Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Endless love
Is it just me, or is George W. Bush a little too touchy-feely? First it was Andrea Merkel, the German chancellor, who nearly jumped out of her skin as Dubya fondled her shoulders during the G8 summit. Now, an AP photographer catches the POTUS practicing his love on Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen during a fundraising junket to Miami. Ah, the rapture...

Tags: Bush, Dubya,
posted by JReid @ 9:00 AM  
The 48 hour lull that wasn't.
Israel continued limited airstrikes this morning despite agreeing to a 48-hour halt to the Lebanon bombing campaign. According to the UK Independent, the airstrikes re designed to protect continued ground incursions over Lebanon's southern border.

Meanwhile Tony Blair is sticking to his script over ceasefire as the backlash begins.

Tags: , , , , , ,
, Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, war
posted by JReid @ 7:47 AM  
American beauty
It may take awhile, but when Americans get it, they get it:
The most recent Gallup poll this month found that 52% of adult Americans want to see all U.S. troops out of Iraq within a year, with 19% advocating immediate withdrawal. In the summer of 1970, Gallup found that 48% wanted a pullout within a year, with 23% embracing the “immediate” option. Just 7% want to send more troops now, vs. 10% then.

At present, 56% call the decision to invade Iraq a “mistake,” with 41% disagreeing. Again this echoes the view of the Vietnam war in 1970, when that exact same number, 56%, in May 1970 called it a mistake in a Gallup poll.
And while we lost another four Marines in Anbar Province in Iraq this weekend, we have to deal with aberrations like this guy, who further taint the image of our uniformed military.

Too bad the major TV and cable news networks have cancelled the war. Otherwise, even more Americans might want out.

Tags: , Politics, Iraq, Bush, Iraq-War, Bush Administration
posted by JReid @ 7:17 AM  
Rummynations
Q. Is the country closer to a civil war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it.

Yes, Mr. Rumsfeld. The words ... the words ...

Tags:
posted by JReid @ 5:53 AM  
Sunday, July 30, 2006
An incident at Qana
I guess the world outcry has finally gotten to the Israelis. And perhaps that world has been sufficiently shamed by Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora's plaintive cries for help, that it will now act to stop another "accident" from taking the lives of dozens of children in Lebanon. CNN is reporting that Israel has agreed to suspend air operations over southern Lebanon for 48 hours while it investigates the deadly airstrike on Qana, which killed some 60 people, mostly women and apparently, 37 children. That according to a U.S. State Dept. spokesman. CNN is also reporting that the U.N. Security Council convened an emergency session to discuss the crisis in Lebanon, at which Kofi Annan had this to say:

"We must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms," said Annan. "I am deeply dismayed that my earlier calls for immediate cessation of hostilities were not heeded." (Full story) Airstrikes kill dozens (Video)
CNN has catalogued a bit of the horror of Qana here, with plenty of "viewer discretion" advisories for the gentle eyes of American readers. Surprisingly, the horror of Qana has even moved Yo Blair! off the dime:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking during a visit to California on Sunday, said the attack added urgency to the situation.

"What has happened at Qana shows that this is a situation that simply cannot continue," Blair told reporters after speaking with other world leaders, including Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "I think there is a basis for an agreement that would allow us to get a U.N. resolution, but we have to get this now."
Think so, Tony?

Throughout the Arab world, this is already being referred to as the second Qana massacre. Memories die hard, you know. And Israel cannot possibly win the P.R. war on this one, no matter how many Americans -- of both political parties -- flak for them.

Tags: , , , , , , , Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, war
posted by JReid @ 7:15 PM  
Meanwhile, back in Iraq...
What was the name of the area in Iraq where we removing troops in order to send them to Baghdad ...? Oh, yeah! I remember: Anbar Province:
Four U.S. marines have been killed in action in restive Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

The marines, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7, died on Saturday.
No further details were available.

The casualties followed the deaths of four other marines in Anbar, west of Baghdad, on Thursday.
And of course, they're being redeployed in order to try and stop the sectarian violence in Baghdad, the capitol of Iraq, which as George Will pointed out this morning on "This Week..." remains unsecured more than three years into the war.

Yep. Bush foreign policy. Making death and chaos look easy.

Tags: , , , Bush, war, Iraq
posted by JReid @ 2:37 PM  
The Ten Downing Tea Party
Is Tony Blair losing his cabinet over his decision to isolate Britain from the world community over Lebanon? The Guardian reports this morning that that could very well be the case, and that the leader of the Ten Downing Tea Party could well be Blair's old ally, ousted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw:

Tony Blair was facing a full-scale cabinet rebellion last night over the Middle East crisis after his former Foreign Secretary warned that Israel's actions risked destabilising all of Lebanon.

Jack Straw, now Leader of the Commons, said in a statement released after meeting Muslim residents of his Blackburn constituency that while he grieved for the innocent Israelis killed, he also mourned the '10 times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children killed by Israeli fire'.

He said he agreed with the Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells that it was 'very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics used by Israel', adding: 'These are not surgical strikes but have instead caused death and misery amongst innocent civilians.' Straw said he was worried that 'a continuation of such tactics by Israel could destabilise the already fragile Lebanese nation'.

The Observer can also reveal that at a cabinet meeting before Blair left for last Friday's Washington summit with President George Bush, minister after minister pressed him to break with the Americans and publicly criticise Israel over the scale of death and destruction.

The critics included close Blair allies. One, the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, was revealed yesterday to have told a Commons committee that he did not view Israel's strikes on power stations as a 'proportionate response' to Hizbollah attacks.

Another Blairite minister among the cabinet critics said: 'It was clear that Tony knows the situation, and didn't have to be told about the outrage felt by so many over the disproportionate suffering. He also completely understands the effect on the Muslim community - both in terms of losing Muslim voters hand over fist and the wider issue of community cohesion.'

Blair responded to the dissenters by 'engaging seriously', the minister said. 'But he made it clear why he felt he had to choose the high-risk strategy of trying to move things forward for the future of the Middle East through his talks in Washington.'

In addition to the cabinet critics, one of Blair's closest Labour confidants was understood to have urged him last week to 'place distance' between himself and Bush over the crisis.

In interviews last night in San Francisco, the Prime Minister defended his decision not to call for an immediate ceasefire, but voiced the hope that an agreement on a UN framework for ending hostilities could be reached within a period of days. Asked by Sky News if he was too close to the White House, he said: 'I will never apologise for Britain being a strong ally of the US.'

In other words, Dubya is my boss buddy, and I'm sticking with him, even if it means taking Britain over the cliff with the U.S.

Tags: , , , , , , , Bush, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Politics, war
posted by JReid @ 2:24 PM  
Ayalon on dead Lebanese children: too bad
Mourning the dead in Qana, Lebanon - BBC

Today on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," under the gentle questioning of George, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Ayalon made a statement that should have stood Stephanopoulos' hair on end. Instead, Steph let it blow by, instead choosing to emphasize the fact that Israel today "took full responsibility" for a bombing raid on the city of Qana, that left more than 60 people, mostly women and children who were hiding in an apartment basement, hoping to escape Israeli air strikes, dead. (Of course, "full responsibility" for Israelis means saying that 'war crimes' (Fouad Siniora's words, not mine,) against Arabs are of course the fault of the Arabs themselves... First, the story, and then the incredible statement. MSNBC reports:

QANA, Lebanon - An Israeli airstrike killed at least 60 people — many of them children — in a southern Lebanese village Sunday, the deadliest attack in 19 days of fighting. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice postponed a visit to Lebanon in a setback for diplomatic efforts to end hostilities.

Infuriated Lebanese officials said they had asked Rice to postpone the visit after Israel’s missile strike. But Rice said she called Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to say she would postpone the trip, and that she had work to do in Jerusalem to end the fighting.

The missiles destroyed several homes in the village of Qana as people were sleeping. Rescue officials said at least 60 people were killed, and the bodies of 27 children were found in the rubble, Reuters reported. ...

...Rescuers aided by villagers dug through the rubble by hand. At least 20 bodies wrapped in white sheets were taken away, including 10 children. A row of houses lay in ruins, and an old woman was carried away on a plastic chair.

Villagers said many of the dead were from four families who had taken refuge in on the ground floor of a three-story building, believing they would be safe from bombings.

“We want this to stop!” shouted Mohammed Ismail, a middle-aged man pulling away at the rubble in search for bodies, his brown pants covered in dust. “May God have mercy on the children. They came here to escape the fighting.”

“They are hitting children to bring the fighters to their knees,” he said.
Rice is said to be "exasperated" with the Israelis, who launched this strike overnight, just as the U.S. secretary of state was headed to the region. But exasperation apparently doesn't translate into influence, because the Israelis are unbowed, and continuing to insist that they targeted Qana because Hezbollah was luanching rockets from there. In fact, on Meet the Press this morning, Israeli U.N. Ambassador ... made the incredible claim that Israel has pictures of a rocket launcher located at an apartment building similar to the one they leveled. Well, that should explain it...

By the way both CNN and NBC reporters (Ed Henry and Richard Engel) have reported this morning that they saw NO Hezbollah fighters or rocket launchers in that part of Qana. But of course, the Israelis will simply say that they were hidden in that basement where the kiddies where sleeping.

Now on to that statement. Ayalon, sitting opposite Stephanopoulos for one of the most softball interviews I've seen this side of Wolf Blitzer chatting with his former AIPAC clients in the Israeli government, made the following outrageous statement, which I'll paraphrase until the transcript is posted.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Israeli government has said it takes full responsibility for the bombing and has said it would investigate. But this morning, the Lebanese prime minister called this a war crime. Is it a war crime?

AYALON: Yes, it is a war crime. ... one committed by Hezbollah, which is using innocent civilians as human shields. ... By the way, George, speaking formally, the Fourth Geneva Convention states that if civilians caught in the crossfire are hiding enemy fighters, they are participants, and are not protected. ...
Ayalon then seemed to realize the implication of what he had just said -- that the women and children whose bodies were being dug out of the rubble of that apartment building were essentially Hezbollah sympathisers who deserved their fate, and did not merit the protections of Geneva -- and begun to stumble out a walk-back. You could hear him in garbled fashion starting to say "that is not to suggest..." but Stephanopoulos cut him off, breezing past what Ayalon had just said, to ask again about Israel taking responsibility and investigating the bombing.

This was one of the more stunning statements out of Israel, although the U.N. ambassador's claim that Hezbollah was "holding those civilians hostage in that basement against their will" comes close. As Richard Engel reported for NBC just before the ambassador came on, the people left in places like Qana and Tyre at this point are those who are too poor to flee, or who have no place to go. The fact that they are still there after the Israeli leaflets doesn't mean they are tantamount to Hezbollah fighters in skirts and short pants. They are civilians. Mostly women and children. And Israel is killing them with abandon, and justifying it with rhetoric that borders on the outrageous.

Here's the BBC's version of events:

More than 54 civilians, at least 34 of them children, have been killed in a town in south Lebanon in the deadliest Israeli strike of the conflict so far.
Displaced families had been sheltering in the basement of a house in Qana, which was crushed after a direct hit.

Lebanon's prime minister denounced "Israeli war criminals" and cancelled talks with the US secretary of state.

Israel said it regretted the incident - but added that civilians had been warned to flee the village.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would "continue to act with no hesitation against Hezbollah" which has been firing rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon.

He is reported to have told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Israel needs 10-14 days to press its offensive.

Israel's military has asked United Nations observers in southern Lebanon to evacuate two more villages - Ramyah and Ayta ash-Shab - before sunset, but they are unable to do so, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said.

Attack condemned

Hundreds of Lebanese protesters staged a violent demonstration, ransacking the UN headquarters in Beirut, chanting slogans against the US and Israel and in support of the Hezbollah militants.

Several countries have condemned the attack and renewed their calls for an immediate ceasefire - opposed by Israel and the US.

At an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council, Mr Annan urged members to strongly condemn the Qana attack and to put aside differences to call for an immediate ceasefire.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Sunday the situation could not continue and that all hostilities ought to cease once a UN resolution is adopted.

Lebanon's health minister now says about 750 people - mainly civilians - have been killed by Israeli action in Lebanon since their operations began 19 days ago. ...

...A total of 51 Israelis, including at least 18 civilians, have been killed in the conflict, sparked by Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on 12 July.
And now for the world's revulsion reaction, courtesy of the BBC, starting with the reaction of the Arab and Muslim world, beginning with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who made another emotional address to his people early Sunday morning:

Out of respect for the souls of our innocent martyrs and the remains of our children buried under the rubble of Qana, we scream out to our fellow Lebanese and to other Arab brothers and to the whole world to stand united in the face of the Israeli war criminals.

The persistence of Israel in its heinous crimes against our civilians will not break the will of the Lebanese people. There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as the international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now.
Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa:

The attacks that Israeli forces are launching targeting civilians and the Lebanese infrastructure are another confirmation of Israeli aggressive intentions.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (one of the Sunni Arab leaders who made the miscalculation that siding against Shiite Hezbollah might be a good play):

The Arab Republic of Egypt expresses its profound alarm and its condemnation of the irresponsible Israeli bombing of the Lebanese village of Qana, which resulted in innocent casualties, mostly women and children.
Jordan's King Abdullah (who along with Mubarak, had found himself on the wrong side of the Arab street -- Sunni, Shia and otherwise -- on this subject before now, having rushed out to criticize Hezbollah on behalf of the United States, and who must be feeling the heat, particularly given his large Palestinian population):

This criminal aggression is an ugly crime that has been committed by the Israeli forces in the city of Qana that is a gross violation of all international statutes.
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (who has to look like the smartest guy in the Middle East right now, having put his mainly Sunni, secular country on the side of the "Shia crescent -- a gamble that has appeared so far, to have paid off for him, while his Arab League friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt squirm):

The massacre committed by Israel in Qana this morning shows the barbarity of this aggressive entity. It constitutes state terrorism committed in front of the eyes and ears of the world.
And you can't leave out Iran, whose foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi had this to say:

The Qana bombing is the outcome of [US Secretary State Condoleezza] Rice's trip to the region. Some American officials should be put on trial for the crimes in Lebanon.
Okay, that's not so unexpected. But let's head over to Europe:

In the U.K., British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett (who replaced a recalcitrant Jack Straw who made the mistake of not being rabid enough to attack Iran):

It's absolutely dreadful, it's quite appalling. Undoubtedly today's events will make things worse at least in the short term. We have repeatedly urged Israel to act proportionately.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana:

I have talked to the prime minister of Lebanon... I have expressed to him my profound dismay and deep sorrow at the attack and the death of innocent civilians in Qana. Nothing can justify that. I have transmitted to him that the European Union is continuously working to reach an immediate ceasefire.
Sweden's Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson:
It is time to end this madness. The UN Security Council must accept its responsibility and immediately adopt a resolution to bring an end to hostilities.

And here's Pope Benedict XVI, who has been calling for a ceasefire since day one:
"In the name of God, I appeal to all those responsible for this spiral of violence, so that they immediately put down their arms on all sides," the pope told pilgrims and tourists at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome. Pausing slightly, he repeated the word "immediately."

"I appeal to governing leaders and to international institutions not to spare any effort to obtain this necessary cessation of hostilities," the pontiff said.
According to overseas news reports, Lebanon has appealed to the Vatican for help in making the moral case for a ceasefire, given its large Maronite Christian community (a community, by the way, which apparently has also been driven into the arms of Hezbollah by the Israeli bombardment of that country). More on the Pope's statements here:
``Peace, peace, peace,'' pilgrims and tourists in the papal palace courtyard chanted, using the Italian word, ``pace,'' for peace as they briefly interrupted the pontiff.

``In this moment I cannot help but think of the situation, ever more grave and more tragic, that the Middle East is going through: hundreds of dead, so many wounded, a huge number of the homeless and refugees, houses, cities and infrastructure destroyed, while in the hearts of many, hate and the will for revenge seem to grow,'' Benedict said, opening his remarks on the clashes between the Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Israel's military.

``These facts demonstrate clearly that you cannot re-establish justice, create a new order and build authentic peace when you resort to instruments of violence,'' the pontiff said.
Israelis, turn to your neighbor and say, "neighbor... is Pope Benedict talking to you...?"

And now, the Israeli reaction, first from tourism minister Yitzhak Herzog (this can't be a good couple of weeks for him...):

We are very sorry. We take this with great pain...but we have the full right to defend our people.

In the past few days, hundreds of rockets were launched at the Galilee from the vicinity of Qana and from Qana itself.

It turns my stomach, and my heart aches for them, but we have to tell the truth - rockets designed to kill and harm thousands of Israelis were launched from that very place. We would like a ceasefire as soon as possible.
Oh, would ya, now? Not according to this guy...

All the residents were warned and called upon to leave. There are hiding places for rockets inside the village and the village itself is a safe haven for those who launch rockets. We have no policy to target innocent civilians.

I think it needs to be clear that Israel is in no rush to reach a ceasefire before we get to a point where we could say that we have achieved the main objectives we had set forth.

This requires a ripening of the diplomatic process and a specific agreement regarding the formation of the force that will operate from the areas from which Israel was threatened in this period.
That would be Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

By the way, if you watched "This Week" you saw the Lebanese National Security Advisor say that this was the second Israeli massacre in Qana. In actuality, it is the third major event for which this tragic little city is known. More, again from the terrific, thorough, BBC:

...In realms of biblical narrative, some believe it to be the scene of Jesus Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana of Galilee.

In modern times, it was the scene of one of the bloodiest events of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict, the Israeli shelling of a UN base sheltering Lebanese civilians 10 years ago.

International shock at those deaths - more than 100, and another 100 injured - led to huge pressure for a ceasefire deal bringing an end to Israel's last sustained military operation against Hezbollah militants, codenamed Operation Grapes of Wrath.

The Qana Massacre, as it is known in Lebanon, remains a powerful symbol for Lebanese people of what they say is Israel's indiscriminate and disproportionate response to Hezbollah's rocket attacks.

...Israel still insists the 1996 shelling was an accident and that its forces had a legitimate militant target - a Hezbollah military unit that had fired mortars and rockets from near the Qana base.

Then, as now, Israel accused Hezbollah of using the civilian population as human shields when they launched their attacks.

However, a UN investigation reported in May 1996 that the deaths at the Qana base were unlikely to have been the result of an accident as claimed by the Israelis.

The UN report cited the repeated use of airburst shells over the small UN compound, which sent down a deadly torrent of shrapnel that caused terrible injuries among the unprotected civilians.

The UN also noted the presence of Israeli helicopters and a drone in the skies over Qana which must have witnessed the bloodbath.

Strategic location

In the current round of Israel's bombardment, Qana has again been in the news - the scene of several incidents, such as the bombing by Israel of two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances and the death of a young Lebanese photojournalist, Layal Nejib, also in an air strike on her car. ...

... It lies at the northern edge of the Lebanon's southern uplands which border Israel and also at the confluence of five strategic roads in the hinterland south-east of the southern city of Tyre.

Qana and the villages surrounding it are a strong pro-Hezbollah area and Israel says it has repeatedly been used to fire rockets over the border about 10km (six miles) to the south.

Finally, Israel has claimed that all of its targets are strategic in nature, and aimed at stopping rocket fire into Israel from southern Lebanon. But as Tim Russert pointed out this morning, that doesn't explain the shelling of targets all over Lebanon, as shown by a map released by the Siniora government in Lebanon.

And as people around the world take to the streets, including in the equally embattled Palestinian territories, the linkage between what Israel is doing, and who is supplying her, is clear to every single person in the street.

And inevitably, troubling questions are already beginnning to be asked (though not by the itenierant journalists of the U.S., who can barely manage to get a sentence out without warbling about the fictional Hezbollah rocket attacks that started before Israel launched their airstrikes,) about whether this, like everything else in the Middle East or Central Asia that has George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's fingerprints on it, is about oil.

Whatever the geopolitics involved, I can see no reason to justify what Israel is doing. I got an email this week from a very thoughtful gentleman who made the case that on the radio and on this blog, I have been too soft on Hezbollah. He likened the situation to David Duke, the notorious Klansman who tried to clean up his image and run for office. The emailer asked, would that make him a politician? My answer is no, it makes him a Klansman trying to be a politician. But if the United States government decided to eliminate Duke and his fellow Klansman by firebombing Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, levelling homes, destroying the infrastructure and killing lots of civilian women and chilren as collective punishment because those states harbored both Klansmen and Klan-like sympathies, the world would rightly decry us as barbarians, and the people of those states, white and Black, would burn with hatred for those who bombed them, even if purportedly to save them from Klan infiltration.

And so the scorn being heaped upon Israel is more than justified this morning, whether or not you see their Hezbollah as our KKK.

Previous:

Tags: , , , , , , , Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, war, Iran, Iraq,

posted by JReid @ 1:07 PM  
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Guess who's got oil?
MSNBC reports:
From here on out, say a growing chorus of experts, America will pay a price for maintaining its 45-year trade ban with the communist nation — a strategic and economic price that will have negative repercussions for the United States in the decades to come.

What has changed the equation?

Oil.

To be more specific, recent, sizable discoveries of it in the North Cuba Basin — deep-water fields that have already drawn the interest of companies from China, India, Norway, Spain, Canada, Venezuela and Brazil.

This, in turn, has reheated debate in the U.S. Congress and the Cuban-American community on an old question:

Has the time finally come to shelve the embargo — given America’s need for more sources of crude at a time of rising gas prices, soaring global demand and the outbreak of war in the Middle East?

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, an expert on Cuba energy matters and a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says America’s thirst for oil will soon force a fundamental change in Washington’s relations with Havana.

“I’ve always argued that we would keep the Cuban embargo in place until we got to the point where it started to cost us something.” Today, he adds, “we’re almost there.”

Says Phil Peters, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va., that defends limited government and free trade, and a Cuba expert: “If Cuba discovers a lot of oil and becomes an oil exporter, the embargo almost becomes an absurdity.”

Kirby Jones, founder and president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association in Washington, D.C., which has long sought an end to the trade ban, says the reality of Cuba as an oil producer makes the embargo too costly a policy to keep.

“Our choice is: Are we going to let those other countries take that oil? Or are we going to look at our strategic interests and recognize that very close to our shores is a substantial quantity of oil that is going to be exploited?”

My guess is, there are members of Congress who will try to push to find a way to get at that oil, as could the Cheney, oil wing of the Republican Party more broadly. After all, what's more important to a lame duck president with vast family oil interests: a few hundred thousand Cubans in Miami who can't vote for him again, anyway, or a hole heaping helping of black gold?

In fact, Congress has already taken steps to get our oil boys down to Havana:
In May, with much fanfare, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, introduced twin bills to the House and Senate that would exempt Big Oil from the embargo.

Before introducing his legislation, Craig told a reporter that “prohibition on trade with Cuba has accomplished just about zero.” Ominously, he added: “China, as we speak, has a drilling rig off the coast of Cuba.” (The senator failed to mention that the Chinese are working in shallow water near Cuba’s shore, and possess neither the technology nor the expertise to tap Cuba’s promising deep-water reserves.)

...surprise, surprise ...

And that, of course, pits the oil wing of the Republican Party against not only Cuban-American nationalists in Miami, but also environmentalists, who are loathe to see the rigs springing up along Flroida's precious Everglades.

Enter the Florida pols:
Thanks to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Jim Davis, D-Fla., they, too, have measures in Congress for which to cheer: twin bills that would deny U.S. visas to executives of foreign companies that drill for oil in Cuban waters.

Nelson’s bill would undo a 1977 maritime boundary agreement between the countries that bisects the Straits of Florida and allows Cuba to perform commercial activities (e.g., oil drilling) near the Florida Keys.

It’s not clear how this could keep the Cubans from exploiting waters closer to their shores than America’s. One semiofficial response from Cuba, an editorial by the state-run Prensa Latina newswire, called the measures “extraterritorial.”

And there isn't much time to waste. Not only are Norway, Canada, China and other countries in there, the Bushies' arch enemy Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is in there, too. As one analyst put it:
“Every day the United States puts off making the path into Cuba, that window of opportunity closes a little more,” says Benjamin-Alvarado. Once Cuba gets to the platform stage of deep-water drilling, he says, “the Americans are going to be left out.”

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posted by JReid @ 10:19 PM  
The "Democratic" Congo

I got a surprise call from my father this afternoon from Kishasa. It turns out he aborted his run for the Congolese Senate, after advisors and friends convinced him that it wasn't safe to run. Elections are scheduled for tomorrow, in a country that's off the world's radar, but which is as violent and disfunctional as anyplace on earth, including Lebanon and Iraq.

Apparently, a friend of his, who was married to an American woman, was killed last week, and that sobered him up quick. Running for office seemed a lot more dangerous after that, and this for someone who has stayed in the DRC through thick and thin, since he and my mother split for good in the mid-1980s.

(Also got the info that his daughter from his other wife -- simultaneous with my mom, by the way, but that's another story...) is now a news anchorwoman in Kinshasa. He was elated to learn that three of his children are in the media (myself and my younger brother are both in talk radio..._)

Here's an update on what's going on in the DRC from one of the few news outlets covering the Continent (all of which our outside the United States...) the BBC:
Security has been tightened in the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of Sunday's national elections - the first multi-party vote in 40 years.
The poll, contested by 32 presidential and 9,000 parliamentary candidates, is aimed at ending a long civil war.

The capital, where several people died this week, has returned to normal.

Diplomats told the BBC that a large shipment of heavy weapons apparently ordered by the government had been sent to the country.

The diplomats said that Russian-made T-72 tanks were delivered to the port of Matadi, and were transported by night towards the capital, Kinshasa.

Part of the problem in the country is the young president, 35-year-old Joseph Kabila, whose father seized power after owverthrowing brutal dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, only to be assasinated himself in 2001. Kabila is derided by many Congolese, including my father, as "not Congolese," although the available biographical information indicates that he is not a foreigner. According to BBC analysts, despite the animus that exists toward him, with so many people running for president, Kabila is expected to win.

Elsewhere in Africa, the shaky truce in Darfur has been broken...

And the assassinations and recriminations continue in embattled Somalia. which could be at war with Ethiopia any time, now.

As Two and Two... says, we should all pray for the DRC. But tonight, I'll simply be praying for Africa.

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posted by JReid @ 8:50 PM  
Forgotten Gaza
While the world pays attention to Lebanon, the UK Independent reports that just as much carnage is unfolding in the "prison" known as the Gaza strip:
Israel's secret war: the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Palestine
By Anne Penketh in Gaza City
Published: 29 July 2006
A 12-year-old boy dead on a stretcher. A mother in shock and disbelief after her son was shot dead for standing on their roof. A phone rings and a voice in broken Arabic orders residents to abandon their home on pain of death.

Those are snapshots of a day in Gaza where Israel is waging a hidden war, as the world looks the other way, focusing on Lebanon.

It is a war of containment and control that has turned the besieged Strip into a prison with no way in or out, and no protection from an fearsome battery of drones, precision missiles, tank shells and artillery rounds.

As of last night, 29 people had been killed in the most concentrated 48 hours of violence since an Israeli soldier was abducted by Palestinian militants just more than a month ago.

The operation is codenamed "Samson's Pillars", a collective punishment of the 1.4 million Gazans, subjecting them to a Lebanese-style offensive that has targeted the civilian infrastructure by destroying water mains, the main power station and bridges.

The similarities with Israel's blitz on Lebanon are striking, raising suspicions that the Gaza offensive has been the testing ground for the military strategy now unfolding on the second front in the north.

In Gaza, following the victory of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas in January, Israel, with the help of the US, initiated an immediate boycott and ensured the rest of the world fell into line after months of hand-wringing. Israel has secured the same flashing green light from the Bush administration over Lebanon, while the rest of the world appeals in vain for an immediate ceasefire.

The Israelis, who launched their Lebanon offensive on 12 July after the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah fighters, intend to create a "sterile" zone devoid of militants in a mile-wide stretch inside Lebanon.

In Gaza, Palestinian land has already been bulldozed to form a 300-metre open area along the border with Israel proper. And in both cases, the crisis will doubtless end up being defused by a prisoner exchange. With Lebanon dominating the headlines, Israel has "rearranged the occupation" in Gaza, in the words of the Palestinian academic and MP, Hanan Ashrawi. But unlike the Lebanese, the desperate Gazans have nowhere to flee from their humanitarian crisis.

Before Israeli tanks moved into northern Gaza, yesterday, 12-year-old Anas Zumlut joined the ranks of dead Palestinians, numbering more than 100. His body was wrapped in a funeral shroud, just like those of the two sisters, a three-year-old and an eight-month-old baby, who were killed three days ago in the same area of Jablaya.

In the past three weeks, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry in Gaza city have been smashed, prompting speculation that Israel's offensive is not only aimed at securing the release of Cpl Gilad Shalit, or bringing an end to the Qassam rocket attacks that have wounded one person in the past month and jarred the nerves of the residents of the nearest Israeli town of Sderot.

"At first we thought they were bombing the Hamas leaders by targeting Haniyeh and Zahar," a Palestinian official said, referring to the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. "But when they targeted the economy ministry we decided they wanted to completely destroy the entire government."

The only functioning crossing, Erez, is closed to Palestinians who are almost hermetically sealed inside the Strip. As the local economy has been strangled by donor countries, Gaza City's 1,800 municipal employees have not been paid since the beginning of April. Families are borrowing to the hilt, selling their jewellery, ignoring electricity bills and tax demands and throwing themselves on the mercy of shopkeepers. ...

The big difference, of course, is that the West has sympathy for the mixed Christian-Druze-Sunni and Shiite Lebanese, but very little for Palestinians of any stripe, let alone those from the "Hamas-soaked" Gaza strip. The next paragraphi in the piece is telling:
Western officials say they hope the pressure will coerce Hamas into recognising Israel but the Palestinians believe the real goal is the collapse of the Hamas government - six of whose cabinet members have been arrested, the rest are in hiding.

So that's what this is about, then, collapsing the Democratically elected government of Palestine, or forcing Hamas to capitulate to Israel. And the Israeli soldier? Consider him a sacrifice for Greater Israel.

One more paragraph, about Palestinian politician Nabil Shaath:
Mr Shaath, who had a daughter, Mimi, late in life, says that he tried "laughter therapy" with his five-year-old at home in northern Gaza. "Every time there was a shell, I would burst out laughing and she would laugh with me. But then the Israelis occupied everything around us, and there were tanks, and shrapnel in the garden, and she saw where the shells were coming from, and she was terrified. So Mimi now gets angry when I laugh."

And the world says nothing.

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posted by JReid @ 6:29 PM  
A drunk and a bum?
How, oh how, will NewsMax and Fox News spin this one???
NEW YORK Did police in Malibu, Ca., try to cover up an anti-Semitic tirade, and other actions, by actor Mel Gibson after his arrest for drunk driving on Friday? The fact of his arrest became public quickly enough but what happened next only emerged today.

The New York Daily News opened its story today with: "A blitzed Mel Gibson launched into an obscenity-laced tirade when he was busted on suspicion of drunken driving early yesterday, threatening an officer and making anti-Semitic and sexually abusive remarks, according to a police report."

It seems that the full report was suppressed but four pages of it were leaked to the celebrity Web site tmz.com, which posted them today. The Daily News claims that a mug shot of the actor has also been withheld under orders from the sheriff.

Gibson had been pulled over by Deputy James Mee in the wee hours early Friday for going 80 mph and then tested DUI.

The Daily News picks up the story: "According to the incident report obtained by TMZ.com, the Road Warrior embarked on a belligerent, anti-Semitic outburst when he realized he had been busted. 'F-----g Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,' Mee's report quotes him as saying. 'Are you a Jew?' Gibson asked the deputy, according to the report.

TMZ's complete, exclusive account can be found here. Can't wait to see if the story even shows up on the Max or the House of the War on Christmas... (supposedly, Gibson's dad has been accused of being a Holocaust denier). From the TMZ report:
TMZ has learned that Deputy Mee audiotaped the entire exchange between himself and Gibson, from the time of the traffic stop to the time Gibson was put in the patrol car, and that the tape fully corroborates the written report.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"

We're told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how "f****d" he was and how he was going to "f***" Deputy Mee. ...

And:
... Deputy Mee then wrote an eight-page report detailing Gibson's rampage and comments. Sources say the sergeant on duty felt it was too "inflammatory." A lieutenant and captain then got involved and calls were made to Sheriff's headquarters. Sources say Mee was told Gibson's comments would incite a lot of "Jewish hatred," that the situation in Israel was "way too inflammatory." It was mentioned several times that Gibson, who wrote, directed, and produced 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," had incited "anti-Jewish sentiment" and "For a drunk driving arrest, is this really worth all that?"

We're told Deputy Mee was then ordered to write another report, leaving out the incendiary comments and conduct. Sources say Deputy Mee was told the sanitized report would eventually end up in the media and that he could write a supplemental report that contained the redacted information -- a report that would be locked in the watch commander's safe.

Initially, a Sheriff's official told TMZ the arrest occurred "without incident." On Friday night, Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told TMZ: "The L.A. County Sheriff's Department investigation into the arrest of Mr. Gibson on suspicion of driving under the influence will be complete and will contain every factual piece of evidence. Nothing will be sanitized. There was absolutely no favoritism shown to this suspect or any other. When this file is presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, it will contain everything. Nothing will be left out."

TMZ has what they say is the original Mee report, which is sure to inflame the old Chrisan-Jewish "thing" inside the world of right wingery. You see the right thrives on trying to be both more Christian than thou, and more pro-Israeli than thou. How, then to reconcile an apparent rash of anti-semitism by their fave filmmaker with their rabid support of Likudnik politics?

What to do, what to do, what to do???

Update: So far, the Newsmax account contains no news of the alleged anti-Semitic remarks. Ditto FNC. We'll give them some more time, though, since their stories were posted on Friday, and TMZ's account was posted on ... um ... Fri ... day ... too ...

Update: Drudge jumps on the story with the headline, MAD MEL IN MALIBU: 'F*@KING JEW'

And AP reports that the Mad Max star has apologized:
"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested," he said in a statement issued by his publicist. "I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse."

He said he was taking "necessary steps to ensure my return to health."

Publicist Alan Nierob declined to elaborate beyond Gibson's statement, and sheriff's Sgt. Rich Erickson declined to respond, saying the case was still under investigation.

However, the police department has continued to refuse to elaborate on exactly what Gibson said while being "belligerent."

Update 3: Here is Mel Gibson's complete statement, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald:
"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person.

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said and I apologise to anyone who I have offended.

"Also, I take this opportunity to apologise to the deputies involved for my belligerent behaviour. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behaviour and for that I am truly sorry.

"I have battled the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologise for any behaviour unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."
No mention of the anti-Semitic stuff.

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posted by JReid @ 4:21 PM  
Unsurprising headlines: Mess-opotamia edition
USAID, the State Department agency in charge of reconstruction projects in Iraq, hid cost overruns by disguising the overspending as administrative and overhead costs, the New York Times reports today...

Iran is poised to reject a U.N. proposal calling for it to suspend uranium enrichment by August 31st "or else..." the "or else" probably not including sanctions against selling oil to Europe and China...

Israel is in a rejectionist mood, too. The government there has rejected a call for a humanitarian ceasefire in order to get aid to civilian Lebanese trapped by the shelling and straffing of their neighborhoods by U.S. built warplanes. Also, apparently the Israelis are still targeting U.N. facilities in Lebanon:
In a separate incident, two Indian soldiers with the UN peacekeeping force were wounded in an Israeli strike on their observation post, the UN said.

The incident came days after four UN observers died in an Israeli air strike.
Hm... first they kill a Chinese, now they injur a couple of Indians ... both counries being heavily dependent on Iranian oil ... oh never mind ... And nations will want to contribute to a U.N. peacekeeping force ... why?

Also, according to the Guardian, "legitimate targets" of Israeli airstrikes also include Red Cross ambulances ... go figure. And here's a chilling account of the 6 hour bombardment of that first U.N. post in Lebanon, courtesy of the LA Times. A clip:
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations post where four peacekeepers were killed by Israeli fire Tuesday was hit at least 16 times over six hours, including five direct hits on the base as its unarmed staff repeatedly notified Israeli liaison officers and begged for help, U.N. officials said Wednesday.

On Tuesday U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the airstrike that hit the post in southern Lebanon was "apparently deliberate." ...

...The U.N. post was "longestablished and clearly marked," Annan said Wednesday.

U.N. officials who briefed reporters here said the attack began about 1:20 p.m. Radio contact with the post was lost about 7:30 p.m. During those hours, U.N. officials made at least half a dozen calls to top officials at the Israeli mission to the U.N. to seek an end to the attack, a senior U.N. official said. Additional calls were made to the Israeli military by U.N. generals on the ground demanding that the Israelis hold their fire.

The calls went unheeded and the fire continued even when a U.N. rescue mission was underway after a direct hit on the observer post, the official said.

The nearest known Hezbollah activity was more than three miles away, although in the past there have been Hezbollah weapons caches in the area, a senior U.N. official said. The U.N. is still trying to determine if the hits were from aerial bombardment or artillery.

According to information compiled so far by the U.N., the base, which is one of four in southern Lebanon, had received fire several times in the last few days before the barrage that killed the observers, who were a Canadian, a Finn, an Austrian and a Chinese.

"They were unarmed observers in the service of peace," Annan said.

Back to the BBC for a moment, for a read on what Israel is up to...

On "dismantling" Hezbollah:
Israeli officials have indicated to the BBC that Israel may be willing to stop fighting as soon as a UN resolution is passed next week - before the arrival of an international peace force - and that they will not insist on the Hezbollah disarming first.

And on "taking out the terrorists":
The UN says some 600 people - about a third of them children - have been killed by Israeli action in Lebanon.

They include a mother and her five children killed in a new wave of Israeli air raids in southern Lebanon, Lebanese medics said. Israel said it was investigating.
Quite an operation, isn't it? BTW it continues in Gaza too.

And getting aid to those stranded Lebanese is next to impossible while Israel keeps up the bombardment.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah's leader is getting cocky, perhaps realizing that in a way, his side has already won this mini-war. Israel is being roundly condemned all over the world, including Europe (sans the U.K.) for killing so many civilian children in Lebanon, and they are already backing down on eliminating Hezbollah (or mounting full-on invasion of Lebanon.) So once again, neoconservative geostrategic war planning meets the real world, and fails miserably.

Not surprisingly, the interminable Bush-Blair delays in seeking a ceasefire are causing alarms inside the British government:
Ministers are growing increasingly concerned about the government's approach to the conflict in Lebanon, as normally loyal MPs warn that Britain is damaging its international standing.

Cabinet members feel the tone of government pronouncements is making it look indifferent to the suffering of Lebanese civilians, and senior backbenchers are openly critical of Tony Blair's stance. "We could do with sounding a little bit more like Kim [Howells] and a little less like Condi [Rice]," said one minister.

Foreign office minister Mr Howells has repeatedly called for Israel to show "proportionality and restraint", while the foreign secretary and prime minister have refused to condemn its actions.

Greg Pope, a Blairite and member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, told the Guardian that there was widespread dismay that the government had not called for an immediate ceasefire.

"Tony has misjudged [this issue], and is leaving us isolated among European countries and at home," he said.
Yo, Blair! Good going, bloke!

And part of the reason the Brisih might be dismayed is that Blair's buddy Bush continues to trot out the abusrd clackings of radical neoconservatism, whereby killing scads of Arab women and children somehow triggers the birth pangs of Jeffersonian democracy across the Middle East.

Of course, not everyone is condemning Israel. They have their supporters, both in neocon America and in the U.K..

But I think everyone can appreciate the human, and now the environmental disaster that the Israeli campaign against Lebanon has become. Pics from the BBC can be found here.

Meanwhile, more troops head to Baghdad, but probably not enough to make much of a difference.

And we've had our first U.S. wack-attack on a symbolic Jewish target. (The guy apparently has a history of mental illness.

In domestic news:

The U.S. economy is slowing down as consumers finally figure out how over their heads in crippling debt they really are...

And Republicans in Congress will allow a modest increase in the minimum wage ... as long as they can exempt more of the mega-rich from the estate tax along with it.

Happy weekend!

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posted by JReid @ 3:39 PM  
Holy rollerball
Is Joe Lieberman about to get knocked off the playing field in the Connecticut primary? Signs point to yes. The New York Times describes the nature of Liberman's agony in a piece by Adam Nagurney today, and includes a gentle preview of it's Sunday editorial endorsing his opponent in the Democratic primary:
[The New York Times, in an editorial published on Sunday, endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with Mr. Bush on national security.] The price of Mr. Lieberman’s slow start was on display on Friday, 11 days before the Aug. 8 primary. Mr. Lieberman, reshuffling his schedule after Democrats warned him that he was still not campaigning with enough urgency, set off on a 10-day bus tour across the state, with a sharp new message.
Well thanks for letting a fella know.

More on the Lieberman agonistes:
Christopher J. Dodd, the other Connecticut Democratic senator, stepped in roughly six weeks ago with his own political advisers to bolster a Lieberman campaign staff that associates said Mr. Dodd viewed as too inexperienced for a campaign that had become so difficult.

Mr. Dodd recounted telling Mr. Lieberman that he needed to embrace his Democratic roots — explicitly and repeatedly. Friends described Mr. Lieberman as indignant at the challenge from liberals to his Democratic credentials.

“I said, as painful as it is, the first words out of your mouth and the last words out of your mouth every time you speak have to be ‘I’m a Democrat,’ ” Mr. Dodd recounted on Thursday. “You can say whatever you want after that.”

Mr. Dodd sent Doug Sosnik, a White House political director under former President Bill Clinton, to inspect the get-out-the-vote operation that Democrats now see as critical to Mr. Lieberman’s success.

Mr. Sosnik, campaign officials said, sent back an S.O.S., and Washington Democrats dispatched Tom Lindenfeld, one of the party’s premier organizers.

But some party officials worry it may be too late to organize a strong turnout operation.

Mr. Lieberman, in an interview aboard his campaign bus on Friday, said he had long expected to face this kind of challenge, given his support for the Iraq war. He said the timing of his response had been appropriate because voters were just beginning to focus on the race.

“I want to assure you that I’m not surprised that I am in a fight for the Democratic nomination,” he said. “I always expected that I would have a primary challenge based on Iraq. I was hoping that God would send me a poor challenger. I am being tested with a rich challenger.”

He added: “Look, I could have told you this would be very close at the end. I know now it is very close.”

One more interesting paragraph in the article (not that they're not all interesting):
Several associates, who were granted anonymity in exchange for providing details of private conversations with Mr. Lieberman, said they told him that he was coming across as defensive and urged him to stop viewing this challenge as a fight with bloggers, who had led the charge against Mr. Lieberman. The associates told him to temper his Iraq position with criticism of how the war had been conducted.

Ah, but ya aaahre Blanche, ya aahre running against the blogs...

And if and when Lieberman loses to Lamont, his run as a third party candidate will necessarily be without the support of Democrats like Dodd and the Clintons, but with the support of people like Chris Shays. In other words, he'll be running as a Republican.

Previous;


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posted by JReid @ 3:22 PM  
The miseducation of the "Great Satan"
People often ask me where I get the information I give out on the radio show, and in columns and such-like, particularly regarding the Middle East -- a region I'm fascinated by, but where I have never been. The answer is, I get it by reading -- a lot. And I'm happy to share information on sources whenever asked.

If you're interested in a more complex answer to the question "why do they hate us," you have to dive into the complicated history of the Middle East, including such unpleasantries as the Irgun and Stern gangs and the history of Jewish terrorism against the British in the period just before Israel's founding, the forcible expulsion of some 800,000 Arabs from more than 360 towns and villages in what had been the British Mandate of Palestine (and the revival of the expulsion idea in modern day Israel...) the atrocities committed against European Jews by the German Nazis and the searing memory of the Holocaust in the minds of present day Israelis (and the denial of such by some groups, including the leaders of Hamas and Iran...) the atrocities against Palestinians in the early days of Israels founding (not to mention in Lebanon during the early 1980s) and the development, in the aftermath of Israel's founding in 1948 and its decisive victories in the 1967 defensive war, of an expansionist, militaristic Israel, to understand why so many Arabs and so many Muslims despise both Israel and its patron, the U.S.

Otherwise, you're left with pretty stupid answers like "they hate us for our freedoms." And good luck even gettting a coherent answer as to who they are. (The link is to a good Mideast glossary, btw.)

I've just been digging around on the 'net for information for next week, and having read so much about the emerging "Shia Crescent" from Iran to Iraq to Lebanon, I thought it interesting that such a development is taking place with the participation of distinctly Sunni groups, including Hamas, and the Ba'athist Sunni/Alawite governmetn of Syria. If what is emerging is a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia, as in Iraq, then why the continued complicity of Syria? And how does Syria continue to wield what Condi Rice and others claim is such strong influence over Shitte Hezbollah? The answer could be the Syria is engaged in big time realpolitik, deciding that its regional partner, Shiite-led Iran, is emerging as the clear winner following the mess the U.S. and Britain have made out of Iraq. And so Syria is drawing closer to Iran, and sticking with Hezbollah. But what about Hamas? The coordination between the Palestinian offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Party of God (Hezbollah) is just as interesting, and it proves that it ain't all about sectarian hatred "over there..."

If you're interested, Rotten.com has as good a history lesson on Hamas as I've read on the web.

And PBS' Frontline did a very comprehensive history of Hezbollah from the bullet to the ballot box, as it were, that's worth reading, too.

Also, colunist Shmuel Rosner has a good roundup of intelligent discussion on the matter of Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on his Ha'aretz blog.

And Jonathan Cook penns this must-read piece on the five myths that in the minds of their supporters, sanction Israel's bombing of Lebanese civilians.

To get the Israeli side of the story, here is a good source with maps... My caveat would be that I think that this post, and those who agree with it (like radio "progressive" Ed Schultz) are in deep denial about the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs in 1948-49, and about the existence of Jewish terrorism against the British. But that's my opinion... they clearly have their own.

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posted by JReid @ 2:31 PM  
Friday, July 28, 2006
Condi's war
Warren Christopher's words of wisdom meet Eugene Robinson's pessimism in today's Washington Post. Says Robinson:
It was Rice who waited more than a week, giving Israel time to pound the daylights out of Lebanon, before finding time to visit Beirut and Tel Aviv and attend a crisis summit in Rome. It was Rice who spent her trip categorically ruling out a quick cease-fire, which made one wonder if she really needed to travel at all, since she could have just thumbed out a text message: "2 soon 2 stop boom boom."

The most significant development from Rice's swing through the region was that she took personal ownership of the bloody, escalating war between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas with a single breathtaking pronouncement:

"It is time for a new Middle East. It is time to say to those who do not want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail, they will not."

Take a moment to absorb those two sentences. The bit about how "we will prevail" is just standard chest-thumping from the Bush administration, the equivalent of George W. Bush's "bring it on" challenge to the Iraqi insurgents. It's the "new Middle East" part, which she repeated at every opportunity, that makes this Condi's war and that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of the region.

What secretary of state hasn't dreamed of a new Middle East where peaceful, democratic nations live in harmony? They all have, I suspect, but any utopian fantasies they might have entertained inevitably ran smack into dystopian realities. The current-model Middle East is replete with legitimate grievances, non-negotiable demands, ancient resentments, Machiavellian alliances, religious fanaticism and modern weapons of war. The idea of a grand stroke that would somehow create a "new" model is not just unrealistic, it's downright frightening.
And he adds:
Does Rice envision that in her "new" Middle East, Palestinians will somehow develop amnesia and forget their aspirations for a viable independent state? Does she believe the autocrats in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere will allow free and fair elections -- and that voters will reject the militant faith-based factions that for years have been providing needed services that corrupt governments can't be bothered with? Does she think anyone is going to see the uncontrollable Frankenstein's monster we created in Iraq as a model to emulate?

The one thing that's clear so far is that Rice believes that allowing Israel to decimate Hezbollah and drive what's left of the group out of southern Lebanon is such a valuable step toward her "new" Middle East that it's worth crippling a nascent Arab democracy with hundreds of civilian casualties and billions of dollars worth of infrastructure damage.

As one U.N. official put it this week, it's a hell of a war that leaves more children dead than soldiers...

Meanwhile, Israel is refusing to cooperate with a U.N. investigation into the six hour bombardment of its facilities in Lebanon, in which four U.N. peacekeepers were killed, including a Chinese national. They are also saying "nyet" to a U.N. force deployed along the border to stop them from finishing Lebanon off.

And on the domestic front, Peter Beinart of the Likud liberal New Republic penns a surprisingly balanced piece slamming Democrats for pandering to Jewish voters by falling all over themselves to be more pro-Israeli than the president. Mr. Beinart, I agree.
posted by JReid @ 9:56 PM  
Cindy Sheehan: real estate stalker
Okay, so guess who George W. Bush's new neighbor is ... I'll bet Dubya can't wait until Cindy has Medea Benjamin over to play canasta...

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posted by JReid @ 2:27 PM  
What Israel has wrought
Yeah, Israel's attempts to marginalize Hezbollah have been about as successful as its push to eradicate the group.
DAMASCUS, Syria, July 27 — At the onset of the Lebanese crisis, Arab governments, starting with Saudi Arabia, slammed Hezbollah for recklessly provoking a war, providing what the United States and Israel took as a wink and a nod to continue the fight.

Now, with hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

An outpouring of newspaper columns, cartoons, blogs and public poetry readings have showered praise on Hezbollah while attacking the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for trumpeting American plans for a “new Middle East” that they say has led only to violence and repression.

Even Al Qaeda, run by violent Sunni Muslim extremists normally hostile to all Shiites, has gotten into the act, with its deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, releasing a taped message saying that through its fighting in Iraq, his organization was also trying to liberate Palestine.

Mouin Rabbani, a senior Middle East analyst in Amman, Jordan, with the International Crisis Group, said, “The Arab-Israeli conflict remains the most potent issue in this part of the world.”

Distinctive changes in tone are audible throughout the Sunni world. This week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt emphasized his attempts to arrange a cease-fire to protect all sects in Lebanon, while the Jordanian king announced that his country was dispatching medical teams “for the victims of Israeli aggression.” Both countries have peace treaties with Israel.

The Saudi royal court has issued a dire warning that its 2002 peace plan — offering Israel full recognition by all Arab states in exchange for returning to the borders that predated the 1967 Arab-Israeli war — could well perish.

“If the peace option is rejected due to the Israeli arrogance,” it said, “then only the war option remains, and no one knows the repercussions befalling the region, including wars and conflict that will spare no one, including those whose military power is now tempting them to play with fire.”

The Saudis were putting the West on notice that they would not exert pressure on anyone in the Arab world until Washington did something to halt the destruction of Lebanon, Saudi commentators said.

American officials say that while the Arab leaders need to take a harder line publicly for domestic political reasons, what matters more is what they tell the United States in private, which the Americans still see as a wink and a nod.

Tags: Bush, Politics, Condoleezza Rice, Iraq, Iraq War, Republicans, News, , , ,
posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
That's Franco to you
Katherine Harris wants an apology from Howard Dean...
posted by JReid @ 11:56 AM  
Is Condi played out?
Remember the good old days, when right wingers practiced their love on Condoleezza Rice? They even wanted her to be president someday ... specifically, January of 2009. But now, it seems the right has lost its taste for chocolate. According to Insight Magazine, the neocons have soured on Condi, whose State Department they feel has taken away Dubya's swagger. (Just like a woman...) Says Insight:

Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration’s national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. They said Miss Rice, stemming from her lack of understanding of the Middle East, has misled the president on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict. ...

... The criticism of Miss Rice has been intense and comes from a range of Republican loyalists, including current and former aides in the Defense Department and the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. They have warned that Iran has been exploiting Miss Rice's inexperience and incompetence to accelerate its nuclear weapons program. They expect a collapse of her policy over the next few months.

"We are sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.

Miss Rice served as Mr. Bush's national security adviser in his first term. During his second term, Miss Rice replaced Mr. Powell in the wake of a conclusion by the White House that Mr. Bush required a loyalist to head the State Department and ensure that U.S. foreign policy reflected the president's agenda.

"Condi was sent to rein in the State Department," a senior Republican congressional staffer said. "Instead, she was reined in."

Mr. Gingrich agrees and said Miss Rice's inexperience and lack of resolve were demonstrated in the aftermath of the North Korean launch of seven short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles in July. He suggested that Miss Rice was a key factor in the lack of a firm U.S. response.

"North Korea firing missiles," Mr. Gingrich said. "You say there will be consequences. There are none. We are in the early stages of World War III. Our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough. We don't have the right attitude."

Several of the critics have urged that Mr. Bush provide a high-profile post to James Baker, who was secretary of state under the administration of Mr. Bush's father. They cited Mr. Baker's determination to confront Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein in 1990.

It's interesting that the neocon critics would be promoting Mr. Baker, who is wideley derided in the land of Likud as an Arabist. More of the article:


A leading public critic of Miss Rice has been Richard Perle, a former chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and regarded as close to Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Perle, pointing to the effort by the State Department to undermine the Reagan administration’s policy toward the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, has accused Miss Rice of succumbing to a long-time State Department agenda of meaningless agreements meant to appease enemies of the United States.

"Condoleezza Rice has moved from the White House to Foggy Bottom, a mere mile or so away," Mr. Perle wrote in a June 25 Op-Ed article in the Washington Post that has been distributed throughout conservative and national security circles. "What matters is not that she is further removed from the Oval Office; Rice's influence on the president is undiminished. It is, rather, that she is now in the midst of—and increasingly represents—a diplomatic establishment that is driven to accommodate its allies even when (or, it seems, especially when) such allies counsel the appeasement of our adversaries."

Mr. Perle's article was said to have reflected the views of many of Mr. Bush's appointees in the White House, Defense Department and State Department. Mr. Perle maintains close contacts to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Robert Joseph, Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams and Mr. Cheney's national security adviser, John Hannah.

A major problem, critics said, is Miss Rice's ignorance of the Middle East. They said the secretary relies completely on Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, who is largely regarded as the architect of U.S. foreign policy. Miss Rice also consults regularly with her supporters on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Richard Lugar and the No. 2 Republican, Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
...a cardinal sin, to be sure...

The critics said Miss Rice has adopted the approach of Mr. Burns and the State Department bureaucracy that most—if not all—problems in the Middle East can be eased by applying pressure on Israel. They said even as Hezbollah was raining rockets on Israeli cities and communities, Miss Rice was on the phone nearly every day demanding that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert exercise restraint.

"Rice attempted to increase pressure on Israel to stand down and to demonstrate restraint," said Stephen Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. "The rumor is that she was told flatly by the prime minister's office to back off."

The critics within the administration expect a backlash against Miss Rice that could lead to her transfer in wake of the congressional elections in 2006. They said by that time even Mr. Bush will recognize the failure of relying solely on diplomacy in the face of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

"At that point, Rice will be openly blamed and Bush will have a very hard time defending her," said a GOP source with close ties to the administration.
The Insight article has touched of a flurry of point-counterpoint on the right.

Newt Gingrich almost immediately denied that he has it in for "Miss Rice," at which point Insight's Jeff Kuhner sharply rebutted him:

I encourage Newt to read our story completely. Our story points out that Newt is criticizing the State Department on its policy concerning North Korea and Iran, and his criticisms are well known and well documented. Condi Rice is the head of the State Department. If he's not happy with the policies of the State Department, then I don't see how he could be happy with Condi.

But that is neither here nor there. The point of the story is not whether Newt supports Condi or doesn't support Condi. The point of the story is that the State Department has hijacked President Bush's foreign policy. You see it clearly on Iran, North Korea and the Middle East.

And as the story points out, numerous conservatives have been very vocal in their criticism of state and in particular of Condi's leadership. Richard Perle, for example, explicitly attacks Condi, and more importantly, I would expect Newt to stand firm for the principles that he says he believes in.
Well?

Tags: Bush, Politics, Condoleezza Rice, Iraq, Iraq War, Republicans, News, , , ,
posted by JReid @ 7:11 AM  
Thursday, July 27, 2006
The Chris Matthews "kiss kiss, bang bang"
I don't always dig Chris Matthews -- in fact, I find him infuriating at times, particularly when he gets on his anti-Clinton soap box. But I think today I finally understand Matthews' style, and why it works so well for him (and for MSNBC).

What Matthews does with his guests is that he softens them up with extreme flattery -- particularly the women, whom he gushes over, never leaving out a comment about their looks. Then, he goes in for the kill (when he's ready. Other times, as with Tom Delay and Rudy Giuliani, once in the lap, he stays in the lap and snuggles up.)

Matthews just used the tactic brilliantly on Ann Coulter -- a woman he recently described as someone he did not think, and that no one on his panel found, attractive. Yet, during her appearance tonight (which I originally intended not to watch, though now I'm glad I did...) Matthews shellacked the skinny off Coulter, flattered her as a "brilliant" writer, and then very expertly exposed the absurdity of her use of smears and insults to make statements about things she knows nothing about (the state of the marriages of the 9/11 widows.) He got at her for her harping on the "swarthiness" of Mike Dukakis and her digs at his Greek heritage. He even made her dopey supporters in his live audience look like idiots by having them actually read aloud from her ridiuclous new book, Godless.

Why anyone is still putting this harpie on television is beyond me. But at least tonight, the show was worth the free price of admission.

Tags:
posted by JReid @ 5:19 PM  
Maliki's speech written in the bowels of the White House?
Ya think???
posted by JReid @ 5:12 PM  
Israel misinterprets the world
Froom MSNBC:
TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel’s government on Thursday called up at least 30,000 troops to begin training for duty in the offensive against Hezbollah, and Lebanese officials estimated a civilian death toll as high as 600 with fighting in its third week.

Also Thursday, Hezbollah’s leader reportedly was to meet with Syrian and Iranian officials in Damascus, and a top Israeli official said that world leaders — in failing to call for an immediate cease-fire during a Rome summit — gave Israel a green light to push harder to wipe out the Lebanese guerrillas.

Lebanese Health Minister Jawad Khalifeh said the estimated 600 killed included 150 to 200 civilians believed to be buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings.

The toll was a jump from previous Health Ministry reports of around 400 killed, based on bodies received at Lebanese hospitals. As of Wednesday, 51 Israelis had been killed in the campaign, according to Israel’s military.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida threatened new attacks in response to Israel’s offensive, its first comment on the conflict. Israeli jets pounded suspected Hezbollah positions across Lebanon on Thursday, as guerrilla rockets continued to hit northern Israel.

EU calls for cease-fire
The high-level conference in Rome ended Wednesday with most European leaders urging an immediate cease-fire but the United States willing to give Israel more time to punish Hezbollah and ensure an international peacekeeping force for south Lebanon.

“We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world .... to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah won’t be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed,” Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israel’s Army Radio.

“Everyone understands that a victory for Hezbollah is a victory for world terror,” said Ramon, believed to be close to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In line with other EU countries, Germany called Israel’s interpretation of the Rome meeting outcome a “gross misunderstanding,” insisting the declaration in no way indicated that Israel should continue attacks on Lebanon.

“I would say just the opposite — yesterday in Rome it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin.

President Bush declined to criticize Israel’s tactics against Hezbollah and sharply condemned of Iran’s role in the bloody conflict. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah’s key backers.The toll was a jump from previous Health Ministry reports of around 400 killed, based on bodies received at Lebanese hospitals. As of Wednesday, 51 Israelis had been killed in the campaign, according to Israel’s military.

Meanwhile, al-Qaida threatened new attacks in response to Israel’s offensive, its first comment on the conflict. Israeli jets pounded suspected Hezbollah positions across Lebanon on Thursday, as guerrilla rockets continued to hit northern Israel.

EU calls for cease-fire

The high-level conference in Rome ended Wednesday with most European leaders urging an immediate cease-fire but the United States willing to give Israel more time to punish Hezbollah and ensure an international peacekeeping force for south Lebanon.

“We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world .... to continue the operation, this war, until Hezbollah won’t be located in Lebanon and until it is disarmed,” Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israel’s Army Radio.

“Everyone understands that a victory for Hezbollah is a victory for world terror,” said Ramon, believed to be close to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In line with other EU countries, Germany called Israel’s interpretation of the Rome meeting outcome a “gross misunderstanding,” insisting the declaration in no way indicated that Israel should continue attacks on Lebanon.

“I would say just the opposite — yesterday in Rome it was clear that everyone present wanted to see an end to the fighting as swiftly as possible,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin.

President Bush declined to criticize Israel’s tactics against Hezbollah and sharply condemned of Iran’s role in the bloody conflict. Iran and Syria are Hezbollah’s key backers.

And this massive roundup from the WashPost's Dan Froomkin:
As the Bush White House is jolted by one confounding overseas crisis after another, the obvious question emerges: Is it just a coincidence? Or is it a consequence of President Bush's foreign policy?

Peter Baker examines the breadth of Bush's problems in The Washington Post: "The discord at a conference in Rome yesterday over a proposed cease-fire in Israel and Lebanon underscored the widening gap between the United States and Europe over how to stop the fighting. And the images of mayhem from the two-week-old war, combined with the rising death toll in Iraq, have further rattled a domestic audience that polls show was already uncertain about Bush's leadership.

"For the president, the timing could not be much worse. In a second term marked by one setback after another . . . the president faces the challenge of responding to events that seem to be spinning out of control again, all but sidelining his domestic agenda for the moment and complicating his effort to rally the world to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. . . .

"At home, political strategists said, Bush faces the perception that he is presiding over one brushfire after another, hindered in his efforts to advance a positive agenda at a time when Republican control of Congress appears at risk."

Self-Inflicted Wounds

So what's happening here? Consider this Greek chorus of three seasoned journalists, all long-time observers of the foreign scene.

< haref="http://msnbc.msn.com/id/14046789/site/newsweek/">Michael Hirsch (here's his bio ) writes in Newsweek: "The Bush administration has fought the 'war on terror' [with] . . . one lunatic leap of logic after another based on unreliable sources, linking up enemies that had little to do with each other. . . . The president has used Al Qaeda to gin up the threat from Iraq, just as he is now conflating Hizbullah and Hamas with Al Qaeda as 'terrorists' of the same ilk. . . .

"What's sad is that the 'war on terror' began as a fairly straightforward affair. Al Qaeda hit us. Then we went after Al Qaeda. . . . We had a lot of support around the world in pursuit of our mission to hunt these men down, kill them or capture them and do with them as we pleased.

"But inexorably, month by month, the Bush administration broadened the war on terror to include ever more peoples and countries, especially Saddam's Iraq, relying on thinner and thinner evidence to do so. And what began as a hunt for a relatively contained group of self-declared murderers like bin Laden became a feckless dragnet of tens of thousands of hapless Arab victims. . . .

"Today, more from the muddled strategic thinking of the Bush administration than the actual threat from Al Qaeda, the 'war on terror' has become an Orwellian nightmare: an ill-defined war without prospect of end. We are now nearly five years into a war against a group that was said to contain no more then 500 to 1,000 terrorists at the start. . . . The war just grows and grows. And now Lebanon, too, is part of it."

Jonathan Freedland (here's his bio ) writes in the Guardian: "It's fashionable to blame the US for all the world's ills, but in this case the sins, both of omission and commission, of the Bush administration genuinely belong at the heart of the trouble. . . .

"Bush's animating idea has been that the peoples of the Middle East can be bombed into democracy and terrorised into moderation. It has proved one of the great lethal mistakes of his abominable presidency -- and the peoples of Israel and Lebanon are paying the price."

And, after watching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stubbornly block an international consensus for a humanitarian cease-fire in Lebanon, Christopher Dickey writes in Newsweek (here's his bio ): "When I heard Condi talking in pitiless academic pieties today about 'strong and robust' mandates and 'dedicated and urgent action,' I actually felt sorry for her, for our government, and for Israel. As in Iraq three years ago, the administration has been blinded to the political realities by shock-and-awe military firepower. Clinging to its faith in precision-guided munitions and cluster bombs, it has decided to let Lebanon bleed, as if that's the way to build the future for peace and democracy."

Meanwhile, in the face of global revulsion at its tactics in decimating Lebanon and killing so many civilians, and faced with the prosepct of fighting a much tougher than expected Hezbollah army hand to hand in Lebanon, Israel's prime minister has appeared to blink... much to the chagrin of the more rabid elements inside the country (and inside the U.S.,) who want the Israelis to kill all the Arabs in sight, and sort the bodies out later.

Related:

Dick Armitage fears Israel's blitzkrieg is empowering Hezbollah.
posted by JReid @ 4:50 PM  
Make it or break it economics
What kind of "boom is it" when Exxon Mobile is making $80,000 a minute off inflated oil prices, while U.S. automaker GM is losing $35 million a day...
posted by JReid @ 4:12 PM  
Bill Clinton says 'ceasefire now'
More sanity from the former president. Wish he'd share it with his wife, who is busy sucking up to AIPAC ahead of her probably 2008 run...
posted by JReid @ 4:08 PM  
No party affiliation
... and it seems Michael Steele is not alone in putting as much distance between himself and the president as possible. One surprising GOPer is even raising the game, distancing himself not only from the president, but from Republicanness itself...
Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), who is in charge of keeping Congress in GOP hands this fall, surprised the political establishment yesterday by airing an early television advertisement that made no mention of his party affiliation.

Democrats suggested that the timing and content of the advertisement indicate that Reynolds, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), faces a tough reelection race against multimillionaire businessman Jack Davis (D), who lost to Reynolds in 2004. ...

...Reynolds, a 30-year veteran of upstate New York politics and a former GOP minority leader in the state Assembly, is one of several House GOP leaders who do not mention their party affiliation on their campaign websites. In ads posted on their sites, Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) also do not state their Republican credentials.

Republican leaders have said they face a “headwind” in the sixth year of President Bush’s term because voters are frustrated by the war in Iraq and ever-rising gasoline prices. Because voters cannot direct their anger at Bush, many GOP congressional incumbents fear that voters might direct their frustration at them. ...

Well, at least they're pragmatic...

Meanwhile, Charles Barkley has dropped the GOP like it's hot as he seeks the governorship of Alabama ...

...and get a load of Brownie, calling Dubya a speech challenged pom-pom girl and what-not in his Playboy interview...! More on Brownie's apostasy at the WaPo.

Is the the simmering rage David Broder warns about withing the GOP? Writes Broder of the WaPo:
My weekend visitor was one of the founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South, one of those stubborn men who challenged the Democratic rule in his one-party state. He was conservative enough that in the great struggle for the 1952 nomination, his sympathies were with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, not Dwight D. Eisenhower.

He has lived long enough to see Republicans elected as senator and governor of his state and to see a Republican from the Sun Belt behemoth of Texas capture the White House. His profession won't let him speak with his name attached, but he is sadly disillusioned.

"My wife was thrilled by the veto" Bush administered last week to the bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, because she shares the president's belief that those clumps of cells destroyed in the research process represent human life. "I thought it was stupid," he said. "I know too many people who are like this" -- and he shook his hands like a victim of Parkinson's disease -- "and their only hope of a cure is in stem cells. Now Bush is forcing that science to move overseas."

He went on: "How the hell long can they refuse to raise the minimum wage?" He was furious, he said, with the Republican leaders of Congress who keep blocking bills to raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck at $5.15 an hour for years. "I'm a conservative," he said, "but they make me sound like a damned liberal the way they act. They spend like fools, they run up the deficits and they refuse to give a raise to the working people who are struggling. How the hell are you supposed to live on $5.15 an hour these days?"

"If it wasn't for Pelosi," he said, "I'd just as soon the Democrats take over this fall. Get some checks and balances and teach these guys a lesson."

In the end, his dislike of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, and his ingrained disdain for the Democrats may keep my friend voting Republican. But the complaints that I heard from him -- echoed by many of his contemporaries in the Taft-Goldwater-Reagan wing of the GOP -- are a significant factor in the dynamics of the midterm election. They could spell trouble for Republicans in mobilizing their vote this fall.

I first became aware of the spreading discontent on the right in visiting with people in the church social hall after the funeral this spring for Lyn Nofziger, Ronald Reagan's longtime press spokesman and adviser. The comments about the Bush White House people -- who were notable by their absence at the service -- startled me.

But since then I have heard the refrain over and over: They never reached out to us. They never thought they needed our help. Now they're in trouble. To hell with them.

Whether or not the complaints are justified, they are epidemic. They are often accompanied, as they were in the case of my weekend visitor, by the comment that everything the White House does seems to be aimed at pleasing only one section of the Republican coalition -- the religious right.

That is why there was so much high-fiving on e-mails and phone calls among other Republicans over the defeat last week of Ralph Reed, the one-time driving force of Pat Robertson's religious-political movement who lost the nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia because of his links to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Reed, a major operative in Bush's presidential campaigns, is a symbol to many others of the influence of the religious right, though in fact he was much more political operative than preacher.

But the dissent threatens Republican chances of avoiding a major defeat in the midterm elections. Andrew Kohut's survey for the respected Pew Research Center last month found Democrats far more motivated to vote this year than Republicans. The Democrats held a 16-point advantage over the GOP on the question Kohut uses to gauge the level of interest in voting, exactly the reverse of the situation in 1994, the year the Republicans took over Congress.

Sad, angry, pouty, unhappy Republicans...

Tags: , , ,
posted by JReid @ 3:36 PM  
Steeley Dumb
After the Michael Steele bemoans his life in the GOP story hit, I related to a Republican woman I'm booking on the radio show tomorrow morning, that it sure looked like the whole thing was a put up job by the Steele campaign to put distance between him and the president in the blue state of Maryland, such that Democratic voters might say, "hey, he's not such a bad sort, let's vote for him in November!"

Well, lookie here ...

Previous:



Tags: , GOP
posted by JReid @ 3:28 PM  
WTF???
That's apparently the reaction of the uniformed military to alleged plans by the Bush adminitration to possibly deploy U.S. troops to Lebanon to fight alongside the Israelis. From Harper's magazine by way of RawStory:
A "well-connected former CIA officer" has told Harper's Magazine Washington bureau chief that the Bush Administration is considering deploying US troops to Lebanon. ...

"The officer, who had broad experience in the Middle East while at the CIA, noted that NATO and European countries, including England, have made clear that they are either unwilling or extremely reluctant to participate in an international force. Given other nations' lack of commitment, any “robust” force—between 10,000 and 30,000 troops, according to estimates being discussed in the media—would by definition require major U.S. participation. According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a “multinational” deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.

The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. “They are saying 'What the fuck?'” he told me. “Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don't like it because we're already way overstretched.”

The former CIA officer said that the Bush Administration seems not to understand Hezbollah's deep roots and broad support among Lebanon's Shiites, the country's largest single ethnic bloc. “A U.S. force is going to end up making, not keeping, peace with Hezbollah. Once you start fighting in a place like that you’re basically at war with the Shiite population. That means that our soldiers are going to be getting shot at by Hezbollah. This would be a sheer disaster for us.”

The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to “stabilize” the region. The chances of success, as we have seen in Iraq, are remote. So what should be done? My source said the situation is so volatile at the moment that the only smart policy is to get an immediate ceasefire and worry about the terms of a lasting truce afterwards.
But according to investigative reporter and former NSA operative Wayne Madsen, the U.S. is already involved militarily in Lebanon:
July 26, 2006 -- Our intelligence sources report that the Israeli Defense Force attack on Lebanon is being carried out as a joint Israeli-U.S. military operation. Moreover, there are joint Israeli and U.S. war rooms coordinating the U.S.-supported Israeli attacks on Lebanon. The ultimate aim of Washington and Jerusalem is not only to eliminate Hezbollah as a political force in Lebanon but also to remake Lebanon as an American and Israeli client state. Israeli forces are pounding parts of Lebanon, especially in the north, where there are no Hezbollah units and primarily Christian populations. In addition, Israeli forces are being aided by the Bush administration with high-resolution overhead imagery from U.S. spy satellites and signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts from National Security Agency assets, including SIGINT satellites.

Madsen also concurs with Kofi Annan's statement that the bombing of the U.N. peacekeepers' facility in Beirut by Israel was deliberate. And he says:
Israel's deliberate attack on a UN peacekeeping outpost in southern Lebanon represents a new departure in Israel's war against Lebanon. The attack is being called a mistake by the Israeli government and its Bush administration patrons. Unconfirmed US ambassador to the UN John Bolton is a known opponent of the UN system, having once called for the destruction of the top ten floors of the UN Secretariat Building in New York. The US and Israeli Missions to the UN, always working in complete lockstep, are now spinning that the Israeli attack on the UN outpost was because Hezbollah placed weapons near the facility.

The last time UN peacekeepers were deliberately targeted was in 1994 when 10 Belgian blue helmets assigned to the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) were savagely murdered by rampaging Hutus after the shoot down of the presidential aircraft carrying the Hutu Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi by members of U.S.-supported Paul Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Army forces. In 2005, Congolese guerrillas killed nine MONUC Bangladeshi and one Nepali UN peacekeepers in Ituri province. In 1976, two US Army soldiers operating under UN aegis were hacked to death by North Korean troops at the demilitarized zone's Panmunjom "truce village." In none of these cases was it proven that the assaults on the UN troops were carried out with the knowledge of the governments concerned.

and...
July 25, 2006 -- On July 22, WMR first reported that white phosphorous, a substance that burns through the skin of its victims, was being used against Lebanese civilians, including children, by Israeli forces. Yesterday, Reuters reported the following in a July 24 dateline from Paris: "Lebanon's president accused Israel on Monday of using phosphorous bombs in its 13-day offensive and urged the United Nations to demand an immediate ceasefire." CNN also reported on the use of white phosphorous by Israel.

and finally...
July 22/23, 2006 -- The Israeli invasion of Lebanon was planned between top Israeli officials and members of the Bush administration. On June 17 and 18, former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky met with Vice President Dick Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute conference in Beaver Creek, Colorado. There, the impending Israeli invasions of both Gaza and Lebanon were discussed. After receiving Cheney's full backing for the invasion of Gaza and Lebanon, Netanyahu flew back to Israel and participated in a special "Ex-Prime Ministers" meeting, in which he conveyed the Bush administration's support for the carrying out of the "Clean Break" policy -- the trashing of all past Middle East peace accords, including Oslo. Present at the meeting, in addition to Netanyahu, were current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is very old and suffers from dementia and Ariel Sharon remains in a coma after a series of strokes.

After the AEI meeting, Sharansky, who has the ear of Bush, met with the Heritage Foundation in Washington and then attended a June 29 seminar at Philadelphia's Main Line Haverford School sponsored by the Middle East Forum led by Daniel Pipes. Sharansky appeared with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum who this past Thursday was beating the war drums against Syria, Iran, and "Islamo-fascism" in a fiery speech at the National Press Club attended by a cheering section composed of members of the neocon Israel Project, on whose board Santorum serves along with Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Virginia GOP Rep. Tom Davis.

Our Washington sources claim that the U.S.-supported invasions of Gaza and Lebanon and the impending attacks on Syria and Iran represent the suspected "event" predicted to take place prior to the November election in the United States and is an attempt to rally the American public around the Bush-Cheney regime during a time of wider war.
In today's news, war crimes files are being filed against Israel by a Belgian couple of Lebanese dissent. Read the Reuters story here.

Tags: , Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, News, war, Current Affairs, Iran, Iraq, , ,
posted by JReid @ 7:45 AM  
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The devil and Michael Steele
The RedState headline says it all: Has Michael Steele Lost his mind?

So his fellow denizens of the right might think, after it was revealed in today's WashPost that Steele is the nervous nelly GOP candidate who thinks his political affiliation is the electoral equivalent of accute leprosy. Here's the backgrounder: apparently the previously anonymous candidate sat down to dinner with one Dana Milbank of said Post, and spilled his proverbial guts. The RedStaters responded to the blog speculation that Steele, a Black GOPer candidate the Republicans generally tend to gush over (he's their Barack Obama...) with incredulity. But they are getting more and more credulous by the day... Said RS's Steve Foley earlier today:
In a piece penned by Dana Milbank for the Washington Post entitled For One Senate Candidate, the 'R' Is a 'Scarlet Letter' a "certain senatorial candidate" made some scathing remarks about the president and his administration.
On the Iraq war: "It didn't work. . . . We didn't prepare for the peace."
On the response to Hurricane Katrina: "A monumental failure of government."

On the national mood: "There's a palpable frustration right now in the country."

He spoke of his party affiliation as though it were a congenital defect rather than a choice. "It's an impediment. It's a hurdle I have to overcome," he said. "I've got an 'R' here, a scarlet letter."
...
...The speculation and word around the blogesphere is the candidate in question was Maryland's own Michele Steele. If this is the case I would have to believe that this is some sort of strategy. I would have to believe that he wants to speak or respond to these issues publicly as you don't go to lunch with 9 reporters in DC and expect your conversation to be off the record!

As a person of what I perceive as high moral character I'm willing to give Mr. Steele the benefit of the doubt. I hope he doesn't acutely believe this about his party or his place in it!

Well, believe it, GOPer friends, believe it indeed. (Or at least believe those are Steele's words. Why he related them to Dana Milbank is another, likely more electorally motivated, story...)

Steele's campaign has now admitted that it was him. At least the folks at NRO are in a forgiving ... er .. excuse-making mood...

Tags: , GOP
posted by JReid @ 9:51 PM  
Famous last words
“We’re seeing here is, in a sense, the growing — the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
-- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Lebanon yesterday. Given the administration's track record on predictions, expect full fledged war to erupt any minute now.

Tags: , Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, News, war, Current Affairs, Iran, Iraq
posted by JReid @ 9:16 AM  
Monday, July 24, 2006
Carnival of the cuckoobirds
Can we all finally agree that Bill Kristol is insane? I'm with this guy. Bring back the draft. And start at the top.

Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 8:17 PM  
The apostasy of William Buckley
So starts a column by Chris Reed in Saturday's Sandiego Union Tribune blog:
In recent years, much of the right-wing conservative mainstream has tried to blacklist many of conservatism's leading lights. Blacklistees' sin was disappointment in George W. Bush, whatever the issue, whatever the strength of their case.

So Andrew Sullivan was labeled a liberal (and subjected to some pathetic homophobic taunts) for decrying what he calls the "Christianist" influence on White House policies and the absurd overspending of the Bush 43 years.

So John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and others were labeled as liberals for decrying the use of wedge issues to demonize gays and stir up fake controversies over issues like flag burning.

So the libertarian Cato Institute and Reason Foundation and the many libertarians at the Heritage Foundation, instead of the usual respect accorded small-government devotees, were dismissed as extremists.

Now William F. Buckley, correctly described by CBSnews.com as the "father of modern conservatism," has jumped ship...
It is CBS News that details the nature of Buckley's apostasy, while Reed projects that soon, National Review staffers will begin a whispering campaign about Buckley's apparent senility... (interestingly enough, Buckley was called just that -- ideologically senile -- by a caller to the Rush Limbaugh program today...) The rub, from an exclusive sit-down by the house that dumped Dan Rather with the don of the conservative movement:
Buckley finds himself parting ways with President Bush, whom he praises as a decisive leader but admonishes for having strayed from true conservative principles in his foreign policy.

In particular, Buckley views the three-and-a-half-year Iraq War as a failure.

"If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced [in Iraq] it would be expected that he would retire or resign," Buckley says. ...

"Has Mr. Bush found himself in any different circumstances than any of the other presidents you've known in terms of these crises?" Assuras asks.

"I think Mr. Bush faces a singular problem best defined, I think, as the absence of effective conservative ideology — with the result that he ended up being very extravagant in domestic spending, extremely tolerant of excesses by Congress," Buckley says. "And in respect of foreign policy, incapable of bringing together such forces as apparently were necessary to conclude the Iraq challenge."

Asked what President Bush's foreign policy legacy will be to his successor, Buckley says "There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush. I don't believe his successor would re-enunciate the words he used in his second inaugural address because they were too ambitious. So therefore I think his legacy is indecipherable."
Read more of the Buckley interview here, surprisingly free of comment from the NRO senility police.

Tags: Politics, Iraq, News, Republicans, War, neoconservatives, real conservatives, Buckley, Bush
posted by JReid @ 5:53 PM  
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Voices from Lebanon
Et tu, Hezbollah?

A sampling of Lebanese bloggers' reactions to the current crisis in the Middle East:

The folks at the Lebanese Bloggers Forum go tit for tat on U.N. resolutions, and calls for a new oil boycott... (somehow I doubt that will happen, since the mainly Sunni Gulf states are taking pains to remain on the U.S. side of the conflict, at least so far...)

Lebanese journalist Bassem Mroue details the stark realities of war in his country, and warns that Israel's policy will only create more "human bombs..."

A "sub-expert" at Bliss Street Journal sees the possibility of a NATO solution, a la Bosnia. Then he adds this ominious bit of rumor reporting:

Addendum: Stratfor relays from IDF sources that Israel is setting up a military administration to manage areas under their control in southern Lebanon. Since Israel has maintained that they do not want to occupy southern Lebanon, most likely this action is intended to motivate international attempts to formulate a peacekeeping solution. We shall see.
If it looks like ocupation, and sounds like occupation ... can settlements secured by Jewish-only roadways, IDF checkpoints and frequent suicide bombings be far off?

A Lebanese woman blogger named Delirious captures the torment of the times with painful post after painful post...

Ramzi's Blah Blah blog (out of Beirut) has lots of great posts and information, as well as links to the latest news out of Lebanon, and ways people can help the civilians who are suffering there. He's also got this post about Italy's attempts to reach out to the Lebanese, and this great cover from the Independent UK...

There's also a new organization called SaveLebanon.org.

All of this is not to say that Israel does not have a legitimate security interest in seeing Hezbollah disarmed (to be sure, it would be in the interests of the Lebanese government not to have a private army or government within a governmetn operating out of its south). But what Israel is currently doing in Lebanon, including its possible plans for invasion and reoccupation of that country, is both counterproductive, and morally wrong. I stand by that, no matter how many Joyces want to call me "anti-Semitic." It isn't anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli policy. Their policy does not come from the mouth of God, nor is it necessarily conducive to the best interests of the United States. We have to be able to say that freely in this democracy, and we have to be able to assert U.S. interests first. As Pat Buchanan has said, Israel's war is not our war (whether or not it is the neocons'). And Israel's unrelenting destruction of Lebanon is certainly contrary to our interests in the region.

No matter how much I may understand the Israeli mindset on this, I just don't see how the bombardment and possible occupation of Lebanon can do anything other than destabilize the Siniora government, popularize Hezbollah both inside and outside of Lebanon, radicalize the population there, and increase pan-Arab and pan-Muslim disdain for the U.S., and hatred for Israel. And then, there is the question of who will pay for the reconstruction of Lebanon? Europe? American taxpayers (whose government then will do what? Hand the money over to Halliburton and other privateers?) Or will the Israelis be forced to pay restitution, which then will either break their economy or be passed on to the American people in the form of fresh requests for aid?

This policy is misguided. The people of Lebanon are being punished -- the children of Lebanon are being punished -- for the taking of two soldiers? And not even by their government?

Rubbish.

At the same time, the Lebanese government must get control of its affairs, and must assert itself over all of its territory. Hezbollah has proved to be highly effective at delivering services and aiding the people of southern Lebanon. They should become a part of the governmetn proper, and fold their military into the Army. If they don't wish to do so, they should be brought under the control of the Lebanese government, perhaps with the help of the international community, or even Syria, but not -- not -- under the boot of the Israeli IDF. That simply won't work. And it won't be acceptable to anyone in the region. How could it?

Over at Beirut to the Beltway, Abu Kais asks if Israel might think it's acting as the Gulf states' unofficial SWAT team...

Anyway, The Lebanese Bloggers is a good place to find some of the most updated and chilling inside coverage of what's going on on the ground (including this post about the "Iraqization of Lebanon".) And one of their bloggers, Raja, who has just returned to the U.S. from the region, has perhaps the best summary of what the Lebanese people are facing:

I am finally back in the United States. After spending ten days in Syria, helping my family cope with the loss of their lives in Lebanon, I am back to my own life over here.
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Both my brother and sister had to leave loved ones behind, who sought the safety and comfort of their families. My brother is now on his way to London; his long-time girlfriend to Australia. My sister is on her way to Dubai; her long-time boyfriend is staying behind in Lebanon to salvage what remains of his business. Both their sets of friends are dispersing all over the world. The networks of relationships that were such a crucial part of their lives are now broken. They have to start their lives from scratch.
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Despite all this, our family ranks among the lucky few. Yet even the "lucky" among us now have to deal with disrupted lives, in all senses of the phrase: broken relationships; shattered livelihoods; failed investments and much, much more. All we have left is hope: hope that we will be able to rebuild what has been destroyed, and hope that the situation will not deteriorate any further. ...
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I want this war to end now. The last thing I want, however, is a return to the status quo ante so that we face another wave of destruction five, ten, or fifteen years down the road. And in all honesty, I simply don’t want to give Israeli generals another reason to flex their destructive muscles at our dire expense.
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Lebanon will never recover from this brutal blow unless Lebanese are assured that such a calamity will not befall them again. The worst outcome - the absolute worst outcome - would be if all this destruction and death comes to naught, and a real political change for the better does not materialize in Lebanon and the region.
Lastly, Carine at Chercheuse d'Or writes a moving letter to Israel. To sum up:

You have made the situation much, much worse for yourself. And you have killed something fragile that you ought to have nourished: a liberal Arab neighbor.

Frankly, I'm not sure, including from the comments to Carine's post, that Israelis ever believed that such a thing existed. I'm not sure they believe that such a thing can. Having talked to and listened to pro-Israeli Americans describe Arabs as essentially animals (and Palestinians as "nothings" who should be deported en masse to Jordan or Egypt -- something even supposedly liberal talker Ed Schultz threw out last week, at which point I had to call his show for the first time...) I don't think that Israel or its partisans are capable of seeing Arabs or Muslims as human enough to negotiate with. Perhaps that's the falt of the Islamists, or the movements that consider themselves warriors against occupation (Hezbollah and Hamas) but who Israel and the U.S. consider terrorists (Europe, intriguingly, does not share our view.)

But the bottom line here is that nothing good is coming of this war in Lebanon/Israel. Just like nothing good so far has come from our war on Iraq.

Frankly, if any good can come of all of this, it will be the death -- finally and for all time -- of neoconservative/Likudnik foreign policy.

On a slightly more personal note: despite the accusations that have occasionally been thrown at me on this blog, I am not some sort of terrorist sympathizer. I understand what terrorism is, and believe as strongly as do many on the right that it must be taken out of the political equation. Where I differ is how that can be accomplished. (In short, I don't think it can be accomplished via military invasion...) I'm also not Lebanese, or Arab, or Muslim -- I'm an American with a father fromthe Congo and a mother (God rest her soul) who came to this country from British Guyana. So I have a particular point of view about colonialism -- European in the cases of my parents' home countries, and in my view, Euro-Israeli in the Middle East.

I suppose I'm just one of those "State Department Arabists," because I have tremendous sympathy for the more than 1 million dispossessed Palestinians languishing in squalid refugee camps without a country (if not for some of their tactics), as well as for the people of Iraq and Lebanon -- none of whom asked to be "liberated" by the Americans, the British, or the Israelis. I believe that political/military movements like Hezbollah and Hamas don't just spring up out of a spontaneous desire to spread radical Islam around the globe. They spring up as grassroots movements to combat what native populations see as colonization, dispossession, and the theft of their lands and resources by foreign powers. That is especially true in the oil-rich Middle East, where land is at a premium and religion fuels already deep desires to hold onto territory at all costs.

I also don't happen to think that all Muslims are "terrorists," or that the black and white, "with us or with the terrorists" dynamic set up by the Bushies (and coddled by the pathetic government of Tony Blair) is even valid. The Middle East is the most complex region, perhaps on earth. The "beefs" between the people there and the people of the West (not to mention with one another) are intertwined with colonialsim, the random drawing of the map post World War I, internecine politics, resource wars, proxy Cold War detritus conflict, ethnic hatred, religious ideology and much more. It simply can't be boiled down to us (and the Israelis) versus "the terrorists." Al-Qaida is not Hezbollah (for starters, one is Sunni and the other Shia). Hamas and Hezbollah are not simple terrorist groups, but rather are complex social, political and militaristic networks that cannot be eradicated from populations that they are an intrinsic part of. In both cases, they are also parts of the governments of Arab states (or in the case of the Palestinians, of a state in waiting.) Americans have simply got to stop being so simplistic about what is going on over there, if we are to make coherent choices about who we want in leadership who can deal with the unfolding crises around the globe.

Clearly, George W. Bush is out of his depth. The next president, in my humble opinion, had better not be.

That's my rant. Here's hoping that all of those living on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border sleep safely tonight.

Update: And in case you're wondering where is the sampling of Israeli bloggers on Lebanon ... not to worry (or get pissy)... I'll be posting that tomorrow. Cheers.

Previous:

Tags: Bush, Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon, Politics, News, war, Current Affairs, Iran, Iraq

posted by JReid @ 2:44 PM  
Tiny Mr. Blair
British Prime Minister Tony Blair may be aces with Rupert Murdoch (perhaps he'll even get a job as a Fox News analyst once he finally, finally steps down from 10 Downing Street...) but he sure isn't looking too manly with the British public these days, particularly after getting "the treatment" from George Dubya and his dinner roll at the G8 last week. The Guardian's Andrew Rawnsley twists the butter knife thusly:

You will have your own view - there's so much to choose from - on which part of the open-mic conversation between George W Bush and Tony Blair at the Yo Summit was the most toe-curling. One of my favourite excruciating moments is when Bush thanks Blair for sending him a Burberry sweater as a birthday gift. The American President sends up the British Prime Minister by mocking: 'I know you picked it out yourself.'

There's no question which exchange is most enjoyable for those with contempt for the Prime Minister. It is the moment that makes Mr Blair look like the poodle of popular caricature. Worse, he comes over as a poodle who can't even beg his master to toss him a dog biscuit. It is the same bit of the encounter that has caused the most wincing among the Prime Minister's friends.

When Tony Blair offers himself as a Middle East peace envoy, he is casually rebuffed by the American President between bites on a bread roll. Told by Bush that 'Condi is going', the normally fluent Blair is reduced to inarticulate jabbering. 'Well, it's only if, I mean, you know, if she's got a... or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.' Yeah, just talk.

It was awful for Tony Blair to be caught asking for permission to go to the Middle East. It was dire to hear George Bush saying he wouldn't let the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom go out - not even on a pointless trip. It looks even more humiliating when the French Foreign Minister is going.

In the build-up to the action to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan, George Bush was delighted to let Tony Blair go globe-trotting as an ambassador-at-large. The American President was happy to use Mr Blair in the same way on the road to war in Iraq. When it does not suit the White House, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is grounded.

The foreign policy realists in the British government will argue that a Blair trip to the Middle East would have no chance of achieving anything without American support. But that serves to underline a truth about Britain as an international actor which this country doesn't like to hear and Tony Blair doesn't want to tell. Britain has no independent leverage on any of the players in this crisis. When Sir Menzies Campbell pressed him to do more about the escalating conflagration in Lebanon, the Prime Minister replied testily: 'May I just point out that our influence with Hizbollah has been somewhat limited.' British influence over Israel, Iran or Syria is also 'somewhat limited'.

The only favour done to the Prime Minister by the broadcast of his rap with George Bush has been to illustrate a little of what he has been up against over the past five years in dealing with this American President. We have been frequently told by his defenders that, whatever verbal dyslexia he may display in public, the private Bush is as smart as a whip, with a sophisticated grasp of the complexities of the geopolitical situation. Analysing the carnage unfolding in Lebanon, the view of the American President is this: 'What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.'

There's more, but I'm laughing to hard to cut and paste it for you just now...

Related:

The mystery of the Bush-Blair jumper solved!

British reactions to the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon (and what the Americans and British are doing about it -- or not doing, as the case may be) ... short version: not good.

Tags: Bush, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, , Politics, News, UK, Current Affairs,
posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
Sunday headlines: world gone mad edition

It's enough to make you want to crawl under the bed and cry:

From the BBC:

UN appalled by Beirut devastation
The levelling of parts of Beirut by Israeli forces violates humanitarian law, says the UN's emergency relief chief. ... More headlines:

From the Independent, come reports that some 700,000 Lebanese have been made refugees by the Israeli bombardment. That includes over 300,000 who have poured into Syria, joining the nearly half million Iraqis who were made refugees by the U.S.-British invasion in 2003, and the subsequent civil war.

Headlines today from the Sunday Times of London:

Meanwhile, in the land of the queasy, yet indecisive British:

(UK) Minister hits at Israel as Britons flee. More on that minister:

THE first signs of unease within the British government over Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon emerged last night as ministers began criticising the military action.

Although Tony Blair has refused to condemn the attacks, Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, criticised Israel for failing to limit its action to “surgical strikes” against Hezbollah. Downing Street refused to reprimand the minister and said Blair would stand by the comments as the British government had “always urged restraint on Israel”.

Howells, on a visit to Beirut, said: “The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people — these have not been surgical strikes.

“And it’s very, very difficult, I think, to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used. You know, if they’re chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don’t go for the entire Lebanese nation.”

Howells added, however, that Britain demanding an immediate ceasefire would be a “meaningless gesture”.

It has also emerged that another senior government figure has privately questioned the military action. Lord Grocott, Labour chief whip in the Lords and Blair’s former parliamentary aide, surprised colleagues at Thursday’s cabinet meeting by suggesting that the Israeli bombardment was “disproportionate”.

John Reid, the home secretary, defended Britain’s refusal to call for a ceasefire. He said the United States had more influence over Israel than any other country and was therefore the most likely to be able to reach a solution to the crisis.

William Hague, shadow foreign secretary, says in an article today that Israel’s actions have been disproportionate and the Foreign Office “should not be afraid to say so”.

“Our position in international affairs may often be linked to that of the United States but it does not have to be identical to it,” he says in The Sunday Telegraph.
Meanwhile (Also via BBC): Ariel Sharon's condition worsens

And beyond Lebanon and Haifa, there are other -- perhaps temporarily forgotten -- wars raging:

...And Islamist factions that have overtaken the government of Somalia are clashing with Ethiopian troops in what looks like a looming African war, while the Congo questions whether its upcoming elections this week (in which my father was a candidate, incidentally, will be free and fair, or just another excuse to reignite the war there, which purporteldy ended in 2002 ... here's a look at the key players in the DRC... and no, my father is not one of them.)

Inside Israel, the Arabic and Hebrew language presses are taking very different tacks on the crisis in Lebanon. A sample from the Arab side:

Israel is not only killing the Lebanese; it is destroying the country's infrastructure and expelling and driving hundreds of thousands of Lebanese from their homes and villages. This in itself is a war crime.
And one from moderate Haaretz:
In the current confrontation, time represents an opportunity for Israel - an opportunity to exhaust the possibilities of the military campaign in order to enhance diplomatic gains... President George Bush is leading a firm, united front that gives Israel, in international terms, 'quality time' to destroy their common enemy.
One question I have is, once the Israelis sezie the territory they want for their buffer zone in southern Lebanon, will they seek to permanently occupy that territory, even settle it? That would touch off an even more pernicious conflict in the region. ...

Meanwhile, Bloomberg and other news outlets are reporting that Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, is reaching out to the U.S. for direct talks on a ceasefire. I wouldn't hold my breath if I was him, since the Bushies aren't good at changing course -- and their present course is to pretend they don't have to deal directly with the governments of countries on the neocon hit list.
Last but not least, here's an interesting take, via Nick Cohen, who writes in the UK Guardian on what the world could, and should, be doing to arrest this latest Mideast crisis (sorry, neocons, it doesn't involve nuking Iran...) He also sounds a stinging rebuke of what Iraq has done to the liberal mindset -- one that particularly hits home for me, though I don't consider myself particularly liberal these days (perhaps "libertarian" is getting closer to it...) but as one of those who supported the intervention in Kosovo, and who would have supported international forces for Liberia and the Sudan, had their been any international appetite for it:
'Mankind's suffering belongs to all men,' said Bernard Kouchner, the inspirational director of Médecins Sans Frontières, as he laid out the duty of the rich world to intervene to save the poor world from crimes against humanity.

The humanitarian and political benefits men and women with guns on the ground would bring to Lebanon are obvious. An international force that meant business would stop Israelis bombing Lebanon and Hizbollah bombing Israel. Enforcing peace would answer what is now becoming a powerful argument against a wider Middle East settlement: whenever Israel removes forces from occupied territory - as everyone says it should - the abandoned land in Lebanon or Gaza Strip becomes a base for attacks from Hamas or Hizbollah.

The intervention of an international force could therefore provide a model for how Israel might withdraw from the West Bank in safety, and also allow the government of Lebanon to assert its authority over Hizbollah's state within a state. Finally, it would stop the world being distracted from the drive of Hizbollah's patrons in Iran to get the bomb, which is the reason why this war started in the first place.

Experience shows that troops would have to be ready for the long haul. In Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor military interventions that politicians said would last for months, have dragged on for years, but in all three instances, the presence of foreign troops stopped mass murder and further conflicts.

Yet after Iraq, the phrase 'humanitarian intervention' dies on the lips. Who would do it? The British and Americans couldn't, their troops are committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and, in any case, the Americans are too tied to Israel. The European Union? The French just might, but overall the EU is deeply pacific as its disgraceful record in the former Yugoslavia showed. 'The hour of Europe has come!' thundered Jacques Poos, the foreign minister of the mighty Luxembourg, as the Serb nationalists raped and murdered their way across Bosnia 1992, but that bold declaration was as far as the EU was prepared to go.

The legacy of Iraq means that US, Arab or European generals would know that they would face suicide bombers - after all, Hizbollah attacks on American and French soldiers in Lebanon announced the arrival of the psychopathic tactic in the Middle East in 1983. After what Iraq has gone through, few commanders would relish a mission in which they had to do a little more than smile and pat children on the head.
Osama bin Laden has always maintained that the citizens of soft, self-indulgent democracies who 'love life' would never have the nerve to fight fanatics who 'love death', and he may be right. After Saddam's slaughter of the Kurds or the Srebrenica massacre or the Rwanda genocide, morally earnest people always cry 'never again!' - but it is happening again in the Sudan. One reason why the world barely discusses Darfur is that the Sudanese government in Khartoum has dropped heavy hints that it would encourage al-Qaeda to target a serious international force with the strength to make its presence felt.

Iraq has had a further consequence that I hear echoed in every discussion about war and genocide but find harder to pin down. George W Bush so enraged mainstream opinion that liberal-minded people trashed their principles and cut the ground from under their own feet. The legacy of their failure to support Iraqi democrats is a growth of conspiracy theory and a furious indifference to the suffering of others. Intervention in Lebanon, the Sudan or anywhere else would be 'all about oil', an 'illegal' war or a neoconservative plot. However just the cause or pressing the crisis, there are plenty who are primed now to shout that most solipsistic slogan of consumerist politics: 'Not in my name.'

Yet the need to rebuild a global consensus on what justifies the use of force won't go away. Tony Blair told his audience in Chicago in 1999 that 'threats to international peace and security' had to be the responsibility of the international community. In 2003, Bernard Kouchner told his fellow French citizens who were gloating about the success of the Islamists and the Baathists in Iraq: 'As for us, as so often draped in our certitudes, let us not imagine ourselves protected from barbarism.' Despite all that has happened since, they both remain right.
Indeed.

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 1:12 PM  
Quote of the day
"This is the point in the movie where the men in white lab coats come and take the neoconservatives away..."

--Democratic sometimer and TIME columnist Joe Klein on the prospects of giving uber-warmonger Bill Kristol and his band of recalcitrant neocon cranks their wider war in the Middle East, on Sunday's "Chris Matthews Show" (with guest host David Gregory.)

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 1:04 PM  
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Dichotomy
Ouch.

Tags: , Politics, Bush, Religion, News, Iraq, War, Democracy, ,
posted by JReid @ 4:55 PM  
The destruction of Lebanon, update
Even as is continues to rush high-tech, precision-guided bombs to Israel, a MoonieWashington Times report says that the Bush administration has its doubts about just how much damage Israel is inflicting upon its purported target: Hezbollah:
Israel is overstating the damage its air war has inflicted on the Hezbollah militia, which hides its weapons in tunnels and civilian neighborhoods throughout Lebanon, Bush administration and intelligence officials said yesterday.

Israeli assessments are "too large," said one U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But he added, "We are not getting into numbers."

Jerusalem military leaders have put out numbers such as "50 percent" and "one-third" to assess the damage its combat jets have done to Hezbollah's arsenal of 13,000 rockets, and its mortars, launchers, vehicles and other military equipment.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, told the Associated Press yesterday that bombing has destroyed more than 40 percent of Hezbollah's arms.

A second government source said the amount destroyed is less than one-third.

Officials also said an air attack on Hezbollah's headquarters bunker in south Beirut failed to kill any senior militia members, including leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. The assumption is that no senior Hezbollah members were home when Israeli planes dropped 23 tons of munitions, including concrete-penetrating "bunker buster" bombs.

"We are unaware of any senior leadership being killed," the official said.

Hm ... why does that sound so familiar...

Back to those arms sales. They come at the same time Condi Rice is headed to the Middle East Israel for some negotiations or other, that strangely enough do not include talk of a cease fire. Might it look to the rest of the world like a visit to check on the resupply effort at the front? And might the avoidance of talking to "the Arabs" strike some as ... well ... unbalanced (in both senses of the word?) Let's read more of that Times story, shall we?
Instead, the meeting of Arab and European envoys planned for Cairo will take place in Italy, Western diplomats said. While Arab governments initially criticized Hezbollah for starting the fight with Israel in Lebanon, discontent is rising in Arab countries over the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, and the governments have become wary of playing host to Ms. Rice until a cease-fire package is put together.

To hold the meetings in an Arab capital before a diplomatic solution is reached, said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, “would have identified the Arabs as the primary partner of the United States in this project at a time where Hezbollah is accusing the Arab leaders of providing cover for the continuation of Israel’s military operation.”

The decision to stay away from Arab countries for now is a markedly different strategy from the shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations used to mediate in the Middle East. “I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante,” Ms. Rice said Friday. “I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling around, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do.”

Before Ms. Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, she will join President Bush at the White House for discussions on the Middle East crisis with two Saudi envoys, Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the secretary general of the National Security Council.

The new American arms shipment to Israel has not been announced publicly, and the officials who described the administration’s decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity. The officials included employees of two government agencies, and one described the shipment as just one example of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel.

One American official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of an “emergency resupply” of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when an American military airlift helped Israel recover from early Arab victories.

And just what is Israel being resupplied supplied with?
An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”
Yes. The U.S. sure sounds like an honest broker to me! Best of luck with the negotiations, Condi!

Meanwhile, the rest of the world continues to rise up in outrage against the pulverizing of Lebanon. Even the millenially pliant government of Tony Blair has begun to voice criticism over Israeli tactics. From The Guardian:
Britain has dramatically broken ranks with George Bush over the Lebanon crisis, publicly criticising Israel's military tactics and urging the Americans to 'understand' the price being paid by ordinary Lebanese civilians.
The remarks, made in Beirut today by the Foreign Office Minister, Kim Howells, were the first public criticism of the US voiced by Britain. The Observer can also reveal that Tony Blair urged restraint in a private telephone convseration with the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, last week.

Sources close to the Prime Minister said that Olmert replied that Israel faced a dire security threat from the Hizbollah militia and was determined to do everything necessary to defeat it.

Britain's policy shift came as Israeli tanks and warplanes pounded targets across the border in south Lebanon today ahead of an immenently expected ground offensive to clear out nearby Hizbollah positions which have been firing dozens of rockets onto towns and cities inside Israel. Downing Street sources said Blair still believed Israel had every right to respond to the missile threat, and held the Shia militia responsible for provoking the cirisis by abducting two Israeli soldiers and shelling Israel.

But they said they had no quarrel with Howells's scathing denunciation of Israel's military tactics. Speaking to a BBC reporter before travelling on for talks in Israel, where he will also visit missile-hit areas of Haifa and meet his Israeli opposite-number, Howell said: 'The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes. If they are chasing Hizbollah, then go for Hizbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation.'

Blair meets with Bush in Washington on Friday. Look for his visit, and his government's concerns, to have absolutely no impact on the course of events. Much like Kofi (What is it that I'm supposed to do, again?) Annan's useless trip to Larry

I love this bit from a Guardian columnist:
World leaders, in particular, watched in wonder then turned back to the Middle East knowing what they had to do. I say world leaders. There really is only George Bush, but Tony Blair was trotting so close behind he was in all the photographs.

They took the trawler carrying our hopes for a speedy end to the carnage in Lebanon, they steered it in circles for a few days, they brought it back to where they'd started and guess what? They're practically injury-free. Unfortunately, Beirut is in ruins and Israel continues to bomb the bejaysus out of it.

Amen.

Back to the protests. They're going on from Ontario to Britain to Kashmir, Berlin, Cairo and all points in between.

There have, over the course of the week, also been protests in Jordan, across Europe, and here in Florida. The Vatican, too, has issued harsh condemnation of the wanton Israeli destruction of Lebanon (actually it's not all that wanton, since apparently they're doing exactly what they set out to do -- decimate the infrastructure of that country so that Hezbollah can't get out, and Syria can't get in.

Meanwhile, Spain and Israel are in a diplomatic row over Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero's criticisms of the Lebanon incursion, and his decision to don a Palestinian Keffiyah scarf (the checkered scarf popularized by the late Yasser Arafat) during a Socialist rally and his description of Israel's actions as an "abusive use of force." Of course, criticisg Israel means that Mr. Zapatero is anti-semitic (a charge I got thrown at me, along with "racist" and "a funder of Hamas" on a particularly absurdist radio program by someone named Joyce Kaufman -- I think that's her name, anyway -- on 850 AM here in South Florida today...) or perhaps even a Nazi. Because of course, seeing Palestinians as human beings (who happen to exist) rather than as animals best slaughtered quickly and with spectacular enough brutality that the other Muslims get the picture, is indicative of racism and anti-Semitism. Right? That's the usual tactic by reflexive supporters of Israel, and one that I think is pretty indicative of the one making the charge having run out of arguments and justifications.

Meanwhile, the gates of hell just keep getting wider. More headlines:

Thousands flee southern Lebanon (BBC)
Rocket attacks on Haifa bring back Gulf War memories (BBC)

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 4:19 PM  
Friday, July 21, 2006
Ragged thoughts
We had my fellow Brooklyite (okay, I'm no longer in Brooklyn, but he's holding it down for me...) Robert George, on the radio show this morning. (I produce and am talent on the James T and Tamara G hosted morning show, which will soon be dubbed "Wake Up, South Florida!" ... okay, enough of that.) The subject was the president's much belated speech to the NAACP.

Here's Robert's post on what he took away from the interview, and what sounds to me like an increasingly familiar conservative shift (even a small one) of sentiment regarding the president... (whose speech, by the way, was 100 percent content free...)

Tags: Bush,NAACP
posted by JReid @ 6:07 PM  
Why Israel cannot win its war
While Israel continues to mass troops along the Lebanese border, in apparent preparation for an all-out invasion of Lebanon, and as casualties continue to mount, mostly on the Lebanese side, and refugees teem into Syria, the Israeli people may soon be waking up asking many of the questions American are asking today: what have we accomplished? And what have we lost?

The Israelis seemed to have learned nothing from the American experience in Iraq, just as our neocons learned nothing from Israelis 40 plus years of attempts to occupy, bomb, assassinate, pulverize and strafe the various Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian Arabs around them into submission. The bottom line now is the same as it has always been: you cannot kill enough of your enemies to make the people of the Muslim world accept, respect or permit themselves to be dominated by you. Eventually, the occupied will get even. Eventually, the people you consider terrorists will fight you hard enough, and long enough, that the people they say they are fighting for believe them, far more than they believe you. And then the people you're bombing in the name of fighting terrorism, will hate you so much, they'll take up arms with your "terrorists" -- or look the other way as they move in next door -- in order to see harm done to you.

The American people are figuring that out in Iraq. The Israelis, if they decide to invade and occupy Lebanon, in addition to bombing it into the stone age and killing hundreds of civilians in the process (while turning most of the civilized world against them -- with the exception of the American political leadership on both sides of the aisle -- though I suspect the majority of Americans would take exception to our leaders' unbending Likudism ... and with the exception of the queasy, yet docile, British) ... will eventually figure it out, too. Let's just hope that by the time they do, Lebanon hasn't yet become a failed state, with no infrastructure left, and a people burning for revenge.

Terrorism isn't a simle black and white equation -- we are good and free, they are captive and terroristic. It's a symptom of a much larger and more inplacable disease, which is transmitted by colonialism, resource greed, racism, (and Zionism), and the insrutable Europen characteristic of seeing every dark complected person as a rube, easily disadvantaged and responsive only to brute force. But the Muslim world has a few tricks up its sleeve that the "West" -- Israel included -- never bargained for. Unlike most Christians, they really aren't afraid to die. And they are determined to take a few Westies with them, not in the name of cartoon jihad -- but for the cause of expelling what they see as colonizers and land and resource thieves, from their lands.

Israel has no business sending its troops onto the soil of sovereign Lebanon. If they want Hezbollah eradicated, they should take it up with the Lebanese government and the U.N. Otherwise, how can you characterize the bombing of Lebanon's bridges, roads, airports and Army bases as anything other than an aggressive act of war? And even if Hezbolah is to blame for starting the aggression (if you discount the Israeli seizure of 60 members ofthe Palestinian Parliament...) exacting "collective punishment" on the entire population of Lebanon will accomplish nothing -- Hezbollah will survive, both as a political party and as a movement... and the people of Lebanon will hate Israel with a white hot passion after the bombing is through. How does that help Israel or improve its security?

The short answer is, it doesn't.

Worse, because it is the U.S. that is providing both the materiel and the cover for Israel's actions, the results for American interests -- which, at the end ofthe day, are more important to Americans -- theoretically -- than the interests of Israel -- will be disastrous. And given our equally messy involvement in Iraq, the U.S. can't afford to have its interests further harmed.

So it may feel good for American Likudniks to watch Israel do what the American president cannot and will not -- wage war on the enemies of Zion -- neither the Arab world nor the larger Muslim world will ever submit to what they see as Israeli-American attempts to dominate their region. Even if Israel and the U.S. could install puppet governments from Cairo to Tehran, put private companies in charge of the natural resources of every country from Black Africa to East Asia, and expel every Arab from Palestine, the Muslim world will continue to fight them. The Muslim body politic will continue to rebel, compelled by their religion and by a millennial -- and very human -- visceral "tissue rejection" of the idea of submission. And in the end, Israel will lose. And America will too.

Meanwhile, Israeli military leaders ponder the limits of air power... and a future lined with nuke-tipped bunker busters...

... the Jewish jihadis quit the U.S. to suit up in Tel Aviv...

...Pat Buchanan says "no, Mssrs Kudlow and Kristol, we are not all Israelis ..."

---TIME's Mike Allen reports that Bush (or somebody) is sending Condi Rice to the Mideast to build an "Arab umbrella" (of Sunni and Wahabi Muslims) against (Shiite) Hezbollah (and by extension, Shiite, non-Arab Iran...) He doesn't explain why Arab countries would take Israel's side against the pleading of a fellow Arab League member (Lebanon), whose Army may well wind up fighting Israel at Hezbollah's side, or how this new umbrella would unfold over Shiite dominated Iraq...

Ah, "diplomacy..."

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 4:13 PM  
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Bush practices his love on Andrea Merkel
Oh Dubya ... Dubya, Dubya, Dubya... why do you make it so easy for us?

Tags: Bush,
posted by JReid @ 2:06 PM  
Israeli democracy
There have been sharp criticisms before about Israel's version of democracy. This is the latest...

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:03 AM  
They're destroying Lebanon
Israeli warplanes continue to pound Lebanon into the stone age, and two Arab Israeli children playing in front of their house are the latest to die on the other side of the border. And does anybody even remember why?
The Lebanese prime minister has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah militants, saying his country "has been torn to shreds".
Fouad Siniora said more than 300 people had been killed and 500,000 others displaced in a week of Israeli attacks.

Israel says it carried out 80 air strikes in Lebanon in the early hours of Thursday morning.

And it says its soldiers are now fighting Hezbollah militants along the border just inside Lebanon.

The clashes are taking place north of the Israeli village of Avivim, an Israeli Defence Force spokeswoman said.

On Wednesday evening, Israel said a wave of aircraft dropped 23 tonnes of explosives on a bunker in the south of Beirut where senior Hezbollah figures, possibly including leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, were believed to hiding.

But Hezbollah issued a statement saying the building targeted was a mosque under construction and "no Hezbollah leaders or personnel were killed in the strike".

Twenty-nine Israelis have died - including 15 civilians killed by rocket attacks - since the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah militants began eight days ago.

On Wednesday, two children were killed in Nazareth by Hezbollah rockets.
More from the BBC:
In an emotional televised appeal, the Lebanese prime minister urged the international community to intervene.

"I call upon you all to respond immediately... and provide urgent international humanitarian assistance to our war-stricken country," Mr Siniora said.

"Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted on us?"

He vowed to make Israel pay compensation to Lebanon for the "barbaric destruction".

The Israelis say they are fighting to end the control of Hezbollah over the lives of ordinary people on both sides of the border.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the campaign against the militants would continue "as long as necessary" to free its captured soldiers and ensure Hezbollah is not a threat.
And when would that be? When Lebanon has been completely turned to dust?

Israel has pointedly not ruled out a full-scale invasion of the country it used to occupy. And the deafening silence out of Washington is telling. Hell, even the British are starting to get queasy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent in the Marines to try and speed up it's super-duper-slow evacuation of American citizens.

And Israel has ordered civilians still in Lebanon to get the hell out of Dodge.

Of course, if you're Lebanese, you probably are dreading the exit of the foreigners, whose presence may be the only thing restraining Israel from completely laying waste to your country.

The Independent cover says it all.

Pat Buchanan asks, where are the Christians? (FYI: Their neighborhoods are being bombed to smithereens, too...)
When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an "act of war," the last pillar of Bush's Middle East policy collapsed.

First came capitulation on the Bush Doctrine, as Pyongyang and Tehran defied Bush's dictum: The world's worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world's worst weapons. Then came suspension of the democracy crusade as Islamic militants exploited free elections to advance to power and office in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Iran.

Now, Israel's rampage against a defenseless Lebanon – smashing airport runways, fuel tanks, power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads and the occasional refugee convoy – has exposed Bush's folly in subcontracting U.S. policy out to Tel Aviv, thus making Israel the custodian of our reputation and interests in the Middle East.

The Lebanon that Israel, with Bush's blessing, is smashing up has a pro-American government, heretofore considered a shining example of his democracy crusade. Yet, asked in St. Petersburg if he would urge Israel to use restraint in its airstrikes, Bush sounded less like the leader of the Free World than some bellicose city councilman from Brooklyn Heights.

What Israel is up to was described by its army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, when he threatened to "turn back the clock in Lebanon 20 years."

Olmert seized upon Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers to unleash the IDF in a pre-planned attack to make the Lebanese people suffer until the Lebanese government disarms Hezbollah, a task the Israeli army could not accomplish in 18 years of occupation.

Israel is doing the same to the Palestinians. To punish these people for the crime of electing Hamas, Olmert imposed an economic blockade of Gaza and the West Bank and withheld the $50 million in monthly tax and customs receipts due the Palestinians.

Then, Israel instructed the United States to terminate all aid to the Palestinian Authority, though Bush himself had called for the elections and for the participation of Hamas. Our Crawford cowboy meekly complied.

The predictable result: Fatah and Hamas fell to fratricidal fighting, and Hamas militants began launching Qassam rockets over the fence from Gaza into Israel. Hamas then tunneled into Israel, killed two soldiers, captured one, took him back into Gaza and demanded a prisoner exchange.

Israel's response was to abduct half of the Palestinian cabinet and parliament and blow up a $50 million U.S.-insured power plant. That cut off electricity for half a million Palestinians. Their food spoiled, their water could not be purified, and their families sweltered in the summer heat of the Gaza desert. One family of seven was wiped out on a beach by what the IDF assures us was an errant artillery shell.

How many times do I have to agree with Pat Buchanan before I become a full-fledged conservative?

And Pat is not alone. More and more, people are crossing the third rail, and criticizing Israeli policy.

Oh, and I guess "somebody" decided to send Condi Rice over to talk to the U.N. ...

Goody. That should clear things up.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 8:46 AM  
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Jumping through the window
It was no surprise to hear reports that Israel is implementing a five-year-old war plan in Lebanon (one which could wind up completely destabilizing that country and undermining its young democracy ... oh well...) It's equally unsurprising to read that the U.S. may be purposely holding back, to give Israel time (about a week, according to the Guardian) to inflict maximum damage on Hezbollah before we intervene at the U.N. to try and save a Lebanese bridge or hospital or two... Clearly, the U.S. and several of its allies, including the U.K., don't mind letting Israel play the proxy force, since we are so depleted of troops of our own.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is reportedly keeping an eye out for Hezbollah cells here at home...

the Israelis have put ground troops back in Lebanon for a "limited incursion..."

Americans are finally getting out of Lebanon, and it appears they won't have to pay for it after all...

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 9:31 AM  
Defeat of the Bible thumper
Oh well, Ralph Reed. You could always go into the casino gaming business...

Tags: , Jack Abramoff, Corruption, GOP
posted by JReid @ 9:29 AM  
Thank you, George Will
George Will puts meet onto the bones of his bravura performance on this week's "this week," letting the neocons and Condi Rice have it with both guns in yesterday's Washington Post. The rub:

elections have transformed Hamas into the government of the Palestinian territories, and elections have turned Hezbollah into a significant faction in Lebanon's parliament, from which it operates as a state within the state. And as a possible harbinger of future horrors, last year's elections gave the Muslim Brotherhood 19 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament.

The Bush administration has rightly refrained from criticizing the region's only democracy, Israel, for its forceful response to a thousand rockets fired at its population. U.S. reticence is seemly, considering that terrorism has been Israel's torment for decades, and that America responded to two hours of terrorism one September morning by toppling two regimes halfway around the world with wars that show no signs of ending.

The administration, justly criticized for its Iraq premises and their execution, is suddenly receiving some criticism so untethered from reality as to defy caricature. The national, ethnic and religious dynamics of the Middle East are opaque to most people, but to the Weekly Standard -- voice of a spectacularly misnamed radicalism, "neoconservatism" -- everything is crystal clear: Iran is the key to everything .

"No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah. No Islamic Republic of Iran, no one to prop up the Assad regime in Syria. No Iranian support for Syria . . ." You get the drift. So, the Weekly Standard says:

"We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

"Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad's regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

As for the "healthy" repercussions that the Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication's powers of prophecy but wishes it had exercised them on the nation's behalf before all of the surprises -- all of them unpleasant -- that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the "appeasement" that the Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation -- the bombing of Syria?

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.
And Steve Clemons says, Amen.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, , ,
posted by JReid @ 8:00 AM  
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Welcome back
The Taliban is on the comeback trail in Forgotistan...

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Flight of the neocons
The Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is bringing out the crazy ... crazy ... crazy ... in the last sputtering vestiges of the neocon movement.

I'm with you, Larry Franklin:
Apparently not content to let the US do a self-immolation act in the Middle East by itself, Israel decided to set itself on fire by invading Lebanon. Burn baby burn? Like George Bush, Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, never served in a combat unit and launched military operations without thinking the matter through. In fact, Olmert reportedly never even served in the military. I raise this because there is one simple question Israel cannot answer about the current operations-what is their strategic military objective. Olmert has somehow persuaded the Israeli military to ignore strategy, think tactically, and in the process become really stupid. The events in the next several weeks will expose as myth the canard that you can secure a nation by killing terrorists. No you can't.

Killing "terrorists" has a place in policy but it is not a strategic military obective. It is a tactical objective and may serve political purposes, but achieves little in terms of securing Israel. Israel is attacking targets in Lebanon like a drunken sailor in a bar fight. Flailing about, causing significant damage, hitting innocent bystanders, and generally making a mess of things. This is not the Israeli military that pulled off the brilliant and daring raid at Entebbe. ...
Amen, Franklin.

Meanwhile... back in Beirut...
An Israeli army spokeswoman said officials were checking into reports that the Lebanese army base in Kfar Chima was hit, but she said in general Israel's military is not targeting Lebanon's army. Lebanese military officials said the base took a direct hit as the soldiers rushed to their bomb shelters, wire services reported. Some 35 soldiers were wounded.

"We don't target Lebanese bases. We target Hezbollah posts and infrastructure," the Israeli spokeswoman said.

Nine Lebanese soldiers were killed Monday in an attack on the fishing port of Abdeh, in northern Lebanon, the Lebanese Health Ministry said.

..and this is not a war on Lebanon, right? More from WaPo:
The Israeli government said Monday it was extending indefinitely a two-day state of emergency in the north. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops continued to operate around the town of Beit Hanoun, clashing occasionally with Palestinian fighters. Palestinian doctors in Beit Hanoun said three people were killed in their homes by Israeli snipers and 14 others wounded.

Israeli military sources said they had no information on such attacks. An Israeli military spokeswoman said that seven rockets were fired from the area Monday, injuring two Israeli civilians. Israeli forces pulled out of Beit Hanoun overnight, but troops remained in the southern part of Gaza, near the airport.

In Lebanon, Israeli raids again struck the Beirut-Damascus highway, along with gas stations, factories and a small fishing port. Smoke from fires arced over the Beirut sky, and thousands of people across Lebanon abandoned their homes to flee the violence

In one of the worst losses of civilian life in Lebanon, an Israeli attack targeted two cars crossing a bridge in Rmeileh, north of the southern port city of Sidon. Government officials said 10 civilians were killed, including two children.

The New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch called on the Israeli military to provide details about a bombing Saturday that killed 16 people in a convoy of civilians fleeing a Lebanese village near Israel's border.

Nice.

Tags: Israel, Lebanon,
posted by JReid @ 9:22 AM  
Get me to the cruise ship on time
China, France and other countries are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from Lebanon, with cruise ships emerging as the egress of choice for the bomb weary. And as some 25,000 or so Americans wait to get out, Crooks and Liars finds an interesting aside:
message to the American citizens in Lebanon:

"The Department of State reminds American citizens that the U.S. government does not provide no-cost transportation but does have the authority to provide repatriation loans to those in financial need [emphasis mine]. For the portion of your trip directly handled by the U.S. Government we will ask you to sign a promissory note and we will bill you at a later date…

There's more. Get the rest of the story here.

Tags: Israel, Lebanon
posted by JReid @ 9:06 AM  
That darned Bush
I'm sorry, but George W. Bush's "unplugged" moment at the G8 dinner deserves a second post. Watch it for yourself here, and then read the transcript:
Bush: I just want some movement.
Blair: Yeah
Bush: Yesterday we didn't see much movement
Blair: No, no, it may be that it's not, it maybe that it's impossible
Bush: I am prepared to say it
Blair: But it's just I think what we need to be an opposition
Bush: Who is introducing the trade
Blair: Angela
Bush: Tell her to call 'em
Blair: Yes
Bush: Tell her to put him on them on the spot.Thanks for the sweaters it's awfully thoughtful of you
Blair: It's a pleasure
Bush: I know you picked it out yourself
Blair: Oh, absoultely, in fact I knitted it myself
BUSH: "Right . . . What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything else happens."

BLAIR: "I think the thing that is really difficult is you can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed." . . .
Bush: Yeah
Blair: I don't know what you guys have talked about but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral
Bush: I think Condi is going to go pretty soon
Blair: But that's that's that's all that matters. But if you, you see it will take some time to get that together
Bush: Yeah, yeah
Blair: But at least it gives people...
Bush: It's a process, I agree. I told her your offer to...
Blair: Well...it's only if I mean... you know. If she's got a..., or if she needs the ground prepared as it were... Because obviously if she goes out, she's got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk
Bush: You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over
Blair: [inaudible]
Bush: [inaudible]
Blair: Syria
Bush: Why?
Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing
Bush: Yeah.
Blair: What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way...
Bush: Yeah, yeah, he is sweet
Blair: He is honey. And that's what the whole thing is about. It's the same with Iraq
Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Bashad [Bashir Assad] and make something happen
Blair: Yeah
Bush: [inaudible]
Blair:
Bush: We are not blaming the Lebanese government
Blair: Is this...? (at this point Blair taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.)
Um ... honey ...? honey???

Also not to be missed: Vlad Putin looks into Dubya's eyes, then punks the crap out of him. (Pic courtesy of The Randi Rhodes Show web-site.)

Tags: Bush, , Hezbollah, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Israel,
posted by JReid @ 6:32 AM  
Monday, July 17, 2006
The six year old who runs the world
Bush on candid camera:
It wasn't meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance _ including President Bush cursing Hezbollah's attacks against Israel.

Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.

"See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it's over," Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.

He told Blair he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen." He suggested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might visit the region soon.

The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.

Bush also spoke to other leaders, and his unscripted comments ranged from the serious topic of escalating violence in the Mideast to light banter about his preference for Diet Coke and a gift he received from another leader.

Blair, whose remarks were not as clearly heard, appeared to be pressing Bush about the importance of getting international peacekeepers into the region.

As he chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush expresses amazement that it will take Putin and an unidentified leader just as long to fly home to Moscow as it will take him to fly back to Washington. Putin's reply could not be heard.

"You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving," Bush said.

Bush thanked Blair for a gift of a sweater and joked that he knew Blair had picked it out personally. "Absolutely," Blair responded, with a laugh.

Bush, a stickler for keeping to his schedule, could also be heard saying, "We have to keep this thing moving. I have to leave at 2:15. They want me out of here to free up their security forces."

Bush also remarked that some of the speakers at the meeting had the tendency to talk too long.
Tags: Bush, Israel, Lebanon,
posted by JReid @ 11:59 AM  
Tales of the Liberty City Seven
The Miami Herald this weekend had the extraordinary story of how the FBI kept the "Liberty City Seven" on task, and on the job of waging "jihad." Unbelievable...

The reputed ringleader of the Liberty City Seven was leery of the two Arabic men who promised to help him launch his terror war.

So in January, he ordered his followers to strip-search them both to make sure they weren't wearing wires and drive them to Islamorada in the Florida Keys for a meeting on the beach.

Sitting inside a tent, one of the men boasted of his intimate ties to al Qaeda, bragging about his role in ''planning the attack'' by al Qaeda on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, a bombing that killed 17 sailors, and about his connection to an explosives expert in Europe at his beck and call.

He lied. The two men had, in fact, no ties to the terrorist organization but were moles for the Feds. But their performance was enough to erase Narseal Batiste's distrust -- thus salvaging a stalled FBI investigation. It would culminate last month in the high-profile arrests of seven young men from Miami who authorities say were hellbent on causing carnage across the country.

Newly obtained federal court documents, filled with transcripts of secret FBI recordings, tell how two unidentified informants risked their lives and describe one man's delusions of grandeur -- and determination -- to wage his own holy war.

The improbable tale began last fall in a North Miami convenience store.

Batiste, a struggling contractor born in Chicago who headed the local branch here of a Moorish religious sect, became friendly with the store's owner after learning that he was going to Yemen on vacation in October. The store owner happened to be an FBI informant.

After the shopkeeper's return, Batiste, with two of his followers present, laid out his vision. Batiste said that he was a member of the Moorish Science Temple -- a sect that blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- and that its members were entitled to their own government within the United States. Violence was the only way, he said, and he explained to the store owner that only extreme Islamic groups, such as al Qaeda, could help.

The shopkeeper told the FBI of Batiste's plans. For FBI agents, the threat was serious enough to have him introduce Batiste to another informant, an Arabic man with a thick accent.

The second man was Mohammad, a friend of the store owner's uncle. Batiste pressed the shopkeeper to find out whether the man knew al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but was told that question was off limits.

On Dec. 16, a nervous Batiste met with Mohammad in a room at a Radisson hotel and gave him a list of must-have items for a jihad: uniforms, boots, machine guns, radios and vehicles.

Six days later, they met at Bayside Marketplace, then proceeded to the ''embassy,'' the now infamous warehouse in Liberty City, where Batiste and his followers lived and trained in martial arts in plain view of neighbors.

Batiste disclosed that he had 100 guerrillas who could train in Louisiana and Alabama and that it would take about one year to carry out his mission. The main target was one he knew from his days as a FedEx delivery driver: Chicago's 110-story Sears Tower.

''If I can put up a building,'' said Batiste, who worked in construction, ``then I should definitely know how to bring one down.''

Mohammad later gave Batiste a cellphone -- which was bugged by the FBI. Batiste also asked for $50,000 cash.
Read the rest of the story here.

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Tags: , , , ,

posted by JReid @ 11:49 AM  
Buck wild
The news out of Lebanon and Israel just gets crazier this morning.

According to the Associated Press, Israeli ground troops briefly crossed into Lebanon overnight to conduct an "operation." Says AP:

A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said that a small group of Israeli troops had crossed into Lebanon overnight to attack a Hezbollah position, but then returned to Israel.

"There was a small operation in a very limited area overnight," the official said. "That is over."

Israel has been reluctant to send ground troops into southern Lebanon, an area that officials say has been heavily mined by Hezbollah and could lead to many Israeli casualties.

Israel would also want to quickly withdraw from the area, rather than get involved in a prolonged conflict like its 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon that ended in May 2000. The bloody nature of the fighting at the that time and the high number of casualties finally forced the government to cave into public pressure to withdraw from southern Lebanon and end the contentious occupation.

And while it isn't getting as much press, Israel continues to pound it's former fundee, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.

And Hezbollah rockets, possibly supplied by Iran, continue to stream into Haifa, with growing fears that the militant group may have advanced Iranian rockets that can reach Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (although something tells me that an Islamic movement wouldn't do something that could destroy Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

More links:

Who exactly is Hezbollah? One take from the BBC. Another from Wikipedia.

The Counterterrorism blog ponders the unthinkable: a Hezbollah-al Qaida marriage of convenience... and the analysts there ask what could be the implications of Hezbollah rage in the U.S.

A Red Stater sees George W, and feels the love...

Meanwhile, uber-neocon Bill Kristol brings the crazy... suggesting that now would be a great time to widen the war! Or as Brother Newt calls it, the World War III! (Per the increasingly hillarious George Will, "why put off till tomorrow when you can have another war today?)

On FNC this weekend, Juan Williams chumps Kristol in a single round of verbal combat mayhem...

KRISTOL: Look, our coddling of Iran — if I can use the neutral term like that — over the last six to nine months has emboldened them. I mean, is Iran behaving like a timid regime that’s very worried about the U.S.? Or is Iran behaving recklessly and in a foolhardy way?

WALLACE: But isn’t that the result of what’s happened in Iraq?

KRISTOL: No, it’s a result of our deducing from the situation in Iraq that we can’t stand up to Iran. I mean, when we stand up over and over and say Iran is shipping Improvised Explosive Devices into Iraq and killing U.S. soldiers, and Syria’s providing a line for terrorists to come into Iraq and kill U.S. soldiers, and that’s unacceptable. That’s not helpful. And then we do nothing about it. When Ahmadinejad says provocative things, continues to ship arms to Hezbollah, and we say, okay, maybe now we’ll give you direct talks. That, unfortunately, that weakness has been provocative. Ahmadinejad feels emboldened. Now we need to show him, and I think the administration has done a good job the last couple of days of showing him, that he miscalculated. And indeed, this is a great opportunity. I think our weakness, unfortunately, invited this aggression, but this aggression is a great opportunity to begin resuming the offensive against the terrorist groups. Israel is fighting four of our five enemies in the Middle East, in a sense. Iran, Syria, sponsors of terror; Hezbollah and Hamas. Al Qaeda doesn’t seem to be involved. We have to take care of them in Iraq. This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive.

WILLIAMS: Well, it just seems to me that you want…you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East, where I think there’s a real interesting dynamic at play. I think it’s psychological on the part of Israel and many of its supporters, and I’ll throw you in here. Somehow you see Israel as weak, and you see Ehud Olmert as weak –

WALLACE: He’s the new prime minister —

WILLIAMS: The new prime minister of Israel. And the defense minister as weak. Everybody is weak in the aftermath of Sharon, and so everybody has to prove what a man they are in the Middle East, including — you’re saying, why doesn’t the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been, we don’t talk to anybody. We don’t talk to Hamas. We don’t talk to Hezbollah. We’re not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?
Bill?

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza, Iraq

posted by JReid @ 8:28 AM  
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Sealed with a kiss?
How sad is it when your campaign is reduced to parsing the difference between a presidential kiss and a presidential hug? Well that's where Joe Lieberman finds himself today: daily fleeing the implications of what is now being called the Judas kiss.

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posted by JReid @ 5:19 PM  
Thank you, 9/11
Did bigwig U.S. executives take advantage of 9/11 to reap big bonus rewards for themselves? The WSJ seems to say yes.
After 9/11 as stocks sank, scores of US firms gave millions in options to top executives, reports the Wall Street Journal on the front page of Saturday's paper.

The paper asks, "Did companies take unseemly advantage of a national tragedy?"

"A review of Standard & Poor's ExecuComp data for 1,800 leading companies indicates that from Sept. 17, 2001, through the end of the month, 511 top executives at 186 of these companies got stock-option grants," reports the Wall Street Journal.

One former stock-option-committee member for a Michigan firm defends the giveaways to the Wall Street Journal.

"If you believe the company is going to do well, and here is an external event that is affecting the market and you've made a decision to reward executives, you go ahead with it," John Lillard told the Wall Street Journal.

"Life goes on," Lillard added.


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posted by JReid @ 5:16 PM  
Expanding the war to the real target?
Ynet news is reporting that according to the Al-Hayat newspaper out of London, Israel has given Syria an ultimatum: reign in Hezbollah, or else...
The London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday that “Washington has information according to which Israel gave Damascus 72 hours to stop Hizbullah’s activity along the Lebanon-Israel border and bring about the release the two kidnapped IDF soldiers or it would launch an offensive with disastrous consequences.”

The report said “a senior Pentagon source warned that should the Arab world and international community fail in the efforts to convince Syria to pressure Hizbullah into releasing the soldiers and halt the current escalation Israel may attack targets in the country.”

Al-Hayat quoted the source as saying that “the US cannot rule out the possibility of an Israeli strike in Syria,” this despite the fact that the Bush administration has asked Israel to “refrain from any military activity that may result in civilian casualties.”
Yeah, good luck with that...

And here we go, radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is hinting at taking action inside Iraq to protest Israel's attacks on Lebanon... From the NYT:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 14 — The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr said Friday that Iraqis would not “sit by with folded hands” while Israel struck at Lebanon, signaling a possible increase in attacks from his mercurial militia, the Mahdi Army.

In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel.

Mr. Sadr’s statement was issued at a time of rising tensions between the American military and the Mahdi Army, with American forces carrying out raids against Mahdi hideouts and arresting senior leaders.

American commanders have strongly denounced militias in recent days and have pledged to try to curtail the militias’ death squads, which they say are feeding the spiraling cycles of sectarian violence. Many Sunni Arabs blame the Sadr militia for abductions and killings, including an episode on July 9 in which militiamen seized up to dozens of Sunni Arabs in the Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad and shot them in the head.

“Eyes are shedding tears, and the heart feels pain and sadness for our people in Lebanon due to the bombing, terror and clear aggression that the Zionist enemy conducts and that is shielded by a number of countries, including the United States,” Mr. Sadr said in the statement.

“Let it be known to everybody that we in Iraq will not sit by with folded hands before the creep of Zionism,” the statement continued.

The fury was echoed in a Friday mosque sermon given by a cleric allied with Mr. Sadr, Sheik Asad al-Nasri, to worshipers from the southern holy cities of Kufa and Najaf.

“We address all the arrogant powers of the world, including the United States and Israel, and tell them to realize the true reality and take lessons from history that show that all world powers, no matter how strong they are, prove to be failures and will definitely vanish,” the sheik said.

Mr. Sadr led two rebellions against the Americans in 2004 that resulted in negotiations that gave him greater status, ultimately enabling him to win enormous power in the new government. Mr. Sadr emerged from the December 2005 elections with at least 30 of 275 parliamentary seats, making his legislative bloc the equal of any political party in Iraq.

It is no surprise that Mr. Sadr should rise to Lebanon’s defense. Since 2004, he has transformed his organization into one similar to Hezbollah, the militant Shiite faction there. From its ragtag beginnings, Mr. Sadr’s organization now counts members in the Parliament and important ministers, in addition to thousands of impoverished young men ready at a moment’s notice to take to the streets with Kalashnikovs.

BTW, did you catch Vladimir Putin's slap at U.S.-style "democracy" in Iraq? If not, here it is.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza, Iraq
posted by JReid @ 5:05 PM  
News of the day
Sactions against North Korea? Yes ... unanimously ... (btw if you get a chance to catch the chilling CNN documentary about the smuggled video out of that dark, creepy country, TiVo it.

Russia in the WTO? Nope.

The head of Iraq's Olympic committee has been kidnapped, along with some 30 other people, as violence continues to spiral in that country...

Justice for the family of the Brazilian man gunned down in the London subway by mistake following the 7/7 attacks? maybe in civil court ...

Groups in Britain urge the government there to bar further arms sales to israel.

Will President Bush have a Ronald Reagan, JFK moment in Moscow? don't hold your breath.

A Fed researcher issues a dire warning: the U.S. could be going bankrupt...:
A ballooning budget deficit and a pensions and welfare timebomb could send the economic superpower into insolvency, according to research by Professor Laurence Kotlikoff for the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, a leading constituent of the US Federal Reserve.

Prof Kotlikoff said that, by some measures, the US is already bankrupt. "To paraphrase the Oxford English Dictionary, is the United States at the end of its resources, exhausted, stripped bare, destitute, bereft, wanting in property, or wrecked in consequence of failure to pay its creditors," he asked.

According to his central analysis, "the US government is, indeed, bankrupt, insofar as it will be unable to pay its creditors, who, in this context, are current and future generations to whom it has explicitly or implicitly promised future net payments of various kinds''.

The budget deficit in the US is not massive. The Bush administration this week cut its forecasts for the fiscal shortfall this year by almost a third, saying it will come in at 2.3pc of gross domestic product. This is smaller than most European countries - including the UK - which have deficits north of 3pc of GDP.

Prof Kotlikoff, who teaches at Boston University, says: "The proper way to consider a country's solvency is to examine the lifetime fiscal burdens facing current and future generations. If these burdens exceed the resources of those generations, get close to doing so, or simply get so high as to preclude their full collection, the country's policy will be unsustainable and can constitute or lead to national bankruptcy.

"Does the United States fit this bill? No one knows for sure, but there are strong reasons to believe the United States may be going broke."

Blimey! Anything more uplifting?

Ah yes, the Love Parade is back!

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posted by JReid @ 4:37 PM  
Framing the issue
I'm pulling all of my information on the Israeli-Lebanese fighting from non-U.S. news sources at this point, although I have to say the MSNBC and CNN coverage has been surprisingly balanced, given the normal bent of U.S. television news coverage, which adopts the Bushian framing of everything that happens in the world in terms of "the terrorists" and "those fighting the terrorists." Perhaps that's only because the weekend crew doesn't include either Kyra Phillips, Norah O'Donnell or Wolf Blitzer ...

Anyway, I think it's important how the debate over what is going on in Lebanon and Israel is framed. To my mind, it is ridiculous to state that Israel is at war with Hezbollah, since in fact it isn't "Hezbollian" bridges, roads, airport runways and minibuses that are being bombed out of existence. It is Lebanese bridges, Lebanese roads, Lebanese ports, Lebanese airport runways and Lebanese civilians in homes, apaprtments and minibuses who are being bombed. And despite the rather belated, and surprisingly mild, reactions of the Lebanese and their Arab neighbors, it's hard to see how destroying Lebanon is anything near a proportional response to the acts of a group -- Hezbollah -- which doesn't represent the nation of Lebanon.

Just to make it more clear, peep this totally fictional scenario: say the Minutemen organization was taken over by a radical group of Americans who decided to arm themselves as they patrol the southern border of the U.S., and say they continued to arm themselves and act aggressively toward Mexican illegal immigrans, even as the government of the United States made it clear that it opposed their actions and that those actions did not represent the policy of the government of the U.S. And say that then, the Minuteman began detaining Mexican citizens as they crossed the border, and that the governmetn of Mexico became outraged and demanded that those Mexican nationals be freed. And say that then, the Mexican military began flying sortees over Texas and Arizona, straffing the bridges, roads and airport runways in those states to prevent the movement of the minutemen or the movement of the Mexican nationals. And say that then, the Mexican military overflew the home of the Canadian prime minister, because they believed that Canada's government is supporting the actions of the Minutemen, whom Mexico considers to be terrorists. And say that then, a White separatist group based in Washington State, decided to support the Minutemen by grabbing another couple of Mexican citizens from that area, and were holding them, and in response, Mexico's air force began bombing Washington State, too. What would the United States do? Declare the conflict to be strictly between the Minutemen and the Mexicans? Ask the United Nations to please ask the Mexicans to stop bombing "the minutemen?" Or would we consider the bombing of our infrastructure, the incursion into our sovereign airspace and the killing of our citizens to be an act of war upon the United States? Whatever our government thought of the Minutemen, or even the White separatists, at that point would be irrelevant. The United States would consider itself to be at war with Mexico.

So then, is not Israel at war with Lebanon? And if they widen the war to Syria (or Canada, in my example), would not be the beginning of total, regional war?

Now to the news of the day.

From ITV News:
Israeli air strikes on Lebanon have killed at least 32 civilians including 15 children. (pic: Reuters)

The offensive, which is intended to punish Lebanon for letting Hizbollah guerrillas operate in Lebanon near the northern border of Israel is the most destructive onslaught by the Jewish state since the 1982 invasion to expel Palestinian forces.

Israel has bombed roads, bridges, ports and airports, as well as Hizbollah targets and for the first time, ports in Christian areas have been bombarded and a helicopter missile hit a lighthouse on Beirut's seafront.

An Israeli missile incinerated a van in southern Lebanon, killing 20 people, among them 15 children, in the deadliest single attack of the campaign launched by Israel after Hizbollah captured two of its soldiers and killed eight on Wednesday (July 11).

Police said the van was carrying two families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes.

Many of the bodies were charred and broken. Raids on roads, ports and petrol stations in north, east and south Lebanon killed 12 people and wounded 32, security sources said, bringing the death toll in four days of Israeli attacks to 100.

All but four of the dead were civilians. Israel's assault has choked Lebanon's economy and led to an exodus of tourists and foreigners.

Hizbollah rockets, meanwhile, struck deeper into Israel than ever before, wounding eight people and damaging two buildings in the Sea of Galilee town of Tiberias, police said.

The Lebanese Prime Minister demanded an immediate ceasefire to "end Israel's destruction of Lebanon" and called on the United Nations to help his government extend authority to the south.

From the BBC:
In an emotional appeal on Lebanese television, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called for an immediate ceasefire and urged the US to intervene.

"Lebanon is a disaster zone... and (it) pleads to its friends in the world to rush to its aid," he said.

Following emergency talks in Egypt, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the Middle East peace process had failed and urged the UN Security Council to tackle the crisis.

And this not-unbiased commentary, from the Guardian:
The framing of Hizbullah
Israel's response to its soldiers' capture is part of a hamfisted attempt to redraw the region's map

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb in Beirut
Saturday July 15, 2006
The Guardian

The capture of three Israeli soldiers by the Lebanese resistance movement, Hizbullah, to bargain for prisoner exchange should come as no surprise - least of all to Israel, which must bear its own responsibility for the abductions and is using this conflict to pursue its wider strategic aims.

The prisoners Hizbullah wants released are hostages who were taken on Lebanese soil. In the successful prisoner exchange in 2004, Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open. These detentions have become a cause celebre in Lebanon. In a recent poll, efforts to effect their release attracted majority support, much more even than the liberation of Shebaa Farms, the disputed corridor of land between Syria and Lebanon still occupied by Israel.

The domestic significance of these hostages is ignored by those who choose to reduce the abductions to an act of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Indeed Israel's media are aware of recent attempts to capture soldiers, including a botched attempt a few months ago in which three Hizbullah fighters were killed. Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, confirmed the attack took five months to plan. Its timing was probably a coincidence. It would seem, though, Hizbullah exerts some influence over the fighters in Gaza - those who captured Corporal Shalit were at the very least inspired by Hizbullah.

The regional significance of the abductions has also been misconstrued. To suggest Hizbullah attacked on the orders of Tehran and Damascus is to grossly oversimplify a strong strategic and ideological relationship. Historically there has been an overlap of interests between Syria, Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas. Together they form a strategic axis - the "axis of terror" to Israel - that confronts US-Israeli designs to redraw the map of the region.

But the nature of that relationship has changed much over the years. Since Syrian forces left Lebanon, Hizbullah has become the stronger party. It has never allowed any foreign power to dictate its military strategy.

It is ironic, given Israel's bombing of civilian targets in Beirut, that Hizbullah is often dismissed in the west as a terrorist organisation. In fact its military record is overwhelmingly one of conflict with Israeli forces inside Lebanese territory. This is just an example of the way that the west employs an entirely different definition of terrorism to the one used in the Arab world and elsewhere, where there is a recognition that terrorism can come in many forms.

For a view from the other side, Wolf Blitzer's old outfit, the Jerusalem Post:
Prime Minister Fuad Saniora pledged Saturday to extend his government's control over all of Lebanon, signaling he wants to end Hizbullah's autonomy in the south, a top Israeli demand.

But he said he needed the United Nations to first press for a cease-fire to halt Israel's military operation that killed at least 106 Lebanese since Wednesday.

"We call for working to extend the state's authority over all its territories in south Lebanon, in cooperation with the United Nations, and working to recover all Lebanese territories and exercising full sovereignty of the state over those territories," Saniora said in a televised address to the nation.

His voice cracking with emotion, Saniora criticized Hizbullah without naming the group, saying Lebanon "cannot rise and get back on its feet if its government is the last to know."

"The government alone has the legitimate right to decide on matters of peace and war because it represents the will of the Lebanese people," he said.

Saniora said his government would work with the UN to reassert Lebanese authority over its entire territory, but did not elaborate on how.

Israel shrugged off his comments.

"It's an excellent declaration but he doesn't need our permission... We have to see what they do and not what they say," Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Channel 2. He said Lebanon has to prove it is serious by deploying on the southern border.

Saniora also called for the UN to intervene to stop bloody cross-border fighting between Israel and Hizbullah in south Lebanon.

"We call for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire under United Nations auspices," he said.

The call came after four days of an intensive IDF campaign in Lebanon, accompanied by a continuing attack by Hizbullah on Israeli cities and towns, launching some 1,300 rockets in a range extending dozens of kilometers south of the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The IDF destroyed all the radar stations along the Lebanese coast on Saturday, the IDF said in a press conference on Saturday evening.

The IAF attacked Beirut on Saturday evening for the first time in the four-day-old offensive, striking a lighthouse and the Beirut seaport

A helicopter gunship flew into the Lebanese capital from over the Mediterranean and fired a missile at the lighthouse, located at the tip of the city in the Ras Beirut district, witnesses said.

The top glass section of the lighthouse was shattered, but the building, erected two years ago to replace an older one nearby, remained standing.

Witnesses also said the Beirut seaport, the country's main commercial port facility, was also hit, as was the nearby seaport of Jounieh, which houses a Lebanese army base.

A short while earlier, the IAF fired missiles into the seaport of Lebanon's northernmost city of Tripoli in the deepest attack into Lebanese territory since fighting began four days ago.

Witnesses said helicopter gunships and gunboats fired four missiles into the port area, hitting grain silos.

Several explosions were heard in Tripoli, the country's second-largest city, about 100 kilometers north of Beirut. The port there is also the country's second-largest, after Beirut.

Ah yes. Got to hit those "Hezbollian" grain silos...

More links:

A good backgrounder on the conflict, and the groups vying to become Israel's biggest enemy, from The Beeb including this brief history:
Israel in Lebanon:
  • March 1978: Israel invades to stop Palestinian attacks

  • 1982: Full-scale invasion; Israel occupies Beirut; pro-Israel militias massacre Palestinian refugees

  • May 1983: Israel pulls back, but keeps "security zone"

  • February 1992: Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah leader

  • 1996: Israel launches "Grapes of Wrath" raids on Hezbollah; 100 civilians die under Israeli shelling of UN base at Qana

  • May 2000: Israel withdraws troops from Lebanon

  • January 2004: Prisoners-bodies swap agreed between Hezbollah and Israel


Also, here's a summary of world reaction to Israel's military campaign.

Update: More links on the Israeli-Lebanese conflict:

Robert Fisk on the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

Steven Lendman writes for the Center for Research on Globalisation that it's time to end the "last taboo" and hold Israel accountable for its actions.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 3:53 PM  
Friday, July 14, 2006
Crazy in Scarborough Country
The Miami Herald has a sad and bizarre story of the start of Katherine Harris' escape from reality
TALLAHASSEE - Katherine Harris' floundering U.S. Senate campaign lost its high-level staff again this week and is groping for a message -- which doesn't surprise Republican insiders who trace the seeds of her trouble to the story of ``Joe's dead intern.''

This wasn't any old Joe.

It was Joe Scarborough, host of the prime-time MSNBC show Scarborough Country and a former Pensacola Republican congressman who was courted last summer by national Republicans to run against Harris. But before he could announce he wouldn't, Harris called major donors and suggested Scarborough would have to answer questions about the strange death of a former staff member in 2001, according to two former high-level Harris staff members, a GOP donor and Scarborough.

''That was the first clue that something wasn't right with Katherine Harris,'' Scarborough told The Miami Herald in a recent interview, noting that a medical examiner found his staff member's death was natural and not the result of foul play.

Harris, through a spokeswoman, denied Scarborough's account, saying she ''would never insinuate publicly or privately'' that he did anything untoward.

But her former staff members say they expected her to deny the previously untold anecdote, which they say marked the beginning of the Harris campaign's tailspin. Since then, Harris has been dogged by her connections to an indicted defense contractor and by heavy staff turnover from last fall through Thursday, when five top aides announced their departure a day after her spokesman quit. Her campaign had issued a news release Wednesday suggesting only spokesman Chris Ingram was leaving.

SIMILAR COMPLAINTS

In explaining his decision to leave, campaign manager Glenn Hodas echoed predecessors Jamie Miller and Jim Dornan. Miller had said the campaign wasn't good for Harris' health. Dornan said Harris had been erratic, temperamental and sometimes unfair -- and tried to blame him for the ''Joe's dead intern'' story when a furious Scarborough called, demanding to know what happened.

''This [story] encapsulates everything wrong with her as a candidate,'' Dornan said. 'She reacted without thinking. She made stuff up. She called people she had no business calling. And when confronted with the insanity of her -- I use this term lightly -- `strategy,' she denied it and tried to blame someone else.''

Dornan left the campaign in November. Miller, Republican heavyweight Ed Rollins and media guru Adam Goodman departed in April with a few others.

The latest to leave Thursday with Hodas and Ingram: field director Pat Thomas, deputy field director John Byers, political director Brian Brooks and staff member Stephen Gately. Ingram said he needed to get back to his family and private business, and Hodas said he needed to go home to Illinois-based Hodas and Associates.

''I wish Katherine Harris the best,'' Hodas said, ``but it appears all the old patterns are repeating themselves: Tantrums. Minor things cause her to blow. She doesn't take advice. Micromanaging to the Nth degree. It's nothing new. But I didn't have the energy to move on with the campaign, considering everything.''

A big consideration: polls. Nearly all predict Harris will lose by 20 to 30 percentage points against the incumbent, Democrat Bill Nelson.

But Harris said Republican Party polls show she will win with 53 percent of the vote if Republicans turn out the way they did in 2004 for now-U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.

''You hear all of this discussion in the media -- it's designed to discourage you. Don't let it,'' she told a crowd at a June campaign event in Orange Park. ``It's designed to drive our polls down. Don't pay attention.''
Yes, Kathy, just keep watching the pretty lights ... pretty lights... oh, and there's this interesting nugget in the story (watch for the last sentence...):
Gov. Jeb Bush has said that Harris ''can't win'' and ``the campaign can't be about her.''

But Bush's prediction might have been self-fulfilling. The governor tried to recruit Allan Bense, speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, to run against Harris in the spring as well as in 2005 -- thereby making it tough to raise the big sums needed from well-heeled Republican Party loyalists.

''It definitely hurt fundraising. It drove her crazy, but it didn't take long to get her there,'' said Rollins, Harris' former advisor and a top Reagan Republican strategist.

QUESTIONS SURFACED

Rollins said he finally resigned after Harris' ''story kept changing'' with regard to two high-price dinners she had with subsequently-convicted defense contractor Mitchell Wade, from whom she unwittingly accepted $32,000 in laundered campaign contributions. Rollins said Harris met Wade through convicted bribe-taking congressman Duke Cunningham. Harris has pledged to donate the $32,000 to charity.

As questions surfaced about Harris' connections to Wade, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, head of Republican senatorial campaigns, approached Scarborough to run because he was one of the few who could match Harris' star power and fundraising in a Republican primary.
In other words, Ed Rollins knows when to get out of the way of a scandal. He's the one, after all, who first used the term "hookergate" on television, on CNN.

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posted by JReid @ 10:28 PM  
Anger over the Diana photos
I originally intended to post an entry about the Diana photos that are causing such outrage across Great Britain, since I found the link to the pic and found it to be, while fascinating, not at all gruesome. But then I thought better of it. How awful for her sons, nearly nine years after her tragic death, to have to confront their loss all over again. So I'm rewriting the post, and will only link to this story, with no pic. The link is out there. Feel free to find it on your own (some mags are even edging awfully close to showing the image, even while condemning it...). As for me, having lost my mother, I understand how the Princes of Wales must feel, and I just can't post it. That'll do it then. Done for the day.
posted by JReid @ 9:48 PM  
Bush at war
We may be witnessing the start of World War III, but at least the leader of the free world is right on top of things...

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posted by JReid @ 7:17 PM  
Hell ... handbasket optional
CNN just reported that as yet, President Bush has not spoken to Ehud Olmert. Wha??? Talk about being a bit player in the drama of all dramas. Condi Rice is left to pretty much fend for herself while literally, the Middle East burns...

CNN also reports that the Pentagon is preparing to airlift some 25,000 U.S. citizens out of Beirut, which will be tricky since Israel is destroying Lebanon's infrastructure, including the airport runways in that city. And if the U.S. sends in military units to get our people out, and some of the civilians or military people are killed, what the hell happens then? Do we get sucked into the war? With all of this on the table, exactly what is Mr. Bush waiting for to intervene? Perhaps he's waiting for Israel to finish his neocon friends' little project...

Here's the latest in the Lebanese quandary, where Hezbollah is saying bring on the war, while the government there is pleading for peace and for help from the impotent United Nations.

Meanwhile, oil prices are soaring, the Dow is sinking ... not that that is more important than the human lives being wasted on both sides of this truly scary conflict...

Update: Israel has taken out the Palestinian economic ministry. What that has to do with getting its soldiers back from Hezbollah is anybody's guess. But it's clear that destroying every facet of Arab infrastructure, and cutting the legs out from under the Palestinians is a major part of the plan. One question though: if Israel decimates civil society in Lebanon and Palestine, what do they think will fill the vaccum? More terrorism is a good guess.

Also, reports say an Israeli passenger ship was attacked by Hezbollah:
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah reportedly rammed an Israeli warship with an unmanned aircraft rigged with explosives Friday, setting it ablaze after Israeli warplanes smashed Lebanon's links to the world one by one and destroyed the headquarters and home of the Islamic guerrilla group's leader.

The attack on the warship off Beirut's Mediterranean coast indicated Hezbollah has added a new weapon to the arsenal of rockets and mortars it has used against Israel.

The Israeli army said the ship suffered severe damage and was on fire hours later as it headed home. There were no details on the ship's crew, though Al-Jazeera TV said the Israeli military was searching for four missing sailors.

And the president has issued a rather supine call for Israeli restraint, even as the Saudis issue some surprising criticism of Hezbollah's "uncalculated adventures" which are clearly undermining the already weak Lebanese government.

Unfortunately, the extremists on both sides are getting what they want, even as civilians suffer.

Over at Newsweek, Eleanor Clift, who is just back from the Lebanon/Israel border, codifies my speculation:
The rise of a political center in Israel is the most important political development since the right-wing Likud displaced the liberal Labor Party in 1977. But Kadima, which means “forward” in Hebrew, is still more of a mood than an ideology, and the rise of extremist groups like Hamas and Hizbullah threaten Kadima’s very reason for being. The coalition headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is the first totally civilian government, and there is no one in power with real military leadership experience. Israelis agree on one thing: that if you convey weakness to the Arab world, the consequences on the ground will be disastrous. Olmert must be tough, but he has done it in ways that are counterproductive. For example, we were told that the initial bombing of Gaza took out the transformers that supply electricity. Transformers have to be ordered from abroad, which takes time. In the meantime, Gaza gets 50-60 percent of its electricity from Israel anyway, and having bombed Gaza’s electric plants, Israel had to boost the supply it was sending into Gaza. It’s hard to see what Israel gained from this venture other than worldwide condemnation.

Washington recoils from anything that looks like collective punishment on the Palestinians. But practicing restraint in urban warfare is an oxymoron. The fact that President Bush has two more years in office is vital to how Olmert handles this crisis. Bush is popular in Israel even though he didn’t take an activist approach to solving the Palestinian question. It’s understood that Bush will green light just about anything the Israelis do.

In Israel, we heard repeatedly that this is the first phase of the next war and that it’s about more than Hamas and Hizbullah, it’s about Syria and Iran, and stopping an Iranian nuclear weapon program. There’s a growing realization in Israel that given Bush’s domestic weakness, this may require a unilateral Israeli strike. We were told the only thing that frightens Israel more is no one doing it.
In other words, the weakness of what Clift on the Drunken Master's "McLaughlin Group" tonight called our "ineffective authoritarian" (as opposed to the highly effective authoritarian Vlad Putin...) is feeding the beast of Middle East war.

And the reason for Bush's weakness? The collossal, all-time blunder called the invasion of Iraq.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 6:18 PM  
Out of the woodwork, into the crazy
When you spend a great deal of time trashing the New York Times for treason, and calling for thier building to be blown up and their editors hanged, you eventually bring out the crazies on your side. Right wing Bushbots, meet your crazies.
NEW YORK A mysterious white powder sent to The New York Times today was found by a mailroom employee and sparked an evacuation of the building's eighth floor, while police determined if the substance is dangerous.

One employee, a 54-year-old from Brooklyn, was sent to a hospital for examination, but he appeared unharmed. The envelope also included an editorial with an "X" through it. A Times spokeswoman, Catherine Mathis, told E&P that the editorial was the June 28, 2006 defense of the newspaper deciding to run its controversial "Swift" banking records surveillance story.

Later in the afternoon, the Times announced: "New York City authorities have confirmed that the powdery substance found in a business envelope addressed to The New York Times and opened by a mailroom worker this afternoon has been field tested and determined to be nonthreatening and nonhazardous." The substance is now believed to be most likely cornstarch.

Mathis said an employee in the paper's postal service department discovered the powder after opening an envelope at about 12:30 p.m. She said it was addressed only to the Times, with no specific person named as a recipient. The envelope had no return address or name, but had been postmarked from Philadelphia.

"There was a powder white substance that fell out, but it did not fall on him," she said of the employee who opened the envelope. "He followed our procedure and put it in envelope and we contacted police. They will do testing to determine if it is a dangerous substance." She said no other parts of the newspaper were evacuated.

It was considered a particular threat because of the X-ed editorial. A Times account related that elite police officers "donned biohazard suits, quarantined the employee essentially by having him wait in a bathroom as they turned off the air conditioning system to avoid re-circulating air in the event some kind of dangerous substance had been unleashed. The officers wanted to separate the employee in the bathroom to await decontamination."


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posted by JReid @ 6:05 PM  
World condemns Israeli aggression while Washington dithers, London quivers
Call me cynical, but Israel's furious assault on Lebanon, including exporting its brutal policy of assassinations and strafing civilian neighborhoods from the West Bank and Gaza to it's old occupation ground in Beirut, strikes me as an oppotunistic attempt to push forward an unfinished agenda that began with Iraq. As you'll recall, Israel dearly wanted the U.S. to get rid of Saddam Hussein for them, and Tel Aviv's bosom friends in Washington (Rumsfeld, Pearl, Feith, Cambone and the other neocon faithful, including the out-of-body experiences known as Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and the staff at the Deocon New Republic,) foressaw a dream scenario of first taking out Hussein, and then spreading the regime change to Damascus, Beirut and the ultimate prize, Tehran. The U.S., bogged down in Baghdad, has flinched from the "Bush doctrine" (which in reality is simply the Project for a New American Century rewritten in Condi's handwriting. So Israel seems to be pressing the issue, pushing for all out war with Lebanon, which I can only imagine will be followed by an offensive strike at Syria, and perhaps preemptive war-making against suspected nuclear sites in Iran.

Of course, the Bush-bots and American Likudniks are salivating for this, and I'm sure they laud the fortitude of the Israelis versus the backpeddling of the Bushies.

But would such a war be in the best interests of the region, Europe and Asia (which so depend on Gulf oil) and the United States? The answer would appear to be "no," not that the Israelis give a damn about any interests other than a single one: ridding itself of all but the most docile Muslims around them (which docility is proving harder to find than perhaps the Israelis imagined.)

This is not to say that there are not bad actors in Syria, Iran and throughout the region. Hezbollah, Hamas and the metastasizing strains of al-Qaida represent a real terrorist threat. But the first two groups also represent large, complex political movements, which are deeply embedded, not just in some amorphous "terrorist infrastructure," but in the populations and governments of major countries in the region (Lebanon, Syria) and one comprises the majority elected government of the Palestinian people, who by the way, remain landless, simply because the Israelis wish them to be, and the Americans and Europeans allow them to be.

The situation in the Middle East is much more complicated than "Arabs/Muslims: bad, Israelis: good." The Israelis are also guilty of brutality, land greed and water and resource theft. They have bulldozed homes, torn up olive groves and humliated an entire people (whom Golda Meir snidely said do not exist). They have no right to continue colonizing Palestinian land, and should not expect the world (with the exception of their pet, the United States) to stand idly by while they wage Bushian pre-emptive war against the civilian population of Lebanon.

The world does not owe Israel its allegiance. The U.S. should not act as if we owe them our contrition.

Enough ranting. Here are the headlines.

The Vatican has condemned Israel's assault on Beirut, as have most other world powers. Washington, meanwhile, is as meek as a lamb:
PARIS - Major US allies Friday condemned the ferocity of Israel's military attack on Lebanon, revealing a clear split with Washington's moderate call for restraint.

Cries of alarm mounted worldwide after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered armed forces to intensify the offensive in response to rockets hitting towns in northern Israel, killing two and wounding 50.

As the civilian death toll in Lebanon mounted above 60 and Israeli warplanes hit buildings, roads and Beirut airport, French President Jacques Chirac questioned whether Israel was seeking Lebanon's destruction.

"One may well ask if there isn't today a kind of wish to destroy Lebanon -- its infrastructure, its roads, its communications, its energy, its airport. And for what?

"I find honestly -- as all Europeans do -- that the current reactions are totally disproportionate," he said in a live television interview on France's national Bastille Day.

Chirac's comments, echoed across most of Europe and in much of the rest of the world, conflicted with US President George W. Bush's dogged defence of Israel's right to defend itself.

Bush has not publicly criticized the scale of the Israeli assault, blaming Lebanese militia group Hezbollah and radical Palestinian Hamas for sparking the crisis.

Hezbollah guerrillas seized two Israeli servicemen Wednesday, leading to Israel's first ground incursion since it ended its occupation of the south of the country in 2000.

Bush telephoned Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, however, vowing to push Israel to limit the damage it is wreaking in Lebanon.

"President Bush asserted that he will exert pressure on Israel to limit damage inflicted on Lebanon through the ongoing military operation," said a statement from Siniora's office.

Around the rest of world, however, leaders bluntly condemned Israel's response.

"In my view, Israel is making a mistake," said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. "It will only lead to an escalation of the violence."

In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he recognized Israel's legitimate concerns and condemned the kidnapping of the soldiers.

But "we deplore the escalation in the use of force, the serious damage to Lebanese infrastructure and the civilian casualties of the raids," the Italian leader added.

The Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Sodano, said: "The Holy See deplores the attack on Lebanon, a free and sovereign country," adding that he felt for the people "who had already suffered in defence of their independence."

Germany called on Israel to consider the longer term impact of its strike on Lebanon.

"On the one hand, Israel has the internationally recognised right to self defence. But at the same time we ask our Israeli friends and partners not to lose sight of the long-term consequences when they exercise this right," German deputy government spokesman Jens Ploetner said.

"Here we think care should be taken about the situation in Lebanon, which is a fragile entity as a state and could be further destabilised," he added.

Already, Israel has imposed an air and sea blockade on Lebanon, shut the only international airport by bombing its runways and damaged the main Beirut-Damascus highway.

Iran, which with Syria is a sponsor of Hezbollah, called on the United Nations to step in. "The international community and the UN must intervene to stop this crime," Iraninan Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said during a visit to Greece.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted by the state news agency Antara as saying: "Indonesia repeats its call for Israel to stop its military action."

I wonder how Tony Blair will react? Oh yes, that's right, with the docility of a golden retriever perched lovingly at George Dubya's slippered feet:
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for restraint on all sides but kept closer to the US line.

"I totally understand the desire and the need for Israel to defend itself properly and I also understand the plight of Lebanon and the Lebanese government, not to say the many Palestinians that are suffering as well," Blair said in London.
Good old Tony, consistent as ever. Gooooood boy... (I can't wait until he steps aside. Can you?)

Meanwhile:
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was meeting with Bush before hosting a summit of Group of Eight powers in Saint Petersburg, said he would formally place the Middle East crisis on the agenda.

"I consider that all sides implicated in this conflict should immediately stop military action," Putin said.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said it had summoned Israel's ambassador to protest over the military strikes.

"We feel the Israeli attacks on Lebanon are completely unacceptable," Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne Lene Dale Sandsten said on Norwegian national radio NRK.

Meanwhile, there's a glimpse of common sense from Senator John Warner of Virginia:
In response to the Wednesday cross-border raid in which eight IDF soldiers were killed and two kidnapped, and the firing of hundreds of Katyusha rockets at northern Israel from Lebanon, Israel launched its biggest military campaign against Lebanon in 24 years.

Sen. John W. Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, issued a written statement Friday calling on the Bush administration to "think through very carefully how Israel's extraordinary reaction could affect our operations in Iraq and our joint diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.

"This is a very critical time for the US in the Middle East, and the Israeli actions will certainly have an impact beyond Lebanon and Gaza," Warner warned.

Other developments:

An Israeli warship was damaged by an explosive laden UAV the Jerusalem Post is reporting...

Palestinians are streaming back into Gaza from a formerly closed crossing with Egypt, after blowing down a border barrier...

The Vatican's harsh condemnation of Israel will not likely move Tel Aviv, or their partisans in the U.S. Instead, Israel's prime minister is making at least part of his government's intentions clear:
Israel will not halt its offensive in Lebanon until Hizbullah is disarmed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Friday.

Olmert made the comments during a telephone call with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Israeli government officials said Friday. Olmert agreed to allow a U.N. team come to the area to try to mediate a cease-fire, an official close to Olmert said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Israel launched a major offensive in southern Lebanon Wednesday after Hizbullah killed eight Israeli soldiers and captured two more.

Since then, at least 61 Lebanese have been killed in Israel's retaliatory offensive, and Hizbullah terrorists have rained scores of rockets on northern Israel, killing two civilians.

Olmert said he would only cooperate with the U.N. team if its mandate would be to free the captured Israeli soldiers and force Lebanon to comply with a U.N. resolution that calls on it to deploy its forces along its border with Israel, moving Hizbullah guerrillas out of the area, the official said.


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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 5:11 PM  
Bombing the suburbs
So far, 45 Lebanese civilians have been killed in the Israeli bombardment of suburbs in Beirut. How long until Israel extends their pretextual strikes to suspected nuclear facilities in Iran and convenient governmental targets in Damascus?

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 10:19 AM  
Advice for the Israel-lorn
Steve Clemons has the scoop on Condi's travails with her counterparts in Israel, and he has some advice for the president.

There are so many questions that the conflagration in the Middle East raises, but chief among them, I think, is whether Israel is using the kidnapping of two of its soldiers as an excuse to mount all-out war on three enemies it dearly wants to take out: the governments of Syria, Iran and the Palestinian authority, with the bombardment of Lebanon (could re-occupation be far off???) as a pretext for wider (U.S.-assisted?) war. Israel doesn't exactly have an international reputation for equanimity (except in the U.S., where our politicans are well bought and paid for by AIPAC), and where our veto-shield flies over Israel at the U.N. ...

Updates on what's happening can be found on MSNBC.com.

Lebanon is reportedly seeking a cease-fire with Israel. I'll bet any money it won't happen.

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Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza

posted by JReid @ 9:43 AM  
Kylwinked
You've got to love the chutzpah of Senators John Kyl and Lindsey Graham. These two clowns actually sat down and made up an entire Senate hearing that never happened, just to further the cause of kissing the Bush administration's collective posterior.

Here's the short version, courtesy of the Carpetbagger Report (read ... and laugh):
I was talking to someone last week about the Hamdan case at the Supreme Court and my friend mentioned a "fraudulent argument" Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) presented to the court. I hadn't heard about it, so I assumed the Republicans had made a misleading, Bush-friendly case.
As it turns out, when my friend said "fraudulent," he meant "fraudulent."
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) drafted a fictional account of a supposed debate they had on the Senate floor and submitted it to the Supreme Court in an effort to convince the Court that it did not have jurisdiction over the recent Hamdan case. Hamdan's lawyers, however, spotted the hoax. They told the Court that the legislative history was entirely invented after-the-fact, and that it consisted of "a single scripted colloquy that never actually took place, but was instead inserted into the record after the legislation had passed."

The brief noted that this Graham-Kyl colloquy was "simply an effort to achieve after passage of the Act precisely what [they] failed to achieve in the legislative process." The insertion of the added comments was noted and rejected by the court.
In fact, Graham and Kyl went to considerable lengths to try pull this stunt off. The phony transcript of Kyl, for example, quotes the Arizona senator as saying, "Mr. President, I see that we are nearing the end of our allotted time." The same transcript shows the two also added an interruption from Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to help add to the authenticity of the Senate debate that never actually happened in reality.

John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, said the two tried to pull a "blatant scam." Graham responded by saying, "I know what I've done. I've done it before and I'll do it again."
And here's a lengthier treatment of the scamola, courtesy of the great
John Dean:
Last week, the Supreme Court issued its historic decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. There, it dealt a substantial blow to the Bush/Cheney Administration's plans for the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and, potentially, elsewhere as well - ruling out, for instance, the option of using military commissions without due process to try detainees.

The decision itself has been widely discussed. Less widely discussed, however, has been its backstory.

The Bush/Cheney Administration has been doing everything possible to keep its treatment of purported terrorist detainees out of the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court. To assist the Administration, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona engaged in a blatant scam that was revealed during the briefing of Hamdan.

Senators Graham and Kyl not only misled their Senate colleagues, but also shamed their high offices by trying to deliberately mislead the U.S. Supreme Court. Their effort failed. I have not seen so blatant a ploy, or abuse of power, since Nixon's reign. ...

...Graham and Kyl's Ghosted Legislative History

Given the fact the Administration was fighting tooth and nail to defeat Senator McCain's prohibitions against torture, which were also part of this legislation, it did not exactly sail through the House of Representatives. While there was some effort in the House to change the language relating to habeas actions, that effort failed, and the provisions as agreed upon in the Senate remained.

When the conference report came back to the Senate on December 21, 2005, the Congressional Record reported a lengthy colloquy between Senators Graham and Kyl, briefly joined by Senator Brownback. (This extended dialogue runs some 12,000 words.) In this discussion of the meaning of the legislation, Graham and Kyl make several startling statements -- none more so than those that concerned the jurisdiction of federal courts over pending habeas petitions.

"So once this bill is signed into law, you anticipate that the Supreme Court will determine whether to maintain their grant of certiorari [in the Hamdan case]?" Graham asked Kyl. Kyl answered, "Yes, in my opinion, the court should dismiss Hamdan for want of jurisdiction. . . . I think that a majority of the court would do the right thing--to send Hamdan back to the military commission." (Emphasis added.)

In other words, after previously insisting - and to address Senator Levin's very specific concern on this score - that the revised language would in no way strip the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over Hamdan, Kyl was now maintaining exactly the opposite, with Graham's full cooperation.

Kyl continued, "As for legislative history" -- which he and Graham, his reference implied, were clearly making right then on the floor of the Senate -- "I think it usually is regarded as an element of the canons of [statutory] construction. It gives some indication of what Congress at least understood what it was doing--the context in which a law was enacted. Although, I understand that Justice Scalia does not read legislative history. I suppose that for his sake, we will have to strive to be exceptionally clear in the laws that we write." (Ironically, one reason Scalia disregards legislative history appears to be that he is well aware that Senators have been known to distort it.)

Those viewing C-Span's coverage of the Senate, and the Senators on the floor of the Senate, never heard this part, or any of the rest of, this lengthy colloquy between Graham and Kyl. That's because it never happened. No doubt aides of the Senators wrote this bogus and protracted dialogue, and either Graham or Kyl had it inserted in the record.

I first became aware of it when Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, wrote about it, after she confirmed the colloquy had never happened. As she noted, inserting comments into the Congressional Record is "standard practice." But what is "utterly nonstandard is implying to the Supreme Court" that Senate debate was live, when it most certainly was not. "When a senator wants to put a statement into the record," Bazelon noted, "he or she signs it, and writes 'live' on it, and, with the routine consent of the rest of the body, into the record it goes." This fact was not revealed by Graham and Kyl in their brief, however.

The Graham-Kyl Amicus Brief in Hamdan

In February 2006, Senators Graham and Kyl filed their amicus brief in the Hamdan case, supporting the Government's motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction under the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). If they had been keeping faith with Senator Levin and the rest of their colleagues, they should have filed a brief on precisely the other side - making clear that the DTA, as amended, had had no intention to touch the Supreme Court's pending Hamdan case, and thus opposing the government's motion!

Instead, Graham and Kyl advised the Court they were sponsors of the Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment, and throughout their brief, cited their fictitious colloquy on December 21, 2005. Indeed, that colloquy is the core of their brief and its argument as to why the Court should dismiss the Hamdan case. Their hubris reaches the point of deception when they claim that the "legislative history confirms that Congress intended all pending claims to be governed by the DTA."

"In an extensive colloquy (which appears in the Congressional Record prior to the Senate's adoption of the Conference Report), Senators Graham and Kyl made it clear that the statute 'extinguish[es] one type of action - all of the actions now in the courts - and create[s] in their place a very limited judicial review of certain military administrative decisions." (This misleading statement is cited again later in the brief.)

Absent this bogus colloquy, in which the brief quotes Senator Graham as saying "I want our colleagues to know exactly what they will be agreeing to," there was actually no dispute throughout the deliberation of the Graham-Levin-Kyl language in the House or Senate as to the fact that the DTA would not retroactively remove the jurisdiction of the federal courts over pending cases. Indeed, it is unlikely any of Graham and Kyl's colleagues were aware of this dispute, which was manufactured after the fact.

Remarkably, the government's brief, too, relied on the same sham exchange when seeking dismissal of the Hamdan case.
Priceless.

Tags: News, News and politics, Politics, Current Affairs, News, , Congress, Bush, Republicans, John Kyl, Lindsey Graham,
posted by JReid @ 8:45 AM  
That darned constitution
The Bush administration begins the long, slow walkback from the unitary executive.
WASHINGTON, July 13 — After months of resistance, the White House agreed Thursday to allow a secret intelligence court to review the legality of the National Security Agency’s program to conduct wiretaps without warrants on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists.

If approved by Congress, the deal would put the court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, in the unusual position of deciding whether the wiretapping program is a legitimate use of the president’s power to fight terrorism. The aim of the plan, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told reporters, would be to “test the constitutionality” of the program.

The plan, brokered over the last three weeks in negotiations between Senator Arlen Specter and senior White House officials, including President Bush himself, would apparently leave the secretive intelligence court free to consider the case in closed proceedings, without the kind of briefs and oral arguments that are usually part of federal court consideration of constitutional issues. The court’s ruling in the matter could also remain secret.

The court would be able to determine whether the program is “reasonably designed” to focus on the communications of actual terrorism suspects and people in the United States who communicate with them. That determination is now left entirely in the hands of the security agency under an internal checklist.

If the court were to rule the program unconstitutional, the attorney general could refine and resubmit it or, conversely, appeal the decision to the FISA appellate court and ultimately perhaps the Supreme Court, officials said.

Mr. Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, predicted that the proposal, with the White House’s backing, would win approval in the Senate and the House. But it met with some immediate skepticism on Thursday from both Republicans and Democrats over whether it went far enough — or too far — in checking the president’s authority.

The proposed legislation represents a middle-ground approach among the myriad proposals in Congress for dealing with the wiretapping controversy, which has allowed the security agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mail of thousands of people in the United States with ties to terrorism suspects.

Some Democratic critics of the program have proposed that it effectively be banned and that all wiretapping should have to be approved by the intelligence court. Some Republican supporters have sought to sanction its continued use without any judicial oversight at all.

By giving the intelligence court a clear role in the program, Mr. Specter said, the proposal seeks to create balance between giving the president the powers he needs to fight terrorism and ensuring some measure of judicial oversight to guard against abuses.

“It’s an acknowledgment to the president that he can fight terrorism and still have the court review his program,” Mr. Specter said. “And I think it allays a lot of concerns.”

No, actually the concerns about the program are still there. And anything brokered by mealy-mouthed Arlen is suspect as to whether it will have any real teeth with which to reign in the out of control White House. But the idea that the Congress even believes it has the power to even attempt oversight of the White House is a good signal, that at least the members believe they have ... uh ... actual power under the Constitution!

Of course, this latest Specterism fails to explain why the president simply doesn't ... say ... FOLLOW THE LAW, which requires each incident of domestic wiretapping to be approved by the FISA court. But then, that would be too much to ask of ole, Arlen.
In a separate interview, Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said she saw the Specter-White House agreement as an “end run” around the FISA law requiring the approval of individual wiretapping warrants.

“I have great respect for this guy,” she said of Mr. Specter, “but he hasn’t been briefed on this program, and he’s giving away in this legislation a core Fourth Amendment protection by basically saying that the FISA court has permission to bless the entire program, which will abandon as best I can tell the requirement of individualized warrants.”

Ms. Harman, who has introduced legislation of her own to restrict the program, said, “If we want to abandon a core Fourth Amendment protection, we should get on the Specter train, and I don’t plan to get on that train.” Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union called the agreement a “sham” that was “nothing short of a capitulation by Chairman Specter to the White House.”
Good luck, Jane. Maybe after November we can get this straight.

Update: ThinkProgress has the expected Specterisms in the new FISA compromise:
An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bill’s language gives the president the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement.
Specter appears to have received assurances from the White House that, if his bill is passed without changes, Bush would agree to exercise the option and submit the warrantless wiretapping program to the court for a judgment on its constitutionality. This compromise is a sham because it makes optional what Bush is already required to do. Under the FISA law, the administration can wiretap persons inside the U.S. But it is required to demonstrate that the targets are agents of a foreign power, like al Qaeda or their affiliates.

At least Specter is consistent.

Tags: , NSA, Bush, Politics, Terrorism, surveillance, CONSTITUTION, spying
posted by JReid @ 6:35 AM  
Thursday, July 13, 2006
The power of discovery
Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, have finally sued the bastards. As anyone who remembers Paula Jones knows, lawsuits can have a powerful impact on public information, because the discovery process often unearths things politicians (and reticent prosecutors) would just as soon keep under wraps. Most importantly of all, perhaps, if the suit goes forward, the Wilsons' lawyers get to depose the vice president, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and others in pursuit of a verdict in their favor. Gotta love that.

The story:
The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of revealing Plame’s CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration’s motives in Iraq.

Several news organizations wrote about Plame after syndicated columnist Robert Novak named her in a column on July 14, 2003. Novak’s column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

The Central Intelligence Agency had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Saddam Hussein’s government had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation nevertheless wound up in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

The lawsuit accuses Cheney, Libby, Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons’ and their children’s lives at risk by exposing Plame.

“This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of ... (Plame), whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country,” the Wilsons’ lawyers said in the lawsuit.

Specifically, the suit accuses the White House officials of violating the Wilsons’ constitutional rights to equal protection and freedom of speech. It also accuses the officials of violating the couple’s privacy rights.


Read the indictment here.

Too bad this evil schmuck couldn't be named in the lawsuite, too.

Also, look for Valerie Plame, the the memoir.

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posted by JReid @ 8:08 PM  
Blitzer's bias
If there is a more biased figure in the televised media than CNN's Wolf Blitzer, I would be interested in finding out who he or she is. Blitzers interviews today with the Israeli and Syrian ambassadors tp the U.S. on the subject of the escalating war in the Middle East coulnd't have been more different. With the Israeli ambassador, Blitzer was solicitous, even posing the incredible question of "what can we do" about the deteriorating situation. We??? Would that be we Israelis or we in the United States, Wolf? Mr. Blitzer, a former flak for the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- though you'd never know it from his CNN bio -- has consistently carried on that job in another form in his capacity as CNN host. He doesn't even try to hide his affinity for his Israeli guests, or his partisanship for their cause, while turning instantly to prosecutorial mode when questioning any guest who has the dumb luck to be an Arab or Muslim in King Blitzer's court. It's actually quite stunning how brazen Blitzer's bias has become. At this stage, should not CNN disclose to its viewers Blitzer's background as a stenographer for the powerful lobbying group that holds the whip hand over Republican and Dmeocratic members of Congress alike, and whose role in a certain series of Iran-related spying cases raises troubling questions about whether foreign agents are operating inside the United States, with the purpose of screening American foreign policy in the Middle East for the government in Tel Aviv? (Or twisting it on Israel's behalf...)

Blitzer's behavior is not only anti-journalistic, it's irresponsible and transparantly ideological. If he wants to do an editorial program promoting the interests of a foreign government (Israel,) he should petition his bosses at the network to do just that. Otherwise, if he is purporting to do "news," he should stick to the news, and put aside his AIPAC flak jacket. (Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha didn't fare much better with MSNBC's resident twitterbug Norah "Giggles" O'Donnell, who even managed to characterize the U.S. veto of a U.N. resultuion condemning Israel's use of excessive force in Gaza as a repudiation of criticism of Israel by the Security Council...)

Shame on CNN for allowing this spectacle to go on.

(BTW, loved the insertion of Martin Indyk of all people as an "analyst." Yeah. No bias there, CNN...)

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posted by JReid @ 5:31 PM  
Everybody hates Kathy: crazy as a bedbug edition
Ms. Katherine Harris is losing her senior campaign staff again...

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posted by JReid @ 1:05 PM  
Hell in a handbasket
What a hell of a time for the U.S. to have become a paper Gulliver, tied down by strings we made ourselves, and nearly powerless to stop the mud from sliding:

The Bush administration suddenly faces three rapidly expanding crises in the Middle East, but it has limited options to defuse tensions in any of them anytime soon, U.S. officials and Middle East experts say.

Israel has sent troops into Gaza and Lebanon over three captured soldiers -- one held by Hamas in Gaza and two seized yesterday by Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States and its allies set a collision course with Iran over its nuclear program. And there is mounting concern that Iraq's sectarian violence is crossing the threshold to a full-blown civil war.

A common thread in the three crises is Iran -- for its support of the two Islamist groups, its alleged funding and arming of Iraqi militias and extremist groups, and its refusal to give a final response to the Western package of incentives designed to prevent it from converting a peaceful energy program into one to develop nuclear weapons.

"There seems to be a hand in each one of these -- Iran's and Syria's," Assistant Secretary of State C. David Welch said in a telephone interview from Amman, Jordan. "Today does cross a threshold because, as Hezbollah has now said, this action was planned. It was intended to escalate and widen the battleground."

U.S. tensions with Iran have not been this high -- or covered so many issues -- since the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, said Shaul Bakhash, an Iran expert at George Mason University. Shortly after Iran's 1979 revolution, 52 Americans were seized at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held hostage for 444 days.

The common tactic in the three crises appears to be daring defiance by Iran and its allies, particularly in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, to gain position at the same time they are facing mounting pressures. "Here you have actors who are basically pariahs who are trying to find their way back in. They're doing it the way they know best -- brinksmanship," said Robert Malley, director of the International Crisis Group's Middle East program. "They want to change the rules of the game."

Because of the simultaneous crises, the Bush administration is poised to use the Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations in Moscow this week to rally support against Iran as a bad actor unwilling to embrace the standards of the international community, U.S. officials say. The United States is also pushing for a new resolution at the United Nations next week on Iran's failure to suspend uranium enrichment.

The White House said it is holding Iran and Syria responsible for the flare-up along Lebanon's border because of their long-standing support for Hezbollah. It charged that the seizure of two soldiers was deliberately timed to "exacerbate already high tensions in the region and sow further violence.

"Hezbollah's actions are not in the interest of the Lebanese people, whose welfare should not be held hostage to the interests of the Syrian and Iranian regimes," a statement said.

Iran's role differs in each crisis, as do the issues.

The most pressing is the new violence along Israel's borders. Overnight, the confrontation with Hamas mushroomed dramatically into a confrontation that includes Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Iran is using Hezbollah to improve its own leverage, analysts say.

"The Iranians think they have a regional role," Bakhash said. "If the Israelis are beating up the Palestinians in Gaza, they may feel compelled as supporters of the Palestinian cause to have Hezbollah take a stand at this difficult moment." Hezbollah was founded in 1982 with the funding, arms and training by Iranian Revolutionary Guards dispatched to Lebanon after Israel's invasion.

On the nuclear issue, Tehran has taken a tough position on its right to enrich uranium for its civilian energy program, which is allowed under terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but which can be subverted for a nuclear weapon. Iran says that the United States particularly wants it to surrender this right to undermine its long-term development as a modern nation. But several Western nations are convinced Iran is intent on procuring a nuclear weapons capability.

In Iraq, Iran has fostered sectarianism by aiding fellow Shiites in powerful militias, including renegade cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq's Badr Brigades, which were originally trained in Iran, U.S. officials say. The militias have defied calls to disarm, undermining the control of the new government and preventing smaller Sunni militias from cooperating as well. U.S. officials say Iran's goal is to prevent stability and a U.S. victory in Iraq that might lead to pressure on Iran.

The Bush administration has few ways of directly pressuring Iran on any of the three fronts. "They have sanctioned themselves out of leverage on Iran," Malley said. "They have cornered themselves out of a lack of influence on any of the parties that are driving this -- Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran. Counseling restraint or condemning actions is pretty meager when you think of the influence the United States should be wielding."

The United States reached out to Arab allies -- Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- to weigh in with Syria and, through Damascus, to Iran. In Paris for talks on Iran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on all sides to "act with restraint." She also talked to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

But the U.S. options stand in stark contrast to the U.S.-brokered cease-fires in 1993 and 1996 between Israel and Hezbollah, via Syria.
That would be 1993 and 1996, during the Clinton administration...

More on the Lebanon portion of the war from the Guardian:

Israel imposed a land, sea and air closure of Lebanon today after it bombed dozens of targets including Beirut airport, a television station and villages in the south of the country.
It warned Lebanon to evacuate all residents from a neighbourhood in southern Beirut where it believes the Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah lives.

"We have passed on a warning to Lebanon to evacuate all civilians from the [southern] neighbourhood of Beirut, which is a Hizbullah stronghold and where Nasrallah lives, and where the organisation's headquarters and weapons stockpiles are," the Maariv NRG news website quoted a senior army official as saying.

The attacks were launched after Israel said it held the Lebanese government responsible for a raid by the Hizbullah guerrilla group on Wednesday, in which eight Israeli soldiers were killed and two captured.

There was no official confirmation of the policy of imposing a closure on Lebanon - although Beirut airport was shut after this morning's attack and Israeli officials said its navy was blockading Lebanese ports.

The Israeli government ordered tens of thousands of residents along the northern border to stay in bomb shelters as Hizbullah fired more than 60 rockets across the border.

A Hizbullah rocket killed an Israeli woman in the border town of Nahariya while the Israeli attacks left 36 civilians and a Lebanese soldier dead. There was no information on the number of Hizbullah casualties.

Israel now finds itself on the verge of war on two fronts in attempts to pressurise two groups, Hamas and Hizbullah, to free captured soldiers. While Palestinian militants have a limited capacity to harm Israeli forces, Hizbullah claim to have stocks of 10,000 rockets and a trained and experienced militia.
Here we go...

What would be the cost to the U.S., and to the world, of an all-out war that sucks in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Israel (and could Jordan and Egypt stay out???) What would be the consequences for oil prices, the economies of Europe, Asia and the U.S.? And with things also heating up between India and Pakistan following this week's train bombings, things are truly going to hell, handbasket not included.

... and of course, this has brought out the crazy Bushie Likudniks, who are salivating for all out war against all of Israel's enemies (a war I'm sure they envsion involving U.S. forces, if not Israeli nukes) ... most especially Iran...

Tags: Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Iran, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 9:59 AM  
What's more important than fresh, country apples?
The Department of Homeland Security shows us what it's worth. Warm bucket of spit, anyone?
WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Schumer says the yokels who rated New York City's terror attack risk need to go.
The New York Democrat is pushing a bill to quash Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's beloved "peer review" program, which had teams of anonymous peons decide in secret that the city's terror funding should be slashed.

This year, the Chertoff way - which Schumer said is flawed and politicized - resulted in New York City losing $80 million in funds to protect against security threats.

"It's the most idiotic procedure," Schumer told the Daily News yesterday. "A sheriff in a small town in the Rockies shouldn't be deciding how homeland security funding is spent. It's just ridiculous ... they don't have the experience.

"Chertoff assured us that this money would be distributed in a smart way, and it was done in a dumb and probably political way," he said.

Schumer's bill proposes eliminating "peer review" in deciding the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative grants, which totaled $710 million this year. The overall fund was cut 14% from 2005, but New York lost more than 40% of its annual funding.

But it's unclear if Schumer's measure could pass the GOP-controlled Congress to reach President Bush's desk, since it's a pork barrel bonanza for greedy lawmakers from no-threat zones.

Evidence of that came in a report this week by Chertoff's own inspector general, who offered a list of bogus terror targets that have boosted security funding for obscure U.S. "assets" highly unlikely to catch Osama Bin Laden's eye.

There were petting zoos, a Kentucky bourbon festival and golf tournament, bingo and ice cream parlors and a cookie shop. Breweries, fishing shops, gyms, pet food makers, redwood trees and an Illinois "Apple and Pork Festival" also were deemed at risk from jihadists.

"It just causes your head to shake in bewilderment," marveled Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor.

The inspector general probe suggested that some rural states eager for a payout from the feds lumped in everything they could count, including more than 8,591 assets in Indiana compared with 5,687 identified by New York.

Even the dead were protected in one state claiming evildoers may clobber a casket company.

The inclusion of these "out of place assets" in the risk assessments "taints the credibility of the data," wrote Inspector General Richard Skinner. His report said many assets were counted twice and that few states understood what qualified as a target.
Still think the war on terror is real, and not just a ploy to make some people rich(er)?

Tags: , News, Terrorism, , NYC
posted by JReid @ 8:20 AM  
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Halliburton ... hello!
Halliburton may not be doing business with the Army anymore as of September (as far as we know) ... but they're still going to be paying ole' Dick Cheney! Mazaltov!

Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 10:02 AM  
Fidel Castro: getting deader all the time
It must be summertime -- because Fidel Castro is dead again. Lucianne's baby boy is the one pushing the rumor this time. But he could be barking up the wrong tin foil tree. Maybe ... Fidel Castro has been dead for a long, long time... cue the creepy music!

Tags: , Castro, Cuba
posted by JReid @ 9:44 AM  
Discouraged, dejected and disappointed
With Dubya visiting the EU, here are the headlines that pretty much summarize the state of U.S. foreign policy:

US 'discouraged' by N Korea (BBC)
US Secretary of State Calls Iranian Response Disappointing (NYT)
US envoy gives Iraq 6 months to curb sectarianism (Reuters)

Ah, dejection.

Tags: News, News and politics, Iraq, Iran, Iran
posted by JReid @ 8:48 AM  
You might be an authoritarian stooge if...
If you believe that George W. Bush has the inherent right to do whatever he pleases in order to protect you from "the terrorists..."

You think Richard Nixon was done wrong by liberal nobodies and weaklings in the GOP who had to be purged in order to restore the presidency to its rightful potency and power...

That the United States is decaying because the media is too free, society is too permissive and people have too many rights...

That journalists should be jailed for disclosing illegal activity by the federal government which the government claims is being done to "combat the terrorists..."

That citizens not only are not entitled to know what the government is doing "to keep them safe," but that we shouldn't even want to know...

That the federal government should be allowed to tap our phonecalls, read our emails, and conduct sneek and peek searches of our homes without a warrant, and that "terror suspects" -- even U.S. citizens, should be detained in secret without trial for as long as President Bush says its necessary... and you put your complete trust in him to make that decision...

That George W. Bush's leadership is devinely inspired, and that anyone who opposes him is a hate-filled tool of demonic forces and terrorists...

That liberals and more broadly, Democrats, want to destroy America...

...and that these beliefs of yours are nothing like the old Soviet Union, Cuba or communist China...

...you believe the president is always right...

you just might be an authoritarian personality. More specifically, you might be the stooge that gives authoritarians their power. And you know what? You're probably a self-described conservative.

Now read this by John Dean, whose new book, Conservatives Without Conscience is definitely on my reading list:
Contemporary conservatives have become extremely contentious, confrontational, and aggressive in nearly every area of politics and governing. Today they have a tough-guy (and, in a few instances, a tough-gal) attitude, an arrogant and antagonistic style, along with a narrow outlook intolerant of those who challenge their extreme thinking. Incivility is now their norm. "During the Father Bush period, there was a presumption of civility," Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute observes, but "we lost it under Clinton," when conservatives relentlessly attacked his presidency, and "then the present President Bush deliberately chose a strategy of being a divider, rather than a uniter."

Even more troubling, the right-wing presidency of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney has taken positions that are in open defiance of international treaties or blatant violations of domestic laws, while pushing the limits of presidential power beyond the parameters of the Constitution. It is aided and abetted in these actions by a conservative Republican Congress that refuses to check or balance the president. These patterns were apparent long before the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, but the right wing's bellicose response to the events of that day has escalated into a false claim of legitimacy. Many authors (and journalists) have described the extreme hubris now present in Washington, along with the striking abuses of power. While some of this activity has ostensibly been undertaken in the name of fighting terrorists, much of it is just good old-fashioned power corruption.

Conservatives Without Conscience, however, is not a book about Bush and Cheney. My venture here is not to expose more malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in places high or low in Washington, nor even to try to catalog it, for the gist of what is occurring under con-servative Republican rule is all too obvious. Although this is a report that cannot be given without frequent references to the administration's disquieting politics and governing, my effort, fundamentally, is to understand them, to explain why they are happening, while placing them all in a larger context, including the particular events that initially prompted my inquiry about people with whom I once thought I shared beliefs.

Frankly, when I started writing this book I had a difficult time accounting for what had become of conservatism or, for that matter, the Republican Party. I went down a number of dead-end streets looking for answers, before finally discovering a true explanation. My finding, simply stated, is the growing presence of conservative authoritarianism. Conservatism has noticeably evolved from its so-called modern phase (1950-94) into what might be called a postmodern period (1994 to the present), and in doing so it has regressed to its earliest authoritarian roots. Authoritarianism is not well understood and seldom discussed in the context of American government and politics, yet it now constitutes the prevailing thinking and behavior among conservatives. Regrettably, empirical studies reveal, however, that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral. They are also often conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the likes of which we have never known.

Although I have only recently learned the correct term for describing this type of behavior, and come to understand the implications of such authoritarian thinking, I was familiar with the personality type from my years in the Nixon White House. We had plenty of authoritarians in the Nixon administration, from the president on down. In fact, authoritarian thinking was the principal force behind almost everything that went wrong with Nixon's presidency. I had had little contact with my former colleagues, or with their new authoritarian friends and associates, until the early 1990s, when they decided to attack my wife and me in an effort to rewrite history at our expense. By then I had left public life for a very comfortable and private existence in the world of business, but they forced me back into the public square to defend myself and my wife from their false charges. In returning, I discovered how contemptible and dangerous their brand of "conservatism" had become, and how low they were prepared to stoop for their cause. ...
Read it all -- it's long, but it's worth your time. And here's the transcript of the chilling interview Dean gave to Keith Olbermann (the first stop on his book tour.) A clip:
OLBERMANN: That would be the thesis of the book, and we‘ll go into that at length. But I wanted to start at the very beginning. You dedicated this book to Barry Goldwater. What would he, in your opinion, having known him and having dealt with him on these political issues, have thought of the current conservative movement as it has become, and what would the conservative movement have thought of him at this point? What do they think of him now?

DEAN: Well, that‘s a—I think right now, we can say, in fact, I discuss this in the book, that Goldwater Republicanism is really RIP. It‘s been put to rest by most of the people who are now active in moving the movement further to the right than it‘s ever been.

I think the senator, before he departed, was very distressed with conservatism. In fact, it was our conversations back in 1994 that started this book. It‘s really where I began. We wanted to find answers to the questions as to why Republicans were acting as they were, why conservatives had taken over the party, and were being followed, you know, as easily as they were in taking the party where he didn‘t think it should go.

OLBERMANN: What did you find? In less than the 200 pages that the book—

DEAN: Right.

OLBERMANN: ... that the book goes into.

DEAN: I ran into a massive study that had really been going on for 50 years now, by academics. They‘ve never really shared this with the general public. It‘s a remarkable analysis of the authoritarian personality, both those who are inclined to follow leaders, and those who jump in front and want to be the leaders.

It was not the opinion of social scientists, it was information they drew by questioning large numbers of people, hundreds of thousands of people, in anonymous testing, where they conceded, you know, their innermost feelings and reactions to things. And it turned out that these people were—most of these that came out of the testing were people who had been prequalified to be conservatives, and then they found that this, indeed, fit with the authoritarian personality.

OLBERMANN: Does it really—do the studies indicate that it really has anything to do with the political point of view? Is it—would it be easier to essentially superimpose authoritarianism over the right than it would the left? Or is it theoretically possible that they could they have gone in either direction, and it‘s just a question of people who like to follow other people?

DEAN: They found—they have found really—maybe a small, 1 percent of the left, who follow authoritarianism, probably the far left. But as far as widespread testing, it is just overwhelmingly our conservative orientation.

OLBERMANN: There is an extraordinary amount of academic work that you quote in the book. A lot of it is very unsettling. It deals with psychological principles that are frightening and that may have faced other nations at other times, in Germany and Italy in the ‘30s coming to mind in particular.

But what—how does it apply now? And to what degree should it scare us? And to what degree is it something that, that, that, that, that might still be forestalled?

DEAN: Well, to me, it was something of an epiphany to run into this information. First, I‘d never read about it before. I sort of worked my way into it until I found it. It‘s not generally known out there what‘s going on. And I think, from best we can tell, these people, the followers, a few of them, will change their ways when they realize what they‘re doing, not even aware of their behavior.

The leaders, those who were inclined to dominate, are not going to change a second. They‘re going to be what they are.

So by and large, the reason I write about this is, I think we need to understand it, we realize, when you take a certain step and vote a certain way and head in a certain direction, where this can end up. So it‘s sort of a cautionary note. It‘s a warning as to where this can go, because other countries have gone there.

OLBERMANN: And the idea of leaders and followers going down this path, and perhaps taking a country with them, requires—this whole edifice requires an enemy, communism, al Qaeda, Democrats, me, whoever, for the two minutes hate. I mean, there is—we overuse—I overuse the Orwellian analogies to nauseating proportions. But it really was, in reading what, what, what, what you wrote about, and especially what the academics talked about, there was that, that two minutes hate thing. There has to be an opponent, an enemy, to coalesce around, or the whole thing falls apart. Is that the gist of it?

DEAN: It is one of the things that, believe it or not, still holds conservatism together, because there are many factions and conservatisms, and their dislike or hatred of those they portray as liberal, who will be anybody who basically disagrees with them, is one of the cohesive factors. There are a few others, but that‘s certainly one of the basics.

There‘s no question that the—particularly the followers,. they‘re terribly, they‘re very aggressive in their effort to pursue and help their authority figure out, or their authority beliefs out. They will do whatever needs to be done, in many regards. They will blindly follow. They stay loyal too long. And this is the frightening part of it.

If this describes you, it's still not too late to wake up.

Tags: ,
posted by JReid @ 8:18 AM  
Has Israel gone too far?
Israel's brutal response to the kidnapping of one of its soldiers by Palestinian militants has touched off what looks for all the world like all out war in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli assault has even included overflying the home of the president of Syria -- an interesting non-sequitor. Now, enter Hezbollah from Lebanon.
JERUSALEM, July 12 – The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah on Wednesday morning seized two Israeli soldiers in a brazen raid along Israel’s border with Lebanon. Israel immediately responded by sending an armored force into southern Lebanon for the first time in six years.

The clashes dramatically escalated tensions at a time when Israel already is waging a military offensive in the Gaza Strip to seek the return of another soldier held by Palestinian militants for more than two weeks.

Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, said in a statement that the Lebanese government “is directly responsible for the fate of the soldiers and must act immediately to locate them, prevent any harm to them and return them to Israel.”

Also, Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, scheduled an emergency Cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening to assess the developments.

The fighting erupted when Hezbollah attacked northern Israel with rocket fire on Wednesday morning, injuring several Israeli civilians in the northwestern town of Shlomi, the Israeli military said. Israel responded with artillery fire and air strikes that targeted Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon. Later, Israeli troops moved into southern Lebanon in the first such incursion since Israel pulled its troops out of the region in 2000.

The Israeli military did not immediately provide details on the border clashes.

While cross-border shooting exchanges break out with some frequency, it has been exceedingly rare for Hezbollah and the Israeli military to come face-to-face on the ground over the past six years.

But Hezbollah said its fighters seized two soldiers along the volatile and heavily guarded frontier between Israel and Lebanon. “The two captives were transferred to a safe place,” the group said in a statement.

In the past, Hezbollah has launched attacks against Israel when there is heavy fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The latest assault comes at a moment when the region is already roiling with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis in Gaza.

Early Wednesday, Israeli troops moved in force into central Gaza, expanding the two-week-old Israeli offensive intended to secure the release of the captured soldier and stop rocket fire into Israel.

The Israeli air force also dropped a powerful bomb on a home in Gaza City at 3 around a.m., saying it targeted senior Hamas leaders. But the blast killed nine members of the Abu Selmiya family, according to Dr. Juma Saqqa, the spokesman for Shifa Hospital, where the bodies were taken. There were visiting Hamas leaders in the house at the time of the bombing, but they escaped with only minor injuries, Palestinians said.

Nabil Abu Selmiya, a Hamas leader, was killed along with his wife, Salwa, and seven of their children, ages 7 to 18, Dr. Saqqa said. The couple also had two sons who survived the attack, and a married daughter who lives elsewhere.
What next, Israelis? How many simultaneous wars are you going to fight? Is the goal to try and topple not only the Hamas government in the Palestinian territories, but also the government of Syria?

Tags: , Palestine, Terrorism, Hamas, Politics, Middle East, Hezbollah, Gaza
posted by JReid @ 8:10 AM  
Bombay
The death toll from the serial, coordinated train bombings in Mumbai (the former Bombay,) has passed 190. The bombs targeted the first class sections of several train cars, making a clear statement that the attack was meant to be economic as well as terroristic.

Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 8:03 AM  
Monday, July 10, 2006
Mean, nasty Rosie O'Donnell
"...I'm saying that as a culture, and I agree with it, black people have so few role models that they said, 'You know what? I don't care, you're not taking them!'"

Anybody who knows me knows I can't stand Rosie O'Donnell. It stems from a personal experience I had with her when I was interning with the New York Women in Film and Television organization back during the mid-1990s. At that time, I not only experienced Rosie as a mean, nasty, rude, bitch of an individual, I also shared Rosie horror stories with more people than I care to recall. She apparently was only the "Queen of Nice" on her show, but spread the nasty around liberally.

Well, peep the latest lowdown on Rosie and her part in Star Jones' departure from "The View." Says NYDN columnist Lloyd Grove:
Star Jones Reynolds and Rosie O'Donnell say they used to be friends. But now I can reveal the precise moment when the just-fired and just-hired cohosts on "The View" became sworn enemies.
It was during Rosie's appearance on the May 12, 2004, show. Daily News contributor Jawn Murray dug up the smoking videotape.

The two combatants initially greeted each other warmly before trash-talking like WWE wrestlers. Rosie — who this year harshly mocked Star for less-than-candid explanations of her precipitous weight loss — started with flattery. "You look fabulous!" Rosie gushed. "It's like 'Twinkle Twinkle Shrinking Star.'"

But the chat quickly turned ugly when O'Donnell suggested that women "stand up and scream" to protest Martha Stewart's felony conviction, and former prosecutor Jones Reynolds vehemently objected.

Rosie: "Here's what I love. The black community said you cannot have O.J. Simpson, you cannot have Jayson …"

Star: "No, excuse me! … And if the black people had a vote, they did not tell me."

Rosie: "Honey! Honey, listen to what I'm saying. … The black community said you can't have the basketball player Jayson Williams, you can't have him. …"

Star: "There were two black people on the jury!"

Rosie: "Wait! Wait! Wait! I'm saying that as a culture, and I agree with it, black people have so few role models that they said, 'You know what? I don't care, you're not taking them!'"

Star: "What???! … When did the black vote have a meeting and vote?"

Rosie: "I didn't say you had a meeting, Star!"

The next day on the air, Star scorched O'Donnell: "Although the mainstream media may not collectively report on black role models, trust and believe there are plenty out there, and you don't need to rally behind O.J. Simpson. I mean, that was inappropriate." I hear that Rosie was upset, but Barbara Walters tried and failed to get Star to apologize.

O'Donnell and her flack were unreachable at press time. A spokesman for Star told Lowdown: "We made our last statement regarding this matter on June 29 on the 'Today' show. We have no further comment."
Wait, wait, wait, honey... you're a cow.

Tags: , The view, Television, Celebrities, rosie o'donnell, TV
posted by JReid @ 10:01 AM  
What is wrong with this picture?
From the show this morning, which by the way, you can now listen to online at wtps1080am.com! ... is five years old too young for a child to decide that he is a she?
One little girl entering Broward County kindergarten this fall is actually a boy.

Few will know this genetic truth, because the 5-year-old's parents and school administrators have agreed that it's in his best interest to blend in as a female.

Mental health professionals have diagnosed Pat -- not his real name -- with gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person believes that he or she is the opposite gender. After two years of examination, they have determined that he is not simply effeminate or going through a phase.

'Gender dysphoria can take place during a fetus' development in the womb,'' said noted gender specialist and sexologist Marilyn Volker, Ph.D., of Miami.

While this tyke is likely the youngest transgendered child admitted to a South Florida school, he is not unique. Both the Broward and Miami-Dade County school systems have policies in place to smooth the way for such students and their families.

Equality Florida, which advocates for Florida's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, and PFLAG -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays -- say the two school districts have the most progressive policies in the state.

Broward and Miami-Dade are among the most exemplary school districts ''when it comes to the rights of transgendered people,'' said Tobias Packer, South Florida Field Organizer for Equality Florida, who himself is transgendered.

Carole Benowitz, Florida state coordinator for PFLAG, agrees. Her adult son is gay.

Benowitz said that two years ago -- at a Broward high school she declined to name -- she was called in after a group of boys beat up another student, whom they believed to be an effeminate boy. In fact, the victim was transgendered -- a biological female who looked, dressed and behaved like a male. Benowitz was brought in to counsel the administrators, the students and the victim.

''People have an understanding of what it means to be gay or lesbian -- but when they hear that a person is genetically one gender but lives as another gender, that threatens a number of people because they don't understand what that means,'' Benowitz said. ``And that misunderstanding can make lives very difficult for transgendered children and their parents.''

''In addition to behaving like the opposite sex, a person with gender dysphoria naturally relates to the opposite sex,'' Volker said. ``They also have a persistent and recurring discomfort with their own external body parts and genitalia because it does not match their internal gender identity. Simply said, they were born into the wrong body.''

FEMININE LOOK

The soon-to-be kindergartner looks quite feminine, cartwheeling around the yard and playing with dolls. Pat says he hates his penis, and he refuses to wear boys' clothing.

He and his three older siblings -- two girls and a boy -- live in a middle-class Broward County neighborhood with their father, an attorney, and their mother, who has a master's degree in counseling.

Pat's parents had never heard of gender dysphoria until they took their child for treatment. He was insisting that he was a girl, and often tried to hide his penis between his legs.

After long consultation with a team of pediatric endocrinologists and therapists, then with school officials, the parents decided that it was in Pat's best interest to live as a girl.

''The school officials have agreed to continue working with the family and medical professionals to help create an environment that will maximize the child's ability to learn and grow within the school system,'' said family attorney Karen Doering, who specializes in defending the rights of people who are transgendered, gay, bisexual or lesbian.

Gender dysphoria -- called gender identity disorder by the American Psychiatric Association -- is commonly misunderstood today, much as homosexuality was 50 years ago.

Although the association has not taken a formal position, the scientific community is increasingly determining that it could be a genetic condition, not a mental disorder.

At the school, teachers and the principal are prepared. The child will use unisex bathroom facilities, will be addressed by a unisex name -- not Pat -- and has been asked to dress in gender-neutral clothing, such as shorts or pants and a shirt.

School officials said this is standard practice in Broward and Miami-Dade for helping transgendered children fit in.

''The policies the districts have in place are progressive,'' Benowitz said. ``They both aim to ensure that transgendered students are treated like any other students, and take direct action when misunderstanding or violence take place.''

Leah Kelly, executive director of student support services and exceptional student education for the Broward school system, could not comment on any specific case. ...

Isn't FIVE too young to set this child's gender identity in stone?

I think so.
posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Congress? What Congress?
Republican Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, tells the Bush administration: you DO have to inform Congress of what you're doing.

Tags: , NSA, Bush, Politics, War on Terror, Congress, FISA, Republicans
posted by JReid @ 8:47 AM  
Michael Goodwin doesn't get it
The NYDN columnist says "we're in World War III" ... he paints a grim picture of enemies around every corner, Democrats too PC to stop them, and a Bush administration that has gone limp and "run out of ideas." Says Mr. Goodwin:

Sounds grim. The trouble is, we're not in World War III. World War I was about the balance of power between European governments. World War II was literally about stopping the march of evil across the Western world. We are now in a war of blowback, fueled by a military industrial complex that requires perpetual war in order to feed it's never-ending thirst for profit, feckless, weak politicians who are at odd times either bought or cowed, and a White House filled with men whose designs on both profit and power cause them to seek to do things like this:
The FBI has drafted sweeping legislation that would require Internet service providers to create wiretapping hubs for police surveillance and force makers of networking gear to build in backdoors for eavesdropping, CNET News.com has learned.

FBI Agent Barry Smith distributed the proposal at a private meeting last Friday with industry representatives and indicated it would be introduced by Sen. Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.
The draft bill would place the FBI's Net-surveillance push on solid legal footing. At the moment, it's ensnared in a legal challenge from universities and some technology companies that claim the Federal Communications Commission's broadband surveillance directives exceed what Congress has authorized.

The FBI claims that expanding the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act is necessary to thwart criminals and terrorists who have turned to technologies like voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

"The complexity and variety of communications technologies have dramatically increased in recent years, and the lawful intercept capabilities of the federal, state and local law enforcement community have been under continual stress, and in many cases have decreased or become impossible," according to a summary accompanying the draft bill.

Complicating the political outlook for the legislation is an ongoing debate over allegedly illegal surveillance by the National Security Administration--punctuated by several lawsuits challenging it on constitutional grounds and an unrelated proposal to force Internet service providers to record what Americans are doing online. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of last Friday's meeting, said the FBI viewed its CALEA expansion as a top congressional priority for 2007.
Hmm... sounds to me like another attempt to database, information warehouse, and rifle through the lives of Americans, ultimately for the benefit of a small number of militaristic multinationals who stand to reap the benefits of perpetual war.

Or it could be blowback from decades of intrusive U.S. foreign policy.

But it ain't World War III.

Tags: , Bush, War, New World Order, Terrorism, Politics,
posted by JReid @ 6:57 AM  
Friday, July 07, 2006
So what was the Viagra for, again?
Turns out Rush Limbaugh was hanging out in the Dominican Republic with a couple of producers from the very Emmy nominated Fox TV series 24 when he ... had all that Viagra. ... Kinda makes you say hmm...

Tags:
posted by JReid @ 10:04 AM  
The Friday funnies
Katherine Harris is back ... and she's hanging out with Alligator Bob in South Florida. No need to add a single solitary thing more. Here's the Herald's toungue-in-cheek account.

There is no gay marriage in New York. The Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent discussion of why.

The Pentagon catches a bout of "truthiness" about overstretched troops and North Korea.

On the one year anniversary of the 7/y bombings in London, al-Qaida continues to cooperate with the Bush publicity blitz.

Meanwhile, were "the terrorists" plotting to bomb and flood the Holland Tunnel. CNN is all over it! But in the AP story carried by the Guardian, I note this interesting nugget:
``At this time we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system, or anywhere else in the U.S.,'' Richard Kolko, Washington-based FBI special agent, said in a statement to Associated Press Radio.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said that federal law enforcement and New York police have been monitoring a plot to attack New York's mass transit system for at least eight months.

``There was nothing imminent, but it was being monitored for long period time,'' said King, who said he has received regular intelligence briefings on the alleged plot as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

King said he had been unable to publicly disclose the plot because to do so would risk the investigation.

``This is ongoing, that's why I've said nothing about it until now,'' King said. ``It would have been better if this had not been disclosed.''
So I guess Rep. King just happened to get the story to the Daily News in time for the 7/7 bombing anniversary ... coincidentally...

OK, I'm exhausted. ThinkProgress has a basket of headline goodies that's not to be missed. Mo money for Cheney and Hastert, more news on The Coultergeist, and Gitmo!

Read it, enjoy, and happy weekend.

Tags: News, News and politics, , Current Affairs
posted by JReid @ 9:35 AM  
Thursday, July 06, 2006
In case you missed it
A countdown worth checking out...
posted by JReid @ 8:42 AM  
Another wrinkle in Iraq
From today's NY Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 6 — A suicide bomber rammed his car into a group of Iranian pilgrims visiting a Shiite shrine in the city of Najaf and blew it up, killing at least 12 people and wounding more than 40, Iraqi officials said.

At least five of the dead and 22 of the wounded were Iranians. The blast totally destroyed two buses the pilgrims had arrived in and left a crack in the outer wall of the Maitham al-Tammar shrine, the officials said.

The relations between the country's young government and Iran is one of the touchiest of the many conflicts dividing the country's ethnic groups.

The leading Shiite parties have close ties to Iran, a predominantly Shiite country, leading many Sunnis, who led the fight during the bloody Iraq-Iran war two decades ago, to question their loyalty. And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has accused Iran of infiltrating members of its Revolutionary Guard forces into Iran and supplying insurgents with sophisticated bombs.

Najaf is the home of shrines considered by Shiites to be among their holiest, and is the destination of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims every year from Iran. The city's deputy mayor, Abdul-Hussein Aftan, called the attack an attempt "at derailing stability and security of the city."

But he said that it would not "stop our brothers the Iranians from coming."
It just keeps coming, doesn't it?

Tags: Iraq
posted by JReid @ 8:33 AM  
Murray Waas strikes again
In the current National Journal:
President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's interview.

Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.

But Bush told investigators that he was unaware that Cheney had directed I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, to covertly leak the classified information to the media instead of releasing it to the public after undergoing the formal governmental declassification processes.

Bush also said during his interview with prosecutors that he had never directed anyone to disclose the identity of then-covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. Bush said he had no information that Cheney had disclosed Plame's identity or directed anyone else to do so.

Libby has said that neither the president nor the vice president directed him or other administration officials to disclose Plame's CIA employment to the press. Cheney has also denied having any role in the disclosure.
I think it's urnealistic to think that Plamegate could yet bring Dubya down. But the story is slowly but surely coming together around the foregone conclusion that this was a group effort to punish Joseph Wilson, that went all the way to the top. All that's left is the pardon for Scooter.

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posted by JReid @ 8:27 AM  
When did the spying begin, AT&T?
Not after 9/11...


When The New York Times first reported on Bush administration efforts to spy on Americans without warrants, the White House generally responded in two ways. One, blaming the press for disclosing the programs. And two, claiming that the programs were necessary to protect the country so that another 9/11 doesn't happen. But a report this weekend by Bloomberg's Andrew Harris thoroughly undercuts the President's spin.
The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.

``The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,'' plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. ``This undermines that assertion.'' [emphasis added]

At this stage, it is important to note that there are only allegations that the Bush administration began spying on Americans before 9/11. But should these allegations pan out -- or even if the White House is in some way able to convince the courts to throw out this lawsuit -- it's not clear to me that the President will ever be able to win back the trust and faith of the American people. The recent revelations out of California -- that the state's Office of Homeland Security was spying on political dissenters -- only underscore this.
Read the Bloomberg report here.

What say you now, righties? If this is true, then what is the justification?

BTW, having cooked up the notion of an Axis of Evil in December of 2001, for one reason and one reason only: to convince the American people that a response to the 9/11 attacks by Afghanistan-based terrorists who themselves were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen, the admnistration probably wanted to get its databases in a row ... the better to profile, and market the war to, the American people.

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

posted by JReid @ 8:20 AM  
North Korea ... major league mini-threat
So much for the Axis of Evil.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was talked up as the greatest existential threat to the U.S. since the British crown, but it turned out the country had little more than a few old, spent shells with left over residue from the chemicals Don Rumsfeld brokered to the dictator during the 1980s... (now of course, the country, under U.S. occupation, really is dangerous...)

Iran is supposedly preparing to bomb Israel and us out of existence any minute now ... and any minute now, we'll come up with something really really significant to do about it...

And now North Korea's scary missiles, which even former Clintonistas, backed by the wack-jobs at Fox, Free Republic and on talk radio, were insisting we needed to shoot down, I suppose just before our invasion ... were Limbaugh-esque in their flaccidity.

Well surprise, surprise. The war on terror abroad is a joke, and the terror cells at home are a bunch of guys doing karate in a Miami warehouse.

Permission to come out from under the bed, winger faithful. You don't need a missile defense shield to defend against rockets that only last 40 seconds. Oh, yeah, that's right. North Korea's failure to launch proves we must invade them and put up a missile shield umbrella over the entire North American continent, stat...

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Tags: North Korea, News, News and politics
posted by JReid @ 7:54 AM  
South of the border
The latest on the Mexican recount:

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A leftist anti-poverty campaigner took a slim lead over his conservative rival in a dramatic recount of Mexico's presidential election vote on Wednesday and warned the country's stability was at stake.

In scenes reminiscent of the Florida recount in the U.S. presidential vote in 2000, the divided nation bit its nails as partial returns showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador overtaking Felipe Calderon, who ended a just ahead in an initial count.

Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of Mexico City, led pro-U.S. lawyer Calderon by 2 percentage points in the recount of 80 percent of polling stations but it was still too early to declare a victor from Sunday's vote.

Protests broke out in the capital to press home claims that the leftist was the victim of fraud in the preliminary count.

Lopez Obrador warned electoral authorities to be thorough in the recount, expected to last about a day.

"The stability of the country is at stake," he said.

The Harvard-educated Calderon would be an ally of the United States in Latin America, where left-wing leaders critical of Washington have taken power in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela in recent years.

Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer, has promised to renegotiate a North American trade pact to block cheap U.S. corn and beans entering Mexico as of 2008.

'VERY TIGHT'

Luis Carlos Ugalde, the head of the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, refereeing the contest, warned the recount result would be a cliffhanger.

"The margin of difference is undoubtedly going to be very tight at the end," he said. "Lopez Obrador may be ahead but that could increase or decrease," he said.
And then, a few hours later, this from the BBC:

Mexico's presidential election is too close to call as electoral authorities work round the clock to verify vote tallies from Sunday's ballot.
With counting almost complete, conservative candidate Felipe Calderon overtook his leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by a fraction.

Both candidates have insisted they will win but have asked their supporters to remain calm whatever the outcome.

The Federal Electoral Institute says it expects to announce the result soon.

But whatever the outcome, the candidate that loses will inevitably challenge the outcome, says the BBC's Daniel Lak in Mexico City.

The IFE will hand the final result over to a seven-judge tribunal and legal proceedings are then almost certain to begin.

As the final figures come in, the gap between Mr Lopez Obrador and Mr Calderon has narrowed to just thousands of votes out of a total of 41 million ballots cast.

Mr Lopez Obrador took the lead as the verification process started, only for Mr Calderon to pull slightly ahead as results came in from his electoral strongholds.

The recount has involved checking the tallies attached to ballot boxes, which were sealed after Sunday's election.
And back the other way again, via the Financial Times:
Mexico’s electoral authorities on Wednesday admitted that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftwing candidate in last Sunday’s hotly disputed election, could still triumph.

With 98.45 per cent of the unofficial count completed, Felipe Calderón, the centre-right candidate for the ruling National Action Party (PAN) still leads his leftwing rival.

But as the official count began on Wednesday morning – a winner is expected to be declared within a maximum of four days from Wednesday – it emerged that the addition of about 2.6m votes omitted from the provisional count had narrowed an already small lead of 402,000 votes to a razor-thin 257,000 or 0.6 per cent of the total.

“It is a photo finish,” a high-ranking official at Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) told the FT on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a top PRD congressman questioned the missing votes, suggesting they were just one of several “inconsistencies” to have arisen in the count. But on Wednesday, IFE explained that they were excluded in line with rules agreed by all Mexico’s political parties prior to the election.

The continuing uncertainty about who will become Mexico’s next president is likely to worry Mexico’s business classes, who had initially celebrated Mr Calderon’s slim lead at the beginning of the week. The stock market went up almost 5 per cent following the news on Monday, and the peso saw its biggest one-day rise in six years.

I'm getting a headache...
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posted by JReid @ 7:05 AM  
Where in the world is Ken Lay?
Dead , apparently, at a luxury ski chalet, where his heart just "gave out..."

Mr. Lay died having ridden Enron into the ground, taking with it several state pensions (including the one for Florida teachers,) and the California governorship (not to mention a few ballfields) and enriching himself in the process. And although he was convicted, along with Skilly Boy, Jeffrey Skilling, of defrauding both investors and employees of Enron, he conveniently will be doing his time in the grave.

... that is, if he is, in fact, deceased.

And if his death... such as it is ... was truly God's design (and not somebody else's...)

He died having been purged from the consciousness of one George W. Bush, who once called him "Kenny Boy," and who once passed affectionate letters between himself and his young charge (some hand-written) signed simply "George" and "Ken..." Example:

Dear Ken,

One of the sad things about old friends is that they seem to be getting older - just like you!

55 years old. Wow! That is really old.

Thank goodness you have such a young, beautiful wife.

Laura and I value our friendship with you. Best wishes to Linda, your family, and friends.

Your younger friend,

George W. Bush
Yes, that really is an adult writing. Stunning, isn't it? And yeah, dude, that IS old ... and here's a gushing tribute to Dubya's big 6-0 from the supposedly Bush-hating New York Times. And from yesterday's press briefing with the minister of information, Fox News' The White House's Tony Snow:

Q One other quick question. What has been the President's reaction to the death of Ken Lay?

MR. SNOW: I really haven't talked to him about it. I'll give you my own personal reaction, which is when somebody dies you leave behind those who grieve and I think they deserve our compassion. But I don't know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?

Q I don't know. I don't know him. The President was his friend, not me.

MR. SNOW: No, the President has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the President's acquaintances have passed on during his time in office. Again, I think -- it's sort of an interesting question, but not answerable by me.
Where is the love ... hell, where is the follow up question???

More on the Dubya-Enron non-relationship, from Alternet:
Ken Lay, Bush’s largest financial benefactor, has admitted to knowing him long before this time. Lay tried to get the former Bush’s presidential library to locate at the University of Houston, whose Board of Regents Lay served on in the late 1980’s. During this time, Lay admits to spending “quality time with George W.” Bush, however, denies that their relationship was ever on the level of personal friends. Also, Lay contributed $122,500 as the CEO of Enron to Bush’s governor race before the 1994 election. Another $200,000 came from employees of Enron. In fact, Enron’s CEO, its employees and their relatives have contributed $836,800 over Bush’s political career -- more than from any other source. Would just an acquaintance give you almost a million dollars for your campaigns? Only if there is reason to believe there will be some benefit. And Enron saw benefits.

It is insulting for George W. to insist he hardly knew Lay before 1994 when Lay was co-chairman of the former Bush’s 1990 economic summit for industrialized nations, which was held in Houston. Lay was also co-chairman of the host committee for the Republican National Convention when it was held in Houston in 1992. It is a fact that George W. was actively involved in the campaign, which makes it impossible for them not to have known each other. The more one looks into the relationships of all the key players, the more one realizes that this has the potential to grow into a scandal as big as any other.

It is important to realize that 15 high-ranking officials in the Bush administration owned stock in Enron last year with a combined value of almost one million dollars. The contacts between Enron, the once-biggest energy company in the world, and the most powerful government in the world are vast. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield, senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, deputy EPA administrator Linda Fisher, Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher and U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Zoellick all had stock in Enron. The biggest connection is Army Secretary Thomas White, who was Enron’s vice chairman before he got his Pentagon job and owned up to $100 million worth of Enron stock.

Two other Bush officials had professional ties with Enron. Lawrence Lindsey, White House economic advisor, was a managing director of Economic Strategies, Inc., who served as a consultant firm to Enron. Zoellick also served on the advisory council of Enron. It is important to remember that Bush and Cheney once headed an energy production company and many of his top aides came from oil companies including Rumsfield, Condoleeza Rice, and many others.

Just before Enron’s bankruptcy, its top officials were lobbying the administration for help. Calls were made from Lay to Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan right before the bankruptcy. O’Neil and Evans say they did not notify Bush until January 10th of their contacts with Lay and Enron’s trouble. There is even proof that Enron executives called Fisher several times in the fall asking him to help the company secure a bank loan.

Also, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the Enron chairman on November 2. We need to know what was said and decided during all these phone calls. The reasons for these calls are unknown, but the Bush Administration promises that they did nothing to help the company. We cannot take his word on this, and probes need to be made. The President said on January 10th that he “never discussed with Mr. Lay the financial problems of the company.” It is, of course, possible that none of the officials who acknowledge contacts from Enron much earlier than the fall told Bush or took any action. But it's not very likely.

The White House has admitted that the energy task force had met six to eight times with Enron officials and deny that finances were discussed. These then-secret meetings were held behind closed doors with Enron executives during the drafting of Bush’s energy plan last year. Many of the deregulation laws fit with Enron’s desire to expand into the giant company it had become. Officials must explain how much influence Enron executives had on administration policies after contributing over a half a million dollars to the Bush campaigns. Energy experts say Enron helped create the new laws that enabled the energy giant to become the most powerful in the market.
But of course, Bush didn't know him, just like he didn't know Jack Abramoff... next this guy will be denying he knows Cheney and Rumsfeld ... uh-oh.

Tags: , Enron, Kenneth Lay, Jeff Skilling, Jeffrey Skilling, Andy Fastow, , Politics, News, Republicans
posted by JReid @ 6:02 AM  
El Plagiaristo La Plagiarista
Ann Coulter is a very bad man ... and he ... or she ... may also be a plagiarist! Catching up here on the New York Post bomblet about the untalented Ms. Coulter's latest exploits, when she's not voting in the wrong precinct in Florida, apparently, she's copying the work of other authors! Goody!

E&P says:


NEW YORK Universal Press Syndicate has requested a copy of a report about Ann Coulter's alleged plagiarism, according to a post on the TPMmuckraker.com blog. Meanwhile, in her latest column, Coulter has hit back at the newspaper that aired the latest plagiarism charges -- but did not refute them.

The report was conducted by John Barrie, creator of the iThenticate plagiarism-probing system. A New York Post story this Sunday said Barrie found several examples of alleged plagiarism in Coulter's new "Godless" book as well as in her Universal column.

Universal Director of Communications Kathie Kerr, when contacted by E&P, said she called Barrie on Wednesday morning and left him a message asking him for a copy of his report. "Once we see a copy of the report, we'll be happy to comment on the findings," she added. "We take allegations of plagiarism very seriously." E&P has also left a message for Barrie, who appeared on MSNBC late Wesnesday.

There he explained that the Post had asked his company to put Coulter's book and the past 12 months of columns through his program. But his staffers stopped before completing the task--"we gave up after awhile, we'd seen enough," he explained. The many examples added up to "advanced plagiarism," he said, the kind of stuff that would "flunk any English student."

Oh, and there's this gem, slashing "Ms. Coulter's" lastest column, which slams the Post for ... um ... being a tabloid:


Coulter wrote: "Once considered a legitimate daily, the Post has been reduced to tabloid status best known for Page Six's breathless accounts of Paris Hilton's latest ruttings, and headlines like 'Vampire Teen -- H.S. Girl Is Out for Blood.' How crappy a newspaper is the Post? Let me put it this way: It's New York's second-crappiest paper."

Of course, the Post could hardly be "reduced to tabloid status" since it is, in fact, a tabloid.
Hee hee... "Ms. Coulter," you do realize that the Post is a Murdoch publication, don't you? Okay, here's a clip from the original NY Post article. And peep the picture! Yugh...! Scary...

July 2, 2006 -- Conservative scribe Ann Coulter cribbed liberally in her latest book, "Godless," according to a plagiarism expert.
John Barrie, the creator of a leading plagiarism-recognition system, claimed he found at least three instances of what he calls "textbook plagiarism" in the leggy blond pundit's "Godless: the Church of Liberalism" after he ran the book's text through the company's digital iThenticate program.

He also says he discovered verbatim lifts in Coulter's weekly column, which is syndicated to more than 100 newspapers, including the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Sun-Sentinel and Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.

Barrie, CEO of iParadigms, told The Post that one 25-word passage from the "Godless" chapter titled "The Holiest Sacrament: Abortion" appears to have been lifted nearly word for word from Planned Parenthood literature published at least 18 months before Coulter's 281-page book was released.

A separate, 24-word string from the chapter "The Creation Myth" appeared about a year earlier in the San Francisco Chronicle with just one word change - "stacked" was changed to "piled."

Another 33-word passage that appears five pages into "Godless" allegedly comes from a 1999 article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

Meanwhile, many of the 344 citations Coulter includes in "Godless" "are very misleading," said Barrie, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in pattern recognition.

"They're used purely to try and give the book a higher level of credibility - as if it's an academic work. But her sloppiness in failing to properly attribute many other passages strips it of nearly all its academic merits," he told The Post.

Barrie says he also ran Coulter's Universal Press columns from the past 12 months through iThenticate and found similar patterns of cribbing.

Her Aug. 3, 2005, column, "Read My Lips: No New Liberals," about U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, includes six passages, ranging from 10 to 48 words each, that appeared 15 years earlier in the same order in an L.A. Times article, headlined "Liberals Leery as New Clues Surface on Souter's Views."

But nowhere in that column does she mention the L.A. Times or the story's writer, David G. Savage.
Oh Ann, you scandal-man, you!

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Tags: , Politics, Bush, Coulter, Media, conservative, GOP,

posted by JReid @ 5:37 AM  
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Taepodong-ho!
Okay, so maybe there is a Taepodong after all ... such as it is...
posted by JReid @ 9:08 AM  
Aye, que vota!
The "too close to call" Mexican election, which for now appears to have gone the Bush administration's way (there are already calls for a recount, and threats of supporters of left-of-center Mexico City Mayor Manuel Lopez Obrazor,) is touching off an online brawl within the progressive media camp.

In this corner: investigative journalist extraordinaire Greg Palast, who uncovered the GOP scrub lists during the 2000 election in Florida. He is making some very scary claims, that involve yet another close election, a post-9/11 Bush administration "counter-terrorism" program that involved obtaining the voter rolls of key Latin American countries, and our old friends at datamining giant Choicepoint.

And in this corner: Joshua Holland of Alternet, who says he's a fan of Palast's, but that on this one, he's hunting in the Jason Leopold forrest...

First up: Says Palast in his column in the Guardian, and on his web-site:

As in Florida in 2000, and as in Ohio in 2004, the exit polls show the voters voted for the progressive candidate. The race is "officially" too close to call. But they will call it - after they steal it.

Reuters reports that, as of 8pm eastern time, as voting concluded in Mexico, exit polls showed Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the "leftwing" party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) leading in exit polls over Felipe Calderón of the ruling conservative National Action party (PAN).

We've said again and again: exit polls tell us how voters say they voted, but the voters can't tell pollsters whether their vote will be counted. In Mexico, counting the vote is an art, not a science - and Calderón's ruling crew is very artful indeed. The PAN-controlled official electoral commission, not surprisingly, has announced that the presidential tally is too close to call.

Calderón's election is openly supported by the Bush administration.

On the ground in Mexico city, our news team reports accusations from inside the Obrador campaign that operatives of the PAN had access to voter files that are supposed to be the sole property of the nation's electoral commission. We are not surprised.

This past Friday, we reported that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had obtained Mexico's voter files under a secret "counter-terrorism" contract with the database company ChoicePoint of Alpharetta, Georgia.

The FBI's contractor states that following the arrest of ChoicePoint agents by the Mexican government, the company returned or destroyed its files. The firm claims not to have known that collecting this information violated Mexican law. Such files can be useful in challenging a voter's right to cast a ballot or in preventing that vote from counting.

It is, of course, impossible to know whether the FBI destroyed its own copy of the files of Mexico's voter rolls obtained by ChoicePoint or whether these were then used to illegally assist the Calderon candidacy. But we can see the results: as in the US, first in Florida, then in Ohio, the exit polls are at odds with "official" polls.
But, says Holland:

The problem with that is that he's sending progressives to bark up the wrong tree; as the Institute for Policy Studies' Chuck Collins, an observer with the Global Exchange delegation, reports on the front page, the real issues to watch -- and let's hope any irregularities aren't enough to sway the outcome -- are vote-buying by party operatives, local officials telling poor, rural voters that they'll lose access to public services if they don't vote "correctly" and various forms of voter intimidation.

The last thing anyone needs in what is shaping up to be a hyper-charged post-balloting environment is a bunch of conspiracy theories about the Mexican electoral institutions themselves.

And he adds that many of Palast's charges are unpinned to hard facts:

Do you notice what's missing here? An actual allegation. Palast throws the name ChoicePoint out there -- a bogeyman for the left if ever there was one -- but doesn't connect it in any way with Mexico's electoral authorities. Remember, his excellent reporting on ChoicePoint's involvement in the 2000 Florida vote revealed that Katherine Harris had ordered the company to purge tens of thousands of voters from the official voter rolls, most of whom turned out to be eligible African-American voters. Nothing like that in this case.

Mexican authorities actually arrested the ChoicePoint operatives for creating the list in question, but Palast says, bizarrely, that the arrests simply proved that "Mexico's attorney general did [it] to avoid his party from looking too much the stooge of its Washington patron." Huh?

It gets worse…
In 1988, the candidate for Obrador's Party of the Democratic Revolution (PDR), who opinion polls showed as a certain winner, somehow came up short against the incumbent party of the ruling elite. Some of the electoral tricks were far from subtle. In the state of Guerrero, the PDR was leading on official tally sheets by 359,369. Oddly, the official final count was 309,202 for the ruling party, only 182,874 for the PDR.

It's simply irresponsible to discuss the blatantly stolen 1988 election without also telling his readers that Mexico's electoral institutions have undergone radical, dramatic reforms since then (which I touched on last week).

Chuck Collins, in his reality-based analysis, also discusses the 1988 vote, but follows it with this:
But the Mexican electoral system has come a long way since 1988 and even 2000. The independent Federal Election Institute is well-resourced, politically independent, and by all accounts ran a fairly clean election.

That last point is crucial to understanding the complete nonsense Palast is peddling in his column in today's The Guardian. In it, he refers, as he did Friday, to "The PAN-controlled official electoral commission."

According to every single observer except Greg Palast, the Federal Election Institute (IFE) is completely independent. The IFE ordered Vicente Fox -- PAN's outgoing president -- to keep his nose out of the campaign. They ordered Felipe Calderon's ads off the air more than once because they were misleading or defamatory. Last week, I noted that José Salafranca, head of the EU's observer mission, told Inter Press Service that Mexico's electoral institutions are now among the most reliable and trustworthy in the world.

But Palast has to put the IFE in PAN's pocket, or else his column today -- read and no doubt believed by many -- falls apart entirely …

So which is it? I know where the net roots will be, but I've interviewed Palast (we had him on the radio show last week,) and find him very credible. Who knows.

MinM says the uproar over an alleged 2.5 million uncounted ballots, as reported in the LATimes, is much ado about nothing (Mark, of course, is a righty who supports the Bush candidate, Calderon.)

Update: The vote count continues in Mexico...

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posted by JReid @ 8:07 AM  
Iraqis just say no to coalition forces immunity
Regarding the investigation into the rape and murder of what now appears to be a teenaged Iraqi girl by a U.S. serviceman, and the murders of three of her family members, it appears that our Iraqi prime minister is chaffing at his strings... From Reuters:


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's prime minister called on Wednesday for an independent inquiry into the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and killing of her family by U.S. soldiers and a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law.

Five months before the expiry of the U.S.-led occupation force's United Nations mandate, Nuri al-Maliki said he was not calling for the early departure of the troops, who he said would remain for as long as Iraqi forces required assistance.

"Yes we will demand an independent Iraqi inquiry, or a joint investigation with Multinational Forces," Nuri al-Maliki told reporters during a visit to Kuwait, in his first public comments since the case came to light five days ago.

"We do not accept the violation of Iraqi people's honor as happened in this case. We believe that the immunity granted to international forces has emboldened them to commit such crimes and ... there must be a review of this immunity," he said.

Lawmakers had demanded Maliki brief parliament on the case.
I hope that doesn't include the parliamentarians that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had on sped dial... but I digress...


Under a 3-year-old mandate from the U.N. Security Council, the 140,000 or so U.S. and foreign troops are immune from Iraqi law. Maliki, in his third month in office, has urged U.S. commanders to hold their soldiers to account under military law -- something many Iraqis feel has not happened.

The rape and murder case is the fifth in a high-profile series of U.S. inquiries into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months, and comes at time when Maliki and Washington face delicate negotiations over a treaty to regulate the presence of the U.S.-led force once the U.N. mandate expires in December.

The rape element in a conservative Muslim society -- highlighted by Maliki's mention of "honor" -- could make the case especially damaging for the U.S. military, which has recently tightened procedures to crack down on rogue elements.

Justice Minister Hashem al-Shibly on Tuesday also demanded a full investigation by his ministry and the Security Council, calling it a "horrific, barbaric and inhuman" crime.

Iraqi media, apparently embarrassed to report on the rape at first, offered widespread coverage of the issue on Tuesday.

Iraq's government, dependent on U.S. troops, is not going to demand the Americans leave. But pressure is growing, not just from the restive and once dominant Sunni minority but also among Maliki's fellow Shiites, for signs the troops will soon depart.

U.S. RESPONSE

The top general in Washington, Peter Pace, said on Tuesday: "We are going to get to the bottom of these allegations."

Former private Steven Green, 21, is accused of shooting a couple and their young daughter near a checkpoint, then raping and killing the child's teenage sister. Three other U.S. soldiers are suspected of taking part.

U.S. commanders acknowledge the harm of cases like Abu Ghraib and allegations U.S. soldiers killed 24 civilians at Haditha. Last month, they pressed 12 murder charges, more than in the last three years.
And by the way...


Baghdad's central morgue said on Wednesday it had received 1,595 bodies last month -- the highest monthly total since the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra sparked a wave of sectarian killings.

The figures for June show the pace of killings has increased, even after a U.S. military strike killed al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 7.

Yep. Things are just going GREAT in Iraq.

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Tags: Iraq, , News, Military

posted by JReid @ 7:32 AM  
Osama bin up to something
While the CIA may no longer have an office dedicated to finding Osama bin Laden, apparently, somewhere in the Bush administration is an office in charge of making deals to help Bin Laden rid himself of certain meddlesome terror lieutenants, at least, that's the story being told by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's family members. And then there's this, courtesy of CNN:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had the phone numbers of senior Iraqi officials stored in his cell phone, according to an Iraqi legislator.

Waiel Abdul-Latif, a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party, said Monday that authorities found the numbers after al-Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a U.S. air strike on June 7.

Abdul-Latif did not give names of the officials. But he said they included ministry employees and members of parliament.

He called for an investigation, saying Iraqis "cannot have one hand with the government and another with the terrorists."

Meanwhile, al-Zarqawi's wife told an Italian newspaper that al Qaeda leaders sold him out to the United States in exchange for a promise to let up in the search for Osama bin Laden.

The woman, identified by La Repubblica as al-Zarqawi's first wife, said al Qaeda's top leadership reached a deal with U.S. intelligence because al Zarqawi had become too powerful.

She claimed Sunni tribes and Jordanian secret services mediated the deal.

"My husband has been sold to the Americans," the woman said in an interview published Sunday. "He had become too powerful, too troublesome."

She was identified only as "Um Mohammed," which means "mother of Mohammed" and would be a nickname, not her full name.

The Rome-based newspaper said the interview was conducted in Geneva and described her as Jordanian and about 40 years old.

In Jordan, Al-Zarqawi's eldest brother, Sayel al-Khalayleh, said the family had not been aware of the woman's whereabouts for about two years.

Iraq's national security adviser said Sunday that al-Zarqawi had been buried in a "secret location" in Baghdad despite his family's demand that the body be returned to his native Jordan.
Hey, but I thought Bin Laden thought Zarqawi to be a "great knight for al-Qaida?" Confused yet? Me too.

Previous:

Tags: , Al Qaeda, Bush, GWOT, Iraq, Terrorism, Osama,

posted by JReid @ 7:02 AM  
On taking over the world
They wanted to take over the world ... starting with the Sears Tower ... then the freeing of Muslim prisoners in a massive jail break ... all planned from the command center under a Key West bridge. This is the story of show trials, nefarious interstate plots, a guy named "the Sultan" and a gang that apparently had dreams much bigger than their means or capabilities. The latest on the Liberty City Seven:
The Liberty City 7 will be heading back to court Wednesday morning as their lawyers try to convince a judge they be let out on bond until the start of their trial in Miami.

On Friday, all pleaded not guilty as the government played grainy videotapes of the meetings between the suspects and an informant. Prosecutors presented evidence in a hearing where they claimed the leader of the “Liberty City Seven” felt he was a year away from carrying out his plans to blow up the Sears tower, shedding some light on how he planned to carry out his alleged attack.

Prosecutors say Narseal Batiste told the FBI’s informant he planned on toppling the world’s tallest building with dynamite planted in the tunnels below it, using the help of the other six suspects that agents believed were operating out of a Liberty City warehouse. Batiste said he would use the help of former fellow FedEx drivers with knowledge of Chicago’s tunnels carry out the attack.

The group’s plan, according to investigators, was to blow up the Sears Tower as a diversion, and while fire and police responded to that catastrophe, the suspects’ “army” would blow up a nearby prison to conduct a massive jailbreak. The purpose would be to enlist “Muslim” prisoners whom they had just freed to take part in their jihad.

The informant also says Batiste wanted to “smoke a cigarette with Osama Bin Laden” and that he was willing to die in his mission to blow up the Sears Tower.

Another one of the suspects, Burson Augustin, allegedly told the informant the group “wanted to take over the world, starting with Miami.”

Batiste had apparently become suspicious of the FBI informant, which is when he went into hiding in January, moving to the Florida Keys to live in a tent under a bridge near Islamorada.

He had told the informant, who was posing as a member of al Qaeda, that he needed the resources to pull off a ground war.

"We got to have a full ground war," he said, according to documents. “We’re going to kill all of the devils we can.”
Okay, I have to stop here for a moment. the government says these guys were planning to "take over the world???" The whole thing??? and to do this, they planned to start with Miami? Dudes, if you're taking over the world ... my advice? Start with someplace much more organized. And why would they want to enlist Muslim prisoners in an al-Qaida plot when, I can't stress this enough, these fellows are not Muslims??? Somebody please to 'splain! Okay, proceed:
However, problems within the organization reportedly erupted in April, when one of Batiste’s top Chicago “lieutenants” and him got into a heated argument.

Agents say that on April 17th, someone called the “Sultan” staged a type of trial at the Liberty City warehouse, which the group called the “embassy”. The “sultan" was arrested by police and turned over to the FBI.

Despite all this information compiled in the government’s investigation, some black community groups and even terrorism experts say the group had no resources and was just too far disorganized to pull off a credible threat.

Family member of the defendants who attended the hearing all wore white t-shirts that read “The Liberty City 7” in support of the suspects.

The six defendants present in court Friday entered pleas of not guilty. The men now await a bond hearing Wednesday July 5th.
Oh the tangled web we weave, when first we plot to take over the world.

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Tags: , , , ,

posted by JReid @ 6:46 AM  
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
The spoilage of war
This is what the war in Iraq, with its never-ending mission, multiple deployments, and utter pointlessness, is coming to. From the NY Times:
A recently discharged Army private has been arrested on charges of raping an Iraqi woman and killing her and three family members four months ago in their house, federal prosecutors said Monday.

The former soldier, Steven D. Green, 21, had recently been discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder," the prosecutors said. They said Mr. Green and other soldiers had discussed the rape in advance and carried out the crimes after drinking alcohol, leaving a checkpoint and changing from their uniforms into black clothing.

A criminal complaint made public by the prosecutors on Monday charged that Mr. Green shot the three family members, including a child, with an AK-47 assault rifle found in the house in Mahmudiya before he and another soldier raped the woman. Citing interviews with unnamed participants, the document alleges that Mr. Green, his face covered with a brown T-shirt, then "walked over to the woman and shot her several times." It says the soldiers returned to the checkpoint with blood on their clothes and agreed that the episode was "never to be discussed again."

Mr. Green, who appeared in federal court on Monday in Charlotte, N.C., was arrested there on Friday, the prosecutors said. The documents they made public provided the first official account of the rape and killings, whose broad outlines emerged last week after American military officials in Baghdad said they were investigating the incident. The military originally thought Iraqi insurgents were responsible after several Iraqis approached an American checkpoint and said a family had been killed in their home, the charging documents said.

The rape victim was identified in the American court documents as a 25-year-old woman, but there have been conflicting accounts of her age. In Iraq, the mayor of Mahmudiya said Monday that the rape victim had been only 15 years old.
Surprising? It shouldn't be. The military is practically taking all comers, and those who don't come in warped stand a good chance of eventually becoming that way, under combat stress, the stress of multiple deployments and retaking the same village over and over, wouldn't you think?
But that wouldn't occur to President Bush, since he and most of his administration, and have never personally known war.

More on Green:
Military officials have said they first learned about the rape and killings last month, after Mr. Green left the Army. He had received an honorable discharge after only 11 months in the service because of what the charging documents described only as a "personality disorder." His departure was unrelated to the incident, the Army official said, adding that he had no more information about Mr. Green's disorder.

Army officials and prosecutors said that, before his arrest, Mr. Green might have been planning to attend a funeral service Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery for Specialist David J. Babineau, one of three soldiers ambushed at a checkpoint in Yusufiya in June. Two other soldiers who survived the ambush were taken prisoner by insurgents and later killed and mutilated.

Though Mr. Green and the three ambush victims reportedly came from the same unit, the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne, so far, the Army official said there was no evidence that the Americans had been abducted in retaliation for the rape and killing of the Iraqis.
And still more detail:
At least three other soldiers suspected of involvement in the rape and killing of the Iraqis are being held in a military base in Iraq, but several soldiers interviewed by prosecutors, identified in charging documents only as "sources of information," said that Mr. Green was responsible for the killings and that he and another unidentified soldier, referred to as a "known participant," committed the rape.

The incident came to light last month after soldiers in the regiment were undergoing "a combat stress debriefing" related to the ambush of three Americans, the charging documents said. After entering the house, the compliant alleged that Mr. Green herded family members into a back bedroom and closed the door. After shots were heard, he emerged, telling the other soldiers, "I just killed them. All are dead," according to one unidentified soldier.

Participants in the attacks later told another soldier who had remained behind at the checkpoint to "dispose of the AK-47 in a canal across the street," the document says.

The Iraqi mayor, Mr. Fadhil, said the body of the rape victim, Abeer Qasem Hamzeh, had multiple bullet wounds and burn marks. Her sister, Hadeel, was shot in the head, he said, reading from a hospital report; her father, Qasem Hamzeh Rasheed, who was in his mid-40's, suffered head trauma; and her mother, Fakhariya Taja Muhassain, was shot several times.

Three sons were at school at the time of the March 12 attack, the mayor added.
Again, why are we still in Iraq?

Tags: , , News, Military
posted by JReid @ 1:52 PM  
Goodbye, Holy Joe
I've never really been a fan of Joe Lieberman. I thought he was a poor choice of running mate for Al Gore in 2000, and an even worse candidate for president in the 2004 primaries. And while Lieberman can be engaging on the stump -- he does one hell of a "Shecky Lieberman" routine -- and comes off as funny, self-effacing and engaging -- he is simply too sanctimonious, too club-you-over-the-head religious, too Likudnik, and far too neoconservative for me. In other words, Joe Lieberman is a Republican. He just doesn't know it yet.

Case in point: Holy Joe says if Connecticut Democratic voters reject him in the primary and choose Ned Lamont, he'll run anyway, as a Republican Independent, possibly splitting the Democratic vote in November, despoiling the democratic process, and proving that for Joe, it's not about the party, it's all about him.

I don't always agree with Kos, in fact I disagree with him more and more often about the real power of the "net-roots," I wholeheartedly concur with this thought:

"An interesting kind of 'Democrat,' Lieberman thinks he is," he wrote. "One who doesn't respect the wishes of his state's Democratic voters, one who will split his state's vote on the left and potentially hand the election to a Republican."
Yup. And whether Lieberman wins or losese in August, I think the Democratic Party would be well rid of him.

Update: Hillary says if Lieberman loses the primary and then runs as an independent, she'll be backing the Democrat.

Tags: , ,
posted by JReid @ 12:48 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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