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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, January 28, 2006

A little night reading by Waxman.

Henry Waxman did the Democratic respons to the Presiden't weekly radio address this morning, and he just layed into the new medicare drug benefit. (can't find the source link, so I'm gonna link to the text over at First Draft.) I know I've been going on about this, but this is fearless. More of this, please.

But 40 years ago, seniors experienced none of the chaos that they are experiencing today. What went wrong this time that went right 40 years ago? A large part of the problem is the legislation that the Republican Congress passed in 2003. Instead of using Medicare, which seniors and persons with disabilities have relied on for years, the program was turned over to hundreds of private insurers who can charge what they want, cover what drugs they want, and change what they cover at will.

Instead of the certainty of Medicare coverage, seniors are now faced with a confusing array of choices, inaccurate information, and sometimes even higher costs. They are even threatened with penalties if they don't sign up at all.

And instead of Medicare negotiating low drug prices for our seniors, insurance companies are making their own secret deals with drug companies.

Why did this happen? I've been in Congress for over 30 years, and I have never seen a more dishonest legislative process than the one used to pass the Medicare prescription drug bill. Negotiations were behind closed doors. Lobbyists knew more about what was happening than most Members of Congress did. Key estimates about the bill's cost were illegally withheld from Democrats. And both the Administration's point man on the legislation and one of the lead Republican authors in Congress were negotiating - at the same time - high-paying jobs representing the pharmaceutical industry.

Silencing climate critics

This isn't really a surprise coming out of this administration which puts just about anything, votes in this case, ahead of science and what's in the greater public interest, but it's the top story on the NYTimes site right now, and that's a little significant.
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

By the way, down here in Houston, we've had the warmest winter I can remember in thirty years. I saw that 2005 was the warmest year on record, and am assuming that our "winter that wasn't" down here is taking place across the country.

The weird thing to me is all the strange, sorta spooked conversations I have been a part of where people look up as if checking to see if it's safe, then almost whisper, "Is this global warming?" If it's beginning to freak out some of the oil and gas men I know, I'm sure that similar conversations are taking place elsewhere in the country.

And just for a little climate reading to keep you up at night. (if you have any other articles of interest, drop them in the comments.)

Warmer Seas Will Wipe Out Plankton - Reprint from The Independent

A partial collapse of the North Atlantic Conveyor currents

Feedback loops amplifying warming kicking in

I often wonder, sheer speculation here, that maybe in some US government vault there's not a study showing that, although it would suffer significant damage, the US would fare far better through a climate catastrophe than it's major geopolitical rivals. Maybe it's a little overparanoid, but it's the only other way, besides greed, that I can explain the willful policy of large scale climate destruction by the US government.

And after all, in the fifties, there was a group making the case for a full preemptive nuclear strike on Russia with the idea that we would be better off than them. "10-20 million US dead, depending on the breaks."

And if you look at it, China, for instance, would likely suffer far more than the US in terms of water supplies and agriculture. If their grain imports dried up, a significant portion of their population would starve and their economy would grind to a halt. Europe and Russia would suddenly find themselves under intense increases in preciptation as well as drastic drops in temperature across the wealthier northern parts of Europe.

Just playing in paranoid land as I wait for the rain to come.

Picture of the day - 2

Hamas supporters in Palestine.

Gaggle question

Q This is my question -- I have two. A tunnel half a mile long has been discovered between Mexico and the United States. This well-constructed tunnel was reportedly used to smuggle drugs. But a Homeland Security official says, it could also have been used by terrorists to transport people and weapons into the U.S. Is the President concerned that homeland security is almost impossible when our southern border can be so easily penetrated?

Translation: Isn't the whole "Republicans as the party of security" just a carefully crafted myth?

The NYTimes has caved.

Okay, I'm gonna call it officially. After that strained argument by the Whitehouse that the domestic eavesdropping program shouldn't be called domestic because one of the parties is overseas(one is in this country, though and the tapping actually took place here, right?) the NYTimes appears to have caved in to the preposterous semantic demands.

Two days in a row, the word "domestic " has been removed from the term in the NYTimes lead article on the subject. They have gone from "domestic spying" or "domestic eavesdropping" to "wiretapping," which has its own set of negative connotations.

Picture of the Day

"Oh, Mr. Sajak. I just love your show" - or -

"and then, she just fell over dead. Too bad she couldn't get her heart medication." - or -

"Could you help me find my sister Moira. She used to live in New Orleans, and now I don't know where she is..."

Friday, January 27, 2006

US seizing Iraqi wives

There have been some allegations of this, and a few anecdotal cases, but never previously a hard record from the military. (Documents released in a FOIA by the ACLU.) The details are a little staggering, and there is a documented recommendation(?) from a "command officer."
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

Strip that free from Islamic cultural context, and think about that a minute. The Russians, the Chinese, the Nazis, whoever, came into your house, kicked in the door, and took away your wife, your children's mother.

Picture of the Day - 2 - The Next Wave

This is face of the future.

A great wave of Muslim disquiet.

George Bush went to war in Iraq, to some large part, because he believed in a modern day domino theory, that if Iraq went democratic, it would offer a an ideological, as well as a physical launching point, from which the US could manage a series of populist democratic takeovers of other nations in the region. The domino theory was a fallacy in Vietnam, and it is a fallacy today.

The issue with this poorly rooted design, as has been the case with alot of the Republican foreign policy since Reagan, is that in its grand sweep, it took no account of the potential blowback.

The US, in it's efforts to democratize the middle east at the point of a gun, has aggravated the Muslim world in the same way that the Israelis' aggressive policies have aggravated the Palestinians. Should we be surprised that given the freedom of choice, people of the Arab world would choose a leader who vowed to aggressively go after those that are attacking them regardless of the other consequences?

That's more or less what the US did in the last election.

So, take a look at this young face and remember the demographics. 1.3 billion Muslims, half of them under 25. This is the blowback from Bush's highly theoretical but poorly considered foreign policy. This is the face of the future. This is the next wave of terror.

Yoooo hoooo, Mr. NSA man...

Bomb, jihad, explosives, cell phone, lincoln tunnel, al jazeera.

Just thought I might draw a little government traffic to my blog on this slow Friday. Not much else going on. Just submitting myself to the great fascist search engine. And from what I can tell, they seem to be looking for something to read.

Picture of the Day

Scooter Libby. Credit to Marisa of Yes, and then Some for the picture. She went to Washington to cover the indictment a couple of months ago.

If you wish to reproduce this picture, contact Marisa at the above blog as she holds all relevant rights to it.

Plame Gossip - The Libby Defense

There's a little bit of motion in the Libby case. Maybe better said motions as the Libby defense is attempting to extend their fishing expedition into what reporters may have known regarding Plame's covert status, and interestingly, where they learned that information, possibly outing several "high level government sources. " (NYTimes, WaPo, AP)

To me this seems a longshot defense, but I guess that's all they've got, seeing as the indictment is not about leaking Plame's name or status, but instead about lying to investigators and committing perjury in front of the grand jury.

These defense motions may aid the public image of Libby's guilt, as well as offering an opportunity for the defense to cross examine the moral paragons Woodward, Judy Miller, and maybe Andrea Mitchell, on the stand, but, quite frankly as to the perjury, it's a simple case. Libby lied to the grand jury about several conversations, and there are numerous witnesses, as well as other corraborating facts. It's a Libby said vs. he said, she said, he said, public records show, the investigation has found, etc. etc. The indictment was crafted to be very limited to Libby's lying and perjury, carefully written around the "underlying crime."

Three other more "out there" possibilities of this defense are 1. simply attempting to delay the trial verdict until after the 2006 midterms, 2. trying to establish a better footing before attempting to renegotiate a plea deal, or 3. trying to establish political cover to enable the President to issue a pardon down the line. No idea if any of these are applicable, I've just found it useful to list possibilities when looking at this case.

Tom Delay needs a new nickname

I don't know what it should be, but I think Tom Delay needs a derrogative nickname attached to him. "Crooked Tom" or "Tammany Delay" for the more historically minded. Because , buried in a George Will column(so no wonder everybody missed it) was this gem.

Tom Delay, under investigation for playing a major part in possibly the biggest money for votes and kickbacks scandal in a century, brags that he will win "the most expensive congressional race ever."

Also, this wonderful little story in my local paper. It appears my Crazy Christian Bush favored governor(nicknamed "good hair" by the way) may get taken down with Delay as well. Happy Day!
The Chronicle had reported that one of the state's contract lobbyists, Cassidy & Associates, spent $7,600 to host a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority on March 2, less than two weeks after receiving its first monthly state payment of $15,000. The firm's lead lobbyist, Todd Boulanger, has close ties to DeLay and his aides.....

"The same guy, on the same day, nearly simultaneously signs a state lobby contract worth $15,000 a month and hosts a fundraiser for Mr. DeLay,"

Abramoff prosecutor promoted out of the investigation

This is just a confirmation that the Bush administration has nominated the top Abramoff prosecutor for a federal judgeship. You would think such an article might mention who was likely to take over the investigation, or maybe look into how long this guy's been on the nomination shortlist.

Oh, and add to this, that he's scheduled to step down as early as next week.

C'mon. If it smells, ask a few questions.

Update on "Domestic"

I'm just going to watch this, because rarely has the Whitehouse so blatantly attempted to change the language of the media than in it's contortionist efforts to get the word "domestic" out of the descriptions of the "domestic" spying program.

Today, the NYTimes appears to have caved, changing the wording in their topline article to simply "eavesdropping" with no descriptor.

The WaPo is still boldly using "domestic" in their first paragraph.

Didn't see an article in the LATimes.

I know this may seem kind of petty to you, but controlling language is controlling perception. I'll put more here as I run across them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3 - It's the little things

If you're going to defend violating the Constitution,

Katrina isn't over - Blind racism is deep.

Certainly, this chart and the accompanying article, tell me that higher lung cancer rates among blacks is due to genetics or their "habits."

It couldn't possibly have anything to do with this. "An Associated Press analysis of that data shows with black Americans ... are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posing the greatest health danger." (MSNBC)

Maybe, I'm just a little oversensitive to this living down here in the petrochem heartland, but right next to some of the highest repeat offenders on emissions standards all over this area, Houston, Beaumont, Pasadena, Texas City, Freeport, are large black neighborhoods. Right up next to the fence.

(And don't even bother me with the, "they moved there" argument. Local politics here is littered with parallel examples of white communities and black communities receiving different treatment regarding their polluting corporate neighbors.)

This kind of blind spot racism just makes me crazy. It affixes the blame solely on the "habits" or genetic "make up" of Blacks in America. You see, it's their fault. If only they were more like Whites, then they wouldn't have all their problems. What really gets me is that this sort of storyline passes completely unchallenged in our newly aware, post-Katrina America.

(Also take note of the corporate media's blind spot on pollution as a whole. There is a big debate we should be having as to what is the "acceptable" level of pollution in which we want to live and raise our kids. Certainly in our modern societies we can't realistically expect zero pollution, but by what mechanism have we collectively decided that the current level is acceptable. Have you ever seen a significant debate in the major media? As example, this article didn't even mention the possibility of differing exposure to pollution as a contributory factor in cases of LUNG CANCER.)

A further claim of extraordinary executive powers

The DOMESTIC NSA spying is bad, but this little mention in the Boston Globe should get everybody's ears up.

WASHINGTON A footnote in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's 42-page legal memo defending President Bush's domestic spying program appears to argue that the administration does not need Congress to extend the USA Patriot Act in order to keep using the law's investigative powers against terror suspects.

If this is the case, at what limit does the executive's powers lie?

A secondary issue in all ths is that the power to designate someone as a terror suspect is currently solely claimed by the executive as well, a designation they have been attempting to extend to include "environmental terrorists" and "narco-terrorists" (drug dealers.) There is no ability to challenge the status of "terror suspect" and as far as I can tell, no burden of proof, and no review by anyone outside the administration.

It also calls into question the official status of the antiwar protesters who showed up on the DoD's watch list. The NSA is a part of the Defense Department, so does an appearance on the DoD's threats list warrant terrorist status avail the government the justification during "war time" to tap their phones and conduct "sneak and peek" no notification searches?

In effect, the Bush administration has claimed the ability to spy on anyone. But it's worse than that.

Once a subject is designated as a terror suspect, this administration has claimed the power to tap their phones, and examine any business records without warrant(medical, financial, psychological,) and search their residence all without review. To then detain them without charge, to ship them off to a "black site" base or "friendly" country for aggressive interrogation or outright torture. And then to use that information to designate others as "terror suspects" and potentially repeat the whole process in an exponentially exapanding tree.

Explain again to me just freedoms you are protecting, Mr. Bush. The freedom of "security of person" is the base right from which all other gurantees flow. It is the first guarantted right in the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which the US is a signatory.

"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
Article 3, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

At this point, it appears that these programs are affecting thousands, maybe tens of thousands in a country of 300 million. But there is no effective limit to the scale of powers claimed by this administration. One is too many.

The pieces are in place, folks.

I would love to hear Bush answer the question, "what are the limits to the powers you claim?"

Picture of the Day - 2

Bush admin turned down legislation making parts of NSA spying legal

This has been bouncing around since Glenn Greenwald first put it up on Tuesday. The WaPo picked it up this morning.

The Bush administration rejected a 2002 Senate proposal that would have made it easier for FBI agents to obtain surveillance warrants in terrorism cases, concluding that the system was working well and that it would likely be unconstitutional to lower the legal standard.

This is a pretty big blow to the Bush administration's legal arguments justifying warrantless spying.

(Also, notice the day after McClellan and the President made a big stink that this should not be called "domestic" spying to the incredulity of the press pool, the WaPo is pointedly calling it "a secret program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency." The NYtimes is still using "domestic" as well in captions, but not in articles. Let's see if the NYTimes has caved to McClellan.)

Oh, and the WaPo isn't the only one picking up this story. Add Knight Ridder (also still using domestic) and the LATimes (also domestic), both with probably a more direct description of the conflict. LATimes not online yet, link to Kos)

RAND says the average Guardsman loves the war.

A perfect Republican filter of employment. Total focus on pay, and no attention to working conditions.
WASHINGTON - Most military reservists who left their civilian jobs to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan made more money there than in their regular jobs, according to a study that contradicts the notion that citizen soldiers lose money when they go to war.

Quote of the Day

They're already laying the groundwork for defending a nothing speech.
"The state of the union address will be directional for our party and our country, and visionary," Ms. Wallace said. "That is not code for it lacking substance." (White House Communications Director)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Is Karl Rove looking down her shirt?

And isn't this just so convenient....

WASHINGTON - President Bush on Wednesday nominated one of the Justice Department's lead prosecutors in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe to a U.S. District Court seat.

Guess Abramoff won't be releasing those photos of him and Bush then, eh?

NSA Wednesday

Several NSA warrantless spying points today. Scott McClellan got blistered at today's gaggle over that foolish "Setting the Record Straight" press release designed to take the word "domestic" out of the warrantless domestic NSA spying.

Look, Scotty, I understand what you're trying to do, but if one of the parties is in the US, it's still domestic spying regardless of where the other party is, no matter if you call it an "international call." I guess it depends on what the definition of is is, eh, Scott?

Second, Arlen Specter sent Al Gonzales the questions ahead of the test, sending a letter to Gonzales outlining the subjects to be covered in the DOMESTIC NSA spying hearings. (warning, PDF)

Finally, Bush took reporters into the freaking NSA threat operations center. (No more claims that others are giving away sources and methods, Mr. Bush.) And while there, he pulled a full Osama.
"Officials here learn information about plotters and planners and people who would do us harm," Bush said, reading from note cards. "Now, I understand there's some in America who say, 'Well, this can't be true there are still people willing to attack.' All I would ask them to do is listen to the words of Osama bin Laden and take him seriously."

And, come on, George, I know that it's been awhile since you mentioned Osama, but do you still need note cards for the terror speech after giving it sixteen trillion times? Also, the AP reporter was nice enough to shoot down the Bush strawman in the next paragraph.
However, no one in the political debate over the war on terror or the NSA program has suggested that terrorists no longer want to attack the United States. Rather, Bush's critics have argued that the law requires him to get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to eavesdrop on communications involving Americans.

From reading the coverage today, if today was to be the endpoint of the NSA spying justifications, it looks like the PR campaign flopped.

Gay cowboys

For some reason, a comment from Graeme triggered a memory in me. Shortly after after the crushing reality of Bush's 2004 inauguration had sunk in, I was, probably like so many of you in deep despair.

One day in that time period before the blog, I was bemoaning the organization of the Right, and how they had coupled the "new" religion with country music to create a false American mythology, kinda like Disney's Main Street. I was riffing with my friend WildBill on how difficult that self induced delusion of being "true Americans" would be to dislodge figuring that there was no real way to separate the right from their religious base, but that maybe the false 50's western mythos of the cowboy could be punctured.

And, then it came to me. Gay cowboys. If the image of the cowboy could be appropriated by the gay culture, god fearing homophobes would abandon its trappings and fetishisms and would return to just being hicks. It would take away their moral claim to the heart of America.

Now, I have to say, this was all well before Brokeback Mountain, and I had completely forgotten about it until I read Graeme's comment so similar to mine almost a year ago. There has been a pretty strong reaction on the right to Brokeback Mountain, and I wonder if some of that is not coming out of a threat to identity. I don't really know why this came to mind, but it made me chuckle.

As an aside, I do live down here in Texas, and there are indeed grown men who dress up like cowboys, at least their perception of what cowboys would wear, and they walk around like that. Nobody makes fun of these grown men walking around in the adult equivalent of a children's costume. They go to work in their hat and boots, and on their Saturday night's out they wear the bolo tie. It's a small segment of the population in Houston, bigger in Dallas, but it's there. Grown men. Walking around dressed as cowboys. Lived here all my life and it still blows my mind.

Probably the worst fight I ever got into was when I walked up to a couple of these guys in a bar and asked them if they got to dress like cowboys, did I get to dress like a pirate. Wham!

(And by the way, never do an image search for gay cowboys if you want to put a picture on a blog post!!!!!! Lesson learned.)

Peter Daou on the media hill in front of the democrats

Peter Daou writes in his Salon column in total what so many bloggers have attacked piece by piece, that the major media have developed a political storyline very favorable to President Bush an unfavorable to Democrats who speak against him.

He doesn't go this far, but I would argue that, although present to some degree since Bush declared as a presidential candidate in 1998, a large part of this storyline was a genuine, if unintentional, response to 9-11. I would argue that there is a natural group response in times of threat to rally around a leader and thus any challenge to that leadership, even if it by other Americans, is framed in a negative light.

Read this, I found it very thought provoking.

Bush and Abramoff

A whole lot is being made about the five or six photos showing Bush and Abramoff together. And yes, those would be visually damning, but let's not forget the bigger picture here.

Susan Ralston, one of Rove's top aides, came directly from Abramoff's office. I recognize that Bush/Abramoff connections would be damining, but really, aren't Rove/Abramoff ties much more significant? How many pieces of legislation are written off Bush's desk vs. Rove's? Who sets the agenda and manages the negotiations to get things done for this administration.

So perhaps we should be focusing on Rove's connections with Abramoff rather than talking about Bush's.

Picture of the Day - 2 - Fearless Dems

Harry Reid made a speech yesterday titled, The Real State of our Union, and it got me thinking.

Look, whether you like Hillary Clinton, or Howard Dean, or Charles Schumer, they believe.

They are fearless, and they believe in their cause.

After all the fear and negativism of the Bush administration, that's the way the Dems will win elections. Strength and Hope.

That's what America wants. An honest man or woman standing up to say "I am unafraid, and I will take you to a better tomorrow."

A little polling

I generally try to stay away from polls, but there have been a few interesting ones out there in the last few days.

First, the ARG poll that puts Bush approval at 36%. Recognize that ARG has been a couple points below the mean on the approval ratings, but the significance is that the numbers are coming back down. The State of the Union Speech is going to be huge for Bush. Whattya think, Mars, bitches? Hydrogen cars? Steroids in baseball? What wacko issue will Bush stick in this one?

Second, at TheLeftCoaster I ran across this interesting but complicated Gallup poll on party identification indicating a rather significant shift in party identification. The state by state breakdowns show Dems +3 or more in 29 states, Repub 14, even in 6. More interestingly is the trend lines, Dems hitting a low of 16 in 2002.

Last, not really an official poll with numbers and all, but I think this one might matter alot.
DAMADOLA, Pakistan - Sympathy for al-Qaida has surged after a U.S. airstrike devastated this remote mountain hamlet in a region sometimes as hostile toward the Pakistani government as it is to the United States.

We only support live troops

Did you know that there have been 57 US troops who died in Iraq this month? Fifteen since Friday? Honestly, I didn't. If you'd have asked me I could have given a guess, but really, where would I get that information if I hadn't gone looking for it?

When was the last time you saw a national news story covering the death of an American soldier as the headline, not as some supporting detail in the lower paragraphs of a summary article on Iraq?

Even in some of the more horrendous large casualty events, the coverage frequently offers no names, no faces, no details of the individuals, and, when that information becomes available from the Pentagon, no follow up.

The Bush administration has turned the fallen soldiers into a political football, their mere mention is treated as an openly political act against the Iraq war. Remember the huge fuss around the Nightline episode where Ted Koppel simply read the names of the fallen on Memorial Day? (roughly 700 at the time) Boycotts, a refusal to broadcast from Sinclair media, remember that?

My point is that the dead and injured are largely being forgotten for political reasons, when it is those individuals and families that we should be generous to with our "support." Just thought I'd mention it.

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The end of the empire?

How many great empires have collapsed from one last military overexpansion? True, I don't think the US is in any peril of falling to anarchy, but certainly we've reached a point where our reach has exceeded our grasp.
WASHINGTON - Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon's decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

I'm hoping that Bill is out there to chime in on some of the historical parallels, but I would just look at some of the modern parallels of imperial failures. The British in the Middle East, the French in North Africa, the last Russian overexpansion into Afghanistan....

I think that this moment may be hugely significant in the history of the American empire. If the US cannot pacify a country less than one tenth it's size, its claims of imperial domination of the world are already fading. What realistic threat do we possess when facing down Iran, for instance. We've lost two of the last three major deployment wars, and the one win we managed was a supremely successful set piece battle, not the holding of territory.

As you might guess from the blog title, I would actually contend that the US empire formally crested sometime in the 1960's when the US underwent the transition from largest creditor nation to the world's largest debtor nation and from a net oil exporter to a net oil importer. This is not a bad thing, this is the reality of the historical re-emergence of China.

My whole point in this blog is that in this absolutely critical period of transition, the US needs brilliant but subtle leadership to establish structures and relationships that will benefit the coming geopolitical order. For instance, if the US is to no longer be the preeminent power in the latter half of this century, it is in US interests to establish a binding law of nations which will limit the power of those that will ultimately surpass us.

Instead, we have a leadership which is detroying international conventions. If we can invade Iraq around the UN, what keeps China from invading anyone they want in ten to twenty years time. We have the final threat of nuclear weapons, but I think a look at the Soviets near the end shows that that is a difficult card to play.

Bush is right when he says that a failure in Iraq will embolden our enemies. However, I would argue that we should be much more worried about the greater challengers to our empire rather than a small group of terrorists no matter how deadly.

The one thing that Bush doesn't see is that failure in Iraq is almost inevitable at this point. His war has shown that the emperor has no clothes. And future Americans will suffer for that.

So, the next time you hear Bush acclaimed for his "national security" leadership, remember what the real threat is, and that this administration is further weakening our long term position. It's too complicated to distill down into a talking point, but it is the future. And the sooner we can come to grips with it, the better the outcome for us will be.

(Sorry, don't know where all that came from. I may write more on this later depending on the reaction. This has little more "me" than I usually like to interject, but there are all sorts of elements that play into this complicated coming power struggle. But I guess if you elect an oilman, everything looks like it's about oil.)

Picture of the Day - 4

Army troops from Fort Riley, Kansas listen to President Bush deliver a speech about the war on terror. (yesterday's speech.)

Looks like they care what their Commander in Chief has to say, huh?

Picture of the Day - 3

I didn't watch the Gonzales speech. Did they show this or did they cut away?

Students, presumably GW law students, stood an turned their backs to Gonzales while two more unfurled this sign.

An Impeachment Committee? - Insight Mag

I have no idea if this is valid. It's from Insight Magazine and reads like the "Bush Gone Crazy" leaks a couple of months ago, a single, apparently lower level, administration source, but still... Insight has ties to the Wash Times and does have some followers in the administration.

This is an article discussing the possible preparations for impeachment of President Bush from a right wing magazine. It really reframes the desperate PR campaign this week on the warrantless spying. Enough of me.

It's pretty big and I'm gonna give you alot of it, but go read the rest for yourself.

Impeachment Hearings: The White House Prepares for the Worst

The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Administration sources said the charges are expected to include false reports to Congress as well as Mr. Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant. This included the monitoring of overseas telephone calls and e-mail traffic to and from people living in the United States without requisite permission from a secret court. ....

Sources said the probe to determine whether the president violated the law will include Republicans, but that they may not be aware they could be helping to lay the groundwork for a Democratic impeachment campaign against Mr. Bush.

"Our arithmetic shows that a majority of the committee could vote against the president," the source said. "If we work hard, there could be a tie.".....

Mr. Specter and other senior members of the committee have been told by legal constitutional experts that Mr. Bush did not have the authority to authorize unlimited secret electronic surveillance. Another leading Republican who has rejected the administration's argument is Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas.

Don't know, don't know. But this is the first report I've seen from anybody on this. Just a heads up.

Reading through this again, all mentions are of Senators, and you need the House to launch impeachment proceedings, so who knows. But still.....

Also interesting is that Bush made the speech yesterday in Kansas where he travelled with Sen. Brownback (R - Kansas) one of the two Republican Senators mentioned in this article as unhappy with the Bush explanations.

Elsewhere: 58% of Americans are irresponsible and unpatriotic because they want to see a special prosecutor appointed to look into the warrantless surveilling of Americans.

Picture of the Day - 2

"Mr. President, Jenna's defense attorney is holding on line two." -or-

"For billing, press 6. If you think you've violated the constitution, please stay on the line, an operator will be with you shortly." - or-

"This call may be recorded......."

I love Big Brother.

It's not the new scanner that intrigues me in this. It's the peppy, overly positive presentation that implies I should be excited about the wonderful new technology being used to scan me in every public space I enter. (Maybe I'm just having a paranoid morning, but this just sounds like a bad Soviet/Chinese propaganda piece to me.)
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new surveillance device using radio waves to look under peoples' clothing for concealed guns, bombs or other weapons may be coming soon to a security checkpoint near you.

But the modest need not worry about screeners sneaking a voyeuristic peek because the system only identifies non-human material tucked inside clothing and does not convey images of the naked form underneath.

The corruption of the conference committee

I'm not going to say too much on this, I assume it's going to be everywhere, but I couldn't let it pass by without some mention. (WaPo A01)
House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.....

That change was made in mid-December during private negotiations involving House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and the staffs of those committees as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. House and Senate Democrats were excluded from the meeting.

That's about $75 for every man woman and child in the US given away to the health insurance industry. How much were those tax cuts again for the $40,000 median income family? And this is just one case.

Picture of the Day

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Iran a decade away from nukes

This is common sense and everywhere, but I thought it would be a good idea to repeat it all the same. (WaPo A01)

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal.

This sudden Iran policy flare up is a distractionary tactic to move American opinion away from the scandals that have been plaguing the Bush admin. It's no coincidence that Iran suddenly came back on the policy screen after the Christmas holidays. (holidays that Iran doesn't celebrate!)

Plame Gossip - Chasin' Jason

Jason Leopold has published a piece on Truthout, quoting former State Dept. officials, saying that Fitzgerald is indeed investigating the Niger forgeries, but only as they might impact a coordinated effort by the White House Iraq Group to retaliate against and silence Joe Wilson.

So, it doesn't look like he's collecting evidence to prosecute on the Niger forgeries, but previous reports show that he may be sharing what he learns with the FBI investigation into the matter.

Picture of the Day - 2

"Reasonable belief" vs. "probable cause"

Gen. Michael Hayden, head of the NSA made the first speech of the administration's three day PR campaign to justify the warrantless NSA spying. And the NYTimes coverage hits this one dead on the head writing straight down the middle. (don't get to say that very often.)
The standard laid out by General Hayden - a "reasonable basis to believe" - is lower than "probably cause," the standard used by the special court created by Congress to handle surveillance involving foreign intelligence. ....

But General Hayden said that the difference in the legal standards also played an important role in determining whether to go to the FISA court or not.

That's it. Right to the middle of it. Did/does the Bush administration have the authority to bypass the FISA court if they wanted to start surveillance without court admissible evidence? I would say no.

The logical following argument to me is this: Was that "reasonable belief" formed by evidence inadmissible to the FISA court because it was gathered through questionable means, such as rendition or torture? I would guess yes.

Texas Republicans in Katrina

My local paper, the Houston Chronicle, has a phenomenal inside look at the racism in some of the Katrina efforts out of Texas.

This is a great picture of one segment of the Republicans of Texas, but I want to emphasize that this is just one part of the Republicans down here. We'll call them, oh, the Bush Republicans, because they are part of the legacy of patronage he left here in Texas. There's also a more fiscally Republican but socially liberal crowd in Houston who threw in lots of money and effort into the thing, so don't cast everybody in that net.

But certainly Gov. Rick Perry and his staff, and Tom Delay don't come out very well. (Walt, Wilson, and McCraw are the governor's staffers.)
"I have real concern developing about lawlessness breaking out in Texas as a result of our generosity," Walt wrote. ....

On Sept. 2, Wilson wrote McCraw and Perry staff that someone with the Sugar Land Republican's office called, wanting to know whether Perry planned to call the National Guard to "protect Houston" from what was happening in New Orleans. ....

"DeLay's office called again," Wilson wrote 18 minutes later. This time, DeLay's staff said the city of Houston was asking for the Guard to patrol the perimeter of Reliant Park and the George R. Brown Convention Center and to provide logistics support.... (Not true. Houston did not request Nat'l guard - mike)

A couple of hours later, Wilson wrote, "DeLay's staff called again and DeLay was standing right there. He REALLY wants to talk to the gov-especially about the national guard.".

WTF was Delay doing getting involved in this at all? He has no jurisdiction, and Sugarland is a good 30 miles from the Astrodome/Reliant complex. This is a long article with alot more in it.

And let me say again, this does not diminish my pride in my city's reaction to Katrina. We have no party affiliation in city races, but the clearly Dem leaning mayor Bill White and the strong Republican county chief Bob Eckels worked through their differences and together opened the arms of this city to offer everything we had.

The offer for sanctuary in Houston happened before the governor or federal officials even opened their mouths.

It's rare in a big city that city governments do something that makes you that proud to be a citizen, but I will always hold those two local officials in a special place because they said to the people of New Orleans, "lean on us" and allowed the citizens of Houston to all pitch in during those horrible days and help to carry the weight. Like so many others, I went around hitting up everybody I know for donations and clothes and whatnot, and there was not a single person I talked to who wasn't doing something to help.

While the Governor and Tom Delay were apparently worrying about marauding blacks raping white women and eating babies.

Picture of the Day

"See, this is where my heart should be...."

Remember the NSA references at the Bolton hearings?

Remember, way back during the Bolton confirmation hearings, it seems so long ago, some circumscribing discussions about Bolton misusing/abusing NSA intercepts? I remember specifically Bill Richardson claiming he was tapped and outed to Bolton over N. Korea.

Anyhow, Jason Leopold has a piece up on Antiwar about this practice, Cheney, according to source, apparently used this in an unprecedented way.

But the sources said that on dozens of occasions Cheney would, upon learning the identity of the individual, instruct the NSA to continue monitoring specific Americans caught in the wiretaps if he thought more information would be revealed, which crossed the line into illegal territory. .....

"What's really disturbing is that some of those people the vice president was curious about were people who worked at the White House or the State Department," one former counterterrorism official said. "There was a real feeling of paranoia that permeated from the vice president's office and I don't think it had anything to do with the threat of terrorism. I can't say what was contained in those taps that piqued his interest. I just don't know."

(I'm trying to follow you around to the different sites Jason, but it ain't easy.)

Also: Newsweek has a piece on the DoD "talon" database and "force protection" spying on antiwar groups.

Four quickhits that deserve mention

There is an extremely interesting editorial critique of Condolezza Rice and her out of date foreign policy interpretation in the WaPo today by Sebastian Mallaby. Not sure I agree with it 100%, but extremely thought provoking.

Yesterday it came out that Halliburton subsidiary KBR knowingly supplied contaminated water to Camp Junction City, Ramadi, Iraq for at least a year. The water intakes were placed too close downstream to sewage flows.

And if you want to flip out over a presentation democrats as tax and spend communists, take a look at this "commentary" praising democrats' success in the CSM piece titled, "Triumph of the Redistributionist Left." I was grinding my teeth.

Lastly, UPI has an update of the Metalstorm, inc, new gun technologies making their way through the Pentagon evaluation process. Somewhere out there on the internets, I have seen video of a large boxy prototype, it looked like an AA gun, but the thing fired 16,000 rounds per minute. There new promotional materials say they are working on a version that can fire 240,000 rounds per minute. Now if we just had the robot army to carry it around.

President Kerry

Look, I supported John Kerry harder than I have ever supported any candidate, but there are reasons he didn't win. He's a very smart man with very valid points, but he tends to have a tin ear for his audience. Tell me you haven't read a press release or transcript from the Kerry camp and thought, "this guy's even boring in writing."

Anyhow, in response to Rove's speech Friday, here's today's tin ear Kerry entry.

"What he's (Rove) trying to pretend is somehow Democrats don't want to eavesdrop appropriately to protect the country. That's a lie," Kerry said. "We're prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer."

I mean, what the hell is that? That is an example of the worst of Democratic tag along, little brother, "me too" politics I've seen in awhile. This is not an issue where you should me making talking points like that!

Look, Sen. Kerry, we supported you in 2004 with all we had. You had your moment, you had your chance. Leave 2008 to others. It would not be in America's best interest for you to campaign through the echoes of your spin challenged 2004 near miss.

I'm sorry. Remain a spokesman. Look at the vital advocate role that Ted Kennedy plays and find some version of it that suits you, but 2008 needs some new blood on the front of the ticket. The Dems need a candidate that can paint a better future against Republican fearmongering. That can win. People are tired of negativism and fear. At this point, people are craving sparks of hope for their future, and with your style, you can't generate that optimism.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

(It's the caption that got me.)

Two-year-old Jayrill Lopez, wearing homemade fatigues, looks at the coffin of his father, U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Lopez Reyes, while standing by his grandmother Gladys Reyes, who sobs softly wearing a T-shirt that reads: 'Jason, hero of my heart', during Lopez's burial in Hatillo, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006. Lopez died of wounds sustained Jan. 5 when a roadside bomb exploded near his convoy on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. At least 47 Puerto Rican soldiers have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since 2001. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

How do they look in the mirror?

How can you call this foreign aid money when it is being spent explicitly to affect the outcome of an election? ($2,000,000)

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Bush administration is spending foreign aid money to increase the popularity of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of crucial elections in which the governing party faces a serious challenge from the radical Islamic group Hamas.

Spreading democracy, my ass.

Picture of the Day - 2

Katmandu, Nepal. More women demonstrating for greater democracy and rights.

(I'm gonna have to look up who this photographer is, because he/she is far too good to be relegated to covering Nepalese politics)

Killing Al Qaeda leaders may not end terror.

Yeah, I know, we all knew that, but I found this poorly written article interesting mainly in that it actually questions US foreign policy orthodoxy. Exceedingly rarely are news stories published questioning US foreign policy tactics as to their effectualness, unless there's the "newshook" of a political angle, a dem criticizing repub or vice versa.

It gives a couple of examples of movements that haven't ended with the death of their leaders, and offers Peru's Shining Path as the only example where it has. Interesting, but I wish they would provide a larger sample, because, of the "movements" listed, Shining Path was the only one possibly primarily financed with outside monies. (drug monies)

That would make sense to me, that "terror" movements of which represent genuine political movements have a greater momentum and thus survivability. For a political version, look at the collapse of the Ukrainian "revolution."

Also, there is an implied criticism of Israel's terror programs. Often in the US the Israeli terror defense is held up as model from which the US should work from, but that seems to ignore one glaring fact. Terrorism in Israel has not been controlled over the years. The Israeli model is based on mitigating terror, not on resolving it's causes.

That's somewhat similar to the argument I made on Friday, that the US is solely interested in mitigating the terrorism of Al Qaeda, not in addressing its root causes and resolving it. It's like a company doctor treating the fever but not the disease because he needs the workers to keep going out into the malarial swamp so that the company can make money.

Or maybe more presently, a mine owner who takes the safety precautions that are affordable, and accepts the risks to the workers beyond that because the profits must go on.

I just found this article interesting in that I read it as somewhat heretical in the current media presentations of the "terror problem." It made me think, and I love that.

ALSO RELATED: Today, the NYTimes has an excellent piece on the failure to limit Al Qaeda along the Pakistan border region with Afghanistan. The region of six million sounds like it's turning into another Taleban run region like Afghanistan was. Lots of frightening and amazing detail. Not gonna blog it cause it's front page and everybody probably saw it, but if you didn't it's essential reading to gain a "state of play" sense of how the war against Al Qaeda/Taleban is really going.

ALSO: Justin Raimondo at Antiwar has a really good thought provoking piece. Two main points of interest to me are: 1. That Iraq has tied down the bulk of US ground forces with only the small addition to the local insurgency of a couple hundred "foreign terrorists." 2. That it is an administration goal to portray Bin Laden as crazy so as to separate him from his criticism of US foreign policy. As is often the case, an interesting look from another angle.

Didja ever think you'd see the day.....

US Vice President Dick Cheney has said he does not believe there are close relations between Iran and Al-Qaeda, seeming to distance himself from some earlier US administration charges.

I guess he learned his lesson. Or maybe, all those questionably legal business deals Hallibutrton worked in Iran, around the sanctions, under his watch.

Picture of the Day

Kashmir. An outdoor classroom after the earthquake.