Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Sign of the Times
In today's Times of London (not a liberal UK rag, btw.)

You know things are shitty for your country when your best friends are dissing your flag.

Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin surprises with a tad bit of balanced commentary:

That won't last. She'll be back to fire breathing shortly, I'm sure. BlackFive, meanwhile, has advice on what Jack Murtha should be saying.

To reiterate what I've said before, this incident is painful on both sides of the AK, as it were. If civilians were killed, their grievances are large and deserve redress. But the stress and strain of this mission on these young Marines is equally overwhelming. Let's hope the commanders are appropriately called to account if in fact they allowed this to happen and then tried to cover it up. Worse, it should be clear to everyone at this point that this war has, in various ways, ruined the military it took a generation after Vietnam to repair, destroyed lives on both sides, and stained the good name of the United States for years to come.


Tags: , , Politics, War, News, Military, ,

Tags: Iraq, , News, Religion, Military, Media, peace

posted by JReid @ 11:43 AM  
Thus spake Ahmadinejad
The Der Spiegel interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad focuses not on the volatile situation regarding Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, or potential war with the U.S., but on his controversial views on Israel and the Holcaust. Interestingly enough, the Iranian president sounds a lot like Americans who argue against slavery reparations:
Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.

Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today's youth play in World War II?


Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?

SPIEGEL: The German people today can't do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.

Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn't even alive at the time be held legally responsible?

SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.

Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely? ...

It goes on and on and on from there.

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posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Strange fruit

Is it time for this word, and all its derivatives -- including the hip-hop term "nigga" -- to be abolished from the English lexicon? More to the point, should Black people stop using the word, whether in hip-hop, in comedy, in movies and television or other entertainment? Are we giving White people permission to use it by claiming to "appropriate" it ourselves? (And we certainly don't like it when the word becomes a pictorial...) Have we so internalized the notion of our own inferiority and marginalization that we now use the term reflexively, and self-destructively, without even realizing that we are contributing to our own dehumanization? (A legal case in Brooklyn could hang on whether the word has become so mundane that White people can no longer be called racist just for uttering it.)

The web-site has touched a nerve around the world, and has renewed this debate. We had the co-founder, Jill Merritt, on the radio show today, as well as Michael Eric Dyson, who -- along with others, like comedian Paul Mooney -- is on the other side of the argument. Check out Jill and Kovan Flowers' web-site. I dare you not to be viscerally affected by the images of slavery and lynching that Merritt and Flowers say are inexorably tied to the word. So should the word be stricken? (Image credit: Lynching in America)

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posted by JReid @ 7:33 AM  
The other side of Haditha
The story of the alleged Haditha massacre is about as tragic and painful a situation as you could conjur up. A group of young Marines watch one of their own die in a roadside bombing by insurgents. Their natural reaction is to seek retribution. And when they find a group of Iraqis that may be connected to the bombing -- or that just have the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong company of Marines -- they lash out. Who is to blame? Is it the Marines? Their commanders, who should have reigned them in? The higher-ups who may have tried to cover up the incident? Should someone -- should anyone -- go to jail? And what about the Iraqis who have lost loved ones? How should they be compensated for that loss? This is a tough one. It's horrible and tragic and inexcusable and viscerably understandable all at the same time. Anyway, here's a clip from the NYT story today:

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., May 29 — In this "company town" where everything and everyone caters to the well-being of the Marine Corps, there is no shortage of people, both military and civilian, who are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the troops accused of unjustified killings last November in Haditha, Iraq.

Denial and utter disbelief are the overwhelming reaction to reports of the killings involving marines based here. If there is any truth to the accusations, some say, then the troops must have been acting on direct orders, responding as they were trained to do.

Lawrence Harper, 36, now retired, served in the Marine Corps for more than 15 years, and was in the Persian Gulf war.

"Many times you see a situation the next day and wonder, how did my brain think this was dangerous?" Mr. Harper said, while shopping for gear at G.I. Joe's, a military supply shop in Oceanside.

Mr. Harper expressed doubt that the marines knowingly committed crimes in Haditha, saying that they undoubtedly acted on instinct, as trained, in the heat of battle.

"When a bullet comes at you and you turn around and half your buddy's head is blown off, it changes the way you think forever," he said.

Jerry Alexander, the owner of G.I. Joe's and a Navy man who served with the Marines for a dozen years, had much the same perspective, saying, "If I saw my buddy laying there dead, there is no such thing as too much retaliation."

While Mr. Alexander said "unacceptable kills" should not be covered up, he worried about the unfairness of judging those who were in Haditha.

"In the heat of combat, you cannot hesitate; he who hesitates is lost," he said. "I would not prosecute these young men because they were just doing their jobs."

On this Memorial Day, in this military community, people will concede that any marine who committed illegal acts must be punished and that the Pentagon must take responsibility.

But conversation quickly returns to emotional and earnest explanations of the need for understanding for what one former marine described as "these 19-year-old kids who get paid 900 bucks a month to put their lives on the line."

The marines and several senior officers assigned to the Third Battalion of the First Marine Division are the focus of criminal investigations looking into the deaths of 24 people who lived in the Subhani district of Haditha, an insurgent stronghold in Iraq.

A preliminary inquiry indicated that the civilians were killed during a four- to five-hour sweep, led by a handful of marines angry over the death of Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, 20, of El Paso, Tex., who was killed as his patrol drove through the area.

Appearing Monday on the CNN program "American Morning," Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "We want to find out what happened and we'll make it public."

He added, "If the allegations, as they are being portrayed in the newspaper, turn out to be valid, then of course there will be charges. But we don't know yet what the outcome will be."

The family of Corporal Terrazas was interviewed Monday morning on "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio. His uncle, Andy Terrazas, a former marine who is now a border patrol agent, said, "I hope this is over soon so they can just let him rest in peace. I hope these marines come out clean, but I guess it's not looking too good, right?"

None of the active and former marines interviewed for this story knew Corporal Terrazas or the members of the unit at the center of the probe. But most of them had seen combat, recently or in the Gulf war.

"In Iraq, everything you do has to be cleared with a commanding officer," said Cpl. Michael Miller, 25, who has served two tours of duty and fought in Falluja and Ramadi. "You just can't go clearing houses without the permission of higher-ups."

Corporal Miller said he believed that the marines would be vindicated in the inquiry. "I just think the marines did what they had to do," he said. "I don't know why innocent people are dead, but someone must have seen a gun." Several retired senior officers agreed. Col. Ben Mittman of the Air Force, interviewed as he got his regular military buzz cut at the Beachcomber Barber Shop in Oceanside, worried that the young servicemen were being made scapegoats.

"If this thing really happened, they had to radio communication and get the go-ahead," he said. "The frontline grunts these days do not do anything without the commanders knowing, especially something like that."
What to do? What to do? Either way, Washington is bracing for the worst.


Tags: , , Politics, War, News, Military, ,

posted by JReid @ 7:08 AM  
The upside of Hayden
Some contrarians in the blogosphere, including The Washington Note's Steven Clemons , have advised the skeptical to give Gen. Michael Hayden a chance at CIA, despite his ties to the anti-Constitutional NSA spy program. Clemons' reasoning is that Hayden is NID John Negroponte's trojan horse, meant to strip some of the intelligence power away from the Great Incompetent, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. Other's aren't buying that argument, but the NYT today has at least one reason for optimism: he's bringing back some of the professionals forced out by political hatchet-man Porter Goss.

Tags: , Bush, NSA, CIA, Politics, News, Iraq, spying, War on Terror, News and politics, , NSA, Spying, wiretapping, Bush, President Bush,
posted by JReid @ 6:36 AM  
Monday, May 29, 2006
The trouble with Blogger...
... is that it sucks. Film at 11.
posted by JReid @ 1:56 PM  
FYI: Archived posts
If you're trying to get at posts on the ReidBlog dated prior to May 29, the link may not work. To get the post, just put the word "blog" before the start of the post, so that the address is (the way the addresses used to be.) That should do the trick.
posted by JReid @ 1:51 PM  
God and Indonesia
Indonesia continues the worst run of luck against Mother Nature, probably of any country in history... It wouldn't surprise me a bit if at a time like this, the people in that country look up and wonder what gives.

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posted by JReid @ 1:03 PM  
Memorial Day headlines
Two members of a CBS News crew are killed in Iraq by an IED bloody day in that "liberated" country (where some are saying openly now that things were better under Saddam...)

Violent, massive anti-American riots in Afghanistan (which Paul Riekhoff of IAVA, who was on the radio show this morning, says many GI's now refer to as "Forgotistan")...

75 inmates at Guantanamo have joined a hunger strike...

Meanwhile, the world is just winding up for the fallout over Haditha.

Happy Global War on Terror, everybody.

Most importantly, we have to remember both the dead and the living who have sacrificed so much, not just today, but every day.

Tags: Iraq, War, Afghanistan, journalists killed, Guantanamo, Gitmo, GWOT, war on terror,
posted by JReid @ 12:19 PM  
Worse than Abu Ghraib?
President Bush said in his snoozer of a press conference last week that the biggest mistake made by the U.S. in Iraq was Abu Ghraib, and "we've been paying for that for a long time." Well, we may soon be paying again:
Two influential legislators who have been briefed on the U.S. military's investigation into the deaths of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians said Sunday that they suspected senior officers were involved in covering up evidence of war crimes by the Marine unit involved.

Neither lawmaker — Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a former Marine and a leading authority on military issues — said they had direct evidence of top officers trying to suppress information.

But both said the delay in launching a formal investigation into the incident in the western Iraqi town of Haditha led them to suspect that officers up the chain of command were complicit in attempting to keep the incident under wraps. They said they expected that congressional hearings on the killings would focus on the military's reaction to evidence of an atrocity.

The killing of unarmed civilians, including women and children, occurred Nov. 19, but a formal investigation was not launched until reporters from Time magazine handed over video taken by an Iraqi journalist to military authorities in late January. A criminal inquiry was not begun until weeks later.

"It's been six months since this happened," Murtha, who was one of the first congressmen briefed on the incident by Marine officials, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "It's very simple: They went out the next day, they knew there was something wrong. Two or three days later, they decided that these people were murdered….

"It goes right up the chain of command," said Murtha, who has emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq war. "Who said: 'We're not going to publicize this thing. We're not even going to investigate it'? Until March, there was no serious investigation. There was an investigation right afterward, but then it was stifled."

On the same program, Warner was more cautious in his criticism, but said there were "serious questions" about "what happened and when it happened and what was the immediate reaction of the senior officers in the Marine Corps when they began to gain knowledge of it."

He added that a separate military investigation underway would look into how senior officers reacted when they learned about the killings.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported that a special unit of Marine intelligence specialists, known as a human intelligence exploitation team, took photographs of the scene shortly after the incident, evidence that was turned over to the military chain of command.

But Time reported Sunday the existence of another set of photos, taken by the Marines allegedly involved. It quoted John Sifton, an investigator with Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group based in New York, as saying a photo a Marine took with his cellphone showed Iraqis kneeling before being shot. Sifton did not return a call seeking comment Sunday.

Other evidence has emerged that paints a troubling picture of members of the Camp Pendleton-based unit's actions after a roadside bomb exploded in Haditha, killing Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

Murtha said Sunday that Marine officials had told him of one Iraqi woman "bending over a child, pleading for mercy" when the Marines "shot her in cold blood." He said a man was "asking for mercy" in English before being shot.
Of course, since there are pictures, lawmakers including Warner and Murtha are saying that this situation could be worse for the U.S. than Abu Ghraib, because it recalls something even darker: My Lai.

More on this story from TIME Magazine: The shame of Kilo Company:
The outfit known as Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, wasn't new to Iraq last year when it moved into Haditha, a Euphrates River farming town about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad. Several members of the unit were on their second tour of Iraq; one was on his third. The men in Kilo Company were veterans of ferocious house-to-house fighting in Fallujah. Their combat experience seemed to prepare them for the ordeal of serving in an insurgent stronghold like Haditha, the kind of place where the enemy attacks U.S. troops from the cover of mosques, schools and homes and uses civilians as shields, complicating Marine engagement rules to shoot only when threatened. In Haditha, says a Marine who has been there twice, "you can't tell a bad guy until he shoots you."

But one morning last November, some members of Kilo Company apparently didn't attempt to distinguish between enemies and innocents. Instead, they seem to have gone on the worst rampage by U.S. service members in the Iraq war, killing as many as 24 civilians in cold blood. The details of what happened in Haditha were first disclosed in March by TIME's Tim McGirk and Aparisim Ghosh, and their reporting prompted the military to launch an inquiry into the civilian deaths. The darkest suspicions about the killings were confirmed last week, when members of Congress who were briefed on the two ongoing military investigations disclosed that at least some members of a Marine unit may soon be charged in connection with the deaths of the Iraqis--and that the charges may include murder, which carries the death penalty. "This was a small number of Marines who fired directly on civilians and killed them," said Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and former Marine who was briefed two weeks ago by Marine Corps officials. "This is going to be an ugly story." ...

...A military source in Iraq told TIME that investigators have obtained two sets of photos from Haditha. The first is after-action photos taken by the military as part of the routine procedure that follows any such event. Submitted in the official report on the fighting, the photos do not show any bodies. Investigators have also discovered a second, more damning set of photos, taken by Marines of the Kilo Company immediately after the shootings. The source says it isn't clear if these photos were held back from the after-action report or were personal snapshots taken by the Marines. The source says a Marine e-mailed at least one photo to a friend in the U.S.
It's those photos that could hang, not only the Marines involved, but the U.S. image, yet again, around the world.

I have to admit to sympathizing with the stress these Marines and the other 130,000 odd troops in Iraq are under. This pointless war is a grinding machine that's chewing up military families with multiple deployments, horrific physical and psychological injury, and in my opinion, pointless, needless death. And yet, the depravity of what reportedly happened at Haditha cannot be excused. And so the military justice system will very likely take these Marines down. I'm just waiting to see if their commanders go with them.

Other links:

Bloody scenes haunt a Marine
Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones says he is tormented by two memories of Nov. 19, 2005, in Haditha, Iraq.

The first is of the body of his best friend and fellow Marine blown apart just after dawn by a roadside bomb. The second is of the lifeless form of a small Iraqi girl, one of two dozen unarmed civilians allegedly killed by members of his Camp Pendleton unit — Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

Briones, a wiry, soft-spoken 21-year-old interviewed Sunday at his family home in this Central Valley city, said he was not among the small group of Marines that military investigators have concluded killed the civilians, including children, women and elderly men.

However, Briones, who goes by Ryan, said he took photographs of the victims and helped carry their bodies out of their homes as part of the cleanup crew sent in late in the afternoon on the day of the killings.

"They ranged from little babies to adult males and females. I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart," Briones said.

He said he erased the digital photos he took at the scene after first providing them to the Haditha Marine command center. He said Navy investigators later interrogated him about the pictures and confiscated his camera.
And from Talkleft, links to video and pictures, plus more accounts of the alleged Haditha massacre. More pictures are available at World Pictures News.

And let's not forget, of course, that Marines from this unit also died at Haditha. Their deaths are just as tragic and senseless, and were the trigger for the bloody hell that happened next.

Tags: , , Politics, War, News, Military, ,
posted by JReid @ 7:50 AM  
Miss Gonzales gets all salty and stuff
How deep did it get at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week? According to the NY Times, A.G. "Torquemada" Gonzales and FBI director Robert Mueller threatened to quit over that FBI raid on William Jefferson's Congressional office:

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, and senior officials and career prosecutors at the Justice Department told associates this week that they were prepared to quit if the White House directed them to relinquish evidence seized in a bitterly disputed search of a House member's office, government officials said Friday.

Mr. Gonzales was joined in raising the possibility of resignation by the deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, the officials said. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. McNulty told associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a criminal case and would be unwilling to carry out any White House order to return the material to Congress.

The potential showdown was averted Thursday when President Bush ordered the evidence to be sealed for 45 days to give Congress and the Justice Department a chance to work out a deal.

The evidence was seized by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents last Saturday night in a search of the office of Representative William J. Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana. The search set off an uproar of protest by House leaders in both parties, who said the intrusion by an executive branch agency into a Congressional office violated the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine. They demanded that the Justice Department return the evidence.

The possibility of resignations underscored the gravity of the crisis that gripped the Justice Department as the administration grappled with how to balance the pressure from its own party on Capitol Hill against the principle that a criminal investigation, especially one involving a member of Congress, should be kept well clear of political considerations.

It is not clear precisely what message Mr. Gonzales delivered to Mr. Bush when they met Thursday morning at the White House, or whether he informed the president of the resignation talk. But hours later, the White House announced that the evidence would be sealed for 45 days in the custody of the solicitor general, the Justice Department official who represents the government before the Supreme Court. That arrangement ended the talk of resignations.
Alberto, girl, you are so catty! But at long as you're threatening to quit, here are a few more reasons to go:

Soviet-style threats to jail journalists, the toture memo, advising the president that he can ignore international law, and U.S. law regarding the torture and mistreatment of prisoners, just for starters...


Tags: , , Bush, , Corruption, Politics, , Bush Administration, , , ,

posted by JReid @ 7:14 AM  
The punking of Tony Blair
What is Tony Blair made of? Certainly not the kind of sturdy stuff that can deflect pressure from the Bush White House. The latest example of the punkification of Mr. Blair:
Prime Minister Tony Blair caved in to White House pressure by sharpening language on Iran and softening it on global warming in a speech he delivered Friday at Georgetown University, according to a British press report Sunday that Blair's office immediately denied.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, Blair made "significant" last-minute changes to his major foreign policy address and "objections by President George W. Bush's inner circle played a key role in the alterations." An official at Blair's 10 Downing Street office, speaking on condition of anonymity as is standard practice here, said it was "categorically untrue that any White House objective played any part" in the speech.

Blair is frequently criticized in Britain for his close relationship with Bush, who is extremely unpopular among Britons. The prime minister is particularly faulted for his alliance with Bush in the Iraq war. Critics have complained that Blair seems too eager to please Bush in what many here view as a lopsided relationship that has benefited Bush far more than Britain.

The newspaper, citing anonymous British sources, said aides to Blair told journalists three hours before the speech that Blair intended to say that "change should not be imposed" on Iran in the current dispute over its nuclear ambitions. The newspaper said the line reflected "the British view that bombing or invading Iran is not a realistic option."

Blair eventually used more subtle phrasing: "I emphasize I am not saying we should impose change" -- which the newspaper said was altered to reflect the White House's desire to keep the military option "on the table" to exert maximum negotiating pressure on Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ...
And there's more:
Blair had also planned to "take a tough line" on global warming and the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which he supports and Bush opposes, the paper reported. In the end, Blair said only that "we must act on climate change," and international negotiations provide "a way forward, building on Kyoto, which can involve America, China and India."

The paper reported that during the climate change section of the speech, a cellphone rang in the audience and Blair quipped, "I hope that isn't the White House telling me they don't agree with that. They act very quickly, these guys."
Odd that Tony isn't so circumspect when it comes to curtailing the civil liberties of his own citizens, another idea he got from his Big Daddy, George W. Bush.

Tags: Bush, , Politics, Iraq, News, , , Global Warming, Environment
posted by JReid @ 6:36 AM  
The redirect
Okay, still bearing with me? I'm in stress reduction mode, and part of that is consolodating the Reid Report main page with the ReidBlog. So if you're surfing to, this is where I'm going to keep my archives. New posts will be at the main page, Confused yet? So am I. Long story short, click here for new blog posts, and bookmark it! The feed will remain at the same spot. Holla!

Tags: , , Blogging, News, Blogs
posted by JReid @ 6:10 AM  
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Over the next week you'll notice changes to the blog, as I work to merge the original reidreport site with the blog, and slowly but surely, move the whole thing to a new publishing platform. Believe me, this is no fun, but in the end it will mean much less work for me, since I've added so much to my plate in the last couple of months. Bear with me. Hopefully it won't be as painful for you as it is for me. ...
posted by JReid @ 9:42 PM  
Friday, May 26, 2006
Quick takes: May 26
Breaking: Shots fired on the Hill...

Just in time? Hayden's in.

Best Ken Lay post today:
Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are trading pinstripe suits for suits of a different stripes. Enron's top two dogs were found guilty yesterday of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, perjury, and a host of other charges, Prosecutors hope this is the last in a long string of corporate scandals. God, when you thrown in Adelphia, Worldcom, and Tyco, I haven't seen this many white men in court since the jury box in To Kill a Mockingbird..."

Both Lay and Skilling could spend the rest of their lives in jail, with maximum sentences approaching a combined 305 years. Finally! Two people Bush can pardon that don't work for him... Actually, I don't think George w. will pardon his former friends when he leaves office in 2009. He'll turn on them faster than Rumsfeld on the Pentagon press... There's more distance between Bush and Kenny Boy than Bonds and Balco... There's a better chance Lou Dobbs will IM Vicente Fox than those two will ever talk again... -- Left Wing Laughs

Could Bob Novak be even more of a weasel than he appears? Signs point to yes...

More on Dubya's pull-back on FBI raids. Meanwhile, there's new intrigue afoot on the Hill, as the G-men want to query members of Congress about ... what else ... leaks.

Gorgeous George makes it too easy for the righties...

Just in time for the weekend.
posted by JReid @ 11:58 AM  
Justice for Martin III: The FAIR handy media contact guide
For those who listened in on WTPS this morning to our discussions on the ongoing travesty that is the Martin Lee Anderson case (141 days and still not a soul arrested in this young man's senseless death), here's a handy media contact list, courtesy of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

And here are a few recent headlines regarding the Anderson case:

And here's a link to the full and edited versions of the video of the Martin Anderson beating.


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posted by JReid @ 8:29 AM  
Nobody likes Kathy: Polls wide open edition
In a poll of Florida Republicans, two-thirds of potential voters say they prefer somebody else, or no one at all, over Katherine Harris for the U.S. Senate.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris had weak support in a poll released Thursday that includes the three little-known entries in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Only 37 percent of respondents said they favored Harris, compared to 13 percent for Will McBride, 4 percent for LeRoy Collins Jr. and 2 percent for Peter Monroe. Her three opponents all entered the race May 12, which was the last day to get on the Sept. 5 primary ballot.

More respondents - 43 percent - didn't choose a candidate. In a head-to-head with Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, Harris trailed Nelson 58-25.

The poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University May 12-22. It surveyed 1,086 registered voters and had an overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll surveyed 424 Republican voters about the primary, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

"Given how well known Congresswoman Harris is among Republicans and how well thought of she has been by them, it is somewhat surprising that she would only get 37 percent support," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the school's polling institute. "The fact that 63 percent of Republicans say they prefer either the other three or are undecided is remarkable."


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posted by JReid @ 7:24 AM  
You know things are crazy when
Iran sounds like the reasonable one in a dispute with the U.S. ... Meanwhile, Iran is taking care of its own business, even as the U.S. seems to be pursuing at least a partial strategy of Iranian nuclear inevitability...

posted by JReid @ 7:06 AM  
The Great Miscommunicator
I wish I could say I made up that great line, but in fact, the honor goes to the online team at ABC News. Anyway, the point is, Dubya says he might not have spoken with as much ... um ... sophistication ... as he should have in the run-up to the Iraq war. Note to Dubya: the misspeaking? That's just you being you. It's all the lying and misinformation that really bugs us.

Tags: Bush, Iraq, , Politics
posted by JReid @ 6:38 AM  
Bush blinks
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill finally awake from their post-9/11 stupor, not to protect your civil liberties or mine, nor the Constitutional protections afforded to citizens, protesters and journalists, but to protect their own. That said, members of Congress, led by the possibly under investigaton (or is that "not under investigation?") House Speaker Dennis Hastert and his Democratic counterpart Nancy Pelosi, finally got into the face of the POTUS over the administration's trashing of the separation of powers via Al Gonzales' Saturday FBI raid on the office of Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson. And lo and behold, the president blinked:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush stepped into the Justice Department's constitutional confrontation with Congress on Thursday and ordered that documents seized in an FBI raid on a congressman's office be sealed for 45 days.

The president directed that no one involved in the investigation have access to the documents taken last weekend from the office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, and that they remain in the custody of the solicitor general.

Bush's move was described as an attempt to cool off a heated confrontation between his administration and leaders of the House and Senate. (Watch Bush intervenes in criminal probe -- 2:08)

"This period will provide both parties more time to resolve the issues in a way that ensures that materials relevant to the ongoing criminal investigation are made available to prosecutors in a manner that respects the interests of a coequal branch of government," Bush said.

In a statement, Bush said he recognized that Republican and Democratic leaders in the House had "deeply held views" that the search on Jefferson's Capitol Hill office violated the Constitution's separation of powers principles. But he stopped short of saying he agreed with them.

And while many pundits on the left and right have shrugged off the Jefferson raid (because many people have written him off as corrupt -- which he very likely is) to me, the Constitutional issue is clear: the executive branch cannot turn the legislative branch into a subordinate that it can sick the FBI on at will. Clearly, this was a bridge too far for members of Congress, many of whom, including possibly Hastert, clearly have self-serving reasons for finally standing up to the president, given that many of them cuold face Abramoff-releated corruption probes of their own that could put them in the crosshairs of an overly muscular Justice Department. They stood up. Bush stood down. It's a first for this administration. Unfortunately, I have no illusions that this signals the dawn of a Congress newly awakened to its Constitutional oversight role, when it comes to our civil liberties, as opposed to theirs.

But a girl can dream.


Tags: , Corruption, Politics, , Bush Administration, , , ,

posted by JReid @ 6:03 AM  
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Isn't it ironic
"I never dreamed about being president. When I was growing up, I wanted to be Willie Mays."George W. Bush on his official Web site

One brother longs to be baseball commissioner and shows little interest in politics (at least, not when he's sober...) yet he is whisked by fate (and the Supreme Court) into the presidency of the United States. The other brother dreams of being president from the time he is a child, but after his father and brother screw the office up royally, that dream seems all-but lost to him. And then, he is quietly approached about becoming the commissioner of the NFL.

The ironies never cease.

Tags: Bush, , George Bush, Florida, Politics, , Football, Sports

posted by JReid @ 11:01 AM  
FCC on the phoneco spying scanal: not interested
Surprise! The Bush FCC says it won't investigate the NSA-telco deal to databank the domestic phone calls of millions of Americans. Only one of the four commissioners, Michael Copps, thought the spying should be probed. Go figure.


Tags: , , NSA, Bush, Politics, War on Terror, Congress, FISA, , surveillance, spying, Privacy, eavesdropping

posted by JReid @ 9:45 AM  
The Jefferson conundrum
Stipulating that in the end, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson may be found to be a complete crook. However ... and this is, as they say, a "big however..." the FBI raid on his D.C. offices, a year after agents found $90,000 in cash they gave him during a sting -- in the refrigerator at his home (and yet failed to charge him with a crime,) strikes me (and many lawmakers,) as a clear separation of powers problem, and the latest display of executive branch bullying and intimidation, this time of the United States Congress. The message Alberto Gonzalez and the FBI are sending to the Hill is similar to the one they're sending to journalists: we -- can -- get -- to -- you. The Bush administration is flagrantly using its ever-broadening law enforcement power to intimidate and silence the American people and their representatives. Jefferson was a nice juicy target with which to make that point. So far, the Congress has been pliant and subserviant to a fault. But they've been acting up a bit of late, and the Bushies might want to make sure they stay in their post-9/11 place. It's just my take, but I think that's why both Democrats and Republicans are rising up in opposition to the raid. They see the handwriting on the wall (or the horse's head in the bed, as it were...)

Of coure, the righties disagree, and enjoy watching the administration mete out discipline to the Hill and to the Fourth Estate. But the chilling effect on both is something anyone with a passing interest in the Constitution should be wary of. Still, the case has provided the convenient smokescreen of sucking the still mainly compliant media onto a new primetime topic: the supposed bipartisan nature of Washington's culture of corruption. Don't fall for it. This is about the White House cowing the Congress. Jefferson will be quickly shelved by the Dems. The raid will linger long after he's gone.

On a lighter note, I eagerly await the Dave Chappelle impersonation of Mr. Jefferson.

And here are the court documents and a timeline of the Jefferson case.

Tags: , Corruption, Politics, , Bush Administration,
posted by JReid @ 8:59 AM  
Pat's super shake!
Apparently, it allows him to leg press an astounding 2,000 pounds! Skeptical? Apparently some are. (Then again, if Pat heard God correctly, the shake could also cause massive cyclones and perhaps even a tsunami to strike the eastern United States...)

Tags: ,

posted by JReid @ 8:43 AM  
It's lonely at second to the top
Republicans running for reelection are running away from President Bush (and from his boss, Dick Cheney.) Laura's all good though. The Carpetbagger has more.

Tags: Bush, , Politics, Republicans, 2006
posted by JReid @ 8:39 AM  
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Miss Run Amok strikes again
Judy's back, and she, her neocon friends and her lying, fabricating speaker's bureau are gunning for Iran.


She's baaaack....

Tags: , , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:01 AM  
The San Francisco Chronicle has the story, Wired has the docs, from a bona fide whistleblower. AT&T allowed the NSA to install equipment that allowed the Bush administration to snoop not only into the telephone numbers called by the former Ma Bell's customers, but also into our e-mails. Goodbye, AT&T, hello class action lawsuit. How do I sign in.

Wired also explains why they've chosen to release these documents, even as the U.S. Attorney General hangs the ominous threat of prosecution over the heads of American journalists, Havana & Beijing-style. Say the editors of Wired:

A file detailing aspects of AT&T's alleged participation in the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic wiretap operation is sitting in a San Francisco courthouse. But the public cannot see it because, at AT&T's insistence, it remains under seal in court records.

The judge in the case has so far denied requests from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or EFF, and several news organizations to unseal the documents and make them public.

AT&T claims information in the file is proprietary and that it would suffer severe harm if it were released.

Based on what we've seen, Wired News disagrees. In addition, we believe the public's right to know the full facts in this case outweighs AT&T's claims to secrecy.

As a result, we are publishing the complete text of a set of documents from the EFF's primary witness in the case, former AT&T employee and whistle-blower Mark Klein -- information obtained by investigative reporter Ryan Singel through an anonymous source close to the litigation. The documents, available on Wired News as of Monday, consist of 30 pages, with an affidavit attributed to Klein, eight pages of AT&T documents marked "proprietary," and several pages of news clippings and other public information related to government-surveillance issues.
Wired should be commended for their bravery, especially in the face of a segment of the public and the blogosphere which is determined to live in willfull, fear-driven ignorance -- ears shut tight from the maddening din of wicked reporters -- about their government's abuse of the United States Constitution.

Meanwhile, Sy Hersh is reporting that Michael Hayden's NSA not only recorded the phone numbers called by millions of Americans, they also monitored the content of many of them. Hat tip to TPMMuck. Reports Hersh:
A few days before the start of the confirmation hearings for General Michael Hayden, who has been nominated by President Bush to be the head of the C.I.A., I spoke to an official of the National Security Agency who recently retired. The official joined the N.S.A. in the mid-nineteen-seventies, soon after contentious congressional hearings that redefined the relationship between national security and the public’s right to privacy. The hearings, which revealed that, among other abuses, the N.S.A. had illegally intercepted telegrams to and from the United States, led to the passage of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to protect citizens from unlawful surveillance. “When I first came in, I heard from all my elders that ‘we’ll never be able to collect intelligence again,’” the former official said. “They’d whine, ‘Why do we have to report to oversight committees?’ ” But, over the next few years, he told me, the agency did find a way to operate within the law. “We built a system that protected national security and left people able to go home at night without worrying whether what they did that day was appropriate or legal.”

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was clear that the intelligence community needed to get more aggressive and improve its performance. The Administration, deciding on a quick fix, returned to the tactic that got intelligence agencies in trouble thirty years ago: intercepting large numbers of electronic communications made by Americans. The N.S.A.’s carefully constructed rules were set aside.

Last December, the Times reported that the N.S.A. was listening in on calls between people in the United States and people in other countries, and a few weeks ago USA Today reported that the agency was collecting information on millions of private domestic calls. A security consultant working with a major telecommunications carrier told me that his client set up a top-secret high-speed circuit between its main computer complex and Quantico, Virginia, the site of a government-intelligence computer center. This link provided direct access to the carrier’s network core—the critical area of its system, where all its data are stored. “What the companies are doing is worse than turning over records,” the consultant said. “They’re providing total access to all the data.”

“This is not about getting a cardboard box of monthly phone bills in alphabetical order,” a former senior intelligence official said. The Administration’s goal after September 11th was to find suspected terrorists and target them for capture or, in some cases, air strikes. “The N.S.A. is getting real-time actionable intelligence,” the former official said.

The N.S.A. also programmed computers to map the connections between telephone numbers in the United States and suspect numbers abroad, sometimes focussing on a geographic area, rather than on a specific person—for example, a region of Pakistan. Such calls often triggered a process, known as “chaining,” in which subsequent calls to and from the American number were monitored and linked. The way it worked, one high-level Bush Administration intelligence official told me, was for the agency “to take the first number out to two, three, or more levels of separation, and see if one of them comes back”—if, say, someone down the chain was also calling the original, suspect number. As the chain grew longer, more and more Americans inevitably were drawn in.

FISA requires the government to get a warrant from a special court if it wants to eavesdrop on calls made or received by Americans. (It is generally legal for the government to wiretap a call if it is purely foreign.) The legal implications of chaining are less clear. Two people who worked on the N.S.A. call-tracking program told me they believed that, in its early stages, it did not violate the law. “We were not listening to an individual’s conversation,” a defense contractor said. “We were gathering data on the incidence of calls made to and from his phone by people associated with him and others.” Similarly, the Administration intelligence official said that no warrant was needed, because “there’s no personal identifier involved, other than the metadata from a call being placed.”

But the point, obviously, was to identify terrorists. “After you hit something, you have to figure out what to do with it,” the Administration intelligence official told me. The next step, theoretically, could have been to get a suspect’s name and go to the fisa court for a warrant to listen in. One problem, however, was the volume and the ambiguity of the data that had already been generated. (“There’s too many calls and not enough judges in the world,” the former senior intelligence official said.) The agency would also have had to reveal how far it had gone, and how many Americans were involved. And there was a risk that the court could shut down the program.

Instead, the N.S.A. began, in some cases, to eavesdrop on callers (often using computers to listen for key words) or to investigate them using traditional police methods. A government consultant told me that tens of thousands of Americans had had their calls monitored in one way or the other. “In the old days, you needed probable cause to listen in,” the consultant explained. “But you could not listen in to generate probable cause. What they’re doing is a violation of the spirit of the law.” One C.I.A. officer told me that the Administration, by not approaching the FISA court early on, had made it much harder to go to the court later.

Welcome to Havana.

Tags: , , NSA, Bush, Politics, War on Terror, Congress, FISA, , surveillance, spying, Privacy, eavesdropping
posted by JReid @ 7:35 AM  
Clarence says: Pray for Bush
From the desk of -- Lloyd Grove:
Just how bad are things for President Bush?

Pretty bad, I'd say, if even Clarence Thomas is worried about him.

The other night at a Washington book party for the President's sister, Doro Bush Koch, the Supreme Court justice arrived with his wife, Ginny, on the tented roof of the Hay Adams Hotel, overlooking the White House, and made a beeline for the author.

"We have to pray for your brother. He's in real trouble," Thomas told a wide-eyed Koch, whose older brother is, indeed, suffering from near-catastrophic public-opinion ratings.

Koch — whose memoir of the first President Bush is "My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H.W. Bush" — politely thanked Thomas and kept a stiff upper lip.

Later I had a nice chat with the conservative justice — who's had little use for journalists since his 1991 confirmation hearings, in which Anita Hill accused him of inappropriate sexual advances and Thomas accused the Senate Judiciary Committee of conducting "a high-tech lynching."

"Life is long," I said at one point.

"That's right," Thomas agreed. "That's what you should say when somebody does something to you: Life is lo-o-ong. Ha-ha."
... oh, and Bush 41 hates John Dean...

Tags: Bush, , ,
posted by JReid @ 6:32 AM  
Matt Drudge: major league hack
Did Howard Dean direct the DNC to favor Mitch Landrieu over Ray Nagin in the New Orleans mayoral race or not? And did he pervert the Voting Rights Act to do it? That's what Matt Drudge reported yesterday ... until he took it back.

So should Drudge be believed anymore? Is it time to "Dan Rather" him? What will the right wing do? Will Howie Kurtz give Drudge the Jason Leopold treatment? Or, as Peter Daou says, will he write him off as some cooky right wing blogger? (hat tip to C&L)

Update: Not content to just be wrong about Howard Dean, El DrudgeBo also apparently posted some false flag information about Al Gore. Again, we await Howard Kurtz's wratch.

Tags: , New Orleans, ray-nagin, fema, Katrina,
posted by JReid @ 6:07 AM  
Monday, May 22, 2006
Why spy?
Truthout, Taylor Marsh and others are exploring something called ThinThread, and asking why it was junked by Michael Hayden's NSA:

What Is the Real Purpose of Bush's NSA Surveillance?
Patriot Daily Editorial

Thursday 18 May 2006

The Baltimore Sun reported today that Bush rejected President Clinton's effective, legal surveillance program that did not invade privacy to adopt the current NSA spying program, which is ineffective, illegal and invasive of citizens' privacy rights. So, the question jumping off the page may be: Why would Bush use a program that does not actually assist the finding of terrorists, yet also has the disadvantage of invading Americans' privacy rights?

The Clinton surveillance program, called ThinThread, was created during the late 1990s to "gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws." Several bloggers provide excellent posts on the components and nature of the program.

The key to evaluating Bush's true motive for his NSA program is that testing of ThinThread showed it was far better in finding potential threats and protecting privacy than the current NSA program that Bush chose in its stead. "For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy." But, Gen. Hayden of NSA decided not to use these two tools or the monitoring feature to prevent abuse of the records. The problem is that not using the ThinThread program has "undermined the agency's ability to zero in on potential threats." Moreover, "ThinThread could have provided a simple solution to privacy concerns."

So what is ThinThread? According to the Sun:

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program. It remains the backbone of the NSA's warrantless surveillance efforts, tracking domestic and overseas communications from a vast databank of information, and monitoring selected calls.

Four intelligence officials knowledgeable about the program agreed to discuss it with The Sun only if granted anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The program the NSA rejected, called ThinThread, was developed to handle greater volumes of information, partly in expectation of threats surrounding the millennium celebrations. Sources say it bundled together four cutting-edge surveillance tools. ThinThread would have:

* Used more sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and e-mail data to identify suspect communications.

* Identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy.

* Employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency.

* Analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records. ...

... In what intelligence experts describe as rigorous testing of ThinThread in 1998, the project succeeded at each task with high marks. For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy.

But the NSA, then headed by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, opted against both of those tools, as well as the feature that monitored potential abuse of the records. Only the data analysis facet of the program survived and became the basis for the warrantless surveillance program.

The decision, which one official attributed to "turf protection and empire building," has undermined the agency's ability to zero in on potential threats, sources say. In the wake of revelations about the agency's wide gathering of U.S. phone records, they add, ThinThread could have provided a simple solution to privacy concerns.

A number of independent studies, including a classified 2004 report from the Pentagon's inspector-general, in addition to the successful pilot tests, found that the program provided "superior processing, filtering and protection of U.S. citizens, and discovery of important and previously unknown targets," said an intelligence official familiar with the program who described the reports to The Sun. The Pentagon report concluded that ThinThread's ability to sort through data in 2001 was far superior to that of another NSA system in place in 2004, and that the program should be launched and enhanced.
Which raises the question of why the Bush administration would prefer to junk ThinThread in favor of its broad NSA domestic call database.

Truthout's Patriot Daily asks:

So, what is the real purpose of Bush's NSA spying program? Is terrorism being used as a cover to collect reams of information about Americans to establish a central database? Could there be political motives?
Ya think? To paraphrase, Truthout speculates that the political motive in question would be the creation of a broad database of not only phone numbers, but also personal data, buying habits and other databits that could be of use in, say, a presidential campaign. Greg Palast has leveled much the same charge.

Tags: , Bush, NSA, CIA, Politics, News, Iraq, spying, War on Terror, News and politics, , NSA, Spying, wiretapping, Bush, President Bush,
posted by JReid @ 10:14 AM  
Misunderestimating Ray Nagin
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Ray Nagin won reelection in New Orleans over the weekend. (Despite, what Drudge is claiming was a c-o-n-spiracy to oust Nagin at the DNC.)
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) secretly placed political operatives in the city of New Orleans to work against the reelection efforts of incumbent Democrat Mayor Ray Nagin, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

DNC Chairman Howard Dean made the decision himself to back mayoral candidate and sitting Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu (D-LA), sources reveal.

Dean came to the decision to back the white challenger, over the African-American incumbent Nagin, despite concerns amongst senior black officials in the Party that the DNC should stay neutral.

The DNC teams actively worked to defeat Nagin under the auspice of the committee's voting rights program.

The party's field efforts also coincided with a national effort by Democrat contributors to support Landrieu.

Landrieu had outraised Nagin by a wide margin - $3.3 million to $541,980.

Preliminary campaign finance reports indicate many of Landrieu’s contributions came from out of state white Democrat leaders and financiers, including a $1,000 contribution from Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-NE) PAC.

The defeat of Mitch Landrieu is the latest setback for Dean's often criticized field operation.
Drudge also quotes from Nagin's victory speech Saturday night, in which he supposedly praised President Bush, and said he and Dubya were "the most villified politicians in country."

Paul at Wizbang (who's from New Orleans) says ... well duh ... and he's been saying since before the vote that the Black candidate was going to win no matter which candidate actually takes office ...

NOLA breaks down the numbers, and finds that Nagin's win came down to two things: the Black vote, and the white vote...

People Get Ready has a handy precinct map...

Malkin's minions declare the reelection to be actually insane.

Tags: , New Orleans, ray-nagin, fema, Katrina,
posted by JReid @ 9:37 AM  
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Countdown to rebellion?
Conservative stallwart Richard Viguerie writes what could be the epitaph for elected Republicans in November, and for President Bush's legacy as defender of the Reagan Revolution:
Sixty-five months into Bush's presidency, conservatives feel betrayed. After the "Bridge to Nowhere" transportation bill, the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and the Dubai Ports World deal, the immigration crisis was the tipping point for us. Indeed, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found last week that Republican disapproval of Bush's presidency had increased from 16 percent to 30 percent in one month. It is largely the defection of conservatives that is driving the president's poll numbers to new lows.

Emboldened and interconnected as never before by alternative media, such as talk radio and Internet blogs, many conservatives have concluded that the benefits of unwavering support for the GOP simply do not, and will not, outweigh the costs.

The main cause of conservatives' anger with Bush is this: He talked like a conservative to win our votes but never governed like a conservative.

For all of conservatives' patience, we've been rewarded with the botched Hurricane Katrina response, headed by an unqualified director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which proved that the government isn't ready for the next disaster. We've been rewarded with an amnesty plan for illegal immigrants. We've been rewarded with a war in Iraq that drags on because of the failure to provide adequate resources at the beginning, and with exactly the sort of "nation-building" that Candidate Bush said he opposed.

Republicans in Congress and at the White House seem oblivious to the rising threat of communist China and of Vladimir Putin's Russia. Despite the temporary appointment of conservative John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the current GOP leadership keeps shoveling money to the world body despite its refusal to change.

As for the Supreme Court, Bush's failed nomination of Miers, his personal lawyer, represented the breaking of what we took as an explicit promise to appoint more Antonin Scalias and Clarence Thomases, and it was an inexcusable act of cronyism.

Conservatives hope that John G. Roberts and Samuel A. Alito will turn out to be conservatives, as we were promised, but we are aware that six of nine previous Republican appointees to the Supreme Court turned out to be liberals or swing voters. And none of Bush's Supreme Court nominees had a significant paper trail as a conservative legal scholar. That sends a message to conservative lawyers and judges: If you want to be on the Supreme Court someday, hide your conservatism.

But conservatives don't blame the current mess just on Bush. They recognize the problem today is also at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

For years, congressional Republicans have sold themselves to conservatives as the continuation of the Reagan revolution. We were told that they would take on the Washington special interests -- that they would, in essence, tear down K Street and sow the earth with salt to make sure nothing ever grew there again.

But over time, most of them turned into the sort of unprincipled power brokers they had ousted in 1994. They lost interest in furthering conservative ideas, and they turned their attention to getting their share of the pork. Conservatives did not spend decades going door to door, staffing phone banks and compiling lists of like-minded voters so Republican congressmen could have highways named after them and so there could be an affirmative-action program for Republican lobbyists.

White House and congressional Republicans seem to have adopted a one-word strategy: bribery. Buy off seniors with a prescription drug benefit. Buy off the steel industry with tariffs. Buy off agribusiness with subsidies. The cost of illegal bribery (see the case of former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham) pales next to that of legal bribery such as congressional earmarks.

In today's Washington, where are the serious efforts by Republicans to protect unborn children from abortion? Where is the campaign for a constitutional amendment to prevent liberal judges from allowing same-sex marriage?

Instead of conservative action on social issues, the Republican-controlled House has approved more taxpayers' money for an embryo-killing type of stem cell research. And it passed a "hate crimes" measure that could lead to the classification as "hate" of criticism of homosexual activity. And in the Senate, Republicans have let key judicial nominees languish, even when Bush has nominated conservatives for lower courts. Would a strong Senate leader such as LBJ have let his party's nominees fail for lack of a floor vote?

As long as Democrats controlled Congress or the White House, Republicans could tell conservatives they deserved support because of what they would do, someday. Now we know what they do when they have control. Their agenda comes from Big Business, not from grass-roots conservatives.

But unhappy conservatives should be taken seriously. When conservatives are unhappy, bad things happen to the Republican Party.
A few caustic paragraphs later, Viguerie adds this:
The current record of Washington Republicans is so bad that, without a drastic change in direction, millions of conservatives will again stay home this November.

And maybe they should. Conservatives are beginning to realize that nothing will change until there's a change in the GOP leadership. If congressional Republicans win this fall, they will see themselves as vindicated, and nothing will get better.

If conservatives accept the idea that we must support Republicans no matter what they do, we give up our bargaining position and any chance at getting things done. We're like a union that agrees never to strike, no matter how badly its members are treated. Sometimes it is better to stand on principle and suffer a temporary defeat. If Ford had won in 1976, it's unlikely Reagan ever would have been president. If the elder Bush had won in 1992, it's unlikely the Republicans would have taken control of Congress in 1994.

At the very least, conservatives must stop funding the Republican National Committee and other party groups. (Let Big Business take care of that!) Instead, conservatives should dedicate their money and volunteer efforts toward conservative groups and conservative candidates. They should redirect their anger into building a third force -- not a third party, but a movement independent of any party. They should lay the groundwork for a rebirth of the conservative movement and for the 2008 campaign, when, perhaps, a new generation of conservative leaders will step forward.

I've never seen conservatives so downright fed up as they are today. The current relationship between Washington Republicans and the nation's conservatives makes me think of a cheating husband whose wife catches him, and forgives him, time and time again. Then one day he comes home to discover that she has packed her bags and called a cab -- and a divorce lawyer.
Hell hath no fury, indeed.

...Although I'm sure the Bush cultists at Powerline and Red State (not to mention my man A.J. ) will still fall into line for the president...

Tags: , , , , Conservatives, angry conservatives, Election 2006, Washington Post
posted by JReid @ 5:55 PM  
Friday, May 19, 2006
The Senate's other vote
50-49 to allow illegal migrants to collect Social Security for their past (illegal) employment.

Tags: Senate, Illegal immigration, Immigration
posted by JReid @ 10:08 AM  
Happy Friday, Karl Rove
Unfortunately, I don't think Jason Leopold is rooting for you.

Tags: , Politics, Valerie Plame, PlameGate, , Patrick Fitzgerald, Indictment
posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
New strategy, same as the old strategy
Democrats, one day you're going to get this. You're going to figure out the way this works, and you're going to figure out a way to beat it.

The GOP yesterday launched it's election strategy for the November midterms. It's called the (super-secret) Marriage Amendment. And it's the only way the GOP can get the evangelicals to forgive them for their trespasses (on immigration, on their head fakes on the culture wars, and hell, everything else) and turn out for Republicans this fall.

And in case it's not enough, there's also a gambit to turn out the white, blue-collar conservative vote: it's called English as the national language.

Democrats: what say you? If you fight either of these fights, you lose. If you don't fight them, you lose the activist core of your fundraising and door-knocking base (though you gain in the middle). So what do you do?

Mike Votes has more on the fightin' and the Specterisms...

ThinkP has more on Russ Feingold's walk-out, and Arlen Specter's response... More on that here, from AP.

John Aravosis says the GOP is hiding their evangelicals under a bushel...

In the spirit of bipartisanship, Andrew Sullivan has the latest on the Howard Dean gay kerfuffle (hm ... maybe that's a bad choice of words...) Note to Sullivan and others, maybe HoDo's eyes are open regarding November...

Tags: , Politics, Democrats, Bush, Congress, GOP, In The News, , , , Same-sex Marriage, , Language, Spanish,
posted by JReid @ 8:15 AM  
The Hayden half-grilling
The Democrats on the intelligence committee try to grill General Michael Hayden during the long-awaited CIA nomination hearings (who declines to answer most questions about his domestic spying notions in the open session), while the Republicans simply declare Hayden "magnificent..."

Hayden did manage to get out one piece of interesting info: that even he (of the questionable understanding of the probable cause standard in the Fourth Amendment) was troubled by Doug Feith and his band of Pentagon neocons' use of intelligence to conflate Iraq and al-Qaida.

And from our friends at, we have a new entry for Webster's New World Order Dictionary: Specterism:
n. A threat to stand up to Bush that is never meant to be acted upon and withdrawn at the very first opportunity.

In other words, don't hold your breath waiting for Specter or any other Republican Senator to delve more deeply into the multiple instances of domestic spying taking place under the Bush regime.

Tags: , Bush, NSA, CIA, Politics, News, Iraq, spying, War on Terror
posted by JReid @ 7:02 AM  
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Fun with Sideshow Mel
Florida Senator Mel Martinez may have himself a Jack Abramoff problem...
posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
Pat Robertson trips the light fantastic
Hint: it's about tsunamis...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 7:29 AM  
She's baaaack....
Judy Miller has crawled out of the rabbit hole, and she's spinning a tale that would make Alice blush. The gist: the NSA had signals intelligence suggesting a major attack is coming. They told Judy. Judy didn't write the story. Read on...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 7:26 AM  
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Okay, this is freaking hysterical...

Update: C&L has the video. (Thanks, Mike V!)
posted by JReid @ 10:07 AM  
Who's watching you, and more importantly, why?
We already know that the Bush administration is pushing the Constitutional envelope on domestic surveillance. And we now know that they've contracted with phone companies like Verizon, AT&T and ... well, BellSouth says they didn't do it (though once AT&T finishes acquiring them, it won't really matter) to get the numbers of everyone who has called or been called by some 200 million Americans. But as Greg Palast pointed out on Randi Rhodes' show yesterday, not enough people -- journalists included -- are asking why (probably because they're accepting the Bush administration's explanation that it's "to catch the terr'rists."

Well, what if it's not?

We learned yesterday that at least two reporters have been tipped off that the FBI is using phone records to track who journalists are calling. And now Palast is hipping us to a company we've heard about before -- Choicepoint -- and how their huge, no-bid contract with the FBI plays into the domestic surveillance scheme. Says Palast:

Worried about Dick Cheney listening in Sunday on your call to Mom? That ain't nothing. You should be more concerned that they are linking this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration. Five years ago, I discovered that ChoicePoint had already gathered 16 billion data files on Americans -- and I know they've expanded their ops at an explosive rate.

They are paid to keep an eye on you -- because the FBI can't. For the government to collect this stuff is against the law unless you're suspected of a crime. (The law in question is the Constitution.) But ChoicePoint can collect it for "commercial" purchases -- and under the Bush Administration's suspect reading of the Patriot Act -- our domestic spying apparatchiks can then BUY the info from ChoicePoint.

Who ARE these guys selling George Bush a piece of you?

ChoicePoint's board has more Republicans than a Palm Beach country club. It was funded, and its board stocked, by such Republican sugar daddies as billionaires Bernie Marcus and Ken Langone -- even after Langone was charged by the Securities Exchange Commission with abuse of inside information.

I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black. Who came up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House? ChoicePoint, Inc.

And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. While they've since apologized to the NAACP, ChoicePoint's ethnic cleansing of voter rolls has been amply rewarded by the man the company elected.

And now ChoicePoint and George Bush want your blood. Forget your phone bill. ChoicePoint, a sickened executive of the company told us in confidence, "hope[s] to build a database of DNA samples from every person in the United States ...linked to all the other information held by CP [ChoicePoint]" from medical to voting records.

And ChoicePoint lied about that too. The company publicly denied they gave DNA to the Feds -- but then told our investigator, pretending to seek work, that ChoicePoint was "the number one" provider of DNA info to the FBI.

"And that scares the hell out of me," said the executive (who has since left the company), because ChoicePoint gets it WRONG so often. We are not contracting out our Homeland Security to James Bond here. It's more like Austin Powers, Inc. Besides the 97% error rate in finding Florida "felons," Illinois State Police fired the company after discovering ChoicePoint had produced test "results" on rape case evidence ... that didn't exist. And ChoicePoint just got hit with the largest fine in Federal Trade Commission history for letting identity thieves purchase 145,000 credit card records.

But it won't stop, despite Republican senators shedding big crocodile tears about "surveillance" of innocent Americans. That's because FEAR is a lucrative business -- not just for ChoicePoint, but for firms such as Syntech, Sybase and Lockheed-Martin -- each of which has provided lucrative posts or profits to connected Republicans including former Total Information Awareness chief John Poindexter (Syntech), Marvin Bush (Sybase) and Lynn Cheney (Lockheed-Martin).

But how can they get Americans to give up our personal files, our phone logs, our DNA and our rights? Easy. Fear sells better than sex -- and they want you to be afraid. Back to today's New York Times, page 28: "Wider Use of DNA Lists is Urged in Fighting Crime." And who is providing the technology? It comes, says the Times, from the work done on using DNA fragments to identity victims of the September 11 attack. And who did that job (for $12 million, no bid)? ChoicePoint, Inc. Which is NOT mentioned by the Times.

"Genetic surveillance would thus shift from the individual [the alleged criminal] to the family," says the Times -- which will require, of course, a national DNA database of NON-criminals.

It doesn't end there. Turn to the same newspaper, page 23, with a story about a weird new law passed by the state of Georgia to fight illegal immigration. Every single employer and government agency will be required to match citizen or worker data against national databases to affirm citizenship. It won't stop illegal border crossing, but hey, someone's going to make big bucks on selling data. And guess what local boy owns the data mine? ChoicePoint, Inc., of Alpharetta, Georgia.

The knuckleheads at the Times don't put the three stories together because the real players aren't in the press releases their reporters re-write.
Sound Soviet enough for you yet? Or maybe it just sounds strangely faniliar...

Tags: News and politics, NSA, spying, Bush, , , ,
posted by JReid @ 9:51 AM  
Wah wah wah
Reactions to Bush's immigration speech range from blah to downright bleak.

Tags: Bush, Illegal immigration, Immigration
posted by JReid @ 8:57 AM  
Bill Cosby, himself
We talked on the radio show today about Dr. Bill Cosby and his latest jeramiad against what he calls the poor values of poor Blacks in America. Inevitably, talk turned to his May, 2004 comments at the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, in which he complained about the poor speaking habits and misbehavior of many Blacks 'in the hood.'

Here's a link to those 2004 comments, and a link to a story about his latest comments, delivered both at the Spelman commencement, and to a CNN reporter. BTW, Cosby isn't just talking smack. He's taking his empowerment message on the road.

posted by JReid @ 8:09 AM  
Monday, May 15, 2006
They are bugging reporters
I've been saying this for months and now it looks like there's finally some concrete information, strongly indicating that the Bush administration's wide-ranging domestic spy efforts include electronic surveillance of reporters (on top of other niceties, like scouring for the political affiliations of IRS auditees, attempting to rifle through the personal effects of a dead reporter, looking for leak info, and surveilling little old ladies and Quakers who oppose the Iraq war.)

From ABC News' Brian Ross:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA's secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.
Ross says he and his colleague were told that the contents of their conversations were not being monitored, but the fact is, the administration wouldn't have to do that. All they need is to do a data match of reporters' known numbers (something easily obtained since reporters use so many administration sources) and the numbers of employees at whatever alphabet agency the administration suspects of disloyalty to the president (as opposed to disloyalty to the constitution, which is increasingly evident in the actions of the Orwellian Team Bush...)

It just doesn't get more Soviet than this.

Tags: News and politics, NSA, spying, Bush, , , ,
posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Watching EU too
Guess who else's phone data the Bush administration could soon have access to?
US authorities can get access to EU citizens' data on phone calls, sms' and emails, giving a recent EU data-retention law much wider-reaching consequences than first expected, reports Swedish daily Sydsvenskan.

The EU data retention bill, passed in February after much controversy and with implementation tabled for late 2007, obliges telephone operators and internet service providers to store information on who called who and who emailed who for at least six months, aimed at fighting terrorism and organised crime.

A week later on 2-3 March, EU and US representatives met in Vienna for an informal high level meeting on freedom, security and justice where the US expressed interest in the future storage of information.

The US delegation to the meeting "indicated that it was considering approaching each [EU] member state to ensure that the data collected on the basis of the recently adopted Directive on data retention be accessible to them," according to the notes of the meeting.

Representatives from the Austrian EU presidency and from the European Commission said that these data were "accessible like any other data on the basis of the existing ... agreements" the notes said.

The EU representatives added that the commission would convene an expert meeting on the issue.
Don't you just love the global war on terror?

Tags: News and politics, , NSA, Spying, wiretapping, Bush, President Bush,
posted by JReid @ 10:44 AM  
Whither Karl Rove
Jason Leopold reported this weekend that Karl Rove has informed the White House that he will be indicted in the CIA leak case and that he will then immediately resign. Of course, this touched off a furor around the blogosphere.

Today, NRO's Byron York says it's not true. (HT to Talkleft)

Jason says yes it is, and he'll even disclose his sources if he turns out to be wrong.

We shall see.

Tags: , Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, Politics, Libby, Bush, Cheney, rove, Iraq
posted by JReid @ 8:59 AM  
That's Rich
In case you're like me and you refuse to pay for NY Times Select, here's a link to Sunday's Frank Rich article on who the real traitors are...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
Bush to preempt '24' with retread speech. Film at 11
President Bush goes before the cameras tonight (not that the cameras were willing -- he's preempting Fox's "24," among other programs...) to tout, among other things, his plan for a small, temporary deployment of the already overstretched National Guard (but not 10,000 of them, as the Pentagon had indicated,) to the U.S. southern border to not apprehend illegal migrants and not militarize the border in a way he hopes won't upset Mexico's Vicente Fox... (was that too editorial?) Here's the round-up of blog reax:

Raymond at Voteswagon says "this better be good":

President Bush has a pep rally planned for Monday night, he intends on trying to really support in regards to the war on Iraq, the nuclear issue with Iran, the illegal immigration debate, and the oil energy issue. Many believe they already know what will be said, the same ol same ol which has gotten us nowhere. Many feel he will tell us we need patience in Iraq, diplomacy in Iran, expectation that the immigration issue cannot just be ended and that the guest worker program is a must, and that we must search for energy alternatives in the future. If he says all this then I say I will not vote for one Republican in the next election, we have heard all this before and it has gotten us nowhere, we need substance to these words not just more rah-rah speeches that produce nothing.
Indian Chris hopes to get some ideas edited into the president's speech...

Bernard at A Certain Slant of Light wonders why Bush informed Vicente Fox of what he was up to before he tells the American people...

President Bush is nothing if not consistent. Before he even goes before the lights and television cameras from the Oval Office Monday night to talk to the American people about the mess of it his administration has made on our land border with Mexico, he’s taken the time apparently to “assure” Mexico’s el presidente, Vicente Fox, that the National Guard troops he intends to place on the border will be tempoary, not a permanent presence. After all, Vicente Fox has that $20+ billion in annual remittances to protect.

Now there’s a friendship forged in duplicity.
Michelle Malkin is ... well you can probably guess where she stands...

LaShawn Barber will be liveblogging the speech, "as if it will make any difference in the scheme of things..."

Newsflash! Someone at Powerline almost, kinda sorta takes a position opposed to President Bush! (Hint: it's not Hinderaker, who would instantly burst into flames if he even tried...)

The Kos kids say some stuff that I tied to read through but then I just got bored...

Somewhat off topic, but Mike Votes scores the picture of the day... no really it's a must-see, you've got to go see it.

Update: "Prison Break"/"24" watch! Fox will air both shows 20 minutes late tonight. And Bush is bumping Oprah. TV Newser three-link non-sequitor: Dance, Tucker, Dance!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 7:58 AM  
From the desk of: John LeBoutillier
Summed up nicely, on NewsMax no less:

From 1979 to 1980, while Jimmy Carter was our president, the economic numbers were indeed dire:

21 percent interest rate;
11 percent unemployment;
12 percent inflation rate;
Gas lines, rationing and OPEC jacking up the price of crude.
There was also the November 4, 1979 hostage crisis in Tehran.
The result?

Carter's approval ratings plummeted – and Teddy Kennedy, sensing political vulnerability, jumped into the race for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination against an incumbent Democrat president.

By April of 1980, Carter suffered yet another blow when his poorly micromanaged Desert One hostage rescue scheme went sour.

But despite all these setbacks and sour indicators, Carter's approval/disapproval ratings were never as bad as GW Bush's are today.

Why is this?

Today's stock market is again booming. Unemployment is very low. There is – thank goodness – no inflation. And interest rates, while creeping back up, are nowhere near their 1979–1980 high. Yes, gas prices are exploding upwards – and that must hurt. But his ratings were declining before these recent spikes.

So, why is President GW Bush even more unpopular than Jimmy Carter was?


A) Iraq is an underlying sore point with more and more people. Why? Because it never ends, it never gets better – and we seem to be making no progress whatsoever.

B) Despite the good economic numbers, many people have ‘fear' that the economy is soon going to collapse. There is a pessimism about the future; under President Reagan in the 1980s there was a real underlying optimism about the future. Americans are an inherently optimistic people, so this negativity is hurting Bush and the Congress.

C) Americans feel that our government is totally incompetent. From Iraq's numerous screw-ups – i.e., no body armor, not enough troops, no armor on the vehicles, bad intelligence, CIA leaks, etc. – to Katrina to Dubai Ports to this incredible immigration mess, it sure seems as if our federal government does not have a clue.

D) Shelf life: GW Bush has worn out his welcome. He's been on the scene for almost seven years as either a candidate or as president – and the Bush family had another 12 years in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. The country might just be tired of the Bushes.

Whatever the reasons for this total meltdown of a second-term president, it is remarkable. With no legal underpinning – as Nixon and Clinton had with their impeachment proceedings – Bush's fall is groundbreaking. Sure, other second-term presidents have had dips. But always their ratings rebounded.

Does anyone now believe a bounce upward is even possible for this president?

He seems to lurch from one screw-up to the next – and the recent White House staff changes are merely cosmetic Band-Aids that can and will have little effect.

The fundamental problem is that his credibility is shot, his base is disconsolate and he has no agenda around which to rally anyone.

In sum, he is no longer moving, which in politics is crucial. A candidate – or a president – has to keep moving from idea to issue to event. Just the image of movement keeps the enterprise fresh and new and alive.

The Bush presidency is as dead as his father's was at the end of the first Gulf War.

And it may be too late to save it – or the Republican Party's control of the House of Representatives.
What to do about that, Karl Rove?

Tags: Bush
posted by JReid @ 7:32 AM  
You know Dubya is in trouble when Mel Gibson turns on him. And the Freepers say...

Tags: Bush,
posted by JReid @ 7:17 AM  
Sunday, May 14, 2006
Paging Dr. Evil
Dick Cheney merits two headlines from the House of Lichtblau/Risen today. First, "sources" place him at the center of the expanding Bush domestic spying regime (could this be FOH -- Friends of Hayden -- seeking to clear their guy's path to CIA stewardship?) Either way, the narrative of Cheney as Nixon redux is as potent as ever. First up, Eric Lichtlau (you KNOW they're wiretapping this guy) and Scott Shane report for the Grey Lady that:
In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.

But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.

The N.S.A.'s position ultimately prevailed. But just how Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the agency at the time, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits is not yet clear.

As the program's overseer and chief salesman, General Hayden is certain to face questions about his role when he appears at a Senate hearing next week on his nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Criticism of the surveillance program, which some lawmakers say is illegal, flared again this week with the disclosure that the N.S.A. had collected the phone records of millions of Americans in an effort to track terrorism suspects.

By several accounts, including those of the two officials, General Hayden, a 61-year-old Air Force officer who left the agency last year to become principal deputy director of national intelligence, was the man in the middle as President Bush demanded that intelligence agencies act urgently to stop future attacks.

On one side was a strong-willed vice president and his longtime legal adviser, David S. Addington, who believed that the Constitution permitted spy agencies to take sweeping measures to defend the country. Later, Mr. Cheney would personally arrange tightly controlled briefings on the program for select members of Congress.

On the other side were some lawyers and officials at the largest American intelligence agency, which was battered by eavesdropping scandals in the 1970's and has since wielded its powerful technology with extreme care to avoid accusations of spying on Americans.

As in other areas of intelligence collection, including interrogation methods for terrorism suspects, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Addington took an aggressive view of what was permissible under the Constitution, the two intelligence officials said.

If people suspected of links to Al Qaeda made calls inside the United States, the vice president and Mr. Addington thought eavesdropping without warrants "could be done and should be done," one of them said.

He added: "That's not what the N.S.A. lawyers think."

The other official said there was "a very healthy debate" over the issue. The vice president's staff was "pushing and pushing, and it was up to the N.S.A. lawyers to draw a line and say absolutely not."

Both officials said they were speaking about the internal discussions because of the significant national security and civil liberty issues involved and because they thought it was important for citizens to understand the interplay between Mr. Cheney's office and the N.S.A. Both spoke favorably of General Hayden; one expressed no view on his nomination for the C.I.A. job, and the other was interviewed by The New York Times weeks before President Bush selected the general.

Mr. Cheney's spokeswoman, Lee Anne McBride, declined to discuss the deliberations about the classified program. "As the administration, including the vice president, has said, this is terrorist surveillance, not domestic surveillance," she said. "The vice president has explained this wartime measure is limited in scope and conducted in a lawful way that safeguards our civil liberties." ...

And second, Cheney's hand written notes on Joseph Wilson's NYT op-ed show that not only DID Cheney know who Wilson was -- despite his later denials -- he also knew who Wilson's wife was, and he did indeed give more than a damn.
Vice President Dick Cheney made handwritten notations on a July 2003 newspaper column that indicate he was focused on a critic of the administration's Iraq policy, according to a court filing in the C.I.A. leak case.

Mr. Cheney's notes were cited in a prosecution brief in the case against the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr. The entries were made on a copy of an Op-Ed article by Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, that was published in The New York Times on July 6, 2003. The leak case involves the disclosure that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a C.I.A. officer.

"Those annotations support the proposition that publication of the Wilson Op-Ed acutely focused the attention of the vice president and the defendant — his chief of staff — on Mr. Wilson, on the assertions made in his article, and on responding to those assertions," said the legal papers filed Friday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case.

In neat writing above the text of the column, prosecutors say, Mr. Cheney wrote: "Have they done this sort of thing before? Send an Amb. to answer a question? Do we ordinarily send people out pro bono to work for us? Or did his wife send him on a junket?"

The legal papers do not address how prosecutors know it is Mr. Cheney's handwriting or when the notes were written. A spokesman for the vice president could not be reached for comment Saturday night.

Mr. Fitzgerald wants to use the notations to support the prosecution's contention that Mr. Libby lied to investigators and a grand jury when he testified that he had learned of Ms. Wilson's existence from reporters. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby, who has been charged with perjury, learned about Ms. Wilson's role from several people, including Mr. Cheney.

Is it news that Dick Cheney spearheaded the drive to discredit Joe Wilson? No. But the new disclosure does advance the argument that Mr. Cheney is both fundamentally dishonest, and almost totally dishonorable in his conduct as vice president of the United States. Too bad Dubya doesn't have the authority to fire him.

Tags: News and politics, , NSA, domestic spying, CIA leak, Plamegate,
posted by JReid @ 12:51 PM  
About a poll
Much has been made of the ABC News/WaPo overnight poll that showed that two-thirds of Americans have no problem with the Bush administration data mining their phone calls. As I and many others have said, the devil is in the poll question. Here's how Morin and company asked the question of respondents on Thursday (May 11):

"It's been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?"
... to which 63 percent responded "acceptable" and 35 percent said "unacceptable" though by 56 to 42, respondents said it was right for the news media to have disclosed the program.)

And here's how it was asked by Newsweek and Princeton Research on Thursday and Friday:

"As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy." which 53 percent of all respondents answered "goes too far," (including 26 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Independents) vs. 41 percent who called it a "necessary tool."

It seems a subtle difference, and of course the Newsweek poll was taken as the coverage of the spy program was expanding in a negative direction for the president. But at the end of the day, the difference in how the question is answered depends on how the poll frames the intentions of the administration and the program (Even the Newsweek poll fais to identify the NSA as what it is -- a foreign intelligence collection agency that is prohibited from operating on U.S. soil). If you believe -- and are told -- that the goal of the program is solely to combat terrorism, and that the targets of any surveillance that followed the data mining are terrorists alone, you're probably OK with the program. But if you are presented with the program details, and are then asked whether or not you believe it is an appropriate tool for combatting terrorism, you have to make a more basic -- and I think honest -- decision. And if you fundamentally don't trust the administration and so don't trust them to stop at anti-terror surveillance, you probably have serious problems with them putting your every inbound and outbout phone call into a massive, secret database.

Count me among the latter.

By the way, the same Newsweek poll also has some bad news for the future fundraisiers for the Bush II presidential library. More than half of those surveyed believe Dubya will go down in history as a below average president.

What's really interesting about this poll, is that the percentage who find Bush "average" has always outpaced the share who find him above average, going back to October 2003, relatively early on in his Iraq war. What has really changed is that the percent finding him below average has risen sharply: from 26 percent in October 2003 to 50 percent now -- almost double. While those rating him above average have dropped from 29 percent then to just 16 percent now. The percentage rating Bush as just middling, really hasn't changed all that much -- down eight points from 40 to 32 percent -- with all of the difference going to "he blows..."

Meanwhile, because the inevitable comparisons will come, let's look at the same Newsweek/Princeton poll regarding Bill Clinton, last taken in Februrary, 2001. At that time, 36 percent said he would be rated as "average," 28 percent said "above average" and 34 percent said "below average". What's interesting with Clinton is that views of him were sharply negative at the end of his term, but grew increasingly favorable over time (or as the Bush II admnistration dragged on.) Yet even with some sharply negative numbers, 63 percent of Americans viewed his presidency as a success at the end of his term, and 52 percent believed he made progress towards solving "the major problems facing the country." Bush can only hope the next president sucks so badly that people will eventually get there with him.

Update: Seems the WaPo poll was as flawed as it seems. USAT contradicts it just like Newsweek did, and like Newsweek, with a much larger sample. The USAT result: 51 percent oppose the government's secret telephone database.

Update 2: Dan Riehl was polled, and he ain't buyin' it...

Neither is Wizbang's Grande Dame ("Crazy Auntie" just seems so pre-9/11...)

Tags: News and politics, , NSA, Spying, wiretapping, Bush, President Bush,
posted by JReid @ 11:50 AM  
What the Democrats don't seem to get, but perhaps, Howard Dean, in his own awkward way, does, is that the Republicans -- as low as they have sunk -- still have two cards they can play in November: a "major security issue" (pick your poison: the threat of another terror attack -- watch for the alert level to be "orange" by October... or a military strike on Iran...) and gay marriage. Bill Frist fired the first shot on the second gambit today. (Interestingly, the First Lady knows what's up, and she actually went out on a limb and fired back...)

Daily Kos Democrats will not want to hear this, but the plain fact is that as sick as Americans of all political stripes are of corrupt, incompetent Republican rule, they remain wary of what would be in store for the country if Democrats return to power -- or at least if a certain kind of Democrat returns to power (another reason why the party should have given more serious consideration to Harold Ford as House leader instead of Nancy Pelosi). I spoke with a prominent pastor of a megachurch here in South Florida on Friday, who calls himself a "personal friend of President Bush," and whose congregation -- mostly African-American, as he is -- lean heavily Republican. He boiled the issue down plainly: the Democratic platform is anti-Biblical, on issues from abortion to affirmative action (the Bible, he says, says no man should be preferred over another) to gay marriage, and that Republicans must remain in power in order to stop the slide of American culture into the sewer of secular humanism.

Karl Rove and company know how this game is played. The Democrats are going to have to figure out a way to deal with this. They could start by not pushing for the liberalization of marriage in the kind of very public, hard-charging way some activists are demanding. Otherwise, they risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in November. They also need to recognize that the majority of Americans are far more conservative on social issues than left wing bloggers are, for instance. And far more religious.

Again, not something lefties are going to want to hear, but it's the truth.

Update: James Dobson and other Christian conservatives are essentially telling the Bush administration and the GOP: get on that marriage amendment pronto ... or else.

Tags: , , , , Laura Bush, Howard Dean, Democrats, Republicans, Bill+Frist
posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Friday, May 12, 2006
Enriched uranium found in Iran
From the New York Times:
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- U.N. inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment from an Iranian research center linked to the military, diplomats said Friday -- a revelation likely to strengthen U.S. arguments that Tehran wants to develop nuclear arms.

The diplomats, who demanded anonymity in exchange for divulging the confidential information, cautioned that confirmation still had to come through other laboratory tests.

Initially, they said the density of enrichment appeared to be close to or above the level used to make nuclear warheads. But later a diplomat accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was below that, although higher than the low-enriched material used to generate power and heading toward weapons-grade level.

Still, they said, further analysis could show that the find matches others established to have come from abroad. The IAEA determined earlier traces of highly enriched uranium were imported on equipment from Pakistan that Iran bought on the black market during nearly two decades of clandestine activity.

Even then, nevertheless, the find would be significant.

Because Iran has previously denied conducting enrichment-related activities at the site, the mere fact the traces came from there bolsters arguments that it has hidden parts of a program that can create the fissile material used in nuclear warheads. Additionally, the site's connection to the military weakens Iranian arguments that its nuclear program is purely civilian.

''That has long been suspected as the site of undeclared enrichment research and ... the Iranians have denied that any enrichment research had taken place at that location,'' said Iran expert Gary Samore of the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago. ''It certainly does reinforce the agency's suspicion that Iran has not fully declared its past enrichment research.''

The development, however, was unlikely to result in an immediate American push for strong U.N. Security Council action against Tehran.

Meanwhile the Bush administration is still refusing direct talks with Tehran, despite increasing calls for them to do just that.

This doesn't sound like an attempt by the U.S. to avoid war. And the lower the president sinks in the polls, the more I worry that he'll attack Iran in part as a strategy to climb out of the hole.

With Tony Blair having removed Jack Straw and replaced him with a more compliant foreign secretary, he may even get to dance with the same partner the third time 'round (Afghanistan, Iraq...) and Blair might just feel the need to get Iran done before he is forced from leadership by his party. Another caveat, Bush and Blair are now without many of the neocon leaders (in Italy and Spain in particular) who supported their adventures in Iraq. Europe seems to be rushing headlong to cleanse itself of neoconservative leadership, before it's too late. Here in the U.S., we don't have that option (and even if the Dems get back in power in November, I somehow doubt they'll have the political cojones to try and take down the president. They're Democrats, after all...)

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 9:02 PM  
Random takes
Duh. A new poll says most Americans believe Bill Clinton was a much better president than Dubya by about a two to one margin.

I guess that's why it wasn't televised... Apparently, Tony Snow totally sucked in his first televised press conference. Let the mockery begin...

Two thirds of Americans could care less that the NSA is banking their every phonecall. ... at least, that's what our president's good buddy at the Washington Post Richard Morin would have you believe. It's all in the wording, Mr. Morin, all in the wording...

Hip-hop shock jock Star has now not only been fired, he's been arrested...

Turns out there's dispositive DNA in the Duke case after all...

Up to 200 people are dead following a gas pipeline explosion in Nigeria. It appears to have been an attempt to steal fuel, gone very wrong...

And breaking: John Dean just told Keith Olbermann that the person who leaked the phone database story is about to hit the press with even more stuff that makes the banking of all our phone calls 'just the tip of the iceberg.' Can't wait...

Update: Who's advising this guy? Bush decides to pre-empt "Prison Break" and "24" (only the most popular show among American men, particularly wingers,) to make some useless speech on his immigration policy, which just about everybody who normally watches shows like "Prison Break" and "24" hates??? I think it's time for another house cleaning at the White House...

The New Iraq: Shiite and Kurdish troops are now fighting each other... great.

Good for Qwest. Executives of the one phone company with any integrity explain their decision not to cooperate with the NSA.

Tags: News and politics
posted by JReid @ 8:08 PM  
Something just ain't right
Why don't I trust Alberto Gonzales or the FBI on this Foggo thing? So the FBI raids Foggo's home, and they don't tell Porter Goss (not surprising, since a couple of his aides are implicated too.) I'm with the commenter on ABCNews blog thread who asks whether Foggo is the designated fall guy. Larry Franklin was on the Ed Schultz show tonight saying people inside the agency don't believe Foggo was directly involved in the bribe-making, which took place between 2000 and 2004, during part of which time Foggo was overseas.

I'm not saying Foggo is an innocent man. I'm just saying this smells like a continuation of the administration's war on the CIA, which is after all, the agency that warned Condi Rice that "Bin Laden (was) determined to attack inside the United States" and was ignored, and that warned the administration that the intel was foggy on Iraq having WMD (despite its former director's ridiculous "slam dunk" pandering.) They're the guys who had all the caveats Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld didn't want to hear, and now they're going down hard. Call me crazy, but this whole thing just looks like an attempt to squash this agency, using a sex-tinged scandal as the ultimate can of Raid.

Back to the story. This Hookergate thing is obviously bigger and nastier than even the name implies. NYT reports that up to a half dozen members of Congress could be ensnared, with TPM Muckraker outlining the possible tagging of California Rep. Jerry Lewis.

So heads in Congress and the CIA will roll. Whither the White House...

Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, domestic spying, Hayden, NSA, Hookergate
posted by JReid @ 7:32 PM  
Hold the telcos accountable
ThinkProgress breaks down the possible legal case against the telcos who cooperated with the NSA's database project. MyDD reminds us of what we're dealing with.

Tags: News and politics, NSA, domestic spying, Bush, USA Today, civil liberties, Constitution
posted by JReid @ 7:47 AM  
Moussaoui spared by a single juror
You cannot underestimate how much pressure the holdout juror in the Moussaoui case had to be. It's almost unimaginable.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A single holdout kept the jury from handing a death sentence to Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in this country in the 9/11 attacks.

But that juror never explained his vote, said the foreman of the jury that sentenced the confessed al-Qaida conspirator to life in prison last week.

The foreman, a math teacher in Northern Virginia, told The Washington Post that jurors voted three times -- 11-1, 10-2 and 10-2 -- in favor of the death penalty on the three terrorism charges that each qualified Moussaoui for execution.

On April 26, the third day of deliberations, the jury's frustrations reached a critical point because of several 11-1 votes on one charge. But no one could figure out who was casting the dissenting vote, the foreman said, because that person didn't identify himself during any discussion -- and each of the votes were done using anonymous ballots.

''But there was no yelling,'' she said in an interview for the Post's Friday editions. ''It was as if a heavy cloud of doom had fallen over the deliberation room, and many of us realized that all our beliefs and our conclusions were being vetoed by one person. ... We tried to discuss the pros and cons. But I would have to say that most of the arguments we heard around the deliberation table were'' in favor of the death penalty.

The foreman, who was not identified by the Post, said she voted for the death penalty because she believed the government proved its case. She was the second juror to be interviewed by the Post since the trial ended. The first juror said he voted for life in prison because he thought that Moussaoui, 37, had only a marginal role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Tags: , Terrorism, 9-11
posted by JReid @ 7:42 AM  
Abusing the troops
at Fort Sill. (Print friendly version).
LAWTON, Okla. — The Army has shaken up a program to heal recruits injured in basic training after soldiers and their parents said troops hurt at Fort Sill were punished with physical abuse and medical neglect.

The program, which treated more than 1,100 injured soldiers last year at five posts, normally returns three-fourths of its patients to active duty, according to Army statistics. But at Fort Sill, recruits said, injuries were often subject to derision, ignored or improperly treated.

Two soldiers in the program have died since 2004, one or possibly both of accidental overdoses of prescription drugs. The latest death, in March, remains under investigation, the Army said.

"I am an inmate," one soldier, Pfc. Mathew Scarano of Eureka, Calif., wrote in a letter home in January two months before he died. "I sometimes ask those friends of mine with jailhouse tattoos if they'd rather be back in jail, or here. So far, they are unanimous — jail."

This is about as dispicable as it gets.

posted by JReid @ 7:39 AM  
Cracking the floor
The new Harris poll has Bush's positive job rating at a floor-scouring 29 percent... and lest the Republican-led Congress get too snarky, they're at 18...

Tags: Politics, Bush,
posted by JReid @ 5:20 AM  
Thursday, May 11, 2006
...And another thing...
It just occurred to me: if the NSA has been collecting every single land line and cell phone call going in and out of the United States, including the purely domestic phonecalls of 200 million or so Americans, in a massive database designed to analyze number pair relationships, they don't need to investigate who leaked what to whom, whether it's regarding the secret prisons in Europe or the leak of Valerie Plames identity. They already know. All NSA would need to do, at the behest of the White House, is to track all inbound calls to the known numbers -- and members of the government, who often serve as sources, know the numbers -- of reporters like James Risen, Eric Lichtblau and Dana Priest, and then run a data match to known numbers of the office, home and cell phones of members of Congress, employees at the CIA or State Department, etc. In other words, it's reasonable to assume that the administration already knows the sources of many of the leaks. They also know -- or have the capability of knowing -- who their political opponents are contacting, and how often. They also know who has called Shirlington Limousine at odd hours of the night, and if so, how to keep at least a half dozen guilty members of Congress in check.

They are expressing shock ... shock! ... at all the leaking, when in fact, they have a surefire way of knowing exactly who has been talking to whom.

And by the way, my question to those on the right who are alright with this -- and as such are following the example of the single most worthless member of Congress, Pat Roberts of Kansas -- the administration toadie and chairman of the intelligence committee who is an embarassment to his state, to his constituents, and to the United States Congress, would be the same as the one posed by none other than Joe Scarborough tonight: how much is too much? (oh, and the ACLU does it too argument is irrelevant -- the ACLU is databasing it's own members just as every other membership organization, including the GOP, does -- the government is recognizing no such restriction. We're all members... although some of you are apparently eager for the distraction...)

So back to my question: If you're okay with the federal government keeping a database of the phone numbers you've called, and those who have called you, what about:

-- a database of all of our medical data, provided volunarily by hospitals and scrubbed of names, but containing enough identifiers to data track a potential outbreak of botchilinum toxin infection, AIDS or bird flu...

-- a database of gun purchases and serial numbers, to track violent crime and terror-related firearms purchases...

-- a database of all of our banking records, to track terror financing...

-- a database of all of the Web site URL hits of all Americans (something they've already sought) to track down potential terrorists (with the added benefit of nabbing child pornographers, and people who download porn on the job)...

-- a database of all email address targets, to help track terrorist communications...

-- a database of UPC code scans from every retail outlet in the U.S., to track potentially nefarious purchases by terrorists...

It goes on and on, doesn't it? The potential is limitless. The question is, do you supporters of domestic data mining see a limit? Or is it "anything goes" when it comes to this president, and his "war on terror?" Under Mr. Bush and his supporters' theory of the "unitary executive," could the president suspend elections in November as part of his broad powers to fight the war on terror, say, in order to prevent al-Qaida from disrupting the elections with a terror attack, or to prevent campaigning Congresspeople from inadvertently disclosing crucial intelligence in the war on terror during campaign events? If he did suspend the election, would you go for that, too?

And for those who, like AJ, have this to say today:

The details about Qwest not participating was horrendous and put Qwest and its customers in a terrible situation. Contrary to the liberal mutterings I am not pushing on Qwest one way or the other. The leak is what is disturbing. And Qwest could pay a terrible price. ...

... I know enough right now to move all communications I want hidden from federal scrutiny to Qwest - ASAP.

How much do you want to bet that many of you Bush stalwarts out west will be doing just that? And once the moves Qwestward begin, it's not that company that will be paying.

Oh and by the way, you've gotta love this kind of forrest v. trees post... (short version: ohmigod, can you imagine what a politicized White House could do with this? As opposed to the straight to business onoe we've got now, right?) Blind minds, indeed.

And by the way, can we toss out Alberto Gonzales already? This man has a truth, law and logic allergy like you wouldn't believe...

Tags: News and politics, NSA, domestic spying, Bush, USA Today, civil liberties, Constitution
posted by JReid @ 9:30 PM  
Fed up? What we can do now
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added. -- USA Today

You know what? I've had enough.

I've had enough of hearing the latest invasion of our civil liberties and trashing of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment isn't some quaint anachronism, it's the law of the land. The president of the United States is supposed to be a Constitutional officer, not Julius Caesar. He cannot wilfully violate the law simply because he wishes to, as part of his "war power." And the expectation of basic privacy -- in the library, in our homes, and for God's sake on the phone (let alone the expectation that we cannot be whisked away to a military brig in Cuba or elsewhere and held indefinitely without trial, then executed at the behest of the president alone, as Johnathan Turley just pointed out on Hardball as among Bush's self-claimed "unitary power...") seems to me to be as basic to our way of life as the principle of one person, one vote or freedom of worship. And how is it that the same right wingers who go ballistic at the thought of a gun database -- something that at least has a snowball's chance in hell of making a difference in tracking violent criminals and terrorists -- have no problem allowing the same federal government to amass a database of every American phone call within or external to the United States?

If BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T think they can just sell information about our private phone calls to the feds without repurcussions, I think it's time we showed them better. Show me the law firm who will take a class action suit against my provider, AT&T, and I will sign onto that lawsuit in a New York minute. By the way:
Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers' calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation's top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of "violation." In practice, that means a single "violation" could cover one customer or 1 million. ...

Eventually, someone in some White House -- maybe even this one -- is gonna figure out that if you can data-mine to figure out who'se "talking to al-Qaida," you can also figure out...

...if reporter X is repeatedly calling prominent Democrats or the DNC...
...if Congressman Y has placed numerous calls to a phone number connected to prostitution (and oh, the bribery possibilities that presents...)
...if Senator Z has placed calls to a foreign ambassador known to oppose a U.S. foreign policy point...
...if television or magazine reporter Q has been called by Congressman Y, indicating possible leaking of information embarrasing to the president...
...who is repeatedly calling or taking calls from anti-war Group M ...

You see where I'm going? This program is ripe for abuse, and the NSA has proven that it definitely has abuse potential:
Created by President Truman in 1952, during the Korean War, the NSA is charged with protecting the United States from foreign security threats. The agency was considered so secret that for years the government refused to even confirm its existence. Government insiders used to joke that NSA stood for "No Such Agency."

In 1975, a congressional investigation revealed that the NSA had been intercepting, without warrants, international communications for more than 20 years at the behest of the CIA and other agencies. The spy campaign, code-named "Shamrock," led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was designed to protect Americans from illegal eavesdropping.

Spying on the White House's political enemies has been proved repeatedly to be the FBI and Pentagon's bag, so why wouldn't it be so with the NSA? Michael Hayden isn't commenting...

Even more fundamentally, I was not consulted before a public corporation, AT&T, started turning over my records, and I don't choose to participate in Bush's data mining experiment. If the AJ Stratas of the world want to open up their phone records, personal computers and hell, their entire lives, to governmental scrutiny in exchange for some insipid pledge to "stop the next attack" (like this crowd is competent to do that, given that they failed to stop the last one despite a national intelligence estimate headlined "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO ATTACK INSIDE THE UNITED STATES," let them opt in to a voluntary "anti-terror citizens program" and leave the rest of us alone. The phone companies have to get our permission before selling our personal data to telemarketers, and they should have to disclose to us that they may also be sharing our phone records with the government for the purposes of mass surveillance. Given Qwest's laudble non-compliance, participation in this program was clearly voluntary (in other words, the telcos did it in exchange for money.)

So I think it's time we Americans who are fed up with these serial abuses of our Constitution did something to fight back. And here's a three-point plan:

First, cancel your service with the participating providers and find a local landline or VOIP company to switch to.

Second, send your carrier a letter letting them know why you're quitting them.

Third, sue their behinds, class action style.

(and fourth: if you own stock in these companies, dump it.)

AT&T is history with me. My letter goes out tomorrow. Now all I need is a good lawyer.

Previous: Live free or dial

Tags: News and politics, NSA, domestic spying, Bush, USA Today, civil liberties, Constitution
posted by JReid @ 7:48 PM  
Live free or dial
The kind of fierce independence normally associated with the United States comes in large part from the story of the American frontier -- "the wild West," where, in folklore and theory if not always in practice, a man could become anything his horse, his rifle, a good map or guide and his personal will could help him become.

Today, if you live in the West, you're not only heir to that spirit of American independence, you have a concrete way that you can express the desire to keep Americans free from the overreach of a Chinese-style Big Brother government the Bush administration and their dwindling cadre of cult-like supporters (including pathetically supine members of Congress like Jeff Sessions and Pat Roberts) are constructing. If you believe that illegally "data mining" the phone records of Americans without a warrant, as requried by the Fourth Amendment, and in direct contravention to the National Security Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, in order to "stop the next terror attack" is a bridge too far, and that the possibilities for using such a program to, say, monitor reporters, political dissenters, members of Congress and others who threaten the administration politically are just too great (particularly given the track record of the present administration,) you can do something today: you can switch your local and long distance phone service to Qwest.

Why? Because Qwest is the only company to resist the Bush administration's call to participate in the monitoring of Americans' phone calls. Unfortunately, Qwest doesn't offer local service here in Florida. I know because after reading the USA Today bombshell, and the president's lame response, I jumped online to try and make the switch from government collaborator AT&T (which apparently is to domestic spying what Google is to Net freedom in China), only to find out that Qwest only offers its local phone services in the following states:
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming
If you live in one of those states (I used to live in one, Colorado, years ago) then congratulations. You have a shot at calling your mom on Mother's Day without having ma's number recorded by the NSA. I got rid of my AT&T provided VOIP service last week, and have gone to local-only. Unfortunately, my provider choices are limited to AT&T, BellSouth, and other companies who have chosen to cooperate with the NSA's thoroughly un-American phone surveillance program.

That's too bad. I'd love to support Qwest by making the switch. And the second they expand to my neck of the woods, I plan to do just that. Until then, to whomever is recording the phone numbers I'm calling from my home or cell phone, I wish you were actually listening in. If I knew you were, I'd be sure to give you a good old fashioned Colorado f*** you before hanging up.

So what is the increasingly sparse Bush cult saying? I'll paraphrase:
The Dear Leader must protect us by monitoring whom we call, just as he must watch us when we gather, to ensure that we are not supporting al-Qaida, either by talking to Terrorists, or by protesting the Dear Leader's Great and Beneficial policies, which are Designed for Our Good. We trust the Dear Leader because he is Fighting the Terrorists, and besides, we know that we are not talking to al Qaida, so we have nothing to fear from the Dear Leader's patriotic Electronic and Military Monitors. Those who are not terrorist sympathizers (terrorists sympathizers to include reporters who criticize and expose the Dear Leader, those who oppose the Great and Successful War in Iraq with unpatriotic protests, rogues within the CIA who flinch at carrying out the Dear Leader's edicts and who commune with the enemy Press and all Democrats) should not fear the monitoring of our phone calls. We must be monitored in order to be safe.
God help us if these people ever truly become a majority. At that point, there will be no difference between us and the Chinese (except that the Chinese are the lenders, and we're the ones in debt.)

On a more serious note, I simply have to deconstruct one of the Bush loyalists' pet arguments for a sec. AJ Strata (whom I'm now, sadly, convinced would accept a pair of sunglass and black suit wearing government monitors placed in his home 24 hours a day if George W. Bush were the one to order it), says the following in defense of Bush's program "to monitor contacts with suspected terrorists":
Why else monitor the calls? In fact, the reason to note contacts as innocent or suspicious is to whittle down who targets of surveillance are talking to who may be accomplices. These records are actually a record that these people are INNOCENT of any relationship with a possible crime.

That assumes that there are potentially millions of Americans who are either part of some al-Qaida plot or some degrees of separation from one. Meanwhile, even the Bush administration doesn't believe there are more than a handful of al-Qaida operatives and cells inside the United States. It would seem that what's called for here is good police work -- starting with better performance by the FBI, which was the agency that failed to track the 9/11 terrorists even with the help of an informant who lived with one. It makes no sense to data mine nearly every U.S. phone call and sift through millions and millions of "pattern analyses" that could just as easily catch Christiane Amanpour researching a story with her contacts in Pakistan as it could nab some idiot placing a landline phone call to Bin Laden. AJ and others seem to be operating from the old McCarthyits playbook, that assumes there are literally al-Qaida sympathisers in every neighborhood, around every corner, and serriptitiously placed within the ranks of journalists and "liberal" academics and peace protesters, and that some total societal rummage needs to be conducted in order to ferret out the vast conspiracy. Just that idea is the beginning of tyranny, because it requires such broad suspicion and paranoia as to make COINTELPRO-like surveillance "necessary".

Bottom line: I don't want to live in a country where the monitoring of the citizenry is deemed to be the government's right, or one in which the president can exempt himself from the rule of law. It's time for Congress to step the hell up. Oversight or bust, fellas. Do your damned jobs.

Tags: News and politics, NSA, domestic spying, Bush, USA Today, civil liberties, Constitution
posted by JReid @ 4:01 PM  
Oedipus wrecks
Determined to explode everything his father ever built, an in so doing to shred every painful remnant of comparison -- burning them strand by strand in the fires of failure, young George began by destroying Iraq. And then, having succeeded ruinously there, he next set out to wreck his father's CIA...

Tags: Bush, Oedipus, CIA
posted by JReid @ 1:09 PM  
Mr. Jackson if you're nasty
How many working days until sorry, sorry HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigns, probably late on a Friday, too late to make the 6:00 news? Lying about canceling a federal contract because he didn't like the political views of the contractor (or actually doing the denying, which by the way is a crime) is one thing. But handing out a half a mil to the sleazy limo service that was shuttling GOP members (ahem) to and from the Watergate boom boom room is entirely another.

Tick tock, Al.

Tags: Alphonso Jackson, Hookergate, Shirlington
posted by JReid @ 1:00 PM  
Spies like us
Bush, once again, defends letting the NSA monitor your phonecalls without a warrant.

Tags: News and politics, NSA, spying, Bush
posted by JReid @ 12:57 PM  
Dan and Keith, a love story?
Wikipedia has lost it's mind ... I mean I'm pretty sure Dan Abrams isn't gay (didn't he used to date one of the right wing legal correspondents from Larry King/now of Fox News?) and ... well of course I'm not an authority, but I don't think Keith Olbermann is gay either. Truthfully I don't really care. But this Wikipedia rumor mill is just out of control. Respond, Keith! Defend your honor!

Tags: Dan Abrams, Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, Wikipedia
posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The Third World Order
A US oil worker has been killed in Nigeria...

Among all their other problems, the Palestinians are now facing a debt and fuel crisis (though at least the E.U. and U.S. have reversed their outrageous position on aid to the Palestinian people)...

And the U.S. won't be getting a U.N. resolution against Iran, at least not for now (the Chapter 7 thing, with its use of force clause, was just not going to fly with the Russians and Chinese). So the next gambit is to offer "carrots" -- help with Iran's development of a peaceful nuclear energy program. BTW, I agree with the various analyses which say Iran isn't interested in wiping Israel out (rhetoric or none, and despite the increasingly hysterical pronouncements out of Tel Aviv). They are a pragmatic country, soon to launch their own oil bourse (on the Euro, ominously, given what happened when Iraq tried the same thing), and very much interested in selling oil. Why would they transfer nuclear weapons, even if they had them, to a terrorist group for use in the U.S. when they surely know that the signature would lead right back to them, and lead the U.S. (or Israel, if they were the target) to blow Iran to kingdom come? The argument that Iran would attack the U.S. via a terrorist group, when the world knows full well of their terrorist links, or attack Israel, which could nuke them today -- and probably wants to -- seems to me to be illogical. Iran wants to be a regional and world power. You get to be a power by controlling a major exchange (hence, the bourse, plus their five percent of the world's oil market), by manipulating regional events (i.e., in Iraq) and by having the ability to deter your major enemies (i.e., the Israelis, who, by the way, spend as much time threatening to invade or strike their neighbors as they do fielding threats, and who are nuked to the hilt, without being members of the NNPT regime).

In my opinion, the worst case scenario isn't Iran getting a nuclear deterrent against the Israelis. It's the U.S. nuking Iran, further radicalizing the population there, exploding the region into furious revenge-seeking, collapse any hope of pulling Iraq together, split the West, East and near-East, sink the Blair government, and touch off a tactical nuclear armaments race among countries who would then have learned that 1) nuclear weapons are a plausable weapon for use in conventional war after all, and 2) if you don't want the Americans to nuke you, better get some nuclear bombs of your own.

And here's yet another idea you might want to wrap your mind around as we watch Condi and Mr. Moustache work their magic on the Security Council. It's courtesy of Free Market News:
In the background of the political joust about Iran, a few countries are reshaping the world. They are taking possession of the global nuclear fuel market. New IAEA regulations should keep newcomers away. The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and Japan will become world's nuclear filling stations. Under the auspices of the IAEA these suppliers will dictate the rules, the prices and the currencies they want to get paid in. Iran has become the pretext and test case for their plans. The problems of tomorrow's world economy are being shaped today. ...

You'll want to read the whole thing.

Tags: Iran, Middle East, Africa, nukes, Palestinians, Foreign policy,
posted by JReid @ 3:57 PM  
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Nine fingered salute
The latest on the Hookergate scandal is pure GOP corruption goodness. From Harper's Ken Silverstein:

Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker posted an interesting story yesterday, explaining why the Bush Administration’s explanation for Porter Goss's sudden departure from the CIA looks increasingly lame. Here's another piece of evidence suggesting that the CIA chief's dismissal was wholly unexpected: one of Goss's top aides traveled to Iraq just days before his boss was let go and had absolutely no idea of what was coming down the pike. “The turf-battle line is purely a cover story,” said a former CIA official I spoke with. “The reason they had to act now was because they were scared about what's going to come out about [the Cunningham scandal].”

Goss has no direct role in the Cunningham affair, at least nothing that has been definitively reported, but several key people close to him do. They include Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, whom Goss had picked to fill the number-three slot at the CIA and who resigned yesterday, and Brant Bassett (nickname “Nine Fingers”), previously a CIA official and senior staffer on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence when Goss was chairman.

Foggo is closely tied to Brent Wilkes, the San Diego defense contractor who is alleged to have bribed Cunningham and provided him with prostitutes. Foggo has admitted he was at some of Wilkes's now-infamous parties at Washington hotels—though he denies any knowledge of the prostitutes—and the CIA and law enforcement authorities are carefully examining his relationship with the defense contractor. Newsweek has reported that Foggo, Cunningham, and Bassett/“Nine Fingers” attended a Wilkes poker party at the Westin Grand Hotel.

I've learned that Bassett's role in the broader story may be more involved than that. Two former CIA officers told me that Foggo, Bassett, and a third man—a CIA official close to Goss, whose name I learned but am withholding because he remains undercover—have been friends for years and worked together overseas. According to these two sources, Bassett and the undercover officer (whom Goss brought up to the 7th Floor at Langley when he took over the CIA) positioned Foggo to be picked by Goss for the number-three slot.
There's more, including a late breaking TPM update. Scandal. ... with hookers...! Gotta love it.

Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, domestic spying, Hayden, NSA, Hookergate
posted by JReid @ 10:12 PM  
Quick takes, May 10
Rupert Murdoch raising cash for Hillary? Calm down, Dems, it's called betting on the winner. And what does Mrs. Clinton have to say for herself?:
"He's my constituent and I'm very gratified that he thinks I'm doing a good job."
And if his wacked out right wing media outlets would lay off her a bit, that'd be okay, too.

Domestic spying??? Don't know nothin' bout it, says a Bush court nominee...

The pessimism of ordinary Americans is palpable in the latest CBS poll, this as wealthy investors are set to reap windfall profits from the Dow, and brand spanking new tax cuts, just for them. (And it's too bad the dollar is no longer pegged to gold, cause gold is kicking major ass...) Back to the poll:

Only 31% of those polled approve of Mr. Bush's job performance and 68% believe the United States is worse off today than it was before Bush became president.

Personal evaluations of Mr. Bush are the lowest they've ever been during his presidency. On the public's confidence in Bush's ability to handle a crisis, 51% had been the previous low in September 2005. That figure is now at 50%. The President's handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis is tied to that decrease.

There is also concern that Mr. Bush is spending too much time on foreign policy issues: 55% think so. Also, on the issues that are most important to Americans, Iraq and gas prices, Bush's ratings have dropped.

On handling the issue of rising gas prices, Bush's performance rating dropped four percentage points from what it was a month ago (from 17% to 13%).

With the Iraq war, Bush's approval rating dropped one percentage point (from 30% to 29%) since last month. Similarly, only 30% of poll respondents said they have some degree of confidence Bush will be able to end the war successfully. The poll also reveals that 56% of those polled said that United States should have stayed out of Iraq; this number is the highest it's been since the start of the war.

The only area where Bush's approval rating is not at an all-time low is fighting terror: approval is at 46%.

Congressional Republicans get an eviscerating review in this poll. The GOP gets a favorability rating of 37%, exactly 20 percentage points lower than where it was in 1994. Inversely, Democrats in Congress had a favorability rating increase of 11 percentage points over what it was in 1994.

On the issues of Iraq and gas prices, the poll shows that the public believes Democrats are doing a better job. For instance, on Iraq, 48% said the Democratic Party is better while only 30% thought the Republican Party is. On keeping gas prices low, the disparity is even more pronounced: 57% say the Democrats perform better, while only 11% say the Republicans do.

Democrats also surpass Republicans in their work on issues such as prescription drug cots, improving health care and immigration, among others.

However, Republicans get a better assessment than Democrats in dealing with terrorism: 40% prefer the GOP's handling of the issue while 35% prefer the Democratic Party's.

The overall approval of Congress' performance has diminished vastly since 2001; only 23% approve now while 67% did in 2001. This figure reflects frustration over Congress' ability to challenge the President since 67% think Congress does not question his policies enough.

Also, 39% say that Congress would be in better condition today if Democrats were in charge, an increase from last month.
Ouch. And the Dem advantage if the election were held today: 11 points. Not that it matters this far out.

In the ratings race, Countdown is closing in on the Big Giant Head, and Olbermann is now officially the big ratings man on the MSNBC campus. Sorry Matthews, I guess sucking up to the GOP isn't that much of a ratings booster after all... Oh, and Olbermann and TV Newser have caught O'Reilly fudging his ratings. As if the angry old cooters still watching his rather sad chat show know what "ratings" are...

Staying with the TV news game, if this girl gets her boob job I'm taking out an ad. Stat.

Tags: News and politics
posted by JReid @ 9:57 PM  
The blacker the berry, the more likely the juice
A Stanford University study finds that "The more “black looking” an African-American man charged with murdering a white victim, the more likely he is to be sentenced to death." From Reuters:
Using scores given by white and Asian-American Stanford undergraduates to rate facial features of 44 black men tried for murder in Philadelphia over 20 years, researchers found that 57.5 percent rated to have “stereotypically” black features such as dark skin were sentenced to death.

By contrast, 24.4 percent of black men in similar murder cases and rated by the students as less stereotypically black were sentenced to death, said Jennifer Eberhardt, a Stanford psychologist involved in the research.

Despite the use of ratings from only white and Asian-American students, the findings suggest jurors use stereotypes of black features as a proxy for criminality and punish murder defendants with those features more severely, Eberhardt said. ...

... Researchers also set ratings for facial features against a pool of 118 black men tried for murdering other blacks and found no relationship between their features and sentences.

“You could not use the features to predict whether they got a death sentence,” Eberhardt said. “You’re more likely to get a death sentence in the white cases than in the black cases.”
Not surprising, yet incredibly depressing.

Tags: death penalty, race
posted by JReid @ 9:42 PM  
Gore for president?
posted by JReid @ 8:35 AM  
Monday, May 08, 2006
The Dems' burden
Jeff Greenfield for CNN says for the Dems, winning back control of Congress may be harder than it looks. (Thanks, redistricting...) Even with Bush way down at 31 percent in the Gallup. Might Jeff have cribbed from Real Clear Politics? And of course, you can always count on Ron Brownstein to cheer the GOPers up...

Tags: , Senate, Elections, Politics, Democrats, Republicans
posted by JReid @ 10:03 PM  
Foggo out
ABC has the scoop. (Although TPM really called it first...)
posted by JReid @ 10:02 PM  
Monkey business

Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker has the latest on Michael Hayden, the General who would be CIA chief:

While director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden contracted the services of a top executive at the company at the center of the Cunningham bribery scandal, according to two former employees of the company.

Hayden, President Bush's pick to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA, contracted with MZM Inc. for the services of Lt. Gen. James C. King, then a senior vice president of the company, the sources say. MZM was owned and operated by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with $1.4 million in money and gifts. Wade has also reportedly told investigators he helped arrange for prostitutes to entertain the disgraced lawmaker, and he continues to cooperate with a federal inquiry into the matter.King has not been implicated in the growing scandal around Wade's illegal activities. However, federal records show he contributed to some of Wade's favored lawmakers, including $6000 to Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and $4000 to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).

Before joining MZM in December 2001, King served under Hayden as the NSA's associate deputy director for operations, and as head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.King worked at NSA Headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, in 2004 and 2005, both sources told me. "King was out there working on same floor as Hayden," one former employee with firsthand knowledge of the arrangement said. "He was doing special projects for Hayden as an MZM employee." Neither former employee knew details of King's work for Hayden; one said he thought he was doing "special projects" for the director, while the other speculated it was "high-ranking advisory work."The NSA did not immediately respond to my request for comment. Hayden left the NSA in April 2005 to take the post of Deputy Director of National Intelligence. The DNI office referred my call on the matter to the NSA.As an MZM employee, King was involved in a number of controversial projects. In 2002, he was a key adviser to the team creating CIFA, the Pentagon's domestic surveillance operation. In 2004, he was one of three MZM staffers who worked on the White House Robb-Silberman Commission, which recommended expanding CIFA's powers.
NSA is home to its own controversial project, of course -- the post-9/11 warrantless domestic wiretapping operation known as the "terrorist surveillance program." There is no indication that King has been involved in that project.
King was Mitchell Wade's successor at MZM, which has since been renamed Athena Innovative Systems, according to Rood. And according to Rood's reporting, King could very well be implicated in the metastasizing Cunningham scandals, including assisting in the cover-up of illegal "straw contributions" to good old Katherine Harris.

Meanwhile, ABC News' "The Blotter" blog is reporting that Goss' bad hire, CIA number three man "Dusty" Foggo will resign under an investigation cloud in the Dukester bribery/hookers in the Watergate controversy. Reports ABC's Christopher Isham:

Sources close to the White House said that Michael Hayden is expected to name Stephen R. Kappes as his deputy. Kappes, a highly respected long-time CIA officer, was Deputy Director of Operations before he resigned less than two months after Porter Goss became Director. Among other accomplishments, Kappes was instrumental in convincing Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddaffi to give up his weapons of mass destruction. The move is designed to stop the hemorrhaging of talent out of the agency, shore up the clandestine services and restore confidence in the institution and its leadership.
And Hayden's move also seems designed to quell the uproar among some on Capitol Hill over putting a member of the uniformed military, who ultimately reports to Don Rumsfeld, in charge of the CIA. There had been unsolicited advice coming from some quarters that Hayden, if he gets the job, name a seasoned CIA civilian to be his number two, in order to keep the agency from turning into a de facto tentacle of Don "I'm not in the intelligence business" Rumsfeld's secret "only the intelligence we want to hear" shop. Although some are reporting that with Goss out of the way and Negroponte's boy set to step in at CIA, that has already happened...

By the way, the other TPM scuttlebut is that it may not have been Porter Goss who was dabbling in call girls 'longside his poker cards. The culprit may have been yet another bad hire, lovingly known as "Nine Fingers..."


Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, domestic spying, Hayden, NSA, Hookergate

posted by JReid @ 9:23 PM  
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Bush's best
Democratic Underground has a hilarious report on the self-described "best moment" in office for three presidents: Carter, Clinton and Bush II.

Tags: , , Bush, Clinton, News, Carter
posted by JReid @ 6:03 PM  
Quick Takes: Sunday, May 7
Members of Congress want to know who the Bushies are contracting out our intelligence operations to.
Last year, contractors were "a significant majority" of analysts working at the new National Counterterroism Center (NCTC), which has primary responsibility for providing the White House and others with analysis based on foreign and domestic information, Gannon said. The proportion is even greater at CIFA, the Pentagon's new agency coordinating "force protection" at Defense Department facilities. CIFA officials have told The Washington Post that 70 percent of their workers are contractors.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked whether "the Department of Defense . . . moving into these fields with widespread expansion of powers" is "consistent with having a Director of National Intelligence?"

"What is bothersome," Gannon replied, "is that that movement that you're talking about is taking place without any supervision beyond the Department of Defense, and I think it is needed from the DNI, but also from the White House."

A greater problem, Gannon added, is that with the CIA, FBI and the Department of Homeland Security working on the civilian side, and the Pentagon expanding within its own realm, "it has confused civilian and military roles and raised alarms about the military involvement."

Growth in the military areas, however, continues. Even Athena Innovative Solutions Inc., the successor organization to MZM Inc., whose president was caught giving bribes in the criminal investigation that led to conviction of former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), has been successful in maintaining and expanding its Pentagon contracts.
Not to mention the call girls and card games...

Bush tells German television that sure, he'd like to close Gitmo and put the prisoners there on trial. Next step: break it to Rumsfeld...

The Democratic leadership sets the table for Monday's Hardball, gleefully laying out what they'd do if the party takes over the House and Senate in November...
Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in an interview last week that a Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Pelosi denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush. But, she said of the planned investigations, "You never know where it leads to."
Probably? Maybe the Koskids do have a point about timid Democratic leaders...

Staying with the WaPo, a GOP pollster, the architect of the party's notorious -- and nefarious -- "southern strategy" no less -- waxes pessimistic about the House of Bush:
The recent White House shake-up was an attempt to jump-start the administration and boost President Bush's rock-bottom approval ratings, but have those efforts come too late to salvage the presidency? A prominent GOP pollster thinks that may be the case.

"This administration may be over," Lance Tarrance, a chief architect of the Republicans' 1960s and '70s Southern strategy, told a gathering of journalists and political wonks last week. "By and large, if you want to be tough about it, the relevancy of this administration on policy may be over."

A new poll by RT Strategies, the firm headed by Tarrance and Democratic pollster Thomas Riehle, shows that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, while 36 percent approve -- a finding in line with other recent polls.

Tarrance said it would be extremely difficult for any president to bounce back this late in his administration and reassert influence on Capitol Hill when his approval rating barely exceeds his party's base support and half of all adults surveyed said they "strongly disapprove" of his performance. An overwhelming 73 percent of independents disapprove of Bush's performance, and two-thirds of those "strongly disapprove."
In that same poll, 30 percent of respondents said they will cast their votes in November specifically to register their displeasure with Mr. Bush, while 16 said they'd pull the lever to show their support. Meanwhile, who's the new big dog fundraiser for the DCCC? None other than Albert Gore... go figure.

In the ominous signs category, CBS News is reporting that the buzz in London is that President Bush called Tony Blair, and essentially forced out foreign secretary Jack Straw because of his strong opposition to military strikes against Iran.
The Independent suggests that a phone call from the U.S. president to British Prime Minister Tony Blair led to the removal of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw Friday.

The newspaper reports that friends of Straw believe Mr. Bush was extremely upset when Straw pronounced any use of nuclear weapons against Iran "nuts."

Both The Independent and the Guardian write that Straw's "fate was sealed" after a White House phone call to Blair.
Not good signs if you don't want to see yet another war in the Gulf.

And by the way, what do we really know about what Iran has, nuke-wise? Not much. And outing Valerie Plame made things worse...

Meanwhile, the calls for Tony Blair to set a date for his departure are growing fast and furious... seems even his own party is ready to be rid of him.

And the Independent also has a disturbing story about how Thai women are mutilating themselves in a quest for porcelain skin.

And the Guardian breaks down Hugo Chavez, the man who would be Venezuela's president for life... or at least for the next 25 years...

Tags: , , Bush, Politics, UK, War, News, Terrorism, Current Affairs
posted by JReid @ 5:26 PM  
The Sunday Kos
Markos Moulitsas, the MSM's favorite blogger, writes a lengthy opus for the WaPo on why Hillary Clinton won't be the choice of the "netroots" in the 2008 election. Okay, let's concede every one of his points: that Mrs. Clinton is too safe, too cautious, too allergic to "big ideas" and too loathe to directly confront the Bushies to make it happen for "the base." Unlike, say, Howard Dean.


Here's the problem. Howard Dean was a media and Internet phenomenon in 2003-04, to be sure. But he lost the Democratic primary handily, not because he was too liberal (though the media painted him that way), or because the Internet fundraising phenomenon was a fraud -- it wasn't. Dean lost, because in the end, he lacked the broad-based political organization that it takes to win. If all you needed was strength in the netroots, Dean would have won in a landslide. Presidential elections are about turning out the base -- but Kos and friends misunderstand this country if they believe that they -- the very left-wing Internetistas -- are a majority of that base. The Democratic base consists of much, much more than that. And winning a presidential election is about galvanizing the old-fashioned base -- African-Americans, single women, non-voting Hispanics, and blue collar white men, in addition to the Bush-loathing netizens of the Daily Kos or Democratic Underground. Looked at more broadly, the lefties on the Net are a small, vocal faction of a very large, restive, and diverse base, which doesn't readily agree on how best to get us out of the Bushes. Look at the DNC's fundraising now, and you'll see that they aren't even the biggest faction, not by far (the DSCC and DCCC are raising much more money, based on old-fashioned Democratic poltiics, not "crashing the gates."

If the Kos kids want to see a fiery Democratic muckraker who'll pound the table for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, federalize gay marriage and open armed forces service and universal healthcare, good luck to them. That person will simply not be marketable enough to win nationwide. And if they lack the broad, national fundraising base of, say, I don't know, Hillary Clinton, they may as well not even try.

Elections are won by three things: message, money and magnetism. Hillary has the second in spades. The first can be crafted for her by the best political organization the Democrats could buy, aided in large part by the person who will supply much of item three: Hillary's husband. The Kos kids may despise her (and other DLCers who fail to toe the line on the war), but Hillary remains the Democrats' best bet to take back the White House in 2008. This fantasy Dean-like muckraker guy is just that. And even if he shows up, he'll never win the White House.

Tags: , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 4:55 PM  
Best call ever: Alice in Limbaughland
Courtesy of Calling All Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh takes a call from Alice, and proceeds directly down the rabbit hole.

Tags: Rush Limbaugh
posted by JReid @ 4:48 PM  
In your face
So the White House choice of a replacement for Porter Goss as head of the CIA is the same four star general who cooked up the probably illegal domestic wiretapping program when he was head of the NSA? Check. Now let's see if Congress has the cajones to go for check mate.

... oh, and by the way, the Goss toss was about Hookergate. Sez the increasingly buzzworthy New York Dialy News:
WASHINGTON - A little-known White House advisory board convinced a reluctant President Bush to launch yet another high-profile shakeup of the nation's intelligence community and can CIA Director Porter Goss, sources said yesterday.
Bush had already gotten an earful from Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte on the shortcomings of Goss, but the final push came from the "very alarmed" President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, intelligence and Congressional sources said.

Alarms were set off at the advisory board by a widening FBI sex and cronyism investigation that's targeted Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No.3 official at the CIA, and also touched on Goss himself.

The 16-member bipartisan board, now headed by former Goldman Sachs executive Stephen Friedman, has the mandate to conduct periodic assessments on "the quality, quantity and adequacy of intelligence collection."

The board, which includes longtime Bush confidant and former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, joined in the growing chorus inside and outside the CIA calling for Goss' ouster, persuading Bush to act, sources said.

The result was the awkward Oval Office announcement Friday at which neither Goss nor Bush gave a specific reason for Goss' return to Florida. Goss told CNN yesterday his resignation was "just one of those mysteries."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perrino said a "collective agreement" led to the decision to find a new CIA director, but "reports that the President had lost confidence in Porter Goss are categorically untrue."

Bush was expected to name a new spy chief, possibly as early as tomorrow, with Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, Negroponte's top deputy, and White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend heading up a short list.

And lest we forget what this is all about:
The investigations have focused on the Watergate poker parties thrown by defense contractor Brent Wilkes, a high-school buddy of Foggo's, that were attended by disgraced former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham and other lawmakers.

Foggo has claimed he went to the parties "just for poker" amid allegations that Wilkes, a top GOP fund-raiser and a member of the $100,000 "Pioneers" of Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, provided prostitutes, limos and hotel suites to Cunningham.

Cunningham is serving an eight-year sentence after pleading to taking $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to cronies. least we're back to arguing about high political principles in Washington...


Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, domestic spying, Hayden, NSA, Hookergate
posted by JReid @ 4:31 PM  
Friday, May 05, 2006
Options open
Tony Blair's decision to remove Jack Straw as foreign secretary could be about Blair's need to rejigger his political standing in the U.K. Or it could be about something else. Says a traveling Steve Clemons:
Straw is taking the same path of the late Robin Cook when he was demoted from the Foreign Secretary portfolio.

Straw has adamently opposed a strike against Iran, under current conditions, and has stated forcefully that it would be an "illegal act." Blair seems to want to keep his Iran attack options open.
Not a pleasant thought to end a Friday on.

Meanwhile, tonight on the Situation Room, when he wasn't over-covering the Patrick Kennedy car crash story, former AIPAC flak Wolf Blitzer used yet another exclusive with Bibi Netanyahu to play the Iran as Hitler's Germany card regarding the supposed imminent threat to Israel if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. Blitzer conveniently forgot to ask Netanyahu about Israel's nuclear program, the illegal wall and settlements that are raking in Palestinian land on the West Bank, the continued incursions into Gaza and other minor issues keeping the Middle East in turmoil. But he did manage to get out the talking points that "when someone says they want to exterminate you, believe them," and that Israel will "work with the U.S." to see that Iran remains incapable of deterring the nuclear-armed Israelis.

What's coalescing here is really staggering. Perhaps Bush doesn't really care about his dismal approval ratings, because he's going to go for broke before the mid-terms, and, with the help of the British (and maybe the Israelis), launch a military attack on Iran.

Tags: , , Bush, Politics, UK, War, News, Terrorism, Current Affairs
posted by JReid @ 10:22 PM  
Flashback: McGovern's warning
Don't say Ray McGovern didn't warn you. Major hat tip to TPM Cafe-er Ohiomeister:

July 6, 2004

Cheney's Cat's Paw
Porter Goss as CIA Director?
Former CIA Analyst

There is, thankfully, a remnant of CIA professionals who still put objective analysis above political correctness and career advancement. Just when they thought there were no indignities left for them to suffer, they are shuddering again at press reports that Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) may soon be their new boss.

That possibility conjures up a painful flashback for those of us who served as CIA analysts when Richard Nixon was president. Chalk it up to our naivete, but we were taken aback when swashbuckling James Schlesinger, who followed Richard Helms as CIA director, announced on arrival, "I am here to see that you guys don't screw Richard Nixon!" To underscore his point, Schlesinger told us he would be reporting directly to White House political adviser Bob Haldeman (Nixon's Karl Rove) and not to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger.

No doubt Goss would be more discreet in showing his hand, but his appointment as director would be the ultimate in politicization. He has long shown himself to be under the spell of Vice President Dick Cheney, and would likely report primarily to him and to White House political adviser Karl Rove rather than to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Goss would almost certainly follow lame-duck director George Tenet's practice of reading to the president in the morning and become an integral part of the "White House team." The team-membership phenomenon is particularly disquieting.

If the failure-prone experience of the past few years has told us anything, it is that being a "team member" in good standing is the kiss of death for the CIA director's primary role of "telling it like it is" to the president and his senior advisers. It was a painful moment of truth when former Speaker Newt Gingrich--like Cheney, a frequent visitor to CIA headquarters--told the press that Tenet was "so grateful to the president that he would do anything for him."

The Whore of Babylon

One need look no farther than what has become known as a latter-day Whore of Babylon - the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Oct. 1, 2002, the very title of which betrayed a politically correct, but substantively wrong, conclusion: "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction." And bear in mind that it was only several months after President Bush decided to attack Iraq that Tenet commissioned that estimate. Not unreasonably, Congress was wondering about the views of the intelligence community, and the White House wanted congressional acquiescence in the war it had decided to launch.

No problem. "Slam-dunk" Tenet, following White House instructions, ensured that the estimate was cooked to the recipe of Cheney's tart speech of August 26, 2002. "We know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," Cheney said, and the estimate Tenet signed gave belated endorsement--with "high confidence," no less--to that lie.

The intelligence process, of course, was not the only thing undermined. So was the Constitution. Various drafts of that NIE, reinforced with heavy doses of "mushroom-cloud" rhetoric, were used to deceive congressmen and senators into ceding to the executive their prerogative to declare war--the all-important prerogative that the framers of the Constitution took great care to reserve exclusively to our elected representatives in Congress.

What was actually happening was clear to intelligence analysts, active and retired. We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity were not the only ones to expose it--as clearly and often as the domesticated US media would allow.

But what about CIA alumnus Porter Goss, then in his sixth year as chairman of the House intelligence oversight committee? Republican party loyalist first and foremost, Goss chose to give an entirely new meaning to "oversight." Even when it became clear that the "mushroom cloud" reporting was based mostly on a forgery, he just sat back and watched it all happen. Like Br'er Fox, he didn't say nothin'.

From Sycophant Tenet to Professional Politician

This is what CIA would get with Porter Goss at the helm. Appointing Goss would administer the coup de grAcntce to intelligence analysts trying to survive while still speaking truth without fear or favor. The only saving grace for them would be the likelihood that they would be spared "multiple visits" by Cheney to the inner sanctum where it used to be possible to produce unvarnished analysis without vice presidents and other policy makers looking over their shoulders to ensure they "had thought of everything." Goss, who has a long history of subservience to Cheney, could be counted upon to play the Cheney/Gingrich/et al. role himself.

Don't Throw Me in That Briar Patch

Last month when Tenet was let go, administration officials indicated that a permanent replacement would not be named until after the election. They indicated they wanted to avoid washing the dirty linen of intelligence once again in public. Evidently, they had not yet checked with Karl Rove.

The Democrats warn smugly that an attempt by the administration to confirm a new CIA director could become an embarrassing referendum on CIA's recent performance, but they miss the point entirely--and show, once again, that they can't hold a candle to Rove for political cleverness. The name of the administration's game is to blame Iraq on intelligence failures, and Goss already did so last week in what amounted to his first campaign speech for the job of director. Consider court historian Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack, which Condoleezza Rice and other officials have promoted. Rice has publicly confirmed Woodward's story about Tenet misleading the president by claiming the evidence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was a "slam dunk."

While there is ample evidence of ineptitude on Tenet's part, his obsequious ejaculation in this now-famous vignette obscures the fact that President Bush had unleashed the dogs of war well before checking to see if there was any credible intelligence to justify doing so. As the election nears, it serves the administration quite well to keep the focus on intelligence shortcomings and to make it appear that the president was misled - on weapons of mass destruction, for example. And Porter Goss is precisely the right person to cooperate in this effort. I can imagine Rove laughing up his sleeve last week at word that the Democrats are urging Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (.) to prepare for extensive confirmation hearings this fall. (In my mind's eye I can see Rove musing, Bring --em on!)

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report

The report due out this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating intelligence performance regarding the long-sought-after Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is said to be scathing in its criticism of CIA. No problem. This too will help keep the focus where the White House wants it - the more so since committee chair and Republican stalwart Pat Roberts (R-KS) can be counted on to do whatever Cheney and Rove tell him to do. It was not until Roberts was instructed to give Tenet the cold shoulder that the latter began to see the handwriting on the wall.

As for Porter Goss, he was happy to let the Senate intelligence committee take the lead in investigating intelligence performance on key issues like weapons of mass destruction and, before he decided to promote his candidacy for director, he generally chose to keep his committee's head (and his own) down. With good reason. The myriad shortcomings in intelligence work appeared on his somnolent watch; by any reasonable standard, he bears some responsibility for impaired oversight - not only on Iraq, but on 9/11 as well.

The 9/11 Commission Report

Republicans handpicked by Cheney also dominate the 9/11 Commission, which is supposed to issue its report by July 26. Although commission chair, Thomas Kean and vice-chair Lee Hamilton have sought to appear nonpartisan, they have already caved in to White House pressure to alter the findings of commission staff.

At stake was no less an issue than whether the vice president usurped Bush's power as commander-in-chief in ordering the shoot-down of suspicious airliners on Sept. 11, 2001. The staff found no hard evidence to support Cheney's claim that he called Bush and got his authorization. According to Newsweek, 'some staffers flat out didn't believe a call ever took place,' and an early staff draft reflected deep skepticism.

The White House lobbied vigorously to change the offending passage, with spokesman Dan Bartlett insisting, 'We didn't think it was written in a way that clearly reflected the accounting the president and vice president had given to the commission.' Kean and Hamilton backed down and removed some of the offending language. 'The report was watered down,' one staffer admitted to Newsweek.

Watch for more watering down. By now Kean and Hamilton have doubtless been warned by the White House that if the highly controversial staff report that there is 'no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States' is allowed to stand, this would place further strain on the legal underpinnings of the war on Iraq. On March 19, 2003, the day the war began, President Bush sent a letter to Congress in which he said that the war was permitted under legislation authorizing force against those who 'planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.'

Kean is already backing off. A few days after the release of the staff report he emphasized repeatedly that it is only an 'interim report.' He added that not only is it 'not finished,' but also the commissioners themselves have not been involved in it so far.

Democrat Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste does not see it this way. As Kean was talking to ABC's This Week, Ben-Veniste told NBC's Tim Russert, 'There was no Iraqi involvement in 9/11. That's what our commission found. That's what our staff, which includes former high-ranking CIA officials, who know what to look for (found).'
Ah, but what about the additional information that Cheney says he 'probably' has? Kean was quick to note that the final report will include whatever 'new information' becomes available. In other words, there are already ample signs that the Republican commissioners will continue to succeed in watering down findings critical of the administration, while highlighting those critical of intelligence performance.

Goss on 9/11

With respect to the various investigations into 9/11, Goss was thrust into the limelight by Cheney, who initially opposed any investigation at all. In February 2002, Cheney went so far as to warn that if Congress decided to go ahead with an investigation, administration officials might not show up to testify. When folks started talking about the need for a genuinely independent commission, though, Cheney acquiesced in the establishment of the congressional joint committee as the lesser evil and took reassurance from the fact that Goss could be counted on to keep the lid on--and, when necessary, run rings around co-chair Sen. Bob Graham, (D-FL).

Porter Goss performed that task brilliantly, giving clear priority to providing political protection for the president. Goss acquiesced when the White House and CIA refused to allow the joint committee to report out any information on what President Bush had been told before 9/11--ostensibly because it was "classified."
This gave rise to thinly disguised, but eloquently expressed, chagrin on the part of the committee staff director, who clearly had expected stronger backing in her negotiations with White House officials.

As a result, completely absent from the committee's report was any mention of the President's Daily Brief of Aug. 6, 2001, which bore the title "Bin Laden determined to strike in US," even though the press had already reported the title and the gist of that damning piece of evidence. Small wonder that the families of 9/11 victims were outraged and pressed even harder for an independent investigation.

And a First for a Congressional Committee

The most notable (and bizarre) achievement of the joint committee was inviting the FBI to investigate members of Congress. In June 2002, Cheney called Goss and Graham to chastise them for a media leak of sensitive information from intercepted communications. A CNN report had attributed the leak to "two congressional sources," and Cheney was livid.

Goss admitted to being "chagrined" over Cheney's call. He and Graham promptly bypassed normal congressional procedures and went directly to Attorney General John Ashcroft, asking him to investigate the leak. Little thought apparently was given to the separation of powers between the executive and congressional branches, or the fact that Congress has its own capability for such investigations.

Next thing you know, the FBI is crawling all over Capitol Hill, questioning members of the joint committee that is investigating the FBI, CIA, et al., and asking members of Congress to submit to lie-detector tests. Shaking his head, Sen. John McCain (R-NM) noted the ludicrousness of allowing the FBI to build dossiers on lawmakers who are supposed to be investigating the FBI. He and others joined those pushing for the creation of an independent 9/11 commission.

That Goss and Graham could be so easily intimidated by Cheney speaks volumes.

Bottom Line

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee is right in saying, "We need a director who is not only knowledgeable and capable but unquestionably independent." And politicians need not apply. Rockefeller would rule out "any politician from either party." But who pays attention to minority members these days--ranking or non-ranking?

Rockefeller might add, if only for the record, that another prerequisite for a director of the CIA is prior experience managing a large, complex organization. Tenet had none; neither does Goss.

There seems a better than even chance the Bush administration will nominate Goss, and use the nomination hearings as yet another forum at which to blame the Iraq debacle on faulty intelligence. And, as a bonus for Bush, if there is time before the election, it would seem a safe bet that Goss will be able to bring to heel recalcitrant analysts who are still "fighting the problem," still staring in disbelief at the given wisdom (given, apparently, only to the Pentagon and White House) that Iraq and al-Qaeda were in bed with each other. Nor should anyone rule out the possibility that Goss will see to it that 'weapons of mass destruction' are found--perhaps as an October surprise.

Ray McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a contributor to CounterPunch's unsparing new history of the Afghanistan/Iraq wars, Imperial Crusades. McGovern can be reached at:
I believe this op-ed ran in the WaPo (or it could have been the NYT). Either way, it was a prescient piece of writing if I've ever read one. And it sure doesn't sound like Goss had a problem being a "team player," as Andrea Mitchell, Norah O'Donnell, Wolf Blitzer, TIME's Matt Cooper and others are dutifully reporting based on the spin their being fed from their White House sources.

Goss was a loyalist, and as much a White House shill as his successor on the Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts of Kansas (by way of Oz). He was pushed out today because of something potentially damaging -- not because he wouldn't play ball with Dr. Death Squad.


Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, Hookergate, Ray McGovern

posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
The spy who went back into the cold
The Porter Goss resignation train keeps on rolling. And unfortunately for the Bushies, it's not rolling in the direction of a simple case of Goss' inability to play with Negroponte. David Corn, two hours ago:
Porter Goss's sudden announcement of his departure from the CIA is puzzling. The former Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee and ex-CIA case officer offered no reason for vacating the CIA directorship, and there was no successor ready to go. News of his resignation came during a brief joint appearance at the White House by George W. Bush and Goss on Friday afternoon (the traditional time slot for putting out bad news). And--whaddayaknow--no pesky questions from journalists. This has led to the obvious speculation: was it the hookers? ...

... Last week--here it is!--the Wall Street Journal reported that the feds are investigating whether Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to giving Duke Cunningham more than $1 million in bribes, supplied Cunningham with prostitutes, limos and hotel rooms (a dangerous combination). The Journal wrote, "Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others." Other members of Congress. That's something to ponder.

Wade reportedly has confessed that he did periodically arrange for a limousine to pick up Cunningham and a hooker and ferry them to a suite at the Watergate Hotel or the Westin Grand. Wade also said that Wilkes participated in the ply-Duke-with-sex scheme.

What's this got to do with Porter Goss? Maybe nothing. But here's the reason for speculation. Wilkes did hold parties and poker games for CIA officials and lawmakers, including members of the House intelligence committee. (Goss has been a CIA director, a lawmaker, and a member of the House intelligence committee.) Wilkes was pals with Foggo. (As CIA executive director, Foggo manages the CIA on a day-by-day basis for Goss.) So might Goss know anything about (a) a rigged contract; (b) bad behavior at Wilkes' poker bashes; (c) the non-recreational use of prostitutes; (d) all of the above or something we cannot even imagine? The Foggo-Wilkes-hooker links are certainly quite sketchy at the moment. But--to put this in perspective--they are firmer than some of the intelligence the Bush administration used to claim Saddam Hussein was in bed with bin Laden.

Did Goss attend those poker games? Does he have a connection with Wilkes? Is there a bad movie in all this? Some initial reports have suggested that Goss left the CIA after losing a bureaucratic turf fight against John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. But if Goss had a good explanation for his decision to bail, he could have shared it--even on a Friday afternoon. And if the reason is just old-fashioned anger over losing some of his power, he could have orchestrated a smoother transition. What led to his abrupt resignation should not be a top secret.
BTW am I the only one whose creeped out by yet another Yalie tapped to run the Agency straight from the political desk ... hellooooo George H.W. Bush...!) Read more about the Yale-CIA nexus here.

Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, Hookergate,
posted by JReid @ 9:22 PM  
In case you missed it: Bill O'Reilly, historian...
Did you hear the one about the big giant head who thought he was a historian? I almost forgot about this one, from late last week (we'll see how long the transcript lasts on the Fox web-site...) Note, as painful as it's going to be, you must read all the way to the end. Promise? OK, here we go:

From "The O'Reilly Factor," April 25, 2006...

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Back of the Book" segment tonight. As you may know, a British court recently ruled that the author of "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown, did not steal material from other authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who had written a book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" which they said Brown took from.

Mr. Baigent currently has a new book out called "The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover Up in History". He joins us now.

We'll get to your book in a moment. Why do you think you lost the case?

MICHAEL BAIGENT, AUTHOR, "THE JESUS PAPERS": Well, it was quite clear that Brown had taken a lot of our material, but it didn't constitute enough of an infringement by British law. Legally, the judge found against us. ...


O'REILLY: The theory that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married, that was what was in play in this court case, correct?

BAIGENT: That was one of the things in play. I mean, that wasn't our theory. This has been around for awhile. I mean, our particular, what we introduced into the story was the idea of the grail as the person, the idea of the grail being Mary Magdalene, the womb, the child. The identification of a person within this multi-faceted...

O'REILLY: That they had a child together, Jesus and Mary Magdalene? Is that what you're saying?

BAIGENT: Why not?

O'REILLY: Well, for one reason, sacrilege. And then a lot of people get angry when you mess around with a legend or...

BAIGENT: But is it more plausible that someone should be married and a child?

O'REILLY: More plausible. Because I've been reading your book. And I've got to say I don't buy what you're saying. I don't think you back it up. I don't think it's scholarship. I think it's your imagination what might have happened. And it's written down to sell books.

And let me just point to two things. I base all of my analysis on fact. And the two factual — and you know this better than anyone — archives we have on the crucifixion of Jesus are from the Roman historian, Tacitus, who basically said that Jesus was executed in the extreme penalty at the hands of Pontius Pilate, extreme penalty during...

BAIGENT: During the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.

O'REILLY: Right. And Josephus Flavius, in Jewish antiquities, basically says that Pilate, at the suggestion of the Sanhedron, condemned him to the cross. So now we have two historical...

BAIGENT: We can't accept Josephus' statements. No one accepts Josephus. The earliest manuscript in Josephus is the 13th century, the 12th century. No, no, no. We don't have anything we can hold in our hands. As a historian, I have to deal with what I can hold in my hand.

O'REILLY: You discount the Hebrew historian Josephus across the board?

BAIGENT: Not at all. I discount the comments he has to make on Christianity. I think those are later editions.

O'REILLY: All right.

BAIGENT: But for many reasons, I don't think we can justify them as being original.

O'REILLY: Here's my deal. You'll sell books by saying there was a cover-up on Jesus. You'll sell some. But why? You can't prove it. You know you can't prove it. You admit you can't prove it. Why bother?

BAIGENT: There is a cover-up. In the fourth century, they created this theological figure of Jesus. I'm a historian. I'm interested in the historical Jesus.

O'REILLY: The gospel was written long before that.

BAIGENT: Jesus never claimed to be God. Jesus never tried to start a religion. He promulgated a faith of forgiveness, of love, of compassion. You cannot go afar from that.

O'REILLY: You can't prove what you're saying. This is a theory that you have.

BAIGENT: How can we prove anything about the New Testament?

O'REILLY: The best available evidence comes from the gospels, which is written way before you say it, and from Tacitus. So...

BAIGENT: No, Tacitus is the only historian that we can rely on. We know he was crucified.

O'REILLY: But you say he didn't die on the cross.

BAIGENT: No. Well, this is the interesting thing.

O'REILLY: You're just making it up.

BAIGENT: No, no, not at all.

O'REILLY: Come on.

BAIGENT: What did Pilate have to do?

O'REILLY: I read it. I read what you said.

BAIGENT: He only had to get the taxes to Rome and keep peace in Judea.

O'REILLY: You don't have any shred of evidence in your book backing the theory up. You should write fiction like Brown.

BAIGENT: I would make more money.

O'REILLY: But it is fiction.

BAIGENT: No, it's not fiction. No, no, Bill, you've got it all wrong. What we're looking at, as a historian, you have to come to the conclusion that Pilate had this impossible dilemma. He couldn't execute Jesus. Because if he did, his job would be on the line.

O'REILLY: All right. I have to say, and I have to go. I am a historian. I taught history, I have a degree. I don't buy what you say at all. It's interesting. It's amusing. I think you should write fiction.

Mr. Baigent, thanks very much.

Um... Bill... you're ... not a historian. You're a really creepy talk show host. ... with a completely disgusting loofah fettish. From the Bill-O bio on Fox's web-site:
Upon graduating from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York with a degree in History, he taught high school for two years in Miami, Florida. O'Reilly returned to school to pursue a Masters in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University.
Last time I checked, there was a bit more to being a historian than getting your B.A. Just thought I'd mention it...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 7:55 PM  
Pain in the numbers
Percentage of conservatives unhappy with Bush: 45.

Presidents who've been as low as Bush at this point in their second terms? 2 (and one of them was Nixon.)

Tags: Bush, Polls
posted by JReid @ 7:18 PM  
It has been named
Ed Rollins just called it (on Lou Dobbs Tonight): "Hookergate is coming." The Patrick Kennedy tragedy is just a Friday sideshow that will keep the wingers busy digging up conspiracy theories all weekend ("I'm shocked ... SHOCKED to learn that members of Congress get special treatment from Capitol police!!!") but that in the end, is so minimally consequential compared to the coming train wreck of Iraq, Iran, hookers in the Watergate Hotel (and possibly the Westin...), Abramoff, Rummy, illegal immigration and now, the rapid-fire, strange departure of Porter Goss, it's sad.

So what's Hookergate all about? For that, we turn to the Harper's Magazine blog:
The Wall Street Journal reported today that indicted former California Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham may not have limited his good times to partying on a rented yacht. It turns out the FBI is currently investigating two defense contractors who allegedly provided Cunningham with free limousine service, free stays at hotel suites at the Watergate and the Westin Grand, and free prostitutes.

The two defense contractors who allegedly bribed Cunningham, said the Journal, were Brent Wilkes, the founder of ADCS Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the founder of MZM Inc.; both firms profited greatly from their connections with Cunningham. The Journal also suggested that other lawmakers might be implicated. I've learned from a well-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees—including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post.
Stop right there! Rewind:

... including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post.
Now, I'm intrigued. Porter Goss steps down abruptly, from his powerful intelligence post, just days after this revelation in the Wall Street Journal? Forget intrigued. I'm downright fascinated. Go on, if you would, Ken Silverstein:

I've also been able to learn the name of the limousine service that was used to ferry the guests and other attendees to the parties: Shirlington Limousine and Transportation of Arlington, Virginia. Wilkes, I've learned, even hired Shirlington as his personal limousine service.

It gets even more interesting: the man who has been identified as the CEO of Shirlington has a 62-page rap sheet (I recently obtained a copy) that runs from at least 1979 through 1989 and lists charges of petit larceny, robbery, receiving stolen goods, assault, and more. Curiously—or perhaps not so curiously given the company's connections—Shirlington Limousine is also a Department of Homeland Security contractor; according to the Washington Post, last fall it won a $21.2 million contract for shuttle services and transportation support. (I tried to contact Shirlington but was unable to get past their answering service.)

As to the festivities themselves, I hear that party nights began early with poker games (see Clarification, below) and degenerated into what the source described as a "frat party" scene—real bacchanals. Apparently photographs were taken, and investigators are anxiously procuring copies. My heart beats faster in fevered anticipation.
Permit me to say a hearty "ewwwwww...." at the thought of lardy old Congressmen paired wiht the word "baccanals." And let's not forget that Mitchell Wade is also the defense contractor all curled up and cozy with dear old Kathy Harris, who like Porter Goss, resides in the Sunshine State, not to mention the obligatory Abramoff connection. Hopefully she wasn't making a little mad money on the side. Okay, just kidding. According to reporting by WSJ reporter Scot Paltrow, who broke this story in the paper's April 27 edition:
Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn't clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.
And then again, maybe they have... and for that, we turn to the Muckrakers at TPM, who've been on this story from jump-city. All of their coverage is corralled here. BTW, Goss' people have denied to TPM that his departure is related to Hookergate.

Of course, the dutiful Andrea Mitchell is portraying Goss' departure as a case of good old fashioned turf warfare, with Goss and Negroponte butting heads over staff, plus the discomfort created by Goss' political hacks hanging about. I would be wary of putting too much stock in what could be strategic leaks to Ms. Mitchell in order to dampen the story. What is irrefutable is that Porter Goss is unncomfortably linked to at least one of the figures central to the Hookergate story. Here's how, nicely summarized by the good folks at POGO:
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI has good reason to believe among the currency used by defense contractors Mitchell Wade and Brent Wilkes to bribe now-jailed former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham wasn’t just money, real estate, and Liberace-like wares, but also women – and that the FBI is also investigating whether or not this particular form of influence-peddling by Wilkes may have extended to other members of Congress, or their staffs, as well. Last December, the San Diego Union-Tribune circumspectly raised this possibility in its Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the Cunningham affair, making a passing reference to private parties hosted by Wilkes for various legislators.

On Thursday night, Harper’s Washington Editor Ken Silverstein advanced the story, reporting via a “well-connected source” that “those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence committees -- including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post.” (Silverstein also got the 62-page rap sheet of the owner of the limo service retained by Wilkes for “entertainment” purposes.) Over at TPM Muckraker, Justin Rood concluded -- not unreasonably -- that this is likely a reference to Porter Goss, and wonders if this might explain a curious staffing decision at CIA:
“Remember that Goss is the one who plucked one of Wilkes’ old San Diego friends, the unusual and colorful Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, out of CIA middle-management obscurity to be his #3 at the agency. At the time of Foggo’s appointment, no one could figure out where he came from, or how Goss knew him….[how did Goss] determine he was qualified for the CIA executive director post?”
All good questions, especially as Foggo is currently under investigation by the CIA Inspector General because of his relationship with Wilkes over possible CIA contracting improprieties, and any role he might have played in the Cunningham affair. (Update: Goss through a flack denies partying down with Wilkes at hotels) Friday morning the Union-Tribune and Laura Rozen added additional details about poker games and hotel suites presided over by Wilkes and attended by various past and present legislators and CIA officials (including one known only by his delightful nickname, “Nine Fingers," so named because he lost one of his digits while on assignment. Is it just us, or is this beginning to sound like a Sopranos episode?)
Well, not to the folks at NBC. Hardball's ultra-annoying fill-in girl Norah O'Donnell is busy peddling the official spin that Goss is out solely due to internal conflicts between him and Negroponte, who reportedly felt he was not a "team player."

Then again, maybe there is a Negropotente connection, only not the one Norah is chasing. Courtesy of TPM's Justin Rood a few days ago:

Over at, Laura Rozen says she's hearing that Negroponte, or possibly the White House, gave Goss the boot, and it was sudden. That fits with what I'm hearing: that Goss didn't jump, or at least not without a nudge.

Rozen says she's been told Goss' departure "may have to do with how Goss handled a management issue concerning Foggo."

I've heard it a bit more bluntly: Goss was told to fire Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, his troublesome Executive Director, and Goss refused. That's what we're hearing now from knowledgeable sources. But there's a lot of contradictory information. We'll bring you more as the picture becomes clearer.
We'll be listening.

Update: The "turf wars" cover story is already falling apart.

Fox's Bill Kristol:

BILL KRISTOL: It wasn’t done in a routine way. I don’t think people — certainly people close to Goss did not expect this to happen. Senior congressmen and senators didn’t expect this to happen. I’m not sure the White House expected this to happen. … I do think this was sudden. It was unexpected. There will be more of a story that will come out. I don’t know what it implies for the future of the agency and Goss’ effort to shake up an institution, an institution that’s very difficult to shake up. But I do not believe it was part of a long-planned —

SHEPHARD SMITH: How the heck could it have been? In a Bush White House world, things are lined up and they’re put out in a sort of meticulous, controlled way. I can envision — if this had been planned in advance, there would have been almost an immediate announcement of a replacement, the hugs, the thank yous, probably a medal or something. Instead what we have now is a vacuum, and you have to wonder what could have gone boom like that to cause him, A) to tender the resignation and, B) for the President to accept it under these circumstances.

KRISTOL: Well you and I think alike, Shep. Either it’s brilliant minds or suspicious minds thinking alike —

SMITH: It is just out of character.

KRISTOL: It looked that way to me. What was striking about the statement in the Oval Office with the President, he didn’t say, “I will serve until my successor is confirmed,” which is the usual practice. In the written statement, he says he intends to be there for a few weeks to help ensure a smooth transition, but implying he could well leave before his successor is confirmed by the United States Senate. So again, I think there were either serious disputes or some internal problem at the agency or some scandal conceivably involving an associate of Goss’. Who knows? Something that popped this week and that caused this sudden event this Friday.
Paul Begala is exhibiting similar skepticism on Wolf Blitzer's administration transcription program right now.

This ain't about internal politics, folks. Something popped this week that made Goss run for the exits (or be shoved there.)

Tags: CIA, Patrick Kennedy, News, News and politics, Porter Goss, Hookergate,
posted by JReid @ 6:40 PM  
Am I a bad person...
... because I feel sympathy for admitted substance abuser Patrick Kennedy, but absolutely no sympathy for admitted substance abuser Fat Bastard ... I mean, Rush Limbaugh? Just checking the old moral compas...

Tags: Patrick Kennedy
posted by JReid @ 6:35 PM  
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Duke residue
Yep. I told ya we'd be talking about prostitution tomorrow. Duke Cunningham is just the gift that keeps on ... ok that's just disgusting...
posted by JReid @ 8:36 PM  
Countdown to Kennedyquiddick
I await the spectacle of the same blatherers on the right who defend drugged out radio jock Rush Limbaugh and the boozin' Bush kids blasting away at Patrick Kennedy.

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 8:28 PM  
The gang that couldn't al-Qaida straight
It's official: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the George W. Bush of terrorism... bungled photo-ops and all...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 8:20 PM  
Mr. Rumsfeld, you've been served.
Ray McGovern hands the secretary of defense his face. ... on a platter. C&L has the look. AP has the story.

Tags: , .
posted by JReid @ 8:14 PM  
The vanishing Mr. Colbert
While some of us are thanking Stephen Colbert for speaking truthiness to power, others are disappearing his first-rate White House correspondents dinner performance from the Web. Go figure...


In case you missed it: Stephen Colbert

Tags: Stephen Colbert, George Bush, Bush
posted by JReid @ 11:39 AM  
Get Out ... ! ... Prostution???
Just when you thought it couldn't get any more skeevy for the GOP...
posted by JReid @ 9:55 AM  
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Familiarity breeds contempt
What does this remind you of?
"The Iranians must understand that we won't fold, that our partnership is strong, that for the sake of world peace, they should abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions," Bush said. -- President Bush with German Chancellor Merkel yesterday...
Oh yeah, I remember...
"The time for denying, deceiving, and delaying has come to an end. Saddam Hussein must disarm himself -- or, for the sake of peace, we will lead a coalition to disarm him." -- Bush speaking in Cincinnati on October 7, 2002 (the speech Tenet managed to scrub clean of bogus Niger references...)
What do you call it when a con artist tries to sell you the same phony watch twice?

I think it means either the buyer or the seller is a fool.

Related: Asia Times breaks down Iran's crafty game of realpolitik, and America's dismal record of democracy-building. AT also adds this jibe: it's the hegemony, stupid.

Tags: Iran, News, War, Bush administration,Iraq, nukes
posted by JReid @ 10:28 PM  
Moussaoui jurors choose life
The verdict is in in the so-called '20th hijacker case' and it's a surprise to Dan Abrams ... and frankly, to me. Moussaoui will receive life in prison, rather than the death penalty -- something I think is appropriate since he was not present during the commission of the terror attacks on 9/11 (he was in prison) and seems to have been, at best, a periferal player in the planning and execution of the attacks (more wanna-be than terrorist.) Still, I rather thought a majority of jurors would bully any potential hold-outs into exacting retribution for the attacks by putting Moussaoui to death. This verdict, in that case, is a pleasant surprise, and proof that Americans don't always live down to the stereotype that our insistance on retaining the death penalty suggests to the rest of the world.

A few interesting things: most of the jurors didn't buy the argument that giving Zacharias Moussaoui the death penalty would be martyring him (the defense's argument), but a preponderance of them seemed to believe he might be psychotic (also the defense's argument), and at least some didn't believe that he directly contributed to the events of 9/11. The jurors were clearly split on what to do about all of that, and we don't know what the breakdown was, but I'd guess that there were a small number of holdouts, perhaps even one. Nine of the jurors bought into the mitigating factors of Moussoui's childhood, it seems, which also is a surprise. NONE of the jurors believed the prosecution charge that his actions directly resulted in the deaths of 3,000 people, which to me shows a great deal of common sense.

Either way, the holdouts have saved Moussaoui's life.

I think that as angry as many of the 9/11 families and those on the right will be about this verdict, in the end, it's the better verdict for America as a whole. The last thing we needed was a Muslim not directly related to the attacks (the Terry Nichols of 9/11) sitting on death row, and eventually executed, while the Muslim world looks upon him as a martyr, slain by the Great Satan. And it's not as if Moussaoui will be set free. He is going to spend the rest of his life in prison -- not exactly a walk in the park.

Clearly, this was a good job by the defense team, and in my opinion, proof that the prosecution went too far in portraying Moussaoui as a central player in the 9/11 nightmare. And if I may say, to me it indicates a shift in the vibe surrounding the war on terror ... people aren't necessarily swallowing the government's case hook, line and sinker anymore.

Update: here's the verdict form.


Tags: , Terrorism, trial, Al Qaeda, War on Terror, 9-11

posted by JReid @ 4:45 PM  
In case you missed it: Stephen Colbert
Here's his White House Correspondents' Dinner skit in its entirety. You will laugh til you spit up (unless you're a Bush fan...)

Part one:

And here's part two, and part three.

Tags: Stephen Colbert
posted by JReid @ 11:52 AM  
Send me the video
Anybody out there who can get their hands on video or audio of George W. Bush singing the national anthem in Spanish, please email me at Holla!
posted by JReid @ 9:45 AM  
Impeached at the pump?
Perhaps this is an idea whose time has come...

Tags: George Bush, Bush,
posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Ok... Dick Cheney is insane
From Attytood, re the new Vanity Fair article on the number one two man in the White House (short version, the hot stuff is not about Mary Cheney...):

... Just the short excepts that we've seen will confirm your worst fears, that the man who steered us into Iraq and is now pushing us toward Iran, and possibly a nuclear war there, is a raving victim of paranoia.
Read it and weep:
Purdum reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney’s motorcade varied its daily path. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we take different routes so that “The Jackal” can’t get me,’” West tells Purdum. “And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, ‘What’s that? It’s not very roomy in here.’ And [Cheney] said, ‘No, because it’s a chemical-biological suit,’ and he looked at it and said, ‘Robin, there’s only one. You lose.’”
This is scary stuff, indeed. For those of you under 40ish, "The Day of the Jackal" was a Frederick Forsyth thriller, made into a 1973 movie, that follows an assassin's attempt to kill Charles DeGaulle (Spoiler alert: He misses...duh). For some men, four heart attacks might trigger a kind of fatalism, but the Cheney effect seems to be the reverse, an over-the-top survivalist instinct -- no doubt worsened by his many months brooding in "undisclosed locations" -- and the growing belief that people are out to get him on every street corner.

Do you want this guy holding the hand of the guy with his finger on the button?
Um ... no.

Tags: , Politics, Cheney,
posted by JReid @ 9:37 AM  
Monday, May 01, 2006
What Plame knew
In its report on Valerie Plame Wilson's appearance at the White House correspondents dinner with her husband Joe Wilson over the weekend, MSNBC tonight slipped in the confirmation that Ms. Plame was indeed working on something very important when she was outed as a CIA operative by Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and possibly others within the Bush administration: she was researching Iran's covert nuclear program, via her CIA front company, Brewster Jennings. Said David Shuster on Hardball tonight:


Other news sources have said that Brewster Jennings may also have been working on tracing a possible U.S. plot to plant WMD in Iraq. Now that would make Ms. Plame a convenient target...

Still, the question remains, why would the Bush administration risk wrecking an operation that was ferreting out the truth about Iran's nuclear program? Especially with Iran so much on the minds of the Bush crowd these days? The answer might be similar to the answer of why the administration would ignore so much prima facie evidence that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and no nuclear program -- information coming out of their own intelligence services: because the truth is not what the Bushies want to hear. In other words, perhaps Ms. Plame was finding out that Iran's nuclear program was not nearly as threatening as the administration, the British and the Israelis are making it out to be.

You don't market a brand new war with information like that...


Three reasons not to bomb Iran ... yet

Did Dick Cheney order the Pentagon to make plans to nuke Iran immediately following another terrorist attack ... last July????

Bill Kristol mourns the waning Bush doctrine...

And Pat Buchanan casts Bush as the tragic Hamlet... ("tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in its petty pace form day to day, until the last syllable of recorded time..."

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
posted by JReid @ 9:07 PM  
Amnesty extranational
So the 'day without immigrants' has come to a close. We had Lou Dobbs on the radio show this morning on Radio One Miami, and he summed up many of the arguments you've heard nightly on his CNN program. Dobbs echoes my sentiments exactly when he says that the U.S. has to come to grips with the border control issue before we can even begin to have a sensible debate about policy toward those illegal aliens who are already here (and demanding amnesty -- now openly, as opposed to previous muddled calls for a "path to citizenship.) And Dobbs had this to say about the media coverage of today's (and other recent protest) events:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- We all awoke to headlines in our nation's most important newspapers reminding us that this is "A Day Without Immigrants." Not illegal immigrants, mind you, but immigrants.

USA Today headlined today's demonstrations and boycott "On Immigration's Front Lines." The New York Times headlines its story "With Calls for Boycott by Immigrants, Employers Gird for Unknown." The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times are both calling their coverage "The Immigration Debate."

These major newspapers obviously don't want to disturb their readers with the information that today's demonstrations and boycott are about illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens.

CNN and Fox News are both using a banner calling their coverage "A Day Without Immigrants," while MSNBC is titling its coverage "Immigrant Anger."

Most of the mainstream media has been absolutely co-opted by the open borders and illegal immigration advocates. I'm not opposed to demonstrations and protests of any kind, even by those who are not citizens of this country, because one way or another, demonstrations and protests enrich and invigorate the national debate and raise the public consciousness of truth.

But only one newspaper, to its credit, reported that illegal aliens and their supporters' boycott of the national economy on the First of May is clear evidence that radical elements have seized control of the movement. The Washington Post, alone among national papers, reported that ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) has become an active promoter of the national boycott.
The most dishonest thing about this debate is the muddying of the waters between the very separate issues of "immigration" and illegal migration -- something the amnesty movement has carefully blended into a single issue for the digestion of the mainstream press.

It's a shame that there's so little critical thought going on in this debate.

Meanwhile: this is the kind of backlash you'll be seeing more of if things continue as they are.

And this is May Day - not the most auspicious of holidays to associate your protest with from a public relations perspective.

Tags: , Politics, border, MEXICO, , , Illegal-Aliens, Illegal immigration, ,
posted by JReid @ 8:35 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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