There, I said it. And not only are the Iowa caucuses an exercise in undemocratic, cliquish elitism and lily white gerontocracy, they're ridiculously complex, too, especially on the Democratic side. By the way, this is one upon which The Wall Street Journal and I agree.
John Edwards leads a statistical three-way tie between himself, Hillary and Barack in Iowa, and Romney appears to beat back the Huckamob in that state ... maybe. These and other results render Iowa officially too close to call just days ahead of the caucuses.
MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon Likely Democratic Caucus Goers' Choice for President
John Edwards 24 percent Hillary Clinton 23 percent Barack Obama 22 percent Bill Richardson 12 percent Joe Biden 8 percent Chris Dodd 2 percent Dennis Kucinich 1 percent
MSNBC/McClatchy/Mason-Dixon Likely Republican Caucus Goers' Choice for President
Mitt Romney 27 percent Mike Huckabee 23 percent Fred Thompson 14 percent John McCain 13 percent Rudy Giuliani 5 percent Ron Paul 5 percent Duncan Hunter 1 percent
Sampling error for both polls: plus or minus 5 percentage points
I say if it snows heavily, Edwards wins (his union supporters are about the only ones you can count on to trudge out in waist deep snow) and Obama is hurt most (his supporters are the most enthusiastic, but also the most green, and young -- both predictors of unreliability). I'd bet Hillary comes in second to either Barack or Edwards, but that prediction, like everything else about Iowa, is subject to change...
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zargari, prepares to take over his mother's political party, and he and his father call for the January 8 elections to go forward. Reports the Guardian of London:
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal was catapulted into the maelstrom of Pakistani politics yesterday, appointed leader of her party just three days after the assassination that plunged the country into chaos. It is arguably the most perilous job in Pakistani politics. Bilawal's grandfather died at the gallows, his mother following last week's bomb and bullet attack. But his leadership will be initially symbolic because the party will be stewarded by his father, Asif Zardari, until his studies at Oxford are over.
"When I am at university my father will take care of the party," said Bilawal at his maiden press conference at the family estate in Naudero. "The party's long struggle for democracy will continue with renewed vigour," he said. "My mother always said, democracy is the best revenge."
It was a remarkable day for Bilawal, described by relatives as a polite, somewhat bookish young man who just one week ago was a university student on Christmas break at the family home in Dubai.
Now, barely coming to terms with the assassination of his mother, he has become the titular head of Pakistan's greatest political dynasty as the country staggers towards turbulent elections.
If Benazir now passes into legend as Pakistan's Diana or JFK, Bilawal now carries the burden as one part Wils, one part John-John. Nothing to envy, that...
Channel 4 in Briton has what is probably the last big scoop of 2007 -- video which appears to show both the gunman and the suicide bomber who teamed to assassinate Benazir Bhutto.
The video clearly contradicts the Musharraf government's official version of events -- they claim Bhutto died from a wound she suffered when she struck her head on the sunroof of her vehicle, while ducking from the bomb blast. The video clearly shows her falling before the bomb went off -- and you can hear the two shots which precede the bomb blast.
The story and a link to the full Channel 4 story can be found here.
With the new evidence hitting the web, even the Bushbots are raising doubts about the Musharraf government's version of events. Though some of his readers remain unconvinced, neocon/Bush devotee Powerline admits:
... the apparent conflict between the government's account and the video and other evidence will no doubt fuel claims of a conspiracy. Benazir Bhutto appears to be destined to go down in Pakistani history as a combination of Princess Diana and John Kennedy.
The problem for the Pakistani government is that it cannot account for the surgeon who treated Bhutto for multiple gunshot wounds to the head and neck. Moreover, the video shows that Mrs. Bhutto clearly fell into the car before the bomb blast, and as Channel 4's reporter points out, the car was bomb-proof, and once inside, she would have been safe (no one else inside the vehicle was hurt.) Third, there was not blood found on the sunroof handle, which the government claims she hit her head on, causing the fatal wound. That's a big problem for the Bush-bots.
Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey is also among the realists:
This puts to lie any notion that Bhutto did not die from the gunshots that can clearly be heard in this and other videos, just before the explosion. Her head jerks to the right as the hair and scarf rise, and then she falls into the car going sideways. After she falls completely back into the vehicle, the bomb explodes.
Musharraf has a huge credibility problem, and this video makes it crystal clear. Until now, Musharraf has resisted calls for an international investigation into the assassination. Today, CNN reports that the Pakistani government could reconsider that decision. If they do, the family of Bhutto could then agree to an exhumation and an autopsy by an independent coroner which will confirm the cause of death.
That will open up a lot of questions about the official government story and what prompted it. With so many eyewitnesses to the murder, why float such a ridiculous theory about a sunroof handle? What were they trying to cover up? The video also shows the vehicle surrounded by people; where was a security cordon? How could the police, seen standing around the vehicle, allow a gunman to get within a few feet of Bhutto?
At the least, the video of Bhutto's assassination shows that the Pakistani government and military services failed to protect that country's most popular politician -- the gunman literally gets within a couple feet of the car, as does the bomber. There was no security cordon around the car. Here's the Youtube version:
CNN released a letter this past week sent to on-air neocon ... I mean reporter ... Wolf Blitzer by slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. According to reports:
Blitzer received the e-mail on Oct. 26 from Mark Siegel, a friend and longtime Washington spokesman for Bhutto. That was eight days after she narrowly escaped another attempt at her life.
Bhutto wrote to Blitzer that "I have been made to feel insecure by his (Musharraf's) minions," that specific improvements had not been made to her security arrangements, and that the Pakistani leader was responsible.
Blitzer agreed to the conditions before receiving the e-mail. He said Friday that he called Siegel shortly after seeing it to see if there was any way he could use it on CNN, but was told firmly it could only be used if she were killed. Siegel couldn't say why she had insisted on those conditions.
...Blitzer was the only journalist sent such a message, Siegel said. He also sent the e-mail to U.S. Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat.
Siegel said he did not believe Bhutto's opinions had changed since she wrote the e-mail. Her message specifically mentioned she had requested four police vehicles surrounding her vehicle when traveling; Siegel said it seemed evident from pictures taken at the assassination scene that the request was not fulfilled.
Bhutto did not necessarily believe that Musharraf wanted her dead, but felt many people around him did, he said.
Her husband contacted Siegel on Thursday to remind him about the e-mail message and to make sure it got out, he said.
Says Blitzer of the email:
Blitzer said he had no regrets about the way he handled the story. To report about it while she was still alive would have meant going back on his word, he said.
"I don't think there is a clear black-and-white in this situation," he said. "I did what I think was right."
Bhutto also sent an email to the British foreign secretary, this time naming three prominent Pakistanis whom she suspected of wanting her killed, including a key intelligence official, according to the London Daily Mail (which declined to print the names):
Benazir Bhutto claimed three senior allies of Pakistan's president General Musharraf were out to kill her in a secret email to Foreign Secretary David Miliband written weeks before her death. Astonishingly, one of them is a leading intelligence officer who was officially responsible for protecting Miss Bhutto from an assassination.
The second is a prominent Pakistani figure, one of whose family members was allegedly murdered by a militant group run by Miss Bhutto's brother. The third is a well-known chief minister in Pakistan who is a long-standing opponent of Miss Bhutto.
Miss Bhutto told Mr Miliband she was convinced that the three were determined to assassinate her on her return to the country and pleaded with him to put pressure on the Pakistan government to stop them.
...One is a senior intelligence officer and retired army officer who worked for Pakistan's sinister Inter Services Intelligence spy agency, which has close links to the Taliban and has been involved in drug smuggling and political assassinations. He allegedly directed two Islamic terrorist groups and reportedly once boasted that he could pay money to hired killers to assassinate anyone who posed a threat to Musharraf's regime.
He was given another senior intelligence post by Musharraf after his bid to become a senior overseas diplomat for Pakistan failed when the host country refused to let him in because of his past activities.
He was also linked to Omar Sheikh, the former British public schoolboy convicted of kidnapping US journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in 2002 by having his throat cut and being decapitated by Islamic terrorists.
The second individual named by Miss Bhutto is well known in Pakistani political circles and has been involved in a vicious family feud with her for decades.
One of his relatives was said to have been murdered by the militant Al Zulfiqar group run by Miss Bhutto's brother, Murtaza. The organisation was set up to avenge the execution of Miss Bhutto's father Zulfiqar Bhutto by ex-Pakistan dictator Zia ul Haq.
The third individual is a chief minister who has repeatedly denounced Miss Bhutto - and faced political annihilation if she won the elections scheduled for next week. He made an outspoken attack on her only hours before her death.
A senior source said: "She knew the risk she was taking when she decided to go back but also took the precaution of informing the British Government of the names of those she thought presented the biggest danger to her. ...
I'll be on the radio this evening at 6 on WKAT 1360 (owned by Salem Broadcasting, the people who bought 1080AM) with Marlon Hill's show (he moved over with some of the other Caribbean programs.) One of the themes we'll be discussing will be the top news stories of 2007, and the outlook for the January 29 election. So what were the top stories? Like Santa, I've been making a list:
Benazir Bhutto is shot to death.
Saddam Hussein is hung, with the video becoming an online sensation/horror show, and showing Bush's war to be an open door to Iraqi fratricide.
China recalls toys ... lots of toys...
- When you at war, it's always a top story, so I'll have to include Iraq, and the "surge"
- NFL player Sean Taylor is shot to death during a home invasion robbery at his home in Miami. One of the robbers was an acquaintance of Taylor's younger sister; invited to the home for her birthday party. You can't let just anybody into your home...
The Virginia Tech massacre stuns the nation.
High oil prices and a housing bubble that burst, plus a subprime mortgage blow-up, make the U.S. economy feel recessionary, even as the Dow soars past 13,000.
New York (via Trinidad) college grad Stepha Henry comes to Miami for Memorial Day weekend and disappears. She still has not been found. She becomes the Black Natalee Holloway, only without the 24-7 news coverage;
Poinciana Park becomes the name of a scandal, and the site of a development paid for by HUD, but that never materialized;
The House of Lies is uncovered by the Miami Herald investigative team, netting reporter Debbie Cenzipper a Pullitzer, and the paper a renewed reputation for ferreting out scandal;
Barrington Irving flies around the world solo, setting records as the youngest person and first Black person to make the trip;
The Liberty City Seven trial ends in a hung jury, with one member acquitted outright. The Bush administration tries to deport him anyway;
Dr. Robert Ingram, legendary former Mayor, cop and NAACP chair, and current School Board member, dies. His funeral is perhaps the event of the year in Miami.
The Dunbar Village rape case disgusts the nation.
Radio One sells out ... I mean, sells 14 stations, including WTPS in Miami.
A rash of police-on-civilian shootings is matched with a rash of shootings of police officers. One shooting, that of BSO deputy Brian Reyka, nets a nearly $300,000 reward, but remains unsolved.
- Barack Obama catches Hillary, after the Hil camp stumbles post-Philadelphia debate, and a full frontal assault by the mainstream media;
- Mike Huckabee becomes a phenomenon, frustrating Willard Romney's nomination purchase plans;
- Iowa still matters most, while the DNC screws Florida and Michigan, by making our votes count for nothing. Thanks, Howard.
- Barry Bonds passes Hank Aaron's record, but steroid rumors persist
- Major League Baseball is confronted with its full steroid problem, with the Mitchell report recommending no punishment (yes, Bonds is on the list);
- Michael Vick fights dogs, gets 23 months in prison
- Locally, the Northwestern High School Bulls endure a sex scandal (the Antwain Easterling underage sex scandal), a principal's indictment (flawed in my opinion) and the klieg lights, as they become the nation's top team;
- Staying local, the Miami Dolphins suck (nothing new) and almost go winless (but they'll get a great draft pick!)
Anna Nicole Smith dies at the Hardrock in Hollywood, Florida.
Paris Hilton goes to jail for a hot minute.
Jennifer Hudson wins an Oscar for "Dreamgirls" (you know Beyonce hates her)
And the world learns to accept Brangelina (yuck!)
Oh yeah, and Britneey Spears remains a train wreck.
Pakistan's response to the world's offers of assistance in the wake of the Bhutto assassination looks curiously like Syria's response post-Hariri... from the AP:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan rejected foreign help in investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Saturday, despite controversy over the circumstances of her death and three days of paralyzing turmoil.
The Islamic militant group blamed by officials for the attack that killed Bhutto denied any links to the killing on Saturday, and Bhutto's aides accused the government of a cover-up.
President Pervez Musharraf ordered his security chiefs to quell rioting by Bhutto's grieving followers that has killed at least 44 people over three days and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.
"Criminals should stop their despicable activities, otherwise they will have to face serious consequences," Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said.
Questions about Bhutto's assassination have intensified since she died Thursday evening when a suicide attacker shot at her and then blew himself up as she waved to supporters from the sunroof of her armored vehicle outside a campaign rally.
The disputes were sure to further enflame the violence and have led to calls for an international, independent investigation into the attack.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that an international probe was vital because there was "no reason to trust the Pakistani government," while others called for a U.N. investigation.
Cheema dismissed the suggestion.
"This is not an ordinary criminal matter in which we require assistance of the international community. I think we are capable of handling it," he said. An independent judicial investigation should be completed within seven days of the appointment of its presiding judge, he said.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Pakistan had not asked the United States for help.
"It's a responsibility of the government of Pakistan to ensure that the investigation is thorough. If Pakistani authorities ask for assistance we would review the request," he said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband offered his country's assistance. "Obviously it's very important that a full investigation does take place, and has the confidence of all concerned," he said.
The government blamed the attack on Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban, a newly formed coalition of Islamic militants along the Afghan border believed to be linked to al-Qaida and committed to waging holy war against the government.
But a spokesman for Mehsud, Maulana Mohammed Umer, dismissed the allegations as "government propaganda."
"We strongly deny it. Baitullah Mehsud is not involved in the killing of Benazir Bhutto," he said in a telephone call he made to The Associated Press from the tribal region of South Waziristan. "The fact is that we are only against America, and we don't consider political leaders of Pakistan our enemy."
Bhutto's aides said they, too, doubted Mehsud was involved and accused the government of a cover-up.
And the story's even got an "official version of events" -- and another version:
"The story that al-Qaida or Baitullah Mehsud did it appears to us to be a planted story, an incorrect story, because they want to divert the attention," said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto's party.
After an October suicide attack targeted her in the city of Karachi, Bhutto accused elements in the ruling party of plotting to kill her. The government denied the claims, and Babar said Bhutto's allegations were never investigated.
Authorities initially said Bhutto died from bullet wounds. A surgeon who treated her later said the impact from shrapnel on her skull killed her.
But Cheema said Friday that Bhutto was killed when the shockwaves from the bomb smashed her head into the sunroof as she tried to duck back inside the vehicle.
Bhutto's spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, who was in the vehicle that rushed her boss to the hospital, disputed that.
"She was bleeding profusely, as she had received a bullet wound in her neck. My car was full of blood. Three doctors at the hospital told us that she had received bullet wounds. I was among the people who gave her a final bath. We saw a bullet wound in the back of her neck," she said. "What the government is saying is actually dangerous and nonsensical. They are pouring salt on our wounds. There are no findings, they are just lying."
Cheema stood by the government's version of events, and said Bhutto's party was free to exhume her body for an autopsy.
The man being blamed, Baitullah Mehsud, is profiled by the BBC here.
And the controversy over just what killed Mrs. Bhutto lingers in smoldering Pakistan.
Benazir Bhutto suspected that people inside Pakistan's intelligence services wanted her dead, and she said as much in a letter to Pervez Musharraf shortly before her return to that country in October -- a letter which made clear that she also had suspicions about the man she was mainly campaigning against -- Pervez Musharraf himself:
[From the International Herald Tribune] The assassination is likely to bring renewed attention to Pakistan's security agencies. Bhutto had long accused the main military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, of working against her and her party because they opposed her liberal, secular agenda.
In a letter she sent to Musharraf just before her return to Pakistan in October, she listed "three individuals and more" who she said should be investigated for their sympathies with militants in the event that she was assassinated.
An aide close to Bhutto said that one of those named in the letter was Ijaz Shah, the director general of the Intelligence Bureau, another of the country's intelligence agencies and a close Musharraf associate.
The second official was the head of the country's National Accountability Bureau, which had investigated Bhutto on corruption charges. The third was a former official in Punjab Province who had mistreated her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, when he was in jail awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Bhutto never publicly confirmed the three names in the letter, and it was unclear how many names it actually included.
She complained that the government was not thorough in its investigation into a deadly suicide attack in the southern city of Karachi on the day she returned from years of self-imposed exile abroad to contest the parliamentary elections. Since then, she had continued to accuse the government of doing too little to protect her while campaigning for nationwide elections.
Bhutto was a sharp critic of the emerging military dictatorship in her country, and she was brave enough to criticize it outright, as she did in this commentary to CNN, in which she also describes the curious circumstances of the prior attempt on her life:
... The ruling party is an artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA) during the General Elections of 2002. Its core support comes from the political partners of the military dictator of the '80s, General Zia al-Haq, who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.
This party has called for a banning of outdoor rallies, demonstrations and caravans. They would thus suspend all activity that demonstrates to the people of Pakistan and to the people of the world which parties enjoy mass support amongst the people.
On my return to Pakistan last month, throngs of people turned out to welcome me back home. The demand to ban grassroots political activity is a suspicious prelude to what could be an overt attempt to rig the upcoming elections. All people who believe in the process of democracy should reject this attempt to undermine public participation in the campaign and set the table for what I believe would simply be a fraudulent election. Watch as Bhutto expresses fears for the future of her country »
It has now been more than two weeks since the horrific assassination attempt against me and the police have still not filed my complaint. They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards.
Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows -- which protected me from identification by terrorists -- or travel with privately armed guards.
I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing.
While the authorities speculated on whether a suicide bomber had been involved or two suicide bombers or perhaps a hand grenade or perhaps a car bomb, I reflected on my plight.
I decided not to be holed up in my home, a virtual prisoner. I went to my ancestral village of Larkana to pray at my father's grave. Everywhere, the people rallied around me in a frenzy of joy. I feel humbled by their love and trust.
Although it remains difficult to know for certain, I doubt that a suicide bomber was involved in the attack on me. I suspect, after talking to some of the injured, that the terrorists used a small child as a ploy to get to me. They were trying to hoist the child -- dressed in the colors of my party's flag -- onto my truck.
Failing to do so, they dropped the child near my vehicle. Some witnesses said the child had been rigged as a human bomb. I can't be sure. What followed was a massive explosion, killing scores immediately, tearing many bodies in half and sending blood, gore and flames up into the vehicle.
In less than a minute a second bomb -- reports later suggested a car bomb -- went off.
As I have reflected on the past two weeks, there are some things I wonder about:
• What was the car doing there?
• Why had the street lights been turned off?
• Was that intended to prevent my security from clearly seeing any approaching dangers?
• Is there any truth to the report that a high government official ordered the lights turned off "to prevent her getting so much television coverage"?
• Why would the leadership of the ruling party of Pakistan make a claim that my own party had committed the attack to gain sympathy?
• Why would the investigation be initially given to a police officer who was present when my husband was nearly tortured to death in 1999?
Bhutto did add the following to her commentary:
We can only wonder -- if there is nothing to hide -- why international investigators from the FBI and Scotland Yard are being prevented from assisting a Pakistan-led investigation?
The sham investigation of the October 19 massacre and the attempt by the ruling party to politically capitalize on this catastrophe are discomforting, but do not suggest any direct involvement by General Pervez Musharraf.
But NBC is reporting that she also wrote a letter to rival CNN, to be opened only in the event of her death, in which she suggested that if she were to be assassinated, the culprits should be sought within the government or intelligence services under Pervez Musharraf.
As for the fallout on this side of the world, NBC, TIME Magazine and others report that the assassination bodes bad things for the Bushies, who have already wasted $10 billion on Pakistan's "democracy" and the so-called "war on terror," to absolutely no avail.
From TIME's analysis:
... there are some who think the Bush Administration is not without blame. Hussain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto and now a professor at Boston University, thinks the U.S., which has counted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as a key ally against terrorism since 9/11, bears some of the responsibility. "Washington will have to answer a lot of questions, especially the Administration," he says. "People like me have been making specific requests to American officials to intervene and ask for particular security arrangements be made for her, and they have been constantly just trusting the Musharraf Administration." U.S. officials said they were leery of intervening in another nation's internal affairs, and didn't want to give Bhutto Washington's imprimatur.
Haqqani is not shy about pointing fingers. He blames Musharraf himself, above all, for Bhutto's death. "It's quite clear that Musharraf does not want an election — you can quote me — he is the one who has constantly wanted anybody who can threaten him or his power, out." Haqqani told Congress in October that U.S. aid for Pakistan has for too long been tilted toward the Pakistani military. "Since 1954 almost $21 billion had been given to Pakistan in aid," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "Of this, $17.7 billion were given under military rule, and only $3.4 billion was given to Pakistan and the civilian government."
It is Musharraf's iron grip on power that has made Washington's own policy toward Pakistan such a target of criticism. While Washington has publicly extolled the virtues of democracy and hoped that Bhutto's return to Pakistan in October would usher in a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, it was also clearly nervous about the instability if the country's strong man were to lose power entirely. Pakistan — the world's second-most-populous Muslim nation, with elements of al-Qaeda and the Taliban controlling lawless mountainous pockets in the northwest — is also the only Islamic state with a nuclear arsenal. And though Washington publicly says Pakistan's nuclear weapons are safe, there are always private concerns about their security, concerns that will only heighten in the wake of Bhutto's assassination.
The U.S. has few options in Pakistan. One thing is clear, says Peter Galbraith, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation: It is "not a good idea to have 70 nuclear weapons in the hands of a country that is falling apart." Some observers believe that U.S. policy in Pakistan has favored personalities over principles. "We have a bad habit of always personalizing our foreign policy," says P.J. Crowley, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "We've done it with Musharraf, and we did it with respect to Bhutto. We are very good at providing technical support to the Pakistani army. We are not good at building indigenous or effective local political processes or strong institutions of government." Given the realities on the ground, the U.S. is likely to continue to throw its support behind Musharraf. "In terms of political leadership, Pakistan does not have a deep bench," says Crowley. ...
The CNN photographer who took what may have been the last photo of Benazir Bhutto before she "dropped down through the sunroof" of her bulletproof SUV because of an assassin's bullet describes the scene.
Stunning developments this morning as the former prime minister of Pakistan, and daughter of its "founding father," is shot by an assassin who then blew himself up.
Bhutto was killed inside a vehicle she had entered only moments before, which would appear to make it an inside job. From CNN:
Former Pakistan government spokesman Tariq Azim Khan said while it appeared Bhutto was shot, it was unclear if the bullet wounds to her head and neck were caused by a shooting or if it was shrapnel from the bomb. Watch Benazir Bhutto obituary. »
The bomber detonated as he tried to enter the rally where thousands of people gathered to hear Bhutto speak, police said.
The number of wounded was not immediately known. However, video of the scene showed ambulances lined up to take many to hospitals.
The attack came just hours after four supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif died when members of another political party opened fire on them at a rally near the Islamabad airport Thursday, Pakistan police said.
Several other members of Sharif's party were wounded, police said.
Bhutto, who led Paksitan from 1988 to 1990 and was the first female prime minister of any Islamic nation, was participating in the parliamentary election set for January 8, hoping for a third term.
The explosion occurred close to an entrance gate of the park in Rawalpindi where Ms Bhutto had been speaking.
Wasif Ali Khan, a member of the PPP who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital, said she died at 1816 (1316 GMT).
... Supporters at the hospital began chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog", referring to President Pervez Musharraf, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Some broke the glass door at the main entrance to the emergency unit as others wept.
A man with a PPP flag tied around his head could be seen beating his chest, the agency adds.
An interior ministry spokesman, Javed Cheema, was quoted as saying by AFP that she may have been killed by pellets packed into the suicide bomber's vest.
However, AP quoted a PPP security adviser as saying she was shot in the neck and chest as she got into her vehicle, before the gunman blew himself up.
On CNN, the question was asked: who benefits?
Two words: Pervez Musharraf.
Ms. Bhutto had been the target of assassination attempts before, and she went back to Pakistan anyway. She was a brave woman, and the U.S. should have strongly backed her, rather than hanging on to the dictator in training, Musharraf.
Lyglenson Lemorin has been acquitted of terrorism charges. To repeat -- a jury heard the government's case against him, including allegations that he swore and oath to al-Qaida and plotted to blow up the Sears Tower along with Miami FBI headquarters, and found the government's case wanting. While the other six members of the so-called Liberty City Seven received mistrials on the same evidence, Lemorin was found NOT GUILTY.
So why is the Bush administration rushing to deport him?
MIAMI -- A federal judge warned the Bush administration Friday not to fast-track the deportation of a Haitian man acquitted of terrorism conspiracy charges because he may be called as a witness in the retrial of his six former co-defendants. "I have to protect the rights of these defendants, and I intend to do so," U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said at a hearing.
Lenard also said the identities of the jury to be chosen next month for the second trial will be kept secret from prosecutors, defense lawyers and the public because of improper contacts and leaks in the first trial. The mother of one defendant was given a list with "X" marks next to the names of six jurors.
"This was a cause of great concern to me," the judge said. "At this point, it is unknown to the court what that list was about."
The retrial is set to begin Jan. 7 for six men accused of plotting with al-Qaida to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices in hopes of starting an anti-government insurrection. The first two-month trial resulted in a hung jury Dec. 13 for those six and an acquittal on all charges for 32-year-old Lyglenson Lemorin, a legal U.S. resident originally from Haiti.
A day after the trial ended, Lemorin was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and transported to a detention center in Lumpkin, Ga., where officials have begun deportation proceedings. An initial hearing in that case is set for Jan. 8.
Defense lawyers intending to call Lemorin as a witness asked Lenard to prevent ICE from whisking him out of the country quickly, and Lenard agreed.
Lenard is acting due to the pending retrial, but the fact of the Bush administration's keen desire to deport Lemorin in the first place raises alarms for me.
It sure looks like they're trying to have their trial and eat it too -- having lost in court, they are seeking to push him out of the country so that they can call him a terrorism threat anyway. Either that or they don't want him in the country talking about what has been done to him and his cohorts. From the Herald this past week:
Lemorin, 32, a lawful U.S. resident, [emphasis added] remains behind bars -- far from his Miami family -- in the tiny town of Lumpkin, Ga., a deportation center 150 miles south of Atlanta.
On Thursday, Lemorin's wife learned from The Miami Herald that federal authorities have charged her husband with unspecified ''administrative immigration violations'' and that he has been placed in ''removal proceedings'' that could lead to his deportation to his native Haiti.
''He has kids here, and we really need him home,'' said Lemorin's wife, Charlene Mingo Lemorin. ``He can't do anything for us in Haiti. Everything was settled by the jury. He was found not guilty. It's like the nightmare is not over.''
Family members say they are upset and dumbfounded because Lemorin has lived in South Florida for more than two decades and has no criminal history.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials declined to discuss Lemorin's alleged immigration violations.
''He was detained by ICE, and for safety and security reasons, we can't say where he is,'' agency spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez told The Miami Herald.
... The day after he was acquitted [December 13], immigration agents whisked Lemorin away to Miami International Airport.
Lemorin -- born in Haiti, raised in Miami and the father of two children who live in Little Haiti -- told his family and attorneys that he feared the agents were going to put him on a plane to his native Haiti.
Instead, they drove him to the Krome detention center in West Miami-Dade County. Then came an overnight drive to the Stewart detention center in Lumpkin.
Leonard Fenn, who temporarily represented Lemorin in the immigration case, expressed outrage over the government's actions.
''We're presuming they're claiming there is reason to believe he was a supporter of terrorist activities or a terrorist himself,'' said Fenn, who got on the case through Lemorin's criminal attorney, Joel DeFabio.
''It's outrageous -- a complete misallocation of government resources,'' Fenn said.
Immigration experts said that under the USA Patriot Act, adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a lawful U.S. resident such as Lemorin may still be locked up and possibly deported on terrorism-related charges -- even if they cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in federal court.
Miami attorney Cheryl Little, who heads the Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, said Lemorin's arrest by ICE may be ''overreaching but not unprecedented'' in the post-9/11 era, in which non-U.S. citizens acquitted at trial on drug-trafficking or other charges are sometimes picked up and dumped into the immigration legal system. Her center agreed to represent Lemorin, whose first immigration court hearing is set for Jan. 8.
Lemorin's attorneys and family now fear he will be charged with the same terrorism-related conspiracy offenses in immigration court, where an administrative judge -- not a jury of his peers -- decides his fate.
There is no principle of double jeopardy barring his prosecution on the same charges, and the burden of proof is based on a weaker civil standard, the weight of the evidence tipping one way or the other.
And for that, you can thank the United States Congress.
Even though I think many of his policies (abolishing the income tax, pulling U.S. troops out of every base around the world and ending federal support for public schools) would be radically ... um ... transformative (in a disruptive, market crashing sense), I love his plucky determination to defend the Constitution from those within his own party who have developed a very unhealthy taste for interventionism and authoritarianism (the link is to Paul's now famous "Neoconned" speech on the floor of the House,) and even "soft fascism."
What a performance on "Meet the Press" yesterday! His stuttery, nutty professor persona is absolutely endearing, even when he's saying the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a bad idea for the country (he says it was an unconstitutional means of making the federal government regulate private property) or when he's talking about phasing out Social Security (but taking care of those who are already dependent on it.)
Paul is a Constitutional purist, and I even accept his argument that while he's for shrinking government into the size of a split pea (with only a Pentagon inside it), he pushed for earmarks for his own Texas district. Hell, he's a Congressman, delivering for his district is what he's supposed to do.
REP. PAUL: I put it in because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back. But it doesn't cut any spending to vote against an earmark. And the Congress has the responsibility to spend the money. Why leave the money in the executive branch and let them spend the money?
Paul was especially compelling when parrying with Russert over U.S. foreign policy, which he says accounts for the bulk of our trillion-plus dollar overspending. He says we should cut off aid to Israel, and to the Arab countries as well, and "give them their sovereignty back." When Russert demanded to know what he would then do if Iran "invaded Israel," Paul responded by giving the question the seriousness it deserved:
MR. RUSSERT: So if Iran invaded Israel, what do we do?
REP. PAUL: Well, they're not going to. That is like saying "Iran is about to invade Mars." I mean, they have nothing. They don't have an army or navy or air force. And Israelis have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody would touch them. But, no, if, if it were in our national security interests and Congress says, "You know, this is very, very important, we have to declare war." But presidents don't have the authority to go to war.
Bravo. And when Russert continued to push the issue, which for some reason is a pet issue among American journalists, Paul continued to make perfect sense:
MR. RUSSERT: This is what you said about Israel. "Israel's dependent on us, you know, for economic means. We send them" "billions of dollars and they," then they "depend on us. They say, `Well, you know, we don't like Iran. You go fight our battles. You bomb Iran for us.' And they become dependent on us."
Who in Israel is saying "Go bomb Iran for us"?
REP. PAUL: Well, I don't know the individuals, but we know that their leaderships--you read it in the papers on a daily--a daily, you know, about Israel, the government of Israel encourages Americans to go into Iran, and the people--I don't think that's a--I don't think that's top secret that the government of Israel...
MR. RUSSERT: That the government of Israel wants us to bomb Iran?
REP. PAUL: I, I don't think there's a doubt about that, that they've encouraged us to do that. And of course the neoconservatives have been anxious to do that for a long time.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you cut off all foreign aid to Israel?
REP. PAUL: Absolutely. But remember, the Arabs would get cut off, too, and the Arabs get three times as much aid altogether than Israel. But why, why make Israel so dependent? Why do we--they give up their sovereignty. They can't defend their borders without coming to us. If they want a peace treaty, they have to ask us permission. They can't--we interfere when the Arab leagues make overtures to them. So I would say that we've made them second class citizens. I, I think they would take much better care of themselves. They would have their national sovereignty back, and I think they would be required then to have a stronger economy because they would have to pay their own bills.
I can just hear the sound of the neoconservatives' heads exploding...
Russert tried to draw Paul into the "Patriot trap" by questioning his fealty to the notion that the Islamofascists hate us for our freedoms and are waging global jihad against, us, therefore we must support the president (ahem):
MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned September 11th, a former aide of yours, Eric Dondero said this. "When September 11th happened, he just completely changed," talking about you. "One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was, it was, `Now we're going to get big government.'" Was that your reaction?
REP. PAUL: Well, I'm, I'm surprised somebody like that who's a disgruntled former employee who literally was put out. But, yes, thought...
MR. RUSSERT: He said he quit because he disagreed with you.
REP. PAUL: Yeah, no. The point is, Randolph Bourne says war is a helpless state. I believe that statement. When you have war, whether it's a war against drugs, war against terrorism, war, war overseas, war--the mentality of the people change and they're more willing to sacrifice their liberties in order to be safe and secure. So, yes, right after 9/11 my reaction was, you know, it's going to be a lot tougher selling liberty. But I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm still in the business of selling liberty and the Constitution and there's still a lot of enthusiasm for it. So all the American people don't agree that we have to have the nanny state and have the government taking care of us. So I have been encouraged. I might have been too pessimistic immediately after 9/11 because, in a way, it has caused this reaction and this uprising in this country to say, "Enough is enough. We don't need more Patriot Acts, we don't need more surveillance of our people. We don't need national ID cards. We don't need the suspension of habeas corpus. What we need is more freedom." So in one way I was pessimistic, but in another way, now, I'm more encouraged with the reception I'm getting with this message.
MR. RUSSERT: And you actually go further. You said this. "Abolish the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency and dismantle every other agency except the Justice and Defense Departments." And then you went on. "If elected president, Paul says he would abolish public schools, welfare, Social Security and farm subsidies."
REP. PAUL: OK, you may have picked that up 20 or 30 years ago, it's not part of my platform. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one that really has an interim program. Technically, a lot of those functions aren't constitutional. But the point is I'm not against the FBI investigation in doing a proper role, but I'm against the FBI spying on people like Martin Luther King. I'm against the CIA fighting secret wars and overthrowing government and interfering...
MR. RUSSERT: Would you abolish them?
REP. PAUL: I would, I would not abolish all their functions, but I--the, the, the...
MR. RUSSERT: What about public schools? Are you still...
REP. PAUL: OK, but let's go, let's go with the CIA. They're, they're involved in, in, in torture. I would abolish that, yes. But I wouldn't abolish their right and our, our requirement to accumulate intelligence for national defense purposes.
MR. RUSSERT: But if you...
REP. PAUL: That's quite different.
Score another one for Ron Paul. Whatever your views on his radical libertarianism, you can't argue that he doesn't know the Constitution, and unlike the present occupant of the White House, he actually respects it.
And he made Russert look really quite silly on the question of amendments:
MR. RUSSERT: You say you're a strict constructionist of the Constitution, and yet you want to amend the Constitution to say that children born here should not automatically be U.S. citizens.
REP. PAUL: Well, amending the Constitution is constitutional. What's a--what's the contradiction there?
You can argue with Paul on the substance, but uh, Tim ... the Constitution can be amended ... it's kind of written in there... Being a strict constructionist doesn't mean you don't believe in amending the Constitution, it means believing that judges and legislators cannot act in contravention to the Constitution without amending it... Anyhoo...
Paul also had great answers on the "war on drugs," the civil war and slavery (he makes the point that every other country in the West got rid of slavery without a war), but his best answer was on the question of fascism, as mentioned earlier. On that, he is in agreement with Constitutional experts like fellow libertarian Jonathan Turley and former Nixon counsel John Dean, as well as with people of the left like Randi Rhodes. Here's the back and forth:
MR. RUSSERT: ... Before you go, Mike Huckabee, Republican candidate for president, ran this commercial for Christmas and many thought that the shelf in the back looked like a cross. You were asked about it on CNN and this is what you said.
REP. PAUL: It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once says. He said when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.
MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean?
REP. PAUL: What? Fascism or the definition of fascism?
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Mike Huckabee is...
REP. PAUL: Oh, I didn't say that. I said it reminded me--as a matter of fact they caught me completely cold on that. I had not seen the ad, and they just said there was a cross there. And, you know, it was an instantaneous reflex because I knew of Sinclair Lewis about being cautious, because, you know, I--what prompts this is things like the Patriot Act. You know...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back...
REP. PAUL: No, no. If you're not a patriot...
MR. RUSSERT: But let me go back to this ad. You do not believe that Mike Huckabee, that ad commercial represents the potential of fascism in the form of a cross.
REP. PAUL: No. But I think this country, a movement in the last 100 years, is moving toward fascism. Fascism today, the softer term, because people have different definition of fascism, is corporatism when the military industrial complex runs the show, when the--in the name of security pay--pass the Patriot Act. You don't vote for it, you know, you're not patriotic America. If you don't support the troops and you don't support--if you don't support the war you don't support the troops. It's that kind of antagonism. But we have more corporatism and more abuse of our civil liberties, more loss of our privacy, national ID cards, all this stuff coming has a fascist tone to it. And the country's moving in that direction. That's what I'm thinking about. This was not personalized. I never even used my opponents names if you, if you notice.
MR. RUSSERT: So you think we're close to fascism?
REP. PAUL: I think we're approaching it very close. One--there's one, there's one documentary that's been put out recently that has generated a lot of interest called "Freedom to Fascism." And we're moving in that direction. Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.
MR. RUSSERT: For the record, the Sinclair Lewis Society said that Mr. Lewis never uttered that quote.
REP. PAUL: But others refuted that and put them down and said that--and they found the exact quote where it came from.
More on Sinclair Lewis and his apocryphal novel, "It Can't Happen Here," here.
It's interesting to see Rep. Robert Wexler and fellow Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz on such polarized opposite sides of an issue, but such a thing is impeachment, that it deeply divides Democrats, more so than it does Republicans.
Wexler, who is on the pro-hearings side of things, has started his own site, wexlerwantshearings.com, to dramatize his call for an impeachment inquiry against the vice president. Good for him. And he tells ThinkP that an op-ed he co-wrote with other members of Congress was roundly rejected by all of the major rags -- none of whom take the notion of impeaching this president seriously.
These are the same papers that ran rabid with stories ginning up impeachment against one William Jefferson Clinton, not for lying to Congress to get us into a war, not for possibly secreting evidence of crimes against U.S. laws banning torture, not for illegally surveilling the American people with the help of private companies, not for defying Congress and junking the Constitution by using signing statements to make and discard laws ... but for having sex with some chick in a big old thong.
We laid out precisely why the House Judiciary Committee should open up hearings. … And we set out in an op-ed why we should do it, and none of the major newspapers in the country — the New York Times or the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the LA Times — they chose not to run it.
I thought it was a fairly significant statement by the mainstream media that when members of the House Judiciary Committee lay out a credible claim for why impeachment hearings should begin regarding the Vice President of the United States, and they refuse to run it, then we decided well we would start this website…and see what the feeling was in terms of mainstream America.
That was essentially George W. Bush's answer to reporter's queries during a press conference today, regarding his foreknowledge of the destruction of those CIA torture tapes. This will sound familiar to Valerie Plame and her husband:
The president, fencing good-naturedly with reporters at a White House news conference, parried a question that suggested there was ambiguity in his earlier statements that he had no recollection about the existence or destruction of the tapes.
“It sounds pretty clear to me,” Mr. Bush said. “The first recollection is when Mike Hayden briefed me. That’s pretty clear.” Gen. Michael V. Hayden is the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Nor would the president respond directly when asked whether he thought the C.I.A.’s 2005 destruction of the videotapes showing harsh questioning of two suspected terrorists was “the responsible thing to do.”
The president said he was confident that inquiries being started by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, by the C.I.A.’s own inspector general’s office and in Congress “will end up enabling us all to find out what exactly happened.”
“And, therefore, over the course of these inquiries and oversight hearings, I’m going to reserve judgment until I find out the full facts,” Mr. Bush said. “I know I’m going to be asked about this question a lot as time goes by. I’m just going to prepare you. Until these inquiries are complete, until the oversight’s finished, then I will be rendering no opinion from podium.”
"There's a serious investigation," the president said. "I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation." He commented in response to reporters' questions during a meeting with Bulgaria's president, Georgi Parvanov. ...
Oh, it was Scooter??? Well I'll be damned! Okay, here's where Bush just gets downright embarrassing:
Only a few minutes went by at Thursday morning’s news conference before the subject of the tapes was raised again, this time by a questioner who asked the president whether he was concerned that the episode would raise “questions from people around the world” about how the United States treats terrorism suspects.
“You know, you’re trying to get me to prejudge the outcome of this inquiry,” Mr. Bush said. “Let’s wait and see what the facts are.”
As for America’s image in the world, Mr. Bush said, “I’m not surprised we get criticized on a variety of fronts. And you know, on the other hand, most people like to come to our country, and most people love what America stands for.
“And so, it’s like I said about the presidency,” Mr. Bush went on. “People in America, you know, like the presidency, and sometimes they like the president. Get it?”
Yeah, get it? What a shmuck. I wonder what that press conference would have sounded like in pre-war Iraq...?
So, Saddam, do you think that the disclosure that your government tortures people harms Iraq's image around the world?
"Well, infidel, people like to come to Iraq. This is where the Garden of Eden was, you know. ... and the Tower of Babel. People like that sort of thing. Get it?"
John McCain hits back at a Drudge bomb that he's pleading with the New York Times to spike a Friday piece alleging that he did favors for a lobbyist. Says The Politico:
On Thursday, John McCain responded to an unsubstantiated story on the Drudge Report about whether he did legislative favors for a lobbyist, and alleging his campaign was trying to convince The New York Times to spike a story on the topic.
At a press conference in Detroit, McCain defended his record of integrity, while confirming that his staff has been in contact with the newspaper, according to The Associated Press.
But, McCain said, "I have not been in talks with The New York Times."
However, Politico has confirmed that McCain himself had one conversation with Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in which the senator expressed concerns with how the story was being reported.
And Washington power lawyer Bob Bennett has confirmed to Politico that he is providing counsel to McCain.
McCain's camp issued a statement attacking "gutter politics" and reiterating the senator’s record of integrity.
But the candidate hasn't exactly helped his own campaign.
On Thursday morning, McCain campaign officials, in an effort to not amplify the story, refused to respond on the record to the Drudge allegations.
But then McCain himself did not follow suit, instead choosing to respond to the allegations when asked about them by a reporter.
With his defense and partial explanation, McCain ensured that the charges would filter into the mainstream media.
McCain is calling the allegations "gutter politics." This guy's been around the block with George W. Bush, so I guess he should know. But that story will now get big play over the pre-holiday weekend, when (he hopes) no one will really be paying attention, but when (he should worry) no one will hear his defense, either.
Well, Tom, we'll miss you (sort of, I mean, you really didn't get much press attention, so it's not like we paid all that much attention to you, but, you know ...) So in your honor, let's rack up that dandy political advert of yours just one ... more ... time:
If you're a homeowner struggling to make payments on a subprime loan that has adjusted, the feds have nothing for you, man. But if you're the bank who MADE those subprime loans and is now feeling the pain, just call the Fed your Santa Claus. The WaPo has the news of the big bank bailout.
CBS News' ratings also-ran Katie Couric apparently lightly grills the presidential contenders on whether an unfaithful spouse can make a faithful POTUS. Drudge has the alleged transcript. Best answer: Huckabee. Worst: Rudy. I mean, what's he gonna say...?
I guess Britney's not the only disfunctional one... nor is she the only slutty one.
Jamie Lynn's pregnant, y'all! Yes, white girls have teenaged babies out of wedlock, too... only this one will probably have a gold plated crib, $1,000 booties, and the occasional meal (when mommy remembers to tell the nanny to warm the bottle.)
New poll out! And apparently, God wants Mike Huckabee to be the Republican nominee for president...
He's in a statistical tie with Rudy in the Reuters/Zogby poll... which we all know is sanctioned directly by God ... and that Muslim guy, John Zogby ... moving on!
He's ahead by a healthy margin in Iowa, buttressed by strong support from the women GOPers who are supposed to be crushing on Willard, but who aren't because they fear that as not quite a Christian, he might have a tail...
And Jesus' very own cross ... er ... bookshelf ... appears in his Christmas ad.
You probably don't understand that if you're not a Christian, but that's okay, you're still a good American ... even if you're going to Hell... :)
CLEVELAND (AP) — The youngest brother of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was found dead at his home Wednesday.
Perry Kucinich, 52, was found face down by another brother, Larry, at about 9 a.m., said Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Coroner's office.
There were no signs of foul play, Caesar said. An autopsy was being performed Wednesday to determine the cause of death. Larry Kucinich had taken his brother shopping Tuesday and then took him home but couldn't get an answer when he tried calling him Wednesday, Caesar said.
Dennis Kucinich took a flight from Washington to Cleveland after learning of the death and was not immediately available for comment, said his office press secretary, Natalie Laber.
"He was very close to Perry and he's taking this very hard," Laber said.
Clinton's senior advisers have grown convinced that the media deck is stacked against them, that their candidate is drawing far harsher scrutiny than Barack Obama. And at least some journalists agree.
"She's just held to a different standard in every respect," says Mark Halperin, Time's editor at large. "The press rooted for Obama to go negative, and when he did he was applauded. When she does it, it's treated as this huge violation of propriety." While Clinton's mistakes deserve full coverage, Halperin says, "the press's flaws -- wild swings, accentuating the negative -- are magnified 50 times when it comes to her. It's not a level playing field."
Newsweek's Howard Fineman says Obama's coverage is the buzz of the presidential campaign. "While they don't say so publicly because it's risky to complain, a lot of operatives from other campaigns say he's getting a free ride, that people aren't tough enough on Obama," Fineman says. "There may be something to that. He's the new guy, an interesting guy, a pathbreaker and trendsetter perhaps." ...
...Some reporters confess that they are enjoying Clinton's slippage, if only because it enlivens what had become a predictable narrative of her cruising to victory. The prospect of a newcomer knocking off a former first lady is one heck of a story.
Halperin, who surveys political news at Time.com's the Page, says: "Your typical reporter has a thinly disguised preference that Barack Obama be the nominee. The narrative of him beating her is better than her beating him, in part because she's a Clinton and in part because he's a young African American. . . . There's no one rooting for her to come back."
Traditional civil rights-era black leaders are treating Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a presidential candidate, like strange fruit hanging from the ballot box, and it’s a crying shame.
You may recall the song, Strange Fruit, by Billie Holliday, which condemned racism, particularly the lynchings of African Americans in the South.
What black civil rights leaders are doing politically to Obama is nearly as bad.
Almost daily, these black leaders from yesteryear can be seen on national TV questioning Obama’s blackness, or explaining why he should not be running for president at all.
Others offer reasons why blacks should throw their support to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, a white female, instead of Obama, a black man. Still more question his experience, wonder aloud about his involvement in the black community, and lob subtle hints that his life experience has been, “too white.”
Such notions are not only unfair, but also painful to witness. These once-accomplished leaders embarrass themselves out of clear jealousy and fear. They are jealous of Obama’s past achievements and fearful of what else he might accomplish in a relatively short period.
Throughout the country, we have in the black community traditional, long-winded civil rights-era leaders who have a death grip on positions of social, political and community leadership. At a time when we are confronted with crippling issues like violence, AIDS, illiteracy, crime and drugs, we can no longer turn to this generation, or white folks, to address our needs.
Many of these leaders are on the other side of retirement age, and 1960s-era approaches will not solve these issues. We need a new generation to step forward.
But instead of grooming a younger generation or mentoring successors, these old-school leaders behave as if they will live forever. It is from this mindset that their indifference toward Obama is born.
They are the original “go to” negroes who believe everything must come through them, and that no one else can lead except them. The time has long since passed for them to let their people go…and assume the roles of mentors, advisors and disseminators of wisdom. Their time has passed.
The latest example of this comes from former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, a civil rights era icon, during a recent interview.
“Bill [Clinton] is every bit as black as Barack,’’ Young said. “He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.” Later, he said he was just “clowning.’’
Continuing his shameless display of envy, Young went on to praise both former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, while piling on more excuses about why Obama should not be president.
“The thing about Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, they have grown up basically in the black community.”
“I want Barack Obama to be president…in 2016.”
“It’s not a matter of his being inexperienced. It’s a matter of being young.”
When examining Obama’s candidacy, one is hard pressed to legitimize those criticisms.
Nevertheless, his life story has brought to the forefront a long-simmering undercurrent of tension and growing resentment between civil rights-era black leaders and those of us born in the 1960s and 1970s. ...
Ouch! This one's officially buzzworthy here in South Florida. I've received links to it in my inbox about half a dozen times...
The Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the White House staff and vice president have their offices ... is burning ... on the same day the NYT reports the following:
Bush Lawyers Discussed Fate of C.I.A. Tapes
By MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.
The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.
Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.
It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. ...
Here's a bit more, and check out who one of the principals in the growing case has lawyered up with...
The new information came to light as a federal judge on Tuesday ordered a hearing into whether the tapes’ destruction violated an order to preserve evidence in a lawsuit brought on behalf of 16 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The tapes documented harsh interrogation methods used in 2002 on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects in C.I.A. custody.
The current and former officials also provided new details about the role played in November 2005 by Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., then the chief of the agency’s clandestine branch, who ultimately ordered the destruction of the tapes.
The officials said that before he issued a secret cable directing that the tapes be destroyed, Mr. Rodriguez received legal guidance from two C.I.A. lawyers, Steven Hermes and Robert Eatinger. The officials said that those lawyers gave written guidance to Mr. Rodriguez that he had the authority to destroy the tapes and that the destruction would violate no laws.
The agency did not make either Mr. Hermes or Mr. Eatinger available for comment.
Current and former officials said the two lawyers informed the C.I.A.’s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, about the legal advice they had provided. But officials said Mr. Rodriguez did not inform either Mr. Rizzo or Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director, before he sent the cable to destroy the tapes.
“There was an expectation on the part of those providing legal guidance that additional bases would be touched,” said one government official with knowledge of the matter. “That didn’t happen.”
Robert S. Bennett, a lawyer for Mr. Rodriguez, insisted that his client had done nothing wrong and suggested that Mr. Rodriguez had been authorized to order the destruction of the tapes. “He had a green light to destroy them,” Mr. Bennett said.
Bennett is a popular lawyer 'round there...
The NYT report also reveals that the CIA kept the tapes overseas, in the unidentified country where the "harsh interrogations" (read "torture,") took place, something almost unbelievable from a security standpoint. Had they been stolen, say, in whatever country we're talking about, but which could very well be a majority Muslim one, the damage to U.S. interests would have been enormous.
John Dean commented before today's revelation that:
There are three court orders that may have been violated, but one in particular strikes me as a very serious problem for the CIA. Accordingly, we may well be in the unique situation in which a pending civil lawsuit might flush out some answers, and the federal judiciary might thus embarrass the other branches into actually taking meaningful action. I say "might" because the Bush Administration thinks nothing of stiffing federal court judges who seek information, and they probably figure they can tap-dance for the federal judiciary - along with all the other inquiries -- until they are out of Washington on January 20, 2009.
Nevertheless, the situation in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union, could well force the Bush Administration's hand. An order holding the CIA in contempt of court might get the Administration's attention.
The ACLU's Lawsuit, and the Order that the CIA Produce Documents
When word of mistreatment of detainees surfaced, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request targeting the CIA and others on October 7, 2003 and May 25, 2004, seeking records concerning the treatment of all detainees apprehended after September 11, 2001 and held in U.S. custody abroad. This, of course, would mean not only in Guantanamo but in the secret prisons in Eastern Europe operated by the CIA.
Not surprisingly, the government stiffed the request, so the ACLU filed a lawsuit in June 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case ended up in the courtroom of Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. On September 15, 2004, Judge Hellerstein ordered the CIA and other government departments to "produce or identify" all responsive documents by October 15, 2004.
The CIA claimed that some of the relevant documents were the subject of an inquiry by the CIA's Office of the Inspector General, so its attorneys requested a stay of the judge's order and an extension of time to comply with the request for other documents. In February 2005, Judge Hellerstein denied the CIA's request for a stay, but he did not enforce the stay immediately when the CIA moved for the judge to reconsider his ruling based on additional evidence from the CIA's Director - as the CIA entered a full-court press to prevent the ACLU from getting anything.
This stalling action had been playing out, when news of the destruction of the tapes became public. Now, in the action before Judge Hellerstein, he ACLU has moved to hold the CIA in contempt of court, based on the Judge's September 15, 2004 ruling. It is difficult to see why the CIA is, in fact, not in contempt, given the nature of the FOIA request and the judge's order.
Well, another federal district judge has ordered hearings for Friday on the matter, and whether the destruction of the tapes violated a court order:
n June 2005, Kennedy ordered the Bush administration to safeguard "all evidence and information regarding the torture, mistreatment, and abuse of detainees now at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay."
Five months later, the CIA destroyed the interrogation videos. The recordings involved suspected terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The Justice Department argued that the videos weren't covered by the order because the two men were being held in secret CIA prisons overseas, not at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
David Remes, a lawyer who represents Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay, said the government was obligated to keep the tapes and he wants to be sure other evidence is not being destroyed.
"We want more than just the government's assurances. The government has given these assurances in the past and they've proven unreliable," Remes said. "The recent revelation of the CIA tape destruction indicates that the government cannot be trusted to preserve evidence."
Those should be some hearings.
Meanwhile, Georgetown law professor Johnathan Turley sees about 6 possible crimes in the CIA tapes destruction...
And the White House says the NYT has gotten it all wrong... and the story is "pernicious and troubling," to boot! Oh, that Dana Perrino!
This has been another crazy week, so I missed posting this one on Thursday. The government failed to convict seven Liberty City (Miami) men of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower without explosives, money or shoes ... as part of an al-Qaida plot made the more difficult because the men aren't Muslims ... (ahem) ... on Thursday, after the case of the Liberty City Seven ended with one acquittal and a mistrial for the other six.
I know one of the jurors on this case, and one of the lawyers. Needless to say I have refrained from discussing the case with my juror friend up to now, although I plan to now that it's over. This was always a flimsy, almost silly case -- seven down on their luck guys from the hood, practicing karate together in a warehouse and forming their own little community group, suddenly decide to pledge fealty to al-Qaida without renouncing their own religion -- Moorism -- which would surely have gotten them beheaded had any actual al-Qaida ever caught up with them.
We interviewed a cousin of the acquitted man, Lyglenson Lemorin, a native of Haiti like several of the men, back on 1080 several months ago, and his contention that his cousin was nothing more than a religious guy who kept to himself turns out to have been believable for the jury. Unfortunately for Lemorin, he will probably be deported anyway.
I was hopeful that the men would be acquitted, based on the almost laughability of the case, and the seedy nature of the star witnesses, as outlined thoroughly by the Miami New Times here ... but I did worry that in this age of fear, when Republicans have spent six years breeding constant terror into the populace, that there might be tremendous pressure to convict inside that jury room (especially after the Padilla case.) I can only guess that the defense's superior jury selection saved the day, as did the government's ham-handed job of infiltrating and setting up the hapless group.
Good job, Rod V and the other attorneys!
Now, let's hope the Bush administration wises up and drops this silly case. So far, their track record suggests that pursuing a retrial won't do much good anyway.
There were shifting alliances, heated debates and an intense review of the evidence.
After nine days of deliberations in the so-called Liberty City Seven terrorism case, four jurors stood firmly against any convictions, skeptical that the defendants were serious about helping terrorists or even considering the possibility before FBI informants began prodding them, the jury foreman said in an interview Friday.
Of the four, some adamantly believed the group's central defense that an alleged plot to bomb buildings in Miami and Chicago was a scam for money, said foreman Jeff Agron, 46.
Agron, a religious school principal and a lawyer who supported convicting some defendants on some counts, said jurors who embraced the defense's scam theory were "unwilling to change their minds."
"I think a lot of the jurors really, really struggled and analyzed and went back and forth throughout the deliberations," he said. "I also think there were some jurors who more or less had their minds made up and it was going to be very, very hard to persuade them."
Juror Michael Silva, 48, said he wavered as he considered the evidence during deliberations. However, he described the prosecution's case as "muddled" and said he gave little weight to testimony from two government informants.
"The evidence just wasn't clear-cut," said Silva, general manager of a Miami radio station. "It was not like they had evidence of somebody planting explosives."
According to both jurors, the panel did not divide strictly along racial lines. Of the two men and two women aggressively opposing convictions, three were black and one was white, said Agron. The remaining eight jurors were also a racially diverse group. ...
By JAY WEAVER Some legal observers and pundits say the Bush administration will confront a daunting challenge in the second trial of the Liberty City 7 terror case because they will be stuck with the same witnesses and same evidence that led to Thursday's mistrial. The only difference: a new group of jurors.
But experts note prosecutors are going into the new trial -- scheduled for Jan. 7 in Miami federal court -- knowing that a previous jury was so skeptical of their case that they acquitted one defendant and could not reach an agreement on the other six after nine days of deliberations.
U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard, who has imposed a gag order on all parties, will preside over the second trial.
The original Liberty City 7 case was built upon an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative who led a group of minority men from a poor Miami neighborhood into a 9/11-like plot. The two-month trial turned on the role of the FBI informant, who infiltrated the Miami organization in December 2005. He was introduced to the group's ringleader, Narseal Batiste, by a previous FBI informant, a North Miami shopkeeper who began reporting to his handlers that Batiste was allegedly talking about terrorism plans.
At trial, Batiste came across as a complex messianic-like figure, a father of four who lived in North Miami while trying to get a construction business off the ground. He also was trying to start a chapter of the Moorish Science Temple in a warehouse called ''The Embassy'' in Liberty City. The religion embraces the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.
His main defense: The FBI informant entrapped him and his men in a ``fabricated crime.''
After their arrests, agents found no terrorism blueprints or weapons of mass destruction in The Embassy -- only Samurai swords, law books, Bibles, Korans and personal items.
University of Miami law professor Bruce Winick says ``the [second] trial will depend on jury selection -- that's such an important part of the case.''
''Here we had an interracial jury [in the first trial] that understands what goes down in the 'hood,'' he said.
Indeed, the 12-member jury -- a mix of blacks, Hispanics and white non-Hispanics -- failed to find common ground on six of seven defendants. One, Lyglenson Lemorin, was acquitted because they believed he had distanced himself from the others before their arrests in June 2006.
On Thursday, about half of the jurors believed the paid FBI informant, an Arabic man known as ''Brother Mohammad,'' teased the defendants with promises of $50,000 so they would pledge their faith to al Qaeda in a scheme to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and FBI buildings. In other words, the informant entrapped them, some jurors concluded.
''Some jurors believed that and others did not,'' said foreman Jeffrey Agron, 46, a lawyer who is a principal at a Jewish school in Kendall.
The other half concluded some of the defendants joined the terror conspiracy -- and it didn't matter whether the al Qaeda representative was playing a role for the FBI because some of the defendants believed him, Agron said.
Some legal experts have viewed the homegrown terrorism case with much cynicism, especially after the Bush administration called the seven men's arrests a ''significant victory'' in the war on domestic terrorism -- declaring they were as ''dangerous'' as al Qaeda.
''Was justice really served by overblowing this into another 9/11?'' asked UM's Winick. ``This case has always made me wonder about the political motives of the Bush administration before the midterm elections in fall 2006.''
Carl Tobias, a constitutional law professor at the University of Richmond, said the fundamental flaw in the Liberty City 7 case was the way the government overplayed the case with so much publicity when there was such little evidence of an actual security threat.
''It is difficult to believe these people were really going to blow up the Sears Tower,'' Tobias said.
Tobias, who has followed numerous terrorism trials in Virginia and other parts of the country, said the Liberty City 7 case is part of a pattern ``where the government overstates its claims and what it can prove -- it doesn't always prevail.'' ...
When the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia used it, it was torture.
When the Japanese used it during World War II, it was torture, and WE prosecuted their officers for it.
So when and how did waterboarding stop being torture?
Why, when George Bush started using it, of course.
America has gone through the looking glass it seems. Our friends on the right are so immersed in authoritarianism, and so hungry for the leadership of an absolute power -- a single, imperial presence that can tell them what to do, and what to think, and that is prepared to use all necessary force to protect them from the dangers that only their leader can fully understand, they are willing to suspend American history, American law, and even basic reason, in order to decide that no, waterboarding is NOT torture ... so long as we're the ones doing the waterboarding.
...or maybe not...
Two days ago, the legal advisor at Gitmo actually refused to even admit -- to a Republican questioner, JAG officer and Senator Lindsey Graham, that the waterboarding of an AMERICAN soldier by the IRANIAN MILITARY would be torture. Stunning, but true. They've taken their madness to its logical conclusion. ThinkP has the video.
Today, that same legal advisor, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, further testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that evidence obtained through waterboarding torture could actually be admissible in Bush's kangaroo military tribunals, saying that “If the evidence is reliable and probative and the judge concluded it is in the interest of justice to use that evidence,” it would be admitted.
So now, the right has admitted that not only do they support torture, but they would also condone the torture of Americans, and the introduction of evidence in foreign kangaroo courts, against American prisoners that was obtained by torture. Who ARE these people???
As a matter of fact, some Republicans, like Missouri Senator Kit Bond -- the ranking member on the Senate Intel Committee, no less -- thinks that such torture is really no worse than doing the backstroke. I swear to you, that's what he said... It would be funny if it weren't so damned tragic -- and so damned illegal!
So I have a few questions for my Republican friends. We now know that you would condone the waterboarding of Americans by the Iranian military. And we know that you would deem such torture of Americans to be akin to a nice dip in the Euphrates.
... If someone were to shove your head down into a toilet bowl so that the water was flowing into your nose, mouth and ears, and they held your head down until you thought you were drowning to death, and didn't let you up until you literally began to feel the lights go out, would you consider that torture? Because that's the same as waterboarding...
... And if you were to learn that that is exactly what had been done to an American POW in, say, Iraq, how would that grab you? What would you want done about it?
... And if Saddam Hussein, who was under constant threat of assassination and overthrow, deemed torture necessary in order to put down a very real insurrection by the Shiites or Kurds, then on what basis did people like YOU label him a torturer and a criminal? The torture of his own people was one of the charges leveled at Saddam by YOU, in order to justify overthrowing him. It was among the crimes that ultimately sent him to the gallows. If George W. Bush and his people truly believe torture to be justified in the defense of the United States, and Saddam truly believed torture to be justified in defense of Iraq's sovereign government, then what is the difference between the two? That Bush is nicer, although he too orders torture? That's he's American?
Or is it that you really don't have a logical place to go with your defense of torture. You're actually only justifying it because you are a partisan, and the torturers are on your team...?
There will be no prosecution, at least for now, of the former CIA agent, Mr. Kiriakou, for his revelations about the torture (his words) of terror suspect Abu Zubayda whilst Mr. Zubayda was in the custody of the agency. Kiriakou has told ABC and NBC News that not only did he participate in the torture of Mr. Zubayda via waterboarding, but that the torture was cleared, specifically, up the chain of command from CIA headquarters to the Justice Department to the White House. The former agent said that each time agents wanted to use "harsh interrogation techniques" on a suspect, they didn't just do it willy nilly -- they had to get specific permission to do so, technique by technique.
So why is he talking?
On Dan Abrams' show last night it was clear that John Kiriakou wants to protect the reputation of the CIA, and to clear the agency of having acted somehow in a rogue fashion, waterboarding people willy nilly simply because agents wanted to do so. It seems pretty clear what his motivations are: to inoculate the CIA while redirecting the responsibility for what was done to the White House. Along with that, Kiriakou is telling the media in no uncertain terms that he felt that what was done was torture, but that he personally deemed it necessary, even "forced" -- at the time, "to save American lives."
Maybe on "24" (I've never heard one convincing piece of evidence that Abu Zubayda knew anything of importance regarding supposed future terror attacks on the United States. If torture worked, why didn't one of the torturees tip off the CIA to the Bali bombings, or the tube bombings in London...?) In fact, many on my end of the blogosphere are quite skeptical of the right's "torture works! ...but only for us..." claims.
Lesson number one from Kiriakou's tale is that you can't beat the CIA. Even the Bush administration, which operates with almost Darth Vader's Empire-like radicalism when it comes to lawbreaking, can beat the spooks. They always hit back. And no president that I can think of has ever out-foxed them. Bush has blamed the CIA for the "bad" intelligence on Iraq, when actually, his vice president and Pentagon cooked the vague intel coming out of Langley for the purpose of pushing the Congress, and the country, into a war with Iraq. Bushies imply that it was the CIA, and the FBI, who dropped the ball before 9/11, though somebody must have briefed Bush's then National Security Advisor Condi Rice, because she knew full well that "Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States" on at least August 6th, a full month before the attacks.
Back to Mr. Kiriakou... ABC reports on his "get out of prosecution" card (which is mirrored, apparently, by the White House's even as it becomes crystal clear that there's obstruction of justice afoot. From ABC:
The former CIA intelligence official who went public on ABC News about the agency's use of waterboarding in interrogations, John Kiriakou, apparently will not be the subject of a Justice Department investigation, even though some CIA officials believe he revealed classified information about the use of waterboarding.
"They were furious at the CIA this morning, but cooler heads have apparently prevailed for the time being," a senior Justice Department official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA director, did sent out a classified memo this morning warning all employees "of the importance of protecting classified information," a CIA spokesperson told ABCNews.com.
... and then, that new classified memo got out. Hm.
I don't know about you, but I think the spooks doth protest too much. They like having this guy out there. He's not hurting them -- he's hurting the people the CIA lifers apparently distrust -- George W. Bush and his band of nut-o-cons.
Here's Kiriakou on Abrams last night:
And here's part two, where poor GOP hack Jack Burkman tries to roll out the talking points, to hilarious effect:
A shocking gang rape allegation is the latest twist in the scandal over the privatization of the American military by the Bush administration. From ABC News:
A Houston, Texas woman says she was gang-raped by Halliburton/KBR coworkers in Baghdad, and the company and the U.S. government are covering up the incident.
Jamie Leigh Jones, now 22, says that after she was raped by multiple men at a KBR camp in the Green Zone, the company put her under guard in a shipping container with a bed and warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she'd be out of a job.
"Don't plan on working back in Iraq. There won't be a position here, and there won't be a position in Houston," Jones says she was told.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court against Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR, Jones says she was held in the shipping container for at least 24 hours without food or water by KBR, which posted armed security guards outside her door, who would not let her leave.
"It felt like prison," says Jones, who told her story to ABC News as part of an upcoming "20/20" investigation. "I was upset; I was curled up in a ball on the bed; I just could not believe what had happened."
Finally, Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.
"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told ABCNews.com, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer. ...
The full story will be on 20/20 this Friday. Among the allegations are that the young woman's rape kit was handed over, not to authorities, but to security officials within KBR. Not surprisingly, it was never seen again.
Goes to show you the dangers of allowing a private corporation to operate in the name of the United States, completely outside the reach of any law -- in this case, American or Iraqi.
Over two years later, the Justice Department has brought no criminal charges in the matter. In fact, ABC News could not confirm any federal agency was investigating the case.
Legal experts say Jones' alleged assailants will likely never face a judge and jury, due to an enormous loophole that has effectively left contractors in Iraq beyond the reach of United States law.
"It's very troubling," said Dean John Hutson of the Franklin Pierce Law Center. "The way the law presently stands, I would say that they don't have, at least in the criminal system, the opportunity for justice."
That these kinds of things are going on inside America's mercenary army is shocking enough. The fact that no one in our government will likely do much about it is worse. In many ways, large and small, our government (all three branches) almost exists for the protection of private corporations, and for the advancement of their interests.
Nowadays, the commerce they're protecting includes our military, citizens like Ms. Jones be damned.
Here's the final insult:
Since no criminal charges have been filed, the only other option, according to Hutson, is the civil system, which is the approach that Jones is trying now. But Jones' former employer doesn't want this case to see the inside of a civil courtroom.
KBR has moved for Jones' claim to be heard in private arbitration, instead of a public courtroom. It says her employment contract requires it.
In arbitration, there is no public record nor transcript of the proceedings, meaning that Jones' claims would not be heard before a judge and jury. Rather, a private arbitrator would decide Jones' case. In recent testimony before Congress, employment lawyer Cathy Ventrell-Monsees said that Halliburton won more than 80 percent of arbitration proceedings brought against it.
I spend a lot of time focusing on the ills wrought by Republicans, whether President Bush or his lackeys in Congress and the blogosphere. But Democrats have some things on their consciences, too. Democrats have in many ways been the chief enablers of this most lawless of presidents, by refusing at every turn, to stand in the way of his trashing of both the law and the constitution, or to apply the Constitutionally mandated prescriptions for such violations.
In other words, the Democrats won't stop George W. Bush from violating the law. They won't punish him for violating the law. So they are inherently complicit in his lawbreaking, the same way someone who hides an escaped convict is guilty of aiding and abetting a fugitive.
When you look at the conduct of the 110th Congress -- which definitely is superior to the 109th in that it is not a complete fool's palace full of sycophant courtiers -- you can't help but notice a certain, I guess you could call it fear? of the president of the United States, or at least an unusually deferential and non-confrontational attitude, that is nothing like the "jealous" guardian of its own prerogatives that the framers intended each governmental branch to be. Hell, the Congress doesn't seem the least bit jealous about guarding its prerogatives. You can lie to them. You can hide information, even destroy it, with little consequence beyond quiet hearings without the force of consequences.
So what's the point of having hearings at all?
Think about a situation in which a Democratic president flagrantly violate U.S. statutes outlawing the torture of prisoners, violated the Geneva Conventions, possibly even condoning the commission of war crimes, then destroyed the evidencee, even after it was requested by the president's own commission, flouted Congress' authority by attaching signing statements to laws passed by the legislative branch, refused subpoenas, abused executive privilege in order to continue to shade information, outright lied to Congress about the case for starting a war, and issued dicta stating that the president literally is beyond the reach of the law, so long as we are in a war that he himself has declared to be endless ... your head spins wondering how thick the impeachment briefing would be. And yet, not only will the Democratic-led (barely in the Senate, which is actually 50/50...) Congress not move to hold a single impeachment hearing, they go further:
- They refuse to even censure the president, or even to criticize him in the stark terms his actions seem to call for.
- They refuse to call for an independent counsel to investigate the myriad Bush administration scandals, from the midnight coercion of former attorney general Ashcroft, to the summary firing of U.S. attorneys who wouldn't play ball on the Bush political agenda, to the latest bombshell -- the erasure of CIA tapes showing the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody.
- And they won't even verbalize what has become patently obvious, not just to the blogosphere or to talk radio hosts, but to a majority of Americans, and a majority of constitutional and legal scholars, including those from Republican administrations: that this president -- the man entrusted with leading the executive branch of our government -- is a liar and a lawbreaker.
And if the Congress won't hold him accountable, who will? Worse, if the Congress sees no point in stopping him, because they think it would be "bad politics in an election year," and they therefore take their oaths to defend the Constitution no more seriously than George W. Bush does, then what the hell is the point of the Congress?
OK, off my soap box. To the news.
The NYT reports that lawyers inside the CIA OK'd the destruction of those torture tapes, including the ones involving terror suspect Abu Zubayda.
ABC Newsman Brian Ross made short work of General Hayden's lie about the tapes being destroyed in order to protect the identities of the agents involved in the interrogations (et tu, Valerie Plame outers?) by interviewing one of the lead interrogators, who says yes, it was torture, and the tapes shouldn't have been destroyed.
Team ABC updates their coverage with an interview with President Bush, who denies, in very legalistic terms, remembering that he knew about the tapes:
he President said he was told just a few days ago.
"My first recollection of whether the tapes existed or whether they were destroyed was when [CIA Director] Michael Hayden briefed me," Bush said.
"There's a preliminary inquiry going on and I think you'll find that a lot more data, facts will be coming out," he said, "that's good. It will be interesting to know what the true facts are."
OK, a girl's got to have a day ... or ten ... off.
So what's been going on while I've been on birthday break?
The Republican race for president has actually become more interesting, while the Democratic race is becoming a bore. Yeah, yeah, there's Oprah and all, but since I don't watch Oprah, and I'm not in Iowa, or South Carolina (and thus didn't have one of those 18-zillion tickets to the O&O Show) I'd rather have a free basket of the grand lady's favorite things (without the taxes to pay, please.)
Meanwhile, a new CBS/NYT poll finds GOP voters even less excited by their race than I am about ours.
Democratic voters, on the whole, view their candidates considerably more favorably than Republican voters do, and are much more optimistic about their prospects next November. Mrs. Clinton is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Democrats, followed by Mr. Obama who is viewed favorably by 54 percent. Mr. Edwards is viewed favorably by just 36 percent.
By contrast, on the Republican side, Mr. Giuliani is viewed the most favorably by members of his party — and that is by only 41 percent. Mr. McCain is viewed favorably by 37 percent and Mr. Romney is viewed favorably by 36 percent. Mr. Huckabee is viewed favorably by 30 percent, but 42 percent said they didn’t know enough about him to say whether to offer a view of him, suggesting that he might be vulnerable to the kind of attacks that his opponents have already been raising against them.
Among Republicans, 76 percent of respondents said that they could still change their mind about who to support, compared with 23 percent who said their decision was firm. Among Democrats, 59 percent said they might change their mind.
Libby Bass, 67, a Republican poll respondent from Woodbine, Georgia, said in a follow-up interview that she was weary of hearing the Republicans argue with one another, and that she was not ready to make a decision. “They’re not telling us what their plans or goals are; they’re just mimicking each other,” she said. “I’m waiting to see if someone comes up with something that will change my mind.
And there is no clear leader among Republicans: Mr. Giuliani was the choice of 22 percent of respondents, Mr. Huckabee with 21 percent and Mr. Romney with 16 percent. Senator John McCain of Arizona and Fred Thompson of Tennessee each had 7 percent.
On the Democratic side, the leader, Mrs. Clinton, has the support of 44 percent of respondents, compared with 27 percent for Mr. Obama and just 11 percent for Mr. Edwards. The rest of the Democratic candidates drew 2 percent or lower.
A CBS News poll conducted in mid-October — which offered voters a choice only of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards — found Mrs. Clinton with 51 percent, Mr. Obama with 23 percent and Mr. Edwards with 13 percent.
He's facing new scrutiny of his controversial push to pardon a rapist whose victim was Bill Clinton's second cousin ... mainly because he appears to have pandered to the worst elements inside Arkansas, who couldn't accept the word of anyone related to Bill Clinton that she was victimized, even when a jury did accept her word, and that of the police, and the forensics people ... you know, the people who investigate such things...
So much for Huck being the "nice" candidate.
Other excitement on the GOP side:
Apparently Mitt Romney is a super duper Christian ... who knew? And he'll work hard as president to root out the evils of secularism, wherever it rears its ugly head. He will not, however, and did not in his big speech last week, explain the magical underpants. Perhaps fellow Mormon Glenn Beck will step up to the plate on that one.
Tim Russert finally asked a lethal question of a Republican, on this Sunday's Meet the Press, after Sir Rudy of 9/11 attempted to blame the NYPD for Judy's official, taxpayer dog walking security force, saying it was they, and not he, who demanded that Rudy's gal pal get protection, and that poor Judy didn't even want it (the poor dear). To that, Russert asked this:
MR. RUSSERT: Using that reasoning, would it be appropriate for a president to provide Secret Service protection for his mistress?
Bingo. And here's Rudy's waaaaay too long answer:
MR. GIULIANI: It would not be appropriate to, to do it for that reason, Tim, and that isn’t, that, that isn’t the right way to—you know, that isn’t the right way to, to analyze it or to say this. The reason it’s done is because somebody threatens to do harm, and the people who assess it come to the conclusion that it is necessary to do this. The reality is that it all came about because of my public position, because of the fact that when people are public or celebrities these kinds of threats take place. And the New York City Police Department has rules; they applied the rules, they applied them in exactly the same way as they always apply them. I did not make the judgment. I didn’t ask for it. Judith didn’t particularly want it, but it was done because they took the view that it was serious and it had to be done this way. And it was done the way they wanted to do it.
In fact, when you get security like this—and many people think, you know, this is a great convenience. And, and this is not at all to suggest that I don’t have great respect for the processionals who do this. Honestly, Tim, I know how it gets played in the media. This is not something you would want. You would not want to have this security, because it is coming about because somebody has threatened to do terrible things to you or your family and professionals have evaluated it that way and feel you need the security. And you say to them, “Can I do this? Can I do that? Can I go here? Can I go there?” And they tell you, “No, you can’t.” So this is not something—I know how it gets played, but this is not something that anybody ever desires. I remember the first time it happened with me. I mean, the things that I liked to do, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do any more, because they would tell me “You can’t do it this way. You have to do it another way.”
Uh-huh... Here's the take from Tom DeFrank of the NYDN:
His explanation of Nathan's police car service doesn't square with Friday's Daily News exclusive report, citing multiple witnesses and a law enforcement source, that she was being protected by city taxpayers months before the affair was revealed in May 2000.
"The threats were after" their romance became known, Giuliani maintained Sunday. The only guest on Russert's "Meet the Press," Giuliani endured a withering examination of his personal character and business dealings.
To the glee of fellow presidential contenders, the Republican front-runner spent nearly an hour playing defense, attempting to deflect a flurry of questions about his relationship with indicted pal Bernard Kerik and Kerik's mistress Judith Regan, controversial corporate clients and his own tangled personal life.
"The baggage is finally starting to catch up with him," a neutral GOP consultant said.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the aisle, the news is all ...
In all serioiusness, if Barack Obama's team can figure out a way to translate his pop culture wave into real votes, he has a damned good chance of getting the nomination. Hillary still has the machine, and the strongest ground team on the Democratic side, and honestly, new, "hype" voters are serially unreliable on election day, but if Barack can do what Howie Dean could not in 2004, he could pull off wins in Iowa and South Carolina, and seriously shake Hill's inevitability.
OK, the Dem race isn't all that boring. But its much more fun to watch the GOPers flail around, I must say.
Ok, so that homeowners hotline number I gave you in this previous post? The one that's supposed to represent George Bush's gambit to help stem the mortgage crisis? Yeah. It's incorrect. Oh, Dubya...
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Harried homeowners seeking mortgage relief from a new Bush administration hotline Thursday had to contend with a bit of temporary misdirection from the president himself.
As he announced his plan to ease the mortgage crisis for consumers, President Bush accidentally gave out the wrong phone number for the new “Hope Now Hotline” set up by his administration.
UPDATE: Anyone who dialed 1-800-995-HOPE did not reach the mortgage hotline but instead contacted the Freedom Christian Academy — a Texas-based group that provides Christian education home schooling material.
The White House press office quickly put out a correction moments after the President’s remarks. After dialing the correct number, 1-888-995-HOPE, CNN was connected to a “counselor” within three minutes.
President Bush is announcing his supposed big fix for the growing mortgage crisis. His fix is supposedly aimed at stemming the record foreclosures taking place across the country, including here in Florida. Here's the problem: Bush's "help for struggling homeowners" -- which includes freezing interest rates on ARMs that are about to adjust, is only for homeowners who are current on their mortgage payments -- but who can PROVE that they can't afford the higher payments once their ARMs adjust.
The fix would allow borrowers to either refnance, move into an FHA loan or freeze their rates for five years.
Bush says this could help up to 1.5 million homeowners.
But ... and this is the big "but" -- how can you stem the tide of foreclosures when the borrowers you're targeting to help aren't subject to foreclosure? If you're current on your mortgage payments, YOU'RE NOT FACING FORECLOSURE. You're going to the government to essentially argue that you WILL be facing foreclosure sometime in the future if your mortgage adjusts. HUH???
If Bush wants to help "struggling" homeowners, shouldn't he target those who ARE behind on their payments, and who thus are the ones actually facing foreclosure???
Bush's plan also has incentives for insurance companies (shock of all shocks), tax breaks (even more shocking!) and expands FHA funding. So far to me, it sounds like more P.R. than actual help to people who need it. And of course, with all the incentives to finance new mortgages, won't Bush's plan add to the problem by ginning up the mortgage writing engine all over again?
Worst of all, Bush's speech to day was layered with "I'm calling on Congress to do this," and "I'm calling on Congress to do that..." an admission that in the end, he really isn't all that confident that he and his treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, can do much of anything.
Anyway, if you're a homeowner in crisis and aren't as cynical as I am, the number to call is 1-800-995 HOPE.
Rhett Butler ... Slade Gorton ... men, real and fictional (you decide) ... with Harlequin Romance names and strong, manly jaws. Could Mitt Romney (nee Willard, but how romantic is that...?) join this pantheon of cheesy goodness?
Let's go to the polls...
The latest ABC/WaPo poll (Rasmussen is for suckers) shows the Mittster with incredible staying power, even with his Mormonic baggage.
Romney has a healthy lead in New Hampshire, with 37 percent (the highest I've seen any Republican score in any poll to date). And despite the fact that a whopping 6 in 10 voters served say they could still change their minds, Romney's lead is remarkable in that he leads in almost every category -- he's seen as having campaigned the hardest (50% say that), and he's trusted by most to handle the economy (44% to Rudy's 19%), the deficit (38% to Rudy's 18%), healthcare (37% to Rudy's 13%), taxes (37-17), abortion and gay civil unions (even with the flip-flop he's at 34% to 16% for Rudy and just 11% for Huckabee and 10% for McCain), immigration (even with the newly fired help from Tijuana, he's up 34-19 over NY Snidely Whiplash...) and, Rudy's gonna hate this, he ties with Rudy for trust on Iraq (though McCain beats them both at 36%). The only place Rudy beates Mitt in terms of trust by NH Republicans is on terrorism, where Snidely ties with McCain at 31% and Mitt gets 17%.
And while Mitt gets dealt with by Huckabee in Iowa among religious conservatives, he beats the Huckster across the board with religious voters in New Hampshire. The lesson may be that Republicans in New Hampshire are an entirely different sort than the religous nuts ... I mean conservates... of Iowa (where 80% of Republicans actually think GWB is doing a fine job as president...)
The bad news for Huck is that he may well win Iowa, but he will face a Mitt-style roadblock in the following state. How that plays out when the gang heads back to the Bible Belt (SC) remains to be seen. And if Mitt and Huck split the first three contests, will that open the door for Snidely in Florida?
The GOP race is actually more interesting in some ways than the sniping, griping, back-biting Democrat race. These old, white men are really running a contest, made the more fascinating by the fact that they're running a race in which NONE of them are actually well liked by their constituents. They're essentially battling to be the least unacceptable.
in·cred·i·ble /adjective 1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed. 2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable: The plot of the book is incredible.
Today, George W. Bush managed to hit both definitions out of the park.
In a morning news conference, he attempted to convince people who are not high or completely insane, that he only found out about a three-month old intelligence estimate telling HIM, and his administration, that Iran has no nukes, and hasn't even tried to develop nukes for four years ... last week. Here's Dubya sparring with NBC reporter David Gregory:
DAVID GREGORY: Mr. President, thank you. I'd like to follow on that. When you talked about Iraq, you and others in the administration talked about a mushroom cloud; then there were no WMD in Iraq. When it came to Iran, you said in October, on October 17th, you warned about the prospect of World War III, when months before you made that statement, this intelligence about them suspending their weapons program back in '03 had already come to light to this administration. So can't you be accused of hyping this threat? And don't you worry that that undermines U.S. credibility?
THE PRESIDENT: David, I don't want to contradict an august reporter such as yourself, but I was made aware of the NIE last week. In August, I think it was Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn't tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze. Why would you take time to analyze new information? One, you want to make sure it's not disinformation. You want to make sure the piece of intelligence you have is real. And secondly, they want to make sure they understand the intelligence they gathered: If they think it's real, then what does it mean? And it wasn't until last week that I was briefed on the NIE that is now public.
NSA advisor Stephen Hadley backed Bush up on that ludicrous notion. in his own news conference, but no serious person can believe that the Director of National Intelligence went into the West Wing, warned the president that there was a major intelligence briefing coming down the pike, and the president didn't bother to ask ... "so what does it say?"
The neocons have been dusting off their plans for a brand new war, this time on Iran, for more than a year. And between Bush and Cheney, it's hard to tell which one wants to bomb Iran more desperately. Well I think it's growing increasingly clear that when he made that statement, either he, or his advisors, knew that there was no "if" -- because Iran wasn't seeking said weapons.
So is Bush chastened? Uh ... no. More from the presser:
Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. The NIE says that Iran had a hidden -- a covert nuclear weapons program. That's what it said. What's to say they couldn't start another covert nuclear weapons program? And the best way to ensure that the world is peaceful in the future is for the international community to continue to work together to say to the Iranians, we're going to isolate you. However, there is a better way forward for the Iranians.
Are you kidding me??? Iran is dangerous because "what's to say they won't start a weapons program sometime, who knows when?" What are they gonna do, kill us with bad intentions? ... Give us the evil eye?? ... Talk to us sternly???
Earth to Dubya: Iran is not a threat to us because of nuclear weapons! Just like Iraq wasn't! And Bush added that we tried diplomacy and Iran responsded by electing Ahmadinejad. Well, dubya, remember that long, rambling letter Ahmadinejad sent you, seeking negotiations? Hell, remember calling Iran a member of the "axis of evil" in January 2002??? Are you still on cocaine?????
I think they call this the "credibility gap."
An speaking of "incredible" ... you're not gonna believe the National Review's take on the Iran has no nukes revelation: in a nutshell, the Crazies are declaring Iraq a smashing success because apparently, the war in 2003 single-handedly stopped the Iran bomb. But aren't the guys at NRO the one's who've been braying about Iran's nuclear ambitions for the the last four years? Are they now prepared to admit that they've been dead wrong all the time? Hm?
The Bush administration cannot take military action against Iran during its remaining time in office, or credibly threaten to do so, unless it is in response to an extremely provocative Iranian action. A military strike against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities was always fraught with risk. For the Bush administration, that option is now gone.
Neither, however, will the administration make further progress in winning international support for tighter sanctions on Iran. Fear of American military action was always the primary reason Europeans pressured Tehran. Fear of an imminent Iranian bomb was secondary. Bringing Europeans together in support of serious sanctions was difficult before the NIE. Now it is impossible.
Leading the way is Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute with a long track record in the Iran policy area, from the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration to meetings with Iranian dissidents living abroad that surprised George Tenet, who was then the director of central intelligence, in 2002.
Mr. Ledeen’s first critique — published on his blog under the title “The Great Intelligence Scam” — dismissed the new intelligence estimate as “policy advocacy masquerading as serious intelligence.” The document is riddled with “blatant unprofessionalism,” he says...
The Democrats uniformly criticized Bush's rhetoric toward Iran, but former North Carolina senator John Edwards said Clinton's September vote for a resolution urging the administration to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization amounted to agreement with Bush's worldview on terrorism.
Clinton said her vote was aimed at encouraging diplomacy and deterring the administration from using military force against the Iranians. She sharply objected to Edwards's characterization of the vote.
"I understand politics, and I understand making outlandish political charges, but this really goes way too far," Clinton responded. "Having designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, we've actually seen some changes in their behavior."
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — Although Rudolph W. Giuliani is campaigning as President Bush’s staunch ally in the war on terror, his law office has lobbied Congress on behalf of legislation that the Bush administration calls a threat to antiterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Giuliani was not personally involved in the lobbying last year on behalf of the company’s client, the American wing of a dissident Ethiopian political party known as the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, leaders of the group said.
But the firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, used Mr. Giuliani’s name in its pitch to win the assignment, and his clout was a reason it landed the job, said Seyoum Solomon, an Ethiopian-American from Maryland who helped negotiate the deal.
“He is a popular Republican, a good friend of the president and he might have some influence on the State Department,” Mr. Solomon said to explain the hiring decision.
The legislation sought by the dissidents proposes restrictions in American aid if Ethiopia does not agree to share power with opposition parties and take other steps promoting democracy. As part of its work, the Giuliani group set up a meeting at the White House last year at which the administration was urged to consider the viewpoint of a consortium of Ethiopian political parties that included Mr. Solomon’s group, as well as a more militant rebel organization. ...
...The Bush administration supports the government in Ethiopia as a bulwark against terrorism and has characterized the legislation as a liability in that effort.
A White House spokesman declined comment on Bracewell & Giuliani’s role. A State Department official described the legislation that the firm helped to push as detrimental. “The reality is, in fact, it does harm a relationship” with an ally, the official said.
I won't argue the merits of the legislation. It might have been perfectly wonderful. But this can't help Rudy with the GWOT-bots...
Republicans duking it out over their nominees. What's incredible, is the consensus that the worst two candidates for "the base" are Giuliani and ... Huckabee? Yep, Huckabee. The fiscal conservatives hate him because he's an "economic populist" who raised taxed in Arkansas, and who has criticized Club for Growth Republicans as "greedy" (yeah, he's right on that one) ... and social conservatives dislike Rudy because he's ... no, not the cad part, or the dumping his wife, or having NYC cops chauffeur the mistress around on the public dime, or lobbying for Citgo, or taking on the Qatar government as clients ... no, they hate him because of abortion.
Go figure, they're Republicans.
Anyway, on the RS thread, one Fred Thompson supporter calling himself "redneck hippie" writes:
I made a commitment that if nominated I would vote for (not support) EITHER Rudy or Huck. I also made a commitment that if they team up I will stay home. Eight years I might stomach. Sixteen, never."
Wow. That post was followed by this one:
Guiliani's propensity for authoritarianism scares me more than Huckabee's.
I'd rather have my trans fat taken away than my guns.
Okay, clearly a gun nut, but I agree with the first part.
Given how the media (and many voters in 80% pro-Bush Republican Iowa) have fallen in love with Huck, it's pretty shocking to see comments like this:
As a SoCon and FisCon ...
Huckabee is wrong on 100%. He's following a track with HLA and FMA that do nothing but energize the opposition (remember the ERA?) and he will get nothing, including good judges.
On the Fiscal side, he's a budding socialist. On the war... let's close Gitmo! On cooperating with Congress... let's investigate Bush on Plame.
He is the most unacceptable candidate I can possibly imagine. Ron Paul has better points than Huckabee.
Ouch! On to my favorite comment in the thread:
What is Rudy's foreign policy experience, again? What is his governing experience? Mayor of a city?
Oh wait....it's a really big city he was Mayor of....LOL....maybe Koch and Dinkins were Presidential material after all.
How about his military experience to be Commander-In-Chief? How did Rudy handle it when his number was called back in the day? Was he tough on those Communists? What are his National Security credentials again - nominating Bernie Kerik to run DHS?!?!
Every one of these GOPers would fight the War - except for Ronpaul. It's just that with Rudy - you get to stick your thumb in the eye of those dreaded SoCons and GunCons at the same time. Their issues don't matter in a time of war, after all, and we've declared perpetual war.
And yet I have to hear the laughable - utterly ridiculous - gut-bustingly hilarious meme that the next Preisdent will reduce the size of the federal Government - even in the face of Two Dem Houses. It's never been reduced, but the next guy will do it - this time for sure! Heck, Rudy will do it just based on the sheer strength of his personality!
What if you threw a nuclear threat and nobody came?
Bush, Cheney and Company have been pushing the notion that Iran represents an existential threat to world peace because, in the president's assessment, Tehram is seeking "nucular" weapons. Well ... about that threat ...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new U.S. intelligence report says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and it remains on hold, contradicting the Bush administration's earlier assertion that Tehran was intent on developing a bomb.
The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released on Monday could undermine U.S. efforts to convince other world powers to agree on a third package of U.N. sanctions against Iran for defying demands to halt uranium enrichment activities.
Tensions have escalated in recent months as Washington has ratcheted up the rhetoric against Tehran, with U.S. President George W. Bush insisting in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three.
But in a finding likely to surprise U.S. friends and foes alike, the latest NIE concluded: "We do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
That marked a sharp contrast to an intelligence report two years ago that stated Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons."
Bush was supposedly briefed on the new developments last Wednesday. It must have put quite a damper on his and Dick's holiday plans (to attack Iran.) The Bushies, and their friends on the GOP campaign trail (hellooooo, Rudy!) have been hyping the notion that now that we've completely screwed up liberated Iraq, the next threat to Israel the "homeland" that must be taken care of is Iran. In fact, the last, scary residue of the neocon virus are actually praying for war with Iran, and word is they're even sneaking Paul Wolfowitz back in. (Wonder if he'll be allowed to bring his girlfriend...)
Hugo Chavez is beaten back on his "president for life" vote, and Venezuela dodges the dictator bullet ... for now. TIME Magazine has an odd headline, containing the seemingly inappropriate word "reforms..."
Chavez denies that he's trying to form a dictatorship, but unfortunately, his plan to remain president until the year 2050 speaks to a different reality. The result of the vote is good news for the Bushies:
Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace that the outcome of Sunday's balloting had taught him that ''Venezuelan democracy is maturing.'' His respect for the verdict, he asserted, proves he is a true democratic leader.
''From this moment on, let's be calm,'' he said, urging that there be no more street violence like the clashes that marred pre-vote protests. ``There is no dictatorship here.''
Sunday night's result seems to indicate that Chávez overreached in seeking the right to run for reelection indefinitely and buttress his political affinity with Cuba, even as he remained personally popular with voters.
The outcome will undoubtedly be cheered within the Bush administration and in Spain, Colombia and Peru. Chávez has called President Bush the ''devil,'' Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a ''lackey'' of the United States and Peruvian President Alan Garcia a ''thief.'' He demanded in the days before the referendum that Spanish King Juan Carlos apologize for having told him last month to ``shut up.''
Conversely, the political leadership in Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Chávez's three closest allies in Latin America, will undoubtedly mourn the result.
The outcome weakens Chávez's hand at home and abroad, and marks the emergence of two potentially formidable political foes: university student leaders who galvanized the opposition and retired Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel, who once was one of Chávez's closest collaborators as defense minister but became a harsh critic of the proposed changes.
And as to why Chavez has been successful up to now ... it's because dictatorial socialism is attractive to a usually unrepresented cohort: the poor. But at the end of the day, the individual will almost always rebels. (Just as the French):
A victory would have given Chávez nearly absolute political power in Venezuela and allowed him to continue nationalizing privately owned companies, giving money to the poor, aiding political allies in Latin America, strengthening his alliance with communist Cuba and sharpening his conflict with Washington -- even though his country is the fourth biggest supplier of oil to the United States.
Chávez and his political allies already control Venezuela's Congress, the Supreme Court, the judicial system and 20 of 22 governorships.
With the defeat, Chávez is still scheduled to remain president until 2013. But Hans Dietrich, a political guru for Chávez based in Mexico, has said that defeat in the referendum might force him to call new elections.
It turned out that many Chávez supporters refused to support him this time.
''I have always voted for Chávez, but he wants a dictatorship like Cuba,'' said Algimiro Polanco, a 56-year-old bus driver, after he voted in the Caricuao neighborhood in Caracas. ``I don't want the government to take my small house. It's mine.''
Don't congratulate Washington just yet, however. The U.S. gets more oil from Venezuela (15%) than we do from Saudi Arabia (about 5%), and Caracas is still leaning toward China and other markets in order to wrestle its resources out of American hands.
Hey, perhaps the press should seek comment from one of VZ's consultants, Mr. Giuliani, whose firm represents state-owned Citgo? Rudy has many of the same dictatorial impulses as Chavez, particularly when it comes to absolute control. Sorry for that nonsequitor. I couldn't resist...
Watching Senator Jim Webb on Russert's show yesterday, it struck me that Democrats have a hell of a hard time explaining their opposition to the war in Iraq, and their position on national security issues generally. Why, I'm not sure, since Republicans have done nothing but botch both the war and the national security posture of the United States for more than 20 years. Democrats, on the other hand, have a history of facing down tough crises successfully (the Cuban missile crisis), taking responsibility for mistakes (the Bay of Pigs, Rwanda), and winning wars without compromising America's position on the world stage (Bosnia, Herzogovnia).
Anway, Russert was doing his usual schtick, attempting to solicit praise for the Bush administration and the "surge" from Webb, who recently returned from his first trip to Iraq. Webb's answer was a jumble of "yes it seems to be working" and "but that's not enough."
The answer, it seems to me, should have been much simpler and more forceful, and could have gone something like this:
RUSSERT: Doesn't the administration deserve praise for the surge, which the Washington Post says is working?
WEBB: Tim, if the point of your question is to get me to praise George W. Bush, then fine, Bush's surge is having positive results, as far as we can tell. But here's the question: what is the purpose of having a successful military operation in Iraq? If the point is to create success so that we can stay in Iraq forever, then George W. Bush is going to have a problem with the American people, and with the Congress. If the point is to achieve success so that we can withdraw American forces safely from Iraq, and soon, then I can both praise the success, and support the policy.
RUSSERT: But Democrats don't support the administration's policy. Doesn't that leave you in the position of not supporting an American military success?
WEBB: Again, Tim, if your point is to make the administration's political argument, you're not going to get agreement out of me. I'm not here to debate Republican talking points. We were supposed to be in Iraq in order to stand up an elected government. Our military did that. We were supposed to be creating an independent country, not an American client state. The only political purpose for a successful surge, as far as I'm concerned, is to get our troops safely out of Iraq. Period. That's the policy I support. If that's not what George Bush wants to do, then we have a problem.
...wouldn't that have been so much simpler?
Democrats have got to learn how to communicate more forcefully with the media, which is going to coddle the president at every available opportunity. They particularly must learn to handle insider journos like Russert, who are going to wave the WaPo and NYT at them every chance they get, as evidence that "even the liberal media support the surge." Webb, to be fair, did point out that "the Washington Post has editorialized in favor of the Iraq war from the beginning." That's a good start. But he and his fellow Dems have got to have a stronger, more straightforward answer on the surge. That answer is, in a nutshell:
If it's working. Good. So let's use this opportunity to get the hell out of Iraq.
That's what the vast majority of Americans want. And its why we elected Democrats to run Congress in 2006.
Senator Clinton stayed cool and calm as she addressed the public and thanked her staff (and all campaign volunteers) during Friday's hostage drama. The AP account describes her as "regal looking" in her post-crisis news conference. And CBS News says Clinton "seized the opportunity" to present a picture of a woman in charge:
“It looked and sounded presidential,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “This was an instance of the White House experience of this campaign. They knew how to handle this.”
That the crisis was outside Clinton's control gave it a rare quality in this era of hyper-controlled politicking, Sabato added.
“What’s most important about it is that it’s not contrived. It’s a real event and that distinguishes it from 99 percent of what happens in the campaign season.”
Whatever the media's parsing, and as cynical as I believe the media is about Mrs. Clinton, I think CBS and Sabato have it right. The Senator's performance yesterday was outstanding. Her voice was measured, no upper register, and she was relaxed and generous with her praise of the young people who run campaigns. Hell, even Chris Matthews was impressed, and he HATES the Clintons! If that's the way she would present herself in a bigger crisis, I think its clear that she has all that it takes to assume leadership.
The Miami Herald has the latest on the Sean Taylor murder. Apparently the four young men who have been arrested -- all of whom are under 21 years of age -- broke into Taylor's home expecting him not to be there (he was supposed to be on the football field, but came home instead to have an injury looked at.) When he surprised them in his bedroom, one of the men shot him in the groin, severing a major artery. Despite the fact that Director Parker (chief of Miami-Dade Police) says the three didn't go to the home to kill Taylor, all will be charged with murder. That's how things are done here in Florida. From the Herald story:
''We have confessions, but I'm not going to talk about the details of the confessions at this point,'' Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker said at a news conference in Doral.
The family of suspect Jason Mitchell, 19, told The Miami Herald that he had attended a party for Taylor's half-sister, Sasha Johnson, at Taylor's Palmetto Bay home. Investigators believe Taylor's relatives may have bragged about his wealth.
Police also arrested Charles Wardlow, 18, a cousin of Johnson's boyfriend. Also cuffed were Eric Rivera, 17, and Venjah Hunte, 20. All face murder charges.
Investigators late Friday were still trying to figure out who shot Taylor.
As is common in such cases, the four gave detectives conflicting statements and blamed one another.
Under Florida law, anyone who commits a felony that leads to a death can be charged with murder.