Monday, July 31, 2006

The Road to Tehran Runs Through Tel Aviv?

There are those both on the left and the right who feel that the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is really a proxy war between the US and Iran. But what I would like to know is how much of this is mere coincidence and how much is part of some far more sinister plan to draw the US into another war?

I know, my tinfoil hat is showing. Just hear me out.

It all started last year with the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Immediately, Syria was fingered as the primary suspect. International pressure eventually lead to Syria withdrawing its remaining forces from Lebanon.

Why is this relevant to the current crisis? Well, just last week we learned that the Israelis had been planning the offensive we see unfolding for some time now. This prompted some to wonder who really killed Hariri, since the absence of Syrian forces from Lebanon would seem to be a prerequisite for any Israeli military action there. With Syrian forces no longer an impediment, all that was needed now was a catalyst to get the plan rolling.

That came on July 12th, when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers. Israel's response to the kidnappings even surprised the Hezbollah leadership, something which lends credence to Israel having planned this offensive in advance.

Almost as soon as rockets started to rain down on Israel, the Bush administration began lambasting Syria and Iran for their support of Hezbollah (a somewhat hypocritical stance given the expedited bomb deliveries to Israel by the US). And also despite the apparent debate raging in the intelligence community about how much control these countries, and Iran in particular, have over Hezbollah's actions. And as always, there are the prominent political pundits who are calling for strikes on Syria and/or Iran.

How does all this tie together? Well some months ago, pressure was mounting on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment program. Since then the escalating violence in Iraq, and now Lebanon, has overshadowed the concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions. But the later conflagration has allowed the Bush administration to once again put pressure on Iran.

Some see Israel as losing in this round with Hezbollah. Indeed, if the intent was to remove the threat of rocket attacks, the IDF has not been able to achieve that goal in its nearly month long offensive. If more and more rhetoric suggesting that the only way to rein in Hezbollah is to strike at their supporters (Syria and Iran), this course of action may be easier for Americans to except because it can be viewed as the US coming to the defense of an ally (and even more so if it is framed as "confronting a state sponsors of terror").

In fact, it would already seem that officials in Washington have been prodding Israel to expand their war into Syria. This of course would be the next step in the larger plan to remove Iran's regional allies before moving in to deliver the death blow of regime change.

So was the Israeli Connection a Plan B for getting the US embroiled in a war with Iran?

I really need to get rid of this damn hat...

Update: From Glenn "Is Syria Next?"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Welcome to the PSFKA

The Police State Formerly Known as America.

The "war on terror" has finally come home. Working off of the "Broader is Better" motto, the Bush administration has proposed legislation regarding detainees that goes far beyond mere trials for suspected terrorists. The draft of the bill includes language that some legal experts say could be used to allow the indefinite detention of US citizens with tenuous ties to terrorism.

This legislation really isn't surprising. Undoubtedly the administration would love to be able to apply its provisions to those it perceives as "the enemy". One can almost see the likes of Cindy Sheehan being among the first to be rounded up and sent off to Repatriotization Centers courtesy of some Halliburton subsidiary. And given that the person who would be tasked with determining who is and is not a 'suspect' is the same man who so mangled the definition of torture as to make it almost irrelevent, these concerns are not without merit.

That knock at the door? Why that's just the government coming to take you away. Oh wait, I forgot. They don't bother to knock anymore either.

Welcome to Bush's America.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Emboldening the Enemy

By now you have probably heard that Al-Qaeda has released another videotape, this time calling for a holy war against Israel. To me and many others, this tape is a sure sign that Al-Qaeda is worried about it's influence in the Muslim world. With everyone focusing on Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda has had to play second fiddle. And even their influence in Iraq is on the wane, evidenced by the fact that much of the violence in recent months is sectarian in nature. This videotape shows they are desperate to reassert themselves on the world stage.

Which is why it was so asinine that in his address to Congress (which might as well have been written by Bush speechwriters), Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki parroted the administration's line that all of Iraq's troubles are due to terrorism. Ignored was the reality that Iraq is spiraling toward civil war (which some say is already the case). Our new ally has apparently picked up the art of spin quite well from this administration.

The problem lies in the duplicity of this rhetoric. The Bushies are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they boast about how Al-Qaeda is weakened, demoralized, and on the verge of collapse (we just need to hang in there, so vote Republican). Yet they also want to claim that Al-Qaeda still remains so much of a threat that we must relinquish our rights in order to remain safe. You can't have it both ways. One point of the conflict with Al-Qaeda is to not only impair their capacity to inflict another 9/11, but also to weaken their ability to inspire others to join their cause. Every time Bush and Co. heap undue credit upon them, it simply encourages them to fight on.

But then again, maybe that's the point.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Shorter Bush Administration:

Following the law is too hard.


War crimes are for other dictators, not ours.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

In Bush We Trust

As I noted the other day, Sen. Specter was making plans to introduce legislation to sue President Bush over the use of signing statements to negate the laws he signs into being. I felt it would be difficult to predict whether partisanship or ego would win out in terms of support for such legislation.

Things are now looking to be more to the former than the latter.

From Congressional Quarterly:
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is preparing for another showdown with the White House, this time over President Bush'’s use of "“signing statements"” to challenge provisions he finds objectionable in bills he signs into law.

But opposition from other Republicans means that Arlen Specter will have a difficult time making legislative headway in his latest move to counter executive powers assumed by the Bush White House.

Even Sen. John "I'm a maverick, really I am" McCain isn't worried about these statements. Anyone care to wager that Johnny Boy isn't pooh-poohing this is because he doesn't want screw himself out of the chance to wield the pen?

I'm really not surprised. It is an election year after all and no matter how hard Republicans try to distance themselves from Bush prior to the mid-terms, their futures are ultimately still tethered to him. The Republicans know only one strategy: perception management. No matter how much they try to appear independent from this administration, when faced with confrontation they will always side with Dear Leader.

And don't think this allegiance is due to mere party affiliation. No, these guys are true Bushists. Because apparently they would support this type of legislation as soon as Dubya's out of office.
A bipartisan ABA task force compared the use of signing statements to a line-item veto that is not subject to congressional review, and advocated legislation similar to what Specter has described.

But former Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla. (1977-93), who was a member of the ABA task force, said Republican leaders are unlikely to move Specter'’s bill unless its effective date is delayed until at least 2009

"“Otherwise,"” Edwards said, "“people will say this is a way to embarrass the president."

Yes, and no doubt should the next occupant of the highest office in the land have a (D) following his name, the Repubs will fight tooth and nail to end this devious practice.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Problems with Challenging Signing Statements

Yesterday, the American Bar Association released a report (PDF) denouncing President Bush's use of signing statements to circumvent the laws that he signs. Among the panel's recommendations were that Congress enact two pieces of legislation. The first would require the President to submit all signing statements to Congress, stating the reasons and legal basis whenever the statement declares the intent to not enforce all or part of the law. The second would allow for judicial review of the matter should Bush choose to declare this intent (something which Sen. Specter seems to be taking to heart).

I see few problems here. First, if either of these bills come up for a vote prior to the mid-terms, it is hard to predict the outcome. On the one had we have a Congress that has been overly deferential to this executive. But on the other is the fact that every time Bush issues a signing statement, he is flouting the will of Congress (an act which no doubt sticks in the craw of many a legislator). So as I said, it is hard to say which will prevail: partisanship or ego.

The second problem I see regards legal standing. As I noted over at Blognonymous last month, challenging these signing statements through the judiciary would be difficult given the task of finding someone with enough of a legal standing to say they have been adversely affected by these statements. Certainly this would be difficult in the case of an individual plantiff, say an average citizen. Though it may be easier for Congress since these statements do affect how the laws are enforced and thus impact the Congress' role as writers of those laws.

But even if those obstacles are overcome, there still remains one more: the signing statements themselves. The Congress could place all kinds of requirements in a bill and Bush can simply override them using (drumroll place) a signing statement! He did it back in 2002 when Congress objected to his overuse of these statements, so it stands to reason he might try it again here. He really has found one hell of a loophole.

I know I am probably oversimplifying this but my layman's brain is trying to make sense of this whole convoluted mess.

Opening The Files: 7/25/06

There's a war on? You don't say!

From a media coverage standpoint, Iraq has all but dropped off the radar, to be replaced by the Israel/Lebanon blip. Occupations just don't have the same sort of appeal that invasions do. And since our invasion of Iraq was more then three years ago, the media has apparently decided to move on to greener pastures from which to milk ratings. Too bad our soldiers (and hundreds of civilians) continue to die over there every day.

Atrios was rendered speechless by a CNN headline "Iraq: The Forgotten War". Forgotten War? Was that suppose to be a rhetorical question? Did someone forget to add the superfluous question mark that CNN is so fond of? Cause I think it is a safe bet that the 140,000 US troops still stationed there, the families of the almost 2570 killed so far or even the families of the thousands of Iraqi civilians killed there are having a hard time forgetting there's a war going on. But fear not, CNN knows where the real story is.

With the media's attention so focused on the Israel/Lebanon dustup, Attytood has a dummies guide to getting your war covered on TV.

The Rude One notes how the media has consigned the bloodshed in Baghdad to "in other news". Creature points out that Bush and Co. are probably pretty happy about this disproportionate coverage. It would explain why they aren't doing much to put an end to the violence.

In Other News...

E&P reports that The Augusta Chronicle has switched from regular to diet Coulter.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Specter: Clueless

Here are a few reactions to Sen. Arlen Specter's op-ed where he proves that not only is he toothless, but clueless as well.

Anonymous Liberal: "Arlen Specter Displays His Near Total Ignorance of Basic Constitutional Law."

Creature: "I have an idea. Call me crazy, but maybe the president should have followed the FISA law in the first place."

Glenn: "What Specter's Op-Ed actually does is provide a powerful reflection of the extent to which the Congress has been reduced to an empty, symbolic vessel which is permitted to act only to the extent it retroactively endorses the President's conduct."

Mustang Bobby
: "In the end, Sen. Specter says, hey, whatever they want is fine with me.
In my opinion, it is intolerable to let this matter drift indefinitely. If someone has a better idea for legislation that would resolve the program's legality or can negotiate a better compromise with the president, I will be glad to listen.

Which is a polite way of saying to the White House, "I'm your bitch."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

That's Super!

In light of the upcoming premiere of the Sci-Fi Channel's "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?", I thought I would delight my fellow bloggerians with a super creation of my own.

Name: The Xsociate

Secret Identity: Unknown

Powers: The uncanny ability to decipher truth from spin. Has been known to display the ability to snark from time to time.

Weapon of choice: Facts and a quick wit.

Origin: While Googling the latest news on Brangela and looking for nude photos of Christina Aguilera, a young man came across a strange and wondrous thing know as "a blog". He was inundated with commentary on all sorts of topics. Most intriguing were the political blogs where he found both those he differed with and those whose opinions were not dissimilar to his own.

Suddenly and without warning, a startling metamorphosis occurred. This flood of information washed over the young man and caused a change in his brain chemistry. He found himself feeling more and more opinionated and the urge to voice those opinions became too much to bare.

Establishing a pseudonym for himself, the young man became The Xsociate. And now armed with his trusty Blogger account, he wages a never ending battle for truth, justice and all that stuff (no offense to any Malkinites who might be reading this).

Artist rendering.

Who would your superhero be? Make your own here.

War World III and the Status Quo

The GOP and their neo-con allies sure are jonesing for more war. And why not? They need something to distract the electorate from the mess they have made of Iraq (remember that country?) and to gin up the fear of Islamofasciliberalism to help maintain their strangle hold on power come Nov. 8. We've already heard from Newt and Billy K about the need for more war. Dick says the turmoil in the ME just shows the need to "stay the course" (so don't forget to vote Republican). And Condi certainly isn't going to do anything to jeopardize the cause.

So what about the Decider? Why he wants to take a sledge hammer to the status quo:
As the president's position is described by White House officials, Bush associates and outside Middle East experts, Bush believes that the status quo -- the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally -- is unacceptable.

The U.S. position also reflects Bush's deepening belief that Israel is central to the broader campaign against terrorists and represents a shift away from a more traditional view that the United States plays an "honest broker's" role in the Middle East.

The only status quo the Repubs are really interested in is ensuring Dear Leader remains investigation free for the remainder of his tenure.

More from Digby, Creature, John Nichols, Andy Ostroy, and Glenn.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reality Bites

WASHINGTON (XF) - In a startling reversal, President Bush has acknowledged that reality does in fact exist, The Xsociate Files has learned. The revelation came during the President's address to the annual gathering of the NAACP, where Bush lamented that racism still exists in America.

One prominent political blogger is quoted as saying "Duh!" and other critics of the administration also remain skeptical, saying that the President's acceptance of reality does not go far enough.

"They're still wearing the rose colored glasses when it comes to Iraq," one anonymous source in the intelligence community told XF. "And don't even get me started on the Israel/Hezbollah situation."

Indeed, when it comes to the escalating violence in the Middle East, President Bush continues to insist that war is peace.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Protecting the Bubble

That love affair with the National Intelligence Estimate sure didn't last very long.

From Ken Silverstein at Harper's:
I reported in May that despite the deteriorating situation in Iraq, no National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has been produced on that country since the summer of 2004. The last NIE, a classified document that the CIA describes as “the most authoritative written judgment concerning a national security issue,” was rejected by the Bush Administration (after being leaked to the New York Times) as being too negative, though its grim assessment subsequently proved to be highly accurate.

The situation has gotten even darker since my initial story—a United Nations report cited in Wednesday's New York Times found that an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed each day in June—and I've learned from two sources that some senior figures at the CIA, along with a number of Iraq analysts, have been pushing to produce a new NIE. They've been stonewalled, however, by John Negroponte, the administration's Director of National Intelligence, who knows that any honest take on the situation would produce an NIE even more pessimistic than the 2004 version. That could create problems on the Hill and, if it is leaked as the last one was, with the public as well.

“What do you call the situation in Iraq right now?” asked one person familiar with the situation. “The analysts know that it's a civil war, but there's a feeling at the top that [using that term] will complicate matters.” Negroponte, said another source regarding the potential impact of a pessimistic assessment, “doesn't want the president to have to deal with that.”

Yes, heaven forbid that the President should have to deal with reality.

Checking The Decider

From the AP:
A federal judge Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's domestic spying program, rejecting government claims that it could expose state secrets and jeopardize the war on terror.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the warrantless eavesdropping has been so widely reported that there appears to be no danger of spilling secrets....

"The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one,'' Walker said. "But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.''

Kudos to Judge Walker for displaying something severely lacking in this Republican Congress: the testicular fortitude to stand up to the encroachments of an over-zealous executive. This ruling all but assures that BushCo will ply the thumbscrews to this Do-Nothing Congress in order to get Sen. Specter's sham legislation enacted. And once on the books, no doubt they will use this as the primary reason for dismissing this case and the multitude of others seeking the truth.

Glenn has the skinny on both the ruling and Specter's bill.

Kill 'Em All: Ann Coulter Edition.

Via Greg Sargent:
ANN COULTER CALLS FOR WIPING OUT OF ALL OF SOUTH LEBANON. In her latest syndicated column -- yes, it's a syndicated column, not some crazy blog -- Ann Coulter writes:
Some have argued that Israel's response is disproportionate, which is actually correct: It wasn't nearly strong enough. I know this because there are parts of South Lebanon still standing. (emphasis Greg's)

Anyone have any idea how many civilians would die if Ann Coulter got her way?

A better question would probably be: At one point does it become appropriate to compare Coulter's rhetoric to that of a certain World War II dictator?


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Murray Waas has a must read article in the National Journal regarding President Bush's blocking of a DoJ investigation into the NSA program. One of Waas' sources speculated about why the investigation was squashed:
A senior Justice official said that the refusal to grant the clearances was "unprecedented" and questioned whether the clearances were denied because investigators might find "misconduct by those who were attempting to defeat" the probe from being conducted.

. Whatever could they mean?

More from Christy, John, Atrios, JB, DBK, Carpetbagger, and A.L.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Decider Strikes Again!

From the AP:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program that monitors Americans' international calls and e-mails when terrorism is suspected....

Under sharp questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Gonzales said that Bush would not grant the access needed to allow the probe to move forward.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" asked Specter, R-Pa.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales told the committee hearing....

Opening The Files: 7/18/06

An analogy involving 'hell' and 'a handbasket' comes to mind.

The above statement pretty much sums up my sense of the what's going on in the Israel/Palestine/Lebanon conflict. For the most part, I've tried to shy away from the subject as I agree with Kevin Drum and Kos for why the topic can be pretty dicey. So rather then bore you with my own thoughts, I will point you to the likes of Billmon, Larry Johnson, Juan Cole, Ezra Klein, and Arthur Silber.

Porky's Revenge.

President Bush took a detour through Germany on his way to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. He held a presser with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and for some reason he couldn'’t keep his mind off of the roast pig that was to be served later that evening. Even when asked some really serious questions about the situation in the Middle East, he kept bringing up the pig.

And we still have this guy for two more years?

Putin's Pun.

The next stop in "“we still have two more years of this"” land, Bush finally made it to St. Petersburg were he held another presser, this time with Russian Prez Vladimir Putin. Dubya was waxing philosophically about how Russia should aspire to have a democracy more like Iraq. Putin'’s response? No, Thanks.

Bush shot back with "just wait" but really had the last word when he blocked Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Is this thing on?! Oh (expletive)!

Some rather colorful language from Bush was captured by an open mic during a G8 luncheon. Bush was discussing the Mid-East crisis with his boy Tony Blair and had this to say about it:
See, the irony is that what they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.

The Daily Show weighed in on Bush's pig preoccupation as well as his unscripted, yet thankfully on topic faux pas.

Newsday says that porcine predilection “epitomized his disengagement in the Middle East". A disengagement from reality has been the hallmark of this administration for some time now, guys.

So was Bush'’s beef what cost Russia a slot in the WTO? Or was it pork?

Josh brings up a good point. With all the goings on in the '‘handbasket'’, this is what CNN decides in front page material? A couple of readers chime in on possible reasons.

Carpetbagger notes what should be the focus of Bush's G8 remarks. And it's not his employment of a "bad word".

And finally from HuffPo: Martin Lewis talks about the bad example Bush is setting for the children. Tom D'Antoni says this G8 gaffe is but one of the many "Pet Goat" moments we have witnessed from this President. And Mo Rocca wonders (with poll) who will be the next target of Bush's "accidental" (expletive) session.


Monday, July 17, 2006

On The Map

Presidential Directive Sparks Outcry from Map Makers.

WASHINGTON (XF) - The Xsociate Files has learned that as part of a recent executive order, map makers would be required to redraw world maps to depict the US sharing a border with Venezuela. The decree has elicited criticism world wide because the change would include not only atlases but other reference material such as school text books and encyclopedias as well.

Press Secretary Tony Snow, hoping to allay concerns, says that President Bush has thought the matter through carefully and feels that he had made the right decision.

"The President understand the concerns that people have about this," Mr. Snow said at a recent press gaggle. "A major concern is the expense. Which is why the President is working with the Congress on emergency funds to help defer the cost of this endeavor."

When asked about the reason for the change, Mr. Snow stated that it was mainly due to the anti-American rhetoric from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "That, and we hope this will make it easier for Americans to actually find Venezuela on a map."


Saturday, July 15, 2006

NSA Deal and Political Spying

It would seem that I may have been wrong in my assumption that I did not have anything meaningful to add regarding the Specter bill. I realized that there was something I had overlooked in my cursory examination. And imagine my embarrassment when I realized it was something on which I had blogged about as recently as last week.

I was reminded of it when I read this passage from today's The Independent:
Civil liberties campaigners said the agreement gave the administration greater flexibility. They also said that allowing a secret court to assess the constitutionality of the programme would mean many potentially embarrassing details - for instance, if it was revealed the programme had been used to monitor political opponents - would never be made public.

While many bloggers have limited their reservations about this bill to some of it's more egregious provisions, such as the one which essentially guts the "exclusive" rule enshrined in FISA, very few have noted the provision granting the Attorney General the authority to bring all pending civil suits against the NSA program under the purview of the FISA court. But I have yet to hear anyone address the issue of the potential for this authority to be used by the administration to cover up abuse of the program, such as politically motivated surveillance. Indeed, it would be a real winner for them, since they have thus far been unsuccessful in their efforts to have the cases thrown out in the lower courts.

Was this one of the many reasons that Bush has chosen to endorse the bill in its current form?

Update: See Julie O. and Kvatch for more.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Future of the Internet

MySpace is foxified.

NSA Deal and the Mid-East Distraction

I really don't have much to add in the way of meaningful commentary regarding the "deal" reached between Sen. Specter and the White House so I will defer you to the opinions of far more knowledgeable bloggers than I at the end of this post. But one thing I do wonder about is the timing.

We all know how adept the Bush administration has become at conveniently timed announcements. One need only look at the slew of election-year terror alerts and foiled plots to get the idea.

This compromise is being touted by the media as the Bush administration caving to pressure from Congress. But if you look closely at the proposed bill, you find it exceedingly difficult to come to that conclusion since it would seem to give Bush everything he wants and then some. How this is seen as Bush "caving" one can only speculate.

So why now? No doubt some wonder if the findings in Hamdan are finally having an affect on other areas. But if Specter and the administration are to be believed, this deal was brokered before the Hamdan ruling. So why are we just now learning about it?

One answer may lie in the current unrest taking place in the Middle East. Think about it. What better way to sneak through such sham legislation than when everyone's attention if focused elsewhere?

More from Think Progress, Orin Kerr, Kevin Drum, AMERICAblog, Marty Lederman, Josh, JB, A.L., and Glenn.

Update: Greg Sargent, Carpetbagger, Tim Grieve, and Georgia10 also weigh in.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

President Bush Issues New Signing Statement

Reactions: Shakes, Carpetbagger, Jill, Creature, Moxiegrrrl, and Matt.

Enemy Within?

Remember back in March when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had this to say about Al-Qaeda's ability to control the news:
We do know, of course, that al-Qaeda has media committees. We do know that they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media. They do this regularly.

What Rumsfeld was implying was that it was not so much a case of Al-Qaeda sending out press releases to the media telling them what to report but rather he was talking about their ability to garner headlines.

Well now Rep. Peter Hoekstra has taken the 'manipulation' angle to truly McCarthyesque heights (or would Dr. Strangelove be more accurate?). This really isn't surprising given that the Bush administration has been besieged with leaks about their anti-terrorism efforts. It was only a matter of time before one of their allies brought up the specter that these leaks were part of a sinister plot to undermine the President and aid "the enemy".

But could this possibly be true? Has our intelligence community been penetrated by those out to harm America? Or is it more likely that the Bush administration's own actions are a more plausible catalyst for this sudden uptick in supposed traitors?

Then again, logic is usually in short supply when it comes to Bush and Co.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Kill 'Em All. No Sorting, Please.

In yesterday's New York Post, Ralph Peters opined about the best way to deal with prisoners in the war on terror: don't take any. He says that violent extremists should be killed on the spot and only very rarely captured. No doubt there are others who ascribe to this "take no prisoners" philosophy. But it raises a great deal of uneasy questions.

For starters, just who is this fate to be bestowed upon? One of Mr. Peters' qualifiers for why terrorists are so deserving of death is because of their employment of a civilian disguise in which to hide. Yet this is one of the problems that have plagued our troops since the insurgency took root. How do you know who the enemy is when you have no means of differentiating them from the general public? Was that man standing at the street corner up ahead the one who triggered the IED or was he just an innocent bystander on his way to the market? No doubt in Mr. Peters eyes, his simple presence would be enough justification for him to be mowed down.

And another troubling question is: What about "homegrown" terrorism, an issue with which we have become intimately familiar with over the last couple of months? In his column, Peters refers to "the battlefield" and was clearly limiting his no holds bar attitude to the conflict in Iraq. But the Bush administration has already argued that the US is part of that "battlefield". Surely Peters would be remised if this doctrine were not also applied to the "home front" in the global war on terror?

What about if they are only suspected of being involved in terrorism? Another qualifier that Peters stipulated should forfeit a terrorist's claim to continue to exist was an overt act. Pull a trigger, throw a grenade, denote a bomb, all of these should result in imminent death. How do you handle someone who is merely suspected of plotting such an act? Should they be awarded the same fate? Should the only thing to come out of the raid in Miami last month have been seven corpses?

And how far should this philosophy extend? Should we include on the list those who support terrorism but do not actually carry out the act? What about those who are against our involvment in Iraq? Since they are often labeled as "aiding and abetting" the terrorists, would attending an anti-war rally warrant a death sentence for the participants? Where does it end?

As Sen. John McCain put it when he was defending his amendment banning the cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of prisoners captured by the US:
But it's not about them; it's about us. This battle we're in is about the things we stand for and believe in and pratice.

If we lower ourselves to their level, whose to say who the true winner will be in the end?

Update: Julie O. has her take on this and brings up some excellent points.

Piloting the Prez

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "Bush Bot".

Monday, July 10, 2006

Universial Press: Coulter No Cribber

I wish I knew how to quit you.


Edited For Content

Moore Film Exempt From Recall.

SALT LAKE CITY (XF) - The Xsociate Files has uncovered a short list of sanitized movies that were exempt from a recall notice handed down in a court ruling over the weekend. Among the holdouts were copies of director Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which had been edited in such way as to portray the Bush administration in a better light than the original production had.

When reached for comment, a spokesman for the movie industry is quoted as saying, "We have no objections to this sanitized version of Mr. Moore's film. We felt it was too long to begin with and it is our sincere hope that this new twelve-minute version will have a an even greater audience appeal."

Other films that made the exemption list were copies of Wag The Dog retailored as a serious political drama and The Manchurian Candidate, now a buddy comedy.


The Brief Beef

As anyone who has been following the warrantless spying scandal since it was first revealed by the NY Times last December, you will know that among the excuses that the Bush administration used to claim they could conduct the surveillance was the tacit approval of the program from Congress. Of course their idea of "approval" was to brief a few congressional committee members on a few details without giving them any say in whether or not the program would continue.

Well it would seem we can scratch another one off of that ever shortening list of excuses.

Yesterday the Times reported on what they called a "sharply worded letter" to the President written by Rep. Peter Hoekstra. The Congressman was complaining that he felt that the administration wasn't keeping the Congress fully informed of its intelligence programs as required by law. Hoekstra has now confirmed that there were indeed programs that the Bush administration had not informed the Congress about.

This begs a few questions: Just what sorts of secret programs does BushCo have going on that would cause such a staunch ally to send this "straighten up and fly right" message? Was this merely a power play on Hoekstra's part? Is something about to break?

As the Congress can attest to, answers are hardly forthcoming from this administration.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Opening The Files: 7/09/06

Copy & Paste Coulter

One of the big things surging through the b-sphere this week were charges of plagiarism being lobed at Ann Coulter like so many molotov's she viciously hurls at others. The irony of the situation is probably not lost on many. While it was first brought up by some intrepid blogs (including one who was on it like a rabid dog), it didn't hit mainstream until the New York Post took a peek and was soon followed up by a usual suspect. The intense scrutiny has forced the company that syndicates her columns to look into the matter (after much goading from another dogged blogger).

Not to be one to miss an opportunity to milk the publicity for all its worth, Ann fired back at the Post in her usual style of name calling. Notably absent was any mention of the charges, or a denial of them for that matter. Odd isn't?

Media Matters wondered if Ann would still be given a platform from which to rant and if she were, would she be confronted with the plagiarism charges? Newshounds: Yup and Nope.

The Rude One was rather upset he didn't get mad props for being one of the first dogs to gnaw on this bone (I know your probably sick of the dog references by now, trust me this is the last one). He has since been given credit, along with Rawstory for finally forcing the mainstream lapdogs to take bite (ok, that was the last one).

Crown Books, which published Godless, called the claims meritless and brought up some nonesense about the number of words requiring attribution. In light of that, Tim Grieve has some advice for would-be Crown authors.

Coulter turned down a chance to appear on camera? Maybe the allegations have legs, so sayeth TRex.

asks a good question: is this all we've got? He also hits upon a possible reason for why Ann would need to pilfer prose.

And finally, Adam Corrolla shows us the best way to handle Ms. Ann.

Update: Ann a no show?

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Does he know something we don't?

Via Reuters:
President George W. Bush, trying to boost his standing with Americans, confidently predicted on Friday that Republicans will retain control of Congress in November elections despite his political troubles.

"We will hold the House (of Representatives) and the Senate," Bush said in the first formal, solo news conference he has held outside of Washington. 'I'm looking forward to these elections. I think you'll be surprised." (emphasis added)

An October surprise perhaps?

Tunnel of Terror

Or tunnel vision?

The New York Daily News reported yesterday morning that a plot to blow up the Holland Tunnel had been thwarted. According to the Daily News, a group of terrorists had discussed plans in an internet chat room to detonate a bomb inside the tunnel in the hopes that it would flood lower Manhattan. The plot certainly seemed laughable, given that not only would the terrorists have to find a way to detonate a bomb with enough force to break through the concrete, steel and solid bedrock surrounding the tunnel but they would also have to contend with the law of physics since lower Manhattan sits above sea level (and I hear the Holland Tunnel is underwater as well). Perhaps these would-be terrorists had seen a particular Syl Stallone movie one too many times.

But then it was subsequently revealed that the real target was the PATH commuter train tunnels running under the Hudson river, which made the threat of a flood far more likely. We also learned that the leak of the plot had compromised relations with foreign intelligence services who were aiding in the investigation. A few bloggers noted the curious absence of outrage directed at the Daily News over this by the same folks who were so incensed over the New York Times story regarding the tracking of terrorism funds.

So was this another case of the Bush administration thwarting a plot that was "more aspirational then operational"? Was it even a serious plot or just hate chatter? And just who leaked this? Will the White House and Congress condemn the Daily News the same way they condemned the Times?

All good questions that deserve answering.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Embedding the Spin

Via War Room:
In an interview with Foreign Policy, Rod Nordland, the magazine's chief foreign correspondent and former Baghdad bureau chief, says that conditions in Iraq are 'much worse' than they're described in the U.S. press.

The reason? The Bush administration does a 'great job of managing the news,' and the military has begun to crack down on embedded reporters who might otherwise offer a clear assessment of facts on the ground. 'Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously,' Nordland says. 'They want to know your slant on a story -- they use the word 'slant' -- what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don't like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn't happy with the work they had done on embed.'

I guess the Bushies have taken that old "nothing nice, say nothing" adage to heart. Though in this case it's "if you can't report the war the way we want, you won't report on it at all."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Define Irony:

Ann Coulter finally reaches pariah status not because of her own venomous words but because some of her more benign statements may not have been her own.


Arming Your Enemies

No, I'm not talking about the Republicans and their sycophants in the media who try to spin every apparent setback as a political winner for Bush and the GOP. I am talking about our new allies in the Iraqi government. Because they are given consideration to arming their enemies. Literally.

From USA Today:
Iraq's government is studying a request from some local insurgent leaders to supply them with weapons so they can turn on the heavily armed foreign fighters who were once their allies, according to two Iraqi lawmakers.

Leaders claiming to represent about 11 insurgent groups asked for weapons to fight foreign al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, said Haider al-Ibadi, a Shiite lawmaker and member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.

"They want to take part in the war against terrorists," said al-Ibadi, who supports the proposal. "They claim they could wipe out the terrorists and work with the government."

You would think they would take a cue from how well this sort of thing has worked out for the US, since we have a bad habit of arming our future enemies (Osama and Saddam just to name a few). You'd also think they would see these requests for weapons as possible evidence that the insurgency is weakening. Do they really want to risk strengthening it just so they can expel a few Al-Qaeda, who even they admit only make up a small percentage of the insurgency as evidenced by their most wanted list?

Is it bad enough they were talking about amnesty, now they want to arm them too? Just who are we suppose to be fighting over there?

(h/t Heretik)

Update: Perhaps this is the reason why the insurgents are asking for a hand out.

Bestowing Honors

In the short time that I have maintained this blog, I have been humbled by the recognition I have received from other bloggers. No doubt this acknowledgment has come about due to the many linkbacks in my posts (I'm a linking fool!) and my frequent commentary on other blogs. Whether through a place on their blogroll, a linkback or simple commentary about my own postings, I am glad that others have found my little piece of the virtual dais to be worthy.

To show my thanks, I am creating a special place for these fine individuals apart from my normal blogroll called Xsociate Associates. I highly recommend you take the time to visit all of the following sites, they are worth it.

Many thanks to:

A. Alexander at Progressive Daily Beacon
Len Hart of The Existentialist Cowboy
MadKane of Madeleine Begun Kane
Kvatch of Blognonymous
Matt Ortega from
Christopher di Spirito of From The Left
And last but not least The Heretik

Welcomed New Additions:
The guys at State of the Day
Julie O. at They Get Letters
The good folks at Media Matters
DBK and the gang at Blanton's and Ashton's
Cernig and friends from The Newhoggers
Kathy at Liberty Street
Joe and the gang at The Moderate Voice
The best news and blog aggregator around Memeorandum
Fixer and the gang at Alternate Brain
Karen McL from Peripetia
W. Christopher Elper from The Liberation of Realism
Libby Spencer from The Impolitic
Ron Chusid from Liberal Values
Richard Blair and the gang at All Spin Zone
noahnoah at The November Blog
The Editors at Salon's Blog Report
Jeremy Hansen at The Bulldog Says…
Jason Rosenbaum and the gang at The Seminal

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

And the award goes to...

From E&P:
The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, meeting in Boston this past weekend, awarded Coulter its annual Sitting Duck Award for easiest column target. The NSNC noted that it gave the prize to the columnist/author 'for cheapening political discourse in America.' The statement added: 'We award the Lame Duck reluctantly, because we know Ms. Coulter is desperate for any kind of attention.'


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rockets' Red Glare?

North Korean Fireworks Fizzle.

SEOUL (XF) - The Xsociate Files has confirmed that the missiles launched by North Korea yesterday were intended to be an attempt to show solidarity with Americans as they celebrated Independence Day. Unfortunately the long-range Taepodong-2 missile that was to be the finale of the display and would have been visible from the continental US, failed several minutes after launching.

A spokesman for North Korea has released this short statement:
The DPRK regrets this unfortunate setback in our effort to mend relations with the United States. Rest assured we will endeavor to continue to improve on our fireworks technology and it is our hope that next year we will be able to put on a show worthy of the admiration of the American people.

Some analysts remain skeptical of this explanation. A source inside the Pentagon who spoke to XF stated that the tests were an obvious bid by the North Koreans to "one up" any potential fireworks displays that were to take place inside the US. Claims that the Bush administration and NASA are already drawing up plans to out-do the Koreans next year could not be corroborated.


Opening The Files: 7/04/06

Messages for the Fourth

Pressing The Flesh: Why I'm Proud To Be American

Firedoglake: In Defense of Liberty

Brent Budowsky: A July 4th Call to Arms

Len Hart: A Declaration of our Independence

Howard Zinn: Patriotism and the Fourth of July

E.J. Dionne Jr.: A Dissident's Holiday

Blognonymous: Independence - A Post for Peace

And don't forget to be patriotic and Sponsor A Missle today!


Talking Point No Longer

From the NY Times:
The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, intelligence officials confirmed Monday.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the C.I.A. Counterterrorist Center, the officials said.

The decision is a milestone for the agency, which formed the unit before Osama bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President Bush pledged to bring Mr. Bin Laden to justice 'dead or alive.'

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, and a growing concern about Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of Mr. Bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

There you have it. From this day forward, the name Bin Laden can no longer be exploited by President Bush or any other administration toady. The next time they try, they should be asked this simple question: If Bin Laden is as dangerous as you claim him to be, why was the C.I.A. unit assigned to track him down disbanded?

But don't expect this line of questioning from the lapdogs in the mainstream media. They love getting their leashes yanked too much (notable exceptions being Helen Thomas, Keith Olbermann and perhaps a few others on occasion).

(h/t AMERICAblog)

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pre-9/11 Spying?

No wonder the Bush administration wants to squash this lawsuit.

The National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the Constitution, and seeks money damages.

"The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11," plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. "This undermines that assertion."

If this turns out to be true, so much for those
claims of how 9/11 could have been averted had this been in place. And what about Attorney General Gonzales' testimony that this program was only initiated after Congress authorized military force? Did he lie to Congress? It may appear so. Good thing he wasn't sworn in.

Personally I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were true. And if it is, I'm sure many will wonder why the Bush administration would do something that is so blatantly antithetical to the rule of law.

Two words come to mind: Karl Rove.

I have made allusions in the past as to the real reason for why the Bush administration felt the need to circumvent the FISA court. And if the claim of pre-9/11 spying is true, it will only cement by belief that the spying is being conducted for political rather then security purposes.

We have all had the unfortunate privilege of learning far too late just how treacherous Karl Rove can be when it comes to dirty politics. He will use any and all means at this disposal to ensure that his client gains or remains in power. To achieve that goal, he must have a sort of "Beltway Omnipotence". He must be alert to any threats to his client and have an affective defense to counter those threats. Thus the reason for the warrantless spying (at least the limited, 500 or so at any given time, surveillance that the administration has admitted to).

Juicy secrets have played a role in governance for a long time now. They can end political careers faster then you can say "dead hooker" and can also be utilized to illicit a desired result from the would-be secret keeper.

At the start of this roller-coaster way back in early 2001, the Bushies were riding high on their "victory". But even at this early stage, Karl was no doubt thinking ahead as a true chess master always does. And with everyone was still reeling from the election, it would have been easy to get the ball rolling on an Insurance Policy '04.

Then 9/11 happened and a true gift from the gods had been thrust upon the Bushies. They could now use the specter of future act of terrorism as a cover for the program they had been considering. And as a bonus, they could use a war with Iraq to help solidify the image of Bush as a "war president" taking the fight to the "evildoers" and thus deserving of another term.

The gambit of the secret program was not without risks but it was necessary to ensure that Dubya did not turn out to be another one term wonder like his dad. When the New York Times learned of the program, they were asked to sit on it on grounds that it would be harmful to national security. The reality is that it would have been more damaging to the Bush re-election, perhaps even enough to seriously affect the outcome.

When the truth is finally revealed, we may learn this program has the fingerprints of "Bush's Brain" all over it.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Information Battlespace

Not content with attacking the traditional media anymore, the Pentagon is not setting it's sights on the blogosphere.

From DefenseLink:
The Air Force Office of Scientific Research recently began funding a new research area that includes a study of blogs. Blog research may provide information analysts and warfighters with invaluable help in fighting the war on terrorism.

At least this might help boost by visitor stats.

And for all those analysts out there who may drop by, here's somemore "actionable information" from TPM, Marty Kaplan, and TalkLeft.

The President Lives Here

Oops! I just tipped off the terr'sts!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

For your viewing pleasure...

A follow-up to my Mr. Show post from last year. Enjoy.

More on SCOTUS ruling

As you have probably heard by now, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the military commissions instituted by the Bush administration to try the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay were unconstitutional. This is seen by many as a rebuke of the theory of an all powerful unitary executive. And I suspect that the ruling has probably caused quite a few die hard fans of this theory of an unfettered Presidency to suffer from sudden cranial expansion.

But will it really have an effect on the Bush presidency? Sure it now forces Bush to take the democratic route of involving the Congress but that just raises a more troubling question: is that really such a good idea? I know there are some political analysts out there who think that this will be a challenge for Bush. Yes, there have been some rumblings of defiance amongst members of his own party but when it comes time to put up or shut up they always fall back in with the party line (see Specter, Arlen). And if any members, especially Democrats, balk at some of Bush's demands, they can be cowed with the threat of being labeled pro-terrorist. Already the GOP's thinking is that they need only put their stamp of approval on Bush's extrajudicial system in order to render the Court's decision moot (though how likely that is remains in doubt).

Others have speculated that parts of this ruling have far reaching implications. For starters, it undermines the administration's argument for warrantless wiretapping (see here and here). There is also talk the decision may expose administration officials to possible war crimes charges, though others doubt that as an eventuality.

Regardless, it is heartening to see someone finally stand up to Bush. But the predictability of this President makes me wonder how much impact, if any, it will have. Only time will tell if this victory for the rule of law will turn out to be a hollow one. For the sake of our nation, let us hope it isn't.

More reactions from A. Alexander, Bring It On!, Wonkette, Martini Republic, Brilliant at Breakfast, Eugene Robinson, The Ostroy Report, Robert Parry, and Chris Floyd.