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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Sellout McCain

In mid-February, McCain traveled to South Carolina to try to woo the Bush supporters who funded the sleeze campaign that tanked his 2000 presidential bid.

I'm guessing he passed muster, because shortly afterwards, he makes a deal for the Bush donor list.

And now, he hires the political director from the Bush 2004 reelection campaign.

Oh, yeah. Sellout McCain is a Maverick.

Three thoughts.
  1. I just wonder what kind of deal Bush got out of him for all this support.
  2. I find it interesting that Bush chose McCain over a fundie-right darling.
  3. Notice that shortly after the donors list was given to McCain, Frist's Senate went crazy over Dubai Ports.

AP on the Bush "strawman"

George Bush wins every argument he has with imaginary people.

Picture of the Day - 2

(Reuters - Helmiy al-Azawi)

More torture, different prison

The NYTimes has this giant article about another "detention facility" in Iraq where massive prisoner abuse has taken place, and detainees were withheld from the Red Cross, Camp Nama. The abuse at Camp Nama continued long after the military "re-examined its detention policies" after Abu Ghraib.

There has been no accountability for the actions taken by Task Force 6 - 26, who undertook these measures in their assignment to find and capture Zarqawi. Once again, the "few bad apples" argument of Abu Ghraib abuts reality. My guess is that these guys were allowed to skate because previously, there has been no publicly released information on this.

And, by the way, torture fans, have we caught Zarqawi yet? After all, that was the justification for this abuse.

Plame Gossip - The Libby extortion.

Alot has been made of Libby's attempts at greymail (gaining an acquittal by requesting classified documents,) but this is a really new twist. Judge Reggie Walton greatly reduced Libby's request for the classified PDB's from everything for a year, to summaries on three days surrounding a few key events.

Just in case the Bush administration was inclined to declassify this much smaller redacted collection of documents, Libby's lawyers thought they'd throw out a little threat.
Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide are signaling they may delve deeply at his criminal trial into infighting among the White House, the CIA and the State Department over pre-Iraq war intelligence failures.

So, the threat from Libby's lawyers is, if you(the administration) allow Libby to go to trial we will embarrass the hell out of you. But, if you were to prevent that by not declassifying documents, there would be no reason for Mr. Libby to talk.

You can't call it blackmail, but that's pretty much what it is.

Picture of the Day

Friday, March 17, 2006

Warrantless physical searches

Now, it's warrantless physical searches that are justified under the "unitary executive" of wartime. US News and World Report (they still exist?) is releasing a major story tomorrow.

This release was read on Olberman tonight.

Soon after the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks, lawyers for the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrantless electronic surveillance inside the United States could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects' homes and businesses without court approval.

According to two current and former government officials, the Bush Administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officials who expressed strong reservations about the proposal.

It could not be determined whether any warrantless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the Administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant.

So, Mr. 30% Bush supporter, the question once again comes to you. Is there anything that Bush could do that could erode your blind support of dear leader? Would you mind bending over for a cavity search every day for the rest of your life? The President says he needs that ability to protect you.

And during this coming argument one of my pet peeves is sure to come out.

No matter what he says, George Bush never took an oath to protect the American people. The oath of office of the President of the United States is to protect the Constitution of the United States. (Article 2, Section 1, Clause 8.)

And, that includes the Fourth Amendment. Unless, of course, the Republican Congress tries to make it retroactively void, like they did with the NSA warrantless wiretapping just yesterday.

Picture of the Day

I don't know what was going on here.

Throwing down his rap?

Flashing a gang sign?

Reprising "The Sidestep" from 1987's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas?

Arrested for future crimes/Pre-emptive arrest as NYPD policy

Pre-emptive arrest. NYPD is recommending pre-emptive arrest to dampen protests.
In five internal reports made public yesterday as part of a lawsuit, New York City police commanders candidly discuss how they had successfully used "proactive arrests," covert surveillance and psychological tactics at political demonstrations in 2002, and recommend that those approaches be employed at future gatherings.

Among the most effective strategies, one police captain wrote, was the seizure of demonstrators on Fifth Avenue who were described as "obviously potential rioters."....

The reports also made clear what the police have yet to discuss publicly: that the department uses undercover officers to infiltrate political gatherings and monitor behavior.....Under the heading of recommendations, the draft suggested, "Utilize undercover officers to distribute misinformation within the crowds."....

Demonstrators arrested during the economic forum were held by the police for up to 40 hours without seeing a judge — twice as long as people accused of murder, rape and robbery arrested on those same days, Mr. Perez said.

I don't even know what to say here.

This is not the America I was brought up to believe in.

Operation PR continues apace.

As details come out about Operation Swarmer, it sounds more and more like the PR stunt so many suspected. Indeed, the Iraqis are operating off the training ground, but barely. A few facts:
About 1,500 troops, US and Iraqi combined, have been deployed to an area of about 50 square miles with only 1,500 residents spread out across this agricultural area. So no concentrations of buildings, no groups of population, and a 1 to 1 ratio of soldiers to population.

In this effort, 24 hours old, the joint forces have found 30 weapons (everything from guns to mortars to explosives) in 6 locations. So, there were some real insurgent weapons there, but I think you're glorifying it to call 5 weapons in a hole a "cache."

They've captured 41 insurgents, but 17 have already been released, and the rest....?

There has been no fighting at all, no firefights, nothing.

The intelligence this was based on, it has been emphasized, was Iraqi intelligence. How impressed should we be that they called for 1,500 troops including airlifting the 101st for this paltry a return?
(various sources, but largely Time magazine's article today.)

Now, it's not like I was pulling for an epic battle here, I'd be happier if the 101st was back eating burgers in Fort Campbell, Ky., but when they try to tell me how well this went, and how ready the Iraqi forces are, I'm just going to keep all this in mind.

Because it's a long way from this bulletless drill to the streets of Baghdad or Ramadi.

(Also of note, according to Chris Albritton of Time, this area "has been swept/contained/pacfied/cleared five or six times since 2004." This doesn't speak well for the overall strategy. I hear echoes of Vietnam.)

Picture of the Day

Does this look like a Sec State?

To me, this looks like the old WWII "cheesecake" USO entrances.

Condi Rice in Australia.

(AP Photo/Photo Mark Baker)

Evangelicals warn Republicans

Sitting on the other side of the aisle, I find this pretty hard to believe.
Prominent leaders from the Christian right have warned Republicans they must do more to advance conservative values ahead of the US mid-term elections.....

The leaders appear to be reflecting a growing sense of frustration among the Christian right, over what they see as a lack of legislative progress on issues such as banning same-sex marriages.

Even better, from a different article....

Perkins spoke at a news conference in which the groups announced plans for a "Values Voter Summit" in September that would attract some 2,000 voters. The groups hope to get President Bush to speak as well as members of Congress and the potential 2008 presidential candidates from both parties.

The groups plan to conduct a presidential straw poll at the event.

This is just great.

A month and a half before the midterm elections and the crazy fundies are requiring an appearance. It'll make it quite clear, and quite easy, to point out which Republicans are out of the mainstream.

Also, I think the straw poll is a great addition because if one of the hopefuls shows up, it'll put huge pressure on the rest of them to show up.

The four groups are the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Americans United to Preserve Marriage and the American Family Association. (So it's the gay haters.)

On Port Security

On the same day a report from the Inspector General's office was to be released on Port Security...
Though the Inspector General does identify some improvements over last year's evaluation that there was "no assurance that the program is protecting the nation’s most critical and vulnerable infrastructure," it still seriously calls into question the security of American ports, at one point noting that "it is not clear that DHS knows how much actual risk reduction has been achieved."

The Republicans in the House voted down $1.25 Billion for Port Security.

Tell me again, exactly how are the Republicans making me safer?

(On DKos, there are a few other things the Republicans found unimportant and voted against. Coast Guard $1.7 billion, First Responders, $1.2 billion, Chemical Plants $150 million, Reil Security, $1 billion, $500 million for FEMA, and $1 billion for hospital preparedness. Notice that all these programs put together cost less than one month in Iraq!!!!!

Next time you're in line at the airport.....

Just appreciate that the wait in the security line is nothing more than show....
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Security screeners at 21 U.S. airports failed to find bomb-making materials during recent government tests, NBC Nightly News reported on Thursday.....

"In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one stopped these materials," the report said.

But, I'm happy to say they seized nail clippers in the bombers pockets over half the time. (snark)

The empire is falling - It's not Cricket

The empire is falling. We have been beaten by our colonies in our own sport. For reference, ask the British about cricket.

US is Eliminated From Baseball Classic.

Honestly, I don't really care, but it's just another of the cultural steps that takes place as empires fall. That basketball Dream Team isn't finding it so easy either, eh?


Okay, I'm still having huge problems publishing the blog. I 'm getting errors relating to archiving when I try to publish, but it seems to work some of the time. So if I disappear for awhile, it's probably that happening again.

There may also be a couple of posts missing from awhile back...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Picture of the Day - 3

(AFP - Shawan Mohammed)

Operation PR made it to the Gaggle

I'm not alone in my suspicions of Operation PR going on in Iraq today. I came across this excerpt from McClellan's press briefing today over at First Draft.
Q Scott, can I ask you a question about this operation underway in Iraq? Does the President think that an offensive like this, high profile, is necessary, in part to turn public opinion around in this country about the war? (And it goes back and forth for awhile with no answer. On to a different questioner.)

Q May I ask you about the timing of the operation in Iraq today? The 101st released a press release calling it the biggest air assault since the invasion on the very same day that the White House released the National Security Strategy, and Hadley gives this major speech. Is there any coordination whatsoever?

We also get the flashback question bloggers have been asking for years.
Q Scott, May 1, 2003, President Bush stood in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner, and announced that major combat operations in Iraq had been completed. In light of the scale and the scope of today's air assault, is that still the case, or are we in a new phase in Iraq?

It seems the media have now officially recognized that the Iraq War is unpopular and have switched sides. Unfortunately, that's not likely a permanent condition, but it should be fun for awhile.

Isn't it about time for another Bush press conference? Heh. heh. heh.

Americans Support Censure

Do you favor or oppose the United States Senate passing a resolution censuring President George W. Bush for authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders?

3/15/06 Favor Oppose Undecided

All Adults 46% 44% 10%
Voters 48% 43% 9%

Republicans (33%) 29% 57% 14%
Democrats (37%) 70% 26% 4%
Independents (30%) 42% 47% 11%

Based on 1,100 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of adults nationwide March 13-15, 2006. The theoretical margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points, 95% of the time.

Take a look at the 29% of Republicans who favor Censure. Also, in the same poll, 18% of Republicans favor impeachment. ARG poll. I haven't looked at the internals.

This pretty much blows up the "conventional wisdom" that Feingold is way out of the mainstream that has been undergirding the media stories on this issue.

Operation PR continues apace

Not that I'm cynical, but wall to wall coverage of an anti-insurgent operation in Iraq? See? The Iraqis can fight. It's working.

Never mind the fact that we're talking about, at most 1,000 Iraqi troops being involved.

Perhaps my cynicism was spawned Nic Robertson on CNN, referring to the ratio of US to Iraqi personnel of the 1,500 troops involved, said "we are being guided to the statement that more than half are Iraqi." "Guided tothe statement?"

Polls are down, folks, and the consensus is that they're down because nobody believes in Bush's Iraqi success story. I'm not to argue over the merits of the operation overall, but no reporters, all video and information coming through DoD, and an emphasis on Iraqi participation smells to me like a PR stunt.

A PR stunt where people die.

The party of fiscal sanity

Under Reagan/Bush the national debt exploded. Under Clinton, balanced budgets. Under Bush the lesser, the national debt is exploding. In five years, the Bush administration has increased the debt limit by $3 trillion, roughly 50%.

The Senate voted Thursday to allow the national debt to swell to nearly $9 trillion, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes.

The bill passed by a 52-48 vote. The increase to $9 trillion represents about $30,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States. The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature.

I haven't seen the individual votes yet on the Congressvotes database(I'll link when I do,) but once the Dems get a list of Republicans who voted on the record for more National Debt, it should be hung around their necks in every race in the country. And I would argue this, but the defense that it's 30 %....?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Bush's tax cuts account for just 30 percent of the debt limit increases required during his presidency.

A little update on the Katherine Harris thing

Take a look at this article from the Miami Herald if you want to get some sense of how much trouble Harris is in, and how foolishly she'll be squandering her inheritance. (This is behind a subscription wall, but go to the site www.bugmenot.com to get a password. It's the newsjunkie's best friend.)

The two key points that jumped out at me. Harris is trailing incumbent Dem Nelson by 20 points. And (TV ALERT) Harris will be going in front of reporters Friday for the first time in the two weeks since the Mitchell Wade illegal contributions were made public.

(Also, you can see her enormous new breasts. I'm not kidding. It is truly comical the work she had done. Is she the first congresswoman to have huge fake breasts put in? I think so. So, I guess Katherine Harris is a pioneer for women's rights? Think I'm kidding, Wonkette's got pictures.)

Picture of the Day - 2

Tuna and Canned Milk Under Iraqi Beds

A selection of Iraq news this morning.

Iraq's parliament met today for the first time, and they couldn't even get through the collective oath of office without interruption and dispute.
Even the oath was a source of disagreement, with the head of the committee that drafted the country's new constitution, Humam Hammoudi, protesting that lawmakers, who pledged to "preserve the independence and the sovereignty of Iraq," had strayed from the text at one point. After brief consultations, judicial officials agreed the wording was acceptable and the session adjourned until further notice.

Also, other countries in the region are now planning their interventions into a possible Iraqi Civil War.
As Sunni-Shi'ite violence intensifies, governments in Turkey, Iran and nearby Arab countries are drawing up plans to prevent any sectarian or ethnic conflict spilling across borders and upsetting their internal political balance, analysts say.....

To counter emerging Shi'ite power in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have turned a blind eye to the large flow of cash heading to Sunni insurgents there, some Western diplomats believe. They say charities run by Islamist extremists, and religious groups, are funding the fighting in Iraq. They also cite reports that governments are considering arming Sunni tribes there.

Iraqi families that can are stocking up for the worst.
Baghdad -- Om Hussein, wrapped in her black abaya, lists the contents of the family's walk-in storage closet: three 175-pound cases of rice, two 33-pound cases of cooking fat, six cases of canned tomatoes, three crates of assorted legumes, a one-month supply of drinking water, frozen chicken livers in the freezer. And in the garage, jerry cans filled with fuel are piled floor to ceiling.

Om Hussein, who was reluctant to give her full name, and her Shiite family are preparing for war. They've stocked up on food. They bought a Kalashnikov rifle and a second car -- so that there is space for all 13 members of their extended family should they need to flee in a hurry.

And Juan Cole is reporting that the Americans are the primary force against Jaafari remaining Prime Minister. The main force for him? The Iranians who are allegedly pushing the Kurds to accept him. So we'll know alot more about who is truly running Iraq in the coming days.

(Newsguy points out that Iraq is currently costing $100,000 every 40 seconds. Think about that for a minute. Oops, can't wait that long, that's $150,000.)

Operation Smile?

I know this is beneath me, but.... There's this big foofarah among Republicans because Jessica Simpson turned down an invitation to "meet" with George Bush at a Republican fundraiser. Probably a reasonable decision considering her "fan base" is young, and they hate George Bush at an even higher rate than the general population.

But what jumped out at me was her reasoning, she was afraid that engaging politically with Bush might hurt her pet charity. And what is that pet charity? Feed the world? Stop landmines?
The blond star of the film "The Dukes of Hazzard" still plans to visit Washington on Thursday to lobby members of Congress on behalf of Operation Smile, a non-profit venture offering free plastic surgery for disadvantaged children overseas with facial deformities.

Does anybody else see the humor here that Jessica Simpson's pet charity is to supply plastic surgery to the underprivileged?

Okay, sorry. I just couldn't resist it. And now, back to normal programming.

Picture of the Day

I always knew he was a mouth breather.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bush's Justification of Bombing Iran

You're not going to believe this(WaPo page A01)....
President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq.....

The preemption doctrine generated fierce debate at the time, and many critics believe the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has fatally undermined an essential assumption of the strategy -- that intelligence about an enemy's capabilities and intentions can be sufficiently reliable to justify preventive war.

In his revised version, Bush offers no second thoughts about the preemption policy, saying it "remains the same" and defending it as necessary for a country in the "early years of a long struggle" akin to the Cold War....

This is classic Bush administration. Find a policy that hasn't worked and stand by it, refusing to alter it while it's not working. Oh, and you have to promote the bozo who proposed the bad policy in the first place.

Stephen Hadley is giving a speech tomorrow to kick this thing off.

Katherine Harris risks it all

Despite admitting that her campaign fund accepted illegal campaign donations from Brent Wilkes, the same guy who got former rep Duke Cunningham hard jail time, Katherine Harris of 2000 election fame, and now running for Senate in Florida announced tonight that she's going all in.

Since that illegal campaign funds thing was made public about a week ago, she disappeared from public view, cancelling all her campaign appearances. Until tonight.

She made an appearance on FoxNews(of course) in an interview with Sean Hannity. and pledged to spend her entire $10 million inheritance to run her campaign. TPM has some excerpts.

Funny thing is, she's still going to lose.

Picture of the Day - 3

Sen. Stabenow talking about the Bush Censure on the Senate floor yesterday.

Also: Bush at 33% in the new Pew poll. (I think this is an outlier, but it confirms trend.)
The fun part of this survey is this.
The changing impressions of the president can best be viewed by tracking over time how often words come up in these top-of-the-mind associations. Until now, the most frequently offered word to describe the president was "honest," but this comes up far less often today than in the past. Other positive traits such as "integrity" are also cited less, and virtually no respondent used superlatives such as "excellent" or "great" ­ terms that came up fairly often in previous surveys.

The single word most frequently associated with George W. Bush today is "incompetent,"and close behind are two other increasingly mentioned descriptors: "idiot" and "liar." All three are mentioned far more often today than a year ago.

See, Ms. Stabenow, has her ear to the ground, and is reflecting back a simple message. That's how you conduct politics in the age of TV.

A last gasp from those who want to save the presidency

I'm guessing by the fact that this is being made public, that thus far the Bush admin has been rejecting this idea.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A move is afoot among some friends and confidantes of President Bush to persuade him to bring in at least one seasoned Republican veteran to help his struggling staff, CNN has learned. ....some veteran Republicans have been quietly trying to convince White House chief of staff Andy Card to bring in at least one "adult,"...

Remember when the Bush administration was first seating their administration how there was so much talk that the "grownups" were back in government? Remember, suits and ties back in the White House and all that?

Picture of the Day - 2

More Airstrikes, Troop Deployments in Iraq.

This was predicted by Seymour Hersh months ago. (Knight Ridder)
BAGHDAD, Iraq - American forces have dramatically increased airstrikes in Iraq during the past five months, a change of tactics that may foreshadow how the United States plans to battle a still-strong insurgency while reducing the number of U.S. ground troops serving here.....

The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago.

But the problem is, it leads to this,
ISAHAQI, Iraq - Eleven people — most of them women and children — were killed when U.S. forces bombed a house during a raid north of Baghdad early Wednesday, police and relatives said....

The U.S. military acknowledged the raid and said it captured one insurgent.

Eleven dead, women and children, to capture one insurgent. And if you think the locals are lying, as is often the allegation, here's an AP photo of some of the dead children. They look three or four years old. (WARNING GRAPHIC)

Rumsfeld said that there may be a slight US troop increase in Iraq around the upcoming Shiite pilgrimmage.

The same article also points out that Gen. Pace refused to confirm Rumsfeld's half assed allegations that the government of Iran is shipping personnel or explosives into Iraq.

And the Iraqis claim to have disrupted some major actions by Al Qaeda in Iraq that were so out there even Rumsfeld wouldn't support them. (of course he wants Iran to be the villian right now, not Al Qaeda.)

Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, meanwhile, told The Associated Press security officials had foiled a plot that would have put hundreds of al-Qaida men at critical guard posts around Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. and other foreign embassies, as well as the Iraqi government.

A senior Defense Ministry official said the 421 al-Qaida fighters were recruited to storm the U.S. and British embassies and take hostages. Several ranking Defense Ministry officials have been jailed in the plot, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Tuesday that he had not received anything definitive on the report, but cautioned that earlier accounts are often adjusted later on.

MOBILE, Ala. -- Hurricane victims and war veterans set out Tuesday on a march to New Orleans to protest the war in Iraq and what they view as a lack of relief aid for storm victims.

350,000 names in terror databases

(AP)Police and other government workers in the U.S. have come in contact with terrorists or people suspected of foreign terror ties more than 6,000 times in the past 28 months, the director of the federal Terrorist Screening Center said Tuesday.

The encounters in traffic stops, applications for permits and other situations have resulted in fewer than 60 arrests, said Donna Bucella, whose agency maintains a list of 200,000 people known or suspected to be terrorists. The list contains an additional 150,000 records that have only partial names, Bucella said.

So, either the number of terrorists has exploded upward under Bush's leadership in the war on terror or they're putting hundreds of thousands of innocent people on the list of known or suspected terrorists.

Which is better?

How did I ever miss this?

From October 2003. (USAToday)

At the Friday event, the first lady Mrs. Bush recited a poem she said President Bush greeted her with when she returned recently from France, where President Jacques Chirac had kissed her hand twice. It read in part:

"Roses are red/Violets are blue/Oh my, lump in the bed/How I've missed you."

"Roses are redder/Bluer am I/Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy."

I'm guessing he wrote that himself.

And, I'll bet she smiled and dutifully put it on the refrigerator.

All the Abu Ghraib materials....

Salon has published all the Abu Ghraib pictures and videos that were in the possession of military investigators. They arranged them chronologically(left of the page) and the first few really aren't that bad, pictures of soldiers goofing around in the prison.

But as time goes on, they get far worse. I'm not going to put any up today, just not in the mood for it this morning, but it is real. Also, there are some videos on the last page.

Picture of the Day

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

American contractor arrested with explosives in Tikrit

I haven't seen this anywhere else today, so .... (Reuters)
Iraqi police detained an American private security contractor working at a U.S. military base in northern Iraq for several hours on Tuesday, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The spokesman said the man was arrested at a checkpoint in the northern town of Tikrit. He denied initial reports that explosives were found in the car, but said two AK-47 assault rifles were in the vehicle.

"He was picked up by Iraqi police after being detained at a checkpoint in Tikrit," the spokesman said, adding police later released him. "We are looking at why he left the base unescorted."

I don't know if anybody remembers when the two British special forces guys were arrested in Basra awhile back completely undercover with explosives in the back of their car, but this is curious to me.

The most reasonable explanation is that this contractor was engaging in some sort of sting or an effort to get closer to an insurgent group by showing them, selling them, giving them(?) explosives. But it's still just a little odd that on two occasions coalition personnel have been caught undercover ferrying explosives around Iraq in the trunk of a car.

Two articles on Global Warming

The Independent

Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice.


GENEVA - Greenhouse gases blamed for global warming and climate change have reached their highest ever levels in the atmosphere, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday.

Picture of the Day - 3

Abu Ghraib.

Are we to Nixon yet?

The ACLU released this today, and reading the documents they released with it, I agree with them.

PITTSBURGH – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania today released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting investigations into a political organizations based solely on its anti-war views.

Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.

(The article link is a regular web page. All document links past this point are PDF, but they're very short. 2 minutes to read them all.)

Two very short collections were released. One is a collection of four witness statements that start "Source, who is not in a position to testify, provided the following information," with all other details redacted except for a reference to the Merton group. That sounds like a spy inside the group to me....

The second document is an advisory synopsized, "To report results of investigation of Pittsburgh anti-war activity." In one monitored event the group was handing out leaflets and and an "SA" (I'm assuming special agent) was tasked with photographing the group doing so.

And there were two pages not released.

This is the freakin' FBI conducting surveillance on a group they refer to as pacifist whose only apparent provocation was speaking out against the Iraq war.

We're all criminals now.

The CIA altered Orwell's Animal Farm?

I really don't know what to make of this, but via ThinkProgress, a claim that the CIA bought the rights to the Animal Farm animated movie and altered it for political reasons.

I just have no idea, but it's creepy enough, I thought I'd put it up. (I also liked the irony of Orwell's work being altered by a secret government agency.)

Pakistanis lobbied themselves out of the 9-11 report?

I know nothing of the Indian press. I do not know if this is reliable or not. But to me, this is a bombshell.
New Delhi, March 12: The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.....

The report quoted an officer as saying that dramatic changes were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission after the lobbyists got to work.

There's more in the article. The key question is, who did they lobby? And, what firm did the work?

They have no shame

The Washington Times, owned and run by the right wing Rev. Moon, (yes the cult leader) has an article this morning that is blinding in its audacity.
BUENOS AIRES -- A recent deal between Iran and Venezuela provides for the exploitation of Venezuela's strategic minerals, prompting opposition figures to warn that President Hugo Chavez's government could be planning to provide Tehran with uranium for its nuclear program.....

Public details are vague, but Venezuelan opposition figures and press reports have said the deal on minerals could involve the production and transfer to Iran have said the deal on minerals could involve the production and transfer to Iran of Venezuelan uranium taken from known deposits located in the dense jungle states of Amazonas and Bolivar.

After all the incredible work that has been done to show the intentional lies of the "Iraq seeking Uranium from Niger" forgeries, they're going to try it again. Only this time they get a two fer by throwing Venezuela in there, too.

While we're at it, did you see the LATimes piece this morning that said the Iranians are trying pretty hard to open negotiations with the US to which John Bolton, UN rep and second top diplomat for the US stated, "I don't think we have anything to say to the Iranians."

Picture of the Day - 2

If only....

South Korea's Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan has resigned for playing golf when he was supposed to be dealing with a national railway strike.

Claude Allen's evil Twin?

Talking Points Memo has a great post on the Claude Allen affair. Apparently, Claude Allen has an "evil twin."

No, I'm not kidding.

The Games of Empire - Is this Cricket?

As I am somewhat obsessed by the mechanisms of empire, I have always taken a great interest in the residual trappings left behind during an empire's occupation. Certain cultural elements are always left behind by a dominating power, the influence of Greek and Roman art and architecture spread throughout the client states of their previous span, for instance.

For some reason two particular manifestations of the current American/European period of empire have always fascinated me.

First is the adoption of the western business suit on a global basis. As ubiquitous as it seems now, there is absolutely no reason, beyond western cultural influence, that the business suit and tie should be the costume for the world's apparatchiks. It could similarly be some sort of robe or some other garment that represents worldwide "seriousness" if another power had dominated the world for the past 200 years. Just curious to me.

Second, is the games. The Romans famously spread their version of games throughout the world, drawing in participants from throughout their empire. You can almost date the imperial influence by the games which dominate a vassal country.

The countries that were influenced by the British around the turn of the last century picked up cricket as a national sport, India, Pakistan, the West Indies. Interestingly, in the "white countries" of the British empire, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, they also spread Rugby. (I guess they didn't want to actually touch the non-whites.)

Now, if you look at the influence of American sport, it can almost be used to date the areas of influence. Baseball represents the immediate post world war two period through about 1958. Japan, South Korea, and also the Carribean and Central American countries which were marked by the interventions of the fifties.

Now, it's not quite clear yet as there's not enough temporal distance, but I would put forth that basketball may represent the interventions of the eighties and nineties in central Europe. I'm not sure yet, but basketball in Europe, from Germany to Italy and eastward, really boomed during the efforts to prise the western Soviet republics loose from Russia in the 80's.

And what is there to say about golf, certainly not an indigineous US sport, but largely brought to popularization in the US starting with the ultra rich private clubs of the late 1800s. And, now, golf has become the wealthy's passtime of choice throughout the top economic centers where the US has held sway over the past few decades, Japan, the middle east.....

Sorry, for the ramble, this is just something that has always fascinated me. What brought this on today is the defeat of the US team by the South Koreans in the "World Baseball Classic." I know that at this point it's a one off, but the US teams have been facing greater competition in other of its "imperial" sports, basketball for example.

I just got to thinking of that day in the future when America is as non-competitive in its "imperial sports" as the British have become in cricket. The Roman crowds eventually watched games comprised exclusively of foreigners.

(I left soccer out of this because it's development is far more complicated and its ubiquitousness makes it far more difficult to analyze.)

First headline of the day

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Police found at least 72 bodies killed by gunfire in Baghdad in the past 24 hours — a gruesome wave of apparent sectarian reprisal attacks in some of the capital's most dangerous neighborhoods, officials said Tuesday.

Sometimes it's hard to wake up in Bush's America.

(Also notice the language, "aparrent sectarian reprisal attacks." They're going to great lengths to avoid saying "civil war.")

Picture of the Day

From the funeral of John Kulick. Army Reservist and Firefighter. Killed in Iraq.

Monday, March 13, 2006

36% Bush approval

Just out this afternoon, a CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll citing a Bush approval number of 36%, 60% disapprove. I don't normally go crazy over polls, but this slide is long term, consistent, and historic in comparison to previous modern presidencies.

(Thanks to Reality-Based Educator for the tip on the poll.)

Picture of the Day - 3 - Two fer

Both these pictures were taken at the same Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last Thursday. The hearings pretty much revolved around Iraq, and looking at these, I'm sorry I missed it.

The Feingold Resolution on Censuring the President

If you haven't heard about this yet, Sen. Russ Feingold (D - Wis.) stated yesterday that he intended to introduce for a vote a bill on Censuring the President for his ordering the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

Here's the text of the bill off the CSPAN2 site.

The blog banging the drum most loudly on this is Firedoglake. So if this grabs you, that's probably your best blog clearinghouse at this point.

I'll be very curious to see how far up the agenda this is on the nightly talk shows. Probably, just from their sense of propriety, the President's rudderless speech will probably be top, but I'll bet this dominates the second, more frenetic and partisan half of these shows.

Plame Gossip - The leaker identified?

It's Drudge, so several grains of salt on this one, but he claims that Ben Bradlee told Vanity Fair...

'That Armitage is the likely source is a fair assumption,' former WASHINGTON POST editor Ben Bradlee said."

Now if this is wrong, as is Drudge's grand journalistic tradition, it will disappear with no explanation, but Armitage has been the guess for a long time, so this, although questionable conduct by Bradlee, is certainly possible.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

On Friday, I, along with lots of other bloggers, pointed out the coincidental timing of the most recent terror warning(?) with Bush's once again falling poll numbers. So, with my suspicions up, this morning, I come across this from ABCNews.
March 13, 2006 — - In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

This speech could have been made at any time over the last year, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt just happens to paint this implied picture of total societal breakdown concurrently with the other terror warning and falling poll numbers?

How often does this have to happen before we stop referring to it as coincidental?

And are we about to have a tuna and powdered milk run similar to the duct tape frenzy a couple years ago? I wonder what kind of donation I would need to make to the Bush administration to get my product listed as a panic buy item?

Picture of the Day - 2

Two observations

While reponding to a comment from Left of Center on this compelling Newsweek story of a Navy doctor working a forward aid station during the seige of Fallujah, it suddenly occurred to me how little of this type of reporting we've seen.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, guardsmen, and reservists have rotated through Iraq, been under fire and certainly seen their share of combat and blood. 2,306 US servicemen have been killed, and an uncertain number, anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 have been wounded, and yet, how many of their individual stories have we seen in the press?

I actually find it quite odd that this war is being presented without the drama of the first person experience, even if it's told in the third person through a reporter.

Certainly, part of that is the way in which the Pentagon handles the release of information on attacks, but there are at least a hundred thousand soldiers in the US right now who have been in the shit, but no one in the major media is telling their stories. Most accounts are detail listing regurgitations of Pentagon press releases.

I'm not just talking about the "horror of war" stories; I'm also talking about the "bravery and valor" stories. Certainly, there have been horrific moments of violence experienced by those serving in Iraq, but just as certainly, there have been stories of "beyond the call" herosim where actions under fire has saved lives. And we haven't heard those stories either.

As awful as Iraq obviously is, I just find it odd that this war has no face. You know?

And, a little lighter. Has anybody else noticed that "Cowboy" George Bush has no cattle on his "ranch?" Down here in Houston, it's not uncommon for a successful oilman to own a vanity ranch like this, but of the half dozen or so people I know that have one of these things, every one has at least some cattle on it. Just an observation that backs up that "All hat and no cattle" indictment of Bush.

On to Iran.....

Just came across a couple of articles on Iran this morning in the big papers. Perhaps the Bush administration realizes that they are most popular when they talk about what they might do in the future rather than what they've already done. A new "threat" sure could take people's eyes of the detritus littered behind this administration's previous decisions, Katrina, Iraq, you know the list.

First we have a NYTimes article pointing out that since the Bush administration levered the Syrians out of Lebanon, the Iranians have stepped in to fill the power vacuum. So, now the Iranians have an arc of influence stretching from China's western border through Iraq and Syria to the Mediteranean. Great policy, boys.

Then there's this from the WaPo this morning, in an article talking about the efforts at "regime change" in Tehran.
President Bush and his team have been huddling in closed-door meetings on Iran, summoning scholars for advice, investing in opposition activities, creating an Iran office in Washington and opening listening posts abroad dedicated to the efforts against Tehran.

The internal administration debate that raged in the first term between those who advocated more engagement with Iran and those who preferred more confrontation appears in the second term to be largely settled in favor of the latter.

Sound Familiar? Last, Jack Straw said in an interview that military action is not an option on Iran. (Interestingly, but not surprisingly, that claim led the story on Al Jazeera whereas in the AP version, despite the headline, it was down in the fifth paragraph.)

Picture of the Day

Dear Mr. Bush, you can chastise the majority of the country all you want for their opposition to the ports deal and how that's going to create image problems throughout the Arab world, if you can tell me how this series of pictures of Dick Cheney, as a main speaker at the AIPAC conference, receiving round after round of applause, for openly threatening Iran with military action, speaking in front of a hybrid Israeli-US flag, isn't far worse.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


If you have a few minutes take a read of this Newsweek article about a Navy doctor, Richard Jadick and his experience working a forward aid station in the middle of the last Fallujah assault. It's a little gruesome but I found it absolutely compelling reading.

The only frame of reference I have for this sort of thing is the TV show MASH. Imagine an account from a front line aid station without the softening that was necessary for TV. The chaos, the constant flow of unimaginable injuries, the triage decisions to let people die.....

Read it here.

Picture of the Day - 2

An Iraqi boy in his living room after a US Army raid.

(This is the different type of image I was talking about when Iraqi photographers are working for the wires rather than Western photographers. A western photog would've just travelled on with the troops he was embedded with.

An Iraqi photog wants to show the Iraqi experience. Different images, different impact.)

Feingold is brilliant.

After I posted this morning on trying to fracture the Republican coalition, fundamentalist Bush supporters and corporate interests, using immigration as example, Russ Feingold came out shooting at another fracture which holds very little potential downside for the Dems.

Basically, he will be proposing a vote on Monday morning on Censuring the President for the "unlawful authorization of wiretaps." (3 minute video from his appearance on This Week.)

This is absolutely brilliant tactics as it stresses the Republican coalition by pitting the libertarian edge of the party against the Bush loyalists. I don't know all the procedurals, but I can't imagine the Senate leadership will let this come to a vote, but certainly it will be the main topic of discussion all Monday and will destroy any hope the White House had of getting back on their talking points all week.

And the optimism and speculation of who will be the Republican nominee for 2008 coming out of the straw poll at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference? Gone. No discussions of a hopeful GOP future; all focus on the crappy Republican present.


The Dems really need to learn how to do this, to set the talk show agenda, which at this point, since they control neither legislative body or the presidency, is their best mechanism for getting out their message. To do so, they do have to trust the talking heads to pile on, but with Bush's poll numbers where they are, I think we can count on that. They thrive on he said/she said conflict after all.

There will certainly be some blowback, (I can already hear Chris Matthews chiding Dems for this) but as the party out of power you just have to accept that, knowing that on a perception level, the Republicans will take the lion's share of blame for any sense of chaos in Washington.

UPDATE: Later in the show, Frist more or less accused Feingold of aiding Al Qaeda, aiding Iran, and putting your family at risk through this move. I smell desperation. (By the way, I find the mixing of the Al Qaeda reference and the use of the pronoun "they" to refer to dems in the second paragraph telling. Here's the video to give the delivery.)

FRIST: George, what was interesting in listening to my good friend, Russ, is that he mentioned protecting the American people only one time.....

And I think it, in part, is a political move because here we are, the Republican Party, the leadership in the Congress, supporting the president of the United States as commander in chief who is out there fighting Al Qaida and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and the people who have sworn -- have sworn -- to destroy Western civilization and all the families listening to us; and they're out now attacking -- at least today through this proposed censure vote -- out attacking our commander in chief.....

And as I was listening to it, I was hoping deep inside that the leadership in Iran and other people who really have the U.S. not in their best interests are not listening because of the terrible -- the terrible -- signal it sends.

(sorry for the long post, but I wanted show Frist accusing Feingold of aiding the enemy.

SAS officer refuses to fight in Iraq.

This guy isn't some wilting pansy, he's SAS, 8 years having served in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. His main objections seem to be the overall legality of the war, "trigger happy" US troops, and the arrest and probable torture of civilians at American hands.

An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.

After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.

He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.

Just something that grabbed my notice.

Picture of the Day

I find these images of sandstorms in Iraq an overwhelming visual metaphor.

No change in Iraq policy

Somehow, this just summed up the Bush strategy on Iraq. (From a NYTimes "analysis" piece on Bush's loss of support.)

Staff members, many of whom have been with Mr. Bush since he first began running for president in 1999, responded on Friday in a familiar way: To mark the three-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, they announced that Mr. Bush would give a new round of speeches, starting Monday at George Washington University.

As ever, there will be no change in policy.

Speeches, but, "As ever, there will be no change in policy. "

Dems - Take a page from this book.

As I implied at the end of yesterday's "Saturdaytorial," one of the few levers the Dems have to pry apart the current Republican party support is the uneasy melding of big business and religious "conservatives" to make the current Republican voting and financing block. On several issues, there's a fault line, a fracture, between those two groups and their interests that can be exploited by highlighting issues like immigration.

The "corporate," or better said "money" side of the Republican party wants to maintain roughly the current systems on immigration ensuring them not only cheap immigrant labor, but also a constant downward press on low wage jobs overall, while the "fundamental" Republicans are offended by the current immigration policies both because it violates their hyperreal sense of "law and order" as well as directly threatening jobs and echoing the broader trend of outsourcing.

I don't know exactly how to press this issue, I haven't seen an immigration plan that I would fully endorse, but if the Dems want to exploit this, they need to force Republican leadership to take a stand on this issue. The Dems need to force the Republican leadership to make their stance on this issue very public and very clear. Doing so is certain to make one side or the other of the party less enthusiastic about being Republicans and that will win elections.

That's one of the reasons the "gay marriage" issue was so interesting to me. In that case, both the religious, for biblically based(?) bigoted reasons, and the corporate, for economic reasons (lower healthcare and benefits costs,) aligned. Within both wings of the Republican party, gay marriage was a winner.

So, whenever I see something like this, my ears prick up. Another issue that might be used to fracture the Republican coalition.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., March 11 (AP) — A ballot proposal promoting embryonic stem cell research is turning conservatives against one another in Missouri and threatening to tear apart the state Republican Party at the height of its modern-day influence.

(And, by the way, I'm urging the Dems to go after the big business side of the Republicans on these issues not the fundies.)

On Vietnam and Iraq

I just found this article in the WaPo interesting. At a conference titled "Vietnam and the Presidency" Kissinger, Al Haig, Jack Valenti and others inevitably got into the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, and their pessimism is illuminating.
"You cannot win against an insurgency that springs from the population," said Jack Valenti, former special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. "There's never been an insurgency that doesn't prevail against a mighty power."

"How much reform can you do," former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger wondered later, "simultaneously with fighting a war?"....

"It appears to me we haven't learned very much," said Alexander M. Haig Jr.,....

For all the debates about Vietnam, there was one thing that most every speaker agreed on. "The sorry odor of the same aromas that we found in Vietnam" can be detected in Iraq today, Valenti said....

"I think [Vietnam] sent a cautionary signal . . . that we should be more cautious in military adventurism," former president Jimmy Carter said in a videotaped interview played Saturday. "These lessons that were learned I think have been forgotten or ignored in the present Iraq war."....

[Regarding a question on how to go forward in Iraq]

Kissinger, the man whose administration eventually did withdraw U.S. troops, had no solutions either. "I know the problem," he said, "better than the answer."

These are not foreign policy lightweights or, besides Carter, people who can be dismissed as anti-Bush. If you weren't concerned about "the way forward" in Iraq before, I would think that this would prick up your ears.