Friday, September 29, 2006

A Sad Day for America

We have become a dictatorship. I know that sounds overly melodramatic but that is essentially what happened yesterday when the Senate passed that deplorable detainee bill. What else would you call a country in which it's leader can torture and detain anyone indefinitely simply on his say so? What else would you call a country in which all rights to due process and fair trials are stripped from the accused? What else do you call a country in which it's leader can ignore the will of the people?

Bush once famously said:
If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

Yesterday, he got his wish.

Check the links in my blogroll for what others have to say. I'm too ashamed for my country right now.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Naive NIE's, Causes Celebres and Deplorable Detainee Bills

Oh my but it's been one hell of a week.

Sunday the NY Times reported about a National Intelligence Estimate compiled by the intelligence community that concluded that the war in Iraq was making terrorism worse. This leak didn't sit well with the Bush administration (probably because it put lie to their standard talking point of how the war was making America safer). Immediately BushCo began saying that the NIE said no such thing. Bush said it was 'naive' to think otherwise and to prove his point, he said he would declassify part of the report. A summary (pdf) of the key judgments was released on Tuesday. But there was one slight problem: the NYT was correct.

While the summary does say that Al-Qaeda has been "seriously damaged [..] and disrupted" it also said that the war in Iraq has become a 'cause celebre' for jihadists, a phrase which the media picked up on in their reporting of the summary.

On Monday, the "compromised" detainee bill got worse. Not only does it still seek to strip detainees of the right of habeas corpus (so this kerfluffle about banning torture doesn't mean squat since the courts wouldn't be able to intercede even if abuse takes place), new ambiguous language leaves open the possibility of US citizens being detained indefinitely. I guess Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi were just appetizers for the Prison-industrial complex.

Don't expect any opposition from the Democrats, though. They've already signaled they don't intend to block the bill (which has already passed in the House). It is a decision that may well come to haunt them later and just shows the idiocy of their approach. They seized on the NIE as proof that Bush's strategy for the war on terror isn't working but then refuse to stand up to his demands for even more powers! Powers that could have far reaching implications.

For instance, buried in the NIE report is talk of other radical ideologies turning terrorist against the US and it specifically mentions 'leftists'. As we all know, defenders of the administration love to label those oppose to Bush's policies as "traitors" and "sympathizers". Since leftists are being singled out as potential "future enemies", it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see were it could all eventually lead. Soon you or I may find ourselves subject to indefinite detention based solely on the simple crime of not agreeing with the President.

The NIE also notes that the Internet is playing a significant role. How soon to you think it will be before Bush sycophants start claiming that "the enemy" is "utilizing the blogosphere" against us? (Hint: not long)

So who will be the first to be "disappeared" under this un-American bill?

I suppose a better question would be: Do you trust this President with the answer?

More from Digby, Shakes, JB, AJ, , Hunter, Georgia10, WaPo, NYT, Cenk Uygur and Sidney Blumenthal.

Keith Gets a Letter

Remember kids:

Terrorism is funny when the victims a liberal.

Update: Keith responds.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Leak Hypocrisy

Iraq war moves squarely into election agenda:
...In his first remarks since parts of an important secret intelligence report were slipped to the media over the weekend, Bush charged that the leaks were politically motivated to undermine Republicans during the upcoming November midterm elections....

Bush said he was so annoyed by the timing of the leaks from the NIE, which had been completed in April, that he had ordered the document declassified.

'Here we are coming down the stretch in an election campaign and it's on the front page of your newspapers,' Bush said. 'Isn't that interesting? Somebody's taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes.'...

He sure does have a short memory.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Opening The Files: 9/26/06

I know it's only been a few days since the last OTF, but the commentary resulting from Bush's Wolf Blitzer interview was just too good to past up.

Presidential Punctuations.

As I said, Bush had some face time with CNN's Wolfie on Sunday. When asked about the horrors occurring right now in Iraq, Bush dismissed it all as 'just a comma’ in the final history of that country. C&L has the video.

Greg Mitchell has some alternative punctuations to describe Iraq and, in the end, settles for one far more appropriate then the one the President suggested.

Wonkette provides a simple graphic of the next punctuations in this "sentence".

Christy thinks it's more likely that Bush meant 'a footnote'. Regardless, she's right that is time for some accountability. We owe it to history to except nothing less. So how will the text of history read?

Jack Cafferty says sometimes politicians say the dumbest things. Sometimes?

By the way, did anyone else notice that Bush said "the finally history on Iran" only to quickly correct himself? Now this could have been a simple slip of the tongue (Iran and Iraq are pretty similar spelling-wise). Or did Bush reveal his true intentions. That the war in Iraq is indeed 'just a comma', a comma in the long paragraph of history that Bush wishes to procure as his legacy. Tristero seems to think so.


Peter Roskam shows us why is might be a good idea to think before regurgitating the same old tired GOP talking point.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Our Nero

In my last OTF, I made a brief reference to a report that torture in Iraq may now be worse then it was under Saddam. But in my haste to compile the entrants before they became lost to the virtual ether, I don't feel that I fully conveyed the cruel irony (if one could call it that) of the situation. While Bush was fighting with Congress over the semantics of what is and is not torture, far less concern was being paid to the unmistakable torture being committed on the streets of Iraq.

Or put another way: While Bush fiddles, Iraq burns.

But then what do you except from man who characterizes the carnage as 'just a comma'?

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Rumors were swirling yesterday about the possibility that Osama Bin Laden died last month in Pakistan. So far the rumors are just that. And since this isn't the first time we have had reports of the terrorist leader's demise, I think we should all take this bit of news with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Course that doesn't mean that some cynicism is warranted as well...

More from Trish, DK, Steve Soto, Joe, Jill, The Heretik and Glenn.

Update: Even if OBL were dead it wouldn't matter much. Finding a replacement is easy now that there's so many to choose from.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Torture Deal and Signing Statements

While a few bloggers have made snide references to Bush adding a signing statement to the compromise bill agreed to on Thursday, nothing I've read so far has discussed the serious possibility of just such an issuance.

In their editorial on Friday, the NY Times reported that the Bush administration seemed to be trying to back out of the concession regarding classified evidence. National Security Advisor Steven Hadley put the onus on the House Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter, who as the Times says is unlikely to "take any action not blessed by the White House."

But what if Hunter does or for some other reason the secret evidence clause remains as is? Hadley makes it clear that Bush wishes to do an end run around it and a signing statement would be his best chance of doing it post ratification. And with how "under the radar" these statements have been up until now, we aren't likely to hear about it until after the elections. If the Repubs remain in power, I doubt they would be in much of a hurry to condemn Bush.

So would Bush do it if he didn't get his way? Probably. Which makes it all the more imperative that should the Dems take control of Congress*, the issue of just where these statements sit in the legislative process and how much authority is to be vested in them should be addressed. Because I have a feeling that their use and scope will be significantly increased should the opposition take over the legislature.

*I say should because that outcome now looks exceedingly in doubt. As others have noted, the Dems are the apparent losers in this. You'd almost think it were a setup to place them right where Rove wanted them: sidelined on a very important issue while Bush gets to look tough but amenable to compromise and the Repubs can make their White House leash alittle less noticeable.

Opening The Files: 9/23/06

Tortured compromise.

Well that didn't take long. I was wondering when there was going to be a "compromise" between the GOP rebels and the Galactic Empire White House. Details are still sketchy, but this whole episode looks to be another one of those "make a big stink but then give Bush everything he wants" productions the GOP are so fond of. See Balkinization for all your legal analysis needs.

Two major editorial boards railed against the deal. The Washington Post noted that this agreement allows abuse by the CIA to continue, a fact praised by the spy agency's director. The NY Times, meanwhile, points out that less then an hour after the agreement, the administration was already trying to wiggle out of the one concession it did agree to.

Dan Froomkin (via Carpetbagger), has some good questions the media needs to start asking. Something tells me we shouldn't expect them to be asked anytime soon (if at all).

And in case anyone was curious, Justin Rood stumbled onto the real reason for this "compromise".

Cenk Uygur, in a similar vein I mined the other day, asks: are we cool with cruel and degrading treatment for our troops now? John says it looks like waterboarding might be.

Taylor Marsh says this sudden focus on terror suspects has less to do with torture and more about keeping Iraq out of the news cycle. By the way, torture is very real in Iraq and only getting worse.

And finally, Marty Kaplan explains The Fox Conventions, as described by the man who pioneered the use of The Cavuto.


Friday, September 22, 2006

October Surprise: Gasoline?

Like many Americans, I too have watched as the price of gas has dropped considerably. In my area for example, gas has tumbled almost .50 cents a gallon, .30 of that in the just the last couple of weeks.

Now this drop could be attributed to the lower demand of the post-Labor Day season. But something that Tristero highlighted the other day got me thinking: is it part of a coming October Surprise?

Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard recently met with President Bush, who gave him a "heads up" of what the press should keep an eye on in the coming weeks before the election.

Here's Barnes, via Tristero (his emphasis):
In the midterm election on November 7, Bush predicted Democrats won't win either the House or the Senate. "I believe these elections will come down to two things: one, firm belief that in order to win the war on terror there must be a comprehensive strategy that recognizes this war is being fought on more than one front, and, two, the economy." Bush said the price of gasoline, which has been falling rapidly, is one of the "interesting indicators" that the press should watch carefully. "Just giving you a heads up," he added.

Tristero then goes on to list his idea of what a potential October Surprise might look like, with a fall in the price of gas being low man on the totem pole. I agree with that and that is also unlikely that Bush put out word to "open the spigot".

Of course Bush having no way of really affecting gas prices doesn't mean he still wouldn't take credit for the fact Americans are paying less at the pump. In fact, the above quote makes me believe this is what Bush meant by his "heads up", especially in light of this.
When it comes to President Bush's approval rating - the number that measures his political health - one factor seems more powerful than any Oval Office address or legislative initiative.

It's the price of a gallon of gas.

Statisticians who have compared changes in gas prices and Bush's ratings through his presidency have found a steady relationship: As gas prices rise, his ratings fall. As gas prices fall, his ratings rise.

For some Americans, analysts speculate, gas prices provide a shorthand reading of the general state of the economy. Even though prices at the pump are largely outside the president's control, he gets credit when they fall - and blame when they rise.

So will a continued decline in the price of gas alone be enough to forestall a shift in Congress? Doubtful. But perhaps combined with a limited military strike on Iran and a tapping of the petroleum reserves to offset the predicted spike in crude prices such a strike would cause? Who knows.

Update: More from David Roberts.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Insane in the Beltway

BETHESDA (XF) - In a decision that is sure to rile critics, The Xsociate Files has learned that The National Institute of Mental Health has taken to classifying opposition to the Bush administration has a mental disorder. The Director of the Institute, Dr. Stan Izzicrazzi, denied allegations that pressure from the administration prompted the classification.

"There is no truth to those charges," Dr. Izzicrazzi said, "We received legitimate complaints about individuals exhibiting signs of confusion and trauma. But we are hopeful that with the proper treatment, these individuals can go on to live happy, healthy, pro-Bush lifestyles."

Critics claim the move is a sure sign that desperation is setting in at the White House after the recent pushback from Republican members of Congress over proposed legislation regarding the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects.

"They've taken to characterizing any opposition as insane just to make their own approach appear reasonable," one political analyst said, "But if opposing torture and war makes one a mental patient then call me crazy."


Shorter Michelle Malkin:

Fair trials only matter if you're Christian.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Ungrateful Dead

WASHINGTON (XF) - The Xsociate Files has uncovered evidence that Vice President Dick Cheney is in fact deceased. According to a copy of a death certificate provided to XF, Mr. Cheney died of heart failure in late 2001.

One critic of the administration claims that the Vice President has been kept alive by means of necromancy as part of "the ultimate deal with the devil". Others say Cheney's fascination with "the dark side" could be evidence of his supernatural "rebirth".

When questioned about the allegation, a spokesman for the Vice President stated that they could not provide any comment because the status of Mr. Cheney's mortality remains classified.

(h/t Christopher for inspiration)


He sure has a funny way of supporting the troops

I had wanted to write about this earlier but I got roped into fixing the roof this weekend.

Anyway, President Bush had this to say last Friday when asked about how he would feel if a foreign power (Iran and North Korea were singled out) were to conduct interrogations on captured US soldiers or government agents based on their own interpretations of the Geneva Conventions:
David, my reaction is, is that if the nations such as those you named, adopted the standards within the Detainee Detention Act, the world would be better. That's my reaction.

All members of the military or any government agency should take note of that. Because the President just said he hopes that if captured, you would be subjected to the following practices:
[..]induced hypothermia; forcing suspects to stand for prolonged periods; sleep deprivation; a technique called "the attention grab" where a suspect's shirt is forcefully seized; the "attention slap" or open hand slapping that hurts but does not lead to physical damage; the "belly slap"; and sound and light manipulation.

Apparently, these are all practices which the administration wants the CIA to be able to use on terrorism suspects. And, if Bush's words are to be believed, on captured Americans as well.

Now I know some of you are saying that Al-Qaeda will never abide by the Geneva Conventions. Of course they won't and it would be ridicules to argue that any terrorist organization would. But the Geneva Conventions were put into place primarily to ensure reciprocal protections for our soldiers when we find ourselves at war with another nation state. Absurdly, the Bush administration seems to be under the assumption that the current conflict with Al-Qaeda is the only one the US will ever be involved in. And yet at the same time there are hints that the administration may or may not be gearing up for a confrontation with Iran.

Of course we all know the real reason that the Bush administration wishes to "reinterpret" Geneva: in the wake of Hamdan, Bush and pals are scared shitless that they may find themselves vulnerable to war crimes.

Only problem is the precedent it would set. If the world's last remaining superpower were to be seen as snubbing its nose at international law, how soon do you think it would be before others follow suit?

But this is how Bush chooses to support the troops. Risking their safety and well being to cover his own ass.

Update: Does Senator Graham read XF? You tell me.

Here's looking at Yoo

John Yoo, formerly a lawyer for the Justice Department and now currently a professor at Berkeley Law school, penned an op-ed for the NY Times over the weekend which has garnered a great deal of attention in the blogosphere.

And while other bloggers focused on some of his more inane protestations, almost none of the criticisms I've read have pointed out another troubling aspect of just who John Yoo is.

Yes, he is the guy partly, perhaps even mostly, responsible for bringing about some of the worse violations of the law by the Bush administration. But he is also a man charged with teaching this same warped view of democracy to the next generation of scholars, lawyers and government administrators.

If what Yoo advocates in that op-ed is anything like what he teaches to his students, the future of our country looks mighty bleak.

For more reactions, check out the link above.

Jesus Camp

Remember back when I suggested some uses for cardboard cutouts of President Bush?

This wasn't something I had in mind.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nickeloden's New Konservative Kids Hour

Featuring SpongeBush.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What about Bill?

Yesterday, Sen. Hillary Clinton railed against the producers of the film "Death of a President" that depicts the mock assassination of President Bush.

I wonder how she feels about ABC's bit of fiction depicting the image of her husband being shot at?


WASHINGTON (XF) - The Xsociate Files has uncovered a secret executive order issued by President Bush that calls for the construction of moats and trenches around key buildings in Washington, most notably the White House. The move, similar to actions being carried out now in and around Baghdad, is thought to be related to criticisms of the President's proposed terrorism related legislation and the pushback from members of Congress.

No word yet on the official announcement of when construction would being. But our source inside the White House said that if the Democrats win control of the Congress this November, construction would being rather quickly.

"Halliburton better be ready," the source said.


Opening The Files: 9/17/06

Tortured debate over torture legislation.

A couple weeks ago, President Bush acknowledged the secretly run CIA prisons overseas. He also said that 14 high-value detainees were being moved from these prisons to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The reason for the move soon became obvious: Bush urged Congress to quickly rubberstamp legislation regarding the military commissions set up to try terrorism suspects. By moving these detainees, Bush hope to put a familiar face on just who would be tried by these commissions.

Among the things called for by the Bush administration had been not allowing the accused to see secret evidence against them and a "reinterpretation" of the "vague" language in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

And the move was not without some election year opportunism. Anyone who chose to not to endorse the White House's bill could be demonized as wanting "rights for terrorists". The meme was off and running, as John Boehner's comments earlier this week best illustrate.

But wouldn't you know, those "moderates" had to go and screw things up.

For this week, four Republicans sided with all the Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee to pass a competing bill for military tribunals. Colin Powell even put his two cents in, criticizing the President's attempt to redefine Article 3 and saying it would put our troops at risk, a sentiment that Sen. John McCain agrees with.

President Bush held a presser in the Rose Garden on Friday were he threatened to end the CIA interrogation program and veto any legislation that does not meet his approval.

Tim Grieve noted the hypothetical question that Bush just couldn't answer. Perhaps the questioner should have phrased it the way that Chris Weigant did for all those proponents of Bush's alternative set of procedures.

Maha provides us with links to Countdown discussing the legal implications of what Bush wants enshrined into law. And she, like DK, feel that those who would advocate torture (which is really what this debate is about) are in fact weak for doing so.

Curious. A.L. wonders why it is that Bush is so worried about asking "a young intelligence officer" to violate the law with regards to CIA interrogations but not when it comes to warrantless spying by the NSA?

Mark Fiore has the latest adventure of the hardest working guy in the torture business.

And finally, this much linked to article by ambiguity and obfuscation.

Update: Harry Shearer and A. Alexander have more on Bush's need for "clarity". Digby calls this Republican Revolt just the latest act of kabuki theater. And Georgia10 wonders if this is really happening. Unfortunately for all of us, it is.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Fiscal Responsibility in the GWOT

From the NY Times:
Congress and the American public must accept that the government cannot protect every possible target against attack if it wants to avoid fulfilling Al Qaeda’s goal of bankrupting the nation, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told a Senate committee Tuesday.

Osama bin Laden, Mr. Chertoff said, has made it clear that scaring the United States into an unsustainable spending spree is one of his aims. In a 2004 video, Mr. bin Laden, the Qaeda leader, spoke of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.”

“He understood that one tool he had in waging war against the United States was to drive us crazy, into bankruptcy, trying to defend ourselves against every conceivable threat,” Mr. Chertoff said at a hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We have to be realistic about what we expect and what we do. We do have limits, and we do have choices to make.”

Here is a handy counter showing you one choice our government made. Too bad it has done nothing to make us safer.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

TDS: Question Marks?

C&L has your moment of Zen.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Guiding Conscience

Disney character quits over 9/11 film.

ORLANDO (XF) - The fallout from Disney's The Path to 9/11 has now resulted in one of the company's most recognized icons' resignation, The Xsociate Files has learned. Jiminy Cricket, the lovable insect from Pinocchio has split with the company after nearly sixty years.

When reached for a comment, Mr. Cricket said that he felt that Disney had lost touch with the message set forth by company founder Walt Disney.

"I don't think Walt would approve of where Mr. Iger has taken the company. As for me, I let my conscience be my guide...right out the front door," Mr. Cricket told XF.

(h/t Frank Dwyer for inspiration)


TDS: Safe...but not Safe

Onegoodmove has your moment of Zen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years and a Day

While many chose yesterday to honor the memory of those lost on that solemn day five years ago, I have chosen today, the day after. For it is this day that truly set the path we find ourselves on today. Sept. 12th, 2001 was the day President Bush declared the war on terror. It was the day all Americans stood ready to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.

But five years and a day later, we still have not captured Osama Bin Laden. Our President broke the promises he made to America that day. He hijacked the memories of those lost in order to lead us into Iraq, a country that even he admits had nothing to do with the attacks. The toll of American soldiers killed there is fast approaching, and most likely will exceed, the number of those lost when the towers fell.

I set out to write this post with the hopes of conveying some profound words of wisdom. But for the life of me, I can't think of anything to say that hasn't already been said before in some form or another.

My thoughts are with those who have lost, both on that Tuesday morning, and since.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Putting ideas into people's heads

Earlier this month, there was a big fuss being made over a British mockumentary that depicts the assassination of President Bush as the catalyst to a heady detective story. Critics blasted the film as "shocking" and "disturbing". Others said the movie could "put ideas into people's heads" and trigger a real assassination attempt.

I wonder what they will have say about this scene from The Path To 9/11. Something tells me not much.

John from AMERICAblog describes the scene:
Nice. Now I'm watching a scene where a movie of President Clinton is being projected on a screen, it's footage from some Clinton speech, and a Taliban guy walks up and shoots several times at Clinton's head, you see a good 5 or 6 or more bullets make holes in the screen in the middle of Clinton's head, just like he's assassinating Clinton.

Yes, we now have Disney/ABC throwing in mock assassinations of Bill Clinton. Did the Taliban really stage such a mock assassination of Clinton with bin Laden watching, and somehow we got a blow-by-blow of the entire scene? Or did Disney/ABC decide to throw in a mock assassination of Clinton just for the fun of it? You decide.

Please tell me how this scene is any different from the British drama? Sure, technically Clinton wasn't "killed" in that scene. But what about the criticism that airing a mock Bush assassination would "put ideas into people's heads"? The same can be said for this scene as well. And this is especially true if it's viewed, with all it's Clinton blaming glory, by someone who is already mentally unstable.

Or does it only matter when those "ideas" are directed at a Republican?

Update: The scene is even worse then I thought. Not only does it show the image of Clinton being shot at but the crowd then begans to chant "Clinton is Satan" over and over. The Clinton hatred of the makers of this is palpable.

Opening The Files: 9/09/06

Disney and the ABC's of Propaganda.

Well the big story this week has been the uproar over ABC's forthcoming docu-drama The Path to 9/11. I'll spare you a rehash and simply send you over to Think Progress for all the background on the brouhaha.

Anyway, you remember Osama don't you? You know, tall Arab, scraggly beard, hooked up to a dialysis machine, responsible for one of the worst acts of terrorism in US history? Remember how Bush said he didn't think about him that much? Even closed down the CIA unit looking for him? Well now Bush can't get enough of Osama. Years spent with nary a peep about him, and all of a sudden it's all about Osama. He's apparently the new Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Saddam all rolled into one.

Then comes along a "docu-drama" which blames Clinton for letting him get away. Was The Path part of a larger narrative being pushed by the Bush administration? Wilbur thinks so.

Assimilated Press reports that Disney has decided to take ABC out of the news business. I'd say an acronym change is called for. What say you Kvatch? Or how about my suggestion?

The Editors at The Poor Man Institute have the storyboards for the film.

Georgia10 is sick of fairy tales, which is all the GOP have to run on. So clap louder or the terrorists win.

The Path was one of the topics discussed on Friday's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. While the whole clip is worth a gander, pay close attention to what Rob Thomas has to say. Because in his particularly insightful commentary, he hits upon some of the reasons why we should not let this error-laden version of history be the prism through which we view the political spectrum in this increasingly ADD afflicted country.

And finally, while I don't agree that the Repubs have already conceded, Emptywheel does brings up a good point: was this docu-drama purposely intended to distract the Democrats? As I noted in the comments, they could even craft it into a not so subtle campaign ad.


Osama On Ice

No that's not the title of Disney's next production.

What I mean is, could it be possible that the Bush administration already has Bin Laden in custody and are just waiting for the perfect time to announce his capture?

This line of thinking was brought about by this post over a Pensito Review. As Jon Ponder notes, there has been a sudden resurgence of focus on Bin Laden after a long hiatus. Jon wonders why and the only conclusion he can come up with is that they have him locked away somewhere.
Bin Laden’s sudden return from political Siberia has my electrodes buzzing. Let’s assume he went from being wanted dead or alive to Osama-who? because they simply could not find him.

Conversely, the only reason they would trot Osama out now is that they’ve got him. He’s currently sitting in a cell in a secret prison in Uzbekistan.

He then goes on to highlight a recent CBS poll that says fewer then half of Americans are confident that Bin Laden will ever be caught.
Imagine how those numbers would change if Bush bagged bin Laden. The shift among conservative independents could flip the mid-terms.

Will this be part of what Bush plans to announce during his primetime address on Monday? Will we soon be seeing footage of Osama in his underwear or the bloated face of his corpse in an ornate gold frame?

Will we get our October surprise early this year?

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Only Link Between Al-Qaeda and Saddam

There are no others.

What did he just say?

White House flub leads to autoerotic speech.

WASHINGTON (XF) - In an effort to shore up support for the war on terror, President Bush has recently taken to quoting extensively from Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. But during one such speech, things did not go according to plan, The Xsociate Files has learned. For instead of reading quotes from the terrorist mastermind, the President mistakenly read excerpts from The Kama Sutra.

A White House source who spoke to XF on the condition of anonymity said the mishap is believed to have resulted from Mr. Bush's decision to read both the original Arabic and english translations of Bin Laden's words.

"The President felt it would give his speeches more oomph if he read both," the source said.

According to the source, the foreign quotations were to be written phonetically so the President, who does not speak Arabic, could read them during his speech. But somehow, pages from the ancient sex guide were mistakenly included in the notes to be transcribed.

While it is too soon to tell what impact this will have, administration officials feel confident that the President can weather any political backlash.

"Very few Americans understood what the President was saying. And so far we have only received a modicum of complaints," FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin told XF.

But critics of the administration are already claiming the televised faux pas as evidence that President Bush is not up to the task of dealing with foreign affairs.

"He [Bush] doesn't even know enough to tell the difference between Arabic and Indian [sic], and we're suppose to believe he is competent enough to understand the social, economic and geopolitical intricacies of the Middle East?" one critic is quoted as saying.

"The President needs to stick to the two languages he's familiar with," another critic said, "Good english and bad english."


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Relabel the "war on terror"

That was the suggestion of Army Col. Gary Cheek, chief of strategic planning on the Pentagon's Joint Staff. Col. Cheek feels that we should do away with the "war" label. I tend to agree with that assessment.
"It makes sense for us to find another name for the GWOT," ...."It merits rethinking. I know our European allies are more comfortable articulating issues of terrorism as criminal threats, rather than war ... It ought to be our goal to partner better with the European allies so we can migrate this from a war to something other than a war."

Indeed, if recent events are any indication, good intelligence gathering and law enforcement are far better suited for fighting terrorism then invasion and occupation.

There is another aspect, one which I have noted myself, that makes relabeling the GWOT not such a bad idea.

Again from Cheeks:
The "war" moniker elevates al-Qaida and other transnational terrorists, giving them legitimacy as an opposition force to the United States. It also tends to alienate Muslim populations in other countries, who see the war as a war on Islam, and feel they need to support al-Qaida as a matter of defending their faith.

It makes sense. All the recent talk of Al-Qaeda and other terrorists being as much of a threat (if not more so) then the Nazi's or the Soviet Union only emboldens them further. They are encouraged by such rhetoric, which makes its use all the more idiotic.

Of course changing the name of the war on terror, as Col. Cheek says "changes the dynamic of the conflict". This is something Bush most certainly does not want to do. He wants to be forever portrayed as a "war president". A change now would also mean his argument for a wide range of legally questionable activities would no longer apply.

And because this would leave Bush vulnerable to possibly impeachable offenses, this conflict will remain a "war".

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

9/11: Disney Style

Changes to "docu-drama" fail to calm criticism.

WASHINGTON (XF) - The Xsociate Files has learned that Disney, parent company of ABC, has announced changes to their upcoming docu-drama The Path to 9/11. The changes are thought to be related to the row over some scenes in the movie which critics claim did not actually happen and the over-all tone of the movie which blames the Clinton administration for failing to prevent the September 11th attacks.

Among the changes to the film will be the replacement of some live action actors with animated Disney characters. A spokesman for the Disney company said that it is hoped the move will help assuage concerns over the factual accuracy of scenes in the film.

"They are calling it something out of Fantasy Land, so why not give them what they are expecting?" the spokesman said.

"I'm surprised they aren't renaming it Who Blamed Bill Clinton?", a prominent political analyst is quoted as saying.

Indeed, the move to animated characters may not be enough to quell criticism about how the film portrays the previous administration, especially since rumors have surfaced that Disney intends to cast the character Goofy in the role of former president Bill Clinton.


Pakistan Peace Deal

I had wanted to write a post discussing some of the implications of the news that Pakistan had signed a "peace deal" with pro-Taliban elements in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. But sideways at Donklephant beat me to it (and made many of the points I wanted to make), so just go read his post.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Privacy in a Virtual World

Kvatch, the amphibious proprietor of Blognonymous, hit upon an article from The Register that discussed Google's work on a software that would allow your computer to "listen" for auditory cues and then present ads relevant to whatever it picks up in the background (such as something on your TV). This issue was a revisit for me (I had already blogged about the BBC's cursory reportage some two months ago). But I felt that this technology deserved further scrutiny, especially after a comment from Kvatch garnered this response from me:
And perhaps at some point in the not too distance future, to "Google" someone may come to have rather nerfarious [sic] implications.

Now aside from the fact that I apparently don't know how to spell the word nefarious, the more I mulled this through my brain, the more I began to realize how eerily close we already are to just such a reality. Google has grown exponentially since its inception. We have come to rely on their search engine to find all kinds of information. It was this prominence that lead to Google being added to the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, "google" has the following definition (emphasis added):
to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.

Consider that for a minute. To "google" someone often means to look up information about that person on the Internet. Does anyone else find this rather disconcerting?

We have become a digitized society. Whole aspects of our lives are being recorded and stored on computers everyday, from where we spend our vacations to the websites we frequent. And with the advent of technologies such as Google's search engine, even the most novice of computer users can find information on just about anyone.

Now imagine if our government, with their well-funded resources and expertise, were to utilize technology such as the one Google is considering and you can see why concerns about privacy are warranted.

But in this increasingly computerized world, how much privacy should we come to expect?

Watch What You Say...

The Government Google might be listening.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Opening The Files: 9/04/06

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave a speech to the American Legion last week that elicited quite a few responses from the blogosphere, including an impassioned rebuttal by Countdown host Keith Olbermann.

Keith returned to the issue when the Secretary attempted (in an LA Times op-ed) to claim that the media had misinterpreted his words. Perhaps he should have chosen different language when trying to clarify his remarks, remarks which John Dean called "text book authoritarianism."

Check out the headline of his AP article (go ahead, I'll wait). Back yet? Ok, so the title makes you think that Rummy is trying to mend some fences with the Democrats don't it? Too bad when you read what the article has to say you realize how utterly misleading the lede really is. I agree with Jill, it's definitely a "head-combusting headline".

Steve M. notes that the press no longer seems to ascribe to the "If it bleeds, it leads" law of journalism.

Frank Rich, from behind the Times' firewall, reminds us how chummy Rummy use to be with a certain would-be Hilter. Just who are the appeasers again?

And finally, Anonymous Liberal and Joe Gandelman notice the one thing we desperately need has been sorely lacking in the political discourse of late: unity.

Lest we forget, a famous American once said "A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand." I and many others fear the foundation may now be crumbling. Can we stop the coming collapse?


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Domino Theory Revisited

Before the US invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration touted the idea that removing Saddam Hussein from power would start a "domino effect". Authoritarian regimes throughout the Middle East would fall, one after another, as democracy spread through the region.

But with the growing cost of bringing democracy to Iraq and doubts about the war's effectiveness on the rise, the Bush administration has been forced to revise their "domino theory".

From the NY Times:
President Bush’s newest effort to rebuild eroding support for the war in Iraq features a distinct shift in approach: Rather than stressing the benefits of eventual victory, he and his top aides are beginning to lay out the grim consequences of failure....

[i]n his speech on Thursday in Salt Lake City — the first in a series to commemorate the Sept. 11 anniversary — he picked up on an approach that Gen. John P. Abizaid, Vice President Dick Cheney and others have refined in the past few months: a warning that defeat in Iraq will only move the battle elsewhere, threatening allies in the Middle East and eventually, Mr. Bush insisted, Americans “in the streets of our own cities.”

It would seem that Bush has taken a page from history. Though in this case it wasn't from WWII as he might have liked but rather from another President faced with an unpopular war. As the NYT goes on to note:
It is reminiscent of — updated for a different war, and a different time — President Lyndon B. Johnson’s adoption of the “domino theory,” in which South Vietnam’s fall could lead to Communism’s spread through Southeast Asia and beyond. In the case of Iraq, Mr. Bush’s argument boils down to a statement he quoted from General Abizaid, his top commander in the Middle East: “If we leave, they will follow us.”

The parallels between Vietnam and Iraq just keep piling up. Let's just hope we never see this one.

The Dubya Alphabet

driftglass has your lesson for the day.

Gloomy Gus' at the Pentagon

The Pentagon has released what is being called a gloomy report on the situation in Iraq.

From the AP:
Sectarian violence is spreading in Iraq and the security problems have become more complex than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a Pentagon report said Friday.

In a notably gloomy report to Congress, the Pentagon reported that illegal militias have become more entrenched, especially in Baghdad neighborhoods where they are seen as providers of both security and basic social services.

The report described a rising tide of sectarian violence, fed in part by interference from neighboring Iran and Syria and driven by a "vocal minority" of religious extremists who oppose the idea of a democratic Iraq.

Death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem, heightening the risk of civil war, the report said.

As reported by Newsweek last month, the Bush administration allegedly has plans to pull out of Iraq in the event a "full-blown civil war" breaks out. They have also shifted away from emphasizing progress there. Combine all that with this new report on the "gloomy" situation and I think we may be seeing the lead-up to an eventual troop reduction in the near future.

Bush has taken to calling Iraq the front line in "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century". But such grandiose rhetoric has affectively boxed Bush into a corner. For if any troop reductions were to take place now, it would be seen as a contradiction of his claims that the security of the free world depends on victory in Iraq. Yet withdrawal may be the only trump card the Bushies have left, since polls indicate that the American people are no longer buying Bush's characterization of the conflict or their scare tactics.

The midterm elections this year will be the most decisive in some time. Should the Democrats take one or both Houses, they will have the power of subpoena. This would allow them to begin asking tough questions that up until now have been ignored by this Republican Congress. It is this fear of scrutiny that may drive Bush to weather the political storm of withdrawal in the hopes of keeping his enablers in power. This may also explain why the number of troops in Iraq have been steadily increasing.

There are now close to 140,000 in country. That's almost 15,000 more then there was a month ago. Now this increase could just be the logical result of the deteriorating situation. But I think it is far more likely that Bush may be planning to stage a faux drawdown in advance of the midterms.

Will this be the "October Surprise" everyone is expecting?

Update: Another aspect of Bush's faux withdrawal would be for the potential for a "role reversal". Say Bush were to announce that due to the worsening situation, the number of US troops will gradually be reduced (more likely it would be called a "redeployment"). While the GOP endorse the decision, the Democrats, seeking an advantage, attempt to label them as "cut and runners". As you can see, this would put the Democrats in the awkward position of seeming to support a war that has lost favor with a majority of Americans. Republicans will hammer home that the Dems are now the ones advocating the now much maligned "stay the course" doctrine. Thus the GOP benefits from troops withdrawals without suffering from the "cut and run" label they so love to foist onto the opposition.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Flat Decider

By now you've probably heard about how the National Guard in Maine is helping families there cope with the extended deployments are their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan: cardboard cutouts.
Maine National Guard members in Iraq and Afghanistan are never far from the thoughts of their loved ones.

But now, thanks to a popular family-support program, they're even closer.

Welcome to the ``Flat Daddy" and ``Flat Mommy" phenomenon, in which life-size cutouts of deployed service members are given by the Maine National Guard to spouses, children, and relatives back home.

This gave Jesus' General an idea. Why not have a Flat Decider? JG says that with the help of a few dozen two-dimensional Dubya's, our President could attend nearly all of the funerals of service members killed in the War on Terror.

I would like to add a few other suggestions* for what to do with these cardboard commander-in-chiefs.

For starters, have them sit in on cabinet and staff meetings. Bush doesn't listen to the advice of his subordinates anyway so it really won't affect policy decisions.

In fact, Bush would never have to leave Washington, or better yet, Crawford. He could have his cutout clones do all his speechifying for him, enabling him to stay on vacation for the rest of his term.

I doubt anyone would even notice the difference.

*Have your own suggestions? Add them in the comments.