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Friday, 21 October 2005
Syria to be taken out to the woodshed.
Topic: General News.

The Mehlis Report on the death of Rafik Hariri has come out and it's a shocker. Not that there's any surprise Syria was involved, but what is kind of mind boggling is that Bashar al-Assad actually threatened to blow Hariri and his family up at a meeting the two had in August 2004, this according to the BBC World Service report this morning. You'd think if the Syrians were going to kill someone of such prominence they would at least attempt to provide Assad with some sort of plausible denial. As interesting as that fact is, though, what's even more amazing is that the explosive laden van that killed Hariri was brought into Lebanon on a secure Syrian military road and the suicide bomber that drove it was an Iraqi who was told his target was Ayad Allawi. This use of an Iraqi suicide bomber isn't going to make the Syrian argument that they don't have anything to do with the Iraqi insurgency any easier. Looks like the Syrians have a few diplomatic problems on the horizon.

Even before the UN report Robin Wright in the WaPo writes that the US and France were preparing to introduce two resolutions to the UN next week holding Syria responsible for the Hariri assassination and the flow of illicit arms and individuals into Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The US wanted to include language condemning Syria for supporting terrorism in Iraq but France has nixed that because of Algerian concerns on that matter, in particular, and the Arab world's opposition to the US invasion in general. Word is that the US had been looking at Gen. Kanaan to possibly replace Assad in the event international pressure forced him out over the Mehlis report, but since Kanaan has gone ahead and committed "suicide" US planners are at a loss. Not that that is unusual, I just hope that now that the US has the moral high ground on this issue the brains trust in the administration don't do something stupid like try to pull a coup or bomb Damascus.

More progress in Afghanistan:

What is not going to help our standing in the Muslim world is the desecration of two dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by burning them. [ABC] Pointing the bodies toward Mecca and calling the Taliban fighters "lady men" is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, in free and sovereign Afghanistan, but also shows amazingly bad judgment on the part of the Psy-Ops officers responsible for this who should have known better. I don't know if this is as bad or worse as Abu Ghraib but it makes a great recruiting poster for every Muslim extremists group in the world and has done nothing to garner sympathy for our global struggle against violent extremism. (Killing four Afghan policemen last Monday in Maywand and other police shootings in the past month don’t really endear us to the people were supposedly fighting to liberate, either. [Daily Times])

Its a lie, we are not Nazis!

Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has caused the Chinese to cancel a scheduled visit by Japan's foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura to Beijing. Also, about 100 Japanese parliamentarians and their aids followed his example by going to the Shrine that contains the remains of some of Japan's most notorious war criminals. When is the US going to read the riot act to these history deniers who seem to be ascendant in Japan these days? If Angela Merkel ran on a platform of blaming the "November Criminals" and the Jews for WW II what do you think the reaction would be from the US? I guess we owe the Japanese a lot more money than we do the Germans. Its easy to see why the US is losing its influence in North Asia and South East Asia to China. Every other country that suffered under the Japanese looks at us ignoring Japan's war guilt and arming them to the teeth and looks to China to be a counter to Japan's colossal military. [South Korea has canceled an offical visit to Japan over the Shrine visit.BBC]

Bye, bye South Korea:

Meanwhile we're pulling more troops out of South Korea---down to below 30,000---not because we think the South Koreans can defend themselves from the North Koreans, but because we need the troops in Iraq and if the North Koreans were to attack the South our troops would be sitting ducks anyway, so what's the point of keeping them there? [BBC]

We won't torture anyboby, we promise.

I read that the Brits have come to an agreement with Muammar Gaddafi to take back Libyan nationals suspected of being terrorists deported from the UK. This is a part of the new terror legislation B-liar has come up with. The Libyans have promised not to torture these deportees and you can take that to the bank. This follows a similar agreement with Jordan and you can be sure Jordan and Libya will abide by international human rights standards just like the British used to. [Keep in mind that while the US and UK was negotiating with Gaddafi, who Jack Straw called a "great statesman," to give up his WMD, he was busy paying an old friend of Grover Norquist to assassinate then Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Very trustworthy, no?]

Baku=Oil:

Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev tells theNYT that he's confident his party will post an overwhelming victory in upcoming parliamentary elections next month. Just like his 95% election win when he took over from his father in 2003, its obvious the Azeri people love him and hate the opposition. The fact that Azerbaijan is soon expected to be pumping as much as a million barrels of oil has nothing to do with the US looking the other way as he uses the levers of government to stifle dissent and manipulate the vote tallies. The opposition has taken to wearing orange in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine, but the chances of them recreating that triumph of people power in Azerbaijan is very remote. Condi is all for stability when it comes to the stable, oil rich government in Baku and any rocking of the boat in that very sensitive part of the world is not likely. The Ukrainians for their part are enabling Aliyev and his band of oligarchs by having Azeri opposition leader Rasul Guliyev held in custody for extradition back to Azerbaijan on charges of embezzlement, which are largely seen as politically motivated. Everybody is doing the Putin these days in the former USSR, and the Dept. of State has nothing much to say on the subject.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:38 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005 10:30 PM EDT
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Thursday, 20 October 2005
White House rogues gallery
Topic: Bush Administraiton

The senate Judiciary Committee has given Harriet Miers an "incomplete" on her job application for Supreme Court judge. White House spokesperson Dana Perino said Miers had told Spector that "She had years of files to go through," (I'm so sure.) and she might have to provide "follow-ups" to the questionnaire. Are we sure that's what she told Spector? The other day Spector thought she told him she agreed with Griswold v. Connecticut and then she said she didn't tell him that. Spector said, "I've never walked out of a room and had a disagreement on what was said." There are a number of things she left out of her questionnaire like whole cases that even the Judiciary Committee knew she worked on. Also, she's still a little shaky on her recollection of when or if she paid her dues to keep her license to practice law. All the work she has done for W. in the White House is missing, which is going to make it kind of tough for her to get nominated I would think. I mean, are these senators just going to sit back and pass her through on the president's word alone? I think not. What are they thinking inside the White House? From the word 'go' this nomination has been on the rocks and it just gets more and more farcical. She is supposedly this big time legal heavy-weight but the White House hasn't done anything to prove it.

Lindsay Graham wants to know what work she did on military prisoner questions, "Any writings that are not clearly attorney-client privilege should come before the committee," he says. I think this is more important than whether she's a good Christian or not: what did she do about the torture issue? If the Jose Pedilla case comes to the court it's pretty much a no brainer she will back the president on all matters involving the war on terror. That's the scariest thing to me: 'The president wants to round up the Nisei again? Go ahead. Chinese Americans are a threat? Round them up! Left wing bloggers are a national security risk? Throw away the key!'

To the question of whether the brains behind Bush are distracted by impending indictments and such Karen Hughes says, "It's not something that's affecting, I don't think, the daily business of the White House." Well, since they always say the opposite of what is actually the truth, I would say it is. If it really isn't then they're just complete idiots, because this Miers thing is a total political disaster. If W. digs his heels in on this and is determined to spend his political capital on getting his close friend in, no matter what, it could get a lot worse. I hope he does.

Meanwhile, congress is busy doing the business of business:

Yesterday they passed the "chessburger bill," preventing victims of the fast food industry from suing for the damage their crappy food causes. In the senate today, they passed the 'gun industry protection act' making it almost impossible for victims of gun violence to sue for damage caused by guns. You add in the Transportation Bill, the no oil man left behind act,' which passed by two votes, despite Tom DeLay's extending the vote and arm twisting, and the lack of action on helping the poor who are under constant attack by the Republicans and you have a congress that has been bought lock, stock, and barrel by corporate America. Is there anything they do in congress these days that nvolves running the country and not giving hand-outs to special interests? I can't think of any.

Rummy in the Middle Kingdom:

General Jing Zhiyuan, the commander of the Second Artillery, told Rummy that in an armed conflict, China would not use nukes first.[AP] That's reassuring, isn't it? There's no word on whether Rummy promised the same. The question is what Jing meant by "armed conflict." Taiwan might be a likely target, especially with Lee Teng-hui, who is on a "personal visit" to the US, bumbling around the US like a bull in a China shop, saying things like, Taiwan needed to acquire "some kind of long range missiles" to counter the 700 missiles aimed at Taiwan. He said, "The psychological effect is important" in deterring China from attacking the island. (Never mind that the second those missiles were loaded on to a ship Taiwan would cease to exist.) In a move to calm the cross strait dispute, the WaPo's Glen Kessler writes that Lee said, "Taiwan is already an independent country," and what was needed for the country to change its name to the Republic of Taiwan. That's a good way to get those missiles raining down on Taipei.

This sort of talk may make the neocons happy, but their track record on foreign policy is a little shaky these days. I understand their viewpoint on Taiwan, but unfortunately reality has a nasty habit of intruding on their grand plans for an independent and democratic Taiwan. I used to actually have a neocon roommate---who probably has already met with Lee---and we talked quite a bit about US China policy---that's really my strong suit---and I found myself more often than not agreeing with him. But the result of that sort of thinking is a war with China over a country most Americans have never heard of. The funny thing about this neocon, by the way, is that he's a Canadian. He's all for us using our military might, what's let of it, to democratize the world but he's not even a citizen. I say the Canadians should go fight this one out with China!

DeLay gets booked:

This has got to be another good sign for the Republicans. I wonder how long it will take to get his mugshot on the web?

AP: HOUSTON - Rep. Tom DeLay turned himself Thursday in at the Harris County sheriff's office, where he was photographed, fingerprinted and released on bond on state conspiracy and money laundering charges.

His lawyer said DeLay turned himself in because what they were trying to avoid, "Ronnie Earle having him taken down in handcuffs, and fingerprinted and photographed." That would have been to good to be true, but just the fact that he was booked is good enough for me. Next on the agenda is Karl Roved being frog-marched out of the White House!

The WaPo reports that another possible target of Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's Plame investigation might be an aid to Cheney, John Hannah, who "has told friends in recent months he is worried he may be implicated by the investigation, according to two U.S. officials." How could all this stuff be going on in Cheney's office and he not know anything about it? Along with Hannah and Libby, "Fitzgerald and his investigative team interviewed Mary Matalin, a former top Cheney adviser; Catherine Martin, his former communications adviser; and Jennifer Millerwise, his former spokeswoman." It was Cheney who was still talking about Saddam's WMD long after it was proved there weren't any, but he never told anyone to do anything about Joseph Wilson, right? "Scooter" and Rove all on their own just came up with this outing plan. Hey, couldn't that be considered a conspiracy?

Along those lines the Post says, "One person in the probe said Fitzgerald showed considerable early interest in the White House Iraq Group, a task force created by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. in August 2002 and charged with "marketing" the war in Iraq to the public. The group met weekly in the Situation Room. Its regular participants were Rove, Libby, Hadley, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, adviser Karen Hughes, Matalin, and White House director of legislative affairs Nicholas Calio." Isn't that intersting?

If the Republicans didn't run the congress this might be a good place to start an impeachment investigation. If the GOP were to lose the Senate in '06 the White House would still be in the clear because by then presumably Harriet Miers will be safely on the Supreme Court in a position to protect the president and his band of liars and thieves.

Radio notes:

Yesterday on The World Lisa Mullins talked with Dan Murphy of the CSM who was at Saddam's trial. Murphy wasn't very impressed by the whole thing. Security was so tight he said, that reporters weren't allowed to bring in pens and paper, instead they were given pencils and legal pads after they were inside. They had to get through about 10 check points and when the proceedings actually got under way he couldn't hear anything for about 10 minutes. The "trial" wasn't anything he would consider to be up to international standards. [CSM]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005 3:53 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 19 October 2005
Who is on trial and who ought to be.
Topic: Iraq

Big news today from Iraq, the trial of Saddam Hussein has started. If he is convicted, of which there's no doubt, he will be put to death. What I don't understand is how they will put him to death for all the other crimes he's committed if he's convicted and put to death for only the massacre of Shiites in Dujail. After all, the Kurds want him to pay for the decades of killings they suffered under him, too; so they might demand he be kept alive a little longer. Not that the Iraqi "government" makes things up as they go along, but it's not too far fetched to see them holding another trial or adding charges right in the middle of this one to appease the Kurds.

If they really want to get Saddam and all those behind his regime, though, they might want to haul Rummy in along with George Bush Sr. I can't think of anyone who is more responsible for the mass killing of Shiites in the south, after the Gulf War, than George H. W. Bush---and maybe General Schwartzkopf, who let the Iraqis retain the use of their helicopters as a condition of surrender. And what about the tens of thousands who died in the Iran/Iraq war which Reagan and Bush were more than happy to allow to keep going for 8 years because it kept Iran busy? So he gassed some Kurds, big deal, Bechtel wanted that Aqaba pipeline built, that's why Rummy didn't mention the gassing thing to Saddam. 'Don't upset him; get him to sign on the dotted line.' [Shimon, the check is in the mail.] By the way, where is Taraq Aziz?

Since the Bush administration tends to eschew international tribunals the Shiites and the Kurds have been left to have their revenge. Unfortunately, some might say the judges have no experience in international law and this is just basically a kangaroo court with no standing in the rest of the world. The US says it's all on the Iraqis, we don't have anything thing to do with it, but you know if it gets more farcical than it was today---with Saddam giving speeches and DVD players not working etc.---you can bet Zalmay Khalilzad will be right there to get things back on track.

Speaking of Rummy: did anyone catch The Torture Question on Frontline last night? Pretty incredible! I have been writing about all this stuff for over a year but to see it all put together in one show was shocking. The totality of the crimes committed by the US military under the direct supervision of Rummy is astounding. How does this guy still have his job? Why isn't he bunking with Milosevic? W. might think the Rumster is doing a great job, but the rest of the world can see what a travesty our "war on terror" is. It's not only us, though; the Brits have seen our techniques and decided they want to do it too. Tony B-liar's new anti-terrorism legislation will certainly lead to the same sorts of abuses the US is guilty of.

Rummy is in China right now lecturing them on transparency, which is pretty funny. I don't know if he's going to mention the human rights thing, though; he probably shouldn't, his Chinese counterparts might not be able to maintain their inscrutable stares and might burst into hysterical laughter. It could be an embarrassing international incident. [Not that saying "we're very, very, sorry" for the death of their pilot in the 2001 EP-3 midair collision was the least bit embarrassing. Far from it, America was standing tall as our top spy place came back in crates.]

Anyway, Rummy doesn't need the Chinese to tell him what they're up to, it's obvious. They want to counter the US 7th fleet by completely controlling the South China Sea and they want to project their power way out into the Pacific to protect their shipping lanes. And they really, really, want to stick it to the Japanese. That might be a long time coming. Just because the Japanese call their army and navy the "self defense force" doesn't mean they can't get real offensive if they want to. Japan has one of the biggest militaries in the world. (And they can get nukes if they want them too.) So, Junichiro Koizumi can visit the Yasukuni Shrine anytime he wants to and if the Chinese don't like the school text books that forget to mention WW II, they can suck it. What are they going to do about it?

When are the Democrats going to attack the Harriet Miers nomination on civil rights grounds? As Bush's legal counsel she was involved in all the torture memos, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo etc. As Dick Polman in the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, she is in a perfect position as a Supreme Court Justice to preserve Bush's legacy on the War on Terror. If she gets in, you can bet Jose Padilla will be in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. And all those "voluntary fasters" at Gitmo will have hoses down their noses for a long, long time. Why aren't the Democrats----and the Republicans who are afraid of over reaching government power---speaking out? We already know she's a religious nut, big deal. There's a lot more at stake here than Roe v. Wade.

Radio notes:

Give a listen to Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY's Radio Times who interviewed Marci Hamilton, professor of constitutional law at Yeshiva university and author of "God Versus the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law." She was a lawyer involved in the Grand Jury that exposed the serial abuse of children by the Philadelphia Archdiocese. It was very interesting: Did you know the Catholics aren't the only ones who abuse children? The Fundamentalist Mormons----there's such a thing?---in order to keep the ratio between men and woman in the men's favor, take young boys out and dump them on the streets and tell them never to come back. They transport 13 year old girls to Canada so they can become wives for other Mormons. The problem is the government is afraid to do anything that might make the religious nuts mad.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:41 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005 1:07 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Fraud.

The BBC reports this morning an Iraqi election official has said that voting irregularities being investigated in the referendum election on Saturday might be fraud. Imagine that, fraud in Iraq? What a great day for democracy! The Iraqis certainly are quick learners and they have the best teachers: who knows more about stealing an election than the great liberator himself, George W. Bush?

The US military said they killed 70 insurgents in two air raids in Ramadi on Sunday. The local hospitals tell a different story; at least 25people were killed including 18 children. [WaPo] The air raids came in response to the killing of 5 Marines by an IED on Saturday; supposedly the majority of the dead "insurgents" were caught planting another bomb. One wonders why it would take 20 insurgents to plant an IED; obviously they would make a very tempting and easy target. If this is their usual MO, I don't see how we haven't wiped them all out yet. The most likely explanation is that the second air strike was to keep possible insurgents that might have been in the crowd of gawkers from taking anything of military value.

This happened before in 2004 when a US helicopter fired a missile on a crowd in Haifa street----they blowed-them-up-reeeel-good----who was cheering over a blown up humvee. The pentagon claimed then the crowd was all insurgents but that was later proved false because they also killed a prominent Arab reporter. [Independent] I don't know whether this is just an honest mistake or if this was a little pay back for the Marines getting blown up. In either case, killing innocent civilians like this, just for revenge, only makes more insurgents. [Vietnam 101]

[Today, two more Marines were killed and "9" "insurgents" were killed in a fire fight near Rutbah. Centcom.]

I'm sure every blog in the universe has already been over the Judith Miller thing, but I want to have my crack at her.

Her own personal account of her conversations with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is a little puzzling; that is to say a bunch of crap. She says Libby never told her the name of Joseph Wilson's wife but "Valerie Flame" is written in her notebook in the same spot where her notes on Libby are. Even if Libby didn't tell her what the name was, it wouldn't be too hard to find out who Wilson's wife was. Don't you get the impression Miller is trying to protect Libby, which would track with her obvious glee in printing Ahmad Chalabi's propaganda before the war. She was a real trooper for the cause.

Miller relates Libby's bogus story about how the CIA was "selectively leaking" to "hedge" in case there were no WMD found. The CIA was engaging in "a perverted war" over the war in Iraq. (Lord knows the White House frowns on leaking.) Miller writes that Libby said the evidence coming from the CIA on Iraq's WMD was unequivocal, but if you had been reading Walter Pincus in the WaPo instead of the Chalabi/Miller section of the NYT, before the war, you would have known there was quite a lot of dissention inside the CIA on this point. (If it is so that the CIA was solidly behind the now infamous National Intelligence Estimate, why then did Libby need to create the "Office of Special Plans" to make stuff up?)

I find this especially funny: Miller says Libby kept steering her back towards the administration's nuclear claims, "Although I was interested in primarily in my area of expertise [,] chemical and biological weapons." That's rich, her "expertise?" Just because Chalabi introduces you to a bunch of "eye witnesses" who claim to have worked on Saddam's weapons programs but are actually charlatans and drunkards on Chalabi's payroll and can put on a convincing act, doesn't make you an expert. A sucker, maybe. A co-conspirator, probably.

It's a fact the NYT let Miller "run amok" with no editorial controls, they allowed her to put whatever outrageous lie came into Chalabi's head and give it the credibility of the great New York Times. She and the NYT were as responsible for getting us in this war as Bush & CO. were. What credibility does Miller or the NYT have left at this point? Her editor has seriously endangered the sterling reputation of the paper over this Judith Miller matter and a lot of people can't even figure out why. What great principle was she defending? Why did she stay in jail for 85 days? Why have they defended her to the exclusion of all else? There are so many unanswered questions in this whole thing and the Times is not being very forthcoming. Sooner or later the truth is going to come out and the Times is going to take a blow. It would be truly sad if a great newspaper like the New York Times was destroyed by that self serving bitch.

Barbara Ehrenreich on Miller and the Times from an interview on Democracy Now yesterday.

"...I have to wonder why the power of this one woman, Judith Miller, in the Times, and all I can think of is that like many other mainstream media outlets, they're very, very concerned with access to the highest places in government and, you know, power wherever it is.

Judith Miller had that access, and that was more important to them than truth, apparently. There is a problem, you know, of getting too much access, getting too friendly with those people you're interviewing, getting embedded and in bed with them, which in a sense, you know, she was, and that's where mainstream journalism very easily crosses the line into becoming spokespeople for those in power. And that's what the Times became."

News notes:
Seth Borensterin from Knight Ridder reports that, "The chief Pentagon agency in charge of investigating and reporting fraud and waste in Defense Department spending in Iraq quietly pulled out of the war zone a year ago -- leaving what experts say are gaps in the oversight of how more than $140 billion is being spent."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:34 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005 4:02 PM EDT
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Monday, 17 October 2005
One of these days USA; Pow! Straight to the moon!
Topic: General News.

Two Chinese Teikanauts completed their 5 day mission orbiting the Earth and safely returned to accept "bouquets of flowers from their cheering retrieval crew." [RED NOVA] This is a big feather in the cap for the Chinese, especially when you consider NASA is asking the Russians for help to get us into space. The Chinese plan on going to the moon in 2010 and they'll probably do it, too. They won't be lacking for funding now that they hold about a trillion dollars in US currency. Isn't it ironic that the country who first went to the moon is not only bankrolling the Chinese but is utterly dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts up to the ISS? [And what about that pesky Iran Act?}

Meanwhile, Rummy is on his way to China for a military "fact finding" mission; he wants to now why the Chinese need to be spending so much on their military: "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?" [ATimes] One might ask why we need to spend $5 billion a year on the pentagon when the only threat we face is a bunch of bearded freaks hiding out in caves. Are there any actual countries out there that threaten us? I can't think of one.

China on the other hand might have more of a real concern about a hyper-power with a penchant for unilateral military action with its new shock and awe first nookleer policy. (Oh and, just incidently, is the undisputed naval master of the Pacific Ocean.) Then there's that little issue of Taiwan which we've pledged to defend if China decides to use force to bring that splitest province back into the fold. Just in time for Rummy's visit the US has invited former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-hui to the US on an official visit. That shouldn't cause any tension between Rummy and Hu Jintao, right?

Why now of all times would we do that? Probably another neocon ploy to show em' who's boss. [We're back to the China is a threat thing.] Of course, the Chinese usually have some reason to be angry when any US official comes calling; if we hadn't given them a reason they would have come up with one themselves. It's always good to keep the barbarians guessing when they visit the Middle Kingdom

Despite Maj. Gen. Zhu Chengu, a dean at the National Defense University, saying China might respond to an American intervention in any attack against Taiwan with the nuclear option, the Chinese aren't quite ready to drop the big one on LA yet. A mission to the moon would sure make the point that they could plant a nuke anywhere on the globe, though. The Chinese usually take the long view on these things, so I wouldn't expect WW III within the next few years but they are only going to get more proficient at this sort of thing.

Rick Santorum:

Our good friend Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is at it again. This time he's finally decided to take a stand against Bush and question the nomination of Harriet Miers to become a Supreme Court judge. He calls Bush's choice of Miers, "the president's second faith-based initiative, which is 'trust me.' I think, candidly, we deserve better than that." He's concerned that Bush "didn't put someone up there with a record we could examine." Not that the Republicans are for litmus tests or anything, but in this case; unless she can prove she's a frothing-at-the-mouth-fetus-defender, who makes Antonin Scalia look like Lawrence Tribe, he's going to have to seriously think about voting against her confirmation. Wow! Not that he actually will, of course, he's just feeling the heat now that he's locked in tight race for re-election.

His Democratic challenger, State Treasurer Robert Casey, is out fund-raising him and is leading him in the polls: a Republican loss of Santorum's seat would be huge. Yesterday at their first joint campaign appearance Casey said he would push for repealing Bush's tax cuts for the top 1% and use the money to help small business by restoring Bush's cuts to the SBA. Santorum mocked that idea by saying repealing the cuts would hurt small businessmen. [PI]

This is the typical bogus argument the GOP always uses: the Estate Tax hurts small farmers and making millionaires billionaires some how helps the rest of us at the bottom of the ladder down the line. By the way, how many small businessmen make over $300,000 a year, and if they do, why do they need the SBA's help? I am going to go out on Election Day next year and vote several times for Bob Casey. (Hey, it's Philadelphia, the rules are different here.) I would like nothing more than to see that sanctimonious smirk wiped right off Santorum's face.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:36 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005 6:43 PM EDT
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Friday, 14 October 2005
Of fake conversations.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Things really are not going well for the White House these days. When they can't even pull off a staged photo-op anymore, you know they're in trouble. There was so much hubbub about the nature of the set up of Bush's video conference with a few handpicked and very upbeat soldiers, with Allison Barber telling everybody what to say and when, a lot of people got the idea that the whole thing was scripted. Even though Barber actually said at one point 'lets stick to the way we scripted it,' pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita had to apologize for "any perception that [the soldiers] were told what to say" at the event. It is not the case." [WaPo] Right, I believe that, don't you?

I think Scott McClellean went so far as to say the troops were just expressing their "candid views" on the progress of the war. Now, what would McClellan know about being candid, in the first place, and are we really supposed to believe that all this happy talk about the capabilities of the Iraqi soldiers is what these people actually think?

In any case, W. says, "We got a strategy, and it's a clear strategy. On the one hand, we will hunt down these killers and terrorists and bring them to justice, and train the Iraqi forces to join us in that effort." That's a strategy? Which are going to do first, by the way; hunt them down and kill them or bring them to justice? It sounds like the same old strategy to me, you know, the one that's not working?

I wrote yesterday about an Iraqi military unit that is more concerned about exacting revenge on Sunnis than winning the war. They are not the First Battalion but the First Brigade of the Iraq army's sixth division. My apologies. Here is a follow up article today in the Philly Inquirer.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:26 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 14 October 2005 1:28 PM EDT
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Thursday, 13 October 2005
Everything is OK! W, is great!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Tom Lasseter of the Philadelphia Inquirer has a very scary story about the Iraqi First Battalion, the unit the US military hopes will be a template for the future Iraqi Army. This is basically the only Battalion that is capable of operating on its own, although on big missions it still needs US help. The First is populated by Shiite soldiers and officers who are mainly bent on exacting revenge from the Sunnis for Saddam and the latest violence perpetrated by the insurgents. One major in the unit he interviewed, Swadi Ghilan, said, "There are two Iraqs; it's something we can no longer deny. The Army should execute the Sunnis in their neighborhoods so that all of them can see what happens, so that all of them learn their lesson." That's real promising. These guys can't wait for the referendum and the December elections because afterwords there will be a Shiite dominated government in charge and they can get to whipping out the Sunnis.

Another part of the problem with the First is that its top commander, Swail, takes his marching orders from a Shiite cleric associated with Ayatollah ali-Sistani. At a meeting with his officers he was asked why the unit was being deployed mainly in a Shiite neighborhood and not in a Sunnis one where the unit is taking casualties because they are undermanned. Swail told them Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr had told him the troops had to stay in the Shiite neighborhood to protect the faithful. "Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr has more influence than Ibrahim al-Jaafari." Lasseter quotes one officer saying, "But sir we need more troops." Swail answers, "The problem is convincing Sayyid Hussein al-Sadr." [See more on the First Battalion's storied history.]

Today in W.'s phony baloney video pep rally,he asked a soldier---who had already been told what she'd be asked and had practiced the answer--"In the last 10 months, what kind of progress have we seen?" Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo answered, "Over the past 10 months, the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces are improving ... They continue to develop and grow into a sustainable force." The question is; do we want them to be a sustainable force? Nice attempt to make the disaster over there look like A-OK, but no one is buying it anymore; except maybe W. himself. I've asked this before, but are these made up events made for our benefit or for his?

Something his advisor's will be reluctant to show him is the WSJ/NBC News poll out today:

"For the first time in the poll, Bush’s approval rating has sunk below 40 percent, while the percentage believing the country is heading in the right direction has dipped below 30 percent. In addition, a sizable plurality prefers a Democratic-controlled Congress, and just 29 percent think Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is qualified to serve on the nation’s highest court."

Looks like all that house building and speechifying' isn't doing the trick. Finally, the blinders have been removed for the America people's eyes and they now see the emperor has no clothes.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:07 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005 2:09 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 12 October 2005
Bad and weird in the Middle East.
Topic: General News.

In an odd and worrying development, the Syrian interior minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan apparently killed himself today.[AP] Specualtion is that he felt the international UN investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri was going to name him as being behind the killing. Kenaan was the de facto ruler of Lebanon until the Syrians were forced to leave, so I guess there's something to that theory. Naturally, this is the Middle East, so there are also many rumors flying around, too. One is that he was killed because he knew too much and might name people higher up the line, which implys Bashar Assad has something to do with the Hariri killing. I haven't heard it yet, but you can be sure someone is out there right now blaming Israel. In any event, this suicide could be a very destabilizing to the whole region.

I'm not saying the Syrian regime is any great shakes, but at least its stable cxompared to what's next door, this should be viewed as a good thing for the short term, at least. The US is leveling tremendous diplomatic pressure on the Syrians and this investigation is going to come down like a ton of bricks on the regime. That fact coupled with the very unexpected suicide of Gen. Kenaan could blow the whole stability thing out the window. We've already got a very big problem with the Iranians meddling in the affairs of Iraq we don't need a basket case on the western front too. The Syrians are not supporting or arming the foreign fighters pouring into Iraq. They may be either, simply looking the other way, or they might be honestly attempting to stop them and just failing miserably, but they are in no way as dangerous to the entire project in Iraq or as involved as the Iranians and the Saudis are. What is left behind in the ashes of the Aliwite regime might be dangerous, though. A case in point is the Kurds in Syria.

I'm going out on a limb here, this is all wild speculation, but what would happen if the Kurds in Syria, after many years of being held down and discriminated against, decided to link up with Iraqi Kurdistan? What do you think the Turks would do about that? What would happen if Isreal decided to go ahead and take some more Lebensraum beyond the Golan when everything falls apart? What would Iran do in this situation? Hezbollah is right there, maybe they move into Syria and set up some facts on the ground of their own inside Syria? Or maybe, we move in to "restore order" and we are welcomed with open arms and roses. It could happen, right?

News just in: The Iraqi parliment has supposedly come to an agreement to amend the constitution in the early part of next year---this before it has been even voted on in the referendum on Saturday---to further hammer out the contentious issues preventing the Sunnis from hopping on board. Jeez...these guys can't even agree on what day it is, what difference is more rangling next year going to accomplish?

A bridge Tal Afar? Redux

The AP is reporting yet another suicide bombing in Tal Afar today that killed 30. Yesterday another suicide bomber killed a similar amount also in Tal Afar. Last week the first female suicide bomber killed dozens in Tal Afar. I thought that after the great success of the joint American-Iraqi military sweeps of the area in and around Tal Afar had secured that part of the country. I seem to remember reading US military spokesmen saying this time Iraqi forces would hold territory taken in the various Euphrates offensives. It must be the run up to the elections that causing all this violence, doubtless it will all come to an end after the Iraqis vote on their new constitution on Saturday, that is, if the polititians ever agree on what the document will actually say.

Reports are that the Iraqi parliament, if they can get a quorum, will vote today on a new set of last minute changes negotiated yesterday by the three parties; Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. The hope, as always, is that enough Sunnis can be coxed into coming out to vote in order to make the whole process look legitimate. Good luck with that. How are the Iraqis going to know what the hell they're voting for if they keep moving the goal posts around? Oh, right, they'll be told how to vote by their tribal leaders.

It's not to say that everybody wouldn't like to have a stable government in Iraq and that the brutality and killing would end and we could get the hell out of there, but we stuck a big stick into a hive of angry wasps and now we're stuck. W. says he has a plan, but he hasn't told anybody what it is. Rummy said he had a plan and it was called victory, but he also said he knew exactly where the WMD was, too, so he's not much of a help.

Progress in Afghanistan:

In any case, the theory that after a successful election the insurgents will see the errors of their ways and go away is being put to the test in Afghanistan and is looking a little shaky. From what I can tell the new Wolesi Jirga will have a lot of women, which is a good thing, and a lot of former warlords, which is a bad thing: chief among the worst of them is Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum who will be a large part of the opposition that is estimated to control a bloc of 100 members in the 249 seat body. Things are still up in the air about what this new parliament will actually do and how it will operate, so the jury is still out, but there is no question that the Taliban didn't get the memo.

On the 8th of October a US soldier was killed after stepping on a landmine in Helmond province, in the south, bringing the number of total US troops killed in Afghanistan to 200. On the 10th, a suicide bomber killed 3 people in Kandahar and a US soldier was killed in a fire fight in the east of the country. Yesterday, a police convoy in Helmand was attacked by a large number of Taliban and 19 police officers were killed. The beat goes on and the poppies have never been more plentiful.

The Guard and Reserve take it on the jaw:

On Sunday I was at a sports bar in Bucks County PA, watching my beloved Dolphins lose to the hated Bills, when a National Guardsman came into the place asking for donations for a fellow Guardsman who was, in his words, being sent to Iraqi "involuntarily." The donations were for the man's family who were in deep financial straits because of his deployment. What have we come to when our National Guard have to go around to bars asking for hand outs? The Guard and the Reserve in Pennsylvania are taking it particularly hard having lost over 100 since the war began. In the past three months alone they've lost 10, including Gennaro Pellegrini Jr. a local Fishtown policeman who is dearly missed.

All the Guard and Reserve accounted for 56% of US deaths in August and September according to the AP. "Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war----220 of the nearly 500 total---occurred in the first nine months of 2005." Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, says the heavy reliance on the Guard and Reserve has been necessary to allow regular Army units like the Third Armored Division and the 101st Airborne Division to retool for another deployment. He says the Guard and Reserves, "bought us the time we needed." I'm sure the families of those who won't be coming back will appreciate the fact that they sacrificed their loved ones and bread winners to help the Army get its act together after two years into this thing. The good news is that the number of Guard brigades in Iraq is scheduled to go from 7 to 2 next year. Now, if we can only get the regulars out of there, too.

John Negroponte released the 6000 word letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al Zarqawi yesterday that I had expounded on a few days ago. See it at the Inquirer.

Random notes:

This has nothing to do with anything in particular but I just have to add this in: Our good friend Rick Santorum has a bill he's trying to push, HB813, with little success so far, luckily, which would force the National Weather Service to stop providing its forecasts to the public for free. Apparently, senator Santorum feels the Weather Service is unfairly keeping for-profit weather services like AccuWeather from making a bundle of cash. Hey, if you want to know whether it's going to snow next week, you have to pay for it. If you want to know what that hurricane bearing down on you is up to, better pony up the cash to Rick's well connected friends. What a completely irresponsible, moronic idea! Unless you happen to be stock holder at Accuweather, this is a total betrayal of the American taxpayer. Why not just cut all funding to the NOAA? Let the markets run the weather.

In another related Rick Santorum matter: He almost ran over one of my friends in DC a couple of years ago. The victim of Santorum's bad driving was Elizabeth Croydon who happened to be in the process of staring in a movie called Washington Interns Gone Bad at the time. Of the film Santorum said, "I gotta tell you, it really shakes my faith in human nature. Seeing this film will not be on my list of top 10 things to do." What a great endorsement! Thanks Rick! P.S., I was the "Finacial Times Guy" in the movie.

A more few notes:

There are few things I didn't get to write about that happened a few days back when I couldn't get to a computer, one of which is the news that Julie Myers' nomination to be the new immigration enforcement chief was almost in the bag after being endorsed by a party line vote of 7-2 in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [NYT]Myers is the daughter of outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, and she just happens to be newly married to Michael Chetoff's chief of staff John Wood, but that doesn't mean there's any nepotism or cronyism involved here. The fact that she's never dealt with immigration issues or run such a large organization didn't seem to faze Republicans on the Committee. Tom Coburn---fighter of rampant teenage lesbianism---said, "We need people thinking out of the box, and she's going to do that. She doesn't know what can't be done." Of course, with her limited experience she doesn't know what can be done either.

This is yet another example of the Republicans just rubber stamping any politically connected hack the White House cares to send down the pike. This isn't to say that the Democrats are up in arms about the Myers nomination: Joe Lieberman and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii were both said to be impressed by her intelligence and dedication to public service. Well, that's all you need I guess in this administration, I mean she can learn on the job, immigration enforcement isn't such an important issue these days, just because 440 or so Mexicans have been found dead in the desert and two border states have declared states of emergency doesn't mean she doesn't have plenty of time to ease into the job and get up to speed.

The Lord's Resistance Army:

The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, who has been hiding out in Sudan for 20 years. [NYT] The Ugandan government asked the Sudanese to seize Kony but it doesn't seem like this is very likely to happen any time soon. Kony has been very useful to the butchers in Khartoum who have looked the other way while Kony conducted a brutal war against Uganda and abducted up to 20,000 Ugandan children and turned them into fighters, porters and sex slaves. The Sudanese say they don't support the LRD but they say they have nothing to do with the Janjaweed in Darfur, too. It would be nice if the US pressured them to arrest Kony, although that might be construed as tacit enforcement of the ICC and that's something W. and Co. are very much against.

Helping the ICC try a vicious killer like Kony might encourage the court to go after American soldiers, right? It's not the fear that Rummy and W. might find themselves on a court docket for the Iraq invasion if the US signed on to the ICC treaty, oh no, no: they're worry is strictly about protecting US soldiers from an out of control international court that possibly hates America.

In Iraq:

As we get closer the constitutional referendum in Iraq this Saturday, W. says he expects more violence; these insurgents are clearly desperate and will doing anything to prevent large numbers of Iraqis from coming out to vote. In the run up to the elections the US has added another three brigades into the mix bringing the number of US troops in Iraq to some 152,000. The country is going into virtual lock down just like it did before the January elections. I would expect the violence to ebb because the insurgents won't be able to operate under the strict measures being imposed, like the banning of traffic in Baghdad etc. Once the election is declared a raving success and the Shiites and Kurds are given a mandate for their rule via the constitution, I'm sure the insurgency will die on the vine.

Iraqi interior minister and possible lunatic Bayan Jabr told the Arab paper Sharq al-Aswat that the number of foreign fighters---the Arab ones not the Americans---had gone down from 3,000 three months ago to just 900. Apparently the major offensives over the past few months in the western part of the country had decimated their numbers---read the body count---and also because al-Qaeda has decided to send their forces to other countries to build networks there. Where he got this information he didn't say.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005 1:58 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 11 October 2005
George W. Bush is the greatest president ever!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Man, just when you thought things couldn't get worse for the Bush administration: Mohamed ElBaradei and the IAEA get awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Here the US worked so feverishly to have him removed for being "wrong" about Saddam's nuclear weapons program and for not being a team player on the whole imminent threat of Iran's nukes and some namby pamby peaceniks give him one of the world's most prestigious awards! Jeez, what else can go wrong? (Don't worry; at least he won't be looking into Israel's covert WMD program any time soon.)

What else could go wrong, you say? What about Timothy Flanagan withdrawing his name from consideration from the number 2 spot at the DOJ? Yep, looks like the former deputy White House council is stuck using his administration connections to lobby for TYCO International for a little while longer. Eric Lichtblau writes for the NYT that Flanagan's nomination, "appears to have been scuttled by a convergence of disparate issues that have proven increasingly difficult for the Bush administration: charges of cronyism in political appointees, the wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Abrahoff's political lobbying work and lingering concern about the administration's allowance of the questionable treatment of suspected terrorists." You mean the water-boarding-is-good-for-leaving-no-marks comment wasn't helpful?

Who says the administration is filling the government with incompetent hacks who do the bidding of their corporate masters? Where's the evidence for that?

While the administration was digesting this set-back, David Safavian was in court answering charges of obstruction of justice in another Jack Abramoff case. Safavian's lawyer, whose picture is in the dictionary next to the word Chutzpah, said the golfing trip Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff, was a personal trip, not professional. "A man wanted to go golfing with his friends. It was all about golf." Yeah, sure, I believe that, Safavian and Abramoff were buds. Just because a high powered lobbyist with connections to the highest levels of government wanted to take this relatively low level official out for a round of golf--in Scotland!---no one should get the idea there was anything fishy about it.

In Harriet Miers news:

Ryan J. Donmeyer writes for Bloomberg News that Miers' law firm, helped accounting firm Ernst & Young to "sell what came to be regarded as a sham tax shelter in 1999 by providing letters to shield customers from IRS penalties, a senate investigation found." Miers was comanager of the firm, Locke, Liddlle & Sapp, from 1999 to 2001. The article quotes White House spokesman Allan Abney as saying, "the transactions involved appropriate tax strategies," and noted that the firm said Miers was not involved with the shelter. One wonders what she did at the firm if she didn't know what was going on. Because these tax shelters were so "appropriate" Ernst & Young paid $15 million in fines to settle with the IRS over its tax shelter promotions in 2003. You'd think that kind of potential liability might have gotten the comanager of the firm's attention! But hey, she was probably too busy writing love notes to W..

Jay Root for the Knight Ridder News Service writes that the Texas State Library has released 2000 documents, including letters between Bush and Miers over the years. "In a 1996 letter thanking Bush and his wife Laura, for serving as chairs of a Dallas luncheon honoring Ms. Miers, she spoke of a little girl who had raved about getting Bush's autograph. 'I truly believe if the governor told her she should be an astronaut, she would do her best to become one. I was struck by the tremendous impact you have on the children whose lives you touch.' Barf! "You are the best governor ever----deserving of great respect!" In 1997 she got to take a plane trip with W. and she wrote to him that she thought it was "cool."

This sounds like the kind of person who is really going to be able to grapple with the major issues of the day in an independent and fair way, right? David Frum says she's merely a loyal assistant. "She's not an initiator. She was never a force for anything...She reflects the president's philosophy."

I think the picture is becoming pretty clear that this woman will go into the position ready to do the bidding of her beloved leader. Now I see what W. meant by saying she was the best candidate he could find. She was the least well known---he would have appointed Rove if he could have---and she's is rabidly loyal to him personally. (And then there's her tenure at the Texas Lottery commission which I'll get into at another time.) I don't see how any senator, Republican or Democrat, could possibly vote for this woman to be on the highest court in the land. What a travesty it would be if they confirm her. If the object of this nomination is to convince the rest of the world, and our creditors, that we're nothing but a banana republic; mission accomplished.

Note: W. is in New Orleans, again. He assures us this shameless exploitation of the Katrina disaster is not merely a photo-op: while he said this he was strutting around with a tool belt on.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:59 PM EDT
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Friday, 7 October 2005
That old dog needs a new trick.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

W. got into his time machine yesterday and took us back to his glory days of 9/11. David Sanger writes in the NYT that a senior White House official said Bush's "major" speech on terrorism was designed to remind Americans about the threat of Al-Qaeda after "a lot of distractions" over the past few months. Distractions? I think what this speech was all about was distracting us from those pesky indictments, charges of cronyism, corruption and FEMA's bungling of the Katrina aftermath. 'Look over here, there's a guy with a turban on!'

W. repeated the same old boilerplate about the "global struggle" and the danger of the terrorists taking over Iraq. Also included in the presentation was a hastily put together hand-out listing potential attacks thwarted by the government---you see, we really are doing something----along with the highly dubious contention that Jose Padilla was stopped from setting off a dirty bomb. Gosh, I feel safer all ready, don't you? If Katrina showed us nothing else, it showed us that W. is on the job.

W. said the US couldn't leave Iraq because we couldn't afford that country becoming a training ground for terrorists. What planet is this guy living on? Iraq has become the Harvard of terrorist universities: where else do they get such an excellent opportunity to learn how to defeat our tactics and kill a lot of our guys? Of course, they wouldn't be able to do this if certain countries weren't giving them aid and support, like Syria and Iran who are, "authoritarian regimes, allies of convenience...that share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments." Which moderate Muslim governments is he talking about: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait?

Syria might be an authoritarian government, but so is Jordan. King Adbullah II is just as much of a dictator as Bashar Assad, both of whom are Jeffersonian democrats compared to the Saudis. It gets kind of complicated out there in the real world, its not all black and white, but don't tell that to W., he's playing war president. And seriously, do Syria and Iran really want to hurt the US, are they just as much of a threat as OBL? (Where is OBL these days W.?) I think, they are probably feeling real nervous about having a huge foreign army camped out right next door and are reacting pretty much like any country would if they had a massive super power on a crusade saying they're in the cross hairs.

W. says "Islamo-Fascism" like "the ideology of communism contains inherent contradictions that doom it to failure." So, why are we spending so much of our blood and treasure on something that's eventually going to collapse under its own weight? The whole communism analogy is nonsense anyway; communism wasn't monolithic and neither is Al-Qaeda. [The Vietnamese hated the Chinese, they would have never allowed the Chinese to run the show, but despite the obvious staring McNamara and Johnson right in the face they went into Vietnam to stop the spread of Chinese communism.]

A letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that surfaced this week pretty much blows away the notion that these guys are one the same page and working together. Al-Zuwahiri tells al-Zarqawi to focus on killing Americas and knock off the killing of civilians and beheadings of hostages. Zawahiri says his grand plan is to expel the Americans from Iraq and then set up a militant Islamic caliphate before moving on to Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, ending in the destruction of Israel. (Naturally, no Islamo-maniacle plan would be complete without the destruction of Israel.)

Strangely, this sort of sounds like the Project for the New American Century's (PNAC) grand scheme for the Middle East, except for the part about destroying Israel. In any case, these people are just insane; their plans have no chance of ever succeeding. They're obviously very, very dangerous, but we're helping them out by presenting them with the perfect training ground and a source for recruitment and fund raising. We need to stop playing right into their hands and see them for what they are.

There is no indication in this letter that al-Zarqawi actually takes orders from al-Zawahiri, or what the relationship between al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia is, but al-Zawahiri asked Zarqawi for some money for al-Qaeda operations, which struck me as kind of funny: "Here's what you should be doing, I'm in charge here and, by the way, can you send some cash?'

Boy, if this scheme of distracting us with the threat of terrorism doesn't work, I don't know what W. is going to do, it's pretty much the only arrow he's got left in the quill. It's looking more and more likely an indictment is coming down for Karl Rove, so W.'s brain is going to be a little busy trying to stay out of jail. What's plan B?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:34 PM EDT
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