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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Picture of the Day - 2

See Next.

"America's Heartland" is afraid

One of the biggest shifts in the Republican Party over recent years is a shift in the presentation of the role of the leader. The Republican party no longer offers direction as the reason to elect its candidates, it offers the leader's role as one of protection from threat.

And, by threat, I don't just mean the terrorists are coming to get you. The threats upon which the Republicans establish their power are largely cultural and governmental. Think about the "liberal agenda," and how the Republicans present themselves as the final bulwark against its implementation. Or "Hollywood," or the "feminazis," or "activist judges." There are tons of examples if you run through the Republican rhetoric. Generally, if you see the word "agenda" it's a tip off to one of these issues.

The Republican party, through coded language, has found a way to tap into the discomfort and fear experienced by a broad section of Americans.

I don't think that this is just a bigoted response simply out of ignorance, although some of it is. I think that it represents an outward manifestation of a far greater phenomena. Greater cultural stresses are playing upon these people of "Middle America," job layoffs, outsourcing, healthcare coverage problems, drug fears....

But I think the bottom line is that somehow, intuitively, these Americans no longer believe that their children will have better lives than they do. Whether that's true or not, I think that this belief is an undergirding thread in alot of the Republican rank and file's passion.

As has historically been the case, a population under stress has a tendency to fundamentalize, not necessarily in a religous sense, and one of the core elements of a fundamentalist culture is that you need someone who is "less fundamental," a demon or enemy upon which your piety is based.

You see, they really believe that we love America less than they do. And, in extreme cases they believe that those who are not "fundamental" in their love of America are not true Americans and, thus, want to tear it down.

There's a reason it's called the "culture war."

And the current Republican party has tapped into all this. In their efforts to win elections, they have all but abandoned any sort of forward looking agenda. There was no support for Social Security reform, there is no support for Individual Retirement Accounts.

What they're doing is taking all of this vague sense of uncertainty and ill footing and scapegoating it onto relatively defenseless groups for political gain. For example, can anyone really explain to me how gay marriage was going to have any effect on straight marriages? Or how the decisions on Terry Schiavo had any bearing on anyone outside that family?

The current Republican party has ventured into this frightening land as their main method of obtaining the "Middle America" votes that they need to win elections. Why is it frighteningto me? Two reasons. One, if it works, and they win elections, minority groups and interests directly suffer the result. (Just wait and watch the Supreme Court over the next few years.)

And, two, whenever this sort of "fundamental politics" has been previously undertaken, McCarthyism, turn of the century Irish, unprosecuted lynchings in the South, the only resolution is an eventual moment of such extreme excess that people recoil and society corrects, but only after those excesses have been spent upon the weaker members of our society.

This is a very ugly game the Republicans are playing. It is the utilization of fear and hate to motivate voters and those emotions don't go away on election day. Our society is worse off for it.

The Republicans have no more dream, no more of Reagan's "city on the hill" or "morning in America." What they are selling is leadership in the culture war. Protection from those who "love America less."

The great irony to me is that alot of the pain being felt by the "heartland" section of the Republican party is being inflicted upon them very directly by the big business side of the Republican party. I mean, after all, who is outsourcing the jobs, cutting pensions and healthcare.....

Also, I went back and read a previous piece I wrote on How Nixon's Southern Strategy set the table for this sort of "people like us" politics. It doesn't go as far, but I think it's far better written and explores this coming from a different angle. If you just can't get enough Mike today, take a look. I'd put it up as one of the best posts I've ever done.

(Just a long rambling rant on a Saturday. Readership is down on the weekends, so I get a little bit looser. Hope this makes sense, I'm still on cold medicine, so these "brilliant observations" may not even make sense.)

Bush poll numbers down? Terror Alert!!! (Update)

I can't believe they're still pulling this crap. No terror alerts in 2005, but I guess this is an election year.
FBI: No Credible Threat, but Be Vigilant

The FBI said Friday there is no specific, credible threat of a terror attack aimed at college basketball arenas or other sports stadiums, but acknowledged alerting law enforcement to a recent Internet posting discussing such attacks.....

"We have absolutely no credible intelligence or threats pertaining to this issue," Kolko said.

Actually, the FBI has generally dealt with all this pretty squarely, but after hearing "wolf" everytime the Bush poll numbers sagged all throughout election year 2004, I can't help a little skepticism.

UPDATE: Putting on my most cynical hat, this is released late Friday so the smallest possible amount of media coverage, right? So, who's going to know about it or hear about it? Men. Men sitting watching these basketball games is where this is most likely to come up and be discussed. That brings to mind this little tidbit from the polling stories this week.
Bush's job approval among Republicans plummeted from 82 percent in February to 74 percent, a dangerous sign in a midterm election year when parties rely on enthusiasm from their most loyal voters. The biggest losses were among white males.

What do you think?

(reposted with update from last night.)

Also, if you've never seen this, it is fascinating. It's a segment from the Keith Olberman Show that shows the repeated links between terror alerts and low Bush poll numbers. It's a little long(12 min), but eye opening. It's a mini Cronkite moment. October 12, 2005. (I am not plugging the site this comes from, it's just the first link I came across.)

Picture of the Day

"See, I care about black people."

(Bush at the National Conference on Faith Based Intiatives on Thursday.)

Is this legal?

I'm not a lawyer, although I occasionally do "play one on TV," but this doesn't sound right to me. (NYTimes)

A federal judge issued a highly unusual classified ruling yesterday, denying a motion for dismissal of a case against two leaders of an Albany mosque who are accused of laundering money in a federal terrorism sting operation.

Because the ruling was classified, the defense lawyers were barred from reading why the judge decided that way.....

The prosecutors asked the judge to review their papers in his chambers without making them public or showing them to the defense. At midafternoon the judge issued a document announcing that he had entered the classified order denying Mr. Kindlon's request....

Mr. Kindlon said Judge McAvoy's action convinced him that there was N.S.A. wiretap evidence in the case. "If they were not involved, the government would have told me, 'You're delusional,' " he said.

The defendants in this case were seeking to have the case thrown out because, they postulated, that evidence against their clients had been gathered through the NSA spying program.

Is this precedent? Is this judge ruling that the NSA DOMESTIC spying program is constitutional?

I'll do a little looking around some of the legal blogs this afternoon and update here.

Bad Idea in Iraq?

Inside a bigger story on the struggles Iraq is having in forming a government, I ran across this,
On Friday, the stalemate prompted U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, alarmed by the worst sectarian violence of the post-Hussein era, to propose that the country's leaders gather abroad for a round-the-clock retreat until they settle their differences.

Now, I understand the politics of it, get the top leaders out and separate them from the forces that are influencing them so that you can push one side or the other into a political agreement, but let's just think about the gamble here.

If it works, marvellous, a new Iraqi government forms and we move forward. But to do this, you have to remove whatever existing government there is from Iraq. So, on the brink of Civil War, Zalmay Khalilzad wants to take the the leaders out of Iraq.

Does this sound like a good idea to you?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

Just liked this picture.

Just really weird out of Chechnya

I'm a bit of a follower of bionews and human epidemics, and this one out of Chechnya is truly bizarre. The working medical hypothesis seems to be mass delusion brought on by prolonged stress, but I don't see how you get similar symptoms so close in time and so seperate geographically. Just bizarre. (LATimes)
SHELKOVSKAYA, Russia — It started just after the midafternoon recess. As they lined up to return to class, Zareta Chimiyeva saw a girl in front of her collapse and begin convulsing wildly. Only a few minutes later, Zareta was at her desk when she smelled "a bad smell," and started feeling ill....

When Zareta woke up in a hospital, it took three adults to hold her down. She was thrashing and clutching her throat, unable to get a breath, screaming in terror. She wasn't alone. Thirteen other girls were in nearby hospital rooms, also saying they were unable to breathe, many of them shrieking and crying.

The next day, 23 students and seven teachers in a neighboring village fell ill with similar symptoms. About the same time, four dozen children in two towns a little farther away also began clutching their throats, screaming and convulsing.

They have yet to get better. The outbreak began Dec. 16....

So, four months later, these kids are still showing symptoms? This is the kind of think that might come from moldy bread(ergot/LSD poisoning,) but the length of time is extreme, and it's not clear if the "smell" was external or a manifestation of the disease.

But this is the kind of thing that got people diagnosed as witches way back when.

Just an oddity in a personal area of interest.

Gale Norton resigns and a funny.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton resigned, "suddenly," all the reports say. She has been tied to a lot of Abramoff shennanigans including payments of $50,000 by his clients to her pet charity. So, "suddenly" might have some meaning.

On my local Pacifica radio station one day while I was in traffic, they ran a section of the Senate hearings into Ms. Norton's "environmental group." I can tell you that this will come up again and you will become familiar with the name Italia Federici who fronted for the charity.

Also, a funny. Steven Colbert's The Word - The Long War. If you've got three and a half minutes, it's funny and has a sharp point.

I keep thinking that these political humor shows like Colbert and The Daily Show will go down historically next to the turn of the century political cartoonists.

(A little under the weather today, so....)

Picture of the Day - 2

Notes on the 'War on Terror'

Just a few quick bits I haven't really been able to place anywhere else.

The Times(UK) reports that Iraqi oil production is in decline. It's currently at about a half of prewar levels.

MSNBC is reporting that the DoD admitted in a letter "that it had wrongly added peaceful demonstrators to a database of possible domestic terrorist threats." MSNBC let's them walk on this one, referring to it as a mistake.

Stars and Stripes reported that "Insurgent attacks in Iraq reached a postwar high in the four months preceding Jan. 20, according to a Iraq progress report issued Friday by the Pentagon."

In the same story,

But when asked to describe the individuals attacking coalition forces, 88 percent of Iraqis in the mostly Sunni areas of Tikrit and Baqouba called them either “freedom fighters” or “patriots.” Even in the more mixed Sunni-Shiite areas of Baghdad and Kirkuk, about 53 percent of Iraqis polled chose either the patriot or freedom fighter characterization.

We had this a week ago from Brig. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, the Pentagon's deputy director for the war on terrorism. Thirty new terrorist organizations have emerged since the September 11, 2001, attacks, outpacing U.S. efforts to crush the threat.

And to back that up, a Spanish investigation into the Madrid bombings "concludes the Islamic terrorists who carried out the blasts were homegrown radicals acting on their own rather than at the behest of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network."

(I had a big rant here, but it was wordy and said nothing new so I pulled it down. Short version: If we had poured troops into Afghanistan to catch Bin Laden rather than holding them out to prepare for an unrelated war in Iraq, the US would be in a far stronger position internationally and in relation to the terror groups.)

Oh, and I forgot. The Bush administration has appointed their former travel booker, a 28 year old with no managerial or security experience to a key position in the Department of Homeland Security. His job is to bring together expert advice on threats to infrastructure and terrorists using WMD's.

And while we're all looking at Iraq....

Amidst everything else yesterday, this went by totally unnoticed. The CentCom Plans and Policy guy said that we should expect Afghanistan to get worse in the next year.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan expect violent clashes with al Qaeda-linked insurgents in coming months before security improves later in the year, a senior military officer said on Thursday.....

Moeller played down the strategic threat posed by al Qaeda, the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

"The overall trend line, though, is positive despite the fact that the data is what the data is with regard to U.S. forces who have been killed in the recent past compared to the first couple years," he told the subcommittee.....

The Taliban "appeared tactically stronger on the battlefield this year and they demonstrate an increased willingness to use suicide bomber and IED (improvised explosive device) tactics," he said.

How hard is this guy trying to manipulate the language?

Read the quotes in the last two paragraphs again. Things are going better even though more Americans are dying and more Americans are dying because the other side has drastically improved their tactics.

Show me the progress part again?

Good Morning.

First article out of the gate this morning, AP's top story, before the fuzz has left my brain...
Bush's Approval Rating Falls to New Low

More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Wow. Catch the wave. If you're not hating Bush, you're not cool.

I read the article twice to see if there was a "and he smells funny, too" hidden in there somewhere.

Picture of the Day

Tell me, what are your true feelings towards Big Brother?'

'I hate him.'

'You hate him. Good. Then the time has come for you to take the last step. You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him.'

(1984 Part III - Chapter 4 from the incredibly useful Literature Network.)

(Picture - Bush speaking Thursday at the National Conference on Faith Based Intiatives.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

So, which Iraqi Army are you talking about exactly?

So, Donald Rumsfeld was before the Senate Appropriations Committee answering questions on Iraq. And the question that is understandably on everyone's mind was asked, and then answered by Rumsfeld. What is the US strategy in the case of a Civil War in Iraq?
The U.S. military will rely primarily on Iraq's security forces to put down a civil war in that country if one breaks out, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told lawmakers yesterday....

"The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the . . . Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee when pressed to explain how the United States intended to respond should Iraq descend wholesale into internecine strife.

Okay, so we're talking about the same Iraqi Army that has been unable to even make a dent in the roughly 20,000 Sunni and foreign insurgents in three years? But now it's suddenly going to be able to take on half a million men in a civil war?

The same Iraqi Army that is in such disarray that it has zero units capable of operating without US logistical support? Niggling little logistical items like transportation, ammunition, fuel, food and drinking water. That Iraqi Army?

That's your plan?!?


The NYTimes should be blasted for this one, but I'm not going to do it. The headline of the story(Top web story) is $25,000 to Lobby Group Is Tied to Access to Bush.

Sounds pretty damn bad, doesn't it? But if you read the article as I did, quite anxiously, you'll see that there is no proof the White House knew anything about the money paid to Grover Norquist's group, Americans for Tax Reform. In other words, a totally misleading headline that makes Bush look crooked.

I think they're gonna get blasted for this one, and righfully so, but the Dems couldn't arrange better PR if they tried. Hah!

Picture of the Day - 3

Bush: "Oooohhh. I can't believe I ate the whole Fourth Amendment."

George Bush at the PATRIOT Act signing today.

Civil War Language Update

We have a new softening term from today's press conference from Gen. Peter Pace, "sectarian tensions." For those keeping score at home, the spinning of the Iraq violence now goes:

"Civil war" to "sectarian violence" to "sectarian strife" to "sectarian tensions."

Any guesses what's next? "Doctrinal squabble?" "Intramural sockfight?"

400 dead in Iraq? Come on.

Just posting this in the neverending battle against Bush administration lies. Tuesday, a week after the WaPo published a story reporting more than 1,300 dead in the Bagdhad morgue since the mosque bombing, Rumsfeld came out with this crazy stuff.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today presented an upbeat report of the conflict in Iraq and said he agrees with the commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., that the news media has exaggerated the number of civilian casualties in the conflict. ....

But, you see Don, as so many war criminals have learned before you, you just can't hide dead bodies.
BAGHDAD, March 8 -- Days after the bombing of a Shiite shrine unleashed a wave of retaliatory killings of Sunnis, the leading Shiite party in Iraq's governing coalition directed the Health Ministry to stop tabulating execution-style shootings, according to a ministry official familiar with the recording of deaths.

So, no matter what you're Iraqi government friends are telling you, they are hiding the death squad killings.

See, that's your problem, Don. You believe what you want to believe, regardless of the truth. You surround yourself with yes men, and your pigheadedness, your failure to stop and ask for directions along the way, has landed us all in this ditch.

US transferring Abu Ghraib to the Iraqis

The US is going to transfer prisoners and operations out of Abu Ghraib to a newly constructed base at Camp Cropper in a couple months. This will certainly remove some of the the well earned stigma, but they aren't changing any of the prisoner handling or interrogation policies.

It's just a PR move. Abu Ghraib is being handed back over to the Iraqis.

So, I'm watching CNN...

I was watching CNN a few minutes ago as they covered Sen. Warner's press conference on why knocking down the Dubai Ports deal was a bad thing. Warner was in front making the opening statement, Rumsfeld was in the back, Generals Pace and Abizaid said a few words and answered a few questions on Iraq with happytalk.

And as my mind blurred listening to the pap, my eyes unfocused and suddenly I saw who was standing in the background. LIEBERMAN. Joe Lieberman had the prime photo spot at a press conference held to support the administration's most unpopular policy. It was Warner, the DoD, and Lieberman!!

I know I shouldn't be surprised, but Liberman is standing with the White House on an issue that is so unpopular Republicans don't support it. Okay, certainly he's allowed to take that view, but volunteering yourself up as an administration prop? (No photos out yet.)

Oh, and the big story this is spinning off of is that Dubai Ports company has said that they are going to "will transfer fully the U.S. operations ... to a United States entity." Not give up ownership, mind you, but the security concerns will be abated. So, basically, they're gonna subcontract the thing.

(Solomon caught me in a misstatement here. I know Dubai was not going to own the ports, simply operate them. What I was trying to say is that from what I'd seen of their statement, they did not say that they were going to abandon the operations contract to someone else, simply that they were going to allow someone else to do the operations. That's what I was trying to say with the subcontract line. I don't know if that's the case or not.

And, no, I haven't really been paying too much attention to this beyond the politicsbecause I think it's a non-issue in the big picture of security. I really don't think it matters who waves the cargo through the ports if we check less than 5%.

But, thank you; you're right. I fell into lazy shorthand here. Sorry. - Mike)

Picture of the Day - 2

"Dear Mike, I think you're being too hard on this administration. - cowpoke1."

"I keep hearin' there's porn on these things..."

"Let's see.... red jack goes on black queen..."

"Now just how do I download the Macarena?"

Fire away. It's an open mike.

Cutting pay to opposing lawmakers

Buried in a WaPo article on the minimal lobbying reforms the Republicans are allowing(they banned lobbyist's buying meals and sports tickets, but trips to Scotland are still okay) was this weird little mention.
Separately, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) that would deny to any lawmaker a pay increase that he votes against but that eventually becomes law.

What is this? So, if you vote against a pay raise you don't get it? How much do you want to bet we're going to start seeing all sorts controversial amendments attached to the pay raise bills?

So, the Republican leadership puts up a bill that says the House and Senate get a 10% pay raise and gay marriage is illegal. Vote against that and you don't get the 10% raise? Slimy and Shameless.

And, while we're on slimy and shameless, Sen. Rick Santorum has resumed his weekly "K Street" lobbyist meetings that he had suspended, "and has used the sessions to appeal for campaign aid, according to participants."

And, New House Majority Leader, and Tom Delay replacement, John Boehner “has traveled on more exclusive golf outings, lobbyist-funded vacations and fundraising excursions to luxurious destinations than he has on return trips back to his Ohio district to visit constituents during this time period." ( Jan. 99 - Sept. 2005)

Good thing they replaced Tom Delay with that reformer Boehner, eh?

And, amidst all this, Sellout McCain is not letting me down.

Good-government advocacy groups working on lobbying reform say their longtime ally Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has played a smaller leadership role on the issue than they had expected.

McCain’s lower-than-hoped-for profile on the sensitive subject coincides with what prominent lobbyists describe as a quiet effort by his political team to court inside-the-Beltway donors and fundraisers in preparation for a possible 2008 presidential run.

We were young once, and free....

Remember civil liberties? Your children won't.
WASHINGTON, March 8 — The plan by Senate Republicans to step up oversight of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program would also give legislative sanction for the first time to long-term eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant, legal experts said on Wednesday. ....

The Republican proposal would give Congressional approval to the eavesdropping program much as it was secretly authorized by Mr. Bush after the 2001 terrorist attacks, with limited notification to a handful of Congressional leaders. The N.S.A. would be permitted to intercept the international phone calls and e-mail messages of people in the United States if there was "probable cause to believe that one party to the communication is a member, affiliate, or working in support of a terrorist group or organization," according to a written summary of the proposal issued by its Republican sponsors. The finding of probable cause would not be reviewed by any court.

But after 45 days, the attorney general would be required to drop the eavesdropping on that target, seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or explain under oath to two new Congressional oversight subcommittees why he could not seek a warrant.....

The Republican proposal would permit eavesdropping with no warrant for 45-day periods, with no limit on how many times they could be renewed.

If I'm reading this right, and I certainly may not be as this is a summary and not the legislation itself, there is no oversight of who is being tapped and why. There's no finding of probable cause beyond the executive's whim, and, despite the imposition of a 45-day "limit," that limit is perpetually renewable and therefore meaningless.

Oh, and according to other reports, it also makes previous administration actions retroactively legal.

The fact that the administration is so terrified of this program going before the courts should send a chill down the spine of everyone reading this. We don't know the details, but there's a reason, some excessive infringement in this program, that makes the administration terrified of letting its details be known.

RELATED: The Department of Justice's Inspector General has opened a pretty wide ranging investigation into FBI wiretapping abuses, misuse of National Security Letters, and the indefinite detention of 21 people as material witnesses.

Under normal circumstances, this would be the huge banner headline today. But with the warrantless NSA program being allowed by the Republican Congress and the PATRIOT Act extension, pretty much unchanged, being signed, the FBI wiretapping and detaining 21 people without cause is just a minor story.

Think it's a coincidence this DOJ investigation was announced today?

Picture of the Day


Prisoners seized by the marines in 2003.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Deep but interesting

William Odom, ret. Lt. General, former NSA chief, and
The Vietnam War experience can’t tell us anything about the war in Iraq – or so it is said. If you believe that, trying looking through this lens, and you may change your mind. ....

Will Phase Three in Iraq end with helicopters flying out of the “green zone” in Baghdad? It all sounds so familiar.

The difference lies in the consequences. Vietnam did not have the devastating effects on U.S. power that Iraq is already having. On this point, those who deny the Vietnam-Iraq analogy are probably right. They are wrong, however, in believing that “staying the course” will have any result other than making the damage to U.S. power far greater than changing course and withdrawing sooner in as orderly a fashion as possible.

But even in its differences, Vietnam can be instructive about Iraq. Once the U.S. position in Vietnam collapsed, Washington was free to reverse the negative trends it faced in NATO and U.S.-Soviet military balance, in the world economy, in its international image, and in other areas. Only by getting out of Iraq can the United States possibly gain sufficient international support to design a new strategy for limiting the burgeoning growth of anti-Western forces it has unleashed in the Middle East and Southwest Asia.

(Again, kind of a weird blogging day, should be back to whatever approximates normal tomorrow.)

Are we surprised?

After twenty-five years of portraying Arabs as only terrorist villians in movies and TV, can I say that I'm really surprised?
As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Is there a cop show where an Arab is the good cop? A sitcom where an Arab is anything other than a comic stereotype? A movie where the terrorists aren't Arabs?

For some reason it's been okay to paint Arabs exclusively as terrorists or drug/gun runners, no lawyers or doctors unless they're comical or shown catering to the Arab community.

It's truly been a horrific bit of stereotyping that, although technically far superior, has always reminded me of the depictions of the Japanese, hispanics and blacks in the cartoons of the forties.

My point is, it's not just the war that has created this impression. To hold the culture blameless is to not view the whole picture.

Ann Richards has Cancer

For those of you who like your politicians onery, there were few better than former Texas Governor Ann Richards. She practiced her politics like a mother protecting her children.

Her most famous line was when she gave the keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic convention, "Poor George [H.W. Bush], he can't help it...He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." (text and MP3)

It was announced today that she has esophagial cancer.

I know it was staged, but I'll always remember her like this.

What's wrong with the Dems.

There's nothing going on today, and that's the Dem's problem. When there's a dead lull like this, they should be filling it with something. The political press gets bored on day's like this and would just love to jump on a juicy he said/she said.

So, turn one of the lefty wingnuts loose. Let somebody go out and make some accusation, that undercuts the White House's message for the day. Something informal but good enough to be repeated like, "you know Kanye West was kinda right. I mean, if you look at the programs Bush has cut and his dogged insistence on maintaining the deficit building tax cuts, you just gotta wonder."

Or attack the Iraq policy for god's sake including an inflammatory word like "incompetent."

Don't worry if it ruffles feathers, that's the whole point. The salaciousness of it is what gets it repeated. It puts the White House on the defensive on an issue where its weak and forces their images off the talk show lead. They're weak right now. The press wants you to attack.

And, you don't have to pretend that this person speaks for the party. When Chris Matthews or Russert or whoever tries to trap you, just don't take the bait.
"Mr. Reid, do you believe that Bush doesn't care about black people."

(chuckling) "well, I've worked with Representative (blank) for yearsm and I know he is very passionate about equality and a very courageous politician, I'm sure he wouldn't make those comment if he didn't see a justification."

Fill this void. View it as a gift. You are viewed as a party with no positions, but in fact, it is the lack of passion that turns voters unsure. It's like Colbert says, "without anger, how can I tell how you feel."

Picture of the Day - 2

As it's International Women's Day, I thought I'd ask a question that's been bothering me for a couple months.

Why don't we celebrate these women? Why are the suffragettes forgotten?

Effectively, it was their action which granted the MAJORITY of Americans the right to vote, and, yet, they go completely unrecognized.

No holiday, no "civil war" style reenactments. They tried the Susan B. Anthony Dollar, but really, nothing.

It may have changed, but I remember in history class in school(1984) that this was covered in a half hour, and I was assured it wasn't going to be on the test.

Our selection of what we celebrate reflects upon the values of our contemporary society. For instance, Labor Day has lost all meaning when it was originally established to celebrate the efforts of Labor Groups to end child labor, fight for the 40-hour work week, and establish basic work safety standards.

But as unions are dying and worker rights are fading, and certainly with no significant government or corporate support, we no longer really celebrate Labor Day.

So by ignoring the suffragettes, what does that say about the priorities of our contemporary society?

(Don't worry, I'll get back to current stuff later. This has just been in the back of my mind for months and I thought I'd get it out.)


Nothing's really lighting me up today, at least not yet, so here's a couple of things to read if you're looking for something.

Elizabeth Dole sent out a fundraising letter for the National Republican Senatorial Committee that's pretty slimy.

Vanity Fair has an interview with Abramoff (PDF) that's supposed to be pretty telling, but I'm not in the mood to dig through it.

The monetary costs of Iraq keep rising according to the WSJ. It's up to $5.9 billion a month, which by the way could fund years of alternative energy research and cancer research.

Oh, and Dick Cheney is less popular than OJ or Stalin.

And, no matter whether you change the words from "civil war" to "sectarian violence," or now to the newest softening phrase "sectarian strife," people are still dying at the hands of their opposite ethnic groups in Iraq. Death squads are roaming Iraq.

Picture of the Day

I've come across a fair number of homecoming pictures, but there are very few "goodbye" pictures out there.

This man is hugging his wife and child one last time before his deployment to Iraq.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The intel turf war

This is a pretty big deal. Since WWI, the embassies have been the core of intelligence gathering around the world, the place where the CIA semi-covertly organized all the operations undertaken. Necessarily, this gave them the preeminent role in conducting operations and intelligence gathering.

Now, there has been a long running battle between the White House and the career people at the CIA who view the "cowboy policies" of this administration as working against both the long term US interest and decades of past work establishing contacts and channels.

That's one of the reasons that Porter Goss was installed at the CIA, to rein the career folks in. Since he has been appointed numerous high level career folks have left. Then, as a second check on their influence and effectiveness, Negroponte was appointed as Director of National Intelligence.

But one thing about Negroponte's appointment is that he has no budgetary and little other control of the Pentagon's intelligence operations which constitute 85% of the intel budget. So, as Rumsfeld whispers in Bush's ear, the CIA is being cast out.

That's why when I read this, I saw it as hugely significant as it appears DoD is now setting up a parallel embassy intel program if not attempting to completely subsume the existing CIA network in the "hotter" countries.

This article actually expresses the conflict pretty well. I recommend it highly which I don't do very often.
WASHINGTON, March 7 — The military is placing small teams of Special Operations troops in a growing number of American embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists in unstable parts of the world and to prepare for potential missions to disrupt, capture or kill them.

I can't imagine this is going to go down very well at Langley. I would expect to see some seriously unflattering leaks, the CIA's stock and trade, about the Bush administration, especially about Rumsfeld and DoD, coming out of the CIA over the next few months or maybe closer to the midterms. Mark my words. Maybe torture revelations, maybe prewar intel but we on the anti-Bush side are going to get some red meat out of this.

Perhaps that's why the Bush admin has been talking about prosecuting leakers so much, kind of a preemptive for this move.

Quote of the Day

Olympia Snowe in regards to her and Chuck Hagel's last minute cave in to the White House on a Senate investigation into the warrantless DOMESTIC NSA spying.

"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight," Ms. Snowe said.

Let me get this straight. You are claiming that you are going to enact oversight on the same day that you've just backtracked on everything you've said for months. They exerted pressure and you caved, and now you're telling me that you're going to enact oversight?

Pardon me if I guffaw, Ms. Snowe.

Picture of the Day - 3

Putting on the boots, Putting on the persona.



Cowboy boots.

Beating the drum on Iran

We've got three today.

The one I mentioned earlier, the completely unsubstantiated claim that Iran is manufacturing IED's. (Even if they could prove they were coming across the border, that's a whole different thing than saying they are coming from the Iranian government.)

Now, we have "Rumsfeld, during a Pentagon briefing, also accused Iran of sending Revolutionary Guards forces into Iraq, his latest accusation of Iranian meddling in the war, adding, "I don't think we could consider them religious pilgrims."

And finally Cheney whose rhetoric sounds a bit familiar. "For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime."

And all of this conveniently right before the UN Security Council referral.

Let's see just how squarely the media deals with this. After a complete lack of investigation into the Iraq intel, Knight Ridder excepted, let's see if they giddily chat up the prospects for war in Iran, or actually ask a question.

I think somebody rather famously said, "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

C'mon, Washington media people. It's time to give up the dinner parties and actually ask a question. This isn't a game. People die when you don't do your job.

Katherine Harris

I just had a moment of schadenfreude, and it was good.

Iraqi General's killing called "strange"

I don't know exactly what to make of this at this point, this is about the same Iraqi general who was referred to as "critical" this morning, but the reports are starting to sound like an inside assassination.

"It is a very strange incident and raises many questions," an official in the Defense Ministry press service said on Tuesday after the commander of all Iraqi troops in Baghdad died from a bullet to the head while in a patrol convoy on Monday.

Another Iraqi general told Reuters it was an assassination that needed inside information and proved the army, recruited by U.S. officers over the past two years, had been infiltrated by factional militia groups ready to turn on fellow soldiers.

Which White House talking head was it who kept telling me it wasn't a civil war because the army wasn't turning on itself?

Picture of the Day - 2

You can tell she really cares, eh?

This is the loving force that gave us Jenna and Barbara.

You smell like daddy's special drinks.

Fire away. It's an open mike.

Delay is Shameless

This is one of those "you've got to be kidding me" stories. On the night of his primary, under indictment for fraud and moneylaundering in conjuction with lobbyists....
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom DeLay, whose association with lobbyist Jack Abramoff has left him politically vulnerable, is spending Texas' primary night Tuesday at a fundraiser hosted by two Washington lobbyists.....

Entry to the fundraiser costs $1,000, $2,500 and $5,000 for political action committees and $500, $1,000 and $2,100 for individuals, according to an event invitation.

The fundraiser is in Washington, not Texas, by the way.

There's also this little bit on Delay's main Republican challenger Campbell. Campbell raised $79,000 for his campaign from Jan 1 to Feb. 15 and had $17,200 on hand. Delay, in the same time period, had raised $153,000 and had $1.3 million on hand.

So, the bottom line is that Campbell has gotten practically no support from the party.

Iraq - Quickhits

Zalmay Khalilzad ambassador to Iraq said the US has opened a Pandora's box in Iraq and that a regional war may be in the offing. His solution, of course, is more troops.

In a huge setback, the WaPo reports the one effective Iraqi general has just been killed.
Maj. Gen. Mubdar Hatim Hazya al-Dulaimi was one of the highest-ranking members of the new Iraqi army to be killed in insurgent violence. Under his leadership, the 6th Iraqi Army Division has been gradually assuming control of parts of the capital from U.S. forces.

In the IHT (the NYTimes int'l version) there's this little bit that didn't seem to get the same play in the US version:
For much of the war in Iraq, U.S. military commanders have said their most important mission here was to prepare Iraqi security forces to take over the fight against the Sunni- led insurgency. But with the threat of full-scale sectarian strife looming larger, they are suddenly grappling with the possibility that they have been arming one side in a prospective civil war.

80 percent of Americans think an Iraqi civil war is more likely. Also, 3 months since the "Strategy for Victory" tour, "Two-thirds of those interviewed said they do not think the president has a clear plan for handling the Iraq situation, the highest level of doubt recorded since the question was first asked three years ago."

And, the effort by Kurdish president Talabani to call parliament to session on March 12 failed, after the Shia vice president refused to sign off. The issue of contention is still Jaafari as eventual leader of the government. The Kurds and Sunnis say he has done too little to stop the militias. Bottom line, there is still no immediate prospect for a government in Iraq.

Last, and in the Iraq post just for the parallel, ABCNews is reporting that the US is finding IED's that it alleges were made in Iran. From what I can tell reading this, the evidence is that they are all made the same way, but there's no evidence they were made the same way in Iran.

Awfully convenient a couple days before the UN meeting on Iran. I guess with Libby and Judy Miller gone, they had to go to the ABCNews B-team to get a story planted.

I hate the catchall posts, but it seemed the best way.

(And, fellow locals, remember to vote in your Texas Primaries today.)

Picture of the Day

CODEPINK's June Brashares, 40, is hustled off the convention floor by security.

(Republican Convention - 2004)

Monday, March 06, 2006

More from South Dakota.

The mother of a dear friend of mine lives in South Dakota, and she just emailed this to me. (I'm going to cut it up a little bit.)
Mike, prior to passing HB1086 discussed below, the legislators killed in committee, by 11 to 0, a bill to automatically terminate, at the time of sentencing for a convicted rapist or incest perpetrator all parental rights to the child conceived as the result of the rape or incest. ...

And then in a letter to the governor she writes:

If HB1215 becomes a law, South Dakota government first forces women, when a delay prohibits their use of emergency contraception, to carry to term children conceived as the result of rape or incest.

Then, the forcibly or illegally impregnated woman may, through HB1086, be forced to co-parent with her aggressor if she chooses to keep the child or if the rapist/incest perpetrator refuses consent for her to place the child for adoption. The only other option available to the victim of the crime is to place the child in foster care, where the criminal can reclaim the child upon release from prison. Surely, such possibilities are unconscionable to you.

Just think about that for a minute. Under current South Dakota law, taking into account the total abortion ban signed today by the governor, it is completely realistic that a woman who has been raped will have to carry the baby to term, and then potentially come into repeated contact with her rapist in court hearings and, at the very least, child visitation.

And even if the whole thing is managed through social services somehow, imagine how it would feel when you're child comes home from his "visit" and tells you how great his dad is.

Just how sick are these South Dakota politicians?

(Thanks a ton, Ginny. There's no way to know about things like this unless I were local to S.D. and active. Keep at it.)

(And, other bloggers, please feel free to repost this and propagate it like crazy. I haven't seen anything about this anywhere else, and I think it needs to be out there growing. - Mike)

Picture of the Day - 3

Think the Reuters photographer is trying to pass on a message?

And, yes. It's real.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney speaks during his keynote address to the U.S. Labor Department's 2006 National Summit on Retirement Savings at the Willard Hotel in Washington March 2, 2006. REUTERS - Larry Downing

Somebody out there oughtta buy Larry Downing a drink.

Negroponte's working hard to keep us safe.

It's good to know that the Director of National Intelligence is so focused on keeping me safe.

On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence, John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club’s library.

“He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday,” gripes a senior counterterrorism official, noting that the former ambassador has a security detail sitting outside all that time in chase cars.

Also, remember that Negroponte is now the day to day briefer for Bush on intel matters with Porter Goss being relegated to appointment only status.

Rapist's Parental Rights Bill signed in South Dakota

Sorry, but in effect, that's what this is. This bill has no exemptions for rape or incest. By the logic, if you were raped, it was god's will. Again, sorry, but this disgusts me. (This article has no real detail, as it's the first "breaking" version.)
PIERRE, S.D. - Gov. Mike Rounds on Monday signed legislation banning almost all abortions in South Dakota.

No coincidence here

On the same day that the Treasury Department notifies Congress that we're once again bumping up against the debt limit and are tapping employee retirement accounts to cover the difference, George Bush is making a hastily scheduled trip tomorrrow to vote in the Texas primaries in Crawford because somebody in his office didn't send in the absetee ballot forms.

How is this connected? Just how much is Bush's trip gonna cost? Reddhead captures it pretty well.

Picture of the Day - 2

Recess appointment John Bolton is the face of America at the UN. He will be leading the US case against Iran.

Another example of corporations spying for the government.

I got such a response on my post about JC Penny reporting a man to the DHS watchlist because he paid down his credit card bill(no, really,) that I thought I'd post this as well.

Congress is headed toward approving a plan that would require employers to check every worker's Social Security number or immigration work permit against a new federal computer database.

Critics see the move - aimed at stemming illegal immigration - as the beginning of a government information stockpile that could be used to track U.S. residents.

We give up our freedoms to fight terrorists. We give up our freedoms to fight drugs. We give up our freedoms to fight illegal immigrants.....

If they can't protect themselves.

So many things wrong here. For instance, the DHS headquarters is protected by Wackenhut, a private security company? But most telling is this example.
For instance, when an envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at Homeland Security Department headquarters, guards said they watched in amazement as superiors carried it by the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby.

The knives are certainly out for Chertoff. Sticking Michael Brown with the blame for Katrina has stopped working, so now they're trying to pin everything on Chertoff.

(Does anybody else think since Chertoff shaved the beard he looks vaguely like cult director John Waters?)

"A recent surge in violence" in Iraq.

This is the kind of thing that I often link to as brilliant blogging. (Although this isn't actually on a blog. Here's a blog link in case that one disappears.)

Somebody did a news search for the phrase, "a recent surge of violence" relating to Iraq, lists the replies with links, and points out that the "recent surge" has been more or less consistent since mid-2004.

If you're by here alot, you know I'm a bit of a nut about how language has been used to modify the impressions of Iraq both intentionally and through cultural assumption, from way back when the DoD took issue with the use of the word guerilla to describe the insurgents. In the interim, we've gone through the terms rejectionists, insurgents, Saddamists, dead-enders, and finally that infamously typical Rumsfeld moment when he referred to them as "Enemies of the Iraqi -- legitimate Iraqi government. How's that?"

All of those phrases have shades of meaning which color the assumptions, and just as I was going on about the differences between "Civil War" and "Sectarian Violence," referring to the current incidents as a "recent upsurge" carries with it an assumption that things were more peaceful previously. When in actuality, the "recent upsurges" have marked increasing rates of change along an upward sloping graph.

Enough. Sorry.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Picture of the Day

I just like how sycophantic Cheney looks in this photo with King Abdullah.

Get your hipwaders out

Is this the same laptop presentation that all the Europeans rolled their eyes at some months ago?
As the U.N. Security Council prepares to debate Iran's nuclear ambitions--perhaps as early as next week--Bush Administration officials are readying a new intelligence briefing for council members on Tehran's weapons programs. It will rely mainly on circumstantial evidence, much of it from documents found on a laptop purportedly purloined from an Iranian nuclear engineer and obtained by the CIA in 2004. U.S. officials insist the material is strong but concede they have no smoking gun.


Like the Republicans are going to give this guy any more power right now, especially the power to cut their district pork right before the midterm elections.
President George W. Bush will soon make a formal request to Congress for a line-item veto -- authority that would give him power to cancel specific spending items in budget bills, an administration official said on Sunday.

Yeah, let's make a big political issue about earmarks Republican congressmen are stashing in bills right before midterms. What happened to these guys? Just a couple years ago they were a machine.

Picture of the Day - 2

This was compiled off the State Dept's statistics by another website. (sorry, I don't remember who.) A "significant terrorist attack" in one in which there is a death.

Looks like we know what Pakistan is getting

After the India nuclear deal, I asked the question, "but what is Pakistan getting?" Well, I think we have some partial answers. Today on CNN Blitzer interviewed Musharraf who said that Bush didn't even mention AQ Kahn or anything other than platitudes about democracy in Pakistan.

So, Musharraf gets a completely free hand in opressing his own people. It also looks like he gets this. (BBC)
President George W Bush has indicated the US has dropped its staunch opposition to a proposed gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan.

Musharraf and the participating companies(Musharraf's friends) get to pocket big transit fees, plus, they have the ability to turn off India's fuel supply. Now there's something worth dealing for.

Also, this is a huge Bush backdown, by the way.

The acorn doesn't fall far from the evil tree

The boss's daughter works at the State Department and it seems she's the channel for $85 million in spending to Iran's dissidents. And surprise surprise, her budget increased. How well do you think that's audited?
The question is whether democratic reform can be achieved before Iran becomes a nuclear power. That is the younger Cheney’s job. In the State Department she is referred to as the “freedom agenda co-ordinator” and the “democracy czar” for the broader Middle East. “She’s fantastic and dynamic,” said a colleague.

Aside: How is it that the London's Sunday Times does a better job covering Bush dynastic politics than the American media?

No oversight

I guess requiring oversight is just an expression of a lack of faith in our infallible president. (And check out the last para for who is chairing this "oversight board.")

March 13, 2006 issue - For more than a year, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has been the most invisible office in the White House. Created by Congress in December 2004 as a result of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, the board has never hired a staff or even held a meeting. Next week, NEWSWEEK has learned, that is due to finally change when the board's five members are slated to be sworn in at the White House and convene their first session.....

The chair of the board is Carol Dinkins, a former senior Justice official under Ronald Reagan and former law partner of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Dinkins did not respond to requests for comment.

Picture of the Day

One more local

This is just a heads up. Texas primaries are being held this Tuesday, which should offer an interesting tell on Tom Delay's future.

It depends on how strategic you want to be, but having Delay run in November, or be cast off the ballot before then through a conviction, might not be a bad thing either for the local race or other races across the country.

Lampson would have a far better chance running against Delay in that district, and with Delay around, other races can focus more on Abramoff/Delay ties, like my own congressman Culberson who voted with Delay 95% of the time.

Also: A decision won't come for months on Texas redistricting, and the early impressions of the experts is that the Supreme Court won't overturn it, but if it were to be overturned, Texas' whole House contingent would be thrown up in the air. There would be candidates without districts and vice versa. It would be chaos out of which the Dems would certainly pick up 5+ seats.

And while we're talking Houston news

Just thought I'd put this up. I don't know how these numbers compare nationally, but this is what's going on down here. "Being black on a sunny day" car searches.
In Houston, according to the study, police officers were almost four times as likely to search blacks as whites — one of the highest rates among police agencies in Texas. Hispanics, meanwhile, were searched by HPD officers almost twice as often as whites. The numbers were basically unchanged from 2003.

I actually don't live in Houston. I live in a small town within Houston which used to have a horrific rate of this, until the former police chief (12 man department) was busted for 4-6 hours a day of internet porn in his office in the police department. Our new chief leaned the department up, and it's much better now.

Local politics is dirty, too

I found this interesting story in my local paper(pointed out by a friend this morning) about a Texas billionaire out of San Antonio who is in effect trying to buy five state house seats.

In effect what he's doing is completely, and I mean completely, financing Republican primary challengers against sitting Republican house members who voted against school vouchers.
Leininger set up a political action committee called Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, to which he has contributed $1.8 million.

The PAC received only one other contribution, from a Midland oilman for $100......

•Wayne Christian, running against incumbent Roy Blake, of Nacogdoches, has raised $195,058. Leininger's PAC gave him $190,388, or 98 percent.
•Mark Williams, running against Tommy Merritt, of Longview, has raised $351,179. Leininger's PAC gave him $338,359, or 96 percent.
•Nathan Macias, running against Carter Casteel, of New Braunfels, has raised $278,132. Leininger's PAC gave him $265,774, or 96 percent.
•Chris Hatley, running against Charlie Geren, of Fort Worth, has raised $161,373. Leininger's PAC gave him $124,528, or 77 percent.
•Van Wilson, running against Delwin Jones, of Lubbock, has raised $301,707. Leininger's PAC gave him $265,443, or 88 percent.

Leininger hasn't actually given his guys cash. He's given them their entire campaigns. He hired a complete campaign staff to run all five campaigns.

He hired one firm to do opposition research, one to do polling, one for general political consulting, one for printing, one for broadcast ads.

This may be of no interest outside Texas, but this is so wrong.

(Thanks, Don.)

Doonesbury Today