Saturday, December 31, 2005
Josh has a good commentary on and questions about the article here.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Truer words were never spoken:
Fortunately, his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, would never rise beyond 48% support in the polls. In re-examining Mr. Kerry’s support levels throughout 2004, they resemble the EKG of a dead man – 48% in March, 48% before the Democratic National Convention in July, 48% after the convention, 48% by Labor Day, and 48% on election day. A straight line from beginning to end. Kerry never bonded with his constituency or moderates who were looking for an end of the war in Iraq. He never gave them either a plan for ending the war nor a compelling persona to which they could relate.
(The 'Fortunately' is for Bush, not the country)
nd Hollywood has a deep understanding of how to create message -- so why not start using us?
Why didn't Michael Bay direct an awesome action adventure ad where John Kerry singlehandedly blows up the terrorist insurgency with a solemn nod of his granite-chiseled chin? Why weren't the writers of SNL and the Daily Show brought in to create hilarious, ruthless anti-Bush spots that would have been forwarded all around the internet? Why wasn't James Brooks hired to create a touching, pull-the-heartstrings Kerry-Edwards-cares-about-the-voter commercial? This schlock works -- remember that 9/11 Bush ad where he's holding the crying girl? With the Hollywood talent the Democratic party has at its disposal, we could have blown that spot out of the water, made it look like a mediocre episode of Touched by an Angel next to our sinking of the Titanic. I don't care if you think "I am king of the world" is a cheesy line -- it made people cry. Nothing Kerry said made people cry. Except perhaps accidentally, out of boredom or pain.During the 2004 election, Kerry's people had a brief meeting with the top writing talent in Hollywood and asked for jokes and message ideas. Unsurprisingly, his campaign used none of it. When the Democratic Party was thinking of their new slogan (A Better Choice, is that even it? I can't remember, that's how good it is), why didn't they call us? The Democratic Party has a lock on the hearts and minds of Hollywood a
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The erroneous media reports, which the San Antonio Express-News published in a wire story and displayed online, come from DeLay's spokesman, Kevin Madden, in an e-mail sent to reporters Tuesday evening, after courts had closed for the night.
“FYI-Breaking news out of Austin, TX,” the e-mail stated. “The state Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to hear Mr. DeLay's habeas motion that was filed at the end of last week. The court has set a one-week deadline for briefs to be filed by the parties involved. The court could essentially decide to end Ronnie Earle's prosecution after hearing this motion and the facts presented.”
Madden said this afternoon that he made an error and never intended to “spin” the story.
“In an effort to be instantaneous, I wasn't precise.....My understanding (of the decision) was correct. The way I relayed it wasn't,” he said.
EMAIL OF THE DAY: This little Christmas anecdote made me laugh. An old high school friend from England emailed me about it today:One of my nephews, Dominic, was in a Nativity Play. In the scene where Mary and Joseph arrive at the Inn, Mary asks the Innkeeper, played by a lad of seven, if he has any room. "Yes", he says. "Mary, you can come in, but Joseph, you can fuck off".Priceless.
In the stunned silence that followed, it transpired that the Innkeeper had played Joseph himself the previous year and had taken his 'demotion' very much to heart.
UPDATE: More here
First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.
This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said.
Of course, the president can't carry the entire stonewalling burden alone. The next actors to enter the stage typically are the president's press secretary and the White House counsel's office. Serious scandals tend to spawn congressional investigations and independent counsels. As Clinton quickly learned, and Richard Nixon before him, the best way to short-circuit such endeavors is to force the investigators and lawyers to fight like dogs for every inch of ground they get.
By using the White House counsel's office to bury investigators in a sea of motions, pleadings and memoranda, an administration can drag out an investigation to the point of exhaustion. By the time the investigation actually slogs through this legal maze to bring real charges or issue a report, the courts, public and media are so sick and tired of hearing about it that the final charges fall stillborn from the press.
The signs are everywhere that the Bush White House is busily implementing all parts of this defense strategy. It would be refreshing if it decided to clear the air and actually be honest about its post-Sept. 11 surveillance. However, that's unlikely. The problem this president faces, as did his predecessors, is that full disclosure would lead to the remedy stage. No president wants to fight that end-game.
Folks, we KNOW this program is being and will be misused. We know it from the past record and current reporting. The program has already targeted vegans and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- and, boy, if those aren't outposts of al-Qaida, what is? Could this be more pathetic?This could scarcely be clearer. Either the president of the United States is going to have to understand and admit he has done something very wrong, or he will have to be impeached. The first time this happened, the institutional response was magnificent. The courts, the press, the Congress all functioned superbly. Anyone think we're up to that again? Then whom do we blame when we lose the republic?
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I think the vast middle will respond.
I think it is high time to reconsider some of the provisions of the Patriot Act that give law enforcement officials too much secret search power and access to our personal records, without any evidence of a crime or even specific facts connecting the records sought to a foreign government or terrorist organization.
Now Congress and the administration want to expand the Patriot Act so they can get at our medical, library or gun purchase records (among many, many other things) without getting a judge's sign-off first. Are they serious? Giving the FBI this kind of carte blanche fishing–expedition power, and making this a permanent part of our law no matter who is in the White House is not just wrong, it's foolish. And it certainly isn't conservative.
The Patriot Act needs some common sense fixes to keep our liberty safe. Our Founding Fathers would want us to courageously defend our country and the Constitution. This is their legacy of liberty. We should rise to the challenge and preserve it rather than make a false sacrifice for extreme powers that don't make us safer but actually make us less free.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
This is about as 'mainstream' Republicana as one can get. The market for Barron's is financial movers and shakers, and that group is not hanging out at moveon.org meetings, my friends! If the heart of the financial industry is calling for his impeachment, then it is not only a possibility, it starts moving into probability territory.
Of course, they may just be lobbying for President Cheney!
[The editorial online is sub only, so I've posted the mydd link, where they have it copied.]
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Anyway, for those who saw or heard about the John Gibson blowup on his show Tuesday, with Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, apparently John has been 'conversing' with Barry Lynn, a minister, also with AUSCS, on Beliefnet, on the subject, and John, post the explosion, went into with Barry on the site. Barry gets in the last word.
[The graphical errors are from the site]
I have watched the tape several times. Mr. Boston does not even mention your book until late in the segment. He says that claims by the Alliance Defense Fund are �lies� and that certain claims made by your colleague Bill O�Reilly are wrong.
Your big meltdown came in discussing a series of incidents that may or may not have occurred in Plano, Texas, mainly involving the colors red and green. As you wrote in your previous comments to me, school officials there would not talk to you. Rob and I choose to believe the positions we have heard from Plano officials. Frankly, once your shouting began on that segment, neither I nor anyone else watching the program could even figure out what you thought Rob was misrepresenting. You yelled that you never alleged green and red clothing was banned, but then followed it with a claim that Plano told students not to bring �red and green stuff and parents to the party.� Did you mean parents couldn�t be red or green (so few of us come in those colors) or that they couldn�t wear red and green?
You claimed that Mr. Boston called you a �liar,� but you baited him into confirming the characterization. I have been a talk show co-host with the best in the business, including Oliver North and Pat Buchanan. If you basically ask a guest to call you a liar, don�t be surprised if he does. That�s in the �Talk-Show Hosting 101 Manual.�
You even had a guest on the show supporting your position who wanted to weigh in on your side about Plano and you humiliated him at least three times by screaming at him to �pipe down�(twice) and to �stop� (once). And since we are on the topic of etiquette, you probably should not have had your producer call Mr. Boston later in the evening during your radio show and then get on the phone and proceed to tell him that you hope you never encounter him in a bar. Threats made by talk-show hosts about bar fights with their guests merely contribute to the already-pervasive public opinion that talk-show hosts rank only barely above clowns in the entertainment hierarchy.
Enjoy the break from the routine, the love of family and friends, and just relax.
Then come back for the free for all next week when all this good will wears off :)
Friday, December 23, 2005
NC: ...Take, say, the invasion of Iraq again. We're told that they didn't find weapons of mass destruction. Well, that's not exactly correct. They did find weapons of mass destruction, namely, the ones that had been sent to Saddam by the United States, Britain, and others through the 1980s. A lot of them were still there. They were under control of U.N. inspectors and were being dismantled. But many were still there. When the U.S. invaded, the inspectors were kicked out, and Rumsfeld and Cheney didn't tell their troops to guard the sites. So the sites were left unguarded, and they were systematically looted. The U.N. inspectors did continue their work by satellite and they identified over 100 sites that were systematically looted, like, not somebody going in and stealing something, but carefully, systematically looted.
GP: By people who knew what they were doing.
NC: Yeah, people who knew what they were doing. It meant that they were taking the high-precision equipment that you can use for nuclear weapons and missiles, dangerous biotoxins, all sorts of stuff. Nobody knows where it went, but, you know, you hate to think about it. Well, that's increasing the threat of terror, substantially. Russia has sharply increased its offensive military capacity in reaction to Bush's programs, which is dangerous enough, but also to try to counter overwhelming U.S. dominance in offensive capacity. They are compelled to ship nuclear missiles all over their vast territory. And mostly unguarded. And the CIA is perfectly well aware that Chechen rebels have been casing Russian railway installations, probably with a plan to try to steal nuclear missiles. Well, yeah, that could be an apocalypse. But they're increasing that threat. Because they don't care that much.
Same with global warming. They're not stupid. They know that they're increasing the threat of a serious catastrophe. But that's a generation or two away. Who cares? There's basically two principles that define the Bush administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it's somebody else's business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said....
Now let's talk about withdrawal. Take any day's newspapers or journals and so on. They start by saying the United States aims to bring about a sovereign democratic independent Iraq. I mean, is that even a remote possibility? Just consider what the policies would be likely to be of an independent sovereign Iraq. If it's more or less democratic, it'll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran. The Badr Brigade, which basically runs the South, is trained in Iran. They have close and sensible economic relationships which are going to increase. So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there's a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it's already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in Washington: a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world's oil, independent of Washington and probably turning toward the East, where China and others are eager to make relationships with them, and are already doing it. Is that even conceivable? The U.S. would go to nuclear war before allowing that, as things now stand.
GP: How will the U.S. deal with China as a superpower?
NC: What's the problem with China?
GP: Well, competing for resources, for example.
NC: Well, if you believe in markets, the way we're supposed to, compete for resources through the market. So what's the problem? The problem is that the United States doesn't like the way it's coming out. Well, too bad. Who has ever liked the way it's coming out when you're not winning? China isn't any kind of threat. We can make it a threat. If you increase the military threats against China, then they will respond. And they're already doing it. They'll respond by building up their military forces, their offensive military capacity, and that's a threat. So, yeah, we can force them to become a threat.
"Special collection program" is the euphemism that the National Security Agency uses for spying on American citizens without a warrant.
Because of the New York Times investigative report published last week, President Bush was forced to admit that he had "reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks" -- something he intends "to do as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida."
That means none of us is safe. It also means anything can be justified under the banner of "security," which is why those willing to give up their liberty in exchange for security deserve neither.
Remember when President Bush joked that things would be easier if he were a dictator? I guess he wasn't joking. Democrats and Republicans are now calling for a congressional investigation to determine if the president went beyond the Constitution.
Over the weekend, the president said he authorized the program to "intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaida," which doesn't inspire much confidence given this administration's now debunked claims of al-Qaida links to Saddam.
All this eavesdropping business reminded me of C. William Michael's 2002 book "No Greater Threat: America After September 11 and the Rise of the National Security State."
Besides providing a detailed analysis of the USA Patriot Act, he lays out the 12 most common characteristics of a national security state.
1.) Visible increase in uniformed security. Got that;
2.) Lack of accountability in law enforcement. George Tenet got a medal for his fine WMD work and "Brownie" was praised for doing a heckuva job in the Katrina aftermath.
3.) Reduced judiciary and executive treatment of suspects. Can you say "detainee"?;
4.) Secrecy of ruling authority and momentum of threat. It's an open secret that this administration has taken official secrecy to a whole new level.
5.) Media in the service of the state. The Times held the eavesdropping story for a year, to say nothing of the WMD reporting of the major media in the run-up to the war.
6.) National resources devoted to security threat. The most recent budget passed in Congress speaks for itself.
7.) Patriotism moving to nationalism. Since 9-11, America was divided in two -- between those who don't know the difference between patriotism and nationalism and those who are terrorist-sympathizing, blame-America-first traitors.
8.) Lack of critical response by religions. Name one prominent national church leader critical of the way U.S. power has been wielded. At this point, I'll settle for a religious leader who isn't telling their parishioners to vote Republican to stop abortion and gay rights or who isn't calling for the assassination of foreign leaders.
9.) Wartime mentality and permanent war economy. See any Bush speech.
10.) Targeted individuals and groups. Scott Ritter, Richard Clarke, Joseph Wilson, Cindy Sheehan and MoveOn.org come to mind.
11.) Direct attack on dissent. See previous comment.And 12.) Increased surveillance of citizenry. Or as it's being called now, a "special collection program."
Thursday, December 22, 2005
In some ways, it was inevitable that we would find ourselves at this historic confrontation. Bush has long viewed the law as some malleable means to achieve particular ends, rather than the ends itself. In this sense, there is an eerie similarity between the views of Bush and two of his predecessors: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
George Bush is a study in relativism. He has long claimed unchecked authority after he declared a “war on terror.” He became a maximum leader subject to few, if any, legal limitations. Repeatedly, the White House has engaged in a type of reverse engineering. Rather than explain the scope of lawful conduct and develop operations within those lines, the president routinely creates operations and then asks lawyers to conform the law to them.
Bush's claim of inherent authority to circumvent federal laws is virtually identical to the argument made by Nixon in his model of the “Imperial Presidency.” Over time, Bush has combined a relativistic view of the law with an imperial model of the presidency. Also as Nixon did, Bush surrounded himself with lawyers — such as former attorney general John Ashcroft and current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales — who told him what he wanted to hear: that once he declared a “war” on terror, he vested himself with maximum powers and was free to use virtually any means to achieve his chosen ends.
Bush is no moral relativist. He is a legal relativist. While he views morals in absolute terms, he sees the law as fluid and fungible. Just as any moral excuse will satisfy a moral relativist, any legal argument satisfies a legal relativist.
Principle is rarely convenient in politics, but it remains the dividing line between true statespersons and mere politicians. When it comes to law and war, everything is not relative. At least not for those defending the rule of law.
On the Thursday morning after his reelection in November 2004, President Bush bounded unexpectedly into the Roosevelt Room of the White House, where about 15 members of his communications team were celebrating. He just wanted to thank everyone for their hard work on the campaign, he said, before singling someone out.
"Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?" Bush asked, half-grinning, according to two people who were in the meeting but asked not to be quoted by name because they were discussing a private event. Bush scanned the room for Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary.
"I want to especially thank Scotty," the president said, looking at his aide. "I want to thank Scotty for saying" -- and he paused for effect. . . .
" Nothing ."
At which point everyone laughed and the president left the room.
This is one of those quips that distill a certain essence of the game. In this era of on-message orthodoxy, the republic has evolved to where the leader of the free world can praise his most visible spokesman for saying nothing.
[Update: Dan Froomkin has more ]
The shorter extension, Sensenbrenner told reporters, would force swifter Senate action and had the support of the White House and Speaker Dennis Hastert, R.- Ill.
"A six-month extension, in my opinion, would have simply allowed the Senate to duck the issue until the last week in June," Sensenbrenner told reporters.
he Senate was expected to consider the five-week extension in a brief session later Thursday.
Democrats, meanwhile, did not bat down the bill to extend the Patriot Act until Feb. 3.
"The amount of time is less important than the good-faith effort that will be needed in improving the Patriot Act to strike the right balance in respecting Americans liberty and privacy, while protecting their security," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record), D-Vt., the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
"We're happy to agree to a shorter-term extension of the Patriot Act," said Rebecca Kirszner, an aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "The important thing is to strike the right balance between liberty and security."
House passage marked the latest step in a stalemate that first pitted Republicans against Democrats in the Senate, then turned into an intramural GOP dispute.
Without action by Congress, several provisions enacted in the days following the 2001 terror attacks are due to expire. Bush has repeatedly urged Congress not to let that happen.
Most of the Patriot Act — which expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers — was made permanent when Congress overwhelmingly passed it after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.
Making permanent the rest of the Patriot Act powers, like the roving wiretaps which allow investigators to listen in on any telephone and tap any computer they think a target might use, has been a priority of the administration and Republican lawmakers.
Some civil liberties safeguards had been inserted into legislation for renewing that law but Senate Democrats and a small group of GOP senators blocked it anyway, arguing that more safeguards were needed.
So the Justice Department came up with a brainstorm: at the last minute, it asked the 4th Circuit to vacate the government's big victory and transfer Padilla to the civilian court system, where they planned to charge him not with being a dirty bomber, not even with planning to blow up apartment buildings, but with a humdrum variety of low-level conspiracy charges.
The government has held Padilla militarily for three and a half years, steadfastly maintaining that it was imperative in the interest of national security that he be so held. However, a short time after our decision issued on the government’s representation that Padilla’s military custody was indeed necessary in the interest of national security, the government determined that it was no longer necessary that Padilla be held militarily.
....In a plea that was notable given that the government had held Padilla militarily for three and a half years and that the Supreme Court was expected within only days either to deny certiorari or to assume jurisdiction over the case for eventual disposition on the merits, the government urged that we act as expeditiously as possible to authorize the transfer [to a civilian court]. The government styled its motion as an “emergency application,” but it provided no explanation as to what comprised the asserted exigency.
.... No wonder Luttig was pissed. He was one of the ones who thought the Bush administration took this stuff seriously.
Every so often a reader writes in and asks this question. And it's a pretty good one. So here goes: When was the last time there was a major terror alert? They were something like a regular occurence for the eighteen months or so before the 2004 election. And through 2004 the administration pushed the line that al Qaida was aiming to disrupt the elections themselves. But as near I can tell there hasn't been a single one since election day.
Through 2004, of course, critics of the administration routinely questioned whether the frequency and timing of the various terror alerts were not all or in part for political effect.
How do we explain what appears to be a night and day difference between the year prior to November 2004 and the year since in terms of terror alerts and scares?
...Moulitsas's career to this point has been a bet that enough other people share this very precise, nearly sub-articulate animus. I hate Washington.
Moulitsas's appearance before the Democratic caucus was a verbal version of what he writes every day on his blog, DailyKos. The site, which has existed for only around three and a half years, now has 3.7 million readers each week. That's more than the top 10 opinion magazines—of both left and right—combined, more readers than any political publication has had, ever, in the history of the world. In addition, Moulitsas used the site to raise $500,000 for Democratic candidates in the last election cycle—making him one of the party's top fund-raisers. And, thanks to his early and enthusiastic backing of Howard Dean's campaign for the party's presidential nomination, Moulitsas became perhaps the key player in Dean's Internet-based rise to prominence.
The conventional wisdom is that a Democratic Party in which Moulitsas calls the shots would cater to every whim of its liberal base. But though he can match Michael Moore for shrillness, the most salient thing about Moulitsas's politics is not where he falls on the left-right spectrum (he's actually not very far left). It's his relentless competitiveness, founded not on any particular set of political principles, but on an obsession with tactics —and in particular, with the tactics of a besieged minority, struggling for survival: stand up for your principles, stay united, and never back down from a fight. “They want to make me into the latest Jesse Jackson, but I'm not ideological at all,” Moulitsas told me, “I'm just all about winning.”
Some influential Democrats believe this new mindset has been largely responsible for many of the party's recent successes in Washington—fighting off the White House's Social-Security privatization plan, closing down the Senate to force an investigation into pre-war intelligence, and defeating an attempt by the White House to suspend labor laws in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. "These Democratic insiders believe that Moulitsas and his website, who helped egg the party on in this toughened moment, might be transformative, and they want to place a gaudy bet on him.
They also believe, even more strongly, that Moulitsas is transformative, that he contains the trigger for a new political epoch. The DCCC's executive director, John Lapp, says that Moulitsas's model is “a signal event in political history, like the Kennedy-Nixon debates, in how it gets people involved.” And Simon Rosenberg, the president of the centrist New Democratic Network (NDN), says that “frankly I don't think there's anyone who's had the potential to revolutionize the Democratic Party that Markos does.” This great faith has put Moulitsas—an extremely smart, irascible, self-contradictory, often petty, always difficult, non-practicing attorney and web programmer with no real political experience—in the position of trying to understand, on the fly, what real power is and how it might be exercised, thrust him into a flailing, wild-eyed and bold solitary venture, trying to turn a website into a movement.
Of course, it's not just Moulitsas. The younger-than-35 liberal professionals who account for most of his audience seem an ideologically satisfied group, with no fundamental paradigm—changing demands to make of the Democratic Party. They don't believe strongly, as successive generations of progressives have, that the Democratic Party must develop more government programs to help the poor, or that racial and ethnic minorities are wildly underrepresented, or that the party is in need of a fundamental reform towards the pragmatic center—or at least they don't believe so in any kind of consistent or organized manner. As this generation begins to move into positions of power within the progressive movement and the Democratic Party, they don't pose much of a challenge on issues or substance. So the tactical critique takes center stage. Moulitsas's sensibility suits his generation perfectly. But it also comes with a built-in cost. Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn't care about policy. It's here that the correlation between sports and politics breaks down. In sports, as Vince Lombardi is said to have put it, “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” When the season is over, you hang up your cleats and wait for the next season. But in politics, that's not the case—you have to govern, and if you don't govern well, you won't get reelected. So while tactics and message are crucial, most voters will ultimately demand from politicians ideas that give them a sense of what a party is going to do once in power. Wanting to win very badly is an admirable and necessary quality in politics, and Moulitsas is right that Democrats have needed it in greater quantity. But it is not really a political philosophy.
That's not Moulitsas's fault, of course. He doesn't pretend to be a policy wonk. But the more that the Democratic Party turns to Moulitsas for help, the more the limits to his movement become apparent, the less the raw animus of many liberals for the Iraq war seems likely to translate into any lasting liberal movement, and the more the current obsession with his brand of Winnerism looks misplaced. Moulitsas's great aspiration has been to make the Democratic grassroots as disciplined, directed, and on-message as any whip would want his party in Congress to be. “But at some point someone's going to have to step up and say, okay, this is where the party's got to go,” Ed Kilgore, a prominent Democratic strategist and longtime member of the DLC, told me recently. “And right now it still feels awfully up for grabs.”
[Update: Kos response/error correction]
This was put forward by Chairman Sensenbrenner and it is either the best he could come up with working with the Dems (unlikely, since the House is fascist dictatorship controlled by the Repugs) or they've lost all functioning control of the loons in the House. Either one sounds good to me. I'll post more details/explanations as they come available.
The last hope for peace in Iraq was stomped to death this week. The victory of the Shiite religious coalition in the December 15 election hands power for the next four years to a fanatical band of fundamentalist Shiite parties backed by Iran, above all to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Quietly backed by His Malevolence, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, sustained by a 20,000-strong paramilitary force called the Badr Brigade, and with both overt and covert support from Iran's intelligence service and its Revolutionary Guard corps, SCIRI will create a theocratic bastion state in its southern Iraqi fiefdom and use its power in Baghdad to rule what's left of the Iraqi state by force.
The more perceptive among U.S. intelligence officials and Iraq experts know how to read the situation, and they mostly believe it is hopeless. "I hate to say, 'Game over,'" says Wayne White, who led the State Department's intelligence effort on Iraq until last spring. "But we've lost it." There is no mechanism for the Sunnis now to restore a modicum of balance in Iraq, and the Shiite religious parties have no incentive to make significant concessions either to the Sunnis or to the resistance, White says.
Most worrying is the fact that centrist elements in Iraq—ranging from the CIA's favorite candidate, Iyad Allawi, to the Pentagon's chosen vehicle, Ahmed Chalabi—got blown away. Therefore, as I had hoped earlier (and wrote, in this space, two weeks ago, in a piece called "Iraq's Last Small Hope," and again, last week, in "Iraq's Tipping Point"), any chance that someone like Allawi could emerge as a power broker who could bridge the divide between religious Shiites and the Sunni-led resistance is gone. The planned-for Arab League peace conference, scheduled for late February or early March, likely won't happen. Violence will intensify.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
A quarter-century long fight over the nation's most divisive environmental issue rages on after the Senate on Wednesday rejected opening an Alaska wildlife refuge to oil drilling -- even though that provision was included in a must-pass bill that funds U.S. troops overseas and hurricane victims.
It was a stinging defeat for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, one of the Senate's most powerful members, who had hoped to garner more votes by forcing senators to choose between supporting the drilling measure, or risking the political fallout from voting against money for the troops and hurricane victims.
Instead, Stevens found himself a few votes shy of getting his wish.
The measure was widely expected to be withdrawn and reworked without the refuge language, although Stevens warned he was ready to stay until New Year's if necessary to fight for the drilling, a cause he has pursued for 25 of his 37 years in the Senate.
Democrats as well as a number of Republicans were already angered by Stevens' tactic that delayed action on the $453.5 billion defense bill including $29 billion for hurricane relief, the war and border security, and $2 billion to help low-income households pay this winter's heating expenses.
"Our military is being held hostage by this issue, Arctic drilling," fumed Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader.
But Stevens, 82, the Senate's most senior member known for his sometimes cantankerous nature and fiery temper, expressed frustration, but had no apologies.
But no one believes the issue -- which has galvanized environmentalists determined to protect the refuge from development -- is going away.
"I expect to see it again next year," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, a longtime drilling opponent.
"Yes, it'll be back," agreed Lieberman.
Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret- court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.
"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."
Nor does it help that this president is so publicly bent on intruding government-imposed religious values into American civil life, while urging secular tolerance upon the Islamic world. Or that he remains so blind to the reality of life in that world that he still does not grasp that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were on opposite sides of the enormous struggle over the primacy of religion in the Arab world. Iraq, for all of its massive deficiencies, was not a center of religious fanaticism before the U.S. invasion, and the Islamic fanatics that are the president's sworn enemy in the so-called "war on terror" did not have a foothold in the country. Now, primitive religious fundamentalism forms the dominant political culture in Iraq and the best outcome for U.S. policy is the hope that Shiite and Sunni fanatics can check each other long enough for the United States to beat a credible retreat and call it a victory, albeit a pyrrhic one.
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.
Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."
Prominent party officials, including the former House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, are under scrutiny involving trips and other gifts from Mr. Abramoff and his clients. The case has shaken the Republican establishment, with the threat of testimony from Mr. Abramoff, once a ubiquitous and well-connected Republican star, sowing anxiety throughout the party ranks.
Prosecutors are also looking at how some former Congressional staff members landed their lucrative lobbying positions and at the role the wives of several lobbyists and lawmakers may have had in any influence scheme, a piece of the puzzle that investigators have begun referring to privately as the "wives' club."
Monday, December 19, 2005
The four players were charged with indecent, disorderly, and lewd and lascivious conduct. These are apparently misdemeanor offenses that can get you a fine and 90 days in jail. I don’t want to live in a country where we throw people in jail for getting lap dances.
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand this story. The women who participated are NOT complaining. There are no charges of harassment or assault, nor is there even a hint of it. No, the reason these charges were brought was because some prudes who worked on the boat got pissed someone else was having a good time and told the media and the authorities.
Why did you waste the taxpayers’ money investigating a bunch of guys who had some strippers on a boat? The sheriff says he’s not done and he’s looking to go after 30 more players. Yeah, they might have seen a boob or two – start a fucking federal case!
Man, we gotta get over this. This national obsession with sex. You can do anything you want in this country and get away with it, but God forbid you should fuck somebody.
You think God doesn’t care how all the other animals on this planet have sex but is intimately concerned with how the Homo sapiens do. Sometimes the lack of logic in this world seems to know no bounds.We spend so much time and energy trying to control each other’s sex lives because we think some supernatural entity cares. Well, I got news for you -- God doesn’t give a fuck.
I accidentally turned on ABC News last night expecting to find Desperate Housewives and unhappily was greeted by Elizabeth Vargas and that other new guy. She told me that people were “very optimistic” in Iraq and that turnout for the election had reached 70 percent. I can promise you that number is unsupportable.The truth is nobody had any idea what the turnout in Iraq was. All the early coverage can handle is whether there are long lines for voting or not. If there are, the vote was a success. All you have to do to get the US media to go along with your foreign election is make sure there aren’t enough voting places—something at which the Bush administration demonstrated its considerable skill in Ohio. Months or years from now, we’ll get the truth, but this falling for it every time—well, that’s as sure a thing a Roger Clemons striking out your grandmother...
- In Japan, police were so upset to hear that a student who was caught up in a traffic accident had to get to an important exam that they gave him a full escort with sirens, arriving with 10 minutes to spare.
- Police in Newcastle, Australia, reported a spate of frozen chickens smashing into house roofs with great force. They suspected a prankster with a powerful catapult.
- Local lawmakers in the US state of Virginia threw out a bill that would have banned young people from wearing low-slung trousers. "Underwear is called underwear for a reason," said the congressman who sought the measure.
There's more.... it's great fun to see that we (well, at least *I*) am not as weird as we thought.
The ANWR provision was attached to a major defense bill, forcing many opponents of oil and gas exploration in the barren northern Alaska range to vote for it. The bill, passed 308-106, devoted money to bird flu preventive measures and $29 billion to hurricane relief, including funds for reconstructing New Orleans' levees.
The deficit measure, passed 212-206, carried an extension of expiring welfare laws and repealed a program that compensates companies hurt by trading partners who "dump" their exports in this country.
The realization that they are NOT a dictatorship would help BushCo get more of what they want (and since that will happen about the time Hell holds its first snowman building contest, that ain't gonna happen!)
UPDATE: CSM has an article about this.
I had an interesting discussion this morning with DC political consultant Marc Laitin. We both came to the conclusion that it sounds like Bush's super-secret illegal domestic spying program may be targeting US journalists and that may be why Bush never got it cleared by the court and is worried about it coming forward now.
And here's another possibility. We outsource torture to foreign governmments, why wouldn't the Bush administration outsource surveillance of American citizens, including American journalists? It would be just the kind of too-cute-by-half move the Bush administration would come up with to obey the law against spying on US citizens while at the same time doing it. Ask your foreign government friends to do the spying on Americans for you.
I don't have proof yet, but Bush spying on US journalists would explain everything UNEXPLAINED about this entire story. Bush refusing to follow the law, Bush refusing to go to court, Bush refusing to tell more members of Congress, Bush's concern that the terrorists, if they knew we were doing this, would be tipped off, and Bush's desire to keep this from the public. It all makes sense that the target of the domestic spying could be US journalists.
Perhaps some enterprising journalist will ask the White House directly, has the Bush administration or its allies ever spied on American journalists?
. . .[W]hy was Alito a member of an organization that ran counter to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments, federal laws ensuring equal access to education for women and minorities? How can we be sure that he will view women and minorities as deserving full equality under the law when he once sought to exclude them from his alma mater?
Samuel Alito touted his membership in CAP at the same time Prospect was pushing these destructive messages. This fact should trouble all who cherish the right to equality before the law. Alito needs to be forthcoming about his involvement in CAP, and the Senate must carefully examine this record. Otherwise, Americans won't have the information they need to judge for themselves whether Alito would uphold the rights of all.
And there's more: it wasn't even a matter of keeping the NSA program a secret from the FISA court. The judge knew all about it, and even warned the administration not to use information from the unapproved program as the basis for further wiretap requests.
So what's the deal? It must be pretty obvious to everyone that there's more going on here than the administration is fessing up to. Since there was no apparent reason to bypass the law, there must be an unapparent one. But what?
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
I realized at that point that one of my favorite characters was a minor character from the opening eps of season 1. Lisa Edelstein played a (very high class) call girl who spent the night with Rob Lowe's character and complicated his life for a while. It was a most interesting character.
I suddenly clicked to the fact that she's on another of my current shows. She plays Dr Cuddy on Fox's (so sue me!) HOUSE, M.D., which, like covering Cowboys games and 24, gives Fox an excuse to exist. House, for the uniformed, centers on a curmudgeon/asshole of a doctor, who abuses everyone around him, lies, cheats, and steals, while popping Vicodin and solving insoluble cases just in time for the news. It's actually a brilliant show and I highly recommend it.
It just surprised me it took me so long to realize why Edelstein looked familiar. Till I started thinking about WW characters last night, I hadn't made connection. Originally, I'd thought she was Andrea Marcovicci, but I realized she was too young (and then read the credits).
John Spencer, who played Leo, died yesterday of a heart attack. He was an amazing actor who brought intelligence, wit, and urbanity (see how cleverly I tie it all together?) to the role. The character looked like he relished his role in life, and every interview I saw with Spencer had the same look. He was a man happy with his place in life and enjoying it to the hilt.
WW producers have not announced how this will affect the show. The show is somewhat off it's game since the departure of Aaron Sorkin, but this season seemed to picking up some steam with it's intense coverage of the campaigns of Santos and Vinnick (Alan Alda in a brilliant role). I hope the loss of Spencer doesn't take the wind out of their sails.
Farewell, John. You will be missed.
The best line (from LanceMannion):
So their personal moral calculus winds up looking like this:
Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things and bad people are the others. I am one of the good people. Therefore the things I do must be good.
This is why if Jesus were around today and a woman taken in adultery ran to him for protection and he said to the crowd, Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone, forty-six Republican adulterers would bean her with rocks.
Cheating on your spouse is something Democrats do.
Call/write/email your Senators and make sure they are on the right side of this and continue to vote against cloture.
Robert Novak, suspended at CNN, since his expletive laden storm off, is leaving CNN (no shit?) And, according to various reports, will resume spouting bilge at Fox News. Were two things ever MORE made for each other? Jesus, I may have to give up football, just to avoid Fox altogether.
He is neither an ageist or a sexist or a fascist or a typist. Or a homophobe. Or a xenophobe. Or a xylophone. Rather, he is a cashist. The First Green President, but the only whales he's saving are the Vegas kind.
I know the theory on paper is trickle down. Rich people spend their money and it trickles down to the poor. But the theory on paper is crap. Rich people hang onto their money. That's how they got rich. You give us poor people money and we'll spend every damn penny we get our grubby little hands on. Why do you think we're poor? Blowing it on superfluous stuff like food and rent and medicine and gasoline. Silly profligate us. Besides, I'm tired of being trickled on.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
But some of the administration's antiterrorism initiatives have provoked an outcry from members of Congress, watchdog groups, immigrants and others who argue that the measures erode protections for civil liberties and intrude on Americans' privacy. Opponents have challenged provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the focus of contentious debate on Capitol Hill this week, that expand domestic surveillance by giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation more power to collect information like library lending lists or Internet use. Military and F.B.I. officials have drawn criticism for monitoring what were largely peaceful antiwar protests. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security were forced to retreat on plans to use public and private databases to hunt for possible terrorists. And last year, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's claim that those labeled "enemy combatants" were not entitled to judicial review of their open-ended detention.
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, the officials said.
In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.
Under the agency's longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in this country by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.
Traditionally, the F.B.I., not the N.S.A., seeks such warrants and conducts most domestic eavesdropping. Until the new program began, the N.S.A. typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities, and obtained court orders to do so.
There's a LOT more.... it's frigtheneing and maddening. And just the latest thing to be exposed; who knows how much is left undisclosed.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Nearly three out of five Americans, 59 percent, said they disapproved of the way Bush is handling Iraq; 39 percent said they approve.
The approval number is up slightly from last month, when a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found 63 percent of Americans disapproved of the administration's Iraq policy and 35 percent said they approved. In September, 32 percent said they approved of Bush's handling of Iraq.
Another 4% of the populace just became officially stupid.
When hundreds of religious activists try to get arrested today to protest cutting programs for the poor, prominent conservatives such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will not be among them.
That is a great relief to Republican leaders, who have dismissed the burgeoning protests as the work of liberals. But it raises the question: Why in recent years have conservative Christians asserted their influence on efforts to relieve Third World debt, AIDS in Africa, strife in Sudan and international sex trafficking -- but remained on the sidelines while liberal Christians protest domestic spending cuts?
Conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family say it is a matter of priorities, and their priorities are abortion, same-sex marriage and seating judges who will back their position against those practices.
"It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important," said Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, Dobson's influential, Colorado-based Christian organization. "But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that."
So a prospective baby dying is of equal import to an actual baby dying?
Jim Wallis, editor of the liberal Christian journal Sojourners and an organizer of today's protest, was not buying it. Such conservative religious leaders "have agreed to support cutting food stamps for poor people if Republicans support them on judicial nominees," he said. "They are trading the lives of poor people for their agenda. They're being, and this is the worst insult, unbiblical."
At the same time, House and Senate negotiators are hashing out their differences on a tax-cutting measure that is likely to include an extension of cuts in the tax rate on dividends and capital gains.
To mainline Protestant groups and some evangelical activists, the twin measures are an affront, especially during the Christmas season. Leaders of five denominations -- the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA and United Church of Christ -- issued a joint statement last week calling on Congress to go back to the drawing board and come up with a budget that brings "good news to the poor."
To GOP leaders and their supporters in the Christian community, it is not that simple. Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said yesterday that the activists' position is not "intellectually right."
The "right tax policy," such as keeping tax rates low on business investment, "grows the economy, increases federal revenue -- and increased federal revenue makes it easier for us to pursue policies that we all can agree have social benefit," he said.
So, by cutting the amount the poor have to spend on food, they'll be able to eat more?
The later arguments made, once it was obvious that the opinion of their readers was against them, by Downie and Harris do seem more like access-protection than serious journalistic issues. They don't want the WH pissed at them or they might lose access. It's worth remembering that Woodward and Bernstein (at least, the early Woodward) had no access and broke the biggest story of the 20th Century, so that might be a net plus.
If you're confused, or just fascinated, Talking Points, Atrios, firedoglake, Brad de Long, and Politcal Animal all have a lot of coverage and many interesting snippets, quotes, details, and thoughts of the flap. All are listed in the 'Links' or 'Blogs N'Stuff' sections in the sidebar.
The upshot is that it looks like nothing will happen other than Dan getting new readers and everyone else looking like idiots. So, it's been win/win!
Many things have gone wrong for Bush, most notably everything that has happened in Iraq since he declared "Mission Accomplished" in the spring of 2003, but the underlying problem is his relationship to the rightwing constituency that elected him. Bush's debt to his big donors and to religious conservatives has boxed him in and pitted him against the national consensus on a range of issues. It has proven impossible for Bush to satisfy both the militant conservative base and the eternally moderate US electorate.
The president has never understood the brilliance of Ronald Reagan's way of dealing with this conflict. Reagan managed to appease the religious right with rhetoric, without actually forcing retrograde changes on divisive social issues. Reagan also placated conservatives by challenging the growth of the public sector. This is a theme Bush has soft-pedalled, preferring to allow federal spending and deficits to rise.
Whether because he is less adroit or because he truly believes what he says, Bush seems able to appease his conservative evangelical base only by surrendering to its wish-list. He has caved in to conservatives on issues including stem-cell research, pension privatisation and the teaching of "intelligent design" in schools. With his most recent Supreme Court nomination, Bush has given in further, creating at least the appearance that he is trying to get enough votes to remove the constitutional protection for abortion rights.
At this point, the policy legacy of George Bush seems defined by three disparate disasters: Iraq in foreign affairs, Katrina in social welfare, and corporate influence over tax, budget and regulatory decisions. As a short-term political consequence, we may avoid another dim-witted Bush in the White House. But what the Bush dynasty has done to presidential campaign science - the protocols by which Americans elect presidents in the modern era - amounts to a political legacy that could haunt the republic for years to come.
Dee Dee Myers:
George Bush is talking again, and I don't have a clue what he's saying. It's not that he's mangling his syntax. That's par for the course. And while it's as amusing as it is disconcerting, I usually think I know what he's trying to say (though I do confess to being stumped by "more and more of our imports are coming from overseas").
But this is a familiar feeling for me. I think I know what something means - until I hear George Bush say it.
I wish I had Bush's ability to tell all those voices in my head to shut up. Maybe I need to learn his squinty-eyed stare; it certainly seems to have had the desired effect on the press corps. I, too, want to believe that the world is black and white, that all problems have simple solutions, and that doubts are for the weak and faint-hearted. I, too, want to ignore complexity and laugh in the face of contradictory facts. I, too, want to be 14 again