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Friday, March 31, 2006
Winners and losers
U.S. corporate profits are at a 40-year high, after rising more than 21 percent in a single year.

So... how are you doing?

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posted by JReid @ 3:25 PM  
Hostage

More information is emerging about the ordeal endured by freelance CSM reporter Jill Carroll:

BAGHDAD Jill Carroll's kidnappers reportedly warned her before her release that she might be killed if she cooperated with the Americans or went to the Green Zone, saying it was infiltrated by insurgents.

The freelance writer for The Christian Science Monitor, who was freed by her captors Thursday and dropped off at a branch office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was later escorted to the Green Zone by the U.S. military, the newspaper said Friday.

At first, she was reluctant to go, but a Monitor writer in Baghdad, Scott Peterson, convinced her it was safe, the newspaper said.

The Monitor quoted her family as saying that her kidnappers had warned her against talking to the Americans or going to the Green Zone. They told her it was "infiltrated by the mujahedeen," the newspaper said.

Her captors, calling themselves the Revenge Brigades, had demanded the release of all female detainees in Iraq by Feb. 26 and said Carroll would be killed otherwise.

In a video purportedly from her kidnappers that was posted on the Internet, her abductors said Carroll was released because "the American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women from prison." The video was found on an Islamic Web site where such material has appeared before.

But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday there was no connection between the recent release of several female Iraqi detainees and Carroll's freedom.

"No U.S. person entered into any arrangements with anyone. By U.S. person I mean the United States mission," he said.

"What we did before had no connection with Jill Carroll," Khalilzad said. "We still have a few female detainees — four — and that's all I can say on that."

The Monitor's editor, Richard Bergenheim, also said no money had been exchanged for Carroll's release. "We simply know she was dropped off at the Iraqi Islamic Party headquarters," he said.

Carroll, who was kidnapped Jan. 7 in Baghdad, said Thursday she was not harmed by her captors and added that she did not know why she was released.

Also on the Internet video, Carroll is shown answering questions, presumably from her captors, and saying that Iraqi insurgents were "only trying to defend their country ... to stop an illegal and dangerous and deadly occupation."

"So I think people need to understand in America how difficult life is here for the normal, average Iraqis ... how terrifying it is for most people to live here every day because of the occupation," she said on the video.

Bergenheim said Friday that Carroll's parents, who spoke to her about the video, told him it was "conducted under duress."

"What emerged was that they actually started filming this tape the night before and then there was a power outage. Jill had been told the questions, asked to translate them from Arabic into English," he told ABC's "Good Morning America."

"When you're making a video and having to recite certain things with three men with machine guns standing over you, you're probably going to say exactly what you're told to say," Bergenheim added.
The story goes on to say that Carroll is "emotionally fragile" following her ordeal and will head home to the U.S. as soon as she's able.

I think right wing bloggers who were so flippant with their "churlish," snide remarks about Jill Carroll owe her more than an apology. And they should be very much ashamed of themselves. But of course, they're not... Frankly, I'm not sure neocons even have the capacity for shame. Alternet has a sampling of the anti-Carroll nastiness:
After yesterday's Podhoretz comment that Carroll may be a latter-day Patty Hearst, Podhoretz's little acolyte (and the LA Times' newest columnist) Jonah Goldberg is "getting a very bad vibe" by Carroll: "MAYBE IT’S JUST ME... But Jill Carroll is increasingly starting to bug me... But it would be nice to hear her say something remotely critical of her captors..."

Judd Legum comments: "Apparently, Jonah Goldberg, who has spent the last 82 days in safety, knows what Jill Carroll should be saying better than Jill Carroll herself. And when she doesn’t say it, it means something is very wrong with her."
... and Alternet serves up an even nastier exchange from the Don Imus show:
Morning frat-jock Don Imus's producer Bernard McGuirk said that "She may be carrying Habib's baby," and that "She strikes me as the kind of woman who would wear one of those suicide vests. You know, walk into the — try and sneak into the Green Zone." [VIDEO].
And who could top Jonah Goldberg, the product of a particularly vicious and nasty mother, defending himself against the criticism of his remarks with typical right wing Bushgargle:
Is it so absurd to think that maybe someone who had their senses about them and their moral center in good order, would be less thankful about her treatment and more upset that the translator she asked to come with her was murdered while working for her? I understand that the logic of the left cannot escape the orbit of “you wouldn’t understand” identity politics. But come on. Does anyone in their right mind think that Think Progress would be rallying to this woman’s side if she emerged from her captivity saying George W. Bush was right and the people who kidnapped her were terrorist animals? Please. They’d be prattling on about how she lost her mind.

Save it, Jonah. P.R. 101 says apologize to Jill Carroll and her family and get on with your miserable life in the Republican bunker.

In less infuriating news, E&P has a fascinating piece on how the initial 48 hour news blackout on Carroll's abduction may have saved her life, and the story -- and uncropped version -- of the most famous photo of her.

Update: More outrages from the blogosphere, but also a sign of some class. First, though, a roundup of were we've been (some of the comments about Jill are just too disgusting to reprint, so I'll just thank David at ISOU and the folks at Crooks and Liars for doing it, so I don't have to):

Michelle Malkin channels Howard Kurtz, doubts and all, and links to some in the right wing blogosphere who are acting like total, freaking idiots (Debbie Schlussel... who by the way has come up with the so funny it could have been written for SNL caption: "Jill Carroll Hates America . . . & Israel, Too" ... I love the ones you don't even have to parody, because they do all the work themselves...)

...Like this armchair warrior, who thinks that in Carroll's place, he would have thrown off the hijab in favor of "a baseball cap with a flag on it and the words, 'These Colors Don't Run.'" Yes, right. I'm thinking of a different slogan you might have used: "I think I just crapped my pants..."

...or this brilliant mind who surmises that the whole 82-day abduction thing might have been a publicity stunt... after all, Ms. Carroll denounced the Dear Leader ... on tape!!!

...and then there are blogers like Macsmind, whose tin foil hat view of Jill Carroll's capitivity in stems from a video taken by Carroll's captors long before her release (as described in the story at the top) and obviously intended for propaganda use, and they now believe she was never a hostage in the first place, or was released months ago, I suppose as some sort of terrorist double agent... Sorry, but do these ... people ... know the basics of how hostage taking works? Coercion and forced confession or denunciation of one's government are fairly standard, no? Maybe these jokers should watch a little less "24" and a lot more History Channel...

Remember the Australian hostage, Doug Wood (a U.S. contractor) who was freed by Iraqi forces last year? Wood also was forced to make videos denouncing U.S. and Australian policy in Iraq, later apologized for the recordings, which were ... wait for it ... made under duress.

And who can forget the final video statement of WSJ bureau chief Daniel Pearl, who was forced to make statements about his religion (Judaism) and against the war before he was brutally killed and beheaded (one of the most disturbing pieces of video I've ever seen, second only to the Daniel Pearl beheading -- both of which I watched in their entirety in a newsroom, to my eternal regret...)

Ditto for hostage Margaret Hassan, who issued a painful, tearful plea for her life and for Britain to pull its troops out of Iraq before she was killed by her captives.

In all of these hostage-takings, the videos -- not the hostage -- are the product -- whether the propaganda speeches the victims are forced to recite, or the beheading videos used to amp up the jihadists. (In the case of the Carroll videos, they seem to be part of some sort of Sunni insurgent P.R. strategy, which in the end could be why she wasn't killed... there certainly was a P.R. strategy on the other side -- which included showing Carroll in the hijab, looking pious, and holding off on the news of her abduction to try and sway her captives to let her go...) If the right wingers -- who have wrapped their lives around the notion of terrorists hiding around every corner and whose almost paranoid need to hear approval for President Bush pouring forth from every available mouth is becoming ... well... just wierd at this point -- don't get this basic point, then there's no help out there for them. They have totally lost the plot. (Cue the ALL CAPS, unhinged emails accusing me of Siding With The Terrorists Because I Hate America and President Bush... Moonbat, Islamofascists blah blah blah...)

Of course, you've also got the kinder, gentler, less eye bulgy but somehow equally creepy, "give Jill a chance to find her own voice with which to denounce the terrorists and praise the Dear Leader in the manner to which he has become accustomed" crowd, too ... it seems they, along with the eye bulgers, want to see Ms. Carroll make yet another hostage video, only this one's for them...

So then just when you thought they had let all the crazies out of Bellvue, some sanity emerges. First, a blogger named Xrlq:

Oh my God, can you believe the crazy stuff Jill Carroll said on video while still in the custody of the guys who had murdered her translator and publicly threatened to murder her (but not to hit her, which apparently is all that matters)? The nerve of that woman! The world must know immediately what an America-hating traitor she is. After all, we never said all that crazy stuff the last time we got kidnapped by terrorists for three months, so how can she?
Nicely done. Dr. Rusty: please bring it home:
>March 31, 2006
Blaming the Rape Victim: Jill Carroll

... It's disturbing that so many are willing to begin naysaying the character of one who has been victimized for the past three months. Debbie Schlussel's post here, especially (Hat tip: Allah).

What would you say to your captors after months as a prisoner? You'd tell them exactly what they want to hear. Remember, the only video we have of Jill Carroll are two segments taped while she was still a prisoner--under a considerable amount of duress. The second video we have is one taped in the offices of The Islamic Party of Iraq--the political front for the same terrorists who had victimized her!

Well said. It's also becoming increasingly disturbing to witness the almost mindless rage of many on the right, who have this knee-jerk, vicious reaction to anyone, even a hostage, for god's sake, who doesn't constantly mouth a programmed screed of platitudes about "the terrorists!" and swear undying loyalty to George W. Bush. What is it that they want from Jill Carroll? If she's not in the cult, then she really wasn't abducted? She's "one of them?" Commenters and even bloggers on some of these sites are actually saying this stuff... and none has produced a scintilla of evidence, despite Ms. Carroll's long record of published journalism, that proves she somehow "hates America."

Realtiy check. Ms. Carroll has been through hell. And she, along with 86 other journalists still held captive in Iraq, have exhibited more bravery by going into the war zone to get vital information to the public, than the armchair Jack Bauers tapping away at their keyboards could ever pretend to. I'd like to see Debbie Schlussel do something braver than tease her hair before she criticizes what Jill Carroll did to survive, and how she's coping now.

By the way, in his column, Kurtz did manage to make two important points:

... As my colleagues in Baghdad point out, when that interview was taped, Carroll was still in the custody of a Sunni political party with ties to the insurgency. It may have just made sense for her to be especially cautious. And they tell me that Carroll did cry -- off camera -- when the subject of her murdered translator came up. Still, people are buzzing because her taped remarks have been played over and over again on television. I hope she'll be able to share a fuller account of her ordeal soon.

Despite the happy ending, Carroll's kidnapping has driven home how dangerous Iraq remains for Western journalists, who admit it's getting increasingly difficult to do their jobs, even as they challenge the administration's claims that they are excessively focused on violence and negative news.

...Not to mention the tin foil hatters and amateur Jack Bauers in the blogosphere...

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posted by JReid @ 2:01 PM  
Flag up, flag down
Students at an Arizona school pull down a Mexican flag that had been hoisted by another student caught up in the conflagration over proposed immigration reforms, and then burn it. The story:

“I know (they) shouldn’t have burned the Mexican flag,” said Jacob Stewart, a 16-year-old sophomore. “I heard it was raised above the American flag and that just irked me.”

He said the turbulence was tied to the newsmaking debates in the state Legislature and in Congress, where ideas from offering illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship to making them felons are being considered.

Freshman Chelsea Garcia, 15, and junior Brittany Ramage, 16, said the unrest had more to do with longrunning racial tensions at the school.

“(This week’s events) might have sparked a little more anger,” Ramage said. “But kids are not very deep about that stuff.”

The Hispanic student who brought the Mexican flag said he was responding to a racist remark directed at him Wednesday. The flagraising, flag-burning and shoving match that followed happened before most students arrived at school.

Six students — three Hispanic and three white — will be disciplined, principal Chad Wilson said.
The right is more focused on the Mexican flag over upside-down U.S. flag issue, however, and apparently that incident in the American southwest has resulted in discipline...

And if you want to get a taste of just how ugly -- and racial -- this debate is, check here.

For a more sensible take from the anti-amnesty side, without the dueling flags and racist crap, here is the great Lou Dobbs. (BTW, flying the Mexican flag on U.S. soil strikes me as incredibly presumptuous and insulting to the U.S. as an involuntary host to millions of foreign citizens, as does the idea of "reconquista." But having lived in Colorado for most of my formative years, I'm familiar with the virulence of anti-Mexican racism. It's ugly, and its actually irrelevant what color and race illegal migrants are. The point is illegality and U.S. sovereignty. Can't we just leave it at that?)

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Tags: , Politics, border, Homeland Security, MEXICO, , Illegal-Aliens, Illegal immigration
posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
The censure hearings, take three
The second round of Judiciary Committee hearings are under way. Pat Leahy's opening remark basically charged the Congress with negligence oversight. He called the notion that Congress "unconsciously" authorized warrantless domestic spying when it authorized the use of force against Afghanistan "Alice in Wonderland" reasoning, and he slammed the White House for its lack of cooperation with Congressional inquiries.

Feingold is now saying the question of whether Mr. Bush has the authoritzation to bypass FISA isn't even close. He also is telling Mr. Specter that the very fact that the Chairman is proposing legislation to legalize the NSA program "undermines your argument that the president has that inherent authority." And surely, says Feingold, if the president has the unlimited authority to do as he sees fit, Feingold doesn't see why the president will follow new lesgislation any more than he followed FISA, and he "doesn't see why members of Congress are scrambling around trying to craft legislation."

Says Feingold:


"We can fight terrorism without breaking the law. The rule of law is central to who we are as a people. The president must be held accountable for breaking the law. ... if we as a Congress don't stand up for ourselves and for the American people, we become complicit in the breaking of the law. ... A little over 30 years ago, a president was held to account by members of his own party ... and by people like John Dean, who put the rule of law ahead of [party loyalty.]"
Feingold is arguing for no less than a call to stop the U.S. slide toward monarch.

I somehow doubt his Republican colleagues will take up the charge. Their prime directive, it is now clear from these hearings, is to protect the president.

Read: Feingold's resolution (PDF). Feingold's statement supporting the resolution.

C-SPAN watch: So far, of five callers, two Democrats, one Independent and one Republican support censure, one angry GOPer says "censure Feingold." The current caller is a Republican from New Hampshire, where he says they have "real conservative Republicans." He is blasting the president for "lying us into war," "outing a CIA agent in a time of war," and more. Wow.

Update: Via Rawstory, the opening statements by John Dean, Senator Russ Feingold, and former Reagan deputy A.G. Bruce Fein (who in my opinion stole the show today.)

Plus, the AP update on the story.

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posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Censure hearings, take two
11: 20 a.m.: As expected, Orrin Hatch has opened with an assertion that the president clearly did nothing wrong, and that he has violated no laws.

"There is no prima facia evidence (that the president has violated the law," says Hatch. This guy should resign and become the new White House counsel.

Pat Leahy challenged the Bush administration and the attorney general for failing to answer the basic questions that could have determined whether good or bad faith was in play in the promulgation of the domestic spying program...

Russ Feingold, up now, just noted an earlier "hit and run" on Mr. Dean, who was called out as having served time because of Watergate. Feingold said, in essence, you know why Mr. Comey and the other members of the Justice Department aren't sitting on the panel, as Mr. Fein is, comes down to two words: "cover up."

Paraphrasing Feingold: "for me the lawbreaking is bad enough in itself, but the defiance of the administration in refusing to answer the questions is an aggravating factor. Call it bad faith, call it what you want. If you want "bad faith" added to the resultuion then fine..."

The essential point made by Mr. Fein is that the president "would have celebrating leaving office and never having this program exposed." He "intended to keep it secret forever," and the prospect of having such expansive powers go on indefinitely, in this unending "war on terror," is an invitation to abuse. Added to the point made by Mr. Dean: that there is, in fact, a prima facia case that the president went around the FISA statute, means that Congress certainly has the right, and in fact the duty, to assert itself to condemn this blatant lawbreaking. "If it were unique and isolated, I might feel differently," said Dean, "but I think it's a pattern and practice..."

Hatch is back to insisting that the president did inform Congress, by informing the "Gang of eight." Mr. Fein is responding now...

11:23 a.m.: Fein, responding to Specter's repeated assertion that the program, because it was discussed with eight members of Congress, "was not secret, and I don't understand why you insist on saying it is secret," delivered a broadside (paraphrased):

"I understand that I am not a member of Congress and thus cannot be definitive (on the matter of disclosure). I am a citizen of the United States and interested in living in a republic and not a monarchy, and thus am interested in having this body carry out the checks and balances that it has the authority to under the Constitution, whether or not this body wishes to undertake that charge."
I think Arlen just got offended.

11:27 a.m.: Robert Turner just made a stunning assertion: that if the president decides he needs to act immediately on a security threat, but the Congress demands oversight over that authority, then the members of Congress do not really have the security interests of the United States at heart, but rather are simply "concerned about the next election." Turner's whole thesis is that if the president says he's only targeting al-Qaida suspects, then he is to be given the benefit of the doubt. But on what basis does Turner assert this? He, and we, have only the rpesident's and the attorney general's word to go on. That may be good enough for Republican partisans, but it shouldn't be good enough for the majority of the American people.

11:30 a.m.: Lindsey Graham is now interrogating John Dean about Watergate... this is cheap, political theater of the lowest form. And he threw in yet another cheap shot about "that's why you went to jail." (actually, Dean didn't go to jail, and he was the chief witness against his boss, President Nixon, something for which Americans can be grateful, as opposed to burglar G. Gordon Liddy, who is unapolagetic. See here.) Leahy just tried to intervene, but Specter is allowing the Republicans on the panel to make this hearing a roast of John Dean, rather than a full airing of the facts. Magically, the Republican Senators who were once skeptical of Bush's wiretapping program, like Graham and Specter, are making it their mission -- Pat Roberts style -- to protect the president by destroying his critics on the stand. Mr. Fein and Mr. Dean are becoming the targets of what looks to me like a committee hit job. Shameless.

Dean is trying to school Graham on the history of Watergate. Graham needs to take a history book out of the Congressional library. Here you are, Lindsey, dear.

Per Mr. Leahy's question, Mr. Fein is now explaining the difference between "inherent" and "plenary" authority.

11:54 a.m.: Russ Feingold just made the point that even if Congress were to pass a law correcting Bush's FISA-spying problem, "Dick Cheney would probably be in the back room drafting a signing statement invaliting the law."

Fein put forward a simple syllogism (my favorite Lou Dobbs word, btw)

(paraphrased) "The president's argument is that he has the inherent constitutuional authorty, uncontrollable by Congress, to gather intelligence. One way to gather intelligence is by domestic spying. Another way is by breaking into homes. Another way is by opening our mail. Another way to gather that is by torture. That is the logical conclusion of this argument, and when asked aobut it they haven't denied it. They've just said we haven't gotten there yet."
In other words, under the new "unitary executve," there are no powers of the president during wartime -- even if the war never ends -- that the Congress has the power to limit. And the president can extend the "tactical" use of surveillance almost indefinitely, and to every quarter of our lives. If the Congress lets this stand, how could they argue that the president doesn't have the power to

Noon: Graham is back from the potty and sliming Dean again. He says there "hasn't been an honest debate" whether the president can lie under oath or break into an opponent's headquarters (when in a corner, swing at Clinton, then slime Dean with Nixon again). Then he magically asserts that ... gasp! ... the inherent authority of the president does have limits (though I'm not sure what Graham thinks they are.) Then he defends the president again. Thanks for nothing, Senator.

Are there any checks on the president's wartime powers? Turner says the power exists to check such things as torture under Article I, and to create the Uniform Code of Military Justice (he earlier said the Congress that passed FISA, which he thinks artificially limited the president's power, should have been censured). Other than that, Turner thinks the president can do as he wishes, in secret.

Specter is now asking the panel about the DeWine et. al. compromise legislation. BTW, DeWine and several Republican members of the committe are no-shows to this hearing.

Update: Here's AP's writeup of the hearings so far.

Update: Blogger (and First Amendment lawyer) Glenn Greenwald got a shout out in the Senate hearing for this post today:

While we know that the eavesdropping ordered by President Bush is exactly the eavesdropping which FISA makes it a criminal offense to engage in, we do not yet know -- thanks to the frenzied efforts of Bush defenders to suppress any and all investigations into the Administration's eavesdropping activities -- the nature and extent of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program. We do not, for instance, know which Americans were eavesdropped on, how many Americans were subject to this illegal surveillance, how it was determined who would be eavesdropped on, what was done with the information, whether purely innocent Americans had their communications intercepted without judicial approval, etc.

The White House has repeatedly assured us that there is no reason for us to know any of this, and there is nothing for us to worry about, because they are eavesdropping only -- to use a The White House's formulation -- on the "very bad people."

In that regard, John Dean is an excellent witness for the hearings today, since he was part of an Administration which invoked exactly the same rationale. According to this July 25, 1969 article from Time Magazine, which was reporting on public fears over new surveillance powers given to the Administration by the Congress, Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell told Americans they had nothing to worry about:
During his presidential campaign, Richard Nixon said that he would take full advantage of the new law-a promise that raised fears of a massive invasion of privacy. To calm those fears, the Administration last week issued what amounted to an official statement on the subject.

In his first news conference since becoming the President's chief legal officer, Attorney General John N. Mitchell pointedly announced that the incidence of wiretapping by federal law enforcement agencies had gone down, not up, during the first six months of Republican rule. Mitchell refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far lower than most people might think. "Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity," he added, "has nothing to fear whatsoever."
Yep. Nothing to fear...

File it under "whatever": Lindsey Graham, at the close of round one of the hearing, apologized "if he's been rude to any of the witnesses." "This is an emotional issue," said Graham. Whatever, man.

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posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Orange jumpsuits in the fields
The House Republicans are losing it. The internecine struggle over immigration reform has been reduced to this:
"I say let the prisoners pick the fruits," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, one of more than a dozen Republicans who took turns condemning a Senate bill that offers an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants an opportunity for citizenship.

"Anybody that votes for an amnesty bill deserves to be branded with a scarlet letter 'A,'" said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, referring to a guest worker provision in the Senate measure.

Their news conference took place across the Capitol from the Senate, where supporters and critics of the legislation seemed determined to heed admonitions from both Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to conduct a dignified, civilized debate.

The House has passed legislation to tighten border security, while the Senate approach also includes provisions to regulate the flow of temporary workers into the country and control the legal fate of millions of illegal immigrants already here. Bush has broadly endorsed the Senate approach, saying he wants a comprehensive bill.

It was the second day in a row that congressional Republicans aired their differences on an issue that directly affects the fastest-growing segment of the electorate. Under Bush's leadership, the Republicans have made dramatic inroads among Hispanic voters, and party strategists fret that the immigration debate could jeopardize their gains.

On Wednesday, leading GOP senators disagreed whether the legislation amounted to amnesty.

There was no such debate at the news conference in the House, where not a word was spoken in defense of the Senate bill and even Bush was not spared criticism.

"I don't think he's concerned about alienating voters, he's not running for re-election," said Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado. He said Republicans could lose the House and Senate over the immigration issue, and he said of the president: "I wish he'd think about the party and of course I also wish he'd think about the country."

Referring to a wave of demonstrations in recent weeks, Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia said, "I say if you are here illegally and want to fly the Mexican flag, go to Mexico and wave the American flag."

King analyzed the issue in class terms.

"The elite class in America is becoming a ruling class and they've made enough money by hiring cheap illegal labor that they think they also have some kind of a right to cheap servants to manicure their nails and their lawn, for example.

"So this ruling class, this new ruling class of America, is expanding a servant class in America at the expense of the middle class of America, the blue collar of America that used to be able to punch a time clock, buy a modest house and raise their families. ... Those young people are cut out of this process."

Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and others said Republicans would pay a price in the midterm elections if they vote for anything like the Senate legislation. "Many of those who have stood for the Republican Party for the last decade are not only angry. They will be absent in November," he said.

Rohrabacher said Americans should be able to "smell the foul odor that's coming out of the U.S. Senate."

Asked a few moments later whether the same odor was emanating from the president, he said, "I have no comment."
Meow... To state that the president needs to "think about America" is stunning coming from a fellow Republican. This thing is getting really, really ugly.

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Tags: , Politics, border, Homeland Security, MEXICO, , Illegal-Aliens, Illegal immigration

posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
Orrin Hatch's worst nightmare: the Feingold hearings begin
Arlen Specter is chairing Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Russ Feingold's censure motion now. Bruce Fein, the GOP counsel during Iran Contra, just testified. John Dean is yet to come. This is C-SPAN must-see TV...

Says Ari Melber, writing for Alternet:
While the discussion of the proposed censure of President Bush has largely focused on the Democrats' hesitance to take a position, today's debate actually reveals failures by Congressional leaders in both political parties. Republicans refuse to investigate their President's misconduct while Democrats keep waiting for Godot, hoping for investigations that will never happen.

Many Democrats are stalling on censure with an old Washington tactic: Demand an investigation and wait. While Congressional inquiries can be valuable, they should not substitute for taking a stand. Yet it is the Republicans who control Congress and its investigatory committees. Their failing is graver than inaction -- they are abdicating their constitutional duty to conduct meaningful oversight of the Executive Branch.
Couldn't say it better. At the end of the day, censure is the barest minimum Congress can do to assert itself in the face of what John Dean just called an unprecedented grab for executive power for its own sake. The Congress must lay down a precedent for future occupants of the White House: the president cannot unmake the law, nor can he ignore it, or the Congress. If they fail to take even this small step, this Republican Congress is contributing to its own irrelevancy.

Now to the hearings. The witness list for the hearing is as follows, and let's start with the fact that the hearings are stacked, three witnesses to two, in favor of the president:

For censure (requested by Sen. Feingold):
  • Bruce Fein, former GOP counsel during Iran Contra;
  • John Dean, White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon, author, Worse than Watergate;
For the president (probably requested by Hatch, or by Specter):

  • Lee Casey, a former Justice Department official and currently partner, Baker & Hostetler law firm in Washington, D.C. ;
  • John Schmidt, Partner, Mayer Brown Rowe Maw LLP Chicago, Illinois -- a Democrat who was the number three associate attorney general in the Clinton adminstration and who says he has "no bias in favor of the president," but who believes Bush had the authority to order the wiretaps;
  • Robert F. Turner, Associate Director, Center for National Security Law University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA and a man well on-record as supporting the president's position, not only on domestic surveillance, but on the expansion of presidential power;

Update: After the opening statements, Specter came right out of the box slamming Dean and Fein, saying they had not demonstrated that the president exercised bad faith with Congress. Orrin Hatch may not have to say much if Specter keeps up this way.

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
The money game
From the American Prospect blog: Hillary gets 'er done in Texas...
... A source familiar with the Austin event tells me that at least one attendee was surprised by the fact that many who showed up were Republican women, lots of them first-time donors. I mention this not to argue that Hillary has crossover appeal, but to show how aggressively her fundraisers are working to tap diverse constituencies around the country. Her schedule also shows events in Washington, DC, Rhode Island, and Missouri -- an amount of national activity that, for someone who's so far ahead in polls and money for reelection, is striking.
...and from the main mag, if you've ever wondered how Joe Lieberman continues to run and win in Connecticut as a Democrat, here's your answer:
Lieberman has held public office in Connecticut since 1970. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988 and has pulled in upwards of 60 percent of the vote in his reelection contests. He leads comfortably in early polls that match him against Lamont or former governor Lowell Weicker, who briefly threatened to challenge Lieberman over the war. With more than three decades in public office, Lieberman’s favor bank overflows with chits he can call in.

The most significant of these? His financial hold on the party apparatus. Lieberman provided nearly $1 million to the state party in 2000, the year he ran simultaneously for reelection to the Senate and as Al Gore’s running mate. The senator is up front about the consequences a primary would have on the state party’s treasury: If he must fend off a challenger, money just won’t be available to Connecticut Democrats for their own campaign operations, their May convention, or for tough, targeted House races against Republicans Chris Shays and Rob Simmons. “A credible primary challenge would make that difficult,” Lieberman campaign manager Sean Smith says.

Lieberman, said one state party official, has been “incredibly generous” to the party in the past -- a generosity the hierarchy clearly would like him to sustain.


Tags: , Election 2008, Lieberman
posted by JReid @ 2:05 AM  
Home of the brave
CJR has the hilarious story of blogger Hugh Hewitt's O'Reilly moment (in which he pretends to be on the front lines of combat in the GWOT, and takes on the uber-macho, broken-nosed Aussie reporter Michael Ware over the quality of reporting from Iraq...)
HH: I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's ... civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.
Um... ok, Hugh ... (more on the Hewitt-Ware mismatch here). ... plus the attempts by at least one would-be Republican Congressman to tell the "good news" about Iraq ... er ... Turkey ... oh boy...
Bloggers are raising questions about the authenticity of a photo -- purportedly of a Baghdad street -- posted on the Web site of Howard Kaloogian, a Southern California Republican running for the seat of the freshly incarcerated Duke Cunningham. Kaloogian's site says that "We took this photo of dowtown [sic] Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it -- in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."

Josh Marshall picks up on speculation from Daily Kos and elsewhere that the photo was taken not in Baghdad, but in Turkey. Dissecting the picture, Marshall points out that "With the white arrows I've highlighted what appear to be cedillas under the roman 'C' and 'S' on the yellow sign. Add in the other contextual clues and that looks very much like the Turkish alphabet. And in fact the letters 'C A R S I' (which seems to be what this sign says) make a word in Turkish, 'carsi' which means 'shopping center' or 'market.'" Marshall also posts an email from a reader in Baghdad who asked his Iraqi staff what they thought of the picture and reported that "they all just laughed."
(Sigh). Apparently it isn't any easiuer fighting the terrorists over here so we don't have to fight them over there...

Tags: Iraq, GOP, Media, , ,
posted by JReid @ 1:52 AM  
Thursday, March 30, 2006
The party of W
In case you missed this over the weekend: the Hotline Blog has instructions to the GOP not-so-faithful, from GOP pollster Jan van Lohuizen, who often secretly numbers up for the White House. It's to Kenny-Boy Mehlman, but really could be a cautionary tale for all elected Elephants. Read on:
Memorandum

To: Ken Mehlman
From: Jan van Lohuizen
Date: March 3, 2006
Re: Bush -- Congressional Republicans

Per our conversation, we took another look at the way voters, Republicans specifically, link President Bush and Republicans in the House and the Senate. There are several points worth making:

1. President Bush continues to have the strong loyal support of Republican voters. Despite slippage in approval ratings among all voters, the President's job approval among Republicans continues to be very high. Most members will be elected with between 80% and 100% of their support coming from Republicans. I don't see that Republicans driving a wedge between themselves and the President is a good election strategy.

2. My read of the current environment is that our problem will be turnout. '06 could become an election like '82 or '84. In '82 Republicans showed up at relatively normal turnout rates, while Democrats, because they were angry, showed up at abnormally high turnout rates. In '94, Republican turnout was elevated, while Democratic turnout was depressed. We have every reason to believe '06 could become the inverse of '82. We don't see signs of a depressed Republican turnout yet, but we have every reason to believe Democrats will turn out in high numbers. Anything we do to depress turnout, by not running as a unified party for instance, could very well lead to serious consequences in November.

3. The President is seen universally as the face of the Republican Party. We are now brand W. Republicans. The following chart shows the extremely close correlation between the President’s image and overall ratings of the party.

President Bush drives our image and will do so until we have real national front-runners for the '08 nomination. Attacking the President is counter productive for all Republicans, not just the candidates launching the attacks. If he drops, we all drop.
Of course, having their fates tied to the president's -- particularly when he seems so deaf to the sensitivities even of this most pliant of Congresses -- is precisely the Republicans' problem.

Tags: Bush, , Politics, Congress, GOP
posted by JReid @ 11:48 PM  
Quick take headlines: Lies, damned lies and Las Vegas
As we heard on Olbermann this week, John Dean, Richard Nixon's famous former White House counsel, who nearly went to jail over Watergate but came out as clean and integrity-filled as the hero in the Shawshank Redemption (his FindLaw column is a must-read for all things Bush/Nixon...) will testify at tomorrow's Senate hearings on Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Before you watch, read, or re-read this, this, and this. Dean is familiar with what happens when a president tosses out the rule of law and attempts to take on the powers of dictatorship. His testimony should be good C-SPAN...

According to the invaluable Murray Waas, Karl Rove sought, starting a year before the 2004 election, to hide damning evidence that Iraq did not pose a threat to the United States, and that he and the president knew it as early as October of 2002. Reports Waas:
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."
Waas goes on to report that while Bush's handlers were able to cry presidential ignorance on the Niger issue, in part by discrediting Joe Wilson, the aluminum tubes presented a thornier problem that could impact the election:
"Presidential knowledge was the ball game," says a former senior government official outside the White House who was personally familiar with the damage-control effort. "The mission was to insulate the president. It was about making it appear that he wasn't in the know. You could do that on Niger. You couldn't do that with the tubes." A Republican political appointee involved in the process, who thought the Bush administration had a constitutional obligation to be more open with Congress, said: "This was about getting past the election."

Most troublesome to those leading the damage-control effort was documentary evidence -- albeit in highly classified government records that they might be able to keep secret -- that the president had been advised that many in the intelligence community believed that the tubes were meant for conventional weapons.

... The one-page documents known as the "President's Summary" are distilled from the much lengthier National Intelligence Estimates, which combine the analysis of as many as six intelligence agencies regarding major national security issues. Bush's knowledge of the State and Energy departments' dissent over the tubes was disclosed in a March 4, 2006, National Journal story -- more than three years after the intelligence assessment was provided to the president, and some 16 months after the 2004 presidential election.
Shocking news? No. But it is part of the drip, drip, drip that is finally leading the journalistic community to face the obvious, particularly as various books come out sounding essentially the same theme: Bush and Co. were determined to invade Iraq, and to shield the public from the knowledge that such an invasion was unnecessary to protect America.

In Florida, Republican Attorney General Charlie Christ -- who's running for governor -- has subpoenaed documents related to the voting machines sold to Leon County, where the elections supervisor contends they can be easily hacked. The dispute has led to a showdown between the supervisor, whom the state says is in violation of the Help America Vote Act for not contracting with a voting machine provider. Bradblog does a lot of blogging on this, so that's a good place to check for more info.

And a bit further up the coast, Governor Mitt Romney says thank goodness the high court there has ensured Massachusetts won't become the "Las Vegas of gay weddings." If only the state could curtail the promulgation of presidential candidates...

Tags: , , Current Affairs, Religion, Media, Iraq, Bush,censure,
John Dean, Romney, Iraq War,Gay marriage
posted by JReid @ 3:49 PM  
Ann Coulter: fraudulent voter
Fox's favorite praying mantis lookalike has 30 days to come clean about why she voted in the wrong precinct (a third degree felony in Florida.) I'm sure there's a caustic, snarky column in there somewhere for you, dude.

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 3:43 PM  
The Scalia-Cheney axis of f*** you
The photog who caught Antonin Scalia putting into gestures what his friend, Vice President Dick Cheney prefers to put into words on the Senate foor, comes forward with the picture.
“It’s inaccurate and deceptive of him to say there was no vulgarity in the moment,” said Peter Smith, the Boston University assistant photojournalism professor who made the shot.

Despite Scalia’s insistence that the Sicilian gesture was not offensive and had been incorrectly characterized by the Herald as obscene, the photographer said the newspaper “got the story right.”

Smith said the jurist “immediately knew he’d made a mistake, and said, ‘You’re not going to print that, are you?’ ”
Why yes, Mr. Scalia, everybody and their mama is going to print it...
Smith was working as a freelance photographer for the Boston archdiocese’s weekly newspaper at a special Mass for lawyers Sunday when a Herald reporter asked the justice how he responds to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

“The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

The Italian phrase means “(expletive) you.”
Ah. Well that seems clear enough...

I suppose those on the right who like to rail about the coarsening of the culture (and who still blame Bill Clinton for the current "epidemic" of oral sex) will come up with a creative out for Tony S. on this one. Can't wait to hear it...

Tags: , SCOTUS, Supreme Court,
posted by JReid @ 3:34 PM  
Gallup: More Americans are Democrats
Rather sad Republican excuse-making aside, the slight shift Demward is big news from this GOP-skewing poll, though the real story might be the one third of Americans who call themselves independents. Chris Bowers of MyDD isn't really feeling the "we need independents" line, though:
... For the 2006 elections, Democrats cannot increase their advantage among independents any further than they already have. This is the largest Democratic lead among independents in 24 years, and historically is only clearly surpassed by the advantage they held among independents in 1974.

Given this lead among Independents, there has to come a time when Democrats realize that success in this election depends less on continuing to target and appeal to Independents, and more on building a political machine that can make their current appeal and potential majority into a reality at the ballot box. At the same time, there needs to come a point within the progressive activist base when we realize that in our lifetimes it is entirely possible that there will never be a better opportunity than 2006 to wreck permanent damage on the conservative movement and all for which it stands. Pass up this chance, and the next time an opportunity of this level comes around there is a good chance you will be either dead or retired.
He'd rather see Dems focus on capitalizing on their own energized base. I'd give the caveat that the progressive base may be excited (as they were in 2000 and 2004, remember?) but they are never as large a group as Democrats think they are. Most Americans are fairly moderate on most issues, but fairly conservative on social and economic ones, hence, the appeal of "independance." In the general, the fight will be for two things: strong base turnout, and the independent tilt. You can't discount the latter, though in a close race, the former matters more. More Bowers, and back to the Gallup poll:

...I suppose I should be a smart, non-vindictive blogger and trumpet this as good news. After all, it does not really matter how different polling firms compare with each other. Every polling firm has a different "house effect" that skew in one direction or the other on average, and so the more salient results are found within the historic trends of any individual polling firm. Thus, it isn't really important how Gallup's numbers compare to Harris, Pew, or the National Election Survey, but rather how Gallup's numbers compare to themselves. In this regard, for Gallup to show a shift in favor of Demcorats is undeniably a good thing for Democrats.

However, I am a vindictive blogger that holds long-term grudges against a small number of people and organizations, and as such I would like to point out how the only thing historic about this shift is probably that Gallup is now at least somewhat in line with the other three major polling organizations that conduct major studies of national partisan self-identification. While Gallup showed a very narrow one or two point Democratic lead for 2005, Harris, which polls about 6,000 people a year, showed a 6-point Democratic margin for 2005. In late 2004, when Gallup was showing a 2-point edge for Republicans, the National Annenberg Election Survey of over 67,000 registered voters showed a 2.8% edge for Democrats (PDF). In 2004, when Gallup was showing a 2-point edge for Republicans, Pew, which polled 19,000+ registered voters, showed a 4-point edge for Democrats (I can't find Pew info on 2005).

In other words, no matter how many people they poll (roughly 8,000 every three months), Gallup has consistently measured the country about 5% more in favor of Republicans than the other three major pollsters who conduct huge, national studies of partisan self-identification. Rather than trumpeting a historical shift that was only historic because their data from 2004 and 2005 disagreed with everyone else's, maybe Gallup should develop some sort of explanation as to why their random sampling methodology consistently turns up more Republicans than every other major public, political polling firm in the country.

Good points on Gallup. But to me it seems more straightforward: more Americans are ID'ing as Democrats, even in the conservativish Gallup sample, because more and more people are fed up with President Bush adn the current, Republican Congress. They're feeling insecure about their finances and jobs, unhappy with the war in Iraq, and tired, maybe even exhausted, by the nasty politics in Washington. Hence, since the Dems are totally, completely sidelined, they don't get the blame, and more people want to be associated with them than want to be associated with the GOP.

But, and this is a big "but..." if Democrats think that translates into a green light to push a "strong, progressive agenda" that includes such things as fluid borders, relaxed immigration policy, gay marriage and "open service" in the military, they're dead wrong, and they'll lose another election. The Democrats are in good shape right now, not because Americans are becoming more progressive (I'd say the left leaning grass roots is about the same size it's always been -- it's just got more to do with Bush and the fellas running roughshod over the Constitution.) Democrats who are smart will target disaffected, center and center-left, even libertarian independents, with issues like fiscal responsibility, finding and exit from Iraq and looking out for the little guy by protecting American jobs first. Add to that getting back control of the White House by putting in a Congress that will actually provide oversight and hold the president to account on things like the ports, trade policy and outsourcing, and you've got the kinds of issues that can bring back lunchpail carrying, soft Republicans, "Reagan Democrats" and independents, who probably used to be Democrats, back when Democrats were the party of the working class.

I'm not saying Bowers is advocating pushing a hard left agenda, I'm just saying I see and hear the temptation out there on the Dem side, and I think it's a dangerous beam to balance on.

Tags: , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
Attack the hostage
It didn't take long with Jill Carroll. Says ThinkProgress:


Today, Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll released after three months of being held in captivity in Iraq by kidnappers. The National Review’s John Podhoretz responded by attacking her mental state:
It’s wonderful that she’s free, but after watching someone who was a hostage for three months say on television she was well-treated because she wasn’t beaten or killed — while being dressed in the garb of a modest Muslim woman rather than the non-Muslim woman she actually is — I expect there will be some Stockholm Syndrome talk in the coming days.
Think says Podhoretz owes Ms. Carroll an apology. I expect Podhoretz won't be alone. The rule on the right seems to be, if you've been in contact with Iraqis and you don't come away mouthing the right-wing talking points about the terr'rists, you're a communist and an Islamist-appeasing weasel.

Along with lots of details about the group that reportedly held Ms. Carroll, Dr. Rusty at Jawa makes this quite good point:

It should be remembered by all that the only statement we have from Jill Carroll was one given by her just after her release in the offices of the Islamic Party and with cameras rolling. Further, it is not necessarily "Stockholm Syndrome" to claim that captors often treat hostages well--they often do.
In addition, he speculates that the fact that Ms. Carroll was turned over to the main Sunni party in Baghdad may indicate a move by Sunnis to curry favor with U.S. forces in return for protection from the Shiite (government sanctioned?) militias. Interesting take...

Update: Walid Phares blogging for CTB defines the real questions to come (none of which involve Stockhold Syndrome):
... "Why was she kidnapped at first, and how did the Jihadists exploit her captivity" are the first set of questions. What is the importance of the Islamic Party in this equation? Why would the kidnappers release her to a location close by the headquarters of this particular party? Who was she interviewing when she was kidnapped, and why was her translator killed? Then one would look at her writings before and after she was kidnapped and see if the Jihadists had another wider issue on their mind. Ms. Carroll said she didn't know why she was kidnapped nor who were her abductors, even though she speaks Arabic. However, she used specific words to describe them politically when she was released. Each word used by the ex-hostage before and after the abduction, are now of great importance to better understand the matter.


Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 11:10 AM  
On apostasy
The Counterterrorism blog takes on the prevalence of apostasy laws in the Muslim world and makes this point about the "spreading of democracy":
The reason for the rise of illiberal democracy is the lack of true alternatives. The only safe way to criticize most Middle Eastern governments is from a fundamentalist direction, so citizens are forced to protest the ruling regimes by voting for the Islamist opposition. Thus, in our promotion of voting, we may be unwittingly empowering our enemies.
Tags: , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Immigration 101
The New York Times breaks down the stakes for Democrats and especially Republicans on the issue of Hispanic immigration. The chart shows that the big risk for the GOP is alienating the large Latino populations in swing states like New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and New Jersey.



Meanwhile, CSM looks at the research on whether immigration really costs Americans' jobs, while noting how difficult it is to make any calculations without knowing for sure, how many illegal migrants are in the U.S. today:

...the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates how many people out of a workforce of 143 million are unemployed. Last month, 7,193,000, or 4.8 percent, were out pounding the pavement.

The Center for Immigration Studies, which is in favor of some restrictions on immigration, recently issued a report looking at jobs and undocumented workers. One of its conclusions was that between March 2000 and March 2005, only 9 percent of the net increase in jobs for adults went to people born in the US.

"This is striking because natives accounted for 61 percent of the net increase in the overall size of the 18- to 64-year-old population," writes Steve Camarota, director of research.

Howard Hayghe, an economist at the Department of Labor, confirms that this number is correct. But he also points out that by 2005, the economy was doing a better job of producing jobs - and the percentage of native-born residents finding jobs rose to 41 percent. In other words, the stronger economy absorbed more workers of all educational levels. "The more office buildings you build, the more people you need to clean them. The more roads you build, the more workers you need," says Mr. Hayghe.

In addition to the 7 million Americans looking for jobs, another 1.5 million are considered to be "marginally attached" - that is, not actively looking for work. Moreover, some 386,000 are counted as "discouraged" workers. And there are about 19 million, including students and senior citizens, who are not in the workforce.

"If we close the borders and have less undocumented workers, it would put some upward pressure on overall wages," says Mr. Chan. "It's no secret business will have to pay workers more money."

But it's not a given that business will do that. "They may just outsource a larger percentage of the work, or the jobs may just disappear," Chan says.
The Monitor also breaks down the jobs most commonly held by illegals, courtesy of the Pew Hispanic Center:


And on the opinion front, columnist George Will says its time to "guard the borders, and face the facts, too":
America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.

It is a melancholy fact that many of these may have to be employed along the U.S.-Mexican border. The alternatives are dangerous and disagreeable conditions for Americans residing near the border, and vigilantism. It is, however, important that Americans feel melancholy about taking such measures to frustrate immigration that usually is an entrepreneurial act: taking risks to get to America to do work most Americans spurn. As the debate about immigration policy boils, augmented border control must not be the entire agenda, lest other thorny problems be ignored, and lest America turn a scowling face to the south and, to some extent, to many immigrants already here.

But control belongs at the top of the agenda, for four reasons. First, control of borders is an essential attribute of sovereignty. Second, conditions along the border mock the rule of law. Third, large rallies by immigrants, many of them here illegally, protesting more stringent control of immigration reveal that many immigrants have, alas, assimilated: They have acquired the entitlement mentality created by America's welfare state, asserting an entitlement to exemption from the laws of the society they invited themselves into. Fourth, giving Americans a sense that borders are controlled is a prerequisite for calm consideration of what policy that control should serve. ...

Well what do you know? More reasonable rhetoric from Mr. Will... Now for the surprising part: Will stands with the president on this one:


Conservatives should want, as the president proposes, a guest worker program to supply what the U.S. economy demands -- immigrant labor for entry-level jobs. Conservatives should favor a policy of encouraging unlimited immigration by educated people with math, engineering, technology or science skills that America's education system is not sufficiently supplying.

And conservatives should favor reducing illegality by putting illegal immigrants on a path out of society's crevices and into citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English. Faux conservatives absurdly call this price tag on legal status "amnesty." Actually, it would prevent the emergence of a sullen, simmering subculture of the permanently marginalized, akin to the Arab ghettos in France. The House-passed bill, making it a felony to be in the country illegally, would make 11 million people permanently ineligible for legal status. To what end?

Within a decade the New York and Washington metropolitan regions will join the Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions in having majorities made up of minorities, partly because immigrants have higher birthrates than whites. Since 2000, births, not immigration, have been the largest source of growth of America's Latino population.

Urban immigrant communities, with their support networks, are magnets for immigrants. Good. Investor's Business Daily reports a new study demonstrating that "over the past 30 years rising immigration led to higher wages for U.S.-born workers. Cities that served as migrant magnets did better than others. Why? Hiring one worker creates wealth with which to hire more workers."

Not for nothing, but I've become, if not a fan of the sometimes huffy Mr. Will, a respecter of his opinion, on Iraq in particular. On this, he may have a point, and for once, Mr. Bush (along with Mssrs. Kennedy and ... gag ... McCain ... probably deserve some credit for trying to come up with a reasonable solution.

I agree that illegal migrants should have no claim on a "right" to be in this country. (The protests asserting such a right, while waving the Mexican flag, struck me as off message, at the least.) They broke the law coming in, and it's incredible cheek for them now to demand the right to stay, collect social services, and bring their relatives. Based on any decent respect for the rule of law, amnesty is not an option. There has to be some penalty for having crossed our borders illegally (or overstayed a visa). But the U.S. has a demonstrable interest in knowing who is in this country -- their backgrounds, work status, etc. Not all of those in this country WANT to be citizens -- many simply want to work here and send money home (boosting the Mexican economy to the tune of some $21 billion a year -- second only to oil revenues as a money maker for that country.) For them, a guest workier program probably is best, since they have no pretensions to loyalty to this country, making any sort of amnesty for them a double atrocity. Let those true "guest workers" undergo a background check, get some sort of ID, and travel back and forth, pay some sort of tax while in this country, and -- importantly -- renounce any future claims to automatic permanent residency for themselves, if not for their kids.

For those who are here and want to stay, that's a tricker issue. At the least, they should be made to pay a fine, learn English, pass a background check, pay back taxes and get to the back of the line to apply for residency or citizenship like everyone else (which sounds an awful lot like Kennedy-McCain.) I would actually favor a stiffer penalty of making migrants who've been here a shorter time return to their countries to await residency papers, which many immigrants fromt he Caribbean already are forced to do. Of course, getting people to come forward on that (or any other) basis is probably next to impossible. There has to be a major carrot to stop someone who's been getting away with living here illegally to step out into the light. And paying a fine and going home to wait for papers are no carrots.

So what to do? I would rather see the U.S. impose onerous fines and in egregious cases, jail time, on employers who insist on getting around the current EB visa laws by hiring illegal migrants as cheap, indentured servants, but I don't see the corporate hacks in the GOP-led Congress going that route. (Another solution could be aggressive job training programs for unemployed Americans emphasizing trade skills like carpentry and tile laying, and tax and other incentives to businesses who hire out of this pool, particulalry since these jobs pay $10-20 an hour...)

In terms of legislation, since illegal migration is already illegal by definition, why pass a new law saying it's even more so? (And why would we want to fill our prisons with tens of thosands of brand new felons we have to warehouse to stop them from working, rather than fill a few a few minimum security prisons with felonious, exploitive employers?) The Sensennbrenner and Frist bills, by that reading, are useless, self-serving, race-baiting crap of the worse (and unfortunately, typically Republican) sort, and they should be rejected (though the temptation for border state Republicans to glom on may be irresistible.) So, again, what to do?

First and foremost, there should be actual enforcement of the penalties already on the books for alien smuggling, illegal migration and employment of workers without green cards, and true border and immigration enforcement, before we even begin to talk about immigration reform. A radical idea, I know, but in my opinion, it's the place we should start.

Okay, enough about me. Here's what's on other blogs:

Immigration Daily channels James Pinkerton in saying "no more immigration reveries..."

At the heart of the immigration debate is the basic issue of the social contract between the governed and the government. The government has broken its side of the contract; now the governed will have to step up and force a solution. So our bipartisan betters -- President Bush and Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Edward Kennedy -- are about to get a lesson in the power of small "d" democracy. And all those marchers, parading through downtown Los Angeles chanting mostly in Spanish and carrying, many of them, Mexican flags -- they are about to get the same lesson.

Captain's Quarters asks George Will: "Ich bein ein ost Berliner?" (I hope he isn't calling him a jelly doughnut...)
George Will makes his conservative case for the moderate approach to immigration reform, giving enough room for hard-line enforcement while arguing for eventual absorption of the illegals already inside the US. However, he starts out with an almost unforgivable analogy that will have border-enforcement readers seeing red before they ever get to the rest of his arguments:

America, the only developed nation that shares a long -- 2,000-mile -- border with a Third World nation, could seal that border. East Germany showed how: walls, barbed wire, machine gun-toting border guards in towers, mine fields, large, irritable dogs. And we have modern technologies that East Germany never had: sophisticated sensors, unmanned surveillance drones, etc.

East Berlin? Perhaps George doesn't quite recall the purpose of the Berlin Wall, but I guarantee you it wasn't to keep West Berliners out of East Berlin. The East German government and its Soviet masters built that wall to keep people from fleeing the despair and poverty imposed on the unfortunate half of the city and killed anyone they caught trying to cross it. It wasn't part of an overall interdiction effort that promised to stop illegal immigration, drug traffickers, and terrorists from entering Communist territory; it formed the prison wall for the Gulag State and its inmates.

The Captian comes down about where I come down: border enforcement first, then we can have a reasonable debate about remedies.

On the other end of the reasonableness spectrum, conservative blogger Carolyn Hileman has a case of alien derangement syndrome... and she wants you to go off the meds with her (psst! Carolyn! You're focusing on Kennedy, but did you know that John McCain and the president are in on this thing, too?...

Darleen is probably wondering whether these guys realize Bush is on their side...

Redneckin picks apart the legalization arguments...

Jollyblogger has a conservative Christian perspective (and links to LaShawn Barber's latest earth-scorching anti-(whoever) rant... sorry, but I don't even find her intersting anymore.)

Michelle Malkin is all geeked up about the Mexican flag...

So is Wizbang, but they focus on the upside-down American flag...

Okay, now for the other side:

Blogger Steven Gilliard says, this argument is about race...

ThinkProgress calls out Fox News Channel...

Robert Scheer (h/t to Talkleft) says there is no immigration crisis, and we should legalize ... um ... everybody...

Some 2 million immigrant workers now earn less than the minimum wage, and millions more work without the occupational safety, workers’ compensation, overtime pay and other protections that legal status offers. Consequently, when the president says that immigrants perform work that legal residents are unwilling to do, he may be right — but we don’t know. The only way to test that hypothesis is to bring this black market labor pool above ground.
He then adds this:
Xenophobia today is no more warranted than it has been in the past. The number of claimed “illegal aliens” as a percentage of the population is clearly absorbable by the job market, as our low unemployment rate demonstrates. Yet, the Republican Party and the Congress it dominates are currently teetering between driving undocumented workers further underground and taking a saner compromise approach.

The former, a draconian bill already passed by the House of Representatives, would legalize witch hunts of undocumented workers, by reclassifying them as felons; their employers would be subject to a year or more in prison and punitive fines, as would even church and nonprofit organization members that offer succor to them.

Because employers are not trained to play cop, they will simply be driven to discriminate against job applicants based on “foreignness” determined by ethnicity or accent. The more reasonable alternative, co-authored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and embraced as the heart of the proposal adopted by the Judiciary Committee on Monday, shuns the criminalization of the undocumented, instead offering paths — albeit long, arduous and uncertain ones — to legal status for undocumented workers already here.

This is a moment of truth for America. It is time to acknowledge that we need the immigrant workers as much as they need us, and to begin to treat them with the respect they deserve.
I'm tempted to ask, "what about the respect the law deserves?" but then I'd just sound like George Will...

Tags: , Politics, border, Homeland Security, MEXICO, , Illegal-Aliens, Illegal immigration

posted by JReid @ 8:41 AM  
Jill Carroll free at last
Corrected: Jill Carroll, the freelance journalist for the Christian Science Monior is released by her captors to members of a leading Islamic party in Baghdad. Says the WaPo:
Journalist Jill Carroll Released in Iraq

By Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 30, 2006; 8:09 AM

BAGHDAD, March 30 -- American journalist Jill Carroll, abducted in early January by gunmen in Baghdad, was released to a Sunni Arab political party in the capital Thursday morning after 82 days in captivity.

"I was never hurt, never hit," she said in an interview with an Arabic-speaking questioner at Islamic Party headquarters. "I was kept in a safe place and treated very well."

Carroll, 28, a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor, was brought to party headquarters just after 1 p.m. and was able to borrow a phone from a party member and speak with her parents and her twin sister. She also spoke with a Washington Post reporter, who drove to the office and transported her back to U.S. officials in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

Clad in traditional Muslim women's garb, a light gray and blue abaya and headscarf, she said in the interview that she was "happy to be free, and I want to be with my family."

She said she did not know where she had been held captive, or why her kidnappers decided to release her. "I don't know. I don't know what happened," she said in the interview, which was broadcast later in the afternoon by the Islamic Party's Baghdad TV station . "They just came to me and said, 'Okay, we're going to let you go now.' "

"Unknown people," released Carroll to the Iraqi Islamic Party's branch office in Amariyah in the western part of the city, Tariq al-Hashimi, the party's secretary general, said in a telephone conversation at 12:30 p.m. local time. The party then transported her by armed convoy to its headquarters in the Yarmouk district.

"She is OK. She is safe. She is more or less scared," Hashimi said. "I told her calm down and we would take care of her."

Carroll said she spent her days sitting in a room with one window, which she could not see through because the glass was opque. She "walked two feet" to the shower, she said, and had almost no information from the outside world, watching television only once.

After the interview, Hashimi was shown presenting Carroll with gifts: a plaque bearing the party's emblem and a boxed copy of the Koran.

"What you have received today from the Iraqi Islamic Party is exactly the teachings of the Koran," Hashimi said, smiling, as Carroll thanked him.

The CSMonitor editor had this to say after Carroll's release:
Monitor editor Richard Bergenheim said, "this is an exciting day, we couldn't be happier. We are so pleased she'll be back with her family. The prayers of people all over the world have been answered."
They've also got great pics of Carroll and her twin sister, plus the sister's plea via Arab TV this week for her sister's freedom here.

Good for Ms. Carroll, who is one of the hundreds of journalists -- Western and Iraqi -- who are risking their lives to inform the rest of us about what's going on in Iraq.

Meanwhile, NBC reports on what it calls a deadly shift in the war in Iraq, with organized crime, attacks on businesses, and kidnappings becoming a frequent occurrence in that country. Needless to say, Carroll -- who had the advantage of speaking Arabic and being a sympathetic figure to the Arab side (though that did't help Margaret Hassan or Tom Fox...) is very, very lucky to be alive.
posted by JReid @ 7:55 AM  
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Five (and ten months) down ...
Jack and his pal Kidan get five years, ten months for Sun Cruz...

Tags: , Politics, Corruption, DeLay, Congress, Republicans, News,
posted by JReid @ 4:03 PM  
'He is already here'
Abdul Rahman was apparently spirited away to Italy, where he has been granted asylum. From Al-Jazeera:
...An Afghan Christian convert who had faced the death penalty for abandoning Islam has arrived in Italy where he has been offered asylum, the Italian prime minister has said.

"He is already here," Silvio Berlusconi told a news conference in Rome on Wednesday. "He has asked for political asylum and is currently being looked after by the interior ministry."

Earlier in the day, the Italian cabinet unanimously approved the offer of asylum to 41-year-old Abdul Rahman, the prime minister's office said.

"The decision has been made," Roberto Maroni, the welfare minister, said. "The case is resolved."

The move followed an apparent last minute push by members of Afghanistan's parliament demanding that authorities bar the convert from leaving the country.

Shortly before the morning cabinet meeting, Berlusconi said: "I say that we are very glad to be able to welcome someone who has been so courageous."
I suppose the Italians did what the Americans could not. Probably for the best, since bringing him here would likely have blown the lid off yet another conflagration with Islam. ...whisking him away to the bosom of the Catholic Church, particularly following the Pope's appeals for his freedom, seems fitting (especially given the Catholic Church's decent relationship with the Muslim world...)

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posted by JReid @ 3:39 PM  
Fitzmas in springtime???
Via TalkLeft, muckraker Jason Leopold says Pat Fitzgerald may have two new indictment targets in his sights:

It may seem as though it's been moving along at a snail's pace, but the second part of the federal investigation into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson is nearly complete, with attorneys and government officials who have remained close to the probe saying that a grand jury will likely return an indictment against one or two senior Bush administration officials.

These sources work or worked at the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council. Some of these sources are attorneys close to the case. They requested anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the details of the investigation.

In lengthy interviews over the weekend and on Monday, they said that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has started to prepare the paperwork to present to the grand jury seeking an indictment against White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Although the situation remains fluid, it's possible, these sources said, that Fitzgerald may seek to indict both Rove and Hadley, charging them with perjury, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy related to their roles in the leak of Plame Wilson's identity and their effort to cover up their involvement following a Justice Department investigation.
TalkLeft digs into the RawStory scoop that Rove may have been the one who directed Fitz to those 250 missing, then not-missing emails... Not to be missed.

Also on TalkLeft: closing arguments in the Moussaoui trial today, and a ruling by the judge barring the so-called "martyr defense..."

Tags: , Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, Politics, Libby, Bush, Cheney, Rove, Stephen Hadley, Patrick Fitzgerald, Fitzmas,
posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
The AT goldmine - Iran, neocons and missed opportunity
The Asia Times is on fire today. Headline number three, via the Inter Press Service:
Neo-con cabal blocked 2003 nuclear talks

So intent were neo-conservatives in the Bush administration on isolating Iran that when in 2003 Tehran proposed a "grand bargain" with the US, the Swiss envoy who relayed the message received a swift rebuke from Washington. Three years later, after tens of thousands of deaths and billions of dollars, the US is only now talking to Iran over stabilizing Iraq, and Tehran's nuclear program has evolved into a major trigger for conflict. ...
The information, culled by national security policy analyst Gareth Porter, comes from a familiar source:
WASHINGTON - The George W Bush administration failed to enter into negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program in May 2003 because neo-conservatives who advocated destabilization and regime change were able to block any serious diplomatic engagement with Tehran, according to former administration officials.

The same neo-conservative veto power also prevented the administration from adopting any official policy statement on Iran, those same officials said.

Lawrence Wilkerson, then chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell, said the failure to adopt a formal Iran policy in 2002-03 was the result of obstruction by a "secret cabal" of neo-conservatives in the administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran," Wilkerson wrote in an e-mail to Inter Press Service (IPS).
The Iranian negotiating offer, transmitted to the State Department in early May 2003 by the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, acknowledged that Iran would have to address US concerns about its nuclear program, although it made no specific concession in advance of the talks, according to Flynt Leverett, then the National Security Council's senior director for Middle East Affairs.

Iran's offer also raised the possibility of cutting off Iran's support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and converting Hezbollah into a purely socio-political organization, according to Leverett. That was an explicit response to Powell's demand in late March that Iran "end its support for terrorism".

In return, Leverett recalls, the Iranians wanted the US to address security questions, the lifting of economic sanctions and normalization of relations, including support for Iran's integration into the global economic order. ...
Read on... Other names that pop up: Doug Feith, Condi Rice, Zalmay Khalizad (the then U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, who conducted the back channel talks before they were sandbagged by Feith and company) and a terrorist group called the MEK, which the neocons hoped to use to foment "regime change" in Iran. Nice foreign policy if you can get it...

Tags: Bush, , , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:50 AM  
U.S. to Iraq: You're on your own
Remember when Paul Wolfowitz said Iraq was a country that could pay for its own reconstruction? Well, he was wrong. But now, the Bush administration is telling Iraq, "fellas, you'll be doing it anyway." From the Asia Times (lots in that mag today...):


Iraq left to rebuild itself
By William Fisher, Asia Times

NEW YORK - Last week's announcement that Iraq will now have to pay for its own reconstruction has left some observers wondering whether the country's yet-to-be-formed government will be up to the task.

Iraq's Deputy Finance Minister Kamal Field al-Basri said it was "reasonable" for the United States to sharply cut back its reconstruction efforts after spending about US$21 billion. "We should be very much dependent on ourselves," al-Basri said in an interview with USA Today.

That will prove to be a very tall order. In 2003, the World Bank estimated the total rebuilding cost would be $60 billion. Current estimates put the bill at $70-100 billion. The new estimate comes at a time when little progress has been made in increasing Iraq's oil production - which represents more than 90% of the country's income. Slowed to a near halt by insurgent attacks, Iraq now spends about $6 billion annually to import oil. ...
Meanwhile...

Approximately 16-22% of each reconstruction dollar spent by the US has gone to protect projects and contractors.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because he is involved in the current Iraqi political process, a leading Middle East expert said, "Because the US did not understand Iraqi culture, it did not anticipate the insurgency. Because it did not anticipate the insurgency, it could not have planned for the huge sums that would have to be spent on security."

Critics of the Bush administration see the end of US reconstruction funding as vindicating this position. Typical is Beau Grosscup, professor of international relations at California State University at Chico.

"Having destroyed Iraq, the US now refuses to put it back together again," he said. "This decision reflects the disastrous reality of the US occupation for the Iraqi people as it is obvious there won't be peace until the US leaves. Meanwhile, the makeover of the Iraqi economy has been completed."
It's Bush's sprint to the finish line, even if that means leaving his cleats, shorts and dignity behind on the track...

And here's the AT's succinct, but damning, take on how things are going 'over there':
Iraq: Headless chickens run amok

An increasingly desperate US is talking to Iran's Shi'ite leadership as Iraq drifts into civil war. At the same time, the American military is alienating Shi'ite sympathizers within Iraq by taking the fight to Muqtada al-Sadr's militia. Iraq's Shi'ite-dominated interim government is now demanding that the US hand over control of the country's security. Meanwhile, the Kurds have fallen out with their Shi'ite allies and are courting Sunnis - to Tehran's concern; the Iraqi president and prime minister are at loggerheads; and there is still no sign of a real government. President Bush's "long haul" is getting longer.
Ouch.

Related posts re Iraq:

Tags: Bush,

posted by JReid @ 10:31 AM  
Another take on the Rahman case and the West's view of Islam
From the Asia Times:

The West in an Afghan mirror
By Spengler

Death everywhere and always is the penalty for apostasy, in Islam and every other faith. It cannot be otherwise, for faith is life and its abandonment is death. Americans should remove the beam from their own eye as they contemplate the gallows in the eye of the Muslims. Philistine hypocrisy pervades Western denunciations of the Afghan courts, which were threatening to hang Christian convert Abdul Rahman until the case was dropped on Monday.

Afghanistan, to be sure, is a tribal society whose encounter with the modern world inevitably will be a train wreck. The trouble is that the West has apostatized, and is killing itself. There turned out to be hope for Rahman, but there is none for Latvia or Ukraine, and little enough for Germany or Spain. That said, I wish to make clear that I found the persecution of Rahman deplorable.

The practice of killing heretics has nothing to do with what differentiates Islam from Christianity or Judaism. St Thomas Aquinas defended not just the execution of individual heretics but also the mass extermination of heretical populations in the 12th-century Albigensian Crusades. For this he was defended by the Catholic philosopher Michael Novak, author of learned books about the faith of the United States of America's founding fathers (see Muslim anguish and Western hypocrisy, November 23, 2004).

Western religions today inflict symbolic rather than physical death. One's local priest does not like to preach such things from his post-modern pulpit, but the Catholic Church prescribes eternal hellfire for those who come into communion with Christ and then reject him. Observant Jews hold a funeral for an apostate child who is spiritually dead to them (retroactive abortions not being permitted).

The last heretic hanged by the Catholic Church was a Spanish schoolteacher accused of Deist (shall we call that "moderate Christian"?) views in Valencia as recently as 1826. Without Napoleon Bonaparte and the humiliation of the Church by the German and Italian nationalist movements, who knows when the killing of heretics would have stopped?

"Where are the moderate Muslims?" sigh the self-appointed Sybils of the Western media. Faith is life. What does it mean to be moderately alive? Find the "moderate Christians" and the "moderate Jews", and you will have the answer. "Moderate Christians" such as Episcopalian priests or Anglican vicars are becoming redundant as their congregations migrate to red-blooded evangelical denominations or give up religion altogether. "Moderate Jews" are mainly secular and tend to intermarry. There really is no such thing as a "moderate" Christian; there simply are Christians, and soon-to-be-ex-Christians. The secular establishment has awoken with sheer panic to this fact at last. In response we have such diatribes such as Kevin Phillips' new book American Theocracy, an amalgam of misunderstandings, myths and calumnies about the so-called religious right. [1]

The tragedy of Abdul Rahman also is the tragedy of Western religion. Islam differs radically from Christianity, in that the Christian god is a lover who demands love in return, whereas the Muslim god is a sovereign who demands the fulfillment of duty. Christian prayer is communion, an act of love incomprehensible to Muslims; Muslim worship is an act of submission, the repetition of a few lines of text to accompany physical expression of self-subjugation to the sovereign. The People of Christ are pilgrims en route to the next world; the People of Allah are soldiers in this one. Contrary to all the ink spilled and trees murdered to produce the tomes of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito, Christianity and Islam call forth different peoples to serve different gods for different reasons.

But the fact that Christianity and Islam educe different peoples for different gods should not obscure that one cannot be either Christian or Muslim without belonging to a People of God in flesh as well as spirit. Christianity demands that the gentile, whose very origin is redolent of death, and whose heathen nature is sinful, undergo a new birth to join God's people. Whether this second birth occurs at the baptismal font for a Catholic infant or at the river for an evangelical adult is another matter. The Christian's rebirth is also a vicarious death - the death of the Christian's heathen nature - through Christ's sacrifice. No vicarious sacrifice occurs in Islam; the Muslim, on the contrary, sacrifices himself (The blood is the life, Mr Rumsfeld!, October 5, 2005).

Where is the moderation? The Christian either joins the People of God in its pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Heaven, or he does not; the Muslim either is a soldier of the ummah, or he is nothing. Religious conversion is not mere adaptation to another tradition. It is a change of people. If God is "able of these stones to raise children of Abraham" (Matthew 3:9), Christians are the Gentiles made into sons of Abraham by miracle. In Islamic society, the convert to Christianity instantly becomes an alien and an enemy.

God may be able to raise sons of Abraham from stones; that is not necessarily within the power of earthly churches. European Christianity, as I have argued often in the past, made a devil's bargain with the heathen invaders whom it made into Christians in the thousand years between the fall of Rome and the conversion of the Balts. It permitted them to keep one foot in their national past and another in the Catholic Church, under the umbrella of universal empire. The peoples revolted against church and empire and reverted to their pagan roots, and then fought one another to a bloody standoff in the two great wars of the 20th century.

In parallel to Christianity, but in a different way, Islam made its own compromise with the nations it absorbed. It would defend the pure traditional society of tribal life against the encroachment of the empires that encircled them: first the Byzantines and Persians, then Christian Europe, and now America. Traditional life inevitably must break down in the face of globalization of trade and information, and the ummah closes ranks to delay the time when the descendants of today's Muslims will look with pity upon ancestral photographs, as they turn momentarily from their video game.

Europe's Christians could not summon up the "moderation" necessary to tolerate their Jewish neighbors until after 1945, when Europe was conquered and rebuilt by the Americans. Once the ambitions of Europe's peoples were crushed in the world wars, European Christianity became "moderate" indeed, so moderate that Europeans no longer bother about it. They also do not bother to reproduce, so that the formerly Christian populations of Europe will disappear, starting with the captive nations of the former Soviet Union.

No Christian People of God emerged from Europe. In a century or two, few European peoples will exist in recognizable form. Americans, by contrast, arrived in the New World with the object - at least in the case of the Massachusetts Bay Colony - of becoming a new People of God in a new Promised Land.

Read the whole thing. It's long but worthwhile.

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posted by JReid @ 10:17 AM  
Andy Card's greatest hits
Interrupting Dubya as he read "My Pet Goat" on 9/11...

Forming the White House Iraq Group in the summer of 2002, whose charge was to sell the idea of invading Iraq to a potentially skeptical American press and public, because "from a marketing point of view, you don't launch a product" -- like invasion -- "in August ..."

Visiting John Ashcroft's hospital bedside in March of 2004, to help Al Gonzalez out with that little domestic spying initiative ...

So what's next for the native of hardball Massachusetts politics? An Ankle Biting Pundit says Card the answer might be two words: Mitt Romney. Might be wishful thinking (no staff shakeup needed, say the Bushbots! All is well! All is well!!!) Stay tuned...

Tags; , , , , , , , White House, PlameGate, , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy,
posted by JReid @ 1:08 AM  
Says who?
Apparently, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq has informed the head of the main Shiite bloc that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Ibrahim al-Jaafari as the next Iraqi prime minister... interesting take on sovereignty, that...
Mr. Khalilzad said Mr. Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari as the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on a specific candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.

The Shiite bloc, which won a plurality in the parliamentary election in December, nominated Mr. Jaafari last month to retain his post for four more years.

American officials in Baghdad did not dispute the Shiite politicians' account of the conversation, though they would not discuss the details of the meeting. A spokeswoman for the American Embassy confirmed that Mr. Khalilzad met with Mr. Hakim on Saturday. But she declined to comment on what was said.

"The decisions about the choice of the prime minister are entirely up to the Iraqis," said the spokeswoman, Elizabeth Colton. "This will be an Iraqi decision."

In Washington, the State Department said it would not comment on diplomatic conversations, but Adam Ereli, the deputy spokesman, reiterated American support for "a government of national unity with strong leadership that can unify all Iraqis."

The Americans have harshly criticized the Jaafari government in recent months for supporting Shiite militias that have been fomenting sectarian violence and pushing Iraq closer to full-scale civil war.

Mr. Khalilzad has sharpened his criticism in the last week, saying the militias are now killing more people than the Sunni Arab-led insurgency. American officials have expressed growing concern that Mr. Jaafari is incapable of reining in the private armies, especially since Moktada al-Sadr, the anti-American cleric who leads the most volatile militia, is Mr. Jaafari's most powerful backer.

Haider al-Ubady, a spokesman for Mr. Jaafari, said the prime minister had received the ambassador's message and accused the Americans of trying to subvert Iraqi sovereignty.
And what is all this stemming from? That mosque raid, which the U.S. military is calling an Iraqi set-up, but which has opened a nasty wedge between the U.S. and our supposed sectarian allies on the Shiite side of the board.

Well here's the problem. The U.S. has been fueding off and on with Mr. al-Sadr. But he is the force behind Mr. Jaafari and the Shiite governing coalition. And we need the Shia, 60 percent of the Iraq population, to remain calm, and to fight the Sunni insurgency (preferably without those nasty militias...)

And Mr. Bush is apparently growing impatient, with the Iraqis, and with his own staff, all of whom he seems to think aren't doing enough to make his Iraq policy work.

Interestingly, this news comes on the heels of news that makes Iraq sound much more sovereign:
Bush said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told him Iraq's political leaders are resuming talks on creating a government, a key step in Bush's strategy to give Iraqis more responsibility for their own security. The president tomorrow will give the third in a series of speeches he plans to quell growing public unease over the war shown in recent polls.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday it's ``entirely probable'' the U.S. may reduce the number of its troops in Iraq in the next 12 months if that country's own forces can handle more responsibility for security.
Okay, so the first part's apparently junk, but we clearly see the goal: get those troop levels down before the mid-term elections in the U.S. in November.

Mr. Bush has given his orders: now he's expecting the Iraqis, and his cabinet, to mush.

BTW, Steve Clemons at TWN has an interesting take on Bush's house cleaning. Cue the mean ole' mama...

Tags: Bush,
posted by JReid @ 12:47 AM  
Moussaoui offered to incriminate himself
The latest twist in the trial, from WaPo:
Zacarias Moussaoui wanted to be a witness for the prosecution -- and against himself.

On the eve of his death penalty trial last month, Moussaoui met with prosecutors and offered to testify for them in exchange for better jail conditions before he was put to death, jurors were told late yesterday. The al-Qaeda operative withdrew the offer when he realized he had the right to testify on his own behalf and when prosecutors insisted that he also tell them about other terrorist plots.

"Have you ever heard of a defendant in a capital case offering to testify against himself?" defense attorney Edward B. MacMahon Jr. asked an FBI agent who took the stand after the news was revealed to the jury.

"No, not in my experience," said agent James M. Fitzgerald.

It was the latest bizarre turn in a trial that is expected to go to the jury today. Before defense attorneys rested their case that Moussaoui is not eligible for the death penalty, jurors heard testimony that one of Moussaoui's terrorist bosses thought he was "not right in the head" -- and that several disputed Moussaoui's testimony that he was supposed to crash a hijacked airplane into the White House on Sept. 11, 2001.
In an effort to save Moussaoui's life, his attorneys ended their case by trying to discredit their client. They told jurors that Moussaoui had said the opposite when he pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with al-Qaeda, insisting then that he was "not 9/11 material." ...

...Moussaoui, whose attorneys have vehemently objected to allowing him to take the stand, said he would testify for prosecutors about his plan to fly a fifth hijacked plane into the White House. In exchange for incriminating himself, he did not ask that his life be spared.

"He wanted better jail time between the time he was given a death sentence and the time he was executed," Fitzgerald told jurors. He said the meeting, described as civil, ended when prosecutors told Moussaoui he had an "absolute" constitutional right to testify.
I'm sorry, but how do you execute this guy? He's not all there...

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Tags: , Terrorism, bin Laden, 11, Law, Bush

posted by JReid @ 12:41 AM  
A home for Rahman
...the Afghan Christian is reportedly under U.N. protection, but still seeking asylum.

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posted by JReid @ 12:33 AM  
The decision: fight them now
Updated and moved up... Well, we have the answer to the question of whether Democrats will sit on the sidelines and let the Republicans a) hang themselves with policy screwups and b) execute the Karl Rove blood into the water strategy to yet again poison the electorate against the Dems on security matters.

The Dems, Chris Matthews, now have a policy:


WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats promise to "eliminate" Osama bin Laden and ensure a "responsible redeployment of U.S. forces" from Iraq in 2006 in an election-year national security policy statement.

In the position paper to be announced Wednesday, Democrats say they will double the number of special forces and add more spies, which they suggest will increase the chances of finding al-Qaida's elusive leader. They do not set a deadline for when all of the 132,000 American troops now in Iraq should be withdrawn.

"We're uniting behind a national security agenda that is tough and smart and will provide the real security George Bush has promised but failed to deliver," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

His counterpart in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., said the Democrats are offering a new direction — "one that is strong and smart, which understands the challenges America faces in a post 9/11 world, and one that demonstrates that Democrats are the party of real national security."

The latest in a series of party policy statements for 2006, the Democrats' national security platform comes seven months before voters decide who will control the House and Senate and as Democrats seek to cut into the public perception that the Republicans are stronger on national security.

Bush's job approval ratings are in the mid- to high-30s, and Democrats consistently have about a 10-point lead over Republicans when people are asked who they want to see in control of Congress. ...
The policy was very likely crafted based on work done (or in conjunction with) the Center for American Progress, which has quickly become the most valuable think tank on the Democratic side. Of course, the risk is that now Republicans have several months before Election Day to pick this security plan apart, and to ridicule it via their partisans on the blogosphere and in talk radio.

That's the chance Dems are taking. And it's not what everyone was advising them to do (the stand back and let the GOP hang themselves, and each other, strategy has worked brilliantly for Dems so far.)

Well here we go. Off to the races.

RawStory has more detail on the (leaked) Demo plan:

The 10-page brochure, printed both in English and Spanish, outlines the party's strategies with regards to securing the US from terrorist attacks and "restoring" the US position abroad. Broken into five parts, the document outlines the party's strategy for the "21st Century Military," the "War on Terror," "Homeland Security," "Iraq" and "Energy Independence."

Democrats say their first goal if elected to a majority will be the immediate implementation of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations. The plan repeats this goal, or objectives relating to it, several times, calling for tighter screening at chemical and nuclear plants and key parts of America's transportation and agricultural infrastructure. Specifically, it alludes to the Dubai ports deal, saying the party won't cede ports to "foreign interests that put America at risk."

In the area of energy independence, Democrats plan on "eliminating reliance" on Middle East oil and exploring alternative energy sources. They say they intend to ensure independence from foreign oil by 2020.

The focal point of Democrats' plan for the military is to guarantee certain levels of pay and ongoing benefits to American soldiers, to secure nuclear materials and to expand US Special Forces. They call for the U.S. to prevent the creation of future terrorists through the "elimination of terrorist breeding grounds."

On Iraq, the party seeks accountability for intelligence failures and intends to "repair" alliances and ensure Iraqi self-reliance. ...
and they'll have the full document up later today.

The plan is apparently titled: "Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World." In order to rebut it, Republicans will have to serve up credible arguments on how they've done either of the two tolerably well over the last five years.

...and Pal at Wizbang may need a rewrite...

Tags: News and politics, , Republicans, Politics, Iraq, Bush,
posted by JReid @ 12:10 AM  
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
A win for peace?
The final Israeli election tallies for the moderate Kadima party clear the way to a center-left governing coalition. Turnout was apparently low, and nobody did as well as expected (except Labor, which probably did better than expected.)

  • Kadima (centrists) - 28 Knesset seats
  • Labor (left) - 20 seats
  • Shas (Sephardic ultra-Orthadox) - 13
  • Yisrael Beiteinu (Russian-dominated ultra-conservative party that advocates religious/ethnic cleansing of Arabs via mass deportation -- ) - 12
  • Likud - 11 seates (down from 38 with Ariel Sharon in 2003)
  • Arab parties - 10 seats

Totals: Center-left parties: 62-66 seats, in an election with record-low turnout...

Does that mean the Israelis are growing tired of the belligerent Old Sharon policies and that they're warming toward the more accomodative latter-day Sharon gambit? We'll see. What seems clear is that this was a victory for Olmert's push to get on with the final settlement with the Palestinians, and, as the Guardian's Johnathan Freedland writes today, to return a 'stolen inheritance.'

Paul at Powerline remarks on the stark difference between the Palestinians, who clearly knew what they wanted, and the Israelis, who hedged.

The Brothers Judd has more links to Likud agonistes...

I, for one, am very happy to see the Likudniks smacked down. Maybe with them on the sidelines, our own Likudniks (the neocons) will back off, too. And maybe, just maybe, the Palestinian Diaspora will take a step toward finally getting a state of their own, as promised by the feckless British Empire, such as it was, after World War II.

Tags: , Palestine, Politics, Middle East, , ,
posted by JReid @ 11:21 PM  
Ever so gently...
The West has backed down a taste on Iran, apparently in a bid to placate the Russians.
posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
But does it really matter now?
More proof Collin Powell had reservations about invading Iraq. ...Not that he did anything with those reservations that could have saved soldiers' lives...

Tags: , Politics, Iraq, Bush, Bush Administration,
posted by JReid @ 11:05 PM  
The Krauthammer strikes back
The neocon's neocon says Francis Fukuyama is lying on him ... sounds to me like somebody doth protest too much...

BTW, best headline on the Krauthammer-Fukuyama axis of guttersnipe: Charles Krauthammer Chokes On A Chicken Hawk (at Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying.) A clip from the cheeky Mr. Mash:

...I am sure Krauthammer, when he calms down, will rethink this column and rewrite it about something entirely different. Until then, I will amuse myself by rereading this very mean-spirited column. I’m guessing that the news from Iraq has got Krauthammer seeing red. He is fighting the enemy (Fukuyama) here so that he doesn’t have to fight the enemy there.
Indeed.

Update: Mash goes Medieval on Krauthammer's ass... score: Fukuyama wins the reality check-off. Krauthammer needs a bottle and a binky (prefereably not containing "the Kool-Aid...")

Tags: , Politics, Bush, Iraq, Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:49 PM  
Congratulations, Keith
Via TV Newser: Olbermann advances in the "money demo," beating CNN's Paula Zahn and growing his audience while the Big Giant Head drops by 24 percent. It's hardly the end of right-wing domination of cable news chat, but it's a sign that more Americans are gaining a pulse... (the Kool-Aid takes a few years to wear off.)

Tags: , CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, News, Media, cable-news, , CountDown, MSNBC, Bill O'Reilly
posted by JReid @ 6:26 PM  
Doubting Moussaoui
I think I'm on record as saying that I think Zacharias Moussaoui is insane. If not, permit me to get on the record on that account now. But I'm not the only one who has doubts about the supposed "20th hijackers" latest claims -- disputing earlier denials to assert that he was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House on 9/11, despite the fact that flight instructors he dealt with said he could barely take off in the simulator. Even people on the right are starting to question whether he is using his testimony in his sentencing trial to aggrandize himself. Call it suicide by jury, or maybe an attempt to spare his life by portraying himself as a more valuable intelligence asset than he really is, but Moussaoui's claims just strike me as ... well ... made up.

Now comes the news that apparently, al-Qaida detainees in U.S. custody, including 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, whom we tortured to get to what he knows, by the way -- say Moussaoui is full of it.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - Top al Qaeda operatives and others in U.S. custody said in testimony on Tuesday that Zacarias Moussaoui was untrustworthy and not part of the September 11 attacks.

One day after Moussaoui gave shocking testimony that he was meant to fly a plane into the White House as part of the September 11 plot, the detained enemy combatants contradicted him.

Most of the testimony was read aloud from detainees who were forbidden from testifying because of national security concerns. Much of it questioned Moussaoui's competence, and the man said to be the financier of the September 11 attacks said he had had no involvement with Moussaoui. ...

...In a clear effort to rebut Moussaoui's own damaging admissions on Monday, the defense presented a statement from Sayf al-Adl, a senior member of al Qaeda's military committee, who said Moussaoui was "absolutely not" going to take part in the September 11 mission.

Mustafa al Hawsawi, the financier who gave several of the hijackers airline tickets to the United States, said he had "no knowledge" of Moussaoui's financial dealings.

A senior al Qaeda operative, known as Khallad, said Moussaoui broke security by phoning him every day during a trip to Malaysia in 2000.

Khallad, who was connected with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa and masterminded the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, was eventually forced to turn off his telephone.

In testimony from Riduan Isamuddin -- better known as Hambali -- a top member of Jemaah Islamiah, an Asian group linked to al Qaeda, Moussaoui was depicted as "not bright in the head and having a bad character."

"According to Hambali, Moussaoui managed to annoy everyone he came in contact with," Hambali's testimony said, adding that Hambali said he did not trust Moussaoui. ...
Still believe he was an integral part of the 9/11 plot? Sounds more like a wannabe...

Meanwhile, TalkLeft agrees with the LAT that Moussaoui should not be put to death. The Times puts forward the usual reasons (all of which I agree with) -- that the death penalty debases our society, that it will do nothing but give the Islamist the martyrdom he seems to crave, and that he very well could provide useful intelligence as a living prisoner for the rest of his life that he clearly would be unable to provide as a corpse. Talkleft adds this:

I will add one legal argument: No one should be executed for what they planned on doing, rather than what they did.

And I'll add one more:

Abdul Rahman.

The U.S. rather meekly pushed to save his life, along with the more robust efforts of the Europeans. What do you think it would do to the Muslim world if we push forward with the execution of a Muslim, who appears to be much crazier than they're claiming Rahman is -- particularly when much of the Muslim world not only has no sympathy for us over 9/11, but doesn't even believe Osama bin Laden did it?

We'll get our pound of flesh, but we also could reopen the gates of hell once again.

Just because you can do something, doesn't always mean you should. We certainly can kill Zacharias Moussaoui, but we need to ask ourselves whether the pleasure of seeing him die (for those who want to) is worth the price.

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Tags: , Terrorism, bin Laden, 11, Law, Bush.

posted by JReid @ 4:06 PM  
Mama mia!
Did Scalia make an obscene gesture in the general direction of the media while standing on the steps of the mother church? Catholics can't love this. Unless, of course, the gesture was merely Sicilian...
posted by JReid @ 3:24 PM  
Healthcare up, terrorism down
New Gallup numbers (sorry, CNN)...
posted by JReid @ 3:23 PM  
Where is Abdul Rahman?
The Afghan court that was trying Abdul (or Abdur) Rahman for apostasy did him no favors by releasing him suddenly to his family (hopefully not the same family members who ratted him out to authorities for having converted from Islam 16 years ago), and with no security that we've heard of. Rahman was apparently already seeking asylum, and the Italians have offered it. But no one seems to know where he is.
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan man who had faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity quickly vanished Tuesday after he was released from prison, apparently out of fear for his life with Muslim clerics still demanding his death.

Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said he would ask his government to grant Abdul Rahman asylum. Fini was among the first to speak out on the man's behalf.

Rahman, 41, was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of Kabul late Monday, Afghan Justice Minister Mohammed Sarwar Danish told The Associated Press.

"We released him last night because the prosecutors told us to," he said. "His family was there when he was freed, but I don't know where he was taken."

Deputy Attorney-General Mohammed Eshak Aloko said prosecutors had issued a letter calling for Rahman's release because "he was mentally unfit to stand trial." He also said he did not know where Rahman had gone after being released.

He said Rahman may be sent overseas for medical treatment.

On Monday, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting "Death to Christians!" marched through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to protest the court decision Sunday to dismiss the case. Several Muslim clerics threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.

"Abdul Rahman must be killed. Islam demands it," said senior Cleric Faiez Mohammed, from the nearby northern city of Kunduz. "The Christian foreigners occupying Afghanistan are attacking our religion."

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch -- not normally quoted by the right, but now embraced by them -- reports that perhaps thousands of Afghan Christians are fearing for their lives ...

And the U.S. response? So far it's been tepid, with the following statement coming out of the State Department in the last couple of days (disappointing Michelle Malkin and other righties):
Asked whether the U.S. government was doing anything to secure Rahman's safety after his release, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that where he goes after being freed is "up to Mr. Rahman."
There's a great deal less timidity coming out of European and Australian capitals, however, and hopefully the pressure they're putting on the Afghan government will help secure Rahman's passage out of the country. It's a sticky question, whether to intervene in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, but it's hard to argue that it isn't the humanitarian thing to do...

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posted by JReid @ 10:57 AM  
Reshuffling the deck chairs
Andy Card misses the record for longest serving chief of staff by that much... (the answer to your question is Sherman Adams, btw...) The new guy, Josh Bolten (Princeton, Stanford Law, veteran of Bush I administration, Bush II campaigns and administration, and former budget czar (he's been instrumental in "minding the U.S. debt store" -- something he's done so, so well, don't ya think?) is a Bush loyalist from the same team. Not sure I see the big change, except that now Card can write a book. Hey, maybe he can include a chapter about the time he and Al Gonzalez visited John Ashcroft's bedside to stump for illegal domestic wiretapping! Just a thought...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 10:32 AM  
Monday, March 27, 2006
They blew it
... as if the president needed this kind of news out of Texas today...
Radioactive Matter Gets Into U.S. in Test

WASHINGTON - Undercover investigators slipped radioactive material — enough to make two small "dirty bombs" — across U.S. borders in Texas and Washington state in a test last year of security at American points of entry.

Radiation alarms at the unidentified sites detected the small amounts of cesium-137, a nuclear material used in industrial gauges. But U.S. customs agents permitted the investigators to enter the United States because they were tricked with counterfeit documents.

The Bush administration said Monday that within 45 days it will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents the tools they need to verify such documents in the future.
Ah, the future... didn't it start about five years ago this September...?

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posted by JReid @ 11:21 PM  
Somebody's gonna have to restrain Lou Dobbs...
Democrats stand together, four Republicans (DeWine-OH, Brownback-KS, Graham-SC and Specter-PA) break ranks as the McCain-Kenney option clears the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is just the first round, folks. Let's see how far this bill makes it once it's out on the Senate Floor. Key points:

In: the Feinstein plan to permit up to 1.5 million "temporary" agricultural workers into the U.S. ...

In: a "path to citizenship" for the 11 million illegal aliens currently in the country. (courtesy of John McCain)...

In: stepped up border enforcement including a "virtual wall" across the southern border

In: more visas for nurses (we have a severe shortage,)

Out: criminal penalties for "Good Samaritan" religious groups and individuals who give aid and comfort to illegal migrants (the Durbin amendment)...

Unanswered: How many of the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S. want real citizenship, vs. how many simply want work that allows them to send money home to Mexico, where their loyalty remians? And what is the opportunity cost to U.S. workers (remember them?) whom it seems are being finally -- and permanently -- written out of jobs in construction, restaurants, lawncare, meat packing and other industries that used to quite commonly employ Americans (including agriculture, with its rather sordid history of worker exploitation)? If we're giving people de facto citizenship, shouldn't we check on that stuff first? And at what point do we become Saudi Arabia, or Western Europe, dependent on cheap, foreign labor that owes us nothing, but demands everything (in the form of services)? Just a question.

More on the bill from the AP:
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., seeking re-election this fall in his border state, said the bill offered amnesty to illegal immigrants, and sought unsuccessfully to insert tougher provisions. He told fellow committee members that the economy would turn sour some day and Americans workers would want the jobs that now go to illegal immigrants. They will ask, "how could you have let this happen," he added. ...

...The most controversial provision would permit illegal aliens currently in the country to apply for citizenship without first having to return home, a process that would take at least six years or more. They would have to pay a fine, learn English, study American civics, demonstrate they had paid their taxes and take their place behind other applicants for citizenship, according to aides to Kennedy.

"Well over 60 percent of Americans in all the polls I see think it's OK to have temporary workers, but you do not have to make them citizens," said Kyl.

"We have a fundamental difference between the way you look at them and the way I look at them," Kennedy observed later.

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain, a potential presidential contender who worked with Kennedy on the issue, told reporters the street demonstrations had made an impact. "All those people who were demonstrating are not here illegally. They are the children and grandchildren" of those who may have been, he said.
So the 500,000 protesters win the day in the Senate committee, but there's still a long way to go, and Bil Frist is waiting in the cloakroom with a candlestick...

Related: A closer look at the various bills.

Online: Michelle Malkin and the gang are not happy, including with Dubya (what I'm wondering is, how much longer does John McCain get away with this stuff and remain the "GOP front runner" in 2008?)

The liberals at The Nation, on the other hand, likey-likey... so does Marc Cooper...

And they should be. The right can't win this one -- their base is already inflamed, and just the news of this bill will send them into a lather. The Hispanic activists are enmeshed with the Dems, and taking the Catholics with them. And comments like this and this will bring Dubya and Ken Mehlman's Hispanic courting gambit to a screetching halt, because at the end of the day, for many members of the GOP base, this is about economics, to be sure, but it's also partly about demographic/ethnic politics, and demographic politics never, ever, fafor the Republicans... Remind me again why the GOP brought this up? Oh yeah, nobody knows...

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Tags: Bush, Current Affairs, Politics, Immigration, Illegal Aliens, , Border Security, ,
posted by JReid @ 10:35 PM  
I hate Blogger
just thought I'd mention that.
posted by JReid @ 10:03 PM  
You are the jury
Talkleft has the verdict form that will confront jurors in the Zacharias Moussaoui trial. The questions:


  • Do you, the jury, unanimously find that the Government has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally participated in an act, i.e. lying to federal agents on August 16-17, 2001.

  • Do you, the jury, unanimously find that the Government has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant participated in the act, i.e. lying to federal agents on August 16-17, 2001, contemplating that the life of a person would be taken or intending that lethal force would be used in connection with a person, other than one of the participants in the offense.

  • Do you, the jury, unanimously find that the Government has established beyond a reasonable doubt that victims died on September 11, 2001, as a direct result of the defendant's act, i.e. Mr. Moussaoui's lies to federal agents on August 16-17, 2001.
Talkleft predicts a finding for life in prison. We'll see... I'd guess that Moussaoui is probably as good as dead (although I wouldn't match my amateur legal skills against Jeralyn Merritt's expert ones for all the tea in China...) If I'm right, the prospect of Moussaoui's execution would likely touch off yet another round of conflagration between Muslims around the world and the U.S. -- ironic given the right's embrace of Abdul Rahman. Either way, the U.S. can't win this one on the basis of international sympathy over 9/11 - that has long since drained away in the morass of the Iraq war.

Funny that...

One thing the Moussaoui trial has made clear: The FBI screwed up, royally, before 9/11. Another thing it has made clear: there's a reason most lawyers advise their clients not to take the stand. Moussaoui's nuts. Clearly. And he seems to be trying to aggrandize himself by claiming that yes, in fact, he really was supposed to be the "fifth hijacker." The feds at this point don't even believe that one...

Anyway, for the truly nerdy (like myself) here's the federal indictment against Moussaoui.
Tags: , Terrorism, bin Laden, 11, Law, Bush.
posted by JReid @ 3:56 PM  
Iraq and a hard place
The provincial governor of Baghdad has threatened to cut off cooperation with U.S. forces over that deadly mosque raid(?) anti-insurgency operation (?) misunderstanding (?) over the weekend. Bottom line: we've been worrying about the Sunni all this time, but this time it's the Shia who are pissed off at us. Cue chapter 338 of the clash of civilizations...

Meanwhile, it seems the U.S. is either not anxious to open up a new can of worms with Russia over that alleged spying for Saddam before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, or somebody in Washington has their signals crossed... According to one report in AFP, Condi Rice plans to bring up the matter when she sits down with Russia's foreign minister in Berlin on March 30, but another AFP report says the Defense Department is not opening up an investigation into the matter.

And finally, yet another British memo has surfaced indicating President Bush was determined to go to war with Iraq, and that the diplomacy at the U.N. in early 2003 was more or less a show...
LONDON — In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.

But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.

"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.

"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."

The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.

Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq — which they failed to obtain — the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.

Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.

Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.

The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Those proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush's extemporaneous suggestions, or were elements of the government's plan.
So I guess Helen Thomas was right?

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posted by JReid @ 3:42 PM  
The first Hispanic president?
Even as Texas governor, George W. Bush has long had a special interest in the issue of immigration -- particularly Mexican immigration. Call it a sop to big agribusinesses, the restaurant lobby or to rich GOPers who want their nannies and lawn boys cheap and available, or a kiss-up to Hispanic voters, but you've got to admit this is one of Dubya's signature issues. The only thing that's surprising about the present immigration controversy is that Bush's supporters are surprised. So when Mr. Bush says things like this:
“A temporary guest worker program is vital to securing our border. By creating a separate legal channel for those entering America to do an honest day’s labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border...”
It should sound to his base like just what they voted for... Unfortunately for them, and for Mr. Bush, the base is apparently quite surprised, and most unpleasantly so.

The facts staring Mr. Bush and his party in the face are pretty stark (from the same FT link as above):
According to the Pew Hispanic Research Centre, about 7.2m of these [11 million estimated] unauthorised migrants were employed, representing 4.9 per cent of the work force. They accounted for 24 per cent of farm jobs, 17 per cent of cleaning work, and 27 per cent of butchery jobs. Mr Bush noted many foreign workers “fill the jobs that Americans are unwilling to do.”

Since 2000, the report found, the growth in the unauthorized population had averaged 500,000 per year. In 2005, Mexican migrants represented 56 per cent of the total unauthorized population in the US. Later this week Mr Bush will meet Vicente Fox, President of Mexico, in Cancun, where immigration tensions will be discussed.

“About 85 per cent of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico and most are sent back home within 24 hours,” said Mr Bush, discussing US efforts to tighten border security
By the way, that means that 3.8 million are not employed, meaning they are either unemployed, disabled, stay-home caretakers, or children, who then would be part of the U.S. education system. All would be part of the U.S. healthcare system, particularly at the emergency room level. And many are collecting Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits. See the problem?

To the headlines:

Following a weekend of unbelievably huge anti immigration control marches in the Western U.S. (think it might have been better P.R. to carry American, rather than Mexican flags...?) Congress ramps up its attempts to save the electoral skins of incumbent members get ahead of the immigration issue, with a flurry of bills, each purporting to be tougher than the last. To sum up:

Senate:
McCain/Kennedy (odd pairing for a guy who wants to be president...): guest worker program, path to citizenship or permanent residency...

Frist - ENFORCEMENT! Fence the border! Criminal penalties! And please, please, sweet Jesus give me a shot at getting these right wing loons ... I mean good, loyal Americans ... to give me the GOP nomination in 2008!!! ... Oh, and increase the number of "employment based" (EB) visas handed out each year by more than 100 percent, from 140,000 per year to 290,000... guests workers by any other name...

Specter (seeking to get a bill out of the Judiciary Committee, in part to preserve its sovereignty) -- document the illegal migrants who are already here, background check them, impose a fine and let them stay. Sepcter's approach has been dubbed "March madness" by Tom "the Scourge" Tancredo...

In the House:
Sensenbrenner-King: make employers, aiders and abettors of illegal migration legally culpable, make illegal immigration ... well ... illegal (a felony to be exact) and step up border security and enforcement, and make it tougher to emigrate to the U.S.

Notice a trend? The only non-Republican sponsoring a bill on immigration is Edward Kennedy, who most decidedly ain't running for president. So why is the GOP kicking up dirt that can only wind up in its own eyes? (Think those 500,000 Angelinos are going to vote Republican? Claro que NO! And the Hillary Jesus gambit was more a piece of political theater than a real attempt to dig into this debate, if you ask me, and lefty immigration advocates who claim she hasn't really been there for them...)

The bottom line for the GOP is that they really can't win for losing. If the tougher versions like Sensennbrenner, married to Frist, pass, then they've created a Prop 187 problem for themselves (the unpopular anti-immigrant measures passed in California, that turned tens of thousands of non-voting Hispanics into angry, voting Democrats). If they get their way on quasi-amnesty, as the president wants, the Democratic unions will rush in and start signing up los nuevos trabajadores legales faster than you can say andele! And either way, some part of the base will be angry (the Hispanics Bush is courting or the Lou Dobbs old guard conservatives -- who make an excellent point about a country unable to control its borders being unable to control much else -- not to mention the Tom Tancredo wackadoo types...)

Tags: Bush, Current Affairs, Politics, Immigration, Illegal Aliens, , Border Security,
posted by JReid @ 2:45 PM  
Saturday, March 25, 2006
In the garden of good and evil
From the New York Times today:
Bound, Blindfolded and Dead: The Face of Atrocity in Baghdad
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 25 — Mohannad al-Azawi had just finished sprinkling food in his bird cages at his pet shop in south Baghdad, when three carloads of gunmen pulled up.

In front of a crowd, he was grabbed by his shirt and driven off.

Mr. Azawi was among the few Sunni Arabs on the block, and, according to witnesses, when a Shiite friend tried to intervene, a gunman stuck a pistol to his head and said, "You want us to blow your brains out, too?"

Mr. Azawi's body was found the next morning at a sewage treatment plant. A slight man who raised nightingales, he had been hogtied, drilled with power tools and shot.

In the last month, hundreds of men have been kidnapped, tortured and executed in Baghdad. As Iraqi and American leaders struggle to avert a civil war, the bodies keep piling up. The city's homicide rate has tripled from 11 to 33 a day, military officials said. The period from March 7 to March 21 was especially gruesome, with at least 191 corpses, many sadistically mutilated, surfacing in garbage bins, drainage ditches, pickup trucks and minibuses.

There were the four Duleimi brothers, Khalid, Tarek, Taleb and Salaam, seized from their home in front of their wives. And Achmed Abdulsalam, last seen at a checkpoint in his freshly painted BMW and found dead under a bridge two days later. And Mushtak al-Nidawi, a law student nicknamed Titanic for his Leonardo DiCaprio good looks, whose body was returned to his family with his skull chopped in half.

What frightens Iraqis most about these gangland-style killings is the impunity. According to reports filed by family members and more than a dozen interviews, many men were taken in daylight, in public, with witnesses all around. Few cases, if any, have been investigated.

Part of the reason may be that most victims are Sunnis, and there is growing suspicion that they were killed by Shiite death squads backed by government forces in a cycle of sectarian revenge. This allegation has been circulating in Baghdad for months, and as more Sunnis turn up dead, more people are inclined to believe it.

"This is sectarian cleansing," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of Parliament, who has maintained a degree of neutrality between Shiites and Sunnis.

Mr. Othman said there were atrocities on each side. "But what is different is when Shiites get killed by suicide bombs, everyone comes together to fight the Sunni terrorists," he said. "When Shiites kill Sunnis, there is no response, because much of this killing is done by militias connected to the government."

The imbalance of killing, and the suspicion the government may be involved, is deepening the Shiite-Sunni divide, just as American officials are urging Sunni and Shiite leaders to form an inclusive government, hoping that such a show of unity will prevent a full-scale civil war.

The pressure is increasing on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, but few expect him to crack down, partly because he needs the support of the Shiite militias to stay in power.

Haidar al-Ibadi, Mr. Jaafari's spokesman, acknowledged that "some of the police forces have been infiltrated." But he said "outsiders," rather than Iraqis, were to blame.

Now many Sunnis, who used to be the most anti-American community in Iraq, are asking for American help.

"If the Americans leave, we are finished," said Hassan al-Azawi, whose brother was taken from the pet shop.

He thought for a moment more.

"We may be finished already."
Read the rest here.

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posted by JReid @ 1:47 PM  
Thanks, and...
British ex-hostage Norman Kember thanks his rescuers, though in his statement he continues to oppose the war. (Not surprising, he opposed it going in.) And the Guardian has the inside story on how Kember and the other CPT hostages lost their kidnappers to a case of cold feet...
posted by JReid @ 12:40 PM  
Whispers of impeachment
Republicans cannot escape a simple but powerful question: if lying about a sexual affair is grounds for impeachment, on what grounds do you defend a president who has admitted flouting the FISA law by wiretapping people on U.S. soil, whose administration leaked the classified identity of an American intelligence asset, and whose grounds for taking the nation into a bloody, costly war have, to the last, been proven utterly false, and who may have misled Congress and the American people, both on domestic spying and in the run-up to war?

And if Democrats remain cowed by the prospect of directly taking on this president, ordinary people, increasingly, are not. From today's WaPo:
HOLYOKE, Mass. -- To drive through the mill towns and curling country roads here is to journey into New England's impeachment belt. Three of this state's 10 House members have called for the investigation and possible impeachment of President Bush.

Thirty miles north, residents in four Vermont villages voted earlier this month at annual town meetings to buy more rock salt, approve school budgets, and impeach the president for lying about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and for sanctioning torture.

Window cleaner Ira Clemons put down his squeegee in the lobby of a city mall and stroked his goatee as he considered the question: Would you support your congressman's call to impeach Bush? His smile grew until it looked like a three-quarters moon.

"Why not? The man's been lying from Jump Street on the war in Iraq," Clemons said. "Bush says there were weapons of mass destruction, but there wasn't. Says we had enough soldiers, but we didn't. Says it's not a civil war -- but it is." He added: "I was really upset about 9/11 -- so don't lie to me."

It would be a considerable overstatement to say the fledgling impeachment movement threatens to topple a presidency -- there are just 33 House co-sponsors of a motion by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) to investigate and perhaps impeach Bush, and a large majority of elected Democrats think it is a bad idea. But talk bubbles up in many corners of the nation, and on the Internet, where several Web sites have led the charge, giving liberals an outlet for anger that has been years in the making.

"The value of a powerful idea, like impeachment of the president for criminal acts, is that it has a long shelf life and opens a debate," said Bill Goodman of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted last month to urge Congress to impeach Bush, as have state Democratic parties, including those of New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin. A Zogby International poll showed that 51 percent of respondents agreed that Bush should be impeached if he lied about Iraq, a far greater percentage than believed President Bill Clinton should be impeached during the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal.

And Harper's Magazine this month ran a cover piece titled "The Case for Impeachment: Why We Can No Longer Afford George W. Bush."

"If the president says 'We made mistakes,' fine, let's move on," said Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.). "But if he lied to get America into a war, I can't imagine anything more impeachable."
If only we had more than 33 Democrats with the guts to be as frank and common sensical as a growing share of the American people.

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posted by JReid @ 12:22 PM  
Friday, March 24, 2006
I hope he gets a really good bodyguard...
Abdur Rahman may be released from prison soon. That's a victory for international pressue, probably not such a good thing for Hamid Karzai. Let's see how the "Muslim street" reacts. Prediction: it won't be good:
Religious and political figures meeting at a Kabul hotel, including former prime minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai and Shia cleric Asif Mohsenia who commanded anti-Soviet forces in the 1980s, said the government should ensure that Islamic law is enforced.

It said if its demands were ignored, "the Muslim people of Afghanistan would consider struggle their legal and religious duty". ...

...Virtually everyone interviewed in a small sample of opinion in several parts of the deeply conservative, Muslim country on Friday said Rahman should be punished.

Several clerics raised the issue during weekly sermons in Kabul on Friday, and there was little sympathy for Rahman.
Gulp...

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posted by JReid @ 7:17 PM  
The blogpire strikes back
Domenich says the WaPo are fools and rebutts the plagiarism charges on RedState. A clip:
Red America, my new blog at washingtonpost.com, has been under attack since its launch. It is a conservative blog on a mainstream media site, so many of the attacks were expected. If one bothers to read it, I believe it stands as a welcome addition to the opinion debate.
The hate mail that I have received since the launch of this blog has been overwhelmingly profane and violent. My family has been threatened; my friends have been deluged; my phone has been prank called. The most recent email that showed up while writing this post talked about how the author would like to hack off my head, and wishes my mother had aborted me.

But in the course of accusing me of racism, homophobia, bigotry, and even (on one extensive Atrios thread) of having a sexual relationship with my mother, the leftists shifted their accusations to ones of plagiarism. You can find the major examples here: I link to this source only because I believe it's the only place that hasn't yet written about how they'd like to rape my sister.

I know that charges of plagiarism are serious. While I am not a journalist, I have, myself, written more than one thing that has been plagiarized in the past. But these charges have also served to create an atmosphere where no matter what is said on my Red America blog, leftists will focus on things with my byline from when I was a teenager.

I can rebut several of the alleged incidents here. The most recent accusation, is that I stole a music review from Crosswalk and passed it off at National Review Online. In fact, I wrote both lists myself; I was one of Crosswalk's music review contributors at the time. ...
Domenich has lots of specific rebuttal info, and he certainly makes the case that the left can be as nasty as the right, but what Domenich can't explain, because it's really the Post's job to do so, is what on earth that paper is doing hiring someone who's present job it is to slash and burn the opposition blogger-style to "balance" a reporter's column.

By the way, the tactic used by the left to take down this blog? They got it from the right's favorite crew: the Swiftboat guys. It sure doesn't feel good to take what you dish out, eh Domenich? Here's the big finish:
To my friends: thank you for your support. To my enemies: I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America.
So everyone who criticized Domenich hates America... Yeah, no spit balls coming from your side...

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posted by JReid @ 6:58 PM  
A pain in the blogside
A funny thing happened when the MSM tried to suck up to the right wing blogosphere...

Domenich resigned today from the three-day-old WaPo Red America blog (well that was fast.) But the egg is just beginning to drip from the faces of the Post, RedState.org, which Domenich co-founded, and around the right wing blogosphere, which has had a bit of its dirty laundry hung out in the front yard. Here's the statement from WaPo editor Jim Brady:

In the past 24 hours, we learned of allegations that Ben Domenech plagiarized material that appeared under his byline in various publications prior to washingtonpost.com contracting with him to write a blog that launched Tuesday.

An investigation into these allegations was ongoing, and in the interim, Domenech has resigned, effective immediately.

When we hired Domenech, we were not aware of any allegations that he had plagiarized any of his past writings. In any cases where allegations such as these are made, we will continue to investigate those charges thoroughly in order to maintain our journalistic integrity.

Plagiarism is perhaps the most serious offense that a writer can commit or be accused of. Washingtonpost.com will do everything in its power to verify that its news and opinion content is sourced completely and accurately at all times.

We appreciate the speed and thoroughness with which our readers and media outlets surfaced these allegations. Despite the turn this has taken, we believe this event, among other things, testifies to the positive and powerful role that the Internet can play in the the practice of journalism.

We also remain committed to representing a broad spectrum of ideas and ideologies in our Opinions area.
Hm. Well, yes, I'll bet they appreciate it lots ... But the trouble with Ben Domenich isn't just that he's an apparent plagiarist (caught by ObsidianWings here and by a Kos diarist here) -- that's bad enough to cause even his right wing blogfriends to turn on him at this point.

The problem also is in his capacity as a political operative turned blogger, he has repeatedly said any number of things that should have raised the eyebrows of the Post editors well before they signed on the dotted line. And as the paper searches for a new "voice of the right" to "balance" journalist Dan Froomkin, might I remind them that while the plagiarism is (hopefully) unique, the bile periodically issued from the PC of Mr. Domenich is not at all unique, and they'll likely have to vet the postings of any right wing blogger pretty thoroughly before they try this again. Let's face it -- calling Corretta Scott King a Communist the day after her funeral (mea'd and culpa'd here, along with an explanation of young Mr. Domenich's thinking on Black babies, crime and abortion...) isn't exactly unusual among a particular blogset, who when they're not sliming anyone who disagrees with them as a Commie or a cheese eating surrender monkey, spend lots of time whining about how mean the "moonbats" are to President Bush.

The truth is, the vocal right can be pretty nasty, as we got a taste of via those mean old leftie online researchers at Media Matters, which dug up some of the bile Domenich has written over the years, all of which has gotten only applause from his fellow travelers ... at least, until it became embarrassing. David Brock's outfit called for Domenich's firing on those grounds, even before the plagiarism came to light. The Post has left more than a few people puzzled about how on earth they thought the rantings of a crassly political blogger could be a credible counterpart to a blog by a journalist. (It would be like NPR hiring Bill O'Reilly or ESPN hiring Rush Limbaugh ... oh, dear ... they did that already ... hm... and of course we await the convergence of Glenn Beck and CNBC...) But WaPo went for it because it was the slick, pandering thing to do. Now they look like idiots.

Funny that.

Sidebar:

A refugee from RedState reacts (who knew the site was the anti-Free Republic, banning automated Bush-botsardent Bush supporters instead of banning people for not being automated Bush-bots ardent Bush supporters... hey, why go into the weekend fighting?)

The Red Staters stand by their man...

MyDD checks out what else the Red State team is up to... (poll tax, anyone?)

The "Carnivorous Conservative" sticks up for Ben...

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posted by JReid @ 2:12 PM  
The perfect storm

How did we get here? Having touted the grandiose but historically unfounded theory that spreading democracy through invasion will bring freedom and pluralism to the lesser developed nations of the Third World, the Bush administration finds itself at the center of a whirlwind, full of the debris of religion, instability, politics, right and wrong, death and calamity. And so all of these things are supposedly true:
  • Afghanistan is a free, sovereign democracy, thanks to the blood, sweat and treasure of the U.S. and European powers...


  • Afghanistan has a new constitution, based in large part on Sharia law...


  • Afghanistan is, by that theory, free to carry out its own internal policies regarding the punishment for religious transgressions, and to ignore the American and European powers who feel compelled to intervene to stop that country from executing the accused apostate, Abdur Rahman... Right?

And yet...

Americans went to Afghanistan to eliminate the Taliban as punishment for secreting Osama bin Laden, and, by Mr. Bush's extended theory of democratic war, to free the people there from the opression of an extremist Islamic government. So if Afghanistan remains captive to the same extremist religious element it was before we arrived, only with the veneer of democracy layered over Kabul, it raises the serious question of what, in the end, have more than 255 American troops given their lives for? (The question asked by Christian conservatives like Family Research Council president Tony Perkins here but also by people on the opposite side of the political spectrum

In this situation, the U.S. is damned if it intervenes (we appear to be pushing around a supposedly sovereign nation, and Hamid Karzai becomes the puppet president of a client state) and damned if we don't (Mr. Bush's Christian base in the U.S. is already feeling neglected by him on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and they won't brook any backing down on Rahman). If Mr. Rahman is executed, there will be hell to pay for the Republican Party. If he is not, the Islamists could erupt in a new, and possibly deadly, round of fury that could threaten the already shaky stability of Karzai and Afghanistan.

In Palestine, the U.S. has already demonstrated that we like democracy and free elections only so long as we approve of the result. If not, up go the blockades. In Iraq, we have tinkered so often with that supposedly independent government, few really believe it is sovereign at all. And in that once secular -- even Stalinist -- country, we appear to have given birth to little more than a baby Iran -- ruled by Shiite mullahs and lawless in the extreme.

Much the same could be expected were Egypt to have truly free elections, resulting in executive power for the Muslim Brotherhood. That's the kind of democracy we don't cotton to at all.

So what to do in Afghanistan? Our hearts tell us to intervene, because the idea of executing a man because he changed religions sounds ... well... crazy to us. But throw out cultural relativism and you have to admit that we really have no right to dictate the cultural and political systems of a free nation. How man times have the international community, the Vatican, foreign governments and Nobel laureates have called, begged and pleaded with the U.S. to stay executions, including recently in California? We have typically answered those calls by telling the world to stay out of America's business. Apples and oranges? Yes (or rather murder suspects and converts). But the bottom line question of sovereignty is still valid.

If the world cannot interfere with our application of the death penalty (and if we don't bother to intervene in the policies of countries like China, who regularly execute dissidents, but who also fill our Wal-Marts with cheap toys) how can we credibly intervene in Afghanistan's internal affairs?

As a death penalty opponent, I am appalled by the prospect of Rahman losing his life, and I wouldn't complain if the Bush admnistration found a way to get the Karzai government to stand this sentence down (striking a blow for political interference with the courts, by the way). But I would recognize the ironies, and the hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan:
Top Muslim clerics: Convert must die

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Senior Muslim clerics are demanding that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity be executed, warning that if the government caves in to Western pressure and frees him, they will incite people to "pull him into pieces."

In an unusual move, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned President Hamid Karzai on Thursday seeking a "favorable resolution" of the case of Abdul Rahman. The 41-year-old former medical aid worker faces the death penalty under Afghanistan's Islamic laws for becoming a Christian.

His trial has fired passions in this conservative Muslim nation and highlighted a conflict of values between Afghanistan and its Western backers.

"Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be humiliated. This man must die," said cleric Abdul Raoulf, who is considered a moderate and was jailed three times for opposing the Taliban before the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.

The trial, which began last week, has caused an international outcry. U.S. President George W. Bush has said he is "deeply troubled" by the case and expects Afghanistan to "honor the universal principle of freedom."

Rice spokesman Sean McCormack said she told Karzai it is important for the Afghan people to know that freedom of religion is observed in their country.

Her direct appeal to a foreign leader in a judicial proceeding in their own country was unusual. But in deference to the country's sovereignty, Rice evidently did not demand specifically that the trial be halted and the defendant released.

"This is clearly an Afghan decision," McCormack said.
Well there we are.

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posted by JReid @ 10:26 AM  
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Strategery: Operation S.O.D. (Save Our Dubya)
The GOP strategy for November is set. The plan: scare loyal Bushies into coming out to vote in order to save their president from the Democrats. The email, from today's in-box:
The word is out. Their position is clear. Last week, Sen. Russ Feingold floated a reckless plan to censure the President, and some Democrat leaders have ecstatically jumped on Feingold's bandwagon.

And, if they gain even more power in November, they won't stop there.

Feingold says that censure actually represents "moderation" and calls the terrorist surveillance program an impeachable offense. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, fails to rule out impeachment if Democrats retake Congress. Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin is talking "high crimes and misdemeanors." And 31 House Democrats are calling for a committee to look into impeachment. Their leader? John Conyers, who would become House Judiciary Committee chairman under Democrat control.

The Democrats' plan for 2006? Take the House and Senate, and impeach the President. With our nation at war, is this the kind of Congress you want? If your answer is a resounding "NO", I need you to make an urgent contribution to help us win this fight.

http://www.GOP.com/WinThisFight/

Democrat leaders' talk of censure and impeachment isn't about the law or the President doing anything wrong. It's about the fact that Democrat leaders don't want America to fight the War on Terror with every tool in our arsenal. Your immediate action will send these reckless Democrats a message and help preserve our Republican majorities.

http://www.GOP.com/WinThisFight/

And what happens if we stand on the sidelines, and give the likes of Russ Feingold, John Kerry, and John Conyers control of Congress? Here's what the The Wall Street Journal says: "In fact, our guess is that censure would be the least of it. The real debate in Democratic circles would be whether to pass articles of impeachment. ... [E]veryone should understand that censure and impeachment are important -- and so far the only -- parts of the left's agenda for the next Congress."

http://www.GOP.com/WinThisFight/

The world is watching. Using every tool at our disposal to fight terrorists should not be a partisan issue. Democrats should to be focused on winning the War on Terror, not undermining it with political axe-grinding of the ugliest kind.

Sincerely,



Ken Mehlman
Chairman, Republican National Committee

P.S. Russ Feingold's censure resolution and Democrat talk of impeachment have raised the stakes for 2006. Make your contribution, sign the petition, and help make sure this fight is won.
There it is. I wonder if Mehlman is worried that in the present climate, with more Republicans becoming just as fed up with Dubya as the Democrats and Independents are, that the response to his email might be ... other than what he's looking for.

We'll see...

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posted by JReid @ 11:42 PM  
Reality bites II
With a major hat tip to the inimitable Keith Olbermann, a bit more bad news about Iraq:

Iraq, with a population of approximately 25 million, is a republic with a freely elected government. During the year [2005] unsettled conditions prevented effective governance in parts of the country, and the government's human rights performance was handicapped by insurgency and terrorism that impacted every aspect of life. In such an environment and supported by elements of the population, three groups with overlapping but largely different memberships violently opposed the government: Al‑Qa'ida terrorists, irreconcilable remnants of the Ba'thist regime, and local Sunni insurgents waging guerrilla warfare. The ongoing insurgency, coupled with sectarian and criminal violence, seriously affected the government's human rights performance; elements of the security forces, particularly sectarian militias, frequently acted independently of governmental authority. ...

...Throughout the year the prime minister renewed the "state of emergency" originally declared in November 2004 throughout the country, excluding Kurdistan. The state of emergency was based on the dangers posed by the ongoing campaign of violence aimed at preventing the establishment of a broad-based government and the peaceful participation of all citizens in the political process. The state of emergency allows for the temporary imposition of restrictions on certain civil liberties. Where there is specific evidence or credible suspicion of the crimes outlined by the law, the prime minister may impose curfews and certain restrictions on public gatherings, associations, unions and other entities; put a preventive freeze on assets; impose monitoring of and seizure of means of communication; and allow for the search of property and detention of suspects. Notwithstanding such powers, the law prohibits the prime minister from abrogating the TAL in whole or in part and provides for judicial review of all decisions and procedures implemented pursuant to this law. The government exercised these powers throughout the year.

The following human rights problems were reported:

  • pervasive climate of violence
  • misappropriation of official authority by sectarian, criminal, terrorist, and insurgent groups
  • arbitrary deprivation of life
  • disappearances
  • torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
  • impunity
  • poor conditions in pretrial detention facilities
  • arbitrary arrest and detention
  • denial of fair public trial
  • an immature judicial system lacking capacity
  • limitations on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association due to
  • terrorist and militia violence
  • restrictions on religious freedom
  • large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
  • lack of transparency and widespread corruption at all levels of government
  • constraints on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
  • discrimination against women, ethnic, and religious minorities
  • limited exercise of labor rights
Hm... torture and degrading treatment of prisoners ... lack of transparency and widespread government corruption ... descrimination ... limited labor rights ... wow, they really are learning from us ... oops, sorry ... read on:
Civic life and the social fabric remained under intense strain from the widespread violence, principally inflicted by insurgency and terrorist attacks. Additionally, the misappropriation of official authority by groups—paramilitary, sectarian, criminal, terrorist, and insurgent--resulted in numerous and severe crimes and abuses. ...

...A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued. Reports increased of killings by the government or its agents that may have been politically motivated. Additionally, common criminals, insurgents, and terrorists undermined public confidence in the security apparatus by sometimes masking their identity in police and army uniforms (see section 1.g.). ...

...Insurgents and terrorists killed thousands of citizens (see section 1.g.). Using intimidation and violence, they kidnapped and killed government officials and workers, common citizens, party activists participating in the electoral process, civil society activists, members of security forces, and members of the armed forces, as well as foreigners.

Insurgent and terrorist groups also bombed government facilities, mosques, public gathering spots, and businesses resulting in massive losses of life and grave injuries. There were no indications of government involvement in these acts.
More bad-mouthing from the mainstream media? Nope, the George W. Bush / Condi Rice State Department.

The good news? I'll have to get back to you...

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posted by JReid @ 9:27 PM  
Reality bites
The idea that the American people are tuning out the "bad news media" rather than tuning out the president, may sound good to folks on the right, including good guys like Alex Nunez (whose post links to several interesting discussions on the topic of media coverage of Iraq), and who says the following about that coverage:

Three years' worth of negative stories from Iraq, filed without even a cursory attempt to show balance, have finally come back to haunt the MSM. The media people see this, and that's why they're trying to address the matter now by talking about the "perception" of bias on their part. That they're talking about it at all shows just how worried they are.

The narcissists in the elite media are coming to realize, finally, that the average American no longer sees them as credible providers of information, and they can't handle it. After all, what good are their monolithic soapboxes if people simply tune out what they're saying from them?
Not unusual sentiments for those on the right, but unfortunately, that view of how Americans feel about the war and the press simply isn't borne out by the myriad polls out there. Case in point:


The Public Weighs In On Media Coverage of Iraq

One of the questions in the new CBS Poll (pdf) dealt with how Americans feel about the way the media describe the situation in Iraq. The poll found that 24% of respondents felt the media were "making things in Iraq sound better than they really are," 31% felt the media were making things sound "worse than they really are," and 35% felt the media were "describing the situation in Iraq accurately." (10% did not give an answer.) ...

...To better understand these results, it's worth looking at the party breakdown of the responses. Among Republicans, perhaps unsurprisingly, only 8% thought the media were making things in Iraq sound better than they really are, whereas 57% thought the media were making things sound worse than they really are. 30% of Democrats, meanwhile, thought the media were making things sound better than they really are, and only 14% thought they were making things sound worse than they really are. (Democrats, incidentally, seem to have the most faith in the media, with 43% saying that the media were describing the situation in Iraq accurately. Only 30% of Republicans said the same.)

Now consider how people responded to the previous question, which asks respondents if they think George W. Bush, when he talks about how things are going for the United States in Iraq, is making things sound better than they are, worse than they are, or if he's describing the situation accurately. The key finding? 43% of Republicans think the president is making things in Iraq sound better than they actually are. That figure isn't quite as high as the percentage of Republicans who think the media is making things look worse than they are, but it's still quite high. That seems to suggest that while many Republicans don't totally trust what the media reports, they don't totally trust what the president says, either, and thus presumably conceive of the reality in Iraq as somewhere between the portrait painted by the press and the one painted by the president.

One more point to consider: while 26% of independents think the press is making things look worse than they are, a whopping 71% think the president is putting a happy face on the situation. The press' credibility may be relatively low among independents – only 31 percent said the media describe the situation in Iraq accurately – but it's better, at the moment, than that of the president when it comes to the war. ...
Read through the poll tabs yourself here.

The bottom line is that blaming the media may be a good political strategy to re-establish Bush's ties to his base, but it won't change either the situation on the ground in Iraq, or the public's perception of same. To change the public mood about Iraq, things are going to have to get much, much better over there. Period. To restate what I said in an earlier post, courtesy of a Randi Rhodes listener -- if there were that much good news coming out of Iraq, it would be playing in a loop, 20 hours a day on Fox News.

By the way, talk about redundancy: the Bush message to his peeps on Iraq is to "use the blogs" to push the "good news" about Iraq. Have they not read the sycophantic rantings of Powerline and other assorted online Bushbots?

Update:

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posted by JReid @ 4:57 PM  
Quick takes:
An uh-oh for ABC, via the Drudge Report (hey, Bush makes him sick, what are you gonna do? I'd hate to see what the news execs at Fox text each other about Russ Feingold...)

Looks like Barry Bonds will sue the writers of one of two steroid allegation books after all...


Notice of the lawsuit came today in a letter from attorney Michael Rains' office to the agent for authors Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. They are reporters for The Chronicle and authors of the book "Game of Shadows.''

In a phone message, Rains said he will also ask a federal judge to initiate contempt proceedings "for the use of illegally obtained" grand jury transcripts and other documents that the authors used in writing the book.

The book, published today, concerns the Bay Area laboratory known as BALCO and the athletes, including Bonds, who allegedly were illicitly supplied with performance-enhancing drugs.

According to the letter, Bonds' attorney will ask a San Francisco Superior Court judge on Friday to issue a temporary restraining order forfeiting all profits from publication and distribution of the book. In the phone message, Rains said the request would be made under the theory that the transcripts were "illegally obtained and possessed under federal law."
The crazy file: Okay, this is disgusting: a report in the Guardian (re-reported in the World Tribune via the adjacent link) is accusing a Chinese cosmetics company of using the skin from executed convicts to develop collagen and other beauty products sold in Europe. Hang on a second. ... AAAAAAUUUGH!!! Okay, I'm back.


The company was not identified by name for legal reasons and it is unclear whether collagen made from the skin of prisoners was in the research stage or in actual production.

“A lot of the research is still carried out in the traditional manner using skin from the executed prisoners and aborted fetus," the agent was quoted as saying. The material, he said, was being bought from “biotech" companies based in Heilongjiang Province and was being developed elsewhere in China.

He suggested that the use of skin and other tissues harvested from executed prisoners was not uncommon. “In China it is considered very normal and I was very shocked that Western countries can make such a big fuss about this," he said.
So... what are you wearing...?

What a girl wants: And not surprisingly, guess what Dick Cheney requires when he stays at a hotel? Cool temps, cheese-eating surrender monkey Perrier for the missus, and all the televisions tuned to the Fox News Channel... What else would he watch?

All in the family: Guess who's making money from Iraq?

...and guess who Barbara Bush's charity goes to? (hint, the last name is the same as in the previous item...)

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posted by JReid @ 4:26 PM  
Blessed are the peacemakers
...to whom should that phrase apply?


The freeing of the three Western peace activists who had been held hostage in Iraq for four months is touching off ... as we've come to expect ... fighting between the left and the right.

Dr. Rusty Shackleford at Jawa provides a load of links summarizing his and other right-leaning bloggers' take that the military is getting short shrift from the peace community for their part in the rescue, and particularly galling to the right is a statement from Christian Peace Teams, the group the four hostages worked for, which used today's joyous occasion to call afresh for an end to the U.S./British occupation of Iraq:

“Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad,” Pritchard told a news conference, but he added: “We remember with tears Tom Fox. ... We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join his colleagues in the celebration.”

Pritchard said that the former hostages “knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers”.

“We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by multinational forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq today,” he said. “The occupation must end.”
The facts as they are emerging indicate that British troops led the operation which discovered the hostages (no shots were fired, and apparently the hostage takers had abandoned the three after tying them up and leaving them in a house) and that U.S. and Iraqi intelligence gathering played a large part. (At this stage, I tend to treat the official account of military activity in Iraq with some skepticism, since so much of it has proved to be written for spin, a la "Operation Swarmer," rather than for fact, but I suppose there's less reason for doubt than if the Pentagon had announced som sort of dramatic raid...)

Anyway, the story of three anti-war activists sprung from the insurgents by coalition forces inevitably leads the right to ask: where's the gratitude toward these troops from the peace activist community, and more broadly, from the left?

I'm a bit odd in that I think it's possible to oppose the invasion and occupation of Iraq (as I do, because in my opinion it was an unwarranted and unnecessary waste of U.S. forces and treasure) and to believe that the troops carrying out U.S./British foreign policy are worthy of honor.

I think CPT should have, without qualification, thanked the British and U.S. (and Iraqi) forces who freed the activists, and if they have failed to do so explicitly (a colleague of Briton Norman Kember did thank the armed forces, if in an off-hand way), they should correct that oversight as soon as possible.

The notion of peacemakers is a subjective one. It can and does include those who oppose war (and violence, torture and abuse, etc.) It can also include those who, in the course of war, prevent harm from coming to others. In this case, the troops who secured the freedom of these men are worthy of that title.

So God bless them.

There's also the question of whether Kember and the others were right to go to Iraq in the first place. The above-mentioned colleague explained it this way:

Some go because they think armies are the best way to keep peace - I'm not judging their motives. But why shouldn't people who have a different approach towards justice and peace also take risks? Some go because they think armies are the best way to keep peace - I'm not judging their motives. But why shouldn't people who have a different approach towards justice and peace also take risks? Some go because they think armies are the best way to keep peace - I'm not judging their motives. But why shouldn't people who have a different approach towards justice and peace also take risks? Some go because they think armies are the best way to keep peace - I'm not judging their motives. But why shouldn't people who have a different approach towards justice and peace also take risks?
Well there, the question is, "risk what?" Kember and the others risked not only their own lives (and their families' and countries' heartache) but also the lives of the soldiers and Iraqi troops and civilians who were inevitably drawn into their case, capture and rescue. By putting others at risk, they threatened to bring not peace -- but rather more violence to an already bleeding Iraq.
So for me, the jury is out on the three (really four) "peacemakers" (pointedly, of the four, only the American was killed). I'm not sure what they accomplished by going to Iraq, as opposed to, say, journalists, who risk their lives to document the war for those of us who want to know where our country's blood and treasure are going to, or the soldiers, Marines and support teams who have to be there because it's their job, and whom I'm quite sure do the best they can to make a difference every day and then get home to their families.

Unfortuately in the end, I'm not sure any of the non-Iraqis in that country are changing things for the better. That's the real tragedy of this war. One group of people get taken hostage, troops find and free them, and the insurgency targets someone else.

That said, things are better for at least three people out of Iraq, and for their families, today.

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posted by JReid @ 2:09 PM  
Broke... or not broke
Katherine Harris might not quite have been telling the whole entire truth when she pledged to literall go for broke in order to continue her Senate campaign...
"Seriously, I won't have anything left," Harris said. "To get to that point I would have to sell everything."
Um... well...
Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press that Harris' comments Tuesday were misleading.

"Katherine Harris would have Florida voters believe she's on the verge of being destitute because, she claims, she has put all her inherited $10-million fortune on the line," McLaughlin said. "But public records put her remaining net worth at up to $39 million. You simply cannot believe a single thing Katherine Harris says, about this or anything else."
Maybe she meant she won't have any credibility left...

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posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
"I" is for "inevitable"

Salon's Walter Shapiro writes the piece I keep starting but never finishing for the op-eds. (The bastard...) His points are spot on: Democrats who wish to defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination in 2008 had better have strong stomachs, and a trust fund ten times the size of Kathy Harris' ... plus her husband's. The format is a letter to a fictional would-be contender, a border state governor. Read on:
If she somehow bows out at the last moment like Mario Cuomo in 1991, you can consider yourself the luckiest border-state governor in America.

But otherwise, you will face in Hillary the most formidable presidential front-runner in modern political history. (And, yes, I am counting George W. Bush in 2000.) Here are 10 reasons why the junior senator from New York will be a daunting foe:

1) Universal name recognition. (In contrast, JPW, only 3 percent of likely Democratic primary voters know that you were originally the president in the Gershwin classic "Of Thee I Sing.")

2) Her capacity to raise $100 million without once working late into the night cold-calling strangers to beg and grovel for money.

3) The ability to dominate the free media. Hillary will never make a public appearance in this campaign without being tracked by 100 reporters. (In contrast, JPW, imagine how much coverage you will get for your first press conference bragging about your gubernatorial record and the "Tennetucky Miracle.")

4) Her emotional support from a significant percentage of women voters out to make history.

5) Nostalgia for the Clinton era of peace and prosperity in the 1990s.

6) Continuing Democratic resentment over impeachment.

7) Hillary's over-cautious political style that avoids risk and, quite likely, deliberate mistakes.

8) The most potent candidate surrogate in political history in the form of Bill Clinton.

9) The ability of the Clinton name and legacy to attract 75 percent of the African-American vote and a large slice of the Hispanic vote.

10) At least a half-dozen candidates (including JPW) who will divide the anti-Hillary Democrats, so that she could win major primaries with just her hardcore base of, say, 35 percent of the vote.
In other words, Hillary has, from a marketing point of view, everything she needs to win the primary, and I would argue, the general election, too.

Think about it. The notion that she's too polarizing to win ignores the fact of who is in the White House. George W. Bush is arguably the most polarizing American political figure since Barry Goldwater or Richard Nixon (no, most everybody hated Nixon.) He won in 2004 anyway, because Karl Rove threw out the old playbook about sucking up to the vaunted independents. The real way to get into the White House in a stratified country is to divide the electorate into only two parts: our base and the other people about whom we don't give a good goddamn. Increase your base by turning out fellow travelers who typically don't show up on election day, and you rule the rest of the country by force, whether they like it or not. The Rove strategy is about winning a squeaker, not winning a mandate. Hillary doesn't need to win over Joe GOP who currently hates her and thinks she's a dangerous socialist. She isn't going to change the minds of Limbaugh listeners and right wing bloggers. What she needs to do is increase the size of her natural pie: minority voters, women voters, especially young women, but also older women who missed their chance with Ferraro and might frankly be dead before they get another shot at a female president, and lately, Catholic voters whose religion is strong but not evangelical.

Hillary is playing to the latter by tacking to the right on abortion (make it rare), but to the left on immigration (God loves the Good Samaritan).

Her natural base among African-Americans, which really belongs to her husband, is demoralized electorally, but the Clintons are among a very small group of politicians who can bring them back -- especially if Hillary adds to her ticket a certain popular Senator from Illinois...

Hillary's first-name only name recognition is unmatched by any other candidate with the possibly exception of Rudy ... got the last name yet? I'm sure you do. But Rudy is soft on gays and soft on abortion. He'll never get through the southern primaries. Republicans are lemmings, but Schwarzenegger them once ... you fool me can't get fooled again...

Hillary will raise more money than God and George W. Bush. You can't beat money, and it can always beat you.

And Hillary needn't care what the pundits and 40 percent of Americans think about her. Americans elect people they think they know. They thought they knew George because his last name was Bush, so they made all sorts of assumptions about him that made them comfortable seeing him in office. They definitely think they know Hillary, for good or for ill. Everything about her -- true and false, including at one time, murder allegations -- is on the table. The GOP will have very little to work with once she's the candidate. (Think about it, doesn't Hillarycare sound pretty good right about now...?)

If she runs, and I think she will, Hillary Clinton can win the general election (I'm not even thinking about the primary, because who is going to stop her? Vilsack? And Feingold is the MAN, but his decency and courage are precisely what make him an impoosibility as the nominee...). She will be able to buy enough TV ads to hammer home her inevitability to the voters by the summer of 2008, at which point most people will have long since made up their minds about her, for or against.

And if she's running against John McCain, her most formidable potential opponent, she'll be facing the guy who literally sold his soul to obtain Geroge W. Bush's donor list ... the guy who went from supposed maverick to Bush poodle in less than five years ... the guy who won't stand up to Tom DeLay or the other villains in his own party, and won't even stand up to the president to defend his own anti-torture resolution ... the man who's even softer on immigration than Hillary or the current president ... the man most movement conservatives despise, and whom they'll only be supporting because they so desperately want the White House in GOP hands ... and a man whom Democrats and independents will come to know, by virtue of Hillary's money ... as a false maverick, who will continue every hated policy of George W. Bush's (and who only fails to support the one thing Bush does that people like: tax cuts) and who, as a die-hard neocon, could very well escalate the war.

I'd say Hillary has a shot at squeaking that one out.

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posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
Random takes
From Salon's The Fix Wednesday:

Best/worst magazine covers, 2005: Taking a look at how magazines fared in 2005, one trend is clear: Talent does not equal sales. While covers featuring Jessica Simpson and Ashlee Simpson were top sellers, issues with Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman sold the worst. A Britney Spears cover was Allure's best seller of the year, while its Hilary Swank issue was its worst. Tom Cruise, at the height of his summer of madness, was Details' biggest seller, while Jamie Foxx was GQ's lowest, back in January. (Media Industry Newsletter)

And in today's dispatch, Brad Pitt is a jerk (no surprise there,) Gorgeous George is not happy (this is becoming a trend,) and Charlie Sheen is stepping out onto the tin foil balcony re 9/11.
Sheen's conspiracy theories: During an interview on Wednesday on the GGN Radio Network program "The Alex Jones Show," Charlie Sheen aired his own skepticism over the official story of what happened on 9/11, suggesting the U.S. government may be covering up what "really" happened. "It seems to me like 19 amateurs with boxcutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75 percent of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory," said Sheen. "It raises a lot of questions. A couple of years ago, it was severely unpopular to talk about any of this. It feels like from the people I talk to, and the research I've done and around my circles, it feels like the worm is turning." Saying also that the destruction of the Twin Towers looked like "controlled demolition," Sheen called for a thorough investigation: "It is up to us to reveal the truth. It is up to us because we owe it to the families, we owe it to the victims, we owe it to everyone's life who was drastically altered, horrifically, that day and forever. We owe it to them to uncover what happened." (Page Six)
Unfortunately for those who will inevitably lampoon Sheen, there are engineers, physicists and other skeptics on that balcony with him...

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posted by JReid @ 11:31 AM  
There goes the neighborhood
Meet the new WaPo blogger, same as the old RedState blogger. From MediaMatters:

  • Following the Washington Post's recent hiring of Republican activist Ben Domenech to launch the Red America weblog on washingtonpost.com, Media Matters for America has begun a review of some of Domenech's more interesting comments posted on Redstate.com, a partisan Republican blog he helped establish, and other sites. As we noted earlier today -- March 22 -- Domenech recently referred to Coretta Scott King as a "communist." Our ongoing review has also uncovered the following quote from Domenech, under his reported pseudonym "Augustine," in which he was apparently referring to the upholding of a woman's right to an abortion by the federal courts: "In the past 30 years, how many innocent lives has the KKK ended? How about the Judiciary?" ...

    ...On Redstate.com, Domenech also has:
  • Called a pro-choice poster "a pathetic little Kossack."
  • Agreed with a commenter who called Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin "an embarrassment to the saner heads at the paper."
  • Posted portions of an article by First Things magazine editor-in-chief Richard John Neuhaus. In the passage, Neuhaus cited the "astonishingly inordinate incidence of crimes committed by young male blacks and the equally inordinate incidence of abortions procured by black women," adding that "[i]t just happens that killing black babies has the happy result of reducing crime." Neuhaus went on to state that "those who style themselves black leaders, especially political leaders, are overwhelmingly in support of the unlimited abortion license, thus maintaining their distinction of being the only ethnic or racial leadership in history to actively collaborate in dramatically reducing the number of people they claim to lead," and that "[w]hite racists have reason to be grateful for what is sometimes still called the civil rights leadership." Domenech did not comment on Neuhaus's statements. ...
The WaPo should be so proud...

Meanwhile: the RedStaters smell a rat...

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posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Peace activists rescued
British and U.S. troops freed the three remaining peace activist hostages in Iraq. The Briton and two Canadians are recovering. As we know, the lone American was executed over a week ago, after apparently being tortured. Some good news to go with the bad.

Meanwhile the White House is already walking back from President Bush's remarks about Iraq being destined to become another president's problem...

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posted by JReid @ 8:15 AM  
In the name of Jesus...
Hillary plays the Bible card against the House immigration bill, which is making its way to conference with a companion bill by "Good Lord I want to be President" Bill Frist... From the NYT:
enator Hillary Rodham Clinton invoked the Bible yesterday to criticize a stringent border security measure that, among other things, would make it a federal crime to offer aid to illegal immigrants.

"It is hard to believe that a Republican leadership that is constantly talking about values and about faith would put forth such a mean-spirited piece of legislation," she said of the measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives in December and mirrored a companion Senate bill introduced last week by Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and the majority leader.

"It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself," she said. "We need to sound the alarm about what is being done in the Congress."

Mrs. Clinton, who is running for re-election this year and is leading in polls for the Democratic presidential nomination, spoke at a news conference in Manhattan with more than 30 immigrant leaders after meeting with them privately.

The meeting took place in an atmosphere of mounting urgency, as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called on its flock to oppose the measure, and tens of thousands of immigrants around the country stepped up a series of protest rallies in anticipation of a Senate vote on competing immigration bills next week.

Mr. Frist's bill, like the House measure, would make it a crime to be in the United States without proper papers and would add guards and fencing along the Mexican border, and speed deportation.

Some versions, including one proposed by Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, would expand the definition of alien smuggling to include help to illegal immigrants already here.
So Hillary is playing for the Catholic vote, and Frist is playing for the Lou Dobbs vote. On first blush it looks to me like Frist has the better play, but then, he's Bill Frist... also known as "But for an act of God himself he'll never be president" Bill Frist...

Thus sayeth Wonkette:
God do we love this woman. Let’s just skip the whole “election” thing and make her president right now

Rightwinged hits Hillary, with a side swipe at Chris Matthews' beau (and Hillary's):
Anyway, this is just ridiculous. We learned just last week tha Hillary and McCain were skipping around holding hands with illegals, now she's comparing them to Jesus? I'm surprised that Michelle Malkin only noted the story's headline as the "headline of the day", which reads: "Clinton vows to block bill criminalizing illegal immigrants", when the outrage is really her ridiculous comparison. Congress = Plantation? Illegal Immigrants = Jesus? What's next, "The White House is like those American Pie movies!"? Oh wait, wrong President.. Scratch that.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to be heading to my local (insert any restaurant in Nashville, or most cities in the country now), walk back to the dish room and worship my Lord and Savior(s) Juan, Jose, Javier and the gang...
Via con Dios a la cocina, amigo mio!

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posted by JReid @ 7:59 AM  
Dear Laura
You, Don Rumsfeld and the president have something in common: you haven't figured out that you take on the mass media at your peril. Attack them and they will drop everything to defend themselves and shine the spotlight right back on you. In the case of your typically snide but atypically outrageous charge that the reason no good news is coming out of Iraq is that journalists there are too pampered to emerge from their hotel balconies to bother to "talk to the troops on the ground," you might want to call for a rewrite.

See, it turns out it takes more guts to spend a year or in some cases two or three, as a reporter, photographer or bureau chief in Baghdad -- even in the Green Zone -- than it does to jet in for a two-week PR junket with "the troops" to do your lame talkshow. In this case, the media's natural tendency toward self-absorption is justified. The major outlets may indeed have gone to sleep after 9/11 and in the run-up to war, treating the administration like Franco during the grande years and the administration's every inaccurate or misleading utterance as gospel, and they still sometimes fall for the okey doke... but the reporting from Iraq has been quite good. And they've delivered it at considerable risk to their own skins (while you've been safely in your studio, but for that little PR junket...)

Oh, and by the way:

Major hat tip to Keith Olbermann (and TV Newser). Helluva commentary Wednesday night:

"A note about Laura Ingraham's comments. I've known her a long time. I'll in fact give you the caveat that I've known her socially. But that hotel balcony crack was unforgivable.

It was unforgivable to the memory of David Bloom. It was unforgivable in consideration of Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt. It was unforgivable in the light of what happened to Michael Kelly and what happened to Michael Weiskopf. It was unforgivable with Jill Carroll still a hostage in Iraq. And it was not only unforgivable of her -- it was desperate and it was stupid."
Couldn't have said it better. You can get the video at the above TVN link or on Crooks and Liars... although this link is funnier. C'mon, Fox, you can do better than that! BTW as a caller to Randi Rhodes' show said tonight, if there were all that good news to talk about in Iraq, it would be running on the Fox News Channel 24 hours a day, seven days a week, possibly without commercial interruption. The fact that it isn't, and that even the president's favorite news channel is reporting on the bombings and bloodshed -- tells you something.

Interesting sidebar: Newsbusters offers a rundown, but not much of a defense for Ingraham, who as Olbermann noted, later tried to clean up a bit during an appearance on Ted Baxter's show, by noting that David Bloom had given his life covering the Iraq conflict (Yeah, Laura, from his hotel balcony, right? Riiiight... BTW about those hotel balconies...) while simultaneously serving as the perfect foil for Baxter's quite insane obsession with attacking NBC News... call it a case of severe Olbermania...

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posted by JReid @ 12:38 AM  
There's a job opening in St. Louis radio
This just might be the fastest firing in talk radio ... ever. Bubba the Love Sponge, take heart!

A radio personality at 550 KTRS was fired on the spot this morning after using the word “coon” on the air in a conversation about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Dave Lenihan was dismissed after what he called an inadvertent slip of the tongue. Within 20 minutes, station CEO Tim Dorsey apologized on the air to listeners and announced that Lenihan, who had been with the station for less than two weeks, had been let go.

“I don’t know what was in Mr. Lenihan’s mind,” Dorsey said in an interview. “I know what I heard. I know it was reprehensible.”

Lenihan’s comment was made during a discussion about Rice’s credentials to become commissioner of the National Football League, a topic that has been fodder for sports talk radio since the current commissioner announced he would retire later this year.

Lenihan was listing what assets Rice could bring to the league, including her tenure as a top academic officer at Stanford University and the fact that she is African-American.

“She’s just got a patent resume, of somebody that’s got such serious skill,” Linehan said on the air. “She loves football, she’s African-American, which would kind of be a big coon, a big coon – oh my God, I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that, OK? I didn’t mean that. That was just a slip of the tongue.” Lenihan later said he meant to use the word "coup."

Reached at home, Lenihan said he was still trying to figure out what happened, and was drafting a letter of apology to Rice.

"I was trying to say 'quite a coup' but it came out 'coon,"' he said. "I caught myself and apologized. It wasn't anything I was meaning to say. I never use that word.

"I think she's a fantastic woman. I was even talking about if she ran for president, I'd work on her campaign."
I ... um ... don't think she'd be asking, dog. But nice thought.

Update: The Bullwinkle Blog says it was all just a big mistake, and asks WWCD (what would Condi do?)

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 AM  
Lieberman in his own defense
On the radio in Hartford, with ht to C&L, Joe defends his position on the war with a skeptical talk host/columnist, blames the bloggers for his loss of Joementum, and says he doesn't stop by the White House to tuck Dubya into bed at night. Well that's good to know... (scroll down and look for the interview in the right column). Not that Fred Barnes knows a darned thing, but if Lieberman should lose the primary race to Ned Lamont, I wouldn't be surprised if he did wind up in Bush's cabinet, as the Beetle prognosticated. I doubt we'd see much of Shecky Lieberman at that point thought -- he'd be a sour staffer, having lost his seat after 17 years... you'll remember Jesse Jackson said: "stay out of the Bushes..."

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posted by JReid @ 12:02 AM  
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Observations
Russ Feingold (whom I just watched on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart,) makes having integrity, courage and conviction look effortless. Too bad there aren't more of him in the United States Senate. Update: here's the video clip. here's a clip-clip (ht CrooksandLiars):
Feingold: I was taught that the congress makes the laws and the president is supposed to sign them and enforce them. He's not supposed to make them up.---How many times are we going to let George Bush and Dick Cheney say you guys don't support the troops, you're not patriotic and let them push us around?
...And here's the GOP's overwrought response to Feingold.

...why aren't right wing bloggers, who have been so enamored of the Danish cartoons, up in arms and demanding that every media outlet rebroadcast the South Park "Bloody Mary" episode being apologized for by broadcasters everywhere? Isn't it supposed to be bloody surrender (no pun intended) to give in to religious extremism by censoring artistic expression? Hm??? Or is it just that the Catholics managed to squash the episode (as did the Scientologists in the case of "Trapped in a Closet") without rioting?

BTW, did the South Park creators triumph or sell out by defying all the speculation by killing of Chef after turning him into a pedophile...?

Are biased, unquestioning advocates for the president (hello, Powerline!) really the right people to call out press bias?

Good news: one of the fighting Dems has won her primary (go Chicago!)

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posted by JReid @ 11:44 PM  
Meet the Afghans
The apostasy death penalty case in Afghanistan is focusing unusual attention on that country, whose war has been largely forgotten by the American press. So now that we're paying attention, meet Afghanistan:

It's a narco-state. According to Foreign Policy in Focus, it is impossible to distinguish between the opium and non-opium segments of the economy, "because the multiplier effect from growth in the illicit economy has a direct impact on the growth rate of the licit economy. ... " As for the economy, Afghanistan's GDP in 2005 that was one sixth of that of its neighbors...

It's political system is weak. Again quoting FPIF: "Persistent insecurity, weak governance, and endemic corruption have engendered growing frustration among the Afghan people. ..." and "Although gains have undoubtedly been made in the area of reconstruction, major challenges still exist in extending the authority of the central government outside of Kabul, in maintaining high levels of economic growth to offset a continued reliance on the illicit economy, and in delivering basic services to the poor. "

It's ruled by a mix of civil and Sharia law which is why Abdul (or "Abdur") Rahman is facing death for converting to Christianity -- something illegal under that law, although being a Christian in the first place is not a crime. This is also a big problem for women in that country, who George and Laura touted as one of the group's the U.S. is proudest of "liberating," but who remain under the brutal thumb of religious fundamentalists...

The Taliban is coming back. They're still putting up a fierce armed resistence, though you wouldn't know it from the press coverage, and we're still no closer to finding Osama bin Laden, who is likely either still there, or just over the border in Pakistan.

It is almost totally dependent on foreign forces and finances which is where it gets interesting. The 20,000 or so troops guarding Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul and trying to keep the country from slipping back into Taliban rule serve at the pleasure of NATO. If Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, U.S., Spain, Italy and the other NATO powers wanted to really hold Karzai's feet to the fire, they certainly could. In sharp contrast to Iraq, a majority of Afghans want foreign troops to be in the country, and in the main, support the international mission there.

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posted by JReid @ 4:48 PM  
Quotable: How do you say "put to death" in Bushspeak?
Today it's a tie for quote of the day. First up, President Bush:

"It is deeply troubling that a country we helped liberate would hold a person to account because they chose a particular religion over another." -- President Bush addressing the case of Abdul Rahman, who could be sentenced to death in Afghanistan for converting from Islam to Christianty. Bush made the remarks during a speaking engagement in Wheeling, West Virginia.
"Held to account???" Well that's rather gentle... (and it's making Malkin mad...) How about "put to death," or "executed..." oh, right, Bush is for the death penalty... Wayback machine? Take us back to a Bush quote on the death penalty in the U.S. ... "
In America, we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit, so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.
Source: 2005 State of the Union Speech Feb 2, 2005
...
"I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. I do believe that if the death penalty is administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives. My job is to ask two questions. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, in all cases those answers were affirmative. I’m not proud of any record. I’m proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I’m not proud of any record, no. " -- Bush to the St. Louis debate Oct 17, 2000, answering a question on whether he is proud of the fact that Texas leads the state in executions...

Yes, Michelle, that's just the way Bush talks, like when he says "folks" instead of specifiying which specific group, entity, country or population he's talking about, or when he calles 9/11 "September the eleventh, 2001," just because I guess he thinks it sounds more dramatic. At the end of the day, Bush is going to parse this in a way that leaves him on the conservative side of both religion and the death penalty, while trying to figure out a way to win this one for the pajama people (without making Karzai look like a puppet...) Tough job, and Karzai's not making it any easier (he has his own political problems...)

Meanwhile, here's our second quote of the day:
"How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by Islamists who kill Christians? ... President Bush should immediately send Vice President Cheney or Secretary Rice to Kabul to read [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai's government the riot act. Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Democracy is more than purple thumbs." -- Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, as quoted by right-wing writer/blogger Michelle Malkin
Isn't the world just rich with irony?

For more on the Rahman saga:

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posted by JReid @ 3:55 PM  
WaPo's Red Stater
Does the WaPo really need a conservative blogger? Sign's point to "no." They've got Howard Kurtz to dish the Drudge dirt, Charles Krauthammer to bring the neocrazy, George Will to do the paleoconservative thing and Bob Woodward to oversee stenography for the White House. But the issue is that mainstream media outlets like the Post think they do. They've been beaten down so thoroughly by the right wing radio jocks and book hustlers, and they've internalized the ludicrous idea of left wing media bias so much that they can't help but flagellate themselves into tolerating the presence of anyone -- anyone -- who can make them feel "fair and balanced" --even a rabidly partisan former Bush staffer with no journalistic credentials.

Welcome to the new world order. So now Ben Domenech, our faithful Red State blogger can opine to the masses about the downtrodden nature of Christ-centered homeschoolers, intelligent design adherents and abortion opponents, educating the liberal East Coast elite about NASCAR, hot links and the subtleties of "pop" vs. "soda." It will all feel so fresh, ecumenical and "edgy" -- like when the white people who give out Oscars hand one over to the 36 Mafia because they're so "urban" and "gritty..." and meanwhile, the right and left-wing bloggers have something fresh to fight about, as the righties perfect their "we hate you and wish you were dead, not why are you so hostile towards us?" schpiel, and lefties take fresh pot shots at the House of Woodward.

Round the world:
  • RedState diarist #1: Liberals should accept their media/sociopolitical defeat with equanimity...
  • RedState diarist #2: Damn the equanimity, liberals are midgets...
  • John Aravosis is canceling his subscription to the WaPo (dude -- why subscribe when you can read it for free online?
  • The Prospect points out what should probably be obvious: (psst! Righties! Dan Froomkin: journalist... Ben Domenech: not journalist ...)
    Nothing written by Dan Froomkin or Dana Milbank is as florid or self-satisfied as Domenech's writings will be. Nor can his perspective be said to balance theirs, because the blogosphere equivalent of a Domenech would be a John Aravosis, not a Froomkin or Milbank. A conservative equivalent of Froomkin would be a more of a Clive Crook or Ross Douthat type, which is to say, someone who is MSM through and through, has a conservative perspective on many issues, and is also a responsible journalist. Domenech is more of a political operative, movement activist type, who, if he's had any connection to the MSM or its standards, has left no imprint of such on Nexis. (Though the Post did profile him when he was 18 years old way back in...May 2000. Guess that makes him about 24 years old now -- at most.)
  • The Wizbangers are in a mood for promotion...
  • Shhh! This blogger thinks there are no other conservatives at the Washington Post...! Whatever you do ... don't ... tell ... Krauthammer...!

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posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
Round and round
NBC News has the latest on the revolving door between the K Street and the United State Congress. This time, it's the GOP (who else?) and the nuclear energy industry.

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posted by JReid @ 3:03 PM  
Death before apostasy
I find it interesting that the right is so gung ho for the death penalty as applied in the U.S., including to the retarded and the teenaged (plus a certain salivation for the return of public executions...) but they get really, really exercised about the way it's practiced abroad. (There are, of course, a few righties who at least feel conflicted about it as they note that beheadings count... BTW Dr. R, two words on the 'what to do with child molesters situation: general population... two more: no parole...) But for the most part, it's kill 'em first and sort out the wrongly convicted from the guilty later.

That said, the potential execution of a man in Afghanistan -- that's U.S.-liberated Afghanistan to you -- for apostasy (he converted from Islam to Christianity) is an horrific case (there's now talk that he may be declared insane -- a face saving move for the land of Karzai to be sure...) Those of us who consistently oppose the death penalty should join the inconsistent righties in trumpeting the injustice of this case.

As for Bush, he's troubled by the goings-on in our newly minted democracy.

Updates: The Germans are riveted by the Abdul Rahman case, and their development minister says that country "will do anything to help" him stay alive (Germany and other European countries totally oppose, and have outlawed, the death penalty). Says a German paper:
The case has sparked alarm in Germany, the US and Italy -- all NATO countries with peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan. German politicians weighed into the debate this week which has increasingly drawn the battle lines between religious conservatives in Afghanistan and western diplomats pushing a reformist agenda.

"We will do everything possible to save the life of Abdul Rahman," German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul told the Bild newspaper.

Christoph Strässer, spokesman on human rights for the Social Democrats, part of Germany's governing coalition, said it was no surprise that the issue had inflamed passions in Germany, a country which is deeply involved in Afghanistan's postwar reconstruction and peacekeeping and currently has 2,700 soldiers deployed there.

"For one, Germany is fundamentally against the death sentence, independent of whether it's sanctioned by different cultures," Strässer said. "And secondly, religious freedom is extremely precious to us and should be respected by an Islamic society too."
The Australians, who have been gripped by their own Muslim death penalty drama with the Schapelle Corby case (she faced the death penalty in Indonesia for marijuana smuggling, but after a huge uproar in Australia, ultimately was sentenced to 20 years in prison), are also offering help, which is more than you can say for Hamid Karzai's patrons in Washington... Bush, who just visited the preeminent narco-stateto show support for Karzai's shaky government, should in theory be able to wield considerable influence, which he, as a supposedly devout man, might use to press the Afghan government to intervene on Mr. Rahman's behalf.

But then, that would mean offending conservative Muslim groups in the country, which could put Karzai's hold on power in jeopardy. The Afghan government sitll doesn't really govern the lawless countryside, and there are still plenty of Taliban and al-Qaida types running around.

That and we've been saying Afghanistan is a model of democracy for the Muslim world. What to do...

Update 2: The Danes weigh in... and they're not playing LEGOs... a sample:
Spokesman on Foreign Issues, Naser Khader, Social Liberals, Jyllands-Posten, March 21:The government must act on this matter and show that Denmark is at the forefront in the fight for Human Rights and international rule of law. That is why we are in Afghanistan. If necessary, the Danish forces in country must liberate Abdul Rahman and offer him asylum in Denmark. This case underlines the need for Sharia law to be fought wherever it is found.”

Spokesman on Foreign Issues, Søren Espersen, Danish People’s Party, Jyllands-Posten, March 21:“I don’t give a damn what laws they think they have. We are sort of an authority in Afghanistan and the President must prevent an execution, or we’ll give it to him good. If the Americans, the British and the Danes weren’t there, President Hamid Karzai would be butcher’s meat in the roadside before long. He knows the stakes and he better do what the Allies say in this matter.”
Well they're not subtle. I'm starting to see where that cartoon business came from...

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posted by JReid @ 1:55 PM  
Trouble in LEGOland...
Do you get the point of this poster?

It was initially made for the UNHCHR for distribution in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Michelle Malkin thinks you're an idiot if you don't see that "...the puzzle pieces represent unity and tolerance; the red LEGO represents a blaring, non-conformist, and unacceptable 'shape of racism."

She adds this:
Some readers write in that no one knows who makes Danish-based LEGO toy pieces. Have you all been snoozing through the Cartoon Jihad conflagration or what? If you can't see the poster for the Islamist-pandering piece of propaganda that it is, there's nothing I can do to help you.
LEGO's are Danish? Hm. You learn something new every day... I for one have never seen LEGOs and thought: Denmark...

The poster supposedly has upset the LEGO people and the Danish people, who we're told feel it 1) is a slap at the Danish-inspired cartoon row, and 2) associates a Danish product with racism... But the LEGO company's statement focused only on the latter issue, and on a more relevant one, I think: copyright infringement:
“We regret that the United Nations did not seek our permission. The poster may as well create an impression that LEGO is connected with racism or is completely racist,” said Lego Spokeswoman Charlotte Simonsen.
In the corporate world, it's not some deep interpretation of the image that counts, its the visceral word-picture association of the product -- LEGOs -- with the word "racism" anywhere on the page. It's Malkin and her cartoon jihadis who are all worked up about the symbolism. Malkin even suggests that the fact that the U.N. has pulled the poster is proof they really were trying to smear the Danes. Really? You don't think it had something to do with fearing they'd end up in a copyright suit in court?

As for me, I think the poster is simply confusing. It could mean any, or all, of the following:

  1. Black striped puzzle pieces too often unite against the red LEGOs in their midst...
  2. It's hard out there for a red LEGO, when everybody but you fits in...
  3. Red LEGOs are afraid -- perhaps because of racism -- to get too close to black puzzles

Malkin's take, that the LEGO is the racist one in the picture ... strikes me as the oddball choice. I mean, after all, the LEGO is all alone, out there by its lonesome on the side, while the "unified" black puzzle pieces have each other. It hardly looks like the angry, menacing face of racism. Besides, assuming its the red LEGO that's racist just because it's Danish is, well, downright racist. ... or is that recreational passtimist...?

Think this whole argument is stupid yet?

Earth to Michelle: this is about 50 percent about patent infringement -- using the LEGO image without permission, and 50 percent about product marketing. LEGO would have reacted in exactly the same way had their product been depicted along side a picture of a child molester. They're not fighting the cartoon wars with you, they're defending their brand.

Meanwhile, Poliblogger offers a dose of sanity, with lego people! Don't you just have to love LEGO people? Even if the little bastards are Danish... (I kid! DON'T email me...)

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posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
Blogging means occasionally having to say you're sorry
...but Clooney's people say Arianna has yet to call Gorgeous George. Just when you thought the fued was over...

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posted by JReid @ 12:53 PM  
When good news goes Baghdad
(Moving this post up) ...so last night, Nightline's Jake Tapper takes up the president's challenge from his Tuesday news conference in which Bush says the media is being used by "the terr'rists," and decides to look for a "good news" story in Iraq. Tapper decides to focus on Iraqi TV -- specifically, comedies in production onthe streets of Baghdad -- he even finds "the Iraqi Danny DeVito." Great, right? Well, it was great, until the head of the Iraqi television station -- the guy who set up Tapper and crew's interviews and visit to the set of Iraqi DeVito's new show -- gets assassinated during the ongoing sectarian violence. Good news in Iraq? File it under "hard to find..."

Sidebar: BTW what's up with Laura Ingraham's hair? She looks like the Fonz... and apparently she thinks Matt and Katie should string up a fetching mobile "Today Show" set and start broadcasting from Fallujah. Said Laura:

Well here, here’s what I think David. I think with all the resources of networks like NBC. The Today show spends all this money to send people to the Olympics, which is great, it was great programming. All this money for Where In The World Is Matt Lauer? Bring the Today show to Iraq. Bring the Today show to Tal Afar. Do the show from the 4th ID at Camp Victory and then when you talk to those soldiers on the ground, when you go out with the Iraqi military, when you talk to the villagers, when you see the children, then I want NBC to report on only the IEDs, only the killings, only, only the reprisals. ...
And Expose the Left picks it up from here:

A timorous Gregory replied: "And you think Iraq is safe enough [to do what Laura proposed]?" Ingraham: "Yes. I was not on the hotel balcony. I was out with the U.S. military. It can be done in any part of the country." Laura attempted to continue, but Gregory cut her off: "I get the anti-network point." ...
David Gregory "timorous?" I think you actually have to be on drugs to see this particular reporter that way...More on the dustup (plus video) from Crooks and Liars, and a word on Reagan, Bush I, and the virture of changing ones mind, courtesy of Josh Marshall at TPM.

... Somebody ought to direct Ms. Ingraham to the Condi Rice State Department. Here's what they think of the "safe," new Iraq:

... The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous. Remnants of the former Ba’ath regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or “Green”) Zone. Targets include convoys en-route to venues, hotels, restaurants, police stations, checkpoints, foreign diplomatic missions, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and several were subsequently murdered by terrorists in Iraq. U.S. citizens and other foreigners continue to be targeted by insurgent groups and opportunistic criminals for kidnapping and murder. Military operations continue. There are daily attacks against Multinational Forces - Iraq (MNF-I), Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Police throughout the country.

There is credible information that terrorists are targeting civil aviation. Civilian and military aircraft arriving in and departing from Baghdad International Airport and flying to other major cities in Iraq have been subjected to small arms and missiles. Civilian aircraft do not generally possess systems, such as those found on military aircraft, capable of defeating man-portable, surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS). Anyone choosing to utilize civilian aircraft to enter or depart or travel within Iraq should be aware of this potential threat, as well as the extremely high risk to road transportation described below. Official U.S. Government (USG) personnel are strongly encouraged to use U.S. military or other USG aircraft entering and departing Iraq due to concerns about security of civilian aircraft servicing Iraq. ...
...yeah, sounds like just the place for a campy, Katie cooking segment...

Sidebar 2: The BBC backs up TIME magazine on the latest case of media shock and awe...

Update: NewsBusters defends Laura and says NBC is still muy negativo... And I suppose Laura would prefer to see the MSM doing stellar, award-worthy journalism like this:
The mess hall experience--two meals already--has been a blast. Of course the security situation here is still terrible. The continuing terrorist threat is obvious by the number of cement barricades and checkpoints, the practical limits on where we can go ...

Hang on! I thought you could go, and string up a show, from anywhyere in Iraq and be perfectly safe ... a bit of a contradiction there, old girl... But please to continue:

... and the security sweeps even inside military bases. The asymetrical warfare being waged by the Islamo-fascists continues to be a difficult challenge.

The good news is that training of Iraqi forces continues apace and more of the security operations are being turned over to them every month. I will meet some of these brave men on Monday. I wish every American could see even the small part of the operation here that I've seen so far. They'd be more proud of our military and more grateful to be Americans. ...

Day two...

... You wouldn't know it by reading the New York Times, but IED attacks are actually down since December. I headed over to the Iraqi side of the base, where I saw the Iraqi troops being trained, with interpreters on site, of course. The men-about 30 of them-were friendly and seemed dedicated. They also risk their lives just by being part of the new Iraqi security forces-so most didn't want their pictures taken. Their American counterparts seem genuinely fond of these men-and not happy that the whole story is not being told by the "major media." More of the battlefield control is being turned over to the Iraqis later in the spring. "When the Iraqis see one of their own on top of a tank, they seem really proud," said one of the military trainers. "We need that to be the norm, as quickly as possible," commented one of the smart young majors riding with us. After checking out the the 4thID Aviation Brigade's helicopter fleet, chatting with the pilots (all of whom are poised and impressive), and seeing the Air Force's digital weather center, I was driven back to the air field for the Blackhawk flight back to Baghdad.
That's right Laura R. Murrow, show 'em how it's done.

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
The official story
I might have posted this before, but there's an updated version of a documentary now called "Loose Change 9/11." The fundamental question is: do you believe the official story of 9/11? If you do, great. If you don't, then everything that happened after that is called into serious question. Even if you're agnostic, or you tend to believe that al-Qaida attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon and that the government had no warning such a thing could happen, it's worth taking a second look. Here's the link.

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posted by JReid @ 2:23 AM  
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Gore no more
Whew! The former veep says he's not running for president. I like him much better as a speechifying movie guy anyway...
posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
In the dark on 'South Park'
Did he or didn't he? New questions on whether Brother Isaac Hayes really quit South Park...

BTW, get the music from the infamous "trapped in the closet" episode here. Sorry, Tom Cruise...
posted by JReid @ 11:34 AM  
Khalizad: 'The country is bleeding'
The U.S. ambassador speaks frankly about the situation in Iraq. The Iraqi death toll since the Golden Mosque attack now stands at more than 1,000. As former Prime Minister Allawi has said, if this isn't civil war, only God knows what civil war is...

More news: a raid on an Iraqi jail leaves 17 police and 10 attackers dead...

And recovering neocon Francis Fukuyama warns of the dangers of European schadenfreude

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posted by JReid @ 8:37 AM  
The CIA's secret source
More on Naji Sabri, the Iraqi foreign minister who became the CIA's secret source before the U.S.-led invasion, telling the spy agency in no uncertain terms that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.:
In September 2002, at a meeting of the U.N.’s General Assembly, Sabri came to New York to represent Saddam. In front of the assembled diplomats, he read a letter from the Iraqi leader. "The United States administration is acting on behalf of Zionism," he said. He announced that there were no weapons of mass destruction and that the U.S. planned war in Iraq because it wanted the country’s oil.

But on that very trip, there was also a secret contact made. The contact was brokered by the French intelligence service, sources say. Intelligence sources say that in a New York hotel room, CIA officers met with an intermediary who represented Sabri. All discussions between Sabri and the CIA were conducted through a "cutout," or third party. Through the intermediary, intelligence sources say, the CIA paid Sabri more than $100,000 in what was, essentially, "good-faith money." And for his part, Sabri, again through the intermediary, relayed information about Saddam’s actual capabilities.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.

The sources say Sabri’s answers were much more accurate than his proclamations to the United Nations, where he demonized the U.S. and defended Saddam. At the same time, they also were closer to reality than the CIA's estimates, as spelled out in its October 2002 intelligence estimate.

For example, consider biological weapons, a key concern before the war. The CIA said Saddam had an "active" program for "R&D, production and weaponization" for biological agents such as anthrax. Intelligence sources say Sabri indicated Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program. Sabri was right. After the war, it became clear that there was no program.

Another key issue was the nuclear question: How far away was Saddam from having a bomb? The CIA said if Saddam obtained enriched uranium, he could build a nuclear bomb in "several months to a year." Sabri said Saddam desperately wanted a bomb, but would need much more time than that. Sabri was more accurate.

On the issue of chemical weapons, the CIA said Saddam had stockpiled as much as "500 metric tons of chemical warfare agents" and had "renewed" production of deadly agents. Sabri said Iraq had stockpiled weapons and had "poison gas" left over from the first Gulf War. Both Sabri and the agency were wrong.
So why didn't the CIA act on the information? According to the NBC News scoop:
intelligence sources say, the CIA relationship with Sabri ended when the CIA, hoping for a public relations coup, pressured him to defect to the U.S. The U.S. hoped Sabri would leave Iraq and publicly renounce Saddam. He repeatedly refused, sources say, and contact was broken off.

When war broke out, Sabri was defiant and outspoken. "Those aggressors are war criminals, colonialist war criminals. Crazy people led by a crazy, drunken, ignorant president," he said.

After the war, former CIA director George Tenet once boasted of a secret Iraqi source.

"A source," he said in a speech on Feb. 5, 2004, "who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle." Sources tell NBC News Tenet was alluding to Sabri. Tenet said that the source — meaning Sabri — had said Iraq was stockpiling chemical weapons and that equipment to produce insecticides, under the oil-for-food program, had been diverted to covert chemical weapons production. However, in that speech, Tenet also laid out what Sabri had disclosed: that there was no biological program, that Saddam wanted nuclear weapons but had none.
Sabri, interestingly enough, is not in the stockade with Saddam. After the war, he migrated to another, unnamed country in the Middle East and is teaching at a university, living quite openly, apparently under some sort of "special arrangement."

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posted by JReid @ 8:18 AM  
The competency question: Donald Rumsfeld
Backtracking a bit, with a hat tip to the Daily Kos, a retired Army major general who was in charge of training Iraqi forces from 2003 to 2004, shellacks Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ... for incompetence. Paul D. Eaton, Ret., charges that Rumsfeld has bullied and cowed the uniformed military brass, starting with Tommy Franks and Richard Myers, and continuing with the current Joint Chiefs chair, Peter Pace (Pace has shown sparks of independence, including on the issue of mistreatment of prisoners and the state of war in Iraq, only to back down later...) He says Rummy has enforced a dangerous "groupthink" inside the Pentagon, and that his obsession with high-tech, low headcount military "transformation" has made Iraq a much more dangerous mission for U.S. troops. It's a scathing indictment, and one everyone should read all the way through. Here's just a sample:
DURING World War II, American soldiers en route to Britain before D-Day were given a pamphlet on how to behave while awaiting the invasion. The most important quote in it was this: "It is impolite to criticize your host; it is militarily stupid to criticize your allies."

By that rule, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.

In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.
What's sad is that because of the stubbornness of Mr. Bush, Rumsfeld is probably safe in his job until he himself chooses to leave.

Meanwhile, the latest droplet out of Iraq is the news that some six months before the war started -- in September of 2002 -- Iraq's foreign minister "turned states evidence" against the regime, telling the CIA, in part to collect $100,000, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

Happy Tuesday.

Update: Dr. Rusty at the Jawa Report painfully, agonizingly, excruciatingly comes to the conclusion that it's time for Rumsfeld to go. On the other hand, he still thinks there's all sorts of good news coming out of Iraq! (Maybe I need to see some of your sources, Dr. R, because I just don't see it. People like Khalizad -- an honest broker as far as I've seen -- and Allawi, who ruled the place for god's sake, disagree with your attempt at rosying up the scenario.) It seems long past time for the right to admit that Iraq is a mess. You can't figure out how to fix what you won't admit is broken.

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posted by JReid @ 8:06 AM  
Woof
Bush's best friend in the Senate, Pat Roberts of Kansas, says he's no lap-dog ... or he is a lap dog but he bites on occasion ... but not really hard, and only on the pinkie finger. ...
posted by JReid @ 1:35 AM  
Iran ironies
The U.S. won't allow a group of Americans who were held hostage in Iran during the late '70s to sue Tehran for damages. Why?
The former hostages of Iran have benefited from two laws, passed in 1980 and 1986, that among other things gave them tax breaks, paid their educational expenses and provided a "token detention benefit" of $50 for each day in captivity. In bringing a lawsuit, they must overcome the terms of the diplomatic agreement that led to their release but has also put the State Department directly in their path.

The agreement, known as the Algiers Accords, codified the 1981 deal between the United States and Iran under which the hostages were released, billions of dollars in Iranian assets were unfrozen, and an arbitration tribunal was established in the Netherlands to settle claims between the two countries. In the first part of the document, the United States pledged that it "will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs." Elsewhere, the United States pledged to "bar and preclude" any claims filed by the hostages against Iran.

For the hostages, the situation is rich in irony. The State Department, in legal arguments and on Capitol Hill, has maintained that allowing the hostages' case to go forward will violate the Algiers Accords. But Rice has announced a $75 million plan to bolster democracy in Iran and to foster opposition to the theocracy that controls the country. The hostages say Rice's program violates the prohibition on interfering in Iran's affairs; Iran has also filed a complaint with the United States through the Swiss Embassy, which handles U.S. interests in Tehran.

"This administration has not been shy about breaking international agreements," said Barry Rosen, who was press attache at the U.S. Embassy and who now heads the Afghanistan Education Project at Columbia University's Teachers College. "The administration appears to be in contradiction of itself. It seems to me the Algiers Accords should be dead and buried."

Rosen, angry that others have "laid claim to millions and millions of dollars of compensation," added: "This may sound weird, but if I were made aware of that agreement, I would have stayed in Iran."

U.S. officials say that supporting democracy does not amount to interference under international law. And they say abrogating the Algiers Accords, though not a formal treaty, would be viewed overseas as a serious breach of international norms, harming U.S. interests. U.S. banks and companies have been able to settle claims with Iran because of the accords, while the United States has been forced to pay about $900 million to Iran for contract violations and property damage.

William J. Daugherty, a CIA employee who spent 425 days in solitary confinement during the crisis and is now a college professor, said the State Department is being "deceitful and dishonest." He added that "you can't argue that getting people to rise up against their government is not interfering in a country's affairs." He said that, after taxes, the check he received under the 1986 detention benefit was $17,000. "This came from the U.S. taxpayer, which none of us wanted to happen," he said. "We have always wanted Iran to pay for what it did."
Ironies, ironies. Did I mention that the former hostages worked for the State Department? And isn't trying to bar Iran from developing nuclear energy a severe case of internal affairs meddling? I'm starting to wonder if there are any hard and fast principles the present U.S. government is willing to adhere to...

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posted by JReid @ 1:20 AM  
Leaky Libby II: The Witnesses
Apparently NSA Stephen Hadley and Dick Armitage are on the witness list...

Previous: Leaky Libby

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
Tiny whiny
A new study says whiny kids tend to grow up to be conservatives. I'll leave the commenting to you.

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posted by JReid @ 1:05 AM  
The party of ideas?
Apparently not.

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posted by JReid @ 12:57 AM  
The plight of African-American men
According to a raft of new studies from Columbia, Princeton, Harvard and other Universities:


BALTIMORE — Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics, a flurry of new scholarly studies warn, and it has worsened in recent years even as an economic boom and a welfare overhaul have brought gains to black women and other groups.

Focusing more closely than ever on the life patterns of young black men, the new studies ... show that the huge pool of poorly educated black men are becoming ever more disconnected from the mainstream society, and to a far greater degree than comparable white or Hispanic men.

Especially in the country's inner cities, the studies show, finishing high school is the exception, legal work is scarcer than ever and prison is almost routine, with incarceration rates climbing for blacks even as urban crime rates have declined.

Although the problems afflicting poor black men have been known for decades, the new data paint a more extensive and sobering picture of the challenges they face.
Among the low-lights:


¶The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000.

¶Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison.

¶In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school. ...

...First, the high rate of incarceration and attendant flood of former offenders into neighborhoods have become major impediments. Men with criminal records tend to be shunned by employers, and young blacks with clean records suffer by association, studies have found.

Arrests of black men climbed steeply during the crack epidemic of the 1980's, but since then the political shift toward harsher punishments, more than any trends in crime, has accounted for the continued growth in the prison population, Mr. Western said.

By their mid-30's, 30 percent of black men with no more than a high school education have served time in prison, and 60 percent of dropouts have, Mr. Western said.

Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day — 34 percent — than are working — 30 percent — according to an analysis of 2000 census data by Steven Raphael of the University of California, Berkeley..

The second special factor is related to an otherwise successful policy: the stricter enforcement of child support. Improved collection of money from absent fathers has been a pillar of welfare overhaul. But the system can leave young men feeling overwhelmed with debt and deter them from seeking legal work, since a large share of any earnings could be seized.

About half of all black men in their late 20's and early 30's who did not go to college are noncustodial fathers, according to Mr. Holzer. From the fathers' viewpoint, support obligations "amount to a tax on earnings," he said.
The implications of these studies are staggering, if unexpected (I would have thought AA men did much better during the '90s...)

In Florida, the dropout rate for Black kids is still at around 50 percent, higher than for any other group. And the cycle of joblessness, crime, marginalization and depoliticization (including the loss of voting rights in nine states including Florida for those with felony convictions) can only help to continue wrecking urban communities -- especially small inner city communities that either haven't attracted the attention of developers yet, or that have, and therefore are ripe for eminent domain and other techniques to "cleanse" them of the undesirable poor.

The imperative now is to find some solutions. One that I could think of off the bat, is a move to change the culture of "Black America." If I see one more commercial for a gangsta movie or CD, I think I'll puke. We've got to start modeling more productive ideas to our young men, rather than just materialism, mysogyny, sexual promiscuity (including bisexual promiscuity) and the relentless pursuit of a fictional, rented house, rented jewelry gangsta lifestyle. What are you saying about yourself and your community when you finally land a record deal, and choose to call your label Murder, Inc. or Death Row? And why are you surprised when the feds pay it extra attention? (Hollywood hasn't exactly been helpful with its glorification of pimps and gangstas both in the greenlighting process, and during the recent Oscars...)

I blame a lot of this on BET, which has pumped cultural toxic waste into Black living rooms for nearly 30 years, with barely a break for positive, informative programming. A lot also has to do with the rap music industry, which has traded on the nihilistic rot of street culture as a way to make a few phony thugs rich at the expense of the good sense of millions of African-American kids. And the slide of American culture away from the necessity of fathers hasn't helped -- clearly, kids do need them, along with present, lucid mothers.

It's important to note that by no means are all Black men in this miserable condition. For every knucklehead, there are upstanding men out there doing the right thing -- even doing big things -- and taking care of themselves and their families and going to work everyday. But clearly, it's time for a house cleaning in the larger Black community. We may not like it, but it's long overdue.

Update: Not everyone weighing in on the issue is Black, because as this writer points out, the fate of African-American men impacts us all.

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posted by JReid @ 12:23 AM  
McCain's money man
TPM Muckraker whips the cover off John McCain's latest de-maverickizing gambit: hiring the former Bush political director who also happens to have been named in an indictment as an unindicted player in the alleged Tom DeLay money laundering scheme... (and yes, I am going to post that picture every time I talk about John McCain. ... all the way until Election Day 2008...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 AM  
Monday, March 20, 2006
Damn the ports...
Dubai's got even bigger plans in the U.S.:
March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Dubai, which agreed this month to sell its interest in U.S. ports, said its $1.2 billion takeover of a U.K. company with U.S. plants that make military equipment is delayed while the authorities investigate security concerns.

Dubai International Capital LLC, which is owned by the government of the Persian Gulf emirate, and Doncasters Group Ltd. agreed to delay the transaction by as many as two months from March 31 while government agencies review the purchase, Sameer Al Ansari, Dubai International's chief executive, said in an interview today.

``After what happened with Dubai Ports, the government is looking at this deal more closely,'' Al Ansari said after a press conference in Dubai announcing an agreement with HSBC Holdings Plc.

What next? Are these guys gonna drop all the pretense and just purchase the Pentagon building?

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posted by JReid @ 4:09 PM  
God, the devil and Katherine Harris
The overly made-up would-be Senator (stop laughing, she really thinks she can win...) says God wants her in public service ... who knew larding the tiller for defense contractors was considered a public service? And why is it that the most pious Republicans turn out to be the most corrupt? From pious shoplifting/homeschooling advisors to Hasidic bribery kingpins and their right-wing Christian friends to the Bookie of Virtues, the GOP is just chock full of people who say God is leading them. Perhaps they are mistakenly being led by someone ... other than God...

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posted by JReid @ 3:51 PM  
The unlikely
Michael Ledeen -- ardent neoconservative and advocate for total Christo-Islamic war, believer in the untimely demise of Osama ... spoiler for regime change in Iran (and Syria and probably a half dozen other countries ruled by those darned Muslims...) friend of notorious Iranian arms dealers and Israeli spies, advocate for the "efficient domination of subject peoples", villain of the paleoconservative right, and possible Niger Niger document forgier-majeur... -- ain't happy about the goings-on in Iraq, apparently, and he thinks Don Rumsfeld should be fired. Do tell. Here's the story from Raw. Keep the grains and pass me an entire container of salt.

And while we're on the subject of Rummy, here's what people with actual credibility are saying (sorry, Mike. You just don't cut it.)

[Photo courtesy of Chickenhawkcards.com]

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posted by JReid @ 3:17 PM  
Science fair
Question: Why is the Bush administration raising so many alarms about bird flu, which has killed fewer than 100 people worldwide, but ignoring, censoring and squashing -- via the revolving door of oil industry lobbyists working at various posts inside the agencies responsible for informing the public on matters of science -- any and all information about global warming, which scientists are warning is accelerating, probably producing things like this, this, this and this?

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
Another oily mess
Sticking with today's semi-theme, the Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Taylor invites you to meet Nigeria -- another big oil producer / U.S. oil supplier, whose troubles are even worse than pre-war (or hell, post-war) Iraq:
With an ethnically and religiously combustible population of 130 million, Nigeria is lurching toward disaster, and the stakes are high—for both Nigeria and the United States. An OPEC member since 1971, Nigeria has 35.9 billion barrels of proven petroleum reserves—the largest of any African country and the eighth largest on earth. It exports some 2.5 million barrels of oil a day, and the government plans to nearly double that amount by 2010. Nigeria is the fifth-largest supplier of oil to the United States; U.S. energy officials predict that within ten years it and the Gulf of Guinea region will provide a quarter of America's crude.

It is hardly surprising, then, that since 9/11 the Bush administration has courted Nigeria as an alternative to volatile petro-states in the Middle East and Latin America. In 2002, the White House declared the oil of Africa (five other countries on the continent are also key producers) a "strategic national interest"—meaning that the United States would use military force, if necessary, to protect it. In short, Nigeria's troubles could become America's and, like those of the Persian Gulf, cost us dearly in blood and money.

Moreover, Nigeria's problems far exceed those of the petro-states the administration hopes to sidestep. They begin with the ad hoc nature and impossible structure of the country, which even a leading Nigerian nationalist called "a mere geographical expression." The entity of Nigeria was cobbled together to serve London's economic interests. Having established the Royal Niger Company to exploit resources in the Niger River Delta, and expanded inland from there, the British found themselves by the late nineteenth century ruling territories and peoples—some 250 ethnic groups in all—that had never coexisted in a single state. [Editorial comment: sound familiar...?] They ran Nigeria as three separate administrative zones, divided along ethnic and religious lines. The Muslim north, arid and poor but with half the country's population, would eventually gain supremacy over the army. Through a succession of military dictatorships, it would dominate (and plunder) the fertile and oil-rich but disunited south, whose largest ethnic groups—the Yoruba in the west and the Igbo in the east—together represent just 39 percent of the population. Democracy, too, has favored the north, which, united by Islam and voting as a bloc, has determined the outcome of virtually all elections. In Nigeria, where one generally votes for one's religious or ethnic brethren, democracy has deepened divisions rather than healed them. Whoever holds the presidency faces an insoluble dilemma: either let the country break up, or use violence to hold it together.

Chief among the country's current woes is corruption. During the last twenty-five years, Nigeria earned more than $300 billion in oil revenues—but annual per capita income plummeted from $1,000 to $390. More than two-thirds of the population lives beneath the poverty line, subsisting on less than a dollar a day. The country's elites bear most of the blame. Since Nigeria gained independence, in 1960, its rulers—military and civilian alike—have systematically squandered or stolen some $400 billion in government money. According to a 2004 World Bank report, 80 percent of the country's oil wealth accrues to 1 percent of the population. As the journalist Karl Maier, whose This House Has Fallen stands as the authoritative work on modern Nigeria, has put it, Nigeria is a "criminally mismanaged corporation where the bosses are armed and have barricaded themselves inside the company safe." Nigeria's similarities to Saudi Arabia are manifold: corruption, oil wealth, a burgeoning Muslim population, and value to the United States as an energy supplier. Osama bin Laden has called Nigeria "ripe for liberation."
So the country is about 50 percent Muslim in the North, and they control the Army. It's about 40 percent Yoruba and Igbo ethnic Christian in the South, and they basically pump the oil. And the two sides are in sporadic violent conflict. The president isn't holding the line on corruption, and by the way, he's thinking about violating the Nigerian constitution by standing for a third term... If you can take it, here's a bit more:
The U.N. Human Development Index ranks Nigeria as having one of the worst standards of living, below both Haiti and Bangladesh. For all its oil wealth, and after seven years of governance by one of Africa's most highly touted democrats, Nigeria has become the largest failed state on earth. ...

...The religious tensions commingle with ethnic ones. Obasanjo has lifted many dictatorial strictures on daily life, but in the absence of effective security forces, this has only heightened clashes among the populace. During his rule, the most lethal period of unrest in the country's history, more than 10,000 people have died. One of the worst zones of conflict is the Niger River Delta in the south, the site of most of Nigeria's mainland petroleum reserves. In recent years, numerous attacks by militias under the rebel leader Alhaji Dokubo-Asari have forced multinationals (against whom Dokubo-Asari has promised "all-out war") to cease pumping, causing oil prices on the world market to spike. Threats also emanate from the north, one of the most radicalized areas of Muslim black Africa.
And the U.S. has pledged to keep those oil fields flowing, by force if necessary.

And we haven't even begun to talk about nearby Equatorial Guinea, another oil-soaked hell-hole that's "ripe for liberation..." Sleep well...

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posted by JReid @ 2:14 PM  
Our new friend
Guess who says Saddam Hussein is still the legitimate ruler of Iraq? Read the quote before you click the link and see if you can guess:
"Saddam is still to be considered the legal president of Iraq because he was not overthrown by the people but by the occupation forces."

"It is dangerous to send troops to eliminate heads of state who are not appreciated, because tomorrow it could be the turn of Castro, Kadhafi or Mugabe, or even China and North Korea," he said, referring to Cuban President Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

"The invasion of Iraq was not justified because Saddam had already abandoned weapons of mass destruction," Kadhafi added, referring to the main US pretext for invading Iraq three years ago.

He said that the United States should get out of Iraq in its own interest "because the Iraqis are no longer afraid of the Americans so that the murder of US soldiers has become routine."
And here's who's doing business with our mystery man today... Ah, the smell of fresh, dictator-controlled oil in the morning!

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posted by JReid @ 2:08 PM  
Death in perspective
President Bush is speaking right now in Cleveland, again defending his decision to take the U.S. to war in Iraq, and replaying his favorite record: we're in a war against the terrorists ... they're like "totalitarian fascists" (talk about your compounding) and we had to invade Iraq because "everybody thought they had weapons of mass destruction) ... by the way, everybody thinks Kim Jong Il is nuts. Cue the "shock and awe?" Don't hold your breath.

Anyway, I found an interesting site that has tried to catalogue the danger of death posed by the many human- and nature-produced ills that have befallen our lonely planet, and -- surprise! -- terrorism just might be the least of these. According to various sources cited by Don's Home, during the period from 1900 to 2004, the death rates from various causes are approximately as follows:

Deaths from disease and pandemics: 46 million
Deaths from hunger or famine: 32 million
Civilian and military deaths during war: 61 million
Deaths from natural disasters like floods, draught and hurricanes: 21 million (with half of those from drought... the earthquake in Bam, Iran in 2003 killed 26,000 people. The Asian tsunami killed more than 150,000. )
Deaths form accidents and/or medical mistakes: 500,000
and Deaths from our present foe, terrorism: about 12,000...

Now that figure deserves some more attention.

The 9/11 attacks alone accounted for 2,830 deaths. Newarly 200 people died in the 3/11 attacks in Spain, and another 55 in the London tube bombings. Looking at the major terrorist incidents in the last five years alone:
So if we add those up, you get 9,099, almost your total 12,000. So let's be generous and say that the terror figure is low-balled, by half -- even three times (if you throw in old-time terrorists like the Stern Gang, Irgun, Black September and the guys who touched off World War I by killing that Hapsburg in Bosnia...) you still have only 36,000 deaths, versus the literally millions who routinely die by other means.

So what's the point? You could say that the exorbitant spending on counterterrorism, including the new batch of major spending to thwart the possibility of terror attacks using weapons of mass destruction (more than ten times as much for law enforcement as for "physical security of the national populace in the U.S., by the way, and more than 20 times as much for the physical security of government as for securing the population -- and five times more for government security as for preparedness in the Bush budgets since 9/11...) is somewhat counterproductive. You could, theoretically, protect more people worldwide from death by shifting spending toward preparedness for a natural disaster, or by foregoing armed conflicts (the Iraq war has cost half a trillion dollars, while only 1 percent of cargo is inspected for nuclear or biological materials at our ports), than by spending money "fighting terrorism."

That's not to say the government shouldn't fight terrorism. Of course they should. And the impact of terrorism -- the shock factor alone -- is often greater and more traumatic than that of natural disaster deaths, although it's hard to see how the washing away of nearly a quarter million people in tsunami flood waters isn't the freakiest thing anyone has ever heard of. The point is that Americans should rightly ask whether $500 billion, 2,300 American and perhaps 35,000 Iraqi lives lost is worth the cost, when even if Iraq was tied to international terrorism -- which it has never been found to be, by the way -- the number of lives at stake due to terror is so small compared to the many, many other things out there (including the weather, bad levees and a trip to the wrong doctor) that can kill you.

Just think if the U.S. had spent the $500 billion we've blown in Iraq on rebuilding the infrastructure of the United States. We'd have first class levees that could handle the next Katrina, a sound port system employing thousands of Americans on a cleaned up waterfront where every piece of cargo is checked in real-time via high-tech means, an electric grid system you could actually count on, an improved highway system with better security checks to prevent alien smuggling (and perhaps, the smuggling of illicit weapons)... But we forewent those choices by invading Iraq -- trading all those lives for ... well, I'm not sure what at this stage. Mr. Bush is defending that choice today, and likely every day until the November elections. He has to. But he really can't justify the Iraq invasion in terms of saving lives. At least, not by the numbers...

Just a thought.

More stats on the 20th century's incredible multi-factor death toll here (preview: Karl Marx has killed more people than anyone else in history...)

And since I know the comment is coming:
  • Number of Iraqis killed by the Saddam regime: ranges from 61,000 to 500,000
  • The number of Iraqis killed in the first Gulf War (estimate): 158,000
  • U.S. deaths in that war: 293
... and by the way, the U.S. lost zero troops preventing those up to half million deaths at the hands of Saddam. We were siding with him against Iran at the time... So again the cost-benefit analysis on the efficacy of the present war has to be weighed. Would Saddam have killed another half a million people? Who knows. The regime was so brittle and decrepit it's hard to imagine he would have had the wherewithall. And would the U.S. have invaded, regardless of wmd, to prevent him from doing so? Doubtful. That's the sidebar, judge the numbers for yourself.

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posted by JReid @ 1:20 PM  
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Leaky Libby
New from the AP (as you'll see from the link, I'm spending a lot of time on the U.S. News site, waiting for that warrantless physical searches story to post up...): it appears that in mounting his defense, Scooter Libby is going to dump the entire Bush administration's dirty laundry into the street:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide are signaling they may delve deeply at his criminal trial into infighting among the White House, the CIA and the State Department over pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.

In a prelude to a possible defense, the lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby also are suggesting that the State Department - not Libby - may be to blame for leaking the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media.

Court papers filed late Friday raise the possibility a trial could become politically embarrassing for the Bush administration by focusing on the debate about whether the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The defense team stated that in June and July 2003, Plame's CIA status was at most a peripheral issue to "the finger-pointing that went on within the executive branch about who was to blame" for the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"If the jury learns this background information" about finger-pointing "and also understands Mr. Libby's additional focus on urgent national security matters, the jury will more easily appreciate how Mr. Libby may have forgotten or misremembered ... snippets of conversation" about Plame's CIA status, the lawyers said.
Or maybe they'll just think he lied on reporters to try and fool the grand jury... This of course comes on the heels of the VF story claiming that the main leaker was Collin Powell aide Richard Armitage and that WaPo executive editor Ben Bradlee knows it... the

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posted by JReid @ 1:58 PM  
Feingold up
...in the latest Rasmussen poll (which also shows a slight majority against censure, though the wording of the poll is quite different from the ARG poll dealt with a few posts down the line...)

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posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
More uh-ohs for the GOP
From the BBC:
US evangelicals warn Republicans

...At a news conference in Washington, some of America's most influential conservative leaders said the current perception among evangelical Christians was that the Republican majority was not doing enough for them.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that apart from confirming two conservative judges to the Supreme Court, "core values voters" did not feel that Congress was advancing their interests.

The leaders appear to be reflecting a growing sense of frustration among the Christian right, over what they see as a lack of legislative progress on issues such as banning same-sex marriages.

And while this was not quite a call to arms, it will cause concern in Republican circles in the run-up to the mid-terms.
There are currently 201 Democrats and 231 Republicans in the House, 44 Democrats and 55 Republicans in the Senate. Gerrymandering will make it hard for the Dems to take back the House, but it could happen, particularly if Democratic voters are energized by a nationalized campaign, and GOP voters are demoralized and stay home. That's the be all and end all of the 2006 campaign -- turnout. And turnout is typically low in mid-terms. Only the most activist of the activist typically show up. Not good signs on the horizon for the Repubs...

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posted by JReid @ 11:54 AM  
Don't mess with Clooney: The HuffPo capitulation
Round three: George Clooney officially declared the winner in the Arianna blog war, after the HuffPo concedes defeat:

Lesson Learned

Dear HuffPost Readers, Commenters and Bloggers :

I've read all your insightful feedback over the last few days and realized something I did not see right away but should have.

1. Going forward, any time the HuffPost uses repurposed material we will identify it as such and source where it originally appeared and link to it. (Thank you Jeff Jarvis)
2. Even though the point of providing George Clooney a sample blog was to show how it's done and encourage him to join the blogosphere, I will curb my enthusiasm and not do this in the future.

3. When I read something or hear something in an interview or have something said to me in person that I think is really important and should have as wide an audience as possible, I will put it in my own blog, becoming Boswell to all the Dr. Johnson's out there.

We've been doing this for ten months, and the learning curve has been enormous. Consider this a major lesson learned. I get it and have taken it to heart.

As one poster so eloquently put it: "I hope everybody is happy now. Can we get back to saving our country?"

Yes, Sam Ellison, we can. ...

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posted by JReid @ 11:46 AM  
McCain the Bushie
Now he's hired Bush's former political director to run his PAC. Still think Johnnie's a maverick? The bottom line is, John McCain is going to run as the legacy carrier for George W. Bush, at least in the primaries, where he needs the die-hard Bush cultists in order to succeed. The problem for McCain will come in the general, when he will face an electorate that likely will be looking for change, not Bush-adoration, from the candidates. With so many Bushies surrounding him, it's hard to see how McCain tacks away from the president after showing him so much love...

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posted by JReid @ 11:18 AM  
Fool me once, shame on you...
Looks like the media fell for the okey-doke again, with 'Operation Swarmer." From TIME:

On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled
Not a shot was fired, or a leader nabbed, in a major offensive that failed to live up to its advance billing
By BRIAN BENNETT/AL JALLAM

Four Black Hawk helicopters landed in a wheat field and dropped off a television crew, three photographers, three print reporters and three Iraqi government officials right into the middle of Operation Swarmer. Iraqi soldiers in newly painted humvees, green and red Iraqi flags stenciled on the tailgates, had just finished searching the farm populated by a half-dozen skinny cows and a woman kneading freshly risen dough and slapping it to the walls of a mud oven.

The press, flown in from Baghdad to this agricultural gridiron northeast of Samarra, huddled around the Iraqi officials and U.S. Army commanders who explained that the "largest air assault since 2003" in Iraq using over 50 helicopters to put 1500 Iraqi and U.S. troops on the ground had netted 48 suspected insurgents, 17 of which had already been cleared and released. The area, explained the officials, has long been suspected of being used as a base for insurgents operating in and around Samarra, the city north of Baghdad where the bombing of a sacred shrine recently sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.

The operation, which doubled the population of the flat farmland in one single airlift, was initiated by intelligence from Iraq security forces, says Lt Col Skip Johnson commander of the 187 Battallion, 3rd Combat Brigade of the 101st Airborne. "They have the lead," he said to reporters at the second stop of the tour. But by Friday afternoon, the major targets seemed to have slipped through their fingers. Iraqi Army General Abdul Jabar says that Samarra-based insurgent leader Hamad el Taki of Mohammad’s Army was thought to be in the area, and Iraqi intelligence officers were still working to compare known voice recordings and photographs with the prisoners in custody.

With the Interior Ministry's Samarra commando battalion, the soldiers had found some 300 individual pieces of weaponry like mortars, rockets and plastic explosives in six different locations inside the sparsely populated farming community of over 50 square miles and about 1,500 residents. The raids also uncovered high-powered cordless telephones used as detonators in homemade bombs, medical supplies and insurgent training manuals.

Before loading up into the helicopters for a return trip to Baghdad, Iraqi and American soldiers and some reporters helped themselves to the woman’s freshly baked bread, tearing bits off and chewing it as they wandered among the cows. For most of them, it was the only thing worthwhile they’d found all day.

When do we get our retraction, Mr. Blitzer, and all you purdy faces on MSNBC and ... well I won't even bother with Fox...

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posted by JReid @ 10:48 AM  
Three things you need to know about "Operation Swarmer" that Wolf Blitzer won't tell you
(Revising and posting this Saturday morning due to Internet difficulties yesterday, so excuse any odd time issues...)

1. The talking point of the day: "the largest air operation since the start of the war..." is your garden variety case of media mob sloganeering. was put out this morning by the Defense Department and has been universally picked up by every major news outlet. Here was the AP story Thursday:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. forces, joined by Iraqi troops, on Thursday launched the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion, targeting insurgent strongholds north of the capital, the military said. The U.S. military said the air- and ground-offensive dubbed Operation Swarmer was aimed at clearing "a suspected insurgent operating area" northeast of Samarra and was expected to continue over several days.

Residents in the targeted area said there was a heavy U.S. and Iraqi troop presence in the area and large explosions could be heard in the distance. It was unclear if the blasts were due to fighting.The military termed the operation the largest air assault since the 2003 invasion, but it was not clear if any U.S. aircraft opened fire during the operation or if there had been any insurgent resistance."More than 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft participated in the operation," the military statement said.

It was not clear from the 101st Airborne's initial statement exactly what it meant by characterizing the attack as the largest air assault operation since the beginning of the Iraq war. It could refer to the number of aircraft involved or the amount of weaponry involved or some other measure of size. There was no immediate word on whether any fighter jets or other fixed-wing warplanes had dropped bombs or fired missiles as part of the assault. Also left unsaid was how many of the 1,500 total troops involved are Iraqis.
And this is how it was written up in the official 101st Airborne press release -- or rather, in the caption from the ubiquitous helicopter photo that was included in the release...(see it on the RR homepage here):
Operation Swarmer begins with the largest air assault operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The operation, a combined effort by Iraqi security forces and coalition troops, will continue in the southern Salah Ad Din province for several days as the target area is thoroughly searched.
Such a reference to the "largest air asault" was not included in the actual body of the relase. In fact, the only other reference to this being the "largest" anything is in the last paragraph of the release:
The name Swarmer, the MNF-I statement explained, was derived from the name given to the largest peacetime airborne maneuvers ever conducted, in spring 1950 in North Carolina. Soon after this exercise, the 187th Infantry was selected to deploy to Korea as an airborne regimental combat team to provide Gen. Douglas MacArthur with an airborne capability.
And yet, if you were to take a drink every time a cookie cutter anchor person said "the largest air assault ..." blah blah blah, you'd be as drunk as Dick Cheney on a quail hunt inside of five minutes.

On the other hand, here was David Gregory's first question to Scott McClellan during the Thursday press briefing:

Q Scott, can I ask you a question about this operation underway in Iraq? Does the President think that an offensive like this, high profile, is necessary, in part to turn public opinion around in this country about the war?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, our commanders in the theater have the authorization to make tactical decisions about the operations that they undertake. And there have been a number of operations that have been undertaken over the course of the last several months to really go after the terrorists and the Saddam loyalists who want to return to the past of oppression and tyranny. So this operation is part of our ongoing efforts to help move forward on the security front. And this includes --

Q Are you saying the President specifically did not sign off --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I think the military said that this includes American and Iraqi forces. So what we're continuing to do is train and equip those Iraqi security forces, and also focusing our efforts on the enemy, going after those who are seeking to derail the transition to democracy. ...

...Q But my question -- I'm sorry, but you aren't done with my question, which is, beyond the merits of this particular operation, we are coming to the three-year anniversary of the war. Support for the President is at rock bottom; support for this war is at rock bottom in this country. Does the President think it's important as a show of U.S. and Iraqi force to mount these kinds of operations, to try to change public opinion in this country?

MR. McCLELLAN: I can't accept the premise of your question because this was a decision made by our commanders. And it's important that the commanders have the flexibility to make these type of tactical decisions in order to prevail --
And here is what Scott McClellan had to say in the press briefing on Friday (skipping around a bit):

...This last Monday the President talked about the security element, about how we're training Iraqi security forces and they are more and more taking the lead in the fight and controlling more territory. And he also talked about how we're working to defeat the threat from improvised explosive devices.

On Monday, the President looks forward to traveling to Cleveland. The President in his remarks will talk about how we are working with all aspects of Iraqi society to defeat the terrorists and restore calm and order throughout Iraq and helping to rebuild homes and communities and achieving the stability that can only come from freedom. The President will highlight concrete ways and examples of real progress that is being made and how our strategy is succeeding.
Think "the largest air operation since the start of the war" in which we're "clearing out the insurgent stronghold in Samarra" might help Mr. Bush make his case in Cleveland?

Here was another interesting dovetail, elicited in a reporter's question during the Friday press briefing:

Q The second-ranking American commander in Baghdad spoke by teleconference this morning to people over at -- reporters over at the Pentagon. And he said the U.S. military's goal was to have the Iraqi forces in control of 75 percent of the country by this summer. That would more than the President talked about in his speech last Monday. Is the President being more conservative? Is there some disagreement here with the military --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think you have to view those in disagreement with one another. But the President spoke earlier this week about how we'd like to see Iraqi forces in control of more territory by the end of the year, I believe is what the President said in his remarks.

What we need to continue to focus on is this -- this is one element of our strategy for victory, and that's training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. We're seeing more and more that they're in the lead. I think the commander that spoke earlier today also talked about one of a number of ongoing operations we've had over the last several months when it comes to going after terrorists who are seeking to derail the transition to democracy in the Samarra area. Specifically, there is some intelligence, I understand, that was picked up and then they're acting on that intelligence, as they have done previously in operations in the months preceding this time.

And what's interesting here is that you have a large number of Iraqi forces going in with coalition forces. There are a number of areas where Iraqi forces are taking the lead in the fight, and we're playing more of a supporting role, and allows coalition forces to focus more on going after the terrorist elements that want to create sectarian strife and that want to derail the transition to democracy.
2. The operation isn't really that unique, nor is it a bombing raid. As NBC News reported Friday afternoon, the "air assault" didn't involve the dropping of ordinance -- it was an operation to drop troops (mostly American) into Samarra and clear out suspected insurgent strongholds. For all the PR hoopla, it really wans't that special (so far they've only arrested about 40 people, and no major insurgents to speak of.) From the Military Times sites:
Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, sought to downplay the uniqueness of the raid in a briefing with reporters Thursday.“I wouldn’t characterize this as being anything that’s a big departure from normal or from the need to prosecute a target that we think was lucrative enough to commit this much force to go get,” Abizaid said.
3.The images of the raid weren't from journalists, they were frm the military. Even the pliant Blitzer repeatedly pointed out on his "Situation Room" on Friday that no journalists had been allowed along fo rthe ride (that turns out not to be quite true). Still, all of the pictures you're seeing on television, just like all the information you've been getting up to now, has come straight from the military.

Barbara Starr of CNN even reported that some of the initial pictures released by the Pentagon weren't even of today's assault -- they were of training missions conducted in preparation for the "assault." And she also reports that the military is saying, as I did in point 1 above, that this operaiton is quite standard -- not something new or special.

The hyping of this rather ordinary military operation was essentially a piece of well-orchestrated theater, proving the White House, in coordination with the military's information outlets -- but often without much cooperation from the generals -- still knows how to make the media dance. Only David Gregory in the afternoon press briefing seemed to catch on to the Bushies' game plan -- changing the headlines to something that makes the war look like it's moving forward and going gang busters, and giving the blogs the chance to revive their "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" meme...

As Jack Cafferty said on CNN yesterday, a key target of this media assault was the American television audience.

Update: TIME Magazine did manage to get a journalist into the action: Brian Bennett, and his report isn't unexpected: Operation Swarmer was a dud. I'll take that up in the next post.

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posted by JReid @ 10:12 AM  
The persistent Ms. Harris
Taegan Goddard's Political Wire grabs the Orl Sentinel story that says top GOP strategist Ed Rollins advised Katherine Harris to quit the Florida Senate race, but she refused to bow out:
Rollins said that he and other top advisers "worried about Harris' sluggish fundraising, her inability to generate excitement among top Republicans and future fallout from illegal campaign contributions she took from a defense contractor who has since pleaded guilty to bribing a California lawmaker."
You can't force a person to take good advice, especially when they've got their daddy's $10 million fortune to play with (and her husband's $25 million fortune to fall back on if she blows the family wad...)

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posted by JReid @ 10:04 AM  
More on that ARG poll
The March 15-16 American Research Group poll (referenced in the next post) has some interesting stuff in it.

Bush's approval rating in the poll is a bit higher than in other polls, at 38 percent. (1,100 respondents, 3 percent MOE)

On the question:

Do you favor or oppose the United States Senate passing a resolution censuring President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders?

46 percent of all adults favor censure, 44 percent oppose and 10 percent are undecided. The spread is 48-43-9 among "voters." The partisan split goes like this:

Party affil. Favor Oppose Undecided
Republicans(33%) 29% 57% 14%
Democrats (37%) 70% 26% 4%
Independents (30%) 42% 47% 11%

When it comes to impeachment, the president fares better, with 42 percent of all respondents favoring a vote for his impeachment in the House of Representatives, 49 percent opposing and 9 percent undecided. There again, the partisan split is wide, with only 18 percent of Republicans favoring impeachment, vs. 80 percent opposed and 2 percent dunno (though that is one in five...), Democrats favoring impeachment 61-30-9 and Indepdendents saying impeach by a margin of 47-40-13.

The poll finds that Bush's approval rating on the economy (37 percent) is even lower than his overall job approval rating, which puts the lie to the GOP talking heads who are insisting that Americans are bullish on this economy. Jim Cramer and other big investors are bullish, because they're making money. The average Joe is scared to death of losing his job, worried about healthcare costs, and freaked out about the deficit, illegal immigration and outsourcing. In other words, it's Bloomberg America vs. Lou Dobbs America, and more Americans are agreeing with Dobbs.

A separate piece of the poll gauged the effectiveness of Bush's State of the Union speech, and found it to be less engaging than those in the past three years.

And in the 2008 horserace, the poll found John McCain and Hillary Clinton trouncing the competition in their respective primaries, with McCain ahead of Hillary, with hugh undecided margins, in South Carolina, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The only place the poll put Clinton ahead of in the seven states polled was in Connecticut, and the race is considered too close to call in Maine and Rhode Island. The difference for McCain in these races, particularly in Massachusets: independent voters.

But keep in mind, that's before those voters are exposed to McCain's Bush-like positions on issues. Given Indies' disdain for Dubya, they'll likely sour on McCain in a general, once the Clinton camp educated them as to his sudden turn as Tweedle Dee to the president's Tweedle Dum...

There's also an interesting NPR poll about, which finds that the GOP is losing its edge on security matters. Check that out here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:45 AM  
The trouble with Democrats
Summed up in eight paragraphs:

Poll shows nearly half of Americans favor censure

By SCOTT SHEPARD
Cox News Service
Friday, March 17, 2006

WASHINGTON — Sen. Russ Feingold's effort to censure President Bush has sent his fellow Democrats scurrying for political safety, but a poll released Thursday suggests nearly half of Americans favor such a move.

A poll by the non-partisan American Research Group found 46 percent of Americans support censuring Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans without obtaining court orders, as part of the administration's efforts to fight terrorism.

But the pollster, Dick Bennett, said he does not expect the Democratic leadership to come out of the shadows until at least 60 percent of Americans support a censure.

Okay, make that two. But read the other six anyway:
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "the basic problem of the Democratic leadership has been their lack of political courage," Bennett said in a telephone interview from his offices in New Hampshire.

Other analysts said, however, that the Democrats are simply following one of the basics of political strategy: stay out of the way as your opponents' problems mount.

"Right now, Democrats can do well by letting Republicans drown in their policy problems," Darrell West, a Brown University professor and developer of the Web site, InsidePolitics.org, said in an interview. "However, by this fall, when voters tune into the campaign, the Democratic Party needs to show citizens ... a positive vision for the future."

Veteran Democratic strategist Jenny Backus said it is "wise for Democrats to not take the political bait from Republicans ... who are trying to make Iraq a bipartisan problem." But, she added in an interview, "We can't just do nothing. We have to show Americans how we can do a better job. But we also have to show that we'll defend ourselves in a schoolyard fight."

And that is the party's problem, even as it appears to be making some progress in trying to win enough Senate and House seats in this fall's mid-term election to end a dozen years of nearly uninterrupted Republican rule of Capitol Hill.

To take the bait, put out program solutions and give the GOP something to unite around and fight, or to remain in the shadows, the better not to interrupt their opponenents who are busy hanging themselves. That's the dilemma.

Right now, the Democratic decision appears to be to do nothing. And it's frustrating the hell out of the Democratic base. You can read the rest of the above article here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
Friday, March 17, 2006
Go ahead and spy on me: the Capitol Hill two-step
Normall, I give Sen. Chuck Hagel the benefit of the doubt. He is one of the few Republican lawmakers I trust and listen to. But how dubious am I of his compromise, along with the normally sanguine Olympia Snowe, the newly reasonable Lindsey Graham, and the rather quizzling Mike DeWine, on domestic spying? Very.

Why? Because the success of the compromise, described this way by the WaPo:

The bill would allow the NSA to eavesdrop, without a warrant, for up to 45 days per case, at which point the Justice Department would have three options. It could drop the surveillance, seek a warrant from FISA's court, or convince a handful of House and Senate members that although there is insufficient evidence for a warrant, continued surveillance "is necessary to protect the United States," according to a summary the four sponsors provided yesterday. ...
... depends in large part on who those House and Senate members in question will be.

In a highly politicized environment, like the one we have now, why should we trust oversight of presidential eavesdropping on Americans to, say, a Pat Roberts of Kansas, who as chair of the intelligence committee continues to cover up every instance of alleged wrongdoing by the White House, and who to this day refuses to investigate the use of intelligence before the Iraq war and the outing of Valerie Plame, as he repeatedly has promised to do? Or, say, to an Orrin Hatch, who manages to use every presidential controversy as an excuse to find his way onto to his knees? Would you trust Halliburton and Gitmo menu-defender Duncan Hunter, who oversees the House Armed Services Committee, to oversee intrusive spying by this president? How about Iraq war enthusiast Joe Lieberman? Get my drift?

The nature of politics is that no matter how unhappy even they might be with an administration of their own party, politicians protect their president. Republican politicians have already proved that they will not, under any circumstances, oversee or reign in this administration. They simply won't do it, because the politics of it are too toxic for them.

I don't trust this Congress. And therefore, I don't trust them to provide the kind of oversight you would need in order to prevent this president from further trespassing on the law.

Even Arlen Specter -- no friend of the likes of me -- has expressed doubts about the idea, according to the Post, which reported that the Senator "particularly objects to letting the government 'do whatever the hell it wants" for 45 days without seeking judicial or congressional approval.'" Hear hear.

Point two: How low have we sunk as a people, if the answer to presidential lawbreaking is not to upbraid, or even to censure (or impeach) the president, but to change the law to retroactively affirm his lawbreaking? As Intel Comittee vice chairman Jay Rockefellar has said so eloquently, we can hardly rush to provide cover for the administration before we've even fully investigated what he did in the first place. Before we get to a "compromise" that provides the back door exit for bypassing FISA, let's have a real investigation over whether the president brook the law by ignoring FISA in the first place. If he did, sanction him for it, somehow. If he didn't, you don't need this new law.

Point three: the DeWine/Hagel et.al. compromise bill contains an even more alarming codicill that I'm sure was included in order to sweeten the deal for the White House. Says WaPo:

The bill introduced yesterday calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison terms of up to 15 years for those who disclose "classified information related to the Terrorist Surveillance Program," the administration's name for the NSA operation. The penalties would not apply to journalists.

Pardon me? Any bill that seeks to curtail the First Amendment rights of journalists to report on potential wrongdoing by this or any other administration should immediately get the thumbs down. Why should reporters -- and whistleblowers -- be put at risk of prison and bankruptcy if, say, they discover that the targets of domestic surveillance include not just "al-Qaida operatives," but say, journalists or members of Congress? Giving the administration essentially carte blanche to spy for 45 days on any person they choose, then making it illegal for journalists to uncover any wrongdoing that happens within those 45 days, and then putting oversight of this entire mess into the hands of partisan politicians, some of whom consider it job one to protect the president at all costs, strikes me as reckless at best, unconstitutional at worst.

So sorry, Chuck Hagel. I still respect you, man, but on this one, I think you need to stop hanging around with Mike DeWine...

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posted by JReid @ 11:26 AM  
Common ground
Finally I find something upon which I can agree with Charles Krauthammer.
posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
The (failed) rehabilitation of Judy Miller
Slate takes apart Judy's latest defense: The blogs did me in!

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posted by JReid @ 11:02 AM  
Chicken of the Sea ain't ain't chicken...
...and according to her rather creepy father/manager, Jessica Simpson is NOT a presidential snubber, so please stop whining about it, Repubolicans... K? According to AP :

Jessica Simpson loves President Bush. She's just not a big fan of Republican fundraisers, reports The Associated Press.

The Hollywood starlet and tabloid cover girl was on Capitol Hill Thursday to lobby Congress for Operation Smile, an organization that provides reconstructive surgery to children with facial deformities. But all anyone wanted to know was why she turned down an invitation to attend a Republican fundraiser with Washington's top star -- Bush.

''We went back and forth, and we could never get the details worked out,'' said her father and manager, Joe Simpson. ``When it became obvious that it was not just a state dinner, it was more of a fundraising event, that is the wrong purpose of why we are here.''

Still, he said of the president, ``We are huge fans of him and of his family, his girls. Jessica loves the heck out of him.''

And a Britsh tabbie goes further, saying La gay divorcee doesn't just golly-gee-gosh-darn love the president, she weelly, weelly wants to hang out with him! According to Fametastik UK:
... She is adamant that she’s not one of the Hollywood crowd that are keen to attack him at every opportunity. She has been to the White House four times and performed at his inauguration: “He’s a very personable guy, he’s a Texas guy. His ranch is four doors down from my aunt and uncle’s ranch. We have lots of Texas stuff to talk about,” she elaborated.

Jessica is keen to meet Bush in order to talk to him about her involvement with the charity Operation Smile and Bush seems so willing to list to one of his few celebrity fans that he’s rescheduled their meeting: “I’m just so excited because the President asked for a special meeting. We’re going to sit down face to face and we’re going to talk about children.”

“I want to set up this whole orphanage and adoption organization. I just really want to bring awareness to interracial adoption.”
Gosh! And guess who Jess' role model might be? Uh-huh! The man-stealing hussy ... ahem ... international brown baby-adopting do-gooder Angelina Jolie. Watch out, Lindsay Lohan! Jessica might just take your man and adopt some Kenyan youngins with him!

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Tags: Republicans, Bush, Politics,

posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Thursday, March 16, 2006
On procedural grounds...
How serious is the GOP about national security? How serious are they about rectifying the errors in Iraq? I suppose it depends on what the meaning of "procedure" is.

Just 20 minutes of C-SPAN viewing has yielded the following as the House debates a $90 billion defense and hurricane appropriations bill:

Rep. Bill Nadler of New York proposed an amendment that would mandate that 100 percent of cargo entering U.S. seaports be electronically scanned in real time for possible nefarious content, including nuclear materials. This same scan technology is currently used in the ports of Hong Kong, which are among the most active ports in the world. Democrats have been trying to get a bill onto the floor to bring this technology to the U.S. for three years. And yet, just as Nadler predicted, the Republicans put down his amendment "on procedural grounds." Note that the GOP has routinely waived the rules disallowing amendments that change current law. But in this case, reflexively, California Congressman Jerry Lewis, given credit by Lou Dobbs and others for opposing the Dubai Ports World deal, immediately rose to oppose the Nadler amendment on procedural grounds. Result: no change in the way we operate our ports...

Next, Congressman Henry Waxman of California proposed an amendment that would bar companies who have been found to have defrauded the U.S. government for $100 million or more from getting new Iraq contracts. Who rose to oppose this one? Why Duncan Hunter, of course, the other guy credited for "standing up to the Bush administration" on ports, along with Florida Rep. Bill Young, the GOP chair of the House appropriations committee. His reason? Why, we don't know enough about this bill, we just got it last night... well that's never been done to the Dems, has it? And Hunter stood up to defend the fine men and women who "wear the uniform of United States contractors" (yes, he said that...) by working for Halliburton as not deserving of such a bill. I mean, why stop this fine company from getting more contracts just because of a little waste, fraud and abuse?

Go figure...

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posted by JReid @ 3:55 PM  
Don't mess with Clooney, Gorgeous George update
Uh-oh, Arianna, you've got George all pissed off now! Sister, you should have shrank back and apologized when you had the chance. Round three, from the NYDN's Lloyd Grove:
George Clooney is spitting mad at Arianna Huffington - and the blogosphere is wobbling on its axis.

"She said some things that I won't share, but she did tell me that this could be bad for me - bad for my career. Well, screw you!" the movie star told me yesterday about a conversation he had with the doyenne of Huffingtonpost.com. "I'm not going to be threatened by Arianna Huffington!"

Clooney, in his only interview on the subject, took off the gloves in his fight with Huffington over a blog purportedly written by the "Syriana" Oscar-winner and posted on her Web site Monday.

"I feel abused," he said.

Yesterday, Clooney released an angry statement calling Huffington's methods "purposefully misleading," and she acknowledged that his so-called blog - slamming Dems who voted for the war in Iraq for fear of being labeled "liberal" - was actually compiled from Clooney's recent interviews with the UK's Guardian and CNN's Larry King.

But Huffington insisted (and forwarded me E-mails that seemed to back her up) that she believed she had explicit permission from one of Clooney's PR reps to publish his disparate quotes as a single piece of writing. "This was a misunderstanding," she told me yesterday, as the disputed blog was removed from her Web site.

Clooney told me: "Nobody has ever written an op-ed piece for me. If I say I've written something, I've written it. When I go to the Oscars, I write everything I say...I stand by what I do, but I'm very cautious not to take giant steps onto soapboxes because I think they're polarizing."

Clooney said that when he demanded a disclaimer from Huffington, she refused. "She told me that it's a big no-no in the blogosphere, where people are supposed to write their own pieces."

Huffington, who'd been haggling with Clooney's publicist, Stan Rosenfield, over the wording of a disclaimer, told me: "I believe it is time for all of us to move on."

Here's the offending HuffPost, which, again, was not written by George Clooney... Here's part one of Don't mess with Clooney...

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posted by JReid @ 1:44 PM  
Wag the dog?
Moving this post up...

11:40 a.m.: Nothing shifts American sentiment -- or grabs the news media -- like a major bombing campaign... especially at a time when a clear majority of Americans have soured on the war...

Note that today is also the day the White House released its updated National Security Strategy document, restating its arguments in favor of preemptive war... and NSA Stephen Hadley gives a major speech on the subject ... interesting timing.

Update: David Gregory just asked Scott McClellan the magic question in the afternoon briefing. Paraphrasing:

Does the president think an operation like the one launched today in Iraq is necessary to turn around public opinion in the United States?
McClellan claims the decision to strike was not made by the president, but by commanders in the field. Riiiight... And no selling at all, right? Well take a look at the DoD homepage today...

Gregory continues (paraphrasing):

GREGORY ...beyond the merits of this particular operation, we are coming to the three year anniversary of the war, support for the president is at rock bottom, support for the war is at rock bottom... does the president feel this type of operation is important to improve public opinion on the war?

MCCLELLAN: I can't accept the premise of your question...

Update 2, 1:07 p.m.: A military announcement with fanfare... And a flashback: from the Sunday Times in January, the U.S. has been stepping up the number of airstrikes (but stepping down the size and range) since late last year, apparently in hopes of setting up a spring troop reduction. (Though that seems unlikely now, with the escalating violence).

In other Iraq news, the U.S. also today released a raft of pre-war documents from inside Iraq, including one which purports to show Saddam Hussein was investigating whether 3,000 Iraqis had gone to Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces after 9/11. If this is true, it seems to put the lie to the notion that Saddam was in bed with al-Qaida. If he had been, he wouldn't have had to investigate...

Update 3, 1:33 p.m.: What else is news in Iraq today? Interesting stuff: it seems that a report seeped out quietly yesterday saying thousands -- not hundreds -- of Iraqis have been killed by death squads controlled by the Iraqi interior ministry... that's something you probably won't see on the cable shows, now that they've got these shiny new bombing raids to salivate over...

Also, would-be presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani has been named to a panel that will be reviewing U.S. policy in Iraq. The panel was announced by Bush family fixer James Baker and 9/11 commission member Lee Hamilton. Also on the panel, according to Newsday: "former CIA Director Robert Gates; former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan; former Clinton Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry; former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb of Virginia; and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. " How this helps things? Who knows... You probably will hear abot this one, especially when Giuliani's beau, Chris Matthews, comes on later today...

On another TV note, the military propaganda wing is in full voice this afternoon, with the PIOs (public information officers) and "military analysts" fanning out on all the cable chat networks to tout the operation and bedazzle the anchorfolk. This is P.R. 101, folks. You might as well call it "Operation: Change the Headlines."

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posted by JReid @ 1:40 PM  
What price liberalism?
On the cultural hegemony "tolerance" front, comes a rather startling post on the Guardian comment site:

Initially this seems a case of "man bites dog". The Washington Post reports upon a regulation that came into effect yesterday. It requires that immigrants wishing to settle in the Netherlands for the purposes of marriage or forming a relationship will be required to take a "civic integration examination" before being admitted to the country. The examination is compulsory and the material to be studied is available from Dutch embassies. The package includes a film that applicants are obliged to watch. Included in the film are images of two gay men kissing in a park and a woman emerging, topless, from the sea and walking onto a crowded beach. The tolerant not tolerating intolerance? That's news!
Of course, this being a "liberal" rule, there are exemptions to the policy:

"EU nationals, asylum seekers and skilled workers who earn more than $54,000 per year will not be required to take the 30-minute computerised exam. Also, citizens of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Switzerland are exempt."
What next? Forcing Muslims who wish to enter EU countries to draw their best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a comedic, satirical or negative light? Yep. That oughta solve the culture clash problem...

It seems to me that liberal, Western societies are going to eventually have to come to grips with the fact of intolerance. There are those, who for religious or moral or other reasons, simply object to certain behaviors. You can't legislate them into accepting or embracing what they abhor, deep down. I assume these regulations are mostly aimed at the teeming hoardes of immigrants from North Africa, most of whom are Muslims. Well brace yourself for the lawsuits, Dutchies. If you look at the American, or the South African, civil rights movements, which are often breezily equated with modern day rights pushes, the message wasn't "love Black people." It wasn't "watch Black people make out" (or for that matter give us an Oscar, or else...) It was, let us live normal lives where we want, how we want, without institutional discrimination or interference from the state.

Europe has a problem: it has a population problem and it has a cultural problem (the U.S. has one too, just not quite as severe ... yet). It won't solve it with regulations like these (or the religious displays bans in France). Irradicating religiosity may sound good to secular humanists (and pro Danish cartoon selectivists, who don't apply the same standard Christian intolerance). But it's very impracticle -- and in some instances, downright dangerous -- in real life. Just ask anyone who knows anything about Waco, Texas...

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 PM  
You know your poll numbers are bad when...
Even Jessica Simpson doesn't want to be seen with you

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posted by JReid @ 12:49 PM  
That darned Constitution
From Raw this morning:
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) has alleged in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that President Bush signed a version of the Budget Reconciliation Act that, in effect, did not pass the House of Representatives.

Further, Waxman says there is reason to believe that the Speaker of the House called President Bush before he signed the law, and alerted him that the version he was about to sign differed from the one that actually passed the House. If true, this would put the President in willful violation of the U.S. Constitution.
They've got a copy of Waxman's letter also.

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posted by JReid @ 12:12 PM  
Duke residue
From TPM Muckraker:

Here's an interesting -- but overlooked -- detail of the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) saga: one of the crooked contractors who bribed the Duke Stir was apparently involved in a Total Information Awareness-like data-mining operation that looked at U.S. citizens' data.

Mitchell Wade, former CEO of MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to several conspiracy and bribery charges a few weeks ago in connection with the Cunningham scandal. But a little-noticed piece of his history goes into one of the most sensitive domestic spying operations we have heard of to date: the Pentagon's Virginia-based Counterintelligence Field Activity office (CIFA).

Wade got over $16 million in contracts with CIFA by bribing Duke Cunningham, who forced earmarks in to Defense appropriations bills on his behalf. Furthermore, Wade's second-in-command was a consultant to the Pentagon on standing up the operation.
So what did CIFA do?

Here's what we know: After the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon used its massive budget and urgent sense of mission to push into areas of intelligence it had once left to others. Domestic intelligence was one of those areas. DoD created CIFA in 2002 to become a joint center for "force protection" intelligence work at DoD, mainly anti-terrorism.

What's "force protection?" Pentagonese for "carte blanche." In encompasses protection for bases, troops and equipment. And the water supply. The electrical grid. Highways. Contractors, their suppliers -- the list goes on. Which leaves CIFA with a mandate to gather information on, well, just about anything and anybody it wants.
Read the Defense Dept authorization for CIFA here. More on the Cunningham-CIFA connection from WaPo's Walter Pincus here. An exerpt:

Federal investigators are looking into contracts awarded by the Pentagon's newest and fastest-growing intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, which has spent more than $1 billion, mostly for outsourced services, since its establishment in late 2002, according to administration and congressional sources.

The review is an outgrowth of the continuing investigation that resulted in charges against Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who resigned from Congress in November and is scheduled to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to take $2.4 million in bribes.

In pre-sentencing documents filed this week, prosecutors said that in fiscal 2003 legislation, Cunningham set aside, or earmarked, $6.3 million for work to be done "to benefit" CIFA shortly after the agency was created. The contract went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Cunningham.

Also this week, prosecutors released a letter dated Feb. 24, 2004, from Cunningham to CIFA Director David A. Burtt II, in which the former member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence thanked the CIFA staff for supporting another multimillion-dollar program that involved MZM.
Perhaps Bill Nelson should ask Kathy Harris what she knew about this stuff at their first Senatorial debate...

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posted by JReid @ 11:41 AM  
Bush at 33: The 'I' word
Bush falls to 33 percent approval in the latest Pew poll. Catching up from yesterday... But the real zinger in the poll is right here:

Bush's personal image also has weakened noticeably, which is reflected in people's one-word descriptions of the president. Honesty had been the single trait most closely associated with Bush, but in the current survey "incompetent" is the descriptor used most frequently ...
Ouch.

Another alarm for the Bushies: the president's support among white evangelical protestants has dropped 18 points, from 72 percent in January 2005 to 54 percent in March 2006. And Bush's job approval among white men and white women has also took a hit, dropping 21 points among the men (from 56 to 37 percent) and 18 points among women (53 to 35). Among those who voted for Bush in 2004, his approval rating remains high, but 68 percent is a long way from the 92 percent positive rating he had with that group a year and three months ago. And among the dwindling number who still say the war in Iraq was a good idea, Bush is down from 81 percent to 58 percent.

On the ports issue:

Democratic leaders fared somewhat better than Republicans in this debate, based mostly on the support of their own partisans. Overall, three-in-ten say they thought Democratic leaders showed better judgment on this issue, while 20% favored the Republican leaders. Only 38% of Republicans favored the way GOP leaders handled the issue, compared with 54% of Democrats who favored the job their leaders did. Independents were more divided (29% favored how Democratic leaders handled the issue, 20% Republicans), while half saw no difference between the parties' performance.
Back to that "incompetence" number. Says Pew:

President Bush's declining image also is reflected in the single-word descriptions people use to describe their impression of the president. Three years ago, positive one-word descriptions of Bush far outnumbered negative ones. Over the past two years, the positive-negative balance has been roughly equal. But the one-word characterizations have turned decidedly negative since last July.

Currently, 48% use a negative word to describe Bush compared with just 28% who use a positive term, and 10% who use neutral language.

The changing impressions of the president can best be viewed by tracking over time how often words come up in these top-of-the-mind associations. Until now, the most frequently offered word to describe the president was "honest," but this comes up far less often today than in the past. Other positive traits such as "integrity" are also cited less, and virtually no respondent used superlatives such as "excellent" or "great" ­ terms that came up fairly often in previous surveys.

The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago.
Let's take a look at the numbers:


and:

Interesting that "idiot" and "liar" have doubled over time, while "honest" has plummeted 24 points. And they say repetition doesn't work... Correction (with hat tip to an expert commenter...): You do have to wonder about the 6 respondents out of 710 whose answer to the stream of consciousness question on a one-word descriptor for Mr. Bush was "president..."

Also interesting is the fact that impressions of Bush as a conservative are taking a hit. 10 percent of those polled view Bush as a liberal, up from 7 percent in January 2005. Impressions of him as "middle of the road" are down eight points, and impressions of Bush as a conservative creeped up four points.

Read the entire poll here. Fascinating stuff, and Pew is probably the best and most comprehensive of the polls out there, and it has one of the largest sample sizes -- 1,405 people interviewed by telephone March 8-12.

And while you're at it, browse through these two important posts by the folks at Mystery Pollster: one on poll comparisons and "new low" headlines, and another about the latest CBS/USAT poll and weighting by party affiliation.

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posted by JReid @ 11:15 AM  
Abreast of her fortunes, Kathy Harris rides again
When Katherine Harris told Memphis delegates by dispatch last week that she had a surprise announcement, most pundit types thought it meant she was dropping out of the race to unseat Fla. Senator Bill Nelson.

Not ... so ... fast. ... From the in-box this morning, from the good folks at Securing America PAC:

... On Hannity & Colmes on Wednesday night, Katherine Harris told Sean Hannity in an exclusive interview I saw that she is staying in the Florida Senate race and is putting "everything on the line" by putting up $10 Million of her own money (which she says is everything that she is worth).

She also said that she is dedicating the Florida Senate race to her father who recently passed away. ...
And now, the rest of the story. From Fox News:


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris plans to spend $10 million of her inheritance in her race to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, she announced Wednesday night.

She ended speculation that she would quit the race on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" political talk show. Rumors swirled that she would withdraw after her name was associated with a defense contractor who bribed another congressman.

"I'm staying. I'm in this race. I'm going to win," she said. "I'm going to put everything on the line."

Harris, a citrus and cattle heiress, has been under mounting pressure from Republicans to get out of the race because of concerns that she cannot win and that her role as Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 presidential recount could drive Democrats and independents to the polls in droves.

A University of North Florida poll released hours before her television appearance showed Harris 20 points percentage points behind opponent Bill Nelson, 48 percent to 28 percent. The statewide poll of 591 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Her campaign has had difficulties since last summer. GOP leaders in Washington sought a primary opponent for her, believing her role in securing President Bush's 537-vote victory would galvanize Democrats and independents against her.

The lack of party support led to lower-than-expected campaign contributions. Harris began the year trailing Nelson in fundraising, $8 million to $1 million.

Her campaign became more difficult after a defense contractor involved in a bribery scandal said he also gave Harris illegal campaign contributions.

And from NewsMax:


Asked by Hannity if that meant her entire fortune, she said that she is
giving her campaign the entire $10 million her father left her and that was all she
had. "We are in this race. We are at ground zero and we are recharged, we're
starting "and ready to win," she said.

So that's the big announcement. It makes the "woo Jeb from afar scenario" from this post -- party insiders seeking a way to prod others, like Jeb Bush, to run, look more likely.

Get the video of Harris' announcement surprise

And on the hilarity front, TPM Muckracker's Justin Rood says Harris is "all in," for a very sound reason:

On H&C, Harris says she is spending her complete inheritance on the race in order to create "a referendum on reform and ethics."

Of Wade's contributions, Harris says "I didn't [know]" they were illegal. "He was a bad guy."
Indeed...

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
The radio report: immigration nation
For those who caught the Reid radio hit on WTPS Miami this morning, here are links to the topics we talked about. (If you missed it, I'll post the audio on the Juicecast page in a bit...)

On the hot topic of illegal immigration:

- Immigration facts and figures from the Center for Immigration Studies ...

- Pew Trusts: attitudes toward illegal immigration ...

- CapitolWatch Blog has some stats on the impact of illegal immigration on the U.S. ...

- And what do we want? Oil. And Mexico has lots of it. First, a look at where we get our oil imports... and second, Mexico's latest oil find...

From AmericaBlog, Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she and retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor have been the subject of death threats from the "irrational fringe of society," spurred by conservatives' criticism of the courts...

Meanwhile, the American Constitution Society's blog has the latest anti-judge gambit, interestingly titled "J.A.I.L. 4 Judges," and on the right, Ginsburg is panned by Powerline for delivering her broadside from foreign shores, and the post even tosses around the "I" word -- only not for President Bush. ... Panned by Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's The Corner, and of course, Panned by Malkin for the same reason (though she is kind enough to add that "death threats are intolerable...)

Via ThinkProgress, Russ Feingold finally gets some support, in the form of a co-sponsor, Tom Harkin (...and is it just me, or does Lincoln Chafee suddenly need to solidify his liberal base ...?)

Also from ThinkProgress, Gen. John Abizaid hints at what many on the left have feared all along: permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq...

Happy Thursday!

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 AM  
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Don't mess with Clooney
George Clooney does not blog. Okay, Arianna? Let the spat between Gorgeous George and the Huffpo begin...

George's take, courtesy of LAT's The Envelope:
Oscar winner George Clooney may make politically provocative films like "Syriana." But he doesn't write politically provocative blogs.

So imagine his ire when Arianna Huffington used some of his recent answers to political questions in a way that makes it look as if he wrote one for her Huffington Post blog site.

"He doesn't object to the quotes," says Stan Rosenfield, Clooney's rep. "He said those things and those are his views. Arianna asked for permission to use the quotes and he gave it to her. What he didn't give permission for was the use of his quotes without source attributions to make it appear that he wrote a blog for her site. Which he did not. When he saw the posting Monday, we called and asked her to make the change, to simply attribute the quotes and make it clear that he did not write a blog. But she refused. And it's now Wednesday."

Rather than keep waiting, Clooney got proactive and issued this statement:

"Miss Huffington's blog is purposefully misleading and I have asked her to clarify the facts. I stand by my statements but I did not write this blog. With my permission Miss Huffington compiled it from interviews with Larry King and The Guardian. What she most certainly did not get my permission to do is to combine only my answers in a blog that misleads the reader into thinking that I wrote this piece. These are not my writings — they are answers to questions and there is a huge difference."

Not so, says Arianna in a thick, Bavarian-sounding accent:
When I first invited George Clooney to blog after a screening of Good Night, and Good Luck in New York a few months ago, he said he wasn't sure how a blog worked. So we put together a sample blog from answers he had given on Larry King Live and an interview with the Guardian in London, and sent it to him to rework in any way he wanted.

A publicist who was working on the promotion of Good Night, and Good Luck, emailed back saying, "I will get it to him and get back to you as soon as I hear anything." Three days later, she emailed again, approving, without any changes, what we had sent: "Of course this is fine, Arianna!"

And once we had the approval, that's what we ran: George Clooney's words put into blog form.

This was an honest misunderstanding. But any misunderstanding that occurred, occurred between Clooney and the publicist. We based our decision to post on the unambiguous approval we received in writing. There was no room for misunderstanding in that.
Meow! Well at least they still agree that the Democrats are wimps and that they can't stand Geroge W. Bush...

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posted by JReid @ 4:03 PM  
What was she thinking?
Talkleft's Jeralyn Merritt has a theory about Carla Martin, the TSA lawyer who blinkered the government's case against Moussaoui (my theory is it won't affect the outcome, which will be Moussaoui's death...) The rub: Martin wasn't trying to help the prosecution (she also coached defense witnesses.) She was trying to prevent the FAA from getting blamed in lawsuits over 9/11...

It appears that Ms. Martin did not get the Moussaoui opening arguments transcripts of March 6 from the prosecutors or the court reporter, but from civil aviation lawyer Jeffrey Ellis, who got them from Christopher J. Christensen of the law firm Condon & Forsyth.

The prosecutors' cover letter to Court regarding the e-mails states Martin was representing some of the Moussaoui witnesses who are or were FAA employees. It also states that in the e-mails, she was giving her opinons about on-going litigation "prepared as part of her preparation for the litigation."

I take that to mean she is representing those who were employees of the FAA on 9/11. It was the responsibility of the FAA to provide airline security on 9/11. Among the issues in the civil litigation is whether the FAA, American Airlines or United Airlines were responsible for the security breaches that allowed the hijackers to crash the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
An interesting theory. More on Martin's ... zealousness ... here and here (with picture). More on the 9/11 litigation, including alleged governmental evidence tampering here and here:
A general court order entered in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York was just released by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein subsequent to his July 12 hearing regarding Mariani vs. United Airlines (UAL) et. al., amid indications of evidence tampering by officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), represented in Hellerstein’s court by U.S. Attorneys from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

At the time of the Government contacts with plaintiff-subpoenaed evidence, the TSA and DOJ were not connected in any way to the New Hampshire widow’s private civil action. And no indications were revealed regarding the extent of the interference in Mariani’s court evidence, or whether TSA or DOJ still retain any of Mariani’s subpoenaed documents, as Judge Hellerstein never broached the subject in the courtroom. ...
And you can read the Carla Martin e-mails courtesy of CBS News.

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posted by JReid @ 12:48 AM  
Feingold vs. the Dems
From RawStory:


While mainstream media outlets have pounced on the fact that Democrats blocked an effort by one of their own to censure President Bush over his warrantless wiretapping program, RAW STORY has found that Senate Democratic offices are fuming. The proposal to censure the President was introduced on a Sunday talk show by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Though all say they believe the program warrants "more investigation," several Senate aides rebuked Feingold for proposing censure. They say that his move had the potential to derail Democratic efforts to strengthen the party's image on homeland security issues, noting that a large part of the country believes the eavesdropping program should continue. Bush has defended the program, calling it a "terrorist surveillance" program, and has used aides to defend its legality.

Strikingly, some of the criticism came from liberal Senate offices.

One longtime Senate aide was particularly scathing.

“Feingold’s grandstanding screwed the pooch and played into Bill Frist’s hands," the aide said. "Thank God Dems punted this down the field. Frist was going to force Democrats to vote on a resolution Feingold had kept a big secret and he would’ve split the caucus on an issue that needed time to get the whole caucus to support. Russ Feingold had only one persons’ interests in mind with his Sunday bombshell, and those were his own. He practically handed a victory to a Bush White House that desperately needs a win.”

Feingold, defending his censure plan today on Fox News, said: “I’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide…too many Democrats are going to do the same thing they did in 2000 and 2004. In the face of this, they’ll say we’d better just focus on domestic issues…[Democrats shouldn’t] cower to the argument, that whatever you do, if you question administration, you’re helping the terrorists.”
And this:


Several aides said their offices were stressing “more investigations” as an alternative to censure. One aide said public hearings would be better in bringing Americans around to the idea that Bush had done something wrong.
I think its clear that Democrats have come out of this looking weak -- not because of what Feingold did, but because his colleagues remain too timid, and too afraid of the White House, to challenge even the blatant ignoring of the law.

Meanwhile, moderate Republicans, including my favorite GOPer, Chuck Hagel, are trying to hammer out ao compromisethat would throw a cloak of legality over Bush's spying efforts, after the fact.

Do Democrats have any spine at all?

More goins on:

MyDD has the latest accusations of "treason" leveled at Feingold by Wayne Allard of Colorado... plus this update on a possible Allard retraction?

Atrios has news for the Democrats: Bush isn't popular anymore...

Diarists at the Daily Kos see a Democratic party "haunted by the ghost of accountability"... and Americans in need of a Powerpoint presentation...

This MyDD diarist isn't alone in wondering when there will be censure polls... and the Mystery Pollster has some wisdom from the vault of Bill Clinton...

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posted by JReid @ 12:26 AM  
Why we're there
Most of those who oppose the Iraq war have long suspected the invasion had little to do with democracy, and a lot to do with one or more of the following three things: 1. control of Iraq's oil (and with it, a whip hand over oil-needy Europe and China,) 2. projecting force into other countries in the Mideast, and 3. permanent U.S. bases from which do accomplish #2.

General Abizaid has just made the conspiracy theorists look a lot smarter. From Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States may want to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq to bolster moderates against extremists in the region and protect the flow of oil, the Army general overseeing U.S. military operations in Iraq said on Tuesday.

While the Bush administration has downplayed prospects for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid told a House of Representatives subcommittee he could not rule that out.

Abizaid said that policy would be worked out with a unified, national Iraqi government if and when that is established, "and it would be premature for me to predict."

Many Democrats have pressed President George W. Bush to firmly state that the United States does not intend to seek permanent military bases in Iraq, a step they said would help stem the violence there.
Meanwhile, Iraq is edging closer and cloer to all-out civil war, say AP and Reuters...

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posted by JReid @ 12:19 AM  
The Abu Ghraib files
Salon's Joan Walsh puts the Abu Ghraib scandal on blast, as the mag publishes the U.S. military's complete dossier on the abuses by American forces at the notorious Iraqi prison. Here's the link.

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posted by JReid @ 12:13 AM  
Booty bucks
BET founder Bob Johnson, who became a billionaire using Black T&A, has bought a bank. According to WaPo:
Robert L. Johnson, the founder and former chief executive of Black Entertainment Television, said yesterday that he acquired a tiny Florida savings and loan and plans to move it to Washington to use as the springboard for a large consumer financial services company aimed at black customers.

The bank, to be renamed Urban Trust, is part of an effort by Johnson to build what he hopes will be the country's largest minority-owned financial services company, one positioned to attract major Wall Street investors as it seeks to foster and profit from rising black wealth. The company is meant to compete with the nation's most elite financial firms, but, its new chief executive said, it will also spend "a lot of afternoons in churches" advocating homeownership.
Good for Mr. Johnson. Maybe he can create a special loan department at his new bank, where "the ultimate hustler" can get an advance on some bling...

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The battle of Jericho
From the UK Guardian today:
Britain accused after day of chaos and kidnaps in Gaza
Pullout of UK monitors prompts Israeli attack on Palestinian prison

Chris McGreal Jericho
Wednesday March 15, 2006
The Guardian

Britain was accused of colluding with an Israeli military assault on a Palestinian jail yesterday that prompted the widespread kidnapping of foreigners in the occupied territories and the sacking of UK and EU offices.
The army's day-long siege of Jericho prison ended with the surrender of five men accused by Israel of the 2001 assassination of a cabinet minister, Rehavam Zeevi, in Jerusalem. Last night it was believed three foreigners were still being held by Palestinian armed groups.

Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and four other members have been held for the past four years in Jericho under British and American supervision.

The UK pulled its monitors out early yesterday, saying it feared for their security. The US had no officials in Jericho at the time. The Israeli military then attacked the jail, saying it wanted to prevent a Hamas government from carrying out a pledge to release the wanted men.

Israeli forces hit Jericho prison with tank shells and missiles fired from helicopters before smashing through its walls with armoured bulldozers. A policeman and a prisoner were killed in the assault.

Most of the 200 prisoners and guards swiftly surrendered, but Mr Saadat and a hard core of about 30 others remained.

The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, told the Commons the monitors were withdrawn as the Palestinian Authority had not done enough to ensure their security. He denied Britain had collaborated with Israel. "We deliberately decided not to tell anybody of the exact timing of the withdrawal, both because of the risk to the safety of our monitors, but also precisely to ensure that there could be no collusion with the Israeli defence forces," he said.
I wonder if Israel plans to cede sovereignty to the Palestinians after the wall decides the borders of the future demi-state?
posted by JReid @ 11:38 PM  
Stop making sense
Judge Brinkema on the Moussaoui death penalty case:
"I don't think in the annals of criminal law there has ever been a case with this many significant problems," Brinkema said after a daylong hearing revealed additional difficulties caused by Martin (that's Carla Martin, the TSA lawyer who screwed up the government's case by emailing transcripts of testimony to seven witnesses)
...and then, of course, she let the death penalty case go forward.

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posted by JReid @ 11:29 PM  
(Crazy) people are talking
Rush Limbaugh on the death of Slobodan Milosovic:

On the March 13 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, while discussing the death of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, who was, at the time of his death, on trial for war crimes, nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh said that there is "speculation" that Milosevic "might have been poisoned by somebody." Limbaugh asked, "Who would want to poison such a guy like Slobodan Milosevic?" He then told listeners: "I'm not drawing any conclusions, and I'm not even making any connections. I'm not dot-connecting or anything else. But it has been reported that Slobo was considering calling [former President] Bill Clinton as a witness." Limbaugh added: "He hadn't made the formal request but was considering it. And now, Slobo is no more." [Source: Media Matters]
And our old televangelist friend Pat Robertson calls the kettle crazy. Courtesy of AP:

NORFOLK, Va. - Television evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday on his live news-and-talk program "The 700 Club" that Islam is not a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are "satanic." ...

He remarked that the outpouring of rage elicited by cartoons "just shows the kind of people we're dealing with. These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with."

Robertson also said that "the goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination."
As opposed to Mr. Robertson's goal, which is to appear as unhinged as possible on the TV...

...and not to be outdone, Jerry Falwell says Jews can't go to heaven. Not even Jon Stewart...
“While I am a strong supporter of the State of Israel and dearly love the Jewish people and believe them to be the chosen people of God, I continue to stand on the foundational biblical principle that all people — Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. — must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to enter heaven,” the prominent evangelist said last week in a posting on the “Conservative Voice” Web site.

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posted by JReid @ 11:22 PM  
Failing the test
John Fund, appearing on "Lou Dobbs Tonight" just failed the crucial "Ronald Reagan" test -- he couldn't answer affirmatively, to how middle class Americans are better off now than they were under Democratic governance. The interchange went something like this:
DOBBS: John Fund, name one piece of legislation that this Republican Congress and this Bush-led White House has passed that has had a positive impact on middle class Americans...

FUND: (pause) ... indirectly, tort reform, because...

DOBBS: No, not indirectly ... directly. Because right now they're getting kicked in the teeth everywhere you turn.

FUND: Well I think that a lot can be done in the next four months by the Congress to repair their political fortunes...

DOBBS: Well I hope they take the next three years. It would be a nice change of pace.
Ronald REagan asked: "are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Congress and the Bush White House have done a great deal for large corporations and for wealthy Americans. But if you're none of the above, and instead are a hard working, middle class American, can you honestly answer the question, "what have they done for you?"

If Democrats are smart, they will frame the November elections accordingly.

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posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
Feingold stands alone
Russ Feingold is the only Democrat in the Senate to have opposed the Patriot Act. He was nearly alone in voting against the Iraq war. He did disappoint me and many others by refusing to provide the one Senate co-sponsor needed when Black Democrats tried to bring the 2000 election before the Congress. But that aside, Feingold has been a lonely and rare voice of fortitude among the generally quizzling Dems -- with major exceptions like "John Wayne" Murtha and on the issue of the war, Senator Byrd of W. Virginia. (On the other hand, did you hear Harry Reid squirming out of talker Ed Schultz's gentle but direct questioning about why Democrats wouldn't want to support censure? Pathetic.)

Here are Feingold's prepared remarks regarding his doomed censure resolution yesterday. A clip:

All of us in this body took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true allegiance to the same. Fulfilling that oath requires us to speak clearly and forcefully when the President violates the law. This resolution allows us to send a clear message that the President’s conduct was wrong.

And we must do that. The President’s actions demand a formal judgment from Congress.

At moments in our history like this, we are reminded why the founders balanced the powers of the different branches of government so carefully in the Constitution. At the very heart of our system of government lies the recognition that some leaders will do wrong, and that others in the government will then bear the responsibility to do right.

This President has done wrong. This body can do right by condemning his conduct and showing the people of this nation that his actions will not be allowed to stand unchallenged.

To date, members of Congress have responded in very different ways to the President’s conduct. Some are responding by defending his conduct, ceding him the power he claims, and even seeking to grant him expanded statutory authorization powers to make his conduct legal. While we know he is breaking the law, we do not know the details of what the President has authorized or whether there is any need to change the law to allow it, yet some want to give him carte blanche to continue his illegal conduct. To approve the President’s actions now, without demanding a full inquiry into this program, a detailed explanation for why the President authorized it, and accountability for his illegal actions, would be irresponsible. It would be to abandon the duty of the legislative branch under our constitutional system of separation of powers while the President recklessly grabs for power and ignores the rule of law.

Others in Congress have taken important steps to check the President. Senator Specter has held hearings on the wiretapping program in the Judiciary Committee. He has even suggested that Congress may need to use the power of the purse in order to get some answers out of the Administration. And Senator Byrd has proposed that Congress establish an independent commission to investigate this program.

As we move forward, Congress will need to consider a range of possible actions, including investigations, independent commissions, legislation, or even impeachment. But, at a minimum, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.

Our founders anticipated that these kinds of abuses would occur. Federalist Number 51 speaks of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances:

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
To which most of Feingold's colleagues have responded by basically hiding in the Senate cloakroom or under the nearest available bed... This from Drudge today:


After facing down Senator Russ Feingold's censure bill on Monday and seeing Democrats of all ranks fold, Frist thinks it's time to call Democrats on their antics, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

"He pushed them to the mat today, and they blinked," said one Frist associate. "He dared them to vote, and Democrat Leader Harry Reid looked like he was going to be sick as he said 'No.'''

Frist is going to continue to dare Democrats to vote on censuring the President.

"When it comes to intercepting phone calls from Tora Bora to Topeka, Frist thinks Senate Democrats have made a huge blunder, and he will lead the charge to make Democrats put up or shut up on censure," the top insider claimed. ...
And this choice headline, from the New York Times:
Democrats Beat Quick Retreat on Call to Censure President
By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON, March 13 — Senate Democrats on Monday blocked an immediate vote on a call by one of their own to censure President Bush for his eavesdropping program.

They acted after Republicans said they were eager to pass judgment on a proposal that they portrayed as baseless and disruptive to the antiterror effort.

Minutes before Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, formally introduced his resolution reprimanding Mr. Bush, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, said Republicans were ready to vote by day's end or Tuesday.

"When we're talking about censure of the president of the United States at a time of war, when this president is out defending the American people with a very good, lawful, constitutional program, it is serious business," Mr. Frist said. "If they want to make an issue out of it, we're willing to do just that."

Democrats, while distancing themselves from Mr. Feingold's assertion that the president "plainly broke the law" in approving surveillance without warrants, said his proposal merited more consideration than a hasty vote.

"To try to limit debate on this most important matter that Senator Feingold is going to put before the Senate is not appropriate," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader.

Democrats' hesitancy was a sign they remained reluctant to challenge Mr. Bush on some national security questions even as he was struggling in public opinion polls and set back on the transfer of some American port operations to an Arab company. Though polls on surveillance are mixed, Republicans say the public generally backs the idea of eavesdropping on people suspected of being in contact with terror suspects.

"The American people already made their decision," Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday in an appearance in Mr. Feingold's home state, The Associated Press reported. "They agree with the president."

Mr. Feingold said he viewed his censure resolution as a reasonable way to hold the president accountable. He said it fell short of the push for impeachment that some critics contend is warranted by Mr. Bush's approval of the surveillance program and his strong defense of it.

"This is certainly more serious than anything President Clinton was accused of doing," said Mr. Feingold, who added that the grass-roots response to his proposal was strong after he announced his intention on Sunday. "It is reminiscent of what President Nixon was not only accused of doing, but was basically removed from office for doing."
I've left it out, but you've got to love Arlen Specter saying that the president may be wrong on domestic spying, but he "acted in good faith."

For more on Democratic knee-knocking, Alternet makes it plain, and links to Matt Stoler at MyDD, who makes it plainer. The rub:

Today, Russ Feingold Is the Leader of the Democratic Party

'Nuff said.

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posted by JReid @ 1:20 PM  
Justice for Martin II: Paging Dr. Baden
The second autopsy is in on the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson:
Prosecutors confirmed Tuesday that a 14-year-old boy who was beaten by guards in a juvenile boot camp did not die of a blood disorder as a medical examiner initially ruled.

Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, who is investigating the death of Martin Lee Anderson, declined to comment further on the case.

She confirmed statements from Dr. Michael Baden, a noted pathologist who observed the second autopsy that was conducted on the teenager's body.

Baden said after observing the 12-hour autopsy Monday that the teen probably died from a beating by guards, not a blood disorder.

"My opinion is that he died because of what you see in the videotape," said Dr. Michael Baden, referring to a surveillance tape showing guards kicking and punching Martin Lee Anderson's limp body the day before he died.

After seeing the videotape, the boy's parents agreed to have his body exhumed and asked Baden, who had reviewed medical evidence in the slaying of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to observe the new autopsy.

"I'm just glad the truth is out," Anderson's mother, Gina Jones, said Tuesday. "But I already knew what the truth was. Now that the truth is out, and I want justice. I want the guards and the nurse to be arrested."

Dr. Charles Siebert, who made that initial ruling after Anderson's death Jan. 6, was present at the second autopsy and may end up changing his ruling, Baden said Tuesday.

"I think he made a mistake," Baden said.

Siebert did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
So now the question is, what will state investigators and prosecutors do about these new findings? The U.S. attorney in Tallahassee and the last, tired remnants of the Justice Department's civil rights division (battered under the House of Bush) are investigating, but so far there have been no arrests, no firings, no nothing -- just the closing of the boot camp where Anderson died.

State Sen. Fredricka Wilson (D) and a Republican colleague, Rep. Gus Barreiro, have been all over this case from the beginning, and are continuing to push for justice in this case, including the closure of the four remaining boot camps in the state. Florida has not exactly distinguished itself in the area of juvenile justice -- putting 14-year-olds away for life ... three dead Black teens in state custody in three years, and on and on -- but this is a genuine opportunity for the state to do the right thing.

Let's see if they take it.

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posted by JReid @ 1:08 PM  
The Florida chess board...
A friend of mine was interviewed by a pollster a couple of days ago, in what the friend described as a "well-designed apparently Republican survey." One of the questions, tucked in amid queries about private school vouchers and upcoming referendums and such-like, caught my friend's attention:

"Who would you vote for for US Senate, Bill Nelson or Jeb Bush?"
This as Katherine Harris prepares to make her "important announcement" about the future of her Senate campaign, and Tom Rooney, of the Pittsburgh Steelers /Art Rooney Rooneys, also mulls a run. Call it the Republican restart (I've been screaming for years that the Florida Dems should find themselves a former NFL player to run for governor or Senate, but there you go, as usual, the GOP gets after it first..)

The bottom line is pretty simple: if Harris drops out, Nelson's home free. But if Jeb were to jump in, Bill would have to raise a whole lot more dough than the $10 million he's got in the bank, and he'd be staying up a lot later on election night...

Of course, all of this is speculation, and Jeb has continued to insist he's not interested in Nelson's job. And the poll could simply be an attempt to woo him into the race if he polls well against Nelson, who remains pretty popular in the state (as a center-right Dem in a center-right Dem state.) But the bottom line is the GOP doesn't really have that many options, and Harris is a terrible candidate they'd just as soon see get out (the national party never wanted her in to begin with). I'm sure they'd be thrilled to rol the dice with Jebbie, a guy who at this point is much more popular than his brother (though not with anyone who's sick of high stakes testing, faith-based prisons and other Jebisms.)

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posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
Game theory
Is the Pentagon considering getting at Iran via Israel?
posted by JReid @ 2:57 AM  
The Arabacklash?
From the UK Independent:
Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as "discrimination".

Separately, Syria responded to US sanctions against two of its banks by confirming plans to use euros instead of dollars for its external transactions.

The remarks combined to knock the dollar, which fell against the euro, pound and yen yesterday as analysts warned other central banks might follow suit.
And back here in the states, sings DPW may not quite be backing down...
The Dubai-owned company that promised to surrender its U.S. port operations has no immediate plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary's interests at Miami's seaport, a senior executive wrote Monday in a private e-mail to business associates.

Even if DP World were to sell its Miami operations to quell the congressional furor over an Arab-owned company managing major U.S. ports, "that would probably take a while," wrote Robert Scavone, a vice president for DP World's U.S. subsidiary.

The e-mail, obtained by The Associated Press, added to questions raised since DP World's announcement last week that it will divest U.S. port operations it acquired when it bought London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.

DP World has said those operations are worth roughly $700 million. ...

...The company has steadfastly declined to clarify its statement or the timing of any possible sale, and leading congressional critics have threatened to intervene if DP World's plans fall short of a full divestiture of its U.S. operations.

Scavone told AP in an interview that his e-mail was intended to reassure officials at the Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. which manages operations there and is half-owned by a DP World subsidiary that uncertainty surrounding the Dubai ports deal would not affect its work in Miami.

"As for the 'pending situation,' I myself am not aware of anything about it that would alter the ownership of POMTOC, so unless one or both of our esteemed partners have separately advised you that they plan to sell their interests, you should assume for your own purposes of managing the company that ownership of POMTOC is not going to change," Scavone wrote.

"And even if they do plan to sell, that would probably take a while," he wrote. Scavone's e-mail responded to an earlier message proposing a formal review of the port company's budget, "once the pending situation is resolved and ownership of POMTOC is established."

Scavone is executive vice president for security at P&O Ports North America Inc. and was among the company's executives who testified about the Dubai ports deal during congressional hearings this month.

Scavone told the AP that under U.S. corporate laws, P&O's ownership in the Miami port company would not change even under DP World's planned divestiture.

"Just because a shareholder owns the top company of an elaborate network of corporations worldwide, it does not mean that what those corporations own changes hands," Scavone said.
Indeed...

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posted by JReid @ 2:49 AM  
The blog report: sticky fingers edition
TPM Cafe's witlist kicks Claude Allen when he's down:


... Allen resigned his $161,000-a-year job in the Bush White House last month, saying he wanted to spend more time shoplifting with his family. Among his other duties Allen led the White House's response to Hurricane Katrina, but his primary responsibility was letting the president be seen in public with a black person who wasn't Condoleeza Rice.
Click here for the Montgomery County police file...

Meanwhile, Crooks and Liars has all the machinations in the Russ Feingold vs. the Quizzling Democrats censure gambit. Bill Frist went from blocking a vote to calling for one, post-haste. The idea: get Democrats on the run (again), just as with the bait and switch pulled following Murtha's call to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, and the media push-back from the NSA spying story. Of course, Democrats will instinctively shrink from the Feingold show of manliness. After all, they're Democrats...

A snippet from C&L, channeling TPM:
From Russ's camp: "He is introducing to censure President George W. Bush for authorizing an illegal domestic wiretapping program and then misleading Congress and the public about its existence and legality. Feingold says the resolution is a responsible step for Congress to take in response to the President's undermining of the separation of powers and ignoring the rule of law."

Arlen Specter responds: TPM
"It was coming to this. Responding to Sen. Feingold, Sen. Specter is now arguing on the floor of the senate that FISA is unconstitutional. Ergo, President Bush couldn't have been violating the law becuase it's not valid law.

Quite a way for Specter to end his career."
Criticism of Democratic quizzling on all things Bush is findable at the Huffpo here and here.

On the right, conservative mag Insight continues to bring the scoops. This time, the news is that for GWB, it's all about Iraq.

President Bush has decided to stay out of the lion's share of decisions made by his administration.

Sources close to the administration said that over the last year, Mr. Bush has chosen to focus on two issues, leaving the rest to be decided by Cabinet members and senior aides. They said the issues are Iraq and the Republican congressional campaign in the 2006 elections.

"Lots of important issues that deal with national security are never brought to the president because he doesn't want to deal with them," a source familiar with the White House said. "In some cases, this has resulted in chaos."

The White House has acknowledged that Mr. Bush was not informed of the administration’s decision to approve a $6.85 billion takeover by the United Arab Emirates of a British firm that operates at least six major ports in the United States. The decision triggered a public firestorm and strong bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill. This prompted the Dubai-owned company last week to bail on its bid to operate terminals in U.S. ports.

Vice President Dick Cheney also was not informed of the approval of the port takeover by the state-owned Dubai Ports World. The process was administered by the Treasury Department-aligned Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which sparked opposition from most of the Republican leadership in Congress.

"My take on this is that the president relied on his CFIUS board, this Committee on Foreign Investment; that they did a superficial scrub on this," House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter said on March 7.
And from the Freepers, a tip on who might replace Kathy Harris as Bill Nelson's Senate opponent...
Tom Rooney, a grandson of the late Steelers patriarch Art Rooney, is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in Florida.

Mr. Rooney, a lawyer who is chief executive of an orphanage, said yesterday that senior Florida Republicans had urged him to consider running for the nomination to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat. He said he expected to make a decision within 10 days.

"I would not get in this race to be an also-ran," said Mr. Rooney, 35, who is president of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. "The only way I would get into this race would be to win."
And Malkin recycles the Drudge bomblet that the Plame leaker may be Dick Armitage...
posted by JReid @ 2:14 AM  
Monday, March 13, 2006
The real McCain?
Paul Krugman blows up John McCain's spot in his NYT column today (I'm still on subscription boycott... saying what myself and others (like Ted Rall) say pretty much every time John-boy's name comes up:

1. John McCain is no maverick -- when it comes down to voting time, he supports the president every time (and sucks up to him mightily on the cable shows...) Yes, he voted against the tax cuts and forced "campaign finance reform," such as it is, on the president. But so what? He literally hugs and kisses George W. Bush, and is still 100 percent for the Iraq war, for the Dubai ports deal (oh, right, that makes him a maverick vs. his party again...) for domestic spying, and on and on and on... the "maverick" thing is a fiction of the Washington press corps, which since he lulled them to sleep on the Straight Talk Express during the 2000 GOP primaries, has been in love with McCain.

2. John McCain is no moderate -- in fact, he's more conservative than George W. Bush, and Democrats who are drooling over him make a huge mistake if they believe they could live with him in the White House (I suffered from the same delusion in 2000.) McCain is more of an anti-abortion zealot that George W. Bush is (I maintain that Bush really isn't that much of a religous zealot -- he's a Methodist for God's sake. He's only pretending to be a wing-nut to win elections. Now that Bush isn't running and McCain is, note that the former is against the South Dakota ban leaving out rape, incest and life of the mother exceptions, while McCain rushed out to burble that he too would have signed the law... seeking such exceptions somehow, magically, after the fact...) If elected president, McCain will likely escalate the Iraq war, or at least he won't pull us out of it, and he's more hawkish than Bush and thus could well pull the neocon trigger on Iran, Syria or worse...

3. John McCain has fooled the press into thinking he is both a moderate and a maverick but he may not be fooling actual Republicans, who have long since seen through his act. He's with them when it's good for him, against them when it's good for him, and generally, the only side he's on is his own.

Headed into 2008, McCain clearly wants three things: Bush supporters' money, Bush supporters' votes and Bush advisors' help with his presidential campaign. He will do whatever he has to do to get all three.

John McCain deserves genuine praise for his war service, but on everything else, he's a Bush toadie and a phony. It would be refreshing if the regular media would take a hard a look at him as Mr. Krugman apparently has in his opinion column.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Right view: The Freepers hold forth on the man "the FCC requires us to call Maverick..."

Update: God bless the child who's got her own ... subscription...) A clip, courtesy of the Tennessee Guerilla Women:
It's time for some straight talk about John McCain. He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be.

Mr. McCain's reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us."

But now — at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger — Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.

When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of "rogue state rollback," anticipating the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain's aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.

Would Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, have found some pretext for invading Iraq? We'll never know. But Mr. McCain still thinks the war was a good idea, and he rejects any attempt to extricate ourselves from the quagmire. "If success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006," he wrote last year, "then we must increase our numbers there." He didn't explain where the overstretched U.S. military is supposed to find these troops.

When it comes to social issues, Mr. McCain, who once called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance," met with Mr. Falwell late last year. Perhaps as a result, he is now taking positions friendly to the religious right. Most notably, Mr. McCain's spokesperson says that he would have signed South Dakota's extremist new anti-abortion law.

The spokesperson went on to say that the senator would have taken "the appropriate steps under state law" to ensure that cases of rape and incest were excluded. But that attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest.

The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right. How far right? A statistical analysis of Mr. McCain's recent voting record, available at www.voteview.com, ranks him as the Senate's third most conservative member.

What about Mr. McCain's reputation as a maverick? This comes from the fact that every now and then he seems to declare his independence from the Bush administration, as he did in pushing through his anti-torture bill.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Guantánamo. President Bush, when signing the bill, appended a statement that in effect said that he was free to disregard the law whenever he chose. Mr. McCain protested, but there are apparently no hard feelings: at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference he effusively praised Mr. Bush.

And I'm sorry to say that this is typical of Mr. McCain. Every once in a while he makes headlines by apparently defying Mr. Bush, but he always returns to the fold, even if the abuses he railed against continue unabated. ...
Follow the link to read more. Bottom line: if you like Geroge W. Bush, support John McCain. Because if he's elected president, it will be more and more of the same... only with about 100 Monicas in the press corps...

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posted by JReid @ 10:39 AM  
Coaching the witnesses
The judge in the Moussaoui trial has stopped the precedings amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct: namely, coaching witnesses ...

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- An angry federal judge unexpectedly recessed the death penalty trial of confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to consider whether government violations of her rules against coaching witnesses should remove the death penalty as an option.

The stunning development came at the opening of the fifth day of the trial as the government had informed the judge and the defense over the weekend that a lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration had coached four government FAA witnesses in violation of the rule set by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema. The rule was that no witness should hear trial testimony in advance.

"This is the second significant error by the government affecting the constitutional rights of the defendant and the criminal justice system in this country in the context of a death case,"
Brinkema told lawyers in the case outside the presence of the jury.

Defense attorney Edward MacMahon moved to have the judge dismiss the death penalty as a possible outcome, saying "this is not going to be a fair trial." In the alternative, he said, at least she should excuse the government's FAA witnesses from the case.

Prosecutor David Novak replied that removing the FAA witnesses would "exclude half the government's case." Novak suggested instead that the problem could be fixed by a vigorous cross-examination by the defense.

But Brinkema said she would need time to study what to do.

"In all the years I've been on the bench, I have never seen such an egregious violation of a rule on witnesses," she said.

Brinkema noted that last Thursday, Novak asked a question that she ruled out of order after the defense said the question should result in a mistrial. In that question, Novak suggested that Moussaoui might have had some responsibility to go back to the FBI, after he got a lawyer, and then confess his terrorist ties.

Brinkema warned the government at that point that it was treading on shaky legal ground because she said she knew of no case where a failure to act resulted in a death penalty as a matter of law.

Even prosecutor Novak conceded that the witness coaching was "horrendously wrong."

According to descriptions by the lawyers in court, it appeared that a female FAA attorney who had attended closed hearings in the case went over with four upcoming witnesses from her agency the opening statements at the trial, the government's strategy and even the transcript of the questioning of an FBI agent on the first day.

"She was at the Classified Information Act procedures hearing and she should have known it was wrong," Novak said.

MacMahon said the government had told the defense she had wanted the witnesses to be very careful in discussing the FBI agent's acknowledgment that the FBI knew long before Sept. 11, 2001 that al-Qaida terrorists in the Philippines were working on a plan to fly an airplane into CIA headquarters.

The FAA attorney also apparently told the witnesses, erroneously Novak said, that the government was planning to say that magnetometers at airport check-ins are 100 percent effective.
What next? If things keep going like this with Brinkema, don't be surprised if the Bush administration simply calls off the trial, drops the federal charges against Moussaoui and whisks him off to Gitmo as an enemy combatant...

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Tags: , Politics, Terrorism, News,


posted by JReid @ 10:31 AM  
Neocon designs on Iran?
From Agence France Presse today:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The administration of US President George W. Bush plans for a sustained campaign against the ayatollahs of Tehran that could include regime change, a newspaper reported.

The Washington Post said Bush and his team have been huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran.

The internal debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter, the report said.

Although administration officials do not use the term "regime change" in public, that in effect is the goal they outline as they aim to build resistance to the theocracy, The Post pointed out

"We do not have a problem with the Iranian people. We want the Iranian people to be free," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Senate testimony last week. "Our problem is with the Iranian regime."

In private meetings, Bush and his advisers have been more explicit, the paper said.

Members of the Hoover Institution's board of overseers who met with Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney and national security adviser Stephen Hadley two weeks ago emerged with the impression that the administration has shifted to a more robust policy aimed at the Iranian government, according to the Post.

"The message that we received is that they are in favor of separating the Iranian people from the regime," the paper quotes Esmail Amid-Hozour, an Iranian American businessman who serves on the Hoover board, as saying.

Richard Haass, who was State Department policy planning director in Bush's first term, is quoted as saying, "The upper hand is with those who are pushing regime change rather than those who are advocating more diplomacy."
There's still considerable debate in the analyst community about whether the U.S. would really take on another major Mideast project, the one in Iraq having gone so poorly, but the idea of continued U.S. aggression around the world is apparently very hard to shake.

North Korea is constantly sounding the alarm that they are about to be attacked by the U.S., although that, too, is unlikely. Overall, the jury just seems to be out...

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posted by JReid @ 10:25 AM  
Radio report: Hot off the 'net
Here are links to the stories we talked about on NewsTalk 1080 WTPS this morning (if you're not in Miami, here are some links to stories to watch today)...

Claude Allen used to be the darling of the religious right and a Bush nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Now he's just your above-average shop-lifter...

Meanwhile, Deborah Mathis at Black America Web run down Allen's real rap sheet:
I will, like much of the public, be watching the case and will keep the burden of proof on the prosecution.

But there can be no such leniency when it comes to Allen’s record as domestic policy adviser to the president. For that, he already has a rap sheet. Were Allen to be charged with failing the American public he was sworn to serve, the verdict could only be “guilty.”

It is possible that Allen did not approve of Bush’s domestic policy decisions, but that’s doubtful and ultimately moot. Going along to get along is just as irresponsible, as Allen demonstrated when Jesse Helms, who represented North Carolina in the Senate for decades, opposed the Martin Luther King holiday designation and Allen kept right on working for the ornery bigot even though he said he was a King fan. So, obviously he is not above principles of convenience.

But a circumstantial case can be made that Allen did see where Bush was taking the country, which is to say down the drain. He is complicit in the most selfish, neglectful, elitist and reckless domestic policy agenda in decades, if not its author or chief advocate.
So what was Allen's job? He was promoted to Bush's "domestic policy czar," after serving as deputy secretary of the department of Health and Human Services and well before that, as a top aide to Sen. Jesse Helms. Liberal groups didn't like him because of stuff like this:
early years of Allen's career may have sown the seeds for the current opposition to his nomination. After receiving his bachelor's degree in both political science and linguistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982, Allen signed on as spokesman for the re-election team of then-Sen. Jesse Helms, R.-N.C.

Allen spoke disparagingly of Helms' opponent, then-North Carolina Gov. James Hunt, and noted that he had links to "radical feminists" and "the queers." When Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., asked Allen during last week's confirmation hearing whether "federal judges should use the word queer" as a pejorative term for a homosexual, Allen's response did little to appease his critics. He explained that when he made the comment, the dictionary defined queer as "odd or unusual," and that is what he meant.
But he probably would have been confirmed had he not mysteriously stepped down from his post in February "to spend more time with his family..." and apparently, with his attorneys...

Iraq update: The NYT Iraq bureau chief says that for the first time, he thinks the U.S. effort there will likely fail...
Asked if a civil war was developing there, Burns said, "It's always been a civil war," adding that it's just a matter of extent. He said the current U.S. leaders there--military and diplomatic--were doing their best but sectarian differences would "probably" doom the enterprise.

Burns said that he and others underestimated this problem, feeling for a long time that toppling Saddam Hussein would almost inevitably lead to something much better. He called the Abu Ghraib abuse the worst of many mistakes the U.S. made but said that even without so many mistakes the sectarian conflict would have gotten out of hand.

On Iran, few good options, says the BBC's John Simpson:
So how will it all end?
Probably with the Americans and Europeans accepting Iran's status as a nuclear power, while trying to tie it up with as many controls as possible.

Some compromise may well be found, and Russia will be well-placed to negotiate one.

The West's main hope now is that President Ahmadinejad's critics and opponents within the Iranian political system - and there are plenty of conservative mullahs and wealthy merchants who don't like his brand of fiery populism - will work away to weaken him, and force him to accept a compromise.

But in the meantime some European governments are already worried that President Bush's advisers will see this crisis as a way of restoring his fortunes in time for the US mid-term elections in November.

In our out? That's what Republicans are asking after Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris failed to appear at the Memphis GOP confab over the weekend in person, but instead sent a tantalizing statement:
"Unfortunately, I am unable to join you this weekend, as I prayerfully prepare with my family, friends and advisors to finalize the strategy for a major announcement next week concerning my candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

I will continue to look to our founding fathers, who pursued their vision with integrity and perseverance, to discern the best course of action for the state of Florida and our nation."
Did the Founding Fathers advise you to quit the Senate race? Or did they just stop sending you contributions, after that nastiness with the illegal donations and all...
Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi... A group of American businessmen in the UAE are calling for help in repairing the would-be port operating country's image, from Oprah!
The American Business Group of Abu Dhabi, which has more than 500 members including Boeing Co. and ExxonMobil Corp., wants Winfrey to host a show from the UAE as it seeks to convince Americans that the country is not a threat to national security, Kevin Massengill, a board member of the group, said yesterday.

"We want to reach out to the average guy in the United States and explain why the UAE is important," said the former adviser to the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, who is part of a delegation that the group plans to send to Washington this month.
Wow. That Oprah can sell anything...

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Balancing the budget on the plates of the poor?
Florida's latest budget cuts are brutal, and the impact on severely disbled kids here could be devastating:
In an effort to save money, Florida Medicaid officials have stopped paying for the feeding supplements for perhaps thousands of children who suffer from severe physical disabilities, have HIV or are dependent on kidney dialysis to survive, healthcare officials say.

Most at risk, doctors say: children with severe disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, who cannot eat or swallow on their own and receive all their sustenance from feeding tubes connected directly to their stomachs.

Earlier last week, Gov. Jeb Bush announced in his State of the State address that a top priority of his last year in office was to return $1.5 billion in tax money to Florida taxpayers. Though some officials at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which oversees Medicaid, say the changes were not designed to save money, an email from an AHCA official, obtained last week by The Miami Herald, says otherwise.

''We've made many policies more restrictive than in the past, due to the out-of-control costs of Medicaid,'' Emily Fritz, Medicaid's community relations director, wrote earlier last week to a University of Miami dietitian, explaining the decision to dramatically curtail the number of children for whom the state subsidizes supplements. ''It was a tough, but necessary, decision,'' she added.

It's not immediately clear how many children may be affected by the policy change or precisely how much the state expects to save.

But doctors and dietitians who treat disabled and medically fragile children call it a ''dangerous'' decision.

''It frightens me to think what can happen,'' said Sheah Rarback, director of nutrition at Miami's Mailman Center for Child Development, which provides care to hundreds of children with developmental disabilities and neurological disorders, such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation.
In the article, it's pointed out that the impact of the cuts may already have been felt:
The new policies already may have harmed a child.

A 12-year-old Miami girl who receives care from the University of Miami was hospitalized recently after Medicaid refused to continue paying for her formula and she became seriously malnourished. The girl, who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy, cannot eat enough food to sustain her growth, said dietitian Clara St. Thomas.

''We did everything we were supposed to do. We jumped through every hoop. And we were still denied,'' said St. Thomas, who added the teen depends upon liquid supplements for virtually all her nutrition.

''She couldn't get enough calories, and she got sick,'' St. Thomas said. The girl's doctor was calling the nutrition department demanding to know: ''What's going on? Why can't this child get her milk?,'' St. Thomas said.

Laura Martinez, who adopted her 7-year-old son, Prince, from foster care, is worried about her ability to feed her child as well.

Prince was born with severe cerebral palsy, the result of brain damage at birth, Martinez said. She raised the boy as a foster child after his birth parents neglected him, then adopted him two years ago. She feeds him through a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, connected to his stomach.

Prince originally was fed an expensive formula called Peptomin Jr. until the state refused to pay for it. When she shifted to another supplement, called Pediasure, which can cost as much as $15 for a six-pack of cans, Medicaid officials refused to pay for that as well, Martinez said.

''We can't seem to get the food we need, and it's so expensive,'' Martinez said.

Nutritionists at both the University of Miami and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg say the Medicaid changes began last summer, but some of them did not affect some patients until the beginning of this year, when doctors began renewing prescriptions for the expensive formulas patients use.
So what these parents do? I'd be interested in finding out whether they could take legal action against the state Medicaid agency, or even against the governor.

...assuming, of course, someone steps forward to handle their cases...

This all goes back to the pressure being put on states by budget cuts at the federal level, which are forcing states to make severe choices, between more Medicaid spending and balanced budgets. In Florida's case, tax cuts are also, always thrown into the mix, particularly with the current administration, and of course, tax cuts always win.

Tags: , Politics, Politics & Policy, Health Care, ,
posted by JReid @ 6:10 PM  
Conservatives and Iraq
From David Warren, writing at RealClearPolitics, observations on Bush's "Lincolnesque" invasion of Iraq:
The Americans went into Afghanistan and Iraq with my blessings, as my reader may recall. I thought both decisions to invade were right, before either had been taken. But I thought this for reasons I never fully explained, that were never quite George Bush’s reasons -- more those of Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938). I was, for instance, sceptical about the project of bringing Western-style, bourgeois democracy -- and everything needed to support that -- to countries where politics by violence had so long prevailed. But if anyone could do it, I thought the Americans could, with their own history of heroic optimism, prevailing against insuperable odds.

A new book just landed in my mailbox, Redefining Sovereignty, ed. Orrin C. Judd. It contains an essay by me from four years ago, in which I tried to explain President Bush’s Lincolnesque thinking on world order. I think the essay has borne up fairly well, to this short passage of years. I said that Mr Bush was trying to vindicate and uphold the existing national state-system in the world, in exactly the way Lincoln went about upholding the American union. And that, Mr Bush’s commitment to spreading democracy was like Lincoln’s commitment to extinguishing slavery -- not the key point, but necessary to the key point of recovering order. If Lincoln could have preserved the union, and it meant keeping slavery, he would have done that.

Ditto, if Mr Bush thought he could restore the status quo ante of a Middle East that was no threat to the West, without pushing democracy down anyone’s throat, he would do that. But as he examined the problem presented to him by the Arab raids on New York and Washington, the morning of Sept. 11th, 2001, he saw that something more would be required. He believes, still, that there can be no lasting peace in the world until the “root cause” of this terrorist violence is removed. Hence, the evangelizing for democracy. Hence, the willingness to kick-start, by taking out two of the most abhorrent regimes known to man, and trying to repeat in Afghanistan and Iraq what the Americans accomplished in Germany, Italy, and Japan after World War II.

...But Mr Bush was staking his bet on the assumption that the Islamists were not speaking for Islam; that the world’s Muslims long for modernity; that they are themselves repelled by the violence of the terrorists; that, most significantly, Islam is in its nature a religion that can be “internalized”, like the world’s other great religions, and that the traditional Islamic aspiration to conjoin worldly political with otherworldly spiritual authority had somehow gone away. It didn’t help that Mr Bush took for his advisers on the nature of Islam, the paid operatives of Washington’s Council on American-Islamic Relations, the happyface pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong, or the profoundly learned but terminally vain Bernard Lewis. Each, in a different way, assured him that Islam and modernity were potentially compatible.

The question, “But what if they are not?” was never seriously raised, because it could not be raised behind the mud curtain of political correctness that has descended over the Western academy and intelligentsia. The idea that others see the world in a way that is not only incompatible with, but utterly opposed to, the way we see it, is the thorn ever-present in the rose bushes of multiculturalism. ...

...My own views on the issue have been aloof. More precisely, they have been infected with cowardice. I am so “post-modern” myself that I, too, find it almost impossible to think through the corollaries from our world’s hardest fact. And that fact is: the post-Christian West is out of its depth with Islam.


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posted by JReid @ 1:28 PM  
Observations, part two
Ludacris got beaten up by Terrence Howard in two movies last year: "Crash" and "Hustle and Flow"... Meanwhile, Clarence Page last week joined Roger Ebert in defending "Crash" against the Brokebacklash...

Tags: , academy awards, Movies, Film, awards, brokeback mountain,
posted by JReid @ 1:20 PM  
Rummy's big score
From the Independent UK today:
Donald Rumsfeld has made a killing out of bird flu. The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.

More than 60 countries have so far ordered large stocks of the antiviral medication - the only oral medicine believed to be effective against the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease - to try to protect their people. The United Nations estimates that a pandemic could kill 150 million people worldwide. ...

...The drug was developed by a Californian biotech company, Gilead Sciences. It is now made and sold by the giant chemical company Roche, which pays it a royalty on every tablet sold, currently about a fifth of its price.

Mr Rumsfeld was on the board of Gilead from 1988 to 2001, and was its chairman from 1997. He then left to join the Bush administration, but retained a huge shareholding .

The firm made a loss in 2003, the year before concern about bird flu started. Then revenues from Tamiflu almost quadrupled, to $44.6m, helping put the company well into the black. Sales almost quadrupled again, to $161.6m last year. During this time the share price trebled.

Mr Rumsfeld sold some of his Gilead shares in 2004 reaping - according to the financial disclosure report he is required to make each year - capital gains of more than $5m. The report showed that he still had up to $25m-worth of shares at the end of 2004, and at least one analyst believes his stake has grown well beyond that figure, as the share price has soared. Further details are not likely to become known, however, until Mr Rumsfeld makes his next disclosure in May.

More on Rummy's finances:
The 2005 report showed that, in all, he owned shares worth up to $95.9m, from which he got an income of up to $13m, owned land worth up to $17m, and made $1m from renting it out.

He also had illiquid investments worth up to $8.1m, including in partnerships investing in biotechnology, issuing reproductions of paintings, and operating art galleries in New Mexico and Wyoming. He also has life insurance with a surrender value of up to $5m, and received up to $1m from the DHR Foundation, in which he has assets worth up to $25m, and $773,743 from the Donald H Rumsfeld Trust, in which he has assets of up to $50m.
Apparently, it's good to be the Don...

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posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Observations
Wolf Blitzer sure is concerned about how mad Dubai might be at the United States over the DPW deal collapse... is it just me, or does he obsess over it every day?
posted by JReid @ 12:38 PM  
Learning to like Sherrod Brown
Mike DeWine wants to make it illegal for you to find out about the NSA spying scandal...
WASHINGTON — Reporters who write about government surveillance could be prosecuted under proposed legislation that would solidify the administration’s eavesdropping authority, according to some legal analysts.

An aide to the bill’s chief author, Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, said that is not the intention of the legislation.

“It in no way applies to reporters — in any way, shape or form,” said Mike Dawson, a senior policy adviser to DeWine, responding to an inquiry Friday afternoon. “If a technical fix is necessary, it will be made.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the draft of the legislation, which could be introduced as soon as next week.

The draft would add to the criminal penalties for anyone who “intentionally discloses information identifying or describing” the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program or any other eavesdropping program conducted under a 1978 surveillance law.

Under the boosted penalties, those found guilty could face fines of up to $1 million, 15 years in jail, or both.

Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the measure is broader than any existing laws. She said, for example, that the language does not specify that the information has to be harmful to national security or classified.
“The bill would make it a crime to tell the American people that the president is breaking the law, and the bill could make it a crime for the newspapers to publish that fact,” said Martin, a civil liberties advocate.

DeWine is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
Meanwhile, Russ Feingold says President Bush should be censured for breaking the law by spying on domestic phonecalls... (psst! don't tell Bill Frist!)

So technically, if both men win the day, it would be illegal for anyone to tell you about the president's spying activities, despite the fact that he's been censured by Congress for engaging in them.

What a country.

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posted by JReid @ 12:33 PM  
Port insecurity
From ThinkProgress: Bill Kristol says Karl Rove and the White House asked Dubai to pull the plug on the port deal. And from the Financial Times, word that the government in Dubai now doubts President Bush is really in control of the ship of state in Washington...
Mr Bush had warned repeatedly that blocking the deal would send a dangerously discriminatory message to the world. He threatened repeatedly to veto any congressional legislation.

But with his public approval ratings at record lows and his Republican party abandoning him, one of the US’s closest allies in the Arab world concluded that he was no longer in control in Washington.

The decision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, is likely to avert the political backlash that hit Washington last month and may prevent any further damage to diplomatic and security relations between the countries. But it underscored that Mr Bush, who still has nearly three years to go in his second term, has become perilously weak.
By the way, why is it news to the news media that port security in the U.S. sucks, and has sucked for a long, long time?

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posted by JReid @ 12:24 PM  
John McCain's Tennessee waltz
John McCain's shameless pandering to Bush donors at the Memphis GOP confab (aw shucks, fellas, don't vote for me ... no, not little old me ... write in our beloved President...) is drawing hisses from most straw poll observers online (though the WaPo managed to do its usual McCain as "rebel" lovefest, despite no signs of such rebellion in his actual performance as a Senator...) Sayeth the still on the McCain bus WaPo:


MEMPHIS, March 11 -- No one stole the show at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here this weekend, but Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) demonstrated why every other prospective 2008 presidential candidate must figure out how to get around him.

More than any of his potential rivals, McCain found a way to balance embracing a weakened President Bush -- at a time when many Republicans are running away from the president -- while appealing to those in and out of his party who believe Bush and other Washington Republicans have lost their way. No other candidate could claim to offer continuity and change almost simultaneously.

The Arizona senator was full-throated in his support for Bush on Iraq, Iran and even the now-defunct Dubai seaports deal. In doing so, he continued to establish his bona fides as the Republican most likely to defend and extend the president's controversial foreign policy record. At the same time, McCain delivered a stern condemnation of fiscal profligacy and corruption in Washington that was rooted in his reputation as an advocate of change and an antagonist of pork-barrel spending.
Why is McCain sucking up to GWB ... again ...? Because he probably has made a deal with the Bushies to back him, with shoe leather and with that all-important Rangers donor list -- if he will do as Collin Powell once did: put his credibility with the public in the service of the president. Unfortunately for McCain, the outcome for him will probably be the same as it was for Powell: having handed his "public trust" over to the Bushies, he will try to retrieve it one day only to find it thoroughly trashed.

From the Hotline Blog, signs the WH had a hand -- or at least "supported" McCain's stunt:



The only "campaigning" evident overnight for the SRLC straw poll was a flyer slipped under the doors at the Peabody Hotel claiming that "National GOP Leadership Offers Support" For the "Write-in President Bush" campaign. Included on the flyer are quotes from the speeches Trent Lott, Ken Mehlman and Haley Barbour gave to the SRLC yesterday. Also included is the quote a WH spokesperson gave to The Hotline ...
...The Hotliners also have the numbers, indicating McCain's stunt might have been too cute by half -- the confab was held in Tennessee, where Bill Frist had a distinct advantage, and whatever his pleas, it's likely most of the attendees at the SRLC straw poll voters weren't going to support him anyway. (BTW Romney finished a surprisingly strong second, and he wasn't even there, George Allen -- whom Chris Chillizza at WaPo says gave the most rousing speech at the confab -- tied with the President, and hardly anybody gave a crap about Condi or Rudy -- sorry, Chris Matthews... oh, yeah, and about one person voted for Sam Brownback)

Some other interesting asides from the WaPo article, indicating that there may be some method to McCain's madness:



When Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called Bush "one of the great presidents in the history of the United States," the audience rose to applaud and cheer. Former Texas Republican Party chairman Fred Meyer made clear that anyone running for president in 2008 should forget about running against Bush. "Not supporting the president on the high percentage of issues would be a mistake, because people value loyalty."

The other prospective candidates generally followed that script throughout the weekend, finding ways to praise Bush on his judicial appointments or on his steadfast commitment to defeating the terrorist threat. But there were as many echoes of Ronald Reagan in their speeches as there were of George W. Bush, and the thread through many was that this Republican Party must return to the core values of limited government, strong national defense and traditional values that fueled the Republican rise to power since Reagan was elected in 1980.

In addition to McCain and Frist, four other potential presidential candidates spoke: Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Sens. George Allen (Va.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.). New York Gov. George E. Pataki, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), all said to be mulling runs in 2008, did not attend. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who might use the 2008 primaries and caucuses to promote his anti-immigration agenda, was not invited.
The question at the end of all this is simple: will Republicans choose to stay the Bush course by backing McCain, when a clear majority of Americans want a complete change in foreign and domestic policy? In the end, what does McCain really offer America that is different form what the Bushies are giving us? My view is "nothing." McCain IS George W. Bush, with a bigger brain and a better relationship with the Washington press corps (I'm fairly sure they'd drink his bath water.) And it's the media that is making McCain the front runner. As long as they continue to love him, he'll remain the guy to beat in 2008, straw poll or no straw poll. (Do you honestly think most Republicans -- let alone most Americans -- want to be led by President Bill First? Don't make me laugh...)

Best McCain quote of the day goes to a commenter named "oakland" on the Hotline blog:


McCain - You are a media darling; and just because Tweety can't quit you, doesn't mean the rest of the country wants a damn thing to do with you. The fundies hate you, Rush hates you, Drudge hates you, liberals hate you, I hate you. You running as the Republican would even force me to vote for Hillary.
Natch. McCain will remain the media front runner, despite the straw poll result. The media is simply too committed to his candidacy to walk away. And having the White House behind him -- even with their huge problems -- isn't exactly nothing. But if 2008 is going to be a "change" election -- and I think it is, it's hard to see how you argue for changing course when you've wholeheartedly endorsed the course we're on. Let's see if John McCain turns out to be a contortionist as well as a blantant panderer and phony.

Update: Firedoglake has a very familiar picture (one you're going to see a lot of as we appraoch 2008...) and the story on McCain's possible violation of the very campaign finance laws he helped write, while stumping for Arnold Schwarzenegger in Cali.

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posted by JReid @ 11:27 AM  
Some things are true even if right wingers believe them
One of those things is that as you liberalize the definition of marriage, it becomes harder and harder to limit those definitions to selected "minority" groups. Case in point, polygamists, who essentially have the same "equal protection" argument for their marriages (bolstered by a religious freedom argument) that gay couples do. Liberals may not like to hear that, but it's nonetheless true. From Newsweek:
Polygamists, Unite!

They used to live quietly, but now they're making noise.

March 20, 2006 issue - Marlyne Hammon knows what it's like to feel hated and hunted. In 1953, when she was an infant, her father—along with dozens of other men in her tiny community of Short Creek, Ariz.—was arrested and sent to jail on charges of polygamy. She, her mother and siblings were forcibly exiled from the community and sent to live with a family in a nearby city. Her father was released after a week, but because the family feared further prosecution, they lived apart and corresponded in secret for the next six years. "Our community had this idea that we should live our lives quietly to avoid trouble," she says. "We were taught not to make a big ruckus."

Not anymore. Hammon, who's involved in a polygamous relationship, is a founding member of the Centennial Park Action Committee, a group that lobbies for decriminalization of the practice. She's among a new wave of polygamy activists emerging in the wake of the gay-marriage movement—just as a federal lawsuit challenging anti-polygamy laws makes its way through the courts and a new show about polygamy debuts on HBO. "Polygamy rights is the next civil-rights battle," says Mark Henkel, who, as founder of the Christian evangelical polygamy organization TruthBearer.org, is at the forefront of the movement. His argument: if Heather can have two mommies, she should also be able to have two mommies and a daddy. Henkel and Hammon have been joined by other activist groups like Principle Voices, a Utah-based group run by wives from polygamous marriages. Activists point to Canada, where, in January, a report commissioned by the Justice Department recommended decriminalizing polygamy.

There's a sound legal argument for making the controversial practice legal, says Brian Barnard, the lawyer for a Utah couple, identified in court documents only as G. Lee Cooke and D. Cooke, who filed suit after being denied a marriage license for an additional wife. Though the case was struck down by a federal court last year, it's now being considered by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Barnard plans to use the same argument—that Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 sodomy case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals have "the full right to engage in private conduct without government intervention," should also apply to polygamous relationships....
Gay marriage advocates will of course call this a straw man argument -- I mean, how many polygamists are there outside of Utah? Besides, polygamy is about mysogyny, right? While gay marriage is about "affirmation..." well, I would challenge those advocates to explain to me, as a matter of law, how three consenting adults differ from two, in terms of their right to engage in private relationship contracts? You can't assume every woman in a polygamous relationship is coerced, unless you're willing to make a blanket statement about the inability of women in these situations to legally consent -- which you cannot do without seriously dissing women.

At some point, America will either revert to a very traditionalist model, where abortions are largeley illegal, Christianity is intervowen into law and public policy in all but a few states, and marriage is stuffed back into the Judeo-Christian box, or we will go the European route, where religion is dampened in all but a few, recalcitrant states, the idea of public morality is elasticized and replaced by a humanist focus on personal pleasures and wish fulfillment and marriage increasingly -- if incrementally -- means whatever a group of two or more consenting adults say it means.

I think the U.S. is moving in the latter direction, like it or not. That's not to say we're going to become some debauched Sodom and Gamorrah, where everybody is engaged in wild threesomes and people are marrying dogs, as Rick Santorum would say, but I really think Christians are in their last desperate gasp to get control of the country (case in point, the "intelligent design" and abortion battles) and that they will ultimately lose. Religion hasn't historically stood up well against secular humanism, and I have a hard time believing it will, even in occasionally fundamentalist America.

...Either that or we're headed for one hell of a cultural civil war...

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posted by JReid @ 11:03 AM  
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Shocker! John McCain is a self-serving phony!
Why do people continue to pretend to be surprised that John McCain is no maverick, but rather is a Bush toadie when it serves him, and a thorn in Bush's side when it serves him with the press. Drudge has the latest adventures of Chris Matthews' second-favorite would-be Republican presidential candidate:
Facing a loss at a 2008 straw poll event this weekend, Senator John McCain of Arizona told his supporters to write in President Bush [?] as a sign of support, leaving many sputtering.

"For the next three years, with our country at war, he's our president and the only one who needs our support," McCain told nearly 2,000 party activists from 26 states gathered in Memphis.

McCain, realizing the national political media had descended on the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, moved to discredited the straw poll by asking delegates to vote for Bush, insiders claim.

Instead of stopping the momentum of Majority Leader Bill Frist - widely anticipated to win the straw poll - the move seemed to exposed the McCain camp's insincerity about their position with the base.

One activist said, "McCain voted against all the Bush tax cuts... maybe he should have voted for the president then, instead of waiting for a political stunt to try and distract."
I'm sure you'll hear more on this on the Sunday shows...

Here's the formal writeup on McCain's latest Dubya suck-up from USA Today...
McCain said "the president deserved better" than he got on the Dubai ports deal that died this week amid bipartisan protests from Congress. He praised Bush on matters from Iraq to Social Security to seeking U.N. sanctions against Iran. As expected, McCain also asked delegates to "stand with the president" by voting for him in a straw poll Saturday. ...

... Offstage, there was chatter about whether Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon faith would hurt him in a national race (not a problem when people understand it, said the chairman of the Michigan GOP) and, more immediately, what McCain was trying to accomplish with his straw-poll gambit. Forfeit winning, to preserve his maverick image? Give himself a good excuse for losing? Demonstrate loyalty to Bush?

It's getting hot down there in Memphis...

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posted by JReid @ 3:11 PM  
The Devil's own
Slobodon Milosovic checks out before the conclusion of his trial. More on the man in the glass cage from Reuters...
posted by JReid @ 3:08 PM  
Peace activist hostage killed in Iraq
American hostage Tom Fox is dead and his body was found bound and showing signs of torture. Another day in the new Iraq...
posted by JReid @ 3:06 PM  
Friday, March 10, 2006
The next shoes to drop?
Here comes Jack Abramoff...
The Pimping of the Presidency
Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist Billing Clients for Face Time with G.W. Bush
BY LOU DUBOSE, The Texas Observer

Four months after he took the oath of office in 2001, President George W. Bush was the attraction, and the White House the venue, for a fundraiser organized by the alleged perpetrator of the largest billing fraud in the history of corporate lobbying. In May 2001, Jack Abramoff’s lobbying client book was worth $4.1 million in annual billing for the Greenberg Traurig law firm. He was a friend of Bush advisor Karl Rove. He was a Bush “Pioneer,” delivering at least $100,000 in bundled contributions to the 2000 campaign. He had just concluded his work on the Bush Transition Team as an advisor to the Department of the Interior. He had sent his personal assistant Susan Ralston to the White House to work as Rove’s personal assistant. He was a close friend, advisor, and high-dollar fundraiser for the most powerful man in Congress, Tom DeLay. Abramoff was so closely tied to the Bush Administration that he could, and did, charge two of his clients $25,000 for a White House lunch date and a meeting with the President. From the same two clients he took to the White House in May 2001, Abramoff also obtained $2.5 million in contributions for a non-profit foundation he and his wife operated. ...
... and here comes the other Dubai deal...
With midterm elections approaching, no politician wanted to go home and explain to voters why a company controlled by the government of Dubai was taking over operations at six U.S. ports—without so much as a meow of protest from Congress. As it turns out, that won't be necessary. Dubai Ports World, the firm at the center of the controversy, announced today that it would give up its bid to manage U.S. ports, agreeing to transfer the contracts to a “U.S. entity."

Yet while one Dubai company may be giving up on U.S. ports, another one shows no signs of quitting the U.S.—or of giving up a contract with the Navy to provide shore services for vessels in the Middle East. The firm, Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS), is an old British company that last January was sold to a Dubai government investment vehicle for $285 million. ISS has more than 200 offices around the world and provides services to clients ranging from cruise ship operators to oil tankers to commercial cargo vessels. In the U.S., the company operates out of more than a dozen port cities, including Houston, Miami and New Orleans, arranging pilots, tugs, linesmen and stevedores, among other things. The firm is also a defense contractor which has long worked for Britain’s Royal Navy. And last June, the U.S. Navy signed on too, awarding ISS a $50 million contract to be the “Husbanding Agent” for vessels in most Southwest Asia ports, including those in the Middle East, according to an unclassified Navy logistics manual, for the Fifth Fleet, and a press release from ISS.
So will this deal be derailed? Unlikely:
Dubai companies aren't just buying overseas assets like hotels in New York and wax museums in London; they're providing jobs and business for U.S. companies. Boeing, for one, can only hope it doesn't receive a frosty reception the next time it wants to sell airplanes to Dubai's booming airline, Emirates. Rival Airbus would be more than happy to take advantage of Washington's creeping protectionism.

The Navy, for one, has long understood that it would be virtually impossible to rely solely on Western-owned companies for critical services. It simply couldn’t operate without local firms providing logistics support at the 200 ports its ships visit around the world. ...
Welcome to the new world order...

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posted by JReid @ 2:34 AM  
A Rumsfeldian pickle
The U.S. is going to close the twice-infamous (once under Saddam, once under us) Abu Ghraib prison within months ... unless it isn't ...

Our ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, is feeling pessimistic ... until he's feeling optimistic ...

Iraq is not in a state of civil war, unless it's in the midst of a raging one. And if the civil war that's not happening should suddenly be happening, the Iraqis would be the ones to deal with it. That would be the same Iraqis who aren't ready to deal with it.

Blast from past headline. Can you guess when this Knight-Ridder headline ran?
CIA Officers Warn of Iraq Civil War, Contradicting Bush's Optimism

The answer: January, 2004... the details:
WASHINGTON - CIA officers in Iraq are warning that the country may be on a path to civil war, current and former U.S. officials said Wednesday, starkly contradicting the upbeat assessment that President Bush gave in his State of the Union address.

The CIA officers' bleak assessment was delivered verbally to Washington this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified information involved.

The warning echoed growing fears that Iraq's Shiite majority, which has until now grudgingly accepted the U.S. occupation, could turn to violence if its demands for direct elections are spurned.

Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims protest in the streets Baghdad, Iraq. The protesters are demanding a fair election process for Iraq. (Photo/ Tom Pennington)

Meanwhile, Iraq's Kurdish minority is pressing its demand for autonomy and shares of oil revenue.

"Both the Shiites and the Kurds think that now's their time," said one intelligence officer. "They think that if they don't get what they want now, they'll probably never get it. Both of them feel they've been betrayed by the United States before."

These dire scenarios were discussed at meetings this week by Bush, his top national security aides and the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity.

Another senior official said the concerns over a possible civil war weren't confined to the CIA but are "broadly held within the government," including by regional experts at the State Department and National Security Council.
And yet, despite having known what's coming for so long, not a thing has changed -- not the policy and not even the spin.

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posted by JReid @ 12:46 AM  
A Pentagon whoopsie
In a leaked memo, DoD admits it did spy on peaceful anti-war demonstrators after all
The Department of Defense admitted in a letter obtained by NBC News on Thursday that it had wrongly added peaceful demonstrators to a database of possible domestic terrorist threats. The letter followed an NBC report focusing on the Defense Department’s Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, report.

Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Roger W. Rogalski’s letter came in reply to a memo from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who had demanded answers about the process of identifying domestic protesters as suspicious and removing their names when they are wrongly listed.

“The recent review of the TALON Reporting System ... identified a small number of reports that did not meet the TALON reporting criteria. Those reports dealt with domestic anti-military protests or demonstrations potentially impacting DoD facilities or personnel,” Rogalski wrote on Wednesday.

“While the information was of value to military commanders, it should not have been retained in the Cornerstone database.”
I'd like to know what value could that information have been? It's almost tempting to ask, not who in the U.S. is being spied on by one federal agency or another, but who isn't...

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posted by JReid @ 12:33 AM  
A spark of common sense?
From the AP:


ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The judge in the death-penalty trial of confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui warned prosecutors Thursday that they were moving their case into shaky legal territory.

“I must warn the government it is treading on delicate legal ground here,” U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said at the conclusion of the day’s testimony, after the jury had left the courtroom. “I don’t know of any case where a failure to act is sufficient for the death penalty as a matter of law.”
It seems to me that even if everything the feds claim about him is true, Zacharias Moussaoui is the Terry Nichols of 9/11. And Terry Nichols is still very much alive.

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posted by JReid @ 12:21 AM  
...and a very tiny poll...
The New York Daily News is running an "exclusive" on a poll showing most New Yorkers believe she will run for president, but ony a third will back her if she does. Okay. ... But there's one, small problem:
Siena's telephone poll of 620 registered voters was conducted March 1-7 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Generally, such a small sample yields not-so-great results. And how did this researcher, Siena College's Research Institute, manage to only get 620 good interviews over six days -- most major polls are conducted in two or three... What, was it done by C-students? Maybe try the survey again with 1,000 people and get back to me...

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posted by JReid @ 12:08 AM  
Playing hardball
The blogger behind Seeing the Forrest has apparently done a report calling out Chris Matthews for apparently accepting hefty speaking fees from right-leaning corporate groups. (Described by RawStory). I think it's pretty clear that Matthews is at the least, a Reagan Democrat, if not a Republican, so I'm not really sure it's news that he has GOP sympathies (have you seen his Giuliani lap dance? And his hatred for the Clintons actually glows through the TV...) But no matter, the blogs will have a field day with this one.

At the end of the day, Matthews isn't a journalist, he's a commentator -- like a talk radio host, only on TV. And he's a wealthy, well-heeled guy with a family that's mostly Republican (including his brother who's running for Lieutenant Governor in Pennsylvania.) And he makes his Republican leanings, including admiration for the president and for Ronald Reagan -- and his GOP guests -- very clear. Still, when I was on the GE treadmill, they were pretty strict about your outside speaking engagements and other non-work activities. I remember having to sign a detailed agreement requiring that I disclose every radio appearance, newspaper column or online post I did -- and I did all of the above while working at at NBC affiliate. So I'm sure Bob Wright is getting some sort of disclosure from Matthews.

But that won't stop the anti-Matthews train. It has already left the station and headed for Media Matters (which recently dubbed Chris the most dishonest name in news). Now, the story is about Matthews' cozy ties to conservative Philly talk host Michael Smerconish.

Should Chris' ties to big business and right wing talk radio be disclosed by MSNBC? Yeah, sure, and so should the neoocn leanings of some of their military analysts.

But don't hold your breath waiting for it.

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Ding dong...
...the Dubai port deal is D.O.A.

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 PM  
Back to the future
Courtesy of BradBlog, the return of the theft of the election:
Ion Sancho is fighting back.

Sancho, the Election Supervisor of Leon County, Florida who exposed a number of security flaws in Electronic Voting Machines made by the Diebold corporation of North Canton, Ohio, has today launched legal "breach of contract" proceedings against the company. The action has been filed on behalf of the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office.

In a conversation moments ago with Sancho, he confirmed to The BRAD BLOG that, "we filed a breach action this morning, pursuant to a contract which notifies Diebold we are pursuing all available options."

The breach concerns Diebold's refusal to deliver their latest operating system for the optical scan voting systems which had previously been used in Leon County -- until Sancho discovered an alarming security flaw in the system at the end of last year.

"According to our contract with Diebold," Sancho explained, "we have to give them 30 days notice. And so we are requiring them to answer by March 21, as to how they intend to repair the breach."

The only two other Voting Machine Vendors, ES&S and Sequoia Voting Systems, have now officially refused to do business with Leon County and Sancho in the wake of a series of security evaluations held last year in the county on actual Diebold equipment. With the state threatening Sancho with legal action themselves if he is not able to implement a voting system which requires with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA), Sancho had been forced to attempt to do business again with Diebold.

The most infamous of the security evaluations held last year by Sancho was a "hack test" in December of Diebold's optical scan voting system. That mock election test revealed that election results could be completely flipped on Diebold's optical-scan system without a trace of the hack being left behind.

With all three company's now refusing to do business with him, and pressure being applied from Diebold, as well as state and local officials to do "do something about Sancho" - he now finds himself with no other choice but to fight back against Diebold and face this "titanic clash" head on...
Note to self: vote absentee by paper ballot...

More on the trouble with the machines, from American Liar:
The internal logs of at least 40 Sequoia touch-screen voting machines (used for the 2004 presidential election in Palm Beach County, Florida) reveal that votes were time and date-stamped as cast two weeks before the election, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Black Box Voting successfully sued former Palm Beach County (FL) Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore to get the audit records for the 2004 presidential election.

After investing over $7,000 and waiting nine months for the records, Black Box Voting discovered that the voting machine logs contained approximately 100,000 errors. According to voting machine assignment logs, Palm Beach County used 4,313 machines in the Nov. 2004 election. During election day, 1,475 voting system calibrations were performed while the polls were open, providing documentation to substantiate reports from citizens indicating the wrong candidate was selected when they tried to vote.

Another disturbing find was several dozen voting machines with votes for the Nov. 2, 2004 election cast on dates like Oct. 16, 15, 19, 13, 25, 28 2004 and one tape dated in 2010. These machines did not contain any votes date-stamped on Nov. 2, 2004.
Find Black Box Voting's reports here.

Needless to say, the integrity of American elections is the foundation of our basic trust in this democracy. If even a sizeable minority of voters don't believe that the system can produce an honest voting result, and worse, if they're right, then we've already given away what's left of this country's honor.

Between the Orwellian Patriot Act and the attacks on the press and civil liberties by the executive branch, domestic eavesdropping and the fig leaves provided for it by the compliant Congress (suddenly pretending to show courage in opposing a port deal 90 percent of their constituents are demanding that they oppose -- without such demands do you really think GOP Congresspeople would be opposing the president??? -- and the increasing boldness of religious zealots in pushing religion-based laws on the public, one state at a time, we've already lost much of what makes America America. Extreme vigilance is the only way we'll avoid losing the electoral process, too.

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posted by JReid @ 1:18 AM  
You don't remember me ... but I remember you
Vanity Fair breaks bread with Jack Abramoff ... apparently they are the only ones left who will even admit to knowing who he is... the big headline from the mag's big interview with the scandalized lobbyist (pdf, with pictures, here: Abramoff says "oh yes President Bush does know me!" Some exerpts from the VF article courtesy of El Drudgebo:
"You're really no one in this town unless you haven't met me," Jack Abramoff tells Vanity Fair contributing editor David Margolick. Such lies are not just lies, but dumb to boot-"This is not an age when you can run away from facts. I had to deal with my records, and others will have to deal with theirs."

An insider tells Margolick that Abramoff blames competing Republican lobbyists and Arizona Senator John McCain-with whom Abramoff says he's had a contentious relationship-for his downfall. Abramoff tells Margolick that McCain staffers deliberately humiliated him, doling out embarrassing e-mails to the press.

"Mr. Abramoff flatters himself," Mark Salter, McCain's administrative assistant, tells Margolick. "Senator McCain was unaware of his existence until he read initial press accounts of Abramoff's abuses, and had never laid eyes on him until he appeared before the committee."

Abramoff says, "As best I can remember, when I met with him, he didn't have his eyes shut. I'm surprised that Senator McCain has joined the chorus of amnesiacs."

Abramoff is well aware of his peril: "In a different era I'd be killed on the street or have poison poured into my coffee," he tells Margolick.

Abramoff embarrassingly admits to gaining 50 pounds due to stress and tells Margolick that sending him to prison is "stupid," saying, "Let me teach English, history, music. Or let me sweep floors at the reservation. Instead you'll be paying to feed me to sit in a jail."

"I was a killer. I killed for my clients, and it eventually killed me," Abramoff tells Margolick. "Or I eventually killed me. And there were a lot of other hands on the knife."

"My so-called relationship with Bush, Rove, and everyone else at the White House has only become important because, instead of just releasing details about the very few times I was there, they created a feeding frenzy by their deafening silence. The Democrats are going overboard, virtually insisting I was there to plan the invasion of Iraq. This is why this non-story grabbed headlines for weeks."
Note to self: pick up latest edition of Vanity Fair...

Update:More dish on the VF bombshell interview from Raw Story:
The piece makes much of many prominent Republicans' denials of having worked with Abramoff. Abramoff reminisces about jokes President Bush, who now claims not to remember him, made about his weight training program. Abramoff also recalls discussing the Bible, opera, and golf with Tom DeLay.

Abramoff also alleges that RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman provided Abramoff political favors--including aiding in the removal of a State Department official.

Abramoff also claims to have funneled $50,000 donated by clients to a charity he set up to pay for a golf trip for himself, Ohio Republican Bob Ney, and former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed (currently seeking the office of Lt. Governor for the state of Georgia). Reed also once served as Abramoff's projects director.

he article is supported by images of Abramoff with everyone from Ronald Reagan (left, joined by Abramoff and Grover Norquist) to Newt Gingrich, and is prefaced by a two-page spread of the lobbyist golfing with Tom DeLay. The Gingrich photo is signed, "Your friend, Newt Gingrich." "I have more pictures of Newt than I have of my wife," the fallen lobbyist tells the magazine.

The article also notes that the photographs taken with President Bush, which are in Abramoff's possession, are the lobbyist's sole "potential source of funds."


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posted by JReid @ 12:47 AM  
By the numbers
62-2: Vote in the House appropriations committee to kill the Dubai port deal, despite a presidential veto threat...

55: the percentage of respondents to a March 3-6 ABC/WashPost poll saying President Bush is not "honest and trustworthy..."

44: the percentage who say he is...

62: the percent saying the president "does not understand the problems of people like" them... also the percent who disapprove of the job Congress is doing...

82: the percentage saying DPW should not manage several U.S. ports, knowing that "Several other U.S. ports are managed by other foreign companies, and security at all ports is handled by the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs Service, not the port manager..."

52: percentage with a favorable view of Hillary Clinton...

59: percentage with a favorable view of John McCain...

80: percentage saying a civil war in Iraq is likely...
posted by JReid @ 12:33 AM  
From the desk of: General William Odom
Retired Gen. William Odom, who once ran the National Security Agency, recently had this to say about Iraq (hat tip to Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net:
Will Phase Three in Iraq end with helicopters flying out of the "green zone" in Baghdad? It all sounds so familiar.

The difference lies in the consequences. Vietnam did not have the devastating effects on U.S. power that Iraq is already having. On this point, those who deny the Vietnam-Iraq analogy are probably right. They are wrong, however, in believing that "staying the course" will have any result other than making the damage to U.S. power far greater than changing course and withdrawing sooner in as orderly a fashion as possible.

But even in its differences, Vietnam can be instructive about Iraq. Once the U.S. position in Vietnam collapsed, Washington was free to reverse the negative trends it faced in NATO and U.S.-Soviet military balance, in the world economy, in its international image, and in other areas. Only by getting out of Iraq can the United States possibly gain sufficient international support to design a new strategy for limiting the burgeoning growth of anti-Western forces it has unleashed in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
Either that or everything's going gangbusters, as the few remaining neocons, Don Rumsfeld and Peter Pace keep telling us ...

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posted by JReid @ 12:27 AM  
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Best lawsuits ever
Liberty Now stumbles on some bad medicine in Palm Beach County, from this morning's SoFla Sun-Sentinel:
Just came across this article about a woman who is suing Walgreens. She was picking up her prescription, and noticed that the following was typed in a reserved field on a printout that came with her prescription:
“CrAzY!! … She’s really a psycho!!! Do not say her name too loud, never mention her meds by names & try to talk to her when …”
Ouch! So what does Liberty believe should be done?
While this is certainly insulting, why is it that her reaction is to sue Walgreens?? You just know she will be suing for at least a couple of million, does she really feel that she is entitled to this kind of money because she suffered a few minutes of embarrassment?

If this happened to me, I’m sure I would be angry and probably even a little embarrassed about it. It’s possible that I would never shop at Walgreens again. Perhaps I would even send a letter to their corporate headquarters. Never, never would I consider a lawsuit.
No, sweetie I'm suin' that pharmacist AND their mama... you may or may not agree once you get the rest of the story...
For years, Janey Karp has battled depression and anxiety with the help of prescription drugs. Though millions of Americans do the same, Karp admits she is intensely private and can't help but feel stigmatized for needing medication to feel normal.

So when the 53-year-old Palm Beach resident read the Walgreens printout attached to her prescription last week for the sleep aid Ambien, she couldn't believe her eyes. Typed in a field reserved for patient information and dated March 17, 2005, was "CrAzY!!" In another field, dated Sept. 30, 2004, it read: "She's really a psycho!!! Do not say her name too loud, never mention her meds by names & try to talk to her when ... " The information continued onto another page but was not attached.

"I was devastated, humiliated and embarrassed," Karp said. "I honestly couldn't speak. I was trembling."

Karp filed suit Tuesday against Illinois-based Walgreen Co., accusing the nationwide retail chain of defamation, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
hisss.....

If suing over sports is more your bag, check out Citizen's Against Lawsuit Abuse's (CALA) craziest sports lawsuits ever. A sampling:
•Foul Ball Territory––A New Jersey man sued a baseball team and the owners of a food service company for getting hit in the face with a baseball while buying a beer in the concession area at the stadium. Judges in the case said fans in concession areas are at greater risk because they “let their guard down” more than when they’re in the stands. (WKMGTV, July 13, 2004) ...

•Offensive Line––A woman in Tennessee filed a lawsuit for billions of dollars against Super Bowl half-time performers Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake as well as the broadcasters, claiming she was injured by the performers’ lewd actions when Timberlake ripped off part of Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast. According to the suit, she suffered outrage, anger, embarrassment and serious injury. (Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2004) ...

•Blocked Shot––A California father filed a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million in damages from a school district after his 15-year old son was demoted from the varsity to the junior varsity basketball team. The suit claimed the demotion was “messing up [his son’s] future and professional earnings.” (Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2003) ` ... and

•Choke-N-Roll–Latrell Sprewell, a guard for the Golden State Warriors basketball team, filed a $30 million lawsuit against the National Basketball Association attempting to recoup the salary he lost while carrying out his one-year suspension for choking his coach. (National Basketball Association News, May 21, 1998)

Florida blogger Doug of Below the Beltway links to a CNN/AP article about a group "taking Roe v. Wade to its logical extreme"...
NEW YORK (AP) -- Contending that women have more options than they do in the event of an unintended pregnancy, men's rights activists are mounting a long shot legal campaign aimed at giving them the chance to opt out of financial responsibility for raising a child.

The National Center for Men has prepared a lawsuit -- nicknamed Roe v. Wade for Men -- to be filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Michigan on behalf of a 25-year-old computer programmer ordered to pay child support for his ex-girlfriend's daughter.

The suit addresses the issue of male reproductive rights, contending that lack of such rights violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

The gist of the argument: If a pregnant woman can choose among abortion, adoption or raising a child, a man involved in an unintended pregnancy should have the choice of declining the financial responsibilities of fatherhood. The activists involved hope to spark discussion even if they lose.

Taking the logic of Roe to its most logical extreme, its hard to see why this argument doesn't make sense. If a woman has a virtually unlimited right to determine her reproductive future, then why, given the existence of the Equal Protection Clause, doesn't the same right apply to a man ?
Good reason to sue? Maybe, but not as good as this one, with a hat tip to the Drudge Report:
Woman Sues Hotel After Suffering 500 Bed Bug Bites

(CBS) CHICAGO Last year, there were reports of serious bed bug infestations in dozens of states. Now, a Chicago woman is suing a hotel for $20 million after waking up one morning with more than 500 bed bug bites.

"My body felt as if it was on fire. I just wanted to tear it off,” Leslie Fox said.

Leslie Fox, a 54-year-old bookings agent, says that after four nights at the 700-room Nevele Hotel in Ellenville, New York last July, she awoke to find red, itchy welts all over her body.

"I had no idea what was happening to me. We noticed the blood on the bed. I became very upset and alarmed,” she said.

She and her husband – who was also bitten, but not so badly – tore the bed apart and found a swarm of bugs under the linens. ...
Ok, that's about as much as I can take...

Now if you're just looking to laugh at lawsuits in general, check out Power of attorneys.com, or Netscape's laughable lawsuits.

Best link from those sites: a 420 pound man who sued a McDonald's franchise in 2003 for discrimination, claiming the chain wouldn't hire him because he was obese.

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posted by JReid @ 11:51 PM  
The Iran conundrum
Military analyst William Arkin on the prospect of the U.S. attacking Iran to stop its assumed nuclear bomb program:

...just because the hip-shooting duo (Cheney and John Bolton) are conveying threats as part of the ongoing diplomatic pressures doesn't mean that the United States is about to strike. It is not.

But also just because an attack on Iran seems so dangerous, and just because the consequences seem so catastrophic, that doesn't mean that if push came to shove, this administration wouldn't take action. ...
Arkin points out that all the media speculation about whether the U.S. (or Israel) will attack Iran threatens to miss the point, the way the pre-war speculation about Iraq missed the mark:
...if the worst came,

  • The Bush administration would not care about nor seek a "strategic" surprise attack and thus would not be stopped by the lack of surprise of because Iran is presumed to already be making preparations to protect its assets.

  • The Bush administration would not seek a ground war or regime change, at least not initially or immediately, so the difficulties associated with both tasks and the ongoing operations in Iran or Afghanistan would not stop it from attacking Iraq's weapons of mass destruction infrastructure.

  • The Bush administration would not be impeded by a lack of knowledge about Iran's weapons of mass destruction or by Iranian deception or by its going underground in terms of targeting. According to the Guardian (UK), Ambassador Bolton told visiting British parliamentarians in New York last week that it was well aware of the expert cautions. "We can hit different points along the line," Bolton said. "You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down."

  • The Bush administration would not be stopped by the protests and vetoes of the international community nor would it hesitate to use force merely because there were dangers of escalation into a full-scale war.

I've already written about the Bush administration's war plans to pre-empt development of weapons of mass destruction and its specific thinking on Iran -- how the administration has directed the military to prepare a multi-dimentional "global strike" attack on Iran and North Korea's WMD capacity, how it views the task and its difficulties. ...

...It would be better for the news media to stop speculating about an imminent strike and stop providing expert warnings of the difficulties associated with such a strike. It should focus instead on the administration's and the military's thinking on the subject. The reason is because even if the administration's "triggers" appeared tomorrow for "global strike" to be implemented, that is, if Iran announced it possessed a nuclear weapon, it would still a terrible and dangerous course of action for the United States to immediately attack.

Meanwhile, the speculation over the euro-conversion theory of war with Iran gets a sober treatment at Energy Bulletin.

And there's a site, linked here, devoted to Iran "regime change." Among the Wednesday highlights?

Guess who's looking to build a natural gas pipeline with Iran?

Reuters reported tht the White House said on Tuesday it still opposes a proposed natural gas pipeline linking energy-rich Iran with India.
That's right, India. The same India President Bush just gave the green light to, so that they can develop their nuclear program in peace, without the prying eyes of the international community, in exchange for fresh, juicy mangoes.

It gets worse:
Asian Tribune reported that India has made it abundantly clear that it is opposed to any moves for regime change in Tehran.
Funny, that...

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posted by JReid @ 1:40 PM  
What next ... faith-based homeland security?
Apparently, yes!

Found by a Kos kid, linked by Raw Story, available for viewing at the White House website:
Executive Order: Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security with Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to help the Federal Government coordinate a national effort to expand opportunities for faith-based and other community organizations and to strengthen their capacity to better meet America's social and community needs, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security.

(a) The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).

(b) The Center shall be supervised by a Director appointed by Secretary. The Secretary shall consult with the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI Director) prior to making such appointment.

(c) The Department shall provide the Center with appropriate staff, administrative support, and other resources to meet its responsibilities under this order.

(d) The Center shall begin operations no later than 45 days from the date of this order.

Sec. 2. Purpose of Center. The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.

Sec. 3. Responsibilities of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In carrying out the purpose set forth in section 2 of this order, the Center shall:

(a) conduct, in coordination with the WHOFBCI Director, a department-wide audit to identify all existing barriers to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social and community services by the Department, including but not limited to regulations, rules, orders, procure-ment, and other internal policies and practices, and outreach activities that unlawfully discriminate against, or otherwise discourage or disadvantage the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in Federal programs;

(b) coordinate a comprehensive departmental effort to incorporate faith-based and other community organizations in Department programs and initiatives to the greatest extent possible;

(c) propose initiatives to remove barriers identified pursuant to section 3(a) of this order, including but not limited to reform of regulations, procurement, and other internal policies and practices, and outreach activities;

(d) propose the development of innovative pilot and demonstration programs to increase the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in Federal as well as State and local initiatives; and

(e) develop and coordinate Departmental outreach efforts to disseminate information more effectively to faith-based and other community organizations with respect to programming changes, contracting opportunities, and other agency initiatives, including but not limited to Web and Internet resources. ...
Oh, there's a lot more, but I'm laughing too hard to post it...

Or should I be crying too hard to post it...?

The order was signed by President Bush yesterday, March 7th.

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posted by JReid @ 12:48 PM  
The civil liberties slide: Patriot Act, domestic spying AOK
...with some changes, that don't appear to make it much better:
The law makes it easier for federal agents to secretly tap phones, obtain library and bank records, and search homes of terrorism suspects. Bush has called it a vital tool in protecting the country. But numerous civil libertarians and librarians said it allows abuse of innocent Americans' privacy, and lawmakers agreed last year to add several safeguards before renewing provisions that are scheduled to expire.

One change involves National Security Letters, which are subpoenas for financial and electronic records that do not require a judge's approval. Libraries functioning in their "traditional capacity" would no longer be subject to such letters. Also modified are "Section 215 subpoenas," which are granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court. Recipients would have the explicit right to challenge the subpoenas' nondisclosure or "gag order" requirements.

The reauthorization would make permanent all but two of the Patriot Act's provisions. The Senate, in which four Republicans joined most Democrats in pushing for greater safeguards, insisted on four-year sunsets of the FBI's authority to conduct "roving wiretaps" of targets with multiple phones or e-mail devices, and of the government's powers to seize business records with the FISA court's approval.
Meanwhile, Mike DeWine and company are scrambling for ways to cover Mr. Bush's illegal domestic wiretapping scheme with the Congressional cloak.

As Jay Rockefellar has so eloquently said: the Senate Intelligence Committee is in the control of the White House.

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posted by JReid @ 12:17 PM  
A vote of no confidence?
Is Harold Ickes' latest project a slap in the face of the Dean DNC? Maybe... Sayeth the WaPo:

A group of well-connected Democrats led by a former top aide to Bill Clinton is raising millions of dollars to start a private firm that plans to compile huge amounts of data on Americans to identify Democratic voters and blunt what has been a clear Republican lead in using technology for political advantage.

The effort by Harold Ickes, a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is prompting intense behind-the-scenes debate in Democratic circles. Officials at the Democratic National Committee think that creating a modern database is their job, and they say that a competing for-profit entity could divert energy and money that should instead be invested with the national party.

Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front. "The Republicans have developed a cadre of people who appreciate databases and know how to use them, and we are way behind the march," said Ickes, whose political technology venture is being backed by financier George Soros.

"It's unclear what the DNC is doing. Is it going to be kept up to date?" Ickes asked, adding that out-of-date voter information is "worse than having no database at all."

Ickes's effort is drawing particular notice among Washington operatives who know about it because of speculation that he is acting to build a campaign resource for a possible 2008 presidential run by Hillary Clinton. She has long been concerned, advisers say, that Democrats and liberals lack the political infrastructure of Republicans and their conservative allies. Ickes said his new venture, Data Warehouse, will at first seek to sell its targeting information to politically active unions and liberal interest groups, rather than campaigns.

As it stands now, the DNC and Data Warehouse, created by Ickes and Democratic operative Laura Quinn, will separately try to build vast and detailed voter lists -- each effort requiring sophisticated expertise and costing well over $10 million.

"From an institutional standpoint, this is one of the most important things the DNC can and should do. Building this voter file is part of our job," Communications Director Karen Finney said. "We believe this is something we have to do at the DNC. Our job is to build the infrastructure of the party."

In the 2003-2004 election cycle, the DNC began building a national voter file, and it proved highly effective in raising money. Because of many technical problems, however, it was not useful to state and local organizations trying to get out the vote.

The pressure on Democrats to begin more aggressive "data mining" in the hunt for votes began after the 2002 midterm elections and intensified after the 2004 presidential contest, when the GOP harnessed data technology to powerful effect.

In 2002, for the first time in recent memory, Republicans ran better get-out-the-vote programs than Democrats. When well done, such drives typically raise a candidate's Election Day performance by two to four percentage points. Democrats have become increasingly fearful that the GOP is capitalizing on high-speed computers and the growing volume of data available from government files and consumer marketing firms -- as well as the party's own surveys -- to better target potential supporters.

The Republican database has allowed the party and its candidates to tailor messages to individual voters and households, using information about the kind of magazines they receive, whether they own guns, the churches they attend, their incomes, their charitable contributions and their voting histories.
I have a personal interest in this one, because I worked for Ickes' other outfit, America Coming Together, during the 2004 campaign. Let's start with the fact that Harold Ickes is a very smart guy -- and ACT began working on a very smart thing: using technology to throw out the old-time paper walk lists and create info-specific databases that allow campaigns to target specific voters, literally block by block, and then to retain information about those voters that can be used in later campaigns. Unfortunatley, ACT didn't have a strong campaign, or a strong candidate, to work parallel to in 2004. But what ACT was doing made sense.

What Ickes is doing makes sense, too, and if he's doing it for Hillary, so be it.

By the way, the DNC under Dean has been a disappointment to many Democrats for many reasons, not least of which is fundraising, and an appearance of disorganization. The Democrats suffer from myriad problems, including a chronic lack of innovation, compared to the GOP.

Ickes is one of the guys pushing forward, and he should be applauded for doing so. And the DNC shouldn't fear a little market-based competition. Isn't Republicans who tell us competition makes a big, slow institution work harder?

Marry technology, one-on-one marketing and a strong message to a candidate who knows how to win, and 2008 is a whole 'nother ballgame...

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posted by JReid @ 12:03 PM  
A declaration of blog independence?
Two disturbing stories about the blogosphere:

The first, brought to you by Wal-Mart... which apparently is paying bloggers to write nice things, or rather, to reprint nice things Wal-Mart has written about itself -- on their sites. The NYT has that story here. A clip:
Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.

But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.

Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: "If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."

Companies of all stripes are using blogs to help shape public opinion.

Before General Electric announced a major investment in energy-efficient technology last year, company executives first met with major environmental bloggers to build support. Others have reached out to bloggers to promote a product or service, as Microsoft did with its Xbox game system and Cingular Wireless has done in the introduction of a new phone.
I can tell you from personal experience that GE is not so sanguine about bloggers who work inside the company...

And on ThinkProgress, an even more disturbing story:

New Jersey Assemblyman Peter Biondi (R) wants to ban anonymous online speech. Biondi has introduced a bill “that would require Internet forum operators to register their users’ real names and addresses or face liability for defamatory posts.” One problem: NJ’s Supreme Court has ruled banning anonymous online speech unconstitutional.

On the one hand, if the idea is, say, to throw a roadblock in front of sexual predators who mask their identies online, or to prevent kids from pretending to be adults as they interact in online forums where adults linger, I suppose you could make a case for more, rather than less information. But a bill like Biondi's would also stymie corporate whistleblowers and other anonymous bloggers, shut down many political blogs and group forums, and squash free expression on the Web. Many bloggers conceal their identities because they have to (due to their jobs or other circumstances). And the rule would oly apply to bloggers in New Jersey, which means it would limit their rights more than bloggers in the other 49 states, not to mention those blogging and posting from around the world. And who owns those lists, who can access them (corporations? the government?) and who regulates their use? All around, a dumb idea who's time has not come.

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posted by JReid @ 10:32 AM  
Radio links: from Bonds to Iran
Here are the links to the topics we covered during the Reid Report radio segment on Radio One Miami this morning. If you're not in South Florida, you can catch the report on the Reid Report Juicecast page. I try to post the link by noon EST, but if it isn't up by then, check back later in the day. Sometimes I've just got way too much stuff to do...

On embattled baseball phenom Barry Bonds:

The iPinions Journal says 'roid use by Bonds (and among other Major League Baseball players) is an open secret...

Tony Pierce over at Thought Mechanics calls Bonds 'Baseball's biggest dope..."

Steven Perez at Thoughts from an Empty Head takes a hard line...

My thoughts on this matter are quite simple: anyone, and I mean anyone (regardless of who or where they played) caught taking steroids should face a lifetime ban, should have all of their accomplishments stripped from the records, and should forfeit any claim to being a MLB player for the rest of their lives. This not only includes Barry Bonds, who should be stripped of any home runs attributed to him after he started taking steroids, but also yo-yos like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, etc. Just go ahead right now and give Roger Maris back his record, asterick and all. Any team caught covering for their "heroes" deserve to be stripped of their championships for the years affected.
And Ballpark Frank makes what sounds like a pretty sanguine observation:

It is pretty obvious to me though that Bonds was doing something different starting in 1999. Barry Bonds came up with a similar slender build to Darryl Strawberry and in 1999 his neck was bigger than most NFL players! It just is not normal for a human being to make aggressive body changes around the age of forty, a time when the body should be slowing down.
As for Bonds, he's not talking about steroids, either to the press or on his web-site. But there is a lovely picture on the site of Bonds in a rather fetching wig...

And from the MSM, three articles posing good questions:

Would a Barry Bonds juice stand in Cooperstown work? - San Jose Mercury News
Juice allegations tarnish Bonds' legacy - ESPN
Do the Giants share responsibility for Barry Bonds' steroid use? - San Francisco Chronicle

And to give you a full appreciation for how serious Bonds' stats are, check out his player card...

Topic 2: Illegal immigration --

Michelle Malkin reports that Senate Republicans aren't thinking of deporting illegal migrant workers, they're planning to give them a gold card... Says Malkin:

The cluelessness of Beltway elite Republicans continues to amaze. If you thought the port deal was a P.R disaster, just wait.

She also links to a blog called the Stein Report, from which she clips this passage:

In a move to build support for Bush's guest worker amnesty plan, administration officials talked about how they would actually implement the program. Jaws dropped as the administration reps explained the centerpiece of the program, a "Gold Card" that would enable illegal aliens to enter the U.S. at will, and work at any job with no labor market or other tests needed but would deny them citizenship. "Gold Card" would be valid forever, similar to current "Green Cards" but illegal aliens holding a "Gold Card" would not be able to adjust their status through naturalization.
Says Stein:

Indentured Servitude Has Its Privleges

As we scooped yesterday, in a Senate briefing it was announced Specter was pushing the Bush-designed initiative of allowing illegal aliens to receive “gold cards” renewable indefinitely. In other words, a massive amnesty! Both the Star-Telegram and CQ have stories about this proposal. We do know from other Hill sources that the Specter bill is the de-facto Bush administration bill at this point, with the "Chairman's Mark" being drafted with Bush administration input. The phrase "gold card" doesn't appear in the Specter bill text, but was used at the briefing yesterday. From CQ: "Gold card applicants would have a year to come forward once the legislation is enacted. They would pay no fines, and they would not be forced to return home at any point, provided they remain employed. Aides say the program would not provide a path toward U.S. citizenship." The Star-Telegram has more detail as well.

Well the president's problems don't end there. While he's busy getting Arlen Specter to push his amnesty coporate indentured servant "guest worker" plan, Congressmen Duncan Hunter (normally pillaried on this blog as a dunce,) and his fellow Californian Jerry Lewis (no relation to the telethon, prat-fall guy) are pushing bills designed to kill the Dubai Ports World deal:

From Kos kid Susan G, comes a link to this little ditty from the Washington Post:
White House Effort to Block Challenge to Ports Deal Collapses
By Jonathan WeismanWashington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Efforts by the White House to hold off legislation challenging a Dubai-owned company's acquisition of operations at six major U.S. ports collapsed yesterday when House Republican leaders agreed to allow a vote next week that could kill the deal.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will attach legislation to block the port deal today to a must-pass emergency spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A House vote on the measure next week will set up a direct confrontation with President Bush, who sternly vowed to veto any bill delaying or stopping Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Co.
The White House hasn't given up on the DPW deal, yet (though Wolf Blitzer reported from Dubai yesterday that the Sheikhs remain confident the deal will go through, at least until they're not confident anymore. Hey, is it just me, or did Lou Dobbs dis Wolf's travel schedule last night when he asked the Situation Room correspondent what he thinks he's learned by going to Dubai, when the nexus of the ports scandal is in Washington D.C. ...?)

More on the showdown on the Washington Times web-site (thank you, Sun Myung Moon...)

Topic 4: Iran --

How likely is a U.S. or Israeli military strike against Iran? According to Raw Story, a new report says the chances are about 2:1 that it will happen by this time next year, and 4:1 that it will happen by June of this year (correction: on the air I said 2006, the March date is 2007 -- so your birthday is secure, Tamara!):
The odds of an American or Israeli airstrike on Iran by March 31, 2007 are 2:1, according to April editions of the Atlantic Magazine. The magazine relies on online betting at tradesports.com, and provides a few details of the circumstances in which each strike might take place.

The Atlantic is known for its predictions of future events, and has held widely respected debates on military strikes on North Korea and Iran. Neither scenarios resulted in a favorable position for the United States. Excerpts follow.
4:1: Overt Air Strike by the United States or Israel by June 30, 2006.

By this date, the United Nations Security Council may have only recently enacted sanctions, such as travel bans or freezing the assets of Iranians associated with the nuclear program. More important, neither the United States nor Israel is likely to risk a strike in the midst of an election year. Israel will have only recently voted in a new parliament, and the United States will be mere months away from mid- term elections. ...

...2:1: Overt Air Strike by the United States or Israel by March 31, 2007.

If Iran continues to make progress toward nuclear weapons capability, despite heavy international pressure, a surgical military strike against one of its key facilities—such as the uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz or the uranium-conversion facility in Isfahan—would become more politically feasible. Analysts at the Eurasia Group, an international consulting firm, predict that surgical strikes are likely “by the [United States] or Israel during the first quarter of 2007.”
If the U.S. or Israel does strike Iran, will it be because of nukes, or the Euro? A reminder of the conspiracy theory here...

I'll be on Radio One, 1080 AM WTPS Miami, tomorrow at 9:05 a.m. or thereabouts. If you're in town, have a listen. Otherwise, see you on the blog!

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posted by JReid @ 9:33 AM  
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Pimpin' ain't easy
Some online reaction to the 36 Mafia's surprise Oscar win:

Blogger Ambra Nykola:

I love Terrence Howard, but the fact that his first Oscar nomination is for a role as a pimp really bothers me. Not to knock Howard's performance; he's a fine actor in his own right. Yet unlike Halle Berry, he didn't win the Oscar. For that I am abundantly thankful. I am thankful that we didn't have to listen to Howard sob through an acceptance speech, dedicating it to honorable historical black figures and rambling on about how his Oscar is for every nameless and faceless man of color that now has an opportunity because he epitomized a pimp. ...

...Why much of the black community continues to remain passive towards the glorification of pimpdom is an entirely different and more complicated topic. But what I found to be terribly ironic Sunday night was what one cultural definition of the verb "to pimp" reveals:
Pimp (verb)
1. To make something appear better than it really is by adorning it with various emblems and pricey status symbols of the culture (see "ghettofabulous")
2. To advertise (generally, in an enthusiastic sense) or to call attention in order to bring acclaim to something; to promote.
So it seems that in a shocking turn of events, "Pimping" is actually being pimped.

In the WaPo:

Erika Scott, 17, a Largo High School eleventh-grader, said she was a little shocked. "Growing up where I live, you see, all the time, people who are wanna-be pimps and aspire to be pimps," she said. "Knowing that there is a song that tells the world about what goes on with people like that was surprising, and I was surprised that it won. It made me wonder what the world has come to."

From ABC News: handsome, talented (my editorial comments) Terrence Howard originally turned down the role:
"I didn't really want to do him, I really didn't," Howard said. "I told the director for seven months that I didn't even want to read it because I thought it was a stereotype and a black exploitative movie."

Director Craig Brewer eventually persuaded him to redeem the black pimp, to dismantle the stereotype and give DJay some depth, understanding, even sympathy.

Howard's performance as a man who tries to leave the sleaze of the street behind and find purpose as a vulnerable rapper is overwhelming. The role he didn't want has now won him an Oscar nomination for best actor.

"It's great, because the only affirmation I had was from the mirror, was from my own spirit," he said. "I think that's what's most important, especially for your artistry to remain true. You have to be the greatest fan of your own work and hope that someone else can gain a message out of it."
And apparently Howard did some on the ground research, by chatting with some pimps and ho's... (Howard later refused to perform the song for the awards show...) Via EUR Web prior to the telecast:

Black folks will be spared the Oscar night discomfort of having to watch the lone African American best actor nominee sing about the challenges of being a pimp.

Speaking to reporters at the annual Oscar nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills Monday (Feb. 13), Howard said he will not perform best song nominee “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which he sings in the film “Hustle & Flow.”

"We don't have time in the schedule to work all that stuff out," says Howard, who received a nomination for his role as a pimp yearning for a rap career. "It took me seven months to find DJay and find that voice. I don't think I could give it the full service that I gave it in the film."
Right ... scheduling...

Back to the bloggers, Miami Poetry Review says the 36 win was "refreshing":

I’m not sure who was more surprised. The somewhat hip-hop insulated Oscar crowd, the millions of fans who where likely tuning in, or 36 Mafia themselves.

In any case, it was refreshing to see Jordan “Juicy J” Houston running up to accept his academy award for best original song. Its not every day that I truly hardcore rap group from the streets of Memphis, Tennessee gets to literally “shine” at the Oscars (they were fully blinged out with jewelry and diamond encrusted grills)
Poetry also notes some of the other big hits by the group, with Oscar-worthy titles like '“Sippin’ on some Syrup”, “Slob on my Knob”, “Ridin’ Spinners”, “Where is the Bud”, and “Bin Laden Weed” among others.' No matter, says Poetry:

I see this as more than just a victory for a commercial rap song that served as the musical accompaniment for an o.k. film. I see this as a lifetime achievement award for 36 Mafia and the hip-hop community in general and a signal that Hollywood is truly accepting and even embracing the multicultural realities of life in America.
Different strokes, I suppose...

More links:

The EUR Web Oscar wrap...

The Black Voices forum sounds off...

The BET boards are mostly pro-Mafia, so far...

That's it for now... I'm sure the debate will continue...

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 9:59 AM  
Brokeback-lash
It's gays vs. racism in the post-op to this year's Academy Awards. Famed film critic Roger Ebert responds to the many -- and I mean many -- writers, bloggers and miffed left coasters who are pissed that "Brokeback Mountain" lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to the complex, ensemble race drama "Crash." Says Ebert:
The nature of the attacks on "Crash" by the supporters of "Brokeback Mountain" seem to proceed from the other position: "Brokeback" is better not only because of its artistry but because of its subject matter, and those who disagree hate homosexuals. Its supporters could vote for it in good conscience, vote for it and feel they had made a progressive move, vote for it and not feel that there was any stain on their liberal credentials for shunning what "Crash" had to offer.
Tags: Oscars, Academy Awards, Movies, Film, Awards, Brokeback Mountain, Crash.
posted by JReid @ 8:58 AM  
Shark jumping
Okay, so here's the thing: if Cindy Sheehan gets arrested again I'm going to scream, and then I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue. Ms. Sheehan, my brain's oxygenation is in your hands...

Meanwhile, it looks like the Brits are planning to head for Iraqi exits by mid-2008. Perhaps Ms. Sheehan is simply influencing the wrong ally...

Tags: , Politics, Iraq, Sheehan,
posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
Tuesday morning blend
Here's what will be waking me up in the morning...

It's Primary Day in Texas! (Yee-haw!) And guess where Tom DeLay, facing a tougher than expected primary challenge -- spent Primary Eve?
DeLay to spend election night with lobbyists

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom DeLay, whose association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff has left him politically vulnerable, is spending Texas' primary night Tuesday at a fundraiser hosted by two Washington lobbyists.

DeLay faces three opponents in the Republican primary. For the first time in the 22 years he's held office, he is up against a serious challenge after being forced out of his job as House majority leader amid corruption and campaign finance scandals.

The fundraiser is being held by lobbyists Bill Paxon and Susan Molinari, both former members of Congress from New York. The event will raise money for DeLay's re-election campaign.
So how's our boy doing? Polls in January showed two-thirds of voters in his district unsureas to whom they'll support, and DeLay's disapproval rating stood at 60 percent. Ironically, the very redistricting scheme that got Tommy Boy in so much trouble included DeLay's giving up Republicans in order to bolster neighboring districts for others. No good deed, as they say... The experts say DeLay will likely get through the primary, but he's polling behind his unchallenged Democratic opponent for the general. Democrats have got to be rooting for him to make it through Tuesday, as he'll probably be the easier target to beat come the fall...

Speaking of campaigns, it may be time to put Florida Rep. Katherine Harris' face on a milk carton:

Harris `Circling the Wagons'
Candidate cancels campaign stops as questions about contractor linger.

PORT CHARLOTTE -- Already trying to avoid the media, Longboat Key Republican Katherine Harris is now canceling campaign stops in Southwest Florida as questions swirl about her ties to a Washington, D.C., defense contractor at the center of an ongoing national bribery scandal.

Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate, abruptly canceled a stop in Charlotte County on Saturday, and four other events planned for Lee and Collier counties were removed from her campaign Web site.

It's another sign that Harris' struggling campaign is now in full crisis mode. Political consultants say that shying away from the public right now is also a bad strategy.

"She can't hide and expect this to go away," said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant. "It looks like her campaign is circling the wagons."
Harris is still fundraising, however, and doing most interesting conference calls:


Harris organized a conference call on Friday with her most loyal supporters in which she downplayed her connections to MZM Inc., saying, "There is nothing to it except for the press trying to be negative."

The company's owner admitted in federal court that he gave $32,000 in illegal campaign donations to Harris.

Continuing with the conference call, Harris described a campaign on a roll and gaining momentum daily. She said prominent national politicians, like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, RTenn., hosted a fundraising event for her in Washington last week, proof that all is well.

"Now there is a buzz in Washington," Harris said on the call.
Yes, like the kind of buzz you get for your hair the first day of a prison sentence...

Harris' ties to defense contractor MZM Inc. have been under the microscope since Feb. 24.

That's the day when MZM founder Mitchell Wade admitted to bribing one member of Congress and giving Harris illegal contributions in March 2004.

Over a private dinner in Washington, D.C., Wade and Harris talked about "obtaining funding and approval" for a Navy counterintelligence program that Wade wanted to open in Sarasota, Justice Department records show.

After that dinner meeting, Harris put in a $10 million budget request to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee to fund the project. Days later, an employee in Harris' congressional office went to work for Wade at MZM.

The funding for the project never was approved.
...and not even an "s" for success... Much more on Harris, Mitchell Wade and more at Talking Points Memo, where I also found this:
Tampa Tribune: Gov. Jeb Bush's office is refusing to release documents or answer questions about a $400,000 tax credit awarded to MZM Inc., whose former chief executive pleaded guilty last week to bribery and illegal campaign contributions. ...

...MZM, of Washington, stood to receive $320,000 from the state and $80,000 from Tampa and Hillsborough County after promising in 2004 to create 80 high-paying jobs in the area.

The former CEO, Mitchell Wade, spent $1.08 million buying a four-story office building at 601 E. Twiggs St. in downtown Tampa on May 20, 2004. That was two months after Wade met U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris and gave her $32,000 in campaign contributions from his employees.

In his plea deal Feb. 24, Wade admitted to bribing U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, of California. He also acknowledged giving his employees cash to reimburse them for contributions to Harris and to Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, which is illegal. All three Congress members are Republicans. ...
...and this:

The judge for Jack Abramoff's SunCruz fraud case in Florida has pushed back his sentencing there to Wednesday, March 29th. His business partner Adam Kidan will be sentenced the same day. It's earlier than the two had wanted, because they're busily talking to prosecutors and worried that doing some of that talking in public might hurt their plea deal. Or as Abramoff's lawyer put it: "We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there."
King of New York

Rep. Peter King, perhaps fazed by the Pentagon's nixing of his overseas trip, is now helping the Bush administration out. King has come up with a compromise plan he thinks will help the Bushies wriggle out of the Dubai port mess. From Monday night's Lou Dobbs Tonight, via LibertyPost (Ed Henry reporting):
Here's the plan from Peter King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: Satisfy the issue of security that Dubai Ports would subcontract out the operation of the American ports to an American company. I don't think a subsidiary will be satisfactory, but a separate American company could do it so long as there was no access to the information or to the operations at all by Dubai Ports. Dubai Ports can still be the contractor, but the actual work and access to everything would be controlled by a totally separate American company.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, company officials have said they have no plans to change this contract, and the White House so far has told Congressman King, we'll get back to you. He said it's been a few days, he has not heard back from them since he first presented this proposal. But the pressure is growing a bit, because just a short while ago, Republican senator Susan Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said that she, too, has presented a similar compromise plan to the White House. She's also still waiting word back.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton is apparently quite cozy with the UAE, though Hillary says she's unaware... Could be a political stumble for Mrs. Clinton, although it kind of makes her look like the kind of Senator willing to go against even the seeming financial interests of her family for a principle... not that Chris Matthews would see it that way...

Also via LibertyPost, the showdown between the White House, the press and Congress over leaks could get this serious:


Senators Rockefeller and Durbin May Take Lie Detector Tests

During the Bush Administration, a nexus of politicians, government workers and members of the news media have worked overtime in leaking classified information. From the secret terrorist prisons to the National Security Agency's super-secret surveillance program, intelligence officials and the Bush Administration have had to watch their counterterrorism efforts neutralized for political reasons.

Special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently interviewed dozens of employees at the CIA, the NSA and other intelligence agencies as part of an intense and wide-reaching investigation. Many employees who possess security clearances at the CIA, FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies received letters from the Justice Department forbidding them from discussing even unclassified intelligence programs.

But people such as former deputy-undersecretary of Defense Jed Babbin don't think the Justice Department investigators and prosecutors have the guts to indict a US senator. Babbin said it would cause a battle royal on the Hill, if not a constitutional crisis.

He did say however, that any senator or Congressional staffer that holds a security clearance can be asked at any time to take a polygraph. The individual can of course refuse to take the test, but failure to do so is reason to remove that person's security clearance. Babbin further said that Senators Rockefeller, Durbin, and Wyden, and some on their staffs will soon be requested to take polygraphs. ...
Johnny can't read... Wonkette...

Apparently, troops serving in Iraq are on a restrictive Internet diet, which includes as much Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and G. Gordon Liddy as they'd like to digest online, but no Wonkette, no AirAmerica.com, and no Al Franken. Which is ironic, since of those mentioned, Franken is the one who's done multiple tours with the USO... (so they can see him in person, but not read his Web site? Hm...)

Wonkette's take (why do they still call it "Wonkette" when she's now a he...?) "our boys need gossip!" (The rest is kind of unprintable, as I consider this a PG-13 blog...) Ah, maybe it's a "don't ask, don't tell thing..."

In gossip news...

Apparently Maureen Dowd does need a man... an Australian man...

Macaulay Culkin is depressed due to trouble finding acting roles and he barely sees his pal Michael Jackson anymore. Maybe he should talk to Jermaine about reviving that tell-all book. Then he'd see a lot of Jacko ... a looooot of Jacko indeed...

The Brokeback effect? Oscar ratings were down 10 percent over last year... (I'd think part of the reason would be that not many people saw the top nominated films, making the show less of a must-see, as, say, when a blockbuster like "Titanic" or "Lord of the Rings" was up for awards. Just a thought. As righties have been gleefuly pointing out, more people saw "March of the Penguins" which won for best documentary, then saw all of the "Best Picture" nominees combined...) Whatever the cause, some conservatives are already offering solutions...

Terrence Howard is wooing Marc Anthony's dumped ex Dayanara Torres (Miss America 1993), following the breakup of his 14-year marriage...

Oh, and they're breeding again... what's that, like eight kids for K-Fed? One word on this one: yuck.

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posted by JReid @ 12:05 AM  
Monday, March 06, 2006
Poor Richard Morin
I'll bet he hated writing about this new ABC/WaPo poll...

An overwhelming majority of the public believes fighting between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq will lead to civil war and half says the United States should begin withdrawing its forces from that violence-torn country, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 80 percent believe that recent sectarian violence made civil war in Iraq likely, and more than a third say such a conflict was "very likely" to occur. Expectations for an all-out sectarian war in Iraq extended beyond party lines. More than seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Democrats and political independents believe civil war was likely.

In the face of the continuing violence, fully half--52 percent--of those surveyed says the United States should begin withdrawing forces. But only one in six favors immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq.

The new survey reflected a sharp decline in optimism sparked by the sectarian violence that flared in Iraq since the bombings of a revered Shiite mosque two weeks ago. Since then, deadly confrontations have occurred between Shiites and Sunni, who are a minority in Iraq but were favored under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The poll found that 56 percent also say the United States is not making significant progress toward restoring civil order in Iraq while 43 percent believe that stability is being reestablished--a 17-point drop in optimism since December and the most pessimistic reading on this question since it was first asked in June, 2004.
Next they'll be forcing the poor guy to run a poll about impeachment...

On Iraq, we've clearly passed a rubicon with the American public. For all the right's and the Bush administration's efforts to make the war look good, most Americans think it was a mistake to invade Iraq, and most are ready to bring the troops home. It's not just this poll, it's the trend...

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posted by JReid @ 2:53 PM  
What for?
...Bush asks Congress for line-item veto power. Isn't there a house rule that says you can't ask for more until you've at least used the veto power you already have...?

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posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
Bye-bye
...to some 10,000 jobs once the AT&T-BellSouth merger goes through.
posted by JReid @ 2:39 PM  
The abortion ban-wagon
South Dakota takes one giant step into the Victorian Era, as the governor signs a comprehensive abortion ban.

Prediction #1: men in South Dakota are gonna get turned down a lot more often...

Predietion #2: even with Scalito and Roberts on the court, if this goes to the SupCo, it's going down (no rape or incest exceptions -- I wonder what compassionate soul thought of that...?)

Prediction #3: the big lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood or the ACLU that will get this to the Supremes will involve either a rape victim or an incest victim, probably a minor or very young woman -- challenging the state's right to force her to bear her assailant's child (not to mention the implications for whether the attacker would have ... ugh ... parental rights... )

Meanwhile: Digby elicits, from a pro-ban South Dakota state senator, one Bill Napoli, the "sodomized version exception"
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.
... and a card carrying winger responds to Digby, but ignores that scenario in favor of might be called the "slutty poor lady" non-exception...

In the Kansas City Star, one writer makes it clear: don't think the religious right will stop at abortion. Next up: birth control (and apparently, sex for pleasure, too...) (HT to Digby there, too...)

...The Nation attacks the Democrats new "safe but rare" abortion mantra as useless in the face of an all-or-nothing right wing movement that wants to ban the pill, too ...

Next states not to have sex under any circumstances in: Mississippi and Tennessee. Just say no, ladies! After a while, the men in your state will change the law without you even asking...

Tags: , Politics, Supreme Court, Reproductive Rights, Religion
posted by JReid @ 1:50 PM  
Headline mix
The Pat Tillman reinvestigation is set to begin... although the guy promising to get a full accounting for the Tillman family is the same guy who says things are going swimmingly in Iraq...

The SupCo backs the government's position that colleges and universities that refuse to allow military recruiters on campus can be stripped of federal funding. This was a big issue on the Harvard campus when I was there, and essentially, I have to come down on the government's side on this one. Campuses certainly have the right to oppose military recruiting (essentially by an arm of the federal government, which the military is,) and to eschew the military's ban on open service by gays. But if that's their stance they should also be willing to walk away from the money for principle, rather than trying to have it both ways.

More explosions in Iraq. Peter Pace, please take note of how well things are going ...

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament voids all decisions of the previous, Fatah-led body...

AT&T's bid to take over BellSouth, our main phone company down here in Fla, could cost thousands of jobs...

And not surprisingly, this year's Oscar ratings were down (by 10 percent), as I'm sure conservative-leaning red staters rented a family-oriented movie instead, believing that Sunday would be a night of gay revelry at the House of Disney. Psst! Righties! "Crash" took Best Picture! Oh, wait, that one's about racism ... not your bag, either...

And in ... can we call this entertainment...? Michael Jackson reportedly used threats and intimidation to squash a tell-all book by his older brother Jermaine. Isn't this the same Jermaine who was defending Jacko on television amid the latest child molestation accusations last year...? In the book he was apparently shopping before Michael threatened to throw him out of his house (rather, Michael's house), Jermaine was prepared to tell a very different story... Makes you wonder. Remember when LaToya Jackson at one point called out her brother on his predaliction for young boys, and then suddenly, took it all back? There were rumors of threats and intimidation then, too. And now Jacko is running loose in the Arab kingdom, with his veiled kids in tow. So sad...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 11:20 AM  
Amnesty vs. America
A new, scathing report from Amnesty International says torture is continuing in Iraq, at the hands of U.S.-trained security forces, and that the U.S. and Britain have detained some 14,000 people without trial. (Read the report itself here...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 AM  
The Iranian hot plate
Washington is split over how to deal with Iran, with John Bolton, as usual, playing the heavy duty "smite the Muslims" neocon. From the Times of London:
THE US Administration is riven by divisions over how it should tackle Iran’s defiance of the international community with its nuclear programme, according to British MPs returning from a fact-finding mission to Washington.

They expressed astonishment that widely differing policies — ranging from military action to diplomatic soft-pedalling — were still being debated even as the International Atomic Energy Agency board prepared for its vital meeting in Vienna today. ...

... Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, who will today hold talks in Washington with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, is advocating a cautious approach.

“Nobody has said that we have to rush immediately to sanctions of some kind,” she said at the weekend.

“I think the Security Council will have to have a serious discussion about what the next steps will be.”

Members of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee returning from Washington were, however, confused and disorientated about the direction of US policy towards Iran. They had held talks with John Bolton, the US Ambassador to the UN, who is a hawk on the issue. He told the MPs that he wanted a “Chapter 7 resolution” under which the UN would authorise military action, such as air strikes, against Iran.

Mr Bolton was quoted as saying: “They must know everything is on the table and they must understand what that means. We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down.”

Mike Gapes, the committee chairman, said that this was one of “at least three views” they had heard on Iran from within the Administration.

Another option, which he ascribed to the Pentagon, where they had talks with Peter Rodman, the Assistant Defence Secretary, and Brigadier-General Carter Hamm, formerly the US commander in northern Iraq, was to throw the issue “into the Security Council like a hand grenade and see what happens”.

However, Mr Gapes said that both the CIA and Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, believed that the US should “ride it out” rather than engage in “posturing”, because of a lack of clarity as to what the Security Council would agree. Going to the UN could lead to a rerun of the attempts to get agreement on Iraq before the war.
This comes as Iran alternately trades bluster
Iran today intensified its rhetoric in the row over its suspect nuclear programme, responding to a veiled threat of military action by promising to become a "killing field".

The threat came as the international nuclear watchdog opened crucial talks in Vienna on how to dampen Tehran's atomic ambitions.
...with an apparent willingness to compromise with the Europeans...
VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran may agree to extend its proposed moratorium of industrial-scale production of nuclear fuel if it is permitted to run a small-scale enrichment research pogram, a diplomat close to the Iran-EU talks said on Monday.

"Iran is ready to compromise on the period of suspension of large-scale enrichment if it can keep its nuclear research activities," a diplomat close to the talks told Reuters.
(not a bad way to make the Americans look foolish, I suppose...)

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posted by JReid @ 11:08 AM  
John and Judd and Dick and Jack
Bush afficionado John Hinderaker of Powerline (who never met a Bush policy he didn't love) is fighting a two-front war. First, he launched a Sunday salvo against Jack Murtha, the Congressman and Marine veteran who has become the face and voice of the mainstream Democrat opposition to the malingering Iraq war.

Powerline took issue with Murtha's disregard of Joint Chief's chairman Peter Pace's characterization of the state of Iraq, during the Congressman's appearance Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, asking, pointedly:
Is Murtha Nuts?

Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha seems to have gone around the bend. Check out this exchange from this morning's Face the Nation:

Congressman Murtha, thank you for coming this morning, and I want to start by quoting something that General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said this morning on "Meet the Press." He said he believes the war in Iraq is going, in his words, "very, very well." What is your assessment?

Representative JACK MURTHA (Democrat, Pennsylvania; House Appropriations Committee): Why would I believe him? I mean, that administration, this administration, including the president, had mischaracterized this war for the last two years. They, first of all, they said it will take 40,000 troops to settle this thing right after the invasion. Then they said there's no insurgency. They're dead-enders is what the secretary of defense said. On and on and on, the mischaracterization of the war. They said there's nuclear weapons. There are no nuclear weapons there. There are no biological weapons there. No al-Qaeda connection. So why would I believe the chairman of the joint chiefs when he says things are going well. ...

Of course, in Hinderaker's completely unbiased opinion:
Murtha's suggestion that the administration said Iraq had nuclear weapons is absurd. (Why don't talk show hosts ever seem to call Democrats on these wild misrepresentations?) Likewise his claim that there is "no al Qaeda connection." In light of everything we now know, that statement can only be described as ignorant. And, even if we charitably assume that Murtha is behind the curve on this one, how about Zarqawi? How about Ansar al-Islam? How about the terrorist training camps? How about the many connections beween Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda that are documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report?

...President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and other members of the administration discussed the threat from Iraq countless times before the war started in March 2003. Over and over, they said, not that Iraq already possessed nuclear weapons, but that Saddam had a long track record of trying to acquire such weapons, and that it would be gravely dangerous if he succeeded in doing so. The administration never claimed that Saddam already had nuclear weapons, contrary to Murtha's bizarre assertion.
Are liberals really this dumb? Do they really think that the administration believed that Saddam had nuclear weapons, but forgot to mention it except on a single occasion when Vice-President Cheney referred to "reconstituted nuclear weapons"--what does that mean?--while at the same time saying that it was "only a matter of time" until Iraq had such weapons?

Sadly, I think a great many liberals are this stupid. Worse, I think that many liberals--like the proprietor of the hate site that resurrected the Cheney quote earlier today--are so far gone in hatred of President Bush that everything they say and do is said and done in bad faith. Like Jack Murtha, they have lost any ability to distinguish truth from fiction, and any desire to do so.

Unfortunately, however, the facts are clearly with Mr. Murtha, as Think Progress' research director Judd Legum pointed out in a post rhetorically entitled:
Is John Hinderaker nuts???

In which Legum reprints the quotes in which Vice President Cheney said (on MTP in 2003):
...We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing.
... And Legum does a point by point rebuttal of Hinderaker's other "things are going well" points about Iraq.

So what's Hinderaker's reponse? "Phthwwwwthhthhhh!!!!"
One of the dimmest of the dimwitted left-wing web sites has tried to respond to this post… Sadly, I think a great many liberals are this stupid. Worse, I think that many liberals–like the proprietor of the hate site…are so far gone in hatred of President Bush that everything they say and do is said and done in bad faith. Like Jack Murtha, they have lost any ability to distinguish truth from fiction, and any desire to do so.

BTW, Hinderaker is also the guy who believes President Bush completed his National Guard service with exemplary merit. Go figure...

What this exchange really illustrate is the deep seated anger among Bush supporters who are literally stretching themselves thin, in terms of the known facts, but who are so far out on an emotional limb they will do and say almost anything to defend this president's Iraq policy. Apparently they are so invested in George Bush, and in his presidency, that they are literally immune to the facts on the ground, or even the historical record, and ready to absorb even the absurd, like Pace's ludicrous suggestion that not only are things not going to hell in a handbasket in Iraq, they are actually going well... which strike most observers as at complete odds with what we see with our own eyes.

I'm fascinated by the almost cultish support President Bush generates among his followers, who are now basically alone, having been stripped of the regular Joe red staters who now doubt the president along with everyone else. The hardcore Bushies that remain, I suspect will never stop supporting him or this war, no matter what.

And this as the neocon intelligentsia is slowly (or is it quickly) peeling away from the president. Even on Fox's "Beltway Boys" this weekend, such Bush accolytes as Tony Snow and Fred Barnes were using the "c" word (competence) and reaching for solutions to help the president climb out of his current morass (even the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll has his approval ratings in the 30s).

And yet, the hardcore Bushies, like Hinderaker, keep on clinging on...

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posted by JReid @ 10:40 AM  
Fresh deck chairs for the DPW Titanic?
The NYDN's Tom DeFrank (quickly becoming THE expert on inside goings on in the Bush White House) reports the Bush administration is scrambling to save the Dubai Ports World deal, this time by trying to get the company to partner with an American firm, or to spin off an American subsidiary. The Daily News Headline is a keeper:

Dubai & Dubya in dash for lifeboat

Bush team urges firm to get a U.S. partner

WASHINGTON - The White House is quietly pushing a Dubai company to "significantly restructure" and partner up with a U.S. outfit to keep the port deal from sinking, sources told the Daily News yesterday.
"It's in the hands of the company now. ... They're going to have to significantly restructure," said a Republican source familiar with White House expectations.

A revamped deal to allow Dubai Ports World to take over six major U.S. ports - including Manhattan's cruise ship terminal and Newark's container depot - would have to be something along the lines of the Marine One contract.

British- and Italian-owned AgustaWestland had to take on Maryland-based Lockheed Martin to win the contract to build the President's helicopter last year.

"A lot of people are talking about this, a subsidiary or a deal like that," a congressional source confirmed.

One snag to such a deal may be that sources say the U.S. company best equipped to partner with DP World is Halliburton, once headed by Vice President Cheney.

After undergoing so much scrutiny for its no-bid Iraq contract and the handling of some of its duties there, Halliburton may not be able to help DP World land the deal, a source admitted.

According to the source close to the White House, Team Bush believes that in addition to clearing an extended 45-day review, DP World will have to come up with a deal that will pass muster with Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

King is seen as a key lawmaker because he broke with the White House over the Dubai deal despite his strong relationship with President Bush and top aides like Karl Rove.
Well if the White House really is courting King (who told the NYDN that such a deal would have to mean total separation between the new U.S. entity and the government in Dubai, and even then he says it would be a touch sell,) they could do better than allowing the Pentagon to sabotage his Mideast trip, apparently as punishment for his opposition to the DPW port takeover.

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Tags: , , , , Dubai, Ports, Terrorism, Politics, UAE, News, Republicans

posted by JReid @ 10:28 AM  
Sunday, March 05, 2006
The upsets just keep coming...
"Crash" beats "Brokeback" for Best Picture. Wow.

Full results here. Oscar message for this year: we love err'body! The Academy spread it around -- something for Gorgeous George and the anti-war crowd (best actor for "Syriana"), something for "Walk the Line" (Reese Witherspoon got best actress), something for the gay cowboys (Ang Lee for directing and best score), something for the pimps and hoes ... oh god, bad 36 Mafia flashback ... something for "Capote" (Best Actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman), something for Africa ("Tsotsi" beats the Palestinian film and the film about the Holocaust) and the big prize for Crash.

Can't say it wasn't ... um ... interesting. My predictions score: 6 out of 12 - 50 percent. Is that an F??? I think that's an F...

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posted by JReid @ 11:24 PM  
I guess it's not that hard out there for a pimp...