Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Why Patrick Fitzgerald is smarter than me

When Fitzmas came as something of an anticlimax four months ago, I was a bit stingy in my praise, and withheld my vote for full sainthood.

Whie the jury may still be out (or more correctly not even empaneled yet) on beatification, allow me to say right here and now that he seems to be a helluva lot smarter than I gave him credit for at first.

Like everyone else who was demanding Rove's head on a pike, I was disappointed with the indictment -- both because it was only of Libby, and because Libby was only charged with the derivative crimes (perjury, etc.) rather than the underlying Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

A few months before the indictments came down, I wrote a lawyerly piece arguing that it would not be that hard for Fitz to make an IIPA case against Rove. I stand by that piece, and suspect it would have been, and probably still would be easy for Fitz to do so against Libby. So why did he pull up short of the IIPA charge?

Because he is one smart mofo.

My initial argument was about the law. What Fitz has done is about strategy and playing the bigger game.

The problem with an IIPA case is that it is tightly, even inextricably, wound up with sensitive national security issues. As such, an IIPA charge would be a classic greymail opportunity. Libby's lawyers would claim (as they have despite the lack of IIPA charges) that they could not defend without access to documents the Administration would (wink, wink) refuse to turn over, and Libby would have a legitimate shot at a dismissal. Although they are obviously at odds in the real world, from the perspective of the court, Fitz would be seen as representing the same government that Bush and Cheney run, and the law would have to assume coordination between the Administration and Fitzgerald, rather than the far more obvious ties to Libby. Our Consititutional system would indeed give Scooter some protection.

By limiting the charges to Libby's lying, Fitz nipped that whole gambit in the bud. Libby's team is still throwing its greymail hail Mary. But Fitz has argued that none of the secret sauce, such as the Presidential Daily Briefings Scooter has requested, are relevant to the carefully circumscribed charges Fitzgerald actually brought. Fitz has pointed out that Scooter's defense team is in effect trying to defend Libby against charges that he does not actually face. Early indications suggest that the judge isn't buying the defense's 3 card monte. Neato.

There is another benefit that flows from omitting the IIPA charge, at least at this point. I suspect it is politically harder to justify a premptive pardon for lying than it would have been for the IIPA charge. So Libby continues to twist in the wind, a posture that must be increasingly uncomfortable (for all concerned) as Dick Cheney's status as de facto ruler becomes increasingly suspect. Cheney's approval is currently at 18%. If he is driven from office before he can convince Bush to pardon Libby, my guess is that Libby sings soon afterward.

Fitz could have charged the underlying crime, which would have pleased us in the short term, but led directly to the dismissal of the charges, and the likely end of the road in an Iran-Contra- like rout. Fitz looked three moves ahead and saw what I and most others didn't. So Fitz cut the Gordian knot by charging Scooter only with lying.

Never, ever, play chess with this guy.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Throw them lifelines

The trickle of war hawks and conservatives jumping the Bush ship is rapidly becoming a flood.

Now we have William F. Buckley's apostacy on Iraq. And Andrew Sullivan's. Bruce Bartlett has gone all Dick Clarke on Dubya's ass, as has godfather Francis Fukayama. That list will only grow at this point.

Lots of folks on our side (that is, the folks who were right all along) are sounding very smug, which is fine, and beating up on the damned fools, which feels good but is counterproductive.
As much fun as it is to beat them up for their previous stupidity, we need to take a somewhat higher road here. The most important things are to stop the madness and bring down the capos.

We need to lay off the 'told you so's -- they only make it harder for the weebles to wobble our way.

So welcome to the reality based community, Bill and Andrew and Bruce and Dick. We need you.

I'm heading out of town for a long weekend, and probably will not be able to post. Please play quietly among yourselves. And Dr. Bloor -- ahem.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Did Cheney just get thrown under the bus?

Raw Story: Fitzgerald discloses White House recently turned over 250 pages of emails in CIA leak inquiry
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a court hearing Friday that the White House "recently located and turned over" 250 pages of emails from the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney, according to an article filed by the Associated Press Friday evening.

This could mean a lot of different things.

It could mean nothing: It is hard to imagine that these monarchists would give up anything important to Fitz or the court voluntarily. So there might be nothing of import in these new emails.

It could mean they are feeding Scooter to the wolves, but Scooter knows the coordinates for a large number of corpses, and if the White House crowd doesn't play him very carefully, they will have a canary on their hands.

But what if it means they've turned on the Dick? What if Operation Birdshot was Cheney's last hurrah, and Dubya (and/or his handlers) decided that their troubles are becoming so omnipresent that the only way to float their beached ship (to mix metaphors) was to throw something heavy and useless overboard?

The mind boggles at the prospects.

A world of amazing coincidences

Click2Houston.com: United Arab Emirates Donated At Least $1M To Bush Library
HOUSTON -- A sheik from the United Arab Emirates contributed at least $1 million to the Bush Library Foundation, which established the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The UAE owns Dubai Ports World, which is taking operations from London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which operates six U.S. ports.
The donations were made in the early 1990s for the library, which houses the papers of former President George Bush, the current president's father.

The list of donors names Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan and the people of the United Arab Emirates as one donor in the $1 million or more category.
The hundreds of large donors include longtime Bush associates, including Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials as well as business titans -- such as Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay -- and big Republican donors.

Other Arab donors include the state of Kuwait, the Bandar bin Sultan family, the Sultanate of Oman, King Hassan II of Morocco and the amir of Qatar.

It must be a coincidence. Because if you believe in cause and effect, the terrorists win.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

What Woodward may be scared of

Murray Waas has an incendiary letter from Senator Jay Rockefeller delivering an industrial strength smackdown to the Administration's leak witch hunt.

Did the Bush administration “authorize” the leak of classified information to Bob Woodward? And did those leaks damage national security?

The vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) made exactly that charge tonight in a letter to John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence. What prompted Rockefeller to write Negroponte was a recent op-ed in the New York Times by CIA director Porter Goss complaining that leaks of classified information were the fault of “misguided whistleblowers.”

Rockefeller charged in his letter that the most “damaging revelations of intelligence sources and methods are generated primarily by Executive Branch officials pushing a particular policy, and not by the rank-and-file employees of intelligence agencies.”
Exhibit A for Rockefeller: Woodward’s book “Bush at War".

Here is what Rockefeller had to say:

In his 2002 book Bush at War, Bob Woodward described almost unfettered access to classified material of the most sensitive nature. According to his account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison relationships. If it no wonder, as Director Goss wrote, “because of the number of recent news reports discussing our relationships with other intelligence services, some of these partners have even informed the C.I.A. that they are reconsidering their participation of some of our most important antiterrorism ventures.”

I wrote both former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to determine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures contained in Bush at War. The only response I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration. The CIA has still not responded to a follow-up letter I sent a year and half ago on September 1, 2004, trying to pin down which officials were authorized to meet with Mr. Woodward and by whom, and what intelligence information was conveyed during these authorized exchanges.
Did the leaks to Woodward damage national security? Michael Scheuer, the CIA’s former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, wrote in his book Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror:

“After reading Mr. Woodward’s Bush at War, it seems to me that the U.S. officials who either approved or participated in passing the information—in documents and via interviews—that is the heart of Mr. Woodward’s book gave an untold measure of aid and comfort to the enemy.”

What was not known by Scheuer at the time was that officials on the “seventh floor” of the CIA were literally ordered by then-CIA director George Tenet to co-operate with Woodward’s project because President Bush personally asked that it be done. More than one CIA official co-operated with Woodward against their best judgment, and only because they thought it was something the President had wanted done or ordered.

One former senior administration official explained to me: “This was something that the White House wanted done because they considered it good public relations. If there was real damage to national security—if there were leaks that possibly exposed sources and methods, it was not done in this instance for the public good or to expose Watergate type wrongdoing. This was done for presidential image-making and a commercial enterprise—Woodward’s book.”

As far gone as Woodward has shown himself to be over the last few years, perhaps it is still possible for him to have a "Bridge on the River Kwai" moment -- that flash of satori when a man realizes that he has devoted himself to collaborating with a monstrous regime.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the NYT has reported that:
An upcoming article in Commentary magazine suggests that the newspaper might be prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act and said, "What The New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism."
So maybe I didn't quite have it right yesterday. Maybe Woodward isn't turning on his enablers because higher powers told him to. Maybe he lifted his umber snout to the wind and sniffed a sea change. Or maybe he's just scared shitless that the witch hunt bell might soon toll for him. The folks who want to prosecute recipients and publishers of classified information might not look like allies at the moment.

Methinks the ultimate access whore might not be sleeping too well about now.

Sun King speaks, part II

A couple of days ago I flagged Bush's telling comment about how Congress should stop making trouble for "our government." It now seems that Bush has been told to lay off the royal plural, but the sentiment remains the same. FromNews Hounds:

"The more people learn about the (pause) transaction, that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."

We are not amused.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Best omen in months

George Bush has been abandoned by the powers that be. A month ago I would have thought it impossible, but now I have seen as dramatic an indication of this sea change as I could imagine, short of a Halliburton press release to that effect.

How do I know this? Check it out:

The greatest threat to America's democracy is not terrorism but governmental secrecy, said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward, whose reporting 35 years ago pierced the veil of secrecy behind Richard Nixon's presidency.

Although a massive, coordinated attack on the country, making 9-11 look like a "footnote," is still possible, the nation faces a greater threat from the federal government's current secrecy drive, Woodward told an audience in San Antonio on Tuesday.

"Democracies die in darkness," Woodward told the 500-person crowd of mostly business and community leaders as part of Trinity University's policy maker breakfast series, a 25-year tradition.

The Bush administration, which gave Woodward remarkable access for his two books on the administration's war on terror, "Bush At War," in 2002 and "Plan of Attack," in 2004, has cloaked its decision-making in "an immense amount of secrecy," he said, "too much, in my view."

Bob Woodward's credibility as a reporter was flushed, decomposed and composted years ago. As a scoop, his words are meaningless. As Kremlinology, however, these words are seismic in import.

Neutral observers diss the Bush administration all the time, and their criticism never seems to register. "Water is wet!" "Rocks are hard!" Bob Woodward, on the other hand, is not a neutral observer. Bob Woodward is the ultimate access whore. Remember that in November of last year, when Plamegate shrapnel was hitting him like Dick Cheney birdshot, he said that "I was trying to protect my sources. That's Job No. 1 in a case like this." For Woodward, protecting sources outweighs the obligation to his reader. It outweighs his obligation to his employer. It even outweighs his obligation to tell the truth.

That's the essential context here: Bob Woodward doesn't write a shopping list unless his sources give permission. So when Bob criticizes President Bush, it can mean only one thing: the folks Bob considers even more important and powerful have blessed his betrayal.

When I criticize Dubya, it is evidence only of a fool barking at the moon. When Bob Woodward says it, it is overwhelming evidence that something fundamental has changed in our political universe.

The end of the reign of error is finally in sight.

Neocon architect says: 'Pull it down'

Lots of lefties are talking about the abandonment of the neocon cause by one of its architects, Francis Fukayama. The change itself is important and noteworthy, of course. But the specfic things he is saying are not what I expected. None of this "good idea, bad execution" nonsense for him: the things he says would be immediately condemned as burn-him-at-the-stake heresy from anyone else.

From the Scotsman.com:

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. It was also signed by neoconservative intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

This is huge. Overestimating the threat posed by radical Islam is Rove tactic numbers 1 through 5, and tactics 6 through 10 are about beating up Democrats for not overestimating it.

Fukayama is not afraid to throw some powerful epithets at his former brothers in arms, either:

Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".

Gadzooks. Calling Bush and Cheney Leninists is about the nastiest thing one conservative can call another -- calling each other fascist is, if not a compliment, certainly nothing to lose sleep over.

Perhaps now Fukayama can help us to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance.

Tomorrow's news today!

"No one could have anticipated
they would try to use an airplane as a missile
the breach of the levees
terrorists importing a dirty bomb inside a shipping container"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Umm.. whose government exactly?

There are lots of voices comparing the UAE-ports issue to the Harriet Meirers flambe'. I am inclined to agree. A few parallels:

--I'm not sure what I think of Bush's choice from a substantive perspective. (Glenn Greenwald asks some good questions here.)

--The conservative insurrection is fun to watch.

--The dustup is a distraction that masks far more dangerous issues.

But the issue that I keep coming back to is Bush's imperial presidency. And in striking out at those who have dared to question his choices, this time Bush has said something revealing that seems to have gone unnnoticed.

Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on Air Force One after returning from a speech in Colorado. He also stopped to talk before television cameras after he returned to the White House.

"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."

Got that? There's Congress on the one hand. And what Bush considers "our Government" on the other. And never the twain shall meet.

I think this is an exceptionally revealing "tell," in poker parlance. George Bush thinks the only thing wrong with "L'etat c'est moi" is that it is in French. When he says "our government," he means himself -- himself and those completely under his control. Congress, on the other hand, is a fig leaf at best, an annoyance at worst, but certainly not an essential component of our government.

Which, of course, explains a lot more than just Harriet Meiers and the Dubai port deal.

Maybe if we make enough noise about this kind of thing, it might just dawn on the Republicans in Congress that it isn't just their Democratic colleagues who have been gelded by Bush's unprecedented power grab.

Wow... WaPo draws blood

The White House's Chilling Effect

The Bush administration is constantly telling us that it can't tell us too much, for fear of chilling debate among the president and his top advisers. This argument would be a lot more persuasive if -- on the rare occasions the public is permitted a peak behind the White House curtain -- there were more evidence of something to chill.

Five years and counting, the notion that this is an insular White House headed by an incurious president isn't exactly administration-bites-dog news. But recent developments have reinforced and even broadened this image: This White House is not just reluctant to hear anything that conflicts with its pre-set conclusions -- it's also astonishingly ineffective in obtaining and processing information it wants to have.
This White House prefers its own truth to the inconvenient facts. Layer onto that a chain of command mentality and a CEO-delegator president and, when reality hits -- whether in the form of a difficult war, a killer storm or a misfiring veep -- it's not terribly surprising that the White House has a hard time adjusting. The real chilling effect is the one that runs down the spine of anyone who learns too much about the way this White House operates.

Whatever will Little Debbie do about this?

What if they thew threw a war and nobody came?

SAN QUENTIN, California (AP) -- The planned execution of a man convicted of raping and murdering a 17-year-old girl was delayed until Tuesday night after two anesthesiologists refused to participate because of ethical concerns.

With the execution scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, defense lawyers requested a stay from the federal judge who last week ordered San Quentin State Prison to have an anesthesiologist on hand to minimize Michael Angelo Morales' pain as he was put to death by lethal injection. A second anesthesiologist was retained as a backup.

Although U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel denied the motion, both anesthesiologists withdrew, citing ethical concerns raised by his ruling.

Resistance. So simple. yet so rare.

Thank you, doctors. Been a long time since I woke up to news that made me proud.

(Like the subheadline says -- typos.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's called consistency

via KnightRidder: British historian gets 3-year prison sentence for denying Holocaust
British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday on charges that he denied the Holocaust, just hours after he admitted that he'd been wrong to doubt the systematic murder of millions of Jews.
Irving, 67, heads to prison for statements he made during a lecture in Austria in 1989, when he said that the gas chambers of Auschwitz were a fairy tale. In addition, he's known for having said that the number of Jews murdered by Nazis was greatly exaggerated, that most Jews died of diseases during World War II, and that until 1943 Adolf Hitler had never heard of the Holocaust.

At least nine European countries, as well as Israel, have national laws that make it a crime to deny or diminish the reality of the Holocaust.

Before and during court on Monday, Irving acknowledged that he'd been wrong. He said "history is a constantly growing tree" and that documents he'd studied since 1989, especially the files of Adolf Eichmann (often called the architect of the Holocaust), had made it clear to him that "millions of Jews were murdered."

Irving was the author of more than 20 books before becoming known as one of the world's foremost anti-Semitic researchers. He once famously sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel after she wrote that he was a Holocaust denier. He lost that case; the judge called him an "anti-Semite and racist" who twisted history, and the legal fees of 2 million pounds broke him. Still, Lipstadt told the BBC on Monday that while Irving's a poor historian, censorship doesn't work.

Anti-semite, idiot or both? No idea. His speech (at least what he said/wrote before being focused by the prospect of a hanging) is absurd and obscene. Getting spanked and humiliated by Lipstadt was perfect justice. But hard time?

Further complicating my personal calculus is the knowledge that Austria is one of the more anti-Semitic places in Europe, and my personal history (child of Holocaust survivors; mother a refugee from Vienna). But this clown is the equivalent of the Nazis who marched in Skokie; I agreed with the ACLU then, and I oppose Irving's incarceration now.

Free speech for me, and for thee. What a concept.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Friday night news dump, California style

via The Brad Blog: Hackable Diebold Machines covertly re-certified
Secretary of State McPherson seems to have a thing for making major announcements late on Fridays just before holidays. Following in what seems to be a pattern of his, he announced late this afternoon that he was certifying Diebold Optical Scan and AccuVote TSx (touch-screens) for use in elections in the state.

The re-certification (they had been originally decertified in California in 2004 when it was revealed Diebold had installed illegal software updates on the machines) is conditional on some items but not on the one thing point he had announced last December when he sent the system back to federal authorities for further testing. At that time he said he was sending the machine's memory cards to the federal Independent Testing Authority (ITA) Lab for reinspection in light of the news out of Leon County, Florida that the cards used "intepreted code" which is specifically banned by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). A "hack test" in that county revealed that an entirely election could have its results flipped by a hacker exploiting that "interpreted code" -- without a trace being left behind.

McPherson made his announcement today without waiting to hear back from the ITA lab.

Last summer, after a massive mock election test with Diebold touch-screen machines revealed that 10% of them failed entirely with screens freezing and printers jamming -- later reports would reveal that as many as 30% of the machines actually failed! -- McPherson said, "We certainly can't take any kind of risk like that with this kind of device on California voters."

Apparently the Secretary of State of America's largest "voting market," as Diebold refers to it, was just kidding about that.

The war on checks and balances has many fronts. NSA/FISA is one, this is another, and arguably much more important. The Repugs control Diebold. Once Diebold controls our elections, voting will be as effective here as it was in the old Soviet Union.

This is bad for so many reasons, not the least of which is the way other states are likely to bootstrap what happens here.

How bad is it? Dick Cheney shoots a man, and it still ends up being a good week for the Republicans.

Update: ms in la @ dKos has some related action items. Please help.

Friday, February 17, 2006


China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran

China is hastening to complete a deal worth as much as $100 billion that would allow a Chinese state-owned energy firm to take a leading role in developing a vast oil field in Iran, complicating the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern nation and roll back its nuclear development plans, according to published reports.

The completion of the agreement would advance China's global quest for new stocks of energy. It could also undermine U.S. and European initiatives to halt Tehran's nuclear plans, possibly generating friction in Beijing's relations with outside powers.
Analysts in China said the deal should primarily be seen as part of Beijing's global reach for new energy stocks to fuel its relentless development -- a drive that has in recent years led Chinese companies to invest in Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, Sudan and Kazakhstan. China is now locked into a high-stakes competition with Japan for access to potentially enormous oil fields in Russia.

But the speed with which China and Iran are moving to conclude their agreement and begin development appears to signal Beijing's intent to limit the United States-led drive for sanctions against Iran to curb what the Washington describes as Tehran's rogue effort to develop nuclear weapons.

As one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China can veto a sanctions proposal within the international body, or at least threaten to do so to restrict the bite and breadth of such an initiative.

Not just predictable. Predicted, more or less:
Put together the contraction in supply and the growing ability of China to control some of that supply, and you get a taste of the cataclysm that will follow when China's growing productivity and affluence really go toe-to-toe with our oil addiction. China, which may be less than a true free market at home, has no problem bitch-slapping us with Adam Smith's invisible hand at the most macro level. So it seems rather obvious that China will flex its growing muscles and buy its own secure supply by bidding on bigger and bigger helpings of Big Oil.

Folks killing themselves or each other over cartoons in newspapers is irrational. Iran deciding to sell its oil to China, and thereby picking up a perfect shield against all but purely unilateral strikes from the U.S.? Inspired rationality.

Last month King George said we are addicted to oil. This is going to increase the cost of our fix quite a bit.

Führerprinzip in action

via Josh Marshall:

Führerprinzip über alles

Think Progress: Hagel and Snowe Cave To Cheney

So Hagel and Snowe -- the Republicans who made all the right noises about putting principle and Constitution above party a few weeks ago -- have been rolled by the party yet again. And the right of the (two-headed) monarch to ignore the law is preserved.

The Germans have a name for it.

Wank d'Or

US lags in propaganda war: Rumsfeld
The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.

Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Pentagon chief said today's weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.

This is absurd on so many levels it makes 3-D chess look like tic tac toe.

1. Does it ever occur to anyone on this ship of fools that maybe the reason the "ragheads" hate us is not packaging, but torture, foreign occupation, war crimes and, oh yeah, calling them ragheads?

2. Given that much of Iraq doesn't have electricity most of the time, how exactly are the insurgents dead enders outgunning us with electronic communication (which, experts tell me, require electricity)?

3. So the $1.6 billion we are already spending on PR is chicken feed compared to the vast resources of said dead enders?

4. Did it ever occur to you chuckleheads that the reason your enemies use blogs to communicate is because you control the mass media megaphones?

5. So if I teach you how to use blogger, will you forgo the extra $72.4 billion war chest you just asked for and, based on your argument, must be throwing away on your ill-fated "five and dime store efforts?"

This isn't Coke vs. Pepsi, guys. The reason they aren't buying what we're selling is nothing J. Walter Thompson can fix.

Oh, and there was this:
Rumsfeld also cited the methodical U.S. response to a Newsweek magazine report that interrogators at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had placed the Koran, Islam's holy book, on toilets and flushed one down.

After riots around the world killed 16 people, Newsweek retracted the story.

"It was posted on Web sites, sent in e-mails, repeated on satellite television, radio stations for days, before the facts could be discovered," Rumsfeld said.
Yeah? I got your facts right here, pal.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stop bashing Cheney. Now.

Folks are startin' to talk-- talk about how Dick Cheney is toast. Lefties are salivating at the prospect of hounding 250 pounds of pure evil out of office, and doing what they can to pile on and elevate the shotgun story into the straw that broke the elephant's back. A bunch of conservatives are pulling out their long knives too, though for different reasons.

Cut that shit out right now. Because this is a classic "be careful what you wish for" scenario.

Unless Karl Rove figures out a way to quickly repeal the 22nd Amendment, or to suspend the 2008 election (possibilities I am not dismissing), Dubya's reign of error will end in January of 2009. At this point, it looks like Iraq is not the only place where these assclowns did not have a plan for succession. Who will be King George's anointed successor?

Normally, the VP seat is only seen as valuable for the purpose of serving as the inside track to the Oval. (As wretched a campaigner as Mike Dukakis was, it can be argued that the only reason George the First beat him was that he had Reagan's coattails.) As long as the Dick lives at the Naval Observatory, though, that advantage is essentially wasted. Even before this weekend, Cheney (known in some circles as "Vice Preseident Crashcart") was almost universally seen as unelectable, with serious health concerns, sky-high negatives, legal problems, you name it.

If you want to get the neocons out of power, the best thing for our country is for the official #2 to be unelectable. That is arguably the single biggest political problem for Rove & Co. for 2008.

So let's not solve it for them.

If we help Karl push Cheney out, Dubya's handlers will fill the slot with someone they think can cover their asses by winning in 2008. I'll wager that Bush puts the Condiliar in that seat. And though she will scare off a few Bubba's, my guess is that she will still steamroll anyone the Dems can put up if she is running as a sitting VP. And the Republicans will thereby fracture the traditional black-Dem alliance and tilt electoral politics in a way that will take decades to undo.

If the Condiliar wins in 2008, any hope we have of ever seeing justice done in exposing and prosecuting the crimes committed by and under King George will die. You will be able to kiss those hopes, and our collective asses, a quiet farewell.

So bite your tongues, folks. As awful as he is, Dick Cheney is exactly where he needs to be -- a mistrusted, porcine boat anchor snagging the neocon Man 'O War.

Toles nails it

WSJ.com - Bush's Job-Approval Rating

President George W. Bush's job-approval ratings have fallen off slightly from January 2006, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll, while Congress's ratings have remained about the same.

Any benefit President Bush may have gained from his State of the Union speech didn't last long enough to be measured in the latest poll, as Mr. Bush's ratings are now 40% positive, down from a positive rating of 43% in January, and 58% negative, up from 56% negative.

Pretty snarky, coming from the Journal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Silly me

Man, I spend all this time trying to grok politics and the players, and then I see stuff like this that sends my head spinnning all Linda Blair-like.

NBC's David Gregory has been Scottie's least favorite reporter for quite some time. And he has been merciless in taking Scottie's head off on the Elmer Fudd story.
"“David, hold on… the cameras aren't on right now," McClellan replied. "You can do this later."

"Don't accuse me of trying to pose to the cameras," the newsman said, his voice rising somewhat. "Don’t be a jerk to me personally when I’m asking you a serious question."

"You don't have to yell," McClellan said.

"I will yell," said Gregory, pointing a finger at McCellan at his dais. "If you want to use that podium to try to take shots at me personally, which I don’t appreciate, then I will raise my voice, because that’s wrong."

So how come on NBC News tonight, when Brian Williams joined in on Pumpkin Head's insistence that the story will soon die (unless the victim does), he added that the Sheriff had cleared Cheney on the alcohol question without pointing out that they were prevented from talking to Cheney until the next morning, rendering their conclusion pure conjecture? I mean, I expect Timmuh to spew whatever nonsense he is told to by his masters, but I had let myself believe that Gregory had at least one nut left in his sack.

Silly me. I guess the pique on display was only loosely related to the fact the logical set "the White House speaks" is virtually identical with the set "the White House lies." More likely explanation is that Gregory's ire is purely personal: "screw the public -- you lied to ME!" Gregory is thus the reincarnation of the SNL Al Franken; all that matters is how it affects him.

The smoking gun on Plame?

from Truthout: Jason Leopold Gonzales Withholding Plame Emails

Sources close to the investigation into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson have revealed this week that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has not turned over emails to the special prosecutor's office that may incriminate Vice President Dick Cheney, his aides, and other White House officials who allegedly played an active role in unmasking Plame Wilson's identity to reporters.

Moreover, these sources said that, in early 2004, Cheney was interviewed by federal prosecutors investigating the Plame Wilson leak and testified that neither he nor any of his senior aides were involved in unmasking her undercover CIA status to reporters and that no one in the vice president's office had attempted to discredit her husband, a vocal critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence. Cheney did not testify under oath or under penalty of perjury when he was interviewed by federal prosecutors.

The emails Gonzales is said to be withholding contained references to Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and CIA status and developments related to the inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Moreover, according to sources, the emails contained suggestions by the officials on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Wilson had been making about the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence.

If this story is correct, the rough equivalent of Nixon's Watergate tapes are sitting in Gonzo's desk drawer. Whether Fitzerald or the rest of us will ever see them is another question.

I warned you

Daily Kos: First Fruits of Having Alito on the Bench
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has hired one of the architects of then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's policies to serve as his law clerk at the Supreme Court for the rest of the current term, the court announced yesterday.

Adam G. Ciongoli, 37, a senior vice president at Time Warner Inc., served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. He attended Georgetown University Law Center, clerked for Alito at the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit from 1995 to 1996, and helped prepare the justice for his recent confirmation hearings.

Ciongoli was an aide to Ashcroft during Ashcroft's years as a senator and then came to the Justice Department, where he advised Ashcroft on terrorism issues in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the issues he worked on were the detention of thousands of terrorism suspects in the United States and the use of military tribunals to try them.

Read the whole thing to get a flavor of just obliterated the line between executive and judical branches has become.

The Supreme Court's very own Zampolit. I warned you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


The Sydney Morning Herald breaks the next round of Abu Ghraib photos -- the ones the ACLU has been fighting to get and that Rummy has been fighting to hide:

That ought to take everyone's minds off the Danish cartoon scandal for a few days.

BTW, in the second photo, somebody scrawled "I am a rapeist" on the guy's body.

Jack Balkin: Unitary shotgun authority

Secret DOJ memo up @ Balkinization:
Under the unitary executive theory of Article II, the President of the United States, as Commander-in-Chief, has inherent authority to shoot anyone he likes, and he may surely delegate that authority to his second in command, the Vice President of the United States. Indeed, to the extent that federal law or state tort law is to the contrary, we must read all such laws in harmony with the inherent powers of the President as head of the unitary executive in order to avoid any potential constitutional conflict.
It was therefore completely within the Vice-President's discretion to determine that the said Whittington was an enemy combatant who posed a threat, whether real, potential, imagined or fictitious, to the national security of the United States. Media accounts do not reveal what Harry Whittington's name was before he changed it; it is entirely possible, however, that his real name is Ari Al-Whittington and that he is an Al Qaeda operative, or is associated with groups who are associated with Al Qaeda, or is associated with groups who are associated with groups who are associated with Al Qaeda.

As absurd as The Onion's 5-blade razor story.

Cranston has pupil's parent arrested over false address

The police have arrested a Providence woman for allegedly lying about her address to enroll her son at Cranston High School East, apparently the first case of its kind to be prosecuted in the state.

Police Chief Stephen C. McGrath said the police arrested Maria Hernandez of 140 Dodge St. on Friday. The 39-year-old mother was released on personal recognizance, he said.

City officials say Hernandez lied in an affidavit she submitted in September claiming she and her son live in Cranston. She is charged with submitting a false document, a misdemeanor, and one felony count of obtaining property -- in this case, educational services -- under false pretenses. City lawyers say they would seek up to $36,000 in restitution. Officials would not say how long the student attended Cranston High School East, only that it was between one and three years.
Attempts to contact Hernandez yesterday were unsuccessful.

Mayor Stephen P. Laffey called the arrest for fraud and larceny a warning to the parents of the estimated 300 nonresident students attending city schools. The School Department is sending a letter to the parents of every student warning of "decisive action' " against scofflaws.

"This will not be tolerated any longer," Laffey said yesterday at a 2 p.m. news conference in the school administration building on Park Avenue. "If you don't live in Cranston, don't send your kids to Cranston schools."

Michael J. Healey, spokesman for Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, called the arrest "out of the ordinary." Students in many Rhode Island school districts have been expelled for lying about their residence, with some contesting their expulsion before a hearing officer at the state Department of Education, department spokesman Elliot Krieger said. But lawyers for the state say they have never heard of a parent being criminally charged, he said.

I once referred to Laffey as being a graduate of the Rudy Guiliani Academy of Self-Aggrandizing Mayoring and Gratuitous Bullying, and this is exactly why. If any of those border-crossing kids happen to be the children of Cranston crossing guards, I'll bet we get to see some summary executions.

I wonder what sort of wise solution a Senator Laffey would come up with for all those folks playing it fast and loose with the borders between Mexico and the U.S.?

Generalissimo Francisco Franco and Irony: Still Dead

Reporters Find Science Journals Harder to Trust, but Not Easy to Verify

When the journal Science recently retracted two papers by the South Korean researcher Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, it officially confirmed what he had denied for months: Dr. Hwang had fabricated evidence that he had cloned human cells.

But the editors of Science were not alone in telling the world of Dr. Hwang's research.

Newspapers, wire services and television networks had initially trumpeted the news, as they often do with information served up by the leading scientific journals.

Now news organizations say they are starting to look at the science journals a bit more skeptically.

"My antennae are definitely up since this whole thing unfolded," said Rob Stein, a science reporter for The Washington Post. "I'm reading papers a lot more closely than I had in the past, just to sort of satisfy myself that any individual piece of research is valid. But we're still in sort of the same situation that the journal editors are, which is that if someone wants to completely fabricate data, it's hard to figure that out."

Let's grant the author the premise that at a time when Neanderthal school officials around the nation (that's you, Kansas) are trying to twist the definition of "science" into jibberish, the best use of her time is to write an article casting aspersions on those nasty, trenchcoated scientists who publish in rags like JAMA and Science. It's the same sort of reasoning that leads the wise heads in the media to address the MillerWoowardNovakCooperTweety controversies by calling for panels on blogger ethics.

No, what I really liked about the piece is that we get someone from the WaPo complaining about getting bad information from other writers. And that he seems put out by the fact that he has to read the papers closely for a change.

Happily, the author did include a quote from someone grudgingly admitting that "most" of what the journals publish is "basically credible." Fourteen paragraphs into the story.

The other gang that can't shoot straight

from MyDD:
Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.

Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.
"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office.

How mind-bogglingly stupid. How tone-deaf. How tragically inept. Democrats don't just waffle on policy, they have learned how to publicly equivocate on internal politics, and have succeeded in hanging out to dry the very candidates who could address the "weak on defense" mantra the Republicans will now get to continue to hammer them with.

No wonder our Democratic leadership seem so dickless. You can only step on the thing so many times before it breaks off.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Like I said...

Back in September I predicted that Bush's poll, numbers, which plummeted after Katrina, were not coming back:
If one-shot learning is indeed taking place, Bush’s poll numbers are not coming back. Once reality blocks the efficacy of Karl Rove’s pixie dust, you can no longer not see what an empty suit Bush is. Indeed, once the spell is broken, the artifice used to maintain the illusion is likely to offend where once it enthralled. And perhaps, if we are really lucky, people will grow a little more resistant to the cynical legerdemain of an optical illusion masquerading as President.
A CNN.com poll confirms:

Moreover, 69 percent said they were concerned that the Bush administration would be too quick to use military force, yet 67 percent were also concerned the United States wouldn't do enough to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The respondents' concerns were echoed in President Bush's overall approval rating, which dropped to 39 percent, down from 42 percent in a poll taken February 6-9.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they disapproved of the way the president is handling his job.

Heh. Indeed.

Freudian undergarments

The Smoking Gun (how appropriate) has a copy of the police report and the sheriff's press release on Elmer Cheney's Whittington Wabbit hunt.

Of some interest to me is the fact that there is a check-the-box form for hunting accidents in Texas, which suggests that the intersection of idiots and firearms is a busy one there. But I digress.

The press release reports that victim "Whittington's interview collaborated Vice President Cheney's statement."

My guess is that truer words have rarely been spoken.

The Bush economy

Paul Craig Roberts: Nuking the Economy

Lefty blogs slaughter billions of innocent electrons bringing you the word about how the traditional media have collaborated in the destruction of America. Former senior Reagan administration economist Paul Roberts explains that the economics mainstream has been equally complicit in whitewashing our economy:

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics re-benchmarked the payroll jobs data back to 2000. Thanks to Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services, I have the adjusted data from January 2001 through January 2006. If you are worried about terrorists, you don’t know what worry is.

Job growth over the last five years is the weakest on record.

Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is “the envy of the world.” Communications equipment lost 43% of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37% of its workforce. The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30%. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25% of its employees. The workforce in motor vehicles and parts declined 12%. Furniture and related products lost 17% of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43%. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15%. Even manufacturers of beverages and tobacco products experienced a 7% shrinkage in jobs.

The knowledge jobs that were supposed to take the place of lost manufacturing jobs in the globalized “new economy” never appeared. The information sector lost 17% of its jobs, with the telecommunications work force declining by 25%. Even wholesale and retail trade lost jobs. Despite massive new accounting burdens imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley, accounting and bookkeeping employment shrank by 4%. Computer systems design and related lost 9% of its jobs. Today there are 209,000 fewer managerial and supervisory jobs than 5 years ago.
Economists who look beyond political press releases estimate the US unemployment rate to be between 7% and 8.5%. There are now hundreds of thousands of Americans who will never recover their investment in their university education.

Unless the BLS is falsifying the data or businesses are reporting the opposite of the facts, the US is experiencing a job depression. Most economists refuse to acknowledge the facts, because they endorsed globalization. It was a win-win situation, they said.

They were wrong.

At a time when America desperately needs the voices of educated people as a counterweight to the disinformation that emanates from the Bush administration and its supporters, economists have discredited themselves. This is especially true for “free market economists” who foolishly assumed that international labor arbitrage was an example of free trade that was benefitting Americans. Where is the benefit when employment in US export industries and import-competitive industries is shrinking? After decades of struggle to regain credibility, free market economics is on the verge of another wipeout.

Have a nice day.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The gang that couldn't shoot straight

Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter

Amazing how metaphors tend to eventually end up literally true, too.

Update: given what these intrepid heroes think qualifies as hunting, I guess we shouldn't be surprised at their rather unrealistic ideas about war, or their comfort with savagery, so long as the "good guys" are the ones doing the savaging.

CIA counter-terrorism chief fired for opposing terror - Times Online

The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and dunking them in water, according to Cannistraro.
You just can't make stuff like this up, folks.

Greenwald nails it

Excellent thought piece on the cult of Bush and how antithetical to true conservatism it is.

(Glenn: you might like this.)

Been there, done that

Me, Here, Thursday, regarding the Preznit's sudden willingness to tell all about the alleged plot to take down the Library Tower in LA:

Stuff that was double-super-secret classified yesterday magically became declassified today because it helps the propaganda campaign...
And finally, note that they wouldn't say whether this had any connection whatsoever to the warrantless NSA snooping. Which means it sure as shit didn't, because they would be trumpeting even the most tenuous connection to high heaven if it did.
Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, Friday:

The president and administration officials will suddenly talk about details of the foiled plot-details that were highly classified until now. But they won't say if the controversial NSA program was involved. Given their new willingness to talk at length about the case, can anyone seriously doubt that had the NSA eavesdropping cracked this case, they would have mentioned that? Simply saying that the NSA helped foil the plot-if it had-would not have compromised "sources and methods." You can bet that if this were an NSA case, we'd know it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Plamegate: How Time could have told the truth without identifying its source

Media Matters picks up on Al Franken's radio discussion with Time Magazine reporter John Dickerson. Dickerson was recently all over the news for his recent Slate piece, Where's My Subpoena?", which reveals that Dickerson has known a lot more about what was really going on with the White House efforts to smear Joe Wilson on the Niger yellow cake story than he fessed up to until now. MediaMatters lays out some context:

When the article was written and published, all three reporters knew for a fact that White House senior adviser Karl Rove had outed undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. They knew this because Cooper was one of the reporters to whom Rove leaked Plame's identity in July 2003; at the time, Cooper told Duffy and Dickerson about the leak. But the October 2003 article reported that Rove had "initially" been suspected to be the source of the leak, falsely suggesting that these suspicions were no longer valid. Worse, the article quoted White House press secretary Scott McClellan describing the accusations as "ridiculous" and saying, "There is simply no truth to that suggestion." As Media Matters demonstrated, Cooper, Duffy, and Dickerson all knew that McClellan's statement was false, yet their article presented it without rebuttal.

Franken went after Dickerson on Time's failure to tell the truth (or rather their willingness to print things they knew were materially false). Here's what Dickerson offered as his justification:

And the reason you can't just come out and say, "They're big liars, they're big liars," is because you end up giving up a source.

I've written elsewhere about why Time should have been under no obligation to protect Rove in this case. But for the sake of argument, let's grant that they needed to protect their anonymous source here. It seems to me that the question a reporter should ask at that point is, "Is there a way to get the truth out there without burning the source?" Keep in mind that the story is (or at least should be) that the White House is lying about a breach of national security. This Time knew. And how did Time know this? Karl Rove -- the epitome of a Senior Administration Official -- told Matt Cooper the factual predicate to that clear conclusion.

I know I'm just one of those unwashed, troglodytic bloggers, but can someone explain to me why Time could not have countered McClellan's falsehood by adding a line that said, "Contrary to McClellan's claims, Time has learned from a Senior Administration official that Plame's identity was in fact leaked from inside the White House"?

It's absolutely true. It lets the world know that they are indeed "big liars." And it doesn't explicitly finger Rove. If there is something wrong with this solution -- other than the obvious fact that it would have made Rove unhappy -- I'd sure like to know what it is.

I expect to receive the knock at the door ordering me to report to blogger ethics re-education camp any day now.

This week's IOKIYAR moment

Starr accused of faking clemency letters - Crime & Punishment - MSNBC.com
Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California’s governor to spare the man’s life, prosecutors said Friday.

If a librul did such a thing on behalf of a convicted criminal, the Ann Coulters of the world would be expanding the list of assassination targets to include the perp. But it's OK, because Starr is a Republican.

The other shoe begins to drop

The long-running half of the Bush plan to impose its views on the rest of us is exemplified by the efforts on George Deutsch, the 24-year-old NASA Zampolit who tried to muzzle a NASA climate scientist and edit discussions of the Big Bang. (After being fired for falsifying his resume, he's singing the victim song here.)

As bad as that is, far more ominous things are happening. The other half of the plan is the silencing of the opinions they don't like. From The Progressive:
Laura Berg is a clinical nurse specialist at the VA Medical Center in Albuquerque, where she has worked for 15 years.

Shortly after Katrina, she wrote a letter to the editor of the weekly paper the Alibi criticizing the Bush Administration.

After the paper published the letter in its September 15-21 issue, VA administrators seized her computer, alleged that she had written the letter on that computer, and accused her of “sedition.”

Berg was an early target because she is a government employee. But by their definition, this blog is sedition squared.

What our government is doing to stifle dissent looks like isolated incidents now, but that's how it starts. Dictatorship will come in indiscernable increments. And how it ends will be much worse. The GWOT will be used to justify the smothering of politics on the Internet -- mark my words. It will be used to justify wholesale dismantling of the Constitution, including, perhaps the 22nd Amendment. We throw around police state epithets now, but today is just the appetizer. The main course is being prepared right now, and its odors are starting to spread.

If you think 2008 is going to be just another fair election and orderly government transition, I've got a lightly blowtorched bridge over the East River to sell you.

Update: the 22nd Amendment is showing up on other radar screens today, too.

Friday, February 10, 2006

And which party do they belong to?

Three More Lawmakers Tied to Lobbyist - Yahoo! News

Three members of Congress have been linked to efforts by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a former General Services Administration official to secure leases of government property for Abramoff's clients, according to court filings by federal prosecutors on Friday.

And how many 'grafs deep do you have to read to discover which party these miscreants belong to? Six, for two of them, nine for the other. Whaddaya know, they are Republicans all.

In their willingness to knuckle under to Republican pressure and pervert story this into a "bipartisan scandal," it is truly remarkable how far the press will go to bury the lede.

Hastert, Frist said to rig bill for drug firms

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert engineered a backroom legislative maneuver to protect pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits, say witnesses to the pre-Christmas power play.

The language was tucked into a Defense Department appropriations bill at the last minute without the approval of members of a House-Senate conference committee, say several witnesses, including a top Republican staff member.
Beyond the issue of vaccine liability protection, some say going around the longstanding practice of bipartisan House-Senate conference committees' working out compromises on legislation is a dangerous power grab by Republican congressional leaders that subverts democracy.

"It is a travesty of the legislative process," said Thomas Mann, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"It vests enormous power in the hands of congressional leaders and private interests, minimizes transparency and denies legitimate opportunities for all interested parties, in Congress and outside, to weigh in on important policy questions."

Stories like this one effectively answer the question I posed in my last Raw Story column: why would Congressional Republicans so willingly cede their Constitutional powers to the increasingly monarchical president? Because government in the traditional sense is irrelevant to them. Bush is perfectly happy to share the power of graft with his legislative counterparts, and that's good enough for them.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Whose war is it anyway?

Shrub is clearly on the defensive, which requires... well, not new tactics, since the old ones are (a) apparently still working and (b) the only ones these assclowns know. So we get this:
Under fire for eavesdropping on Americans, President Bush said Thursday that spy work stretching from the U.S. to Asia helped thwart terrorists plotting to use shoe bombs to hijack an airliner and crash it into the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast in 2002.

"It took the combined efforts of several countries to break up this plot," Bush said. "By working together we stopped a catastrophic attack on our homeland."

Some information about the foiled attack was disclosed last year, but Bush offered more details to highlight international cooperation in fighting terrorists. He did not say whether information about the West Coast plot was collected by his administration's program to monitor — without court warrants — some calls and e-mails between people overseas and in the U.S. when links to terrorism are suspected.

Given their normal unwillingness to talk about anything they are doing, when Bush appears to lift his skirt, there are really only two possibilities:

1. Stuff that was double-super-secret classified yesterday magically became declassified today because it helps the propaganda campaign; or

2. He's full of shit.

The AP article contained a small bit of evidence to support the second hypothesis:
In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa complained he first learned of Bush's remarks while watching TV.

"I'm amazed that the president would make this on national TV and not inform us of these details through the appropriate channels," said the mayor, a Democrat.

You would think that if this thing was real, the mayor of the target city would have some idea what the hell Bush was talking about, right?

On the other hand, I guess coordination with locals has not exactly been a forte' for these guys.

And finally, note that they wouldn't say whether this had any connection whatsoever to the warrantless NSA snooping. Which means it sure as shit didn't, because they would be trumpeting even the most tenuous connection to high heaven if it did.

Logic is just another terrorist weapon, I guess.

Texas hold'em

Murray Waas has another scoop on Plamegate up @ National Journal. The primary thrust is that Libby is floating a "I vas only followink orders" defense. Interesting and important stuff. But I think Murray missed something important.

Although it is not known if Cheney had told the special prosecutor that he had authorized Libby to leak classified information to reporters, Dan Richman, a professor of law at Fordham University and a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said, "One certainly would not expect Libby, as part of his defense, to claim some sort of clear authorization from Cheney where none existed, because that would clearly risk the government's calling Cheney to rebut that claim."
Here I disagree -- that's exactly why he is going this route.

What we have here is a high stakes poker game, and Libby is raising the house limit. Libby isn't doing this because he expects Cheney to actually come and confirm his alibi. He knows Cheney will never do that. He's pushing the Administration to make this thing go away, and a subpoena to the Dick is probably the straightest line to a pardon that Libby can draw.

This is likely to get very interesting. My guess is that Fitz is going to take the position that Libby is charged with lying (to the grand jury and to the investigators), and the fact that Cheney told him to leak is interesting but irrelevant. Which could mean he will refuse to take the gambit. Now wouldn't that be fun? Libby fingers his boss, and Fitz leaves it hanging unrebutted, because it doesn't absolve Libby of the crime he was charged with. If it plays out this way, Fitz will look like a damned genius for not charging the underlying crime, since Libby's gambit might have been a defense there.

I just wish it would all unfold faster -- and that Fitz would get to the part that ensnares the Turd Blossom.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Don't it make my blue meme green

Why am I backing away from identification with the DINO pantywaists? Here's a relevant data point:

As liberal Democrat calls for special prosecutor on Iraq, Democrats duck
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the feisty septuagenarian congressman who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee will issue yet another missive to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales later this week calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal misconduct in regard to the Bush Administration's march to war in Iraq.

Just five other Democrats have signed Conyers' letter: Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) Mike Honda (D-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA), Susan Davis (D-CA,) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) along with Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
What's striking isn't that Conyers is calling on Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor. He's done it before, and he'd likely do it again. But his decision to take public action to seek a Justice Department investigation of pre-war policy and manipulation of the press has met resounding silence among his Democratic Party.

While a handful of House members sign on to Conyers' proposals each time, the leading voices in the party are silent when it comes to formal legal action on Iraq. In other words, Democrats are quick to criticize the Administration, but are loath to make legal attempts to bring them to account.

These cowards may be incrementally less evil than their Republican counterparts, but I refuse to identify or ally myself with them.

I'd change the name of the blog if I could. Since I can't (without in effect starting over with a new blog), the picture stays green.

OK, this is a decent reason to keep on doing...

When the US didn’t capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, it wasn’t by mistake, Congressman Maurice Hinchey of Hurley theorized.

Instead, Hinchey said the Administration had a motive for not capturing him. “Why did we do that? The only logical answer that comes to mind is they didn’t want to capture Bin Laden because if they captured Bin Laden and wiped out the Taliban, which they could have done at that moment, there would have been no justification for going to war in Iraq, and they wanted to use that as a justification for attacking Iraq,” he said.

Hinchey is a critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, who he says lied about the reasons for going into Iraq.

Loyal and attentive readers might recall one of my best pieces published at Democratic Underground, called "Mission Accomplished: George Bush's Endless War":
Bush went after Saddam not out of confusion or error, but because he knew Osama, though useful, was too short a tail to fully wag the dog.
Remember that after George H.W. Bush defeated Iraq in 1991, he looked invincible at home - until the image of the conquering hero faded a year later, and he lost to Bill Clinton. The lesson George W. Bush learned from his father's experience is now obvious: the mistake was not in ending Operation Desert Storm too soon: it was in letting the war end at all.
From Bush's perspective, Iraq has been a total success, as has the cat and mouse with Osama. He had no plan to "win the peace" because he has no intention of winning it - winning implies that the war is over, and peace is the one unacceptable outcome.

I won't take credit for direct cause and effect here. But if you google Bush and "endless war" it is the fourth result listed (out of more than 200,000), so somebody must be noticing.

Kudos, Congressman Hinchey.

Social Security: Bush's other guerilla war

Guardian Unlimited: Bush Plan Would Cut Survivor Benefits

One of the very few battles reality has won against the Bush juggernaut was on Social Security. Bush's attempt to effectivey dismantle this strong and vital program last year were effectively stymied by the complete lack of rational basis for their approach.

A significant part of that argument has been the simple fact that Bush's assertions about how Social Security was a bad deal for minorities because of their shorter lifespans were just pain wrong. The reason they were wrong is because death and survivor benefits under the program more than compensated.

They lost the last round. But they are not giving up. Lying didn't work for the Bush administration, so now they are trying to change the facts on the ground to screw the worst off among us instead:

If President Bush gets his way, the venerable $255 Social Security death benefit will fade into history. And 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts will lose their monthly survivor payments.

Not, however, if Democrats get their way.

"The Republican Congress has given a whole new meaning to the term 'women and children first,'" Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee, said Tuesday.

"There they go again," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who heads the part budget that Bush submitted to Congress on Tuesday and estimated to trim costs by $3.4 billion over the next decade.
Mark Lassiter, a spokesman at the Social Security Administration, said the benefit "bears no relation to what a person's funeral expenses are or to any of workers' earnings levels. We believe that eliminating it is not going to cause an appreciable financial hardship to a survivor."

Lassiter said the benefit is paid in cases in which a surviving spouse was living with the deceased at the time of his or her death. It is also available in some cases for a surviving spouse who lived apart and for some surviving children.

You have to give them credit for supreme chutzpah. By eliminating the benefits that level the actuarial playing field for the disadvantaged, they eliminate one more argument in favor of preserving this important insurance policy for all workers. If they make this minor, incremental change stick now, you can take to the bank the promise that next time they try to kill the program through privatization, it will come back to haunt us.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

BuzzFlash: Shoulda Walked Out. Period.

The grand showdown between the Dems upset at Bush's illegal wiretapping fizzled out as soon as Arlen Specter -- the two-faced Bush go-fer of the GOP -- not only ruled that Gonzales didn't have to testify under oath, he pretended -- as scripted -- to prohibit the Attorney General of the United States from doing what most Americans are required to do in a Court of Law or before Congress (unless they are from the White House or CEOs of big oil companies).

It was at that point, once again, that the Democrats became merely bit players in a script once again written by the White House. For many years, and most recently in several editorials, BuzzFlash has lamented that the Dems don't understand that these hearings are soap operas -- and that the Bush/Rovian propaganda staff writes very effective soap opera scripts.

In this case, the goal of the soap opera was to allow Gonzales not to testify under oath, so that he wouldn't be likely to be charged with perjury. After that point, everything else just became a big muddle. And, the White House knows, in a situation like this, they win if the hearing turns out to be inconclusive and stalemated.

We had to laugh through our tears for democracy when Arlen Specter boasted that he was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and no Attorney General was going to decide for himself to testify under oath, as Gonzales pretended that he wanted to be sworn in (but, of course, knew in advance that it would never happen, so he could lie with impunity). Oh, my Lord, you couldn't get hack Hollywood scriptwriters to do a better job!

But, as we've always said, between the Coasts, Americans believe what they see. And, once again, you had the appearance of an earnest man claiming he wanted to testify under oath because it wouldn't change what he would say.
The Democrats lost control of the hearing when Specter forced a party line vote of 10-8 that Gonzales wouldn't be sworn in. Period.

At that moment, the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee should have taken charge of the scriptwriting and left the room in protest.

Sigh. A man can dream.

Squeeze play

Republican Senators like Arlen Specter may actually still have vestigial testicles, however small. Unfortunately, they no longer function to produce fortitude, and are merely convenient loci of pain receptors and thus an effective tool for behavior modification. That is why Karl Rove took title to them long ago, and why he is now waving around his garlic press and making ominous, if desperate, gestures with it. The conservative Insight reports:
Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.

"It's hardball all the way," a senior GOP congressional aide said.

The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.

Rove must know that the legal arguments proferred by his team are gaining little traction. There is also his standard view that all that ever matters is the politics of the thing. He's done a pretty good job so far of putting an array of straw men and red herrings out for the press to gaze at like parakeets staring at a mirror. The press and thus the public have both been largely distracted. But he knows he needs more this time, so bit of old-fashioned muscle is required.

Oh, Fitz, where are you when we need you?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Not under oath??!!!

I'm on the west coast, so I tuned in rather late. Glenn Greenwald reports that Torquemada was not sworn in.

Not sworn in? It appears that Arlen Specter believes in the other definition of "oversight" -- the one that means "screwing up."


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Holy Woodstein, Batman -- The WaPo connects dots!

In today's piece that reveals some new details about the illegal wiretap story, Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects, Post reporters Barton Gellman, Dafna Linzer and Carol D. Leonnig sneak some actual thinking past editor Len Downie.

The article discloses that perhaps 5,000 of us have had our conversations recorded under the program, but only ten or so U.S. persons a year "have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well." If you assume they've been doing this for four years, that's a batting average of a littel below 1%, give or take.

The article also notes that

The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.
If the machine surveillance is also illegal, the batting average goes down by these additional orders of magnitude, of course. But leave that aside for the moment.

In a remarkable turnaround, the paper actually teases out a hugely important implication from this fact:

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged "reasonable" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable.

(cue sound of dime dropping)

There are lots of possible reasons why the junta preferred not to go to the FISA court. This one is now a major candidate in my book -- if the Keystone Kops select targets more or less at random, probable cause is a statistical impossibility.

The external court approval is in place to serve as a feedback loop. There are a number of grounds for denying a warrant, but certainly if what you are doing is ineffective, one of them is that the FISA court is going to refuse to condone it for long. This intrusive program has been a failure. And like every other time the Bush Administration has screwed something up (which, coincidentially, is every time it has attempted anything), it reacts not by changing strategy or tactics, but by denying the validity and/or authority of external oversight.

Kudos to the Post for not only reporting the story but also helping us see its significance.

Battered pundit syndrome

Oh, I know, it hardly seems worth the effort to keep whaling away at Lil' Tommy Tintin Friedman, but Sadly, No does a nice, concise job of dismantling his latest spew.


So here's my bottom line: I'm glad the president is changing his rhetoric on energy and says he is changing his fundamental priorities. It makes for a great headline. But he has to go much further if he wants to make a great difference. There's no pain-free solution [...] And if he fails to carry through with this energy initiative, I'll be the first to rip him for it. In the meantime, I prefer to give him a new reputation to live up to. You never know... and by the way, pal, do you have a better horse to ride right now?

Actually, buddy, I do. It's called "limit the damage this administration can do for the next three years until we can elect someone who actually knows how to govern." The Bush administration is King Midas in reverse. They can do nothing right. If you need examples, check out the lack of post-war planning in Iraq, the inept response to Hurricane Katrina, the irresponsible fiscal policies, the pork-laden spending bills signed without even the threat of a veto, the Medicare drug benefit debacle, torturing prisoners... the list goes on and on.

Without any ability to influence this administration's behavior, the best thing we in the reality-based community can do is to oppose and obstruct anything and everything it proposes. And that means, Tom, that you have to stop acting like the battered wife who keeps crawling back to her husband because she thinks he might have really changed this time.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

My two cents (re-post)

I should probably just mention that I’m not experiencing as much of the frustration that John is, largely because I don’t really have any expectations for our blog. As my sporadic and usually content-free postings suggest, I tend to view it as a place for casual observations and comments as well as commentary. For me, it’s more of a toy than an opinion-shaping tool. And, while I like seeing comments and giggle at the silly spikes on the sitemeter graph when a post gets picked up by Buzzwatch or some such, I think it’s pretty neat that even a couple hundred people drop by on a daily basis just to check in. It suggests that we (mostly John) are doing something right, although it may just prove the point that some people will read anything to avoid getting down to doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing.

I also have never viewed this as a Dem-centric project, mostly because I haven’t been all that thrilled with the party for many, many years. Although he is clearly the smartest man to ascend to the presidency in my lifetime and I’d take him back in a heartbeat, Bill Clinton drove me crazy on an almost-daily basis during his two terms in office. I’ve had the pleasure of voting for some wonderful Dem senators and governors (Cuomo, Moynihan, Reed), but am just as likely to go third party or, occasionally, cross over. For all the gray matter that I’ve left smeared on the wall due to the actions of the current crop of DLC automatons, I’ve never viewed that as a sign of the ineffectuality of this or any other blog. They just can’t help themselves.

So what do I think is the function of this thing? A data point of sorts, a voice in the crowd. As it happens, I’ve been reading bios of the founding fathers recently. Any good one will make it plain, either implicitly or explicitly, that the top tier guys deserve the credit but many, many others were involved. Cranky local pamphleteers, guys swapping ideas at the pub or the printer’s shop. Anonymous, but essential to the thing as a whole. That’s us.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Bluememe will be back shortly, even if in some a modified/titrated form or forum. I have known him for something like twenty-five years now, and I can tell you that the idea of Mr. B. keeping his opinions to himself is like…well, I don’t know. Hasn’t happened yet.

Neocon humor

Over @ Clownhall.com, Larry Elder writes his own version of the SOTU. He thinks this is just a laugh riot:

My fellow Americans, I am evil.

I only care about rich people, and rich people only care about other rich people -- unless, of course, your name is Kennedy. In fact, it is misleading to say that I only care about the rich. I truly only care about Republican, white, Christian males who are rich.

I would say that I am truly the president of Halliburton, except I'm having the darndest time spelling the word "Halliburton." I'm corrupt, incompetent and racist.
I stole the election in 2000. I conspired with the governor of Florida to steal votes. The governor of Florida just happens to be my brother. I stole the election in Ohio in 2004 by conspiring with my buddies at Diebold, who make the voting machines, which they rigged in my favor. When you think about it, those white boys at Diebold, well, they're my brothers, too.
Sen. Ted Kennedy is right. I lied us into the war. Repeatedly. I intentionally sent men and women in harm's way, so that I could be a wartime president, because -- unlike Michael Dukakis -- I sure look spiffy in a flight suit. As Sen. John Kerry puts it, our military terrorizes Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, I should tell you the real reasons for going into the war: to steer defense contracts to my buddies; to get the SOBs who tried to kill my daddy; to engage in torture; to find a justification to spy on American citizens who have no connection to terrorism whatsoever; and to send soldiers into the field with no body armor and no exit strategy.

Oh, yeah. ROTFLMAO stuff.

Perhaps Elder was the guy who wrote the "those WMDs must be around here somewhere" skit that slayed at the Radio & Televions Correspondent's dinner a couple of years back. Or the DOJ opinion justifying warrantless eavesdropping, or Alito's CAP dodge. Comedic gems all.


Thanks to each of you who wrote expressing support. If the quantity did not overwhelm, the quality was all I could have hoped for. The next best thing to my very own Sally Field moment, I guess.

Part of the problem here is that I need (again) to work through my own delusions of grandeur. My early success, such as it was, fed into my own fantasies of being able to elbow my way into the inner circle. But I guess this is another one of those “get over yourself” moments. There is indeed value in being one of the many proletarian bloggers struggling to bring down the tyrants – I was just hoping to wrangle a seat at the Algonquin round table. Oh, well.

If the good thing about old friends is that they know you well, then the bad thing is… well, you get the picture. The sad fact is that Bloor is right – I can’t really keep my opinionated yap shut. There is so much evil and stupidity out there, and so little time.

Allrighty then. My petulant hiatus is starting to feel a touch immature. (See, Doctor AWOL? Admitting it isn’t so hard, really.) Back to flogging the fuckwits.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Well, Bluememe, this is what keeps me going

fsm erotica

(as PZ sez, not exactly worksafe, but your boss may not brand you a garden-variety "pervert" if you get caught)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

In which I break the fourth wall

Me again.

First, no fucking way am I going to surrender. I’m not sure what Dubya’s SOTU coded wingnut message was when he urged his storm troopers to “finish well,” but I do not intend to go out with a whimper. They’ll take my Bill of Rights when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

But tactics are another matter. Is blogging and writing for Raw Story effective? Sad to say, I just don't know. Our numbers here are pretty small in the grand scheme of things; I have no idea how many people read what I write for Raw because they are not set up to track it. So how am I supposed to know if, as a college prof used to say, the game is worth the candle?

A few of you have reached out to me over the last year or so, and I am grateful. But there are far easier ways and more effective of making contact. And I struggle to find meaningful ways of measuring my impact, which suggests it is not that great.

I know I’m no Digby, but I harbor the conceit that I have something to say, and that I say it well enough to be worth listening to. We are even Koufax nominees, which gives some validation to the idea that we are not just chopped liver. But is writing the best allocation of my scarce resources? If you haven’t tried it yourself, you have no idea how much time even the half-assed job I do on this blog can take. And I don’t even want to think about the cost, in both hours and emotions, of the editorials.

When I first heard about blogs, before I got active politically online, I thought they were online diaries -- places where emotional exhibitionists paraded their personal lives, loves and demons. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Most political blogs are not about personal soul-searching, or the person behind the rhetoric. This one certainly hasn’t been, but I must admit, I am doing a little of that kind of introspection now, and letting a little self-doubt show. I am looking for reasons – not to resist the evil, but to keep doing it this way. That’s why I asked the same kind of question over at dKos last week – I am a bit afraid of the answer, but I want to know if my writing is the sound of one hand clapping.

I guess what happens next is in part up to you, folks. Readers are the other hand. So tell me how what we have been doing helps the cause. I am not looking for anything specific, but please don’t tell me about what a wonderful thing the blogosphere in general is. And if you have ideas about how we could do it better, or how together we can actually make some noise, so much the better.

However my pilgrimage comes out, I know we have attracted a ragtag group of a few hundred regulars here, and I want to say again that even the relatively infrequent feedback I have gotten from a few of you has meant a lot. But if a few more of you could see your way to transmitting instead of just receiving, it would really help. We aren't passing around the collection plate (yet) -- as pathetic as it may sound, I guess what I'm really asking for is a little acknowledgement, encouragement and, dammit, participation.

We now return you to the tragic farce already in progress.

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