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Friday, December 30, 2005

couple of days off

don't want to lose your love,

but I need to unplug

until monday

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Digby says 

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Patrick Henry Democrats

by digby

As much as I appreciate all these Republicans offering us advice about how we are endangering our political prospects by not supporting NSA spying, I have to wonder if they really have our best interests at heart. I just get a teensy bit suspicious that it might not be sincere.

The truth is that I have no idea where the NSA spying scandal is going and neither do they. The Republicans would like it to go nowhere for obvious reasons and so they are trying to psych out timid Dems. What I do know is that the most important problem Democrats have is not national security; it's that nobody can figure out what we stand for. And when we waffle and whimper about things like this we validate that impression.

In Rick Perlstein's book, "The Stock Ticker and The Super Jumbo" he notes that many Democrats are still reeling from the repudiation of the party by the Reagan Democrats. And while they continue to worry about being too close to African Americans or being too rigid on abortion or too soft on national security, they don't realize what the most vivid impression people have of the Democrats is this:

"I think they lost their focus"
"I think they are a little disorganized right now"
"They need leadership"
"On the sidelines"
"fumbling"
"confused"
"losing"
"scared"


The reason people think this is because we are constantly calculating whether our principles are politically sellable (and we do it in front of god and everybody.) We've been having this little public encounter session for well over 20 years now and it's added up to a conclusion that we don't actually believe in anything at all.

Perhaps the NSA scandal is a political loser for Dems. We can't know that now. But it is a winner for us in the long term. We believe in civil liberties and civil rights. With economic fairness, they form the heart of our political philosophy. If this particular issue doesn't play well, that's too bad. People who believe in things sometimes have to be unpopular. Over time, they gain the respect of the people which is something we dearly need.

A party that is described as fumbling, confused and scared is unlikely to win elections even if they endorse the wholesale round-up of hippies and the nuking of Mecca. People will listen to us if we can first convince them that we know who we are and what we believe in.

I'm of the mind to adopt "give me liberty or give me death" as my personal motto. If I have to kowtow to a bunch of childish Republican panic artists who have deluded themselves into believing that fighting radical Islam requires turning America into a police state, then it's just not worth it.

afternoon idiocy 

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Congressional Free For All

WASHINGTON – The first session of the 109th Congress is over, but lawmakers and interest groups are still sorting out what surprises may have been buried in its final bills.

A clause added here or lifted there can shift the fortunes of whole industries and regions. Even insiders say it's tough to follow what's in, what's out, and why.


But even before the results are tallied, observers say it's been a bumper year for add-ons, especially in conference committees behind closed doors.

The year ended in a crush of tough negotiations, late-night votes, and hastily printed bills so vast that few lawmakers had time to read them. Early in the morning on Dec. 19, lawmakers got their first glimpse of the 774-page final version of a nearly $40 billion spending cut bill. The time? 1:12 a.m. House members had to vote on the measure just four and a half hours later.

"It's just one example of the increasing breakdown of any rules in the Congress," says Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a public interest group.

"More and more decisions are being made in closed-door conference meetings, where Democrats often aren't allowed. And there is no way to know what is going on often until after it has been passed," he adds.

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The creepy part is the overlap. Damned if they aren't still here, after all these years, the old Nixon hands -- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the whole gang whose yearning for authoritarian government rose like a stink over the Nixon years. Imperial executive. Bring back those special White House guard uniforms. Cheney, like some malignancy that cannot be killed off, back at the same old stand, pushing the same old crap. Of course, they tell us we have to be spied on for our own safety, so they can catch the terrorists who threaten us all. Thirty-five years ago, they nabbed a film star named Jean Seberg and a bunch of people running a free breakfast program for poor kids in Chicago. This time, they're onto the Quakers. We are not safer.

Same Clowns, Different Circus

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This is how dumb Americans are

Another 24% believe several of the 9/11 hijackers were Iraqis, according to the online poll of 1,961 adults.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

midweek article grab-must reads all of them 

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KIRKUK, Iraq - Passions run deep for the Arab and Kurdish soldiers who wear the Iraqi army uniform.

Kirkuk lies just a few miles from one of the nation's largest oil fields, worth billions of dollars. Arabs figure that the city's oil wealth should belong to Iraq, while ethnic Kurds see it as part of a future nation of Kurdistan.

"If the Kurds want to separate from Iraq it's OK, as long as they keep their present boundaries," said Sgt. Hazim Aziz, an Arab soldier who was stubbing out a cigarette in a barracks room. "But there can be no conversation about them taking Kirkuk. ... If it becomes a matter of fighting, then we will join any force that fights to keep Kirkuk. We will die to keep it."

Kurdish soldiers in the room seethed at the words.

"These soldiers do not know anything about Kirkuk," Capt. Ismail Mahmoud, a former member of the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, said as he got up angrily and walked out of the room. "There is no other choice. If Kirkuk does not become part of Kurdistan peacefully we will fight for 100 years to take it."

The next civil war

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During the last week, 94 U.S. soldiers were injured in Iraq in seven days, an average of just below 13.5 per day. This was a significant improvement on the 15.14 per day injured during the previous seven-day period. But it remained dramatically higher than the 74 wounded during the eight-day period before that, an average of 9.25 per day.


This is progress?

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Jing Soliman left his family in the Philippines for what sounded like a sure thing--a job as a warehouse worker at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. His new employer, Prime Projects International (PPI) of Dubai, is a major, but low-profile, subcontractor to Halliburton's multi-billion-dollar deal with the Pentagon to provide support services to U.S. forces.

But Soliman wouldn’t be making anything near the salaries-- starting $80,000 a year and often topping $100,000-- that Halliburton's engineering and construction unit, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) pays to the truck drivers, construction workers, office workers, and other laborers it recruits from the United States. Instead, the 35-year-old father of two anticipated $615 a month – including overtime. For a 40-hour work week, that would be just over $3 an hour. But for the 12-hour day, seven-day week that Soliman says was standard for him and many contractor employees in Iraq, he actually earned $1.56 an hour.

Halliburton Hires Slaves

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Telling it like it isn't
By Robert Fisk
ROBERT FISK is Middle East correspondent for the London Independent and the author, most recently, of "The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East," published last month by Knopf.

December 27, 2005

I FIRST REALIZED the enormous pressures on American journalists in the Middle East when I went some years ago to say goodbye to a colleague from the Boston Globe. I expressed my sorrow that he was leaving a region where he had obviously enjoyed reporting. I could save my sorrows for someone else, he said. One of the joys of leaving was that he would no longer have to alter the truth to suit his paper's more vociferous readers.

"I used to call the Israeli Likud Party 'right wing,' " he said. "But recently, my editors have been telling me not to use the phrase. A lot of our readers objected." And so now, I asked? "We just don't call it 'right wing' anymore."

Ouch. I knew at once that these "readers" were viewed at his newspaper as Israel's friends, but I also knew that the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu was as right wing as it had ever been.

This is only the tip of the semantic iceberg that has crashed into American journalism in the Middle East. Illegal Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land are clearly "colonies," and we used to call them that. I cannot trace the moment when we started using the word "settlements." But I can remember the moment around two years ago when the word "settlements" was replaced by "Jewish neighborhoods" — or even, in some cases, "outposts."

Similarly, "occupied" Palestinian land was softened in many American media reports into "disputed" Palestinian land — just after then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, in 2001, instructed U.S. embassies in the Middle East to refer to the West Bank as "disputed" rather than "occupied" territory.

Then there is the "wall," the massive concrete obstruction whose purpose, according to the Israeli authorities, is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from killing innocent Israelis. In this, it seems to have had some success. But it does not follow the line of Israel's 1967 border and cuts deeply into Arab land. And all too often these days, journalists call it a "fence" rather than a "wall." Or a "security barrier," which is what Israel prefers them to say. For some of its length, we are told, it is not a wall at all — so we cannot call it a "wall," even though the vast snake of concrete and steel that runs east of Jerusalem is higher than the old Berlin Wall.

The semantic effect of this journalistic obfuscation is clear. If Palestinian land is not occupied but merely part of a legal dispute that might be resolved in law courts or discussions over tea, then a Palestinian child who throws a stone at an Israeli soldier in this territory is clearly acting insanely.

If a Jewish colony built illegally on Arab land is simply a nice friendly "neighborhood," then any Palestinian who attacks it must be carrying out a mindless terrorist act.

And surely there is no reason to protest a "fence" or a "security barrier" — words that conjure up the fence around a garden or the gate arm at the entrance to a private housing complex.

For Palestinians to object violently to any of these phenomena thus marks them as a generically vicious people. By our use of language, we condemn them.

We follow these unwritten rules elsewhere in the region. American journalists frequently used the words of U.S. officials in the early days of the Iraqi insurgency — referring to those who attacked American troops as "rebels" or "terrorists" or "remnants" of the former regime. The language of the second U.S. pro-consul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, was taken up obediently — and grotesquely — by American journalists.

American television, meanwhile, continues to present war as a bloodless sandpit in which the horrors of conflict — the mutilated bodies of the victims of aerial bombing, torn apart in the desert by wild dogs — are kept off the screen. Editors in New York and London make sure that viewers' "sensitivities" don't suffer, that we don't indulge in the "pornography" of death (which is exactly what war is) or "dishonor" the dead whom we have just killed.

Our prudish video coverage makes war easier to support, and journalists long ago became complicit with governments in making conflict and death more acceptable to viewers. Television journalism has thus become a lethal adjunct to war.

Back in the old days, we used to believe — did we not? — that journalists should "tell it how it is." Read the great journalism of World War II and you'll see what I mean. The Ed Murrows and Richard Dimblebys, the Howard K. Smiths and Alan Moorheads didn't mince their words or change their descriptions or run mealy-mouthed from the truth because listeners or readers didn't want to know or preferred a different version.

So let's call a colony a colony, let's call occupation what it is, let's call a wall a wall. And maybe express the reality of war by showing that it represents not, primarily, victory or defeat, but the total failure of the human spirit.

No more journalism

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Bob Barr on Bush 

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Presidents all the same when scandal strikes



Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.

First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. If McLellan's last name had been McCurry, and the topic an illicit relationship with a White House intern rather than illegal spying on American citizens, I could have easily been listening to a White House news conference at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal.

On foreign policy, domestic issues, relationships with Congress, and even their selection of White House Christmas cards and china patterns, presidents are as different as night and day. But when caught with a hand in the cookie jar and their survival called into question, administrations circle the wagons, fall back on time-worn but often effective defense mechanisms, and seamlessly morph into one another.

First, we get a president bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali. He knows he can't really tell the truth and he knows he can't rely only on lies. The resulting dilemma leads him to veer from unintelligible muttering to attempts to distract, and then to chest-beating bravado and attacks on his accusers.

Soon, he begins taking trips abroad and appearing at the White House podium with foreign leaders with minimal command of English, allowing him to duck for cover whenever scandal questions arise.

Of course, the president can't carry the entire stonewalling burden alone. The next actors to enter the stage typically are the president's press secretary and the White House counsel's office. Serious scandals tend to spawn congressional investigations and independent counsels. As Clinton quickly learned, and Richard Nixon before him, the best way to short-circuit such endeavors is to force the investigators and lawyers to fight like dogs for every inch of ground they get.

By using the White House counsel's office to bury investigators in a sea of motions, pleadings and memoranda, an administration can drag out an investigation to the point of exhaustion. By the time the investigation actually slogs through this legal maze to bring real charges or issue a report, the courts, public and media are so sick and tired of hearing about it that the final charges fall stillborn from the press.

A critical component of White House Scandal Defense 101 is rallying the partisan base. This keeps approval ratings in territory where the wheels don't start falling off. The way to achieve this goal is you go negative and you don't let up. If you're always attacking your accusers, the debate becomes one of Democrat vs. Republican, rather than right vs. wrong. Anyone who questions the legality of the decision to wiretap thousands of Americans unlawfully is attacked, as either an enabler of terrorists or a bitter partisan trying to distract a president at war.

Yet another tactic is to shore up your congressional base in order to avoid or at least control pesky oversight investigations. A president's job here is made far easier if his party maintains a majority in one or both houses. Even if your party doesn't enjoy control of either the House or the Senate, you can still achieve your desired goal, as did Clinton — America's master scandal handler. You've just got to work harder at it.

The signs are everywhere that the Bush White House is busily implementing all parts of this defense strategy. It would be refreshing if it decided to clear the air and actually be honest about its post-Sept. 11 surveillance. However, that's unlikely. The problem this president faces, as did his predecessors, is that full disclosure would lead to the remedy stage. No president wants to fight that end-game.

— Former U.S. attorney and congressman Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta. His Web site: www.bobbarr.org

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Numb Nuts 

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Almost admitted that we send people to be tortured

James Wolcott Says 

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The dainty stench of burnt envy drew me to the comments section of Little Green Footballs, where I found my reputation and personhood under mass grubworm assault. I don't know you've ever ventured into the subterranean underworld that is LGF's comments section, but it's sort of like a disorganized Nuremberg Rally, a lot of angry ruffians with nowhere to go lacking something better to do.

The catalyst for this impromptu rally was my clinical diagnosis of Daniel Pipes as "a patronizing little shit," which seemed to displease the footballers, not that any of them bothered to acquaint themselves with the causus belli (Pipes' pipsqueak character smear of Muhammed Ali). Then again, the poor dears don't seem to know the difference between an ocelot and an ocicat, another indictment of the limitations of home schooling.

This one sentence amid all that writhing distemper leapt out at me:

"May he [i.e., me] be kidnapped by 'insurgents' in Iraq then appear on an ugly net broadcast. I wonder, if in the moment before the knife started sawing into his fleashy neck if he might rethink his opinions on the GWOT."

He later corrected the spelling to "fleshy," lest anyone think I possess a flashy neck.

This sentence leapt out not only because it was directed at yours truly but because it fits a pattern of measel spots I've discerned.

More and more the rightwing militant "anti-idiotarians" (as they deludedly think of themselves)have been relishing the prospect of antiwar figures undergoing the Daniel Pearl treatment. They keep bringing it up as the retribution that'll deliver certain choice heads on a platter. In a sick irony, Daniel Pearl's marytrdom has provided a negative inspiration to certain super patriots professing to fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

For example, Anna Benson, the bodacious wife of a Mets pitcher, recently burst her bodice giving full lusty cry to an aria painting the glorious prospect of Michael Moore's neck being used as a log.

"You are a selfish, pathetic excuse for an American, and you can take your big fat ass over to Iraq and get your pig head cut off and stuck on a pig pole. Then, you can have your equally as fat wife make a documentary about how loudly you squealed while terrorists were cutting through all the blubber and chins to get that 40 pound head off of you."

And just this morning, the day after Christmas and the second day of Hannukah, blogdom's zestiest Zionist party girl elevated the discourse by dismissing the concerns of legal scholars perturbed about Bush's domestic spying thusly:

"Someone ought to tlell those legal scholars not to worry.......it's smooth sailing once those Radical Islmonazis saw through their jugulars."

(Her excitable italics.)

Civilized people were appalled, disgusted, and sobered by the vicious execution of Daniel Pearl, and the beheadings that followed. But many of the warbloggers are not civilized people. It is clear that despite their sincere protestations of horror, rage, and pity, the execution of Daniel Pearl aroused them on some primitive, subconscious level. They got off on it. It functioned as death porn to their seething, frustrated psyches. (Frustrated, because the war in Iraq simply hasn't gone the way they thought it would or should. They have been denied the glorious clearcut victory they craved.) The beheading ritual tapped into their sadistic impulses, and excited their own fantasies of torturing their foes. When rightwing bloggers and posters conjure that under Islam, Democrats--which they've come to call dhimmicrats--will get what's coming to them (i.e., the business end of a butcher's blade), it's as if it's a horrible fate that couldn't possibly happen to them*--because it's a death wish directed outward. The Islamic terrorists serve as proxies and stand-ins in this imaginary theater of cruelty, enacting what they (the warbloggers) would like to mete out to us (their domestic adversaries). Sometimes the punishment they seek is more Jacobean, as when Michael Fumento greeted Cindy Sheehan's threat to tie herself to the fence in Crawford, Texas to protest the 2000th military death in Iraq with the sentiment, Good, let her lash herself to the fence: "Leave her there and maybe the crows will do the world a favor and eat her tongue out."

It's no accident that it is the rightwing bloggers and pundits who have been avid about defending the use of torture against suspected terrorists. Nor is it an accident that many of them pooh-poohed Abu Ghraib, sluffing it off as no more harmless than fraternity hazing. But what their decapitation odes reveal is that what they'd really like to do is permit torture closer to home. Domesticate it. Trivialize it. Completely destigmatize it as a tool of the state.

I don't worry about this being actually implemented, though I worry fractionally more every day. I'm interested in it more as a pathological rash afflicting the more rabid warbloggers. It's a sign of impotence, this lurid fury of theirs. It bugs the hell out of them that those of us who opposed the war have turned out to be right. It thwarts the hell out of them that Ward Churchill still has tenure, that they couldn't convict Sami Al-Arian down in Florida, and that their latest purple-finger festival fizzled out so soon. If postwar Iraq swirls down the drain, they'll be looking for someone to blame, and since they never blame themselves for anything (a bedrock neoconservative trait), they leaves nobody here but us chickens. I dread to think of the imaginary punishments they'll devise for us appeasers, turncoats, and traitors; I'm sure they'll be quite vivid. I may have to quarantine myself from these sites to preserve my serene disposition.

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fools 

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The Keystone Cops

MILAN -- The trick is known to just about every small-time crook in the cellular age: If you don't want police to know where you are, take the battery out of your cell phone when you're not using it.

Had that trick been taught at the CIA's rural Virginia training school for covert operatives, the Bush administration might have avoided much of the crisis in Europe over the practice the CIA calls "rendition."

When CIA operatives assembled here nearly three years ago to abduct an Egyptian-born Muslim preacher named Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, and "render" him to Cairo, they left their cell phone batteries in.

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Monday, December 26, 2005

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin 


Day After Holiday Season 

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Nuclear Monitoring of Muslims Done Without Search Warrants

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Fear destroys what bin Laden could not



ROBERT STEINBACK
rsteinback@MiamiHerald.com

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.

What is there to say now?

All of these things have happened. And yet a large portion of this country appears more concerned that saying ''Happy Holidays'' could be a disguised attack on Christianity.

I evidently have a lot poorer insight regarding America's character than I once believed, because I would have expected such actions to provoke -- speaking metaphorically now -- mobs with pitchforks and torches at the White House gate. I would have expected proud defiance of anyone who would suggest that a mere terrorist threat could send this country into spasms of despair and fright so profound that we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance and perfidy a privilege.

Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to ``protect us.''

President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people.

Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, ``What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?''

Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference to the ''war on terror'' -- a war, it should be pointed out, that can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or it will strike again.

Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights.

Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we?


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The Curious Section 126 of the Patriot Act

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What is it that the National Security Agency began doing after 9/11 that necessitated Presidential authorization for warantless surveillance?

We have all learned in the past week that the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act of 1978 contains provisions that allow the government to conduct quick reaction surveillance of an individual and go to the court afterwards for a warrant.

So what would the NSA need to do that isn't covered by the provisions of FISA?

My guess is the government decided after 9/11 to monitor everyone.


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No one to protect us


Now Bush is saying that the job will be done when Iraqis enjoy the democratic freedoms guaranteed Americans. We should say, They do! Bought news stories, secret surveillance of phone calls, emails and faxes, arrest without warrant, disappearances, torture You've brought our democracies into sync. Call it a day, bring the troops home, and then we can start impeaching you.

But who would do the impeaching? The Democrats have lost as much credibility as the President and the Republicans. Ever since the New York Times loitered a year late into print with its disclosure about the NSA spying program (only the latest in a sequence of unconstitutional infamies by that Agency stretching back for decades, mostly against domestic political protesters) I've seen it argued that if the Times had gone with the story last year, Kerry might be president.

But if the Democrats had cared about the Constitution they could have broken the story themselves last year. Democratic congressional leaders knew, because the whistleblowers from the NSA desperately tried to alert them, only to get the cold shoulder. Kerry's prime advisers Richard Clark and Rand Beers on such matters knew, because they'd previously been Bush's top functionaries in the war on terror.


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We’re killing them for their own good


RAMADI, Iraq -- U.S. Marine airstrikes targeting insurgents sheltering in Iraqi residential neighborhoods are killing civilians as well as guerrillas along the Euphrates River in far western Iraq, according to Iraqi townspeople and officials and the U.S. military.
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US is getting out


Before flying home on Christmas Eve, Rumsfeld was briefed on what the military calls a "tips line" that is heavily advertised to encourage citizens in the Mosul area to call Iraqi security forces with tips on insurgents.

"You can remain anonymous but please don't remain silent," says a public flyer that also mentions that tips which lead to a conviction "may allow you to be eligible for financial rewards."

Rumsfeld was told the number of tips have roughly doubled in recent months, one of numerous examples of what he and U.S. commanders say are signs that the tide may be turning against the insurgency.

On the other hand, some of these "tips" are really no more than attempts by one ethnic or religious or tribal faction to retaliate or seek revenge against a rival by anonymously pointing the finger.

It's also true that the Americans clearly are not yet fully convinced that the worst is over.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told reporters on Friday that instead of sending home an Army brigade that he does not now need in Iraq, he is keeping it nearby in Kuwait as a "hedge against the uncertainty of the next few months" when Iraqis will be forming a new government.

Casey said he hopes to be able to recommend further troop reductions next spring, assuming the Iraqis put their new government in place in a reasonably short period of time — perhaps a few months. If things turn sour, Casey said, he is willing to reverse direction and ask President Bush to approve an increase in U.S. troop levels until the political process gets back on track.

Among the small signs from Rumsfeld's visit that point to his increased confidence in security in Iraq: he spent two nights in the country. On previous trips since the insurgency took hold in midsummer 2003 he never spent the night. In a move that some might consider even bolder, Rumsfeld took a ride on the main road leading out of the city to Baghdad International Airport. Until recent months it was notorious as the most dangerous stretch of pavement in the country, with roadside bombings taking a heavy toll.

After dining Friday night with a group of Iraqi politicians, Rumsfeld told Casey, who was returning with him to Camp Victory near the airport, that he wanted to take the airport road. More commonly — and more safely, many would argue — they would have flown the short distance by helicopter.

The road is not the safest, but it got safer when Iraqi forces took a bigger role in securing it.

In other words, the U.S. military is getting out.

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Can a review be better than the book?  

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Bringing 'Em On
Review by THOMAS POWERS


In the real world - and the United States exists in the real world, despite a national weakness for wishful thinking - failure has consequences. The prospects for American success in Iraq, which do not look promising, are the consequence of a cascading series of previous, all-too-familiar failures - the failure to heed intelligence warnings before 9/11, the failure to press the hunt for Osama bin Laden until he was caught, the failure to think twice before invading Iraq, the failure to send enough troops to establish security once the Iraqi Army quit fighting, the failure to recognize the growing insurgency until it was too big to crush, the failure to begin building an Iraqi Army and police services in a timely manner, the failure to foresee that a war in Iraq would draw jihadists from every corner of the Islamic world. . . .

These failures are all the doing of President Bush and his remarkably small group of intimate advisers. Confident at every turn they knew what to do, impatient of contrary views, strengthened by Republican control of both houses of Congress and deliberating in the kind of secrecy the old Soviet Politburo might have envied, Bush and his team have probably pursued their chosen course with a freer rein and less resistance than any other administration in American history. Naturally they do not concede failure. The White House argues that the story isn't over yet, that success in the whole project is still possible if we don't cut and run. Who does not hope the administration is right? Or worry that the tidal pull of events is all in a different direction - toward civil war and spreading violence?

Making sense of this slow spiral of deepening trouble is bound to occupy analysts and historians for a generation to come. Weaving through it, they will doubtless find some mix of the national attributes that allowed a previous president and his confident advisers to march the country wide-eyed into Vietnam. The challenge in both cases was to create a friendly regime strong enough to let Americans leave, as two recent magazine articles remind us. "Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam" in Foreign Affairs, by Melvin Laird, President Nixon's secretary of defense, argues that the White House had the circle squared until Congress cut off funding for South Vietnam; "Why Iraq Has No Army," in The Atlantic Monthly, by James Fallows, worries that the administration is whistling Dixie while American popular support for the war drains away and efforts to build Iraqi security forces are allowed to slide. Fallows quotes a Marine lieutenant colonel who thinks the difference between failure in Vietnam and failure now would be a continuing threat from a Sunni remnant of Iraq with a burning jihadist hate for the United States. "In Vietnam we just lost," he told Fallows. "This would be losing with consequences."

The consequence predicted by Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, experts on terrorism and former members of the National Security Council under President Clinton, is implicit in the title of their new book, "The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right." A long chapter examines the list of awful possibilities if terrorists simply take advantage of loopholes in our current domestic defenses. Some nine million shipping containers bring freight into the United States every year, Benjamin and Simon note. Only one in 20 is inspected; any one of the other 19 could contain explosives, biological agents, fissionable material, even a working atomic bomb. Or a well-placed bomb in a huge industrial plant producing toxic chemicals or dangerous gases might generate an "American Bhopal." Occasionally their worries verge on fretting; what are terrorists going to do with ultralight aircraft, which strain to get one man aloft with a water bottle?

Benjamin and Simon make a strong case that the president's friend Tom Ridge did a poor job of getting the Department of Homeland Security up and running, and they are not kind to the women Bush chose to press the American case in the Islamic world through "public diplomacy" - Charlotte Beers, Margaret Tutwiler and Karen Hughes, who all managed to achieve little while looking silly.

But the "next attack," painful as it may prove to be, is not really Benjamin and Simon's central concern. Their previous book, "The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America," mapped out their chosen territory, which is the fundamentalist rejection of Western values throughout the Muslim world. What animates them now are the new dangers and troubling turns that have followed the invasion of Iraq - the mounting animosity toward the United States among onetime allies, the spread of jihadism in the Muslim diaspora in the West, the ready access to terrorist technology on the Internet, the second wave of devastating attacks in Spain and Britain by "self-starters" who seem to arrive from nowhere, making it all but impossible to predict succeeding blows.

The administration, they argue, has its hands full trying to stem the growing insurgency in Iraq; how will it handle challenges elsewhere in the Islamic world? They quote an intelligence official who describes Saudi Arabia, home of the great majority of 9/11 hijackers and an important source of foreign suicide bombers in Iraq as well, as the "aircraft carrier of the jihad." Citing the words of Stephen Cohen, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, they say Pakistan is "probably the most anti-American country in the world." Opinion polls show a Pakistani approval rating of 65 percent for Osama bin Laden, who has probably been hiding in the tribal areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan during the four years since an overconfident United States military allowed him to slip away from Tora Bora. The president of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has narrowly escaped numerous assassination attempts; a successful one could throw control of the country, and of its nuclear weapons, into the hands of Islamic extremists.

From Chechnya to Indonesia, Benjamin and Simon track a seething hatred of America, fed by images of the war in Iraq, which President Bush and Vice President Cheney habitually call "the central front in the war on terror." Better Baghdad than Boston is the idea. When insurgent bombs first started to kill American soldiers in the summer of 2003, Bush seemed unfazed. "Bring 'em on," he said.

For Benjamin and Simon, "getting it right" means all the obvious things - putting terrorists out of business, controlling dangerous technologies, protecting the targets that matter most and trying to open some kind of dialogue with the Islamic world. But the best tool for doing these things is not the United States Army. "The Bush administration," they write, "has seriously overmilitarized the effort to stop jihadist terror." Doing better, in their view, means dropping the president's strategy of using the military to kill all the terrorists - a futile approach, as would have been apparent to anyone who had actually served in Vietnam, or wondered why the endlessly growing body count was followed by defeat.

But calling the invasion of Iraq "misguided" does not really explain what has gone wrong, and doing better on a national security punch list is not really a strategy for turning things around. The magnitude of the problem is suggested by the fact that at this point two writers with as much experience as Benjamin and Simon don't really know what to do next.

Their book takes an important first step in the direction of realism by arguing in sober detail that the bright hopes and confident ideas behind the invasion of Iraq were illusions. Nothing dies harder, as Vietnam taught us, and it will probably take another year or two for that fact to really sink in on a national scale. But once it does, the hard part can begin.

Thomas Powers's most recent book is "Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al Qaeda."


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Steve Gilliard says 

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Let's not pretend that if Bush's shredding of the constitution had stopped a major terrorist plot, a lot fewer people would be complaining. The problem is that Bush's raping of the law is not only a gross failure, but that the Administration has failed to turn up anything worthwhile, despite starting with the support of the public to an amazing degree.

People defending the wiretapping will be stunned at what NSA did with their abilities. I would not be shocked to see every cell phone call made by Cindy Sheehan in August catalogued by NSA as a threat to the President's security.

We're getting into the realm of the ridiculous when you have NEST teams running around and checking mosques for nuclear waste.

What is even more amazing is that FISA would have granted nearly all of the requests.

I was listening to Face the Nation and the reporters seemed to think Bush would recover from this if there was another terrorist attack. The problem is that AQ shot their wad with 9/11 and despite wiping their ass with the constitution, the Bushies found nothing because there is nothing to find.

AQ is not SPECTRE, it doesn't have cadres of trained killers on call. It is mostly grad students and poor young men. Most of training for 9/11 was done outsde the US. The best and brightest of AQ are still killing Americans, but in Iraq.

All of these elaborate plots, Anthrax, dirty bombs, are nearly in the realm of science fiction to carry off. The odds of you hitting the lottery is higher. Who would remain silent about a plot which if they revealed, could land them permanent residency and lots of money. Also, while good for a car bomb or walking into a hotel, making a dirty bomb is a lot higher. Why? Because you have to get your hands on the stuff and build an effective bomb, which is a lot harder than people think, despite TV.

The people charged with trying to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge wanted to use blow torches. Yeah.

The guys who blew up the Underground were UK natives with no contact with the security services. When Blair wanted to change the laws, he was refused. Why? Because the British had limits to what they wanted to do. Then of course, when Special Forces (the UK phrase for the SAS. SBS and Royal Commandos) executed a man in the subway, well, the taste for greater security quickly faded.

Because it rarely works.

Bush's search for terrorists was silly because there was scant evidence that there were large cells here to begin with. The 9/11 attackers were a self-contained group working from Germany. Jose Padilla? He couldn't even gangbang, much less make a dirty bomb.

Someone asked me if I didn't fear Islamic terrorists. I do, in Egypt, Iraq and other places when they have large numbers of supporters.

It was as if people were taking the scripts of 24 as gospel, not fiction. I love the show, but I also love James Bond.

But considering the number of Arab-Americans who enlisted in the military just after 9/11, this was more fear based than reality.

With the indictment of Rove just over the horizon, and even more revelations as intelligence officers lawyer up, it is unlikely Bush could surive in office until the end of his term. A Democratic Congress in 2007 is to impeach Bush and Cheney as one of their first acts. But I think they will resign before then.

This is the kind of thing which scares real Republicans witless

Oh yeah, watch how Alito flames out. If they filibustered the Patriot Act, Alito is unikely to make the cut, and it wll be the privacy issues which will kill him.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

happy secular holiday season 

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see you after x-mas

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Barron's Calls for Impeachment Hearings on Wiretapping 

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Buh Bye 

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The U.K., Italy and South Korea are making plans to reduce or even withdraw their troops by the end of next year, following other nations, such as Ukraine and Bulgaria, that have already started to depart. ``It is not a matter of if, but how,'' said Roberto Minotti, senior research fellow at the Aspen Institute in Rome.



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Friday, December 23, 2005

Must read 

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Ten Political Christmas Wishes

Dear Santa: Here are ten political wishes that you can grant and make my Christmas.

10. Come out of hiding, Al Gore. The Democratic Party needs you as their environmental spokesperson. After Hurricane Katrina, and the other disastrous storms of 2005, the American people don’t have to be convinced that there’s a problem with global climate change.
They need to know what to do. You understand this. Your speech, “When there is no vision, the people perish,” was a superb first step. Al, you can provide the leadership that the Party and the nation need to deal with this peril. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

9. Let go, John Kerry. You’re acting out the lyrics from Lucinda Williams’ song, “Well it's over, I know it, but I can't let go.” You lost your bid for the presidency. You couldn’t defeat an inept President who made one disastrous mistake after another. It’s over. Quit acting as if you’re the leader of the Democratic Party. You aren’t even the leader of the Senate Minority. You had your chance. Please don’t run again. Let go, John.

8. Get a job, Bill Clinton. Charging thousands of dollars for inspirational speeches isn’t a real job. It’s celebrity fluff. How about taking on a challenge? Rebuild your reputation by making a contribution that will strengthen America. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina left a mess that the Bush Administration is unwilling to clean up. America needs the kind of leadership that you can provide. Move to New Orleans. Become our champion for the reconstruction. Bring us together. Take on a real job, Bill. It’s way too early for you to retire to a life of Oprah appearances and golf.

7. Get out, Joe Lieberman. The Democratic Party has a big tent but no more room for you. Either quit backing President Bush and blasting your fellow Dems, or leave the Party. You’re worse than an irritant. You are an embarrassment. Your statements seem scripted by Karl Rove. You’re not a “centrist” Dem. You are a Republican. Get out of the Party, Joe.

6. Get a grip, Hillary Clinton. It’s time for you to quit being coy about your position on Iraq. The Democratic Party needs leadership in 2006 and you can provide it. You have an easy re-election campaign for the Senate. No harm will come to you by taking a strong position on Iraq. Support John Murtha’s position. America needs a leader not another fundraiser-in-chief. Get a grip, Hillary.

5. Leave town, Howard Dean. You’ve heard it said, “they can take the boy out of the country, but they can’t take the country out of the boy.” That’s the problem with your new job as DNC chair. It keeps you in Washington when you really should be working full-time with grass-roots activists. The heart of the Party isn’t in DC. It’s in the rest of the country – the sane part. There’s a lot of anger out here in the boonies. It needs to be harnessed. You can provide this leadership. Get out of DC town, Howard.

4. Get an agenda, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. A laundry list of scintillating ideas isn’t an agenda – it’s detritus from brainstorming sessions conducted by over-paid Washington consultants. The country needs a few clear notions about who Democrats are. Help us out. What do the Dems stand for besides not being Bushites? Get a real agenda, Nancy and Harry.

3. Convert to Christianity, George Bush. Abandon the fundamentalist pabulum you’ve been spouting – the “Weekly Reader” summary of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelations. Read the Gospels. Pay attention to the teachings of Jesus: The admonition to tell the truth. Not to murder. To care for the poor. Step into the light, George. Before it’s too late for you to save your soul.

2. Pay attention, Congress. While you’re obsessed with garnering the next big contribution, the country is going down the drain. There’s this guy Osama bin Laden and his band of thugs, Al Qaeda. While you’re wasting our money on a pointless war in Iraq, they’re gaining momentum. By the way, the people down in New Orleans who got left behind in the flight from Hurricane Katrina are still left behind. One more thing, there’s this country named China. They’re about to eat our lunch. Do your job, Congress. Pay attention.

1. Wake up, America. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport. Eternal vigilance isn’t a video game. Everything you really care about is slipping away. It’s not just about you. It’s about your family and friends – everyone you love. Wake up, America, the bad guys are winning.

fucking republicans 

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Americans no longer trust this team, which is why Bush and Cheney are hitting back hard at their critics. If they lose this round over spying, the spillover effect will be devastating for their war policy and on any domestic agenda they hope to salvage. We have no mechanism to deal with a president who has lost the trust and confidence of the American people and has three years remaining in office.

Don’t trust him anymore


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less than 1%



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Other shoe drops

Wow. Another Bush Administration Clusterf**k. The Italians are going to arrest the CIA operatives who transferred US detainees to be tortured (that of course we don’t do)

ROME (AP) - An Italian judge has issued European arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA operatives wanted for the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, a prosecutor said Friday.
Prosecutor Armando Spataro said the warrants allowed for the arrest of the suspects in any of the 25 European Union member countries. Italy issued warrants for the arrest of the 22 suspects within its own borders earlier this month. Prosecutors are seeking the suspects' extradition for their alleged involvement in the abduction of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr from a Milan street in February 2003. The suspects are all described as U.S. citizens.



Prosecutors have identified one of them as Robert Seldon Lady, a former CIA station chief in Milan who has since returned to the United States. The whereabouts of the others are unknown. Lady's attorney, Daria Pesce, said the new warrants meant the alleged operatives could no longer travel to Europe without risking arrest.


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bad times for republicans 

AUSTIN, Texas (Dec. 22) - A Texas appeals court on Thursday rejected a bid by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay to get a speedy trial on a money-laundering charge lodged against the powerful Republican lawmaker.

DeLay had sought an quick trial on the charge in the hopes that an acquittal would allow him to return to his post as U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader next month.

He gave up that post in September after he was indicted in Travis County, Texas on charges related to violations of campaign-finance laws.

No Delay, Delay

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AT THIS point, the policy legacy of George Bush seems pretty well defined by three disparate disasters: Iraq in foreign affairs, Katrina in social welfare, corporate influence over tax, budget and regulatory decisions. As a short-term political consequence, we may avoid another dim-witted Bush in the White House. But what the Bush dynasty has done to presidential campaign science the protocols by which Americans elect presidents in the modern era amounts to a political legacy that can haunt the Republic for years to come.

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WASHINGTON - The State Department said Thursday it has suspended publication of a government-funded magazine for young people in the Arab world, Africa and elsewhere to see if the outreach effort is cost-effective.

The slick Arabic-English magazine, hi, focused on American culture and life. About 55,000 copies of hi were distributed per month in 18 countries; most copies were given away.

The two-year-old effort was intended to present a friendly face of the United States in parts of the world where the U.S. image is poor.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Karen Hughes, the former Bush White House adviser who is now in charge of public diplomacy in the Middle East and elsewhere, wanted to evaluate whether the $4.5 million annual publication cost was well spent.

Like a magazine is going to change how Arabs feel about us


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idiots 

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A group of Yukon high school students who attended a peace demonstration in Alaska last year have been labelled a threat by U.S. Homeland Security.


The students and their teachers from Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse were singled out when they crossed the border on their way to Fort Greely to protest the proliferation of missiles.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

late afternoon 

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"Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?" Bush asked, half-grinning, according to two people who were in the meeting but asked not to be quoted by name because they were discussing a private event. Bush scanned the room for Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.

"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .

" Nothing ."

At which point everyone laughed and the president left the room.

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A group of Yukon high school students who attended a peace demonstration in Alaska last year have been labelled a threat by U.S. Homeland Security.


The students and their teachers from Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse were singled out when they crossed the border on their way to Fort Greely to protest the proliferation of missiles.


Fell safer now?

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morning 

For months now, I have been getting e-mails demanding that my various employers (Newsweek, NBC News and MSNBC.com) include in their poll questionnaires the issue of whether Bush should be impeached. They used to demand this on the strength of the WMD issue, on the theory that the president had “lied us into war.” Now the Bush foes will base their case on his having signed off on the NSA’s warrant-less wiretaps. He and Cheney will argue his inherent powers and will cite Supreme Court cases and the resolution that authorized him to make war on the Taliban and al-Qaida. They will respond by calling him Nixon 2.0 and have already hauled forth no less an authority than John Dean to testify to the president’s dictatorial perfidy. The “I-word” is out there, and, I predict, you are going to hear more of it next year — much more.

Impeach Bush

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The more the crooked and corrupt heart beats, the faster it pumps, the more oxygen it drains from the dying brain of this worst of American presidencies, the more blood spills uselessly upon the remains of justification, and decency, and legitimacy. Signs that, although it began with just a slight paralysis, a hitch in the step, the Bush Embolism grows (I'll note silence from the conservative libertarians who normally post comments on this blog) and this scandal of spying on Americans without the benefit of law or court is a death sentence:


Impeach Bush Again

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

more oy 

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That was the night of September 15. Three months have passed, but major decisions about rebuilding are still stalled by vacillation and red tape. According to a Brookings Institution study published on December 7, more than $21 billion has been "allocated" to New Orleans alone, and $19 billion of that has been spent. Half has gone to "administration" and "general operations." Meanwhile, only one—yes, one—of New Orleans's 116 public schools is open. Two-thirds of the 276,000 applications for low-interest home-rebuilding loans—earmarked for low-income families—have yet to be reviewed. Worse, of those reviewed, more than 80 percent have been rejected, on the grounds that applicants' incomes or credit ratings were too low.

Idiots

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Iraq could easily go the way of Lebanon in the late 1970s, only bigger and bloodier. And such a war could easily escalate into a regional conflict.

If the history of 20th century Europe is anything to go by, all the ingredients are now in place for the biggest conflagration in Middle Eastern history. The only good news is that the first thing to go up in smoke will be the theory of a democratic peace.

The coming storm

oy veys mere 

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Times kept story quiet so someone could write a book

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No, this story is not helping the enemy

Every day, the National Security Agency intercepts and records more that 650 million "events" worldwide: radar signals, radio and data transmissions, satellite, cell and land-line telephone calls, faxes and e-mail and text messages and chats over the Internet.

"The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy," President Bush said yesterday.

I doubt that there is a terrorist out there who doesn't assume that the NSA is listening in on their communications, so I doubt that the "media" is the right place to look if American counter-terrorism or regard for the law falters.

And in fact the President is wrong on NSA. Though virtually any discussion of the National Security Agency -- AKA no such agency -- is avoided by the government, the executive branch declassified many details of America's eavesdropper as part of its review of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Spying on Americans

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Fuck Bush

How many times can Bush use the threat of terrorism to terrify Americans into giving him carte blanche to violate civil liberties at home, torture people abroad, and recklessly disregard any political or legal process that might stand in his way?
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we just installed an anti democracy anti American pro Iranian mullah iraq

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bush is a Liar 

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The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists—in fact, all American Muslims, period—have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that “the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy.” But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a “shameful act,” it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

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One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I feel safer

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Kevin Drum Says

OUR POTEMKIN LEGISLATURE....Roll Call tells us about the latest shenanigans from the leaders of the modern Republican Party:

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, the leaders agreed — after House and Senate negotiators had already signed the report and announced its details to the public — to insert controversial language that protects vaccine manufacturers from product liability claims in the event of a viral pandemic, such as one caused by avian flu.

Observers familiar with the procedural history of conference reports said that they were unaware of any precedent for inserting language after conferees had signed off on the report. A review of several Congressional Research Service guides to conference proceedings make no reference to any prior example.

It's not enough that Republicans have already corrupted the normal conference procedure beyond recognition, stacking conference committees solely with allies and routinely amending bills to make them almost unrecognizable. Now they're adding language to conference reports after the report has already been signed off.

It's our latest step toward a Potemkin legislature. I hope conservatives are proud.


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Bush is a liar

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Spying on Catholics


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The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election.

But the newspaper held the story for more than a year and only revealed the secret wiretaps last Friday, when it became apparent a book by one of its reporters was about to break the news, according to journalists familiar with the paper's internal discussions. The New York Times, which knew about the secret wiretaps for more than a year, published because of a reporter's new book, sources say.


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•A record 55% say the war in Iraq is entirely separate from the war on terrorism that began on Sept. 11, 2001, the first time a majority has held that opinion.

•Six of 10 think the United States should deploy a significant number of troops in Iraq for another year or less, though just 17% predict the United States will achieve that timetable. About half think significant U.S. troop levels will continue for one to three years; 1 in 3 predict they will be maintained for longer than that.

•A 56% majority say Bush doesn't have a plan to achieve victory in Iraq, about the same as the 55% who held that view the night he delivered the first of four speeches, on Nov. 30. Half of those surveyed say neither side is winning in Iraq; 40% say the United States is winning. A 52% majority say it was a mistake to send troops.

That advantage narrows in the new survey. For the first time, a majority of those surveyed — 53% — say they have an unfavorable opinion of him.

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Working a fish on the hook up at the lake can be fun. The fish darts and pulls, tries to dive deep or comes near the surface, fighting the hook and the fisherman’s line. What’s fun with a fish is embarrassing with our national leaders; squirming on the hook of their prewar manipulation of the Iraq intelligence


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ABOARD AIR FORCE II (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday vigorously defended the Bush administration's use of secret domestic spying and efforts to expand presidential powers, saying "it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years."

Bush said this last year 

.

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Examples of the Torture we don’t commit 

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Eight detainees now held at Guantánamo described to their attorneys how they were held at a facility near Kabul at various times between 2002 and 2004. The detainees, who called the facility the “dark prison” or “prison of darkness,” said they were chained to walls, deprived of food and drinking water, and kept in total darkness with loud rap, heavy metal music, or other sounds blared for weeks at a time.

The detainees offer consistent accounts about the facility, saying that U.S. and Afghan guards were not in uniform and that U.S. interrogators did not wear military attire, which suggests that the prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency.

The detainees said U.S. interrogators slapped or punched them during interrogations. They described being held in complete darkness for weeks on end, shackled to rings bolted into the walls of their cells, with loud music or other sounds played continuously. Some detainees said they were shackled in a manner that made it impossible to lie down or sleep, with restraints that caused their hands and wrists to swell up or bruise. The detainees said they were deprived of food for days at a time, and given only filthy water to drink.

The detainees also said that they were held incommunicado and never visited by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross or other independent officials.

“The U.S. government must shed some light on Kabul’s ‘dark prison,’” said John Sifton, terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. “No one, no matter their alleged crime, should be held in secret prisons or subjected to torture.”

is it 2008 yet? 

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The president of Mr. Ferrara's institute told BusinessWeek Online that "I have a sense that there are a lot of people at think tanks who have similar arrangements."

Everyone is on the take

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The White House needs to tell the Pentagon promptly to destroy the records of protesters as required, within three months. It also needs promptly to tell the NSA to return to following the rules, to get the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before monitoring Americans' communications. The idea that all of this is being done to us in the name of national security doesn't wash; that is the language of a police state. Those are the unacceptable actions of a police state.

Bush is a criminal

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In a statement, New YorkTimes editor Bill Keller said that "the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security. Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed. ... As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time."

Fuck the Times

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Such submissiveness on the part of the Times harks back to self censorship by the paper in the early 1950s, covering up CIA plans for coups in Guatemala and Iran; also to the paper's behavior in 1966 when it had information about IA shenanigans in Singapore and through south-east Asia. The editors submitted the story for review by CIA director John McCone, who made editorial deletions.

In its Friday story, the New York Times meekly agreed not to identify the "senior White House official" who successfully petitioned them to spike the story for a year. The fact that no one was specifically named allowed Bush to discount the entire story when he went the Lehrer News Hour on Friday evening.

The Times Still Sucks

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WASHINGTON (AFP) - US lawmakers said that President George W. Bush may have broken the law by approving the secret monitoring of phone calls and emails within the United States after the September 11 attacks.

But the administration insisted the wire taps, even without a court warrant, were legal and Vice President Dick Cheney criticised those who he said were not committed to "doing everything" to guard against new terrorist attacks on the United States.


Bush is a criminal

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - About 24 top former officials in Saddam Hussein's regime, including a biological weapons expert known as "Dr. Germ," have been released from jail, while a militant group released a video Monday of the purported killing of an American hostage.

Nothing here I guess

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Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Evo Morales, the Bolivian coca-farmers leader who won election as president yesterday, pledged to ``change the history'' of his country by challenging the U.S. and promoting production of the leaf used to make cocaine.

``Long live coca, no to the Yankees,'' Morales, an Indian activist who lost a presidential bid three years ago, shouted to several hundred supporters, in a victory speech last night at his campaign headquarters in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Bush makes another enemy

Two Must Reads 

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Says It All

President Bush's corporate champions see the spoils of his administration in coal. And timber. And credit-card payments, Afghan electric lines, Japanese bank transfers and fake crab.

America's business leaders supplied more than $75 million to return Mr. Bush to the White House last year -- and he has paid dividends.

Bush administration policies, grand and obscure, have financially benefited companies or lobbying clients tied to at least 200 of the president's largest campaign fund-raisers, a Toledo Blade investigation has found. Dozens more stand to gain from Bush-backed initiatives that recently passed or await congressional approval.

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$227,576,208,981

Sunday, December 18, 2005

monday's course 

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Since Bush is going to say Sunday that the Sunni Arab participation in the elections suggests a near end of major guerrilla violence, let me just repeat what I said Thursday: the history of guerrilla insurgencies is replete with groups that simulaneously fought on both the political and paramilitary fronts. Listen to how angry the Sunni politicians are, as they speak out in the wake of the elections, both at Bush and at the Shiites, and you get a sense of how detached the Bush administration remains from reality.

A major Sunni leader whose list (the National Dialogue Council) seems to be doing well, Salih Mutlak, just came on Arabic satellite television and gave a strident anti-American speech. He addressed Bush, warning him not to believe that a fair election had just occurred in Iraq, and denounced the continued US military occupation of his country. He also lashed out at Shiite politicians. Mutlak is a secular Arab nationalist who still praises the Baath Party. Mutlak's emergence as a likely power broker in the Iraqi parliament is good news for Bush?

By the way, the assertion Bush keeps making that the political developments in Iraq will influence the rest of the Middle East is ridiculous to anyone who actually talks to anyone from the region. Arabs mostly believe that Iraq is laboring under an oppressive foreign military occupation. You can't bring up Iraq without them saying, "The Americans are doing such horrible things there." They think of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, and of the Ministry of Interior's secret torture cells, not of parliamentary debates. Few think the Iraqi elections are aboveboard, and few are very interested in them. In Beirut, the newspapers have been putting a short article on the elections below the fold every day since Wednesday, and that is about it. It isn't even really positioned as important news; the New York Times puts it higher on the page than most Arab newspapers.

An American living in Egypt who was teaching out in the provinces in a major city told me about recently witnessing a student demonstration that included a skit. Thousands of students had come out, and some grade schoolers were there in the front row. On the steps of an academic hall, Islamist students enacted a play about an Iraqi suicide bomber blowing up US troops, to enormous glee and applause. That's what most Arabs think about Iraq, on the outside. They don't want to emulate an American-occupied country. Bush's naive conviction that his project is exemplary reminds me of the way the Communists in Russia initially thought that all the factory workers in the West would want immediately to imitate their worker's paradise. Of course, few wanted to give up their unions and consumer lifestyle so as to become the wards of a one-party state. Likewise, American Imperial "democracy" strikes most Arabs as paternalistic and hypocritical, masking a police state of a sort they are all too familiar with.

Reality Check


--


Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritan nuts outlawed the celebration of the Christmas holiday in 1659. Including all that blasphemous liberal Christmas tree hugger bullshit.

Happy Holidays

evening primrose 

.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the Republican-led Congress "the most corrupt in history" on Sunday, and distanced himself from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, at the center of an escalating probe.

Right on

--snip--

According to Deliso's two sources, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, the outing of Valerie Plame may have severely damaged a CIA operation to monitor a nuclear black market faciliated by the shadowy but well-connected Washington lobby group, the American Turkish Council (ATC). (Those familiar with the Sibel Edmonds case will know the ATC is the very same organization that the former FBI translator heard on wiretaps in connection with various alleged illegal activities, some connected to 9/11.)

Idiots

Saturday, December 17, 2005

sabbath 

. Is it me? Or is Bush a facist?

In acknowledging the message was true, President Bush took aim at the messenger Saturday, saying that The New York Times jeopardized national security by revealing that he authorized wiretaps on U.S. citizens after September 11. The president said he allowed the NSA "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda." Publishing details of the program "damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk," Bush said.

--snip--

The other shoe

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury investigating the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson for several hours Friday. Short of a last minute intervention by Rove's attorney, Fitzgerald is expected to ask a grand jury-possibly as soon as next week--the to indict Rove for making false statements to the FBI and Justice Department investigators in October 2003, lawyers close to the case say.

Moreover, Fitzgerald is said to believe that there is a possibility Rove either hid or destroyed evidence related to his role in the leak, lawyers close to the case said.

Steve Gilliard Says 

.


The notion that one of the three branches of our Government can claim power unchecked by the other two branches is precisely what the Founders sought, first and foremost, to preclude. And the fear that a U.S. President would attempt to seize power unchecked by the law or by the other branches – i.e., that the Executive would seize the powers of the British King – was the driving force behind the clear and numerous constitutional limitations placed on Executive power. It is these very limitations which the Bush Administration is claiming that it has the power to disregard because the need for enhanced national security in time of war vests the President with unchecked power.

But that theory of the Executive unconstrained by law is completely repulsive to the founding principles of the country, as well as to the promises made by the Founders in order to extract consent from a monarchy-fearing public to the creation of executive power vested in a single individual. The notion that all of that can be just whimsically tossed aside whenever the nation experiences external threats is as contrary to the country’s founding principles as it is dangerous.

It cannot be said that the Founders were unaware of the potential for national emergencies and external threats. They engaged in a war with the British which was at least as much of an existential threat to the Republic as those posed by 9/11 and related threats of Islamic extremism. Notwithstanding those threats, the Founders, in creating an Executive branch, sought first and foremost to ensure that the President could never wield unchecked powers which would exist above and separate from Congressionally enacted laws.

Among recent Republican Administrations, this theory of the unchecked President is not new. Digby recalls Richard Nixon's endorsement of it, and the theory came to life in the Iran-Contra scandal, where the Reagan Administration unilaterally deemed it necessary to U.S. national security to arm the Nicaraguan contras and then asserted for itself the power to circumvent the law enacted by the Congress which prohibited exactly that.

But the situation we have now is far more egregious, and far more dangerous, because the Administration is not even bothering to pretend now (as the Reagan Administration at least did) that the Executive acts undertaken really did adhere to Congressional intent, or alternatively, to the extent that such acts violated Congressional mandates, the acts were simply the by-product of overzealous and rogue officials who broke the law without the knowledge or approval of President Reagan.

The Bush Administration’s position now is almost the opposite of that posture, in that the Administration is expressly claiming that the President does have the right to violate laws of Congress because his executive power is absolute and thus cannot be restricted by anything. And rather than applying this theory of unchecked executive power to a single case (as the Reagan Administration did in Iran-contra), the Bush Administration has arrogated unto itself this monarchical power as a general proposition, applicable to each and every issue which can be said to relate, however generally, to this undeclared "war" against terrorism.

This view of the Presidency – which now exists not just in odious theory but in real, live, breathing form vested in George Bush – is precisely what the monarchy-fearing Founders insisted should never occur and, with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution, would never occur.

This absolute power claimed and enthusiastically exercised by George Bush violates not just specific Constitutional limitations, but the core principles of the Constitution: that we are a nation of laws not men; that each branch shall be "co-equal" to the others and checked and limited by the other two; and that the people shall retain ultimate power by vesting in them the right to enact supreme laws through the Congress which shall bind all other citizens, including the President.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Biggest Win Ever 


oy 

.

December 7, 2005 (Washington, DC) - Media Matters for America delivered nearly 5,000 letters to CNN's Washington Bureau today urging the network not to renew its contract with syndicated columnist and CNN contributor Robert D. Novak. Novak's contract with CNN is reportedly set to expire in early 2006, but the controversial conservative pundit has not appeared on the channel since August 2005, when he was suspended after uttering an obscenity and storming off the set. In the two years since he exposed Valerie Plame, wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a CIA operative, Novak has made several contradictory statements regarding crucial issues in the case; the ongoing leak investigation has so far led to the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

David Brock Gets Novakula Fired


--snip--

Would Bush won the election if the extent of his seemingly unconstitutional domestic spying had been known? We'll never know. For roughly a year, the White House successfully leaned on the Times to keep the story under wraps. It's not known when the Bush lobbying of the Times began. But it is clear that the warning signs about the program -- the alarm bells that likely triggered the Times investigation in the first place -- were going off by mid-2004, months before the vote.

Times Complicit with Bushies

--snip--

The Bush administration has blocked Cuba from playing in next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic. Now future U.S. Olympic bids may be in trouble as a result.

"It's for baseball to decide, but if they don't make a stand on something like that, then they will have big problems down the road," said Dick Pound, an International Olympic Committee member from Canada, said Thursday.

The U.S. Treasury Department denied a request by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association for a permit to allow Cuba to send a team.

If not reversed, Pound said "it would completely scupper any bid" by the United States for the Summer or Winter Games.

Olympic Committee Strikes Back

.
.

Well, No One To Hide Behind Now

.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Happy Holidays 

.



"Part of my job is being a good listener," Hillary Clinton wrote, in the first line of her letter received today. As a New Yorker, I'm represented by Hillary in the U.S. Senate. Along with her two-page fundraising letter, I received a four-page "2005 Critical National Issues Survey."

But something was missing -- something Hillary obviously doesn't want to hear about: IRAQ. Nowhere in the letter or the questionnaire was that four-letter word.

Hillary's first question asked me to rank nine issues in their "order of importance." Iraq wasn't on the list. Nor was there a place I could add an issue she'd somehow forgotten about.

The problem is she hadn't forgotten the war. She simply doesn't want to hear about one of the biggest issues dividing our country, draining the federal budget, destabilizing the Middle East, undermining international law and institutions, and spreading fear and hatred of our country.

When national polls show that 54% or more of Americans want our troops withdrawn promptly from Iraq, and 60% believe it was a mistake to have sent troops in the first place, imagine how huge the majorities are for those propositions in Hillary's home state of New York.

Hillary's letter said that she enclosed the questionnaire to help gauge concern about "the extreme Bush agenda." But on the central foreign policy initiative of Bush's agenda, she has been complicit. When she voted to authorize the Iraq war, and today when she echoes White House talking points in criticizing advocates of withdrawal.

Hillary's letter closes by appealing to Americans who believe "no one's listening to me." I'm not one of those Americans: Progressive members of Congress have been listening to their constituents, and speaking out loudly and bravely to end the destabilizing US occupation of Iraq. Now even a hawk like John Murtha is listening. It's Hillary who isn't listening.

What I want this Christmas season is an antiwar Democrat to step forward to challenge Hillary Clinton in New York's upcoming primary for senate. And I want a powerful antiwar Democrat to oppose her for the presidential nomination in 2008.

Pollster John Zogby believes that a credible progressive Democrat will challenge Hillary for the presidency in 2008: "There will be an antiwar candidate," predicts Zogby. "That's what the base demands."

Hillary's letter ended with a P.S.: "Please return your completed survey with a generous contribution within 10 days."

I immediately returned the survey...with the word "IRAQ" scrawled across it in marker. But there was no "generous contribution." I'm keeping my checkbook open for candidates ready to challenge Bush's extreme agenda, at home and in Iraq -- and to challenge Hillary as well.



--snip--

Hillary, You're Not Listening

Our men and women are being killed in Iraq. Millions of people wake up every day without health insurance. Jobs are being shipped off-shore. Our economy is increasingly becoming hostage to an authoritarian regime in China. And, until today, I didn’t understand what the real important issue facing Americans truly is: a few people are burning the American flag.


.

afternoon 

.

To track domestic terrorist threats against the military, the Pentagon is creating a new database that will contain "raw, non-validated" reports of "anomalous activities" within the United States.

According to a Department of Defense memorandum, the system, known as Talon, will provide a mechanism to collect and rapidly share reports "by concerned citizens and military members regarding suspicious incidents."

Talon was described in a May 2 memorandum to top Pentagon brass from Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. In the memo, Wolfowitz directed the heads of military departments and agencies to begin producing Talon reports immediately.

spying on us

--snip--


There are no signs that President Bush’s public diplomacy is helping win the hearts and minds of either the elites or the publics in the Middle East —or for that matter in most parts of the world, including among traditional American allies in Canada and Western Europe. If anything, the discrepancy between the bombastic and misleading American message and the reality of U.S. policies on the ground in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and elsewhere only helps fuel more anti-Americanism. This discrepancy between the neocon propaganda and the outcome of Bush’s foreign policy is also responsible for the dramatic erosion in domestic public support for U.S. policies in Iraq as more and more Americans, including Joe Blow, seem to be deserting the faith-based community in favor of the reality-based one.

No one is buying this

--snip--


"They should shake [Washington] up a little bit," says Ms. Renfro, 68 years old, a retired school-cafeteria worker in LaPorte, Ind. Displeased with Mr. Bush's Social Security ideas, confused by Medicare's prescription-drug benefit and unhappy with illegal immigration, Ms. Renfro isn't sure she will vote again for her fellow Republican, Rep. Chris Chocola, in November's midterm elections.

Seniors Hate Bush
.



We won

.

morning 

.

A secret DoD database obtained by NBC News indicates that Pentagon intelligence and local law enforcement agencies are using the guise of the war on terror to keep an eye on the constitutionally-protected activities of anti-war activists. And, despite strict restrictions on the military maintaining records on domestic civilian political activity, evidence suggests the Pentagon is doing just that. With apologies to Buffalo Springfield: There’s something happening here… and what it is is painfully clear. The Bush administration has a long and ignominious history of rhetorical intimidation, routinely equating dissent with a lack of patriotism and a lack of support for our troops. Now it appears it’s moving on to actual intimidation.


Jesus

.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

unbelievable 

.


It may be the latest evidence of global warming: Polar bears are drowning.


Scientists for the first time have documented multiple deaths of polar bears off Alaska, where they likely drowned after swimming long distances in the ocean amid the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. The bears spend most of their time hunting and raising their young on ice floes.

In a quarter-century of aerial surveys of the Alaskan coastline before 2004, researchers from the U.S. Minerals Management Service said they typically spotted a lone polar bear swimming in the ocean far from ice about once every two years. Polar-bear drownings were so rare that they have never been documented in the surveys.

But in September 2004, when the polar ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of the northern coast of Alaska, researchers counted 10 polar bears swimming as far as 60 miles offshore. Polar bears can swim long distances but have evolved to mainly swim between sheets of ice, scientists say.


The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. "Extrapolation of survey data suggests that on the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds," the researchers say in a report set to be released today.

idiots running the government 

.

Europe's chief investigator looking into allegations about the existence of secret C.I.A. prisons said today that preliminary evidence suggested that American agents had kidnapped people and illegally transferred them between countries.

Dick Marty, who leads an investigation for the 46-country Council of Europe, sharply criticized the United States as failing to come clean on the allegations, notably during a five-day visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Europe last week. But he also said he believed that there was some degree of collaboration from European officials.

Rice Lied

--


VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict said in an annual peace message on Tuesday that countries have a duty to respect international humanitarian law even if they are at war.

In the first peace message of his pontificate, he also appealed for worldwide nuclear disarmament and said countries considering acquiring such weapons should "change their course."

Pope says no torture


--


MCM: I'd take your argument still further.

By now we've generally conceded -- that is, the mainstream media concedes -- that Bush/Cheney lied us into a disastrous war, or else deceived themselves and all the rest of us to get us there. And we concede that Bush & Co. conspired to out a CIA agent who was working to prevent another terrorist attack on US soil. And we concede that this regime responded to Katrina, then to Rita, with (at best) depraved indifference, even though they knew exactly what was coming. And we concede that, prior to 9/11, they had lots of solid evidence of an impending terrorist attack right here at home, and yet did nothing to prevent it. (And, moreover, we concede that they've done nothing to improve security on our railways, on our highways, on our borders, in our ports or even in the air.)

And rational observers also will agree that Bush & Co. swept into Haiti and threw out that nation's first democratically elected government; that Bush & Co.'s Iraq is no democracy, since Jay Bremer drafted all its laws, its government was not elected, and Iraqis have no writ of habeas corpus and no freedom of the press; that Bush bends over for the oligarchy running China (he says he likes the way they treat their journalists); and that his regime whole-heartedly supports the tyrannies all over Central Asia and the Arab world (Iran and Syria excepted). Bush and his men have praised the leaders of "New Europe" for defying their electorates, and have assailed the leaders of "Old Europe" for trying to do what their electorates prefer.

Meanwhile, here at home, the Bush regime has thrown out habeas corpus, junked the Bill of Rights (we now have special "First Amendment zones" for dissidents), used public revenues to subsidize right-wing religious proselytizers (while giving nothing to religious groups that don't back the regime), handed the entire economy to its own corporate cronies, and veiled the workings of the federal government behind an iron curtain of illegal
secrecy. We grant they've done all this-and yet it seems outrageous to suggest that they committed rampant fraud in the election? After they used Bush v. Gore, and other means, to steal the race four years before?

That's a loony argument.

BC: In the unlikely event you were stuck in an elevator with Diebold CEO Walden O'Dell; a well-reputed network news reporter (say, Christian Amanpour); and a functioning video camera, what would you say to or ask of Mr. O'Dell?

MCM: I'd ask him why Diebold has long resisted paper trails. When he's done not answering that question, I would then ask him why he thinks that democratic ballots should be counted secretly, with the results based merely on the say-so of a private vendor.

Mark Crispin Miller

--

Mr. Murtha told Rolling Stone that the administration's deafness had doomed Iraq: "Everything we did was mishandled. Plans that the military and the State Department had in place - they ignored 'em. The military tells me that when they were planning the invasion, the administration wouldn't let one of the primary three-star generals in the room."

The president's bubble requires constant care. It's not easy to keep out huge tragedies like Katrina, or flawed policies like Iraq. As Newsweek noted, a foreign diplomat "was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. 'Don't upset him,' she said."

Heaven forbid. Don't burst his bubble

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