Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Things that are coming back
1. The "old politics" -- David Brooks laments the campaign John McCain hasn't run.
McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.

And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.


2. Hyper-inflation -- call it "that 70s show.."
Wholesale prices jumped in July at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century, furthering concern about a continued increase in inflation at a time when economic activity has ebbed.

New federal government data showed that the cost of materials used by businesses increased 1.2 percent in July and have risen 9.8 percent during the past 12 months. It was the largest yearly increase since 1981, as businesses absorbed sharp increases in energy and other commodity costs.

Today's report follows recent news that consumer prices are also rising faster than expected -- and faster than the Federal Reserve's generally accepted target rate of around 2 percent. Although wholesale inflation does not necessarily translate into higher consumer prices, it can be evidence of things to come.


3. The Taliban -- They're back, and attacking the French...
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.

The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.

Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.

As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say. ...


4. The Russian bear -- complete with POWs...
Russia has dismissed a warning by Nato that normal relations are impossible while its troops remain inside Georgia.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of bias and of trying to save the "criminal regime" in Tbilisi.
He insisted Moscow was not occupying Georgia and had no plans to annex the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Earlier, Nato demanded that Russia pull out its troops from Georgia as agreed in an EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by both parties at the weekend.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who will be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia's border.

France later tabled a US-backed draft resolution at the UN Security Council, demanding full compliance with the ceasefire and calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces to the positions held before the conflict.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, rejected the text. He objected to language on Georgia's territorial integrity, saying South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not want to be part of Georgia.

Some Russian troops have been seen leaving Gori, the largest Georgian town close to the South Ossetia border.
But BBC correspondents on the ground say there are still Russian artillery positions in place. In addition, there are Russian checkpoints close to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

As for the POWs:
In an apparent goodwill gesture Russia exchanged 15 Georgian prisoners for five of its own troops at a Russian checkpoint in Igoeti, about 30km (18 miles) from Georgia's capital.

Georgian officials told the BBC's Helen Fawkes, who was at the scene, that two of the Russian prisoners were airmen who had been shot down by Georgian forces about two weeks ago.


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posted by JReid @ 9:49 PM  
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The end of American influence? Plus, the neocons new, old crusade
George Bush at the Olympics, says he and Vlad Putin have a "good relationship" and
he was "firm with him"
on Georgia. Perhaps someone should have been firm with
Dubya about the proper direction of the American flag...


According to BBC News, Russia has ended its military operations in Georgia. (Background on the conflict here.) However, the current situation in Georgia is as clear a demonstration as any in recent history of America's waning influence in the world. Watching George W. Bush cavorting around Beijing with U.S. Olympic athletes was kind of funny for a while, but against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Georgia, and Bush's absolute impotence in the face of it, it's actually downright embarassing. UPDATE: Georgian officials are disputing that Russian military attacks have ended in South Ossetia. And there are charges of ethnic cleansing being thrown around.

I haven't posted much about the Georgia situation because I wanted to dig into it first on my own, and know what's actually going on. The political back and forth in the U.S., the silly spectacle of John McCain pretending to give ultimatums to Russia that a) he has no authority to deliver because hello? he isn't president ... (where's Dana Milbank with a "hubris" column when you need him) and b) the U.S. doesn't have the available troops to do anything to Russia even if we wanted to (leading to the possibility of the Russians throwing down the perennial classic, "you and what Army?" Besides, the fact that McCain's neocon chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was up until recently a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government puts his comments in a less than glowing context. (Not to mention his inability to accept the notion of context coming out of the mouth of one Barack Obama.)

So much about the Russia-Georgia mess speaks of America's inability to influence events:

1) Where is Condi? Condoleezza Rice is our resident Russian expert, in addition to being secretary of state. She has proved less than deft at either one. As even the National Review's Claudia Rossett points out:
If Washington’s diplomacy with Russia should have had one thing going for it, it is that Bush has an expert on the job. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a Soviet (a.k.a. Russia) specialist from way back. But so busy has Rice been with global diplomacy that she appears to have dropped the ball entirely on Georgia. Or so one might infer from the past few days in which President Bush appeared caught by surprise, tied up watching Olympic basketball and swimming in Beijing, while Russia got down to the business of bombing and shooting its way into Georgia — a U.S. ally which not so long ago Bush was praising for its Rose Revolution, thanking for its troop contributions in Iraq, and trying to usher into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
2) Bush: all hat, no cattle. While I hate to agree with the neocon nutjobs, the sight of Dubya hanging with his good friend, Prime Minister Putin on the Olympic sidelines looked downright silly while back in Washington, his government was issuing stern sounding warnings to Putin's hand-picked president, Mr. Medvedev, while Putin did all the big talking. (Bush is finally back from his Beijing vacation, and is issuing even sterner sounding warnings. And reportedly, while at the opening ceremonies, he gave Putie-Put a good talking to. Well, that should do it...) The fact is, Bush hasn't got any leverage over Russia, and can't do anything more than he is doing: talking. His own policies, including in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, are partly to blame. Russia is richer than it was when he arrived, thanks to the skyrocketing oil prices that he and Cheney helped engineer, and Putin feels freer to act, knowing that the U.S. is as bogged down in Mesopotamia as the Soviets once were in Afghanistan.

3) The U.S. seemed so taken aback by the events in Georgia, you've got to wonder what they're smoking. The U.S. has been pouring military aid into the former Soviet satellite (much of it through GOP-patented privatization) ever since they agreed to join the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. They had the third largest troop contingent still remaining there, but Georgian troops now face being airlifted out of Iraq by the U.S. military, so they can return to their own war zone. That airlift coming at U.S. taxpayer expense. By flexing military muscle right on Russia's doorstep, you've got to believe that the U.S. and Georgia should have expected a response from the likes of Putin ... sorry, Medvedev, who's really "in charge" nowadays ... and if you believe that... As Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center, guest posts on TWN, the Bushies aren't the only ones who were caught flat footed. Count the Georgian government in, too:

It is remarkable, but probably inevitable, that so many in Washington have reacted with surprise and outrage to Russia's response to President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to reestablish Georgian control over South Ossetia by force.

Some of the angriest statements come from those inside and outside the Bush administration who contributed, I assume unwittingly, to making this crisis happen. And like post-WMD justifications for the invasion of Iraq, the people demanding the toughest action against Russia are focused on Russia's lack of democracy and heavy-handed conduct, particularly in its own neighborhood, and away from how the confrontation actually unfolded. Likewise, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, these same people accuse anyone who points out that things are not exactly black and white, and that the U.S. government may have its own share of responsibility for the crisis, of siding with aggressive tyrants - in this case, in the Kremlin.

Yet many both outside and even inside the Bush administration predicted that the U.S. decision to champion Kosovo independence without Serbian consent would lead Moscow to become more assertive in establishing its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent and a U.N. Security Council mandate as a precedent for the two Georgian de facto independent enclaves. Furthermore, while President Saakashvili was making obvious his ambition to reconquer Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow was both publicly and privately warning that Georgia's use of force to reestablish control of the two regions would meet a tough Russian reaction, including, if needed, air strikes against Georgia proper.

So it would be interesting to know what President Saakashvili was thinking when, on Thursday night, after days of relatively low-level shelling around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali (which both South Ossetians and Georgians blamed on each other), and literally hours after he announced on state-controlled TV the cessation of hostilities, he ordered a full-scale assault on Tskhinvali. And mind you, the assault could only succeed if the Georgian units went right through the battalion of Russian troops serving as international peacekeepers according to agreements signed by Tbilisi itself in the 1990s.

Under the circumstances, the Russian forces had three choices: to surrender, to run away, or to fight. And fight they did - particularly because many of the Russian soldiers were in fact South Ossetians with families and friends in Tskhinvali under Georgian air, tank, and artillery attacks. Saakashvili was reckless to count on proceeding with a blitzkrieg in South Ossetia without a Russian counterattack.

4) The Georgian situation proves, if there remained any doubt, that the neoconservative movement is a cult of insane people. They would dearly love to revive their Reagan-era drive for a U.S. war against the former Soviet bad guys. (In fact, it was Ronald Reagan's refusal to fire up the nukes and take the Soviets out that ultimately drove the neocons away from him. and into their PNAC think tanks.) No sooner did the guns start blazing in Georgia than the Hitler analogies and calls for war started streaming from the keyboards of war cultists like Bill Kristol and the aforementioned Mr. Kagan. But as Rossett's column goes on to lament, the cons have lost control of their White House cowboy to the evil one world government of the U.N.

For the democratic world, there will be no easy recovery from the chilling spectacle of Georgia’s 2,000 or so troops pulling out of Iraq to go join their own country’s desperate defense. The message so far is that America will ferry them home, but while Georgia rallied to the defense of freedom in Iraq, none of Georgia’s erstwhile allies will risk taking up arms to help the Georgians against a Russian onslaught.

The damage in many dimensions is already enormous. As historian and former State Department official Robert Kagan wrote in an incisive article in Monday’s Washington Post, “Historians will come to view August 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell” — though for far less promising reasons. Kagan notes, correctly, that the issue is not how, exactly, this war in Georgia began, but that the true mistake of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, “was to be president of a small, mostly democratic and adamantly pro-Western nation on the border of Putin’s Russia.”

China’s Communist rulers, while basking in the glow of their Olympics bash, are surely checking the tea leaves for what this might presage about U.S. support for another U.S. ally: the democratic Republic of China on Taiwan. If the U.S. will not stand up to North Korea, will not stand up to Iran, will not stand up to Russia, then where will the U.S. stand up? What are the real rules of this New World Order?

And Rossett reveals, if anyone had remaining doubt, that the neocons have gone home, quitting their second choice, Mr. Bush, for their first love, John McCain:
Apart from Afghanistan and Iraq, the main rule right now seems to be that while anti-democratic bullies do the shooting, everyone else does a lot of talking and resolving. The UN Security Council meets, repeatedly. The European parliament ponders. Presumptive Republic nominee John McCain at least has the gumption and insight to point out that Russia’s actions threaten not only Georgia, but some of Russia’s other neighbors, such as Ukraine, “for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values.” Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama calls for more diplomacy, aid, and not just a U.N. resolution but also a U.N. mediator — despite the massive evidence that U.N. mediators can’t even protect the dissident monks of Burma or the opposition in Zimbabwe, let alone a small country trying to fight off single-handed an invasion by the Russian army.
Ironically, the neocons cheered when Condi Rice succeeded the hated Colin Powell at State. Now, color the cons disappointed:
President Bush, lapsed cowboy and former global top cop, dispatches his envoys to talk, and talk — and talk about talking some more. America’s ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad told the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had told Secretary of State Rice that Georgia’s elected President Mikhail Saakasvhivili “must go.” Khalilzad informed the Security Council that this is “unacceptable” and “this Council must act decisively to reaffirm the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.” This is a phrase that satisfies the U.N. brand of etiquette, but it stops no bombs or bullets.

Bush, upon his return from Beijing to Washington, having failed to stop the Russian invasion of Georgia by declaring himself “deeply concerned,” issued a tougher statement in the Rose Garden: That by invading a neighboring state and threatening to overthrow its elected government, Russia has committed an action that is “unacceptable in the 21st century.”

Oh really? While declaring this invasion “unacceptable,” the global community of the 21st century seems prepared to accept it in spades. While Russian guns close in on Tbilisi, even the basic diplomatic penalties are not yet fully on the table, for whatever they might be worth. By all means, let’s see the G-8 expel Russia, if the will can be found to do even that much. By all means, let the U.N. Security Council engage in the farce of discussing reprimands and maybe even sanctions for Russia — which happens to be both a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, and one of the world’s most adept and experienced sanctions violators.

5) It's the oil, stupid. A clip from John McCain's bellicose statement yesterday tell us what McCain thinks this is really all about:
"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.
Well, that and giving McCain's neocon friends another war. ... As Joe Klein points out:
With Word War IV--Norman Podhoretz's ridiculous oversell of the struggle against jihadi extremism--on a slow burn for the moment, Kagan et al are showing renewed interest in the golden oldies of enemies, Russia and China. This larval neo-crusade has influenced the campaign of John McCain, with his comic book proposal for a League of Democracies and his untenable proposal to kick the Russians out of the G8.

To be sure, Russia's assault on Georgia is an outrage. We should use all the diplomatic leverage we have (not all that much, truthfully) to end this invasion, and--as Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus argue in this more reasonable take--help Georgia to recover when it's over. And, to be sure, neither Russia nor China are going to be our good buddies, as many of us hoped in the afterglow of the fall of communism. They will be a significant diplomat challenge.

But it is important, yet again, to call out the endless neoconservative search for new enemies, mini-Hitlers. It is the product of an abstract over-intellectualizing of the world, the classic defect of ideologues. It is, as we have seen the last eight years, a dangerous way to behave internationally. And it has severely damaged our moral authority in the world...I mean, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, after Abu Ghraib, after our blithe rubbishing of the Geneva Accords, why should anyone listen to us when we criticize the Russians for their aggression in the Caucasus?

Indeed. Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias calls out more neocon alarmists on the warpath here.


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posted by JReid @ 7:55 AM  
Monday, July 21, 2008
Run for the border, and get that man a map!
John McCain warns of a long, hard struggle on the Iraq-Pakistan border ... (psst! John McCain! There is no Iraq-Pakistan border...!)
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posted by JReid @ 6:13 PM  
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The morning read: welcome to Tehran
Hey, did you hear the one about the government-chartered mortgage giants who spent $200 million to buy influence in Washington? About 20 McCain advisers have...

Forget all that talk about "appeasement" and the "Axis of evil..." The Guardian reports the Bush administration is preparing to establish an "interests section" in Iran, similar to the one we have in Cuba. The move is a half-step away from setting up an embassy, and comes on the heels of news the U.S. will send the third in command at the State Department to silently observe European talks with Tehran. Et tu, Bushie? In other news, the neocons will be wearing black today as a sign of mourning. Dick Cheney will be wearing an ankle monitor.

There are two ways to look at this news. Either GWB has turned his foreign policy over to Condi Rice, taking the portfolio away from Dick Cheney and his band of neocon nutjobs, in order to salvage some semblance of a legacy in the final months of his administration ... or, Bush hopes to undermine Barack Obama's foreign policy stances one by one, by preempting him on engagement with Iran, troop drawdowns in Iraq, etc. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether John McCain is swift enough to pick up the ball, or whether he will keep blustering on about staying in Iraq forever and ever and blowing Iran to hell.

Also in the Guardian, a new report says the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy -- lower than any developed nation and on par with Croatia ... and Canada is taken to task for refusing to seek the repatriation of a 15-year-old kid the Bush administration has locked up in Gitmo, and who is seen pleading for help during a videotaped interrogation released this week. From the story:
Toronto-born Omar Khadr's US military lawyer called on Harper to "stand up and act like a prime minister of Canada" and demand the teenager's return.

... Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, along with his criticism of Harper, said yesterday that the military tribunals at Guantánamo "aren't designed to be fair" and designed "to produce convictions".

He said anyone who watched Khadr whimpering for his mother and still believed he had vowed to die fighting with a bunch of hardened al-Qaida terrorists is "crazy".

"The tape shows Omar Khadr not as a hardened terrorist but as a frightened boy."

"It just shows how unreliable anything that they extracted from this kid is would be at trial."

Khadr, who was shown in the video aged 16 and questioned after severe sleep deprivation, will have to remain at Guantánamo until he is prosecuted for war crimes in front of a special US military tribunal, later this year.

The liberal Canadian senator and ex-general Romeo Dallaire told Canada Television's (CTV) Newsnet programme that Khadr is a child solider and should be treated and given the same rehabilitation that Canada devotes to other child soldiers around the world.

"We're getting stabbed in the back," Dallaire told the cable channel. "We have worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant.

Canada's conservative P.M., Stephen Harper, remains unmoved, and Canadian experts are casting doubt on chances for the boy to return to his home country. [Omar Khadr photo, showing him at age 15, from the Canadian Broadcasting Co.]

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Hezbollah supporters are gleeful at the return of five of their members to Beirut, along with the bodies of some 200 fighters, who were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. In Israel, no celebration, just funerals for the two Israelis, whose capture led to Israel's disastrous 2006 war with Lebanon. In the Independent UK, Robert Fisk writes of Israel's folly, and Hezbollah's hubris. On the exchange, Hezbollah got:

Samir Kuntar – 28 years in an Israeli jail for the 1979 murder of an Israeli, his young daughter and a policeman. He arrived from Israel very much alive, clean shaven but sporting a neat moustache, overawed by the hundreds of Hizbollah supporters, a man used to solitary confinement who suddenly found himself idolised by a people he had not seen in almost three decades. His eyes moved around him, the eyes of a prisoner watching for trouble. He was Israel's longest-held Lebanese prisoner; Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, had promised his release. And he had kept his word.

... But it was also a day of humiliation. Humiliation most of all for the Israelis. After launching their 2006 war to retrieve two of their captured soldiers, they killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians, devastated Lebanon, lost 160 of their own – most of them soldiers – and ended up yesterday handing over 200 Arab corpses and five prisoners in return for the remains of the two missing soldiers and a box of body parts.

Read the whole thing. Trust me.

Back to the states, where the New York Times' Caucus blog reports Barack Obama raised $52 million in June (though Chuck Todd pooh-poohed the number this morning on "Morning Joe," saying Obama had better raise that amount since he's not taking public financing. Geez, the media is STILL sore about that?)

Meanwhile, the paper proper reports on how much Iraqis seem to like Obama, quoting one Iraqi general as saying the candidate is "very young, very active" and "we would be very happy if he was elected president." Look for the McCain camp to deride Obama as "the candidate of the Iraqi people" today ... before they have to dial back once the candidate remembers that Iraq is no longer in the Axis of Evil. The same story attempts to throw cold water on Obama's withdrawal plans, however, calling them "complicated" for Iraqis:

... mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.

“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”

... There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported.

“In no way do I favor the occupation of my country,” said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, “but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point.”

Like many Iraqis, Mr. Ibrahim sees Mr. Obama favorably, describing him as “much more humane than Bush or McCain.”

“He seems like a nice guy,” Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama’s statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.

“It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it,” he said. “The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”

Why do I not quite trust the Times not to put neocon words into Iraqis mouths? Maybe it's just me ... and Judy Miller... Meanwhile, the paper also reports on the phalanx of media stars and actual anchor people who will chase Barack around the Middle East and Europe when he travels there, as opposed to the "in other news" treatment that McCain's overseas trip received.

The WaPo has three interesting stories today: one on the slowing global economy, and how it's helping the little guys outpace the giant economies of rich, Western nations, like ours. Why?

The U.S. economy and financial system are more closely linked to those in other wealthy nations, particularly in Europe, where rising inflation and the weak dollar are adding to growing trouble. The United States and Europe have "similar economies and share the potential problems of industrialized nations in terms of property price fluctuations and financials," said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "And they find themselves sharing variable degrees of vulnerability."

As global wealth has shifted during the past decade, emerging markets have become not only increasingly stable but they have also been claiming a larger portion of the world's riches than ever before. If Californians are rushing to withdraw money from banks there, the situation in Kenya is just the opposite: People are flocking to banks to open accounts. The Nairobi exchange, which lists mostly Kenyan companies and a handful of multinational firms, posted 10 percent gains in the three months ended in June as local and foreign investors flocked to the initial public offering of the cellphone giant Safaricom.

Damn.

The WaPo also tries to even out the mortgage crisis exposure of the two presidential candidates, attempting to make former Obama advisers and of all things, Clinton advisers, the equivalent of John McCain's bevy of current lobbyist pals and campaign shot callers who are steeped in Freddie and Fannie lobbying cash. So much for the liberal media.

And the paper reports that the Obama campaign is creating a heavy presence in Virginia, suggesting they are serious about winning the state.

The Los Angeles Times reports on newly minted FBI investigatee Indymac's latest problem: rival banks are refusing to accept its cashier's checks, adding a new headache for depositors who have been lining up to get their money.

And the paper reports that a stunning 1 in 4 California high school students -- and 1 in 3 Los Angeles high schoolers, dropped out of school since the fall of 2006. Wow. The head count was made possible by a new ID system in the state that was meant to track students leaving one school and enrolling at another. Unfortunately, the second part of that equation didn't happen 25-33% of the time.

Soaring oil prices are making Russia, Venezuela and Iran bolder, and more defiant of the U.S. .. surprise, surprise...

The most viewed stories at LAT? Andy Dick's dumb ass arrested on drug and sexual battery charges, ya think??? ... and bargain homes in Cali as prices deflate.

And last but not least ... who had the highest number of job losses this year? Florida! Sorry, Charlie!








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posted by JReid @ 8:45 AM  
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Burning in Belgrade
Huge crowds (hundreds of thousands of people) are protest-rioting in Belgrade, Serbia, reacting to Kosovo declaring independence. The protests are being stoked by Servian political leaders, and much of the ire is directed against the U.S:
PM Vojislav Kostunica told the crowds that Kosovo would belong to the Serbian people "as long as we live".

Meanwhile several hundred protesters attacked and broke into the city's US embassy, where flames were seen.

One protester is reported to have climbed onto the first floor and ripped the US flag from its pole. The building is currently closed.
Gen. Wesley Clark was just on MSNBC explaining some of the history that preceded today's violence (Col. Jack Jacobs went all the way back to World War I, which started because of Serbia, too,) and both analysts see major Russian fingerprints on the conflagration in the last vestige of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Serbs comprise about 10 percent of the Kosovar population, with the vast majority being Albanian (and Muslim.)

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posted by JReid @ 1:53 PM  
More news that will be overwhelmed by John McCain's scandal story
The Navy reports a direct hit on that wayward satellite. Hellooooo, Star Wars missile defense! CNN has the Pentagon video.

Great Britain admits that it participated in the secret "rendition" of terror suspects, with the current foreign secretary, David Milliband, correcting the lies misstatements of his predecessor, future Dubya vacation buddy Jack Straw.

The Guardian has two other stories on the Bushification of Britain: one on the government bugging its own MPs, and another on how Tony Blair's Labour Party scrubbed any mention of Israel's open secret of a nuclear arsenal, or criticisms of that country's security policies, from a now discredited 2002 dossier on Iraq's supposed WMD.

The WaPo reports on U.S. payments to Pakistan -- about $6 billion worth over the last six years -- that have apparently gone down the Dubya hole.

Over to the Times (it's not just about John McCain's love life anymore...) the word for the day is: stagflation.

Apparently, race matters less in Southern politics these days.

And yet, a red state is still a red state: Most Texans would still prefer John McCain to Barack Obama ... even though most of those polled by CNN oppose the very war Mack would extend for 100 years ... unless of course, someone even more conservative, and even more likely to give them more Bush policies (which they also disfavor) runs as a third party candidate. What's wrong with these people?

Finally, in a very sad story, the sister of the late, great boxing legend Joe Louis is found frozen to death after apparently wandering away from her assisted living center near Detroit.

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posted by JReid @ 10:33 AM  
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Quick take headlines: Thursday as Monday
What a strange thing it is to have a day off in the middle of the week ... it's enough to make Thursday feel like a Monday. Oh well ... here's what-a-gwan:

Conversations:

Al Gore to Tipper: "Well, at least the boy was in a Prius..." (after his son gets pinched for possession of marijuana, Xanax, Adderol, Soma and more. And just days before daddy's 7-7-07 global warming concert? Duuuude...

Venus Williams to Maria Sharapova: "Thwak!"

Fort Lauderdale's mayor to gay men: "No sex in the champagne room public restroom!" Cue the robot toilet!!!

Robert Novak to Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson: screw you.

Historian to Bush: you're no Harry Truman.

Close calls?

A man is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa holding an eight-inch knife. Scary, with shades of Bobby Kennedy, or a security detail overacting? I hope for the latter but fear the former is more on the money.

Untruths?

The British government says the idea that the eight doctors and others who were arrested in the recent attempts at creating 'splosions at Glasgow and London airports were al-Qaida isn't quite accurate... now THIS is al-Qaida, if you still believe they are the boogeyman the administration wants you to believe they are...

Not so smart?

Some Iraq war protesters are pulling a thoreau and withholding federal taxes. Good luck with that one...

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posted by JReid @ 9:01 AM  
Friday, April 27, 2007
Worst person in the world

This might be the most hated man in America (George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, feel free to thank your lucky stars.)

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posted by JReid @ 4:07 PM  
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Dennis Kucinich's impossible dream, or an idea whose time has come?
Kucinich launches his Impeach Cheney First drive, introducing legislation that would launch the first serious probe into the actions of the vice president. In an interview with the Washington Post, Kucinich states the urgency of his action as follows:
In fact, these articles of impeachment are deeply researched, will stand up in a discussion in the House and in the Senate. And I believe that they are -- that they're imperative to bring forth right now because the threat of war against Iran is very real.

Before you dismiss it as folly, read Kucinich's resolution and supporting documents here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 AM  
Friday, April 20, 2007
Quick take headlines: Impeach me, my sweet impeachable you
RawStory says it has an anonymous source on Capitol Hill who says ultra-long shot presidential candidate, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, will introduce articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney next Wednesday. The source reportedly tells Raw that Kucinich delayed the introduction of the articles out of respect to the Virginia Tech families. Would such articles go anywhere, when Mother has said she ain't havin' no stinkin' impeachment talk? We shall see...

A pioneer in not only Miami, but also the entire southeastern United States, died this week. Mr. White, as everyone called him, desegregated the Miami Police Department three years before Jackie Robinson desegregated baseball. His funeral is today at noon.

Voted off or not, Sanjaya clearly has a big -- even if time limited -- career ahead of him in the immediate future. His sister likely does too. Next stop, Nickelodeon, with a quick detour at the White House. Seriously.

Harry Reid states the obvious on Iraq, and catches hell from the right...

The U.S. can't abide terrorists, except in Miami...

The good news: Rapper Cam'Ron has a code of ethics. The bad news: it includes not "snitching" on the serial killer next door...

The religious wing nuts who brought you protests at the funerals of our Iraq war dead now plans to bring its particular brand of lunacy to the Virginia Tech students' final ceremonies.

The owner of the online gun shop that sold Cho Seung Hui one of his two guns "feels terrible" about the killings... Here's thought: STOP SELLING GUNS OVER THE INTERNET TO INDIVIDUALS WTHOUT A GUN DEALER'S LICENSE! That way, you won't have to feel terrible ever again...

Irony alert! Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who jilted his wife for sordid sexual liasons with men, never bothering to tell her -- or his previous wife -- that he, in fact, isn't into women ... is now teaching ethics, law and leadership at Kean University. I'm thinking if I'm a Kean parent, I want my tuition money back.

And now, a word from President Bush:
"There are jobs Americans aren't doing. ... If you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about."

Makes you proud, doesn't he?

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posted by JReid @ 7:01 AM  
Thursday, April 19, 2007
MSNB-hypocritical?
I tend to fall on the side of freedom of information, and I loathe the idea of censorship. Americans receive such sanitized news, particularly when it comes to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, we have no idea what war looks like, and what the wars we're paying for are doing to the peoples of those countries, let alone our own troops. But I also sympathise with the families of the victims in Virginia, who are angry at NBC News for airing footage of the VTech killer. (As I stated in a previous post, I opted not to post a big pic of him on this blog...)

NBC News had this story all to itself, having been the only one who received the video. What to do with that video is the ultimate Hobson's choice. If they run the footage, people will be outraged. If they don't, they could be accused of suppressing information. And then there is the hypocrisy of rival networks, who have been running exerpts and pictures of Cho, just like NBC News, and who would have put that video out in a New York minute if they were the ones with the scoop. If I were the news director at NBC, I would probably have voted to air at least part of the footage (though perhaps I would have held off more than the day or so that NBC did...)

Airing the footage had as many drawbacks as could be: it hurt the families, could inspire copycats, and gave the killer what he wanted most: the world's attention. But it also gave us a window into the mind of a deranged soul whom human nature desperately wants to at least comprehend, if possible. And let's face it, it also satisfied the prurient curiosity of people, including myself, who wanted an answer to the question: what kind of person could have done this? It's the same drive that has so many of us scouring the Internet for the derivation of "Ismail Ax." This story can't be sanitized. It shouldn't be. And yet, the families' reaction breaks my heart. I'm SO glad I'm not in TV news anymore...

But here's my beef with the Peacock Network, who I must disclose used to pay me a salary, via the web company it co-owns (I worked for a local affiliate here in South Florida): I don't get how the same network that was too prissy to keep Don Imus on the air because he called some college girls "nappy headed hos," and the same management team, including NBC News chief Steve Capus, that crumbled under the outraged sensibilities of Black employees weren't too delicate to air the final words of a serial killer whose "multimedia manifesto" served as a dagger in the hearts of 32 families who have lost loved ones. Weren't their sensibilities likely to be just a little bit more raw than Al Roker's? And yet, outrage from the employees forces a show with 400,000 daily viewers off the air, but the outrage of these families, and the community at Virginia Tech, just can't trump that fantastic ratings opportunity?

That's about as hypocritical as it gets.

Update: Just heard a clip of Rosie lecturing NBC News on their decision to air the footage (on Scarborough Country.) Talk about pot calling kettle. Rosie is the last person who should be smugly declaring what is and isn't permissable on the air.

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posted by JReid @ 9:10 PM  
Mind games
I suspect that trying to understand the mind of a serial killer is rather like trying to figure out the ingredients in a hot dog. You might be able to figure it out, but you probably don't want to know.

The media, and the psychiatric community is now pouring over the "multimedia manifesto" left behind by Cho Seung Hui, the VTech killer. Online, the hunt is still on for the derivation of the phrase "Ismail Ax," which was scrawled in red ink on one of his arms when he was found dead by suicide after the shooting.


One clue might be the package that was sent to NBC News, probably by Cho, between the first and second shootings. As BlogHero points out, it had an interesting return address:


So could we be reading the phrase backward? He appears to have made this second reference, not to "Ismail Ax" but to "A. Ishmael." I'm sure that will be the next highly googled phrase. Cho made references to "dying like Christ" in his video message.

More on the "manifesto" from NBC News:

It was mailed from Blacksburg at 9:01 a.m. the day of the shooting, minutes before he went on his second shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

What the nondescript package did contain was a printout of.pdf file titled “axishmiel”, a Cho’s 1,800-word manifesto broken up by the now famous photographs -- 43 total: 29 of them showing Cho with his weapons: the Glock 9mm automatic and the .22 caliber handgun as well as a hunting knife. But two images seemed incongruous: smiling portraits. The more appealing of the two was the first image shown in the manifesto. It was almost as if he wanted to show himself as non-threatening, as a good guy. Of the remaining 14, all but one were of the weapons, the other a photo of a blue sky.
NBC also delves into the timestamps, which say much about just how long this slaughter was planned:
But what was as revealing about the manifesto was the time and date the .pdf file was last modified: 7:24 a.m., April 16, minutes after he had shot and killed his first two victims, and nearly two hours before he went on his second rampage.

Beyond the .pdf file were two other files with time stamps hinting at just how long he had been thinking about the attacks: two Microsoft Word files, and a six-minute .avi file. The Word files were drafts of the two sections of the manifesto, which he had written earlier, one being last modified on April 13 at 3:45 p.m. and on April 15 at 8:22 a.m. The sole .avi file of him reading the manifesto, titled “letter1” was recorded even earlier, at 9:40 a.m. on April 10, a full six days before the massacre. ...
Back to "Ax Ismail," or "Ishmael," I did separate Google searches for Ax and Ishmael, and found one interesting thing. Cho was an english major, having switched from business. Wikipedia has the following on a book entitled "Ishmael," by Daniel Quinn:

The story begins with a newspaper ad: "Teacher seeks pupil, must have an earnest desire to save the world". A nameless character (who is identified in a later book as Alan Lomax) responds to the ad out of nostalgia. He seeks the teacher and finds himself in a room with a gorilla.

To the man's surprise he finds that the gorilla can communicate telepathically. At first baffled by this the man quickly learns the story of how the gorilla came to be this way and he accepts the gorilla, Ishmael, as his teacher. The novel continues from this point as a socratic dialogue between the man and Ishmael as they hash out what Ishmael refers to as "how things came to be this way" for mankind and the environment.

Ishmael begins by telling the man that his life, which began in the wild, was spent mostly in a zoo and a menagerie, and since had been spent in the gazebo of the man that extricated him from physical captivity. He tells his student that it was at the menagerie that he learned about human language and culture and began to think about things that he never would have pondered in the wild. Subsequently, Ishmael tells the man that his subject for this learning experience will be captivity, primarily the captivity of man under a civilizational system that forces him to exploit and destroy the world in order to live.

The narrator has a vague notion that he is living in some sort of captivity and being lied to in some way but he can not explain his feelings.

Ishmael uses the example of Nazi Germany as he attempts to show his student that the people of his culture are in much of the same situation. Either held captive with the mythology of being superior, or " an animal swept up in the stampede" of the captivity of those around them.

Before proceeding Ishmael lays some ground definitions for his student so they can be on the same page as they continue to discuss. He defines:

"Takers" as people often referred to as "civilized." Particularly, the culture born in an Agricultural Revolution that began about 10,000 years ago in the Near East; the culture of Ishmael's pupil "Leavers" as people of all other cultures; sometimes referred to as "primitive."

A "story" as an interrelation between the gods, man, and the Earth, with a beginning, middle, and end. To "enact" is to strive to make a story come true. A "culture" as a people who are enacting a story Ishmael proceeds to tease from his pupil the premises of the story being enacted by the Takers: that they are the pinnacle of evolution (or creation), that the world was made for man, and that man is here to conquer and rule the world. This rule is meant to bring about a paradise, as man increases his mastery of the world, however, he's always screwed it up because he is flawed. Man doesn't know how to live and never will because that knowledge is unobtainable. So, however hard he labors to save the world, he is just going to go on screwing it up.

Ishmael points out to his student that when the Takers decided there is something fundamentally wrong with humans, they took as evidence only their own culture's history- "They were looking at a half of one-percent of the evidence taken from a single culture-- Not a reasonable sample on which to base such a sweeping conclusion."

One more line:
Ishmael makes the point that this story of the Fall of Man, which the Takers have adopted as their own, was in fact developed by Leavers to explain the origin of the Takers. If it were of Taker origin, the story would be of liberating ascent, and instead of being forbidden to Adam, the fruit of the Tree would have been thrust upon him.
BTW, one expert is speculating that Cho was schizophrenic. Could he have internalized some fictional world, and manifest it in rage against the student body at Virginia Tech?

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posted by JReid @ 9:20 AM  
Quick take headlines: Maudlin Thursday
Baghdad faces its deadliest day since the start of the U.S. "surge." Somebody had better tell John McCain before he takes another stroll or says something stupid... The targets of the carnage were Shiits, this days after Moqtada al-Sadr pulled his people out of the Maliki government, after its failure to agree to a timetable on Iraq withdrawal.

Meanwhile, on this side of the world, Alberto Gonzales: It's your day! Gonzo's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee jumps off this afternoon. He's got a lot to answer for ...

Surprise! An anonymous group of Justice Department employees has blown the whistle on the Gonzo shop's political litmus tests for hiring. Unfortunately, this is hardly news coming out of this administration.
A former advisor to Ronald Reagan shreds the Bush administration on spending, adding that, he's not even sure Dubya and his father are blood relatives.

MSNBC takes full advantage of its Cho scoop, even as the chattering classes ask tough questions about whether to broadcast a clearly demented killer's manifesto, giving him the fame he sought.


TV Newser defends the network, and urges other members of the media to do the same. Some VTech family members are upset with the Peacock network. NBC faces the multimedia age.

Meanwhile, could a movie have influenced the VTech killer? Only because he was already sick...

Maybe it's part of the reaction to the massacre, but Florida has finally done something smart on gun control.

Art Teele, who famously killed himself in the lobby of the Miami Herald building, has been posthumously exonerated on at least one charge -- that he threatened a plain clothes police officer whom he thought was threatening his life. This was another case that caused the media to do a good bit of self-examination, not that it changed much that goes on in this 24 hour media environment.

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posted by JReid @ 7:49 AM  
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Ismail Ax
The blogosphere is buzzing with frenzied attempts to ferret out information about Cho Seung Hui, America's latest infamous mass murderer. Much of the focus currently is on the phrase "Ismail Ax," which Hui scrawled in red ink on his forearm sometime before he committed suicide by slaughter at Virginia Tech. That phrase is now a hit on Technorati, and I'm sure on Yahoo! and Google, too. News organizations are scrambling, too, even posting Facebook and MySpace pages trolling for information from anyone who might have known Hui. (The Chicago Tribune appears to have the hot hand at the moment...)

Surprise, surprise, the extremists on the right are taking this case to another (lower) level:
Right-wing reaction to the shootings: The National Review’s John Derbyshire asks, “[W]hy didn’t anyone rush the guy? It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake–one of them reportedly a .22.” Right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel speculated that Cho
Seung-Hui, “who had been identified at that point only as a man of Asian descent, might be a ‘Paki’ Muslim and part of ‘a coordinated terrorist attack.’”

Look, Debbie, I made an internal pledge never to mention you again on this blog, because, frankly, I think you're a blithering idiot, and I like to comfort myself with the notion that no one with any sense actually listens to you, but that comment just begs for a response. First of all, dear, Hui was a naturalized American citizen permanent resident who had been in this country for 15 years. He went to high school in the red state of Virginia (Centreville). If he learned how to be an Islamofascist terrorist, he learned it there, not in "Paki"stan. And by the way, that little slur is beneath even you. ... Or then again, maybe it's just your speed.

And as for the Derbyshires and Nathaniel Blakes of the right ring world, I picture you sitting there in your bow ties and specs, probably about 120 pounds soaking wet and with the only fight experience in your life being the several times a week you were beaten up in elementary school for your lunch money, and can't help but snicker at the idea that you are calling out the men of Virginia Tech.

Meanwhile, Europe takes a piece out of America's hide (sorry, Charlton Heston. They don't like you. They really don't like you.)

Also:

Eight years after Columbine, a familiar profile of a killer: angry, alone, depressed. Even his roommates didn't know him.

And Hui's parents are hospitalized, suffering from shock. But reports that they had attempted suicide are apparently untrue.

The gun shop owner feels badly. Well, I'm thinking that a clearly troubled 23-year-old. who would have had difficulty renting a car, should have gotten something more than an instant background check.

Barack Obama goes way, way, way out on a limb ... (Don Imus must be saying "damn! I thought this was going to be my week off!"

An Asian student at VTech goes online to clear his name.

And none other than The Smoking Gun, has Hui's writings.

Related: Ten states see campus threats. All of the schools involve respond with a novel idea: lockdowns.

And Tom Tancredo disputes the "worst school massacre" meme. We had a couple of callers to the morning show yesterday who angrily contested the "worst massacre in U.S. history" too, saying that massacres of Black residents in Oklahoma and Rosewood, Florida were worse. Question: does that really matter? The VTech massacre was bad, man, can we all agree on that?

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posted by JReid @ 6:48 AM  
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
VA Gunman unmasked
Who is Cho Seung-Hui? A 23-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, originally from South Korea. A student who lived in the dorms at Virginia Tech. And a cold blooded mass murderer.

Update: conspiracy theories are already starting to proliferate online, including the Second Gunman Theory ... and on our air this morning, the wacked out "this was a CIA black ops" theory. Seriously. Someone called in and said that.

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
Crazytown
Virginia Tech becomes the scene of carnage as a gunman, who apparently was a student at the university, shoots two people (apparently, his estranged girlfriend and a student advisor) in a dorm, and then goes berserk, two hours later, killing 30 people across campus at Norris Hall, where students were attending class. The gunman then shot himself.

This is a story of immense tragedy, but it also contains elements of true heroism, such as 75-year-old Liviu Librescu, an Israeli immigrant by way of Romania, who shielded students with his own body, giving students time to escape out a window in Norris Hall before he was fatally shot himself.

There are also stories of apparent incompetence. The shootings began sometime around 7:20, when the gunman, who has been identified only as a Chinese immigrant in his early twenties, shot and killed the girlfriend he was apparently quarreling with, along with 22-year-old Ryan Clark, a student and apparent dorm advisor who tried to break up the argument. The gunman waited two hours before making his way across campus to the classrooms at Norris Hall, where he chained the doors shut and systematically murdered 30 people, according to one report, lining some students up against a wall and executing them. Pannicked students scoured the Internet for information after getting emails from the campus administration that a gunman was loose on campus. Some jumped out of windows to escape. Others played dead. The police weren't called until 9:30, two hours after campus police responded to the dorm shootings.
I can't help but wonder where he got the two guns he used. Probably with ease at a local gun store, eh? (Time to turn America's college and high school campuses into gun free zones, wouldn't you say? And increased security and a better warning system would be nice...)

The shooting has put off Alberto Gonzales' turn in the hot seat, and President Bush will attend VTech's convocation today.

And on the campus, students are reacting with fury to the university's lack of action after the initial shootings, including the failure to make a public address system announcement that a gunman was on the loose:

"I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action
after the first incident," said Billy Bason, 18.
That sentiment is all over the Internet this morning ...

Update: ABC News is reporting that the gunman has been identified as "Seung Hui Cho, a permanent resident of the United States, a Korean national and a Virginia Tech student ..."

The student left a "disturbing note" before killing two people in a dorm room, returning to his own room to re-arm and entering a classroom building on the other side of campus to continue his rampage, sources said.

Cho's identitiy has been confirmed with a positive fingerprint match on the guns used in the rampage and with immigration materials. It is believed that he was the shooter in both incidents yesterday. Sources say Cho was carrying a backpack that contained receipts for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol, sources said. Witnesses had also told authorities that the shooter was carrying a backpack. Sections of chain similar to those used to lock the main doors at Norris Hall, the site of the second shooting that left 31 dead, were found inside a Virginia Tech dormitory, sources confirmed to ABC News.
I wonder when the beef began between Cho and his girlfriend. I wonder if it correllates with when he bought the gun... Also, he's not Chinese, he's Korean...

Update 2: Hours after the massacre at Va Tech, a bomb scare triggers an evacuation at the University of Tennessee.

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posted by JReid @ 7:00 AM  
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Quick take headlines: the Saturday not-so funnies
Jay Rockefellar actually does the job of Senate Intelligence Committee chair (a refreshing change from Pat Roberts, whose chosen role was more like pathetic White House toadie...) Rockefellar is raising important questions about whether the Whie House's high value detainee program (encompassing both renditions to secret CIA prisons and foreign countries known for torture, and Gitmo, apparently also known for toture...) should continue. Ironically, Congress is awaiting a rewrite of the White House's policy on the Geneva Conventions that will come in large part via the advice of Mr. Torture/prosecutor head chopper Albertcito Gonzales... yet another reason that he should go - any advice he gives will have little currency with the Dem controlled Congress.

Meanwhile, amid from EU demands that they be immediately freed, Iran is claiming that the 15 detained UK Royal Navy members (including one woman) have "confessed" to being in Iranian waters when they were captured and detained. The BBC reports the group are being "interrogated" but are "safe" according to Tehran officials. How stupid a move was this on the part of the Iranians? I'm guessing pretty damned stupid, given the tensions in the region being fanned by both Tehran and Washington. The British up to now have expressed no desire to join the U.S. in even entertaining the idea of attacking Iran. My guess is that this incident will help the hawks in the Bush administration to drag the Blairites closer to their point of view...

And this as the U.N. prepares to vote on possible sanctions against Iran for its continued nuclear program.

Another day, more carnage in Baghdad. I guess the surge isn't exactly working...

And the killed cricket coach controversy continues in Jamaica.

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posted by JReid @ 1:24 PM  
Friday, March 23, 2007
BREAKING: U.K. demands Iran return its sailors
From the BBC News:
Fifteen British Navy personnel have been captured at gunpoint by Iranian forces, the Ministry of Defence says.
The men were seized at 1030 local time when they boarded a boat in the Gulf, off the coast of Iraq, which they suspected was smuggling cars.

The Royal Navy said the men, who were on a routine patrol in Iraqi waters, were understood to be unharmed.

The Foreign Office has demanded the immediate and safe return of the men, who are based on HMS Cornwall.

The frigate's commander, Commodore Nick Lambert, said he was hoping there had been a "simple mistake" over territorial waters.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they [British personnel] were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may claim they were in Iranian territorial waters.

More on this development from the Independent UK:
The MoD said the incident happened at around 10.30am local time.

"The boarding party had completed a successful inspection of a merchant ship when they and their two boats were surrounded and escorted by Iranian vessels into Iranian territorial waters," a spokesman said.
Hopefully it's just a misunderstanding ... and not a dress rehearsal for another "coalition of the willing" ...

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posted by JReid @ 11:22 AM  
Quick take headlines: the Friday follies
Obama may be distancing himelf from the Hillary 1984 ad guy, but he can't really be all that unhappy about the incredibly viral ad, which was both well done and effective at communicating the "don't be a drone, Hillary's not the only choice" message the Obama campaign is trying to convey. Oh, and don't worry about the ad guy, whose actual name is Philip de Vellis. The spot was so good, he'll definitely get another job. Madison Avenue, here he comes!

I don't care what they say, I still believe in The Politico! Their latest buzz: it's not just the Democrats who are relishing the impending Gonzalesgate rumble...

Things pre-schoolers shouldn't do: eat paste ... use the microwave without adult assistance ... use cocaine...

Best headline of the day: Ship jumper: Yup, I was drinking

A murder mystery gives new meaning to the phrase "that's not cricket..."

... and Crazy Mel is at it again...

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posted by JReid @ 11:09 AM  
Monday, March 12, 2007
Quick take headlines, Monday, Monday
Subprime lender New Century Financial is on the brink of bankruptcy, as the housing bubble keeps leaking and ARM loans begin imploding...

The announcement about the announcement. One word to Chuck Hagel: "Huh???" I await the dirt on what REALLY happened to make him back down today. Desperate call from a fellow Vietnam vet, perhaps from the bathroom of the Straight Talk Express... perhaps...?

Meanwhile, Fred Thompson could bring something different to the party ... let's see... he's anti gay marriage, anti-abortion, and for Bush's escalation in Iraq, so it's not that ... hm ... oh, that's right, he's an actor! ... he's on "Law and Order," you know ... and he was that hillarious judge in "My Cousin Vinny!"

Meanwhile, the vigorousness of the Draft Fred movement ... okay, maybe "vigorousness" isn't a word, or an accurate description ... could be rooted in the fact that GOPers currently have no good choices in the primary beauty pageant. I mean, three adulterers, two nobodies and a Mormon flip-flopper isn't exactly a field of dreams...

Oh, and Rudy? This kind of thing is NOT going to help you. Just saying...

and THIS??? This is just going to KILL your cred, dude...

On the Dem side, Sharpton no likey Obama ... no likey at all...

On the international front, Iran no likey the movie 300, which by the way, is KILLING at the box office.

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posted by JReid @ 8:32 PM  
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Quick take headlines: Thursday follies
Goodbye, Mister. Three papers drop Ann Coulter's column.

Meanwhile, the new game among the denizens of the right in the wake of the Scooter Libby verdicts: attack the juror. According to the righties, Denis Collins has multiple conflicts of interest, having worked for the Washington Post and lived near Tim Russert. Unfortunately, you can't throw a rock in Washington D.C. without hitting somebody who has ties to government or the press.

Meanwhile, speaking of bias, another juror whinges to the New York Post that Libby should get himself a pardon.

So will Libby get his pardon? Robert Novak -- the man who started the Libby ball rolling by outing Valerie Plame in his column and then spilling his guts to the special prosecutor -- says if he gets it, it won't be until after the 2008 elections.

U.S. war games focus on a possible mass exodus from Cuba.

Apparently, conservative Republicans aren't enjoying Rudy Giuliani in his queenly visage.

John Edwards flips Fox News the bird. He will not participate in the August 14 Nevada Democratic Party debates hosted by the House of Bush.

From Raw: Poland's complicity in secret CIA prisons exposed.

And Salon exposes the shockingly high incidence of rape faced by female

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posted by JReid @ 9:33 AM  
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Quick take headlines: hazy Tuesday
The 17-year-old uncle of the two toddlers who were videotaped smoking weed has tried to justify his actions by telling reporters in Texas that, well, that's just the way they do it in the hood. Folks just give their kids weed like white people serve their toddlers beer. Well, alrighty then! Meanwhile, he and the mom, Shattoria Russell's mother is bemoaning the fact that the boys, aged 2 and 5, were taken from the home and put in state custody. And the mom? Well, she says her younger brother shouldn't have to do "hard time" and that her children should be returned to her. She was asleep in the other room while her brother, Demetris McCoy, and his apparent robbery partner, 18-year-old Vanswan Polty passed the blunts around to her kids -- apparently, she had a toothache -- and a 16-year-old friend videotaped. Nice.

And speaking of a toothache, who'd have thought a 12-year-old boy could die of an abcessed tooth in the United States of America in 2007. Who indeed.

And what sets off a crazy astronaut? Love mail, man. love mail.

Hey, if it's Tuesday, it must be time for another stupid comment from Rush Limbaugh!

And the atrocities of the Japanese during World War II are illustrated in stark, chilling fashion, by some of the soldiers themselves.

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posted by JReid @ 8:20 AM  
Monday, March 05, 2007
Girl talk, etc.
So why does no-talent wonder Antonella Barba get to stay on Idol while Frenchie, from years past, got the axe for HER near-nudie online pix? It's called Googlability, folks. Barba is commercial with a "capital K"... still, that hasn't stopped one activist from taking decisive action...

And is there someone even dumber than the Coltergeist? Yes ma'am, and her-m...'s name is Shamela. Meanwhile Slate explains why Mr. Coulter is the dude in a skirt who will not be ignored...

Yee-haw! Hillary is dog-gone Kentucky frahd ... in Selma! But is her fake southern accent more hilarious than Madonna's phony British twang? It's a tough call...

Now this is wierd ... a drill sergeant accused of forcing recruits to dress up like Superman and submit to sex acts ... yeesh...

And for "worst persons in the world" ... Israel and Iran, followed closely by the U.S. and North Korea. Well, at least we didn't top the list this time.

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posted by JReid @ 9:14 PM  
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Quick take headlines: Tuesday blues edition
BREAKING: Foxy Brown says she was dragged off the potty by The Man at that Pembroke Pines beauty shop. Film at 11.

A judge says, "now usually I don't do this but ... go ahead and color in the courtroom, killer pedophile..."

Antonella Barbara may not be able to sing worth a damn on "American Idol," but right now, she's the most famous Idol ever...!

Hugo Chavez pulls the plug on nearly a half dozen foreign oil co's.

Where have all the honeybees gone?

ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff is back, and he has a cause: telling the stories of wounded Iraq and Afghan war veterans.

For former Vice President Al Gore, it's Oscar! Oscar! Oscar!

Dubya and the governors spat over who should pay for child healthcare. Do the governors really want cheese-eating socialist universal healthcare? Pray, tell!

A member of the Scooter Libby jury is dismissed, but the deliberations go on. ... I wonder if it had anything to do with her refusing to wear a festive, pink shirt on Valentine's Day? And what about that alternate... hm???

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posted by JReid @ 9:20 AM  
Monday, February 26, 2007
Quick take headlines: Monday, Monday
America: You'll come for the Bush administration, you'll stay for the poverty.
A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line -- was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

Kentucky's deep poverty rate increased 26 percent from 2000 to 2005, adding 59,305 people to the ranks of the severely poor according to the study. Kentucky's poverty rate, 16.8 percent, and deep poverty rate, 7.1 percent, for 2005 are both higher than the national averages of 13.3 percent and 5.7 percent, respectively.

'Permanent underclass'

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind and the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty -- the highest rate since at least 1975. ...

Meanwhile, across the pond, the British government considers classifying an 8-year-old boy as abused, because his parents have allowed him to balloon to 14 stone -- that's 196 pounds in America-speak.

If you want to feel really bad about what's going on in Iraq, read this.

And how FUBAR is American foreign policy in this hemisphere? Colombia, on whom we've pinned all our hopes of avoiding a totally leftist region, turns to an old card that will be familiar to the Bushies: death squads.

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 AM  
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Vlad the impaler

When I was in high school, one of my favorite passtimes was reading Russian novels (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc. and yes, I read "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" -- I'm THAT nerdy... apparently, Russian novels are an interest I share with my ideological nemesis, Condi Rice...) Well now, there's a real life Russian novel playing out in real-life Russia, where as the Guardian reports, about a dozen of Vladimir Putin's enemies have mysteriously, ominously, turned up dead.

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posted by JReid @ 1:54 PM  
Quick take headlines, insomniac edition
Christian leaders begin to doubt their party of choice's presidential contenders...

Fidel's innermost thoughts from nearly fifty years ago revealed.

Hillary throws down the gauntlet on the subject of her husband's impeachment. Mention Monica in public at your own risk...

A new study finds that poverty has reached record numbers in the U.S. over the last six years:
The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line -- was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.
A bit more, if you can take it:
The Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that, in a given month, only 10 percent of severely poor Americans received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in 2003 -- the latest year available -- and that only 36 percent received food stamps.

One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more.

Lastly: is allowing your child to become fat a form of child abuse? That question is being asked in Britain in the case of the 14 stone boy:
AN eight-year-old boy who weighs 14 stone, more than three times the average for his age, may be taken into care if his mother fails to improve his diet.

Connor McCreaddie, from Wallsend, near Newcastle upon Tyne, has broken four beds and five bicycles. The family claims to have a history of intolerance to fruit or vegetables.

On Tuesday his mother and grandmother will attend a formal child protection conference to decide his future, which could lead to proceedings to take him into care.

Connor could be placed on the child protection register, along with victims of physical and sexual abuse, or on the less serious children in need register.

And speaking of abuse, that's what I'm doing to my brain right now. It's way past time to go to bed.

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posted by JReid @ 3:44 AM  
Friday, February 23, 2007
Quick take headlines: TGIF edition
Timothy McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, files an affidavit in a Utah inmate's death case, claiming that he and McVeigh had help planning the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City -- from a "high level FBI agent." Could Oklahoma City become a conspiracy theory magnet the likes of the JFK assassination? Time will tell.

The Bush administration's torture policy -- including sleep deprivation, administration of drugs like LSD and PCP, threats of execution and isolation -- finally drives Jose Padilla over the edge.

In Washington, Democrats are planning moves to revoke the authority the Congress foolishly and recklessly gave President Bush in 2002 to wage war "'as he determines to be necessary and appropriate ... to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq' and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions."

As Somalia continues to descend into chaos, the NYT has word that the U.S. used a base in neighboring Ethiopia to launch military strikes against suspected al-Qaida.

Condi Rice issues threats to Iran. ... real, serious, never gonna happen threats.

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posted by JReid @ 8:37 AM  
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Tomorrow's news today
The Senate moves us closer to a still pitiful, but higher, minimum wage...

Outgoing Iraq top general George Casey says the troop surge should be cut in half ... even as the Congressional Budget Office reveals that the actual size of Bush's troop surge could really be some 48,000 troops, once you count the support troops needed to back 21,500 combat forces.

Meanwhile, John McCain no likey Casey for new Army chief of staff...

And Fox "News" reports two Iraqi generals are suspected of aiding an attack on U.S. troops... surprise!

Number of U.S. levees at risk of failing, Katrina style: 122

Percentage of American men dealing with erectile dysfunctin: 18

Number of Harry Potter books left: 1

Chances of Rush Limbaugh's fat, drug-addled ass actually EVER getting a Nobel Peace Prize: 0 ... (chances these morons will eventually see the irony in some winger think tank trying to nominate El Rushbo: about the same...)

Mary Cheney says "I'm keeping my babay..."

Meanwhile, sorry fellas. Don't let the marriage flap from a couple years ago fool you. San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom is so very definitely, totally and completely not gay ... not by a longshot. Can we call him the male Angelina Jolie now?

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posted by JReid @ 8:34 PM  
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Quick take headlines, January 18
Another low in jock culture...

Another high for Obama... plus new polls on how Barack and Hillary stack up against Rudy and Bush's butler, John McCain... Meanwhile the Hotline's Chuck Todd says, "welcome to the O-C..."

Jury selection continues in the Scooter Libby trial...

AG "Torquemada" Gonzales says, um ... about that NSA spying without a warrant thing ... ways-out... Although some are asking what exactly has changed... well, here's one thing, with new management in town, the Bushies are apparently in retreat, at least in part:
Under pressure from Congress and the courts, Bush in the past six months has closed secret overseas CIA prisons, transferred previously unidentified detainees to regular military custody, negotiated congressional approval for tribunals to try foreign terrorism suspects and accepted at least some regulation of how harshly such prisoners could be interrogated.

Bush has hardly surrendered his effort to broadly define the commander in chief's authority to wage war in the modern era. Just last weekend, he and Vice President Cheney told Congress that it has no business trying to stop the president from sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq. But in other ways, Bush has engaged in a series of strategic fallbacks intended to preserve what authority he can while fending off escalating political and constitutional challenges.

"You can only be at odds with two-thirds of the people on a limited number of issues," said Jack Quinn, who was White House counsel under President Bill Clinton. "He has his back to the wall. He really has depleted his political capital and he simply can't afford to be at odds with most of us on a number of issues. He is conserving what limited political capital he has to see through this final effort on which he's embarked in Iraq."

Bush has backed off other confrontations with the new Democratic Congress as well, even as they square off over Iraq. He gave up efforts to confirm John R. Bolton to be permanent ambassador to the United Nations, offered qualified support for a Democratic move to raise the minimum wage, endorsed a Democratic goal of balancing the budget by 2012 and withdrew the nominations of four would-be judges bitterly opposed by Democrats.
And in another version of the same song here, comes the suggestion that Bush's big push for power may trigger the law of unintended consequences:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 — The Bush administration’s abrupt abandonment on Wednesday of its program to eavesdrop inside the United States without court approval is the latest in a series of concessions to Congress, the courts and public opinion that have dismantled major elements of its strategy to counter the terrorist threat.

In the aftermath of the 2001 attacks, President Bush asserted sweeping powers to conduct the hunt for operatives of Al Qaeda, the detention of suspects and their interrogation to uncover the next plot. But facing no new attack to justify emergency measures, as well as a series of losses in the courts and finally the Democratic sweep of the November election, Mr. Bush has had to retreat across the board.

“I think there’s no question that both politically and legally, the president has been chastened,” said Douglas W. Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University and generally a supporter of the administration’s interpretation of executive power.

Harold Hongju Koh, the dean of Yale Law School and a critic of the administration’s legal theories, said the president’s strategy might have provoked so strong a judicial and Congressional rebuff that it would ultimately accomplish the opposite of his goal. “I think historians will see it as an exorbitant and extreme theory of executive power that ended up weakening the presidency,” Mr. Koh said.
Welcome to the new world order, where the first branch of government has actual power and authority to check a runaway executive... actually, welcome to the old world order...

And while we're at TPMM, let's see what Arlen Specter has to say about his role in giving Bush more power...

Remember the Freedom Fries guy? He's making a bid to halt a Bush administration push for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is mocking the Bush administration again, saying Iran is ready to rumble...

The Missouri sicko pleads not guilty... meanwhile Missouri police now suspect him in the kidnaping of a third boy, who has never been heard from since... to heighten the creepy, the third missing boy, who disappeared back in 1991, reportedly bears a striking resemblance to Sean Hornbeck.

The I heart Hagel love-fest continues, as Hagel let's Dubya know, "This is not a monarchy, bitch..." okay, he didn't say the bitch part. But Hagel has co-sponsored a non-binding resolution in the Senate (with Joe Biden and Carl Levin) expressing disapproval of Bush's surge plan. (Of course, the non-binding part is a bit wimpy, given Hillary's new gambit to put teeth into Congressional oversight of the war by capping the number of American troops and putting stricter requirements on the money, and John Edwards calls any claim by Congress that they can do no better, total horse shit ... okay, he didn't say horse shit...) Meanwhile, Hillary's backing Hagel to the hilt, even as she pushes her own plan. (Another smart move.)

So who will win the showdown: Congressional Dems and their Republican allies, or the White House? I wouldn't bet on Bush right about now... even if he manages to begin his injection of additional troops, he will do so with the world knowing he lacks the confidence of the American people, and the Congress, and that will only speed the exit -- which is already underway -- by the so-called "coalition of the willing."

Meanwhile in Iraq, the Maliki government detains 40 Mahdi members as a show of force and will, and blames the U.S. for the mess that Iraq is in now.
And one columnist in Texas asks of the Maliki government, with friends like these Iraqis... who needs Iranians...?

And the Arab world continues to fume over the Saddam hanging fiasco.

Last but not least, Jimmy Carter continues to call for sanity and balance in the battle over Palestine. He'll be roundly slammed for it, but I, for one, agree with him.

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posted by JReid @ 9:55 AM  
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Quick take headlines, Wednesday
Slavery? This guy says "get over it..."

Cue the doomsday clock ...

Iran reportedly shoots down a U.S. spy drone... hm ... I wonder what Jack Bauer would do in this situation ... and who would he torture...?

The Pentagon's leading advocate for a Soviet-style government apologizes for calling on U.S. corporations to boycott law firms who provide pro bono counsel to Gitmo detainees.

And you want a surge? How about Afghanistan? Seems Bob Gates is considering it.


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posted by JReid @ 12:13 PM  
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The stage managing of the president
From an elucidating article from the WaPo:
FORT BENNING, Ga., Jan. 11 -- The pictures were just what the White House wanted: A teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to a slain war hero in the East Room, then flying here to join the chow line with camouflage-clad soldiers as some of them prepare to return to Iraq.

There are few places the president could go for an unreservedly enthusiastic reception the day after unveiling his decision to order 21,500 more troops to Iraq. A military base has usually been a reliable backdrop for the White House, and so Bush aides chose this venerable Army installation in western Georgia to promote his revised strategy to the nation while his Cabinet secretaries tried to sell it on Capitol Hill.

Assuring there would be no discordant notes here, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the base commander, banned the 300 soldiers who had lunch with the president from talking with reporters. If any of them harbored doubts about heading back to Iraq, many for the third time, they were kept silent.

"It's going to require sacrifice, and I appreciate the sacrifices our troops are willing to make," Bush told the troops. "Some units are going to have to deploy earlier than scheduled as a result of the decision I made. Some will remain deployed longer than originally anticipated."

Among those going early will be members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division based here. Theirs was the division that spearheaded the invasion into Iraq in March 2003 and captured Baghdad. They returned in 2005 and lost 34 troops. Now, instead of heading back in May or June, they will return to Iraq in March.

Soldiers being soldiers, those who met the commander in chief Thursday saluted smartly and applauded politely. But it was hardly the boisterous, rock-star reception Bush typically gets at military bases. During his lunchtime speech, the soldiers were attentive but quiet. Not counting introduction of dignitaries, Bush was interrupted by applause just three times in 30 minutes -- once when he talked about a previous Medal of Honor winner from Fort Benning, again when he pledged to win in Iraq and finally when he repeated his intention to expand the Army.

Bush's speech essentially repeated his address to the nation the night before, and he appeared a little listless as he talked. Aides said he was deliberately low-key to reflect the serious situation. Whether the audience was sobered by the new mission or responding to Bush's subdued tone was unclear, because reporters were ushered out as soon as his talk ended.

White House officials had promised reporters they could talk with soldiers. But that was not good enough for Wojdakowski. "The commanding general said he does not want media talking to soldiers today," spokeswoman Tracy Bailey said. "He wants the focus to be on the president's speech." Only hours later, after reporters complained, did the base offer to make selected soldiers available, but the White House plane was nearing departure. ...
Why the lack of enthusiasm? Try the endless deployments, which just got a bit more endless with Bush's speech, and with this announcement from the Pentagon:
The Pentagon has abandoned its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty, officials said Thursday, a major change that reflects an Army stretched thin by longer-than-expected combat in Iraq.

The day after President Bush announced his plan for a deeper U.S. military commitment in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters the change in reserve policy would have been made anyway because active-duty troops already were getting too little time between their combat tours. ...
Meanwhile, Fineman has truly fallen out of love. His online commentary says Bush looked like a scared rabbit during his speechie.



Actually, he looks like he could use a drink...

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posted by JReid @ 9:26 PM  
Quick take headlines, Thursday, January 11
Pretty Harry's got a brand enw bag.

The Bushies are apparently spoiling for a fight with Iran:
U.S. troops raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq late Wednesday night and detained several people, Iran's main news agency reported today, prompting protests from Tehran just hours after President Bush pledged to crack down on the Islamic Republic's role in Iraqi violence.

Iran released news of the raid through its Islamic Republic News Agency in a dispatch that was broadly critical of Bush's plan to deploy about 21,500 more troops to Iraq.

The IRNA report said that U.S. forces entered the Iranian consulate in Irbil, in Iraq's Kurdish-dominated north, and seized computers, documents and other items. The report said five staff members were taken into custody.

The Iranian foreign ministry appealed to the Iraqi government to obtain the release of its personnel.

U.S. officials have not confirmed the raid, but did say that they had taken six people into custody in Irbil during the course of "routine security operations."
Great.

Coming to America: David Beckham!!!

Trump is right. Barbara Walters is a duplicitous wench. She now is pretending to just wuv Rosie O'Donnell. Earth to Babs: nobody loves Rosie O'Donnell.

And Trump ain't through, baby!

Meanwhile, two men got into a gun fight over ... wait for it ... the height of the late Godfather of Soul James Brown.

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posted by JReid @ 10:23 AM  
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Bush rolls the dice

Well, President Bush has given his speech (full text here), and as far as I'm concerned, he made only one piece of news: he acknowledged moving an additional carrier group into the Persian Gulf to essentially stare down Iran, which Bush tonight accused, along with Syria, of funding, training, and supplying Shiite insurgents inside Iraq. Bush, tonight, has delivered the coup de grace to the apparent waste of time that was the Iraq Study Group. There will be no detente with Iran, only threats, that involve stopping them from getting their "nucular" materiel, and waiting with a hair trigger for them to step out of line in Iraq. The only recommendation from the ISG that has gone into his "new" strategy is to embed American forces with Iraqi units, who he claims are preparing to filter through Baghdad afresh, going from house to house to "regain the confidence of the Iraqi people."

Here's the problem: U.S. forces don't quite trust those Iraqi forces, which Larry Korb from the Center for American Progress just pointed out to me by telephone, aren't multi-sectarian: they're either Shiite regiments or Sunni, and more than a few Americans have suspected some of them of taking part in the ethnic cleansing that's tearing Iraq apart. So we're going to filter about 16,000 troops into these units, with another 4,000 additional troops going to Anbar Province, which Bush tonight called the "most violence province in Iraq outside of Baghdad." So, what can 4,000 troops do in the second most violent province in Iraq? Dr. Korb and I agreed on this one: not much.

And since our force level in Iraq is now at around 135,000, adding 21,000 more bumps it up to 156,000, and guess what folks, we've been there before, and even at higher troops levels. It didn't work then, it won't work now.

So what were the highlights of Bush's tete a tete with America?

9:01 - Bush blames al-Qaida for fomenting the initial violence in Iraq ... in 2006! So what was going on before then, Dubya? And by the way, THERE WAS NO AL-QAIDA IN IRAQ BEFORE WE INVADED. Ah, memories...

Bush links Iran and Syria to Shiite mess-making.

Bush says that mistakes were made, including not sending enough troops in initially, and says "the responsibility for the mistakes lies with me."

9:04 - Bush gets in the obligatory 9/11 reference. Earth to Bush: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11...

Bush also claimed that 80 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq is taking place within 30 miles of Baghdad -- hence, the need to pour on the troop numbers there.

9:05 - Bush says the initial strategy failed because of too few troops, and too many restrictions on the ones who were there. Later in the speech, he says the Iraqi government, led by the untrustworthy (my word) Mr. Maliki, has agreed to turn the U.S. GI's loose, with no restrictions on entering sectarian neighborhoods. Well that oughta endear us to the natives...


Bush says the Iraq government will appoint some new military commandersand such, and deploy 18 brigades of military police types across the 9 districts in Baghdad, apparently with embedded American troops therein. The total U.S. troop commitment Bush is looking for amounts to more than 20,000 troops, including, as mentioned before, 4,000 for Anbar Province. (Even the neocons and their new king, John McCain, acknowledge that if you're surgin', 20,000 ain't enough. But as Dr. Korb just pointed out to me, we haven't got more than the 20,000 Bush is calling for, if we even have that many...)

Bush claims that what's new here (recall, this would be about our third bite at the surge apple,) is that U.S. troops will be unfettered by "political" restrictions, and they'll have the forces necessary to "clear and hold" areas of the city. I guess we'll just have to lean on the Lord for hope there.

9:08 - Bush says he has told Mr. Maliki that the U.S. commitment in Iraq is "not open ended," and that if the Iraqis don't play ball, they'll "lose the support of the American people..." Um ... Mr. Bush ... there IS no more support from the American people.

Bush says that "reducing ther violence in Iraq will make reconciliation possible," and that the U.S. will "hold the Iraqis" to his magic benchmarks." Goodie!

9:10 - You knew this was coming. Bush said the U.S. will give commanders on the ground more flexibility to spend reconstruction funds, and .. he plans to DOUBLE the number of so-called "reconstruction teams" (read civilian contractors) who will teach those poor buggers in Iraq how to run their oil economy and rebuild the country we f---ed up for them.

9:13 - Bush claims that a captured document proves that al-Qaida is seeking to create a new base in Iraq's Anbar province. So, 4,000 troops are going to clean that up? Fabulous!

9:13 - this was the point where Bush essentially threw out the threat to Iran, and secondarily to Syria. We're steaming into the Gulf, bitches. And we're tagging you for every Shiite-led attack on Iraqis and Americans. Boo!

Meanwhile, on Friday, Bushie is sending his gal pal Condi to the region to ... um ... well, it's probably mostly for a photo op, or to mollify that puffter Tony Blair. Oh, Palestine, Israeli crisis, moan, moan, moan...!

Big finish - Bush gravely warns the American people that "the terrorists" will make the next year a bloody, violent one. "We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties." He says that "victory in Iraq will not look like the wars our fathers fought. ... there will be no surrender on a battlefield" or some such malarky. No shit, Sherlock. In fact, there likely will be no victory at all.

And Bush warns that those who are looking for a withdrawal from Iraq would need to tell us what happens next. Says Bush, if we were to break for the exits, the Iraqi government would collapse, and it would be deep doo-doo for the region. He appeared to be trying to put not just Democrats and renegade Republicans on the spot, but also the named governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, who have been cold comfort for him during the long, strange crapshoot in Iraq.

Oh, and there's going to be a new "bi-partisan working group" on "winning the war on terror." And guess who's going to be on board? Well, here's a hint: he's the only member of Congress mentioned by name tonight in Bush's speech, he used to be Democrat, thinks Dubya is a "great leader", and it's someone the Prez has been known to smooch from time to time.

If I'm a Connecticut Democrat, I'm feeling like quite the dumbass tonight. And I'm thinking recall...

Related: Interesting note, the Dems rolled out Barack Obama to the chat shows (Larry King Live and MSNBC) to respond to Bush's speechie. I know Hillary must just want to choke him...

Related 2: Dems, and many Republicans are on the record with their disdain for the president's plan.

Update, 10:16: On Scarborough, Lawrence O'Donnell just pointed out that in New York City tonight, there are 45,000 police on patrol. So adding less than half that number to Baghdad is almost completely meaningless...

Update: Sam Brownback, the conservative Republican who's also running for president, jumps ship

ABC News repots Bush isn't waiting for Congress. His surge is already under way ... Meanwhile, while Bush escalates, the British are cutting bait.

10:27 update: Hillary Clinton has issued a statement opposing the troop surge. It has begun in earnest. As Pat Buchanan says, the right position on Iraq is anti-war.

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Quick take headlines
Sharpton for president?

Jason Kidd socks his spouse in the eye ... legally...

James Brown is cooling his heels at his home, rather than in the grave...

SMU may not be so thrilled about housing Dubya's library.

What happened in Somalia? Accounts differ...

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posted by JReid @ 11:04 AM  
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Quick take headlines, Tuesday
The U.S. wags the dog hits al-Qaida targets in Somalia, a day ahead of Dubya's "stay the course, only better!" speech.

And how are those poll numbers looking, Dubya?

Meanwhile, the Dems are still muddling over how to stop the president, or whether to stop him at all...

Speaking of the speech, it appears it was crafted, along with the strategy that goes with it is your resident nut-job, who once wanted to go to war with North Korea.

There's new Saddam death video...

First up on the oversight hot plate: Condi Rice.

Geraldo is eventually going to get his sorry ass kicked by Keith Olbermann.

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posted by JReid @ 10:10 AM  
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Quick take headlines, January 4th
Guess who thinks he can read your mail!!!

PresidentSenator Hillary Clinton gets in touch with her inner Obama as she plots her course back to the White House...

Democrats are weighing what to do about Iraq, and whether to stop Bush, or enable him.

Meanwhile, McClatchy's Washington bureau reports that Bush's troop bump may not be all it's cracked up to be:
WASHINGTON - President Bush plans to order extra U.S. troops to Iraq as part of a new push to secure Baghdad, but in smaller numbers than previously reported, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The president, who is completing a lengthy review of Iraq policy, is considering dispatching three to four U.S. combat brigades to Iraq, or no more than 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops, the officials said. Bush is expected to announce his decision next week.

Typically, a combat brigade comprises about 3,500 combat troops and more than 1,000 support personnel.

"Instead of a surge, it is a bump," said a State Department official. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because Bush hasn't yet unveiled details of what the White House is calling a "new way forward" in Iraq.

Bush had been considering proposals to send a much larger contingent into Baghdad -- as many as 30,000-40,000 soldiers and Marines.

Some experts doubt that the smaller deployment would be sufficient to halt Iraq's escalating civil war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
Ya think???
To marshal even 15,000 to 20,000 additional troops, Bush would have to accelerate the return of some units to the battlefield, cutting their time to train between deployments.

Advocates of a "surge" in U.S. troop levels have argued that to be effective in halting the violence, the United States would have to send a significant number of troops for an extended period of time.

Frederick W. Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy research center, recently briefed the White House on his plan to send 32,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Baghdad and volatile Anbar province. The troops would remain in Iraq for 18 months.

On Wednesday, Kagan cautioned against over-interpreting the number of troops being sent. More important, he said, is the number of individual combat brigades and battalions sent to Iraq and how they're deployed.

The State Department official said that, even at this late juncture, administration officials are debating what the extra troops would do.
So the neocons still in charge of U.S. policy want a full-on escalation, but Team Bush hasn't even gotten straight what the extra forces would do? Priceless... And what happens if we surge and it doesn't work, Mr. Kagan? ... hm....

On another matter not directly related to the McCain doctrine:
“I think the fence is least effective. But I’ll build the goddamned fence if they want it.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), on supporting a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border to placate anti-immigrant hardliners. Via ThinkP.
Nice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... John "Death Squad" Negroponte is stepping down as DNI in order to head over to State. What's that about?

Via RawStory and the Legal Times, was Justice Rehnquist a drug addict, in the Limbaugh sense of the word?

The Pentagon wants to make science .cool. Hope it works.

And Obama, Osama, tomato, tomahto... you know...

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posted by JReid @ 10:14 AM  
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Quick take headlines, Tuesday, Janurary 2
The Denver Broncos loose far more than a playoff berth.

Dubya is eulogizing Gerald Ford today, then he'll start gearing up for how to break it to the American people that he's going to escalate the war in Iraq. Not that his fellow Republicans are down for it.

Then there's word from CNN that the U.S. reportedly sought to delay the execution of Saddam Hussein for a few weeks ... to time it for George W. Bush's state of the union speech ... er ... to prevent it looking like the latest Shia revenge killing.

Bring out the nut jobs ... they're seeing UFOs in Chi-town...

Rudy's battle plans revealed... and HE calls it a dirty trick! Ha!

Goode ... still bad.

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posted by JReid @ 10:41 AM  
Friday, December 29, 2006
Saddam Hussein executed in Iraq

CNN is reporting, based on news reports in Arab media, that Saddam Hussein was hanged shortly after 10 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. At this point the reports are unconfirmed, but Iraqi TV is reportedly broadcasting that information to the citizens there. I guess Bush won't get his State of the Union split screen after all...

Although the U.S. has taken pains to distance itself from the event, so that it doesn't look like it's being carried out by mere viceroys (good luck convincing the Muslim world of that...) there was a bizarre twist at the last minute, with Hussein's lawyers appealing in U.S. district court to try and stay the handover of the former dictator from U.S. to Iraqi custody. There's a lot of rich irony in this paragraph from a Bloomberg account:
Gilman told the judge that Hussein is petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus to force the U.S. government to let him argue that his rights are being violated.
I guess Hussein's lawyers didn't realize that in the Bush era, the U.S. doesn't do habeas corpus ... sort of like a certain dictator we know...



10:33 update: CNN now reporting that Iraqi state run TV is confirming that Hussein is dead. His half-brother and intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad Ahmed al-Bandar, who was chairman of the Revolutionary Court that ordered 148 Shiite villagers in the village of Dujail, north of Baghdad in 1982, after an assassination attempt there, also are (or already have been) on the gallows. I can't help but wonder if it's significant that Hussein was hanged on the day of the high point of the Muslim Hajj (he wasn't exactly a model Muslim, though not surprisingly, he seemed to find religion at the end...)

True to form for our violent little duchy in the desert, Iraqi state run television couldn't even get the scoop on the Hussein execution -- that honor went to U.S.-run al-Hurrah TV, the Bush administration, and outfits like CNN (which broke the story first.) The BBC concurs that the U.S. trying to portray this as a purely Iraqi event, but it appears that story isn't going to be quite believable. More on that and reax from London here. This reaction is typical:
Kamil Mahdi, Iraqi expatriate, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter university

Quite honestly, I don't think much of it any more, given what's happening in Iraq. It will be taken as an American decision. The worst thing is that it's an issue which, in an ideal situation, should have unified Iraq but the Americans have succeeded in dividing the Iraqis.
Iraqi Shiites and Kurds will no doubt rejoice at the execution of their tormentor, who ran Iraq like his own private fear factory. Sunni reaction, both in Iraq, and around the world, remains to be seen.

...so, by the way, does the videotape. And I suppose Dubya will make some sort of sober sounding statement, as soon as he and Laura and the puppies are through hiding in the armored car from that tornado alert in Texas... (ahem) But will Bush benefit from Saddam's offing? signs point to no, according to John Zogby and other analysts, unless Iraq is somehow magically pacified, stat.

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posted by JReid @ 10:19 PM  
Quick takes for Friday, December 29
Tomi Rae says she's James Brown's wife... the fourth wife, that is... and adds more meat to the matter of just why she want the keys to the padlock on the Godfather of Soul's home...

Duke rape prosecutor Mark Nifong gets a smack from the North Carolina Bar. The Smoking Gun has the docs.

Saddam Hussein's death appears to be imminent and that his death by hanging will likely be videotaped. In fact, the U.S. may hand the former Iraqi dictator over to Iraqis as early as today. Assuming he survives long enough to make it to the gallows, the execution could take place in days, weeks, or maybe on Dubya's State of the Union speech day!

Ford, Nixon were BFFs... And Ford's pardon of Nixon may not have been the bald escape from justice that some have judged it to be:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 — President Gerald R. Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, “carries an imputation of guilt,” and acceptance of a pardon is “a confession of it.”

Mr. Ford’s decision to pardon Richard M. Nixon for any crimes he might have been charged with because of Watergate is seen by many historians as the central event of his 896-day presidency. It also appears to have left him with an uncharacteristic need for self-justification, though friends say he never wavered in his insistence that the pardon was a wise and necessary act and that it had not resulted from any secret deal with his disgraced predecessor.

“I must have talked to him 20 times about the pardon, and there was never a shred of doubt that he’d done the right thing,” said James Cannon, a Ford domestic policy adviser and author of a 1994 book about his presidency. During one of their discussions, Mr. Ford pulled out the 1915 clipping, from Burdick v. United States. “It was a comfort to him,” Mr. Cannon said. “It was legal justification that he was right.”

Over the last three decades, as emotions have cooled, many who were initially critical of the pardon have come to share Mr. Ford’s judgment that it was the best way to stanch the open wound of Watergate. In 2001, a bipartisan panel selected Mr. Ford as recipient of the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library, singling out for praise his pardon decision, which Mr. Ford later said he believed was a major factor in his failure to win election to the presidency in 1976.

In a 2004 interview with Bob Woodward, reported Thursday night on The Washington Post’s Web site, Mr. Ford offered another, less lofty motive for the pardon: his friendship with Nixon, which lasted for two decades after the pardon and which letters show was closer than publicly understood.

“I had no hesitancy about granting the pardon,” Mr. Ford told Mr. Woodward, “because I felt that we had this relationship and that I didn’t want to see my real friend have the stigma.”

Few dramas in American political history remain more riveting than that of Nixon’s exit and Mr. Ford’s reaction, at first halting and then decisive, to the looming possibility of a former president on criminal trial for months on end.

“At the time, I thought this was going to cause a problem with the public and the press, and of course it did,” said Robert T. Hartmann, a former Ford aide. “I thought he was right. But it’s also important to be seen as right and remembered in history as having done the right thing.”
Meanwhile, here's an interesting picture, from the Times today:


hmm....

Welcome back to Mogadishu...

Someday we may find out what Bush's new strategy on Iraq will be...

And I don't care what the FDA says, I'm not eating cloned animal food...

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Death of the 'accidental' president

Gerald Ford has died at 93 years of age. He was the longest living ex-president, and the only president to serve, never having been elected (Bush's 2000 "election" notwithstanding...) Whatever the hallmarks of his tenure (those images of the last choppers rising away from a desperate Saigon as Ford brought an end to the tragic Vietnam war, the Helsinki accords, surviving not one, but two assassination attempts -- ironic as he was a member of the Warren Commission -- being the first "Saturday Night Live" president, and making Chevy Chase a star, and his being among the last of a dying breed of relatively moderate Republicans. ... oh an add one more: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ... may he live to torment the wackadoo right for many years to come... and yeah, gifting the world with the public careers George H.W. Bush, his CIA director, Don Rumsfeld, his SecDef, and ... yeesh ... then Chief of Staff Dick Cheney...) he will forever be known for his most controversial decision: the "full, free and absolute pardon" of Richard M. Nixon on September 8, 1974, avoiding what could have been a savage and ugly court battle. (read the full text of the pardon without commentary here.)



Ford defended the pardon to the end, and many historians agree with him, that like Lincoln after the Civil War, Ford chose the path of national healing. After Watergate, Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, the civil rights struggles and more, America was an exhausted, beaten down, angry nation, desperately in need of healing. And Gerald Ford was the healer in chief. Maybe the historians have a point, though the questions, about whether there were back-room deals with Alexander Haig, or with party leaders, or with Nixon himself, will always linger over the pardon, along with the unrequited yearning for Nixon's confession of guilt (he claimed until the end, to have been impeached because he "lost political support...")

Although, there is something to the argument that Nixon should have been made to answer for his crimes, and give the country their catharsis that way. But given how bitterly divided we were then, and the 30 year outgrowth of partisan hatred and retribution that followed the pardon (including the "revenge impeachment" of Bill Clinton by hysterical, ultra-partisan Republicans in Congress), imagine the civil war that would have erupted between Democrats and Republicans had Nixon been clapped in irons. (More on Ford's "fast, clean start" here)

I guess it's a question for history. Ford, for his part, is now at rest. (Image credit: Portrait.kaar.at)

Links: What Bush can learn from Ford

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posted by JReid @ 6:23 PM  
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The big payback?
You knew there was going to be some big drama in the wake of James Brown's death, as if passing away on Christmas Day after breathing "I'm going away now" in a hospital bed, following a diagnosis of walking pneumonia at the dentist's office wasn't dramatic enough... So here it is:

James Brown had a girl right up until the end of his life. His children from previous unions and their attorney have allegedly locked the woman, backup dancer Tomi Rae Hynie, out of the home she shared with The Godfather of Soul and their five year old child.
Padlocked, that is...

Brown's lawyer Buddy Dallas told The Associated Press. "I have not even been in the house, nor will I until appropriate protocol is followed." He also stated on Tuesday that the late singer and Tomi Rae were not legally married and that she was locked out of his South Carolina home for estate legal reasons.

Apparently Tomi Rae Hynie was already married to a Texas man in 2001 when she married Brown according to the attorney, making her marriage to Brown illegal, attorney Dallas said. He said Hynie later annulled the previous marriage, but she and Brown never remarried.
Doh!

"I suppose it would mean she was, from time to time, a guest in Mr. Brown's home," Dallas said.

On Monday, the 73-year-old Brown died at an Atlanta hospital, and Hynie, 36, discovered that the gates to their Beech Island, S.C., home was padlocked. Hynie claims to have a legal right to live in the home with the couple's 5-year-old son.

"This is my home," Hynie told a reporter outside the house. "I don't have any money. I don't have anywhere to go."

Attorney Dallas stated to the AP that Brown's estate was left in trust for his children. No further word was revealed on how the property was to be diviided.
However, there were strong indications it would not be divided with Ms. Hynie...

Dallas said Brown and Hynie had not seen each other for several weeks before his death. ...
(Sigh.) I'll tell ya there's no scorn like the scorn of the previous baby's mama's kids... Now, other news reports have said that Brown and Hynie split in 2003, taking out a very public ad saying so, and then supposedly remarried in 2004 (or planned to...) but this article throws that into question. And then there's this, from another wire service story:

Dallas said legal formalities need to be followed now, adding that Brown's estate was left in trust for his children. He declined to elaborate on Brown's final instructions.

“It's not intended and I hope not interpreted to be an act of unkindness or an act of a lack of sympathy,” Dallas said. “Ms. Hynie has a home a few blocks away from Mr. Brown's home where she resides periodically when she is not with Mr. Brown. She is not without housing or home.”
So which is it? Does she have nowhere to go or doesn't she? Curious. BTW the AP story above refers to Ms. Hynie as Brown's "partner" -- maybe it's a Cali thing. The first fire story, via Monsters and Critics, calls her his "common law wife."

Anyway, on a different note, here's the reax from Rev. Al Sharpton, who cited Brown as a semial influence.

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posted by JReid @ 3:20 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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