Friday, August 31, 2007

Who Are You Again?

Bios cause bad vibes in Baghdad.

WASHINGTON (XF) - A series of thumbnail bios of members of Congress visiting Iraq have some claiming they are being "slimed" and that the mini-biographies appear to be designed to differentiate them as either for the war or against it. But sources familiar with the documents tell the Xsociate Files that the fliers are actually designed to help soldiers and other service personnel, many of whom have spent the last five years in Iraq, to remember that the US still has a representative democracy.

According to the source, because of prolonged and repeated deployments, many soldiers stationed in Iraq have trouble recalling details from back home.

"Some have been there so long they probably have trouble remembering their spouses name, much less the name of their representative in Congress," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Critics of the administration claim, however, that the documents are actually designed to aid Pentagon officials in creating a "fog" as one lawmaker called it about events taking place in Iraq. Asked at a recent press gaggle if that was the case, outgoing White House Press Secretary Tony Snow denied the allegation.

"Look, we have a lot going on right now. And there are a lot of members in Congress. You can't expect us to remember all their names," Snow said.

"Maybe if Gonzales had had these cheat sheets when he testified before the Senate, he might still have a job," one prominent critic of the administration is quoted as saying.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)


More Massaging

Almost immediately after a GAO report that showed Iraq's leaders were flunking the benchmark test for surge success was leaked to the press, the White House set about to downplay its findings. According to the Bushies, the congressional report shouldn't be given too much credit because it wasn't grading on a curve. See in Bushworld, grades only matter when you're doing well.

Well we may now have another instance of them playing fast and loose with numbers. From The National Security Network (via Kevin Drum):
There were significant revisions to the way the Pentagon's reports measure sectarian violence between its March 2007 report and its June 2007 report. The original data for the five months before the surge began (September 2006 through January 2007) indicated approximately 5,500 sectarian killings. In the revised data in the June 2007 report, those numbers had been adjusted to roughly 7,400 killings — a 25% increase. These discrepancies have the impact of making the sectarian violence appear significantly worse during the fall and winter of 2006 before the President's "surge" began.

Which would in turn given the impression that lower instances of sectarian killings during the surge would mean it's working. Of course when you factor in seasonal statistics, you find that violence tends to decrease during the hottest of the summer months. It was almost as if the Bushies knew this when they started the surge...

All this data Shiatsu was apparently the last straw for the Pentagon since they are now affectively throwing up their hands and saying to Bush "It's your mess, you deal with it". It's not really surprising since the commanders weren't too keen on the surge to begin with but it is still not exactly good for troop morale knowing your commanders are practically washing their hands of the situation. Even more depressing is they are leaving the decisions up to cadre who don't have soldiers, or the country's, best interests in mind.

See also Cernig.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cutting Through the Green Zone Fog

Rep. Ellen Tauscher gave an interview to Think Progress after returning from a recent trip to Iraq. Unlike some of her other Democratic colleagues who've made similar trips and have returned heaping praise on the successes of the surge, Tauscher says many may be blinded by the "Green Zone Fog" which permeates these dog and pony show jaunts.

Tauscher is right of course. If there is one thing the Buhies are good at it's clouding an issue to such a degree that it is hard to get a clear picture of just what is going on. If they'd only spent more time planning the war and less time spinning it, they might not have to massage the facts to fit the policy as much (like when we learned that Gen. Petraeus had worked to 'soften' the latest NIE findings). But despite all this massaging, tid bits continue to leak out which could cast any claims of success in the coming September report as an exercise in cognitive dissonance.

Case in point: the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, reports that the Iraqi government has only been able to meet three of the benchmarks for political and military progress. The report also seems to contradict the administration's mid July assessment.

There is a lot more at the WaPo link but here is a key part I wanted to highlight.
“Overall,” the report concludes, “key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds,” as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments “would be more useful” if they backed up their judgments with more details and “provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies.”

Now this is an interesting point because it amounts to a veiled accusation that the Bush administration is failing to back up their claims of reduced violence with hard data. No surprise there of course but it does go along way to explain why this report was leaked. Because of this administration's penchant for massaging the data they do put forth, whoever leaked it feared it would fall victim to the same sort of 'softening' that the NIE assessment did.

And given these conflicting accounts, perhaps it would be a good idea for Congress to think twice before signing any more blank checks.

More from Meme.

Blog Thanks: Salon's Blog Report for linking to this post. Welcome Salon Readers!

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Escalating the Groundwork

This past Sunday was the fifth anniversary of a very significant speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars made by Vice President Dick Cheney. For the speech could be seen as setting the tone for the rhetoric that would eventually lead the US to war with Iraq.

Up until that point, much of the rhetoric centered on Saddam's support of terrorism. But even with 9/11 in our not too distant memory, this rationale wasn't enough to scare the public into supporting a military confrontation. So the Bush administration tried a new tact and decided to play on the fears of many of nuclear annihilation. After Cheney's address, other members of the Bush administration from the President on down coached their statements in those terms whenever discussing the need to confront the threat that Iraq posed. President Bush and and then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice famously invoked the subtle imagery of "mushroom clouds" to make their case for war.

Five years and a debacle of a war later, the Bushies have dropped the subtlety.
In his speech about Iraq to the American Legion today, President Bush warned that allowing Iran to pursue “technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

Now one might be willing to pass this off as the rantings of a lame duck president looking for an excuse to make bold but ultimately toothless threats. But we ignore this at our peril. For when viewed in the context of recent reports, one wonders if this speech will come to be seen as the 2007 equivalent of Cheney's VFW speech that set the stage for war.

And the drums get ever louder...

More from Larisa, Michael, and Larry Johnson.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Opening The Files: 08/28/07

All The President's Organs

What is there to be said about Alberto Gonzales that hasn't already been said by countless others? Outside of Karl Rove, there is perhaps no other person whose name has come up in the course of so many scandals. And it this and not some sudden desire to spend time with loved ones, which no doubt has prompted this exodus of all the president's men. With subpoena showdowns coming to a head, Karl and Alberto have fallen on their swords, loyal Bushies to the end, hoping their exist will help ensure the cloud that hangs over the White House remains impermeable that much longer.

If Karl Rove was Bush's Brain, then Alberto Gonzales can best be called his liver. For it was his job, first as White House counsel and then Attorney General, to filter and make palatable some of the most odious practices and policies perpetrated by this administration. But as with its anatomical counterpart, there is only so much toxicity a body can take and this administration reached critical levels some time ago.

Whoever is named to replace Gonzales has his/her work cut out for them. For this presidency is suffering from organ failure, which coincidentally, was one of the criteria which Gonzales helped solidify as the standard definition of torture. Ironic that he should now suffer a similar fate.

Andy Borowitz reports that Alberto wants to spend more time "listening" to his family.

Sidney Blumenthal suggests that Gonzo's departure may be like something out of Edgar Allen Poe. Quote the Trapper John, "Nevermore".

Bob Cesca says the AG reminds him of another lawyer who palled around with a doped up has-been.

The Gonzo-meter gang can be forgiven for their bout of self indulgence, mainly because their other suggests for why Gonzales chose now to leave are so believable.

Meanwhile, fellow Slate colleague John Dickerson says that Alberto's long retainer is merely an outgrowth of his boss' inability to admit poor judgment.

And though the White House denies it, there was an unspoken rationale that even Bush couldn't help but let slip.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)


Monday, August 27, 2007

Gut Check on the New AG

With Alberto saying Adios as Attorney General, the rumor mill is churning about possible replacements. The consensus seems to be that DHS Director Michael Chertoff is indeed on the short list. And while some may say he isn't that bad of a choice given his background in criminal justice and as a deputy AG, we would all to well to remember that this is same guy who botched the federal response to Hurricane Katrina (serendipitous that his nomination should be floated on the eve of the second anniversary of that debacle, no?) and is also the guy whose assessment of terrorism is base on little more than a grumbling gut.

Of course none of this really matters since we all know what truly matters to President Bush first and foremost is loyalty to him. In fact that seems to be the only qualifications the guy who might replace Chertoff at DHS has.

Then there is also the political angle to take into account, as must always been done whenever addressing anything this administration does. A Chertoff nomination could be used as a much needed cudgel to beat down an already cowed opposition. I can already see the speeches and statements staying along the lines of "Democrats are endangering national security" because they balk at confirming Chertoff with insufficient swiftness.

Also consider that with Chertoff ensconced at Justice, the fight over the reauthorization of the FISA fix will be that much more difficult since Chertoff will no doubt use his stature to argue the absolute necessity of making the law permanent.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Going Going Gone-zo

Well it seems that the rumor that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff might be named to replace Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might have some validity to them as Gonzo has now gone the way of the Dodo (figuratively speaking of course). From the NY Times:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.

Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.

Meme has more on the immediate reaction. Like with Rove's departure a fortnight ago, look for a cacophony of condemnation of this man who Bush also blessed with a rather apt nickname. For in Gonzales Bush found the near perfect stonewall, able to keep all sort of things hidden from the light of day. With his leaving, so goes that blanket of obfuscation, something which will no doubt have the few who remain in the Bush White House very nervous right now.

The last of the old Texas gang is gone now. Things just won't be the same back on the Dud Ranch.

(Filed at State of the Day)

How the Gingrich Stole the Hunt for Osama

Several people have noted this in depth expose by Evan Thomas about the stalled hunt for Osama Bin Laden. And like them, this bit here stuck out to me.
Rather than send the snake eaters to poke around mountain caves and mud-walled compounds, the U.S. military wanted to fight on a grander stage, where it could show off its mobility and firepower. To the civilian bosses at the Pentagon and the eager-to-please top brass, Iraq was a much better target.

By invading Iraq, the United States would give the Islamists—and the wider world—an unforgettable lesson in American power. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was on Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board and, at the time, a close confidant of the SecDef. In November 2001, Gingrich told a NEWSWEEK reporter, "There's a feeling we've got to do something that counts—and bombing caves is not something that counts."

Now this revelation isn't exactly new. It's been reported before that the Bush administration had set their sights on Iraq because it provided "good targets" for the US military. But this is, to my knowledge, the first time that Newt Gingrich has been implicated in setting the policy that shifted assets away from the hunt for Bin Laden to Iraq. The reason I find this interesting is because the former Speaker very recently said the "war on terror" was "phony" and said we are losing ground to the terrorists.

Perhaps if Newt had been more adamant about the need to "bomb a few caves" and less about hitting the "good targets" so we "do something that counts", we might not be losing this "phony" war.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Bias of Reality

Ever since the New York Times published an op-ed by Micheal O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, there has been much debate about their assessment that he surge is working. Much of the criticism has centered around their claim that they've always been "critics" of the war and the surge. Of course a close reading of their record will show these claims to be utter bunk, but still it was this supposedly counterintuitive claim which no doubt attributed to the op-ed garnering so much attention.

Kevin Drum was one of the few who decided that it might be best to base his opinions on more concrete evidence besides the subjective claims made in the op-ed. So he has been reading through the Brookings Report (pdf) which the duo based their NYT piece on. His take away is not surprising: O'Hanlon and Pollack's argument has some very wobbly legs holding it up.

O'Hanlon took the pages of the Washington Post yesterday to sort of refute the claim he is pulling data out of is posterior but few found his claims anymore persuasive than last time.

While it was not specifically mentioned in his new screed, O'Hanlon has long contended that troop morale remains high. But the LA Times reports that many soldiers, worn down by longer and multiple deployments, are more apt to let their frustration show publicly.
"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed," said Spc. Yvenson Tertulien, one of those in the dining hall in Yousifiya, 10 miles south of Baghdad, as Bush's speech aired last month. "I don't want to be here anymore."

Something else O'Hanlon has put forth as proof the surge is working is the decrease in deaths attributed to sectarian violence. But again, when one crunches the numbers, as the AP did, one finds the death toll nearly double what it was this time last year.

With all this contradictory data pointing to the surge having so little effect, one wonders the lengths the Pentagon's new propaganda office war room information hub will go to in order to portray the opposite.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes

Hillary Clinton is getting some flak for her comments about how Republicans might exploit a pre-election terror attack. Judging from the criticisms, it's as if Clinton uttered some taboo claim. I mean come on people, it's not like this hasn't been out there in the ether. Heck there are those actively advocating for another attack. I understand people getting upset with Clinton for supposedly buying into GOP talking points but it probably would be better to debate this now as opposed to say after another attack comes. Because thanks to Bush's failed policies, that outcome is only becoming more and more likely everyday.

Bill Kristol's comments of wanting to "stretch" the military in Iraq for another few Friedmans or so makes me wonder if as a child, Billy Boy would stretch his parent's rubber bands to the breaking point. And when they did finally snap, as rubber bands are often known to do when over extended, would Billy call up or write the manufacturer to scold them for not making the bands elastic enough? Of course, even Billy Boy wasn't stupid enough not to point them at his eyes. More on Kavalier Kristol from Micheal.

Sticking with the stretch theme, Rep. Pete "We found WMD!" Hoekstra now says it was a "stretch" to try to supplant democracy in the Arab world. Just like Kristol, the only thing these guys are good at stretching is the truth.

I'm still finding it hard to believe that Bush's speechwriters would include a reference to Graham Greene in his VFW speech the other day (and I wasn't the only one). They even went so far as to include the famous criticism of the title character, Alden Pyle, as never "a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused." Doesn't that fit Bush to a T? Then again, it's probably more fitting to refer to Bush as more a Gomer then an Alden.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)


Friday, August 24, 2007

September Switheroo

Yesterday, the big story was the new National Intelligence Estimate that cast some serious doubts about the future of Iraq. Among the things it said were that the Iraqi government is 'unable to govern' itself effectively and that the situation is likely to become more 'precarious' over the next six to twelve months (or one or two Friedmans if you prefer). Everyone was of the opinion that given this new report, any claims of progress by Petreaus in September will be a hard sell.

Leaving aside for the moment the Bushies seemingly never ending supply of cognitive dissonance, a couple of recent developments may render any such report moot.

First there has been the increasing pressure from both sides of the aisle to blame all the problems on Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. And while the White House denies any support for his ouster, you can't seriously believe they haven't contemplated the prospect of just such a course. Because should al-Maliki be ousted, the new argument could then be that we can't leave because we have to give our "new man" in Baghdad time to get his act together. Considering how long to took our last "new man" to get it together, that affectively carries us through the end of Bush's term.

Also yesterday there was another out given to the Bushies, this one by allies closer to home. By now you've probably heard that Sen. John Warner, who has long made comments calling for the need for change in strategy but stopping short of actually voting for it, has now said that a troop withdrawal should begin after the mid-September report. But it really is just bit of kabuki from the vaunted Senator, since his paltry plea is little more than an attempt to say we need change, just not that much. Bush would likely take the advice if for no other reason than to show how amenable he is (at least when the advice suits his agenda). On the ground, little would actually change and it would just be more 'stay the course' repackaged with a bright and shiny new bow.

In any event, whether Bush goes with the Maliki ouster or Warner's waffling, look for September to be the time for switcheroos.

Update: Outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Peter Pace has jumped on the withdrawal bandwagon while proponents of the surge are placing their bets on Maliki's ouster.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lessons of Vietnam Revisited

When word first broke that Bush would be invoking Vietnam in an upcoming speech to justify continuation of the war in Iraq, I was surprising by the response it got given this isn't the first time Bush has alluded to that long ago conflict. But after reading through some of the speech and subsequent criticisms, I can now understand why. As one blogger observed "It's a frontal assault on the rational mind".

Bush's basic argument is that the US pulled out of Vietnam too soon and the resultant chaos that followed would surely be paralleled by an "early" withdrawal from Iraq. In the course of making this argument, Bush just shows his lack of any understanding of a war he so adamantly supported yet refused to fight in.

Now I do not to profess to be any sort of expert on Vietnam. As a member of the Y Generation, I was born far too late to have witnessed the conflict first hand. But it is not as if there haven't been an encyclopedia's worth of books written about the conflict. After skimming through Bush's speech, I wonder if he has only read the ones rendered in pop-up form.

Some of the things noticed from Bush's address:

- We apparently need to stay in Iraq because of the mere chance that at some point in the future, an heretofore unknown "enemy" might cite our withdrawal as a sign of weakness. By that standard, the British would still be fighting to keep us rebelling Americans from gaining any sort of independence.

- Bush played fast and loose with the number of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. According to him, we've killed or captured more Al-Qaeda than there were Al-Qaeda to begin with.

- Did he really reference Graham Greene's "The Quiet American"? Oy.

- What's this claptrap about "the killing fields"? Is Bush admitting the US is responsible for the massacres in Cambodia? Sure sounds like it. Though to be fair, Bush probably doesn't get that it wasn't withdrawal from Vietnam but our bombing campaign that paved the way for the Khmer Rouge to ascend to power.

- Given that context, is Bush's reference to "killing fields" a dog whistle that he plans to emulate Nixon, something the neocons would giddily approve of?

Follow the various links in this post and you'll see that I'm not the only one who thinks that George Bush shouldn't be allowed to manage a Dairy Queen, much less foreign policy.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Opening The Files: 08/22/07

Catapulting Phony Ponies

Last month, an op-ed in the New York Times prompted all sorts of media attention. Here we had two so-called "critics" of the Iraq war claiming the surge as actually working. Nevermind that these two "critics" were anything but. Nonetheless, the narrative was propagated far and wide in the mainstream media.

This past weekend, the Times ran another op-ed, this one written by seven soldiers coming off a 15 month tour in Iraq. Now one would think given the "boots on the ground" status of the authors, the media would be just as interested to know what they have to say. But outside of the blogosphere, this op-ed was met with crickets. And when it was finally discussed in the mainstream media, the authors were dismissed as not being credible and were even chastised for supposedly doing harm to their "moral authority".

Some have pointed out, this practice of the media of picking and choosing which stories or narratives will garner mainstream attention has been pervasive for some time now. This is why the need for alternative media has become so paramount. For in allowing the traditional media to choose which stories will be pushed and which ignored, we allow a narrative to be built that does not necessarily the reflect the truth. Indeed, it was how we came to be bogged down in Iraq in the first place.

Catapulting the propaganda is easy. Catapulting the truth takes real courage.

Paul Rieckhoff says he'll believe the grunts on the ground over the think tanks any day.

Robert Scheer says the Real Iraq Progress Report is taking place on the streets and if judged by that criterion, the surge isn't looking so hot.

Quite a few are upset with recent statements from Democrats which suggest they are falling for the dog and phony shows. But I wonder how much of this animosity is misplaced and could be chalked up to the media conflating the questions.

President Bush admits that there is "a certain level of frustration" with the progress of the war. Daniel DiRito wonders if that frustration extends to the Iraqi government. Something tells me that Maliki you may want to start polishing up his résumé.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Surge a Success Declares Skeptics!

Yea, only in Wingnutia (and Fox News) could 'totally and utterly failed' be considered 'praise' for the troop surge. That's how Sen. Carl Levin described his take after a recent furlough to that war torn country. But then, I can understand the confusion because Levin is applying his criticism to goals that are no longer operative. Sure when Bush announced the troop surge back in January, it was said to be an effort to give the Iraqi government 'breathing room' to reconcile and if you go by that standard, sure the surge has failed.

But ever so imperceptibly (at least to anyone not inhabiting the wing-o-sphere or a Fox News) the goals of the troop surge became less and less of what they once were. Now the basic goal seems to be to provide some limited security for the foreseeable future. By that standard, the surge has been a rousing success so long as you ignore all the carnage taking place in areas where the surgin' troops aren't present.

So when Gen. Petreaus reports on September 11th (serendipitous no?), look for the more limited goals to be the standard by which the surge will be judged. Sen. Levin needs to get with the program and realize that past statements are no longer operable once the goalposts are moved.

See also fellow ASZer Daniel DiRito on what else Levin had to say.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes

It's Monday, and like most people feel at the start of their work week, I just can't seem to get up the gumption to blog coherently about anything in particular. So let's see what Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes:

Like many who blog, I don't get paid for my opinions. I blog for the passion (some might say obsession) of the writing. It is this lack of monetary gain that some like journalism professor Micheal Skube says should disqualify our opinions from being taken seriously. Funny thing is, one of the bloggers who Skube singled out got him to admit to never even having read any of the work he was so dismissive of. So much for "patient sifting of facts". Presumably Skube was paid for his opinion. Perhaps they should ask for their money back. More from the unpaid masses here.

One of the people who is often referred to as a "journalist" is Fox News' Sean Hannity. Well now the Hannity's America host has delved into that nether realm that separates journalism from activism. At least when bloggers do it, we don't pretend to still be impartial. But it's good that Sean's finally decided to drop the whole pretense thing.

Sticking with the "journalism" jabs, anyone else think that having the same people who were involved in the Plamegate affair grilling Karl Rove probably wasn't the brightest idea the Sunday talkies could have made? And how weird was it that Fox News was the only network willing to ply the skillet, even if Rove was having none of it?

Something else I noticed about Rove's roving of the Sunday shows was his intense interest in Hillary Clinton. Is the architect working on his next master plan? Stay Tuned.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Spying: A Spectator Sport

When the Democrats caved to White House fearmongering in the last week before their August recess and passed a bill that gave the Bush administration new powers to conduct warrantless surveillance inside the US, opponents of the bill were appalled. But our warnings that too much latitude was being given to the Bush administration were sidelined. They were brushed aside as the paranoid rantings of a Bush hating sect.

Never let it be said we didn't warn them.
Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

Of course "harsh interpretation" is what the Bushies are good at. But not to worry, according to them.
They also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.

There was already "strict rules" in place to "minimize the extent" of Americans under surveillance. It was called FISA and now thanks to the Democrats, it has been affectively rewritten just the way the White House wanted.
The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.

Understatement of the year.

What really makes no sense to me is the fact that it didn't even matter whether Congress rubberstamped the bill or not. Since Bush's warrantless surveillance program was revealed, he and his cronies have asserted that they can do as they damn well please, and that Congress is powerless to try and stop them. Remember now, he was saying this when his allies were running Congress. You really think he's going to be anymore amenable now that his opponents are in charge? Don't count on it.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said of the law "You’ve turned the court into a spectator". If Bush has his way, the same can be said for the Congress.

More from Meme.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Numbers Game

So once again the Bushies are dangling the prospect of "troop cuts" in order to buy a few more Friedman Units until Bush can pass the whole Mess-in-potamia off on his successor. Of course these "cuts", should they actually occur, would really just be bringing troop levels back down to where they were before the start of the surge. And the timeline being floated is pretty predictable, coming during the height of what looks to be one of the most important election cycles in recent years. But I'm sure the Bushies would never be so cynical as to use the US government for partisan political purposes.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rescue Rudy Redux

Last week, Rudy Giuliani caused a bit of a stir when he suggested that he was at Ground Zero "as often, if not more" than rescue workers at the site. At the time, Atrios commented that such a statement was just begging for follow-up since his empirical claim could be easily verified. Indeed, as one of the prominent figures of the time, Rudy's whereabouts would have been well documented.

This morning the New York Times obliged, crunching the numbers from Rudy's mayoral archives. What they found shouldn't surprise anyone.
A complete record of Mr. Giuliani’s exposure to the site is not available for the chaotic six days after the attack, when he was a frequent visitor. But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive, revised after the events to account for last-minute changes on scheduled stops, does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts.

Now I'm sure there will be those who say I'm being a mean ole vituperative blogger for piling on Rudy for his little embellishment. But given that Rudy is the one who wraps himself in the dust covered flag that once adorned the entrance to the World Trade Center whenever someone questions his credibility, a little piling on when he is proven to be a sanctimonious ass is the least he deserves.

More from Meme.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

A Verdict on Us All

I'm sure everyone has heard the news that former "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla has now been convicted of charges of a far less sensational nature than those breathlessly announced by then Attorney General John Ashcroft at the time of his arrest five years ago.

As to be expected, many are talking about the verdict. Most of the righties are trumpeting the ruling as vindication for the Bush administration but I just can't seem to share in their exuberance. Perhaps it is the knowledge of what was done to Padilla during his military detention that has me questioning just who truly "won" with this decision.

But of course the jury was never told of what was done to him or even how he finally came to be in that Florida court, the end result of years spent being bounced around from one venue to another all so the Bush administration could avoid any sort of adverse ruling on their actions.

Well the verdict is in on Padilla. The verdict on the Bush administration has yet to be rendered and if left up to them, never will be.

Be sure to check out the bevy of commentary at the Meme link above. See also Jenny S. Martinez.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Brick in the Groundwork

Last month, the Senate passed by a resoundingly large majority a resolution sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman which laid out in clear terms that the US views Iran as being directly responsible for the deaths of US soldiers inside of Iraq. With all the increased emphasis on Iran's supposed involvement in Iraq, I saw this resolution as just another brick in the narrative being constructed to make a military confrontation with Iran seem all but inevitable, and indeed, necessary.

As Creature notes below, the Bushies laid another brick. This time they have taken the unprecedented step of labeling Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a "specially designated global terrorist" organization. This is the first time that a part of any government has ever been given that designation. A lot of people are rightfully worried by this.

For as some observant onlookers have noted, the argument can be made that Bush has now affectively removed the requirement that he seek authorization from Congress before engaging in any preemptive military operations (not that he would have done it anyway). And now armed with this self bestowed authority, it is an argument you can bet those pushing for a conflict with Iran will be making in earnest.

And by the time anyone thinks to object, it could already be too late.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Rudy's Faux-reign Affairs

Anyone who has been following the campaigns will know that GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani has been pretty averse to questions about his foreign policy credentials. His platform thus far has seemed to subsist mainly of reminding everyone that he was mayor of New York City on 9/11 and deriding the Democratic presidential candidates for refusing to use the term "Islamic" to lump all of America's enemies under a common ideological moniker.

Well now Rudy has attempted to make up for his deficiencies by writing a lengthy piece for Foreign Affairs magazine and the reviews are that Rudy still doesn't know what he's talking about. I'll leave it to others more seasoned than I to critique Rudy's arguments but I just wanted to highlight this little bit that stuck out to me.
America is a nation that loves peace and hates war. At the core of all Americans is the belief that all human beings have certain inalienable rights that proceed from God but must be protected by the state.

Now one would assume these "inalienable rights" of which Giuliani speaks are the various freedoms we enjoy as American citizens. You know, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement etc. These freedoms, as we have been told by the likes of Rudy and other right wingers, are what the terrorists hate us for.

Now here's Rudy describing his idea of freedom in a recent speech.
We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

If this is the type of freedom that Rudy hopes to spread around the world, we are in some serious trouble.

Update: Be sure to check out Jim Henley, Carpetbagger, Daniel DiRito, Cernig and Shaun Mullen.

(Filed at State of the Day)

The Day the Laugh Track Died

Sad news folks. The Half Hour News Hour, Fox News Channel's answer to The Daily Show, has been shelved. Via TVNewser:
In a memo to senior producers this afternoon, FNC's SVP of programming, Bill Shine announced the network "will not continue the Half Hour News Hour beyond its current 15 episode run."

There is the possibility it could be resurrected but if the reviews of the show are any indication, chances are many would rather it just stay dead.

Moral of the story: Fox should stick to news. It's far funnier when they pretend to be fair and balanced.

Blog Thanks: Salon's Blog Report for the prominent linkage and quoting of the SotD of this post.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Opening The Files: 08/14/07

Spot Cleaning the Mark of Rove

Well the big news this week that will overshadow everything else is the timely departure of Karl Rove from the West Wing. That the chickenhawk won't be frog marched from the hallowed halls is unfortunate but many are glad to be rid of the man who has indeed left his mark on just about everything he ever touched. Actual it's more of a smear, a description far more befitting of his style of politics.

The next few news cycles will of course be devoted to downplaying the significant role that Karl played in the Bush presidency. The questionable outcome of the 2000 election, the Plamegate saga, the US Attorney firings, all will be swept under the rug as friends and colleagues will fan out, manning the talk show circuits to heap praise on the man affectionately known as Turd Blossom.

But we all know the truth. That Rove is one of the biggest opportunist to ever disgrace the halls of government. Nothing is out of bounds to this man. If there was an angle to be exploited, Karl latched onto like a pitbull at a Micheal Vick function. But unlike those poor canines forced to fight for others amusement, Karl did what he did it not for the good of the country but to ensure his own political viability and that of his clients. That his miscalculation of "The Math" lead the GOP to electoral defeat last winter and may lead to further losses in '08 is beside the point. He was the brains of the outfit, whose need for a lobotomy is long overdue.

And as much as I would like to take solace in his leaving, I and many others should be under no illusions that he will truly be gone. For like the stain that won't come out of your underwear no matter how much you scrub, Turd Blossom will also be there in the nether regions, a constant reminder of just how fetid our political discourse can get.

What was it I was saying about heaping praise? Think Progress as predictable media fawning over of the 'Boy Genius'.

Many are speculating about the true reason for Karl's impromptu departure. Is it because of the many clouds of scandal he finds himself under? Is he hoping to hitch his wagon to another? Is the pull of summer just too much to ignore? Heck, maybe he just wants to start up an ice cream store.

The Great White Whale says he understands the harpoons are still aimed his way. To Ahab's Leahy and Conyers all I can say is: Thar she blows!

Lots of "Roving" commentary at The Huffington Post. Arianna says his MO remains solidly intact. Paul Abrams wondered why all the pontificating about The Almighty during his farewell presser given that he is said to be a nonbeliever (also strange when you also consider that he is rumored to have once referred to evangelical leaders at "the nuts"). Erik Lundegaard speculates on Rove in retirement while Bob Cesca isn't too keen on the idea of him walking the streets.

Shorter Eugene Robinson: if only it were truly goodbye.

And Jurassicpork says that with his leaving, the Bush administration loses one of the few individuals who ever came the closest to being transparent. Transparently partisan maybe, but hey, it still counts.

(Filed at State of the Day)


Monday, August 13, 2007

Brain Surgery?

Is Turd blossom about to be flushed? Signs point to the handle jiggling.
Karl Rove, President Bush's longtime political adviser, is resigning as White House deputy chief of staff effective Aug. 31, and returning to Texas, he said in an interview with Paul Gigot, editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Mr. Rove, who has held a senior post in the White House since President Bush took office in January 2001, told Mr. Gigot he first floated the idea of leaving a year ago. But he delayed his departure as, first, Democrats took Congress, and then as the White House tackled debates on immigration and Iraq, he said. He said he decided to leave after White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten told senior aides that if they stayed past Labor Day they would be obliged to remain through the end of the president's term in January 2009.

Karl says he's doing it for the sake of his family but the cynic in me wonders if there isn't something big coming down the pike and Bush's Brain wants to slink off before the subpoenas and inherent contempt citations start flying.

Update: More reactions via Meme.

(Filed at State of the Day)

The Bore Ultimatum

Bill O'Reilly has turned movie critic and sets his cinematic expertise loose on the latest installment of the Bourne series. BillO seems upset that the movie's protagonist, portrayed by Matt Damon, would dare to question the morality of being ordered to kill without question. He also rants that the technique of waterboarding is shown. Not because it is a heinous act but because the film makes it seem like an heinous act, thus making the CIA look bad.

Given the CIA was used as a foil to dupe the country into backing the war in Iraq and has engaged in practices that most civilized countries consider to be torture, it's not surprising that the filmmakers would wish to cash in on some of this resultant stereotype. As someone who attempts to presents the most xenophobic, jingoistic or nationalistic slant on a story on almost a nightly basis, one would think BillO would understand the idea of appealing to your audience.

But the thing that truly seems to raise his hackles is the fact that the stars of the film have political views not in line with his own.
Actually, neither Damon nor Stiles has to do much acting. Damon does work for the far-left MoveOn organization and is on record as requesting that the Bush daughters serve in Iraq. The actor also told the Idaho Statesman that the CIA’s use of water boarding is an erosion of our American values.

Guess what? There’s a water-boarding scene in the flick. What a coincidence!

Stiles is also down with the far left. On a cable program she explained why she missed a MoveOn event by saying: “I was afraid that Bill O’Reilly would come with a shotgun at my front door and shoot me for being unpatriotic.”

Look it up if you don’t believe me.

I here BillO's next review is for Rush Hour 3 which stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan taking on the evilest people of them all: the French.

More from Larisa and Ron Chusid.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Blame America First Crowd

For all the pretentious acrimony that liberals are the first to blame America for all the ills that befall her, the right seems to hold a monopoly on those pointing the finger inwards.

Take for example Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell who soon after 9/11 agreed that it was the result of America's tolerance of homosexuals and abortion. Dinesh D'Souza, in a similar vein, suggested that Al-Qaeda may have been right in their critique of America as being far too liberal in its societal norms. These comments come not from fringe participants but mainstream figures of the right. Yet kooks like Ward Churchill are held aloft as evidence that all liberals suffer from this "Blame America First" mindset.

There are also those who say that liberals invite future attacks because they oppose such petty little things as the trampling of civil liberties and the instigation of wars based on false pretenses. But again, finding those on the right whose advocacy goes much further, to the point of calling for another attack, does not entail a vast data mining effort on par with the NSA spying program.

Writing in the Philadelphia Daily News this week, Stu Bykofsky, by simply appending his name to the byline of this op-ed, seemed to answer the question he lays out in the lede.
ONE MONTH from The Anniversary, I'm thinking another 9/11 would help America.

What kind of a sick bastard would write such a thing?

Bykofsky has been roundly criticized by those on the left for his remarks, a not unsurprising development given the odiousness of his position. And while the right wing blogs have mostly remained silent, perhaps knowing that the Churchill affair would be tossed in their faces should they agree with Bykofsky's take, the mainstream media seemed to eat it up.

I don't really have much in the way of an ending to this post except to wonder should the next attack occur, if Bykofsky will be among those casting about for someone to blame.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Rescue Rudy

Y'know, when Mitt Romney earlier this week tried to suggest some sort of equivalence of his son's trying to get him elected with that of members of the Armed Services, I thought that was bad.

This is worse.

In Ohio on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani R-NY handed his critics new ammunition regarding his role surrounding 9/11.

Speaking to reporters in Cincinnati, Giuliani said: "I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers. ... I was there working with them. I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I'm one of them."

As Carpetbagger says "There’s chutzpah and then there’s chutzpah." I wonder if the fumes that were wafting around Ground Zero haven't gone to Rudy's head. And speaking of which, when will Rescue Rudy be registering for federal assistance for all the health problems he's suffered as a result of all that time spent there? Maybe he's hoping if he gets elected, he'll finally get some of that government sponsored healthcare he so likes to decry.

Update: Reactions via Meme, which needless to say, arent' exactly glorying.

(Filed at State of the Day)

You Put the Lyme in the Conservo-nut

President Bush gave a rare press conference yesterday that garnered some media attention. I guess he was in a hurry to start his vacation from reality because the consensus seemed to be it was pretty dismal (sans Chris "Man Crush" Matthews of course).

Some of the things discussed were Bush's commitment to accountability. Or rather I should say his lack of commitment. He makes reference to Scooter Libby having paid a high price (though not as high as he would have thanks to him) and then goes on a tear about how everyone's picking on his boy Al Gonzales which then somehow devolves into a reference to 9/11. To hear Bush tell it, accountability is for those who do right, or something.

On the issue of Iraq and the recent meet and greet between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush says he'll probably have to explain the way things are to the wayward Iraqi PM. So much for sovereignty.

And when asked about the Pat Tillman investigation and torture allegations, Bush was in full Sgt. Schultz mode.

With all this cognitive dissonance, one wonders if the President isn't indeed being medicated prior to his public appearances.

Speaking of which, we also learned this little blurb yesterday.
President Bush was treated a year ago for what appears to have been Lyme disease, the White House said yesterday in disclosing the results of his annual physical exam.

According to the always helpful Wikipedia, some of the symptoms of Lyme disease include (h/t FDL):
..muscle and joint pains, arthritis, stiff neck, cognitive defects, neurological complaints or fatigue.

Stiff neck? Cognitive defects? Should Bush be worried about little green doctors as well?

Blog Thanks: Salon's Blog Report for the prominent linkage of the SotD of this post.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes

I'm hard pressed for inspiration this morning, so here's what's Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes:

Mitt Romney is taking some flack for defending the decision of his five sons not to don flak jackets and serve their country. I'd actually have to agree with Mitt that because we still have an all volunteer military, the decision to join ultimately rests with his offspring themselves. But to then go on to suggest that there is some sort of equivalence with that type of national service with this son's efforts to help get him elected isn't the type of thing that will sit well with a lot of people.

Ann Marie Slaughter is considered a sort of maven of bipartisanship in foreign policy circles. But as Kevin Drum notes, when even she suggests that the Bushies would do something so partisan as start a war to help Republicans get elected, people should probably sit up and take notice. It also puts that Executive Order Bush signed not too long ago in a different context, doesn't it? And they call us paranoid.

Speaking of sneaky plots to thwart elections, one wonders if the Bushies are casting a longing glance at the goings on in Pakistan. Cheney is no doubt taking notes in his undisclosed location until it's time for him to pop up again and predict there'll be another six more months of war.

Susan Landau says that is not just our government spying on us with their newly expanded surveillance powers that we need to worry about.

And if you are so inclined, go wish Ron Chusid a Happy Blogiversary.

(Filed at State of the Day)


pResident Evil

Dubya vows to protect us from the newest threat to the Homeland. - Watch more free videos

(Filed at State of the Day)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My President, Right or Wrong

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." President Theodore Roosevelt, 1918.

Supporters of President Bush like to say that questioning his actions or policies is tantamount to treason because it undermines his effectiveness as a leader. Yet it is this undue deference that has been one of the primary reasons why Bush has been able to lead the nation to where it is today, bogged down in an interminable war that it draining our military and treasury.

This meme has again popped up, this time in the pages of the soon to be Foxified Wall Street Journal, in an op-ed by former KGB turned defector Ion Mihair Pacepa. I'll leave it Carpetbagger to do the heavy lifting in explaining why such a stance is at best ignorant and at worst, un-American.

Update: More from Maha, who links approvingly to yours truly.

(Filed at State of the Day)

Opening The Files: 08/07/07

Of Conventions and Capitulation

This past weekend, hundreds of bloggers and their readers gathered in Chicago for the second annual YearlyKos. That seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates were also in attendance is a testament to the powerhouse that the progressive blogosphere has become. But other events this weekend show that there is still far more work to be done. For at the same time that progressives were holding discussions on how best to help Democrats win in future elections, those same Democrats were once again caving to White House demands.

The capitulation this past week has many dispirited and angry. We must harness that emotion, focus it into productive endeavors. Mere ranting at how the Democrats seem intent on proving the Republicans claims against them aren't enough. We must remind the Democrats, indeed all members of Congress, that they work for us. And we have had enough of this administration. Those who will not stand up to this President as his continues to lead this country astray must be reminded that if they will not do so, they must step aside for those who will.

To Congress I say this: enjoy your vacation while it lasts. From now on, there are no more free rides.

Christy suggests starting up a summer tour. Though I think it is one tour the Dems probably wish wasn't coming to town.

Cenk Uygur asks a question that a lot of us are wondering right now.

The latest installment of the Bourne franchise was tops at the box office this weekend. Barry Yourgrau reports on the other "ultimatum" that was a big hit, at least with the Bush crowd.

And The NY Times says there's only one thing the Dems are afraid of. And despite the fact it no longer works, they still seem to fall for it every time.

(Filed at State of the Day)


New Obama Girl?

Just a quick blurb on an item that was the talk of the 'tubes yesterday.

Remember the YouTube sensation Obama Girl in which a hottie in short shorts sings her affection for Presidential candidate Barack Obama? Well seems like she might have some competition.
There's one vote that Rudy Giuliani definitely can't count on in his 2008 presidential bid: his own daughter's. According to the 17-year-old Caroline Giuliani's Facebook profile, she's supporting Barack Obama.

On her profile, she designates her political views as "liberal" and—until this morning—proclaimed her membership in the Facebook group "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)." According to her profile, she withdrew from the Obama group at 6 a.m. Monday, after Slate sent her an inquiry about it.

It's not surprising that Rudy's kids aren't too fond of him since, as the article quoted above goes on to note, Caroline and her older brother Andrew have had a rocky relationship with dear old Dad since he left their mother for his current arm candy, Judith Nathan. And while I'd have to agree with Joe that this is unlikely to seriously affect either campaign, I can't help but wonder about the fracas that would have ensued from the rightie blogs had this been Chelsea Clinton instead.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Monday, August 06, 2007

FISA Fetches First Victim?

Actually, it's probably more accurate to call this guy the second victim since the first victim was the Bill of Rights. And I'm sure it's just a big coinkydink that the same day that President Bush is penning his John Hancock to a newly revised FISA bill that we learn this via Newsweek.
The controversy over President Bush's warrantless surveillance program took another surprise turn last week when a team of FBI agents, armed with a classified search warrant, raided the suburban Washington home of a former Justice Department lawyer. The lawyer, Thomas M. Tamm, previously worked in Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR)—the super secret unit that oversees surveillance of terrorist and espionage targets. The agents seized Tamm's desktop computer, two of his children's laptops and a cache of personal files. Tamm and his lawyer, Paul Kemp, declined any comment. So did the FBI. But two legal sources who asked not to be identified talking about an ongoing case told NEWSWEEK the raid was related to a Justice criminal probe into who leaked details of the warrantless eavesdropping program to the news media. The raid appears to be the first significant development in the probe since The New York Times reported in December 2005 that Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents without court warrants.

Now I would have to agree with those who say this raid is about intimidating would be whistleblowers. As in any crime family, squealers will not be tolerated and must be made an example of. I can just imagine Al Gonzales scolding this former DOJer ala Al Pacino "I know it was you, Tommy".

But I wonder if this week's rush to amend FISA had more to do with the particulars of this incident than anything else. Consider that to prosecute any leakers, the administration would have to admit what they were doing for several years was in contravention of FISA. But now that they have what amounts to tacit approval of that activity from Congress, it will make prosecuting the squealers somewhat easier.

There is also the distinct possibly that Mr. Tamm was subject to the same warrantless surveillance himself. Remember that even after the Bush administration admitted to the spying, it still continued throughout 2006 and into 2007 (and for all we know is still going on). But if evidence that was collected via this legally questionable method showing Tamm as the leaker was presented in court, the Bushies couldn't run the risk of having it deemed inadmissible.

Now I'm not suggesting any of the above is true and I have no knowledge of what was exactly going on in regards to the NSA program. Sadly, neither do many members of Congress which makes their capitulation this week all the more egregious. They have no idea what the administration was doing or will continue to do because it has purposely been kept secret. Legislating in the dark has no place in a democracy.

What we need is a hearty dose of the glaring light of oversight. Chances are we will watch quite few cockroaches scatter for the safety of the shadows.

Update: More via Meme. See also Shayana Kadidal.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Goose Creek Terror Scare?

The righties this morning are currently flagging a developing story out of my home state of South Carolina. Here's the details thus far.
The FBI and the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department are investigating what they think are explosives found in a car in Goose Creek.

Police say part of Highway 176 in Berkeley County is closed, and traffic is limited to local residents around Mount Holly Road....

Once federal agents were brought in and analyzed the situation, an FBI-controlled robot pulled a bag filled with the suspicious items from the vehicle.

The two men inside the vehicle, which is reported to have Florida tags, have been detained at the scene.

Other news accounts toss about the words "explosive" and "suspect devices" quite a bit, while others emphasize that the men detained appeared Middle Eastern (a detail which has no doubt set the wingers Islamophobia all a-tingle and thus prompting the coverage). Some of the righties are also noting the location. Goose Creek is home to the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig where several high profile enemy combatants, mostly famously Jose Padilla, have been held before. This lead some to speculate possible jail break scenarios.

I'll hold judgment until more details are available. It could easily turn out to be that the "explosives" found are nothing but an assortment of fireworks, which as anyone who has driven I-95 in my neck of the woods will know that advertisements for them are about as prodigious as pine trees. Stay tuned.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Welcome to the United States of Big Brother

Thanks to the Democrats, you no longer have the right to privacy. Following the lead of the kowtowed Senate, the House has now passed the Bush backed spy bill that affectively nullifies the civil liberties protections once ensured by FISA. Say goodbye to the Fourth Amendment while your at it. We have indeed become a police state. President Bush now has the authority to spy on whomever he wishes, without a warrant or any type of judicial review. And he doesn't even have to prove that person is in any way connected to terrorism. Merely by his word (or rather the word of his toady, Alberto Gonzales), that person can be spied on indefinitely.

So remember that the next time you make a phone call, log on to the internet or even read a blog. Because chances are that, as senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology Gregory Nojeim says "The NSA may be listening".

Big Brother has arrived folks. Remember to thank the Democrats for that.

One Last Thought Update: Anyone who was under any illusions that the Democrats would stand and oppose President Bush on any number of issues (i.e. Iraq), they've have now officially gone the way the Dodo and DOS prompt. With this action, the Democrats sent a clear signal that they can be rolled if the Bushies keep playing their terrorism trump card.

The only thing worse than a Congress that rubberstamps because of loyalty to party is one that rubberstamps out of fear.

See also Jack Balkin.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

FISA Fix Nix

I know that Creature has already flagged this but it deserves far more scrutiny for the sheer audaciousness from the Bush administration.

This past week, the Bushies were in a mad dash lobbying Congress to pass legislation they claimed was sorely needed to fix dangerous loopholes found in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. About mid week we learned the reason for the rush: a FISA court judge secretly ruled some months ago that an aspect of the NSA surveillance program was illegal.

As the week came to a close, indications were that the Democrats would acquiesce to the White House's demands. It seemed mind boggling that after all the obfuscation of Alberto Gonzales and the revelation of even more spying than has previously been revealed, that the Dems would even consider the idea of making any changes to FISA. But nonetheless, a tentative deal was reached with Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the White House. Bush scuttled the deal because it didn't go far enough. Among the things Bush demanded was that telecommunication companies be given retroactive immunity from litigation for their involvement in the NSA spying. The Bushies also wanted greater authority to be given to the Attorney General to review FISA warrant requests and while the Dems proposal did give him greater leeway in seeking such warrants, it wasn't enough for Bush.

So Bush spent all week pleading with Congress to fix this desperately needed loophole and when the Dems put forth a proposal that does just that, he nixes it because it doesn't give him everything he asked for. That should tell you the real reason for this fight. It had nothing to do with fixing a flaw in our intelligence gathering capabilities and everything to do with Bush usurping yet more power for himself. And thanks to the rank fearmongering from Repubs, the Senate Dems were sufficiently cowed.

And even though the legislation has a six month sunset clause, anyone care to wager the odds that the moment the cameras stop shuttering at the signing ceremony, Bush will append one of his famous statements saying the bill is merely "advisory" and he can do whatever he wants?

That's the problem when your dealing with someone willing to hold America's security hostage. Rarely is there a happy outcome.

More from Meme.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Nuking Obama

There's been a lot of media and blog focus on Barack Obama these last few weeks. Most of it seems intent on portraying him as this naive neophyte with no foreign policy experience. Last week, it was the dustup between him and Hillary over hypothetical meetings with heads of state not friendly to the US. Obama said he would not impose conditions for talks, a stance opposite of the Bush administration's dismal idea of diplomacy. Hillary, being the triangulator that she is, qualified her answer by saying she would ensure the meeting wasn't being used for propaganda purposes. That's sort of a given since anyone who knows anything about foreign affairs will tell you, holding high level negotiations with heads of states involves more than just inviting your counterparts over for tea. Most said Hillary won that round.

This week it continued. After Obama gave a speech on counterterrorism, the media and blogs pounced his comments about Pakistan. Now he is being called out for his stance on the use of nuclear weapons. Anonymous Liberal says this seems to be part of an emerging media narrative whereby every opinion voiced by Obama, even ones widely shared, are presented in a way that depicts him as inexperienced. I'd also have to agree with A.L. that the question about whether any president would use nukes to combat terrorism is a bit nonsensical, though I can understand the need to know a prospective president's stance on such matters.

But if this issue is going to be seriously discussed, I'd like to remind everyone that the man who currently has his finger on the button has said this about Iran:
President Bush: All options are on the table.

I don't know about you but I'm far more concerned about his stance than Obama's.

Update: John Dickerson praises Obama for his willingness to address hypotheticals. Steve Soto and BTD disagree.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Not So Super Genius

Specter: Gonzales A "Wily Witness"

(Filed at State of the Day)



Humans are creatures of habit. We expect things to have a certain rhythm and routine. When the unexpected interrupts that routine, it can be a traumatic experience. Yesterday, the unexpected happened as a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis.
Emergency crews are waiting for daylight to resume their recovery and clean up efforts at the scene of the Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed during rush hour Wednesday evening.

The 1,907-foot bridge fell into the Mississippi River and onto roadways below. The span was packed with rush hour traffic, and dozens of vehicles fell with the bridge leaving scores of dazed commuters scrambling for their lives.

Nine people were confirmed dead as of 4 a.m. today. Sixty were taken to hospitals and 20 people were still missing this morning. Authorities said they expected the death toll to rise.

Many are expressing their sorrow for the victims this morning. But as with these types of incidents, there are always those who hope to utilize them for their ideological agendas. Michelle Malkin is the most notorious and seemed particularly upset that authorities were too quick in dismissing this as having no apparent links to terrorism (via Crooks & Liars).
DHS issued a statement that the collapse “does not appear to be an act of terrorism.” Isn’t it too early to say anything meaningful about what it “appears” to be? Couldn’t they maybe, I dunno, say nothing until they actually know something?

It is the righties natural inclination to assume terrorism whenever accidents of this nature occur. And perhaps it is too soon to dismiss the possibility. But wouldn't it also be prudent to consider the possibility that this is a symptom of the dangers of our aging infrastructure in this country?

The righties worry about the dangers of ignoring the unpredictable, often to the point of obsession. But as this accident illustrates, ignoring the routine could be equally perilous.

Update: It’s now being reported that the bridge was given a “structurally deficient” rating back in 2005.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

You're Not Serious Unless You Use Bush Language

Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech on combating terrorism yesterday at the Wilson Center in Washington which prompted a lot of discussion in the blogs. Actually the "discussion" was mostly rightie blogs heralding this speech as something akin to the famous "Heeyah!" moment that sunk frontrunner Howard Dean's 2004 bid for the White House.

So what prompted this "he's not ready for primetime" hatefest? Why simply because Obama had the temerity to say he would finish the job that Bush refused to do: hunt down Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network, even if it meant committing special forces to missions inside Pakistan. It was the last bit that prompted the most indignation. Many cried foul, suggesting that Obama wished to invade Pakistan and warning of the dangers of such actions. Yet I guarantee you none of them would spend even a kilobyte's worth of blog space noting the dichotomy of their own trumpeting of the invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11. Hypocrisy just isn't in their vocabulary.

But I would have to say the winner for the most asinine criticism has to come from Ben Smith of The Politico. Smith's apparent beef? Obama didn't use Bush language.
Barack Obama was among those raising his hands in a recent debate to indicate that he believes there is a "war on terror," but his speech today -- and read the whole thing -- marks a really sharp departure from policies past, and seems to challenge Hillary either to come along or be pushed toward the White House.

One note: The phrase "war on terror" appears nowhere in the speech.

The closest he comes: "America is at war with terrorists who killed on our soil. We are not at war with Islam."

Also absent from the speech is any reference to "Islamic terrorism," "Islamism," or "Islamofacism" -- the buzzwords of those who see a global conflict between the West and a specifically Muslim insurgency.

Obama takes pains to point out we are not at war with Islam. Yet those buzzwords whose absence Smith laments have given many in the Muslim world just that impression. I think Obama is to be commended for wishing to consign such acrimonious terminology to the dustbin.

Proponents of the war on terror like to say that "Our enemy is listening". They also have to remember that so is everyone else.

More from Oliver Willis, A.J. Rossmiller, Will Bunch, and A.L.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Opening The Files: 08/01/07

Creatures and Falafels and Fed Raids, Oh My!

With apologies to my esteemed colleague's pseudonym, there sure are a lot of creepy creatures in the news.

Like the 'unique creature' that is Dick Cheney who has been on a PR blitz lately telling us to "Use the farce". Or how's about Falafel King Bill O'Reilly, whose obsession with the Kos Kommunity has reached the point that he risks becoming a caricature of a caricature of himself, if such a thing is even possible without creating a paradox. Then there's the creature from the Other Great White North, Alaska Sen. Ted "The 'Tubes!" Stevens who, after having his home raided by the FBI and IRS is threatening to clog the tubes on an ethics reform bill. Talk about gall.

But with mass extinction seemingly inevitable, will these prehistoric creatures survive? Or will the reign of these Dinos soon be at an end.

While Fox News was having trouble finding a GOPer willing to go to bat for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, CBS and CNN found one in Dick Cheney. Though it probably would have been better if Dick hadn't done his pal Al any favors, so sez A.L.

Speaking of not doing us any favors, perhaps someone should remind this diarist that it's probably not the brightest idea to give Billo ammunition for his claim that the liberal blogosphere is populated by hate mongers and nutcases. I'm just saying. See Tim F. as well.

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés puts Dick Cheney on the couch. Most would rather see him on the docket.

This past weekend, a NY Times op-ed was the topic of much discussion in the blogs. Righties heralded it as vindication that Iraq war opponents are defeatists while those on the left pointed out the questionable source of these claims of 'progress'. Not surprisingly, war proponents seized on the op-ed. But as The Angry Rakkasan notes, a week in the Green Zone does not an expert make.

And Karl Rove recently gave some advice to GOPers saying they need to shed themselves of the "Culture of Corruption" moniker. Carpetbagger says that might be pretty tricky.

(Filed at State of the Day and All Spin Zone)