You kind of figured that a few too many die-hard fans of the show "24" have begun to mistake the fictional Fox show for "war on terror" reality, didn't you? Well, guess what? Thrown into interrogations without any rules or Geneva restrictions, guess what confused, frustrated U.S. troops turned to when trying to extract information from Iraqi and other detainees?
In the meantime, how do you keep things like bad publicity over piss poor treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans from sinking the GWOT P.R. flotilla? Why, you shut up the soldiers, of course! From the Army Times:
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.
“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.
Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters.
They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.
The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.
Not appropriate, indeed.
Anyway, we wouldn't want the press hyping up those tens of thousands of vets who insist on darkening the doors of the VA system for those silly dental problems... now, would we? Oops, did I say "dental problems?" Sorry, I was quoting a disingenuous Bush administration official. What I mean to say was "catastrophic brain injuries..."
So while we're on the subject of the military and war, just how the hell are things going with that "surge" in Iraq, pray tell? Says the Guardian:
An elite team of officers advising US commander General David Petraeus in Baghdad has concluded the US has six months to win the war in Iraq - or face a Vietnam-style collapse in political and public support that could force the military into a hasty retreat. The officers - combat veterans who are leading experts in counter-insurgency - are charged with implementing the "new way forward" strategy announced by president George Bush on January 10. The plan includes a controversial "surge" of 21,500 additional American troops to establish security in the Iraqi capital and Anbar province.
But the team, known as the "Baghdad brains trust" and ensconced in the heavily fortified Green Zone around the US embassy, is struggling to overcome a range of entrenched problems in what has become a race against time, said a former senior administration official familiar with their deliberations. "They know they are operating under a clock. They know they are going to hear a lot more talk in Washington about 'Plan B' by the autumn - meaning withdrawal. They know the next six-month period is their opportunity. And they say it's getting harder every day," the former official said.
By improving security, the plan's short-term aim is to create time and space for the Iraqi government to bring rival Shia, Sunni and Kurd factions together in a process of national reconciliation, us officials say. If that works within the stipulated timeframe, longer-term schemes for rebuilding Iraq under the so-called "go long" strategy will be set in motion. But the next six months are make-or-break for both the US military and the Iraqi government.
The main obstacles confronting Gen Petraeus's team are: · Insufficent numbers of troops on the ground · A "disintegrating" international coalition · An anticipated upsurge in violence in the south as the British leave · Morale problems as casualties rise · A failure of political will in Washington and/or Baghdad
"The scene is very tense. They are working round the clock. Endless cups of tea with the Iraqis," the former senior administration official said. "But they're still trying to figure out what's the plan. The president is expecting progress. But they're thinking, what does he mean? The plan is changing every minute, as all plans do."
And why do we STILL not have enough troops in the theater? ThinkP:
Top U.S. intelligence officials yesterday disclosed to the Senate “that the deployment of Iraqi forces into Baghdad under President Bush’s new plan to stabilize Iraq is running behind schedule and that all of the units sent so far have arrived under strength, some by more than half.“
John Kerry dishes out a little payback to a Swiftboat funder on the Hill. More on the showdown from RawStory, complete with the now obligatory Joe Lieberman praise for a right wing Republican smear merchant...
The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore's documentary film "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Academy Award.
Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the shifts among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.
African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he began his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.
Coupled together, the sudden emergence in the polls of Al Gore (who got more Black votes in 2000 than any presidential candidate ever, and the continued sizzle of Barack Obama are bad news for the Clinton campaign. Luckily for her, she has the name ID and the cash to go the distance, and no one else in the race can say that, at least not now. One piece of good news for Hil in the poll:
Her position on the war in Iraq does not appear to be hurting Clinton among Democrats, even though she has faced hostile questioning from some voters about her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to go to war. Some Democrats have demanded that she apologize for the vote, which she has declined to do.
The Post-ABC News poll found that 52 percent of Democrats said her vote was the right thing to do at the time, while 47 percent said it was a mistake. Of those who called it a mistake, however, 31 percent said she should apologize. Among Democrats who called the war the most important issue in deciding their 2008 candidate preference, Clinton led Obama 40 to 26 percent.
Something to hold onto at Camp Hillary, where they're still smarting from that recent dust-up with Barack.
Is Iraq in a civil war? According to the new director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, it most certainly is.
And will the Bush administration reverse course and talk to Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran? Yes ... and no ... Condi Rice continues her turn as spin-mistress, attempting to explain how we're going to sit down in the same room with the two bad actors in the Middle East, but only because the Iraqis invited them. I can just hear the negotiations now:
U.S.: "Could you please tell the Syrian ambassador that I said he's a horse's ass?"
IRAQI: (sitting between U.S. and Syrian reps): "Certainly, madam." (turns to Syrian, sitting beside him.) "she says you're a horse's ass."
SYRIAN: "Kindly tell the lady to bite me."
Meanwhile, that hellified market correction yesterday (which extended in Europe and Asia today) has spooked everyone, but there's more bad news out there, starting with the mortgage market, where it's about to get a lot tougher to get a loan. Also, America's homeless population is growing and hardening, at a time when the Bushbots are claiming we have the best economy ever...
A groundbreaking survey of homelessness being released today found that 704,000 people nationwide sought shelter at least once in a three-month period.
Families with children accounted for one-third of those seeking emergency shelter or transitional housing between February and April 2005, the most recent period studied, according to the report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The rest were individuals, mostly adult men. Nearly half were black.
The count covered only those seeking shelter, not people living on the street, so the total number of homeless people would be higher.
"This first-of-its-kind study is a huge leap forward in our understanding of not only how many people are homeless, but also what their needs are," HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson says. The report says, for example, that at least a quarter are disabled.
HUD, which briefed USA TODAY on the report Monday, says it is the most comprehensive government estimate ever of homelessness. Previous counts looked only at the number of people homeless on a given day or week.
The three-month figure — equal to the population of South Dakota — is an estimate based on a sample of 80 communities. It will serve as a baseline for annual reports to Congress and may be expanded to include people living on the street.
And about that economy: it isn't nearly as good as the righties say it is...
On a much lighter note, could anything or anyone have saved Anna Nicole Smith? Quoth Travolta, Scientology.
The Largo, Florida city manager who wants to go from Mr. Manager to Mrs. Manager is about to get fired.
Why is the Bush administration lying about the attempt on Cheney?
Dick Cheney came within earshot of a suicide bomber, who got through the first of three checkpoints protecting him at Kabul's Bagram Air Base during his visit to the "Mayor of Kabul," Hamid karzai. So why is the U.S. military lying about Cheney being the target of the assassination attempt? (Maj. William Mitchell said it did not appear the explosion was intended as a threat to Cheney. "He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion.") The resurgent Taliban says its bomber did in fact target the vice president:
A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said Cheney was the target of the attack carried out by an Afghan named Mullah Abdul Rahim.
"We knew that Dick Cheney would be staying inside the base," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. "The attacker was trying to reach Cheney."
... The bad guys clearly knew where he would be. So why the obfuscation? Could it be that the Bush administration is continuing to try and hide the fact of just how badly things are going in our original theater of the war on terror? Signs point to yes:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — In what the Taliban claimed was an assassination attempt, a suicide bomber attacked the main gate of a U.S. military base Tuesday within earshot of Vice President Dick Cheney. The explosion killed 23 people, including two Americans, and delivered a propaganda blow that undercut the U.S. military and the weak Afghan government it supports.
The bomber struck about 10 a.m., and U.S. military officials declared a "red alert" at the sprawling Bagram Air Base while Cheney was rushed to a bomb shelter. Cheney, who had been stranded at the base overnight by a snowstorm, met with President Hamid Karzai in the capital before heading back to the United States via the Gulf state of Oman.
"I heard a loud boom," Cheney told reporters aboard Air Force Two en route to Oman. "The Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate."
Many of the victims were said to be Afghan truck drivers waiting to get inside the base. A dozen men — many of them sobbing heavily — left the base holding a stretcher bearing their loved ones wrapped in black body bags. Tears streamed down the face of one man sitting in the passenger seat of an SUV that carried another victim away.
Although the bomber did not get closer than roughly a mile to the vice president, the attack highlighted an increasingly precarious security situation posed by the resurgent Taliban. Five years after U.S.-led forces toppled their regime, Taliban-led militants have stepped up attacks. There were 139 suicide bombings last year, a fivefold increase over 2005, and a fresh wave of violence is expected this spring.
The guerrillas, according to NATO officials, have the flexibility to organize an attack quickly and may have been able to plan a bombing at the base while Cheney was there after hearing news reports on Monday that he was delayed by bad weather. The Taliban have attacked in the area north of the capital in the past even though people living in the Bagram area have not been supportive of the guerrillas. Col. Tom Collins, the top spokesman for the NATO force, said the Taliban had a cell in Kabul that could have traveled the 30 miles north to Bagram.
But perhaps the most interesting note in the AP account was the rather casual reaction of the Bush faction at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:
President Bush was not awakened to be told about the attack, but received an update early Tuesday morning. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush's first reaction was to ask if Cheney was OK.
I'm tempted to ask whether his reaction to the news that in fact Cheney was fine, was "damn..."
Wall Street took its worst beating in four years, as a sell off in the Chinese stock market triggered a global stock selling spree and raised fears of a slowdown in the world economy.
"Asia sneezed and we all picked up a global chill," Frederic Dickson, Chief Market Strategist at D.A. Davidson & Company, told CNBC.com. "We're not going to go off of the ledge but tighten up the seatbelts a notch or two because it could be a little bumpy in the next few days. There's still a tremendous cushion of cash out there with most investors waiting for a pullback to put some money to work. We'll see if they come in."
The Dow's 416 point drop was its worst point decline since September 17, 2001, the first trading day after the September 11th disaster. On that day, the Dow dropped 684 points. Today's 3.29% dip was the worst percent decline since March 24, 2003. The S&P 500 lost 3.5%, its worst loss since the day. The Nasdaq fell 3.8%.
"This is a hiccup, well, maybe a slightly louder than normal burp," David Sowerby, Chief Market Analyst at Loomis Sayles, told CNBC.com. "I would deem it a modified correction at 5% and an outright correction at 8%. At this point, I think we're on our way to a modified correction."
Jim Cramer is saying it's time to find something good to buy, and I agree with him, but this is also likely a signal of more economic pain to come -- and a stark illustration of just how big a gorilla China is in the global zoo.
Meanwhile, some analysts are blaming the former Wizard of the Fed, Alan Greenspan, for skunking up the party, for saying the following on Monday:
"When you get this far away from a recession invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign," said Greenspan. "For example in the U.S., profit margins ... have begun to stabilize, which is an early sign we are in the later stages of a cycle."
"While, yes, it is possible we can get a recession in the latter months of 2007, most forecasters are not making that judgment and indeed are projecting forward into 2008 ... with some slowdown
So who's to blame? China or Greenspan? Greenspan or China? Inquiring minds want to know... and when I want to know, there's only one place I go: Addison Wiggin and the guys at The Daily Reckoning. Sign up for their newsletter. It's worth it.
Do people lie to pollsters? Old, twice-divorced, smoking Mormons sure hope so!
The new AP/WaPo poll is out, and it has some interesting info about people's attitudes regarding the current president, and a future president to be. First, on the future:
21. On another subject: I'm going to read a few attributes that might be found in a candidate for president. Please tell me if each would make you (more likely) to vote for that candidate for president, or (less likely) to vote for that candidate, or if it wouldn't matter.
2/25/07 - Summary Table
a. someone who is a woman More: 14, Less: 13, wouldn't matter: 72 no op: 1 b. someone who is black More: 7 Less: 6 Wouldn't matter: 87 no op: * c. someone who is a Mormon More: 4 Less: 29 Wouldn't matter: 66 no op: 1 d. someone who is over age 72 More: 3 Less: 58 Wouldn't matter: 39 no op:* e. someone who has been divorced twice More: 3 Less: 26 Wouldn't mat: 71 no op:1 f. someone who smokes cigarettes More: 2 Less: 21 no mat: 77 no op: *
The worst news in the poll is for John McCain. It seems the worst thing a candidate can be in the eyes of the voting -- or at least the poll-taking public -- is old. A whopping 58 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is over 72 years of age. McCain is 71, and looks every freaking day of it.
Also on the no-no list for voters: being twice divorced. 26 percent of voters were sour on that. Sorry, Rudy. (Lucky for Rudy, the WaPo didn't ask how voters felt about a candidate who once was married to his cousin ... )
On the female question, poll respondents have become considerably less unlikely to support a woman for president over time. When the question was asked in May of 1988, 25 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who was a woman. Now, it' sdown to 13 percent, with a high 72 percent saying it "wouldn't matter."
On the race question, 27 percent of respondents in May 1988 said they would be less likely to support a candidate who is Black, versus just 6 percent now. It's on this question that the cynic in me is tempted to ask whether people are as willing in 2007, to tell pollsters honestly, that they would have a problem supporting a Black candidate. I'm tempted to believe that the number who would have said trouble is considerably higher than 6 percent...
Moving on to the Mormon question, there is a sizeable minority of respondents who apparently have closed that door, with 29 percent of respondents less likely to give a Mormon candidate a chance, and a whopping 60 percent of those who said they would be less likely, adding that there is, in fact, "no chance" that they would vote for a Mormon for president. And 29 percent of the "no Mormon" respondents said they feel that way because they are "uncomfortable with, or dislike" Mormonism (6 percent went with the polygamy angle.) Not good news for Mr. Romney, who's internal strategy memo made the BoGlobe today, elucidating the fact that "electorate is not where it needs to be for us to succeed." A salient bite:
The plan, for instance, indicates that Romney will define himself in part by focusing on and highlighting enemies and adversaries, such common political targets as "jihadism," the "Washington establishment," and taxes, but also Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, "European-style socialism," and, specifically, France. Even Massachusetts, where Romney has lived for almost 40 years, is listed as one of those "bogeymen," alongside liberalism and Hollywood values.
Indeed, a page titled "Primal Code for Brand Romney" said that Romney should define himself as a foil to Bay State Democrats such as Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry and former governor Michael Dukakis. Romney should position himself as "the anti-Kerry," the presentation says. But elsewhere in the plan, it's clear that Romney and his aides are aware he's open to the same charge that helped derail Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004: that he is a flip-flopper who has changed positions out of political expediency.
Also interesting in the poll, and this one's for Barack Obama, is the rather sizable percentage of voters who said they could not support a smoker (21 percent).
One good piece of news for Hillary Clinton, I suppose, is that of those respondents who said they would be less likely to support a woman candidate, only 15 percent said it was because they didn't like Mrs. Clinton in particular. Twice that number -- 31 percent -- said it was because they simply don't think a woman can do the job. How nice.
Next, on the ever present subject of President Bush: two thirds of respondents disagree with his decision to surge 21,500 troops into Iraq, including 56 percent who "strongly disagree." And 58 percent support John Murtha's idea of limiting U.S. troop activities in Iraq to training Iraqi troops, plus guaranteeing rest time for the troops who've already served in theater. By 51-46, respondents opposed the idea of limiting funding for the Iraq war. Two thirds support the idea of "reducing U.S. military and financial support for the Iraqi government if the Iraqis fail to make progress toward national unity and restoring civil order," however, and by 53-46 percent, respondents favored setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
And there's this:
18. Overall, do you feel that you can or cannot trust the Bush administration to honestly and accurately report intelligence about possible threats from other countries?
Can Cannot No opin. 2/25/07 35 63 2
Which is probably why respondents split right down the middle, 47-44 in favor, on the question of whether the Bush administration has the evidence to support their allegations about Iran's meddling in Iraq.
Go figure. For the WaPo's analysis on the poll, click here.
Other polling fun: Watch out mama, here comes Obama ... in the Zogby poll dated February 26, Hil's lead in the Dem primary is now 33-25. Barack was at 14 the last time the poll was done.
A member of the Scooter Libby jury is dismissed, but the deliberations go on. ... I wonder if it had anything to do with her refusing to wear a festive, pink shirt on Valentine's Day? And what about that alternate... hm???
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber killed and wounded some two dozen people outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said Cheney was the target.
The blast happened outside the base at Bagram, north of the capital, Kabul. Cheney's spokeswoman said he was fine, and the U.S. Embassy said the vice president later met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said 20 people were killed, but NATO said initial reports indicated only three were killed, including a U.S. soldier, a South Korean coalition soldier and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality wasn't immediately known. NATO said 27 people were also wounded.
It was unclear why there was such a large discrepancy in the reports.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's Shiite vice president narrowly escaped assassination Monday as a blast ripped through a government meeting hall just hours after it was searched by U.S. teams with bomb-sniffing dogs. At least 10 people were killed.
Adel Abdul-Mahdi was slightly wounded in the explosion, which splintered chairs, destroyed a speakers' podium and sent a chilling message that suspected Sunni militants can strike anywhere despite a major security crackdown across Baghdad.
As U.S. forces sealed off the area around the municipal building, investigators grappled with the troubling question of how the bomb was smuggled into the ministry of public works — a seven-story structure with crack surveillance systems from its days as offices for Saddam Hussein's feared intelligence service.
Last but not least, is our military ready for a third "major conflict" should one arise? Er ... no:
WASHINGTON - Strained by the demands of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a significant risk that the U.S. military won't be able to quickly and fully respond to yet another crisis, according to a new report to Congress.
The assessment, done by the nation's top military officer, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represents a worsening from a year ago, when that risk was rated as moderate.
The report is classified, but on Monday senior defense officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, confirmed the decline in overall military readiness. And a report that accompanied Pace's review concluded that while the Pentagon is working to improve its warfighting abilities, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels."
Pace's report comes as the U.S. is increasing its forces in Iraq to quell escalating violence in Baghdad. And top military officials have consistently acknowledged that the repeated and lengthy deployments are straining the Army, Marine Corps and reserve forces and taking a heavy toll on critical warfighting equipment.
Between this and his continued contrariness on the subject of Iran's supposed meddling in Iraq, how much longer until General Pace is put out to pasture by the Bushies?
In his latest special comment, Keith Olbermann demolishes Condoleezza Rice ... this time, on her apparently scant knowledge of American history regarding our entry into the second world war. get her, Keith! First, here's Condi's statement, from this weekend's "Fox News Sunday":
"…It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown."
But ... as Keith points out, it doesn't take much more than a middle school education to know that first off, the resolution that sent us into World War II didn't "authorize us to overthrow Adolph Hitler." The United States enterd World War II following an attack on our fleet in Hawaii by the Empire of Japan. President Roosevelt went to Congress and sought a declaration of war ... against Japan. Once in the war, the U.S. fought Japan and it's allies in the Axis, thus, placing us at war with the Germans (in fact, Roosevelt had wanted the U.S. to enter the war against Germany, in order to help our allies in France and England, but Congressional Republicans -- then isolationists -- and the American people, had no interest in getting involved in the war.)
Second, once Germany was defeated and HItler was dead, President Roosevelt did indeed go back to Congress to ask for an authorization to "deal with creating a stable environment in Europe." As Keith deftly pointed out -- not through rocket science, mind you, but via a very basic knowledge of American history -- it was called the "Marshall Plan" -- and the Marshall in question, George C., happened to be the U.S. secretary of state. You'd think Ms. Rice would at least be conversant in the history of her own profession.
It's rather a sad commentary on our country that we have a secretary of state who barely understands the history of the United States, and who speaks authoritatively and blithely about matters she either has not thought thorugh, or about which she is willing to lie, or prevaricate, in order to win a political point.
It's high time the Congress strip the Bush administration and its incompetent team of power over American foreign policy. Clearly at this stage, to paraphrase the song by The Fray, everyone knows they're in over thier heads.
America: You'll come for the Bush administration, you'll stay for the poverty.
A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line -- was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.
The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.
Kentucky's deep poverty rate increased 26 percent from 2000 to 2005, adding 59,305 people to the ranks of the severely poor according to the study. Kentucky's poverty rate, 16.8 percent, and deep poverty rate, 7.1 percent, for 2005 are both higher than the national averages of 13.3 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.
The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind and the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.
These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty -- the highest rate since at least 1975. ...
Meanwhile, across the pond, the British government considers classifying an 8-year-old boy as abused, because his parents have allowed him to balloon to 14 stone -- that's 196 pounds in America-speak.
If you want to feel really bad about what's going on in Iraq, read this.
And how FUBAR is American foreign policy in this hemisphere? Colombia, on whom we've pinned all our hopes of avoiding a totally leftist region, turns to an old card that will be familiar to the Bushies: death squads.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite passtimes was reading Russian novels (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc. and yes, I read "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" -- I'm THAT nerdy... apparently, Russian novels are an interest I share with my ideological nemesis, Condi Rice...) Well now, there's a real life Russian novel playing out in real-life Russia, where as the Guardian reports, about a dozen of Vladimir Putin's enemies have mysteriously, ominously, turned up dead.
Rev. Al Sharpton got the shock of his life last week when he learned that his great-grandfather was owned by a relation of none other than long-time segregation stalwart Strom Thurmond. Who'd have thunk it... There will be a press conference tomorrow, and the Rev. will be at our station broadcasting his show tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk with him on the morning show before that. Here's the story from the NYDN:
It is a history linked in the degradation and cruelty of the slave trade in the South - a history that Sharpton himself was totally unaware of until this week.
The journey into the past began after the Daily News gave him the opportunity to explore his family's history with the help of a team of experts from Ancestry.com - a company that has archived more than 5 billion documents around the world and has 55 million additional pieces of data dedicated to African-American ancestry.
In a series of numbing revelations, Sharpton learned how:
His great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was a slave in South Carolina.
Coleman Sharpton, a woman and two children - believed by genealogists to be his wife and kids - were given as a gift to Julia Thurmond, and were forced to move to Florida.
Julia Thurmond's grandfather is Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather.
Once freed, Coleman Sharpton earned a living as an elderly wood hauler, and fathered a son, Coleman Jr., who would go on to be a minister - like his grandson, the Rev. Al. ...
... For the better part of two weeks, a team of genealogists - led by Megan Smolenyak, an ancestry scholar who has written four books and was the lead researcher for the PBS "Ancestors" series - unpeeled the layers of Sharpton's family tree.
They unearthed historic documents, including an 1861 slave contract that confirmed that Coleman Sharpton was indeed sent from Edgefield County, S.C., to Liberty County, Fla., where he would work until given his freedom at the end of the Civil War.
They found incontrovertible data that the woman who owned Sharpton's great-grandfather was related to Sen. Thurmond, a champion of segregation.
A bit more:
Smolenyak explained how Alexander Sharpton's son Jefferson Sharpton, died broke in 1860, leaving his family in debt.
Smolenyak said Alexander Sharpton, a wealthy slave owner, wanted to help out his son's widow.
"The document we found was known as an indenture," Smolenyak said. "It shows that Jefferson Sharpton died in debt and he had no will. His father [Alexander Sharpton] steps in to help the family."
The original copy of the indenture, which sits in the Liberty County Courthouse in Florida, reads:
"Describes negro to wit, Coleman, age 25 years, Biddy (female) age 22 years old, Harrison aged about 4 years and Bachus aged about 8 years," it states.
"Together with the future increase of the said female slave."
Sharpton stared at the image, carefully reading each word to himself.
"You know for real that you are three generations away from slavery," Sharpton would later remark.
Smolenyak said the indenture awarded Coleman and three others to the grandchildren - but placed them in the temporary custody of another relative in Florida, who was to put Coleman and the others to work to pay off the deceased son's debts. ...
... Smolenyak then told Sharpton how she delved into the family tree of the mother of the four children.
"Their mother was a Thurmond," Smolenyak said. "Julia Ann Thurmond." ...
... "Julia Thurmond Sharpton's grandfather and Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather, William Thurmond, are the same man," Smolenyak explained. "Julia Thurmond Sharpton is Strom Thurmond's first cousin twice removed."
"It's chilling," Sharpton said. "It's amazing."
Kind of makes you take a second look at the notion of reparations, knowing that slavery is not some distant past. For many African-Americans over aged 50 or so, it can be as close as a great-grandfather.
The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.
A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line -- was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.
The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.
A bit more, if you can take it:
The Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that, in a given month, only 10 percent of severely poor Americans received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 2003 -- the latest year available -- and that only 36 percent received food stamps.
One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more.
Lastly: is allowing your child to become fat a form of child abuse? That question is being asked in Britain in the case of the 14 stone boy:
AN eight-year-old boy who weighs 14 stone, more than three times the average for his age, may be taken into care if his mother fails to improve his diet.
Connor McCreaddie, from Wallsend, near Newcastle upon Tyne, has broken four beds and five bicycles. The family claims to have a history of intolerance to fruit or vegetables.
On Tuesday his mother and grandmother will attend a formal child protection conference to decide his future, which could lead to proceedings to take him into care.
Connor could be placed on the child protection register, along with victims of physical and sexual abuse, or on the less serious children in need register.
And speaking of abuse, that's what I'm doing to my brain right now. It's way past time to go to bed.
Sy Hersh reports that the Bush administration is making very real plans to attack Iran. Also, the New Yorker reprints Hersh flashbacks from 2005 and 2006, on the administration's consolidation of control over the intelligence operations of the CIA and Pentagon, and their plans to use their unprecedented powers to upend Iran. Hersh also asks two key questions: first, is the Bush policy helping or hurting the war on terror, and second, will the military go along? At least one paper, the Times of London, reports that some U.S. generals plan to resign if the Bush administration insists on attacking Iran:
Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.
“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”
A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them.
There's also this:
A generals’ revolt on such a scale would be unprecedented. “American generals usually stay and fight until they get fired,” said a Pentagon source. Robert Gates, the defence secretary, has repeatedly warned against striking Iran and is believed to represent the view of his senior commanders.
A second US navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS John C Stennis arrived in the Gulf last week, doubling the US presence there. Vice Admiral Patrick Walsh, the commander of the US Fifth Fleet, warned: “The US will take military action if ships are attacked or if countries in the region are targeted or US troops come under direct attack.”
But General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said recently there was “zero chance” of a war with Iran. He played down claims by US intelligence that the Iranian government was responsible for supplying insurgents in Iraq, forcing Bush on the defensive.
Pace’s view was backed up by British intelligence officials who said the extent of the Iranian government’s involvement in activities inside Iraq by a small number of Revolutionary Guards was “far from clear”.
Hillary Mann, the National Security Council’s main Iran expert until 2004, said Pace’s repudiation of the administration’s claims was a sign of grave discontent at the top.
“He is a very serious and a very loyal soldier,” she said. “It is extraordinary for him to have made these comments publicly, and it suggests there are serious problems between the White House, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.”
Mann fears the administration is seeking to provoke Iran into a reaction that could be used as an excuse for an attack. A British official said the US navy was well aware of the risks of confrontation and was being “seriously careful” in the Gulf.
The US air force is regarded as being more willing to attack Iran. General Michael Moseley, the head of the air force, cited Iran as the main likely target for American aircraft at a military conference earlier this month. ...
So which is it? Are we planning an Iran attack or not? It could be that the Bush administration, led by Dick Cheney, is pushing for an attack, but elements within the Pentagon and the uniformed military are resisting it every way they can.
Meanwhile, Israel is now denying it is seeking U.S. overflight permission to traverse Iraqi airspace to attack Iran.
The most frightening concept in human existence is death, which is why the avoidance of death occupies so much of our human energy (from medical science to the beauty and youth preservation industry to insurance to Medicare). It is for that reason that Christianity, Islam and other religions that carry a message of life after death, posess such powerful inducements to believe. There is endless comfort in the idea of resurrection, and endless terror in its absence.
The story of Jesus is one of the most powerful religious tomes ever written, because inherent in it are the incredibly seductive notions of miraculous hope, the endless love of God, and most importantly, eternal life, paid for with the blood of a perfect man: Jesus, who also happens to be the son of God (therefore posessing the authority to grant God's love to us.) But what if everything you ever read about Jesus was true -- the virgin birth, the miracles he performed, the message of love that he preached, his death at the hands of the Romans ... except, that he didn't physically "rise from the dead..." what if after his death, his body remained on earth, just like ours? Would that change your faith? Would it destroy it?
The idea of "debunking" the resurrection story of Jesus carries with it the potential to create massive, worldwide anguish and instability. It also is a tempting prospect for anyone who craves the spotlight, regardless of the cost. I think, despite my almost complete cynicism about, well, nearly everything, that if I were to find difinitive proof that Jesus' story was false, that I would be very, very tempted never to tell anyone. Then again, I'm not James Cameron:
Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's sinking is Christianity.
In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.
No, it's not a re-make of "The Da Vinci Codes'. It's supposed to be true.
Let's go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua. Israel's prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn't associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn't afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names.
There was also this little inconvenience that a few miles away, in the old city of Jerusalem, Christians for centuries had been worshipping the empty tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christ's resurrection, after all, is the main foundation of the faith, proof that a boy born to a carpenter's wife in a manger is the Son of God.
But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family. ...
Cameron plans to hold a press conference on Monday to announce his new documentary film, which will air in Britain, Canada, Israel and on Discovery Channel here in the States. At that time, he plans to show three coffins, which are supposed to belong to Jesus, his mother Mary and Mary Magdelene. Time will tell if Cameron eventually is remembered as a character out of the Da Vinci Code or as Geraldo Rivera circa Al Capone's Vault.
Whatever the eventual outcome TIME Magazine's Tim McGirk, who wrote the above blog post, makes the understatement of the year when he notes that "Here in the Holy Land, Biblical Archeology is a dangerous profession. This 90-minute documentary is bound to outrage Christians and stir up a titanic debate between believers and skeptics." No kidding. I sure hope Cameron isn't a Catholic. Because if he is, he's about to be excommunicated.
And then there are the political implications. Inevitably, we're going to be treated to a right wing assault on Cameron on Monday, and reminded, not least by Fox News, that Hollywood hates God, and that therefore, we must reject everything Hollywood -- including their political pals, the Democrats (didn't Barack Hussein Obama just raise $1.3 million in the Sodom and Gamorrah that is Orange County? Brace yourself.
But beyond the hype, and the political sniping, Cameron's "find" raises serious questions about the role of science and showbiz in society, and the moral implications of the former for the latter's sake. I honestly don't know whether I believe in life after death. I'd like to. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. But I think that the way Cameron is going about pulling off his documentary risks looking like a cheap stunt, carried out at the expense of the real sensitivities of hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. I'm not saying that if true, this information should necessarily be supressed. I'm just saying that it's disturbing to believe -- as I do -- that Cameron probably hasn't given the matter a second thought.
...and if his archeologists and he are wrong they're all going to look like complete horse's asses.
I've wondered about this myself ... namely, why is it that the left end of the blogosphere is so overwhelmingly white? I know there are a number of us "Black bloggers" out there (although I must admit I don't write about race, per se, all that much...) but we seem not to have been able to traverse to the deep end of the pool. Meanwhile, the Kosworld is a rather snow-white one. Why is that? Blogger Francis Holland dares to asks the question, and gets mugged over at MyDD. Hat tip to African-American pundit. Hm. Maybe it's time to finally start posting to my MyDD diary? Aw hell, who has the time...
Timothy McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, files an affidavit in a Utah inmate's death case, claiming that he and McVeigh had help planning the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City -- from a "high level FBI agent." Could Oklahoma City become a conspiracy theory magnet the likes of the JFK assassination? Time will tell.
The Bush administration's torture policy -- including sleep deprivation, administration of drugs like LSD and PCP, threats of execution and isolation -- finally drives Jose Padilla over the edge.
In Washington, Democrats are planning moves to revoke the authority the Congress foolishly and recklessly gave President Bush in 2002 to wage war "'as he determines to be necessary and appropriate ... to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq' and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions."
"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present
... and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society."
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight. ...
... You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
From his Farewell Address to the Nation on January 17, 1961. Eisenhower was a warrior; a war hero during World War II as the leader of allied forces. For that reason, he, more than many, knew the value of peace.
We're going to be talking about Iran and its continued nuclear ambitions on the morning show, and so I thought I'd put up a helpful mappie of the region, showing just what we're dealing with when we're talking about Iran, and what that country wants. Iran seems quite clearly to want to possess at minimum, nuclear technology. But given the neighborhood they live in, you almost can't blame them. To the east of Iran is Afghanistan, which is teeming with enemy Sunni al-Qaida and related militants. Just to the south/southeast of Afghanistan, bordering Iran's southeastern flank, is nuclear-armed Pakistan (and just to the east of that is nuclear India. To the northwest of Iran is Turkey, with it's constant potential for war over breakaway Kurdistan. And to the west is Iraq, where 140,000 American troops -- all potential targets of an Iranian counterattack -- are mired in hell. To the Southwest -- rival oil power Saudi Arabia, which just happens to be considering, if the rumor mill is to be believed ... acquiring nuclear weapons capability of their own. And then, of course, there's Israel, also nuclear armed, and constantly threatening a pre-emptive strike. Wouldn't Iran's leaders have to be insane not to want nukes? Now, I'm for counter-proliferation, and a nuclear free Middle East. But given the geography, and the geopolitics, I don't think there's any real way to stop the nuclear fever from spreading.
Meanwhile, the top U.S. Navy commander who has been rattling the saber -- and our collective nerves -- over Iran, says Tehran started the provocation in the Persian Gulf and that the U.S. movement of carrier groups was merely a response.
GQ Magazine lays out the case for impeaching the vice president:
That in the buildup to war in Iraq, the vice president, lacking confidence in the true casus belli, conspired to invent additional ones, misrepresenting the available intelligence, crafting new “intelligence,” and then spreading these falsehoods to the public, perverting the democratic process that he is sworn to uphold.
That as the war devolved into occupation, the vice president again sabotaged the democratic system, developing back channels into the Coalition Provisional Authority, a body not under his purview, to remove some of the most effective staff and replace them with his own loyal supplicants—undercutting America’s best effort at war in order to expand his own power.
That in his domestic capacity, the vice president has been equally reckless with the trust of his office, converting the vice presidency into a de facto prime ministership, conducting secret meetings with secret policy boards to determine national policy and then refusing to share the details of those meetings with the other branches of government.
Finally, that the vice president has repeatedly promoted the interests of a corporation, Halliburton, over the interests of the nation, causing untold harm to American economic, military, and public health.
For these and other offenses against the nation, Vice President Cheney, clearly, is guilty of crimes against the state.
"Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling..."
Ouch! The Hotline has more Geffen nastiness for those who, like me, are too cheap to pay for Times Select:
Geffen, who is backing Barack Obama, called Bill Clinton "reckless" and clearly is still upset that Clinton didn't grant a pardon to cause celeb native American Leonard Peltier. More Geffen: "Marc Rich getting pardoned? An oil-profiteer expatriate who left the country rather than pay taxes or face justice?"
Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson issued the following statement today demanding that Barack Obama disavow personal attacks that his campaign finance chair made against Senator Clinton in this morning's New York Times:
"While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign's finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.
"If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money.
"While Democrats should engage in a vigorous debate on the issues, there is no place in our party or our politics for the kind of personal insults made by Senator Obama's principal fundraiser.
From spokesperson Robert Gibbs: "We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom. It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because ’he's black.’"
Ow!!! It smarts!!!
If this keeps up, Rudy G is gonna have to put that dress on to get Chris Matthews attention!
The Army says it's fixing the embarassing, shocking problems at Walter Reed's Building 18 (and apparently, other buildings and facilities as well), while Tony Snow says, hey man, don't ask me, ask the boys across the river.
We may not be able to get a phased withdrawal going in the halls of Congress or the bowels of the White House or Pentagon, but 10 Downing Street is a whole 'nother matter... Enter the Beeb:
Tony Blair is expected to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of UK troops from Iraq. The prime minister is due to make an announcement in the House of Commons on Wednesday in which he is expected clarify the details.
Mr Blair is expected to say hundreds of troops will return from Basra within weeks with more to follow later.
Some 7,000 UK troops are currently serving in Iraq and about 1,500 are expected to return within weeks.
BBC political correspondent James Landale said: "We have been expecting an announcement for some time on this."
He said by Christmas a total of 3,000 troops were expected to have returned to the UK from Iraq.
Blair has been under intense pressure to disentangle his country from George W. Bush's mess in Mesopotamia, but his expected announcement is quite a reversal from just a few weeks ago:
As recently as late last month, Blair rejected opposition calls to withdrawal British troops by October, calling such a plan irresponsible.
"That would send the most disastrous signal to the people that we are fighting in Iraq. It's a policy that, whatever its superficial attractions may be, is actually deeply irresponsible," Blair said on Jan. 24 in the House of Commons.
Well, I guess as they say in Jamaica, 'tings change.
So what say you now, White House? Do we add the U.K. to the list of those who are with the terrorists?
The BBC uncovers the Bush administrations plans for an attack on Iran:
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned. It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
The US insists it is not planning to attack, and is trying to persuade Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.
The UN has urged Iran to stop the programme or face economic sanctions.
But diplomatic sources have told the BBC that as a fallback plan, senior officials at Central Command in Florida have already selected their target sets inside Iran.
That list includes Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. Facilities at Isfahan, Arak and Bushehr are also on the target list, the sources say.
And what would trigger such an attack by the U.S.?
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says the trigger for such an attack reportedly includes any confirmation that Iran was developing a nuclear weapon - which it denies.
The Natanz plant is buried under concrete, metal and earth Alternatively, our correspondent adds, a high-casualty attack on US forces in neighbouring Iraq could also trigger a bombing campaign if it were traced directly back to Tehran.
... the Congress, the Pentagon and the Bush administration should be ashamed. Unfortunately, most of the aforementioned appear to be incapable of shame.
Update: But wait ... there's more. Courtesy of ThinkProgress and Americablog (who has apparently moved on from the Snickers episode to more pressing matters):
“‘Are you telling me that I can’t go to the ceremony ’cause I’m an amputee?‘” asked David Thomas, an Iraq war veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart. Thomas was told he could not wear shorts to attend a ceremony with President Bush because the media would be there, and shorts were not advisable because the amputees would be seated in the front row. David responded, “I’m not ashamed of what I did, and y’all shouldn’t be neither.” When the guest list came out for the ceremony, his name was not on it. John Aravosis tracks other cases of disgraceful treatment toward veterans.
Well you know, an amputee Iraq war veteran wouldn't exactly be good p.r. for the president or the war... nasty reminder of the downside, you know...
The National Journal has two bombshell articles offering new details of just what Dick Cheney had to do with the outing of Valerie Plame, and perhaps more importantly, what role he may have played in suborning the perjury of his then-lieutenant, Scooter Libby. First, the bottom line, from the great Murray Waas:
In the fall of 2003, as a federal criminal probe was just getting underway to determine who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the-then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, sought out Cheney to explain to his boss his side of the story.
The explanation that Libby offered Cheney that day was virtually identical to one that Libby later told the FBI and testified to before a federal grand jury: Libby said he had only passed along to reporters unsubstantiated gossip about Plame that he had heard from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert.
The grand jury concluded that the account was a cover story to conceal the role of Libby and other White House officials in leaking information about Plame to the press, and indicted him on five felony counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.
At the time that Libby offered his explanation to Cheney, the vice president already had reason to know that Libby's account to him was untrue, according to sources familiar with still-secret grand jury testimony and evidence in the CIA leak probe, as well as testimony made public during Libby's trial over the past three weeks in federal court.
Yet, according to Libby's own grand jury testimony, which was made public during his trial in federal court, Cheney did nothing to discourage Libby from telling that story to the FBI and the federal grand jury. Moreover, Cheney encouraged then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan to publicly defend Libby, according to other testimony and evidence made public during Libby's trial.
If Libby is found guilty, investigators are likely to probe further to determine if Libby devised what they consider a cover story in an effort to shield Cheney. They want to know whether Cheney might have known about the leaks ahead of time or had even encouraged Libby to provide information to reporters about Plame's CIA status, the same sources said.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and defense attorneys for Libby are expected to begin their closing arguments in the case as early as Tuesday morning. Defense attorneys for Libby had said for months that they were going to call Cheney as a defense witness, but informed Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton, who has presided over the Libby trial, at the last minute that they were not going to call him after all.
Had Cheney testified, he would have been questioned about whether he encouraged, or had knowledge of, the leaking of Plame's CIA status. Sources close to the case say that Cheney would have also been sharply questioned as to why, when presented by Libby with what prosecutors regarded as a cover story to explain away Libby's role in the leak, Cheney did nothing to discourage him. ...
Now we know the stakes, which apparently are quite high for Cheney, who must be banking on a presidential pardon to save him from a possible Libby cave. So now, in a separate article, here are some key bites from Waas' in-depth tale of two leaks (take the time to read the entire article. It's worth it.):
Early on the morning of June 20, 2002, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., received a telephone call at home from a highly agitated Dick Cheney. Graham, who was in the middle of shaving, held a razor in one hand as he took the phone in the other.
The vice president got right to the point: A story in his morning newspaper reported that telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, apparently warned that Al Qaeda was about to launch a major attack against the United States, possibly the next day. But the intercepts were not translated until September 12, 2001, the story said, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Because someone had leaked the highly classified information from the NSA intercepts, Cheney warned Graham, the Bush administration was considering ending all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence committees on the government's failure to predict and prevent the September 11 attacks. Classified records would no longer be turned over to the Hill, the vice president threatened, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony.
Moreover, Graham recalled in an interview for this story, Cheney warned that unless the leaders of the Intelligence committees took action to discover who leaked the information about the intercepts -- and more importantly, to make sure that such leaks never happened again -- President Bush would directly make the case to the American people that Congress could not be trusted with vital national security secrets.
"Take control of the situation," Graham recalls Cheney instructing him. ...
...On that morning in June 2002, Cheney could not have known that his complaints to Graham about the leaking of classified information would help set events in motion that eventually would lead to the prosecution of his own chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as the result of a separate leak investigation.
So that was the boomerang. Now, here's how it came back to hit Scooter Libby squarely between the eyes...
Senate Democrats were also pressing for a special prosecutor. Because Cheney had personally pushed for a criminal investigation of senators and their staff over the NSA intercepts, the Democrats insisted that the White House endure similar scrutiny over the leak of Plame's identity, according to several senior congressional staffers involved in the process.
With Fitzgerald's appointment as special prosecutor, Eckenrode found a sympathetic ear for his complaint that leak probes often went nowhere because suspects knew that reporters would never be forced to testify. Although the men agreed that reporters should be compelled to testify only as a last resort, Fitzgerald assured Eckenrode that he would demand such testimony if necessary.
And so, you had a game of leaks in which administration officials felt confident that the reporters they leaked to would never testify against them, no matter what. And so, Scooter Libby became one of the administration's "rogue agents," seeking to discredit an administration critic, they thought, with impunity. More of Murray:
The irony that Libby, once the vice president's top aide, was accused of concealing his role in leaking information to the press has not been lost on some. Graham said in an interview: "It's hard to believe that the chief of staff to the vice president was acting as a rogue agent. What we have learned from the trial validates the suspicion that Libby was not just operating as a lone ranger. He was carrying out what the vice president wanted him to do, which was to besmirch Joe Wilson. I think Libby has been a conspirator in one of the most reprehensible and damaging breaches of American security in modern history."
The piece then takes a slight detour, to reveal some nuggets about the new, old Dick Cheney, and his perennial purpose of subordinating the United States Congress to the president:
At the time of Cheney's phone call in June 2002, Graham and other lawmakers on the Intelligence committees suspected that the vice president viewed the leaking of the NSA intercepts as an opportunity to try to curtail what he believed were nettlesome congressional inquiries.
If that was, indeed, the vice president's main purpose for his angry call to Graham, it was not the first time that Cheney had sought to use a press leak as a pretext for constraining a congressional probe.
A recently declassified memo handwritten by Cheney more than 30 years ago when he was an aide to President Ford shows him considering whether to press the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against The New York Times and reporter Seymour Hersh after the newspaper published an article revealing a highly classified espionage program against the Soviet Union. The memo was uncovered for a soon-to-be-aired documentary by the PBS program Frontline.
When the Justice Department balked at prosecuting anyone, Cheney adroitly tried to exploit the news report for other ends. He wrote under the heading "Broader ramifications": "Can we take advantage of it to bolster our position on the Church committee investigation? To point out the need for limits on the scope of the investigation?"
At the time, a select committee headed by then-Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, was investigating the CIA -- an unprecedented and historic inquiry that revealed everything from CIA-sponsored coups against foreign governments to attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, to illegal domestic spying.
Okay, back to the future. Remember how the right went bananas over Democrats and the New York Times supposedly aiding the terrorists by disclosing information about secret NSA intercepts? Well turns out, the big leakers in town during the Bush administration have been true blue, or should I say true red, Republicans:
In the NSA leak probe, the FBI focused primarily on news reports from June 2002 that on the night before September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency had intercepted two Arabic-language messages suggesting that terrorist attacks against the United States were imminent. The messages that were overheard said, "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour." But they were not translated until September 12.
The messages were discussed at length by Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, who was NSA's director, during a joint closed-door session of the House and Senate Intelligence committees on June 19, 2002. Not long after the hearing concluded, CNN aired a report disclosing the two messages. The next morning, The Washington Post and USA Today published more-detailed reports. It was then that Cheney called Graham, and that Graham then met with Goss, Shelby, and Pelosi.
Senior intelligence officials have insisted that even if the messages had been translated immediately, authorities most likely could not have prevented the 9/11 attacks. But they said that the leak revealed possible sources and methods of intelligence-gathering, and therefore was a major security breach.
The FBI swarmed over Capitol Hill, interviewing virtually every senator and House member who served on the Intelligence committees, as well as the staffs of both panels. Before long, investigators began to focus on Shelby. And as they did, Shelby, who had initially supported the investigation, took to denouncing it.
In August 2002, when the FBI inquired about having members of Congress and their staffs take polygraph examinations, Shelby began to pointedly voice opposition to the investigation, telling the press: "I don't know who among us would take a lie detector test. First of all, they're not even admissible in court, and second of all, the leadership [of both parties] has told us not to do that." More broadly, he complained: "Here we are investigating the FBI for huge failures, and now we're asking them to investigate us."
Among those who provided information to the FBI incriminating Shelby was Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron. He told investigators that Shelby shared information about the intercepts shortly after the June 19 hearing, according to sources close to the investigation.
Immediately after Shelby spoke with him, Cameron told the FBI, he watched as Shelby walked down a Senate office building hallway and conversed with Dana Bash, then a producer, and now a correspondent, for CNN. Cameron was not privy to the Shelby-Bash conversation, but CNN later ran a story about the intercepts based on information that was almost identical to what Shelby had told Cameron. Cameron, who indicated that he was irked that Shelby shared the information with a competitor, also told investigators that he delayed a broadcast of his story because he wanted to make sure that he was not compromising intelligence sources and methods, according to these sources.
A congressional staff member, the sources said, recounted to the FBI that Shelby told the staffer about the NSA intercepts -- that Al Qaeda was about to attack the United States, but that the intercepts were not translated until after September 11. Shelby indicated to the staffer that the issue should be brought to the press's attention, although the staffer said that Shelby did not provide specific details of the information that the senator wanted divulged, the sources said.
The investigation stalled when investigators were unable to compel Cameron, Bash, and other reporters to provide evidence or to testify before a federal grand jury on the sources for their stories.
Graham says that even if Shelby had leaked information about the intercepts to the press, Graham believes with some degree of certainty that certain executive branch officials did so as well. Although CNN broke the story, the next-day stories in The Post and USA Today contained details that Hayden had not disclosed to the Intelligence committees, Graham said. "That would lead a reasonable person to infer the administration leaked as well, or what they were doing was trying to set us up... to make this an issue which they could come after us with."
Unfortunately, though, their zeal to capture Congressional leakers was about to bite the Bushies in the arse. So here it is: the twice told tale of how the Plame leak came to be:
The main justification for invading Iraq had been that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. But with inspectors unable to find any evidence of an Iraqi WMD program, the White House blamed the CIA for faulty intelligence. Senior CIA officials, in turn, said that the White House had often misrepresented accurate intelligence information.
It was during that volatile time, on July 6, 2003, that Wilson wrote his New York Times op-ed alleging that the administration had distorted intelligence information about Iraq's purported attempt to procure uranium. When Cheney and Libby learned that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and might even have played a role in selecting him for the Niger mission, they perceived his allegations as one more effort by the CIA to shift blame away from the agency.
Four days later, on July 10, 2003, Mary Matalin, a senior aide to Cheney at the time, warned Libby that Wilson was a "snake" and that his "story has legs," Deputy Special Prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said in court at Libby's trial.
Matalin then suggested a course of action, according to Zeidenberg: "We need to address the Wilson motivation. We need to be able to get the cable out. Declassified. The president should wave his wand."
Two days later, on July 12, 2003, Cheney and Libby flew together to the Norfolk naval base in Virginia, where they attended ceremonies to christen the USS Ronald Reagan.
On the way home on Air Force Two, the two men sat alone in a front compartment as Cheney counseled Libby on what to say to the press. One bit of advice: Provide reporters with details of the CIA debriefing of Wilson's Niger mission.
The vice president told Libby that the president had waved his wand.
Upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base, Libby and Cathie Martin, a press aide to Cheney, searched for a private room so that Libby could call Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and other reporters. Later from home, he also spoke to Judith Miller.
It was toward the end of conversations with both reporters that Libby told them that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, Miller and Cooper testified.
Before the trial, Cheney denied that he ever authorized anyone to provide information about Plame to the media -- or that he even suggested such a thing. But FBI agent Deborah Bond testified that on the return trip from Norfolk, the vice president might indeed have talked with Libby about revealing Plame's CIA connection to the press. "Mr. Libby told us he believed they may have talked about it but he wasn't sure," Bond told the court.
As if that's not enough meat and potatoes for you, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff has also learned that Karl Rove got an advanced peek at Bob Novak's notorious July 2003 newspaper column outing Valerie Plame three days before its publication, meaning that he knew that Plame -- a valuable CIA asset -- was going to be exposed, along with her covert operation to discover what Iran and Iraq had in the way of WMDs. Rove knew, and did nothing, meaning either that he considered the article to be confirmation of a job well done, or a convenient plot to tag along with that would have the desired effect of damaging an administration critic (Amb. Joe Wilson). Either way, it certainly explains why Rove took those five trips to the grand jury, and probably only very narrowly escaped indictment. Novak, true to form, first leaked his scoop to a Washington lobbyist, who reportedly then shared it with Rove. From Novak's testimony in the Libby trial:
Asked by one of Libby's lawyers if he had talked about Plame with anybody else before outing her in his column, Novak said he'd discussed her with a lobbyist named Richard Hohlt. Who, the lawyer pressed, is Hohlt? "He's a very good source of mine" whom I talk to "every day," Novak replied. Indeed, Hohlt is such a good source that after Novak finished his column naming Plame, he testified, he did something most journalists rarely do: he gave the lobbyist an advance copy of his column. What Novak didn't tell the jury is what the lobbyist then did with it: Hohlt confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he faxed the forthcoming column to their mutual friend Karl Rove (one of Novak's sources for the Plame leak), thereby giving the White House a heads up on the bombshell to come. ...
The more you learn about Plamegate, the more it becomes clear that the White House -- both wings -- cared less about the national security of the United States than they did about scapegoating the CIA over their hole-ridden case to go to war with Iraq. But the big question is, will Dick Cheney pull off the same escape act that Karl Rove did, and will the president pardon Scooter Libby before Patrick Fitzgerald can zero in on Tricky Dick and indict the fat bastard.
Our great country has had 43 presidents. Many very good. A few pretty bad. On Presidents Day next Monday, it's appropriate to commemorate them all.
I remember every president since Herbert Hoover, when I was a grade school kid. He was one of the worst. I've personally met every president since Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of the best.
A year ago I criticized Hillary Clinton for saying "this (Bush) administration will go down in history as one of the worst."
"She's wrong," I wrote. Then I rated these five presidents, in this order, as the worst: Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Ulysses Grant, Hoover and Richard Nixon. "It's very unlikely Bush can crack that list," I added.
I was wrong. This is my mea culpa. Not only has Bush cracked that list, but he is planted firmly at the top.
I think he might have meant Andrew Johnson, since Jackson is generally regarded as a top tenner (despite his part in the horrific Trail of Tears, rather than a bottom dweller, but point taken. So for the dear reader's edification, it might be worth recalling precisely why some presidents are consistently remembered less than fondly by historians...
Andrew Johnson (Democrat, 1865-1869) -- Although Abe Lincoln was a tough act to follow, nobody could have dreamed that Mr. Lincoln's vice president would follow him so poorly. The native Tennesseean was so eager to bring the Confederates back into the fold, he presided over the dismantling of Reconstruction before it had really begun, and he vetoed civil rights legislation to try and speed the plough. The Radical Reconstructioninsts in the then Republican Party impeached him in 1868 over his attempts to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, in violation of the Tenure of Office Act, but he survived by a single vote.
James Buchanan (Democrat, 1857-1861) -- Apparently, Lincoln was also a tough act to precede, and his predecessor, Mr. Buchanan, generally tops the list of worst U.S. presidents. He is principally blamed for failing to avert the Civil War, which cost the lives of nearly 620,000 American lives, by coddling the seditionist Confederates, and claiming that even if secession from the Union was illegal, going to war to stop it was, too. Buchanan favored slavery, and wanted it exanded into all new U.S. territories, including Cuba. He wanted to see the issue of new territories and slavery resolved by a Supreme Court friendly to Southern attitudes, and he is said to have been personally involved in the Dred Scott decision, having shared a Dick Cheney-Tony Scalia style relationship with the Chief Justice, Roger Taney, who wrote the decision. Last but not least, he threw his administration's weight behind the war-ginning decision to admit Kansas as a slave state. Oh, and his administration was also rather corrupt.
Franklin Pierce (Democrat, 1853-1857) -- James Buchanan's predecessor, and another of the pre-Civil War bad presidents, Franklin Pierce was another of the so-called "doughfaces": Northerners with Southern sensibilities when it came to slavery and race. Pierce supported the expansion of slavery into the Kansas and Nebraska territories, which is considered to be a major contributing factor leading to the civil war. He was ultimately abandoned by his own party, which nominated James Buchanan as the presidential nominee in 1857. A hero of the Mexican-American war, Pierce ultimately died of alcoholism.
Ulysses S. Grant (Republican, 1869-1877) -- Sandwiched between James Buchanan and "Rutherfraud" Hayes, Grant is best known ... or should I say worst known ... for allowing rampant corruption and patronage to take hold during his administration. But he gets good marks for pushing Reconstruction programs and for supporting civil rights for freed Blacks and bold moves to try and break up the Ku Klux Klan. He also is ranked among America's best generals, for his exploits during the Civil War.
Warren G. Harding (Republican, 1921-1923) -- The first of our 20th century bad presidents (and the first U.S. president to ride to his inauguration in a car,) Warren Harding is best known for presiding over the Teapot Dome scandal, in which his interior secretary, Albert Fall, took bribes and no-interest personal loans in exhange for leasing public oil fields to his business cronies, leading to Fall's becoming the first presidential cabinet member to go to prison. Herbert Hoover was his secretary of commerce, and one of the few members of the cabinet not to wind up needing a lawyer. From wikipedia:
Thomas Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property, was convicted of accepting bribes. Jess Smith, personal aide to the Attorney General, destroyed papers and then committed suicide. Charles Forbes, director of the Veterans Bureau, skimmed profits, earned large amounts of kickbacks, and directed underground alcohol and drug distribution. He was convicted of fraud and bribery and drew a two-year sentence. Charles Cramer, an aide to Charles Forbes, also committed suicide
Not a good look, even though there was never any direct link proved between the scandals and the president. He had the largest feet of any U.S. president, which may be why he was also said to have dabbled in extra-marital affairs ... hmmm.... Beaten down by scandal, Harding died in office at age 57 after suffering a stroke or heart attack while visiting Alaska (he was also the first U.S prez to do that...)
Herbert Hoover (Republican, 1929-1933) -- How much must it blow to be the president who gets elected on the eve of the Great Depression? Herbert Hoover was actually a very well known and respected economic mind (and both Warren Harding and Calvin Coolige's commerce secretary) before he wound up being the nation's 31st president. But after just one term, the phrases "Hoover hotels" and "Hoovervilles" said all you need to know about his presidency. It's possible that there was nothing Hoover could have done to avert the Depression, but what's clear is that once it happened, he was a paragon of presidential paralysis, particularly after the Smoot Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 crippled U.S. trade and touched off a string of international bank collapses.
Richard Nixon (Republican, 1969-1974) -- From Watergate to Vietnam, Richard Nixon's presidency was a study in presidential overreach, corruption and scandal. But Nixon was actually quite a liberal when it came to civil rights and the environment, and he created OSHA. He opened diplomatic channels to China, and pioneered detente with the U.S.S.R., but his increasing paranoia, spying on opponents, grabs for presidential power, and tunnel vision on the war ultimately did him in. Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign his office on August 9, 1974.
And then there's George W. Bush... where ... oh God ... to begin ...
There's also John Tyler (Whig, 1841-1845) who was a traitor and served in the Confederate House of Representatives after his term, Millard Filmore (Whig, 1850-1853) who supported the Fugitive Slave Act, and Calvin Coolidge (Republican, 1923-1925), who had a great re-election slogan, but a rather sheepish president at a time when the Great Depression was looming. But these are the really, really bad eggs.
So happy President's Day, George W. ... you're in good ... or should I say BAD ... company.
Oh, and I might as well big up the president with the shortest term in U.S. history: William Henry Harrison, also our nation's second oldest president at age 68, who insisted on giving an hour and 45 minute, 8,445-word inaugural address on the coldest inauguration day in U.S. history. 30 days later, he was dead, setting the table for John Tyler, the man with two wives, but no vice presidet, and who was otherwise known as "His Accidency."
More on the presidential rankings from Wikipedia ...
Chris Wallace ... wait a minute ... you mean THAT Chris Wallace ?????? actually pauses for a moment from his normal role as Fox News' most skilled pretend neutral journalist, to actually behave like a neutral journalist... debunking the claims of innocence of one Douglas Feith, who insisted on an earlier program that, but of course he never claimed Iraq's Saddam Hussein had an operational link with al-Qaida! When a Fox News host is calling out the neocons, you KNOW the world is slowly coming to an end.
The latest revelations about Rudy G are ... well ... down right prissified...
Move over, J.Lo. There's a new diva on the scene - and his name is Rudy Giuliani. At least that's the impression given by a copy of the basic contract the former mayor and now presidential hopeful requires before giving a speech, a copy of which was posted yesterday on the SmokingGun.com Web site.
In addition to his $100,000 speaking fee, the former mayor insists that he be shuttled to and from any event by a private plane - and not just any plane, mind you!
"Please note that the private aircraft MUST BE a Gulfstream IV or bigger," notes the contract, referring to a $30 million jet that can clock 600 mph.
Once there, Hizzoner demands that he be met by "one sedan and one large SUV," and booked into a hotel room "with a king-size bed, on an upper floor, with a balcony and view," plus four more rooms on the same floor for his entourage.
And, oh, yeah, America's Mayor doesn't like "candid photo opportunities," but he will stand for posed pictures provided they are taken in a room "with sufficient light" and "without direct, on-camera flash bulbs." ...
Aides to the former mayor declined to comment yesterday on his list of demands. But it comes as Giuliani has asked the Federal Elections Commission for advice on how best to handle his private speech-giving. ...
Oh, wait, there's more!
Giuliani's contract notes that he "reserves the right" to hold political events in the same city, but otherwise it is focused mostly on minutiae - right down to who sits next to him at a dinner (his wife, Judith, or a staffer), and how his fans will be kept at a safe distance.
"There must be rope and stanchions to assist with attendee control," the contract states, "as well as staff appointed to push and pull."
... well, at least he doesn't demand that the green M&Ms be carefully culled from the candy herd... Read more of Rudy's exploits at The Smoking Gun
What are Giuliani's credentials? Everybody knows the basics. On Sept. 11, 2001, he rolled up his shirt sleeves and gave reassuring speeches. He has a tough guy persona. He expresses extremely strong disapproval for enemies of the United States. (For instance, Giuliani has bragged about asking President Bush to let him personally execute Osama bin Laden.) ...
... If having a macho swagger and talking tough about bad guys were enough to make a good commander in chief, we wouldn't have the worst foreign policy disaster in U.S. history on our hands right now in Iraq. And, need I remind anybody, one of the reasons Giuliani hasn't been able to fulfill his Bin Laden execution fantasy is that Bush allowed the Al Qaeda leader to escape at Tora Bora by using Afghan proxies instead of U.S. ground troops.
As I noted in this space last week, conservative foreign policy consists increasingly of abstract notions divorced from reality. In preparing for last week's House debate over the Iraq troop surge, the Republican leadership instructed its members in a memo: "The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily. If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose."
So they're strong on foreign policy, except insofar as it involves actual policy. They tend to be much better, however, at comparing themselves to figures such as Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln. They make such comparisons incessantly. Last week, Giuliani said that Lincoln had "that ability that a leader has — a leader like George Bush, a leader like Ronald Reagan — to look into the future."
A few days later, the New York Times revealed that the 2002 postwar plan for Iraq envisioned a broadly representative Iraqi government, an intact Iraqi army and just a handful of U.S. troops remaining. I would say this is not a good job of looking into the future.
I'm sure Giuliani and his fans would dismiss such slip-ups, and there have been many, as mere detail. The important thing to them is leadership — Bush has it; Giuliani has it.
Giuliani raked in millions after 9/11, appearing at motivational seminars, where anybody with $49 could listen to him recount his 9/11 heroics and also take in speeches by such foreign policy titans as Zig Ziglar and Goldie Hawn. Giuliani also wrote a book promising to show "how the leadership skills he practices can be employed successfully by anyone who has to run anything."
But if anybody who buys his book can acquire the same leadership skills, why do we need Giuliani?
Thank you, Johnathan Chait. Now if a few more folks could cough up the Kool-Aid, that'd be lovely. ... Chris Matthews ...
Senate Republicans (Joe Lieberman) blocked Democratic attempts to bring the House resolution opposing the president's Iraq surge to the floor today, choosing to continue watching George W. Bush's back, rather than the backs of American troops. AP calls it gridlock ... I call it shilling. The vote was 56-34, four short of the 60 needed to end debate and bring the resolution to the floor. Seven Republicans broke party lines to vote for cloture: John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman. As for the rest, including that weasel John McCain, who couldn't be bothered to show up and vote, and the Senate's biggest villain in my opinion, neocon Joe Lieberman, today, I'm christening them the Rubber Stamp Republicans, also to be known as Dubya's court jesters.
House Congressional Resolution 63 has been approved, "Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq." The Yeas were 246 and the Nays were 182. 17 Republicans voted with the Democrats, of whom only two opposed the resolution.
Foxy Brown is at it again. Her beauty shop antics continue with her latest arrest, this time in my neck of the woods, Pembroke Pines, Florida. The Herald has the story, and the arrest report:
...Police say the rapper was hauled to the Broward County jail last night after squirting hair glue at a beauty store owner, swearing and spitting at him, knocking over display shelves and tussling with an officer.
The charges: battery and resisting an officer -- with violence. ...
Thursday's alleged smackdown happened at Queen Beauty Supply, 12105 Pembroke Rd. in Pembroke Pines. Police and the owner gave this blow by blow:
Brown showed up just before closing with a female companion, wearing a neon green jacket, jean miniskirt and knee-high stiletto boots.
She bought a squirt bottle of hair glue, then went to the bathroom at the rear of the store to apply it.
But it was closing time. Hayssam Ghoneim, the proprietor, knocked on the bathroom door and told her it was lights out.
No answer. He knocked again and became more insistent. The rapper indicated she wasn't finished with the hair glue.
'I said to her, `This is not a beauty salon. You need to leave. The store is closed,' '' Ghoneim recalled.
He said she opened the door and he grabbed it. She tried to push him out of the way, and then, spewing profanities, tried to squirt him with the glue.
She missed, but managed to get the glue all over the floor.
Brown then knocked over two display shelves of spray bottles and ''was throwing everything in sight.'' Ghoneim said. ``I was afraid it was going to get out of hand.''
According to Ghoneim, Brown then declared: ``I'm going to send some guys to hurt you and the store. You're in big trouble.''
She spit on the floor and the store owner before leaving.
Roughly three minutes later, Ghoneim said, he heard loud screaming and cursing in the parking lot. He believes that was the arrest.
Former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway hates gay people ... no ... I mean he really, really hates gay people. And he's dumb enough to say so to a sports talk radio host ... who's also a freaking reporter...
The comments came as Hardaway appeared on Dan LeBatard's Miami talk show, as he was being asked about former NBA star Don Amaechi's revelation that he is gay. Hardaway said that not only is he homophobic, he wouldn't want a gay person on his team ... oh, read it for yourself:
``You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.''
As for a gay player like Amaechi sharing the close confines of the locker room with Timmy:
''First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team,'' Hardaway replied. ``And second of all, if he was on my team, I would really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room. But stuff like that is going on and there's a lot of other people I hear that are like that and still in the closet and don't want to come out of the closet, but you know I just leave that alone.''
Asked what he would do if he had a gay teammate, Hardaway said he would ask for the player to be traded or to be bought out of his contract.
''Something has to give,'' he said. ``And I think the majority of players would ask for him to be traded or they would want to be traded. Or buy him out of his contract and just let him go. Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that are upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate.''
As for Amaechi, he says:
''We are much further behind than I'd like,'' Amaechi said. ``People in America and England [where Amaechi grew up] would like to think racism is over, sexism is over, and homophobia is over, but it's not. My coming out will show that gay people don't all look like Jack from Will and Grace. Some of us are big, athletic men, and that should be OK.''
Amaechi said he had not heard from a single former teammate or NBA player, that he had only heard from former coach Doc Rivers. He challenged straight athletes ''who feel able'' to stand up for gay rights.
''I would like professional male athletes to be active supporters, and that doesn't mean putting a rainbow decal on their car,'' he said. ``It means letting other guys in the locker room know that it's not OK to make gay jokes, that it's hurtful, and that it's not OK to be homophobic.
``But it's hard to get straight guys to step up. When men stood by women during the suffrage movement, they were called progressive and bold. When whites stood by blacks, they were heroes. But a straight guy standing up for a gay guy faces discrimination, and that's a big part of the battle we're fighting.''
After the interview, Hardaway expanded on the comments with CBS 4 reporter Jim Berry, telling him that if he found out a family member was gay, he would have nothing to do with them.
Writing about the exchange he instigated with Hardaway (one of only a handful of NBA stars who ignored their publicists' advice and answered questions about Amaeichi's coming out in a new book, "Man in the Middle," Lebatard describes the comments as hurtful and homophobic, but "honest." They were also stupid for a public figure.
But ... and this is the big "but..."
Keeping it real ... most straight men feel exactly the same way, and would have the exact same reaction to the idea of stripping naked in a sweaty locker room in close quarters with a gay teammate. Most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing. Most straight people cringed at the Snickers commercial. Most straight people had a hard time being convinced to watch "Broke Back Mountain." (I admit that I couldn't go see the movie either, despite my sister's ringing endorsement, because I didn't want to watch the two male characters having sex.)
Does that make me homophobic? Probably. And I'm not exactly proud of it. But part of the intrinsic nature of "straightness" is that the idea of homosexual sex is ... well... gross ... even if you think that gay people are perfectly lovely individuals. For the record, I'm sure gay people think straight sex is gross, too, it's just that the nature of political correctness is that gay people are allowed to say straight sex is gross, but the reverse is considered to be patently homophobic.
So was Tim Hardaway wrong to say what he said? Yes and no. On the one hand, in a free society, he has the right to feel and say exactly what he wants. On the other hand, he's a grown man and will have to suffer the consequences. He probably sunk his prospects of ever becoming an anchor on ESPN, and he has already begun to suffer career consequences, including being bounced from All Star Weekend. In the current age, you never, ever say blatantly bigoted things out loud, on the air, to a reporter (or if you're Isaiah Washington, you don't say them on the set...) ... unless of course, you're Rush Limbaugh... As one gay leader in South Florida put it:
"'It is a very simple process to say `no' or 'I'd rather not comment' than to go on the record and make malicious and bigoted statements,'' (president of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Steve) Adkins said.
``. . . Let's just say I'm very disappointed that if someone in this day and age has these kinds of feelings, they're not intelligent enough to keep them to themselves. Beyond that, there is no place in our society for that kind of hatred and bigotry. End of story.''
Further, as an African-American, you're actually held to an even higher tolerance standard, which may or may not be fair. But as LeBatard himself noted, what Hardaway said probably met with quiet, embarrassed agreement on some level by many other players, who are now looking to their left and right, and perhaps quietly, and uneasily, wondering if the guy showering next to them is sneaking a peek at their naughty bits.
The new USAT/Gallup poll is out ... Chicago Trib's The Swamp has the horserace, which shows Giuliani doing better than McCain against Obama, and Hillary virtually tied with both McCain and Giuliani in a head to head match-up (she slightly beats McCain, 50-47, and slightly loses to Giuliani, 48-50. As for Obama, he ties 47-47 with McCain but loses by 9 points to Rudy (52-43).
The poll also finds that Big Bill, who's set to host a big fundraiser for the wifey in NYC this weekend, is as hot as ever, with a favorable rating just off his presidential high of 66 percent (he's at 63 percent now). Go Bill!
BTW Giuliani will skip this weekend's right wing religious panderfest (something Jerry Falwell's new best friend John "Desperado" McCain wouldn't dare do.) Maybe Rudy is afraid the saints will ask him about that marriage to his cousin...
In hypothetical match-ups, registered voters picked Giuliani over Clinton, 50% to 48%, while Clinton trumped McCain, 50%-47% — all within the poll's margin of error of 3 percentage points. ...
...Age may work against the Arizona senator, a Vietnam War veteran. More than 40% of those polled said they would not vote for a "generally well-qualified person" for president who was 72 years old, which McCain will hit before the November 2008 election. And three times might not be a charm for Giuliani when it comes to his marriages: Nearly 30% won't punch their presidential ticket for someone who has hit the nuptials trifecta.
By contrast, only 5% said they would not vote for a candidates who was black. Gender, however, is a bigger barrier to the White House among some voters: 11% said they would not vote for a woman for president.
One thing is clear: John McCain is sinking, but fast. Giuliani is being set up as the front runner, but I still believe he will begin to crumble once McCain unleashes the dirty dogs of opposition research and attack advertising he hired from Dubya's 2000 campaign. Mitt Romney is in no position to save the GOP, and nobody knowss who Mike Hukabee and that other guy are.
Kyle "Dusty" Foggo used to be the number three man at the CIA. Now, he's inmate #54321 ... okay, I made up the number. But he has been indicted, along with one of his contractor friends. Fasten your seatbelts: it's the return of Hookergate.
If you though Hillary Clinton was going to run away from Big Bill ... Chris Matthews ... in order to satiate the Clinton haters ... Chris Matthews ... think again. (Photo courtesy of National Galleries)
Here's how it will work. President Bush will continue to insist that Iran is funneling weapons and money to Iraqi militias who are in turn, killing American troops, but that, aw shucks, he doesn't have ANY intention of starting another war... But he will ratchet up the rhetoric, and the tactical provocations, like detaining Iranian officials in Iraq, hoping to trigger an overreaction by Tehran. Then he will make a sober sounding speech to the nation, stating that by his authorization, U.S. troops have been forced to retaliate against these outrageous acts, "in the name of peace." We will be at war with Iran, and nobody will have had the opportunity to stop it -- not Congress, not the American people.
#5. The entire Middle East region is imploding, starting with Iraq, but increasingly including Lebanon, something which strengthens Syria, which further strengthens Iran, because those two countries are seen as uniquely able to get their arms around the chaos, in a way we clearly cannot. A military confrontation with Iran could have disastrous consequences for the region, and could suck the United States into a quaqmire that would make Iraq look like a walk in the park. And this time, there will be no "coalition."
The Bush administration continues to beat the war drums on Iran, persistently charging that Iran is funding and supplying... well, not the insurgency, right? ... since the insurgents are Sunnis and Iran is a Shiite power that supports ...the ... same ... government ... we... put in ... place... hmmmmmm......
Righto, so they're supporting somebody bad that we don't like in Iraq but who is in many ways on our side of the ledger, but it's still bad anyway ... right? Right.
So if Bushie could just convince the world that this time, he and his Pentagon guys have really, really gotten it right, and Iran really, really is trying to destabilize Iraq ... rather than to prop up Iraq's Shiite government that ... we ... put in ... place... ooooohhhhhh.... sorry ... hmm...... well they might start by convincing their own Joint Chiefs chairman...
WASHINGTON - A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace's comment could make it harder for the Bush administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.
At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of American tanks and Humvees.
They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170 U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the highest level of the Iranian government."
Asked about the briefing during a visit Monday to Canberra, Australia, Pace said he couldn't substantiate the assertion that the clerical regime in Tehran is shipping such devices to Shiite militias in Iraq.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government per se knows about this," Pace replied. "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it is clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say based on what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests for an explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation's highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad.
Pace's apostasy aside, if Bushie could just convince the world to trust him just this one more time, and perhaps if they can just convince the country and the Congress that Iran really is the THE real problem for the U.S. in Iraq, perhaps he could put that third carrier group to use straffing Iran's ... nuclear facilities? Thus stopping Iran's provocation in Iraq by denying them the chance to build a "nucular" bomb. As one former Bush administration official put it, we could just "accidentally" end up at war...
Oh, and the Europeans believe it's too late to stop Iran getting a nuke anyway...
In an admission of the international community’s failure to hold back Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the document – compiled by the staff of Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief – says the atomic programme has been delayed only by technical limitations rather than diplomatic pressure. “Attempts to engage the Iranian administration in a negotiating process have not so far succeeded,” it states.
The downbeat conclusions of the “reflection paper” – seen by the Financial Times – are certain to be seized on by advocates of military action, who fear that Iran will be able to produce enough fissile material for a bomb over the next two to three years. Tehran insists its purposes are purely peaceful.
“At some stage we must expect that Iran will acquire the capacity to enrich uranium on the scale required for a weapons programme,” says the paper, dated February 7 and circulated to the EU’s 27 national governments ahead of a foreign ministers meeting yesterday.
“In practice . . . the Iranians have pursued their programme at their own pace, the limiting factor being technical difficulties rather than resolutions by the UN or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“The problems with Iran will not be resolved through economic sanctions alone.”
The admission is a blow to hopes that a deal with Iran can be reached and comes at a sensitive time, when tensions between the US and Tehran are rising. Its implication that sanctions will prove ineffective will also be unwelcome to EU diplomats.
Sorry, Chris Matthews. Rudy Giuliani is never, ever going to be president. Ever. Read on:
FEBRUARY 12--As he campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination, Rudolph Giuliani will have to contend with political and personal baggage unknown to prospective supporters whose knowledge of the former New York mayor is limited to his post-September 11 exploits. So, in a bid to educate the electorate, we're offering excerpts from a remarkable "vulnerability study" that was commissioned by Giuliani's campaign prior to his successful 1993 City Hall run. The confidential 450-page report, authored by Giuliani's research director and another aide, was the campaign's attempt to identify possible lines of attack against Giuliani and prepare the candidate and his staff to counter "the kinds of no-holes-barred assault" expected in a general election rematch with Democratic incumbent David Dinkins. As he tried to win election in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, Giuliani needed "inoculating against" the "Reagan Republican moniker," the vulnerability study reported. "The Giuliani campaign should emphasize its candidate's independence from traditional national Republican policies." The final six words of that sentence are underlined in the study.
Additionally, the Giuliani report noted that the candidate needed to make it clear to voters that he was "pretty good on most issues of concern to gay and lesbian New Yorkers" and was pro-choice and supported public funding for abortion. "He will continue city funding for abortions at city hospitals. Nothing more, nothing less." Giuliani's stance on these issues, of course, may leave him vulnerable today with an entirely different electorate. The campaign study was obtained by The Village Voice's Wayne Barrett in the course of preparing "Rudy!," an investigative biography of Giuliani. In its preface, the study notes that it is "tough and hard-hitting. It pulls no punches."
Perhaps that is why Giuliani, as Barrett reported, ordered copies of the vulnerability study destroyed shortly after it was circulated to top campaign aides. He surely could not have been pleased to read that his "personal life raises questions about a 'weirdness factor.'" That weirdness, aides reported, stemmed from Giuliani's 14-year marriage to his second cousin, a union that he got annulled by claiming to have never received proper dispensation from the Catholic Church for the unorthodox nuptials. ...
Oh hell no... he was married to his second cousin??? Sorry Smoking Gun, please do go on...
"When asked about his personal life, Giuliani gives a wide array of conflicting answers," the campaign report stated. "All of this brings the soundness of his judgement into question--and the veracity of his answers." The internal study also addresses prospective charges that Giuliani dodged the Vietnam draft and was a "man without convictions" because of his transformation from George McGovern voter to a Reagan-era Justice Department appointee. "In many ways Rudy Giuliani is a political contradiction...He doesn't really fit with the Republicans. Too liberal. Giuliani has troubles with the Democrats, too."
Like taking candy from a baby: how Snickers played everybody
It occurred to me during a marketing meeting for the station this morning that the Snickers ad that's caused so much consternation was a brilliant piece of advertising for two reasons. First, it was the most memorable ad on Super Bowl Sunday -- and it also has had the longest after-game shelf life, generating tens of millions of dollars worth of free media for the brand due to the news stories, blog drama, protests and angst that it generated. And second, it succeeded in stealth, achieving its marketing goals without anybody noticing what the advertiser was up to.
Here's what I mean.
When Masterfoods' ad agency first conceived the ad, I understand they originally approached some gay rights advocates to ask them to view the ads and comment, but at the eleventh hour, they pulled back, and never showed the groups the ads. The company probably knew how they would be received. They also knew that the masses of men and women of all ages who watch the Super Bowl aren't Snickers' target market. Who is the target market? Young, mostly male candy eaters.
... and where can you reach millions of young, male candy eaters who probably don't catch a lot of prime time television?
And once the ads hit, and caused the expected uproar, both from gay advocates (who objected to the reaction of the male smoochers to their accidental kiss, and the NFL players whose cringy reactions were uploaded on a Snickers web-site) and from Family Research Council types, who objected to the ads because of the man-on-man smooching itself, Masterfoods promptly pulled them, issued a statement, and then failed to take the next logical step: demanding that the ads also be pulled from Youtube and other viral video sites.
Because I would speculate, getting the ads the buzz they needed to burn up the blogs, as well as those viral video sites, was precisely the point. Once the viral video success was achieved, the company no longer needed to run the ads, on television, or online.
It's either that, or M&M Mars is just damned lucky.
The sleeper issue that's (also) sinking the president
Forget the war ... okay don't forget the war ... but there's another issue that folks on the left and in the center are sleeping on (still) but that is further weighing down President Bush: it's the continued illegal immigration standstill, and it currently is embodied in the case of two border patrol agents who are serving long prison sentences for shooting an alleged illegal immigrant and then covering it up. Conservative politicians and pundits, including CNN's Lou Dobbs, are demanding that the president DO something, including pardoning the men, one of whom was recently beaten up in prison. Here's the latest, and it's hot. From Raw:
Several Republican lawmakers have sharply criticized the imprisonment of two border agents who were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler in the back and attempting to cover it up.
Appeals to President Bush to pardon the two men, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, have increased since one was assaulted by fellow inmates in a federal prison last weekend.
Yesterday, two Repulican Congressmen had strong words to say about Bush, with one even threatening impeachment.
"Reps. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., blasted President Bush for not intervening in the case, with Rohrabacher hinting that he would consider pressing for impeachment if either of the two agents was killed in prison," Dave Montgomery reports for McClatchy Newspapers.
"Now, I tell you, Mr. President, if these men -- especially after this assault -- are murdered in prison, or if one of them lose their lives, there's going to be some kind of impeachment talk in Capitol Hill," Rohrabacher said.
WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday apologetically retracted staff members' comments that two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a Mexican drug smuggler had told investigators they intended "to shoot Mexicans."
The department's inspector general issued the retraction at a congressional hearing as the department released a previously sealed report into the conduct of the two agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean.
Congressional pressure to remove the two agents from prison - either through presidential pardons or by releasing them on bail pending appeal - intensified Wednesday after reports that fellow inmates assaulted Ramos over the weekend.
The case has become a cause celebre among conservative groups, which contend that Ramos and Compean were railroaded by overzealous federal prosecutors who gave the drug smuggler immunity to testify against the two agents.
U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of San Antonio has defended his handling of the case, saying the agents seriously overstepped their authority by attempting to cover up the shooting of the smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila, and destroying evidence. They began serving their sentences last month. Compean faces 12 years in prison, Ramos 11.
The Homeland Security Department, which includes the Border Patrol, released its inspector general's report after four Texas lawmakers demanded the document to compare it with information from a briefing that department staff members gave them in September.
The aides told the lawmakers that the two agents had admitted to investigators that they intended to "shoot Mexicans." But Inspector General Richard L. Skinner said under questioning by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, that the statements were erroneous, and he apologized.
The report also contradicted statements made in the briefing that the two men knew that Aldrete-Davila was unarmed and didn't pose a threat. The report contained a transcript of Compean's account to investigators, in which he said that he and Ramos were trying "to kill the alien" because they thought he had a gun.
McCaul described the errors as serious misrepresentations that painted a distorted picture of the case.
"My complaint here is that they weren't forthcoming with all the evidence," McCaul said.
So will Bush relent, and give in to the base? If he does, he risks angering Hispanics, whom he sees as crucial to the GOP's national electoral future. If he doesn't, he'll have hell to pay with his own base.
Meanwhile, the plot on which Iraqi leaders are "with us" and which are "with the terrorists" thickens:
US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have arrested the deputy health minister during a raid at his offices. The minister, Hakim al-Zamili, is a key member of the political group led by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
He is accused of aiding Shia militiamen and using ambulances to move weapons, a ministry source told the BBC.
Back in Washington, Chuck Hagel, John Warner and five other GOP Senators who earlier this week voted with their party leadership to stop debate over a non-binding resolution, only to see debate on all resolutions stop entirely, have now jumped ship. And Iran is issuing threats.
In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most pressing issue of our time," the senators declared: "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate."
The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was not more specific about the Republican senators' strategy for reviving the war debate. But under the chamber's rules, senators have wide latitude in slowing the progress of legislation and in offering amendments, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the bill.
The letter began circulating yesterday evening after it became apparent the Senate was deadlocked over the war resolution and Reid was prepared to move on to other matters. McConnell and many in his party have aggressively defended their decision to block the bipartisan resolution as an issue of fairness because Democrats would not agree to GOP procedural demands.
But some Republicans were uneasy about appearing to have stymied the debate. The letter appeared so suddenly that, although it was addressed to Reid, the Democratic leader had not seen his copy before Warner read the text on the Senate floor.
"Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts" of the resolution, the letter said. "The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."
And as for the argument that such a resolution, if passed, would harm troop morale, let's hear from General Peter Pace:
"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."
And neither, apparently, do Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans who are continuing to provide a human shield for the president on Iraq.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
And I was thinking yesterday, if this guy is a terrorist who shouldn't sit in Iraq's parliament, then would we say that Israel shouldn't have allowed accused war criminal Ariel Sharon, or Irgun and Stern Gangs (who bombed British holdings in Palestine and were considered terrorists by the Crown,) like the late Menachem Begin or Yitzak Shamir to sit at the head of government in the premiership? Just a thought...
From Baghdad this morning, the joint Iraqi-U.S. security crackdown has reportedly begun. Let's hope it works, though I'm not exactly optimistic.
A judge in Italy has ordered a U.S. Marine to face trial over the death of an Italian security official who was killed when the car carrying him and journalist Giuliana Sgrena sped through a checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2005.
And who in their right mind would ship 360 tons of cash to a war zone? Apparently, Paul Bremer.
A new charge of attempted murder will be filed against a NASA astronaut who allegedly drove from Houston to Central Florida -- armed with a BB gun and wearing diapers -- as part of a bizarre plot related to a possible love triangle, officials said.
Lisa Nowak, who already faced lesser charges and had been expected to be released on bail, was still being held this afternoon and will be charged with attempted first-degree murder, officials said shortly after noon.
''Nowak said that she just wanted to talk to the victim,'' said Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. 'But everything we found associated with it puts it in a different perspective than `I just want to talk to you.' '' ...
...According to a police affidavit, Nowak drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, donned a wig and a trench coat and was armed with a BB gun, pepper spray and other equipment when she confronted Colleen Shipman shortly after 3 a.m. Monday at Orlando International Airport's Blue Satellite Parking Lot.
''Somebody looked at the details based on the facts that she had a steel mallet, a brand new four-inch knife and rubber tubing,'' Jones said. ``They decided that the additional charge should be added.''
Nowak believed that Shipman, an Air Force captain stationed at Patrick Air Force Base near the Kennedy Space Center, was a rival for the affections of Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, according to the affidavit.
Nowak, who triumphantly lifted off from the space center on a shuttle mission last summer, appeared at a hearing earlier this morning in shackles and a blue prison uniform. She kept her head bowed throughout the appearance and rarely spoke.
... he 43-year-old Nowak is married and has three children -- a 14-year-old son and twin 5-year-old daughters. Her husband, Richard, works for NASA as a flight controller.
According to the police report, Nowak said she and Oefelein were involved in a relationship that ``was categorized as more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship.''
The ambiguity of that statement left open the possibility that neither Oefelein nor Shipman were aware of Nowak's feelings.
Okay, now here's where it really gets crazy:
According to the affidavit, Shipman told police that she spotted Nowak stalking her, heard ''running footsteps'' as Shipman entered her car and became particularly alarmed when Nowak slapped on the window and attempted to open the door.
''Can you help me please?'' Nowak allegedly asked Shipman. ``My boyfriend was supposed to pick me up and he is not here.''
Shipman told police that she refused, but opened her window about two inches after Nowak began to cry. At that point, Shipman said, Nowak sprayed her with a chemical substance, apparently pepper spray.
Shipman drove hurriedly away and sought help from police officers.
Within a few minutes, officers detained Nowak, who matched a description provided by Shipman.
Police said they also found a wig and a trench coat used as a disguise, a folding knife with a four-inch blade, six Latex gloves, at least three feet of rubber tubing and several large garbage bags.
They said Nowak denied that she was attempting to kidnap Shipman, saying she only wanted to speak to the other woman.
Asked about the alleged use of pepper spray, Nowak reportedly told officers: ``That was stupid.''
Police said Nowak told officers that she wore adult diapers during the long drive from Houston so she wouldn't have to stop to use bathrooms. Shuttle astronauts wear similar diapers during launches and landings.
Diapers, man ... diapers...
Oh, my damn, now I suppose the Seniors who wear Depends lobby will be blog-whining to the New York Times and demanding an apology. I guess I'll get started writing one...
Next up in 'The Week in Crazy': Charlize Theron wants to make out with Rick Sanchez! ... and she's going to teach you about hip-hop...
There are times when I think the left reads way too much into things. This is one of those times. John Aravosis' rather overwrought reaction to the Snickers SuperBowl ad (one of the few funny ones on an otherwise dull ad night) is, to me, way over the top. Dude, it's just a stupid commercial. And sorry, but most straight guys (and women) do react with winces at the sight of two men kissing on the lips. As Shabba Ranks used to say, it's just reality. And more importantly, it's just a commercial...
Update: the New York Times picks up the story ... and Snickers backs down, pulling the ad. This is actually quite unbelievable to me. Watch the ad for yourself, below, and tell me you seriously, seriously see violent homophobia at work. Seriously:
And here's Snickers' statement:
“As with all of our Snickers advertising, our goal was to capture the attention of our core Snickers consumer, primarily 18-to-24-year-old adult males,” said a spokeswoman for Masterfoods, Alice Nathanson. “Feedback from our target consumers has been positive, and many media and Web site commentators on this year’s Super Bowl lineup ranked the commercial among this year’s best.”
“We know that humor is highly subjective and we understand that some consumers have found the commercial offensive,” Ms. Nathanson said, adding: “Clearly that was not our intent. We do not plan to continue the ad on television or on our Web site.”
That apparently, is not good enough for John Aravosis and his commenters, who want a major league apology and even new ads showing gay men in them. Try to follow me here ... Snickers bars are primarily eaten by children, and by young men -- as the company says, its target market is college aged men. And those two groups ... follow me now ... would definitely react with laughter or "gross-out" to the same situation. Right? Isn't that why the ad works?
Update: Just for reference here is the other Snickers ad, called "Wrench." Note how many commenters who themselves are gay say they found the ad funny. Go figure...
Here's the version called "Motor Oil":
And here's are the reaction spots, from the Colts:
...and from the Bears:
Now when you listen to the reactions, I can see where someone who is gay might have had their feelings hurt by hearing the reactions of rather typical straight men to seeing two men kiss. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those reactions, if disheartening to a gay person, are very, very typical. EVERYONE at the Super Bowl party I was at reacted the same way. We can't ALL be violent homophobes. It's human nature to expect romantic pairings to be male-female. The visceral reaction people have to this ad is, I hate to say it, rather normal. Maybe gays don't want it to remain that way, but for now, it is.
But more importantly, it's JUST A FREAKING CANDY COMMERCIAL.
Oh, okay, if you hated that one, check out this Snicker's ad from Australia:
This morning on the radio show, James T (our host) came up with a modest, but great, proposal. If the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman...) insist on backing Bush to the hilt on his war escalation, Democrats should call their bluff, step aside, and let them have it: the votes, the escalation, the whole kit and kaboodle. But then, we should begin keeping track, both of who stands where on Iraq, and on how many lives are lost, how much money is spent, and how many American troops are maimed, as this policy grinds on. And then we should hold the GOPer lackeys (Lieberman included), personally accountable for every single limb, life and dollar.
Let's start counting from January 10, when Bush began shipping his escalation troops into Baghdad.
Between January 10 and today (February 6), here's the count:
U.S. troop deaths (since January 10) -- 88
U.S. troops injured -- 294
U.S. $ spent (based on CBO estimates of approximately $195 million per day, times 28 days) -- $5.46 billion.
And here are the Republicans to watch, based on their cloture vote:
Lamar Alexander, Wayne Allard, Robert Bennett, Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Larry Craig, Michael Crapo, Jim DeMint, Elizabeth Dole, Pete Domenici, John Ensign, Michael Enzi, Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley, Judd Gregg, Chuck Hagel, Orrin Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Jon Kyl, Trent Lott, Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, Gordon Smith, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, Ted Stevens, John Sununu, Craig Thomas, John Thune, David Vitter, George Voinovich, John Warner
oh, and Joe Lieberman (henceforth to be known, as the Lorax...) I'm personally giving Chuck Hagel and John Warner a pass on the cloture vote, because Hagel and Warner have put themselves on the line to sponsor resolutions opposing the surge. Gordon Smith is also OK by me, because he's already put himself on record. (BTW, did you notice that Harry Reid voted no, too???? What's up with that???) ...
Courtesy of TPM I've bolded the GOP Senators who are up for reelection in 2008 and a handy guide to where they stand on the escalation. I've bolded the names in the list above. Feel free to email your Senator daily if you'd like to give them an update. Norm Coleman and Susan Collins are inoculating themselves, Collins I think because she lives in a blue, anti-war state (Maine) and she wouldn't want to become the latest former Blue state Republican (to be fair, she has voiced deep skepticism on the escalation) ... and Coleman, I think, because he's facing a reelection challenge in 2008 (from Al Franken.) Sorry to be so cynical ... Unfortunately, there's nothing that Connecticut voters can do about Lieberman until 2012. They made their bed, now they've got to let Joe lie in it with George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, Mel Martinez, from my state, didn't vote at all. Neither did Mary Landrieu, who is always teetering on the brink of extinction in the red state of Louisiana, or Senator Johnson of South Dakota, who's ill, and ... interestingly enough, neither did that brave maverick, John McCain... Hm...
Wake up and smell the politics. Are these GOPers really down for the escalation, or are they worried about getting reelected in red states where Bush love still exists, even if in smaller -- though still less vociferous -- numbers? Witness Judd Gregg, who is the author of the most toxic of the GOP alternative resolutions, which supports Bush's policy. He is on record in his home state of voicing "deep frustration" over the Iraq war, and yet he's pushing for a vote pinning Democrats down on continuing to fund it. Political courage, anyone? Anyone???
Meanwhile, the total price tag for Bush's war could eventually top $2 trillion, when you factor in healthcare costs for veterans.
Republicans continue to cover for the Bush administration on Iraq, providing a human shield against even a non-binding "sense of the Senate" bill opposing the escalation of the war. If the Dems don't make these Bush courtiers pay, I'm done with them, and anybody with an ounce of good sense should be, too. Here's the WaPo on the vote blocking scheme:
A day of posturing, finger pointing and backroom wrangling came to nothing when Democratic and Republican leaders failed to reach agreement on which resolutions would come to a vote and which would be subject to a filibuster. Republicans insisted that the impasse soon would be broken, but after Democrats came up 11 votes short of the 60 needed to break the filibuster, a solution was nowhere in evidence.
"It is clear their actions are not driven by getting votes on Republican proposals. They are driven by a desire to provide political cover for President Bush," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. "They can't rubber-stamp the president's policies in Iraq any more, so they've decided to stamp out debate and let the president's escalation plan proceed unchecked."
At issue are four separate resolutions. The main resolution, worked out by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), would put the Senate on record opposing the additional troop deployment and calling for a diplomatic initiative to settle the conflict, but it would also oppose a cut-off of funds for troops in the field of battle. The Republican leadership's alternative, drafted by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), would establish tough new benchmarks for the Iraqi government to achieve but would not oppose the planned deployment.
Against those competing resolutions are two others replete with political mischief-making. The first, drafted by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), recognizes the power of the president to deploy troops and the "responsibility" of Congress to fund them before stating, "Congress should not take any action that will endanger United States military forces in the field, including the elimination or reduction of fund." A second, hastily written by Democrats, would simply oppose the president's plan and insist all troops are properly protected with body armor and other materiel.
By the way, good going, Connecticut, on putting that horse's ass Joe Lieberman back in the Senate... ... anyway, here's the roll call.
St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCullough said the charges related to two abductions, although he said he would not disclose the victims' names, in keeping with department policy.
McCullough said 18 of the counts related to an abduction last month, an apparent reference to the Jan. 8 disappearance of 13-year-old Ben Ownby. The remaining counts were related to an abduction several years ago, an apparent reference to Shawn Hornbeck, now 15.
So now, what say you, Bill O'Reilly? Did Shawn Hornbeck just have a blast hanging with his gamer pal, Mike Devlin? Much better than home, ain't it? More on the case from the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
McCulloch said his office based the charges on interviews with the victims and with Devlin, who, he said, "acknowledged committing these acts."
Altogether, McCulloch said, Devlin was charged with one count of kidnapping and 17 counts of forcible sodomy relating to the abduction last month, and a second count of kidnapping and 52 more counts of forcible sodomy relating to the abduction in 2002. Each count carries a penalty of up to life in prison.
He said the kidnapping charges he filed are not substitutes for those already filed in Franklin and Washington counties. He said he filed the St. Louis County kidnapping charges to cover the forcible and continuing restraint of the victims.
"There are two ways to commit kidnapping," he said, citing Missouri law. "One is to take someone from a place where they are located, and another is to restrain them from leaving. That's the purpose of our kidnapping charges."
McCulloch spoke several times of the sensitivity of identifying victims by implication in his statement. He noted that his office rarely identifies the victims of sexual offenses, but he said he had spoken to the families of both victims and that they understood the need to press the charges.
... "The family is relieved that the speculation and the wondering with respect to what happened over four years is now over," Scott Sherman, a lawyer representing Shawn and his family, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
He said Shawn is "absolutely" willing to testify if the case goes to trial.
"I think he's committed to justice, as painful as it might be." ...
Devlin, 41, of Kirkwood, already faces kidnapping charges in the abductions of Hornbeck of Richwoods, Mo., and Ownby of Beaufort, Mo. Washington County charged him in the abduction of Shawn, then 11, while he was riding his bicycle near his home on Oct. 6, 2002.
Franklin County charged Devlin with child kidnapping, which carries a higher penalty, in the abduction of Ben, 13, moments after he stepped off his school bus on Jan. 8. Missouri did not enact the special child-kidnapping law until after Shawn was kidnapped.
Washington County also charged Devlin with armed criminal action, allegedly for having used a handgun in abducting Shawn. Devlin remains in the Franklin County Jail near Union, Mo., on combined bonds of $4 million
Hopefully this guy will soon find himself spending the rest of his life wandering through the general population at the worst prison they've got going in Missouri.
As that dismal national intelligence estimate made its way through the American consciousness, there's word that the Iraq war is creating the greatest outward migration from that country since 1948, and what Iraq is losing is its middle and professional class (the rich fled long ago.)
Nearly 2 million Iraqis -- about 8 percent of the prewar population -- have embarked on a desperate migration, mostly to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The refugees include large numbers of doctors, academics and other professionals vital for Iraq's recovery. Another 1.7 million have been forced to move to safer towns and villages inside Iraq, and as many as 50,000 Iraqis a month flee their homes, the U.N. agency said in January.
The rich began trickling out of Iraq as conditions deteriorated under U.N. sanctions in the 1990s, their flight growing in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Now, as the violence worsens, increasing numbers of poor Iraqis are on the move, aid officials say. To flee, Iraqis sell their possessions, raid their savings and borrow money from relatives. They ride buses or walk across terrain riddled with criminals and Sunni insurgents, preferring to risk death over remaining in Iraq.
The United Nations is struggling to find funding to assist Iraqi refugees. Fewer than 500 have been resettled in the United States since the invasion. Aid officials and human rights activists say the United States and other Western nations are focused on reconstructing Iraq while ignoring the war's human fallout.
Chris Matthews may not get the point on Joe Biden's presidential run-derailing Obama gaffe, but this guy does. Thanks Dan Gerstein, for proving me wrong. Some of y'all really are savvy on this stuff. Definitely read Gerstein's full post, which you can find here.
The Senate moves us closer to a still pitiful, but higher, minimum wage...
Outgoing Iraq top general George Casey says the troop surge should be cut in half ... even as the Congressional Budget Office reveals that the actual size of Bush's troop surge could really be some 48,000 troops, once you count the support troops needed to back 21,500 combat forces.
Chances of Rush Limbaugh's fat, drug-addled ass actually EVER getting a Nobel Peace Prize: 0 ... (chances these morons will eventually see the irony in some winger think tank trying to nominate El Rushbo: about the same...)
Meanwhile, sorry fellas. Don't let the marriage flap from a couple years ago fool you. San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom is so very definitely, totally and completely not gay ... not by a longshot. Can we call him the male Angelina Jolie now?
Up next in the global warming debate: the American Enterprise Institute takes the low road to try and save Big Oil from paying for its climate horrors. The Guardian reports:
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.
The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.
The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".
Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
When you can't beat them...
So who sent the letters?
The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."
HOUSTON — Oil giant Exxon Mobil topped its own record for the biggest annual profit by a U.S. company last year, racking up earnings that amounted to $4.5 million an hour for the world's largest publicly traded oil company.
It reported the record net income — $39.5 billion — despite a 4 percent drop in earnings in the final three months of 2006, as prices for oil and natural gas fell from extraordinary levels earlier in the year.
... Exxon Mobil wasn't alone among oil and gas entities posting a huge profit in 2006. On Thursday alone, three other companies — Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Marathon Oil Corp. and Valero Energy Corp. — also reported best-ever full-year profits. The four companies combined had earnings of $75.6 billion last year.
Last week, Houston-based ConocoPhillips said its $15.5 billion profit last year topped its previous record from 2005 by about $2 billion dollars.
Chevron is scheduled to report 2006 results Friday.
Exxon Mobil's 2006 profit beat its own previous record for a U.S. company of $36.13 billion set in 2005. Its net income for 2006 equals the approximate gross domestic product — a measure of all goods and services produced within a country in a given year — of countries like Ecuador, Luxembourg and Croatia.
... and you wouldn't want a little thing like climate change to eat into the profit kitty, now would you...
"When I saw those talking french fries under the bridge there in Boston, the first thing I thought was, thank God George Bush is the one in the White House..." -- Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani, speaking from his dust covered bunker under neath the Boston common, where he survived the Aqua Teen Hunger Force attack, becoming America's Mayor Once Over, in the process...
They came, they saw, they freaked out the feds and the Boston police. Now, the human weapons of mass destruction behind the Aqua Teen Hunger Force will face justice ... Dubya-style. Watch, as these menaces mock the global war on terror!
Burn, Hollywood ... buuuuurrrrnnnn......
And now, see for yourself as the terrorists create their evil master plan to terrorize the citizens of Boston with their insurgent talking fries, Shakesama bin Laden, and the axis of spicy meatball. Watch if you dare...
Damn you, Aqua Teen Hunger Force ... damn you all to hell...