Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Affirmative action dealt a blow
The Supreme Court ruling on two elementary school affirmative action programs is rippling across the legal and political landscape. The ruling stated that schools cannot use race as the sole criteria in creating a mix in their school populations. According to the AFP:
By five to four, the justices ruled in favor of white parents whose children were denied places at their nearest schools in Seattle, Washington, and the Kentucky city of Louisville because of such admission policies.

"Simply because the school districts may seek a worthy goal doesn't mean that they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision.

The decision could affect hundreds of US districts that try to give preference to black and other ethnic-minority children, if a school is over-subscribed and is deemed to have enough white children already.
Democrats are hopping mad about the decision, while conservatives are lauding it. More on the ruling from the National Journal here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:37 AM  
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Debating while white
I think that one of the most fascinating things to watch is white politicians attempting to communicate to a room full of black people. At tonight's PBS debate between the Democratic presidential candidates at Howard University, hosted by Tavis Smiley, the performances by the white candidates ranged from full-on pander (John Edwards -- using 2004 "two Americas" rhetoric for God's sakes...) to really loud, churchy sounding semi-pander (Biden) to wrong audience pander (Richardson -- the "I'm the first Latino to run for president" deal works a lot better in front of a Latino audience, pal, especially since many Blacks feel they are being displaced as the Dems' minority of choice...) to surprisingly smooth and stealthy (Hillary Clinton).

It will come as a surprise to the MSM that Barack Obama -- the only Black candidate, as you know -- did not get the loudest applause during the walk in -- that went to Hillary. And she delivered the line of the night when she noted that "if AIDS was the leading cause of death among white women in their 20s and 30s we'd be well on the way to a cure." I won't go through the littany of responses by each candidate, but each gave the star-studden audience (Marian Wright Edelman, Cornel West, Tom Joyner, Harry Belafonte, Al Sharpton, etc., etc., etc.,) some permutation of "the war on drugs is hurting Black people", "racism is still a problem," and "tax cuts for the rich suck."

Maybe I'm being a bit cynical, but I guess I was looking for more questions about Iraq.

OK, here's the rundown:

Hillary Clinton -- she's your winner tonight. She came off as the most commanding, the most prepared, and the most thorough in her responses. She constantly reminded the audience of the contrast between the current administration and her husband's without naming him (he's now known as "the 90s" ... and she managed to stop shouting ... eventually.

Barack Obama -- a close second to Hillary. He exploited his ease with the audience for all it was worth, but as has become the norm with Barack, as much as I like him, he was short on specifics. Barack has a natural, conversational style that is very seductive in a political sense (and he had a great comeback when Biden talked about himself and Barack getting tested for AIDS while in Africa. Barack clarified that he was tested along with his wife, in public...)

John Edwards -- this guy is the ultimate pander bear. He opened by casually name dropping the Howard mascot, and reminding the audience that he's from the Sizzouth. Then he got going with the "talking about poverty is my life's work" spiel. This guy has really got to update his message, and put 2004 behind him. Had he reminded us that he was the son of a mill worker, I would have been forced to jab a fork in my eye.

Bill Richardson -- I can't remember a single thing he said, sadly. Not a single, solitary thing.

Chris Dodd -- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......

Joe Biden -- he came off as a little bit too forceful for my taste. He came off like an angry father ... either that or a guy just two seconds from using the phrase "you people."

Dennis Kucinich -- still trying to take the profit out of healthcare. Don't tell those med students still paying off their student loans and looking for good paying jobs.

Mike Gravel -- he steals the crazy right out from under Kucinich's nose. I half expected him to leap from the stage, whip off his shirt and trousers and scream like a warewolf. Actually, I wish he'd done that. It would have livened things up. Gravel did make the comment that this debate was the fairest thus far. In other words, it was the only debate that gave the candidates with absolutely no shot at the nomination, much more airtime than they deserved.


Update: it's just after 10:30, and John Edwards just mentioned that goddamned mill. Where's my fork...?

Update 2: Hillary just called for shooting down the planes of those attacking civilians in Darfur. Now Biden is yelling about no-fly zones to try and match her Margaret Thatcher with his Winston Churchill. Bill Richardson's answer on Darfur was both long and boring. Heavy on resume, light on charisma. Oh god, now John Edwards is answering ... here comes the two Americas writ large ... two worlds, perhaps? Obama on Darfur: "no fly zones are important, but we have to look at Africa before the crises begin ... on trade and investment." Good answer, but he failed to get to the passion of the audience. Kucinich is getting some audience love right now by saying that "let's face it, if Darfur had a large supply of oil, the administration would be occupying it right now." Um ... Congressman... there's oil under them there Janjaweed...

The debate's over. I'm thoroughly exhausted.

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posted by JReid @ 10:18 PM  
The hanging judge
When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, Alberto Gonzales was his general counsel. His most famous accomplishment? Getting Dubya out of jury duty on a drunk driving case -- thus avoiding the spectacle of one drunk judging another. Grateful for the minor accomplishment by his not-so-accomplished Mexican lawyer friend (ever wonder why the prez is so fond of migrantes ilegales?), Bush later made him secretary of state, and then placed him on the Texas Supreme Court. George even gave him a nickname: "Judge."

In his capacity as legal counsel to the governor, Alberto Gonzales also had the job of reviewing applications for clemency, being made by death row inmates. His record, as the Atlantic Monthly described in a 2003 piece, was dubious at best:

During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas—a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history. Each time a person was sentenced to death, Bush received from his legal counsel a document summarizing the facts of the case, usually on the morning of the day scheduled for the execution, and was then briefed on those facts by his counsel; based on this information Bush allowed the execution to proceed in all cases but one. The first fifty-seven of these summaries were prepared by Gonzales, a Harvard-educated lawyer who went on to become the Texas secretary of state and a justice on the Texas supreme court. He is now the White House counsel.

Gonzales never intended his summaries to be made public. Almost all are marked CONFIDENTIAL and state, "The privileges claimed include, but are not limited to, claims of Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney Work-Product Privilege, and the Internal Memorandum exception to the Texas Public Information Act." I obtained the summaries and related documents, which have never been published, after the Texas attorney general ruled that they were not exempt from the disclosure requirements of the Public Information Act.

Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.

A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
Fast forward to the present time. Alberto Gonzales is the scandalized and incompetent second attorney general to George W. Bush, having been elevated, once again, from the job as Bush's Torquemada counsel. And according to at least one of the fired U.S. attorneys now known as the Gonzlaes Eight Nine, not much else has changed, either. From today's Washington Post:

Paul K. Charlton, one of nine U.S. attorneys fired last year, told members of Congress yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has been overzealous in ordering federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty, including in an Arizona murder case in which no body had been recovered.

Justice Department officials had branded Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Phoenix, disloyal because he opposed the death penalty in that case. But Charlton testified yesterday that Gonzales has been so eager to expand the use of capital punishment that the attorney general has been inattentive to the quality of evidence in some cases -- or the views of the prosecutors most familiar with them.

"No decision is more important for a prosecutor than whether or not to . . . deliberately and methodically take a life," Charlton said. "And that holds true for the attorney general."

His testimony before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee reviewing the use of the federal death penalty provided the most detailed account to date of Charlton's interactions with Gonzales's aides about the murder case that contributed to his dismissal. It also was one of the most pointed critiques of Gonzales by any of the fired federal prosecutors, whose removal touched off a furor on Capitol Hill.

Justice Department data presented at the hearing demonstrated that the administration's death penalty dispute with Charlton was not unique. The Bush administration has so far overruled prosecutors' recommendations against its use more frequently than the Clinton administration did. The pace of overrulings picked up under Gonzales's predecessor, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, and spiked in 2006, when the number of times Gonzales ordered prosecutors to seek the death penalty against their advice jumped to 21, from three in 2005. ...

... According to Charlton, the case on which he clashed with Gonzales involved a methamphetamine dealer named Jose Rios Rico, who was charged with slaying his drug supplier. Charlton said he believed the case, which has not yet gone to trial, did not warrant the death penalty because police and prosecutors lacked forensic evidence -- including a gun, DNA or the victim's body. He said that the body was evidently buried in a landfill and that he asked Justice Department officials to pay $500,000 to $1 million for its exhumation.

The department refused, Charlton said. And without such evidence, he testified, the risk of putting the wrong person to death was too high.

Charlton said that in prior cases, Ashcroft's aides had given him the chance to discuss his recommendations against the death penalty, but that Gonzales's staff did not offer that opportunity. He instead received a letter, dated May 31, 2006, from Gonzales, simply directing him to seek the death penalty.

Charlton testified that he asked Justice officials to reconsider and had what he called a "memorable" conversation with Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty. Michael J. Elston, then McNulty's chief of staff, called Charlton to relay that the deputy had spent "a significant amount of time on this issue with the attorney general, perhaps as much as five to 10 minutes," and that Gonzales had not changed his mind. Charlton said he then asked to speak directly with Gonzales and was denied.

Last August, D. Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales's chief of staff, sent Elston a dismissive e-mail about the episode that said: "In the 'you won't believe this category,' Paul Charlton would like a few minutes of the AG's time." The next month, Charlton's name appeared on a list of prosecutors who should be fired, which Sampson sent to the White House.
Too bad there's no career death penalty in the works for Alberto.

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posted by JReid @ 8:53 PM  
Plucking the chickenhawks

The Bush administration has made a near science of duplicitousness, secrecy, stonewalling and, in my opinion, extra-constitutional lawbreaking. On the latter subject, apparently, Congress is finally taking action, and not just on cutting off Dick Cheney's executive branch allowance.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Patrick Leahy, has issued subpoenas to the White House and the Office of the Vice President for documents related to the Bush administration's illegal warrentless NSA spying program. At the same time, the committee is also demanding documents related to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, apparently at the behest of White House functionaries within the Justice Department. Not surprisingly, the White House is refusing to comply, citing something that might come as a surprise to Dick Cheney at this stage: executive privilege. (TPMM has White House Counsel Fred Fielding's letter to the twin judiciary committees here.)

So what next for the White House? Besides finding new quarters for Dick and trying to pick up the president's spirits over his failed immigration scheme, the Bushies must be very busy this evening querying the Geneva Convention-eschewing legal team about whether all that "faithfully execute the laws" jazz in the oath of office is really all that binding...

Meanwhile, Leahy, and his counterpart in the House, John Conyers of Michigan, are seeing shades of Dick Nixon, and Conyers is even threatening to take the White House to court. And speaking of Nixon, wasn't he nearly impeached, and didn't his vice president resign in disgrace? Hey, let's as this guy:

The nation's first vice president, John Adams, bemoaned: "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet common fate." Vice President John Nance Garner, serving under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, lamented: "The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." In modern times, vice presidents have generally been confined to attending state funerals or to distributing blankets after earthquakes.

Then President George W. Bush outsourced the lion's share of his presidency to Vice President Cheney, and Mr. Cheney has made the most of it. Since 9/11, he has proclaimed that all checks and balances and individual liberties are subservient to the president's commander in chief powers in confronting international terrorism. Let's review the record of his abuses and excesses:

The vice president asserted presidential power to create military commissions, which combine the functions of judge, jury, and prosecutor in the trial of war crimes. The Supreme Court rebuked Cheney in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president's say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI's execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille. The Supreme Court repudiated Cheney in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.

The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists. This lawlessness has been answered in Germany and Italy with criminal charges against CIA operatives or agents. The legal precedent set by Cheney would justify a decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to kidnap American tourists in Paris and to dispatch them to dungeons in Belarus if they were suspected of Chechen sympathies.

The vice president has maintained that the entire world is a battlefield. Accordingly, he contends that military power may be unleashed to kill or capture any American citizen on American soil if suspected of association or affiliation with al-Qaida. Thus, Mr. Cheney could have ordered the military to kill Jose Padilla with rockets, artillery, or otherwise when he landed at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, because of Padilla's then-suspected ties to international terrorism.

He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional, for example, a requirement to obtain a judicial warrant before opening mail or a prohibition on employing military force to fight narco-terrorists in Colombia. The signing statements are tantamount to absolute line-item vetoes that the Supreme Court invalidated in the 1998 case Clinton v. New York.

The vice president engineered the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance program targeting American citizens on American soil in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. He concocted the alarming theory that the president may flout any law that inhibits the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on breaking and entering homes, torture, or assassinations. As a reflection of his power in this arena, today the Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Cheney's office, as well as the White House, for documents that relate to the warrantless eavesdropping.

The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications. He has summoned the privilege to refuse to disclose his consulting of business executives in conjunction with his Energy Task Force, and to frustrate the testimonies of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers regarding the firings of U.S. attorneys.

Cheney scorns freedom of speech and of the press. He urges application of the Espionage Act to prosecute journalists who expose national security abuses, for example, secret prisons in Eastern Europe or the NSA's warrantless surveillance program. He retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, through Chief of Staff Scooter Libby, for questioning the administration's evidence of weapons of mass destruction as justification for invading Iraq. Mr. Cheney is defending himself from a pending suit brought by Wilson and Plame on the grounds that he is entitled to the absolute immunity of the president established in 1982 by Nixon v. Fitzgerald. (Although this defense contradicts Cheney's claim that he is not part of the executive branch.)

The Constitution does not expressly forbid the president from abandoning his chief powers to the vice president. But President Bush's tacit delegation to Cheney and Cheney's eager acceptance tortures the Constitution's provision for an acting president. The presidency and vice presidency are discrete constitutional offices. The 12th Amendment provides for their separate elections. The sole constitutionally enumerated function of the vice president is to serve as president of the Senate without a vote except to break ties. ...

...In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.

And who is that guy? He's Bruce Fein, the former Associate Deputy Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Missed the Washington Post series on draft-doging Dick? Here it is.
Update: On the House side, Conyers prepares for war:

"The President's response to our subpoena shows an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government. The executive privilege assertion is unprecedented in its breadth and scope, and even includes documents that the Adminstration previously offered to provide as part of their 'take it or leave it' proposal. This response indicates the reckless disrepect this Administration has for the rule of law. The charges alleged in this investigation are serious - including obstruction of justice and misleading Congress - and the White House should be as committed to this investigation as the Congress. At this point, I see only one choice in moving forward, and that is to enforce the rule of law set forth in these subpoenas."

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posted by JReid @ 8:04 PM  
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Polling report: the narrowing and the widening
A new Quinnipiac poll shows the presidential race tightening in Florida for Rudy Giuliani, and widening for Hillary Clinton. According to the AP wire this morning:

Hillary Rodham Clinton, 38 percent
Barack Obama, 15 percent
Al Gore, 13 percent
John Edwards, 8 percent


Rudy Giuliani, 27 percent
Fred Thompson, 21 percent
John McCain, 13 percent
Newt Gingrich, 7 percent
Mitt Romney, 6 percent

With Al Gore counted out of the race (he says he's not running, so why count him in? Ditto Thompson and Gingrich, although at least Thompson is a likely entrant, probably sometime soon...) Hillary expands her lead over Barack Obama in the Sunshine States by five additional points.

On the GOP side, the big story is the continued insurgency of Fred Thompson, which does not appear to be anywhere near its last throes. Thompson has shaved Rudy Giuliani's lead in the state down to a nub, and if and when he enters, he apparently has the effect of bisecting the religious white male vote, giving abortion-averse but terrorism-fearing Republican men someplace else to go.

This morning, Phil Hendry, the right wing self-described Democrat who inexplicably has been added to the early morning lineup of the Clear Channel station that runs Air America and Jones Radio Networks programming here in South Florida, predicted that Clinton and Giuliani would ultimately be the nominees, and that despite his preference for Rudy, Hillary would likely win the White House because she represents "just enough change" to move us away from George W. Bush's problems, but not so much that it makes people uncomfortable.

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posted by JReid @ 9:12 AM  
Tiny baubles
The CIA's "Family Jewels" provide a fascinating look into the sometime misadventures of America's spy agency. Included in the release (no, there's nothing in there that says the CIA hired the mob to kill JFK...) are:

On Page 5: word that the CIA illegally wiretapped two Washington reporters in 1963 because they were suspected of disclosing classified info.

On Page 6: the CIA used local police to repel rioters, though they weren't sure it was "entirely illegal..."

On Page 12: the Agency began the mob plot to kill Fidel Castro.

Still reading ... Read it all for yourself here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:05 AM  
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Tapping into the formerly unknown
The CIA's "family jewels" were made public today, including tantalizing information about high level plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, the Congo's Patrice Lumumba, and Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo. On Castro:
According to a five-page memo in Tuesday’s release, the plotting began in the final months of the Eisenhower administration, under the leadership of Richard Bissell, the agency’s director for plans. The operation used a go-between, Robert Maheu, a former FBI agent who did work as a private investigator for the CIA.

The iceman cometh
In September 1960, Maheu traveled to New York to meet Johnny Roselli, a high-ranking Mafia official who controlled ice-making machines in Las Vegas. Maheu told Roselli a cover story: that he represented several large international business firms that were suffering catastrophic financial losses in Cuba. And they were willing to pay $150,000 to arrange for Castro’s “removal.”

Roselli didn’t want to get involved, but he introduced Maheu to Sam Giancana, boss of the Chicago mob, and Santos Trafficant, the head of the mob’s Cuban operations, both of them members of the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

Concerned about the messiness and unreliability of firearms, Giancana suggested poisoning Castro with a pill in his food. The CIA accordingly provided six pills that it described as “of high lethal content.” They were given to Juan Orta, “a Cuban official who had been receiving kick-back payments from the gambling interests, who still had access to Castro, and was in a financial bind.”

According to the memo, Orta made several unsuccessful attempts and developed cold feet. A second, unnamed would-be assassin also wasn’t able to do the job. So a second plot was hatched, through a Cuban exile leader. But it was abandoned after the failed Bay of Pigs operation in 1961.

The documents also reveal that at the height of negotiations over his involvement in the Castro plot, Giancana asked Maheu for help in finding out whether his girlfriend, Phyllis McGuire, a member of the singing McGuire Sisters, was having an affair with Dan Rowan, half of the Rowan & Martin comedy team.

The CIA sent a technician to bug Rowan’s Las Vegas hotel room, the CIA memo says. But the technician was arrested by Clark County sheriff’s deputies. He placed a telephone call to Maheu in the presence of sheriff’s officials, potentially endangering the entire Castro plot.

The Justice Department announced its intention to prosecute Maheu and the technician, leading the CIA’s director of security to intervene with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

The prosecution was dropped. ...
Fascinating stuff, and proof that however sinister the CIA's plans may have been, they weren't exactly carried out with panache.

Read the Family Jewels for yourself here. And check out the spooks' snazzy new web-site here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:02 PM  
Hear, hear
A group of student scholars sock it to George W. Bush:
WASHINGTON -- President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said. ...
Good show, young people. Good show.

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posted by JReid @ 7:35 AM  
The misery pimp
Ralph Nader has a need ... or rather, he has two needs. The first is a need for attention. Specifically, he needs the kind of attention that you can only get from running for president. After receiving that kind of gaze, it's hard to go back to being a mere columnist. The second need that Ralph Nader appears to have, is for there to be the kind of president in office in Washington -- since he, of course, cannot win the presidency, he can only prevent some other candidate from winning -- whom he can rail against and blame for the ills he will one day run for president to reverse.

Given that, it is highly likely that Ralph Nader will attempt to feed his twin needs again in 2008 -- running for president in order to rev up his ego, and in order to prevent a Democrat from assuming office, if he can, the better to maintain his relevancy. That's because if a Republican wins, Ralph Nader can continue to rail against -- and to raise money on -- the evils of war, pollution and corporate greed. Those have become the hallmarks of the Republican Party, and at the end of the day, the best friend the Republican Party has, is Ralph Nader.

And then there are Nader's more prurient interests. Back in 2000, described Nader's financial holdings this way:

Lefties like to bash Gore for being a tool of corporate America. More specifically, Gore incurs their wrath because the trust of his mother, Pauline, owns stock in Occidental Petroleum which, according to Nader running mate Winona LaDuke, "is working to exploit oil reserves under U'wa land in Colombia." The U'wa are an indigenous tribe in Colombia, and became the champions of an anti-Gore rally at the Democratic National Convention.

"As I listen to the vice president espouse his views on campaign finance reform, I look at his investment portfolio and have to ask how that might influence public policy," LaDuke has said, slamming Gore erroneously for "own[ing] substantial stock in Occidental Oil Co."

If LaDuke is looking for Occidental stockholders to criticize, she might want to look a little closer to home. In the financial disclosure form Nader filed on June 14, the Green Party presidential candidate revealed that he owns between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in the Fidelity Magellan Fund. The fund controls 4,321,400 shares of Occidental Petroleum stock.
The Rainforest Action Network -- whose members no doubt include myriad Nader Raiders -- has slammed Fidelity for "investing in genocide," and called for the fund to divest its Occidental holdings.

"The Occidental projects are so beyond the pale about what's reasonable and moral in this modern era," says Patrick Reinsborough, grass-roots coordinator for the Rainforest Action Network. Reinsborough says that his group has been primarily targeting Gore and Fidelity Investments in general, Fidelity Magellan being part of the Fidelity Investments mutual funds network, as well as the one with the largest quantity of Occidental stock. "We have called upon Ralph Nader -- as we would call upon any citizen -- to either divest from Fidelity or to participate in shareholder activism," Reinsborough says. "Gore has much more long-standing links to Occidental Petroleum."

But even if Fidelity were to divest its holdings in Occidental, it holds shares in so many companies Nader has crusaded against, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Nader's participation in the fund is supremely hypocritical. The fund, for example, owns stock in the Halliburton Company, where George W. Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, recently worked as president and COO. The fund has investments in supremely un-p.c. clothiers the Gap and the Limited, both of which have been the target of rocks by World Trade Organization protesters, as well as Wal-Mart, the slayer of mom-and-pop stores from coast to coast.

Nader spokeswoman Laura Jones says that only the candidate himself can answer questions about his personal investments. Nader could not be reached for comment.

In a June interview with the Washington Post about his millionaire earnings -- much of which he has donated to his public interest groups -- Nader said the stocks he chose were "the most neutral-type companies ... No. 1, they're not monopolists and No. 2, they don't produce land mines, napalm, weapons."

But this is not true. The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 777,080 shares of Raytheon, a major missile manufacturer. And this isn't the only example of his rhetoric not matching up with his financial investments.

"I'm quite aware of how the arms race is driven by corporate demands for contracts, whether it's General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin," Nader told the Progressive in April. "They drive it through Congress. They drive it by hiring Pentagon officials in the Washington military industrial complex, as Eisenhower phrased it." The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 2,041,800 shares of General Dynamics.

Nader's holdings also include "2,908,600 shares of Boeing, 24,753,870 shares of British Petroleum-Amoco and 28,751,268 shares of Exxon-Mobil [through the Magellan fund]. The fund also owns stock in Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Chevron -- on whose board Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice serves" as well as "15,266,900 shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb," which Nader has slammed for charging 20 times the manufacturing costs for its drugs. Nice portfolio if you can get it.

So if -- or when -- Nader runs, from whom can he expect support? Only the farthest extreme of the left, which detests Hillary Clinton and considers her to be just another corporate sycophant who refuses to apologize for her vote to authorize force against Iraq. But I suspect that even on the left, the pragmatists will far out-number the Nader nihilists, especially if a particularly authoritarian Republican candidate makes the finals (Rudy Giuliani comes to mind, but then again, these days, so does Fred Thompson...)

Nader can have very little impact nationally, and he will likely continue to decline in terms of electoral support, from his 2.7% in 2000 to the 1 percent or so he pulled four years later. But even if he gets a few tenths of a percent, the question isn't how much he gets, it's where he gets it. If it's in key swing states like Pennsylvania or Florida (though the latter is less relevant this year, in my opinion, given the primacy of the Western states) he could do just enough damage to give himself a fresh Republican president to rail against, and a few million more pennies in his stock portfolio.

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posted by JReid @ 6:47 AM  
Monday, June 25, 2007
Goodbye, Yellowbrick Road
In case you missed it ... Tony Blair is out as British P.M. His new job: further mucking up Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Meanwhile, there's new video of a kidnapped BBC reporter forced to wear a suicide belt. That should start old Tony off nicely...


posted by JReid @ 8:05 PM  
Coughing on Mr. 9/11
Christie Todd Whitman takes a shot at Rudy for failing to protect Ground Zero workers from the toxic air spewing from the fallen Twin Towers after 9/11. Of course, she isn't exactly blameless in the entire sordid affair herself, since she was EPA administrator at the time and famously declared the air at Ground Zero safe to breathe just days after 9/11 ... but I digress. Ahem ... Bang, bang...

Former Environmental Protection Agency Chief Christine Whitman is testifying at a congressional hearing about the environmental impact of the September 11th attacks in Washington today.

Whitman took the stand at the hearing, led by Manhattan Congressman Jerrold Nadler, to answer questions about the cleanup of the Trade Center site. The former EPA head famously declared the air around the site to be safe to breathe just days after the attacks. But in the nearly six years since, thousands of first responders have come down with respiratory problems.

Speaking on WNBC yesterday, Whitman criticized former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his staff for not adequately protecting workers, saying the city should have made them wear respirators.

"It wasn't nearly as clear who was in charge. The city is the primary responder,” said Whitman. “And then you have OSHA can't enforce – interestingly enough OSHA regulations can't be imposed on public servants and those were mostly, by the time you started the real clean-up, firefighters, emergency responders. EPA was not in charge of being able to enforce that."
Of course, the Giuliani people wasted no time slapping back, fearing that Rudy's single-note campaign could suffer yet another bout of sour pitch. From the Rudy camp:

“Every effort was made by Mayor Giuliani and his staff to ensure the safety of all workers at Ground Zero in the aftermath of this unprecedented act of terror," said former deputy mayor Joe Lhota in the press release. "All workers at Ground Zero were instructed repeatedly to wear their respirators. This is well-documented and indisputable. No one from the City ever tried to block the Environmental Protection Agency. Any statement or suggestion to the contrary is simply baseless. Administrator Whitman never voiced any of these concerns at the time – not at the daily meetings which included federal, state and local officials, not at any press conferences. Doing so now is revisionist at best.”
Blah blah blah blah 9/11! Terrorism! Vote for Rudy or DIE!!!!!!

Oh, and apparently, the crowd at the hearings no likey Christie either...
Update: Rudy's new SC campaign co-chair ... well, he's not a coke head like his son, but he's got a history of racist remarks. Actually, sounds like he's just Rudy's type!!!

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posted by JReid @ 7:20 PM  
Percentage of Americans who still believe that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. (sigh)

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posted by JReid @ 7:02 PM  
Chickenhawks for Gitmo
Mitt Romney wants to double the size of Guantanamo, use "24" style torture, and fight to the last American in Iraq. Too bad he didn't have that fighting spirit back during the Vietnam War... surprise surprise ... is John McCain the only Republicans alive who isn't a rank hypocrite when it comes to the war?

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posted by JReid @ 6:50 PM  
The secret world of Dick Cheney
The Washington Post on Sunday lifted the veil on the separate branch of government that is Richard B. Cheney, vice president of the United States, and apparently, a law unto himself. Issue one, Cheney's extreme secrecy:

So clandestine is the Vice President's work that he has created a new secret document designation: "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

That's not all: the piece also reveals that Cheney keeps 'man-size' Mosler safes on hand for "workaday business" and has destroyed all Secret Service visitor logs, in addition to already refusing to comply with a national security directive issued by President Bush, which RAW STORY first reported earlier this week.

Not only does he refuse to give the names of his staff, Cheney won't even disclose how many people he employs.

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency," the Post article says. "Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs."

"Stealth is among Cheney's most effective tools," the piece adds. "Man-size Mosler safes, used elsewhere in government for classified secrets, store the workaday business of the office of the vice president. Even talking points for reporters are sometimes stamped "Treated As: Top Secret/SCI."

"Experts in and out of government said Cheney's office appears to have invented that designation, which alludes to "sensitive compartmented information," the most closely guarded category of government secrets," the Post adds. "By adding the words "treated as," they said, Cheney seeks to protect unclassified work as though its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to national security."

The Post intimates that Cheney's office is like a black hole -- everything goes in, but nothing comes out.
On the torture of detainees in U.S. custody:

Shortly after the first accused terrorists reached the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Jan. 11, 2002, a delegation from CIA headquarters arrived in the Situation Room. The agency presented a delicate problem to White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, a man with next to no experience on the subject. Vice President Cheney's lawyer, who had a great deal of experience, sat nearby. The meeting marked "the first time that the issue of interrogations comes up" among top-ranking White House officials, recalled John C. Yoo, who represented the Justice Department. "The CIA guys said, 'We're going to have some real difficulties getting actionable intelligence from detainees'" if interrogators confined themselves to humane techniques allowed by the Geneva Conventions.

From that moment, well before previous accounts have suggested, Cheney turned his attention to the practical business of crushing a captive's will to resist. The vice president's office played a central role in shattering limits on coercion in U.S. custody, commissioning and defending legal opinions that the Bush administration has since portrayed as the initiatives, months later, of lower-ranking officials.

Cheney and his allies, according to more than two dozen current and former officials, pioneered a novel distinction between forbidden "torture" and permitted use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" methods of questioning. They did not originate every idea to rewrite or reinterpret the law, but fresh accounts from participants show that they translated muscular theories, from Yoo and others, into the operational language of government.

A backlash beginning in 2004, after reports of abuse leaked out of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, brought what appeared to be sharp reversals in courts and Congress -- for both Cheney's claims of executive supremacy and his unyielding defense of what he called "robust interrogation."

But a more careful look at the results suggests that Cheney won far more than he lost. Many of the harsh measures he championed, and some of the broadest principles undergirding them, have survived intact but out of public view. ...

...David S. Addington, Cheney's general counsel, set the new legal agenda in a blunt memorandum shortly after the CIA delegation returned to Langley. Geneva's "strict limits on questioning of enemy prisoners," he wrote on Jan. 25, 2002, hobbled efforts "to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists."

No longer was the vice president focused on procedural rights, such as access to lawyers and courts. The subject now was more elemental: How much suffering could U.S. personnel inflict on an enemy to make him talk? Cheney's lawyer feared that future prosecutors, with motives "difficult to predict," might bring criminal charges against interrogators or Bush administration officials. ...
Is it any wonder he won't let the Inspector General's office any where near the office of the vice president?

Meanwhile, Democrats are finally taking Cheney's absurd claims of not being a part of the executive branch to their logical conclusion:

Following Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that his office is not a part of the executive branch of the US government, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) plans to introduce an amendment to the the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to cut funding for Cheney's office.

The amendment to the bill that sets the funding for the executive branch will be considered next week in the House of Representatives.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch," said Emanuel in a statement released to RAW STORY. "However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments."

... On Thursday, Emanuel suggested that if Cheney feels his office is not part of the executive branch "he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill."
So what will it be, Mr. Vice President? The money or your secrets?

Last but not least ... Mr. Blue Dress, otherwise known as Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, reports that there may be an interesting nexus between the Secret Fourth Branch of Government, Dick Cheney, and America's most useless attorney general ... ever ... Alberto Gonzales:

July 2-9, 2007 issue - A new battle has erupted over Vice President Dick Cheney's refusal to submit to an executive order requiring a government review of his handling of classified documents. But the dispute could also raise questions for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. For the past four years, Cheney's office has failed to comply with an executive order requiring all federal offices—including those in the White House—to annually report to the National Archives on how they safeguard classified documents. Cheney's hard-line chief of staff, David Addington, has made the novel argument that the veep doesn't have to comply on the ground that, because the vice president also serves as president of the Senate, his office is not really part of the executive branch.

Cheney's position so frustrated J. William Leonard, the chief of the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, which enforces the order, that he complained in January to Gonzales. In a letter, Leonard wrote that Cheney's position was inconsistent with the "plain text reading" of the executive order and asked the attorney general for an official ruling. But Gonzales never responded, thereby permitting Cheney to continue blocking Leonard from conducting even a routine inspection of how the veep's office was handling classified documents, according to correspondence released by House Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Henry Waxman.

Why didn't Gonzales act on Leonard's request? His aides assured reporters that Leonard's letter has been "under review" for the past five months—by Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). But on June 4, an OLC lawyer denied a Freedom of Information Act request about the Cheney dispute asserting that OLC had "no documents" on the matter, according to a copy of the letter obtained by NEWSWEEK. Steve Aftergood, the Federation of American Scientists researcher who filed the request, said he found the denial letter "puzzling and inexplicable"—especially since Leonard had copied OLC chief Steve Bradbury on his original letter to Gonzales. The FOIA response has piqued the interest of congressional investigators, who note Bradbury is the same official in charge of vetting all document requests from Congress about the U.S. attorneys flap. Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the OLC response "was and remains accurate" because Leonard's letter had generated no "substantive work product."

Well there you go.

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posted by JReid @ 9:11 AM  
Friday, June 22, 2007
Where is Stepha Henry

With all the stories of missing young women in the news, you'd think that a missing college graduate, bound for a law career, in America's southern playground, Miami, would be worthy of saturation coverage of the kind given to Natalee Holloway. But while the case of Stepha Henry has made some news, it hasn't been of Natalee proportions. USA Today's blog makes it plain:

Stepha Henry is still missing. But since yesterday, Google News has indexed just three stories that mention the 22-year-old black New Yorker who disappeared two weeks ago in Miami.
During the same period, the site found 525 stories that mentioned Kelsey Smith, the white girl who was kidnapped and killed in Kansas, and 6,581 news stories that mentioned "Paris Hilton," the celebrity who is famous for being famous. (Even Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who went missing in Aruba two years ago, earned more mentions than Henry.)

WABC-TV, one of the few news outlets that appears to be covering the case, reports that Henry's parents have traveled to Florida in search of their daughter. "Stepha, I love you very much, and you know I need you home," Sylvia Henry tells the ABC affiliate. "And I would like you to please, if you could even talk, wherever you are, tell someone to call your mother or call someone and we'll come get you."

Detectives in Miami-Dade say she was last seen inside a night club, and telephone records indicate that she last checked her voicemail at 4:13 a.m. on May 29. They are looking for a man in a black car who may have come in contact with Henry around the time she was last seen.
As we reported last week, MSNBC canceled segments on the Henry case in favor of wall-to-wall coverage of the Hilton saga that was then unfolding in Hollywood.

This raises an age-old question: Why do some people get more coverage than others? John Ridley thinks he knows the answer: "We've gotta tread carefully here because race is not a factor in the cases of these women gone missing. But race clearly is a factor to the media and in regard to the news they chose to report."
More on the cancellations on the Miami Herald's crime blog, dateline June 8. The reporter is David Ovalle:

I'm livid. I agreed to conduct a last-minute interview with MSNBC about the case of missing Stepha Henry, the 22-year-old college grad who went missing May 29 from Miami-Dade. I rushed to MSNBC's studio but a few minutes before the interview, I was told that it was off -- Paris Hilton coverage was more important.

Turns out, I'm not the only one. Miami-Dade police lead spokeswoman Linda O'Brien was canceled by MSNBC the hour before me. She tells me:

"I am upset because MSNBC called me and asked me to go to their studio in Broward County, 30 miles away from my office. I was there for a total of 45 minutes, was already seated and had the mic ready for the interview. As I waiting to be interviewed, I was listening to the Paris Hilton coverage to include discussion to the effect if anybody had seen or knew the whereabouts of her Chihuahua.

"Then they tell me they have to cut the piece, cut my interview because they’re doing constant coverage of Paris Hilton. I’m appalled that a missing woman cannot get even 60 seconds of air time because the priorities of MSNBC was to have footage of the front gates of Paris Hilton’s house. They asked me to come to the interview and I’m going out of my way to do every interview to keep in the public eye that Stepha Henry, a bright beautiful woman, is missing and we need help in this case."
I’m through with cable TV news. It’s a joke.

America's Most Wanted has also picked up the story, and their profile of Stepha is here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:59 AM  
Above the law

You knew Dick Cheney waas a bad guy, but who knew he was a fourth branch of government unto himself? From NBC News:

Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.

Since 2003, the vice president's staff has not cooperated with an office at the National Archives and Records Administration charged with making sure the executive branch protects classified information. Cheney aides have not filed reports on their possession of classified data and at one point blocked an inspection of their office. After the Archives office pressed the matter, the documents say, Cheney's staff this year proposed eliminating it.

The dispute centers on a relatively obscure process but underscores a wider struggle waged in the past 6 1/2 years over Cheney's penchant for secrecy. Since becoming vice president, he has fought attempts to peer into the inner workings of his office, shielding an array of information such as the industry executives who advised his energy task force, details about his privately funded travel and Secret Service logs showing who visits his official residence.

The aggressive efforts to protect the operations of his staff have usually pitted Cheney against lawmakers, interest groups or media organizations, sometimes going all the way to the Supreme Court. But the fight about classified information regulation indicates that the vice president has resisted oversight even by other parts of the Bush administration. Cheney's office argued that it is exempt from the rules in this case because it is not strictly an executive agency. ...
And to that, Mr. Waxman had this to say:

"The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, you exempted the Office of the Vice President from the presidential executive order that establishes a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified national security information," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Committee's chairman, wrote in a letter to Cheney. "Your decision to exempt your office from the President's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk. It is also hard to understand given the history of security breaches involving officials in your office."

... "Your position was that your office 'does not believe it is included in the definition of 'agency' as set forth in the Order' and 'does not consider itself an 'entity within the executive branch' that comes into the possession of classified information,'" a National Archives official claims Cheney chief of staff David Addington wrote to him.
Full documents available here. The National Archives has requested a Justice Department investigation, but so far, surprise surprise, Alberto Gonzales has not even replied. Furthermore:

In 2004, the Archives' Information Security Oversight Office, a 25-member agency responsible for securing classified information, decided to conduct an on-site inspection of Cheney's office to see how sensitive material was handled. The vice president's staff, according to a letter Waxman sent Cheney, blocked the inspection.

After the Chicago Tribune reported last year that Cheney failed to report classification data, the Federation of American Scientists filed a complaint. J. William Leonard, director of the Archives' oversight office, sent two letters to Cheney's chief of staff, David S. Addington, requesting compliance with the executive order but received no replies. Leonard then wrote Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in January asking him to render a legal ruling on whether the vice president is violating the order. Gonzales has not replied.

In an interview yesterday, Steven Aftergood, who directs the federation's Project on Governmental Secrecy, said the dispute concerns "a very narrow bit of information" but indicated a broader disregard for following the same rules as the rest of the executive branch. "By refusing to comply with these trivial instructions, the vice president undermines the integrity of the executive order," he said. "If it can be violated with impunity on a trivial point, then it can also be violated on more important matters."
And lets go it one better ... er ... worse: what does Dick do with an agency that's bothering him? He tries to eliminate it:

For four years, Vice President Dick Cheney has resisted routine oversight of his office’s handling of classified information, and when the National Archives unit that monitors classification in the executive branch objected, the vice president’s office suggested abolishing the oversight unit, according to documents released yesterday by a Democratic congressman.

The Information Security Oversight Office, a unit of the National Archives, appealed the issue to the Justice Department, which has not yet ruled on the matter.

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, disclosed Mr. Cheney’s effort to shut down the oversight office. Mr. Waxman, who has had a leading role in the stepped-up efforts by Democrats to investigate the Bush administration, outlined the matter in an eight-page letter sent Thursday to the vice president and posted, along with other documentation, on the committee’s Web site.

Officials at the National Archives and the Justice Department confirmed the basic chronology of events cited in Mr. Waxman’s letter.

The letter said that after repeatedly refusing to comply with a routine annual request from the archives for data on his staff’s classification of internal documents, the vice president’s office in 2004 blocked an on-site inspection of records that other agencies of the executive branch regularly go through.

But the National Archives is an executive branch department headed by a presidential appointee, and it is assigned to collect the data on classified documents under a presidential executive order. Its Information Security Oversight Office is the archives division that oversees classification and declassification.

“I know the vice president wants to operate with unprecedented secrecy,” Mr. Waxman said in an interview. “But this is absurd. This order is designed to keep classified information safe. His argument is really that he’s not part of the executive branch, so he doesn’t have to comply.”...
And of course, if any administration department -- or non-department as the Cheney case may be -- should be careful about how it handles secrets, it's the office of the vice president:

Mr. Waxman asserted in his letter and the interview that Mr. Cheney’s office should take the efforts of the National Archives especially seriously because it has had problems protecting secrets.

He noted that I. Lewis Libby Jr., the vice president’s former chief of staff, was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to a grand jury and the F.B.I. during an investigation of the leak of classified information — the secret status of Valerie Wilson, the wife of a Bush administration critic, as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.

Mr. Waxman added that in May 2006, a former aide in Mr. Cheney’s office, Leandro Aragoncillo, pleaded guilty to passing classified information to plotters trying to overthrow the president of the Philippines.

“Your office may have the worst record in the executive branch for safeguarding classified information,” Mr. Waxman wrote to Mr. Cheney. ...

The president of the United States has an outlaw on his hands. Dick Cheney has pushed George W. Bush around from the time he named himself vice president, filled his purported boss' administration with his own neocon accolytes, and then bullied this president into starting an unnecessary war. It's arguable that it is Cheney who primarily is responsible for pushing the administration to remain in Iraq, unless you buy the theory that Bushie has been thoroughly indoctrinated by now, and needs no further flattering or cajoling into the throes of neoconservatism. But now, Mr. Cheney has become a rogue operator, conducting his own foreign policy, his own domestic secrecy operation, and now, naming himself a separate branch of government.

George W. Bush's presidency is already lost. But he can recover his manhood by finally sidelining Dick Cheney.

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posted by JReid @ 9:25 AM  
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Circling the vultures

As if I needed yet another reason to detest Uncle Rudy... Greg Palast has the latest dirt on "Mr. 9/11" and his nefarious friends. Reports Palast:
Paul Singer is a vulture. And a billionaire. And, with his underlings at Elliott Associates, the number one sugar-daddy donor to the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani, dropping $168,400 so far and, according to secret campaign documents, committed to raise $10 million for Rudolf the Great, Emperor of 9/11.

So who is this bird of prey Singer who holds Rudy in his beak?

Unlike feathered predators, Singer preys on the living. Singer figured out a way to siphon off funds intended for debt relief to some of the poorest countries in the world. Nice guy.

And by the way, I didn't come up with the moniker "vulture." Just about everyone, from the new Prime Minister of Britain to the World Bank, calls Singer and his ilk "vultures."

Here's how a vulture operation works. The vulture fund buys up the debt of poor nations cheaply when it is about to be written off and then sue for the full value of the debt plus interest -- sometimes more than ten times what they paid for it. Singer, for example, paid just $10 million for Congo Brazzaville's debt and is now suing for over $400 million.

Singer knew he'd turn a 1000%-plus profit on his $10 million investment with George Bush's help.

Bush convinced the US Congress to forgive the money Congo owes the US taxpayer, but once the US taxpayer forgives Congo's debt, the vulture, Singer, swoops in with lawyers to claim, "Congo now has the money to pay ME."

But wait a minute - the debt money given up by US taxpayers wasn't supposed to go to Rudy's predator Singer. In fact, the US Constitution provides power to the President to stop vultures from suing a foreign country in a US court if the President states such a private lawsuit interferes with America's foreign policy.

Singer, by suing Congo for the taxpayer money meant for debt relief and medicine, is interfering with US foreign policy. Yet Bush has done nothing.

While the President has made big speeches about debt relief for Africa and has even had his picture taken with a Bono, he won't get in the way of Singer's talons. One wonders if the President is influenced by Mr. Singer's strong support for debt relief, that is, debt relief for the Republican Party. The world's top vulture has become top donor to the GOP in New York.

Singer's not alone. He's joined in tearing at the flesh of the Congo's poor by a Washington operator named Michael Francis Sheehan. Sheehan is also known as "Goldfinger."

Besides joining Singer in attacking Congo, Goldfinger has also taken a piece of the debt relief earmarked for AIDS medicine for Zambia. Goldfinger paid $4 million for the right to collect on Zambia's debt - and just won $22 million from Zambia in a UK court, half that nation's debt relief. Goldfinger was able to seize that money because, he boasts in an email, he secretly paid $2 million to the "favorite charity" of Zambia's president. (That former President, Frederick Chiluba, is now under arrest for taking bribes ... but Goldfinger can still collect his pound of flesh.) ...
Hear Palast's report on the Rhandi Rhodes show here. More on our friendly neighborhood Bush pioneer and Rudy 'raisin vulture, Paul Singer, from Public Citizen here. Apparently, he has the hots for Peru's debt, too...

One wonders whether Rudy -- who has made fear and 9/11 his carrion just as sure as his fundraisers have done with Africa's poor --  should add a thirteenth "commitment" (not one on his marriage, because we all know how much he values commitments of that sort...) to his presidential "to do" list: this one to hedge fund managers everywhere: "I will help you to get even richer, probably at the expense of some black or brown kid with flies in his eyes... just as I have enriched myself on the graves 9/11."

Thank you, Uncle Rudy!


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posted by JReid @ 4:02 PM  
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I, Rudy...
Those of you who read this blog or listen to the morning show I do for Radio One Miami know by now that I detest, abhor and despise Rudolph Giuliani, the cousin-marrying former Gestapo mayor of New York. And so I delight in any news that is detrimental to his candidacy for president. (Hey, there's no shame in my game!) So here are some delights for my fellow travelers:

Giuliani's priorities...

In December of last year, around the time of Pearl Harbor Day (the day of the Alberto Gonzales U.S. attorney purge, btw...) Rudy took it upon himself to bloviate about how awful it would be for the United States to quit Iraq, indicating that he disagreed with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group that the U.S. set a timeline for orderly withdrawal and push the Iraqi government to take charge of its own affairs. The conservative New York Sun newspaper reported the following on December 7:
Mayor Giuliani resigned from the Iraq Study Group when it became clear that signing the group's report would politicize its findings and conflict with his likely presidential run in 2008.
On Tuesday, June 19, 2007, the Sun, apparently revised its opinion, reporting as follows:
Ouch. This is a damaging one for Rudy Giuliani: He apparently quit the Iraq Study Group last spring in favor of giving millions of dollars worth of speeches trading on his status as the "hero of 9/11."
So in other words, why sit on the Iraq Study Group and get some actual FOREIGN POLICY EXPERIENCE when a full third of brain dead Republican voters think you already have it, by virtue of surviving the attacks at Ground Zero ... which, by the way, means that tens of thousands of New Yorkers in the vicinity of the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001 are also qualified to be president of the United States... And besides, Rudy had to make ... that ... money peddling Oxycontin and gettin' that NAFTA superhighway built. He's a veritable (and that's the correct usage of the word, by the way, to those who listen to the morning show ... wink-wink...) 9/11 cash machine, pimping his undeserved glory for all its worth. More from the NY Sun's revised opinion on Rudy:
So far, Mr. Giuliani's Iraq position has boiled down to, "We have to win." That, plus instituting Compstat in Iraq — an almost laughable if it weren't so serious solution to the hell on earth we've helped birth in the broader Middle East. One has to hope he (and the rest of the Republicans) has a little something better up his sleeve.
(More on the WTC and Rudy here. More on Rudy's prevarications on the matter here.)

Oh, and his South Carolina campaign co-chair: indicted, just like Bernie Kerik.

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posted by JReid @ 8:02 AM  
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Bloomberg unbound

Michael Bloomberg, former Democrat, today became a former Republican. In other words, he's running for president. From the competition, a back and forth over who a Bloomberg (with Chuck Hagel?) candidacy would hurt:
"If he runs, this guarantees a Republican will be the next president of the United States. The Democrats have to be shaking in their boots," said Greg Strimple, a Republican strategist in New York who is unaligned in the race.

The belief among some operatives is that Bloomberg's moderate positions would siphon votes from the Democratic nominee. Others say it's not clear and his impact would depend on the nominees.

Former Democratic Party Chairman Donald Fowler said Bloomberg would be "a disturbing factor to both parties," but the mayor would probably draw more Republican votes simply because "Republicans are more disenchanted than Democrats."

"Democrats are pretty happy with their candidates," Fowler said. "The Republicans are absolutely in disarray."

He called Bloomberg "an exceptionally capable guy" who is "hard-nosed and accomplished," but argued that the obstacles for a third-party candidate are so daunting that it would be nearly impossible for Bloomberg to win.
Well, there's that...

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posted by JReid @ 9:59 PM  
Monday, June 18, 2007
Exerpts: Sy Hersh tells General Taguba's story
On his first ever meeting with Rummy on May 6, 2004, the day before the Defense chief's testimony to Contress on Abu Ghraib (Taguba had issued his report a full three months earlier):
Taguba was met at the door of the conference room by an old friend, Lieutenant General Bantz J. Craddock, who was Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant. Craddock’s daughter had been a babysitter for Taguba’s two children when the officers served together years earlier at Fort Stewart, Georgia. But that afternoon, Taguba recalled, “Craddock just said, very coldly, ‘Wait here.’ ” In a series of interviews early this year, the first he has given, Taguba told me that he understood when he began the inquiry that it could damage his career; early on, a senior general in Iraq had pointed out to him that the abused detainees were “only Iraqis.” Even so, he was not prepared for the greeting he received when he was finally ushered in.

“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”

In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
On Don Rumsfeld's "memory problems":
Rumsfeld told the legislators that, when stories about the Taguba report appeared, “it was not yet in the Pentagon, to my knowledge.” As for the photographs, Rumsfeld told the senators, “I say no one in the Pentagon had seen them”; at the House hearing, he said, “I didn’t see them until last night at 7:30.” Asked specifically when he had been made aware of the photographs, Rumsfeld said:
There were rumors of photographs in a criminal prosecution chain back sometime after January 13th . . . I don’t remember precisely when, but sometime in that period of January, February, March. . . . The legal part of it was proceeding along fine. What wasn’t proceeding along fine is the fact that the President didn’t know, and you didn’t know, and I didn’t know.
“And, as a result, somebody just sent a secret report to the press, and there they are,” Rumsfeld said.

Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.

“The whole idea that Rumsfeld projects—‘We’re here to protect the nation from terrorism’—is an oxymoron,” Taguba said. “He and his aides have abused their offices and have no idea of the values and high standards that are expected of them. And they’ve dragged a lot of officers with them.”
On the response to his investigation:
At the time, Taguba was working for Major General Mike Myatt, a marine who was the officer in charge of strategic talks with the South Koreans, on behalf of the American military. “I needed an executive assistant with brains and integrity,” Myatt, who is now retired and living in San Francisco, told me. After interviewing a number of young officers, he chose Taguba. “He was ethical and he knew his stuff,” Myatt said. “We really became close, and I’d trust him with my life. We talked about military strategy and policy, and the moral aspect of war—the importance of not losing the moral high ground.” Myatt followed Taguba’s involvement in the Abu Ghraib inquiry, and said, “I was so proud of him. I told him, ‘Tony, you’ve maintained yourself, and your integrity.’ ”

Taguba got a different message, however, from other officers, among them General John Abizaid, then the head of Central Command. A few weeks after his report became public, Taguba, who was still in Kuwait, was in the back seat of a Mercedes sedan with Abizaid. Abizaid’s driver and his interpreter, who also served as a bodyguard, were in front. Abizaid turned to Taguba and issued a quiet warning: “You and your report will be investigated.”

“I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me,” Taguba said. “I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.”
On the investigation itself:
Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.

“Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ ”—where the most important detainees were held—“carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations,” Taguba said. Jordan had also led a squad of military policemen in a shoot-out inside the hard site with a detainee from Syria who had managed to obtain a gun. (A lawyer for Jordan disputed these allegations; in the shoot-out, he said, Jordan was “just another gun on the extraction team” and not the leader. He noted that Jordan was not a trained interrogator.)

Taguba said that Jordan’s “record reflected an extensive intelligence background.” He also had reason to believe that Jordan was not reporting through the chain of command. But Taguba’s narrowly focussed mission constrained the questions he could ask. “I suspected that somebody was giving them guidance, but I could not print that,” Taguba said. ...

...“After all Jordan’s evasiveness and misleading responses, his rights were read to him,” Taguba went on. Jordan subsequently became the only officer facing trial on criminal charges in connection with Abu Ghraib and is scheduled to be court-martialled in late August. (Seven M.P.s were convicted of charges that included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, and assault; one defendant, Specialist Charles Graner, was sentenced to ten years in prison.) Last month, a military judge ruled that Jordan, who is still assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, had not been appropriately advised of his rights during his interviews with Taguba, undermining the Army’s allegation that he lied during the Taguba inquiry. Six other charges remain, including failure to obey an order or regulation; cruelty and maltreatment; and false swearing and obstruction of justice. (His lawyer said, “The evidence clearly shows that he is innocent.”)
And finally, on then Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez:
Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”
Read the entire report by Sy Hersh here.

Other outrageous findings: Hersh says the Major Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man sent from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib in 2003 to "Gitmoize" the place, later got that assignment -- after Taguba's report -- to clean the place up! Miller got his new assignment just one month after the Taguba report became public. And as for a Congressional investigation? No serious one took place, all though this famous scene did involve a Congressman from Miami:
At the House Committee hearing on May 7, 2004, a freshman Democratic congressman, Kendrick Meek, of Florida, asked Rumsfeld if it was time for him to resign. Rumsfeld replied, “I would resign in a minute if I thought that I couldn’t be effective. . . . I have to wrestle with that.” But, he added, “I’m certainly not going to resign because some people are trying to make a political issue out of it.” (Rumsfeld stayed in office for the next two and a half years, until the day after the 2006 congressional elections.) When I spoke to Meek recently, he said, “There was no way Rumsfeld didn’t know what was going on. He’s a guy who wants to know everything, and what he was giving us was hard to believe.”
At least someone was paying attention...

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posted by JReid @ 8:59 PM  
We'll play in the sunshine...
Here in Florida, we have what's called the "Sunshine law" -- which states that no two (or more) government employees or other public officials may conduct official business outside of a clearly public meeting. No backroom tetes-a-tete, no private lunches, nada.

In Washington, we have what's called the Hatch Act -- which prohibits federal and certain state and civil service employees from engaging in proscribed political activity, including conducting partisan business using government resources. The Act was named after a New Mexico Senator named Carl Hatch, and back in 1939:
The Hatch Act grew into a general tradition of electoral reform. In essence, it finally did away with the last vestiges of patronage, and one could say it was the end of the civil service reforms started in the 1880s. But the most significant impetus, affecting both its timing and its content, was the widespread allegation that Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds had been misused by staff members and local Democratic Party politicians during the congressional elections of 1938.
And as for the substance:
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government, District of Columbia government and some state and local employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. In 1993, Congress passed legislation that significantly amended the Hatch Act as it applies to federal and D.C. employees (5 U.S.C. §§ 7321-7326). (These amendments did not change the provisions that apply to state and local employees. 5 U.S.C. §§ 1501- 1508.) Under the amendments most federal and D.C. employees are now permitted to take an active part in political management and political campaigns. A small group of federal employees are subject to greater restrictions and continue to be prohibited from engaging in partisan political management and partisan political campaigns.
Ah, and who is in this "small group of federal employees" who are "subject to greater restrictions? Why it includes:

Administrative Law Judges (positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372)
Central Imagery Office
Central Intelligence Agency
Contract Appeals Boards (positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 5372a)
Criminal Division (Department of Justice)
Defense Intelligence Agency
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Elections Commission
Merit Systems Protection Board
National Security Agency
National Security Council
Office of Criminal Investigation (Internal Revenue Service)
Office of Investigative Programs (Customs Service)
Office of Law Enforcement (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)
Office of Special Counsel
Secret Service
Senior Executive Service (career positions described at 5 U.S.C. § 3132(a)(4))

Uh oh... did you says Senior Executive Service? Let's pursue... Oh, and there's another law we're going to want to remember, called the Public Records Act. But we'll get to that later ... First: here are some exerpts from today's Washington Post:
Almost 90 White House officials have maintained private e-mail accounts on the server of the Republican National Committee, including top advisers such as Karl Rove and former White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card, according to a House committee report released today.

The disclosure means the practice is much more common than Bush administration officials have previously acknowledged, the report noted.

The RNC has preserved more than 140,000 e-mails sent or received by Rove, but only 130 were written before President Bush won re-election in 2004, according to the report. The committee has preserved another 100,000 e-mails from two of Rove's top lieutenants, former White House political director Sara M. Taylor and deputy political director W. Scott Jennings, according to the House Oversight Committee.

But the RNC has no e-mail records for 51 of 88 White House officials -- such as Ken Mehlman, the White House political director from 2001 through early 2003 -- who used their servers in addition to government e-mail accounts, according to a summary of the panel's report.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), has been investigating whether the e-mail accounts run by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign committee violated the Presidential Records Act, which requires that every White House official "assure that the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of his constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties are adequately documented."

The House and Senate Judiciary committees also are seeking the RNC e-mails of White House officials, particularly Rove, Taylor and Jennings, to examine whether Bush's top advisers played roles in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

... Citing executive privilege, President Bush has refused to let any of his West Wing advisers turn over government documents or e-mails to congressional committees conducting investigations of his administration. The RNC has stated its intention to first provide White House officials' e-mails to White House Counsel Fred Fielding to determine whether Bush will want to withhold those as well. ...

... In early March, when the RNC e-mail trail first was raised during investigations of the U.S. attorney dismissals and the alleged politicization of the General Services Administration, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said "a handful" of White House advisers used the private accounts. That number was upgraded to about 50 a few weeks later. The RNC and White House initially said that almost all of Rove's e-mails were destroyed.

Just 130 of the 140,216 Rove e-mails come from Bush's first term, none of them before November 2003. Susan Ralston, Rove's former executive assistant, who privately gave a deposition to committee aides, told the committee that Mehlman used his RNC account "frequently, daily."

She added that other officials for whom there are no e-mail records also used the private accounts regularly.

The report shows that Waxman plans to investigate Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's knowledge of the use of the private e-mails during his term as White House counsel, and whether he took steps to preserve the records.

Waxman's panel also is threatening to subpoena the Bush-Cheney campaign committee. Eleven White House officials use e-mail accounts on the committee's servers, but it has refused to provide any more information to the committee.
Oh, and the Presidential Records Act? Here 'tis:

The Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, 44 U.S.C. ß2201-2207, governs the official records of Presidents and Vice Presidents created or received after January 20, 1981. The PRA changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents must manage their records.

Specifically, the Presidential Records Act:

Defines and states public ownership of the records.

Places the responsibility for the custody and management of incumbent Presidential records with the President.

Allows the incumbent President to dispose of records that no longer have administrative, historical, informational, or evidentiary value, once he has obtained the views of the Archivist of the United States on the proposed disposal.

Requires that the President and his staff take all practical steps to file personal records separately from Presidential records.

Establishes a process for restriction and public access to these records. Specifically, the PRA allows for public access to Presidential records through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) beginning five years after the end of the Administration, but allows the President to invoke as many as six specific restrictions to public access for up to twelve years. The PRA also establishes procedures for Congress, courts, and subsequent Administrations to obtain special access to records that remain closed to the public, following a thirty-day notice period to the former and current Presidents..
Requires that Vice-Presidential records are to be treated in the same way as Presidential records.

Oh, and since we're talking about Bush, here, there are amendments. Here's his:
Executive Order 13233
This Executive Order, issued by President George W. Bush on November 1, 2001, supersedes the previous Executive Order. The Bush Executive Order also includes the documents of former Vice Presidents.
The E.O. was drafted by none other than Alberto Gonzales, back when he was White House counsel. Essentially, it severely limits access to the records of previous presidents, including Bush's father, and Bill Clinton, over the objection of Clinton, by the way...:
"...reflecting military, diplomatic, or national security secrets, Presidential communications, legal advice, legal work, or the deliberative processes of the President and the President's advisers, and to do so in a manner consistent with the Supreme Court's decisions in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), and other cases..."
The order also reversed a previous executive order by Ronald Reagan in 1989, which called for a delay in the release of presidential records if the out-going president requests it, and it altered the relative openness of presidential records that had been in place since the Act was passed to preserve the records of Richard Nixon from being destroyed by his henchmen. More on the history here. Intriguingly enough, the order was issued by Dubya just 60 days after 9/11, on November 1, 2001.

Go figure...

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posted by JReid @ 8:08 PM  
What we did
Seymour Hersh has a new report out about our debacle in Iraq, including a chilling interview with Major General Antonio Taguba, author of the now famous "Taguba Report" on the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Herse did an interview with Wolf Blitzer as well as one on "Hardball" tonight, in which he detailed three key points:

  1. The abuses at Abu Ghraib weren't initiated by the West Virginia grunts, they came from much higher up...

  2. President Bush and then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew about the abuses, no matter what they told Congress or their handlers told the press, months before the pictures came out, and as Hersh told Chris Matthews tonight, "what did the president do about it? Nothing."

  3. The abuses were much, much worse than you think.

RawStory has part of the story, and it's bad enough:

Blitzer asks Hersh about a quote given by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said in a May 6, 2004 meeting with Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and top brass at the Pentagon.

"I described the naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum and said, 'That's not abuse, that's torture,'" Taguba said. "There was quiet."

The following day, May 7, Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

"It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn't say wait, look, this is terrible," Rumsfeld said. "We need to do something to manage -- the legal part of these proceeding along fine. What wasn't proceeding along fine was that the president didn't know, and you didn't know and I didn't know and as a result, somebody leaked a secret report to the press and there they are."

Hersh scoffs at Rumsfeld's response.

"It's sort of ridiculous. Everybody at the top, by the middle of January, knew," Hersh said. "The only question I raise at the end of the article, is what the president know, when?"

... "It's not when they saw the photographs," Hersh stresses. "It's when they learned how serious it was. They were told in memos what the photographs showed... They showed other, more sexual abuse than we knew, sodomy of women prisons by American soldiers, a father and his son forced to do acts together. There was more stuff [than] was made public. You didn't need a photograph if you had a verbal description of it.

Read the rest on the New Yorker website, here.

Last week, ThinkProgress detailed more of Taguba's story, including the threats he says he faced from above him on the chain of command for even looking into the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

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posted by JReid @ 7:45 PM  
Finally, progress in Iraq!
Take that, war doubters! According to the latest "failed states index" from Foreign Policy Magazine, Iraq is NOT the most unstable country in the world ... it's the second most unstable country in the world! IN YOUR FACE, SUDAN!!!

Update: Of the countries that changed for the worse last year, three were in Africa: Somalia, Equatorial Guinea (surprise, surprise) and Niger. But lebanon changed for the worst -- down nearly 12 percent from the index last year. And among those that got better, there were some that were more or less expected -- Bosnia and Indonesia have made significant strides, and Liberia, with its new, female president, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, appears to be on an up-trend. But surprisingly, "me dad's" country, the DRC, also took a turn for the better. Well, I guess when things can't get much worse...

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posted by JReid @ 3:12 PM  
Juneteenth, anyone/
The holiday Juneteenth, which is only observed as an official state holiday in Texas, but which is recognized as a "holiday observance" in 24 others, plus the District of Columbia, is the subject of yet another a dust-up between African-Americans and President Bush. According to the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign. President Bush has, since taking office, totally ignored Juneteenth proclamations and celebrations, and this year is no different. The NJCH continues to reach out to the president, and despite their having bi-partisan support for making Juneteenth a nationally observed holiday. But before we get to that, let's go back. What is Juneteenth? The organization describes it this way:

"Juneteenth" or "19th of June", is considered the date when slavery ended in America. Although rumors of freedom were widespread prior to this, the announcement of emancipation did not come until Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to read General Order No. 3, on the "19th of June", 1865. This was more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Delaware, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Missouri,
Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, Massachusetts
and also in the District of Columbia. Many more states, including South Dakota, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Montana, Maryland and Wisconsin have recognized Juneteenth through special day and year state legislative resolutions
and Gubernatorial Proclamations.

As to the proclamations, on September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation, freeing all slaves held by states that were in rebellion against the Union, effective the following January. It read:

By the President of the United States of America:

Abraham Lincoln


Whereas on the 22nd day of September, A.D. 1862, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

"That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

"That the executive will on the 1st day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State or the people thereof shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such States shall have participated shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State and the people thereof are not then in rebellion against the United States."

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-In-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for supressing said rebellion, do, on this 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, and in accordance with my purpose so to do, publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days from the first day above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof, respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States the following, to wit:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana (except the parishes of St. Bernard, Palquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James, Ascension, Assumption, Terrebone, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the city of New Orleans), Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkeley, Accomac, Morthhampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Anne, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth), and which excepted parts are for the present left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are, and henceforward shall be, free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all case when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known that such persons of suitable condition will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service.

And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.

Two years later, those enslaved in the American Southwest still had not gotten the message, either by happenstance, or by the deliberate omission of that information by the whites who were enslaving them. Thus, white Southwesterners extracted two extra years of free labor from their unknowingly emancipated slaves, until 19 June, 1865, when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX flanked with 2,000 Union troops, and armed with General Order #3:

"The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

Granger's orders were to take posession of the still Confederate-controlled state of Texas, and enforce President Lincoln's order.

That day is considered by many to be America's second Independence Day. And yet, Juneteenth is only celebrated sporadically around the country, and, much like MLK Day, almost exclusively by African-Americans.

In my opinion, that makes no sense. Slavery wasn't a Black institution, it was an American institution, operated with the full foce of the government and, until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865, the Constitution. It's end marked the beginning of attempts to make real the promise of this country, to be a bastien of liberty and equality, and its military end, via the Emancipation Proclamation and General Order 3, cemented the union, by permanently dismantling the Confederate state's rebellion.

That strikes me as a holiday worth celebrating together, as a nation.

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posted by JReid @ 7:30 AM  
Friday, June 15, 2007
Rudy Giuliani: Fox insider

Will the MSM ever examine "Mr 9/11" Rudy Giuliani's actual record as mayor of New York (and his pimping of 9/11), his ties to the nefarious plan to build a NAFTA superhighway, his ties to Venezuela's Citgo and Mexico's Cintra, or his dirty dealings with Bernie Kerik? Only time will tell. One thing's for sure, it's not likely that one network in particular will bother:

Fox News' Pro-Giuliani Conflict of Interest
By Cliff Kincaid
May 22, 2007

Rudy Giuliani's much-publicized but misleading put-down of Ron Paul during the Republican presidential debate should have been tempered by a report that Saudi Arabia, the country that spawned most of the 9/11 hijackers, has been one of Giuliani's lucrative foreign clients. However, Fox News questioners Chris Wallace and Wendell Goler did not bring it up.

Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the same Associated Press story that named Saudi Arabia as a Giuliani client listed News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, as another Giuliani client. This AP story, which was not disputed by Giuliani or News Corporation, was carried on the Fox News website.
The AP article in question includes the following brief, but telling reference:

Giuliani's law and lobbying clients have included Saudi Arabia, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and chewing tobacco maker UST Inc.
Hm.... which leaves the Post-Chronicle's Kincaid to conclude:

This writer had raised questions about Fox News' co-sponsorship of the debate, based on the fact that the company had a relationship with Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City. But now we know that the relationship has continued into the period of time that Giuliani has been planning a presidential run. It is an obvious conflict of interest.
The conflicts continued after the S.C. debate:

Giuliani was the first Republican candidate to come on Fox News after the debate and talk about his performance. Co-host Sean Hannity wanted to focus on Giuliani's comments on 9/11 and his attack on Paul. Later, Michael Steele, Maryland's former Lieutenant Governor, was on Fox News, declaring that Giuliani had destroyed Ron Paul. "It's done," Steele said of Paul's campaign. It wasn't mentioned that Giuliani had campaigned for Steele when he ran for a Maryland Senate seat.
So much for "fair and balanced."


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posted by JReid @ 8:53 PM  
Forced out
Not-to-be renominated and bad -- but not as bad as Dick Myers -- Joint Chiefs Chair Peter Pace says he's not leaving his job voluntarily. I guess it's too bad he's not an old Bush crony from Texas -- if that were the case, he'd still have his job. As it is, Pace is left with the memory of being called an incompetent yes-man by Harry Reid...

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posted by JReid @ 8:00 PM  
Gonzales on the rocks

The Incompetent Mr. Gonzales is now under investigation by his own Justice Department in yet another offshoot of the U.S. attorney firing scandals -- this one involving Alberto's apparent attempts to coordinate his testimony with Monica Goodling's. A meeting with Gonzales to "discuss their recollections" which was described by Goodling during her May 31 testimony was regarded, even by the bottom tier law student, as "inappropriate"... what's worse, Gonzales testified under oath, before Ms. Goodling did (under a guarantee of immunity from prosecution, no less) that he did not discuss his testimony with any other witness prior to his appearance before Congress. Oops. Sayeth the WaPo:

The announcement that Gonzales's conduct would be examined came from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility. "This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," Fine and Jarrett said in a letter to Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Fine has the authority to refer cases for possible criminal prosecution if warranted, and both he and Jarrett can recommend disciplinary action for violations of internal ethics guidelines or other rules of professional conduct.

The revelation further expands the publicly known contours of the Justice Department's internal investigation, which is examining the removal of the prosecutors and whether any laws or policies were violated in the hiring of career prosecutors, immigration judges and others.
Meanwhile, TPMMuckraker reports there has been another resignation from the department now euphemistically referred to as "Justice" -- Mike Elston, who had been chief of staff to former deputy A.G. and in-house scapegoat Paul McNulty. He slunk out of town quietly today. The Muckrakers report:

Some highlights from Elston's tenure at DoJ:

-- He allegedly called three of the fired U.S. attorneys and made an implicit threat that the Justice Department would detail the reasons for their firings if they didn't stay quiet.

-- He allegedly rejected a large number of applicants to Justice Department positions because they were Democrats.

-- When Carol Lam, the former U.S. attorney for San Diego, asked to stay on the job longer in order to deal with some outstanding prosecutions (the expanding Duke Cunningham case among them), Elston told her not to think about her cases, that she should be gone in "weeks, not months" and said "these instructions were 'coming from the very highest levels of the government.'"

-- He called around to the U.S. attorneys whom he had placed on one of the draft firing lists to apologize when he discovered that his list would be turned over to Congress.
And the Muckrakers also have more information on another Gonzales flunky:

During a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Bradley Schlozman, the controversial former senior political appointee in the Civil Rights Division, was battered with questions about his efforts to politicize the division.

A number of those questions from senators centered on Schlozman's efforts to purge the appellate section of the Civil Rights Division -- the small, but important section that handles civil rights cases in the court of appeals. What were they getting at? An anonymous complaint against Schlozman sent to the Justice Department's inspector general in December of 2005 spelled out the allegations. The complaint, obtained by TPMmuckraker, was filed by a former Department lawyer. You can read it here.

"Bradley J. Schlozman is systematically attempting to purge all Civil Rights appellate attorneys hired under Democratic administrations," the lawyer wrote, saying that he appeared to be "targeting minority women lawyers" in the section and was replacing them with "white, invariably Christian men." The lawyer also alleged that "Schlozman told one recently hired attorney that it was his intention to drive these attorneys out of the Appellate Section so that he could replace them with 'good Americans.'"

The anonymous complaint named three female, minority lawyers whom Schlozman had transferred out of the appellate section (of African-American, Jewish, and Chinese ethnicity, respectively) for no apparent reason. And in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week in response to questions from senators, the Justice Department confirmed that all three had been transferred out by Schlozman -- and then transferred back in after Schlozman had left the Division. ...

So much for justice...

With his support among Democrats at its nadir and support dwindling, even among Republicans, what Alberto has left are two things: the loyalty of his friend, George W. Bush, and the protection of Bush's remaining lackeys in Congress, who are willing to serve as human shields for the administration, possibly until the end of his term, or their careers, whichever comes first. But for that, Gonzo would be gonzo.

As it is, he remains a potent symbol of the utter worthlessness of the Bush administration. And as such, he's a rather useful idiot.

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posted by JReid @ 7:10 PM  
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Rumors of war
The second bombing of a sacred Shiite Mosque in Samarra in 15 months has only escalated the mayhem in that country. The reprisals have been swift and brutal in that ongoing civil war.

In this country, the Democrats have sent the president a letter telling him what he should already know: that the surge has failed -- more to the point, the war itself is a rank failure, with no realistic chance of turning around.

Meanwhile, there are two other wars raging in the Middle East, in Lebanon, where the Fouad Siniora government recently battled Islamic militias in a Palestinian refugee camp, and tensions are high after the murder of an anti-Syrian MP, and in Gaza, where an all out civil war is underway, with President Mahmoud Abbas moving to dissolve the Palestinian government yesterday.

The multi-headed hydra of violence reaching across the region will be the subject of an emergency Arab League meeting tomorrow. The instability is frightening, and worse, it's providing an opportunity for the warmongering neocons to try and push for even more war, against Iran, which is now inexplicably being accused of arming their sworn enemies, the Taliban.

What's needed in the Middle East is credible diplomacy on the part of the United States, which is impossible as long as this country can't bring itself to deal even-handedly with the parties there.

Update: from the AP this morning (June 15)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas fighters have seized Fatah's senior field commanders in the Gaza Strip, a spokesman for the Islamic group announced Friday, while Egyptian police said nearly 100 Fatah officials had crossed into Egypt.

The spokesman, Abu Obeideh, said the group's men arrested the commanders of the National Security organization and the elite Presidential Guard, along with a senior Fatah spokesman, a lawmaker and six other officials.

The men were being interrogated by Hamas, Obeideh said on Hamas TV.

Meanwhile, 97 senior members of Fatah's security and administrative apparatus arrived in the Egyptian port of El-Arish hours after fighters from the militant Hamas group took control of Gaza, an Egyptian security official in El-Arish said.

The retreating Fatah members, who fled aboard a fishing boat, were transferred to camps affiliated to Egypt's security forces, a police official in Cairo confirmed.
Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that Hamas is now in "full control" of the Gaza strip.

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posted by JReid @ 9:20 PM  
Bush's new lows
He's at 29 percent in the latest NBC/WSJ poll, with his support among Republicans down to 62 percent. Does the fact that two-thirds of GOPers still support this president disturb anyone besides me?

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posted by JReid @ 9:16 PM  
Don't mess with Reggie
It isn't all that hard to bring out the wingnuts, as David Shuster hilariously referred to them tonight on Countdown (might have been a whoopsie, but I LOVED it!) Said nuts have opened up their cans of crazy on one U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Reginald Walton, the judge who heard the Scooter Libby case, and then sentenced ole' Scooter to 30 months in prison, to begin, not later, not upon the completion of his appeal, but soon, and very soon. The reaction from the dwindling cadres of the neocon faithful has been absolutely cookoo, with the stalwarts left to debate Pat Buchanan on Hardball as to whether perjury and obstruction of justice are legitimate subjects for prosecution. Earth to neocons: they ARE.

So what to do, when Bushie isn't acting fast enough to further discredit himself and his presidency by pardoning a man for no other reason than that he is a friend of the vice president, and despite the fact that you claimed to be coming to Washington to "restore honor and dignity" to the place ... not to make perjury and obstruction of justice fashionable among Republicans...

What to do?

Write nasty, threatening letters to the judge.

Yep. That's what the winguts are doing. Says the judge:

"I received a number of angry, harassing mean-spirited phone calls and letters," District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. "Some of those were wishing bad things on me and my family." Walton made the remarks as he opened a hearing into whether to delay Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence.

He said he was holding the letters in case something happened but said they would have no effect on his decision.

It must be soul-killing to be a right winger ...

So who is this guy?

Well, he's not a card carrying liberal, anti-American Socialist, as some on the right might wish. He is an African-American Republican, and an appointee of a guy named Bush:

Judge Reggie B. Walton assumed his position as a United States District Judge for the District of Columbia on October 29, 2001, after being nominated to the position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. In May 2007, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Judge Walton to serve as a Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is a 7-year appointment. Judge Walton was also appointed by President Bush in June of 2004 to serve as the Chairperson of the National Prison Rape Reduction Commission, a two-year commission created by the United States Congress that is tasked with the mission of identifying methods to curb the incidents of prison rape. Former Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Judge Walton to the federal judiciary's Criminal Law Committee, effective October 1, 2005. Judge Walton previously served as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 1981 to 1989 and 1991 to 2001, having been appointed to that position by Presidents Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George H. W. Bush in 1991. While serving on the Superior Court, Judge Walton was the court's Presiding Judge of the Family Division, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Unit and Deputy Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division. Between 1989 and 1991, Judge Walton served as President George H. W. Bush's Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President and as President Bush's Senior White House Advisor for Crime.
Hm... that might be a problem for the righties who might want to characterize Walton as a latter day Al Sharpton... This is Bush's judge, just as Pat Fitzgerald is Bush's prosecutor. If the president vacates their work, he can't hide behind the veil of saving Scooter from a partisan witch hunt. As Richard Ben Veniste said on "Hardball" yesterday when he debated the barely coherent Joe DiGenova, if Bush wants to pardon Scooter, he'll have to stand up, be a man, and admit that he's doing a neocon friend a big, fat favor.

Meanwhile, John Dickerson from Slate predicts Bushie will do just that, and that Scooter won't see the inside of an orange jumpsuit. The reasons:

First: Dick Cheney. The vice president may not be winning as many foreign-policy battles as he used to, but Libby's fate is a highly personal matter for Cheney. He will ask Bush for a pardon, and he is unlikely to back down. If Bush resists, Cheney could argue that his close aide Libby should not go to jail while Karl Rove, another key figure in the scandal, has been protected by Bush and the administration.

The second reason Libby will walk is President Bush's dismal approval rating. The number of people who would be angered by a pardon who haven't already abandoned the president could fit in an airport shuttle bus. Given the conservative defections from Bush over his support of immigration reform, a pardon of Libby—which would be popular with conservatives—might actually improve his approval ratings. Libby's conviction is seen as such an outrage among conservatives that one former Bush aide suggested "the consequences of not pardoning, if Scooter is led away in shackles, will be uglier than pardoning."
Could be. But pardoning Scooter would also keep the story on the front pages, and keep people talking that ole' "underlying conduct," namely the administration's cavalier outing of a covert agent (using the same stooge reporter who stenographed for Robert Hansen, no less) to punish her husband for telling the truth about their war...

And who would want that?

Odds of a pardon at this stage: I'd say 4:3 in favor, but probably not until late summer, during the slow news months... Oh, and Dickerson says that if a Republican wins the White House in 2008 (perish the thought) he should offer Scooter a job. Go figure.

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posted by JReid @ 8:43 PM  
Scooter Libby and the hypocrite express
How to explain the striking reversal of mindset among "law and order" Republicans who called for the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton for purportedly misleading a grand jury in a civil sex case, and for, in the insistent words of people like Victoria Toensing and her equally natty husband Joseph DeGenova: "obstructing justice" in the Paula Jones case. President Clinton was, in fact, impeached for perjury and obstruction, though he was acquitted in the Senate.

Now, however, this collection of law-abiders, many of whom are, like DeGenova, Toensing and "Mr. 9/11," Rudy Giuliani, former federal prosecutors. And yet now, they have discovered a certain sympathy for the obstructor.

Even Chris Matthews can see through his fellow Clinton bashers' hypocrisy. Here was DeGenova on Hardball last night (along with Richard Ben Veniste, who got quite a chuckle out of the exchange). First, on whether Libby should, or will, be pardoned:

Joe diGenova, first up, should Scooter Libby be pardoned by President Bush?

DIGENOVA: Absolutely, and the sooner the better.

MATTHEWS: Do you believe he will act?

DIGENOVA: The president?


DIGENOVA: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Will he do what you want him to do?

DIGENOVA: Oh, no, he is going to pardon Scooter Libby. There‘s no question about it.

The equities here, everything point toward it. And, while the president has not been a serial pardoner—he and his father have not issued a lot of pardons during their presidencies—this is a—this is a case that cries out for a pardon. And the justification for it is evident. And I don‘t think there‘s any question that the president will do it.

The key will be whether or not Judge Walton sends Scooter Libby to prison in 60 days, or 40 days, or whatever it is.


DIGENOVA: The president will then have to act at the end of those 60 days, because, if Scooter Libby spends one day in prison, the black mark on this president‘s tenure in office will be indelible.

MATTHEWS: And it will be his black mark on Bush, not on Scooter Libby, as you see it?

DIGENOVA: No question about that, Chris, no question.

But I think the president is going to do it. And I think he understands the reasons for it, all of which are out on the public record.
And then, on the question of whether what Libby did -- lying to the FBI and a grand jury in a case involving, not sex, but the outing of a covert CIA agent working to protect this country's national security interests with respect to WMD. DiGenova's answers are pure GOPer talking points ("Plame wasn't covert" -- although she has definitively been proved to have been just that, Victoria's vapid fulminations aside, etc., etc.,) sprinkled with hypocrisy -- but unfortunately, no substance:

MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask Richard Ben-Veniste.

Should—should Scooter Libby be pardoned by this president in 60 days?

BEN-VENISTE: I think that is—that is entirely up to the president.

He has the right, in his discretion, to do it.

If he stood up and said, look, Scooter Libby, he was doing our bidding, that this whole attack on the Wilsons, outing Valerie Wilson, who was a covert operative of the CIA, a case officer of the CIA, which our government had invested millions of dollars in developing, casually outed by the administration, through Scooter Libby, if the president wants to step up to the plate and say, I‘m responsible, and I will be a man, and I will take that responsibility by acknowledging it, and issuing a pardon, then so be it.

Let him take the political heat for it and do it. I‘m of the view that—frankly, that, unless somebody is a danger to the community, unless a—an appeal is completely frivolous, that bail ought to be granted, pending an appeal, because people should not go to jail until they are adjudged guilty, and that means through appeal.

But, with respect to the pardon, that is entirely up to the president.

MATTHEWS: Jerry Ford, the former president, the late president now, pardoned Richard Nixon, under the belief that the Burdick decision, which was a precedent, held that a person who accepts a federal pardon from a president is accepting guilt.

Do you accept that as a precedent and as a matter of law, Joe diGenova?

DIGENOVA: I—I don‘t—first of all, there is no law on that question.

Whatever the president says who issues the pardon can say that. A president can say whatever he or she wants or say nothing when a pardon is issued.

Let me just make one point about the under—the alleged underlying crime which was never charged here...


DIGENOVA: ... and apparently never committed, which was outing an agent, when you know that he or she is an agent.

The first person to mention Valerie‘s name was not Scooter Libby. It was Richard Armitage, the undersecretary of state, in a flippant way, to Bob Woodward and to Robert Novak. Scooter Libby confirmed later in—at least three or four times that he had spoken about Ms. Wilson with reporters...


DIGENOVA: ... ultimately confirmed that.

So, the bottom line here is—and—and, by the way, if the CIA was attempting to take active measures, affirmative measures, to protect the identity of Valerie Plame, let me tell you something, their—their—their tradecraft stinks, because you would not send a covert agent‘s—which I believe she was not—a covert officer‘s...


DIGENOVA: ... husband overseas, and then let him write an op-ed piece about it, and then do a number of other things that clearly were not designed to protect her cover.

MATTHEWS: Joe—Joe, did you support—did you support the impeachment of President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice?

DIGENOVA: Absolutely. I did.

MATTHEWS: What was the underlying crime then?

DIGENOVA: Obstructing a trial—a civil...


MATTHEWS: No, what was the underlying—what was the underlying crime?


MATTHEWS: You‘re asking for—you—now, this guy is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.

But what—you‘re saying he doesn‘t have an underlying crime there. But what was the underlying crime with Bill Clinton? Monica Lewinsky, that was the underlying crime?

DIGENOVA: No. Actually, it was a civic proceeding...


DIGENOVA: ... in which there was a case pending in a United States district court.


DIGENOVA: And the—the—the president, apparently, according to the reason he—he gave up the practice of law for a period of time was because he did not tell the truth during a deposition.

MATTHEWS: Well, but neither did—neither did Scooter Libby. So, they are guilty of the same charge.

By "crosstalk," the transcriber means "humminahumminahummina..." because that's about the stuttering and stammering that came from DiGenova at that stage. Pathetic.

It's a fascinating argument DiGenova puts forth, however, since the fact that there was no underlying crime was the main reason Bill Clinton couldn't have been found guilty of perjury. But in Libby's case, there was an underlying crime -- knowingly disclosing the name of a covert operative -- but it couldn't be proven because of Libby's lies and obstruction. In other words, Libby put himself on the line to prevent prosecutors from proving the underlying crime -- whether that crime was committed by himself (unlikely) or others (bingo.) Now, Libby is being ordered to go directly to jail. He's Paris Hilton, baby, not Martha Stewart. And do you want to know why, Joe DiGenova? Hm? Mr. Prosecutor and former independent counsel who seems to have forgotten the law??? He's going to jail because prosecutors know HE IS STILL HIDING INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNDERLYING CRIME, IN ORDER TO PROTECT OTHERS, most probably the vice president of the United States. In jail, he has a much better chance of coming to his senses, rather than at home with his kids. It's kind of prosecution 101, deary.

Anyway, if you'd like to laugh at Joe the way I did last night, you can see his embarassing performance for yourself. C&L has the video.

It's not just DiGenova, of course, as Intoxication pointed out last week:

So now we have all the wingnuts beating their pardon chests harder and louder. From the National Review to William Kristol, the calls for pardon are getting louder. As matter of fact, today's Washington Post says that "pardon is a topic to sensitive to mention" in the West Wing...
And let's not forget Mr. Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor who, like DiGenova, seems to have mellowed over the years in his attitudes toward obstructing justice and lying to the FBI.

These people have no souls. Have fun in the big house, Scooter!
Update: WaPo's Dan Froomkin reports the White House has ruled out a pardon until the Libby appeal is complete, which could be in months, or even years. Not a good look for the neocons' neocon, but you never know, Bushie might just get religion and decide to do Bill Kristol's bidding (of course, there is the matter of Scooter's being Cheney's boy, not Bush's, but there you go) ... By the way, there is a simple exit strategy for Scooter, which will get him out of jail, most likely: he can recover his memory about precisely what the vice president told him to do with regard to Valerie Plame, and make a proffer to the special prosecutor to spill his guts. Tick, tock, Scooter...

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posted by JReid @ 3:05 PM  
Quick take headlines: only in Miami edition
Only in Miami, take one: the head of the city's affordable housing agency shares the wealth -- doling out lucrative housing contracts to her felonious ex-husband. That and the no-bid contracts, and all we need down here is Haliburton.

Only in Miami, take two: the Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, sees no evil. I guess he figures it's just par for the course. Then again, his friends are benefiting from the largesse, and Diaz has his own history to deal with:
Manuel C. Diaz, another Jeb Bush business associate, runs a commercial nursery with headquarters in Homestead, Florida. Manny Diaz's previous business sidekick, Charles Keating, Jr., is now sitting in a California prison. But during Keating's days at the helm of the $6 billion Lincoln Savings, Diaz became a Keating insider, confidant, and beneficiary. For example, in 1987, as federal regulators closed in on his crumbling empire, Keating instructed his attorneys to transfer a large chunk of prime Phoenix real estate to Diaz, for just $1. And right before filing for personal bankruptcy, Keating transferred his $2 million mansion on the island of Cat Cay in the Bahamas to Diaz.

At the same time Diaz was palling around with Keating, Jeb, then serving as Florida's secretary of commerce, arranged a private meeting for Diaz with Florida's Republican governor Bob Martinez. Promptly afterward, Diaz Farms landed a lucrative, $1.72 million, state-highway-landscaping contract -- despite the fact that Diaz had little prior highway-landscaping experience. This raised howls of protest and charges of political influence-peddling from other contractors. But state officials explained that the extraordinary speed in issuing the contract had occurred because the state was anxious to spruce up 113 miles of freeway for the coming visit of the pope.

Did Jeb know about Diaz's business association with Charles Keating? Did he have reason to believe Diaz was qualified for the Florida highway contract that he helped Diaz land? These are the kinds of detailed questions that the Florida chairman of the Bush re-election campaign refuses to answer. [Source: Mother Jones, 9/1/92]
Only in Miami, take three: the lieutenant governor gets his blog on, deleting unflattering facts about ... the lieutenant governor.

Only in Miami, take four: the JFK geriatrics are tied to a disappeared Iranian:
GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- As murder mysteries here go, few are as intriguing as the execution-style killing of an Iranian Muslim cleric with links to a key suspect in the alleged JFK airport bombing plot.

Mohamed Hassan Ibrahimi was abducted by two gunmen in April 2004. His body was found several weeks later, face down in a shallow grave. He had been shot twice in the head. His mouth was taped and his hands and feet were tied.

The homicide made a brief splash and then turned into a cold case over the next three years -- until earlier this month, when prosecutors in New York charged three Guyanese men and one Trinidadian with plotting to bomb the city's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Ibrahimi was a close friend of one of the men accused, Abdul Kadir, a former opposition member of Guyana's parliament. Ibrahimi received money from Iran and changed it at a currency exchange business where another of the accused, Abdel Nur, sometimes ran errands, and where a suspected al Qaeda member and former South Florida resident wanted by the FBI, Adnan el Shukrijumah, was spotted in 2003. The business' owner was slain last month.

Kadir, Nur and Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahiim are jailed in Trinidad pending U.S. extradition requests. The fourth man accused, Russell Defreitas, a Guyanese-born U.S. citizen, is being held in New York. Two of Kadir's sons were arrested in Guyana on Sunday on charges of illegal possession of ammunition.

At the time of Ibrahimi's disappearance and death, Guyana's Muslim organizations were quick to deny speculation that the case was linked to international terrorism or clashes between Shiites and Sunnis. Other speculation centered on a robbery attempt gone bad or a settling of business scores.


Acting Guyana Police Chief Henry Greene told The Miami Herald he would not speculate on who killed Ibrahimi or why.

''Initially, we felt it was a kidnapping. But there was no demand for a ransom,'' said Greene, who was head of criminal investigations at the time. ``We could not find a motive for the killing. Just another one of those strange killings.''

But the slaying was certainly of importance to the Iranian government. Four Iranian police officers and Tehran's ambassador in neighboring Venezuela came to ask about the case. Even television crews from Tehran turned up in this South American nation.

''We don't know if it was normal practice,'' Greene said of Iran's interest. ``It looked to me like there was a national interest.'' ...

Only in Miami, take five: Rush Limbaugh, talent on loan by the devil, winds up in the center of the hurricane ... coverage ...

It must be the sunshine.

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posted by JReid @ 11:00 AM  
You know you're having a bad day when...
You do some crack and set out to steal a car, but wind up carjacking in a circle...

Miami Beach cops said they discovered a bloodied man casing a car to steal in the parking lot of Mount Sinai Medical Center Wednesday. Alexander Carballido, 28, He was arrested, police said, but not before:

• Nearly running over a Miami-Dade police officer who tried pulling him over near Northwest 31st Street and 28th Avenue at 3:30 a.m. The man shoved his girlfriend out of the car -- her Honda Civic -- and eluded police during a short chase.

• Crashing the Civic into the fence of a Miami apartment building, leading one resident to try to move her car so it wouldn't catch on fire.

• Jumping into that woman's car, pressing a machete to her body and stealing her car. She got out of the car before he drove off in the vehicle.

• Crashing that stolen car later on a nearby bridge. A good Samaritan dropped him off at Mount Sinai, where he was arrested.

''What we're talking about is a cracked-out, machete-wielding moron who went on his own personal countywide crime spree,'' said Miami Lt. Bill Schwartz, a spokesman.

He was charged with carjacking and attempted kidnapping. ...
Carbalido was not, however, charged with stupid.

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posted by JReid @ 7:01 AM  
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Polling report: calling all thespians
New polling numbers are out! Yes, for me that's akin to Christmas ... I've got issues... and here's how we're looking:

In New Hampshire, it looks like Guy Smiley has flip flopped into voters hearts, following the latest presidential debate. He's now ahead of the pack, with 27 percent in a new Franklin Pierce/WBZ poll, to Rudy Giuliani's 18 and Baghdad John's 17 percent.

A new Mason-Dixon poll concurs, showing Romney ahead for the GOP and Hillary continuing to rule the Democratic primary, with 27 percent and 26 percent respectively. In that poll, the GOP field is equally shaken up:

Romney 27
McCain 16
Giuliani 15
F. Thompson 12
Huckabee 5

I think Pat Buchanan is right to peg Romney as the man most likely to win the New Hampshire primary.

The Fred Thompson factor...

New polls on the GOP side find one clear trend: Thompson is rising. He's tied with Giuliani in the latest Rasmussen poll, and just six points behind Rudy in a new LAT poll -- almost a statistical tie. Polls aside, Thompson is sucking the air out of many of his officially running rivals, particularly Rudy, who is slowly sinking like a leaky balloon, into the twenties, though still in the lead.

Meanwhile, on the Dem side, Hillary continues to maintain her lead, and surprise surprise, it's because of her strong support from women. No news there.

He's not yet running, officially, but the actor playing the part of Ronald Reagan in the GOP primary is already making waves in the polls.

And one scary poll, though not all that surprising; according to a new Gallup poll, the majority of Republicans don't believe in evolution.

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posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Is Joseph Lieberman insane?
It seems a legitimate quetsion to ask, given his recent public statements on Iraq, where in Joe's mind, things are just greeeaat... to his breathtaking inability to grasp the concept that the troops he gets to talk to on his two day junkets to our violent little tributary in Mesopotamia aren't free to tell him where to stick his war plans ... to his latest statements on Iran, which Joe thinks we should commence bombing, like, yesterday...

"I think we've got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq," Lieberman told Bob Schieffer. "And to me, that would include a strike into... over the border into Iran, where we have good evidence that they have a base at which they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers."
Lieberman made the comments to Bob Schieffer on "Face the Nation" this past Sunday, as a follow up to his rather dramatic attempt to link Shiite Iranian arms and dollars to, of all things, Wahabi/Sunni al-Qaida:

Sen. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see when we talk to Admiral Mullen, but so far I don't think so. I think the president is holding firm and Secretary Gates is. And the firmness, as I can tell you coming back from Iraq, Bob, is that you can't look at Iraq in a vacuum. What we're involved in here, as General Lute said to our committee last week, is the--Iraq is now the main front in the long war we are fighting against the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. In fact, 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq today killing Iraqis and American soldiers are foreign al-Qaeda fighters. Iran is training and equipping soldiers, Iraqis to come in and kill American soldiers and Iraqis. So we--we've got to see that larger context, and that's why we're committed to helping the Iraqis to stability and victory.
Witness that masterful conflation! Iraq is where we're fighting the Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who attacked us on 9/11??? Well I'll be damned! And 90 percent of the suicide bombers in Iraq are al-Qaida? Good thing suicide bombers are responsible for less than five percent of the violence in Iraq. Any more than that and we'd really be screwed! And Iran has put aside its fundamental hatred of al-Qaida Sunnis, which it demonstrated when Tehran helped us fight the Taliban and al-Qaida ... which it has always detested ... in Afghanistan, to arm and train these Saudis, Yemenis, and other al-Qaida types, despite those same al-Qaida types' hatred for Shiites??? And despite the fact that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is KILLING SHIITES DAILY ON THE STREETS THROUGHOUT IRAQ??? Wow... Joe sure knows Muslims... not...

Lieberman has been down this road before. Not only was he the co-sponsor of our current war debacle in Iraq, he has repeatedly issued threats of doing the same thing to Iran, including all-but declaring war on them single-handedly last December. As a matter of fact, perhaps the only people more eager for the U.S. to bomb Iran might be the neoconservative nutjobs, and the Israeli Likudniks (not to mention the big defense contractors and oil giants who have made a killing on the breaking of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in Iraq, but who have yet to profit from a war waged primarily by the men and women of the Navy and Air Force... oh, yeah, and Dick Cheney, he's really into the bomb Iran thing... and worse, Lieberman has become the convenient lure that the Cheney wing of the Bush administration dangles before the press gaggle to make the idea of another war sound bipartisan ... or is that tripartisan???

Lieberman's warmongering is particularly scary because it dovetails with an apparent push inside the Bush administration's militant wing to get a war going, even if it means going around Secretary of State Rice, or even around the president himself, if we won't play ball. Curious leaks to the Jerusalem Post and other militant Likudnik outfits don't help:

Predicting that Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within three years and claiming to have a strike plan in place, senior American military officers have told The Jerusalem Post they support President George W. Bush's stance to do everything necessary to stop the Islamic Republic's race for nuclear power.

Bush has repeatedly said the United States would not allow Iran to "go nuclear."

A high-ranking American military officer told the Post that senior officers in the US armed forces had thrown their support behind Bush and believed that additional steps needed to be taken to stop Iran.

Predictions within the US military are that Bush will do what is needed to stop Teheran before he leaves office in 2009, including possibly launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities.

On Sunday, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut said the US should consider a military strike against Iran over its support of Iraqi insurgents. ...
The story goes on to posit a theory that the U.S. could institute a Naval blockade against Iran, without closing the Straights of Hormuz completely. Are you thinking Gulf of Tonkin? Naval ship left curiously unprotected? Supposed Iranian attack on said ship... and Dems fainting into a pro-war swoon??? You get the picture.

Get him, please, General Clark:

“Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.”
Spoken like a true soldier.
And by the way, if Joe and the neocons are able to trick or goad the U.S. and Israel into launching World War III with Iran, it will drag in Russia and China, and not on our side. The idea of launching a war against Iran, which has a real military, including a Navy and Air Force, unlike the paper tiger that was Iraq, is insane. Or maybe it's not ... because such a war would send global oil prices through the stratosphere, which will mean big bucks for Big Oil. And it could have the secondary effect of pushing the reluctant Iraqi parliament to approve that abomination of an oil law, signing away that country's rights to exploit its own oil to the major Western oil companies for 30 years, in order to help Iraq make up for sidelined Iranian oil, to feed Europe and Asia's need. This thing stinks to high heaven, and as Sy Hersh and others have been warning us for years, it's only a matter of time and timing. Enough of the right people want war, and they know that the Democrats in Congress cannot, or will not, stop them.
Muck like the addled neocons who are on their knees begging God for war, the sane part of the world needs to start praying in the other direction.

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posted by JReid @ 4:41 PM  
Friday, June 08, 2007
The men who stole 9/11

Radar Online drops the science on Rudy Giuliani's shameful pimping of the 9/11 terror attacks:

GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani is hoping to ride his 9/11 experience straight into the White House. But while "America's Mayor" is playing well in New Hampshire, New Yorkers directly impacted by the World Trade Center tragedy are less convinced.

In a recent New York Daily News poll, New Yorkers said they favor current mayor Michael Bloomberg, who hasn't declared his candidacy, over "America's Mayor" by almost 2 to 1.

Howard Lutnick, the CEO of money management firm Cantor Fitzgerald who lost 658 of his employees on 9/11 and whose brother died in the attack, has given Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign $4,600 of his own money over the last two months and has not given the Giuliani campaign a dime. Diny Ajamian, who as Cantor's human resources director worked with families of deceased employees and helped rebuild the company's staff, says she's disgusted by Giuliani's use of 9/11 as a political prop, adding that while Giuliani made plenty of public overtures to Cantor families in the immediate aftermath, he was virtually invisible two weeks later when she went to work for the firm. "It's absolutely disgraceful. He's just a sleazebag," Ajamian says. "I think now the families feel like he left them high and dry."

A rep for a group that aids families of those injured or killed in the WTC seconds that. "Rudy thinks our grief and the hurt we experienced somehow makes us stupid," says Monica Gabrielle, co-chair of the Skyscraper Safety Campaign, an organization which assists families affected by 9/11. "Rudy just can't control himself.... He can't acknowledge his failures.... He just can't stop creating his own myth about himself and about that day. The man is in love with his own legend."

But Giuliani's most potent critics are those who became a symbol of bravery after the 9/11 attacks—America's fire fighters. The 280,000 member International Association of Fire Fighter's fund has been at odds with the former mayor since shortly after 9/11, claiming the man now worth as much as $70 million "gave up" on dead firefighters and devoted Ground Zero cleanup efforts to, of all things, recovering gold and silver. Removal of victims' remains amounted, they say, to a "scoop and dump." Tensions heated up again in March, when a draft of a letter explaining the union's decision to snub Giuliani from their 2008 presidential forum was leaked to the press. The union eventually decided to invite him, but the candidate turned down the half-hearted invitation. That was the last straw for the group's president, Harold Schaitberger, who says Giuliani's actions since 9/11 show "disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen."

Most poll tracking shows Giuliani still ahead of his pitiful GOP competition, but with his support headed in exactly the wrong direction. Still, it's not exactly difficult to put one over on the American people, so the Democrats should prepare for the possibility of facing a Giuliani campaign in 2008, and be prepared to counter his fear mongering, 9/11 pimping self-agrandizement head-on. This guy is as big a sleazebag as they come, and clearly, he will do anything to win for himself the ultimate cash-plumper -- four years in the Oval Office.

But wait, there's more. Radar also uncovers the other Bush cronies who are making a killing -- pun intended -- off the so-called 'war on terror," starting with George Tenet...

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posted by JReid @ 10:44 PM  
Quick take headlines: hello, George Orwell
An E.U. report sheds new light on the CIA's secret prison system, which apparently had tentacles in the former Soviet bloc -- how appropriate is that -- including secret gulags in Poland and Romania, formerly home not only to Soviet detention facilities, but Nazi ones as well. The ironies are just too rich.

The Bush administration prepares to ask for a do-over on the military tribunals ruling, hoping to push the military judges to reverse their decision to throw out cases against Gitmo detainees who were misclassified as "enemy combatants," rather than "unlawful enemy combatants," making them ineligible for trial by Bushian kangaroo court. To whit:
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration won't dismantle the controversial war-crimes tribunals at Guantanamo Bay for alleged terrorists, including Canada's Omar Khadr, despite rulings by two military judges tossing out all charges, a senior U.S. official said yesterday.

"The government is looking at a number of different options," said John Bellinger, legal adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But scrapping the tribunals and putting the terrorist suspects on trial, either in federal court in the United States or in military courts martial, isn't among them.

Instead, the government has quickly assembled a court to hear an appeal of the dismissal of charges against Mr. Khadr, accused of killing for al-Qaeda, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, alleged to have been a driver for Osama bin Laden.

"Judges have been appointed and the court is prepared to receive appeals," said Navy Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. But Cdr. Gordon said he couldn't provide the names of those named to the Court of Military Commission Review. It was created by Congress last year, but had no judges or staff until the government scrambled in the wake of Monday's surprise rulings by the military judges.
The story goes on to say that prosecutors may have actually missed the deadline to refile the charges, but that isn't stopping the Bushies, either.

Is it just me, or are our detentionos of prisoners in Gitmo somewhat analagous to the detention of Iranian-Americans in Tehran? In both cases, suspects are held incommunicado with no clear charges against them. And if so, on what basis to we demand our citizens back, let alone any U.S. G.I.s who may be captured on a battlefield? Now you're getting to the fundamental damage the Bush administration has done...

Meanwhile, on the homefront, the military is charging a National Guard soldier with desertion ... because she refuses to leave her 7-year-old daughter with her abusive ex-husband so she can go back to Iraq.

Here's a creepy one for you: welcome to the Bush/neocon factory...

Oh, wait, finally! Some good news! Here come the subpoenas!!!
The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee strongly criticized the Justice Department for obstructing an investigation of the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. The statement came after the committee scheduled a hearing next week to authorize subpoenas related to the shadowy government program.

"The warrantless wiretapping program has operated for over five years outside of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and without the approval of the FISA Court. The Committee has continued to ask for the legal justification for this sweeping and secret program, and has continually been rebuffed by inadequate and at times, misleading, responses from this Justice Department," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement sent to RAW STORY. "The information we have requested has been specific to the legal justification for this program and is firmly within the Committee’s oversight jurisdiction."

Leahy's statement came after his committee had announced earlier in the day that it planned to "authorize subpoenas in connection with investigation of legal basis for warrantless wiretap program," according to the committee's website. The meeting will occur on Thursday, June 14. ...

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posted by JReid @ 10:15 PM  
Adios, Pedro Pace
I guess that letter recommending leniency for Scooter Libby wasn't worth so much after all. I mean, who needs a recommendation from an unemployed guy?

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced on Friday he was replacing General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to avoid a divisive showdown in Congress focusing on the Iraq war.

“I am disappointed that circumstances make this kind of a decision necessary,” Gates said of the loss of Pace, who has held the country’s top military post since September 2005.

Gates said he had intended to name Pace to a second two-year term as chairman in September, but changed his mind after consulting members of Congress, who also already have an eye on the 2008 presidential polls.

“I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform and General Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he told reporters.
In other words, who wants to go through the trouble of defending the conduct of the war before the Congress? Anyway, Pace will be sorely missed, particularly by the secretly gay guys in the military. He really championed them... Oh, and I'll bet the Iraqis will miss him, too.

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posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Shadows of the disappeared
This is what we've come to, America. Our government is disappearing people, like some cheap, 20th century third world dictatorship. Rights groups have named the disappeared, and are demanding that the U.S. produce information about their whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee has taken the first step toward restoring the writ of habeas corpus to the American people, who would no doubt be grateful had more than a handful had any idea that this sacred right had disappeared under the Bush administration. The trouble is, you only really know when you need it, and by then, it's too late.

Indefinite detention, spying on Americans, kangaroo courts and tribunals, disappearing detainees. It almost makes you wonder what country you're living in. America has never been so isolated, nor can I recall us straying so far from our core beliefs. The Bush administration will go down in history as the one which most twisted the meaning of our founding, taking Nixon's attempts at dark statecraft to a whole new low.

They can't be out of office soon enough, and I pray the American people know better than to make things worse by electing an even purer authoritarian (Giuliani) based solely on the abject fear he's peddling. Thankfully, I think that most of us have woken up. It's those who haven't that really creep me out. I guess fear is a powerful motivator for those who require authoritarian leadership.

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posted by JReid @ 9:36 PM  
Peeling the onion
New written testimony from James Comey, probably the most moral actor to have graced the pitiful hull that is the Bush Justice Department, sheds new light on the dark shadow that is Dick Cheney. From the National Journal:
... In written answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey spelled out the strongest case yet that pushback on the warrantless wiretapping program in 2004 came directly from Vice President Dick Cheney.

In testimony before the committee last month on the abrupt firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Comey revealed surprising new details about DOJ's resistance to the controversial surveillance program implemented at the direction of the White House following the 9/11 attacks. Comey said that he and other top DOJ officials, including then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, had decided to resign if the White House didn't agree to amend the program. Comey's testimony also revealed for the first time that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a favorite villain of civil libertarians, had deemed the program illegal as well.

In his new testimony [PDF], released by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy yesterday, Comey said that he had personally informed Cheney that DOJ would not sign off on the program one day before then-White House officials Andy Card and Alberto Gonzales were dispatched to Ashcroft's hospital bed.

Comey was acting attorney general at the time, but Card and Gonzales ignored him as they pressured an ailing Ashcroft to sign off on the program, according to the hearing testimony.

In the newly released statement, Comey wrote, "The vice president was aware of DOJ's decision not to certify the program, because I had communicated this orally during a March 9 meeting."

Gonzales, now in danger of receiving a no-confidence vote from Congress as attorney general, has not said who ordered him to make the dramatic trip to George Washington University Hospital the night of March 10, 2004. The dots connecting Cheney to the visit seem closer than they were previously.

Comey also confirmed long-circulating reports that Cheney blocked the promotion of a DOJ official over the surveillance program. Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Philbin, a terrorism-law specialist with solid conservative credentials, was being considered for the deputy solicitor general slot at the time he accompanied Comey to Ashcroft's hospital room to fend off Card and Gonzales' entreaties to Ashcroft.

Later, Comey said, he learned that Cheney intended to squash Philbin's promotion. "I understood that someone at the White House communicated to Attorney General Gonzales that the vice president would oppose the appointment if the attorney general pursued the matter."

It will not come as a surprise to his many critics that Gonzales dropped Philbin's promotion. ...
Also, tonight, Newsweek's Howard Fineman told Keith Olbermann that investigators he's talked to on the Hill say that the president and vice president played the dynamic duo when it came to the strong arming of John Ashcroft: Bush called Ashcroft's wife to tell her that he was sending his little Torquemada and his chief of staff to the hospital bed, and Cheney pushing Torquemada's minions around. Nice work if you can get it...

Update: There's more Justice Department excitement, with new evidence of politically timed prosecutions designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

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posted by JReid @ 8:13 PM  
I never thought I'd see the day
...that Chris Matthews would criticize Rudy Giuliani. He just did so on "Hardball," saying, during a back and forth with actor/political junkie Ben Affleck about the politican candidates:
"I agree with what Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweek this week, which is that terrorism isn't bombs and explosions and death... terrorism is when you change your society because of those explosions... and you become fearful to the point that you shut out immigration, you shut out student exchanges, you keep people out of buildings ... and begin to act in an almost fascist manner because you're afraid of what might happen to you, and that's when terrorism becomes real, and frighteningly succesful. That's what I believe, and that's why I question the way Giuliani has raised this issue. He raises it as a specter, and in a wierd way, he helps the bad guys."
Wow. That's a switch, Chris. I honestly didn't think this guy was capable of doing anything besides fawning over Rudy. Of course, he did get in a swipe at Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky during the segment, just to make the point that he's still Chris "the Clinton obsessor".

But a stunning development nonetheless. I get the feeling Matthews is disappointed that his Big City Mayor hero has turned out to be nothing but a fear mongering neocon -- liberal on social issues, crazy for war in the Middle East, and authoritarian in the extreme.

Welcome to my world, Chris.

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posted by JReid @ 7:20 PM  
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
It's down to this
White George W. Bush is feeling the chill at the G8 and denying that he's touching off a new Cold War, or possibly even a war on the European Continent with Russia and dissing his pet Tony Blair yet again on climate change, his White House is left to deny reports that the Turkish Army has launched a military invasion of northern Iraq.

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posted by JReid @ 9:17 PM  
Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg
While his predecessor is barnstorming the country, fulminating about the myriad terror plots against us with bug-eyed, bald fury, current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a simple, common sense message: "get a life."

Here's the story, here's the

(CBS) NEW YORK While questions continue to arise about the alleged plot to blow up a fuel pipeline beneath JFK Airport and surrounding neighborhoods, some are questioning why New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg hasn't had a louder voice since the plot was foiled on Saturday.

On Monday, Bloomberg finally weighed in, but his response was not what some would have expected.

"There are lots of threats to you in the world. There's the threat of a heart attack for genetic reasons. You can't sit there and worry about everything. Get a life," he said.

That "What, me worry?" attitude pretty much sums up Bloomberg's advice to New Yorkers on the terror plot. As far as he was concerned, the professionals were on it, so New Yorkers shouldn't let it tax their brains.

"You have a much greater danger of being hit by lightning than being struck by a terrorist," he added.

Meanwhile, even more questions are being asked about the supposedly dastardly plot, which is growing less dastardly with every new detail (and every new arrest of an old fart supposed terrorist). Aside from the physical impossibility of blowing up the fuel lines under the airport and killing thousands of Queens residence, even if this group of four geriatric West Indians had the wherewithal to get their hands on explosives and fuel, there's the fact that the plotters were apparently being led by a homeless bookseller. Not exactly the al-Qaida A-team.

Rush, O'Reilly and the other bandleaders for the crazed are beside themselves that the media won't give the story more hyperventillation and front page space. But you know what? I think the first day of overwrought coverage, featuring a Bush appointed, totally incredible U.S. attorney, was about enough.

Back to the questions. This appeared in today's Newsday:

When U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf described the alleged terror plot to blow up Kennedy Airport as "one of the most chilling plots imaginable," which might have caused "unthinkable" devastation, one law enforcement official said he cringed.

The plot, he knew, was never operational. The public had never been at risk. And the notion of blowing up the airport, let alone the borough of Queens, by exploding a fuel tank was in all likelihood a technical impossibility.

And now, with a portrait emerging of alleged mastermind Russell Defreitas as hapless and episodically homeless, and of co-conspirator Abdel Nur as a drug addict, Mauskopf's initial characterizations seem more questionable -- some go so far as to say hyped.

"I think her comments were over the top," said Michael Greenberger, director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland. "It was a totally overstated characterization that doesn't comport with the facts."

Greenberger said he has no argument with police pursuing and stopping the alleged plotters.

"I think they were correct to take this seriously," he said. "... But there's a pattern here of Justice Department attorneys overstating what they have. I think they feel under tremendous pressure to vindicate the elaborate counterterrorism structure they've created since 9/11, including the Patriot Act."
And this from terrorism expert Peter Bergen:

"Obviously they're talking about stuff," he said. "But did they have the capabilities or training to do it? The answer is obviously not. It seems to me the reason the London plot worked is these guys had gone to an al-Qaida training camp. ... To become an effective terrorist, generally you have to go to a training camp. Timothy McVeigh was an effective terrorist because he could draw on his years of military background."

In this case, the alleged plotters had no money and never succeeded in hooking up with the head of an Islamist group in Trinidad called Jamaat al Muslimeen, according to the criminal complaint. While alleged mastermind Defreitas told the FBI informant that he learned to make bombs in Guyana, there is no other indication of technical expertise. Friends say he supported himself by selling incense on street corners and collecting welfare.
And besides:

Steven Simon, a terrorism expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the government's hyperbolic descriptions -- whether of this case or of the alleged plot to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago -- could erode public confidence in law enforcement and lead to confusion about the terror threat.

"First, it creates the public impression that the adversary is just a bunch of losers who do not have to be feared," he said. "Second, the fact that these hapless people are angry enough to seek to attack the U.S. raises the issue of other more competent, well-organized groups that might be escaping police detection."...
And yet, those facts haven't stopped the right from attacking, not just the media, but Bloomberg, too. Here's Bloomberg publishing competitor Investors Business Daily:

Bloomberg's kind of thinking, compared by a local New York City TV news show to the "What, me worry?" attitude of Mad Magazine's jug-eared mascot, Alfred E. Neuman, was exactly the kind of smugness practiced by government officials in the pre-9/11 era — dangerously outdated as we wage a global war on terror.

America's founding fathers warned that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, but in the 21st century it may very well become the price of life, too. ...
blah blah blah blah, you get the picture.

Well I say, you GO Bloomberg! It's about time somebody made some damned sense.


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posted by JReid @ 8:51 PM  
Oy, Mohamad!
Guess what will be the most popular name in Great Britain by year's end? Mohammad. Interesting.

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posted by JReid @ 10:50 AM  
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
And then there's this
There's debate reality, and there's reality reality. This is the reality in Iraq:
GENEVA - More than 4 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in the country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the figure will continue to rise.

The number of Iraqis who have fled the country as refugees has risen to 2.2 million, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. A further 2 million have been driven from their homes but remain within the country, increasingly in “impoverished shanty towns,” she said.

Pagonis said UNHCR is receiving “disturbing reports” of regional authorities doing little to provide displaced people with food, shelter and other basic services.


posted by JReid @ 11:58 PM  
Debate roundup
Well, the CNN Republican debate is history (and could it possibly have been any older and whiter??? I felt like Wolf Blitzer should have been handing out free Viagra samples...!) Anyway, tomorrow morning we'll be having two Black Republicans from here in South Florida, as well as newly minted MSNBC political analyst Rev. Joe Watkins on the Big Show to discuss their reactions to the debate.

CNN's mini-panel has already weighed in, with Paul Begala scoring the debate for Rudy, GOP strategist Amy Holmes going for McCain, and the eternally non-committal Bill Schneider being non-committal.

If I had to score it, I'd give a slight edge to Rudy, because he managed to improve his answer on abortion, and finesse most of the questions that raise doubts about his conservatism. Also, he gets points for sheer will in getting 9/11 into literally every question -- I think he even shoved it into global warming!!! Overall, however, I think McCain might have himself some good, by appearing the most knowledgeable, the most sincere and the most passionate, about Iraq, immigration and even his defense of Native American tribes who might not fit an "English only" bill (McCain's answer had poor Duncan Hunter begging for a chance to show how much he loves the "injuns" too...)

I think Romney was the big loser tonight. He wasn't as polished as he was in the first debate, and he seemed unprepared to give fresh answers to the mounting questions about his flip-floppery. And he got nailed on the Spanish language versions of his ads and web-site. N.A.I.L.E.D.

Tom Tancredo put on a surprisingly good performance this time, with his blistering attacks on President Bush, which probably sets him apart as the true anti-Bush candidate this go-round. The crowd actually cheered when he said that as president, he'd echo what Karl Rove recently told him, namely, don't bother to darken the Whtie House door (then he lost it by saying we should halt all legal immigration into the U.S.) ... By contrast, I was amazed at how closely Rudy has decided to tack to the president, mimicking his stump speech lines on the "war on terror" and almost taking on his healthcare tax credit scheme verbatim, as his own. He was the most vigorous supporter of a pardon for Scooter Libby, and the staunchest defender of the decision to invade Iraq, saying it was "absolutely the right decision." (By the way, Bill Kristol has gone OFF on Bush over not immediately giving Scooter that pardon...)

One more point for Rudy, and I hate giving him points because I utterly loathe the man -- he was the only one to pick up on the political tactic of using the debate to attack the Democrats, based on their debate two nights ago.

By the way: best moment of the night: God striking Giuliani with lightning -- or at least striking his microphone -- as he tried to square his views on abortion with his Catholic faith. (See previous post).

Ron Paul struck me as exasperated, but again, as the only one on stage with a realistic grasp on the historical realities we face in the Middle East. Every one of his positions were ones that just 20 years ago, would have been wholly supportable by most Republicans. It's astonishing to me how much corporate greed (particularly in the oil and defense sectors) and neoconservatism have twisted and misshapen the Republican Party. It's almost unrecognizable from the party of even the 1980s. The bent toward interventionism, the hyper-paranoia, the desire for massive influxes of cheap laborers from abroad ... and all while apparently, the causes of Christian conservatives have fallen by the wayside, as much relics as Alberto Gonzales and Rudy Giuliani believe the Geneva Conventions to be.

It is precisely because the GOP has drifted so far off its moorings, that the neoconservatives have been so effective at taking over, shunting religous conservatives and fiscal conservatives (and Constitutional conservatives for that matter) aside, and made Wilsonian liberalism the standard that a Rudy Giuliani can carry right to the front of the line as a presidential candidate.

What a revolting development.

Update: MSNBC analysts call the debate a snooze. Haters. No, actually they're right.

Update 2: The Redstaters weigh in, and they link to an interesting poll, showing most Republicans still don't know that Rudy is pro-choice on abortion...


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posted by JReid @ 11:22 PM  
While you were being bored into a coma by the Republican debate...
I blogged about this in an earliier post, but it can't be reiterated enough: the tossing by military judges of the Pentagon cases against a 20 year old Gitmo detainee who was captured at 15 on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Salim Hamdan, who was, not a lieutenant, but a driver for Osama bin Laden, but who was charged with conspiracy to commit terrorist acts by the Bush administration and prepped to be tried before one of their Germanic military commissions, is as big as news gets. The two cannot be tried, the court ruled, because both were mislabeled by the Bush administration as "enemy combatants," sans "unlawful," which contravenes the Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush last year. That law was meant to replace a previous military commissions scheme that was itself ruled unlawful by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is the same Hamdan whose case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, established the important, but seemingly self-evident fact, that the Bush administration cannot try suspects picked up on the battlefield in contravention to the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The dismissal of the two cases leaves only one successful military tribunal under the Bushies' belt: that of Aussie David Hicks, who was tried, convicted, and then promptly shipped back to Australia, where he is planning to appeal.

At issue is whether the Bush administration can grant to itself the power to bypass the courts, including the military courts, to hold or try anyone they like, citizen or non-citizen alike, and try them in any way they see fit, including imposing the death penalty, with no court review. Oh, and if someone happens to be found not guilty in one of their kangaroo courts? The administration wants the ability to hold them indefinitely in Guantanamo anyway. For an even more chilling example, see Jose Padilla.


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posted by JReid @ 10:09 PM  
GOP debate blogging, part deux
God, Wolf Blitzer is annoying. Just thought I'd mention that...

The GOPers are in part two. The citizen question period starts with a very poignant question from a woman whose younger brother died in Iraq in December 2005, eight days before he was to return home.

Duncan Hunter and Sam Brownback answered pretty well, with Hunter getting in the fact that his son is serving. But John McCain owned the question, standing up while the others sat, and talking "straight talk" (ahem) about why we have to win in Iraq. Not that we can, John...

Ron Paul is taking the second question on Iraq. He says the biggest incentive for the Iraqis to do what they need to do is to leave and let them do it. Paul's answer on this so far has been the high point of the debate for me.

Oh God, now it's Rudy's turn. He's up and stalking the audience, and guess what? He's mentioned 9/11!!!!! Surprise, surprise. He is saying we need to properly "take on the role of nation building." I guess that answers whether he is a neocon. "We have to train our military" to do an "Iraq-stat" program (like his COPSTAT program in New York City) to determine whether schools are opening, factories are opening etc. Is this guy serious? That's NOT what the military is trained for. This guy is a Wilsonian Democrat from 1913! He should be writing for the New Republic, not running for president! Jeez...

Next question: Gilmore is saying conservatives should conserve ... the environment.

Tancredo says "ditto."

On healthcare: A town moderator told the story of a friend of his who discovered on vacation in Spain that his prescription drugs cost $600 less there. What do do?

Rudy Giuliani was first up, and may I say that it's really creepy when Giuliani gets up and walks toward the audience. He looks like an evil robot. He shouldn't do that anymore. His answer, by the way, was verbatim, the Bush "buy your own insurance through a tax credit" strategy. VERBATIM.

Now Tommy Thompson has bounced out of his chair to anwer a question about single payer healthcare. He's scaring me. His hair looks like it's going to get up and run away. And he's talking really loudly... Why is Tommy Thompson yelling at me...???

Most pressing issue facing America today (asked by a philosophy professor):

Gov. Huckabee -- "getting all the moral questions tonight better than getting the immoral questions..." -- understanding the sanctity of life...

Giuliani -- selling American freedoms to the Middle East (good God, this guy is a total neocon!)

Ron Paul is the town crier tonight. He sounds exasperated, saying the most pressing issue is the idea that we've now accepted the idea of preemptive war, rejecting the "just war" theory of Christianity. "Tonight we hear that we're not even willing to rule out a nuclear strike against a company that has done nothing to us directly and that is no threat to our national security" (Iran). "We have to come to our senses about this issue of war and preemption and go back to traditions and our Constitution and defend our liberties and defend our rights, but not to think we can change the world by force of arms and to start wars." Brilliant. In the background, you can hear cries of "Wolf! That's not right...!"

Brownback - the issue of life. That's why we can't nominate somebody who's not pro-life. Forget what I said in the first post. This guy's "I'm not a religous nut" disguise is starting to chip off. So if Rudy got the nomination, could you support him? "Um... " Brownback says he doesn't think we'll nominate someone who is pro-life. He's waffling. I'm taking that as a no.

English only:

Next question is for Romney from an airline agent. He says Romney has been accused of "flip flopping" on immigration, and that "just earlier tonight you said you're for the national language being english, so why are you airing ads in English, and providing a Spanish language version of your website?" Romney's answer: "well, I'm not anti-immigrant ... I'm pro borders ... I'm not for illegal immigrants staying ... oh God ... please zap me with your Mormonic laser in my magical undergarments and get me out of here ... I mean I'm Mitt Romney, and I approved this message..." Romney didn't answer the question. He's making a speech about making America great.

Tancredo: would you advertise in Spanish? In MIAMI???? No, says Tancredo. He's advocating the preservation of English as the glue that holds our country together. Can I say, Romney down 5 more points by week's end???

McCain: starts by saying "first of all, governor, muchos gracias!" Good one. McCain is saying that Hispanic immigrants are enriching the culture, especially in his state, where Spanish was spoken before English was. He says go look at the Vietnam War memorial, and you'll see the names of Spanish speakers and even green card holders. "So lets from time to time, remember that these are Gods children. They must come into the country legally, but they have enriched our nation like generations of immigrants before them." Elegant answer.

Next: Why did the GOP lose in 2006 and how to stop the bleeding in 2008?

McCain: spending, spending, spending, and the attendant corruption. He promises to veto all pork bills as president and "make the earmarkers famous." Good answer.

Giuliani: Democrats. This guy is bald and not in a good way. He gives me the creeps.

Interestingly, these guys are answering the question "what was Bush's biggest mistake" but none is answering it. They're all answering what Republicans did wrong.

Finally, someone answers! Tancredo, who is on fire tonight, says Bush's biggest problem is that he "ran as a conservative and governed as a liberal." He says that is the basis of his rightfully lost credibility.

Paul: Bush ran on a humble foreign policy and then changed his tune. He drained the treasury for his mad ambitions.

Gilmore: principles were violated, on immigration, on spending and earmarks, and taxes.

Hunter: the Republican Party has to become family friendly. Huh???

Huckabee: Americans want low taxes and no regulation and no illegal immigrants or lawsuits. Again, HUH???

These nimrods aren't answering the question and Wolf isn't making them. I give up.

Next question: re illegal immigration, what does it mean to be an American?

Tancredo: "cut ties with the past, especially politically, from the country you came from." Tancredo wants a time out. He wants to stop all legal immigration except for family members and refugees. We need assimilation! And English only! Tancredo just boarded the crazy wagon. And he was doing so well.

Show of hands: end legal immigration? No takers.

Last question: Should the GOP follow Arnold Schwarzenegger's example of working with Democrats to win back popularity?

Duncan Hunter got in a three way broadside against Rudy McRomney, saying Romney supported the Clinton assault weapons ban, as did Rudy, that Romney took a "major step toward socialism" with his Massachusetts healthcare plan, and that McCain is on the wrong side of immigration, adding that "I think the person who has the most influences with these guys is Ted Kennedy, and I think we need to move away from the Ted Kennedy wing of the Republican Party." Bang! Zoom!

Romney's answer was a rambling mess that had something to do with Reagan and optimism, Rudy tried a one liner, saying "the way to do it is to nominate me" ... then he went back into his terrorism spiel. UNITED AGAINST ISLAMIC TERROR!!! THEY'RE COMING TO GET YOU! ELECT ME OR DIE!!!! Ahem. McCain tried the soft sell, saying "protect our American family." Awwww.... and fight "this transcendent issue of our time: the battle and struggle against Islamic extremism..." now it's Baghdad John's turn to cite the supposed terror attack tries in the U.S. He ends with a flourish about his life, experience, background and heroes qualifying him to lead.

And that's the end. Thank God. My ears were beginning to bleed ...

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posted by JReid @ 8:44 PM  
GOP debate redux
Liveblogging on ...

The GOPers are debating on CNN. They were asked to give a brief self-introduction. The best one: Mike Huckabee -

"I'm Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas. I'm from a town called Hope. You might remember it. And I hope you'll give us another chance." Cute...

Worst: Rudy Giuliani - Paraphrasing: "I'm Rudy Giuliani -- vote for me or die..." (He actually said, "I like the motto of this state, 'live free or die." I think it's a good motto for our country...'

On a more substantive note, Giuliani followed Mitt Romney's feeble attempt to deflect Wolf Blitzer's question of whether he would invade Iraq today, knowing what we know now about how it's turned out (Mitt made no sense) by saying the invasion was "absolutely the right thing to do." The base will love it, but it will also end up in a campaign commercial should the unthinkable happen and he becomes the nominee.

Update 7:12 - How hard is it to remember Matthew Stanley? John McCain had to look at his paper twice to remember the name of a soldier killed in Iraq whose family he met with. Not good for a politician. Meanwhile, he can't seem to answer the question, if Gen. Petreus reports in September that the surge is not working, what then? McCain trotted out his tried and true, "they'll follow us home!" chestnut. In other words, he wants in until the last American dies, just like Bushie. ...

Tommy Thompson chimes in: if it ain't workin' divide Iraq! Somebody's been listening to Joe Biden...

Just a note: Thompson looks like he needs a shower...

Duncan Hunter looks like a grumpy security guard...

Oh, ok, Ron Paul is up. He says if no progress in September, we should bring our troops home. He added that it was a mistake to go in, and if you get a bad diagnosis, you change the treatment, saying we're less secure now than before we went in ... and you know what? He got applause. Clearly, this is not that rabid Fox News audience.

Mike Huckabee's head is too small for his body... sorry...

Tom Tancredo is saying the surge isn't working and he didn't support it. He says he "hopes to God" it works, but if it isn't by September, we need to tell the Iraqis the answer to the age old question, what have you given us? "A Republic, if you can keep it." Now keep it. Applause.

7:22 update: Mistake number one for Rudy. He just said we need to make it clear to Iran that it's unacceptable that they have nuclear power ... nuclear power??? Oh dear... He also added that we'd nuke Iraq to stop them from having ... nukes ... and he got his chance to throw in that "Islamist terrorists have been nabbed trying to ATTACK JFK AIRPORT!!! ATTACK FORT DIX!!! VOTE FOR ME GODDAMIT OR YOU'RE ALL GONNA FREAKING DIE!!!!!!!" Ahem...

What about you, Mormon guy? Should we nuke the Persians? "You don't take options off the table," says Guy Smiley. "You stand back and say, 'what's going on here...'" Huh??? Now he's saying we need to move the moderate Muslim world toward modernity with the help of our allies. Sounds like a Democrat, except that he just said the Democrats don't understand that there's a war on terror. Gulp...

7:25 - immigration time. Tancredo's up. He's asked about his vow to oust any Senator who supports the monstrous "reform" bill now winding its way through Congress, and the retort by senior NH Senator Judd Gregg that Tancredo is from the "no nothing" wing of the GOP. Tancredo is wearing a really cheap, ill fitting suit. I'll bet it was crafted by illegal immigrants...

Giuliani has called the bill a "typical Washington mess" that has "no organizing purpose." And what should that purpose be? Identify all aliens with a TAMPER PROOF I.D. CARD THAT MAKES SURE THEY'RE NOT TERRORISTS!!!! PHTTTPH!!!

Mitt Romney says his big problemo with the immigration bill is Z visa ... get it? "Z visa..."? Sorry, I know I should be taking this more seriously, and take it seriously I will...

McCain's turn: he starts by saying "I agree with Judd Greg" (ooh, no he didn't! Tancredo, he just called you a no nothing...!) McCain says that the bill is a national security bill. "For us to do nothing is silent and de facto amnesty. What we have done is what you've asked us to do, my friends, and that is, come together with the president ... sit down and figure out an approach to this problem." He adds that if someone has a better idea ... which caused all other hands on the dais to go up...

Rudy has managed to get a 9/11 or terrorism reference into every single one of his responses. He was just on a roll, saying the legislation is "typical Washington" in that it doesn't say in the text (he says he read all 400 pages) what McCain says is in it. He says there should be one form of ID, a national database, etc. Not unreasonable. And then he goes for the 9/11 reference and I immediately tune him out.

Duncan Hunter's up: cue the double fence!!!

I had to stop and Tivo a bit, so I'm running a scosh behind real time.

The first wire stories are coming in. The AP has this unfriendly headline:

McCain, Brownback never read Iraq report
I guess that kills that anti-Hillary ad. I wonder if snarky-ass Tucker Carlson will go after them the way he did Hillary. Newsflash: Few members of Congress read either the legislation in front of them, or the reports handed to them. Their staffs read it, and then they get briefed. Sad, but true.

I don't think Tommy Thompson's hair is real...

Ron Paul is getting only his second question. Does he still support the border fence? Paul says the fence was his "weakest reason" for voting for the Duncan Hunter bill previously signed into law. He says he supported the bill because of the rule of law, and the need to stop drawing people here and paying for their healthcare and education. He calls illegal immigrants the scapegoat for our failure to have a true market based economy.

Should English be the official language of the U.S.? No hands went up, but John McCain makes the point that his state, AZ, has made treaties with the Navajo, who speak their own language, and "that's okay." He uses his answer to reiterate that his bill isn't amnesty, and to thank Jeb Bush for his support. I'm thinking running mate...

I was just about to blog about Gov. Gilmore's "Rudy McRomney" retort, but Wolf just asked Rudy about the Rhode Island Bishop's equation of him with Pontius Pilate. Just as he began answering, a bolt of lightning struck the CNN sound system, BY WAY OF GOD...

Giuliani is saying he feels he has to make good government public policy decisions, consulting his views, but not having government impose those views on women. God is still striking down CNN's sound system. I take it as a sign.

There goes the lightning again ... every time Rudy opens his mouth to speak ... spooky...

Romney McFlipflop is justifying his change of mind on abortion. Interestingly enough ... no sound glitches ...

Update: Gov. Huckabee, who is an ordained minister, just finessed the hell out of his previous answer about whether he believes in evolution, saying that he believes the question was unfair, because he isn't "asking to write the science curriculum for an eighth grade textbook" and that knowing how long it took God to create the earth or mankind wouldn't make him a better or worse president. This guy hides being a religous fanatic nut job better than anybody I've ever seen!

Now it's wacky Brownback's turn. He sounds like a Sunday school teacher, but his suit fits him better than any of the other candidates. Brownback says we should "engage faith and reason." Okay, so does that mean you believe in evolution now?

McCain is saying students should be exposed to "all theories" of creation, not exclusively creationism. McCain says that he believes that God loves us. That's nice. I feel much better now.
Update: The candidates are asking questions about American dependence on Mideast oil and the GOP's close ties to Big Oil, this after Rudy Giuliani put another nail in his conservative coffin by saying he believes in global warming. Ron Paul was great on this question, giving a brief history of why we overthrew Mosedeq in Iraq in the 1950s -- because of oil. He pointed out that we shouldn't be so dependent on oil that we fight wars over it.

On gays in the military, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee agree that homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, is outlawed under the uniform code of military justice. No need to change existing policy.

Giuliani is asked to address the dismissal of gay linguists. Rudy says "this is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this." Okay... he says that "in a time of war..." terrorism, war, blah blah blah... this isn't the right time to deal with this. We should "listen to our commanders." Sounds like Bush...

Romney: "in 1994, you were quoted as saying you advocated gays serving open and honestly in the military." Surprise, surprise, he's changed his mind. He says "I was wrong." and "this is not the time to change 'don't ask don't tell.'

McCain, same issue: "we have the best equipped, best trained military in the world and I'm proud of them. We just don't have enough of them. It would be a mistake to reopen the issue. The policy is working."

Anyone for open service? No takers.

Next question: Tommy Thompson, how would you use George W. Bush in your administration? Thompson says "I certainly would not send him to the United Nations...." pause for applause ... find that there is none ... resume answer awkwardly ... Thompson is now saying that GWB should be used speaking to young people about public service. So ... Bill Clinton and Bush Sr. get to travel the globe taking on AIDS, famine and natural disaster, and Dubya heads back to the classroom to read "My Pet Goat..." Damn.

Senator Brownback says former presidents should sit quietly in the corner and shut the hell up.

Tom Tancredo says some time ago, he got a call from Karl Rove saying that because of his criticism of the president, he shouldn't "darken the door of the Oval Office." Tancredo says that he has been so disappointed in the president, that he's afraid he would have to "tell the president the same thing Karl Rove told me." DAMN!!!

Mike Hukabee is answering "what happened to the GOP"? He says the party lost credibility because they didn't do what they were supposed to do, from corruption to Katrina, and that they "deserved to get beat" in 2006. He's using his answer to focus on GWB and the GOP's indifference to border security to score points.

Next topic: Pardon Scooter?

Duncan Hunter: you'd have to look at the transcript. You know what transcript he's looked at? Campeon and Ramos. Score an applause line for Duncan Hunter. He's now saying we need to "bring back the Reagan Democrats" by getting right on trade.

Yes or no: pardon Scooter? Paul: no, Gilmore: no, Hunter: no, Huckabee: no, McCain - says he's going through an appeal, he'd wait and see ... Rudy says the prosecution was "way out of line." He would wait for an appeal, but the "excessive punishment" favors a pardon. He's filibustering. The case is "incomprehensible." ... I think he says yes. Oh, God, now Mitt is filibustering. He says he didn't pardon anybody as governor so as not to overturn a jury. He says the prosecutor was dead wrong, and he's look into it. Brownback says yes. Tommy Thompson says he'd wait for the appeal. Tancfredo says yes.

Break time.

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posted by JReid @ 7:04 PM  
Rhode Island red
Courtesy of Wolf Blitzer this afternoon on CNN, and the Politico blog, check out this Giuliani smackdown from the Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island, writing in the diocese newspaper, in reaction to receiving an invite to a $500 a plate Rudy fundraiser:
Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical. ...

...“I’m personally opposed to but don’t want to impose my views on other people.” The incongruity of that position has been exposed many times now. As I’ve asked previously, would we let any politician get away with the same pathetic cop-out on other issues: “I’m personally opposed to . . . racial discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, polygamy, incest . . . but don’t want to impose my beliefs on others?”

Why is it that when I hear someone explaining this position, I think of the sad figure of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, who personally found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd, washed his hands of the whole affair and handed Jesus over to be crucified. I can just hear Pilate saying, “You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.” ...

Ouch. After also calling out Democratic Catholics like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Joe Biden (he's non-partisan) Bishop Thomas Tobin concludes as follows:
Oh well, as you can see by now, I won’t be attending the fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani. If Rudy wants to see me, he’ll have to arrange an appointment at my office. We’ll talk about his position on abortion. And if he wants a photo, it will cost him $1,500 as a donation for the pro-life work of the Church.

I suppose a Rudy 2008 yard sign wouldn't be welcome...?

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posted by JReid @ 4:40 PM  
You are not alone
... Paris Hilton... Scooter's going to jail, too.

WASHINGTON - Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case.
He also gets a $250,000 fine, this stemming from his obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case that led to the outing of covert agent Valerie Plame and her high level operation to uncover WMD programs in the Middle East -- you know, that unimportant case the righties don't think matters...

Related: The die-hards mount an "heroic" campaign to hide from the inconvenient facts... CBS, please to reiterate the obvious: Plame ... covert ... Libby ... guilty.

Let the frog marching begin...

Update: Apparently, the letters vouching for his integrity sought by the Libby faction before his sentencing didn't work. Libby got one from Henry Kissinger, but pointedly, not from the man he's going to prison to save from justice: Dick Cheney. Instead, Cheney's office issued the following warm(ish) statement:
"Scooter has dedicated much of his life to public service at the State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House. In each of these assignments he has served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction. I relied on him heavily in my capacity as Secretary of Defense and as Vice President. I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity -- a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens. Scooter is also a friend, and on a personal level Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children. The defense has indicated it plans to appeal the conviction in the case. Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."

Facing 2 and a half years, if I were Scooter, I would immediately begin cooperating with the special counsel and tell every goddamned thing I know about Cheney. The way of the Bushes is to let others swing, while they walk away (unless those "others" are Bush pals from Texas...) Dick Cheney was the target of the probe that Libby helped to thwart. He is culpable for feeding Libby the information he used to help destroy Valerie Plame's cover and then urging him to go ahead and blow it (hell, Dick even set up the meetings with reporters.) He pushed, or at best, allowed, Libby to lie to the FBI in order to save his own skin.

If Libby continues to protect the vice president, he is not just a felon, he's a damned fool.

Related: Guardian UK - the Rise and fall of Scooter Libby

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posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Terrorism 101
You can't pull off a major terror attack if:

1. You don't have any money to buy explosives
2. You don't have access to explosives (or to the facility you're trying to target)
3. And even if you had both 1 and 2 above, your plot is physically impossible:

US authorities said Saturday they had averted an attack that could have resulted in "unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction," and charged four alleged Islamic radicals with conspiracy to cause an explosion at the airport.

But according to the experts, it would have been next to impossible to cause an explosion in the jet fuel tanks and pipeline. Furthermore, the plotters seem to have lacked the explosives and financial backing to carry out the attack.

John Goglia, a former member of National Transportation Safety Board, said that if the plot had ever been carried out, it would likely have sparked a fire but little else, and certainly not the mass carnage authorities described.

"You could definitely reach the tank, definitely start the fire, but to get the kind of explosion that they were thinking that they were going to get... this is virtually impossible to do," he told AFP.

The fuel pipelines around the airport would similarly burn, rather than explode, because they are a full of fuel and unable to mix with enough oxygen.

"We had a number of fires in the US. All that happens is a big fire," he said. "It won't blow up, it will only burn."

Even if the attackers had managed to blow up a fuel tank, the impact would be limited, he said, citing the example of North Vietnamese forces attacking US fuel dumps during the Vietnam war.

"They hit the fuel tanks with pretty big rockets. You would get a big fire but not a big explosion other than the rocket." ...
Stay tuned for more major terror arrests of poor, decrepit, elderly, non-al Qaida wannabes who pose a grave non-existent threat to the "honmeland" as we get closer to the 2008 election, or any time the Democrats are set to debate or otherwise get news coverage.


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posted by JReid @ 7:13 AM  
Monday, June 04, 2007
Can you identify the alien?
A Republican strategist seeks to identify the space alien who kidnapped George W. Bush, leaving this tool behind:

Ms. Bruce: I believe we have identified a suspect.

Please get back to our office at the FBI with any information you think could help us ... or don't bother, we'll just get it from your NSA intercepted phonecalls and emails...

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 PM  
It's not just me
First off, Countdown's writers are stealing my headlines again... theirs (June 04, 2007 11:30 AM) ... mine (Saturday, June 02, 2007 8:46 p.m.) ... can I get an on-air credit, guys??? Jeez... second, Keith Olbermann is just as cynical as I am about the latest terr'rist plot. He points out on Countdown tonight the strange juxtaposition of the scary blow-up JFK somehow (without current knowledge of the airport and against the laws of physics, which would prevent even a successful fuel line explosion from causing the reported conflagration ... even if the rather sad, geriatric plotters could have gotten their hands on any explosives ... which they ... couldn't... but I digress:

Since last August, there had been a period of calm. The screaming hair-on-fire pronouncements about terror plots that may have had real plotters but no real conceivable chance of actually happening... ceased. That the period, spanned the time between the 2006 mid-term elections, and the week we reached exactly 18 months until the 2008 presidential election -- just a coincidence. Our third story on the Countdown...from the mind-bending idea that four guys dressed as Pizza Delivery men were going to out-gun all the soldiers at Fort the not-too-thought-out plan to blow-up J-F-K Airport... here we go again.
Check the Countdown blog later tonight or tomorrow for the complete rundown.


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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Notes on the formerly great
Carl Bernstein's book on Hillary Clinton is not on my reading list. I really can't abide hundreds of pages of Chris Matthews masterbation material. Here's one review that pretty much sums up why. How far this guy and his slimy partner (Bob Woodward) have fallen from their Watergate days. Imagine -- going from reporting on the crimes of one president to unzipping another's trousers and peeking up his wife's skirt. This is the guy who exposed the media-CIA connection back in the '70s in Rolling Stone? Sheesh...

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posted by JReid @ 7:21 PM  
Air Katrina
Why did it take the Bush CDC an entire week to notify their counterparts in Europe that a man with drug resistent TB was entering their countries?

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posted by JReid @ 7:13 PM  
With friends like these...
When you're George W. Bush, and you've already committed the biggest foreign policy blunder in U.S. history, how can you possibly go it one better ... or worse, as the case may be...? Why, you restart the Cold War! Groovy! (Hey, isn't Condi supposed to be a Russia expert? Didn't Bushie see that Putin guy's soul???)

Well, NATO's not happy. But I'd gather that Europe isn't exactly thrilled at the ham-handed Bush attempt to offer them "protection" from Iranian missiles by ratcheting up the threat to them from Russian missiles. (The Czechs and Poles, who are set to receive the missile largesse, are getting nervous, too...) Kind of reminds me of the type of "protection" you get from the Mob. Look, Bush, that whole Putin is my buddy thing was idiotic anyway. The Russians continue to view the West, including Western Europe and the U.S., as an enemy/adversary (and crude oil client.) They haven't changed (despite having shed all those "Stans") -- our posture toward them has. And you, my dear, are in way over your head.

Have Condi handle it, dear. ... Then again, she might not be up to the task, either...

Related: Bush attempts to channel Reagan's Star Wars fantasy

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posted by JReid @ 6:52 PM  
The terrorist nobody knows
The head of Jamaat al Muslimeen in Trinidad, who led the only Islamic coup attempt in the Western hemisphere's history back in 1990, denies knowledge of the JFK plot, though he's a bit squirly on whether he knows the plotters (though try and tell it to Newsweek). Meanwhile, two of the alleged plotters are fighting extradition to the United States ... the better to stay out of Gitmo, I suppose... And the LA Times profiles 63-year-old Russell Defreitas -- a pretty sad character for a terror mastermind, the story goes:
U.S. law enforcement officials said Defreitas was nowhere near being capable of mounting an attack. He didn't have explosives, money or an executable plan. But one of the most alarming aspects of the case is that a man of such meager means made as much progress as he did, authorities said.

"It is a bit worrisome when someone like this, who is a bit washed up, is able to go out and solicit funding and the blessing of others who are more organized and experienced," said a Justice Department official familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is a bit frightening."
A bit more:
Defreitas was portrayed in news accounts Sunday as a lonely figure, a man who made money selling books on street corners and shipping broken air-conditioning parts to Guyana. He is divorced and estranged from his two children, according to the reports.

"People around here never see that man," said a Trinidadian woman who runs a 99-cent store next to his apartment building on Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn. "I'm right here 15 years…. The people in the building never see the man, so where did he come from?"

Her shop caters to people in the neighborhood who stop by for toothpaste, toy water guns and hair gel. The woman, who did not want to be named, said the local Caribbean community was close-knit so it was strange that no one she knew remembered Defreitas, not even residents in his building.

The neighborhood is largely populated by African Americans, Latinos and immigrants from the West Indies.

On Rockaway Avenue, employees at four grocery stores, a check-cashing business and Jay's West Indian Restaurant, which serves oxtail and curried goat dishes, said they had no idea who he was. One screamed at a reporter: "This is harassment. I tell everyone, I did not know that man!"

Defreitas' building is a faded four-story row house with a broken intercom that buzzes incessantly. Neighbors said the building was known to house drug addicts. Knocks on his door and others in the building went unanswered Sunday.
These guys are the worst thing for Trinidad and Guyana since . Adnan Shukrijuma, and yet it's hard to take them entirely seriously, given their lack of means and capability to carry out such an ambitious plot as exploding the fuel lines under an entire airport, plus parts of the borough of Queens...

These appear to be rather sad old men who turned to this plot as a way to feel important. Hardly the crack terrorist cell Rudy Giuliani would have you believe so that you'll be terrified enough to vote for him.

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posted by JReid @ 6:41 PM  
The axis of incompetence
Can these idiots do anything right??? Whether it's the war on terror or Iraq, the Bush administration appears to be operating on all cylinders -- assuming it's the job of those cylinders to screw things up...

A Gitmo detainee who was locked up in the Cuba gulag when he was 15 can't be tried under Bush's military tribunal system because he was designated an "enemy combatant" and not an "unlawful enemy combatant." Now, some are saying the mistake could jeopardize the whole, un-American system of Bushian justice.

Meanwhile, insurgents have posted video purporting to prove that they killed three U.S. troops still missing in Iraq.

And CNN reports that a senior U.S. general says that so far, the surge is a bust. Still waiting for the website to post the report, but Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr just reported it during Lou Dobbs' show.

Somebody please tell Baghdad John.

Update: Hell, even the torture general, Ricardo Sanchez, thinks the war has gone to hell. Sanchez said in a recent speech in San Antonio:

“I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” Sanchez told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s also kind of important for us to answer the question, ‘What is victory?’, and at this point I’m not sure America really knows what victory is.” […]

“I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time and we’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years,” Sanchez said, “better than what this cohort of political and military leaders have done.”
Why so bleak?

The U.S. has lost 16 troops in just the first four days of June. This coming right after May having been the deadliest month of the year to date. And even with all the carnage on both sides, U.S. troops still do not control all of Baghdad -- forget Iraq -- we're just talking Baghdad! Add to that the psychological burdens being placed on our forces, half of whom are facing psych issues, according to a recent study.

For God's sake, how much failure can one country take? Or rather, two???

Update: Make that two Gitmo cases gonzo.

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posted by JReid @ 6:10 PM  
What are we fighting for?
Why is the military going after Adam Kokesh? From RawStory:

A veteran of the Iraq war is accusing the military of trying to stifle the freedom of speech he volunteered to fight to protect.

After serving his country in Iraq, former Marine Sgt. Adam Kokesh grew disillusioned with US involvement there and became an anti-war activist. He participated in demonstrations around Washington, including Operation First Casualty, which was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War in March.

Kokesh's anti-war activity and his correspondence with Marine investigators has rankled the military enough that it is working to revoke the veteran's "honorable discharge" designation. Kokesh will appear before a military hearing in Kansas City, Mo., Monday to fight the military's attempt to change his discharge status to "other than honorable."
As Kokesh explained on CNN last Thursday:

"This was a very unique demonstration. It was called Operation First Casualty. And it's called that because the first casualty of war is the truth. And the purpose of this was to bring a small part of the truth of the occupation of Iraq home to the American people. And we did that by simulating a combat patrol through the streets of Washington, D.C. We did it again just this past weekend in New York City. And we had civilians who were playing occupied people. ... We treat them as a combat patrol in Iraq might treat Iraqi civilians."
But the military objected to the protesters, including Kokesh, wearing their real uniforms. More on the protest here. Kokesh's blog is here.

Is it just me, or aren't we supposed to be fighting for "freedom" in Iraq, and doesn't the military defend our freedoms at home, including the right to protest? Hm???

The VFW has now weighed in on Kokesh's plight. From ThinkP:

“The nation’s largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to ‘exercise a little common sense’ and call off its investigation of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during war protests. ‘Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about,’ said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4-million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.”
I'm going to reach out to Kokesh this afternoon, and hopefully have him on the radio show this week. I believe there are hearings scheduled in his case today.

Update: Sgt. Kokesh has already rejected a Pentagon-offered plea bargain. And CBS News asks, is Adam Kokesh the new Cindy Sheehan? I'd like to see the wingers attack him, given that he is a Marine and a veteran of the Iraq war...

Update 2: NewsBusters gives it a whirl.

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posted by JReid @ 7:25 AM  
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Polling report
The new ABC News/WaPo poll is out, and it has good news for Hillary, bad news for pretty much everybody else. From ABC:

A softening of underlying confidence in Rudolph W. Giuliani, including some damage on the abortion issue, could hearten his current -- and future -- opponents for the Republican presidential nomination.

Giuliani's hardly in trouble; he maintains large leads over his opponents on key personal attributes including leadership and electability. But he's lost ground on empathy, honesty and inspiration; his support is not strong -- and a third of Republicans now flatly rule him out because of his position on abortion, up from just under a quarter earlier this year.

Giuliani remains the Republican frontrunner, with overall candidate preferences stable compared with an ABC News/Washington Post poll in mid-April. But just 36 percent of his supporters are "strongly" for him, and his backing is notably lower among conservatives -- a core Republican group -- than among moderates. Indeed, it's moderate Republicans (and the party's relatively few liberals) who propel Giuliani to a clear lead.

On the Democratic side of the 2008 contest, Hillary Clinton continues to lead on most personal attributes and in voter preferences alike, with no significant changes in her or Barack Obama's positions. Support has slipped slightly for John Edwards.

Clinton owes her frontrunner status to women; they're much more apt than men to favor her for the nomination, and significantly more likely to pick her from among the leading candidates as the best on a range of personal attributes. Democratic women, for example, are 16 points more likely than men to pick Clinton over Obama as the "most inspiring" candidate. (Men are nine points more likely than women to pick Obama as inspirational.)

And 53 percent of Clinton's supporters are "strongly" for her, substantially higher, for example, than Giuliani's strong support.

A potential concern for Clinton is that she does best with less-educated Democrats, whose turnout is less assured; another is that Obama leads her on honesty and trustworthiness. Still, experience is her trump card, she remains competitive with Obama among African-Americans, does best with committed Democrats (as opposed to Democratic-leaning independents) and stands the most to gain if Al Gore stays away.

More details on the poll from (Dems here, GOPers here), show that with the undeclared candidates, Gingrich and Fred Thompson are taking support from basically all of the frontrunners, Romney is stagnant, and on the Dem side, Edwards is slipping. None of the second tier candidates is moving, even a little. It's still the same seven: Hillary, Barack, Edwards (fading), Giuliani (fading), McCain (fading), Romney (fading) and the actor playing the part of Ronald Reagan, fred Thompson.

Digging deeper into the poll, we find that the "rejection rate" for John McCain is spiking, with roughly half of voters ruling him out as a presidential candidate. More on the rejection rates (the percentage saying they definitely wouldn't vote for a given candidate):

  • Romney - 54 percent (includes a third of Republicans)
  • McCain - 47 percent (up from 28 percent)
  • Cllnton - 45 percent (unchanged from a year ago and includes just 15 percent of Dems, and she has the highest locked in vote of any candidate of either party at 27 percent)
  • Giuliani - 40 percent

There's much more polling goodness. Read the full questionnaire here.

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posted by JReid @ 8:35 PM  
The Dems debate, part deux
The Dems are debating in New Hampshire. First thing I noticed, the CNN stage managers were careful to place the top three candidates -- Edwards, Clinton and Obama, in the center, flanked by Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, to make a tight three-shot, a wider four-shot, or a b-list excising five-shot possible for the morning papers. (Dodd is on the other edge.) And right at the ends are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Now if I was being mean, I'd say the stage was like an inside out candy bar, with the nuts on the outside. But that wouldn't be Christian...

(Don't send me angry emails. It was a JOKE...)

Second: tonight's debate is going to be heavy on Iraq. Edwards' plan is to put distance between himself and what he sees as the wafflings of Hillary and Barack on their votes to end funding, without making lots of noise about it. That led to the best line of the night so far, from Barack, addressing Edwards' charge that he and Hillary failed to make clear how they were going to vote on funding, implying that they slunk into the chamber to cast their ballots. Edwards snipe: it's the difference between following and leading. Obama's retort:

"I opposed this war from the beginning, John, so you're about four years behind on leadership on this."


Update: Joe Biden reminds me of my high school English/literature teacher Mr. Sims. He's blunt, he's loud, he's wordy, and he makes it plain. As his fellow contestants bickered over whose fault it is that we're in Iraq -- George W. Bush's or the Democrats who voted to authorize the war, and over who can, cannot, will or will not vote to "end the war," Biden had a mini-meltdown that went something like this:

"Look, man! ... We've had so many lies over the last five years, it's time somebody told you the real deal! We've got 50 votes, people. FI'TTY. You wanna vote to cut off funds? You need ten more! The only way this war is gonna end is to get a Democrat into the White House, capice? Do I need to do this again in Pig Latin???"

Other notes. Hillary's play clearly is to reduce the divide between the candidates on Iraq. Edwards' is to increase it. So far, I think it's a draw.

Rorschach test: raise your hands if you think english should be the official language of the U.S. Only Mike Gravel raised his hand. Barack is taking a shot at cleaning it up for the other seven now, saying that the question is intended to divide. Gravel got a smattering of applause, Barack got much more. Hillary is taking her swing, saying that the Congress dealt with this before, and said that the problem is, if it becomes official as opposed to our agreed upon national language, you couldn't print ballots and other documents in other languages to help people with poor english skills. In other words, it's a technicality. Dodd is taking his crack at it now.

Update: Another Rorschach question. A New Hampshire teacher asked what would be the candidates' priorities for their first 100 days. John Edwards gave a rambling answer about traveling the world to restore America's alliances and global leadership. In other words, he'd get the hell out of here and go on a European vacation? John-Boy, your consituency as president would be the American people, not the people of Europe or the world. Hillary gave the right answer: end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. Simple and correct. Obama couldn't really do much beyond saying ditto to Hil, so he threw in "tackle healthcare, because I think that's something that we could get done." Yeah, right... Kucinich threw one in from LaLa land, and it had something to do with peace, and maybe moving everyone onto a Kibbutz... Gravel did the bug-eyed, all these people are nuts, thing.

A final note: was this not the whitest audience you've ever seen in your life? I actually think Barack Obama was the only Black person in the room (and Richardson was the only Hispanic.) Michelle Obama wasn't there, so Barack might be the only Black person in New Hampshire tonight... jeez...

All in all, I'd say Hillary won this debate hands down. She came off as the most experienced, the most composed, the most rational, and the most responsible. Barack was solid but didn't wow me. I always love listening to Joe Biden, because he's entertaining and informative. I thought Edwards came off as combative and a bit desperate. I don't think his answers were very well thought out, and he still strikes me as a candidate more about style than substance. He took several swings at Hillary and Barack, but I don't think he landed any punches.

Everyone else could have just as easily stayed home, although I would give Bill Richardson a serious look as secretary of state during the next Clinton administration.

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posted by JReid @ 7:17 PM  
The Global Law Enforcement Action on Terror
Neocon wackos frequently invoke the anti-Democrat cudgel that "Democrats fail to understand the war on terror because they don't get that it's a war." or, in the words of the less-than-great Daniel Pipes back in January 2004:

Nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders as well as other heavyweight Democrats have spoken out against the war on terror, preferring it to be a police action against terror.
And further:

Since 2001, the U.S. has engaged in the neocons' long-desired "war" to end the threat of terror, fighting militarily on two major fronts: Afghanistan and Iraq, and on several smaller ones, with military actions in Colombia, Somalia, and by proxy, in Lebanon. The results? Terror attacks around the world haven't declined, they've increased:

On a global scale: terrorist activity and violence has grown worse, not better since 11 September 2001. Average levels of terrorist violence that would have been considered extreme in the period prior to 9/11 have become the norm in the years since. And there is no sign that this trend is abating. This much is evident from a review of the terrorism incident database maintained by the Rand Corporation for the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), which is funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. Surveying incidents for the period January 1998 through 11 August 2006 shows that:

- The rate of terrorism fatalities for the 59 month period following 11 September 2001 is 250 percent that of the 44.5 month period preceding and including the 9/11 attacks. This figure has been adjusted to account for the different length of the two periods and it implies an increase in average monthly fatalities of 150 percent. (Only in January 1998 did the database begin to include both national and international terrorism incidents.)

- The rate of terrorist incidents for the post-9/11 period is 268 percent that of the period prior to and including 11 September 2001. This implies a 167 percent increase in what might be called the average monthly rate of incidents.

- A fair portion of the increased activity is related to the war in Iraq -- but not all. Removing Iraq from the picture shows an increase in the average monthly rate of terrorism fatalities of more than 10 percent for the post-9/11 period. The increase in the rate of incidents not counting Iraq is 75 percent.

In other words, if the aim of Pipes' "war" is to make the world safe from terrorism, like World War I "made the world safe for democracy," it has utterly failed. And then there are Iraq and Afghanistan, which have become, respectively, a killing field and a violent narco-state, thanks again to the neocons' anti-terror war machine.

Meanwhile, as terrorism and Islamic militantcy have metastasized into Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere, including the U.S., what has been the most effective at stopping what are mostly amateurish or unrealizable terror plots, by Tim McVeigh types who heppen to derive their militantcy from anti-U.S. sentiments based on "jihadism" rather than from anger over Waco or Ruby Ridge? Not illegal NSA wiretapping or illegal Pentagon spying on American citizens ... not the constitutional outrages of the Patriot Act and "breaking down the wall between law enforcement and the intelligence agencies" as Pipes and others have called for ... nope.

It's been good old fashioned law enforcement -- starting with the lowly criminal informant.

Exhibit A: the recent plot against JFK airport by Caribbean nationals and U.S. citizens of West Indian descent. WNBC reports:

The question was simple: "Would you like to die as a martyr?" The putative terrorist unhesitatingly replied yes -- there was no greater way to die in Islam.

The right answer put the man in the midst of a terrorist plot conceived as more devastating than the 9/11 attacks. He was soon making surveillance trips around John F. Kennedy International Airport -- the "chicken farm," as the planners dubbed their target -- and visiting the Trinidad compound of a radical Muslim group.

On Saturday, the insider -- a twice-convicted drug dealer -- was revealed as a government informant whose surreptitious work undermined a plot to destroy the Queens airport by exploding a jet fuel pipeline. The case demonstrated the growing importance of informants in the war on terrorism, particularly as smaller radical groups become more aggressive ...

...The four Muslim men accused in the JFK plot didn't turn to Pakistan, Iran or Afghanistan for support after targeting the airport, home to an average 1,000 daily flights and 45 million passengers annually.

Instead, according to a federal complaint, the informant and defendants Kareem Ibrahim and Defreitas visited a compound belonging to the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical Muslim group based in Trinidad. When Defreitas discussed his radical "brothers" with the informant, he made it clear they were not Arabs, but from Trinidad and Guyana.

The complaint also made clear how deeply the informant had infiltrated the small band of would-be terrorists. While Defreitas, a retired JFK airport cargo worker, made four reconnaissance missions to the airport with the informant, federal authorities captured each one on audio and video equipment.
Sounds more like an episode of "The Shield" than of "Band of Brothers."

What's more:

Last year, informants played a major role in two other terror cases. In June 2006, an informant posing as an al-Qaida operative helped bring down a plot to blow up the Sears Tower. Five of the seven men arrested in that alleged terrorist group were U.S. citizens.

And in May 2006, an NYPD informant's testimony led to the conviction of a man plotting to blow up the busy Herald Square subway station in midtown Manhattan.
Stipulating that the Liberty City Seven -- the Sears Tower plotters -- didn't even have shoes, let alone explosives -- these cases do point out that in our society, as in any, there are disgruntled, criminally minded people, whose outlet for anger ultimately turns destructive and violent. In the present age, many of them turn to jihadism to find meaning for themselves and to feel important, and their criminal intent is best broken up by good old fashioned law enforcement.

Ditto in Britain, where the 7/7 plotters were sussed out by security videos and beat police.

The war on terror, as John Edwards has said, is a bumper sticker -- and a convenient one at that, as it's allowed the military industry and private contract firms to make a killing off the blood of our military personnel, and at the expense of the infrastructure and people of Iraq. But beyond their naked profits, the "war on terror" has gotten us nothing.

Given the choice, I'm with the police action. It comes with all sorts of goodies, like warrants and oversight, it doesn't infringe on my Constitutional right to privacy, and most important, it doesn't have to be run by George W. Bush and his incompetent friends. The closest we get to trouble is those tainted, Alberto Gonzales U.S. attorneys, who I'm sure will be prosecuting suspicious looking hobos by the time we get to the election, in order to help Alberto's party stay in the White House...


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posted by JReid @ 6:06 PM  
14 more into the ether
The Pentagon announces another 14 U.S. troops killed in Iraq during Bush's "surge."

BAGHDAD - Fourteen American soldiers were killed in three deadly days in Iraq, the U.S. military said Sunday, including four in a single roadside bombing and one who was struck by a suicide bomber while on a foot patrol southwest of the capital.

The blast that killed the four soldiers occurred Sunday as the troops were conducting a cordon and search operation northwest of the Iraqi capital, according to a statement. Two other soldiers from Multi-National Division — Baghdad were killed and five were wounded along with an Iraqi interpreter in two separate roadside bombings on Sunday, the military said.

One soldier was killed Friday after the patrol approached two suspicious men for questioning near a mosque, and one of the suspects blew himself up, according to a statement. The military did not provide more details.

Seven other troops were killed in a series of attacks across Iraq on Saturday.

The deaths raised to at least 3,493 members of the U.S. military who have died since the war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
U.S. commanders concede that the surge strategy, which takes U.S. troops out of barracks and heavily armed vehicles and splits them into smaller units who are mixed in with the Iraqi military units and pushed out into the Iraqi body politic, has resulted in more casualties. And expect it to only get worse as the summer drags on. Meanwhile, Moqtada al-Sadr, with whom the U.S. is seeking talks apparently, talks to the UK Independent. According to the paper:

The Shia cleric told The Independent on Sunday in an exclusive interview: "The Americans have tried to kill me in the past, but have failed... It is certain that the Americans still want me dead and are still trying to assassinate me.

"I am an Iraqi, I am a Muslim, I am free and I reject all forms of occupation. I want to help the Iraqi people. This is everything the Americans hate."

Mr Sadr, revered by millions of Iraqi Shias, spoke after leading Friday prayers in the Grand Mosque at Kufa, just over 100 miles south of Baghdad. It is one of the four Iraqi cities considered holy in Shia Islam. He always wears a black turban, the traditional symbol of a Shia cleric who can trace his ancestry to the Prophet Mohamed. But for the second time in two weeks, he also wore a white shroud - a symbol of his willingness to be martyred, and his belief that death is close at hand.

As for talking to the Americans:

"There is nothing to talk about," he said angrily. "The Americans are occupiers and thieves, and they must set a timetable to leave this country. We must know that they are leaving, and we must know when." He has reason to be wary of US offers to negotiate. As revealed by The Independent last month, respected Iraqi political figures believe the US army tried to kill or capture Mr Sadr after luring him to peace talks in Najaf in 2004.

"We are fighting the enemy that is greater in strength, but we are in the right," he said. "Even if that means our deaths, we will not stand idly by and suffer from this occupation. Islam exhorts us to die with dignity rather than live in shame."
Cue the wingers associating al-Sadr with the Democrats ... see that! The key word is "timetable"! That's what the terr'rists want!!! Actually, that's what the Iraqis want -- and al-Sadr is an Iraqi. It's also what 70 percent of the American people want. And I'll bet, it's what the majority of American troops in Iraq want.

Too bad we don't have a government in Washington capable of implementing the will of the American people.

Back to al-Sadr: his rise to power and influence coincides with a greater Shia movement throughout the Middle East that has strong ties to Hezbollah, and therefore, in standard issue GWOT parlance, to Iran:
Mr Sadr, whose rise to become one of the most influential figures in Iraq coincided with the US overthrow of Saddam, said his movement sought to follow the example of Hizbollah, the Shia armed resistance movement in Lebanon. "Hizbollah and the Mahdi Army are two sides of the same coin," he said. "We are together in the same trench against the forces of evil."
Al-Sadr denies that he is favorably disposed toward increased Iranian influence in Iraq, and in most analysts' opinion, he is first and foremost an Iraqi nationalist. According to the same article, his Mahdi Army has even met with Sunni militias who are fighting al-Qaida and the occupation at the same time, ostensibly because they share common goals (to expel both foreign fighters and foreign troops from the country.) But the notion that al-Sadr would make common cause with Hezbollah, which receives both funding and inspiration from the Mullahs in Iran is worrying for the Bushies, who have inadvertently become the chief enablers of both Hezbollah and Iran. But here's the rub -- those Shia movements are primarily anti-Israel, and their ire is directed there, and only secondarily at the U.S., because of our unwavering support for the Likuud government in Israel and their expansionist politices in the West Bank. Conversely, the al-Qaida, Sunni movement, is more directly aimed at us, and at the Sunni dictators and monarchs we prop up (in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Together, they form not a single "axis" of terror, but a multi-headed hydra of anti-Western militancy, which the Bush administration has neither the wisdom nor the competence (nor the strong alliances for that matter,) to confront.

And because of that, these movements -- and general anti-Western militancy untethered to any group or movement) are spreading, in Europe, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Caribbean ... and to some extent, inside the U.S. Is it a mortal threat to you and me? Not really. Most of us will never be confronted by a terror attack. Are we under constant threat, as the Republicans would have us believe? I would guess not. No need to hide under the bed. But these developments have serious long term implications for Western society writ large, as they aggravate socioeconomic fissures that over time, could undermine the social fabric that holds us together. In other words: Bush's war has made us less safe for a longer time.

And the worst thing is, he doesn't seem to know what he has done, let alone what to do about it, and neither do the insane neoliberal so called "neocons" around him. Their madness has undone George W. Bush's presidency, undermined our democracy, and weakened our nation, our security, and our national honor. So what are they doing ? Why, praying for another war, of course.

Shame on all of them. The blood of our fallen servicemen and women -- who hail from the half of our uniformed military who are bearing the full brunt of Bush's war all alone -- are on all their hands.

View the full U.S. casualty count here.

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posted by JReid @ 5:02 PM  
Saturday, June 02, 2007
The plot thins
After the initial, alarming reports about West Indian terrrorist plotting to pull of a horror worse than 9/11, which would have sent a blazing fireball from JFK airport, underneath the city, possibly sinking the entire boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens ... okay, Team Bush et Gonzales hadn't quite gotten there yet:

The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the foiled plot would "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks," destroying the airport, killing several thousand people and destroying parts of New York's borough of Queens, where the line runs underground.
Yes, well a mere few hours later, after all that bluster, we have this:

Despite their efforts, the men never obtained any explosives, authorities said.

"Pulling off any bombing of this magnitude would not be easy in today's environment," former U.S. State Department counterterrorism expert Fred Burton said, but added it was difficult to determine without knowing all the facts of the case.

Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, said the force of explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not travel up and down the line.

"That doesn't mean wackos out there can't do damage and cause a fire, but those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted," he said.

Since Defreitas retired from his job at the airport, security has significantly tightened and his knowledge of the operation was severely outdated.
Damnit, and I was all prepared to lock myself in Rudy Giuliani's broom closet for safety from the Islamofascists! ... sigh... anyway, at least we can still look upon the faces of EVIL, starting with that Mayor of Guyanese horror: Adul Kadir:

(shudder) and next, 63-year-old do-baddy, Russell Defreitas:

Makes you want to run out and vote Republican, doesn't it?


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posted by JReid @ 8:46 PM  
Army vet challenges Blackwater Iraq policy
From the Washington Post:
A federal judge yesterday ordered the military to temporarily refrain from awarding the largest security contract in Iraq. The order followed an unusual series of events set off when a U.S. Army veteran filed a protest against the government practice of hiring what he calls mercenaries, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The contract, worth about $475 million, calls for a private company to provide intelligence services to the U.S. Army and security for the Army Corps of Engineers on reconstruction work in Iraq. The case, which is being heard by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, puts on trial one of the most controversial and least understood aspects of the Iraq war: the outsourcing of military security to an estimated 20,000 armed contractors who operate with little oversight.

Brian X. Scott, a 53-year-old Colorado man, filed the complaint in early April. He argues that the military's use of private security contractors is "against America's core values" and violates an 1893 law that prohibits the government from hiring quasi-military forces.

Scott's challenge set off a domino effect, prompting the Government Accountability Office to dismiss protests brought by two major private security contractors the Army had removed as potential bidders -- Erinys Iraq, a British firm, and Blackwater USA of North Carolina.

Michael Golden, the GAO's managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said the agency dropped the matter because Scott's court complaint may force the Army to revise the lucrative contract. ...

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posted by JReid @ 8:31 PM  
But will it stick?
Karl Rove is implicated in what appears to be the politicized prosecution of a Democratic political figure by one of Alberto's finest, during a heated re-election, which also happens to contain a fishy recount. TIME reports:

In the rough and tumble of Alabama politics, the scramble for power is often a blood sport. At the moment, the state's former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, stands convicted of bribery and conspiracy charges and faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Siegelman has long claimed that his prosecution was driven by politically motivated, Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.

Now Karl Rove, the President's top political strategist, has been implicated in the controversy. A longtime Republican lawyer in Alabama swears she heard a top G.O.P. operative in the state say that Rove "had spoken with the Department of Justice" about "pursuing" Siegelman, with help from two of Alabama's U.S. attorneys.

The allegation was made by Dana Jill Simpson, a lifelong Republican and lawyer who practices in Alabama. She made the charges in a May 21 affidavit, obtained by TIME, in which she describes a conference call on November 18, 2002, which involved a group of senior aides to Bob Riley, who had just narrowly defeated Siegelman in a bitterly contested election for governor. Though Republican Riley, a former Congressman, initially found himself behind by several thousand votes, he had pulled ahead at the last minute when disputed ballots were tallied in his favor. After the abrupt vote turnaround, Siegelman sought a recount. The Simpson affidavit says the conference call focused on how the Riley campaign could get Siegelman to withdraw his challenge.

According to Simpson's statement, William Canary, a senior G.O.P. political operative and Riley adviser who was on the conference call, said "not to worry about Don Siegelman" because "'his girls' would take care of" the governor. Canary then made clear that "his girls" was a reference to his wife, Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Alice Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Canary reassured others on the conference call — who also included Riley's son, Rob, and Terry Butts, another Riley lawyer and former justice of the Alabama supreme court — that he had the help of a powerful pal in Washington. Canary said "not to worry — that he had already gotten it worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman," the Simpson affidavit says. Both U.S. attorney offices subsequently indicted Siegelman on a variety of charges, although Leura Canary recused herself from dealing with the case in May 2002. A federal judge dismissed the Northern District case before it could be tried, but Siegelman was convicted in the Middle District on bribery and conspiracy charges last June. ...
Of course all of the parties named are denying it, with the exception of the White House, which, intrestingly enough, has no comment. More from TIME:

Canary was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve in the White House as special assistant for intergovernmental affairs, and then named chief of staff of the Republican National Committee. Later in the 1990's he also worked closely with Karl Rove in a successful series of campaigns to get Republicans elected to Alabama's state courts.

In an interview with TIME, Simpson confirmed that the "Karl" cited in her sworn statement was Karl Rove. "There's absolutely no question it was Karl Rove, no doubt whatsoever," she said. She also said she has phone records to back up the date and duration of her phone calls.

Though Simpson's legal work primarily involved research for companies seeking federal government contracts, she says she also did "opposition research" on Siegelman as a volunteer in Riley's campaign in 2002. A lifelong G.O.P. supporter, she says she has long been friendly with Riley's son, Rob Riley, whom she met at the University of Alabama and worked with on various legal cases.

In her interview with TIME, Simpson said the participants in the conference call expressed growing concern that Gov. Siegelman would refuse to give up his challenge to the vote count. According to Simpson, Rob Riley said, "Siegelman's just like a cockroach, he'll never die, what are we going to do?" At that point Canary offered reassurance by citing Rove's news from Justice Department.

Simpson said she had long been troubled by the conference call conversation, and even consulted an official of the Alabama State Bar Association to determine whether she could disclose it publicly without violating her obligations as a volunteer working for the Riley campaign. She was told, she said, that she was free to speak of the matter.

Simpson said she grew more concerned about the matter after Siegelman's conviction last June. She says she told several friends about the conference call ; one of them, Mark Bollinger, a former aide to a Democratic attorney general in Alabama and in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, has given his own affidavit, obtained by TIME, swearing that Simpson had told him of the conference call and Rove's alleged statements.
Hm. Wouldn't I love to see those phone records ... And what about the timing?

The federal investigation of Siegelman culminated in a criminal prosecution that became public not long after Siegelman announced that he would run again for governor of Alabama in 2006. Partly because of the investigation, Siegelman failed in his bid for the Democratic nomination.

So why hasn't this story hit the mainstream, television media? Could it be that reporters and senior management at the big three networks and their cable offspring are just too protective of, and close to, Karl and friends (every Washington reporter appears to be on a first name basis with him.) Could it be that they have decided, on their own, that Karl news isn't really news? It's too "inside the beltway," it won't go anywhere anyway (remember Plamegate?) Or maybe, they just assume that nobody cares.

Either way, stories like this are ones you only find linked to by blogs, or possibly on "Countdown." That, my friends, is why Karl Rove is untouchable. Not because his criminality isn't real or known, but because the Fourth Estate is playing on his team.

Other stories you won't hear on "Hardball" or the nightly news:

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posted by JReid @ 8:00 PM  
Di terrorist dem...
Isn't it a shame that the first thing my husband asked me this afternoon when we heard about the four Trinidadian and Guyanese men charged with plotting a terrorist attack on JFK airport in New York, was: "does Guyana have oil?" Damn. Are we that cynical after six years of the Bushes? Actually, yes. And guess what? Guyana does:

From March 27, 2001:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- While high oil prices spur exploration for new fields around the world, a potentially rich deposit off the marshy northeast coast of South America remains untapped.

The largely unexplored zone is caught in a no-man's-land because Guyana and Suriname can't agree on their maritime boundary. Guyana says the line runs toward the north-northwest; Suriname says it runs more northward.

Last June, the two came close to war when Suriname enforced its line with two gunboats, forcing a Canadian company's oil rig to withdraw from the disputed area before it could drill under a license granted by Guyana.

The disagreement has prompted both countries to strengthen their small militaries. And it is stalling oil exploration off the entire coasts of both nations, which are among the region's poorest.

"This is one of the few areas left in the world that is underexplored and that has perceived potential," said Newell Dennison, manager of the petroleum division of Guyana's Geology and Mines Commission.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the entire coastal area off the two countries -- called the Guyana-Suriname Basin -- could contain as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, or about 1 percent of the estimated world total.
From January 30, 2005:

"So, since offshore oil potential is ruled out for the time being, you can imagine how excited the Guyanese are by the possibility that they may find oil onshore instead and that is where the resumed effort to discover hydrocarbons in one of the region's poorest countries is now to be concentrated.“

One could not blame the Guyanese for thinking that someone up there does not like them when constant rainfall, disastrous flooding and the evacuation of thousands of people all combine to smother what should be the real focus of attention in that luckless Caricom country these days-the resumption of the 89-year-long search for commercial oil deposits.

This was due to kick off any time now and it would not be at all surprising if the unfavourable weather situation had delayed the eagerly-awaited event.

As my three or four readers will know, Guyana, Caricom's headquarters territory, suffered a major setback when it tried to sink an exploratory oil well in June, 2000. This was to target a prospect called Eagle in the Corentyne block, 135 km offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. But before the CE Thornton jack-up rig could go into action, a gunboat from fellow Caricom state Suriname, appeared on the horizon and ordered the rig to depart, on the grounds that the waters in which it was operating were really part of Suriname's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), not Guyana's.

Suriname contended then, and is still contending, that the maritime boundary line between the two countries extends from the Corentyne River at an angle of ten degrees to the east, not 33 degrees, as Georgetown insists. That dispute is now before Unclos, to which it was referred by Guyana after it had apparently reached the limit of its patience with the non-existent pace of bilateral discussions.

And from last week (May 26):

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) _ Officials from the U.N.'s maritime body will travel to Guyana and Suriname next week to determine the boundaries of a potentially oil- and gas-rich basin off the two small South American nations' coasts, a government statement said Friday.

Using a survey vessel to scan the sea bottom, researchers from the Hamburg,
Germany-based International Law of the Sea Tribunal will examine the maritime border as the U.N. body prepares to make its final ruling on a long-running dispute between the two neighbors, according to a statement from Guyana's foreign ministry.

The dispute once brought Guyana and Suriname close to war and has blocked fuel exploration in the area.

The two South American nations have been locked in the disagreement over ownership of hundreds of square miles (square kilometers) of untapped territory running from the nations' land border at the coast out to the limit of their territorial waters.

Industry experts have estimated that the Guyana-Suriname Basin may hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil along with huge deposits of natural gas.

In 2000, Suriname sent two gunboats to the region and expelled Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc., halting its oil exploration there under a Guyanese license.
In recent months, Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and CGX Energy have met with Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss exploring parts of the basin.
Jagdeo has said he is eager to launch surveys after a ruling is issued under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which local officials expect to be announced in August.

The U.S. military operates in Guyana, mainly doing training and humanitarian work. Not that that's something these four, with the exception of one, would know. The four suspects in the JFK are:

-Russell Defreitas, a Guyananese-born American citizen and former JFK cargo worker who is said to have made damning statements to an FBI informant about hitting JFK in order to shake the American public by, in effect, killing John F. Kennedy a second time...

- Abdul Kadir, said to be a former guyanese parliament member and onetime mayor of Linden, in Guyana, who is said to have passed crucial information on to the plotters.

- Kareem Ibrahim, a native of Trinidad.


- Abdel Nur, of Guyana, who is still on the lam, possibly in Trinidad.

So who are these guys?

Apparently, the group is linked to the Trinidad-based group Jaamat Al Muslimeen, a militant group that in 1990 was accused of an attempted coup against the Trinidadian government including the kidnapping of the prime minister. More about the group:

The Jamaat al Muslimeen is a Muslim organisation within the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with a membership of predominantly Afro-Trinidadians. The appeal of its doctrines to the poor and displaced classes of society have seen its membership and popularity increase.
More about them from Wikipedia:

It was the organisation's leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, who led members of the Jamaat in an attempted coup d'état against the elected Government of Trinidad and Tobago in July 1990. Over a six-day period members of the government including then-Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson were held hostage at gun point while chaos and looting broke out in the streets of the capital Port of Spain.

A court ruling, questioned by many as patently absurd on the facts, upheld an amnesty agreement obtained during the incarceration of parliament by the group. This led to the non-prosecution of its members for this crime despite the contention that the fact that guns and force were used to obtain said amnesty constituted duress. Subsequent to the attempted coup, it aligned itself publicly first with the United National Congress (in the run-up to the 1995 General Elections) and later with the People's National Movement (PNM), the party which forms the current Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Before and since those elections, however, present and past members have been connected or prosecuted for serious violent crimes. These crimes include drug and gang related killings, rape and a current spree of kidnappings for ransom of members of the local upper and middle class. The organization and its leader have the reputation of antagonism to Trinidadians of Indian origin, that many consider racist. The Jamaat's alleged crimes of kidnapping have mainly targeted Indian-Trinidadians. The organisation's leader is currently being prosecuted with conspiracy to murder several of the group's former members who had spoken out publicly against the Jamaat al Muslimeen and its practices, and who were suspected of becoming witnesses in legal proceedings against its members.

As of March 2007, three members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen have confessed to their role in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of an Indo-Trinidadian businesswoman; Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.

Currently they are under surveillance by the local National Security Agency as well as the United States Central Intelligence Agency for suspected terrorist relations with the Middle East, as are two other Muslim factions.
So we combined disgruntled, angry Afro-Caribbeans from countries with increasing Muslim populations and new discoveries of oil that, once exploited, will likely benefit the East Indian population (Suriname is mostly East Indian, Guyana is increasingly controlled by same), leaving the Afro-Carib population even more angry, disgruntled and displaced. And here these guys are, in the U.S., under the surveillance of the NSA and FBI.

What's worrisome about these developments (this is the third time Guyanese nationals have been linked to terrorist plots inside the U.S. -- would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid of Jamaica being the first and Adnan Shukrijuma being the second,) is that it fits a narrative that U.S. officials are trying to build, not about al-Qaida plots against the U.S. (as Bill Richardson prematurely tossed out on CNN this afternoon in response to the arrests) but about supposed Hezbollah-linked plots that trace back to Iran, the country Dick Cheney and his neocon friends would desperately like to bomb (one major neocon is even praying about it.) Of course, there are those analysts who see almost a competitive growth, between Shiite-type terrorist groups in Latin America, and more al-Qaida style Sunni groups in the Caribbean:

The region’s small Muslim population is comprised mostly of South and Southeast Asians with deep roots stemming back to the Colonial period, as well as Arabs. The region has also experienced an increase of migrants from the Middle East in recent decades. Some of the largest Muslim communities are found in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Adherence to Islam varies dramatically from country to country. In general, it reflects the diverse ethnic and cultural traditions that comprise the region and is often infused with distinctly “Caribbean” features. This is best evidenced by the Shi’a Muharram rituals known locally as Hosay, (derived from the regional transliteration of Husayn) performed by East Indian Shi’a Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica, that commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.

Recent Arab migrants from the Middle East tend to be more pious and traditional relative to their second and third generation Arab and Muslim counterparts. Moreover, there are a growing number of locals converting to Islam, especially among impoverished minorities such as the indigenous peoples of the Mexican state of Chiapas and marginalized populations of African descent in the Caribbean islands.

So increasingly, in this hemisphere, the face that will be stamped onto the "threat of terrorism" will be a black, Caribbean one.

Go figure.

However, as the Jamestown Foundation analysis points out:
The Caribbean Basin will remain a region of concern in the war on terrorism. Despite a lack of hard evidence to date, international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda in theory can potentially feed off of the institutional weakness, political and economic instability, poverty, and lawlessness that characterize the Caribbean Basin to further their aims. But as the case of Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates, the mere presence of Islamist activist groups (or Muslims in general) does not necessarily equate to links to al-Qaeda. Therefore, in addressing the threat (or perceived threat) of radical Islam in the region effectively, it is imperative that policymakers consider the nexus between deep-seated social, political, and economic grievances and international terrorism, and not simply settle for shortsighted solutions.
Yeah, tell it to the Bushies. And there's oil involved? Oy, vey. At the end of the day, groups like Jamaat Al Muslimeen have more to do with inter-ethnic conflict and economic displacement than with al-Qaida, and this group hasn't been linked in any way to either Sunni Qaida or Shiite Hezbollah. But I'll bet that won't stop the U.S. government and their friends in the media from making that case, the better to intervene in the affairs of a country with burgeoning supplies of black gold.

Update: Read the official complaint against the suspects here.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Friday, June 01, 2007
Peggy Noonan goes AWOL
It appears it's bye-bye, Bushie for Reagan's former speachwriter and biggest fan:
What political conservatives and on-the-ground Republicans must understand at this point is that they are not breaking with the White House on immigration. They are not resisting, fighting and thereby setting down a historical marker--"At this point the break became final." That's not what's happening. What conservatives and Republicans must recognize is that the White House has broken with them. What President Bush is doing, and has been doing for some time, is sundering a great political coalition. This is sad, and it holds implications not only for one political party but for the American future.

The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."

The president has taken to suggesting that opponents of his immigration bill are unpatriotic--they "don't want to do what's right for America." His ally Sen. Lindsey Graham has said, "We're gonna tell the bigots to shut up." On Fox last weekend he vowed to "push back." Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff suggested opponents would prefer illegal immigrants be killed; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said those who oppose the bill want "mass deportation." Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said those who oppose the bill are "anti-immigrant" and suggested they suffer from "rage" and "national chauvinism."

Why would they speak so insultingly, with such hostility, of opponents who are concerned citizens? And often, though not exclusively, concerned conservatives? It is odd, but it is of a piece with, or a variation on, the "Too bad" governing style. And it is one that has, day by day for at least the past three years, been tearing apart the conservative movement.

I suspect the White House and its allies have turned to name calling because they're defensive, and they're defensive because they know they have produced a big and indecipherable mess of a bill--one that is literally bigger than the Bible, though as someone noted last week, at least we actually had a few years to read the Bible. The White House and its supporters seem to be marshalling not facts but only sentiments, and self-aggrandizing ones at that. They make a call to emotions--this is, always and on every issue, the administration's default position--but not, I think, to seriously influence the debate.

They are trying to lay down markers for history. Having lost the support of most of the country, they are looking to another horizon. The story they would like written in the future is this: Faced with the gathering forces of ethnocentric darkness, a hardy and heroic crew stood firm and held high a candle in the wind. It will make a good chapter. Would that it were true!

If they'd really wanted to help, as opposed to braying about their own wonderfulness, they would have created not one big bill but a series of smaller bills, each of which would do one big clear thing, the first being to close the border. Once that was done--actually and believably done--the country could relax in the knowledge that the situation was finally not day by day getting worse. They could feel some confidence. And in that confidence real progress could begin.

The beginning of my own sense of separation from the Bush administration came in January 2005, when the president declared that it is now the policy of the United States to eradicate tyranny in the world, and that the survival of American liberty is dependent on the liberty of every other nation. This was at once so utopian and so aggressive that it shocked me. For others the beginning of distance might have been Katrina and the incompetence it revealed, or the depth of the mishandling and misjudgments of Iraq.

What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.
Ouch. Call in the divorce lawyers.

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posted by JReid @ 9:51 AM  
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