Sunday, July 31, 2005

Leaked emails claim Guantanamo trials rigged

Leaked emails claim Guantanamo trials rigged. 01/08/2005. ABC News Online
Leaked emails from two former prosecutors claim the military commissions set up to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay are rigged, fraudulent, and thin on evidence against the accused.

Two emails, which have been obtained by the ABC, were sent to supervisors in the Office of Military Commissions in March of last year - three months before Australian detainee David Hicks was charged and five months before his trial began.

The first email is from prosecutor Major Robert Preston to his supervisor.
...
"I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people," Maj Preston wrote.
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The second email is written by another prosecutor, Captain John Carr, who also ended up leaving the department.
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"When I volunteered to assist with this process and was assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently prepare cases against significant accused," he wrote.

"Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganised effort by a skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears to be rigged."


If the media run with this, it should give the Bush folks a chance to do some serious kick-down gymnastics. Blaming Lynndie Englund for this one will take some doing.

Bush finally meets up with Boy Scouts

It was Bush's third attempt to travel to Fort A.P. Hill, the Army base hosting the Jamboree where Scouts are trying to end their 10-day gathering with cheery memories of mountain biking, fishing, scuba diving and trading patches with newfound Scouting friends across the nation.

On Wednesday, scouting enthusiasts waited hours in the heat for Bush, who later canceled his appearance because of threatening storms. Scouts began collapsing from high humidity and temperatures in the high 90s. More than 300 people were treated for heat-related illnesses.

Bush's second attempt to visit the Jamboree was postponed from Thursday at the Scouts' request. Officials wanted to review safety procedures for large crowds and replenish water and other supplies.


The appearance came as the press is raising questions about Bush's own Scout service. While records confirm that Bush was a Cub Scout in good standing, there is no record of Bush completing his Aviation Merit Badge or his Citizenship Badge, or attending any meetings with his local troop.

The White House staunchly defended Bush's record as a member of the Boy Scout Reserves.

"The President was ready, willing and able to serve in the active Boy Scouts, had the need arisen," Scott McClellan asserted. "But he wasn't needed, and like Vice President Cheney, he had other priorities."

Of yellow stars and pink triangles

NYT via MercuryNews.com: Early clues to Nazi goals found

Who in Allied governments, the Vatican and the news media knew what about the Holocaust and when? What could and should have been done to save Europe's Jews? Ever since World War II, those questions have been fiercely debated.

In January 1942, the Nazis convened to map their Final Solution and by the following December the Allies knew or suspected enough -- mostly from escaped prisoners and other partisans -- to issue a public denunciation of Germany's ``bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination.''

Now, a U.S. government analysis suggests that while the evidence was incomplete, gruesome details from coded Nazi messages that Britain intercepted beginning in 1941 could have confirmed and exposed the scope of German genocide well before mid-1944, when Allied troops liberated the death camps and became witnesses to the horror.

In a striking parallel to assessments of intelligence gaps before Sept. 11, the analysis suggests that the Allies largely failed to understand the information they had, information that might not have given advance warning of the Holocaust, but could have prompted a military response that could have interrupted the deportations or mass exterminations, or at least a propaganda campaign against Nazi atrocities.


But there are more parallels.

Further, the report said, British and American efforts to sort evidence were hampered by large case backlogs and a shortage of translators.
...
And the report suggests that anti-Semitism may have helped create an atmosphere that affected how communications intelligence -- or Comint -- was handled.


Today it isn't anti-semitism, of course:

Gay Linguists Get The Boot
Nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, have been dismissed from the military because they are gay.

The soldiers' dismissals come at a time when the military is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism.
...
"We face a drastic shortage of linguists, and the direct impact of Arabic speakers is a particular problem," said Donald R. Hamilton, who documented the need for more linguists in a report to Congress as part of the National Commission on Terrorism.


And the problem is getting worse:

Despite more money, increased personnel and an attempt at improved technology, the FBI still has a backlog of untranslated terrorism-related audio intercepts. That's the unsatisfactory finding that Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine reported last week at a Senate Judiciary Committee FBI oversight hearing.
The backlog, Fine said, has more than doubled to 8,354 hours of unreviewed counterterrorism material from 4,086 hours in April 2004.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

winning hearts and minds

RABIAH, Iraq (AP) - Some survivors of a suicide bombing targeting Iraqi army recruits were shot and wounded immediately afterward when U.S. and Iraqi soldiers opened fire at the scene, police, doctors and witnesses said Saturday.


We are winning their hearts and minds. And most other body parts, delivered a la carte.

Who writes this nonsense?

Somebody @ Bloomberg.com really needs to check the butts (and perhaps other body parts) of writers of their news stories for the White House's lipstick.

John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations may face fresh obstacles in the Senate after the State Department said Bolton failed to tell lawmakers he was interviewed about faulty intelligence on Iraq.

State Department spokesman Noel Clay said yesterday that Bolton forgot about a 2003 interview by the department's inspector general, who was examining how the U.S. concluded Iraq tried to buy nuclear material from Niger, when he filled out a questionnaire for his Senate confirmation hearings.

Thirty-six senators, 35 Democrats and one Independent, sent a letter to President George W. Bush today urging him to withdraw the nomination and requesting that he not make a unilateral appointment, as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, when Congress takes a vacation break at the end of the week.

``Mr. Bolton's excuse that he `didn't recall being interviewed by the State Department's Inspector General' is simply not believable,'' the letter said.

The Bush administration needs to send an ambassador to the UN to push its agenda of changes designed to make the 60-year-old body more accountable and aligned with U.S. interests in areas like human rights, peacekeeping and democracy building.


Yes indeedy. It is awfully inconvenient the way the Luddites at the UN refuse to align with our new positions on these issues. But I'm not sure our new positions have been effectively summarized in one place before, so for the benefit of Kofi Annan and friends:

Human rights: Against
Peacekeeping: Against, at least until after the US has captured the local mineral rights
Democracy building: Happy to have it, so long as democracy means "puppet state"

Get with the program, folks. Else you will join the Geneva Conventions on our list of "quaint' institutions.

And the Gannonesque wholesale regurgitation of WH talking points reminds me of a case I read about once where a map company sued a copyright infringer so brazen that the infringer's maps included the copyright notices from the stolen maps.

You need to be slightly less obvious in your recycling, fools.

Mending fences with our allies abroad

Newsweek via Froomkin:

Germany’s new ambassador has no obvious qualifications or abilities to repair the deeply strained relationship with one of America’s most important allies for the last 50 years. However William Timken Jr., an Ohio industrialist, does have one big claim to the job: he raised at least $200,000 for the president’s re-election campaign in 2004—ranking him among the elite class of fund-raisers known as the Bush Rangers. In January, the Timken Co., where Timken is chairman of the company’s board of directors, contributed $250,000 to fund Bush’s Inauguration festivities.

A White House spokesman says Bush tapped Timken for the Berlin post because he’s an “experienced executive.” Yet Timken has no diplomatic background, and, according to his spokeswoman, does not speak German. While Timken does claim ancestral ties to Germany, he appears even less qualified for the job than his predecessor, former GOP senator Dan Coats, who was hardly celebrated in Berlin. Stationed in the German capital at the height of debate over whether to invade Iraq, Coats also didn’t speak German and was widely criticized for his lack of knowledge about the country—two factors said to have contributed to the rift between the United States and Germany over the war. In contrast, Coats’s predecessor was John Kornblum, a popular and vastly experienced career diplomat appointed by President Bill Clinton who is credited (at least in part) with having written President Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down This Wall” speech.
...
Timken is the eighth $100,000-plus Bush fund-raiser to be nominated for an ambassadorship since January. On Wednesday, the White House nominated Al Hoffman, a Florida developer who has raised $300,000 for Bush’s presidential campaigns, to be ambassador to Portugal. Last month, Bush appointed Robert Tuttle, a California car dealer, to be ambassador to the United Kingdom, while Ronald Spogli, a California financer who was Bush’s classmate at Harvard Business School, was named the top diplomat in Rome. Both men were Bush Pioneers in 2004—having raised at least $100,000 for the campaign. In April, the White House named David Wilkins, a South Carolina state representative who raised $200,000 for the 2004 campaign, as the ambassador to Canada. That appointment raised concerns north of the border when Wilkins admitted that he’d only visited Canada once—more than 30 years ago on a trip to Niagara Falls—and that he didn’t speak French (Canada is officially a bilingual country).
If the US could figure out a way to charge other nations for the corruption and incompetence we're so good at exporting, our trade deficit would vanish overnight.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday News Dump

Rocky Mountain News: News
Federal prosecutors have declined to press charges of impersonating a Secret Service agent against a White House volunteer who forcibly ousted three people from a speech by President George W. Bush in Denver on March 21.

The announcement was made without explanation today in a letter from the Secret Service to Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar and Reps. Mark Udall and Diana DeGette, all Democrats who had asked for the agency to investigate the incident.

The three people who were ousted – Alex Young, 26, Karen Bauer, 38, and Leslie Weise, 39 – say the event staffer was dressed like a Secret Service agent, in a suit, radio earpiece and lapel pin that identifies people with security clearance. Bauer and Weise say that when they were pulled aside at the gate, they were told by another event staffer that they were waiting for a Secret Service agent, and then this man showed up. Though he did not tell them he was an agent, they said he did threaten to arrest them if they misbehaved.
...
The incident raised questions in Congress about whether the man had committed the crime of impersonating a federal officer.

The man's identity has been a matter of mystery for four months. The three have repeatedly demanded his identity, saying they wanted to sue him on free speech grounds.
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The White House has described the man as a "White House volunteer." White House press secretary Scott McClellan backed the trio's ouster, saying in April, "If we think people are coming to the event to disrupt it, obviously, they're going to be asked to leave."


Hobbes (the philosopher, not the stuffed tiger) would be so proud.

Pleeeeze be true

Privilege claim may not apply to Roberts papers

The White House is citing the attorney-client privilege as the basis for refusing to reveal memos written by Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. when he was representing the government before the high court. At the time, Roberts was the top deputy to Solicitor Gen. Kenneth W. Starr.

But it is not clear that this legal privilege shields the work of government lawyers from the eyes of government investigators — thanks to a legal ruling won by Starr himself, when he was independent counsel investigating President Clinton.

Usually, the attorney-client privilege protects private lawyers from being forced to reveal what their clients told them. It also shields their notes and memos from prosecutors. This rule of secrecy is seen as vital to the adversarial process.

But in 1996, Starr challenged the notion that White House lawyers who worked for Clinton could invoke the attorney-client privilege when Starr sought notes they had written. Starr argued that the lawyers worked for the people of the United States, not for the president.

Democrats are making a similar argument in Roberts' case: that the solicitor general represents the public interest.
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"We believe the strong public interest in honest government and in exposing wrongdoing by public officials would be ill-served by recognition of a governmental attorney-client privilege" when prosecutors or congressional investigators are seeking information, the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis said. "Even if we consider a congressional investigation to be an adversarial proceeding, the only harm that could come to the White House as a result of such an investigation is a political harm."

Heart of darkness: How Bush knows what he knows

More spew up @ Raw story.

More subsidies, please

AOL News - Exxon Mobil 2Q profit jumps 32 percent
- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported a 32 percent increase in second-quarter profits as it reaped the benefits of soaring oil and natural gas prices.

Net income for the April-June quarter rose to $7.64 billion, or $1.20 per share, from $5.79 billion, or 88 cents per share, the year before. Excluding one-time items, earnings totaled $7.84 billion, or $1.23 per share, Exxon said on Thursday.
...
Revenue totaled $88.57 billion, a gain of 25 percent from $70.69 billion a year earlier.

Profits from exploration and production jumped $1 billion to $4.9 billion, a reflection of strong crude and natural gas prices offsetting a 4.3 percent reduction in output, the company said.


Well of course we have to give them tax breaks. I mean, it isn't like you can award a corporation the Medal of Freedom.

Class (and the complete lack thereof)

The Stakeholder:: OH-02: DeLay Inc. Buys Schmidt
What prompted the committee's entry into the Schmidt-Hackett race was a comment made by Hackett in a USA Today article published Thursday. Hackett, talking about his service as a marine in Iraq, is quoted as saying, "I've said I don't like the son-of-a-b--- that lives in the White House. But I'd put my life on the line for him."

Because Hackett said that, Forti said, "we decided to bury him."


The first-order lesson here is clear -- if you are a young person with any aspirations of higher office, stay the hell out of the military. After the Swift Smear, after what they did to Max Cleland, it is clear that there just is no possible upside to serving in the military for folks on the right side of the socioeconomic tracks.

On a deeper level, the campaign seems to be about building a taller fence right next to those tracks. The Republicans are intent on maintaining a bright line distinction between the well-to-do, who give only Yellow Elephant lip service, and the proles who are herded into the military via poverty. The overlords don't think through their mission, don't protect them with body armor or up-armored HummVees, don't take care of the soldiers who come home broken -- because they don't give a shit if the fodder units come back at all. So long as conditions for the poor here keep the line into the abattoir that is Iraq full, the Bush-Cheney machine is happy, and unconcerned with how the slaughterhouse disposes of its byproducts.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The icing on the Bolton cake

There was always something that troubled me about the Boulton nomination. That is a plum assignment, and I didn't see how he had done anything that merited such an honor by Bush standards. I mean sure, there were his immortal words in Florida: "I'm with the Bush-Cheney team, and I'm here to stop the count." And there was the time he chased a female NGO worker down the halls of a Russian hotel. And who could forget his yeoman efforts in Korea.

As laudable as those things were, I thought they wouldn't be enough to get him into the club. If he wanted to crack the Bremer/Tenet/Franks echelon, I figured he needed something more.

John Bolton, the nominee for U.N. ambassador, inaccurately told Congress he had not been interviewed or testified in any investigation over the past five years, the State Department said Thursday.

Bolton was interviewed by the State Department inspector general as part of a joint investigation with the Central Intelligence Agency into prewar Iraqi attempts to buy nuclear materials from Niger, State Department spokesman Noel Clay said.

The admission came hours after another State Department official said Bolton had correctly answered a Senate questionnaire when he wrote that he has not testified to a grand jury or been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years.
Now that's what I'm talking about.

Unless there are a few extra Medals of Freedom sitting around the Oval, I think a recess appointment is now a done deal.

Attaboy, John!

A vintage McClellan performance

Hot air

The Bushistas certainly made great strides today in their efforts to acknowledge the grim realities of energy production and environmental risk in the twenty-first century:

US: climate deal complements Kyoto

The US today insisted that its surprise announcement last night of a new pact over clean energy technologies with other five countries was not a threat to the Kyoto emissions treaty.

A deal between the US, Australia, China, India, South Korea and Japan was announced late yesterday in a statement by the US president, George Bush. The news prompted widespread surprise - not least in Downing Street.
...

The announcement of the New Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate received a mixed reaction, alarming many environmentalists. Critics noted that the partnership, which apparently comes after a year of secret talks, is not binding and sets no targets for reducing pollution.

By contrast the Kyoto protocol, signed by 140 countries to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, which experts believe contribute to global warming, is legally binding.

Meanwhile, back inside the Beltway:

U.S. House approves $14.5 bln energy bill

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday easily approved an energy bill packed with $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives and hailed by Republicans as a major change in U.S. energy policy.

Environmental and consumer groups criticized the legislation as a giveaway to an industry enjoying record profits with crude oil prices near $60 a barrel, while spending little on ways to curb demand or encourage renewable energy.
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Of the bill's $14.5 billion in tax breaks and incentives over 10 years, nearly $9 billion is earmarked for oil and gas, electricity and coal companies. Less than $5 billion will be spent on energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.
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Oil and gas companies will get royalty relief for production from deep water in the Gulf of Mexico, an inventory of energy deposits off Florida and other states, and tax breaks for enlarging existing oil refineries.
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The U.S. Public Interest Research Group said it calculated all the tax breaks, guaranteed loans and direct spending were worth $25 billion to energy firms. "This bill keeps the oil, coal and nuclear industry firmly in the driver's seat," said Anna Aurilio, a PIRG spokeswoman.

Democrat Henry Waxman of California criticized last-minute items added to the bill after House and Senate negotiators halted debate. Among them was a $1.5 billion fund for drilling research that would benefit an energy consortium based in House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texas district, Waxman said.
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The final version of the bill dropped some environmentally friendly measures, such as the Senate's requirement that the federal government find ways to cut U.S. oil demand and improve fuel mileage for gas guzzlers.
Lessee...line the pockets of big oil and gas? Check. Keep pouring money into Tom DeLay's piehole? Check. Annoy rest of world by announcing end-around "treaty" with ecologically-sensitive Chinese and other high-consuming nations that obliges us to do nothing? Check. Stick obligatory finger in Tony Blair's eye? Check. If only they had figured out a way to have John Roberts write a memorandum on these issues--which they could then withhold from the Senate--it would have been a perfect day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Standard - US Senate poised to pass law shielding gun firms

In a sign of the changing political calculus of gun control, the US Senate is poised to pass a top priority of the National Rifle Association - legislation that would shield the gun industry from lawsuits arising from the misuse of their weapons.


In related news, the House is taking up legislation that protect tobacco companies from liability to people who misuse cigarettes by smoking them, and to protect the nuclear power industry from claims by people who misuse radiation by exposing themselves to it when a reactor explodes. However a move to protect Enron executives from claims by investors who misused Enron stock by buying it was withdrawn.

How the White House will kill the Plame investigation

As have a bunch of other folks, I raised the red flag about the possibility that BushCo would smother the Fitzgerald investigation through pardons a la Iran-Contra.

But there is another, even darker possibility, which now looks increasingly likely. As you may recall, the Special Prosecutor in that case, Lawrence Walsh, got a bunch of convictions -- Oliver North, John Poindexter and Elliot Abrams, to name a few. But Poppy Bush's buddies on the bench, Laurence Silberman and David Sawtelle, threw out a bunch of the convictions because, it was claimed, the limited immunity these fine gentlemen received from Congress relating to their testimony tainted the case Walsh presented. (Kinda like those "technicalities" that so enrage the conservatives when they protect someone not in the club.) That made it possible for Bush the Elder to drive the final nail into the coffin by pardoning -- even before trial -- of Cap Weinberger and others, thus saving himself from the prospect of them publicly fingering him.

In other words, the Congressional Democrats, in trying to get to the truth, inadvertently gave the right wing judges who inherited the convictions the tool they needed to stop the bleeding before it reached the White House.

Our Republican Congress has generally shown itself to be utterly nonplussed by the burning of an entire covert op for political revenge, except when it rises to impugn Joe Wilson. But now -- two years after the story first broke, but mere days after the heat reached Rove -- we see that Senator Pat Roberts is talking about holding hearings.

If I were the kind of Machiavellian stooge that Senator Roberts seems to be, I would hold hearings and grant a few key underlings immunity in exchange for their testimony, and do it pronto. Under the Poindexter-North precedents, that would utterly contaminate Fitzgerald's case, and probably checkmate any chance of reaching the levels where the evil really lies.

Fitzgerald seems like the kind of guy who cannot be intimidated. And pardons, though probably effective, exact a political price. But I doubt anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania will have any second thoughts about sending their legislative lackeys out to monkey wrench the works for them.

We need to make some pre-emptive noise about this.

Poll: Majority say Bush lied us into Iraq

For the first time, a majority of Americans, 51%, say the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction — the reason Bush emphasized in making the case for invading. The administration's credibility on the issue has been steadily eroding since 2003.

By 58%-37%, a majority say the United States won't be able to establish a stable, democratic government in Iraq.

Welcome. We've been waiting for you -- for a long time, actually. But if you get with the damned program, and follow your new insight to its logical conclusion by voting out the perpetrators and enablers of the lies, we'll promise to stop making fun of you for riding the short bus for so long.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The gravest sin: being right

from AMERICAblog:

In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use."

Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military," he concluded.


But when John Kerry said this last year:

"In order to know who they are, where they are, what they're planning and be able to go get them before they get us, you need the best intelligence, best law-enforcement cooperation in the world," the Massachusetts senator said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I will use our military when necessary, but it is not primarily a military operation. It's an intelligence-gathering, law-enforcement, public-diplomacy effort," he said. "And we're putting far more money into the war on the battlefield than we are into the war of ideas. We need to get it straight."

the Busheviks went absolutely ballistic in their hellfire damnation.

Kerry and Joe Wilson are perhaps the best known victims of the campaign to extinguish truth, but clearly far from alone.

If there was some way to store and harness the kinetic energy that results from such fevered spinning, we could solve the energy crisis tomorrow.

50,000

Hits today. No, alas, not for the day, but cumulative since we started back in November. A good day for a first-tier blog, I know.

Still, I choose to be proud.

Missing White Woman! Missing White Woman!

from The All Spin Zone:

She's young. She has a seven year old kid. She's pregnant. She's been missing for eight days.

She's:


Latoya Figueroa.

Oh.

Nevermind.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Missing White Women Report.

Makes perfect sense to me

From Think Progress � 10/5/01: Bush Pulls Security Clearances From 92 Senators
“We can’t have leaks of classified information. It’s not in our nation’s interest.” - President George W. Bush, 10/9/01

President Bush’s defiant statement came in the immediate weeks following 9/11, as the administration clamped down on the information it provided to Congress. President Bush issued an order limiting access to classified intelligence only to 8 members of Congress — the Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, and chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

What precipitated this course of action?

Gannett News Service reported on 10/1/01 that Bush was restricting information because, “The Washington Post reported last week that various lawmakers had been told there would be more terrorist attacks if the United States retaliated.”


There's no contradiction here -- our Father, who art in the White House, must have the absolute and unquestioned authority to restrict information to those who need it. Seantors don't need to know anything, being mere window dressing.They especially don't need to know anything that undermines the infallibility of the Chosen One. But Matt Cooper and Robert Novak needed to know that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA operative. Some leaks are just necessary, folks.

Oedipus Lex: that's why he nominated Roberts

Daily Kos: Bush won't release Robert's papers from Iran-Contra Pardon days!
The White House refuses to release documents relating to SCOTUS nominee Roberts as Deputy Solicitor General under Ken Starr. This was when Roberts might have advised on the reprehensible GWH Bush pardons of the Iran Contra Gang.


So the backstory is that if the Roberts work papers were turned over, they would most likely prove very embarassing to Poppy. Dubya won't do it, but can you imagine what the conversations between George I and George II would be like about now? II lets his father twist in the wind for a while before saving his butt in the end.

And so the Constitution, like the people of Iraq before it, becomes a mere pawn in Shrub's personal Oedipal struggle writ large.

Monday, July 25, 2005

DiFi: The Democractic Lincoln Chafee?

Dianne Feinstein is clearly the more Republican of California's two Democratic Senators. Despite her links to liberal San Francisco (which was once known as "Baghdad by the Bay"), she has carried an awful lot of water for the Repugs. But I don't remember a two-day period like this:

Yesterday, she did her best potted palm imitation when she appeared on CNN opposite Sen. Pat Roberts, who served up more absurdity than you'd find in a Monty Python film festival. Did DiFi point out the crack pipe in Roberts' knarled fist?

Of course not. Read the transcript over @ Digby's. Follow her as she tries to find the middle ground between reality and madness. But this kind of Neville Chamberlain appeasement has been her MO for years.

Today, though, she outdid herself.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts declined Monday to say why he was listed in a leadership directory of the Federalist Society and the White House said he has no recollection of belonging to the conservative group.

The question of Roberts' membership in the society — an influential organization of conservative lawyers and judges formed in the early 1980s to combat what its members said was growing liberalism on the bench — emerged as a vexing issue at the start of another week of meetings for President Bush's nominee on Capitol Hill.

Although no Democrats have publicly threatened to filibuster his nomination, they have said they're concerned that not enough is known about Roberts' personal and legal views. Questions about where he stands on a range of issues, including abortion, likely will be front-line matters at his confirmation hearings later this summer.

Roberts, nominated by Bush last week to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, was asked by a reporter about the discrepancy during a morning get-acquainted meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

He smiled but didn't reply.

"I don't think he wants to take any questions," Feinstein interjected during the session with photographers and reporters that was part of the meeting in her office with the Supreme Court nominee.


Well OF COURSE he doesn't, lady. That is pages 1-20 of the Rove playbook here. Your job is to make him answer anyway, not throw him a goddamned lifeline.

Even if Dems don't pull the filibuster ripcord, the goal in our doomed effort should be to fight for the truth and its dissemination. Make him come clean where we can all hear. Find the dirt in his views and dish it far and wide. And if the Republicans want to affirm a soiled man as the next Supreme Court Justice, shine a white-hot spotlight on their partisan nonsense.

GM crops created superweed, say scientists

via Skippy the bush kanga:
Modified genes from crops in a GM crop trial have transferred into local wild plants, creating a form of herbicide-resistant "superweed", the Guardian can reveal.
The cross-fertilisation between GM oilseed rape, a brassica, and a distantly related plant, charlock, had been discounted as virtually impossible by scientists with the environment department. It was found during a follow up to the government's three-year trials of GM crops which ended two years ago.

The new form of charlock was growing among many others in a field which had been used to grow GM rape. When scientists treated it with lethal herbicide it showed no ill-effects.


Holy shit.

I am not one of those millenial doomsdayers who thinks all science is evil. But anyone who is sanguine about the risks inherent in genetic modifications after reading this is, well, insane.

I remember reading years ago that when the godfathers of the nuclear age first unleashed a chain reaction, they really didn't know if they would destroy the world right then and there.

We got lucky then. But every time something like this happens, I think we use up another chunk of our allotted Get Out of Hell Free cards.



What he said

Sharp-elbowed wisdom @The Smirking Chimp
Terrorism is the new black. It will remain in fashion until the War on Terror ends.

Two things have been proven by this so-called 'War on Terror', an idea that from its outset was as absurd as a 'War on Violence'. First, this escapade has demonstrated that terrorism works. It works better than anything: better than diplomacy, better than eloquence, better than the teachings of Gandhi or Jesus Christ or Martin Luther King. Second, the War on Terror has proven that the battleground of the future is at home, where the civilians are.
...
Effective anti-terrorist action requires detective work, infiltration, and excision. These are instruments of law, not war. To believe that toppling nations will defeat terrorism is to believe that setting a dog on fire will rid the world of fleas.

Brazilian shot eight times by officers

The innocent Brazilian man gunned down by police at Stockwell Underground station on Friday was killed by seven shots to the head and one to the shoulder, a coroner's inquest heard yesterday.
...
His killing has put Britain's "shoot-to-kill" policy under the spotlight, with British Muslim politicians expressing concern yesterday that other innocent people - particularly illegal asylum seekers - might end up being shot by police.

...

At a Downing Street news conference yesterday, Mr Blair said: "We are desperately sorry for the death of an innocent person, and I understand entirely the feelings of the young man's family.

"But we also have to understand the police are doing their job in very difficult circumstances, and I think it is important that we give them every support and that we understand that had the circumstances been different and, for example, this had turned out to be a terrorist and they had failed to take that action, they would have been criticised the other way."


Blair is correct as far as he goes, but when I heard him on NPR this morning I got to wondering whether a suicide bomber would be more, less or equally as likely to run from the cops than would an illegal alien, a guy carrying drugs or some other nonterrorist with something to hide from the police. That seemed to me to catch the essence of the problem when trying to formulate a policy for these situations: once a suicide bomber has made it as far as a train station with explosives ready to detonate, he is essentially in a perverse "no-lose" situation. His options for inflicting casualties may be reduced from scores of commuters in a car to a handful of cops on a platform, but it's pretty damn terrifying either way.


Oh, that Federalist Society

Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory
Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has repeatedly said that he has no memory of belonging to the Federalist Society, but his name appears in the influential, conservative legal organization's 1997-1998 leadership directory.

Having served only two years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a long career as a government and private-sector lawyer, Roberts has not amassed much of a public paper record that would show his judicial philosophy. Working with the Federalist Society would provide some clue of his sympathies. The organization keeps its membership rolls secret, but many key policymakers in the Bush administration are acknowledged current or former members.

Roberts has burnished his legal image carefully. When news organizations have reported his membership in the society, he or others speaking on his behalf have sought corrections. Last week, the White House told news organizations that had reported his membership in the group that he had no memory of belonging. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Associated Press printed corrections.

Over the weekend, The Post obtained a copy of the Federalist Society Lawyers' Division Leadership Directory, 1997-1998. It lists Roberts, then a partner at the law firm Hogan & Hartson, as a member of the steering committee of the organization's Washington chapter and includes his firm's address and telephone number.


I was having trouble drawing a bead on Mr. Roberts -- everything we were hearing about his personal style made it sound like he was a straight shooting, logical guy, which to the cabal is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

But lying about his past? Now I get it.

"Senator, I'm a legitimate business man, in the sanitation industry. There is no such thing as the Mafia."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Frank Rich nails it (again)

Eight Days in July - New York Times
Mr. Wilson's charge had such force that just three days after its publication, Mr. Bush radically revised his language about W.M.D.'s. Saddam no longer had W.M.D.'s; he had a W.M.D. "program." Right after that George Tenet suddenly decided to release a Friday-evening statement saying that the 16 errant words about African uranium "should never have been included" in the January 2003 State of the Union address - even though those 16 words could and should have been retracted months earlier. By the next State of the Union, in January 2004, Mr. Bush would retreat completely, talking not about finding W.M.D.'s or even W.M.D. programs, but about "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities."


That's right kids -- Saddam had the Cheez Whiz of WMDs -- pasturized, processed, imitation weapons food spread.

Doomed to repeat



Will we stand for another use of the executive pardon by a President named Bush in order to save his own ass?

Good refresher on the Iran-Contra pardons over @ buzzflash.

British admit mistake in shooting

British police acknowledged yesterday that the man plainclothes officers shot and killed in an Underground station Friday as commuters watched in horror was not in any way connected to the failed attacks on London's transportation system the day before.

Scotland Yard released a statement expressing regret for the shooting of the man, identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician from Brazil, and called it a ''tragedy."

The shooting put London's intense manhunt for the bombers -- and the apparent activation of a ''shoot-to-kill" policy by law enforcement -- into sharp relief and raised questions about how authorities are balancing public safety and civil rights amid the new specter of suicide bombings.
...
The frantic pace of what is being described by police as the largest investigation in the city's history has raised concerns among the Muslim community and civil rights groups that understandably anxious law enforcement officials may be undercutting public confidence in policing at a time when they are appealing to the public for help in confronting terrorism.

The shooting Friday morning in a busy Underground station of a man who later was found to have nothing to do with the bombers has confirmed some of those fears. A Brazilian news agency and the Brazilian Embassy in London confirmed that de Menezes was the shooting victim and said he was a Brazilian citizen who had lived in London for three years.
...
Brazilian media reported that de Menezes came from the small city of Gonzaga, some 500 miles northeast of Sao Paulo in the state of Minas Gerais. The reports said he had been in London for three years and that his family was Roman Catholic. ''He spoke English very well, and had permission to study and work there," de Menezes's cousin, Maria Alves, told the O Globo Online website from her home in Sao Paulo.

When asked if he had become Muslim in Britain, Agostino Ferreira Rosa, a policeman in Gonzaga said, ''According to his family, he had nothing to do with Muslims or Islamism."

More than a year ago, British police were empowered with rules of engagement while responding to suspected suicide bombers, said Mike Granatt, former head of emergency security planning for the British government. He said the former rules of engagement, which required officers to shoot at the body of a suspect to disable them, had been changed to permit them to shoot at the suspect's head if there were reasonable suspicion that the suspect was a bomber who could detonate an explosive while wounded.
The wingnut defense on this one is that he ran, so he must have deserved it. Why did he run? Who knows? Maybe he had two kilos of smack hidden in his coat, although I tend to think we'd already know if that was the case. But maybe de Menzes just read the papers and panicked at the prospect of questioning taking place somewhere other than the local precinct house.

Our Mister Brooks

David Brooks thinks the denizens of Bobo's World are wonderful to write about, just keep that ill-mannered rabble off his flight:

It's summertime, which means many people these days are flying with children, an experience that can be enriching and exciting, and is followed by memories that linger even after the shell shock, nightmares and trauma-induced facial tics have faded away.

...
Parents in these early stages of a flight usually devote their fevered energies to entertaining their children. Many parents begin by reading board books in that super-attenuated nursery school tone of voice, and then, sadly, singing to their children every song they know, beginning with age-appropriate lullabies and ending up with a medley of hits from the Spice Girls.

...
Anybody who thinks it takes a village to raise a child has never sat near a crying baby in first class. In these circumstances, if it were up to the village, somebody would be stapling the brat's mouth shut and somebody else would be locking mom in the overhead storage compartment.
...
The children are now completely out of control and are behaving as if they were raised by feral wolves. They will be pummeling the seat in front of them with their feet or else playing other manic airplane games, such as Tray Table Trampoline. Amid the frenzy, parents will observe that one child has turned green, which means that every passenger along the aisle between them and the restroom will be an unwitting participant in a contest called Air Sickness Roulette.


OK, it's July, the Times crossword puzzle is fluff, the Book Review is sizing up the latest from Danielle Steele and some of the regulars routinely suspend disbelief to pretend that their summer vacations are of more relevance than, say, continued bloody chaos in in Iraq. But eighteen column inches by the resident neocon crank devoted to meanspirited bitching about how crying kids ruin his day? Please.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

What you get for your $92.5 billion

The United States is expanding its preliminary missile defense system to address potential threats from the Middle East and China, and from ship-borne missiles off America's coast, the chief of the Pentagon's program said Thursday.

The Pentagon is upgrading radars in Britain and surveying four European countries for a new site for U.S. "interceptor" missiles, to better monitor and defeat incoming strikes from the Middle East, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency.
...
Still, Obering said the costly system suffers from a wide range of technical problems -- from workmanship to software -- and the rush to put it on alert before it is fully tested means the chances are limited that it would succeed in thwarting any missile attack today.

"We have a better than zero chance of successfully intercepting, I believe, an inbound warhead," Obering said. "That confidence will improve over time."


I hereby submit my own proposal for a missile defense system. For $40.2 billion, or less than half to cost of the existing system to date, I propose to create a mile-wide sign that says "Osama is a bed wetter" and place it in the wilds of Saskatchewan. The cost reflects the difficulty of erecting the sign without any Canadians noticing, and the mandatory premium inherent in defending our nation.

While I cannot guarantee that the sign will distract any missiles inbound for the US of A, I am confident that its chances of working are "better than zero."

Mr. Rumsfeld, I await your response, and will forward wire instructions at your earliest convenience.

Jeebus

JustinLogan.com reports on a gobsmacker in the latest issue of the The American Conservative:
The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.


Just.

Jeebus.

I thought this Dr. Strangelove shit went out with the end of the cold war.



What's the opposite of a yellow elephant?

CNN.com - 'Raging Grannies' want to enlist, go to Iraq
A group of anti-war senior citizens calling themselves the "Tucson Raging Grannies" say they want to enlist in the U.S. Army and go to Iraq so that their children and grandchildren can come home.

Five members of the group -- which is associated with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom -- are due in court Monday to face trespassing charges after trying to enlist at a military recruitment center last week.

The group has protested every week for the last three years outside the recruitment center.

"We went in asking to be sent to Iraq so our kids and grandchildren can be sent home, but rather than listening to us, they called the police," said 74-year-old Betty Schroeder. "It was their place to tell us the qualifications, but they wouldn't even speak to us. They should've said, `You're too old."'


I would guess that they give up their seats on the bus to young Republican men, too.

John "Got Milk?" Bolton deep throating Judy Miller?

Steve Clemons reports that Bolton was a regular WMD source for the Queen of Iraq.

I don't believe a word of it. If Bolton had been involved to that level, we would have seen tangible evidence of his skullthuggery. The fact that he has not yet joined Paul Bremer and George Tenet as a recipient of the medal of Freedom strongly suggests his innocence.

Friday, July 22, 2005

2 out of 3... don't bet on it

A young, pregnant, single mom from South Philadelphia is missing and police say she could be in danger.

No one has seen Latoyia Figueroa, 24, since Monday, when she didn't pick up her seven-year-old daughter from day care.


Missing Hispanic Woman just doesn't have the same ring, does it? Unless Rove gets his frog-marching turn in the next 48 hours, the networks will never find sufficient reason to be distracted by this one.

Plame Out in one easy lesson

From The Independent:

Rovegate: The scandal that lays bare the cynicism behind Bush's war in Iraq

This tacky, third-rate leak that is starting to scar the President's second term springs from the great deception executed in his first term, luring the US into a war that 60 per cent of Americans now believe was misconceived.

That is the true scandal, which has yet to be properly explained.
Nothing much new here for those who have been following events closely, but a nice, concise piece summarizing and contextualizing Plamegate from a paper that doesn't give an armadillo's ass about maintaining "access." Give a copy to mom when she asks you what you think happened to that poor girl down in Aruba.

Paying tribute

Washington Lawyers Rally Around Embattled Leader; New Campaign Finance Report Highlights Biggest Contributors to Tom DeLay

Majority Leader Tom DeLay raised more money from corporate interests in the last quarter than any other reporting period in his career, according to a new analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Rep. DeLay reported nearly $800,000 in contributions from political action committees and individual contributors between April 1 and June 30. He received very little money from leadership PACs, candidate committees and conservative interest groups.
...
Rep. DeLay's leading contributors include Amgen, the world's largest biotech company, and IDT, a telecommunications wholesaler. Amgen gave Rep. DeLay $12,500 and IDT gave him $11,000. Rep. DeLay last year went on a $3,500 one-day trip to Philadelphia, paid for by IDT.

Amgen's Washington lobbyists include Tony Rudy at the Alexander Strategy Group. Rudy, a former member of Rep. DeLay's staff, heads Amgen's Medicare reform team. Washington lobbyists Allison Shulman and Edward Stewart of the Alexander Strategy Group also contributed to Rep. DeLay. The Alexander Strategy Group is headed by Rep. DeLay's former chief of staff, Ed Buckham.
Hardly surprising. The cash from the wiseguys with their hooks in various businesses never dries up when their Godfather is taking heat; he's seldom more dangerous than when he's about to be indicted.

And don't forget the duct tape

Mayor Mike turns to a strategy bound to endear him to the city's cops:

Alarmed by a new round of mass transit attacks in London, police in New York have begun random searches of bags and packages brought into the city's vast subway system and elsewhere.
...
Officers, some with bomb-sniffing dogs, will stop people carrying bags as they enter subways, buses and ferries at various points in the city, police said. Anyone who refuses a search will be turned away, and those caught carrying drugs or other contraband could be arrested.
...
"We just live in a world where, sadly, these kinds of security measures are necessary," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit. But we are trying to find that right balance."
...
New York's subways carry about 4.5 million passengers on the average weekday, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The system, the largest in the country, has more than 468 stations, most of which have multiple entrances, and during rush hours the flood of humanity in and out of key stations can be overwhelming.
OK, who's first? The guy who might have a nest of lice tucked in his sack?

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Or the East Village denizen who might be packing a live python?

The image “http://eternity8.sempai.org/images/azngoths/b-7-1821-2.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Or maybe the lifetime ACLU member with her lawyer's number in her purse?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Arsenic may be responsible for King George's madness - Yahoo! News

Fascinating. I would've bet it was from chronic alchohol abuse, combined with cocaine and, perhaps, his dysfunctional childhood. And that fundamentalist nonsense.

Oh, you mean the other King George. Never mind.

Troubled Times

There are so many things about the Times these days to get pissed off about. The righteousness Dr. Bloor points out below is a prime example.

Another that just occurred to me is that while we sputter and rage about their role in getting us into The Quagmire, the old saw about their leftist leanings still spews from the right. Which means the fools in New York smugly refrain, "If we get flack from both sides, we must be doing it about right."

That it possible to piss off everyone while doing it completely WRONG is far beyond their meager allotment of self-awareness.

Chutzpah

Two this morning from the NY Times editors:

Off Course in Iraq

...
Women are not the only ones facing big losses in the new Iraq. The Sunni minority continues to be treated with contempt and suspicion because it enjoyed a privileged position under the old Baathist dictatorship. It took considerable American pressure to get a fair share of Sunnis, as members and consultants, added to the committee working on the new constitution. Two of those appointed Sunnis were assassinated by insurgents this week, and yesterday the others temporarily suspended their participation, citing security concerns.

In considering whether to put their lives on the line again, these Sunnis will not be encouraged by the latest destructive antics of Ahmad Chalabi, the former American favorite who is now a powerful deputy prime minister. Mr. Chalabi, who has long advocated barring even low-level former Baathists from official employment, has now succeeded in disrupting and discrediting the judicial tribunal preparing for the trial of Mr. Hussein. He is pressing for the dismissal of senior staff members, including a top judge, because of former Baathist associations.

The single most crucial requirement for Mr. Hussein's trial is preserving the appearance of impartial justice in the name of the whole Iraqi nation. Mr. Chalabi's actions, which his nominal boss, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, seems powerless to oppose, risk turning the proceedings into a tawdry spectacle of sectarian revenge, which would only fuel divisive and deadly hatreds.
Followed by:

Time for a Federal Shield Law

It was immensely encouraging to see Republican and Democratic lawmakers testify together yesterday about the need for the federal government to follow the lead of 49 states and guarantee that journalists are allowed the right to protect the names of confidential sources in most circumstances.
...
But the day's testimony was also disturbing. Witnesses spoke of the dozens of subpoenas that have been issued to journalists in recent times and the half-dozen or more reporters who have been found to be in contempt of court for doing their jobs - some journalists, like Judith Miller of The Times, have actually been jailed. As Mr. Dodd pointed out, the idea that jailing reporters will inhibit journalism is not a theoretical worry. Norman Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Inc., testified yesterday that since his decision to turn over notes in the Valerie Wilson case to the federal prosecutor, Time reporters had shown him mail "from valuable sources who insisted that they no longer trusted the magazine." The Cleveland Plain Dealer has announced it will not publish two investigative reports because they are based on leaked documents and the paper fears the possibility of subpoenas. Its editor said, "Jail is too high a price to pay." We regret that decision, but it should at least ring alarm bells for Congress.

The amendments added this week to bills before the Senate and the House would provide for the forced disclosure of confidential sources "to prevent imminent and actual harm to the national security." It is a narrow exception that journalists should support, because as William Safire, the retired Times columnist, testified yesterday, "We are not seeking an absolute privilege." We second Mr. Safire's caution that an imminent threat means an actual and urgent threat, not a potential threat.
Both pieces are pretty good; it's too bad the Times doesn't have a shred of credibility on either topic at this point. As for the first, the Times should be legally required to add the modifier "who is only in power because Judith Queen of All Iraq Miller conspired with him to sell America a phony war" everytime they mention Chalabi. That the Times still perceives getting burned by a low-rent grifter like Jayson Blair to be a bigger deal than offering safe haven for a duplicitous neocon mouthpiece like Miller--who I'd bet is still drawing an ample paycheck behind bars--is a travesty.

As for the second issue, well, let's consider Judith Queen of All the Cellblock Miller again. While the Times editors hastily complete the paperwork necessary for her canonization, those of us with memories more enduring than that of a typical CNN reporter well recall that Judy has a history of playing it fast and loose with the boundaries between reporter and participant, and wonder if maybe she doesn't have more than just the name of a source to protect here.

Press Deliverance

There is a wonderful aphorism, famously murdered by Dubya: "fool me once, shame on you..." And it seemed the somnambulent press was rousted from its slumber in response to the ironclad revelation that Scott McClellan and Karl Rove had been lying their asses off. Then they reverted to their more comfortable glassy-eyed credulity. In thinking about the coverage of the lead-up to the Roberts nomination, I am struck by the spectacular confluence of stupidity and cowardice required to let the White House manipulate them yet again -- and to continue to protect the "anonymous sources" who see lying to the press as both sport and duty. Do Rove and his minions make their favored scribes squeal like pigs before violating them?

But it is too generous to these poltroons to think of them as Ned Beatty in "Deliverance." Imagine "Deliverance, Part III" in which Ned returns to the Georgia back country wearing his new pigskin overalls with velcro butt-flap. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that he likes the abuse.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The noose tightens

Plame's Identity Marked As Secret

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.


If the WaPo is right on this, I think we have now seen enough evidence to support a guilty verdict. Fitzgerald will still need to tie Rove to the memo, but the evidence on all the other elements of the crime are looking solid enough that even a circumstantial case might be enough. Rove had motive, and it is sure looking like he had opportunity.

And it is on page 1 tomorrow.

LATEOTT nominee #2

It was beginning to seem that Maj. Gen. William Webster was going to run unopposed for the monthly General William Westmoreland Light at the End of the Tunnel award for the most egregiously self-deluded pronouncement about the "progress" we are making in the Quagmire Formerly Known as Iraq.

But I would have been shocked if a month had gone by without a submission from Dr. Pangloss Strangelove, aka Donald Rumsfeld. And although it is not one of his better efforts, Rumsfeld offered this submission at a press conference spinning the forthcoming report to Congress about "progress" in The Quagmire.

"On the political front, terrorists have failed to derail the political process," he said. "A constitutional referendum remains on schedule for October 15th. And elections for a new assembly are scheduled for December 15th of this year."

He said ordinary Iraqis are growing more confident in their future, and there is progress on the economic and security fronts.


The committee will continue to accept nominations through the end of the month.

Fitzgerald makes his non-partisan bones

baltimoresun.com - 2 charged in Chicago patronage
One was a drunk. Some were laughed at as "goofballs." One was declared the best-qualified candidate for a job on the city payroll, even though he was dead.

All were recommended for city jobs or hired because they were politically connected and helped to get out the vote on Election Day, according to U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
...
The new charges strike at the heart of political power in Chicago - the patronage system under which thousands of precinct workers who get out the vote are rewarded with jobs on the city payroll.

The charges bring the scandal closer than ever to (Mayor Richard M.) Daley, who has been mayor for 16 years and whose father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, oversaw a political machine that dispensed patronage with ruthless efficiency.


Being interested in good government and not purely partisan, I applaud Fitzgerald's move against corruption in Chicago regardless of the politics of the folks implicated. That is exactly what separates most of us on the left from our "my junta, right or wrong" counterparts. And it is going to be vital ammunition when the Plame war resumes.

When the Rove-scented shit really hits the fan, the Republicans will throw around wild unsubstantiated charges, and I would assume "partisan witch hunt" will be one of them. We need to make sure the press covers and is aware of Fitzgerald's work in Chicago so that there is at least some small chance that they will not play their normal co-conspirator role in trumpeting and validating the smears that come from Bush's Brain.


Hard Work

President George W. Bush's nomination of a new Supreme Court justice may give White House adviser Karl Rove a temporary reprieve from public scrutiny of his role in the disclosure of an intelligence operative's identity.
...
Bush accelerated his search for a Supreme Court nominee in part because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name, according to Republicans familiar with administration strategy.

Bush originally had planned to announce a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 26 or 27, just before his planned July 28 departure for a month-long vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, said two administration officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.

The officials said those plans changed because Rove has become a focus of Fitzgerald's interest and of news accounts about the matter.


Because it is hard work avoiding any conversation with Karl Rove that might lead to actual knowledge about his skullduggery.

Fore!

And in other news-that-is-considered-so-yesterday-at-the-moment:

Par for the course -- More unreported golf trips by Taft surface

Gov. Bob Taft has filed documents with the Ohio Ethics Commission listing 50 to 60 golf outings and other events he previously failed to disclose, sources told The Dispatch.

Neither Taft’s office nor the Ethics Commission Tuesday would release the documents or even confirm the filing.

Taft’s staff, after telling The Dispatch they had no public records on the matter, referred questions to William Meeks, the Columbus criminal attorney hired by the governor to handle what Taft referred to as “errors and omissions” on his annual financial-disclosure statements covering a number of years.

Meeks has not returned calls for the past several days.
...
Among those with whom Taft reportedly played golf was Thomas W. Noe, the Maumee coin dealer. He is the focal point of state and federal investigations about a shortfall of up to $13 million in a Bureau of Workers’ Compensation investment as well as allegations that he disguised the source of political contributions to President Bush’s campaign.
...
Golf outings, which can run $200 per person for greens fees, cart rentals and other charges, were ruled to be something of substantial value in a 2001 ethics decision.
If Taft knowingly filed a false financial-disclosure statement, he could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

On the job

It's a given that the media will be distracted by the shiny object that is Nominee Roberts over the next few days (or weeks), but Kos reports that Congressional Dems haven't lost the scent, and neither have our Italian coalition allies.

And, it's a pretty good bet, neither has Pat Fitzgerald.

It took a while...

...but I found a (relatively) temperate discussion of Roberts' nomination over at TPM Cafe. Worth a read, and your two cents, too.

American Volkssturm

As World War II went badly for Germany, they became increasingly desperate for enough soldiers to man the fronts. In late 1944 they conscripted every male between the ages of 16 and 60 into the Volkssturm.

The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.

Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves. By practice, the accepted age for recruits is 27 for the Air Force, 28 for the Marine Corps and 34 for the Navy and Army, although the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve sometimes take people up to age 39 in some specialties.

The Pentagon’s request to raise the maximum recruit age to 42 is part of what defense officials are calling a package of “urgent wartime support initiatives” sent to Congress Monday night prior to a Tuesday hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.



Can anyone point me to a situation in which the winning side of a conflict had difficulty mustering bodies?


(Note to any wingnuts wandering off the reservation: this is NOT a Nazi comparison. It has nothing to do with Nazi atrocities, comparing American malfeasance to Nazi atrocities, or comparing your Yellow Elephantitis to the actions of any German past or present. And, um, how old are you?)

Army Cites Drop in Suicides Among Soldiers

The overall mental health of U.S. soldiers in Iraq has improved from the early months of the insurgency, with a significant drop in suicides, but a majority still say morale is low, the Army said Wednesday.

An assessment by the Army surgeon general found that among soldiers interviewed last fall in Iraq and Kuwait, depression, anxiety or acute stress was more prevalent among National Guard and Reserve soldiers, as well as regular Army soldiers in transportation units, than among soldiers in combat units.

The report, dated January 2005 and covering the period from late August to mid-October of 2004, was a follow-up on a similar assessment done a year earlier, when the insurgency was taking hold. The earlier assessment found that mental health services were not adequately available to soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait and that a significant number of soldiers said they had little or no training in how to handle combat stress.

The follow-up report said mental health services have improved, with a higher ratio of behavioral health personnel to soldiers than in 2003. The number of suicides for the full year 2004 had declined to nine from 24 in 2003. Three possible suicides from 2004 are still being investigated.


Sure, I agree that it is wonderful that the numbers of our soliders who are killing themselves is going down. But c'mon now -- if things have gotten to a point that a reduction in the numbers of our kids being killed by their own hands is the closest we can come to good news about The Quagmire, we are in a pretty sorry-ass spot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

First thoughts re: Roberts

dkospedia has some early intel on Roberts, and it ain't encouraging.

This would be VERY high stakes poker, but what if they threw a war and nobody came? What if the Dems decided to hold their fire?

Paradoxically, avoiding the obvious lightning rods could backfire on The Architect. The submarine nominee strategy would fail to stir up a shitstorm, and thus fail to push Plamegate off the front page.

If they had gone for Janice Rogers Brown, (my incorrect prediction), Gonzo or another prime target, the resulting crossfire might have been a better distraction. If, on the other hand, Roberts sails through, Karl's wind-twisting stays on the front burner.

Countering the Rove spin

Roberts

The media seem to have settled on one name, John Roberts, which means it will be him or the administration is playing a needlessly provocative game of gotcha with an ill-tempered press.

If it is Roberts, he looks to be a good choice for Bushistas insofar as he will be tough to beat; the first bios (here and here) describe him as a rock-ribbed conservative, but one that is seen as very smart and not particularly zealous by friends and foes alike. Not even close to the Antichrist that it would have taken to get Lindsey Graham to utter the word "extraordinary."

Which may not be a completely terrible thing for our side. The less controversy the pick generates, the faster we can get Unca Karl back to the front pages, where he belongs.

When Harry met Bennie

Poor Bennie 16. First, he and his minions are faced with the task of stuffing the genie back into the lamp with the recent evolution dust-up, and now J.K. Rowling publishes another anti-Christian tract destined to turn an entire generation of children into Satan worshippers. Bennie no doubt thinks that Harry would have turned out better had he been raised in a nice Catholic orphanage.

Thought you had your hands full with John Lennon, your holiness? Harry's bigger than the Beatles.

Bobo's World

Fla. Teacher to Claim Insanity in Sex Case

A teacher will claim she was insane due to emotional stress and did not know right from wrong when she had sex numerous times with a 14-year-old student, her attorney said Monday.

"What teacher in her right mind would do something like this?" attorney John Fitzgibbons said after a brief hearing for his client, Debra Lafave, a middle-school reading teacher.
...
The boy told investigators he and the teacher had sex in a classroom, her house and once in a vehicle while his 15-year-old cousin drove. He said Lafave told him her marriage was in trouble and that she was aroused by the fact that having sex with him was not allowed.
It's a pretty good bet the Beavis she was doing will be happy to testify to the fact that he put Lafave over the edge with his prodigious skills, but any psychologist will tell you that the insanity defense is a loser (particularly in this case). The Real Deal here is jury selection. If the defense can figure out a way to empanel a dozen fourteen-year-old boys, they'll get an acquittal back faster than it takes a teenager to...well, never mind. And if they can figure out a way to get David Lee Roth or Steven Tyler on the jury as well, the royalties from the vid may cover her legal bills.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Democracy Now! | Bush Taps Iran-Contra Figure Elliot Abrams to Promote Democracy

Dear President Steadfast:

You weaseled your way back from your earlier pledge to fire anyone who leaked Valerie Plame's identity, saying Monday that "if someone committed a crime" he would be fired.

Well, President Integrity, perhaps you recall one Elliot Abrams? You know, the guy you picked earlier this year to be your deputy national security advisor? Yeah, him -- the one who pleaded guilty in 1991 to withholding information from Congress as part of the Iran-Contra mess. (Your Dad pardoned him to protect his own ass, but that does not change the fact that he admitted committing the crime.)

So I assume Mr. Abrams will be testing out the generosity of federal unemployment benefits about now, right sir?

Vietnam-Era Commander Westmoreland Dies

A week after I announced the Westmoreland LATEOTT award, the man himself kicks. I didn't even know he was still around.

Not just the president .. I'm a customer, too!

from Sy Hersh's big story in The New Yorker about the Bush cabal's fixing of the Iraq election:

Les Campbell, the regional director of the N.D.I. for the Middle East and North Africa, told me that he immediately realized “how deep the American desire to do something to help Allawi was.” Campbell acknowledged that he and his colleagues had kept up a running dispute with Warrick. At first, it seemed that the N.G.O.s had won, and the forty million dollars was given in grants for the N.G.O.s to help plan and monitor the election. But the pressure from the Administration to provide direct support for specific parties was unrelenting, and Warrick’s idea didn’t go away. As the campaign progressed, Campbell said, “It became clear that Allawi and his coalition had huge resources, although nothing was flowing through normal channels. He had very professional and very sophisticated media help and saturation television coverage.”

The focus on Allawi, Campbell said, blinded the White House to some of the realities on the ground. “The Administration was backing the wrong parties in Iraq,” he said. “We told them, ‘The parties you like are going to get creamed.’ They didn’t believe it.”
In case anyone thought the "us vs. the reality-based community" stuff was just a tool used to enroll the God Squad in the Billionaire Boys club, here's your refutation. They aren't just dealing crack folks -- they're smoking it, too.

Bombing Mecca

CNN.com - Congressman suggests way to retaliate for nuclear terror

A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.

Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Florida. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.

Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

"Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded.


I assume Brit Hume is busy shorting the Vatican about now.

Quixotic, but brilliant

from No More Mister Nice Blog:
The Democrats should call for ... a tax on the wealthy, but a dedicated tax, with all revenues going to troops in combat zones, in the form of pay increases and reenlistment bonuses. And here's the twist: The tax can be rolled back -- but only if the deployment of troops in war zones falls well below current levels.

Because the rich would get a tax cut if we withdraw from Iraq (or, alternately, find a way to actually defeat the insurgency), they'd have a reason to care how the war is going, a reason to question whether it's the right war, and whether it's being fought the right way. The Bush/Rumsfeld/Rove approach to Iraq -- endless war with inadequate troop strength -- would upset them, because it would take money out of their pockets.


Look! Over there! A Missing White Woman!

Lies, damned lies and religion

Bush's dance on vaseline

Much is being made, as well it should, of the President's retreat from his pledge to fire anyone who leaked Valerie Plame's identity. Part of the process has been to parce previous White House pronouncements, the better to hoist Bush by his own pitard.

All well and good. But I see another potential good here. One of the things Scott McClellan may regret saying is this:


In September and October 2003, McClellan said he had spoken directly with Rove about the matter and that "he was not involved" in leaking Plame's identity to the news media. McClellan said at the time: "The president knows that Karl Rove wasn't involved," "It was a ridiculous suggestion" and "It's not true."

I'm guessing they are going to be very torn up about whether and how to walk that one back. Because, without getting into a "depends on what your definition of 'is' is" discussion, I would not be surprised if Bush actually believed he did know it -- as he defines knowing. He knew Karl Rove was innocent in the same way he knew that there were WMDs, and that Osama got birthday cards from Saddam. More to the point, he knew it the way he know God wants him to be president.

In other words, he knows Rove is blameless in the way he knows his religious beliefs are true -- based not upon a survey of facts, evidence and expertise, but an inventory of only the desolate, monochromatic landscape of his own interior.

Thus it is likely that Bush will, to his ruin, continue to cling to his belief even as the tsunami of contrary facts engulfs him. And maybe, just maybe, we then finally have a meaningful confrontation between the "reality-based community" in which actions have consequences, and the fairy-tale world where Neocons, fundamentalists know things because, well, just because.

The closest we got to justice in Iran-Contra was Reagan's wistful confession that, although "in his heart" he believed otherwise, his administration had indeed traded arms for hostages. Well, I lived under Ronald Reagan, and Dubya, you're no Ronald Reagan. Reagan only rarely broke bread with reality, but he was no fundamentalist, either. Bush is perhaps the least pragmatic, most (small c) constitutionally rigid guy ever to be entrusted with the football.

That inflexibility will be his ultimate downfall. He will refuse to admit the obvious and inevitable, and it will cost him everything. If we are lucky, those who are so blind that shall not see will decide that following Bush lemming-like into that abyss might not be such a good idea after all.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rude Punditry on Rove

The reason Rove must be destroyed - which means he needs to be sent up for something more than perjury because simply that would allow him to be a paid consultant for the rest of his life - is that a destroyed Rove would be a maelstrom in the White House. If you remove the center from a system, a system must collapse. And so would end the Bush presidency, for Bush without Rove is like a dalmatian without an owner - so stupid from overbreeding that if it ain't got someone to tell it what to do, it'll just sit in a corner and shit itself endlessly, licking its own anus out of fear and itch.

Mehlman at the NAACP National Convention

By the 70s and into the 80s and 90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out.

Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican Chairman to tell you we were wrong.
"The 'Southern Strategy' that worked from 1972 until pretty much now is dead. The new strategy is the 'Moron Strategy' -- now we focus on folks who refuse to read, embrace facts, or think," said Mehlman. "And we finally realized that stupidity knows no color. So no we are welcoming idiots of every race, color or creed.... ok, maybe not creed," he added.

LATEOTT awards: week 2

Daily Kos: What was that about insurgents in Baghdad?

Last weekend I announced the General William Westmoreland Light at the End of the Tunnel award for the most egregiously self-deluded pronouncement about the "progress" we are making in the Quagmire Formerly Known as Iraq.

I have not seen any submission to compete with Major General William Webster's, but events certainly are strengthening Webster's bid.

It ain't evidence if it contradicts me

Study cites seeds of terror in Iraq - The Boston Globe

A mere two days ago I lampooned the bald statement of shrill shill Hugh Hewitt that "There is zero evidence for the proposition that Iraq is motive rather than opportunity, but the "motive" theory is nevertheless put forward again and again."

Perhaps Mr. Hewitt has read today's Globe:

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.

The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the ''central front" in a battle against the United States.

''The terrorists know that the outcome [in Iraq] will leave them emboldened or defeated," Bush said in his nationally televised address on the war at Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month. ''So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction." The US military is fighting the terrorists in Iraq, he repeated this month, ''so we do not have to face them here at home."

However, interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land, according to a study by Saudi investigator Nawaf Obaid, a US-trained analyst who was commissioned by the Saudi government and given access to Saudi officials and intelligence.

A separate Israeli analysis of 154 foreign fighters compiled by a leading terrorism researcher found that despite the presence of some senior Al Qaeda operatives who are organizing the volunteers, ''the vast majority of [non-Iraqi] Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activity prior to their arrival in Iraq."

Of course, it isn't evidence unless it supports your position, eh, Hugh? Oh, and pardon me for forgetting -- wingnuttery does not require factual support anyway.

Just like ours

Plan Called for Covert Aid in Iraq Vote - New York Times
WASHINGTON, July 16 - In the months before the Iraqi elections in January, President Bush approved a plan to provide covert support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties, but rescinded the proposal because of Congressional opposition, current and former government officials said Saturday.

In a statement issued in response to questions about a report in the next issue of The New Yorker, Frederick Jones, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said that "in the final analysis, the president determined and the United States government adopted a policy that we would not try - and did not try - to influence the outcome of the Iraqi election by covertly helping individual candidates for office."

The statement appeared to leave open the question of whether any covert help was provided to parties favored by Washington, an issue about which the White House declined to elaborate.


Credit our wise and fair President with the vision to give the Iraqis not just a democracy, but a democracy in exactly the mold of the one he has given us.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Throesville

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau

Although I wasn't thrilled with his Sunday strip needling bloggers a few weeks back, Trudeau continues to be Nolan Ryan-like in his capacity to deliver the high heat after decades in the business. Particularly impressive since the Boy King has presented him with the opportunity to take lots of time off; by substituting Ray for B.D. and, say, Pharid for Phred, it would be easy for him to simply recycle his Vietnam-era work anytime he wants a few weeks off.

The Empire Wiffs Back

KRT Wire 07/12/2005 Congressman's interest in court ruling raises ire of judiciary experts

Given the way the Plame investigation is going, and how hot the water in Karl Rove's bathtub/soup pot is getting, the thing I couldn't fathom is why Patrick Fitzgerald is still breathing. Given everything we know about the rigid omerta code inside the crime family, and the potential consequences of further revalations, I am simply amazed that they haven't found a way to torch him.

Well, it looks like they are finally trying, though the attempt is rather lame.

In an extraordinary move, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee privately demanded last month that the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago change its decision in a narcotics case because he didn't believe a drug courier got a harsh enough prison term.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., in a five-page letter dated June 23 to Chief Judge Joel Flaum, asserted that a June 16 decision by a three-judge appeals court panel was wrong.

He demanded "a prompt response" as to what steps Flaum would take "to rectify the panel's actions" in a case where a drug courier in a Chicago police corruption case received a 97-month prison sentence instead of the at least 120 months required by a drug-conspiracy statute.
...
Sensenbrenner also wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, demanding that the decision be appealed further and that he investigate why the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago did not appeal Rivera's sentence.

Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said Sensenbrenner's letter was being reviewed.

"I can't say at this point when we might respond to the congressman," he said.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, declined to comment.
If that is the best the right-wing smear machine can do, I am even more impressed with the exemplary life Mr. Fitzgerald must have lived.

MWWA

Aren't we about due for a Missing White Woman Alert? I sense that our leaders are suffering from a severe deficit of small shiny objects to divert us with.

Plamegate in context: shooting messengers en masse

As we continue to hammer away at Plamegate, it is important to remember what the whole thing is really about: the Bush administration is so intent on crushing the truth that it will burn entire CIA covert operations in order to punish a whistleblower.

And if you are tempted to think that Joseph Wilson is the only victim of the adminstration's truth pogrom, let me remind you of this story from last February and linked to by us at the time. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility reported that:
The U.S. Special Counsel has dismissed more than 1,000 whistleblower cases in the past year, according to a letter from the Bush-appointed Special Counsel released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Special Counsel appears to have taken action in very few, if any, of these cases and has yet to represent a single whistleblower in an employment case.

In a letter dated February 14, 2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his stormy 13 months in office by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases.

“Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this letter is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure and that his office’s report for FY 2004, which ended in October, is overdue. “If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for the office to continue to exist.”

According to the figures released by Bloch, in the past year the Office of Special Counsel—

--Dismissed or otherwise disposed of 600 whistleblower disclosures where civil servants have reported waste, fraud, threats to public safety and violations of law. Bloch has yet to announce a single case where he has ordered an investigation into the employee’s charges. Bloch says that 100 disclosures are still pending; and
--Made 470 claims of retaliation disappear. In not one of these cases did Bloch’s office affirmatively represent a whistleblower to obtain relief before the civil service court system, called the Merit Systems Protection Board. Bloch says that another 30 retaliation cases remain in the backlog.

In order to speed dismissals, Bloch instituted a rule forbidding his staff from contacting a whistleblower if their disclosure was deemed incomplete or ambiguous. Instead, OSC would simply dismiss the matter. As a result, hundreds of whistleblowers never had a chance to justify why their cases had merit.

Joe Wilson is unique only in that he has the means and gravitas to make his story known despite the efforts of the administration to stifle him. But there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of others like him, with stories of other corruption, lies and malfesance who we will never hear from because of the administration's preference for omerta over truth.

If we lose on Plamegate, we lose not just that battle but the whole war Bush is fighting against truth. If Joe Wilson's battle is won, we have a chance at hearing the claims of the many other whistleblowers whose stories have not yet been heard.



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