Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sure is getting bad for the Republicans this last week

Digby quotes a comment he received which rather nicely summed up the hits the Republicans took this week. The resignation of Rep. Mark Foley is only a small bit of it [though it needs to be said again - and again - That the House Majority Leader and the NRCC have known about Foley's penchant for little boys for over a year, and his activities have been actively concealed from Democrats.

Go read the Digby article.

An analysis of the netroots that fits my experiences

Henry Farrell listened to the harsh accusation against the "Netroots" (political bloggers in the Democratic Party) and investigated. Here are his observations:
The netroots are becoming a power in the Democratic Party, but they aren’t under the control of any one person or clique. And while many netroots bloggers describe themselves as progressive, they are generally not leftists in the conventional sense. Certainly they aren’t committed to any program of fundamental political and economic reform. As Benjamin Wallace-Wells and Bill McKibben have both documented, the netroots aren’t complaining that the Democratic Party isn’t radical enough; they’re complaining that it’s losing elections. Netroots bloggers don’t share a common ideology. If they are united by anything, it is their harsh criticism of the Republican Party, their shared anger at the Democratic Party’s failures, and their rough analysis of how it could do better.

Although the netroots don’t necessarily subscribe to left-wing views, they do have the potential to reshape the terrain of American democracy. For the last 20 years, intellectuals have been bemoaning the American public’s lack of engagement with political life. They have advocated different forms of direct engagement and public deliberation as means to revitalize democracy.

Netroots bloggers and blog readers don’t look much like the idealized citizens that some democratic theorists have been hoping for. They’re unruly; while they certainly engage in vigorous argument, it bears little resemblance to disinterested Habermasian debate, in which the only operative force is the force of the better argument. They are attentive to power as well as reason, and their response to perceived enemies, Republican or Democratic, is far from genteel—someone pilloried by a prominent netroots blog can expect to get hundreds of vitriolic e-mails or comments from the blog’s readers. David Brooks’s complaints likely stem from his own experience being called out by left-wing bloggers and the vituperative messages that have filled his in-box as a result. There are real problems of groupthink among netroots blogs (as there are among blogs more generally, and indeed among opinion journalists, political reporters, political scientists, and virtually every well-connected social group).

But if there is a fault it lies less with the bloggers than with our notions of what a politically engaged public will look like in real life. Theorists of the public sphere who hark back to the idealized coffeehouses of the Enlightenment tend to forget or pass over the spleen, vulgarity, and vigor of 18th-century political debate. Political engagement goes hand in hand with viewpoints that are strongly held and trenchantly expressed.

The current back-and-forth over the netroots obscures what they actually mean for the Democratic Party and for American politics more generally. If they are not simply a philosophy seminar, they are also not simply an interest group or a social movement in the usual senses of those terms. Their goals have more to do with electoral strategies than substantive issues. Nor are they a traditional form of mass populism—as currently constituted, they are a not especially representative minority of the American public (there is an over-representation of white, well-educated, middle-class men, as there is among political bloggers more generally).

What they are is an example of how the Internet can foster new ways of conducting argument and building social cooperation among diverse groups and individuals. In other words, they are the harbinger of structural changes in the relationship between technology and politics. Contrary to the predictions of social scientists like Robert Putnam, the Internet is making people more likely to be politically and socially engaged, not less. As Yochai Benkler has argued, information technology has made it radically easier and cheaper to engage in certain kinds of cooperation.

This has important implications for political parties in general and for the Democratic Party in particular. In the past, much of the political agenda has been set by elites—senior party officials, elected representatives, and a congeries of policy wonks and public intellectuals stationed in think tanks, universities, issue groups, and political journals. While activists have played an important role in politics, especially in the Republican Party, they have usually taken their cues from well-connected leaders such as Grover Norquist and (before recent scandals) Ralph Reed. This is changing. Elites are losing some of their agenda-setting power as a much wider set of actors begins to influence the terms of public argument. A sea change is taking place in American politics. Debates that used to be the preserve of a small, self-perpetuating group of pundits, pollsters, and policymakers are now being opened up to a much wider group.

The netroots are also important in their own right, even if their role in winning or losing elections is sometimes exaggerated. The availability of Internet-based communications and community-building technologies has allowed people from quite different ideological backgrounds to come together, to identify points of common interest, and to build a community of action.
There is more, but in my experience this is a lot more accurate than anything described by David Broder or David Brooks.

One thing I especially agree with is that Sen. Joe Lieberman is now a Senator because he likes the office, and he will deal with anyone, say anything, and attack anyone to keep his job. But he does so for no better reason than that he has already had the job for 18 years and expects to keep it. He also is one of the major practitioners of the "Democrats who attack Democrats and give cover to Republicans just so that they can continue to be reelected as Democratic politicians. I can't vote in Connecticut, but I sure hope the Connecticut voters recognize that he does not represent them well.

Joes tactics of running as an independent after losing the Democrats tells everything you need to know. Without that action, the Democrats stood a good chance of picking up all three contested Republican House seats in Connecticut. Because of Joe's self-centered duplicity, the Republicans are very likely to keep at least one and maybe two of those seatc.

Anyone who beleives that Joe can be expected to keep his word and caucus with the Democrats if he is the single Senate vote that determines whether the Senate is controlled by Democrats or Republicans is a fool. Joe will go with the guys who are paing for his reelection - the Republicans.

So does that tell you why I like this description of the netroots? That's how a lot of us see it.

[Via Digby.]

Republican Party condones sexual abuse of Pages

Josh Marshall of TPM points out that the House Republican Leadership has known about the situation involving Rep. Foley (R-FL) for nearly a year-and-a-half. They actively prevented the single Democratic Rep. on the Page Board from learning about the situation, and treated it as a political problem rather than criminal matter or sexual abuse of children. Josh Makes a real good case against the Republican leaderhship of the House and the entire Republican membership there.

Let's see. So far this year the Republican Party in the House of Representatives has had two members resign and plead guilty to being bribed [Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Bob Ney} and now two others resign with pending legal action [Tom DeLay (House Majority Leader) and now the pedophile Rep. Foley of Florida.]

These are just the ones of have been caught. It seems that Republicans are crooks, liars and thieves before they are politicians. They need to go. Every single Republican in Washington!

Addendum 9-30-2006 at 7:28PM CDT
The SF Gate has good coverage of how the House Republicans are working to protect their behinds - not from Mark Foley, but from the voters.

Via Billmon, who added
It's becoming increasingly hard to regard these "people" as anything more than cockroaches who for some strange reason have decided to put on suits and ties and go walking around on their hind legs.

We don't need an election. We need the Orkin man. Maybe DeLay could recommend somebody.

Rights missing from Detainee Bill

How would you like to face a trial in which
  • you cannot challenge your arrest and detention through habeas corpus.
  • you have no right to a speedy trial. Detention can last as long as the government wishes with no charges and no legal action taken at all.
  • you will be assigned a military lawyer rather than choosing your own.
  • prosecutors are allowed to use hearsay evidence against you.
  • prosecutors are allowed to use "coercive techniques" (waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc.) to get confessions that can be used in court against you.
  • conviction will not require unanimous vote of the military officers on the board except in death penalty cases.
  • appeals go through a second military commission rather than a civilian appeals court.

Fortunately, this system only applied to non-citizens. U.S. citizens apparently still get the Constitutional trial we all expect. So far. And this is how the MSNBC article describes the reasons Bush wants these privileges.
Written largely, but not completely, on the administration's terms, with passages that give executive branch officials discretion to set details or divert from its protections, the bill is meant to provide what Bush said yesterday are "the tools" needed to handle terrorism suspects U.S. officials hope to capture.

For more than 57 months after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush maintained that he did not need congressional authorization of such tools. But the Supreme Court decided otherwise in June, declaring the administration's detainee treatment and trial procedures illegal, and ruling that Bush must first seek Congress's approval. [Snip]

Tom Malinowski, the Washington office director for Human Rights Watch, said that Bush's motivation is partly to protect his reputation by gaining congressional endorsement of controversial actions already taken. "He's been accused of authorizing criminal torture in a way that has hurt America and could come back to haunt our troops. One of his purposes is to have Congress stand with him in the dock," Malinowski said. [Snip]

Under the new procedures, trials are supposed to be open, but can be closed to protect individuals or information expected to harm national security.
[Can you say "Star Chamber?"] Defendants have a right to be present, unless they are disruptive, and have the right to examine and respond to the evidence against them. Proof of guilt must exceed a reasonable doubt. [Snip]

Anticipating court challenges, the administration attempted to make the bill bulletproof by including provisions that would sharply restrict judicial review and limit the application of international treaties -- signed by Washington -- that govern the rights of wartime detainees. The bill also contains blunt assertions that it complies with U.S. treaty obligations.

University of Texas constitutional law professor Sanford V. Levinson described the bill in an Internet posting as the mark of a "banana republic." Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said that "the image of Congress rushing to strip jurisdiction from the courts in response to a politically created emergency is really quite shocking, and it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done." [Snip]

Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said that Congress "did reasonably well in terms of fashioning a fair" set of procedures. But Kmiec and many others say they cannot predict how the Supreme Court will respond to the provision barring habeas corpus rights, which he said will leave "a large body of detainees with no conceivable basis to challenge their detentions."

There are other likely flashpoints. In the Supreme Court's June decision overturning previous administration policies, four members of the court who joined the majority opinion said that conspiracy is not a war crime. The new bill says that it is. [Snip]

Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal said the bill's creation of two systems of justice -- military commissions for foreign nationals and regular criminal trials for U.S. citizens -- may violate the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection of the laws to anyone under U.S. jurisdiction.
[Bold face for emphasis by RB.]
This second class so-called judicial system supposedly only applies to non-U.S. citizens. Of course, naturalized U.S. citizens can have their citizenship stripped from them by the courts. It is only a small step to apply that same process to any other U.S. citizen.

But the article is quite correct when it points out that the Bush administration wants this law primarily so that Congress takes equal responsibility for the illegal treatment of detainees that the administration has been unilaterally applying without color of law since the invasion of Iraq. This makes the Republican Party officially the political party of Torture.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Did Bush try to get bin Laden before 9/11? Olberman proves he didn't.

"Countdown" on MSNBC at 8:00PM Eastern every weeknight has become the show to watch. Unfortunately many of us find that getting cable just to watch MSNBC is too expensive. Sometimes, though, the best of what Keith Olberman presents is given in transcript form. This is one of those times.

Last Friday (September 22, 2006) President Bill Clinton was asked by a Fox News right-winger whether he was responsible for allowing bin Laden to conduct the attack against America on 9/11. Bill Clinton was clearly repressing his anger at the insulting accusation when is stated that "He tried. He failed, but at least he tried. The current administration [Bush] had eight months and didn't even try." Was it true that Bush didn't even try? This is Countdown's report according to MSNBC:
Thus, tonight a special investigation. Mr. Clinton is not in office, Mr. Bush is. His policies determine how the U.S. fights al Qaeda, so it is important that we understand how he has done so in the past. Comparing the two presidents is valid, necessary, to illuminate the capacities of the office. Mr. Clinton said it plainly, he failed to get bin Laden. Mr. Bush has acknowledged no such failure.

But while it has become conventional wisdom, although debunked by the 9/11 report, that Mr. Clinton dropped an offer from Sudan to hand over bin Laden, it is rare to hear anyone discuss whether similar but real feelers were ever extended to Mr. Bush. And it is, we suspect, even more rare to see this tape of the Bush White House addressing reports of such feelers in February 2001, after the government knew al Qaeda had attacked the U.S.S. Cole.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, February 27, 2001)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Taliban in Afghanistan, they have offered that they are ready to hand over Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia if the United States drops its sanctions, and the—they have a kind of deal that they want to make with the United States. Do you have any comments (INAUDIBLE)?

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Let me take that and get back to you on that.


OLBERMANN: There is no record of any subsequent discussion on that matter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, of course, responded to President Clinton by defending the Bush record. “We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda,” she said.

Our goal in this report is to rise to Mr. Clinton’s challenge and assess the record of Mr. Bush‘s efforts against al Qaeda in his first eight months in office.

We begin with Rice’s claim that Clinton left no strategy to fight al Qaeda.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 20, 2001)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): On January 25, 2001, five days after Mr. Bush took office, counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke sent Rice a memo, attaching to it a document entitled “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat of al Qaeda.” It was, Clarke, wrote, “developed by the last administration to give to you, incorporating diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy, and intelligence tools.”

Clarke’s memo requested a follow-up cabinet-level meeting to address time-sensitive questions about al Qaeda. But President Bush had downgraded counterterrorism from a cabinet-level job, so Clarke now dealt instead with deputy secretaries.

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM CZAR: It slowed it down enormously, by months. First of all, the deputies’ committee didn’t meet urgently in January or February.

OLBERMANN: Why the delay? Rice later tried to explain.

RICE: America’s al Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working, and our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies, and to our overall foreign policy.

OLBERMANN: That, although Clarke’s January 25 memo specifically warned, “Al Qaeda is not some narrow little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy. By proceeding with separate policy reviews on Central Asia, etc., we would deal inadequately with the need for a comprehensive multiregional policy on al Qaeda.”

Clarke’s deputies’ meeting came in April, when, he says, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz insisted the real terrorism threat was not al Qaeda, but Iraq.

By July 16, the deputies had a proposal for dealing with al Qaeda, a proposal, Clarke says, was essentially the same plan he gave Rice five months earlier, and it still had to go to the principals, the cabinet secretaries.

CLARKE: But the principals’ calendar was full, and then they went on vacation, many of them, in August, so we couldn’t meet in August. And therefore the principals met in September.

OLBERMANN: Although the principals had already met on other issues, their first meeting on al Qaeda was not until after Labor Day, on September 4, 2001.

But what were Mr. Bush and his top advisers doing during this time? Mr. Bush was personally briefed about al Qaeda even before the election, in November 2000. During the transition, President Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, say they told Bush and his team of the urgency of getting al Qaeda.

Three days before President Bush took office Berger spoke at a passing-the-baton event, which Rice attended.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 17, 2001)

SANDY BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: With survivors of the U.S.S. Cole reinforced the reality that America is in a deadly struggle with a new breed of anti-Western jihadists. Nothing less than a war, I think, is fair to describe this.

OLBERMANN: Eight days later, Clarke sent Rice the strategy Clinton had developed for retaliating in the event that al Qaeda was found to have been behind the previous October’s attack on the U.S.S. Cole. The next day, the FBI conclusively pinned the Cole attack on al Qaeda.

Mr. Bush ordered no military strike, no escalation of existing Clinton measures. Instead, he repeated Clinton’s previous diplomatic efforts, writing a letter to Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf in February and another on August 4.

Until September 11, even when Mr. Bush was asked about the Cole, an attack carried out on water by men in a boat, he offered a consistent prescription for keeping America safe, one he reiterated upon taking office.


BUSH: To protect our own people, our allies and friends, we must develop and we must deploy effective missile defenses.


OLBERMANN: Democrats, who controlled the Senate, warned that his focus was misplaced.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D): I’m also concerned that we may not be putting enough emphasis on countering the most likely threats to our national security and to the security of our forces deployed around the world, those asymmetric threats, like terrorist attacks on the U.S.S. Cole on our barracks and our embassies around the world, on the World Trade Center.


OLBERMANN: He was not alone. The executive director of the Hart-Rudmann Commission’s request to brief Bush and Cheney on the terror threats they had studied was denied.

On February 26, 2001, Paul Bremer said of the administration, quote, “What they will do is stagger along until there’s a major incident, and then suddenly say, Oh, my God, shouldn’t we be organized to deal with this?”

According to the 9/11 Commission report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the Cole bombing. Quote, “In February 2001, according to a source, bin Laden wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not, he would launch something bigger.”

The most famous warning came in the August 6 presidential daily briefing, reporting “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.”

According to the 9/11 report, “Bush did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the attorney general, or whether Rice had done so. We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the president and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. Tenet does not recall any discussions with the president of the domestic threat during this period. Domestic agencies did not know what to do, and no one gave them direction. The borders were not hardened, transportation systems were not fortified, electronic surveillance was not targeted against the domestic threat, state and local law enforcement were not marshaled to augment the FBI‘s efforts. The public was not warned.”

Explanations after the fact suggested a lack of familiarity with the recent history of terrorism.


RICE: I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There wasn’t any way then we could have anticipated what was about to happen, of course, in—on 9/11.

(Subtitle: 1995, Philippines uncovers plot to fly planes into Pentagon and World Trade Center.)

(Subtitle: September 1999, U.S. study: Al Qaeda might crash planes into Pentagon.)

(Subtitle: Spring 2001, New York City trial testimony: Bin Laden sending agents to acquire planes.)

BUSH: These terrorists had burrowed in our country for over two years. They were well organized. They were well planned. They struck in a way that was unimaginable.

(Subtitle: July 2001, FBI told of Zacarias Moussaoui‘s interest in flying jumbo jets.)

(Subtitle: September 2001, FBI memo: Moussaoui could fly something into the World Trade Center.)


OLBERMANN: On September 10, 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California requested a meeting with Vice President Cheney to press the case for aggressive counterterrorism measures. She is told Mr. Cheney will need some time to prepare first, six months.

That same day, the NSA intercepted a communique from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, stating, “Tomorrow is zero hour.” That communique was only translated into English on September 12.


OLBERMANN: It appears now that the operative word in the phrase “We could not have anticipated” was the word “we.”
  • Bush is currently President and responsible. Clinton is not.
  • According to Clinton's National Security Advisor, Sandy Burger, President-to-be Bush was briefed on the urgency of getting al Qadea in November 2000, even before he was innaugerated as President.
  • Allegations that Sudan tried to turn bin Laden over to the U.S. unde3r Clinton have been convincingly disproven.
  • The Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over to the U.S. in Febuaryb 2001. There is no record of subsequent discussion of this. [Note: The Bush administration considers negotiating with their enemies to be "rewarding them." Because of this they refuse to negotiate with those they consider enemies. Current examples are North Korea, Iran and Syria.] After being asked about this at a Press conference, the Press Secretary promised to get back to the questioner later. He never did.
  • Condi Rice claims that the Clinton administration never left a comprehensive strategy to deal with al Qaeda. [The Clinton administration left their Counterterrorism Czar, Richard Clarke, in office. Clarke sent a memo to Condi Rice five days after the change-over which included an attachment entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat of al Queda" which incorporated diplomatic, economic, military, public diplomacy, and intelligence tools. If that was not sufficient, Richard Clarke was available in his office in the White House to fill in any gaps if asked.]
  • Condi Rice makes the point that, in her opinion, the proposed policy against al Qaeda was unworkable because it was not part of an overall policy that included solutions to the regional problems with Afghanistand, Pakistan and the entire region. [Richard Clarke's memo pointed out that regional solutions would not address the specific problems of al Qaeda. There is no record that he was asked about this.]
  • Richard Clarke was lowered in rank upon the innaugeration of Bush. Instead of reporting to "The Principles" he was reduced to reporting to their deputies who did not have decision authority beyond recommending a report to the Principles. As a result, the deputies meeting was held in July and agreed with his proposals, but needed to present it to the Principles. This finally ocurred September 4, 2001 since the principles were on vaction through all of August. During the vacation in August Bush was briefed by the CIA with a Presidential Daily Briefing that was entiteld "Al Qaeda plans to attack the U.S. in the near future." The August 6 , 2001 presidential daily briefing (PDB) reported directly to Bush "patterns of suspicions activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or toher types of attacks, including recentsurveillance of federal buildings in New York." In addition, signal traffic among terrorists increased sharply during this period. This was when Bush told his briefer "OK. You have covered your ass." and dismissed him. Bush is not known to have discussed the August 6th report with anyone before September 11. He did not discuss it with the Director of the CIA, George Tenet. He did not ask any subordinates how to respond. No one gave him any direction how to respond. No action by Bush or the Executive Department was taken to identify or prepare for any attacks on America.
  • Sen.Carl Levin (representing Senate Democrats) was publically concerned that that the administration was not putting enough emphasis on terrorist attacks before 9/11. The Executive Director of the Hart-Rudmann Commission asked to brief Bush and Cheney before 9/11 about the terrorist threats they had studied, but was refused. [Note - it appears that the primary foreign security threat Bush and Cheney recognized before 9/11 was their imaginary threat of state-based missiles and the resulting need for a missile defense system.]
  • Clinton did not receive word that al Qaeda had conducted the attack on the Cole until right before the innaugeration of Bush, so he handed the problem off to the new administration [much as Bush 41 sent U.S. troops into Somalia just before leaving office and passed off that problem to Clinton.] Bush and Cheney did nothing about the response to the Cole bombing. ["According to the 9/11 Commission report, even bin Laden expected Bush to respond militarily to the Cole Bombing. Quote, 'In February 2001, according to a source, bin Laden wandet the United States to attack, and if it did not, he would launch something bigger.' "]
  • The Bush administration and specifically Condi Rice have repeated claimed "No one could have anticipated that someone would hijack airliners and fly them into the World Trade Center or the Pentagon." [1995 - Philippines uncovers plot to fly planes into Pentgon and World Trade Center. --- U.S. study, 1999: al Qaeda might crash planes into Pentagon. --- Spring 2001, New York City trial testimony: bin Laden sending agents to acquire planes. --- July 2001, FBI was told of Zacarias Moussaoui's interest in flying jumbo jets. --- Septembewr 2001, FBI memo: Moussaoui could fly something into the World Trade Center. --- September 10: NSA intercepted a communique from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia stating "Tomorrow is zero hour." The communique was only translated into English on September 12. ]
  • On September 10, 2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein fo California requested a meeting with Vice President Cheney to press the case for aggressive counterterrorism measures. She is told Mr. Cheney will need six months to prepare first. [In other words, Cheney had no preparation for the real threat against America on September 10, 2001. He already knew what the threats against America were, and they did NOT include terrorism from a non-state supported organization. Terrorism was not on his radar, in spite of the warnings from the Clinton administration and from others with good Intelligence sources. ]
The members of the Bush administration bought their own propaganda. They considered anything that Clinton touched to be wrong and to be ignored. They assumed that they were correct, and that anyone who disagreed with them had to be wrong. As a result, the refused to accept new information until it came in the form of nearly 3,000 dead on September 11, 2001.

Since anyone who disagrees with the Bush administration has to be wrong, then the only explanation for what they present is that they are the enemies of the administration. As enemies, they act from enmity towards Bush et al, and everything they present must be ignored.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the NeoCons know they are correct. Their only possible conclusion is that anyone who opposes them (or even presents information showing that their conclusions or decisions are wrong) do so merely because they want the power that the Bush administration currently holds.

They also know that their base expects them to be perfect and to be always correct. So they explain all problems as being the result of enemies who are working to defeat them. They are never wrong, it is always enemies who undercut them.

When you look at this logic, it requires that those who undercut them be traitors. The external enemies cannot have the information and insight to defeat them unbless traitors give it to them. All defeats have to be the result of internal enemies and traitors. Al Qaeda is not as dangerous as the internal Liberals who want the power the Bush/Cheney currently hold. If they are perfect and without error, this is the only possible explanation for failures to succeed in what they attempt.

All of this is the perfect logic that results from understanding that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld cannot be wrong. And they cannot be wrong because they are implementing the perfect ideology of "Conservatism."

As long as they are successful, Conservatism remains perfect. When they fail, it must be the result of traitors. But when it becomes clear that they were simply wrong, and their efforts failed, then the next conclusion is that they are not Conservatives. Since Conservatism is perfect, then any failure of conservatism has to be a result of flawed people who are not conservative.

The result of this is the recent statements that Bush is not a conservative. But he is. The problem is just that he failed. He tried to apply the conservative ideology rather than getting people who were fact-oriented to work with him.

Anyone who wonders what Bush has done wrong should look at the concept of Bounded Rationality by Herbert Simon. No human can make rational decisions that involve more that roughly seven major variables. (Most are limited to about five or fewer variables.)

Beyond that they are guessing. In any situation requiring more that that, individuals will choose part of the problem and work with just that. It can only be done by ignoring elements of the overall problem.

Being perfect is impossible. It is beyond human capability. But it is also not something that can be sold as a politician. Effective politicians have to understand that, and recognize that what is sold to the political base isn't what they are really getting.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld simply haven't figured that out. Instead they imagine that using military power, they can change reality to match their limited intellectual visions of the overall problems.

Bush has become the worst President in the history of America.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's almost too late for America

I thought earlier that the Bill on how to treat detainees would not get through the House and Senate before the end of this week. Looks like I was wrong. This bill gives Bush his unilateral Presidency.

Bush will be able to declare anyone he wishes to as an illegal detainee, and habeus corpus does not apply. He will be able to hold such a person as long as he wishes, and the only court possible will be a military commission in which the Bill of Rights does not apply.

No due process.
No habeas corpus. which means no review by real courts.
No right to know the evidence against you.
No right to face your accuser.
You can be declared a terrorist detainee whether you are a citizen or not.

This will last until all terrorism is ended in defeat. Yet it will cause an increase in terrorism as well as all other forms of warfare.

Go see Tristero at Hullabaloo if you don't beleive me. Here's the thing. As Americans we have become fat, dumb and happy, and we have been diddly-bopping through a dangerous world in which most people must fear their own government more than any outside force. But we had the Constitution which was the basis of our free Republican democracy. That ended when the Supreme Court Five elected George W. Bush as President over the rightfully elected Al Gore. But it was reverable until September 11 - which could possibly have been permitted by the Bush administration as a causus belli which was needed to destroy the Constitution. And it worked.

But until now it was reversable. When this bill passes the Republican-dominated House and Senate, the Totalitarian America will no longer be easily reversable, if at all. Until now it could have been prevented. After that bill passes and is signed, the Totalitarian America will have to be lived through or fought in the streets, and the USSR showed that fighting in the streets does not reverse a Totalatarianism. It will have to collapse of its own weight.

But it will not collapse of its own weight as long as there are Islamist terrorists who can be suckered into committing suicide as murder-suicideers to maintain the American Totalitarianism.

Think I'm getting too extreme here?

Wait. Give it ten more years, and you will accuse me of a failure of imagination. That's if this article is allowed to last and anyone reads it. Freedom of speech is on a very short tether, as well as the rest of the freedoms the founding fathers thought they had given us and we have squandered.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Declassified Key judgments on April NIE

Never let it be said that when President Bush says "De-classify and publish a document" that they can't move quickly. Here they are in a .pdf file.

Now that part of it is out, the questions are what was left out? Doubtless all the politically damaging stuff.

Now there's another NIE just on Iraq

Give TPM under Josh Marshall the credit they deserve. There is another National Intelligence Estimate, specifically on the war in Iraq, that the White House has been sitting on so that it is not released before the November 7th election.

It's clear the Bush people have been sitting on it. It is a completely processes NIE in everyway, except that it is not titled "National Intelligence Estimate" because anything with that title has to be released to certian members of Congress by law.
Dr. Lawrence Korb, a former senior Defense Department official now with the liberal-progressive Center for American Progress, hasn't seen the report but has discussed it with those who have. "It's a very bleak picture of what's going on in Iraq," he said. (from TPM Muckraker.)
"[A] very bleak picture..." No surprise that the Bush administration doesn't want it out before the election.

TPM Muckraker has the transcript of comments on the second NIE by ranking House Intel Committee Member Rep. Jane Harmon [D-CA].

Here are the earlier reports on this NIE from TPM. here, here, here, and here.

Katherine Harris may take other Repubs down with her

As we known the strange election campaign of Katherin Harris for the Florida Senate is not likely to go anywhere. But TPM Muckraker reports that not only will she fail to win her election, but also her effort is likely to cost the Republicans the House seat she is leaving to make the run for Senate.

Also, if her run for the Senate discourages moderate Republicans from voting, this could mean trouble for the Republican candidate for Governor...
... Charlie Crist, who's been unable to top 49 percent in polls for the gubernatorial race. Meanwhile, support for the Democratic challenger, Jim Davis -- still unknown to two in every five Floridians -- continues to rise, polling recently at 43 percent.
Finally, if Republican voters don't show up at the polls, Repbulcan Clay Shaw of Florida's 22d district has been able to maintain only a 4 point lead over his Democratis rival.

Prior articles on Katherine Harris

AP reports wiretap bill unlikely to pass before Congress leaves

The billls currently in House and Senate to approve giving Bush's warrantless wiretapping programs is not likely to pass before the congress goes home after this week. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio said the House will vote on their version this week, but the differences between the Senate and the House version are too great to make any reconciliation likely before the end of the week. Associated Press.

Congress has to break so that members can go home and campaign before the November 7th elections. The White House had expected the Bill to pass quickly, but the unexpected delay caused by the objections of so-called moderate Senators led by Sen. McCain [R - AZ]set the timetable back several weeks.

The Congress already has a backlog of unprecedented size that must be acted on in the lame-duck session after the election. In addition, the Army Chief of Staff has refused to even submit the budget bill for the Army until it is increased from about $90 billion to about $130 billion dollars.

I guess that's what happens when you let a radical White House administration operate a war with no Congressional oversight for four years. Can you say "Do Nothing Congress?"

Bush announces plans to declassify the NIE

According to Reuters Bush has just announced that he will declassify the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) which has been all the talk since the NY Times reported leaks from it this weekend.
"I think it's a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there's a leak," Bush said.

"But once again there's a leak out of our government, coming right down the stretch in this campaign, in order to create confusion in the minds of the American people, in my judgment is why they leaked it," he said. [Snip]

The analysis by the 16 U.S. spy agencies concluded the Iraq war had spread Islamic radicalism and made the overall terrorism problem worse, according to current and former intelligence officials familiar with the document.
See my earlier report Iraq war has made terrorism worse, not better.

Apparently Karl Rove believes that there will be less damage to Republican candidates if what the report says is out there rather than just the incomplete leaks which fuel even greater suspicion of the Republican handling of the war.

That, or the version of the NIE to be released will be severely bowdlerized.

Or both.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Retired flag officers speak out on torture

The LA Times reports what is being said by military combat veterans about both the use of torture and about command responsibility in the military.

The Bush administration understands neither. Go read the article - it's short, but very informative.

Iraq war has made terrorism worse, not better

Sure is good that Bush and the Republicans decided to attack Iraq. That really made America safer from terrorism. Not!

Here is the NY Times story on the new National Intelligence Estimate on the state of terrorism in the world. This is the first NIE on world wide terrorism since Iraq was invaded.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, ... represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.
This would have been the case whether the war was fought effectively, or as it has been, totally stupidly and with too few soldiers and Marines. The invasion of Iraq was certian to inflame Muslims around the world in large part because it was so flagrently unprovoked, unnecessary and for the benefit of the attackers.

There is no possibility of success in Iraq, if there ever was. What is left is to end it in a way that causes the least possible further damage. There are two ways to do that. The U.S. can either ramp up the effort, send in a significantly larger force and conduct an effective counterinsurgency operation, or the U.S. can open discussions with Iran, Syria and Turkey to get Iran and Syria to prevent fighters from being supported through their nations and to get all three to work with the Iraqis to reduce the civil war that is already occurring there.

Either way, the Iraqi govenment must be strengthened and given the monopoly of force within Iraq. That means Muqtada al Sadr's troops must be disarmed and brought under control. Either of those options have some chance to save what can be saved in Iraq with a minimum of further damage to that country, and permit the U.S. to withdraw.

So what is the Bush administration doing? They are continuing as before. There are no more troops to send, and they aren't going to try. So that's out. But they still refuse to "reward" Iran and Syria by talking to them. So the Bush administration is going to muddle along with no significant change for the next two years until a new President comes in and faces even greater problems because of the Bush administration's paralysis and inaction.

Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were utterly incompetent when they attacked Iraq and created this mess which will require people with high levels of comptence to end and recover from. Unfortunately, the trio which was incompetent starting the war is worse than incompetent at ending it. They are paralyzed and waiting for a savior from somewhere.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Digby weighs in on torture

This is from an execellent post by Digby on torture:
People and societies don't just wake up one morning to find they no longer recognize themselves. It's a process. And we are in the process in this country of "defining deviancy down" in ways I never thought possible. We are legitimizing torture and indefinite detention --- saying that we will only do this to the people who really deserve it. One cannot help but wonder what "really deserves it" will mean in the years to come as we fight our endless war against terror.
People have asked since WW II how it was possible for the richest, most intellectually advanced nation in Europe to descend into the horrors of the Nazi era.

As Digby says, it was a process. A process which the Bush administration, horribly frightened by the unanticipated (by them) shock of 9-11, has led America into. Their shock, horror and unthinking fear has now taken America well on the way towards the lowest of realms of human moral degradation.

Billmon provides even more clarity on what this discussion of torture means for America.

Until now, we could blame Abu Ghraib and the various reports of torture around the world on a few crazy individuals. The Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have tried or courts-martialed a few low-level military people for it, but the wide-spread nature has made it clear that it was either established policy approved by Rumsfeld from the Pentagon, or it was a complete failure of the chain of command. If it were the latter, however, the Secretary of Defense and the Pentagon would have taken action to create the chain of command as an effective preventative.

They haven't done that. That makes it absolutely clear that torture is the established policy of the Pentagon.

Now we know how much higher it goes. Bush is defending the policy himself. Torture is the policy of the Bush administration.

McCain and his faction of the Senate objected, but collapsed on Thursday. Torture is now the accepted policy of the Federal government including Congress. The Republican Party is the party of torture.

Everyone who votes for a Republican this November is complicit in the decision to use torture as an instrument of state policy in America.

Bin Laden Dead?

Josh Marshall describes unconfirmed reports from a leaked French Intelligence document which says that Saudi Arabian Intelligence believes that bin Laden died August 23d in Pakistan of typhoid. The leaked report is presented in regional French newspaper.

I say again, this is at this time unconfirmed. Josh has links to the sources.

OK. Here are more rumors and analysis of the rumors.
UPI has pretty good sources, and some really good anylists. Doesn't make them right, but it is better than what I have at present.

UPI Analysis: Is bin Laden truly dead?

[H/T to Josh Marshall TPM. Or actually to the midwestern lawyer TPM Reader DK who is sitting in on weekends. (We don't know who he is because he is a corporate lawyer whose position would not allow this kind of public exposure. But he is approved by Josh, and does a damned good job on weekends.]

Here is the key statement from UPI:
Making the report all the more credible was the choice by those in French counter-intelligence of where to leak the Saudi report, the regional L'Est Republicain, rather than one of the larger Paris-based dailies.

"There is a history with that paper," the Saudi source told UPI. The newspaper is known to have had intelligence reports leaked to it in the past. "They are very reliable," said the Saudi official.

The information purporting the death of the world's most sought after terrorist is based on what the newspaper calls "a usually reliable source," stating that Saudi intelligence sources "are convinced" of bin Laden's death.

The French intelligence report goes on to say, still according to the French daily, that bin Laden died in Pakistan on August 23 after suffering "from a severe bout of typhoid fever," and a bacterial infection provoked a paralysis of his lower body.

The Saudi intelligence report states that bin Laden's geographic isolation "rendered all medical assistance impossible. Indeed, U.S. intelligence sources have long believed bin Laden was hiding in remote parts of Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan, areas where sophisticated medical help would be difficult to obtain.

The news of bin Laden's death reached the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sept. 4. If confirmed, that, in part, might explain the complete absence of Osama bin Laden from making any appearances on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington, DC.

Instead, a videotape by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was released to television news networks.

The French daily reports that the internal and confidential memo from the DGSE reporting the death of "the enemy number one" of the United States and of the West, was handed over to the Presidency of the French republic on Sept. 21.
This is reasonably convincing, and there seems to be no value to al Queda to present this as propaganda. Nor, in fact, do I see any reason for French Intelligence to lie about this. (But what do I know about French Intelligence? Don't ask. It's classified. (Joke))

All in all, I find this somewhat convincing. That is, I think the people reporting it believe it. I will be looking for more evidence, however.

Friday, September 22, 2006

TPM reader BC nails it on torture

TPM Reader BC has this follow up ...
Besides prosecutorial discretion and jury nullification, there is always the presidential pardon option. To me, this demonstrates that Bush doesn'tÂ’t have in mind rare cases of torture- which, if proved vital, or event useful, could be pardoned. He wants it to be a regular procedure, for which pardons would be unwieldy given the number of people needing them.
This is from TPM

The real danger is if torture can be routinely used by individuals who know they will face no review of their judgment and actions.

If torture is really the only choice possible, the torturer and the decision-maker who decides to use it must be subject to effective review and know they will face severe penalties if they are wrong.

If they use torture and it really was necessary, then the prosecutor can judge that it comes under his discretion not to prosecute. If he decides otherwise, that is what we have juries for. Finally, if both of these fail when torture was truly necessary, there is always the possibility of a Presidential Pardon.

That's three opportunities to justify the use of torture. The victim of torture has only a single opportunity to get a favorable decision. The person making the decision to apply torture must know that his decision will be reviewed, that his decision must be judged as the best of a set of very bad choices, and that the penalty for being wrong is very high.

Using torture is not a decision we want anyone to make as a matter of routine. But that is what Bush wants to approve.

More on torture from an expert.

One nasty morning Comrade Stalin discovered that his favorite pipe was missing. Naturally, he called in his henchman, Lavrenti Beria, and instructed him to find the pipe. A few hours later, Stalin found it in his desk and called off the search. "But, Comrade Stalin," stammered Beria, "five suspects have already confessed to stealing it."
This, according to Vladimir Bukovsky, is a joke passed about in the USSR in Moscow when Bukovsky was a child there in the 50's.
Every Russian czar after Peter the Great solemnly abolished torture upon being enthroned, and every time his successor had to abolish it all over again. These czars were hardly bleeding-heart liberals, but long experience in the use of these "interrogation" practices in Russia had taught them that once condoned, torture will destroy their security apparatus. They understood that torture is the professional disease of any investigative machinery.

Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a "ticking bomb" case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin's notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria's predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.

So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to "improve intelligence-gathering capability" by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? [Snip]

I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already. [Snip]

I know from my own experience that interrogation is an intensely personal confrontation, a duel of wills. It is not about revealing some secrets or making confessions, it is about self-respect and human dignity. If I break, I will not be able to look into a mirror. But if I don't, my interrogator will suffer equally. Just try to control your emotions in the heat of that battle. This is precisely why torture occurs even when it is explicitly forbidden. Now, who is going to guarantee that even the most exact definition of CID is observed under such circumstances? [Snip]

Today, when the White House lawyers seem preoccupied with contriving a way to stem the flow of possible lawsuits from former detainees, I strongly recommend that they think about another flood of suits, from the men and women in your armed services or the CIA agents who have been or will be engaged in CID practices. Our rich experience in Russia has shown that many will become alcoholics or drug addicts, violent criminals or, at the very least, despotic and abusive fathers and mothers.

If America's leaders want to hunt terrorists while transforming dictatorships into democracies, they must recognize that torture, which includes CID, has historically been an instrument of oppression -- not an instrument of investigation or of intelligence gathering. No country needs to invent how to "legalize" torture; the problem is rather how to stop it from happening. If it isn't stopped, torture will destroy your nation's important strategy to develop democracy in the Middle East. And if you cynically outsource torture to contractors and foreign agents, how can you possibly be surprised if an 18-year-old in the Middle East casts a jaundiced eye toward your reform efforts there?
This is just part of the article. Go read it.

Authorizing torture will do more to destroy everything that makes America great than any terrorist ever will.

Two views on the torture debate that just finished

Two Washington Post columnists have written about the agreement between Bush and the McCain faction to compromise on the Bush-directed effort to redefine the Geneva treaty's directives on torture.

First is a David Broder column, published Thursday. Broder calls the argument between the Republican Senators and Bush as the revolt of the "Moderates", led by McCain.

David describes it as signaling "...a new movement in this country -- what you could rightly call the independence party. Its unifying theme can be found in the Declaration of Independence's language when Jefferson Invoked 'a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.'"

This movement is mobilizing to confront "...not only Bush but also the extremist elements in American society -- the vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left and the doctrinaire religious extremists on the right who would convert their faith into a whipping post for their opponents."

David then goes on to say that Sen. Joe Lieberman's election, along with that of Republican Sen. Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island and Sen. Mike DeWine (R, OH) are really importan, because those would signal that independence is a virtue to be rewarded. They are all members of the moderate middle.

That's my summary of the important points he made. Now for my opinion.

Moderation is the best way for a legislature or parliament to function. David is quite correct there. But for moderation to work, there must be trust and an effective equality of power between the people on both sides of each disagreement.

Moderation without trust and power equality doesn't work. In the current case, the leadership of one side is made up of extremists, and they have a molopoly of poer in the House, Senate and the White House. Those Republicans will negotiate with the moderates, come to an agreement, then roll over the moderates, sometimes using the very elements of that agreement as weapons.

This is what I was going to publish yesterday, before I learned of the agreement between the McCain-led moderates and the people pushing for the legalizing of torture methods.

Now to today's view of the McCain moderates vs. Bush on torture. This is an editorial by Fred Hiatt, also in the Washington Post.

Hiatt points out that the agreement says that the Senate will not rewrite American legislation to reinterpret U.S. compliance with the Geneva Conventions to allow torture and that the "Trials of accused terrorists will be fairer that the commission system outlawed in June by the Supreme Court."

But of course, Bush made clear yesterday that he will issue an Executive Order "...relying on questionable Justice department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.

"Under the compromise agreed to yesterday Congress would recognize his authority to take these steps and prevent prisoners from appealing them to the U.S. Courts. The Bill would also immunize CIA personnel from prosecution for all but the most serious abuses and protect those who in the past violated U.S. law against war crimes."

In short, Bush announced that he was going to embrace torture as the formal policy of the U.S. and Congress agreed to let him do it, immunizing HIM from appeals to the court system. Congress just wasn't going to write it into law.

Again, the following is my view. In fairness I should point out that David Broder wrote his column before the agreement was finalized yesterday, and Fred Hiatt wrote his editorial afterwards. But the result was ...

The moderates got rolled. Bush won, America and anyone Bush accuses as being a terrorist lost.

McCain surrendered in exchange for a fig-leaf because he wants to run for President, and he will need the votes of the right-wing extremists if he expects to win. Without McCain to head up the "moderates", the rest fell into line.

This is what happens when so-called "moderates" attempt to compromise with extremists. The extremists, in this case Bush, win. Hand McCain an umbrella, he just gave Chezkslovakia away.

The U.S. is going to practice torture on people accused of terrorism until the end of the Bush administration. The only thing the Senate really did was refuse to put their names on law that approved it. It will be done by Bush and is totally his responsibility.

Can you say "War Crimes Trials?"

Just a historical side-note. Anyone who remembers the anti-Communist wars in the 40's, 50's and 60's will recall that many times small countries undergoing a Communist insurrection would attempt to settle it by bringing the Communists into the government and working with them. The usual result was that within a short time, the Communists took over and the moderates were in prisons and prison camps.

What David Broder sniffs at disparagingly as "...the vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left" (and yes, I take that personally) are really the people who are looking for a Winston Churchill to lead the battle against the dark enemy instead of surrendering everything that matters to them. Nothing else is going to work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bush - no more troops to Iraq

Kevin Drum reports on the need for and refusal by Bush to send more troops to Iraq.
...they don't want to withdraw, but they don't want to send enough troops to have any chance of succeeding either. Both options are too politically risky. Instead, they will continue following the one path guaranteed to fail.
The key to remember is that the Bush administration does not care what happens in Iraq, nor do they care what happens to the U.S. military. We are still in Iraq because they would lose an election by leaving. We aren't going to increase tbe size of the military so that it is large enough to deal with combat in Iraq because such an expansion would cause them to lose an election.

Success in Iraq is irrelevant -- except as how it impacts the Republican control of the U.S. federal government. This comes from the top - Cheney, Bush, Rove and Rumsfeld.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Are you a liberal? Ever been a TA? Have a sense of humor?

Chris Clarke at A Creek Running North offers a translation of What's Liberal about the Liberal Arts" by Michael Berube. Now this is not a translation between languages.

Chris is concerned that recent studies show that a full third of the American population is so illiterate that they cannot understand the great truths of which Berube writes, so he has translated it into a graphics novel. Here it is, in all its glory.

You may want to read Chris' intro to the GN first. Without his build-up it may lose some of its impact. Whatever - this is too damned good not to share!

How did the Pope insult Islam? Jon Stewart tells all.

If you are confused by the brohaha over the Pope's statenent in Regensburg and the Ilamic reaction to it, wonder no more. Just let Jon Stewart explain.

This is fun learning. Enjoy!

[H/T to Kevin Drum.]

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

WaPo anticipates major problems recording and counting votes in the general election

The Washinton Post reported Sunday that they expect a lot of problems with recording and counting the votes when the general election occurs this November.

Gore's NYU speech

Mother Jones offers a transcript of Al Gore's speech on global warming.

This is where he offers a solution. It was delivered September 18, 2006.

Military action against Iran is very close

Col. Sam Gardiner gave Wolf Blitzer his view on the nearness of a military attack on Iran. See Think Progress.

A key item of data is that U.S. naval vessles have been directed to move towards Iran.

The most extreme view I have read is by tristero at Hullabaloo. Since Bush has ruled as an extremist with trust in the military and nothing else, there is no reason to assume that he will be reasonable with Iran. My best bet is that after the November election, Bush and Cheney will see no downside to attacking Iran. They will not be running for election again, and the make-up of the Congress will then be established until 2008.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rumsfeld forbade planning for after the invasion of Iraq

This single decision by Don Rumsfeld is more than enough to require his immediate resignation. From the Daily Press of Hampton Roads, VA:
"Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a post-war plan. [Snip]

Scheid said the planners continued to try "to write what was called Phase 4," or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like occupation.

Even if the troops didn't stay, "at least we have to plan for it," Scheid said.

"I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that," Scheid said. "We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

"He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war."
Like everything else this Bush/Cheney administration has done, the primary consideration has always been domestic American politics rather than accomplishing the necessary work of government.

But what can you expect from people who have shown utter disdain for government throughout their political careers? Conservatism has been proven to be an utter failure.

Kevin Drum adds his thoughts to this story.

Friday, September 08, 2006

This is fun.

I have a house cat (gray tabby of about 6 pounds) along with two dogs. One dog is a white west Highland Terrier (a Westie) of about 22 pounds and the other is a mixed breed dog which seems to be mostly sheltie of about 32 pounds. Now mind you, I have no prior experience with owning such animals. (Or in the case of the cat, being owned by a cat.)

All are primarily indoor animals. The dogs go out to do their business, but the cat is entirely an indoor cat.

I also have a kitchen with mice. They come through the kitchen cabinets. Their work is obvious. They eat what they find in the cabinets. I put mouse traps in there, and occasionally get the more stupid of them.

What is fun is to come out and find the cat sitting beside the refrigerator waiting for a mouse to come out of the cabinets. She sits there for hours, with her eyes on the single opening that a mouse can find its way through. The Westie will also watch that same openimg. He will get up and go away sometimes, but will come back and watch for prey. Terriers do not forget where such prey can be found.

The similarity between the behavior of the cat amd the terrier is interesting. Patience, thy name is "Humter."

There are a number of ways I could control the mice that invade my kitchen, but if I do, what happens to my household humters? Their hunting entertains them greatly, and their hunding enterains ME greatly.

Thanks, mice. You provide a lot of household entertainment. The cat and the terrier are really involved. What also intrigues me is that the sheltie is NOT similarly involved in the household hunt.

Me? I watch the watchers.

Steve Clemons: Bush's speech was major defeat for Cheney

Steve Clemons reports that Bush's speech in which he announced that the U.S. was no longer going to operate the secret foreigh Gulags for rendered prisoners was a major defeat for the group of Cheney, Addingington, John Bolton and others.

I'll not try to summarize his post, partly because I am very suspicious that any action by Bush cannot be good (at best it will be irrelevant but more likely just misleading and over-simplified), and partly because I don't think I can do justice for Steve's depth of sources and understanding of the whole issue.

Let me recommend his posting, however. Go read it.

Al Wynn - dirty machine politician?

Matt Stoller at MyDD has been investigating the financing practices of Congressman Al Wynn (D. MD - 4) and it is not a pretty sight. He appears to be getting illegal corporate contributions, which he conceals by not reporting, reporting late, or by failing to report the employers of his large contributors so that it is impossible to isolate which corporations are giving money to their employees and instructing them to give it to Wynn.

Through delaying tactics, he prevents the voters from knowing who is funding his campaign. The result is that after the Primary (which is the effective election in his district) the FEC gets the corrected records and fines him. As a sitting Congressman, he can make up the fines easily.

The political machine he is at the top of appears to prevent competition through a number of methods, many illegal and including violence.

Al Wynn looks like someone who needs to be taken down. I say that as a committed Democrat.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What is it with Republican Senate candidates the republicans don't want?

In Connecticut the Republicans have cut the Republican candidate for Senate loose and are supporting Joe Lieberman's candidacy against the Democratic nominee. In Florida, the entire republican Party leadership tried to get Katherine Harris not to run for the Senate, but yesterdays she handily defeated three other Republican candidates in the primary for the right to be defeated by run against the incumbent Democratic Senator, Ben Nelson. From Reuters we get the problems which Katherine Harris faces in the general election.
"She trails Nelson by more than 30 points in voter opinion polls, lags far behind him in fund-raising and came under scrutiny after receiving illegal campaign contributions from a defense contractor who admitted bribing another congressional representative.

Harris, 49, has seen a steady exodus of disgruntled campaign staffers, who described her as obsessed with unimportant details and prone to screaming tantrums."
Ms. Harris is probably the best opponent any Democratic Senator faces during the 2006 election season. "Best" is, of course, a synonym for "Most Beatable."

Prior articles on Katherine Harris

White House, Republicans are Lieberman's main supporters

The Washington Times Magazine, Insight, reports that the White House has funnelled millions of dollars from Republican contributors to Joe Lieberman's failed primary race. In addition, most of Lieberman's other funds have come from outside the state of Connecticut.
"A senior GOP source said the money was part of Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's strategy to maintain a Republican majority in the Senate in November. The source said Mr. Rove, together with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, directed leading pro-Bush contributors to donate millions of dollars to Mr. Lieberman's campaign for re-election in Connecticut in an attempt that he would be a "Republican-leaning" senator.

"Joe [Lieberman] took the money but said he would not play ball," the source said. "That doesn't mean that this was a wasted investment." [Snip]

The source said that under Mr. Rove's direction, the GOP has abandoned its Senate candidate in Connecticut, Alan Schlesinger, who has dropped to about five percent in the polls. Mr. Schlesinger has failed to win the support of any national Republican and has virtually no contact with the White House.

In contrast, Mr. Lieberman, who has called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was deemed a major component of the GOP strategy in November. Mr. Lieberman is expected to win the general election after losing the Democratic primary to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont. However, the race with Mr. Lamont has been tightening considerably.

"The more he [Lieberman] spits, the more that he [Bush] kisses," Mr. Schlesinger said. "I don't understand that. I guess a kiss is not just a kiss." [Snip]

The source said that under Mr. Rove's plan, Mr. Lieberman would vote with the GOP on national security issues and help provide the party with a 50-50 split on major legislation. The deciding vote would then be cast by Vice President Dick Cheney.
So the Republicans consider Joe a Republican, Joe's rhetoric for reelection has been the same as that of Dick Cheney and is Karl Rove approved, and the Republicans have effectively financed Lieberman's race while abandoning the official Republican candidate in Connecticut.

What's the old saying? If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and get nervous during duck season, it must be a duck. We Democrats must really hope that the Democrats and Independents in Connecticut recognize Joe for who he has become and vote against him.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What was damaged by "outing" Valerie (Plame) Wilson?

Once again, Digby nails it. So Valerie (Plame) Wilson was exposed as an officer at the CIA? Who gained?

Digby describes her career in the five years before she was actively outed by "at least two senior White House officials who called a number of reporters before they got Novak to expose her." Novak, as we now know, already knew she worked at the CIA, something he learned from Richard Armitrage in an idiotic release of classified information as mere gossip. But it was operatives from the White House who pushed as many reporters as they could find to expose her in print. Why?

From The Nation via Digby:
"In the spring of 2002 Dick Cheney made one of his periodic trips to CIA headquarters. Officers and analysts were summoned to brief him on Iraq. Paramilitary specialists updated the Vice President on an extensive covert action program in motion that was designed to pave the way to a US invasion. Cheney questioned analysts about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. How could they be used against US troops? Which Iraqi units had chemical and biological weapons? He was not seeking information on whether Saddam posed a threat because he possessed such weapons. His queries, according to a CIA officer at the briefing, were pegged to the assumptions that Iraq had these weapons and would be invaded--as if a decision had been made.

Though Cheney was already looking toward war, the officers of the agency's Joint Task Force on Iraq--part of the Counterproliferation Division of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations--were frantically toiling away in the basement, mounting espionage operations to gather information on the WMD programs Iraq might have. The JTFI was trying to find evidence that would back up the White House's assertion that Iraq was a WMD danger. Its chief of operations was a career undercover officer named Valerie Wilson. [Snip]

In July 2003--four months after the invasion of Iraq--Wilson would be outed as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction" in a column by conservative journalist Robert Novak, who would cite two "senior administration officials" as his sources. (As Hubris discloses, one was Richard Armitage, the number-two at the State Department; Karl Rove, Bush's chief strategist, was the other. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, also talked to two reporters about her.) Novak revealed her CIA identity--using her maiden name, Valerie Plame--in the midst of the controversy ignited by former ambassador Joseph Wilson, her husband, who had written a New York Times op-ed accusing the Bush Administration of having "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."[Snip]Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President's case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled.[Snip]}

Valerie Plame was recruited into the CIA in 1985, straight out of Pennsylvania State University. ... In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer--before 9/11--word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group.

There was great pressure on the JTFI to deliver. Its primary target was Iraqi scientists. JTFI officers, under Wilson's supervision, tracked down relatives, students and associates of Iraqi scientists--in America and abroad--looking for potential sources. They encouraged Iraqi émigrés to visit Iraq and put questions to relatives of interest to the CIA. The JTFI was also handling walk-ins around the world. Increasingly, Iraqi defectors were showing up at Western embassies claiming they had information on Saddam's WMDs. JTFI officers traveled throughout the world to debrief them. Often it would take a JTFI officer only a few minutes to conclude someone was pulling a con. Yet every lead had to be checked.

The JTFI found nothing. The few scientists it managed to reach insisted Saddam had no WMD programs. Task force officers sent reports detailing the denials into the CIA bureaucracy. The defectors were duds--fabricators and embellishers. (JTFI officials came to suspect that some had been sent their way by Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that desired a US invasion of Iraq.) The results were frustrating for the officers.

When the Novak column ran, Valerie Wilson was in the process of changing her clandestine status from NOC to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management. Her aim, she told colleagues, was to put in time as an administrator--to rise up a notch or two--and then return to secret operations. But with her cover blown, she could never be undercover again. Moreover, she would now be pulled into the partisan warfare of Washington. As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn't able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration's justification for war and had come up empty."
EmptyWheel at the Next Hurrah adds a great deal to the story.

It is well known that Dich Cheney and Don Rumsfeld immensely dislike the CIA. Why is that? It's because the CIA reports what they actually find, not what the rabid rightwingers need to be reported to support their fevered fear of enemy threat. The Right-wingers knew that the CIA was underreporting the military buildup in the USSR, and they failed to report that the USSR was likely to collapse. After that, the facts were that even the CIA was overreporting the Soviet capabilities.

Cheney knew that Saddam had WMD, but the CIA kept saying they couldn't find them. Guess what? The CIA was right, Cheney was wrong, and the guy proven wrong never likes the people who disagreed with him.

As a speculation, think about when the White House Senior Operatives began shopping the story that Valarie Wilson was a CIA agent to the reporters. Earlier reports say that at least six other reporters were told, but they did not publish it. Why did Novak?

Here's my speculation. Novak already knew who Valerie Wilson was, while he had not been told by Armitrage that she was covert. (He knew, though, or should have known.) So when the White House started pushing the story he felt that it was safe to report it, since he was backed by Cheney.

But the White House operatives were operating on emotion, not reason and analysis. What they did was treason. They may give it a figleaf, but it was still treason.

Hubris: The inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War
Hubris: The inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War

What are blogs good for, anyway?

Chris Bowers over at MyDD takes on critics of MyDD as a blog, and in the process makes some really good points about what blogs are good for, what the mass media is good for, and what to expect each to do. There is a great deal of good food for thought there.

This is particularly true if you are attempting to use the internet for specific commercial, political or other purposes. Blogs appear to be a method of providing information to a niche market. After that they will sell something or influence people to do something. To do that they need to provide regularly changing material of interest to the market they are focused on, so that they build repeat viewership.

Go read Chris' article and see what you think.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Was the Miami group of "terrorists" of any real significance?

Walter Pincus at the Washington post questions whether the so-called terrorist group in Miami was really a bunch of terrorists, or if the FBI "informant" was pumping them to make incriminating statements.
"On June 23, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a news conference to announce the destruction of a terrorist cell inside the United States, hailing "our commitment to preventing terrorism through energetic law enforcement efforts aimed at detecting and thwarting terrorist acts."

But court records released since then suggest that what Gonzales described as a "deadly plot" was virtually the pipe dream of a few men with almost no ability to pull it off on their own. The suspects have raised questions in court about the FBI informants' role in keeping the plan alive.

The plot featured self-proclaimed militant religious leaders who referred to themselves as kings, talked of establishing their own nation inside the United States, called their headquarters an embassy and discussed plans to train their recruits to use bows and arrows. One of their quixotic notions was to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower.

Batiste's father, a Christian preacher and former contractor who lives in Louisiana, told the news media after the indictment that his son was "not in his right mind" and needed psychiatric treatment."
Really, if this is the best the FBI under Bush can do to find terrorists in America, then we do not have a problem - or they have no clue regarding what real terrorists are.

My bet is that they simply can't find any really effective terrorists, so they have to go after crazies. But that doesn't mean there aren't any real terrorists in the U.S. It just means the Bush administration is continuing its Katrina-level competence.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Got my August electric bill today

I live in North Texas - Fort Worth, the interesting city next to the rather dull Dallas. My electric bill arrived today.

No, no, I have recovered from the shock. Honest, the local medical people were warned and ready to handle the anticipated reactions. But there was a really interesting little fact included.

According to TXU, the average high temperature here during August was 101 degrees. In 2005 the average high temperature was 97 degrees. And 2005 was the hottest year on record.

Anyone in Canada, Wisconsin or Minnesota have an idea where I can find a home for about $70,000 that has room for dogs to run? With global warming attacking me, I am considering beating the rush of temperature refugees and finding a cooler place to live. Has to have reliable broad-band connections and a decent library or University, though.

Are you middle class? You are being ripped off!

Kevin Drum presents the following statistics:
  • In 1970, the median income for workers age 35-44 was $29,000 (in today's dollars).
  • Today, the median income for the same worker is $32,000.
  • During that time, total income (adjusted for population) has increased by about 80%. If that growth had been spread evenly instead of going predominantly to the already rich, the median income of a middle-aged worker today would be $52,000. That's a difference of 20 grand. (And no, counting healthcare benefits doesn't change this calculation very much.)
Why is it that as total income per person has gone up 80% during that period that the worker has seen his income go up only 10.3%?

It's not like someone isn't getting that money. It's not going to the poor. It is going to the wealthy and extremely wealthy.

That's because they have taken control of the Republican Party, then gotten control of the federal government and many state governments using that Republican Party, and shifted the income increases to themselves.

Did you ever notice that most of the wealthy and super-wealthy don't work hard? Why should they? They are collecting most of the wealth created by those who actually work for a living. And why do they collect this excess wealth? Just because they are wealthy. No other reason. Most of the wealthy and super-wealthy inherited their wealth like Paris Hilton did.

So if you are middle class, you are being ripped off. Big time!