school prayer and Ten Commandments displays all over town and pharmacists who won't sell women birth control appear to us "reality based" folk... go figure.

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 PM  
What in the world...
...is the NSA doing putting up a kids page on its web-site? What is this, social engineering to build the eavesdrop victims of tomorrow? Sheesh...

BTW guess who's suing the Bush administration over its illegal surveillance activities? (If you guessed Larry Klayman is in the thick of it, you're right!)

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posted by JReid @ 1:20 AM  
Thanks, I'm fatter...
More inside scoop on the Abramoff-Bush non-relationship relationship from the Washingtonian, including buzz about the still-unseen photos of the two men together as one... The story comes with this interesting "editor's note":
[Editor’s note: A version of this story was posted briefly on Monday of this week. Within an hour, Jack Abramoff contacted the author, Washingtonian national editor Kim Eisler, and asked that the report be deleted from the Washingtonian.com Web site because public disclosure of his communications would damage his status as a witness and undermine his plea agreement with federal prosecutors. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to three felonies and could receive 31 years in prison for his part in the lobbying scandal. US District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle will decide the length of Abramoff’s prison term. The link was taken down while Mr. Abramoff’s concerns were investigated, but Mr. Eisler found no confirmation that publication of the item would damage any aspect of the wide-ranging probe. Thus we are posting this updated story.]
...plus the news that the much-circulated TIME/NYT photo of Abramoff in the background at a meeting with Bush is not one of the five photos being held by the Washingotnian editor who is also pals with Lonely Jack, who apparently feels abandoned by his former D.C. crew. ...

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posted by JReid @ 1:15 AM  
Googleplex
The "Good Google, Bad Google" saga continues, as the only search engine that really matters continues fighting the Bush administration's demands for its search records and algorhythms. My question is, is Google really protecting the civil liberties users like myself, or just its trade secrets from a government it suspects of a grand form of corporate espionage? Either way, I'm rooting for the Goog, even as I continue to be grossed out by their altogether different take on Chinese government meddling...

Links to the subpoena and Google's written response here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:02 AM  
Friday, February 17, 2006
Who's winning the propaganda war?
Why, al-Qaida, says Donald Rumsfeld. And it's no wonder. They've got access to all those newfangled "cable TV" thingamajiggers and that "Internet" and even those highfallutin' video tape machines. Yeah, and all we've got is a $400 billion war, some dirty pictures some of our fellers made in an Iraqi prison and and a couple a tin cans tied with string for talkin' to each other now and again... oh, and we've got Karen Hughes...


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posted by JReid @ 9:46 PM  
ReidReport Podcast #6: An offer he can't refuse
Check out the latest "Juicecast" from the semi-sane minds of the Reid Report here.

(BTW in case you're looking for Podcast #5, the Ballad of Deadeye Dick, which was temporarily deleted, my mistake, from the Juicecaster site, here it is.)

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posted by JReid @ 9:03 PM  
The cartoon riots continue
11 people are dead and an Italian consulate has been burned in Libya as the cartoon riots continue to spread.

Also, New Zealand is bracing for possible trade sanctions after two newspapers there published the inflammatory cartoons.

On the subject of the cartoons, and the right wing demands that all who love free speech must rub the Muslim world's nose in them by publishing or posting them, there's a very intelligent rebuttal to that argument in today's Wall Street Journal (they're batting 1,000 this week...) on the "taste" page. Listen up, Malkinites:
Some who have called for a reprinting of the cartoons--Tucker Carlson, for example--take a position that is forensic, not idealistic. Mr. Carlson said on his TV show: "[You] can't really understand what caused the outrage, you can't really understand the story itself, unless you know what's in the pictures, can you?" So a reproduction of the offending material, by his reasoning, would not be so much an affirmation of values as a straightforward act of information-conveyance, a way of giving readers or viewers the tools with which to tackle the fuss.
I have more time for this argument than for the one based on the imperative of ideals. But it is weakened by the fact that (a) the cartoons are already widely available on the Internet for those who wish to see them; and (b) there exists a way of conveying to readers the nature of the cartoons--i.e., by description--that informs sufficiently without giving offense to those Muslims among us who believe that graphic depiction of their main man (peace be upon him) is anathema. There is also the question of taste: Deciding against the cartoons is not unlike a refusal to publish anti-Semitic drawings or dodgy caricatures of black people--or of Koreans eating pups.

To the free-speech absolutists in the blogosphere, I say that making this episode the test of our Western manhood is not the right way to go--for a number of reasons. To start with, some points should be obvious: Every right--and here, specifically, the right of free speech--is not a duty; nor does discretion or good taste or a desire to be constructive amount to a spit in the eye of the First Amendment. Freedom of speech and imagery is sacrosanct; but it is not compulsory.

The First Amendment means that you can, but do not have to, exercise the freest lawful speech. It means that you are responsible for your speech, not the authorities. The absence of legal restrictions also means that institutional dispensers of speech--such as newspapers and TV channels--need to exercise their freedom wisely.

What does that wisdom involve in the current situation? The U.S. is fighting a propaganda war against bin Ladenism. Why hand our foes a gratuitous tactical advantage? Why not collectively deprive the enemy of a detonator?--not because we are forced to; not even because we agree with or respect the rioters' values; but because we want to make it easier for moderates in the Muslim world (our allies) to take on the obscurantists.

Acting responsibly also means knowing when discretion is the better part of valor. What do we gain by printing the cartoons? We are, by now, fully aware of the bomb in the turban. (These being Danish cartoons, the humor is on the heavy side.) What we gain by not printing them is the implied public declaration to Muslims in general, and to the Islamist provocateurs in particular, that the U.S. can unify behind a crucial purpose when need demands--even in the small gestures.
Muslims already know that we have free speech. So the idea that the cartoons should be published in the American press to make a point strikes me as both pedantic and theatrical. There is no need to display one's devotion to freedom in this gaudy way. We have the freedom and the will to publish the Abu Ghraib pictures--in effect, to take a hit for free speech. And this time, with the cartoons, we have largely chosen not to. The enemy will know that we will not always step onto the landmines he lays for us.
Well said.

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posted by JReid @ 8:49 PM  
Copter crash
Two U.S. Marine helicopters have crashed off the Horn of Africa. Two of the dozen or so people on board have been rescued so far...
posted by JReid @ 8:47 PM  
Another human catastrophe
...this time in the Philippines..
posted by JReid @ 8:45 PM  
Fun with outsourcing: guess who's guarding the ports?
The United Arab Emirates! A few points about the UAE courtesy of ThinkProgress via Fox News:
– The UAE was one of three countries in the world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (the others were also our allies: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia)...

– The UAE has been a key transfer point for illegal shipments of nuclear components to Iran, North Korea and Lybia.

– According to the FBI, money was transferred to the 9/11 hijackers through the UAE banking system.

– After 9/11, the Treasury Department reported that the UAE was not cooperating in efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden’s bank accounts.
Well that's a relief! This comes nearly a year after the Bush administration opened free trade negotiations with the UAE and nearby Oman. Bushies, you're doing a heck of a job...

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posted by JReid @ 8:33 PM  
Throw Cheney from the train
The Dick Cheney express may be pulling back into the station for now, but what will go on are the following more or less permanent impressions that have been left by what we might call the "incident" at the Armstrong Ranch...:

- Dick Cheney has far too much power, and way too much autonomy for a vice president. No one in the White House can control this guy, and that just doesn't sound right since Contitutionally, the vice president has no actual power...

- Cheney clearly doesn't feel he has to answer to the press, American people, or even to the president. His declarations, including the latest one: that he has the authority to declassify top secret inforamtion at will, are alarming and have a nefarious taint that only draws more scrutiny from a skeptical press and public...

- Cheney's contempt for the press is clearly helpful with the GOP base, but it is a net negative for the Bush administration, which has to try and govern beyond the base if Bush is to have any hope of getting anything resembling an agenda through before he's a complete lame duck ... oh, wait, too late, he already is ...

- Cheney's extreme secretiveness, which borders on paranoia, and his poor decision-making, which also results in really bad advice to the president -- on Iraq, on energy or in this incident, makes him more of a liability than an asset to George W. Bush...

Which leads me to two parallel articles in the Wall Street Journal this week. On the one hand, Daniel Henninger tries to defend Cheney, but in doing so only points out the painfully obvious:

There was a time when what's been called news judgment would deem some stories a five or six and run them on page 14, or deeper in the newscast. Back then the Senate minority leader wouldn't bother to look up from his desk. Not with this presidency. Every downside event--large, small, in between--plays above the fold on the front page now. And when Dick Cheney accidentally pops Harry Whittington, old Harry Reid jumps up from his Senate leader's desk faster than a Nevada jack rabbit to announce, one more time, that this "is part of the secretive nature of this administration."

Here are some of the political and media bonfires that have been lit on the White House lawn, stoked and reignited the past five years: the "stolen" 2000 election, Halliburton, "Fahrenheit 9/11," Cheney lives in an "undisclosed location," Abu Ghraib, torture at Guantanamo, Bush lied about WMD, secret CIA prison sites, Valerie Plame, the neocons, Rumsfeld, Cheney's "secret" energy task force, Cindy Sheehan, Bush is destroying Social Security, Hurricane Katrina, Jack Abramoff, illegal wiretaps, Bill Frist's stock sales, what else?
That's precisely the point. There are simply too many stories, too many screw-ups with Dick Cheney right at the center. Everything I bolded above is a Cheney, or Cheneyesque, story. But for him, all the Bush administration would be about for its critics would be despoiling the environment, pandering to the religious right, incompetance and cronyism -- bad things, to be sure, but not as bad as, say, starting unnecessary wars costing $400 billion and counting, and turning the presidency into a sinister institution reminiscent of an Orwellian version of Dick Nixon. Let's not forget:

- It was Cheney who pushed for the invasion of Iraq, and who brought the neocon cult into the administration in the first place, placing them in every possible agency remotely touching on the nation's defense, as well as the State Department...

- It is Cheney's secret energy task force that is the lightning rod for criticism of the administration's energy policy, and which provided the first window into the extreme secrecy with which the Bush team operates...

- It was Cheney who said Iraq definitely had WMD, that Saddam was connected to 9/11 via Mohammad Atta, and that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons...

- Cheney is the one who declared the insurgency to be "in its last throes..."

- Cheney is at the center of the Plame leak which outed a covert CIA agent ...

- Cheney could yet be sucked into the trial of his deputy, Scooter Libby, the first White House staffer to be indicted in 137 years. And that scandal also includes allegations of destroyed emails, something patently illegal ...

The bottom line: Dick Cheney is a palpably paranoid, dour and creepy man whom very few people would feel comfortable with were he to step into the office of president -- his lone constitutional function. If anything, Cheney's only positive contribution is to make people like me dread the very idea of impeaching George W. Bush, unless of course he could take his self-selected veep with him...

Which brings me to my second WSJ article, by Reaganophilic columnist Peggy Noonan, who this week called Cheney the "hate magnet" for the administration. Ms. Noonan predicts that people inside the administration have got to be wondering out loud if its time to put Mr. Cheney out to pasture, and thus relieve Mr. Bush of one of his biggest liabilities.

It's a thought.

But the trouble is, whom would George Bush replace Cheney with? He too has his paranoid traits, mainly centering around the issue of personal loyalty ... to him. Cheney comes across as loyal because he has no political ambitions competitive with Bush's. But he is clearly having his presidency through the weakness of George W. Bush, and so it hardly matters that he's loyal. What matters is that he has been in such clear control of the Bush agenda, that having accepted it -- including things arguably that Bush would never have cooked up on his own, like Iraq -- the president is having a hell of a time taking back the reigns of his office. He's trying to push healthcare, taxes, Social Security, hell, anything but Iraq, but he can't get out from under.

So he in a sense is stuck with Cheney. In addition, if he were to dump Cheney, he would have to replace him with someone equally loyal but more politically ambitious -- meaning that they would have an interest other than him (i.e., running for president, to continue the Bush legacy, such as it is.) Condi would fit the bill, but let's face it, that sista is not getting elected president. McCain seems to fit, but he has a mind and an ego of his own, which makes it doubtful he'd play the good lieutenant that Bush seems to need to have around. Giuliani? Please. He's even more of a bull in the china shop than Cheney. So who? ... who indeed...

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posted by JReid @ 8:00 PM  
Harry Pepper

The man "peppered" with birdshot by Vice President Dick Cheney walked out of the hospital and spoke to reporters today (not just Brit Hume). Harry Whittington was heavily made up to try and cover the shooting scars covering his jaw and neck area, and he was incredibly gracious ... if a bit cryptic. He thanked the media and urged them to "keep it up..." hm... he apologized to the Cheneys for what they've been through, and he explained that "regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen – and that’s what happened last Friday..."... wait a minute... Friday???

And while the Houston Chronicle is reporting discrepancies between Cheney's account and the police report, Cheney is in the clear since the case is now closed. This despite the fact that the official diagram of the victim's injuries is wrong, the lodging of a pellet in Mr. Whittington's heart makes it damned unlikely that he and Cheney were really 30 yards apart, the spposed "eyewitness," Mrs. Armstrong, told reporters she only knew something was wrong when she saw Cheney's security detail running toward her and that when she saw them, she thought perhaps Cheney had had a heart attack ... there never was an investigation, nor a breathalyzer test despite the fact that Cheney has acknowledged drinking and, oh never mind, case closed!

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Tags: Cheney, Dick Cheney, , Hunting
posted by JReid @ 7:24 PM  
The ballad of Deadeye Dick, the remix...
Aye-yay-yay! Due to a little screw up on my part, the Deadeye Dick hit parade is temporarily down at the Juicecaster site. You can get the original version of the song here and the remix here. Hopefully we'll be back up on the Juicecaster side manana.

In the meantime, here's the latest dispatch from Intelligent Design Fridays: Part one of a two part episode ...
posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Thanks but no thanks
Chicago isn't interested in hosting the GOP convention in 2008... Perhaps they could try ... Torino...???
posted by JReid @ 1:36 PM  
Quick take headlines: February 16
The Justice Department is belatedly, and in a rather limted way, reviewing the role of its lawyers in the domestic spying debacle, including what legal advice was given to the administration on the subject of spying on Americans...

The U.N. Commission on Human Rights says Gitmo's inmates should be tried or freed, and that the facility should be closed. A London judge has called the U.S. notion of what constitutes torture "uncivilized" and unlike any definition in Britain or the West.

Despite the fact that the pictures aren't recent, they have provoked enough outrage that the Iraqi human rights minister has essentially announced that he no longer trusts the Americans with Iraqi prisoners and that he wants them all handed over to the Iraqi government... (he didn't mention anything about those Iraqi police death squads, though...)

Israeli troops have shot dead a disabled Palestinian boy on the West Bank. Yep. They're really winning their war on terror...

A study shows very high rates of psychiatric stress in troops returning from Iraq...

Guess who's reaching out to Hamas now? Turkey.

Looks like Air America has nothing on XM Satellite when it comes to money woes...

And on the lighter side, guess who's got a better shot today at getting her kids back from a certain boy-obsessed wierdo?
posted by JReid @ 12:46 PM  
Ranchaquiddick, take 4: the magic BB theory
Update: The official shooting police report is out.

The plot thickens, and the question that keeps bugging so many people about Cheney's story is this: if he shot Mr. Whittington from 30 yards -- that's ten feet short of 100 feet -- away, how did a tiny little BB wind up penetrating the man's jacket, clothing, skin and muscle, winding up in his heart? MSNBC medical analyst Dr. Bernadine Healy has been saying for two days that this is a much more serious shooting than the media has portrayed it as -- essentially Mr. Whittington was shot in the heart, and probably at much closer range than 90 feet...

And now, some good questions about physics, "spray", tragectory, and the "magic BB theory," from Jesus' General...
Dear Sen. Specter,

Deputy Leader Cheney is in trouble for shooting an old man with a shotgun. Questions are being raised because his excuses don't fit the facts of the case. As the inventor of the Warren Commission's Magic Bullet Theory, you're the only person who can help him build a scenario where his excuses make sense.

The police report says that Whittington was 30 yards away when Dick shot him. It also notes that the elderly gentleman was hit in the face, chest and neck. Agents of the Ministry of Truth characterize the shooting as a "peppering." Taken all together, these things would suggest that the shot was fairly well dispersed.

Unfortunately, a more detailed look at the facts reveals something else. Our Deputy Leader was using 28 gauge shotgun shells loaded with 3/4 oz of #7-1/2 shot. That particular load carries approximately 262 BBs. The doctor caring for the wounded man said that he removed about 200 BBs. That means about 4/5ths of the shot in the load struck the man in an area no larger than about 18 inches in diameter.

That seems like an awfully tight pattern at 30 yards. It can only be explained by the existence of a magic BB that would ride herd on the other BBs, keeping them as bunched up as possible. ...
Read the whole post. Verrrry interesting...

Tags: Cheney, Dick Cheney, , Hunting
posted by JReid @ 12:30 PM  
Ranchaquiddick, take 3: Cheney's 'meltdown'
CBS News is reporting that the veep -- far from being the cool customer he comes across on television opposite the Bonnie to his Clyde, Brit Hume, is "in a state of meltdown" over the Whittington shooting and had to be pushed to do his softball toss with Fox:

Rove Pushed Cheney to Talk

(Feb. 16) -- President Bush's top political aide, Karl Rove, pushed Vice President Dick Cheney to speak publicly about shooting a fellow hunter, sources tell CBS News.

Rove worried the vice president's silence on the issue was becoming a political problem, CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

Cheney is in a "state of meltdown" over shooting his friend and the political fallout it has caused, a source close to the Cheney has told CBS News. On Wednesday, he accepted full blame for the incident and defended the decision to not publicly disclose the accident until the following day.

Cheney described when he shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington as "one of the worst days of my life."

"I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry," Cheney told Fox News Channel in his first public comments since the shooting Saturday in south Texas.

CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports another source within the White House said "you can imagine how upset the vice president is," adding that the Whittington family is worried about Cheney.
...Mm-hm, ok, so was he drunk or what?

In the "Who cares" file: Bush, who reports to Mr. Cheney in the White House, is reportedly satisfied with the "vice president's" taped, semi-public comments on the matter.

... and Capitol Hill Blue says the president really, really did assert himself this time ... really ... eventually... (only he apparently had Karl Rove actually do the talking ... Cheney being a gun-wielder and all...)

In the "much more important news from that interview" file: Steve Clemons has a post on whether the vice president really does have the authority to declassify documents ... or not...

...and BTW the CIA leak case still is the biggest scandal on Dick Cheney's plate, putting aside whatever quail he managed to bag for dinner along with bits of Mr. Whittington's face and chest wall... (sorry, was that mean? I guess it's just hard to feel too sorry for Darth Vader, given what he's doing to the country when he's not out shooting people in the tall grass...)

BTW if you haven't checked out The Ballad of Deadeye Dick, have a look. There's now a remix...

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Tags: Cheney, Dick Cheney, , , CNN, Media, News, Cable News, , Hunting,
posted by JReid @ 11:45 AM  
Once upon a time when we had inspectors
I missed the Nightline episode on the Saddam tapes. But the news that was apparently made at the House of News Disney is that the former Iraqi dicatator is heard to warn America and Britain that terrorism was coming our way, including bioterrorism and other WMD related attacks, but that Iraq would not be behind it.

Interestingly, the tape, thought to have been made around 1995, also reveals Iraqi efforts to conceal its own bioweapons program -- a fact which only emphasizes the extent to which the U.N. weapons inspections during the 1990s were successful in smoking out those weapons and destroying them, such that by the time Mr. Bush decided to give the neocons their war, there were no WMD left to find...
One of the most dramatic moments in the 12 hours of recordings comes when Saddam predicts — during a meeting in the mid-1990s — a terrorist attack on the United States. "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans a long time before Aug. 2 and told the British as well … that in the future there will be terrorism with weapons of mass destruction." Saddam goes on to say such attacks would be difficult to stop. "In the future, what would prevent a booby-trapped car causing a nuclear explosion in Washington or a germ or a chemical one?" But he adds that Iraq would never do such a thing. "This is coming, this story is coming but not from Iraq."

Also at the meeting was Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who said Iraq was being wrongly accused of terrorism. "Sir, the biological is very easy to make. It's so simple that any biologist can make a bottle of germs and drop it into a water tower and kill 100,000. This is not done by a state. No need to accuse a state. An individual can do it."

The tapes also reveal Iraq's persistent efforts to hide information about weapons of mass destruction programs from U.N. inspectors well into the 1990s. In one pivotal tape-recorded meeting, which occurred in late April or May of 1995, Saddam and his senior aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had uncovered evidence of Iraq's biological weapons program — a program whose existence Iraq had previously denied.

At one point Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and the man who was in charge of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction efforts can be heard on the tapes, speaking openly about hiding information from the U.N.

"We did not reveal all that we have," Kamel says in the meeting. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."

Shortly after this meeting, in August 1995, Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan, and Iraq was forced to admit that it had concealed its biological weapons program. (Kamel returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was killed in a firefight with Iraqi security forces.)
The complete ABC News report on the tapes can be found here.

Also from ABC News: What's hot in the new Iraq? Death squads!

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posted by JReid @ 10:55 AM  
'Like Bonnie interviewing Clyde...'

CNN's in-house curmudgeon Jack Cafferty nails it on the Cheney-Brit Hume "interview." The full, priceless video clip is available from Media Matters here. The transcript:
BLITZER: First of all, Jack, what did you make of Dick Cheney's interview today?

CAFFERTY: Well, I obviously didn't see it 'cause it hasn't been released in its entirety yet, but I -- I would guess it didn't exactly represent a profile in courage for the vice president to wander over there to the F-word network for a sit down with Brit Hume. I mean, that's a little like Bonnie interviewing Clyde, ain't it? I mean, where was the news conference? Where was the -- where was the access to all of the members of the media? I don't know. You know? Whatever.

BLITZER: You still think he needs to do a full-scale news conference in front of all of the cameras, all of the reporters, and ask whatever they want?

CAFFERTY: That's never going to happen. But, I mean, running over there to the Fox network to -- I mean that's -- talk about seeking a safe haven. He's not going to get any high, hard ones from anybody at the F-word network. I think we know that.


Tags: Cheney, Dick Cheney, , , CNN, Media, News, Cable News, , Hunting,
posted by JReid @ 10:42 AM  
George Will fights the power
Every so often (actually more and more frequently,) George Will makes sense...
The next time a president asks Congress to pass something akin to what Congress passed on Sept. 14, 2001 -- the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) -- the resulting legislation might be longer than Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." Congress, remembering what is happening today, might stipulate all the statutes and constitutional understandings that it does not intend the act to repeal or supersede.

But, then, perhaps no future president will ask for such congressional involvement in the gravest decision government makes -- going to war. Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be. This monarchical doctrine emerges from the administration's stance that warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency targeting American citizens on American soil is a legal exercise of the president's inherent powers as commander in chief, even though it violates the clear language of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was written to regulate wartime surveillance.

Administration supporters incoherently argue that the AUMF also authorized the NSA surveillance -- and that if the administration had asked, Congress would have refused to authorize it. The first assertion is implausible: None of the 518 legislators who voted for the AUMF has said that he or she then thought it contained the permissiveness the administration discerns in it. Did the administration, until the program became known two months ago? Or was the AUMF then seized upon as a justification? Equally implausible is the idea that in the months after Sept. 11, Congress would have refused to revise the 1978 law in ways that would authorize, with some supervision, NSA surveillance that, even in today's more contentious climate, most serious people consider conducive to national security.

Anyway, the argument that the AUMF contained a completely unexpressed congressional intent to empower the president to disregard the FISA regime is risible coming from this administration. It famously opposes those who discover unstated meanings in the Constitution's text and do not strictly construe the language of statutes.

The administration's argument about the legality of the NSA program also has been discordant with its argument about the urgency of extending the USA Patriot Act. Many provisions of that act are superfluous if a president's wartime powers are as far-reaching as today's president says they are. ...

... And if, as some administration supporters say, amending the 1978 act to meet today's exigencies would have given America's enemies dangerous information about our capabilities and intentions, surely FISA and the Patriot Act were both informative. Intelligence professionals reportedly say that the behavior of suspected terrorists has changed since Dec. 15, when the New York Times revealed the NSA surveillance. But surely America's enemies have assumed that our technologically sophisticated nation has been trying, in ways known and unknown, to eavesdrop on them.

Besides, terrorism is not the only new danger of this era. Another is the administration's argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the "sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs." That non sequitur is refuted by the Constitution's plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of all presidential powers . Those powers do not include deciding that a law -- FISA, for example -- is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed."

The administration, in which mere obduracy sometimes serves as political philosophy, pushes the limits of assertion while disdaining collaboration. This faux toughness is folly, given that the Supreme Court, when rejecting President Harry S Truman's claim that his inherent powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills during the Korean War, held that presidential authority is weakest when it clashes with Congress.
Will concludes that Congress should belatedly pass a law authorizing domestic surveillance by the NSA, but under strict supervision and with a codicil refuting the idea that Congressional authorization is some sort of icing -- nice, but not crucial to the baking of the cake.

They should also mail the president, vice president and attorney general copies of the United States Constitution.

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posted by JReid @ 3:31 AM  
Getting no love
The new Foreign Policy survey of world opinion sees the U.S. bottoming out ... even with the Australians...!
posted by JReid @ 3:26 AM  
So Michelle, should these photos be shown?
I won't hold my breath waiting for the Malkin right to gleefully post these new Abu Ghraib pics the way they've splashed the anti-Muslim cartoons all over their blog pages, on the theory that these, too represent the Western style free exercise of speech and the free flow of information, however inflammatory that information might be to the Muslim world... No, the right will argue that these pics shouldn't be seen, because they will cause additional violence and endanger U.S. troops serving abroad ... as if the Muhammad cartoons don't ...

The Bush administration is currently locked in a legal battle with the ACLU to keep the photos from being seen inside the U.S. But they've already been shown on Australian public television, and they're all over the Internet, as well as hitting the American press in bits and pieces. Et tu, secular humanists of the right...?

Never mind that the underlying issue with the Abu Ghraib photos is that they appear to show U.S. practicing torture on prisoners of war -- something we accused Saddam Hussein of doing to his own people and which the U.N. is now laying at our door. And that the photos are evidence, therefore, of potential crimes. The cartoons, on the other hand, are gratuitous garbage evidencing nothing but the naivete of a bunch of dillettente Danish illustrators, plus the ignorance and malevolence of a bunch of right wing bloggers and European newspapers. Funny enough, both will have the same result on the "Muslim street," but for entirely different reasons...

The Malkin brigades have an interest in covering for the U.S. administration, so they don't want the torutre pictures shown. They enjoy baiting Muslims, so they're more than happy to endanger U.S. troops with their in-your-face postings of the Muhammad cartoons.

Go figure...

In fact, doesn't this quote from Stop the ACLU rings absolutely true... for the Muhammad cartoons???

The public has seen enough, and while a simple description of the photos could have been satisfactory to the court of public opinion, the international media decided that graphic photos should be released instead. And the “hate America groups” are eating it up!

Indeed... Even the Bush administration has been more consistent than its base on this one, opposing the release of both the cartoons and these latest Abu Ghraib photos. But keep in mind that the administration has a good reason to want the photos held back: the torture accusations being leveled at the U.S. by the U.N. presently have to do, not with Abu Ghraib, but with Guantanamo, where many of the same practices seen in Iraq appear to have originated.

In other words, for all the right's braying about the U.S. having discovered and prosecuted the outliers behind Abu Ghraib, the fact remains that the outliers were not a bunch of kids from West Virginia, who somehow picked up the exact same interrogation and humliation techniques used at Gitmo, thousands of miles and a world, militarily, away -- but rather the top civilians in the Pentagon, who cooked up the atrocities with the help of virulently racist, anti-Arab pop psychology, neocon Stalinism (remember "they only understand force?") and Pentagon incompeteace in spinning a small black operation out of control. The roots of these abuses lie at the feet of the neocon cult of Cambone, Feith, Wolfowitz, Pearl, Rumsfeld and their three- and four-star underlings, plus useful idiots like Alberto Gonzalez, not with a bunch of part-time soldiers from the American South.

That's the real scandal here. And that's why the U.S. doesn't want you to see those prison pictures. The cartoons hurt the West more broadly. These pics are all about us.

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Tags: Abu Ghraib, Torture, Pictures , , , , , , Jyllands-Posten,Right wing, Hypocrisy

posted by JReid @ 2:24 AM  
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Ranchaquiddick, take 2
Now that Dick Cheney has done that heavily edited mea mostly culpa (transcript here) with the GOP News Channel ... I mean, the Fox News Channel ... ahem ... I think it's safe to say there are even more questions surrounding his little Texas turkey shoot than before his belated disclosures. First, Cheney's version of events, as elicited by the gentle questioning of former GOP flak Brit Hume:


Q: Describe the setting.

A: It's in south Texas, wide open spaces, a lot of brush cover, fairly shallow. But it's wild quail. It's some of the best quail hunting anyplace in the country. I've gone there, to the Armstrong ranch, for years. The Armstrongs have been friends for over 30 years. And a group of us had hunted all day on Saturday ...

Q: How many?

A: Oh, probably 10 people. We weren't all together, but about 10 guests at the ranch. There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. The covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his. It had gone down in some deep cover and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction ...

Q: Away from him?

A: Away from him — where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right ...

Q: There was just two of you then?

A: Just two of us at that point. The guide or outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there. But the bird flushed and went to my right, off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there ...

Q: You had pulled the trigger and you saw him?

A: Well, I saw him fall, basically. It had happened so fast.

Q: What was he wearing?

A: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed properly, but he was also ... There was a little bit of a gully there, so he was down a little ways before land level, although I could see the upper part of his body when ... I didn't see it at the time I shot, until after I'd fired. And the sun was directly behind him — that affected the vision, too, I'm sure.

But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment.

Q: Then what?

A: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away ...

Q: How far away from you was he?

A: I'm guessing about 30 yards, which was a good thing. If he'd been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater.

Q: Now, is it clear that — he had caught part of the shot, is that right?

A: Part of the shot. He was struck in the right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso on the right side of his body.

Q: And you — and I take it, you missed the bird?

A: I have no idea. I mean, you focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went out of my mind. I don't know whether the bird went down or didn't.

Q: So did you run over to him or ...

A: Ran over to him and ...

Q: And what did you see? He's lying there.

A: He was laying there on his back, obviously bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. And one of the fortunate things was that I've always got a medical team, in effect, covering me wherever I go. I had a physician's assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two he was on the scene administering first aid.

Q: And Mr. Whittington was conscious, unconscious, what?

A: He was conscious.

Q: What did you say?

A: Well, I said, "Harry, I had no idea you were there."

Q: What did he say?

A: He didn't respond. He was — he was breathing, conscious at that point, but he didn't — he was, I'm sure, stunned, obviously, still trying to figure out what had happened to him. The doc was fantastic.

Q: What did you think when you saw the injuries? How serious did they appear to you to be?

A: I had no idea how serious it was going to be. I mean, it could have been extraordinarily serious. You just don't know at that moment. You know he's been struck, that there's a lot of shot that had hit him. But you don't know — you think about his eyes. Fortunately, he was wearing hunting glasses, and that protected his eyes. You, you just don't know. And the key thing, as I say, initially, was that the physician's assistant was right there. We also had an ambulance at the ranch, because one always follows me around wherever I go. And they were able to get the ambulance there and within about 30 minutes we had him on his way to the hospital.
Q: What did you do then? Did you get up and did you go with him, or did you go to the hospital?

A: No, I had told my physician's assistant to go with him, but the ambulance is crowded and they didn't need another body in there. And so we loaded up and went back to ranch headquarters, basically. By then, it's about 7:00 p.m. at night.
Okay, and now the questions, namely:

If the sun was indeed directly behind Mr. Whittington, meaning he was backlit (something like this), and also standing waist deep in a gully, how could Mr. Cheney even have seen him fall? Heard him groan or cry out, maybe, but to swing around, see nothing because of the backlighting, but then to see Whittington fall? Sounds strange to me...

If Cheney now admits that he had "a beer" at lunchtime, presumably at around noon or later, and that he was back in the hunt by 3 p.m., and that Mr. Whittington was shot after 5 p.m., four or five hours after his purported one-beer lunch, why does the official incident report from the Texas Parks and Wildlife division definitively state that alcohol was not a factor in the shooting? How can officials have concluded that when Cheney wasn't interviewed by sheriffs until the following morning, when any alcohol in his system will have long since been pissed away...? Apparently it takes about an hour for a normal liver to metabolize one "unit" of alcohol, just under the equivalent of a single 125 ml glass of wine or a 330 ml bottle of beer (1.5 units each). So theoretically, if Cheney did just have one cold one, he should have been alright. But we only have his word to go by that he only drank one beer, and that he wasn't impaired, since local sheriffs deputies were not allowed to interview Mr. Cheney until Sunday morning.

[BTW we know of the admission about drinking from the transcript released by the White house, but you won't see the admission on Fox, which didn't air the clip of Cheney admitting to having that beer. Instead, Hume relayed the information himself during his set-up between segments, as Media Matters puts it, "thus sparing Cheney the embarrassment of the public seeing him acknowledge that he was drinking before he shot a man in the face -- and depriving the public of the opportunity to assess his credibility as he talked about the matter." And as MM states, the "fair and balanced network" also failed to run the Cheney drink clip on their web-site...]

[Correction: in the original post I incorrectly identified the owner of the ranch as Anne Armstrong. The correct name is Katherine Armstrong, the daughter of Tobin and Anne Armstrong, who are described by the anti-corruption group Texans for Public Justice here, including this fine quote: “We go out when the dew is still on the grass, and then hunt until we shoot our limit,” Tobin [Armstrong, Anne's husband] said in 2000 of his ranch outings with Dick Cheney. “Then we pick a fine spot and have a wild game picnic lunch...” )]

Why was the ranch owner, Mrs. Armstrong, "the perfect person" to disclose the shooting? (And why didn't Brit Hume ask the vice president whether he felt he had an obligation to inform the president, and the American people -- both of whom being his employers) of what happened, preferably sooner than late Sunday or Monday... And why did Cheney assume the media would believe her, but not believe his story? Was there something odd about the story he would have told had he told it on Saturday or Sunday?

Speaking of Mrs. Armstrong, where was she standing when she supposedly witnessed the shooting? Near to Mr. Cheney in the more open field, or "90 feet away," where he says his "friend/acquaintance" Mr. Whittington was standing, waist deep in a gully?

If Mr. Cheney could see Mr. Whittington fall in that gully, how was he unable to see him standing there in the first place?

If Mr. Cheney was indeed 30 yards/90 feet from Mr. Whittington when he shot him, how were so many bullets able to penetrate not only the victim's skin and heart muscle, but also his thick hunting vest, jacket and clothing? Given the spray involved in dispersing those BBs, doesn't it sound odd that so many shots broke Mr. Whittington's skin? I think most medical experts have concluded at this point, that these cannot have been mere glancing blows of pellet spray. Mr. Whittington was shot in the heart, among other places, and shot at closer range than 30 feet... (the P&W official checked the box marked "10 to 50 yards.")

On the other hand, some issues that have swirled around this case have been cleared up. Originally, it was asked why heney's entourage chose to take Mr. Whittington to a hospital in Kingsville, Texas, rather than to a presumably larger, better equipped one in Corpus Christie? Up to now we've assumed that Corpus Christie is in fact closer to the Armstrong Ranch. But this map of the area, which is very close to the Mexican border, seems to prove otherwise.


(Click here for a larger map)

Kingsville is closer, and the veep states that Mr. Whittington was later flown to the larger hospital in Corpus Christie. Still, the question remains, could the Cheney team have decided it would be easier to control information at that smaller facility? I guess we'll never know... And then there's this wierd timeline -- the shooting at sometime after 5:00 p.m., then this four-hour chain of events:

And the key thing, as I say, initially, was that the physician's assistant was right there. We also had an ambulance at the ranch, because one always follows me around wherever I go. And they were able to get the ambulance there and within about 30 minutes we had him on his way to the hospital.

Q: What did you do then? Did you get up and did you go with him, or did you go to the hospital?

A: No, I had told my physician's assistant to go with him, but the ambulance is crowded and they didn't need another body in there. And so we loaded up and went back to ranch headquarters, basically. By then, it's about 7:00 p.m. at night.

Q: Did you have a sense then of how he was doing?

A: Well, we're getting reports, but they were confusing. Early reports are always wrong. The initial reports that came back from the ambulance were that he was doing well, his eyes were open. They got him into the emergency room at Kingsville.

Q: His eyes were open when you found him, then, right?

A: Yes. One eye was open. But they got him in the emergency room in the small hospital at Kingsville, checked him out further there, then lifted him by helicopter from there into Corpus Christi, which has a big city hospital and all of the equipment.

Q: So by now what time is it?

A: I don't have an exact time line, although he got there sometime that evening, 8:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.

Q: So this is several hours after the incident?

A: Well, I would say he was in Kingsville in the emergency room probably within, oh, less than an hour after they left the ranch.
Maybe the vice president is just confused because he's so traumatized, although you'd think after four days he'd have his story down... Then again, he's got to be stressed, knowing that things could go quickly downhill for him if Mr. Whittington dies...

Do I think thre's some grand conspiracy here? No. But it does look a lot like someone was trying to keep this story form getting out, by doing minimal disclosure only to a friend in the local Texas media. And I think it's looking more and more like Cheney fudged both the timeline and the distance he was from the victim. Third, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in fact Cheney and his party had more than just that one beer...

Of course, that's all speculation at this point, but speculation the veep himself has invited by waiting so long to come forward --and then by coming forward in such an Old Soviet way -- just to their Pravda.

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posted by JReid @ 3:18 PM  
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Time to pray, Dick...
...That that lobbyist friend of yours doesn't pass away ...

A couple of things from the in-box:

First, the Game Warden's official accident report, courtesy of the ABC affiliate in Houston. It reads in part:

A Texas Parks and Wildlife Department report issued Monday said Whittington was retrieving a downed bird and stepped out of the hunting line he was sharing with Cheney. "Another covey was flushed and Cheney swung on a bird and fired, striking Whittington in the face, neck and chest at approximately 30 yards," the report said.

The department found the main factor contributing to the accident was a hunter's judgment factor." No other secondary factors were found to have played a role.

The report doesn't specify who's judgment, however... It does add some details, including the fact that Cheney was using a 28 caliber hinge action shotgun with an "open" sight. Whether the safety was on at the time is listed as "unknown..." It's also listed as "unknown" whether Cheney was "hunter education certified." (The game warden did check off that no alcohol or drugs were involved, and Mr. Whittington is marked down as not hunter ed certified.) Both hunters were in violation of Parks and Wildlife Code 43,652, which I assume refers to the lack of "hunting stickers."

Next, a discription of Whittington's medical condition as of this afternoon:

"Hospital officials said they knew that Whittington had some birdshot near his heart ever since Cheney accidentally shot him Saturday evening while aiming for a quail. The pellet always was at risk of moving closer since scar tissue had not had time to harden and remain in place, they said.

They said they are not concerned about other birdshot -- widely estimated to be between six and 200 pieces -- that might still be lodged in Whittington's body. Cheney was using 7 1/2 shot from a 28-gauge shotgun.

The doctors said Whittington did not experience classic symptoms of a heart attack, but they estimate that he probably had a minor one around 7:30 a.m. EST. They said they decided to treat the situation "conservatively" rather than conduct surgery to remove the pellet. They said he could live a healthy life with it left in place. 

Asked whether the pellet could move further into the heart and become fatal, hospital officials said that was a hypothetical question they could not answer. But they said they are extremely optimistic that he will recover. The shot was either touching or embedded in the heart muscle near the top chambers, called the atria, they said. Two things resulted:    --It caused inflammation that pushed on the heart in a way to temporarily block blood flow, what the doctors called a "silent heart attack." This is not a traditional heart attack where an artery is blocked. They said Whittington's arteries, in fact, were healthy. ... [Also,] it irritated the atria, caused an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, which is not immediately life-threatening. But it must be treated because long-term it can spur blood clots to form. Most cases can be corrected with medication."

Dan Abrams just had on a criminal prosecutor familiar with Texas law who pointed out that there is no "accidental shooting" in the Texas penal code. A shooting is always a homicide in Texas, with the only differences being in intent and other contributing factors.

However Cheney would likely not be prosecuted for the shooting, since it hasn't been established that the shooting was a result of malice or overt negligence. ... at least that we know of so far. The biggest risk for Cheney, it seems to me, is political. If Whittington dies, Cheney's political career almost certainly dies with him.

TIME on Cheney's poltical tin ear... and his trashing of the golden rule of hunting...

Field and Stream has a hunter's view of the accident, and on the media's acquiescence in allowing Team Cheney to blame the victim for getting shot...

WaPo's Dana Milbank has Scott McClellan trying to join in on the Cheney jokes, at just the wrong time...

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posted by JReid @ 6:44 PM  
First, they come for the chicken...

Anti-Danish cartoon protesters in Islamabad and Lahore, Pakistan set fire to buildings housing a KFC, a Holiday Inn and a Pizza Hut. ... They've got a KFC, a Holiday Inn and a Pizza Hut in Islamabad and Lahore, Pakistan???

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posted by JReid @ 4:07 PM  
10 things I hate about Democrats... #1

The first thing I hate about Democrats: at the party level, they often manage to be both political incompetants and shortsighted bullies.

Case in point: Paul Hackett is no longer running for Senate in Ohio. I kind of wondered how this thing would work out when sitting Congressman Sherrod Brown decided he was running, too. When faced with an actual primary, in which ... god forbid ... a new, worthy and interesting candidate might challenge an insider, the Democratic reflex is to push out the newcomer and to force the establishment candidate on their electorate. They did it in Florida with Daryl Jones, and then with Janet Reno when each ran for the right to challenge Governor Jeb Bush in 2002. Reno survived the longest, but ultimately lost to establishment choice and human potted plant Bill McBride after getting a primary-long cold shoulder from the state party (and then being treated to a Bush v. Gore-style recount nightmare at the end), and they've apparently been doing it behind the scenes with Hackett since last year:

Hackett Pressured to drop out of US Senate race
By Maryanne Zeleznik 10/10/2005 1:03:42 PM, WXVU News, Cincinnati

An advisor to Democratic candidate Paul Hackett says the Iraq war veteran is being pressured to drop out of Ohio�s US Senate Race. Mike Brautigam says after Congressman Sherrod Brown announced last week he would run for Mike Dewine�s seat, Hackett started getting phone calls pressuring him to get out.

... Brautigam says Brown had told Hackett earlier he would not be a candidate and Hackett now feels betrayed by the Democratic party. Brautigam says the Democratic leaders say it�s Brown�s turn to run. He says Hackett is still making up his mind about what to do and expects to make a decision by October 24th, the day he had planned to officially enter the race. Hackett narrowly lost to Jean Schmidt in a special election to fill the seat left vacant when Rob Portman took a position in the Bush Administration.

...and of course, Sherrod must have his turn... The story above was a bit mangled, but it seems to suggest that some of the pressure came from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committeem including Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. Nice.

The DSCC denies this, of course, as of course they must. And to be fair, there were base-type Dems who also hoped Hackett would fold his tent, so that Brown could have a clear shot at the seat and avoid a nasty primary (and so Hackett could again challenge Mean Jean Schmidt. And Hackett wasn't tiptoeing around Brown in the primary, by any stretch, particularly since he apparently felt he and Brown had an understanding, before Brown jumped in.

Now the likelihood is that Hackett is not just out of Ohio politics, he's probably out of politics, period. That's a shame for a party that is woefully short on stars. I sure as hell hope they don't treat the other Iraq war veterans this way. With the war as perhaps the number one issue in the country besides corruption in Washington, I'd guess Hackett had a better than average chance of winning this seat (why do you think Mike DeWine is working so hard to put a little distance between himself and the administration, including questioning the wiretap program?). Brown is probably a wonderful human being, but he doesn't have the edge, the marketability, or the national interest factor that Hackett did.

As for the party, they'll run the same ole-same ole in Ohio, as they do in most states. And their plain vanilla candidate may even win. But if he does, it will be thanks to the incredibly corrupt Republicans in that state, not to anything the Dems did right. ... and Brown had better get busy soothing Hackett supporters.

More info: 2006 Senate race forecast

Tags: Politics, Ohio, Congressional, Democrats, Election, Hackett

posted by JReid @ 3:41 PM  
The Ballad of Deadeye Dick
Parody alert: Dick Cheney sings the Quail Hunter's Rhapsody.

BTW, even Jeb Bush is laughing at the veep:
Bush, younger brother of President Bush, spoke to about 1,000 people Monday at the Florida State Fair Governor's Day Luncheon. All guests, including the governor, were given stickers from the Florida Farm Bureau that read, ``No Farmers, No Food.''

Bush placed the bright orange sticker, the same color as a hunting jacket, on his chest.

''I'm a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in,'' he said.
Any of you folks from out of town...?

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
Monday, February 13, 2006
Ranchaquiddick
Vice President Cheney remained in hiding Monday as the controversy over his weekend man-hunt continued to swirl. At issue:

  • Why did it take so long for information about the shooting to be released to the public, and why didn't Cheney's staff do the releasing (rather than releasing it person-to-person from Cheney's lobbyist/rancher friend to the weekend health and fitness reporter at a small Texas daily...)
  • Why did Cheney fly the coup (so to speak) after the shooting of his friend, and why did he faile to tell the president until several hours later?
  • Why were Texas sheriff's prevented from interviewing the vice president immediately after the incident, as would have been done with any other citizen ... (oh, right, it would have tipped al-Qaida off to sources and methods...)
  • Why is Dick Cheney so much funnier now that he has shot someone in the face... and yet, so much scarier...?
  • What is the purpose of a hunting stamp, and might it have been helpful in relieving Cheney of one of his five Vietnam-era draft deferrments so he could get his jollies shooting Viet Cong rather than elderly GOP cronies? ... Just a thought...
  • No, seriously, was Cheney drunk off his ass or what...?
  • How much hard liquor does Scott McClellan have to drink every morning in order to remain in his job? Does he actually have any dignity left, and if so, are pills or intense psychotherapy involved?

Inquiring minds ... And now for some of the best headlines on the Texas Cheney-didn't saw that guy's face in his gun-sight massacre:

Big Cheese calls the posse on Deadeye Dick

Maine Democrat Holly Valero details Dick's creepy "canned hunting" fetish and announces that the Buckshot Stops Here ... oh, boy, I sure hope it doesn't exactly stop there... (that's gonna leave a mark...)

Bloggedyblog cribs the Andy Borowitz headline: Government unveils Cheney alert system

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posted by JReid @ 11:01 PM  
If at first you don't succeed...
...throw the democracy out and start over, or so say the U.S. and Israel regarding the Palestinian elections. I guess fixing elections here in the states isn't enough for the administration, they've got to take the product global... The plan in the Mideast is to starve the Hamas-led Palestinian authority into submission vis-a-vis Israel. Sounds like a plan that will work as well as the rest of U.S. policy in that region...

Oh well... I guess Hamas will just have to get its cash from Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran... (note to Israelis, the Chechen gambit probably won't work on Putin...)

I'll be they're wishing they'd fixed the Iraq elections, too, given the fact that the new P.M. (same as the old P.M.), Jafaari, is both a piss-poor prime minister and a friend of anti-American forces like Moqtada al-Sadr and his pro-Syria, pro-Iran, Badr Brigade...
posted by JReid @ 10:49 PM  
Tale of the photo

The first Bush-Abramoff photo is out for a test drive, courtesy of the New York Times.
After weeks in which the White House has declined to release pictures of President Bush with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist, the first photograph to be published of the two men shows a small, partly obscured image of Mr. Abramoff looking on from the background as Mr. Bush greets a Texas Indian chief in May 2001.

By itself, the picture hardly seems worthy of the White House's efforts to keep it out of the public eye. Mr. Abramoff, a leading Republican fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to corrupt public officials, is little more than a blurry, bearded figure in the background at a gathering of about two dozen people.

But it provides a window, albeit an opaque one, into Mr. Abramoff's efforts to sell himself to Indian tribes as a man of influence who could open the most secure doors in Washington to them. And it leaves unanswered questions about how Mr. Abramoff and the tribal leader, whom he was trying to sign as a client, gained access to a meeting with the president on the White House grounds that was ostensibly for a group of state legislators who were supporting Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cut plan.

The White House confirmed the authenticity of the photograph. It was provided to The New York Times by the Indian chief, Raul Garza of the Kickapoo tribe of southwest Texas. Mr. Garza, who is under indictment on federal charges of embezzling money from his tribe, said he was eager to demonstrate that he had "nothing to hide" in his dealings with the White House and Mr. Abramoff.
Thinkprogress has more on the photo, and the Bush-Abramoff story, including a link to an updated piece in TIME Magazine.

Flashback: Abramoff gets sassy about Bush's memory troubles.

Gotta run. Happy hunting!

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posted by JReid @ 11:05 AM  
Perhaps if he'd had some practice during Vietnam...
Cheney shoots ... misses ... at least, we think he missed...

More intrigue: Might there have been a wee cover-up attempt? Inquiring minds...

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posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
Friday, February 10, 2006
Now that's Juicy!
Okay, I'm reloaded! ReidReport Juicecast number 4 (that's multimedia podcasts on the Juicecaster platform to you...) is up and running. Happy Intelligent Design Friday...!

Previous Juicecasts:
Tags: Podcasting, Blogs, Cartoons,
posted by JReid @ 11:16 PM  
What do YOU believe?
There's literally so much going on out there it's hard to keep up...

First, there's the Jason Leopold story that hit the Internet today confirming that indeed there was an orchestrated campaign to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson as retribution for his criticism of the Iraq war, and that that campaign was led by Vice President Dick Cheney. Writes Leopold:
Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley led a campaign beginning in March 2003 to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for publicly criticizing the Bush administration's intelligence on Iraq, according to current and former administration officials.

The officials work or had worked in the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council in a senior capacity and had direct knowledge of the Vice President's campaign to discredit Wilson.

In interviews over the course of two days this week, these officials were urged to speak on the record for this story. But they resisted, saying they had already testified before a grand jury investigating the leak of Wilson's wife, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and added that speaking out against the administration and specifically Vice President Cheney would cause them to lose their jobs and subject their families to vitriolic attacks by the White House.

The officials said they decided to speak out now because they have become disillusioned with the Bush administration's policies regarding Iraq and the flawed intelligence that led to the war.

They said their roles, along with several others at the CIA and State Department, included digging up or "inventing" embarrassing information on the former Ambassador that could be used against him, preparing memos and classified material on Wilson for Cheney and the National Security Council, and attending meetings in Cheney's office to discuss with Cheney, Hadley, and others the efforts that would be taken to discredit Wilson.
The story goes on to explain that the campaign began in response to an interview Wilson did on CNN, in which he called into question the goals of an Iraq war, which he surmised would increase -- not thwart -- terrorism.

The anti-Wilson campaign was, of course, tied in with the Libby-leaked campaign, also under Cheney's direction, to distribute classified information to the media in order to buck up support for the invasion of Iraq. (Interview with Murray Waas, who broke that story, here).

Then add to that the Walter Pincus story in today's WaPo spelling out the objections of a former CIA official, who claims the administration "sexed up" the intelligence on Iraq in order to smooth the way for an invasion...

Why was the desire of the Bush administration (and the Tony Blair administration, while we're at it...) so strong -- so nearly desperate -- to invade Iraq? Iraq posed no military threat to the United States: Saddam had an addled military, no air force, no oil bargaining chip, no connections to al-Qaida and as we now know the Bush administration knew at the time neither WMD nor nuclear weapons.

So what was it? Was it just the neocon dream of establishing a beachhead in the Middle East and sticking it to the goddamned Arabs once and for all? Or the PNAC fixation with extending American dominance by blackmailing Europe with Yankee-controlled oil? Was it about enriching Halliburton, General Electric and the other big war contractors? Or establishing a broad surveillance society that would make every possible habit of every American the property of a government poised to shovel that information into the arms of the corporations standing behind the curtain?

At this point, I'm so disillusioned and disgusted with what's going on in Washington, including with the continuing terrorism scare-lies (do you really believe this 2001 or 2002, Liberty or Library Tower foiled plot story? If you do, you must be a FReeper...) and which I do believe extends beyond our borders, outside the real interests of Americans, that I'm ready to believe almost anything...

Which brings me to this column, written by a great columnist at the outfit I once did a little writing for. ... and this link ... and this video...



I know it sounds like Moonbatty fanaticism, but if you believe that your government would lie, cheat and attempt to destroy people in order to start a war that doesn't even make strategic sense, but which they had to know would result in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people ... if you believe that men who are supposed to be working for us, are working so much against us that they would give away American industry to foreign powers, permit the breaching of our borders in order to feed slave labor to multinationals, that they would strip Americans of the most basic civil rights, and make about 40 percent of us like it (or be too afraid not to) -- if they would do all that, including to, at this point, more than 1 million U.S. soldiers who have rotated in and out of Iraq ... what do you believe they wouldn't do?

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posted by JReid @ 6:10 PM  
Where charity begins
A new blog worthy of support: Concerned for Charity Hospital details the miserable conditions that continue to reign in New Orleans, particularly regarding the ongoing healthcare needs of those who remain there.

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posted by JReid @ 3:16 PM  
Ignoranimals
Remeber Garanimals, the cute matching play clothes we used to bug our parents to buy us when we were kids? They had little characters on the tags so even if you were a really little kid you could put your own outfit together and they'd always match by putting a crocodile tag top with some crocodile tag shorts, or a giraffe with a giraffe... you get the idea...

Well now, for adults who want to match their Islamophobia with really bad fashion sense, and have it totally work every time, there's this.

Enjoy wearing them, righties! ...Although I'd probably cover those up the next time you're traveling outside the States ... oh that's riiiight... you people don't travel... too many foreigners out there...

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Tags: , , , , , , Jyllands-Posten,Mohammed, Christianity

posted by JReid @ 2:59 PM  
41 gets all mad and stuff
...about the verbal shots fired at his son during the Corretta King funeral. C'mon, pops, lighten up! ... oh, and Bush 41 adds that Bill Clinton really is the first Black president!

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
Vacationgate
According to Matt Drudge, the White House is seeking a retraction -- not of the NYT story today that the president and his cabinet were in fact informed about the breach of the levees in New Orleans on the very night the breach happened (they claimed they were blissfully unaware until at least a day later...) but of the part of the story saying President Bush was on vacation...

Drudge takes issue with the Lipton reporting on Bush's whereabouts, citing an Ann Kornblut story datelined August 30 which reported on Bush's travels -- to an Armed Forces Radio interview and to the Naval Medical Center on August 30, the day Katrina devastated the Gulf. Says Drudge:
NEW YORK TIMES’ Eric Lipton today writes that President Bush was “on vacation in Texas” on August 30th but their own reporter filed a pool report that day from San Diego where POTUS giving a speech on the War on Terror and was visiting soldiers and families of the fallen. Sources tell DRUDGE that the original story filed by Lipton did not contain the sentence about Bush being on vacation and that it was added by an editor.
Well ... news reports at the time did report that Bush was on vacation -- something the White House at the time defended as a "working vacation," in which Mr. Bush would do presidential-looking stuff and clear brush on his ranch. Examples:

Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2005 --
Vacationing Bush Poised to Set a Record

President Bush is getting the kind of break most Americans can only dream of -- nearly five weeks away from the office, loaded with vacation time.

The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening for a stretch of clearing brush, visiting with family and friends, and tending to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years.

The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford -- nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further.

Bush's long vacations are more than a curiosity: They play into diametrically opposite arguments about this leadership style. To critics and late-night comics, they symbolize a lackadaisical approach to the world's most important day job, an impression bolstered by Bush's two-hour midday exercise sessions and his disinclination to work nights or weekends. The more vociferous among Bush's foes have noted that he spent a month at the ranch shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when critics assert he should have been more attentive to warning signs.

To Bush and his advisers, that criticism fundamentally misunderstands his Texas sojourns. Those who think he does not remain in command, aides say, do not understand the modern presidency or Bush's own work habits. At the ranch, White House officials say, Bush continues to receive daily national security briefings, sign documents, hold teleconferences with aides and military commanders, and even meet with foreign leaders. And from the president's point of view, the long Texas stints are the best way to clear his mind and reconnect with everyday America.

"I'm looking forward to getting down there and just kind of settling in," Bush told reporters from Texas newspapers during a roundtable interview at the White House on Monday. "I'll be doing a lot of work. On the other hand, I'll also be kind of making sure my Texas roots run deep." ...

...Bush will not return to the White House until after Labor Day, but his staff has peppered his schedule with events to dispel any impression that he is not on duty. He will visit at least seven states, mostly with quick day trips, including New Mexico, where he plans to sign energy legislation into law. He gets off to a quick start this week, with a speech Wednesday in nearby Grapevine, Tex., then he plays host to President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia at the ranch Thursday. His schedule is clear Friday through Sunday.
CNN, Aug. 7, 2005 --
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- A mother whose son was killed in Iraq says she is prepared to continue her protest outside President Bush's ranch through August until she is granted an opportunity to speak with him.

Later, in a TV interview, a Democratic senator from California said the episode evokes images that were commonplace during the Vietnam War. ...

...The president -- who is spending a nearly five-week-long working vacation at his Texas ranch -- said in a speech Wednesday that the sacrifices of U.S. troops were "made in a noble cause." (Full story)

Sheehan said she found little comfort in his comments. ...

New York Times, Aug. 22, 2005 -
The following is a day in the life of President Bush as he vacations on his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

He is on vacation for five weeks this summer. ...
CBS News, Aug. 23, 2005 --
Bush's Vacation Alarms Supporters

A friend of mine who likes President Bush a lot can't quite understand why he’s taking so much vacation this summer.

When she heard the president was headed to a new resort in Idaho today all she could do was roll her eyes and wonder, "doesn't he know what's going on in the world?"

I tell you this to illustrate that President Bush seems to be trying the patience of even his most ardent admirers. With the Sunnis threatening civil war if the Shiites and Kurds get their way in Iraq and claim their own autonomous regions, we may have to start thinking that things could actually get worse over there.
Fox News, Aug. 31, 2005 --
President Bush will cut short his vacation to return to Washington on Wednesday, two days earlier than planned, to help monitor federal efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, the White House said Tuesday.

"We have got a lot of work to do," Bush said, referring to the damage wrought by the hurricane along Gulf Coast areas.

The president had been scheduled to return to the nation's capital on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Central Texas. But after receiving a briefing early Tuesday on the devastation Katrina unleashed, the president decided that he needed to be in Washington to personally oversee the federal effort, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
...I think they're gonna need some more retractions ....

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posted by JReid @ 12:36 PM  
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Like rats off a sinking ship
...it's every man for himself in the world of George W. Bush.

-- Jack Abramoff is thought to have shopped around the as-yet-unseen "Bush really does know me" photo, and he has cut a deal that could extend the long arm of the law into the president's party, and who knows, maybe into the White House itself. For now, the man in the black hat is contenting himself with disclosing in an email to the Washingtonian magazine that yes, Scott McClellan, Bush did know Jack, and met with him "almost a dozen times..." Says Jack:
"The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows..."
...adding that "Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch." Oops...

-- Scooter Libby apparently has begun throwing Dick Cheney and "other White House officials" under the bus in his obstruction of justice trial...

-- and now Michael "Brownie" Brown is strong-arming the Bushies, too, threatening to tell all to Congress on Friday, including turning over his emails to and from the president, unless the White House tells him not to (putting the onus on them) and provides him with legal counsel. This as the administration continues to stonewall the Congressional investigation, including refusing to turn over documents...

-- More Republicans in Congress are shaking off the Karl Rove voodoo and going their own way on the domestic spying program (probably more than a few have realized that as a lame duck, and an unpopular one at that, Bush wouldn't be much use to their campaigns anyway, and he could actually hurt them... or maybe they're sick of taking orders from a co-equal branch of government...)

The bottom line is, only the most obsequious Bush toadies (Orrin Hatch) are still going to carry water for Dick Cheney and company. The White House may have to contemplate life without the protective shield of an "anything goes" (just give us the cash and trips) Congress. Not that Congress is that smart either -- look what a plum job they gave Tom DeLay...

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posted by JReid @ 6:14 PM  
Scooter makes the Cheney connection
Via ThinkProgress by way of Crooks and Liars courtesy of Murray Waas in the National Journal:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
So I guess Scooter, finding himself under the bus, is contemplating pulling an Abramoff and taking others down with him. Good for you, my little neocon flower... might I offer you a journalist or two as well...?

Update: Seems the actual factual is that Libby isn't necessarily tossing Cheney overboard, he's more likely pulling an Ollie North -- demanding the government release classified information he supposedly needs for his defense, but knowing they won't do it and thus seeking a dismissal of his case. It apparently is called "greymail." Libby has even hired North's old lawyer to try and make it happen, says FireDogLake...

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posted by JReid @ 3:39 PM  
Excuse me, sir, your shoe bomb is in the way of my rolly cart
HT to retired Boston Globe columnist Tom Oliphant, who noted a funny element in Bush's big speech today on Al Franken's radio show. Bush announced, coincidentally on the day Scottie McClellan apparently had penciled in as the start date for intelligence hearings on the spy program, and on the same day the administration reversed course and briefed the full committees (see next post), that the U.S. had disrupted 9/11-like plots via it's super-secret anti-terrorism operations (not that secret, apparently, since Bush is now eager to talk about it -- to the media, if not to the mayor of Los Angeles...)

Bush told the audience that one of the 10 plots "uncovered" by the Bush Security Offensive involved Khaled Sheikh Mohammad (sorry, I can't remember, did we wiretap him to get that info or torture him ... it all runs together after awhile...) involved a team of terrorists using shoe bombs to "gain access to the cockpit of an airliner" and hijack it, and then to fly the plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles.

... now would they be flying the plane before or after the shoe bombs destroy the aircraft, not to mention their lower extremities...?
SCENE: Cockpit of commercial airliner, 6,000 feet above land... Ahmad and Jalal arey outside the cockpit door, with Jalal standing over a bloodied and badly injured Ahmad, as stunned passengers and flight attendants look on...

AHMAD: Jalal! My legs! The stupid shoe bomb blew off my freaking legs!!! How am I supposed to fly the plane??? The bomb didn't even open the cockpit door!!!

JALAL: Oh, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, I knew we should have used the nunchucks made out of a jumprope and extra thick tube socks instead...! Damn you Transportation Safety Administration of the United States Department of Homeland Security...!!!
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posted by JReid @ 2:54 PM  
In brief...
The White House was against briefing the full intelligence committees on the domestic spying program before they were for it ... Says NYT's Lichtblau & Shane:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — Under pressure from some Congressional Republicans as well as Democrats, the White House abruptly changed its position on Wednesday and provided a closed-door briefing on the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program to the full House Intelligence Committee.

The step was a major modification of a White House stance that has limited briefings on the highly classified program to no more than a small group of Congressional leaders, even since the existence of the program was disclosed late last year.

The three-and-a-half-hour briefing, by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence, included a general description of how the secret eavesdropping program operates in addition to a previously planned discussion of its legal justification, committee members said. Mr. Gonzales and General Hayden are scheduled to give a similar briefing on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Apparently the move comes after Cheney failed to be ogrish enough to scare away the Congress in his PBS interview last night...

Apparently, the administration is also getting worried that its legalistic justifications aren't going to be enough to call off the dogs in Congress (and apparently, neither is Karl Rove's blacklist...) Reports Knight Ridder:
The decision came as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, began drafting legislation that would require a special federal court that ordinarily grants warrants for such eavesdropping to determine whether the program is constitutional.

Wednesday's developments illustrated the growing bipartisan pressure from Congress on the Bush administration to address the civil liberties questions raised by its efforts to spy on U.S. residents suspected of terrorist contacts. The White House decision appeared designed to forestall calls for a more aggressive congressional investigation. ...

...It was evident that several Republicans as well as most Democrats were apprehensive about the program when Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday about the president's rationale for conducting the program without judicial review, in possible violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Republican objections gained greater political weight when they were raised Wednesday by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a member of the House Intelligence Committee and the chair of its Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee. Wilson told The New York Times that the eavesdropping program by the National Security Agency needed a full congressional review. In response, the White House agreed to be more open with the intelligence committees. ...
Scott McClellan is holding the White House briefing now, and the opening question was why the administration flip-flopped on the briefings. McClellan isn't answering, instead spewing some drivel about "continuing to listen to ideas..."

Take two: question reiterated. Why is the WH now briefing beyond the "gang of eight?" Scottie still ain't answering. "These are highly classified briefings about how this program works. We wanted to provide additional information to the members of the intelligence committees..." so they can appreciate the importance of the program... yeah...

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posted by JReid @ 2:36 PM  
HoDo: We're all Iranians, now
... so says Drudge recounting what Howard Dean is supposed to have told GMA. Cue the FReeper overreaction!

Oh, and how convenient that the president is claiming, just at the moment his domestic spying program is coming under intense scrutiny, that his administration foiled a major terror attack!!! ... Bush makes that claim just one day after the Hart Senate office building was EVACUATED FOR POSSIBLE BIOLOGICAL WARFARE ... uh, I mean false alarm... oh, and the administration is going to spy on all your blogs and emails. Happy Wednesday. ("We have nothing to fear but fear itself" is so quaint in a president, isn't it...?)

...hey, I wonder if the Iranian president ever uses fear-mongering tactics to scare his people into submission and maximize his powe... oh, never mind...

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posted by JReid @ 1:45 PM  
How we made Iran
Mark in Mexico links to a Spectator article drawing the connection between the war in Iraq and an emergent Iran. I disagree with Mark's conclusion that the Iraq invasion was justified anyway as a "needed show of force to the Islamic world," but otherwise, he seems to have come around to the now well-established fact that the U.S.-led invasion ultimately benefitted the Mullahs in Tehran. ...

I think it's clear to most of the world that the Bush/neocon "democracy project" in the Middle East is a fiasco. But the biggest blunder of all may have been our inadvertent strengthening of Iran, which now, being the only remaining member of the "Axis of Evil" we even could go to war with (forget North Korea, they definitely have nukes...) has the choice of either capitulating, or going on the offensive. Clearly they are choosing the latter, emboldened by "democracy" victories for allies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Tehran's best play right now is to talk tough, present the West as attacking Islam, and present itself as the savior of the religion. And the U.S. track record on intel (hello, we should have seen the Hamas thing coming) is so bad, that they can gamble that we don't really know what they're doing.

Frustrating situation, to say the least. And I have no real confidence that the Bushies have any clue what to do next.

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posted by JReid @ 1:30 PM  
ADVISE, no consent
According to a piece in the CS Monitor, the feds are preparing to take "data mining" to a whole new level. Think you're blogging and Googling in private? Think again. Big Bush is watching you...

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posted by JReid @ 1:27 PM  
By the way...
ReidReport podcast #3 is now being served on the JuiceCaster page. Enjoy!

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posted by JReid @ 1:21 PM  
Stoking the cartoon wars (or, playing dirty with Denmark)
Let me start by saying that this dot-connecting moment was brought to me by an unlikely source: rightie radio jock Glenn Beck ... I know, I know ... but he caught onto something this morning that pulls together some threads that I have trying to work out on this blog over the past week or so. Let's start with a disclaimer, or rather, two:

  • Disclaimer number one: I tend to reflextively dismiss everything said by a member of the Bush administration as either pure partisan politics, or neocon world war lunacy.
  • Disclaimer number two: I tend to side with the general world view of the career, "Arabist" State Department, sans the Bushie political overlay. That is to say I lean in the exact opposite direction of the neocons (who, by the way, despise Foggy Bottom, with the exception of former in-house neocon John Bolton, and current chief Condi Rice).
Okay, those were the disclaimers. Now for two general points:

First: There is a certain dance that takes place before countries enter into conflict, whether armed or diplomatic.

Second: When it comes to diplomacy, everything that is said almost always means something else.

I know this seems like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but bear with me. Let's go back to a little bit of background, which Beck rolled out very well this morning:

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department jumped straight into the middle of the global cartoon wars, when Condi Rice made the following charge:

"I don't have any doubt that, given the control of the Syrian government in Syria, given the control of the Iranian government — which hasn't even hidden its hand in this — that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes ... and the world ought to call them on it."
... at the same time President Bush played the "good cop," making the following statement (during a presser with a key Mideast ally):

Bush chose his words carefully following a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, saying the United States was a country of tolerance and understanding that fosters freedom to worship and a free press.

Violence must be rejected as a means of showing unhappiness with a free press, he said."And we also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities," the president added. "With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others.

"I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property, protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas."
Okay, so initially, as I normally do, I dismissed Condi's words as more opportunistic neocon blather, aimed at giving the U.S. a fresh excuse to demonize two plum neocon hit targets -- Iran and Syria -- as a pretext to displomatic isolation and possible military action against one or both. And a month ago I might have agreed wth Jerry Springer that the U.S. should just stay out of this one (too late, the protests are targeting American interests now, too). But consider this:

Rice, according to this and other news reports, was simply voicing what career people inside the State Department already believe: namely that Damascus and Tehran are taking advantage of the cartoon conflagration to weaken Europe's position against them.

Why is that probably true? Put aside for a moment your bias (and mine) against the neocon worldview about Iran and Syria (and hell, any other Muslim country...) and think about these facts:

The violent protests that have left 11 people dead have been intense all over the world, but the highest drama has come in four places:

  • In Afghanistan -- where all the deaths have occurred, due to police there firing on protesters -- and where some 19 countries Europe, the Middle East (including Jordan) and the U.S. currently have thousands of troops operating --
  • In Syria (where the Norwegian embassy in Damascus was torched) and in Lebanon, where protesters destroyed the Danish consulate and police were powerless to stop it despite the fact that the protest was well-publicized in advance...
  • And in Iran, where the Danish embassy was also pelted with firebombs and stones, and which this week suspended all diplomatic relations with Denmark over the cartoons (and where, more colorfully but less important diplomatically, a leading state-run newspaper is now soliciting anti-Holocaust cartoons, to go with the Holocaust-denying rhetoric of the very in-your-face president of that country, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...)

Syria and Iran are not exactly places where you're going to get anywhere near the Danish or any other embassy without the police or the government allowing you to. And Lebanon is, to a large extent, controlled by Syria, via the Shiite, pro-Iranian group Hezbollah, even with the official occupation of that country ended as of last spring. And even people inside Lebanon are accusing Syria of stoking the violent protests there, they say to stoke inter-religious tensions. ...

The anti-Danish boycotts have since spread, with that country standing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth of commercial business with countries in the Middle East. ...

Syria and Iran are both facing intense pressure from the U.N. and the international community; Syria over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri -- a rub-out that is apparently linked to president-for-life Bashir Assad, and possibly to his brother and a group of aides, all of whom the U.N. is demanding to talk to outside Syria; and Iran over its aggressive push for nuclear ... er ... energy...

The Syrian government rightly believes the U.S. is pushing the U.N. probe in a bid to strengthen its position, and gather world support for a diplomatic isolation of Damascus, which the U.S. war hawks have eyed for "regime change..." (they even have a Chalabi-like exile -- without all the crimey baggage -- to use if they want one... and they do...)

Iran has every reason to believe the U.S. war hawks are spoiling for war with them, too, and they see their referral to the Security Council as the opening shot in that war (they fired a counter-shot, suspending cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA), with possible follow-up military action by the U.S., or by our proxy (or are we their proxy... so confusing) Israel. ...

Syria and Iran have had a security cooperation agreement for quite some time, which pledges "... that besides bolstering mutual cooperation, Tehran and Damascus should deal with the threats posed by big powers." ...

Back to the cartoons:

The cartoon protests began nearly four months after the cartoons first appeared in an obscure Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and only after a prominent Denmark-based cleric, Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, packed up a bundle of the drawings, mixed in with some even more outrageous and Muhammad-slandering material that he claimed was part of the Jullands Posten stash, but which really weren't, and headed off to a tour of Mideast countries, hoping to get an outrage going. According to the Counterterrorism Blog:

Last November, Abu Laban, a 60-year-old Palestinian who had served as translator and assistant to top Gamaa Islamiya leader Talaal Fouad Qassimy during the mid-1990s and has been connected by Danish intelligence to other Islamists operating in the country, put together a delegation that traveled to the Middle East to discuss the issue of the cartoons with senior officials and prominent Islamic scholars. The delegation met with Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi. "We want to internationalize this issue so that the Danish government will realize that the cartoons were insulting, not only to Muslims in Denmark, but also to Muslims worldwide," said Abu Laban.

On its face, it would appear as if nothing were wrong. However, the Danish Muslim delegation showed much more than the 12 cartoons published by Jyllands Posten. In the booklet it presented during its tour of the Middle East, the delegation included other cartoons of Mohammed that were highly offensive, including one where the Prophet has a pig face. But these additional pictures were NOT published by the newspaper, but were completely fabricated by the delegation and inserted in the booklet (which has been obtained and made available to me by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet). The delegation has claimed that the differentiation was made to their interlocutors, even though the claim has not been independently verified. In any case, the action was a deliberate malicious and irresponsible deed carried out by a notorious Islamist who in another situation had said that “mockery against Mohamed deserves death penalty.”
The delegation visited several Muslim capitals last November, and in Cairo they met with a very promient Grand Imam, and with the head of the Arab League, in a bid to "internatinalize" the cartoon controversy, which to that time had made no splash at all. In fact, as some blogs are reporting today, an Egyptian paper had published the cartoons as part of a story on disrespect for Islam, less than a month before Abu Laban's visit, with absolutely no impact on the wider Muslim world...

As many bloggers and writers are now pointing out, denunciations and conflagration from the tour stops seemed to have been timed and delayed for political effect, coming only after Hamas swept the parliamentary elections in Palestine in late January (EU offices in Gaza stormed four days later on January 30...), and after Ramadan (where apparently, copies of the cartoons were distributed to worshippers) and also after the referral of Iran to the Security Council this month. As a Telegraph analyst wrote recently, these kinds of large-scale, seemingly spontaneous movements take time to put together. The sophisticated orchestration of the protests is now plainly evident, even to the media...

After the elections, however, in January, the anger began to build in earnest, including a fatwa reportedly issued against the 500 or so Danish troops in Iraq...

When the protests began, they were basically peaceful -- if angry and attended with flag burnings -- but flag burning protests are no different from your average anti-war or anti-globalisation protests in Europe or the United States. What ratcheted up the crazy factor were the Danish embassy torchings in Syria and Iran...

Fast forward to today, and those Condi Rice accusations:

Syria and Iran remain intense pressure, with both their heads of state set to be scrutinized by the Security Council in the next couple of months...

Leading up to that, the Muslim world has now forced the EU and the United Nations to apologize for the cartoons:



The United Nations and European Union have reached agreement to issue a joint statement condemning cartoon "insults to Islam" that were first published in a Danish newspaper and have been widely reprinted recently, resulting in a rash of violence throughout the Muslim world.

According to a report in WAM, the United Arab Emirates news agency, the agreement is the work of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

The agreement, according to Ihsanoglu, will mean a formal rebuke by the U.N. and EU of the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten for publishing the offensive cartoons.

The statement, he added, stresses that divine religions and religious symbols must be respected, and that freedom of speech must not be taken so far as to desecrate religions.

"The statement also calls for renouncing all forms of violence," he said, according to WAM.
It is in that climate, plus the constant threat of street violence that can easily reach into the heart of Europe, that Iran and Syria will now negotiate with the West.

Oh, and by the way, here's a little something you might not know about Denmark:


Danish membership of the Security Council and chairmanship of the CTC

The permanent mission of Denmark to the United Nations, headed by Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Løj, has taken seat in the Security Council in New York from January 2005 for a two-year period. The election of Denmark might be regarded as a common rotation system between the world nations; however, becoming a member of the Security Council has required some diplomatic efforts to obtain support from the individual member states of the General Assembly.

Moreover, Denmark has succeeded in being elected as chairman of the UN Counter Terrorist Committee (CTC) from April 2005. The CTC is subsidiary to the Security Council and monitors the individual member states' obligations to raise national capacity against terrorism, according to resolution 1373 of September 28, 2001. This brings Denmark in a central position in a world where security policy is becoming increasingly synonymous with the fight against terrorism.
And another thing (and this was the Beck "aha" catch this morning): Guess who is set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council -- just when possible sanctions against Iran, and further action on Syria in the Lebanon affair -- are set to be debated? You guessed it: Denmark.

Diplomacy is about leverage. And while those of us in the West tend to portray Muslims as brainless animals who do little more than riot and complain about Jews, make no mistake: Iran and Syria are sophisticated demi-powers who are playing the chess match of their lives -- against the Europeans, whom they hope to scare into a softer stance (and into not taking sides with the U.S. on, say, military action...) against the U.S. -- a game Condi Rice joined fully yesterday, and against the specter of "regime change" as evidenced just next door, in Iraq.

So a radical cleric on tour, plus some smart media manipulation, and angry, young male populace ginned up and ready to explode on cue (with a little prompting, of course), mixed with a really stupid, culturally ignorant and rather arrogant Danish newspaper publisher (and clones around Europe and the U.S.) -- hands Iran and Syria a means to change the negotiating environment.

Believe me, it's very, very rare that I will agree with anything said by ayone at the Weekly Standard or even worse, Michelle Malkin (who always manages to mix a little truth with a lot of anti- [fill in the blanks with non-White Christian group] crap -- she seems to really be enjoying rubbing those cartoons in the faces of Muslims, doesn't she?) ... and I identify completely with the outrage of Muslims over these stupid, insensitive cartoons (granted not all of the 12 were negative), which I think were only made possible by the post-9/11 epidemic of Islamophobia (fueled by anti-immigrant European racism, in my opinioin) sweeping the West. And I think the whole "print the cartoons" kerfuffle is a silly sideshow that misses the point (but gives rightie bloggers a golden opportunity to bash CNN -- something I still don't get with Wolf Blitzer, Howard Kurtz, Rush Limbaugh's girlfriend and all the other wingerbots working there...). But in this case, there really appears to be a chess game going on, and ordinary, God-fearing Muslims are being used.

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posted by JReid @ 1:01 PM  
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
The public's right to know
Douglas Farah at the Counterterrorism Blog (an increasingly useful information source, by the way) has a great post up about the balance between secrecy for the protection for the protection of vital information, and secrecy for its own sake, and what role the media plays in weighing that balance.

In short, Farah comes down on the side of public disclosure in matters such as the NSA spy program and the Bush administration's rendition policy, since both involve the potential for abuse.

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posted by JReid @ 4:19 PM  
Shoes dropping everywhere
First we find out that the Danish paper that ran the Muhammad illustrations and opened the gates of cartoon hell had earlier refused to run parodies of Christianity, has decided to run the Holocaust satire cartoons, as called for by an Iranian paper:

Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, said today he was trying to get in touch with the Iranian paper, Hamshari, which plans to run an international competition seeking cartoons about the Holocaust.

"My newspaper is trying to establish a contact with the Iranian newspaper, and we would run the cartoons the same day as they publish them," Mr Rose told CNN.

The Danish editor was also defiantly unapologetic about the original publication of 12 cartoons - one of which featured the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - in his paper five months ago.

Mr Rose said he did not regret publishing the pictures.

"I think it is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt at a discotheque [on] Friday night," he said.

"If you're wearing a short skirt that does not necessarily mean you invite everybody to have sex with you. If you make a cartoon, make fun of religion, make fun of religious figures, that does not imply that you humiliate or denigrate or marginalise a religion."
No, it's more like asking a fireworks enthusiast if he regrets setting off his explosives on the ground in a freaking crowd of people... What next??? And I wonder how MalkinFrau and her new friend Alan Derschowitz are gonna feel about that...? I mean after all, so you not have to show the outrageous Holocaust-denying cartoons in order to talk about the outrageous Holocaust-denying cartoons...?

Meanwhile, Mideast expert (btw he's not a Muslim, he's Christian, and I think Lebanese...) Walid Phares blogs at the Counterterrorism Blog on the orchestrated campaign to turn the cartoons into an international incident.

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posted by JReid @ 3:49 PM  
Karl Rove Blacklist Entry No. (unknown)
The Republican chairwoman of the House committee that oversees the NSA -- and the only female veteran in Congress -- has broken with the administration and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the NSA domestic spying program. According to the NYT:
The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.

Ms. Wilson, who was a National Security Council aide in the administration of President Bush's father, is the first Republican on either the House's Intelligence Committee or the Senate's to call for a full Congressional investigation into the program, in which the N.S.A. has been eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of people inside the United States believed to have links with terrorists.

The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities. Many Republicans have strongly backed President Bush's power to use every tool at his disposal to fight terrorism, but 4 of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns about the program at a hearing where Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Monday.

The right wing position on domestic spying is ultimately untenable, on legal grounds, on Constitutional grounds and on common sense grounds (how do you know the program is not being abused if no one outside the administration is overseeing it? Simply taking the president's word for it flies in the face of logic, history and the barest responsibilities of the Congress and judiciary.) A growing number of Republicans are coming to that conclusion, too. And what happens if -- or when -- we ultimately find out that for all their defensiveness, the administration did, even once, use information gleaned from its vast upsweep of information, against a political opponent, or to monitor a member of the press or even a member of Congress? What will be the justification then?

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posted by JReid @ 10:43 AM  
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Bush's head-hunter hunts heads
The Insight Magazine story making the rounds of the web is as follows: apparently, our friend Karl Rove isn't done polishing his Stalinist credentials. Now he's allegedly trying to apply political pressure to the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee not to make anything of the NSA spygate probe, even if a majority on the committee find that Bush's domestic surveillance -- I mean, "spy program that's exactly like a flight from New York to Poland" ... violated the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment (which, being an amendment, modifies Article II of the Constitution, which by the way doesn't give the president the right to spy on Americans either... thanks, Jerry Springer, for the reminder!)

Here's the story:

Rove counting heads on the Senate Judiciary Committee

The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration's unauthorized wiretapping.

Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.

"It's hardball all the way," a senior GOP congressional aide said.

The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings. [emphasis added]

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.

"He's [Rove] lining them up one by one," another congressional source said.

Mr. Rove is leading the White House campaign to help the GOP in November’s congressional elections. The sources said the White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.

Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.

So far, only a handful of GOP senators have questioned Mr. Rove's tactics.

Some have raised doubts about Mr. Rove's strategy of painting the Democrats, who have opposed unwarranted surveillance, as being dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists.

"Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping in a political context," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican.

Well I guess Bush's two court jesters, Orrin Hatch and Jeff Sessions, have nothing to worry about... (how do you say "yes my liege," in Utahian and Alabamian...?) And we know that Hagel, who isn't on the committee, is probably name number one on Karl's enemies list. So on a scale of one to 10 (one meaning "yeah, yeah, Karl, call me from the slammer when Fitzgerald is done with you," and 10 meaning "golly Karl, do you think you could maybe ask Mr. Cheney to release my mom? Or at least give me a "proof of life" so I have some hope?"...) let's see which of the eight other Republican Judiciary Committee members might have to rent a copy of "Good Night and Good Luck" before the hearings get too far gone:

  • Arlen Specter (PA) - Has shown independence in calling for the hearings at all, and in repeatedly blasting the president's domestic spying program as an unjustified FISA get-around. Tacked back toward the Bushies by protecting Alberto Gonzales from having to tell the truth to the committee under oath. He's not even up for reelection, so he'll be spending November mostly snickering behind Rick Santorum's back. Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 1.
  • Mike DeWine (OH) - Ohio is a critical state for the GOP, obviously, and Mike DeWine has a lot on the line. He thoroughly pissed off the FReeperati by getting down with the gang of 14 on the nuclear option, and he was surprisingly un-robot-like during day one of the spy hearings, which won't make the AJ Strata crowd happy. Plus, he's facing a contested primary, possibly Paul Hackett on the other side, and a butt-load of GOP in-state scandals. Hell, he may not want Bush campaigning for him at this point and he is raising money just fine, thank you. But if the Bushies bail on him, Ken Blackwell will drop him like he's hot -- not that that necessarily matters, either. DeWine is a tough case for the Bushies. They may not want to help him if he doesn't go their way, but they desperately need to hang onto the Senate to keep possible impeachment at bay. I wouldn't look for DeWine to change his questions in the next hearing to the more Orrin Hatchlike "Mr. Gonzales, the president is practically a God ... right?" but the GOP could get serious about backing his primary opponent and even help themselves with the base ... Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 7
  • Chuck Grassley (IO) - Grassley doesn't face re-election until 2010, by which time he'll be about 130 years old. As Bush's main man on tax cuts and that horrid Medicare monstrosity, he could probably afford to say whatever he wants to, but probably won't bother. Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 1
  • John Cornyn (TX) - Kay Bailey Hutchinson is still alive? Wow. Anyway, he's not the one up for reelection (Hutchinson is), but don't hold your breath looking for a sudden outburst of independence from Bush's Texas homey Cornyn, since he was one of six GOP Senators, including three on the Judiciary Committee (Sessions and Kyl are the other two) who issued a statement supporting the NSA program even before the hearings had begun. Karl needn't bother. Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 0
  • John Kyl (AZ) - Kyl's Democratic opponent is self-financed (politics-ese for really, really rich) but despite some ill-placed Democratic optimism (a quirky Rasmussen poll in December that showed him ONLY UP BY 20 POINTS!!!...) his seat is considered relatively safe. As one of the gang of three who've made up their minds on the spy program, Kyl has no Rovian worries. Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 0
  • Lindsey Graham (SC) - One of the bigger surprises on the GOP side, really for several months. He has been skeptical of the NSA program and asked pointed questions in round one with Alberto Gonzales. And he's a Gang of 14er... no matter though! He's not up for reelection, sucka! Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 1
  • Sam Brownback (KS) - Brownback has begun to position himself with Specter and other GOP members and opposite the president on the domestic spy program. He also is considered a 2008 presidential aspirant, which puts him well within Rove's crosshairs then (as he is with the FReepers now). For now, he's not up for re-election, so he has room to maneuver, including in a way that could make him the Bush alternative Republican brand in '08 (that and his fellow Senator from Kansas, Mr. Roberts, is a complete Bush toady...) But since he's a potential presidential candidate, there could be some mysteriously leaked stories about him and a goat coming to a blog near you... Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 4
  • Tom Coburn (OK) - Apparently he's not really the most annoying person in the Senate. And he's not up for reelection, although I couldn't tell you what this guy thinks about the program. I can't remember him even speaking during the first hearing... Karl Rove Intimidation Factor: 0

So what have we learned? Karl Rove can try and take down Mike DeWine this year and maybe go at Brownback in 2008. ... Oh, and Hatch is up for reelection this year, which I suppose explains his hardcore sucking up (Sessions has no excuse. He appears to be a monarchist.) But truthfully, I don't see much intimidation potential for Rove to exploit. And what's he really going to do to DeWine, help get Hackett or another Dem elected? I think not. Ohio is teetering on the brink of GOP depression according to polls, and assuming DeWine wins the primary, the White House would be foolish not to help him, in all the ways an administration with below pitiful approval ratings can... Karl Rove cumulative intimidation factor: pretty damned weak.

Meanwhile, here's a story you might have missed: allegations that the NSA has been going after whistleblowers...

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 PM  
Mideast mischief
The Guardian has two stories that shed some light on acting P.M. Ehud Olmert's plan to carry on Ariel "The Bulldozer" Sharon's legacy, and on some of what fuels global Arab and Muslim rage. The first story states that Olmert's plan to carry on the "disengagement" involves a stunning land grab that would create a fragmented, enfeebled Palestinian "state" carved into "Bantustans" surrounded on all sides by Israel:


Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state

Wednesday February 8, 2006 - The acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley and major Jewish settlement blocks to Israel in drawing new borders, according to a television station that recorded an interview with him yesterday.

In Mr Olmert's first policy statement since he succeeded Ariel Sharon last month, Channel 2 television said that he made clear he intends to carry through his predecessor's vision of creating an emasculated Palestinian state on Israel's terms.

If the Jewish state were to annex all of the Jordan Valley, which is dotted with small settlements, it would leave a future Palestinian state on the West Bank entirely surrounded by Israel and without a direct link to neighbouring countries.

The interview was to be broadcast late last night. Channel 2's political affairs reporter, Nissim Mishal, told Army radio that Mr Olmert, who is favourite to win next month's general election, also plans further unilateral withdrawals similar to the settler pullout from Gaza last summer.

"He talked about Israel having to maintain a Jewish majority in the state of Israel, meaning that we have to create a new border, what is called final borders. He knows that we can't negotiate with Hamas. So the only conclusion that can be derived from this is that, in order to reach final borders, Israel will have to carry out additional [unilateral] withdrawals," said Mishal.

Mr Olmert said he intends to annex the three main settlement blocks of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim as well as the Jordan Valley, the TV station said. The pressure group Peace Now estimates 185,000 of the 244,000 Israelis in the West Bank outside Jerusalem are resident in the settlements Mr Olmert wants to keep within Israel's border.

That would mean removing about 60,000 settlers, many more than were forced out of Gaza. On Monday the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, said the government was considering unilaterally imposing the borders of a Palestinian state.

"If we won't be able to reach agreed-upon borders, we will operate in a different way, which it is not appropriate to detail now ... we don't need to wait for someone else to impose our fate," he said. "In the coming years, and I'm talking about a few years, the final borders of the state of Israel will be set down, and the future of most of the settlements in [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley will be decided in these two years."

As for the second, how much do you know about Israel's longtime alliance with Apartheid-era South Africa? It's something that has always bugged me about the Jewish state, which continued to trade diamonds and arms with South Africa long after basically the rest of the world had turned its back on Pretoria (all through the 1980s in fact, during the time when then-Congressman Dick Cheney was calling Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and their African National Congress terrorists).

When I was in high school we had a South African man, who was in exile from the country then still under the boot of P.W. Botha, speak at my church. His accounts of that era in his country were chilling. Israel not only supported and worked with that regime, they adopted some of the nastier tactics of the white minority South Africans, including restrictive land and housing laws that determine where Arabs can and cannot live, forcing Arabs in Israel to walk with identity papers through numerous checkpoints to get to and from work, and of course, the constant and escalating expropriation of the most valuable land, and the water rights, right out from under the Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza (whom many Israelis and their adherents, including some Democrats, will say don't reallly exist...)

That is not to say that Israel doesn't face a very real threat from violent Palestinian individuals and nihilistic terrorist groups. And I'm no expert. But call me a bleeding heart liberal Euro-Arabist, but I just think there's something about the occupation and settlements that stinks to high heaven (no religious pun intended...) Worse, it's beneath the dignity of a state claiming the moral authority of the one true democracy in the Middle East (Turkey notwithstanding...) Anyway, a clip:

Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria

... Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster - a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler - to make a state visit.

Leaving unmentioned Vorster's wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster's past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence". Both countries, he said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness".

Vorster, whose army was then overrunning Angola, told his hosts that South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of western civilisation. A few months later, the South African government's yearbook characterised the two countries as confronting a single problem: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Vorster's visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners.

"We created the South African arms industry," says Liel. "They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies. ...

...The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa's development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden. ...

...By the 1980s, Israel and South Africa echoed each other in justifying the domination of other peoples. Both said that their own peoples faced annihilation from external forces - in South Africa by black African governments and communism; in Israel, by Arab states and Islam. But each eventually faced popular uprisings - Soweto in 1976, the Palestinian intifada in 1987 - that were internal, spontaneous and radically altered the nature of the conflicts.

Read the whole thing, as well as part one (also linked in the article.)

And of course, this is the point of it all:



More than 200 South African Jews signed a petition that Kasrils co-authored with another Jewish veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Max Ozinsky, denouncing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and drawing a parallel with apartheid. The document, called A Declaration of Conscience, prompted a furious debate within the community. Arthur Goldreich - one of Mandela's early comrades-in-arms who also fought for Israel's independence - was among those who signed but he attached an addendum recognising the impact of the suicide bombings on how Israelis view the Palestinians.

Kasrils acknowledges the effect of the bombers but says that Israel's "apartheid strategy" was under way long before the suicide attacks began. He notes the resemblance of the occupied territories to South Africa's patchwork of homelands - the bantustans - that were intended to divest the country of much of its black population while keeping the best of their land.

Today, about six million Israelis live on 85% of the area that was Palestine under the British mandate. Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians are confined to the remaining 15%, with their towns and cities penned between Israel's ever-expanding settlement blocks and behind a network of segregated roads, security barriers and military installations.

You might say that Israel and the old South Africa were caught out by history. The world of 1948 into which the Jewish state was born and the Afrikaners came to power cared little about the "dark peoples" who stood in the way of grand visions. Neither government was doing very much that others - including British colonists - had not done before them.

And if Israel was fighting for its life and forcing Arabs out of their homes at the same time, who in the west was going to judge the Jews after what they had endured?

But colonialism crumbled in Africa and Israel grew strong, and the world became less accepting of the justifications in Pretoria and Jerusalem. South Africa's white leadership eventually accepted another way. Israel now stands at a critical moment in its history.

With Ariel Sharon in a coma, it is unlikely that we will ever know how far he intended to carry his "unilateral disengagement" strategy after the withdrawal from Gaza and a part of the West Bank. Like FW de Klerk, who initiated the dismantling of apartheid, Sharon might have found he had set in motion forces he could not contain - forces that would have led to a deal acceptable to the Palestinians.

But to the Palestinians, Sharon appeared intent on carrying through a modified version of his longstanding plan to rid Israel of responsibility for as many Arabs as possible while keeping as much of their land as he could.

While Tony Blair was praising the Israeli prime minister for his political "courage" in leaving Gaza in August last year, Sharon was expropriating more land in the West Bank than Israel surrendered in Gaza, building thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, and accelerating construction of the 400-plus miles of concrete and barbed wire barrier that few doubt is intended as a border.

Palestinians said that whatever emasculated "state" emerged - granted only "aspects of sovereignty" with limited control over its borders, finances and foreign policy - would be disturbingly reminiscent of South Africa's defunct bantustans. ...

...Three years ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the former Italian prime minister, Massimo D'Alema, as telling dinner guests at a Jerusalem hotel that, on a visit to Rome a few years earlier, Sharon had told him that the bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. When one of the guests suggested to D'Alema that he was interpreting, not repeating, Sharon's words, the former prime minister said not. "No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister," he said. With Sharon out of politics, his successor Ehud Olmert has pledged himself to carrying through the vision of carving out Israel's final borders deep inside the West Bank and retaining all of Jerusalem for the Jewish state.
And therein lies a key basis for pan-Arab and Muslim rage.

Also interesting, the letters generated to the Guardian by part one of the piece...

Oh, and guess who the conservative mag Insight is saying got burned, big time, by the failure to predict that Hamas would win big in the recent elections? Hint: It starts with C ...

Tags: , Palestine, Politics, Middle East, Terrorism
posted by JReid @ 10:33 PM  
A triple-double ... standard
So the Jyllands-Posten says it ran the provocative Muhammad cartoons as a statement about free speech and religious liberty? Well, um ... they seem to have revised an earlier position on the matter.
Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Gwladys Fouché
Monday February 6, 2006, The Guardian UK

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.
The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."
The illustrator said: "I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy."

"I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny."

But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, said that the case was "ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

"In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," he said.
What's the difference? I sure don't see it. ... Thanks to an anonymous but astute reader for the tip, which also came with a link to this article, which digs deeper into the Muslim side of this story, which clearly Westerners, with our secular societies and arms-length religiosity (particularly in Jesus-free Europe) do not understand. ...

The bottom line here, I think, is that the Muslim world is in many ways looked at with one or both of the following two emotions by "the West": fear and loathing. Fear because of the ongoing scourge of terrorism (most of which is political terrorism within the Near East and Middle East region, but more and more of which is directed at Western symbolic targets, and against our troops in Iraq...). Loathing mainly because of one big thing: immigration into Europe. Those two combine mean that the Islamic religion is looked at as inferior, unworthy, violent and almost ridiculous, by many people in the West. And so, no problem to mary Muhammad to the bomb. Unfortunately, many Muslims also look upon the West with fear and loathing, and increasingly, with impotent rage. And while most in the Muslim world lack the means to fight and defeat "The West" by means of war, they have 1.8 or so billion of their bodies to put on the line. And with so many unemployed, angry, repressed politically and pissed off about Palestine, Iraq, and on an done, this can't end well.

(I once asked James Zogby why there seems to be so little sympathy for the Palestinian plight here in the U.S. He said it was a combination of bad P.R. on their part and anti-Arab racism on ours...)

Western commentators should give up trying to lecture the Muslim world about adopting secular values of free speech and democracy. As Pat Buchanan says all the time, we really should just leave them the hell alone, do business on the oil and whatever else we're trading, and let the Muslim world develop on its own. Unless some country over there attacks us or our interests, teaching them to be good, secular democrats is really none of our concern.

Of course, that doesn't mean that this mass violence is any less of an outrage -- like the Watts riots and other failed protest outbursts in the U.S. after MLK was killed, it shows a certain amount of immaturity in the Islamic political movement, and it's counter-productive. I also happen to believe it's being fueled by Islamist radicals who have a more nefarioius goal: igniting the war to end all wars between the West and the Muslim world, or perhaps overthrowing a Mideast government or two... Either way, this is a situation going nowhere but for a ride in a certain handbasket...

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Mohammed, Christianity
posted by JReid @ 6:42 PM  
The Katrina evictions begin
Screw you, says FEMA...
posted by JReid @ 6:30 PM  
Shameful
The Bush administration welched on its promises to New Orleans, so Ray Nagin will now seek the money needed to be rebuild on foreign soil ... Bushie, you're doing one heckuva job...

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posted by JReid @ 4:04 PM  
Dumb
First John McCain sets himself up as the guy who might just launch some more wars if you elect him president ... now he launches an attack on the most popular politician in America (no, John, it's not you...) Barack Obama.

"I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics, I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble," the Arizona Republican said in a letter to Obama.

"Please be assured I won't make the same mistake again."

McCain also told the Illinois Democrat that "I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's efforts to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness."

"I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics, the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us," McCain wrote. "Good luck to you, senator."

In response, Obama sent a letter back to McCain, saying he was "puzzled" by McCain's reaction and insisting he still supported a bipartisan approach to ethics reform.

"The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you, nor my willingness to find a bipartisan solution to this problem," Obama wrote.

What set McCain off was a letter Obama sent him late last week, after he and several other Democrats attended a meeting hosted by McCain to discuss a bipartisan approach to lobbying and ethics reform.

In that letter, Obama expressed support for a reform bill being pushed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, rather than McCain's proposal for a bipartisan task force to look at legislation.

"I know you have expressed an interest in creating a task force to further study and discuss these matters, but I and others in the Democratic caucus believe the more effective and timely course is to allow the committees of jurisdiction (in the Senate) to roll up their sleeves and get to work on writing ethics and lobbying reform legislation that a majority of the Senate can support," Obama wrote.

In the letter he sent Monday, McCain accused the Democratic leadership of wanting "to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections." And he denied that his task force was designed to short-circuit the Senate committee process.

"The timely findings of a bipartisan working group could be very helpful to the committee in formulating legislation," McCain said. "I have consistently maintained that any lobbying reform proposal be bipartisan."

"As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem."
Oops. Don'tcha just hate it when stuff like this leaks out?

It seems to me that McCain is peeved because Barack Obama seems to be depriving him of a Photoshop moment, kibbutzing with his Obamaness in a show that 1) the corruption scandal really, really is bipartisan (not), and 2) McCain -- not Harry Reid -- is the man to do something about it, even in the minds of Democrats. As with most things Mr. McCain does, you can probably assume it's all about political self-aggrandizement and the 2008 election...

Update: More evidence of the Bush-McCain continuum... something to think about if you're an easily seduced Dem or Independent...

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posted by JReid @ 3:41 PM  
Update on the cartoon protests
Afghan police shoot four protesters ... the Danish P.M. is shitting bricks... Three Reuters headlines:

Also, the anti-Dane fury has hit the Internet...

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posted by JReid @ 3:12 PM  
Atlanta (heart) Bubba at the King funeral
I didn't watch as much of it as I would have liked, but just a brief note on the Coretta King funeral:

I haven't seen an ovation like the one received by former President Bill Clinton at the Coretta King funeral since a high school friend and I drove her little sister to a Menudo concert in Denver. Clinton is such an authentic figure for Black people -- he knows Rev. Joseph Lowry well enough to call him "Rev," and speaks the colloquial language of the Black church better than any white guy I've seen. Hillary needs to work on it a bit. After her husband's performance, she came off a bit dry. ...

Before Clinton spoke, former President Carter through a nice, nasty zinger at the current occupant of the White House, noting that King faced the scourge of secret wiretaps and surveillance by the FBI during the civil rights struggle ... ahem ... and he gave a good, warm speech that was very well received by the crowd (though nowhere near as rousing as Big Bill...) Carter reminded the crowd of his closeness to the Kings, including his awarding Coretta King the medal of freedom, and his call to designate the King holiday.

Carter was followed by Bush 41, who is far funnier and more amiable seeming since he's out of office. Bush gave a good, funny speech and did well.

I missed the Bush 43 speech. Anybody who saw it feel free to drop me and email or post a comment. I'd love to know how he was received ... CSPAN date for later...

... (at around 2:50) they played a video presentaton of moments with Mrs. King, including
Tavis Smiley gettingan anti-Iraq war quote out of her. Brutal... Dubya looks uncomfortable as hell ... Laura looks terribly constipated.

Yep, after that video, the presidents took their leave. I know Dubya is glad to get the hell outta there...!

More on the Clinton-Bush crowd dynamic from The Independent Conservative on the left and Daily Kos on the left.

Related: In case you missed the Oprah eulogy, here's a link.

Update: ThinkProgress has some of the pre-presidential speech Bush-bashery at the Coretta King funeral. Ouch!

... oh, and here's an Angry FReeper alert!!!

Update 2: Went back and watched the bulk of the funeral service. Bush's speech was fine, and he got a very polite reception. Only Bill Clinton could come into one of the largest Black churches anywhere and chide the people in the room that there are "more rich Black folk in this county than anywhere else except Prince George's County in Maryland," and so it's time to get about making sure the King Center is properly funded and taken care of. Clinton also chided the audience a bit not to allow the politics of the day to allow them to forget that Mrs. King was first and foremost a woman -- a real person -- and that her legacy is best upheld by following her example, on non-violence, anti-poverty and world peace.

Nice funeral. And Stevie Wonder and the other performers rocked the house.

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posted by JReid @ 2:54 PM  
Monday, February 06, 2006
The spy hearings, take six
Update: Schumer drops the big question:


SCHUMER: In your opinion, can the administration use its authority to monitor communications by its political enemies.

GONZALES: We have not done that, Senator.
Not an answer, Al. Schumer is grilling Gonzales on his refusal to answer even the most basic questions about how the NSA spy program is being used. One key point, why should the NSA program be un-discussable, even with Congress, when the government routinely discloses counts on the number of FISA warrants applied for.

Schumer is attempting to get Gonzales to answer whether there have been any abuses of the program. Good luck with that one, Chuck.

4:05 p.m.: Mike DeWine made the terrific point that as a "conservative guy" and a "strict constructionist," he doesn't see any basis for going around a statute of Congress. He's now questioning Gonzales on the standards for determining who's listened in on.

Previous good Qs from Lindsay Graham and Arlen Specter. Those three and John Kyl have acquitted themselves well on the GOP side today. The Axis of Orrin has been at its suck-up worst.

Taking a break. Go to TalkLeft for more, since I'm sure Jeralyn Merritt is doing her thing...

Links:
  • The NSA spying docments as we know them, from FindLaw...
  • The WaPo take so far (quick bite: Gonzales says the media is "misinformed...")

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posted by JReid @ 3:54 PM  
Oh, here we go...
Leave it to the Iranians to take it up a notch. On the Danish cartoons, their raising the stakes: From the Times of London:
Iran’s biggest-selling newspaper has waded into the Muhammad controversy by launching a competition to find the 12 "best" cartoons about the Holocaust.

Farid Mortazavi, graphics editor for Tehran's Hamshahri newspaper, said that the deliberately inflammatory contest would test out how committed Europeans were to the concept freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said that victims of the Holocaust and their families were growing used to insults from Iran. "It's just very sad," she told Times Online.

Iran’s regime is supportive of Holocaust revisionist historians, who maintain that the slaughter of Europe’s Jews during the Second World War was invented or exaggerated to justify the creation of Israel on Palestinian territory. ...

...Mr Mortazavi said that tomorrow's edition of the paper would invite cartoonists to enter the competition, with gold coins as prizes for the 12 winning artists -- the same number of cartoons that appeared in the conservative Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten lighting the touchpaper for fury which has swept around the Islamic world.
The match is on.

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posted by JReid @ 3:30 PM  
The cartoon protests have spread...
to India ...
... Iran ...
... Afghanistan (two killed so far) ...
More developments, including the Lebanese apologies here...

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posted by JReid @ 2:50 PM  
The spy hearings, take five
Another good point by a Republican. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Gonzalez (paraphrasing):
GRAHAM: It seems to me that when the Congress in 1978 set up the FISA law, they took into account the president's inherent authority under Article II, they considered it, and they decided that the FISA court is the exclusive means of conducting surveillance on domestic pesons in the collection of foreign intelligence. They considered your arguments, and they ruled on the matter. So if we buy your argument that the president's inherent authority means that he can bypass the FISA law, then wouldn't the president also have the authority under Article II to set aside the anti-torture statute we recently passed if he thought it impeded his war-making powers?

AG: uh... that's not what we're doing here... I don't think that's where we are...

GRAHAM: That's where you are with me...

I'll have to go back and grab the Feingold moments... For now, the Kos kids are updating...

2:14 p.m.: New York's Chuck Schumer is up to bat. He is asking about the resignations from NSA over discmfort with the program, and Gonzales is essentially denying that they happened...

Gonzales again refused to answer the question of whether he believes the president's inherent authority would also allow him to eavesdrop on two al-Qaida suspects who were both inside the United States.

2:23 p.m.: Cornyn is up...

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
What the Bushies must believe
...in order to believe they can and should ignore FISA and spy on Americans' phonecalls and e-mails without a court warrant.

1. The FISA judges cannot be trusted to know who is being wiretapped and why, either before or after the fact, because they would leak the wiretap information to the enemy...
2. Ditto for Congress, which also cannot be trusted to amend the FISA law...
3. Laws written before 9/11/2006 do not apply to the Bush administration...
4. They, and not Congress, know what the Congress really meant when it passed the force authorization...
5. The president is the one who decides the limits of presidential authority, not the Congress or the Courts...
6. There are few if any limits to the president's authority, so long as he can declare that "there's a war on..."
7. One "al-Qaida terrorist" on U.S. soil talking to another al-Qaida terrorist overseas is more dangerous -- and requires this higher level of warrantless spying -- than two terrorists in the United States talking to each other (which this special program doesn't cover...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:52 PM  
The spy hearings, take four
By way of background, keep in mind that while AG Gonzales has come before the Senate Intelligence committee today (though not under oath...) the administration has refused to hand over his and other legal opinions supposedly underpinning their FISA get-around...

Missed the Feinstein questions. I'll grab them from C-SPAN later, but in the meantime, Glenn Greenwald is liveblogging the hearings.

Wouldn't have mattered if I'd missed Jeff Sessions. He's basically doing Orrin Hatch redux, attempting to find instances of past presidential warrantless searches and eavesdropping going back to Woodrow Wilson (...putting aside the small point that there was no FISA law then... hm...) Sessions is the guy who went out into the bullpen during the first break and rolled out Deborah Burlingame, the token Bushie 9/11 widow... Also during that break, which C-SPAN is re-running now, the Dems played the tapes of Bush and Gonzales misleading the American public about their domestic spying, which they used to say involved warrants...

BTW who let the Pajamas Media "reporter" in the room? Paging Jeff Gannon/Guckert: You have been replaced...

Lunch break. The hearings will resume at 1:45 p.m.

Get the AP update here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:25 PM  
The spy hearings, take three
Finally, some substantive questions from a Republican...

four setups and two questions from John Kyl, which focused on Congressional oversight. Said Kyl (paraphrasing):

Mr. Gonzales, you say four things are true:

1. That Article II has always interpreted as allowing the president to do what is needed to wage war, including collecting intelligence.

2. When Congress passed the authorization for force, it reasserted the president's inherent authority and authorized war fighting, and statutory authorization is contemplated in the FISA language except as authorized by statute.

3. The 1978 FISA law is really not well suited to the kind of program being conducted here, including the 72 hour provision.

4. There are arlready checks and balances, reauthorization every 45 days by president, briefings to members of Congress and Inspector General review.

And the questions:

1. Re Sen. Biden's question about whether or not if this program is really necessary why shouldn't it also apply to "al-Qaida terrorists A and B" who both happen to be in the United States? (Gonzales says no legal analysis has been done on that so far, because that's not what Bush authorized...) Kyl said that analysis should be undertaken, because if the administration is right, there is no less reason to do domestic to domestice surveilance than to surveil foreign calls. ...

2. Also, Biden, Grassley and Kennedy asked what happens if the administration is wrong? How can we be assured that there is no improper surveillance? Said Kyl: "It seems you might consider either in the presidential directive some kind of after action review to the eight members of Congress who are currently briefed into the program, to determine whether it is being used as intended, whether somebody might have been surveilled who should not have been, if so, how that happened and what's being done to assure it doesn't happen again, plus whether any damage has occurred and whether the program is having the intended result, i.e., that important information is being generated.

(Gonzeles is very reluctant to contemplate a reopening of the FISA rules. Why is that?)

When his turn came, Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl asked whether the administration, if it finds the FISA 72 hour rule "too burdensome" would at least agree to after-action review by Congress or the FISA court to determine no abuses of the program had occurrred.

Gonzales essentially said "we're happy to listen to your ideas, but no. That would inform the enemy..." Paraphrase:
KOHL: Is there anything the president cannot do in a time of war, or can the president assign to himself any power without congressional authority?

AG: The president's authorities are not limitless...

KOHL: If the NSA collects info on an American who proves to be innocent, which news reports say has happened, what happens to that info?

AG: The fact that they wash out doesn't mean we should stop investigations. But re what is done with the info? Can't say.
Gonzales is refusing to answer "on security grounds..." More on Kohl's questioning from Think Progress.

11:58 a.m.: We've got our fist protester. Specter gaveled him down once after he called Gonzales a fascist and said the administration needs to get a warrant before spying on Americans...

12:00 p.m.: Sen. Mike Dewine made the very good point (and he's a Republican!) that presidents are always stronger when they come to the Congress for statutory authority, even in a time of war. Good man.

Here's the AP rundown so far.

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posted by JReid @ 11:54 AM  
The spy hearings, take two
11:15 a.m.: After the break, Chuck Grassley repeated Orrin Hatch's spontaneous testimony in AG Gonzales stead. (Why is Gonzales even here? He should have just let the Republican members of the committee, with the exception of Specter, give his testimony for him...)

Biden came up to bat at around 11:25 a.m. and made the good point that whatever their constitutional claims, the administration has a track record that should cause the Congress to ask questions about what it has done. Including these (paraphrasing):

BIDEN: how will we know when this "war" is over?

AG: It's hard to say ... when al-Qaida is destroyed...

BIDEN: so you have this plenary authority until them?

AG: If Congress were to act to take away this authority, that would present a much harder question as to whether the president has the authority. (So it would still be an open question, then? How convenient for the president...)

BIDEN: As I understand your reasoning, I don't know why you would limit your eavesdropping to foreign communications?

AG: Of course that's a presidential decision, but I belive it's because we're trying to balance concerns that might arise that the NSA was engaged in electronic surveillance as relates to domestic calls. There may be some in America that say that if you've got reason to believe that two memebers of al-Qaida are in America talking to each other, why don't you listen to those calls? This was a decision made to balance security and civil liberties.

BIDEN: Is it PR reasons or because he doesn't believe he has the constitutional authority?

AG: I don't think it's because of PR or constitutionality.

BIDEN: Who determines what calls are to be monitored?

AG: Intelligence experts at NSA.

(logical question: than why so many dry leads?)

Then he mentions the many "minimization programs" in place to guard against American citizens being sucked into the program...

BIDEN: If you're not bound by FISA, then how can you say you are bound by the minimization requrements?

Can you assure that the program is adhering to the minimization requriements?

AG: No sir I can not.

BIDEN: Can you assure us that no American citizen has been eavesdropped upon that is not known to be associated with al-Qaida.

AG: I cannot. (High degree of confidence and lots of assurances that they're trying.)

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posted by JReid @ 11:38 AM  
A license to kill?
While the spy hearings are on break (the GOP lackeys trotted out a 9/11 widow to try and put a sympathetic face on the NSA program and to demonstrate their clear objectivity on the legality of the program... not... ) there's something even more disturbing on the horizon.

The Randi Rhodes Show tipped me off to this on Friday, and now Newsweek is reporting it (ht to Talkleft). During last week's hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein asked National Intel Director Negroponte whether the president could in theory order the killing of an al-Qaida suspect on U.S. soil. His answer was a hedge, to say the least (he said he was "not aware" of such a thing happening.) Well according to Newsweek, there was no such hedging with the C-SPAN cameras were turned off:
Feb. 13, 2006 issue - In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances. ...

...University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein says the post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Al Qaeda empowered the president to kill 9/11 perpetrators, or people who assisted their plot, whether they were overseas or inside the United States. On the other hand, Sunstein says, the president would be on less solid legal ground were he to order the killing of a terror suspect in the United States who was not actively preparing an attack.

A Justice Department official, who asked not to be ID'd because of the sensitive subject, said Bradbury's remarks were made during an "academic discussion" of theoretical contingencies. In real life, the official said, the highest priority of those hunting a terrorist on U.S. soil would be to capture that person alive and interrogate him. ...

GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions took it further on CBS' Face the Nation this weekend, offering this interesting quote:
When you authorize the military to use force, they can kill the enemy without a Miranda warning. They can put them in jail without a trial- and be able to intercept their communications is legitimate.

Clip at Crooks and Liars.

So we're back to the bottom-line question posed by Al Gore. If the president can intercept Americans' overseas phonecalls, read their email, open their mail and order them killed because he or his minions have made the determination, without a court, that they are "al-Qaida suspects," then, so long as he uses "war" as a backdrop, what can't he do?

SPYGATE
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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
The Spy hearings, take one
A.G. Alberto Gonzales' opening statement isn't worth reprinting, since it's just a rehash of the same meaningless drivel Bush, Cheney and other administration officials (including Gonzalez himself) have been spewing for weeks. More on the hearing's opening, including Gonzales' non-swearing in here.

Arlen Specter made a great point, which boiled down to "you have FISA. Use it." ... Specter is already on the record calling the NSA spy program illegal.

10:40 a.m.: Gonzales just refused to answer Sen. Patrick Leahy's question about whether, under his interpretation of the FISA law, Artice II of the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, the president also has the statutory authority to open first class mail (in addition to listening in on phonecalls and reading e-mails of persons on U.S. soil.)

10:45 a.m.: Oh, god, it's Orrin Hatch's turn. Can somebody bring him his knee pads!!!??? Jesus, he's testifying on Gonzales' behalf -- making pro-administration statements and then adding "right?" as an answer to his own non-questions. Come on, Orrin, at least let the guy lie on his own...

10:57 a.m.: Kennedy's up. He's making the point that wouldn't it be better to have the clear legality of the program established, as happened when the FISA law was first enacted in 1978. Otherwise, any prosecutions resulting from the bugging could be challenged in court... Kennedy makes the point that by operating without explicit Congressional authority, the Bush administration is exposing the participating phone companies, the staff at NSA, and all others involved to legal action, and jeopardizing prosecutions.

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 AM  
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Two basic reasons to oppose warrantless domestic spying
It's illegal (Joe Klein...) and it doesn't even work... Says WaPo:
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.

Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.

The Bush administration refuses to say -- in public or in closed session of Congress -- how many Americans in the past four years have had their conversations recorded or their e-mails read by intelligence analysts without court authority. Two knowledgeable sources placed that number in the thousands; one of them, more specific, said about 5,000.

The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.

Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, "wash out" most of the leads within days or weeks.

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.
Meanwhile, maybe we should have been spying on that prison where the USS Cole bombing mastermind was being held, cause he's gone...

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posted by JReid @ 3:16 PM  
Raising the stakes
After being referred to the Security Council, Iran ends cooperation with U.N. ...
posted by JReid @ 3:01 PM  
Screw the old people
...so we can pay for more Iraq (I mean it's going so well, after all...) The new Bush budget proposal is out for a Sunday drive.
posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
Saturday, February 04, 2006
The sacred and the profane
BBC has a great explication of the Muslim tradition regarding the depiction of Muhammad, idoloatry, and the political reality behind the Danish cartoon flap (Mark in Mexico, you're definitely not gonna like it...)

Also an excellent, balanced view from the Guardian:

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posted by JReid @ 3:08 AM  
He's done it again!
...I guess Lance found someone even newer to nurse him through that nasty steroid withdrawal...

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posted by JReid @ 2:58 AM  
Danish cartoonists in hiding
You know what's so irresponsible about the Michelle Malkin-led "blogburst" (tucked somewhere between the "quip of the day" and "Hollywood libs gone wild") to post the Danish Muhammad pictures to as many blogs as possible in order to show "solidarity with the Danes?" Malkin and her blog friends are playing with other people's lives, and doing so with a casualness that's really quite chilling (but not surpring for Ms. Malkin, who seems to relish offenses against non-whites and non-Christians simply for their own sake, or for some of her more vulgar, stupid compatriots like this one). It's real easy to be brash and balsy when it's not your ass on the line, and in this case, Malkin and her group are sitting comfortably in the confines of their pajamas, while waaaaaay over there in Denmark, the cartoonists who drew the various Muhammad pics (and many of them had serious reservations about it even before this whole nightmare began) are in hiding, in fear for their lives.

What do Malkin and her tribe propose to do about that, or about the American blogger now facing similar threats here? Can they protect those cartoonists and that blogger? Do they even care to? Or will they just fire off a few pithy posts condemning the evil Islamofascists, should one of them decide to pull a Van Gogh on one of these guys.

Let's not kid around here: there are real, serious jihadis out there, in Europe, in Scandinavia, in Denmark (not to mention in Iraq, where our and other countries' troops could once again reap the whirlwind while we sit here and type...) A militant cleric within the Danish homeland just might have been the one to incite this madness, months after the pics ran in Denmark without much notice. Sorryl, but this is no different than George W. Bush going on television and daring the jihadis in Iraq to "bring it on." Well, just like George, someone should ask Michelle and her group what the hell they're going to do about it if the jihadis do bring it on.

I'll bet they don't have a freaking clue.

I think this incident has made clear for everyone how wide the gulf is between the West and the Muslim world. Clearly, we don't understand them -- at all. And they can't be made to conform to our Western notions of "modernity" and secular humanism, hedonism and in-your-face political speech. Brazenly posting the pics to "defy the totalitarians" sounds really great and really brave, but it isn't. Brave means putting your own neck on the line, not someone else's, and not for nothing.

These, in the end, were silly cartoons, meant to make a point about freedom of expression and the constrictions of same in Islam, where even positive depictions of Muhammad are strictly forbidden (something not true in Christianity, hence the very different reaction to things like extreme depictions of Jesus...) Well, point made. But get a clue, wingers. You're "solidarity" movement could get somebody killed.

And then what are you gonna do? Mark the casualties down as "battle hardened?"

And furthermore, if even the cartoonists themselves, and the newspaper that originally printed them, now see that the content was so offensive -- not in the sphere of "classical liberalism" where -- hello! -- Islam obviously doesn't dwell, but on a fundamental level, to billions of already angry, politically impotent people, why can't the right wing blogosphere see the same thing? How deeply do Muslims feel about this? Well first, they see it as a double standard:
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, in Tunis for a meeting of Arab interior ministers, decried the "double standards" in the European media.

"We see double standards in the European media, which is fearful of being accused of anti-Semitism but which invokes freedom of expression for a caricature on Islam," Moussa said.
In other words, had a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting Jews as characatured "blood suckers" (as yes, often happens in the Muslim world, but never, ever in Europe) the world would have rightly condemned it, and so would the Michelle Malkins of the world.

Second, they see it as racist, and indicative of a general lack of respect for, and hatred of them by Europeans, something that literally burns in the hearts of Muslims in France or Denmark or Britain, making them very, very vulnerable to terrorists... As former U.S. President Bill Clinton recently put it:
So now what are we going to do? ... Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?" he said at an economic conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.

"In Europe, most of the struggles we've had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism," he said.

Clinton described as "appalling" the 12 cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in September depicting Prophet Mohammed and causing uproar in the Muslim world.

"None of us are totally free of stereotypes about people of different races, different ethnic groups, and different religions ... there was this appalling example in northern Europe, in Denmark ... these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam," he said.
And now, I'm going to do something I have never done before, and probably will never do again. I'm going to quote Hugh Hewitt:
The furor over the Danish cartoons is sparking an odd reaction among some commentators in the West who see no contradiction in condemning the idiocy of Joel Stein or the repulsiveness of Tom Toles while urging solidarity with the idiot newspapermen in Denmark who thought it a good idea to not just illustrate Mohammed, but to include some illustrations designed to offend. Like Toles and Stein, they sought a cheap reaction, and getting it, are alarmed that anyone could be judgmental of their efforts.

Of course the thugs who threaten violence against the idiots are evil, and the reaction across radical Islam is every bit as chilling and outrageous as the 1989 fatwa against Rushdie.

But I think the third course between the cartoonist provocateurs and the radicals waving guns at the EU employees in Gaza is to denounce without ambiguity or excuse the latter but at the same time to delineate a very bright line between what the West stands for and the churlishness of the caroonist provocateurs.

Our country's founding document includes in its opening paragraph the explanation for why the Declaration is necessary: "a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that [we] should declare the causes which impel [us] to the Separation."

The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers. Of course each of them had the absolute right to publish their screed, and the Danish (and now Norwegian) governments must reply to demands that these papers be punished with a steely refusal to be dictated to as to their culture of free expression and the protection of the vulgar and the stupid.

But don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid.
Well said. I've been trying all day to work out my feelings about this cartoon flap. And the only thing that really threatened to move me off my gut reaction (against the cartons) was the Bush administration's maneuver condemning them (which I instantly saw as cynical -- I guess I'm failing the Moonbat test after all, Jay). But upon reflection, and as this thing has rolled on, and especially once this stupid "post the pics" blogswarm started, I have to come down on the state department's side (wait! Passed the test...!) which is also Bill Clinton's, Hugh Hewitt's, and I should think any fair minded person's side. (Remember this? I have to tell you I was not and am not prepared to defend it on free speech grounds.)

The Muhammad cartoons were published, I think, in a spirit I can understand, as a Westerner who believes that secularism goes hand in hand with religious freedom. But I am not a Muslim. I can't presume to demand that they react in the same way, any more than I can expect a white person to react to the above picture in the same way. (And I'm prepared also to apologize for my blythe reaction to the Kanye Jesus pic. That too, was wrong. But again, were are here in the West, where Christianity already is steeped in modernity, and where depictions of Christ are not nearly as taboo. We can shrug it off. Obviously the Muslim world -- particularly when incited by twisted people who want them inflamed so they can strap suicide belts on them -- can't.)

I think we all find it easy to tell other people to "get over it" when it isn't your beliefs that are being made light of. I'm as guilty of that as anyone. But the Europeans and the right wingers in this country are dead wrong on this (as are the nutters who are running amok in the Islamic world). You guys wanna demand that the world's billions of Muslims get with the "classical liberalism" program? Good luck. That tactic has really worked out for the Scandinavians, the British and the French. Just stop putting other people's lives on the line to flex your keyboard bravado. I do understand that we can't allow ourselves to be held hostage to extremists. But there is very large middle ground between preserving our freedom of expression and kicking Muslims in the teeth.

Related: Mark in Mexico agrees with Hewitt, too, and manages to slip in a shot at Black people for in the main, detesting George Bush. We should take a number, Mark. Most of humanity detests George W. You guys still firmly in his camp are a distinct minority. Although he makes a salient point here:
My feeling is that the only reason that a world war between civilizations has not already broken out is that the vast majority of Muslims living in the world today are so desperately poor that they have the time, energy and resources for only the occasional burst of AK-47 fire into the air from the garbage and sewage laden streets outside of their mud huts. Give them resources and I fear that they will come after us everywhere that they can find us, which is to say everywhere.
... And most of us won't even know why.

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posted by JReid @ 1:25 AM  
Friday, February 03, 2006
Pat Buchanan hits back
...for the "protectionists" and "isolationists." Count me in, Pat. Count me in...! ... Oh, and Robert Novak says other actual conservatives (as oppose to Bush lackeys like Roberts and neoconservative Wilsonites -- didn't much care for the SOTU speech, either...

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, sotu
posted by JReid @ 6:53 PM  
...and then there's this
...The Osama Jesus. Riots, anyone?
posted by JReid @ 6:49 PM  
Where do broke election winners go?
...To Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, apparently, because that's where Hamas is headed, according to CNN. Completing the Middle Eastern theme for today, I think it's safe to say that if we and the Europeans cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, I guess we shouldn't assume Hamas will simply fold up its tents and hand the keys over the Fatah. They're going to get their money and their friends where they can -- from China or Russia or Iran, perhaps, from fellow Arabs, or even in our own back yard...

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posted by JReid @ 6:27 PM  
Muslim dissident sides with Denmark
On Der Spiegel:
Best-selling author and Muslim dissident Ibn Warraq argues that freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend it against attacks from totalitarian societies. If the west does not stand in solidarity with the Danish, he argues, then the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest.

Meanwhile, in addition to the U.S. State Department and Kofi Annan, critics of the Europeans' decision to run the cartoons include Javier Solana (EU chief), former President Clinton and Afghan puppet President Hamid Karzai...
posted by JReid @ 4:09 PM  
Who incited the riots?
From the Times UK:

Crowds gathered in Bangladesh and in cities across Pakistan, where the national parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the drawings. "I have been hurt, grieved and I am angry," said President Pervez Musharraf. Last November, Islamic extremists in Islamabad issued death threats against the authors of the cartoons. Newspaper offices are frequently attacked in Pakistan for perceived slights against Islam.

Across the Middle East, Danish dairy produce has been boycotted by an estimated 50,000 shops since Saudi Arabian clerics asked shopkeepers to remove the items from their shelves. As Friday prayers ended in the region, thousands took to the streets to burn flags and threaten violence.

"We must tell Europeans, we can live without you. But you cannot live without us," said Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a leading imam in Qatar. "We can buy from China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia... We will not be humiliated."

The Palestinian Territories have been alive with marches and unrest since the victory of the Islamist group, Hamas, in last week's parliamentary elections.

Today a week of anti-Danish and anti-European protests reached its climax with 50,000 people attending a rally organised by the group, which is yet to take power. Danish goods were burnt and the crowd chanted: "Let the hands that drew be severed!"

Western diplomats have already been forced to abandon their missions in the Gaza Strip after reports of gunmen searching hotels for Europeans, declaring them legitimate targets. The Danish Red Cross has pulled out workers from Yemen and Gaza City after they received death threats.

Arab newspaper editorials held no trace of the ambivalence that led a Jordanian newspaper, al-Shihan, to print three of the cartoons yesterday. Instead, Jihad Momani, the newspaper's editor who was fired for his decision to publish, issued an apology: "Oh I ask God to forgive me and I announce to everyone my deep regret for the gross mistake I have committed in Shihan without intention, which I fell into in my enthusiasm to defend our religion and the life of the Prophet," he said.

By this afternoon, London also was witnessing furious demonstrations. After a small protest at the BBC television centre last night to complain about glimpses of the cartoons in news bulletins and on Newsnight, hundreds of Muslims gathered in Regent's Park to march to the Danish Embassy on Sloane Street.

Placards reading: "Behead the one who insults the prophet" and "Free speech go to hell!" were carried by the protesters. Bushra Varakat, a 26-year-old student from Egham, Surrey, said: "This is our prophet, he did a lot of things for humankind, both Muslim and non-Muslim.

"We don’t know why these silly people use these cartoons unless they were showing how much they hate us. We have to defend our prophet otherwise Allah will punish us. We will not accept this ridicule."
This uproar seems to be as much about the impotent rage of the Muslim world -- which has been powerless to stop Western countries from passing laws banning headscarves (France), invading Iraq, pressuring Syria and Iran, etc. Is that what's really going on here?

Also, if these cartoons were published in late September of last year, why did the controversy only erupt this week? Who's behind the incitement, and why now?

Here's a partial answer cobbled together (not in the order they put it in) from Wikipedia:

On October 19, ten ambassadors from Islamic countries, including Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, as well as the head of the Palestinian delegation in Denmark, sent a letter to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen requesting a meeting and asking him to distance himself from alleged "hate speech", including remarks by MP Louise Frevert, Culture Minister of Denmark Brian Mikkelsen, and the Radio Holger station. [7] Rasmussen declined, saying that the government could not interfere with the right to free speech, but said that cases of blasphemy and discrimination could be tried before the courts [8], a reaction essentially seen as a snub by the Muslims, according to the International Herald Tribune[9].

On December 29, the Arab League criticised the Danish government for its handling of the affair. The Danish foreign minister Per Stig Møller responded, saying that the situation had been misrepresented. ...

...On January 10, a marginal Norwegian Christian magazine, Magazinet, printed the drawings after getting authorisation from Jyllands-Posten. Major newspapers in Norway had printed facsimiles from Jyllands-Posten and reproduced all the caricatures in their online versions; a few days earlier, the Swedish newspaper Expressen had printed two of the drawings in conjunction with an article discussing the event. [23]. However, it was the Magazinet printing that led to a great debate in Norway. A Norwegian man made a threat against the lives of the people at the magazine, but later claimed, when faced by the police, that it was just a prank. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry sent a letter to their ambassadors in the Middle East stating that one of the pillars of the Norwegian society is freedom of speech, but they expressed regret that Magazinet did not respect Muslims' beliefs. [24] ...

In late January 2006, Saudi Arabia and Libya recalled their ambassadors for consultations - a traditional message of diplomatic displeasure - and Libya announced that it would close its embassy in Denmark [10]. Pakistan's ambassador urged the Danish prime minister to penalise the cartoonists. In Bahrain, MPs called for an extraordinary session of parliament to discuss the cartoons, while protestors set Danish dairy products ablaze. Al Menbar MP Mohammed Khaled has demanded that Arab leaders take action: "We are stunned by the silence of the Arab leaders. They don't tolerate any criticism against them, yet allow others to insult the Prophet."[11]

Demonstrations against the cartoons took place in several Arab countries and the flags of Denmark and Norway were burned in streets across the Middle East. The controversy produced labour strikes and protests in Pakistan, and mass demonstrations in Baghdad in Iraq. In Palestine, thousands of people participated in demonstrations and gunmen in the Gaza Strip threatened violence against any Scandinavians in the area. The European Union's Gaza offices were raided by 15 masked gunmen from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. They demanded apologies from Denmark and Norway, but left 30 minutes later without any shots being fired or injuries caused. [12]

The Danish foreign ministry advised Danes to take care when travelling in Muslim countries. At the same time the Danish government learned that a fatwa had been declared against the Danish troops stationed in Iraq. The government responded by heightening security for its troops. [13] ...

...On February 1, an Icelandic newspaper published six of the twelve drawings, claiming support for the freedom of speech. [26] ...

On February 2, Palestinian gunmen shut down the EU headquarters in Gaza, in protest of the Jyllands-Posten drawings. According to CNN, "Masked members of the militant groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinians' former ruling party, Fatah, fired bullets into the air, and a man read the group's demands....The gunmen left a notice on the EU office's door that the building would remain closed until Europeans apologize to Muslims, many of whom consider the cartoons offensive." [16]. This is the second attack the groups have made on the EU headquarters in Gaza. One hostage, an unnamed German teacher, was taken and later released the same day.

In response to the publication of the drawings, the UK Islamist group Al Ghurabaa publish an article on their website titled, "Kill those who insult the Prophet Muhammad". The article states, "The insulting of the Messenger Muhammad (saw) is something that the Muslims cannot and will not tolerate and the punishment in Islam for the one who does so is death. This is the sunnah of the prophet and the verdict of Islam upon such people, one that any Muslim is able execute."[17]

And more info, including ties to some recent deadly incidents against Christian targets in Iraq:

Violence against Christians in the Middle East

On January 29 six churches in the Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk were targeted by car bombs, killing 13-year-old worshipper Fadi Raad Elias.[27] No militants claimed to be retaliating for the pictures, nor is this the first time Iraqi churches have been bombed; but many Assyrians in Iraq claim "Westerners should not give wild statements [as] everyone can attack us [in response]" [28]. Also on January 29, a Muslim Cleric in the Iraqi city of Mosul issued a fatwa stating "expel the Crusaders and infidels from the streets, schools, and institutions because they have offended the person of the prophet." [29] It has been reported that Muslim students beat up a Christian student at Mosul University in response to the fatwa on the same day[29]. On February 2, Palestinians in the West Bank handed out a leaflet signed by a Fatah militant group and Islamic Jihad stating "Churches in Gaza could come under attack". [30]

So was it the Christian paper's reprinting of the cartoons that touched all this off? Maybe, although Iraqi insurgents have gone after Christian targets before... but these bombings came amid a spurt of fresh violence that also led to the injuring of two ABC News journalists, Bob Woodruff and John Vogt.

Coincidences? Or insurgent tactics? Throw in the fake cartoons peddled to the Muslim world by Islamist clerics from Denmark, and this sounds like a scheme to draw ordinary Muslims into a global insurgency. (But then again I'm a tin foil hatter...) And now for some wise words from a London cleric, also from the Times article linked at the top of this post:

Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned the images too, but urged British Muslims to resist the entreaties of extremists seeking to hijack the controversy.

"There may be elements that would want to exploit the genuine sense of anguish and hurt among British Muslims about the manner in which the prophet has been vilified to pursue their own mischievous agenda," he said. "We would caution all British Muslims to not allow themselves to be provoked."
Hm... who would do that kind of provoking? Seems like the Counterterrorism Blog is asking the same questions:
One issue that puzzles many Danes is the timing of this outburst. The cartoons were published in September: Why have the protests erupted from Muslims worldwide only now? The person who knows the answer to this question is Ahmed Abdel Rahman Abu Laban, a man that the Washington Post has recently profiled as “one of Denmark's most prominent imams.”

Last November, Abu Laban, a 60-year-old Palestinian who had served as translator and assistant to top Gamaa Islamiya leader Talaal Fouad Qassimy during the mid-1990s and has been connected by Danish intelligence to other Islamists operating in the country, put together a delegation that traveled to the Middle East to discuss the issue of the cartoons with senior officials and prominent Islamic scholars. The delegation met with Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi. "We want to internationalize this issue so that the Danish government will realize that the cartoons were insulting, not only to Muslims in Denmark, but also to Muslims worldwide," said Abu Laban.

On its face, it would appear as if nothing were wrong. However, the Danish Muslim delegation showed much more than the 12 cartoons published by Jyllands Posten. In the booklet it presented during its tour of the Middle East, the delegation included other cartoons of Mohammed that were highly offensive, including one where the Prophet has a pig face. But these additional pictures were NOT published by the newspaper, but were completely fabricated by the delegation and inserted in the booklet (which has been obtained and made available to me by Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet). The delegation has claimed that the differentiation was made to their interlocutors, even though the claim has not been independently verified. In any case, the action was a deliberate malicious and irresponsible deed carried out by a notorious Islamist who in another situation had said that “mockery against Mohamed deserves death penalty.” And in a quintessential exercise in taqiya, Abu Laban has praised the boycott of Danish goods on al Jazeera, while condemning it on Danish TV.
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posted by JReid @ 3:21 PM  
Egypt's Titanic
Update: Oh, my God...

Humongous tragedy perhaps hundreds thousands dead, and apparently, there were not enough lifeboats...

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posted by JReid @ 2:56 PM  
We have something in common...
A New BBC poll of more than 39,000 people in 33 countries finds that Iran is seen as the country with the most negative influence in the world. Guess who ranked number two...

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posted by JReid @ 2:14 PM  
Righties (heart) secular humanism
The American rightwing blogosphere has found solidarity in a strange place: Denmark. Not only are winger bloggers urging their readers to "buy Danish" (won't that make us fat??? Oh, sorry, I get it ... so what the hell do the Danes make, anyway...?) in response to the one reasonable response in the Muslim world to the whole flap -- an economic boycott (something the American right knows a thing or two about...) they're also calling on one another to school the Muslims by publishing the cartoons just for the sake of publishing them and to show some sort of blog solidarity with the "secular humanist" Europeans. How ironic... I suppose it's pretty easy to say "bring it on" to the jihadis when the jihad is presently taking place in Europe...

So does this mean that we all now are in agreement that Western society is, and for many reasons should be, fundamentally secular? Of course the difference is that while most of us believe this across the board, the right only believes it in relation to Islam, but not when it comes to things like intelligent design, abortion, school prayer, school vouchers for religious education and public displays of religous icons like the Ten Commandments... In those cases and others, the right wants secular society for Muslims and Christian society for us. (They also have this odd habit of calling for boycotts because Christmas isn't "Christy" enough, freaking out about magazine covers, asking God to smite members of the Supreme Court, getting all bent out of shape over opera and meaningless TV shows, and demanding that public schools teach all our kids that the earth is 6,000 years old and created with anonymous magic (we didn't say God, so it's science!)

...when you look at it that way, you'd kind of have to say all religious zealoutry is kind of crazy... the only thing missing from the American Christians is the jihad part of the crazy...

That said, I think just about everyone agrees that the Muslim world is overreacting to the cartoons (except, apparently for the Condi Rice State Department, which has apparently decided to useg the Muhammad cartoon flap to try and burnish its credentials with the world's Muslims (they've sent out three different spokespeople to reiterate the same statement...). Good luck with that... By the way, I wonder if State or any other entity in the Bush fed contacted American newspaper publishers to urge them not to run the cartoons, because none of them have... It would be interesting to find that out...

Anyway, here is an important piece explaining the context of the Danish cartoons, something I haven't actually heard up to now... and explanations of each of the cartoons in the controversial series...
The cartoon series appearing on this page that sparked a global controversy was commissioned and published by a Danish newspaper as a deliberate challenge to Muslim insistence that their religious feelings must be given special consideration.

The drawings were commissioned by the Jyllands-Posten (Jutland's Post) to accompany an article on self-censorship and freedom of speech after Danish writer Kare Bluitgen was unable failed to find artists willing to illustrate his children's book about Mohammed for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims.

Islamic teachings forbid pictorial depictions of Mohammed.

The cartoons were published on September 30 with an explanatory article by the newspaper's culture editor, Flemming Rose.

The following is a translated summary of the article and explanation of the cartoons published in the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings.

"It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule.

"It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. [...] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no one can tell how the self-censorship will end.

"That is why the Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Mohammed as they see him."

And then there's this, from the paper that started all the hubbub:

Some of these cartoons had previously been published in the newspaper without drawing major significant criticism.

In the wake of strong protests throughout the Muslim world, the paper's editor-in-chief, Carsten Juste, apologised for causing offence.

The paper's website carried the apology and explanation for its actions in an item headed Honourable Fellow Citizens of the Muslim World.

Mr Juste said the Jutland's Post was a strong proponent of democracy and freedom of religion.

It also respected the right of any human being to practise his or her religion.

The cartoons were published as part of a public debate on freedom of expressions.

"In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologise."

He dismissed suggestions that the drawings were part of a campaign against Muslims, "adding that offending anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unthinkable to us."
More: Public Figures Beware gives a thorough rundown of international reaction to the cartoons, and he even hands out grades...

By the way, where are we on our own cartoon flap?

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posted by JReid @ 1:06 PM  
Clash of civilizations, take 15,342...
The Danish cartoon row is really getting out of control:
A leading Islamic cleric called for an "international day of anger" today over publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and a Danish activist predicted that deadly violence could break out in Europe "at any minute".

As more European newspapers reprinted the cartoons, what started off as a row between Denmark's press and its Muslim population grew into a full-blown "clash of civilisations".

Anger boiled over in the Gaza Strip, where gunmen from Islamic Jihad occupied the office of the European Union. Europeans began to leave the Palestinian territories after threats from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Jihad al-Momani, the editor of the Jordanian newspaper al-Shihan, was sacked for trying to publish three of the 12 caricatures. He said that he was aiming "to show his readers "the extent of the Danish offence".

A leading hard-line Muslim cleric, Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi, called for the day of anger to protest against the printing of the cartoons - first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September - in other European papers.

"Let Friday be an international day of anger for God and his prophet," said the sheikh, who is the head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars. He is one of the Arab world's most popular television preachers and made a controversial visit to London in July 2004 as a guest of the mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Ahmed Akkari, a Muslim theologian from Copenhagen, said he had attended a meeting this week with the Danish intelligence service, which called the situation "very, very tense".
There have already been sometimes-violent demonstrations in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, to the Palestinian territories, Arab East Jerusalem, to Tunisia Morocco and across the Muslim world, including to our new supposedly peaceful democracy in Iraq.
A dozen Palestinian gunmen surrounded European Union offices in the Gaza Strip demanding an apology for the cartoons, one of which shows Islam's founder wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous.

Palestinian gunmen kidnapped and later released a German from a hotel in the West Bank city of Nablus, witnesses said.

Earlier, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened at a news conference to kidnap citizens of France, Denmark and Norway if they did not leave Nablus within 72 hours. Newspapers in Germany and Spain have also reprinted the caricatures. ...

... Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said Riyadh considered the cartoons an insult to Mohammad and all Muslims. "We hope that religious centers like the Vatican will clarify their opinion in this respect," he told the state news agency SPA.

Afghanistan said publication of the caricatures would give ammunition to those seeking to disrupt international relations.

"Any insult to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is an insult to more than 1 billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement.

In Beirut, the leader of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizbollah said the row would never had occurred if a 17-year-old death edict against British writer Salman Rushdie been carried out.
(The Saudis have recalled their ambassador from Denmark...There are also protests in London today...) This thing is getting really serious, folks. There are death threats going around, in Denmark and in France, where the cartoons were reprinted, and Denmark could be looking at a major, international boycott of its products. And a Salon community blogger has also received a death threat for publishing the cartoons that started all the flap. (Michelle Malkin has also put them on her blog, and she scolds the U.S. media for not doing the same...)

Gateway Pundit and other bloggers have uncovered an astounding addition to the controversy: apparently additional, fake cartoon images are being spread around the Muslim world by an Islamist group in order to further fan the flames. (You can get an excellent roundup of related stories and analyses of this story, including the very different general reaction to parody shots at Jesus, at the Moderate Voice.)

Also, the U.S. State Department has finally weighed in, and Condi's shop seems to be taking the easy way out:

The United States blasted the publication by European newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as unacceptable incitement to religious or ethnic hatred.
"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims," State Department spokesman Justin Higgins said when queried about the furore sparked by the cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper.

"We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility," Higgins told AFP.

"Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable. We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."
Actually, it looks like the House of Condi agrees with Kofi Annan:

Mr. Annan said that freedom of the press had to be exercised in a way that fully respected the religious beliefs and tenets of all religions.

This comes as Libya, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries cut diplomatic relations with Denmark over its refusal to apologise for the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammad.
... Or maybe they're just trying to spruce up the image of the Iraq occupying United States at the expense of our "friends" in Europe:
By inserting itself into a dispute that has become a lightning rod for anti-European sentiment across the Muslim world, the United States could help its own battered image among Muslims.

"These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said in answer to a question. "We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."

Here's an American Muslim group urging folks to turn the cartoon flameup into a "positive learning experience..." Uh ... ok... I'm not sure what we're learning here, except that the current iterations of Islam are largely incompatible with Western notions of free speech and expression, and thus, I'd say, with the Bushian dream of Western style democracy for all. ... that said, the Muslim world does understand capitalism...

And the Europeans? They're basically saying "in your face, Muslims," proving that secularists can play hardball, too... (A Jordanian newspaper editor published the cartoons too, and was sacked.)

(Then again, the true neoconservative vision wasn't about spreading democracy to Muslims, it was about crushing and containing them, and replacing their leaders with American stooges in order to box terrorism in, away from us and away from the Israelis... but that's a whole 'nother post...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:40 AM  
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The axis of weasel

That Bush and Blair cut a deal in 2003 to invade Iraq no matter what the U.N. inspectors found really isn't all that surprising, is it? But there are some intresting new nuggets of information in the latest Downing Street Memo, as unveiled in a new book and a news story by the Guardian:
Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.

...

· Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

· Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a "public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small possibility" that Saddam would be "assassinated".

...

· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according to the book.

The revelation that Mr Blair had supported the US president's plans to go to war with Iraq even in the absence of a second UN resolution contrasts with the assurances the prime minister gave parliament shortly after. On February 25 2003 - three weeks after his trip to Washington - Mr Blair told the Commons that the government was giving "Saddam one further, final chance to disarm voluntarily". ...
As the Times of London's headline implies,with no good arguments to invade, the Bush administration literally considered trying to lure Saddam Hussein into war... Says the Times:
If the U2 idea was a serious proposal, it would have made sense only if the spy plane was ordered to fly at an altitude within range of Iraqi missiles. Mr Bush’s reference in the recorded conversation to the U2 being escorted by fighter aircraft indicates that that is what he had in mind.

The U2, America’s most sophisticated aerial reconnaissance aircraft, can operate at 90,000ft, taking high-resolution photographs of targets. At this altitude, the U2 would have been beyond the range of Iraqi surface-to-air missiles.

U2s were made available to the UN weapons inspectors to help them in their search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). But there has never been any suggestion until now that Mr Bush had thought about painting one of them in UN colours to deceive Saddam.
Meanwhile, a British M.P. of the Liberal Democrat party is being accused of exaggerating his opposition to the Iraq war to boost his ratings. Wow. It's almost like Bizarro World America, aint it?

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posted by JReid @ 11:28 PM  
Saying what you mean
Update on where the Bush administration stands on various issues of national import:
  • Bush and Blair's pledge to go through the U.N. process without having made a prior decision to invade Iraq: really didn't mean it
  • Bush's constant assertion that "the enemy" is still seeking to attack us (hence theneed to tap our phones without a warrant): didn't mean it except for the purposes of scaring Americans shitless and raising Dubya's poll numbers
  • Goal of reducing America's dependance on foreign oil by 75 percent by 2025: didn't mean it literally...
  • When Cheney said he never had a clue that the Niger yellowcake story was bogus: didn't mean it
  • Bush saying other presidents did the same thing he did on NSA domestic spying: such an obvious lie it kind of doesn't matter whether they meant it ...

From ThinkProgress: more things the Bush administration really didn't mean...



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posted by JReid @ 11:02 PM  
Reverse!
Sam Alito sides with the majority and John Roberts with the conservative hardliners on a death penalty case. And I thought Roberts would be the milder guy... hm... (Related: Mom! Dad! The FReepers are fighting again...!)

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posted by JReid @ 10:54 PM  
The secret to their success?
Fascinating piece in Friday's NY Times:

Women, Secret Hamas Strength, Win Votes at Polls and New Role

By IAN FISHER

GAZA, Feb. 2 — Hamas has been known and feared for its men, armed or strapped with suicide bombs. But in its parliamentary election triumph here last week, one secret weapon was its women.

To a degree specialists said was new in the conservative Muslim society of the Gaza Strip, Hamas used its women to win, sending them door to door with voter lists and to polling places for last-minute campaigning.

Now in surprise control of Palestinians politics, Hamas can boast that women hold 6 of the party's 74 seats in parliament — giving the women of the radical group, guided in all ways by their understanding of Islam, a new and unaccustomed public role.

"We are going to lead factories, we are going to lead farmers," said Jamila al-Shanty, 48, a professor at the Islamic University here who won a seat in parliament. "We are going to spread out through society. We are going to show the people of the world that the practice of Islam in regards to women is not well known."

If Ms. Shanty's prediction is true, the role of women will certainly not be along the secular Western lines followed largely, and with real strides for women, under decades of leadership by Yasir Arafat's now defeated Fatah faction. The model will be Islam: women in Hamas wear head scarves and follow strict rules for social segregation from men.

And one of their role models — one of the few women in Hamas well known before the election — has a pedigree particularly troubling to many in Israel and the outside world.

She is Mariam Farhat, the mother of three Hamas supporters killed by Israelis. She bade one son goodbye in a homemade videotape before he stormed an Israeli settlement, killing five people, then being shot dead. She said later, in a much-publicized quotation, that she wished she had 100 sons to sacrifice that way. Known as the "mother of martyrs," she was seen in a campaign video toting a gun.

Now she is one of the six women who are Hamas legislators, elected on the party list. The election rules had quotas for women for all parties. She was swamped this week at a Hamas victory rally at the women's campus at the Islamic University by young, outspoken, educated women who see no contradiction between religious militancy and modernity.

"She is a mother to every house, every person," said one of the students, Reem el-Nabris, 20, who kissed and hugged Ms. Farhat.

Ms. Farhat, 56, who had not been active in politics, said she hoped she deserved their praise as a role model. But she said her role should not be the only one for Hamas's women.

"It is not only sacrificing sons," she said after the rally. "There are different kinds of sacrifice, by money, by education. Everybody, according to their ability, should sacrifice."

The Islamic University, an oasis of order in the grit and chaos of Gaza, shows as well as any place the conflicting images of Hamas in relation to the women who strongly support it. A stronghold for Hamas, though not exclusively for its supporters, the university is split in two by sex, and it can be jarring to cross the corridor from crowds without a woman's face to another of only women, all with their heads covered, some wearing the full veil, the nikab. And on the day of the rally, some also plopped a green Hamas baseball cap on top.

Yet Hamas encourages, and in some cases pays for, the education of these women. Sabrin al-Barawi, 21, a chemistry student, said she had grown up with Hamas programs for women: social groups, leadership courses, Koran classes.

"It's not only religious," said Ahlan Shameli, 21, who is studying computers. "It's the Internet, computers."

"Before Hamas, women were not aware of the political situation," she said. "But Hamas showed and clarified what was going on. Women have become much more aware."

In nearly two decades, the top tier of Hamas's leadership has seemed very much reserved for men. But supporters of Hamas, as well as those of Fatah and other specialists, agreed with Ms. Shameli that Hamas had earned strong support among women. In fact, studies and results from municipal elections show women support the group in higher numbers than men.

If the men's most visible role has been fighting Israel, Hamas's social programs have attracted the loyalty of women. Hamas offers assistance programs for widows of suicide bombers and for poor people, health clinics, day care, kindergartens and preschools, in addition to beauty parlors and women-only gyms.

Women "are the ones who take kids to clinics," said Mkhaimar Abusada, professor of political science at Al Azhar University here. "They are the ones who take children to schools."

And during the elections, he said, Hamas mobilized these same women as if it had been "building up for this occasion for 30 years," using them as grass-roots campaign workers.

"It's something noticeable in the Gaza Strip," he said. "In Palestinian society, our values do not accept women to go out and campaign in the street. It's really a new phenomenon, especially for Hamas."

Reem Abu Athra, who directs women's affairs in the Fatah youth wing, said that her party did not seem to understand how mobilized Hamas's women were generally — and that it did not match the grass-roots work by Hamas women during the elections. She said that Fatah seemed to think it would naturally win the women's vote, as the more secular party that has been in some ways a leader in the Arab world in rights for women.

"Fatah took women for granted, and this is one reason it lost," she said. ...

Just like an American election, only with suicide bombers' moms... wow.

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posted by JReid @ 10:42 PM  
Doesn't rhyme with "loner..."
...George Clooney... anyway I guess John Boehner will have to quit handing out tobacco industry checks on the House floor now that he's officially in charge of the new, improved "reform" GOP House... by the way, just how many Republican members of the House of Representatives are there exactly...? 'Cause somebody's voting Florida style...

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posted by JReid @ 10:18 PM  
I love to give you money (as long as you're in Iraq)
It's clear that Iraq has become a huge federal money pit. Now we're finding out that it was also a cash machine for corrupt American (and Iraqi) opportunists.

Exhibit A: Robert J. Stein -- Coalition contracting officer and former felon (bank fraud) who has pleaded guilty to stealing upwards of $2 million in funds that were supposed to go toward rebuilding war-torn Iraq. The conduit for the theft was another corrupt businessman, Phillip Bloom, who was awarded nearly $9 million in Iraq contracts via Mr. Stein in $500,000 increments (the amount Stein could dole out without getting authorization). Five Army Reserve officers are also implicated in the scam, and Bloom has yet to stand trial.

...Back to the money pit: if ... sorry, when... the president gets his new round of Iraq cash from his pliant friends on the Hill, the war in Iraq will have cost about half a trillion dollars, far more than the $100 to $200 billion Larry Lindsay was fired in 2003 for suggesting as an estimate of the total cost. Remember when Paul Wolfowitz testified before Congress that Iraq could finance its own reconstruction via its oil? And this almost seems quaint, now:

New York Times, February 28, 2003 -- In a contentious exchange over the costs of war with Iraq, the Pentagon's second-ranking official today disparaged a top Army general's assessment of the number of troops needed to secure postwar Iraq. House Democrats then accused the Pentagon official, Paul D. Wolfowitz, of concealing internal administration estimates on the cost of fighting and rebuilding the country.

Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops. Mr. Wolfowitz then dismissed articles in several newspapers this week asserting that Pentagon budget specialists put the cost of war and reconstruction at $60 billion to $95 billion in this fiscal year. He said it was impossible to predict accurately a war's duration, its destruction and the extent of rebuilding afterward.

"We have no idea what we will need until we get there on the ground," Mr. Wolfowitz said at a hearing of the House Budget Committee. "Every time we get a briefing on the war plan, it immediately goes down six different branches to see what the scenarios look like. If we costed each and every one, the costs would range from $10 billion to $100 billion." Mr. Wolfowitz's refusal to be pinned down on the costs of war and peace in Iraq infuriated some committee Democrats, who noted that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the budget director, had briefed President Bush on just such estimates on Tuesday.

"I think you're deliberately keeping us in the dark," said Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia. "We're not so na�ve as to think that you don't know more than you're revealing." Representative Darlene Hooley, an Oregon Democrat, also voiced exasperation with Mr. Wolfowitz: "I think you can do better than that."

Mr. Wolfowitz, with Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller, at his side, tried to mollify the Democratic lawmakers, promising to fill them in eventually on the administration's internal cost estimates. "There will be an appropriate moment," he said, when the Pentagon would provide Congress with cost ranges. "We're not in a position to do that right now."
So between the really bad (or misleading) cost estimates, the continual drain on our economy at a time when the Congress is cutting $40 billion in student loans, Medicare, nursing homes for Medicaid recipients and money to help force deadbeat parents to pay their child support. (So compassionate, these conservatives).

All of which should cause any thinking American to ask: why is your government taking money away from poor Americans, old people and students, while literally throwing three times as much away on crooks in Iraq? Interesting priorities, Mr. President.

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posted by JReid @ 9:36 PM  
The White House plumbers re-mix
From AP today:
Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost

WASHINGTON - WASHINGTON - Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is raising the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.

The prosecutor in the criminal case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff said in a Jan. 23 letter that not all e-mail was archived in 2003, the year the Bush administration exposed the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Lawyers for defendant I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding evidence the Libby camp says it needs to mount a defense.

"We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed," Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to the defense team.

But the prosecutor added: "In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." His letter was an exhibit attached to Libby's demand for more information from the prosecution. ...
Donde estan los records, Mr. Nixon... er ... Mr. Cheney? Mistake? Well, there shouldn't be one, my dear...
The Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress in 1978, made it clear that records generated in the conduct of official duties did not belong to the president or vice president, but were the property of the government.

The National Archives takes custody of the records when the president leaves office.

"Bottom line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but this is highly irregular and invites suspicion," said Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists government secrecy project.

"A particular subset of records sought in a controversial prosecution have gone missing," Aftergood said. "I think what is needed is for the national archivist to ascertain what went wrong and how to ensure it won't happen again."
So do we have an invese of Nixon's White House plumbers at work here -- protecting leaks by destroying evidence rather than trying to prevent them by burglarazing E. Howard Hunt's shrink? This time, ironically, one of their own is calling out the White House -- specificially Scooter Libby's former friends in the office of the vice president -- and it could be Libby's defense that ultimately drags the truth out into the light. Where are the Watergate-era Congressional Republicans when you need one? What has this crowd got to do to get Congress' attention? Slap Bill Frist? (Actually, that's not a half bad idea...)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , Cheney, , White House, PlameGate
posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
When you're wrong, you're wrong

This happens from time to time in the informal as well as the formal media biz. Sometimes you're just plain wrong. And when that happens, the best thing to do is admit it. So here it is:

My initial, gut reaction to hearing about Cindy Sheehan's arrest was to assume that she had pulled some antic to get herself bounced from the Capitol gallery before the president's State of the Union speech began. And because I guess I've just grown weary of the woman -- from her seeming mission creep (including her adventures in Venezuela,) to her would-be run for office -- my reaction was quite negative toward her, including in this podcast...

Well folks, I'm not even going to mince words. I was wrong.

Here was the original AP story:
Sheehan, who had been invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, a misdemeanor, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. Sheehan was taken in handcuffs to police headquarters a few blocks away and her case was processed as Bush spoke

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.

Police handcuffed Sheehan and removed her from the gallery before Bush arrived. Sheehan was to be released on her own recognizance, Schneider said.
And this is the AP story today:

WASHINGTON - Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman’s wife from President Bush’s State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.

“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The policy and procedures were too vague,” he added. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.” ...

...“Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts,” Gainer’s statement said.
In other words, this wasn't a case of Sheehan unfurling her offending shirt, launching into a protest and having to be hauled out of the place, it was just another day in the life of the presidential bubble, in which rule number one is that Mr. Bush is not to have his delicate eyes offended by less than obsequious candor.

In fact, the Capitol police are apologizing now, not because of Ms. Sheehan per se, but because the zeal that was pumped into the dissent hunters inside that gallery led the cops to make the suppression of free expression bi-partisan.

Ms. Sheehan was arrested on Tuesday solely because of what she was wearing: namely, a T-shirt containing the number 2245: the number of American troops killed so far in Iraq. Troops like Ms. Sheehan's son, Casey. Sheehan was on Randi Rhodes' show this evening and she explained what happened when, as a guest of a California congresswoman, she took her seat in the gallery, then about fifteen minutes later, took off her jacket, revealing the shirt. The Capitol Police, who were apparently on the lookout for her, over-reacted, to put it mildly. Someone yelled "protester!" and they grabbed Sheehan, handcuffed her, and literally manhandled her out of the place, before her T-shirt could spoil the view of the president.

But also inside that gallery was the wife of Florida Republican congressman Bill Young, wearing a shirt that read "support the troops." She was escorted out too (but not in handcuffs), prompting her husband to launch into a teary tirade on the House floor today. Also ejected: a constituent of Florida Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, who was ushered out of the place for unknown reasons as well. But none of the others were man-handled, bullied or arrested. Only Cindy Sheehan. Those are facts that should not be glossed over, and I did just that.

And you know, it wouldn't be so bad if this president's team didn't have a long, nasty history of cleansing his surroundings of opposing views; from hauling other people off to jail for displaying anti-Bush or anti-war bumper stickers or T-shirts at or near Bush rallies, or making American citizens attending supposed town hall meetings with their president sign Midieval-style loyalty oaths to Mr. Bush before they can get a ticket, or staging potemkin round tables with hand-picked audiences -- including hand-picked military audiences -- so that Bush can appear on television to have unified and universal support from the American people.

It's pretty sick. Hell, it's pretty damned Soviet. Not to mention the fact that to paraphrase Randi Rhodes tonight, if Bush's arguments can't stand up to a T-shirt, then he should seriously rethink his positions. And while this time, the bad actors were the Capitol police, purportedly non-partisan, although with this crowd, I wouldn't be surprised if they were "cleansed" and restocked with Bush campaign workers at some stage in the game, they were obviously acting on a BOLO alert ("be on the lookout for protesters -- especially Sheehan...") handed down to them by Team Bush.

Anyway, the Capitol police have apologized (most profusely to the Congressman's wife, but there you go... though the GOP congressman appears not to accept...) and well they should, although apparently the newly extended (for six weeks) Patriot Act is set to give the Secret Service near-unlimited powers to do stuff like this:
Fox News says a new provision slipped into the Patriot Act by Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican, would give the Secret Service virtually unchecked authority to make felony arrests of demonstrators inside a security perimeter at any "special event of national significance,'' even when the star of the show -- like Bush or Cheney -- isn't present. This would apply at any designated ``National Security Special Events,'' even when the president is dead [Ronald Reagan's funeral procession] or not there [the Super Bowl.] What as once ranked as misdemeanor trespassing would be elevated to a federal felony. This is on top of FAA flight restrictions dictating that private pilots can't fly above Cheney's new Chesapeake Bay neighborhood even when the VP isn't home. -- Patt Morrison for the HuffPo
As for your friendly neighborhood blogger, I say without reservation, Ms. Sheehan: this time you were right. What happened to you was a crime against the very notion of democratic freedom (and ironically, one that took place while the president was crowing about democracy and freedom, having mentioned them nine and 15 times in his speech, respectively.

... that said, you gotta admit the "Chugo Havez" thing was pretty freaking funny...

Previous:

Tags: , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 11:43 PM  
The axis of uh-oh
Bush mentioned two members of the so-called "axis of evil" in his state of the union speech: Iraq, which had no weapons of mass destruction, and Iran, which he hopes will one day be our friend (oh, sweet democracy! How you encourage populations alien to us to elect terrorist groups and Islamist radicals!) He left out North Korea, perhaps because really, what else is there to say...

Back to Iran. The country that actually is interested in nuclear technology (for energy or for bombs, depending...) has taken another step in the scare the world shitless direction:
The United Nations (UN) nuclear watchdog has confirmed Iran has begun preparing for nuclear enrichment, which can make fuel for bombs, and continues to hinder a probe of unanswered questions about Iran's atomic aims.

In a confidential report to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors, the agency says Iran has not yet begun uranium enrichment itself but has started renovation work at its Natanz enrichment site.

"Substantial renovation of the gas handling system is underway at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) at Natanz," the report said, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

Iran has said it will begin small-scale enrichment and the IAEA said earlier this month that Iran had broken UN seals on atomic equipment.
Meanwhile, Tehran's friends in Moscow have a new toy as the Truckin' blog points out...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 12:57 AM  
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