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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Your Government

Now, I'm not freaking out about bird flu. I'm pretty convinced there will be a widespread form of this flu once it evolves to be communicable human to human, and the odds are fair that I might catch it. But as to the fatality rate of the disease, evolution generally favors higher communicability and lower mortality so that the disease can spread its genetic code as widely as possible. Ebola, for instance, is a very poor disease as it kills so quickly and in such a way that the dying are obviously infected, whereas the common cold virus is hugely successful because, although causing discomfort, it still leaves the individual mobile and able to spread the disease widely.

So, as this flu form is still yet to evolve, until we really know what we're gonna be dealing with, it's pretty fruitless to go throwing around 125million dead and such. But as there is a certain percentage chance that this flu will come out deadly when it crosses over to human to human transmission, it only makes sense to undertake preparations, set up facilities for study and vaccination production and such. So when I read this, I almost shouted out loud.

Are You Shittin' Me?

After wandering amid cages of birds and rabbits at an open-air market in Hanoi, after watching the gutting of a freshly slaughtered chicken, and after visiting a Haiphong family sickened by bird flu, the United States' top health official(U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt) came to a grim conclusion: Preventing the start of a global flu outbreak is just about impossible. ........

Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested patent rules might be suspended in an outbreak to allow other companies to make generic forms of Tamiflu, produced by Swiss-based Roche Holding AG. In recent days, a company in India announced plans to do that.

However, Leavitt said the United States supports intellectual property laws that bar such action.

Are you telling me, Mr. Secretary, are you saying that in the face of a pandemic that you claim is impossible to stop, that you are willing to risk American lives to protect the profits of Roche, a freaking Swiss company? I just want to get you on the record.

UPDATE: Two days later Roche agreed to allow other licensed producers. I'll bet there was some pressure put on them from the outside. I couldn't have been the only one to notice this.

The coming war with Syria.

I don't know enough to make a really good judgement as to just what is going on along the Syria/Iraq border. It seems pretty clear that to some degree, foreign fighters and weapons are indeed coming across that border. But the question is, why is Syria being singled out? There's good evidence that there is also the same sort of leakage along the Iranian border as well as the Turkish, but the US only seems interested in the Syrians.

There may be substantial intelligence showing Syrian government involvement in the smuggling, but I would think that if it were out there, the officials who have been talking about bombing Syria, Ledeen et al. would have made that information very public to drum up support.

And if the Syrian government isn't involved, how can we hold them to account for their border security when I live 400 miles from a border crossing where people and cocaine are brought across in eighteen wheelers? And the US spends the rough equivalent of the entire Syrian budget trying to stop it.

I don't know everything that's going on along that border, but look what was in the NYTimes this morning.

Some current and former officials add that the United States military is considering plans to conduct special operations inside Syria, using small covert teams for cross-border intelligence gathering.

The broadening military effort along the border has intensified as the Iraqi constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday approaches, and as frustration mounts in the Bush administration and among senior American commanders over their inability to prevent foreign radical Islamists from engaging in suicide bombings and other deadly terrorist acts inside Iraq.

Increasingly, officials say, Syria is to the Iraq war what Cambodia was in the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for fighters, money and supplies to flow over the border and, ultimately, a place for a shadow struggle.

Covert military operations are among the most closely held of secrets, and planning for them is extremely delicate politically as well, so none of those who discussed the subject would allow themselves to be identified. They included military officers, civilian officials and people who are otherwise actively involved in military operations or have close ties to Special Operations forces. ......

American officials say Mr. Bush has not yet signed off on a specific strategy and has no current plan to try to oust Mr. Assad, partly for fear of who might take over. The United States is not planning large-scale military operations inside Syria and the president has not authorized any covert action programs to topple the Assad government, several officials said.

'Cause after all, when we went into Cambodia, that just solved the whole Vietnam problem just solved itself right then.

Not surprising, but interesting

The most interesting part of the story is left out. Why was the trip "hastily arranged?"
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed Saturday to persuade Russia to offer new support for a hard line on Iran's disputed nuclear program, despite making a hastily arranged trip to the Russian capital.

From that face at the Rice/Putin press conference afterwards, I gather that it didn't go the way she wanted.

Innocent but charged?

Just reprinting this gem from the WaPo story this morning on the Rove testimony.

Rove's defense team asserts that President Bush's deputy chief of staff has not committed a crime but nevertheless anticipates that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald could find a way to bring charges in the next two weeks, the source said.

Anybody want to explain that to me.

Oh, and notice that Rove's attorney now expects him to be indicted.

Good Luck, Iraq.

Here's hoping that the Iraqi elections go peacefully.

I have many issues with the Bush administration's Iraq policy, but, man, do I want the whole thing to resolve with as little violence as possible. I don't want our people to get killed; I don't want their people to get killed. And nothing would make me happier than to see Iraq restored to a developed country with power and water and the most literate and egalitarian populace in the Muslim world.

Here's hoping.

Dirty to the end,

WASHINGTON - Stung by his recent indictment in Texas, Tom Delay is trying to turn his legal woes into a financial boon for his re-election. The former House majority leader is using his congressional campaign to distribute to voters derogatory information about the prosecutor who brought the charges against him and to solicit donations for his re-election. .....

Don McGahn, a lawyer for DeLay's campaign, said the use of the campaign for the anti-Earle effort is "perfectly legal" and has nothing to do with trying to sway jurors. .....

The Web site also gives readers tools to send a letter to newspaper editors in support of DeLay, to contact a radio talk show or to e-mail DeLay's carefully crafted "facts" to friends.

And, of course, the Web site wouldn't be complete without one of the oldest pitches in politics. "Make a contribution," it pleads.


All hail the glorious leader. He is never wrong.

Hurrah, Hurrah.

Glorious leader is only spending $1,000 dollars per person this year in debt. He is truly a great and noble leader.

The United States trimmed its groaning budget deficit to 319 billion dollars in fiscal year 2005, the government announced, as swelling tax revenues partly offset heavy spending on defense and health care. .....

"While deficits are never welcome, the fact that we finished FY 2005 with a much lower-than-expected deficit is encouraging news," Treasury Secretary John Snow said in the year-end budget report. .....

This year's deficit of 319 billion dollars represents 2.6 percent of gross domestic product, the Treasury said. .....

Spratt said this year's gap was 588 billion dollars worse than the Bush administration had projected in its first budget in 2001.

"The administration assumed passage of its tax cuts, yet projected a surplus of 269 billion dollars in 2005," he said.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Piling on.

Another investigation of the Bush administration.

Investigators at the Education Department have contacted the U.S. attorney's office regarding the Bush administration's hiring of commentator Armstrong Williams to promote its agenda. .....

"The inspector general wouldn't refer this to the U.S. attorney unless there was evidence of misconduct that requires further investigating," Katz said.

I think there's just going to be more and more of this, as the whitehouse continues to weaken. And so far, we haven't seen any reopening of the big bananas, the torture scandal and Iraq WMD stories(maybe fitzgerald's digging into this, but we don't know.)

Pew poll.

I don't do too much on polling, because I feel that if I'm gonna put one up here, I have to look at all the internals, because as we all know, polls can be deceiving.

(For instance, the recent WSJ poll that showed Bush approval among blacks was at 2% was based on a sample size of 89 people. And although I doubt that Bush polls well among the black community, especially after Katrina, I really don't think a sample size of 89 is large enough to be very credible.)

But I do believe in the consensus of the major polls, and right now, I find the "right track/wrong direction numbers" pretty amazing. I do poll in the majority opinion which is on the "wrong direction" side, but I find it troubling as a citizen of this country that the "right track" number is at or below 30% in almost all the polls. I'm not amazed, but I'm troubled as to what it means for the optimism and, indeed, the future of our country.

This country needs new ideas and new leadership. Not because of the crimes and past actions of this administration, although I think they should go for that, but more importantly for the future well-being of the country. People no longer believe that this group of leaders will make things better.

Won't someone please step up. Republican, Democrat, I don't care. Will someone please step up to lead us out of this mess.

Update: Oh, sorry, forgot the link to the Pew poll from the graphic above. It's at the top right now, but you may have to scroll down later.

While on the topic of men telling women what to do.

A long-awaited report on the 2004 Food and Drug Administration decision to reject an application to allow easier access to the "morning after pill" concludes that the decision was highly unusual, was made with atypical involvement from top agency officials, and may well have been made months before it was formally announced.

It's a hundred years since the Cleveland remark below.

Just ran across this.

On this day......

On October 14, 1905, former president Grover Cleveland wrote an article for 'Ladies Home Journal,' opposing women's voting rights. His words: "We all know how much further women go than men in their social rivalries and jealousies...sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by men and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."

Bigotry is always proved wrong. Oh, and note his absolute certainty in his knowledge that the "higher intelligence" supported his position.

That's always wrong, too.


This is from a Knight-Ridder piece by Tom Lasseter. He spent a week riding with an Iraqi army group. Major Ghilan lost two sons and a daughter to a "Sunni" suicide bomb. Now, his mostly Shia unit is responsible for security in mostly Sunni Western Baghdad.

Ghilan is a major in the Iraqi army and a Shiite Muslim, the sect that makes up some 60 percent of Iraq's population. Now, more than ever, the grieving father says he wants to hunt down and kill not only Sunni guerrilla fighters but also Sunnis who give those fighters shelter and support. By that, he means killing most Sunnis in Iraq.

"There are two Iraqs; it's something that we can no longer deny," Ghilan said. "The army should execute the Sunnis in their neighborhoods so that all of them can see what happens, so that all of them learn their lesson."

Tell me again about a peaceful future Iraq?

(note: I pulled this version from the Miami Herald. It is behind a subscription wall, but if you click on the www.bugmenot.com link to the right you can get a working password. It's a newsjunkie's dream.)

Just the arrogance of it

Just amazed by the arrogance of this.

MULAN, China, Oct. 13 - Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, touring this village in the Sichuan province to promote "financial modernization," urged China on Thursday to take lessons from the United States on how to spend more, borrow more and save less......

It has been an awkward lecture at times, given that China's economy is still growing at a blistering pace of 9 percent, is a huge magnet for foreign investors and is one of the United States' biggest creditors.

China's savings rate is nearly 50 percent, one of the highest rates in the world. The savings rate in the United States, by contrast, has sunk to less than zero in recent months and is one of the lowest rates in the world.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

The tide has truly turned. The news is not that Bush held a news- conference where the questions were staged, after all, there's a history of this, most notably on the 2004 campaign trail with the carefully screened crowds and such. (read the whole thing, it's short and pretty funny.)

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged

It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.

The real news is that this made the AP's third top story. I think this shows kind of what I was talking about here, as to the possible broader implications of the Plame investigation reaching the upper echelons of the whitehouse.(check the first update. Even if Cheney's not directly implicated, I believe the premise of a weakened whitehouse being besieged by score-settlers will play out.)

There seems to be no more fear of this administration, which had previously wielded it's powers of intimidation so very, very well. This article is reversed from almost all the coverage that came previously. The information the administration wanted to get out is all buried at the bottom, while all the unflattering context is presented as the lead. (and headline)

Don't believe me? Look at the shot the CIA fired yesterday in their long running vendetta with the Bush administration after being blamed for the pre war intelligence.

Policymakers worried more about making the case for the war, particularly the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, than planning for the aftermath, the report says. The report was written by a team of four former CIA analysts led by former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr.

"In an ironic twist, the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right," they write.

I don't think the Bush administration has much time to right this ship. And I think the Mier's nomination grumbling is the start of their complete loss of control.

Watch the politics around the torture provision the senate attached to the defense appropriations bill. Bush threatened to veto the whole bill if it was attached, but it passed 90-9 (see this post to see the senators who voted to continue the current practices.) Early indications were that the House leadership would not support it and would get it removed in conference, but as the Bush political fortunes fade, as well as their ability to do favors, raise funds, and offer protection, I would bet that the House leadership may have a hard time killing this. Is standing for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo really the platform you want to run on for reelection, Mr. Congressman?

To quote so many others, get out the popcorn, the show is just about to begin.

UPDATE: Check this out from Atrios.

CNN just showed a bit of the pre-interview clip. Rough transcript of Pentagon flunky addressing the troops:

The president's going to ask some questions and he may ask all 6 of them, all 3 of them. He might have such a great time talking to you. He might come up with some new questions. So what we want to be prepared for is to not stutter. If there's a question that the president comes up with that we haven't drilled through today I expect the microphone to go through to you Captain Kennedy.

It's all coming apart, Rove is out, and there is no more fear.

Update 2: If you're a debater or a political nerd like me and like reading, or watching the McClellan press gaggles, the one today was an absolute doozie. We've got questions on the staged teleconference listed above, a sharp exchange on Plame indictments, and some pretty pointed questions on just what the president means when he says "a free and democratic Iraq."

Excerpts, and a link to the video, from Holden here.

Update 3: check out the DoD press release assuring us that we did not see what we saw, and that we don't love the troops if we think it was staged.

Bush detention policies hinder war on terror.

You knew it was coming sooner or later. The detention policies of the Bush administration have forced a country which does follow international law to not allow extradition of a terror suspect to the US.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Dutch court on Wednesday blocked the extradition of a Dutch terror suspect to the United States, saying his legal rights in U.S. custody could not be guaranteed. .......

The ruling by the Hague District Court said the suspect's "fundamental right" of unlimited access to a defense lawyer and immediate access to a judge may be compromised in the United States. .......

"This ruling is unique in Dutch legal history. Never before has a judge ruled that an extradition to the United States could not take place because the rights of a defendant could not be guaranteed," Nooitgedagt said ......

Remember the version of America you were taught in school. Think about this a minute.

If you missed it last night,

If you missed it last night, I would highly recommend going HERE to watch the segment from the Olberman show last night on The Nexus of Politics and Terror which listed ten different occasions where bad news for the Bush administration was rather quickly followed by a terror threat, or the release to the public of old intelligence or events.

He has a list on his blog, but, quite frankly, it's gonna take about as long to read as to watch the video segment.

Plus, he's got an interview with Asa Hutchinson, former number two at DHS. Pretty much said what you'd expect, except for one kind of awkward passage where he seemed to say quite clearly that DHS never raised the terror alert level for political reasons. But, how he said it seemed quite stilted and seemed to imply that he was only comfortable guaranteeing that he and Ridge had never used terror news to support the admin.

Remember that strange day when Ashcroft and Mueller made the announcement of a terror threat:

Wednesday the 26th. Two days later, Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warn that intelligence from multiple sources, in Ashcroft’s words, “indicates Al-Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the United States hard,” and that “90 percent of the arrangements for an attack on the United States were complete.” The color-coded warning system is not raised, and Homeland Security Secretary Ridge does not attend the announcement.

Anyhow, when the transcript come up tonight or tomorrow, I'll link to it here as an update.

And once more, I'd recommend the video, seeing the pictures of it all really brings back memories of the time.

UPDATE: Transcript here. About half way down. Again, watching it is better.

Quick hit Catchall this Morning

In this morning's news, there was alot I found a little interesting, and very little I found alot interesting, so I'm gonna do a quick catchall.

In no particular order.

Kyrgyzstan has backtracked and allowed the US to keep it's airbase despite Russian pressure.

I'm still proud to be driving a diesel. (better mileage and less greenhouse gases, although if everyone did, the soot would make us look like 1850 London.)

Legalize it. It just makes economic sense.

Republicans outlawing gay marriage solely to up their voter turnout. Bigotry is a powerful weapon. California, Texas. And the more religious southern states have higher rates of teen pregnancy and STD's. Repressed urges are a bitch.

Before Katrina a survey showed 727,304 homeless in the US, or about 1 in 400.

And here's one of the reasons why I'm looking at a third version of a $20 bill not to mention the vanishing higher denominations.

The SEC subpoenaed Frist.

A sad story on stateside suicides within one unit of Army Special Forces.

And, finally NASA climatologists say that 2005 will be the hottest year on record along with a very telling graphic.

See, all a little interesting, but none of it worth an extended post. Sorry for the catchall post, I hate these, but it seemed the only way to mention these without writing tens of pages and boring the hell out of both you and me.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Judy finishes in only an hour.

From Steve Soto at the leftcoaster. Again, this assumption would support the previous theory of the crme entry. I'm beginning to believe that Fitzgerald caught Judy in the perjury trap, and turned her. All speculation, but it does match the facts.

Judy Kneepads finished her final appearance in front of the Plame grand jury a little while ago, spending a little more than an hour. It sounds like she was there just long enough to get something on the record in front of the panel, and then she was done.

In other words, just long enough to hang someone else.

She was all smiles as she left the courthouse. Note the strange initial, unprompted thought by Alberto Gonzales this morning when he offered an opinion on NBC’s “Today” show as to why Miller was returning for another appearance:

"This prosecutor may have new information that may contradict prior testimony…"

Too much text lately.

Sorry, all this Plame speculation has required far more text and far longer entries than I normally prefer. So to offset this, I give you pictures I've come across over the last couple days. Submit your Bush photo captions in comments if you want, but let's leave the Iraq photos to just stand on their own.


Very interesting theory of the crime.

If you've got a minute, jump over here and read what I think is a pretty interesting theory on how Fitzgerald may have caught Judy Miller in a perjury trap. Completely speculative, but very interesting.

Must See TV -Countdown with Olberman MSNBC tonight.

I mentioned this yesterday, but be sure to check out Countdown with Keith Olberman tonight. MSNBC (Ch.73 houston warner cable) at 7PM central, rerun at 11PM.

They have been promo'ing it, The Nexus of Politics and Terror.

It's a look at the taboo subject that everytime Bush's poll numbers are suffering, there just seems to coincidentally be a terror alert posted. Daily events may push it out(indictments or whatever), but if it's there, watch it.

A little more this morning.

Here's a clip from the WSJ piece referenced in the previous post. Sorry, can't verify directly as WSJ is subscription and expensive, but if you've got a subscription, here's the direct link. (If this is not valid, let me know and I'll pull it down.)

Since then, her lawyers have told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the leak of the CIA agent's identity, that Ms. Miller's notes show that she also spoke with Mr. Libby in late June, information that was not previously given to the grand jury.

Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy. .....

Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims...

(coincidentally this is exactly word for word the same as the rawstory clip from last night. That's why I want to try and check it out.)

If Fitzgerald does get into the Iraq group, he would be deep in the core of those who were pushing the Saddam WMD claims. As Laura Rozen (bolds are hers) points out from a WaPo article from AUG 2003.... (by the way, I highly recommend Rozen's Blog, I almost always find something there that comes over here.)

...The escalation of nuclear rhetoric a year ago, including the introduction of the term "mushroom cloud" into the debate, coincided with the formation of a White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, a task force assigned to "educate the public" about the threat from Hussein, as a participant put it. ..... (WHIG was formed in August by Card - Mike)

The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Among the regular participants were Karl Rove, the president's senior political adviser; communications strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James R. Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas E. Calio; and policy advisers led by Rice and her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, along with I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. .....

A "strategic communications" task force under the WHIG began to plan speeches and white papers. There were many themes in the coming weeks, but Iraq's nuclear menace was among the most prominent.

'A Mushroom Cloud'

The day after publication of Card's marketing remark, Bush and nearly all his top advisers began to talk about the dangers of an Iraqi nuclear bomb. ...

Two debuts took place on Sept. 8: the aluminum tubes and the image of "a mushroom cloud." A Sunday New York Times story quoted anonymous officials as saying the "diameter, thickness and other technical specifications" of the tubes -- precisely the grounds for skepticism among nuclear enrichment experts -- showed that they were "intended as components of centrifuges."

No one knows when Iraq will have its weapon, the story said, but "the first sign of a 'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud." ...

A senior intelligence official said last October that the president's speechwriters took "literary license" with intelligence, a phrase applicable to language used by administration officials in some of the white paper's most emotive and misleading assertions elsewhere.

The draft white paper precedes other known instances in which the Bush administration considered the now-discredited claim that Iraq "sought uranium oxide, an essential ingredient in the enrichment process, from Africa." For a speechwriter, uranium was valuable as an image because anyone could see its connection to an atomic bomb. Despite warnings from intelligence analysts, the uranium would return again and again, including the Jan. 28 State of the Union address and three other Bush administration statements that month.

Other errors and exaggerations in public White House claims were repeated, or had their first mention, in the white paper.

I'll post more as I come across it.

UPDATE: I was just sitting here thinking about the other possible connections out of the Whitehouse Iraq Group, and let me postulate something for which I have no concrete backing.

The WHIG was getting it's intelligence data that it used to prop up it's questionable WMD claims from somewhere. Might I offer that the DoD's Office of Special Plans and its precurors might be one of the candidates.

From the award winning Mother Jones piece, The Lie Factory. Remember, this is the outfit that Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski outed a couple of years ago. And it was also the main entry point for "stovepiping" all the bad intelligence that Chalabi supplied.

The reports, virtually all false, of Iraqi weapons and terrorism ties emanated from an apparatus that began to gestate almost as soon as the Bush administration took power. In the very first meeting of the Bush national-security team, one day after President Bush took the oath of office in January 2001, the issue of invading Iraq was raised, according to one of the participants in the meeting‚ -- and officials all the way down the line started to get the message, long before 9/11. Indeed, the Bush team at the Pentagon hadn't even been formally installed before Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense, and Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of Defense for policy, began putting together what would become the vanguard for regime change in Iraq. ......

Daniel Benjamin, co-author of The Age of Sacred Terror, was director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the late 1990s. "In 1998, we went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq," he says. "We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between Al Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact." Indeed, that was the consensus among virtually all anti-terrorism specialists.

In short, Wurmser, backed by Feith and Rhode, set out to prove what didn't exist. ......

The purpose of the unnamed intelligence unit, often described as a Pentagon "cell," was to scour reports from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and other agencies to find nuggets of information linking Iraq, Al Qaeda, terrorism, and the existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In a controversial press briefing in October 2002, a year after Wurmser's unit was established, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that a primary purpose of the unit was to cull factoids, which were then used to disparage, undermine, and contradict the CIA's reporting, which was far more cautious and nuanced than Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Feith wanted. .....

But Luti was more than that. He'd come to the Pentagon directly from the office of Vice President Cheney. That gave Luti, a recently retired, decorated Navy captain whose career ran from combat aviation to command of a helicopter assault ship, extra clout. .....

Besides Cheney, key members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, including Perle and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all Iraq hawks, had direct input into NESA/OSP.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Here's the Buzz, Cheney, too

Huffington Post, so they've got contacts, but they have been wrong before, too.

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are working on stories that point to Vice President Dick Cheney as the target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name.

My birthday falls on the day the grand jury is scheduled to close. Is this asking for too much?

There has been much speculation in the left side of the blogosphere at the administration figures which have been absent from official functions at which they would normally be present.

Rove was notably absent from the Mier's nomination announcement, as well as several other functions.

Cheney has been almost non-existent since his pre-Katrina vacation and surgery. Some have speculated health, others a falling out with Bush. But this Huffington allegation could be it, too.

Here's some indication that it might be true.

Just rumormongering at this point, but juicy, eh?

Update: After thinking about this a little bit while running around commenting on some other blogs, I've decided that if true, the implications of this are pretty staggering. So here's one of those comments that I think sizes it up pretty well.

I would guess that if Cheney is indicted, all the people who this Neocon cadre have pissed off (not to mention Rove) will sense political weakness and start leaking like crazy. The whole WMD lie would probably be revisited with new information, not to mention the torture scandal and god knows what else.

The Bush whitehouse would start pushing people over the side in an effort to regain some credibility, certainly reshaping the political makeup and political abilities of the remaining policymaking group.

And let's not even talk about the fallout on the midterm elections.

Let's quote one of my favorite wise men, " Get ready, that's a fact, Get ready, you Mother, for the big payback." - James Brown.

Update 2: Source, Raw story, so several grains of salt, but since I'm already rumormongering.

Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.

"Hit me again. Ow."

This is for real.

Oh. My. God. I don't know why this shocks me so, kindof like the Prison Tycoon game I came across a couple weeks ago where you can set your guards to beat on prisoners to maintain discipline and profit. Somehow, it seems wrong to force this stuff into a child's world.

And yes, this is a real Playmobil set ages 4-7.

Check out the third review by loosenut if they haven't pulled it down. (The screenee's shoes are not removable. Hah!)

TV Alert!!! Wed night must see: Olberman

Wed Night on Olberman, MSNBC 7 PM central, replay at 11PM central, they will do a significant piece on the uncanny occurence of terror alerts coming when the Bush poll numbers are falling. Don't know if it will be the whole hour, but they promo'ed it as a special show for this specific topic.

So, if you get a chance check it out, or you can see the replay at 11PM central.

(ch 73 on Houston warner cable.)

Sorry, had my days crossed up earlier. If memory serves, it's on tomorrow(Wed. Night.)

NY Terror Threat a Hoax. - Subset to Olberman post above

Why does the American press fear using the word "lying?" I mean, "leading investigators astray?" Isn't that unwieldy as hell?

Again, check out Olberman tonight. Feature: the odd coincidence of terror alerts coming when Bush poll numbers fall.

The subway terrorist threat that gripped New York last weekend was a hoax stemming from false intelligence provided by a normally reliable informant, US law enforcement officials were quoted as saying.

According to newspaper and television reports, the unidentified officials said the informant -- believed to be from Pakistan -- had admitted leading investigators astray about a plot to bomb the New York subway system.

This is not a success

This is from Editor and Publisher. And the E&P story presents this as a success pressing very hard that among the youngest respondents, the number is highest which is good, but not surprising.

(Gallup poll)
Somewhat fewer whites than blacks accept interracial dating, but their acceptance is still strong. By age, the breakdown ranges from the 95% in the younger group to about 45% of those 65 and over.

There is no longer even a double standard on the gender involved, with 71% of the entire sample approving a black man dating a white woman and 75% backing a white man dating a black woman.

But Sometimes when I read polls, I read them backwards. And throwing out the black man/ white woman minor statistical difference mentioned above, when I read that poll, I read that 25-30% of Americans still don't approve of interracial dating.

It's the 21st century for god's sake.

Stolen joke

I don't remember the source for this joke, but I heard it second hand.

The sign on Bush's desk reads:

The buck doesn't even slow down here.

A little on army manpower issues.

First, another story on how army recruiting fell below goals last year. I only mention it because it contains this gem:

Opinion surveys indicate that daily reports of soldiers dying in Iraq have dampened young people's interest in joining the military, prompting the Army to try new ways to make the war work in its favor.

Ya think so, eh?

And please notice the clever phrasing of this. It is the "daily reports of soldiers dying" that is dampening recruiting, not that the soldiers are actually dying daily.

Then from an LATimes piece on how 3,000 AirForce personnel are being pulled into 12 month ground roles in Iraq comes this frightening revelation.

Nonetheless, the reassignments come as another sign that the Pentagon is struggling to meet the demands of what military officials have begun calling "the long war."

And then just to get a grip on how short the army is in Iraq, look at the jobs that AirForce and Navy personnel are taking over. (ssems that the core shortages are around interrogation and prison guard.)

Air Force officials said they are expecting to commit another 1,000 airmen to missions such as guarding prisons and driving trucks over the next few years, but they don't plan to make these jobs "core competencies" within the Air Force. .....

The first Air Force interrogation teams were deployed to Afghanistan this year. Most belonged to the Air Force's internal investigative service, had experience questioning suspects and didn't require additional training. But subsequent Air Force interrogation teams, drawn from an array of unrelated jobs, are undergoing 16-week interrogation courses at the Army's intelligence academy at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz. ......

By summer, the Navy expects to have retrained 3,000 to 4,000 sailors as prison guards, cargo handlers and for other jobs that have traditionally fallen to the Army.

By the way, Bill, one of the changes in the national army recruiting strategy is to change a significant portion of their television ad buys from national to local. Thought you might find some interest in that.

And finally, "one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer...."

The National Guard and Reserves are suffering a strikingly higher share of U.S. casualties in Iraq, their portion of total American military deaths nearly doubling since last year.

Reservists have accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. deaths since the Iraq war began, but the proportion has grown over time. It was 10 percent for the five weeks it took to topple Baghdad in the spring of 2003, and 20 percent for 2004 as a whole.

The trend accelerated this year. For the first nine months of 2005 reservists accounted for 36 percent of U.S. deaths, and for August and September it was 56 percent, according to Pentagon figures.

I'm sure it's the reports of the deaths that are the problem.

And while on the topic, let me add this from the WaPo this AM

The (Army National) Guard has been targeting 18-to-25-year-olds in online ads that promise three free iTunes music downloads to anyone who agrees to be contacted by a military recruiter.

After three months, more than 770 people have downloaded, although it is too early to tell how many of them will join up, said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, deputy division chief for National Guard recruiting.

Negroponte - Newsguy - promoted from comments

Gonna promote this from comments to a full entry. Comment was on the "Negroponte Salvador Option" post yesterday. And as always, please forgive any choppiness, the comments section of blogger always feels awkward when you're trying to make a complex point, and the commenter did not write with the thought I would put it on the main page.

So, with that preface, I give you Newsguy:

Good point. If Negroponte is in charge in Iraq, he must have been put there because he had a background that suggested he would do the job in Iraq. And that background seems to be his active direction or at least complicit tolerance for death squads in Honduras.

This is from the Institute for Public Accuracy:

Birns is director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, which released the report "Negroponte: Nominee for Baghdad Embassy a Rogue for All Seasons." He said today: "Though the Bush administration is strenuously attempting to portray Negroponte as a distinguished career Foreign Service professional, it should be recalled that his 1981-85 stint as ambassador to Honduras was filled with every form of chicanery, deception -- and later lying to Congress over his role during the Iran-contra era. Rather than heading for Iraq, Ambassador Negroponte should be facing proceedings concerning his sanctioning of Honduran death squads..."

So if he did death squad duty in Honduras, in the eyes of the criminal Bush administration, he is perfect as Ambassador to Iraq.

It seems awfully coincidental that people on Negroponte's watch seem to die en masse, shot, with their hands tied behind their backs. And those murder victims are the people identified with opposition to US presence.

I think Negroponte is a high-class hit man wearing a suit and tie, but carrying the values of a Tony Soprano.

Ånd I think the Bush administration knows damn well who he is. Their public affirmation of torture is just the tip of the iceberg. But it is a clue to their mindset.

In the blogger profile, Newsguy is listed as running two blogs. CommonSense - which I read and liked and Cindy is an American Hero, which I haven't looked at yet, but feel pretty confident by the title that I would agree with.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Negroponte's Salvador Option

Negroponte was one of the dirty warriors of the Reagan/Bush I wars in Central America. There was a brief flurry of stories about this when he was promoted to his current position, director of national intelligence, about some of the tactics Negroponte put in place in Central America way back when. Then, there were some leaks out of the leak proof Bush administration that Negroponte was pushing the "salvador option" for resolving the insurgency in Iraq. Basically, roaming, government endorsed "death squads."

Previously, I cited the Washington Post story about a whole village of Iraqi men, cuffed and lined up who were selected by a masked teen as to who would be left in town and and who would go for "further interrogation," and how different it must be when the WaPo reporter isn't invited along. At that time, I said, keep an eye out for dead Iraqi men found with their hands bound, as it is the hallmark of this kind of death squad. Of Negroponte's policy.

This is virtually identical to the kind of information that came out of Central America in the eighties. We're in another dirty war. And just as before, our soldiers aren't doing the killing, but if it's like Negroponte's previous involvement, the spooks are hip deep in it.

This is your government at work.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The 22 bodies, lined up in coffins in a mosque courtyard Friday, are as shriveled as ancient mummies after lying a month in the desert where they were dumped, bound and bullet-ridden. They were Sunni Arabs, rounded up from their Baghdad homes one night by men in police uniforms. .....

Both minority-Sunnis and Shiites accuse one another of using death squads — and the accusations are deepening the Sunni-Shiite divide at a time when mistrust is already high over a new constitution that Iraqis will vote on in eight days. ......

But there have been several cases of Sunni Arabs who turn up dead in large groups after being taken by men claiming to be Interior Ministry forces. The largest group of bodies found outside Baghdad was 36 Sunnis discovered Aug. 25 in a dry riverbed near Badrah, close to the Iranian border, after being kidnapped in Baghdad.

The grisly finds have led Sunnis to believe that Shiite Muslims who dominate the government and the Interior Ministry are waging a quiet, deadly campaign against them. But the Interior Ministry denies any role and blames insurgents using stolen police equipment. ......

On Aug 18, some 50 vehicles full of men in Interior Ministry uniforms swept into Baghdad's Iskan neighborhood just after dawn and surrounded several streets, going into houses and grabbing the 22 young men — some of them pairs of brothers, said Jamal Amin Mustafa, 60, who lives nearby and was at Friday's funeral service.

"They took them from their bedrooms," said Mahmoud al-Sumeidaie, the cleric who delivered prayers during the service. "We blame the government, which came to save us from Saddam's terrorism but has brought terrorism worse than Saddam."

The story is echoed by Tahir Dawood, who on Sept. 28 went to the Baghdad morgue to identify his two younger brothers and five of his cousins whose bodies — bound, blindfolded and shot — were found that morning dumped in a lot near his neighborhood of Hurriyah.

The seven, all construction workers, had been taken from their homes the previous day before dawn, by a large force of men in police uniforms who told families they were from the Interior Ministry, Dawood told AP. He has since fled Baghdad with most of his immediate family.

Someone's pushing a story.

I just think this is a really interesting example of someone pushing a story. I don't know who specifically is behind this, although I don't think it is a stretch to say that is a very connected dem maybe on the senate reelection committee or in the national party apparatus.

But the bottom line is that both the WaPo and LATimes ran big stories today about how the Republicans aren't able to recruit their first choice candidates for the house and senate seats coming up in the 2006 midterms. They both write from the same presumption that the growing unpopularity of the Republican gov't combined with all the scandal and corruption is scaring away the best candidates.

This does a whole bunch of stuff. 1) it adds the presumtion that any new repub candidate is not the "first choice." 2) it adds to the doubt first choices might have about running. 3) it adds to the perception that the repub's political fortunes are going downhill. 4) it validates and magnifies any doubts rank and file republicans might have. 5) it reminds everyone just how serious the repub corruption and scandal are. 6) it amplifies Bush's waning popularity. 7) ......

Talk about knee capping. I don't think this ever, and I mean ever, happens if Rove is still fully engaged. It's become pretty obvious that whoever is working in his place is not half the man.

It also validates my general thesis that the washington press are not crooked whores kowtowing to the republicans. The washington press are crooked whores who kowtow to whoever's in power. And if the dems want to get their favorable coverage, they're gonna have to take a chunk out of the collective republican ass.

Anyhow, I'd really like to find the source for these story ideas and shake their hand. That's some seriously good work.

When did USAToday start being a real newspaper?

I don't know when it happened, but somewhere in the last few years, USA Today has become sort of a real newspaper. My memory is from six or seven years ago when the brightly colored rag would appear at my hotel room door, containing articles no longer than three paragraphs, with no big words and lots of pictures/graphs.

But over the last couple of years, maybe longer, I have put USA Today's top headlines in my Yahoo news, and over time, I've noticed that their stories have gotten longer and their in house reporting has gotten pretty good. In this era of newspapers becoming less and less, I've been pleasantly surprised that USA Today has been offering more.

Here's what got the mention today, a fairly detailed article about the reduction in rebuilding projects in Iraq.

But there are signs that some of the early momentum is gone, particularly for big infrastructure projects. The Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works initially planned to use U.S. funds for 81 much-needed water and sewage treatment projects across the country, says Humam Misconi, a ministry official. That list has dwindled to 13.

Canceled projects include the $50 million project that was supposed to provide potable water to the second-largest city in the Kurdish region, and a $60 million water treatment plant in Babil province, which would have served about 360,000 residents, Misconi says. .....

Nearly half of all of Iraqi households still don't have access to clean water, and only 8% of the country, excluding the capital, is connected to sewage networks.

And despite progress in fixing Iraq's antiquated oil production system, the country's oil wells produce about 1.9 million barrels of crude oil a day, lower than 2003 levels and well under the 3.5 million barrels Iraq was producing before the 1991 Gulf War.

Gulf War

Iraqi households still endure about 10 hours a day of power outages. In Baghdad, the power is out about 14 hours a day, according to the Electricity Ministry. Iraqi power plants are now generating nearly 4,800 megawatts, up from 4,400 before the U.S.-led invasion.

I mean, this article is huge, detailed, combines info from many sources. It's real, good reporting. Way to grow up USA Today.

Also a very good detailed piece on the rising power and defiance of Iran, Venezuela, and Russia brought on by their increased influence due to rising oil prices.

French activists disable SUV's

French activists targeting urban SUV owners. I just found this story compelling reading for some reason.

Under cover of night, Marrant's troops target Jeep Cherokees, Porsche Cayennes and other four-wheel-drive vehicles parked on the tree-lined avenues and cobblestoned lanes of wealthy neighborhoods. The eco-guerrillas deflate tires without damaging them, smear doors with mud and paste handbills on windshields proclaiming that the vehicles are dangerous, polluting behemoths that do not belong in the city.

"We use the mud to say that if the owners will not take the four-wheel-drives to the countryside, we will bring the countryside to the four-wheel-drives," ........

Although city leaders don't condone vandalism, officials have gone as far as proposing that Paris ban sport utility vehicles. Deputy Mayor Denis Baupin, who oversees transportation programs, has called the SUV "a caricature of a car."

(BIG WARNING: In the US you may be considered a terrorist if you support this type of action. The guy in California who started a fire at an SUV lot went down on terrorism charges. The Bush administration defines certain environmental(ELF) and animal rights groups(ALF) as terrorist. Not that I condone the actions of some of these groups, I don't want to be accused of supporting terrorism 'cause I could go to jail for that in Bush's America, but I find their investigation and prosecution under terror statutes an over stretch of the laws meant to protect the average citizen from a real threat. Sorry to take the fun and levity out of this, but this is the legal reality we live in.)

Worth a read

Written by James Yee, the US chaplain at Guantanamo who was accused of treason incarcerated, investigated, then finally busted on misuse of gov't property for his laptop. An american citizen/soldier. Includes some very interesting day in the life anecdotes from Guantanamo before all the "abuse" allegations. Really worth a read if you've got the ten minutes.

Barely a week ago I had received a glowing evaluation for my work as the US army’s Muslim chaplain among the “Gitmo” prisoners. Now I was the one in chains.

It was my turn to be humiliated every time I was taken to have a shower. Naked, I had to run my hands through my hair to show that I was not concealing a weapon in it. Then mouth open, tongue up, down, nothing inside. Right arm up, nothing in my armpit. Left arm up. Lift the right testicle, nothing hidden. Lift the left. Turn around, bend over, spread your buttocks, knowing a camera was displaying my naked image as male and female guards watched.

It didn’t matter that I was an army captain, a graduate of West Point, the elite US military academy. It didn’t matter that my religious beliefs prohibited me from being fully naked in front of strangers. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t been charged with a crime. It didn’t matter that my wife and daughter had no idea where I was. And it certainly didn’t matter that I was a loyal American citizen and, above all, innocent.

I was accused of mutiny and sedition, aiding the enemy and espionage, all of which carried the death penalty. I was regarded as a traitor to the army and my country. This was all blatantly untrue — as would be proved when, after a long fight, all the charges against me were dropped and I won an honourable discharge from the army.

I knew why I had been arrested: it was because I am a Muslim. I was just the latest victim of the hostility born the moment when the planes flew into the twin towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

My real “crime” had been that I had tried to ensure that the suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters detained in the Gitmo cages were given every opportunity to practise their religion freely, one of the most fundamental of American ideals.

I had monitored the atrocious treatment meted out by the guards. And I had come to suspect that my appointment as the prisoners’ chaplain was simply a piece of political theatre.

And, yes, this was not published in the American press.

Ah, Fox News. You never let me down.

One thing can be said for Fox news, they never let you down.

From Thinkprogress.org (mainstream far left)

On the Miers nomination. Fox show host Brit Hume.

BRIT HUME: I think, Chris, that to the extent that the president flinched, he flinched on this point, and that is he decided it had to be a woman and/or a minority, and that narrowed the field. And I think it’s also the case that while he had just named to the appellate bench some quite likely seeming candidates, Priscilla Owen being one, Janice Rogers Brown another, and after prolonged battles, lasting years, gotten them confirmed, I think that he was still operating from a much narrower list. And in that context, she looked much better than she would have against a full field, men and women alike.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bush is claiming credit for something he didn't do.

Kinda long. Basically the "major speech" that included "new information" on the US terror efforts exaggerated the Bush admin's success. Not a surprise, just documented. Unbelievably, Jose Padilla was counted as a "disrupted" terror plot.

And let me say again. Charge Jose Padilla. Charge him or let him go. He is a US citizen arrested on US soil and is being held in indefinite detention in a military brig in South Carolina being denied access to his lawyer. Tell me again about the freedoms you're protecting, George.

WASHINGTON — In the spring of 2003, Los Angeles police officials were summoned to a briefing with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force and told that the 73-story Library Tower might have been the target of a terrorist plot similar to that of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings.

When the plot was disclosed last year, authorities said publicly that they had viewed the claims by captured Al Qaeda chieftain Khalid Shaikh Mohammed with skepticism. They said that, at best, the alleged plot was something that had been discussed but never put into action.

By the time anybody knew about it, the threat — if there had been one — had passed, federal counter-terrorism officials said Friday.

Still, the broader idea for attacks on West Coast buildings that included the Library Tower was one of the cases President Bush was referring to when he said that three potential terrorist plots within the United States had been "disrupted" since Sept. 11, 2001. In his policy address Thursday, Bush spoke at length about terrorists and their organizations, saying that at least 10 plots had been foiled worldwide by the U.S. and its allies, including plots in the U.S. ......

On Friday, the White House responded to questions seeking clarification on the potential attacks by referring inquiries to the FBI or other counter-terrorism agencies. The FBI referred the questions to the White House.

"I'm not going to have more to say on those matters at this point," McClellan said.

He said the list of foiled plots had been prepared by "the intelligence community" and was released late in the day, hours after Bush's speech, because officials needed to make sure the information it contained would not jeopardize national security.

The White House acknowledged that many of the plots cited by Bush were based on previously known information. But it would not comment on whether Bush and his administration had claimed credit for thwarting terrorist plots in the United States that, in reality, had not risen to the level of a "serious" operational plot at all, as some federal counter-terrorism officials maintained.

A case in point, the U.S. counter-terrorism authorities said, is the alleged plot that included the Library Tower. ......

Those men were soon captured, however, and the plot never progressed past the planning stages, according to several counter-terrorism officials.

"To take that and make it into a disrupted plot is just ludicrous," said one senior FBI official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with departmental guidelines.

A second U.S.-based plot on the White House list involves the case of Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen accused by the administration of being an enemy combatant who plotted to blow up apartment buildings. Padilla was arrested in 2002 and is being held by the U.S. military. However, senior law enforcement officials who know about his case said they had not found any indication that the idea had developed into an actual plan.

And just what are the British doing in Basra.

I'm too lazy right now to go back and find the links, but remember the two British Intel/spec forces guys who were arrested by the Iraqis with significant amounts of explosives in their car after they had a shootout with Iraqi policemen?

The official government story from the British was that these two were interdicting the import of weapons from Iran and that the explosives were for tunnels. (A quick thumbnail guess from a UN map at relief web put Basra about 30 miles from the Iranian border.)

Then there was the odd non-specific mention of a british citizen, read non-military, being arrested in Iraq, also coincidentally in Basra.

Now this:(BBC)

The governor of Basra province has accused British forces of destabilising security following the arrest of 12 people over attacks against UK troops.

The men, some of whom are police officers, are still being questioned.

Governor Mohammed al-Waili said the British should have co-ordinated with him and with Iraqi security forces.

It's almost like the British are making efforts to provoke violence in Basra. Don't know, just getting some weird points along a line.

(By the way, a quick look at google maps looking for Basra, Iraq came back "we're sorry, we don't have maps at this zoom level for this region." Guess they took the military seriously when they complained that the powerful google maps was making satellite recon available to the insurgency. I'm generally for freedom of information, but this one I understand.)

What the readers among us already knew. Iraq will get still worse.

Iraq is now becoming a true quagmire. Not that that's surprising in and of itself, but the Iraq policy has now created a situation where no possible result is likely to be better than the current poor situation.

If the constitutional referendum fails, the government will dissolve and the US will be de facto ruler of a country without a command structure which will be increasingly factionally violent. Not that we aren't already, but at least we've got a puppet.

If the referendum passes, all pretense of political action by the Sunnis will cease; their only mechanism left to influence the country will be increasing violence. Also, once the real government is seated by elections in December, I would expect the minority Kurds to follow suit as it becomes plain that the Shia plan to dominate policy.

Not only a civil war, but a three way civil war.

LATimes. (I'm linking to the Yahoo version cause it's non-subscription.)

WASHINGTON — Senior U.S. officials have begun to question a key presumption of American strategy in Iraq: that establishing democracy there can erode and ultimately eradicate the insurgency gripping the country.

The expectation that political progress would bring stability has been fundamental to the Bush administration's approach to rebuilding Iraq, as well as a central theme of White House rhetoric to convince the American public that its policy in Iraq remains on course.

But within the last two months, U.S. analysts with access to classified intelligence have started to challenge this precept, noting a "significant and disturbing disconnect" between apparent advances on the political front and efforts to reduce insurgent attacks.

Now, with Saturday's constitutional referendum appearing more likely to divide than unify the country, some within the administration have concluded that the quest for democracy in Iraq, at least in its current form, could actually strengthen the insurgency. .......

Vice President Dick Cheney has put it more succinctly. "I think … we will, in fact, succeed in getting democracy established in Iraq, and I think when we do, that will be the end of the insurgency," he told CNN in June.

Sorry, I watched the Astros game.

Sorry for light blogging today, played tennis, came home and watched the 18 inning Astros game. Great game, but it ate up the better part of the day.

I'll try to catch up over the next hour or so.