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Lets's talk about democracy
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Friday, 20 January 2006
Smoking guns and moving money.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

The WaPo reports: "Iran said on Friday it was moving funds out of Europe to shield them from possible U.N. sanctions and flexed its oil muscles with a proposal to cut OPEC output.

"Yes, Iran has started withdrawing money from European banks and transferring it to other banks abroad," said a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named."

Speculation has it they might be moving the funds to Asia or to Switzerland. I wonder which Asian nation might be a beneficiary of $30 billion of Iranian cash? The threat of cutting oil output is sending the price of oil up to $67 and the stock market is taking a nose dive as I write. It doesn't help that French president Jacques Chirac is threatening Iran with a nuclear douche. He said yesterday, according to the AP, "leaders of states that would use terrorist means against us" [could face] "a firm and fitting response."

That's the way to calm things down! There's no shortage of loonies out there wanting to throw nukes around, though. Trudy Rubin of the Philly Inquirer wrote last week that:

"The millennial obsession of Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, adds urgency to U.S. and European efforts to keep Iran from the bomb. In a speech at the United Nations, Ahmadinejad urged the Lord "to hasten the emergence of... the promised one," the Shiite Muslim equivalent of the Messiah. He is said to be obsessed with the Mahdaviat, the belief in the second coming of the 12th Shiite imam, known as the Mahdi, who has been in hiding for more than 1,000 years. The Iranian's combination of devotion and inflammatory threats against Israel highlights the potential danger of an Iranian bomb."

I think she might overstating this particular threat just slightly. I don't think the second coming of the Mahdi requires a nuclear holocaust like Ronald Reagan's rapture did. Remember, the man with his hands on the button back in the eighties thought he would be the president to usher in the coming of the lord.

Reagan said in an interview People magazine in 1983 that,"T]theologians had been studying the ancient prophecies -- what would portend the coming of Armageddon-- and have said that never, in the time between the prophecies up until now, has there ever been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never anything like this. I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns." [Common Sense Almanac]

And if that's not scary enough, keep in mind Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer before she let Ronnie poopy pants do anything. Don Regan wrote that, "Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise."

["My fellow Americans," he joked, "I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.]

So, Ahmadinejad doesn't sound that frightening to me in comparison. He doesn't have the bomb and he doesn't have that much power. He's got a big mouth, yes, but Hashemi Ali Rafsanjani is the real power behind the scenes. If you recall he was also the recipient of a cake and a bible signed by Reagan back in the Iran/Contra days, delivered to him by Ollie North and Robert McFarlane. Truly wacky! So he's probably figuring this dumbass we got in the White House now is just as flaky and can be played like the Iranians played Ronnie.

I'm digressing all over the place here today. What point am I trying to make?

In a bit of good news today a basically forgotten scandal amidst, all the others concerning this administration, Lawrence A. Franklin was sentenced to 12 years in prison for helping the Israelis spy on us. [AP]Franklin claims he was only trying to help the US.

"The judge said Friday that Franklin believed the National Security Council was insufficiently concerned with the threat posed by an unspecified Middle Eastern nation. Franklin thought leaking information might eventually persuade the Security Council to take more serious action, he said. While the Middle Eastern country was not named in the court record, sources and the facts of the case point to Iran."

The smoking gun: Not!

Well, what do you know, we're back to Iran again. Not that Israel has any hand this big push to bring Iran to the Security Council. [See this blog for more on the Franklin case]

I found this interesting insight from Atimes.com back in May of this year on the media treatment of the Iran situation and it's very prescient:

"It is hardly given that in the light of Iran's cooperation with the IAEA, fulfilling its NPT obligations, the Security Council would impose sanctions on Iran and, in case it chooses to do so, that would mean an oil embargo, causing higher oil prices hardly affordable by the global economy; short of oil embargo, a UN sanction would be practically toothless and a continuation of the present, decade-long US sanctions, which have proven a failure in deterring foreign investments in Iran, as the Iran-China mega deal worth US$100 billion clearly demonstrates. In all likelihood, China would veto any Security Council sanctions on Iran as long as no smoking gun on Iran's alleged weapons program has been found."

In regard to the smoking gun all the US apparently has to offer is a lap top they claim has Iranian plans for a nuclear warhead on it but the NYT writes that those who have seen it are skeptical:

"This chapter in the confrontation with Iran is infused with the memory of the faulty intelligence on Iraq's unconventional arms. In this atmosphere, though few countries are willing to believe Iran's denials about nuclear arms, few are willing to accept the United States' weapons intelligence without question. "I can fabricate that data," a senior European diplomat said of the documents. "It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt."

So, there you go, no one believes a word we say so good luck getting sanctions on Iran. I know, how about focusing on the mess in Iraq before we start another war!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:18 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006 4:08 PM EST
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Wednesday, 18 January 2006
The Iran flap. Much flapping, little lift.
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: General News.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this big push by the US and the Europeans to take-Iran-out-to-the-woodshed for their nuclear program of late. The administration has been dithering over a policy on Iran for the past four years, leaving the matter entirely to the EU to take care of, but now all of a sudden there's this big crisis we need to get in the middle of. My question is: what good would imposing sanctions on Iran do at this point anyway? It's a little late in the game, it seems, because the Iranians have been had plenty of time to prepare for such an eventuality and according to Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, the Iranians have been stockpiling food and medicine over the past few years to blunt the effects of any sanctions. [NYT]

They've also been very busy signing up countries like China and India to sell their oil and gas to and the Russians are making a mint from Iranian arms purchases, so it would appear all these three countries, at least, would view sanctions as bad for business. The repeated attempts of the Bush administration to isolate the Iranians diplomatically would appear to be going no-where fast; and, besides, why would Russia or China want to pull America's chestnuts out of the fire for them, when they can instead sit back and watch us crash and burn while they make money?

On Monday, the permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Germany made a big show of meeting in London to discuss the referral of Iran to the UN, but even after all the behind-closed-doors arm twisting it looked like international unanimity on this burning issue was still a little shaky. Vlad "the impaler" Putin said, "The Iranian nuclear problem requires a very accurate approach without rash or erroneous moves," and he was continuing to hold out the hope that the Iranians might yet go along with the plan to have the Russians enrich the uranium for them.

The new Iranian ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, playing the reasonable Iranian said, "We believe that Iran and Russia should find a way out of this jointly." Reports have it that Condi was burning up the phone lines over the past weekend trying to get Russia onboard for a referral to the Security Council in the expectation that China would go along, too---or at least abstain---but the Chinese were still playing their cagey games saying in a statement that, "China believes that under the current situation, all relevant sides should remain restrained and stick to solving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations."

Even our good friends the Saudis, who are no friends to the Iranians, weren't exactly behind us 100% on taking Iran to the UN. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the BBC that he was skeptical that a nuclear Iran would really be a threat, particularly to Israel, because if they did try to "wipe Israel off the map" they'd be killing Palestinians too. He blamed the Western countries, partly, for the standoff saying, "The West in allowing Israel to establish its nuclear capability has done the damage. As long as you make one exception, you open the way for logical arguments of why him and not me." Of course, Cheney is over there now, so they might start taking a different tone if the price is right.

[The issue of Israel's nukes leading to an arms race in the Middle East isn't new, by the way. Recently released Nixon papers show that Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisko wrote in a 1969 memo to Secretary William Rogers that, "Israel's possession of nuclear weapons would do nothing to deter Arab guerrilla warfare or reduce Arab irrationality. On the contrary it would add a dangerous new element to Arab-Israeli hostility with added risk of confrontation between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.][CBS]

There appears, also, to be some dissention inside the administration itself about this course of action against Iran. An administration official, who wished to remain unnamed, was quoted in an article in the NYT by Steven Weisman as saying, "I've been surprised that so many people are acting like referral to the Security Council is some important event that will bring about change in the government of Iran. I don't buy it." He might be one of those hawks, though; who thinks regime-change or military strikes is the better way to go. That's basically all we've got as far as debate in the administration goes on this issue: Either, we go the "diplomatic" route, or we get aggressive. Both "strategies" offer no carrots or sticks and that's why neither will work.

Not that there's any sanity coming from congress on this issue either. John McCain said on Face the Nation that this standoff with Iran was the "most grave situation that we have faced since the end of the cold war, absent the whole war on terror." The military option he said should be "the last option," but "to say under no circumstances would we exercise the military option, that would be crazy." Democratic Senator Evan Bayh offered his informed opinion that there were elements of the Iranian nuclear program that could be taken out, which "would dramatically delay its development." Oh, really? The Iranians have dispersed their nuclear facilities to some 300 sites around the country making the utility of military strikes highly dubious and even if we were successful in such an attack, whose to say they don't turn around and start giving the insurgents in Iraq some real high tech weaponry?

Just last week three US helicopters were brought down killing 16 Americans and my bet is that the Iranians had something to do with it. Remember, the Russians have a lot of those Streala shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile launchers and they're not too particular who they sell them to. (They sold a ton to Saddam and no one knows where they are now.) If the insurgents can start shooting down our aircraft at will, that makes the job in Iraq a whole lot tougher. Iran also has its tentacles in Lebanon through Hezbollah and in the West Bank and Gaza through Hamas and they could make things really difficult for us if they wanted to. Or, they could stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and all of W.'s SUV driving supporters could really be hurting.

Real men talk to Tehran:

The only solution to the this "grave situation" is to start talking to Tehran. There are people inside the administration that have been pushing for talks with Iran for years, but they've been largely marginalized and we see where this refusal to deal with reality has led. In desperation, W. actually did authorize Zalmay Khalilzad to talk to the Iranians about all the weapons coming over the border, but the Iranians rebuffed the overture because they're not interested in talking about that, they interested in getting a deal on the nuclear issue; with us. The Iranians clearly don't take the Europeans seriously because they figure nothing they agree to will stand unless the US signs off on it first, so all of this "effort" on the part of the US to "engage" through their European partners on the nuclear issue has been pretty much a waste of time. A total lack of a policy isn't a policy.

I still think Mahmoud Amadinejad is just a battering ram that the real powers-that-be inside the Iranian government are using to gain leverage in negotiations. Abbas Milani says, "At this stage, they are convinced that the more hardball they play, the more the West will collapse." In a rare moment of lucidity last week Ahmadinejad said, "We follow our national interests within the framework of international regulations, and have the leverage to defend our interests," which seems to me to be a very concise explanation of their position. They're not breaking international law by opening up their enrichment facilities and they're a powerful country in the middle of a very dangerous region of the world that could either, be helpful in solving many issues roiling the Middle East, from Israel to Lebanon to Afghanistan, or they could make our lives very difficult. As powerful as they are, though, they've got a major inferiority complex that could be exploited by a more open minded administration; not this one obviously.

My guess is all this posturing will come to nothing in the end and we'll be back to square one soon enough. My worry is that if Iran doesn't respond in the way the W. wants them to and "diplomacy fails" again, he just might play some hardball of his own and do something stupid like attempt to take out Natanz or other facilities in an attempt to save face. Preempting Israel from taking matters into their own hands might also be an important calculation in the arithmetic of W.'s bully-politics, too, because that sort of thing would open up a very nasty can of worms and it could stir up a whole world of trouble we don't need, especially when one considers how reliant on a Shiite led government in Iraq we are and you know who they take their marching orders from.

In Iraq:

Speaking of our good friends and allies in the Iraqi government: the WaPo reported last week that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Sciri, one of the leading parties in the soon to be government, said the idea of a re-do on the constitution was off the table. He said he would not allow a new government to "change the essence" of the constitution. The Shiites and the Kurds had promised the Sunnis to amend the constitution after the Dec. elections if they'd go along in voting for it, which was seen as a major concession on the part of the majority by our man in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad. The issue of most importance for the Sunnis was that the Kurds and the Shiites not break the country up into autonomous zones rich in oil, leaving them with a whole bunch of desert.

A spokesman for al-Hakim said, "The major points in the constitution were agreed to by all the parties that participated in the drafting of the constitution. As for changes in the powers, some points or details, these are open to negotiation. However, the main principles which were agreed to by all sides, and approved by the people in a popular referendum [just barely] they cannot be touched."

So, that's good, when the Shiites were just another party in a make-believe government, they were willing to promise the moon, but now that they're going to be ruling an internationally sanctioned, legitimately sovereign government; they're saying 'not so fast.' They can do the math and they don't feel like sharing anymore. If they do get their own slice of the country in the south, a USAID paper might point to the type of "democracy" they would practice.

Want to make a cool 3 billion? You sure?

The paper which is describing Iraq for potential bidders to a 1.32 billion dollar reconstruction contract says that in the south of the country, "social liberties have been curtailed dramatically by roving bands of self-appointed religious-moral police." The Post adds, "In cities, women's dress codes are enforced and barbers who remove facial hair have been killed, and liquor stores and clubs have been bombed." Sounds more like Afghanistan, or Iran, than it does the newly freed Iraq.

But, everything will be alright after we handover power to the Iraqis, right? What might such a totally independent Iraq look like, you might ask:

Well, let's take the example of the transfer of some of Saddam's palaces to local Iraqi military units in Tikrit on Nov. 22 of last year. Amidst a brass band and much pomp and ceremony---and a stray dud mortar that sent all the dignitaries running for cover---Col Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, handed over the keys to the governor of Salahuddin Province with these words, "The passing of this facility is a simple ceremony that vividly demonstrates the continuing progress being made by the Iraqi government and their people."

Ellen Knickmeyer writes in the WaPo that soon after the American's left, though, "Looters moved in, ripping out doors, air conditioners, ceiling fans and light switch plates from some of the compound's 136 palaces, leaving little more than plaster and dangling electric wires." The Governor of the province, Hamed Hammod Shekti, said "The palace was turned over to the Iraqi army units in the presence of Deputy Governor Adullah Naji Jabara. Two weeks later I heard the palace was looted. Now who can I accuse of the looting?" Knickmeyer writes that, "Over several days after the transfer of control from US to Iraqi hands, furnishings from the palaces turned up in one local market for sale by truck load."

The US military when asked about the looting said they "would fully expect the Iraqi authorities to address any criminal activities," now that it wasn't their problem anymore. A local police commander, Lt. Col. Mahmud Hiazza, accused the Deputy Governor of being involved in the looting and was transferred shortly after to Baiji. "The reason they transferred me is definatly I will get killed there," he said. He resigned instead, Knickmeyer writes. Smart guy!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:12 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006 5:19 PM EST
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Saturday, 14 January 2006
W. is talking to his father again. No, not the one on earth, the other one.
Mood:  rushed
Topic: Bush Administraiton

I have just a very short amount of time today, but I did want to comment on all this saber rattling going on over Iran and its opening of UN seals on its Nantaz nuclear facility. They do have that right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, right?

W. says it's, "unacceptable" for Iran to have the bomb and, "The reason it's unacceptable is because Iran, armed with a nuclear weapon, poses a grave threat to the security of the world (Or to Israel at least)."

Hmm..."A grave threat..." that sounds strangly familiar.

The WaPo writes that, "The "grave threat" language was not in any talking points prepared and distributed yesterday across the U.S. government, and it surprised diplomats and even some of Bush's own aides." Great, that's reassuring, has he been talking to his heavenly father again?

"A White House aide said it was not meant as a signal. 'There was no intent to mimic language,' the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity." Whew!

Not that I think Iran should have the bomb, by any means, but the the administration cites Iran's concealment of its nuclear program for over twenty years as a reason they can't be trusted now. I don't understand, didn't Israel lie to the US about its A-bomb project? And aren't we going to do a multi billion dollar civilian nuclear power plant deal with India,who ,by the way, didn't bother to tell anyone they were building a nuke? (Something tells me they had wiping Pakistan off the map on their minds at one point, too.)

And what about our good friends the Pakistanis---Or Pakis, as W. likes to call them---and their national hero A. Q. Khan? Seems to me we wouldn't be worried about Iran right now if he hadn't sold them all their equipment and know how.

In any case, I don't want mullahs with a bomb, but its kind of hard for me to see what's really going on here.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:05 PM EST
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Wednesday, 11 January 2006
Arik Sharon and dirty traitors.
Topic: Iraq

I don't know about you, but I'm really getting sick of the hourly updates on the health of Arik Sharon on NPR. He had a massive stroke and assuming he lives through this, he's not going to be Prime Minister anymore, so let's move on. My God, you'd think he was the Pope or something the way NPR is carrying on about every small tidbit of news on his condition. I defiantly got the feeling that if had died last week, we were going to be in store for a round-the-clock Saturnalia of fawning adulation for the "Butcher of Beirut" the likes of which we hadn't heard since the Reagan funeral.

Fortunately, the "Killer of Qibya" is still alive, so we're spared having to hear about what a statesman and man of peace he was (With Lianne Hansen sobbing in the background) for a little while longer at least.

I don't understand why Sharon is getting all this coverage in the first place. Not only is he considered by a large portion of the Middle East, including many Jews, to be a blood-thirsty murdering war criminal, but he's the leader of a country the size of Rhode Island. I don't see what effect his incapacitation or death has on the average American in the long run. Whatever the long term consequences of his unexpected removal from the scene has on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, it certainly doesn't warrant the kind of wall to wall media attention it’s getting.

It would seem to me the death of Fidel would have much larger ramifications for both U.S. foreign and domestic policy, but I wouldn't expect any long expos?s on what he did for the literacy and health care of the average Cuban from NPR. Rather, when he does go, you can be sure we'll be treated to long interviews with Otto Reich on the horrors perpetrated on the Cuban people by "the Monster" and endless coverage of cheering Cubanos celebrating on Revolution Square as they prepare to welcome the returning Yankis with open arms and bouquets of flowers.

Shiites and Sunnis are in agreement: we shouldn't let the door hit us in the ass on the way out!

Speaking of being greeted with happy children with their hands out for American chocolate bars and grateful young women sporting their new pantyhose, the situation in Iraq is pretty much getting back to normal after the relative lull in the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 15th elections. Since that glorious day when 70% (70%!!!!) of Iraqi voters turned out to elect their new theocratic government, we've lost about 55 troops and over 500 civilians have died in a spate of bloody suicide attacks, which have been especially horrific even by Iraqi standards.

Last Thursday, after attacks in Karbala and Ramadi that killed 130 Iraqis, Aziz al-Hakim, the head of Sciri---the political wing of the Badr brigade---blamed the bloodshed on the U.S.! [NYT]It appears, American military "pressure" on the Interior and Defense ministries to stop torturing and killing innocent Sunnis is preventing those ministries from, "Doing their job chasing terrorists and maintaining the souls of innocent Iraqi people," according to al-Hakim. "We're laying the responsibility for the blood of innocents shed in the past few days on the multinational forces." Then he added ominously, "Our people will not be patient for much longer with these dirty sectarian crimes." Of course, Sciri and its band of killers known as the Badr brigade are suspected of some pretty dirty sectarian crimes themselves, but al-Hakim and his buddy Bayan Jabr, the Interior minister and former Badr commander, are only asking for the powers W. has given himself in the war on terror.

I think it’s ironic that W. finds the evidence of secret Interior ministry torture chambers "unacceptable" when he continues to condone just that sort of thing even after signing the McCain anti-torture law. Writing in the margins that he basically doesn't have to obey the law if he doesn't want to, these new "signing agreements" are a sort of modern version of the pocket veto except that in this case the president actually signs it and then, in a new twist, tosses it in the trash.

In any case, yesterday, in a new sign of Iraqi unity, in a call for peace and bridging sectarian differences during the Eid al-Adha season, Harith al-Ubaidi, from the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, said Sunnis were "hand in hand" with Shiites against the bombing in Karbala. Well, that's promising, no doubt, but unfortunately after that he said, "We also demand that the occupier get out, because he is the reason behind every crime." At least, all the parties can agree on one thing, we have to go. See, I'm not one of those "defeatists" who, W. said in his speech at the VFW in DC, "Refuse to see anything that's right," in Iraq. Iraqi unity is a good thing, right?

In his speech on Tuesday, W. 'Oh-pined' on the limits of political speech: He said, "In a free society, there's only one check on political speech, and that's the judgment of the American people." I'm not quite sure where he's going with this, but I think he was urging the voters to toss out the bums who dare question his rule, and who are, it naturally follows, giving aid and "comfort to our adversaries." So, in other words, punish anyone who doesn't agree with me that everything is A-OK in Iraq. Anyone who dares question anything I do is a traitor. "Partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil or because of Israel or because we misled the American people," are irresponsible, which is code for 'traitor.'

It's funny he brought up Israel as a reason for going into Iraq; I haven't heard that one lately. In fact it was in September of 2002, before the war, when Phillip Zelikow, one of his top advisors and also former executive director of the 9/11 commission---said in a speech at , "Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990 - it’s the threat against Israel.” [This blog.]Was W. really talking about Iraq or was just thinking ahead to Iran?

Anyway...you know, I hear a lot about Hugo Chavez over-reaching with his presidential powers and calling his political opponents traitors and according to the mainstream media this is a sign of a "quasi" dictatorship, even though he's been elected twice and has a large majority of popular support, but when W. calls democratic congressmen traitors, which is basically what he'd implied in this speech and says his presidential prerogatives allow him to by pass congress, the rule of law and anything thing else he says it does, that's ok. I don't know, I think there might be some sort of double standard going on here.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:53 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 5:25 PM EST
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Wednesday, 4 January 2006
Nobody home.

I'm posting today on Non Sum Dignus as the tripod blog seems to be all fouled up with pop ups and all kinds of other weirdness that causes people's browsers to crash. I don't know what's going on with tripod lately, but I think I might start doing the majority of my blogging over here at Blogspot. I don't know, maybe the NSA is taking a page from the Chinese security services and is messing with my blog by infecting it with viruses and such?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:20 PM EST
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Monday, 2 January 2006
Ave Potus Caligula Caesar. Morituri Te Salutant!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

W. continues to defend his one man rule saying yesterday that this whole breaking-the-laws-against-domestic spying thing was no big deal. "This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America, and I repeat limited."

To him it might be limited, but tapping into switchers that contain millions of messages from American's e-mails and phones and then mining the data for God knows what and passing that info around to the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security for their own designs---including the pentagon compiling files on anti-war protesters---seems a little more than simply finding out, "If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

Maybe, W. doesn't even understand what they're up to because he also assured everyone that, "The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers called from the outside of the United States of known al Qaeda or affiliated people." The Post says, "The White House later clarified that the program monitors both incoming and outgoing calls." And they might have added thousands of calls, not just a few.

Worse than Nixon?

This is reminiscent of the NSA spying on Americans in the 70's under program Shamrock and operation Minaret. According to the Church commission report of the Senate SELECT COMMITTEE TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS
in 1976:

"NSA has intercepted and disseminated international communications of American citizens whose privacy ought to be protected under our Constitution. For example, from August 1945 to May 1975, NSA obtained copies of many international telegrams sent to, from, or through the United States from three telegraph companies. In addition, from the early 1960s until 1973, NSA targeted the international communications of certain American citizens by placing their names on a "watch list." Intercepted messages were disseminated to the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense. In neither program were warrants obtained."

[Sound familiar? These revelations led to the 1978 law that W. is now breaking.]

Apparently, as legal and above-board as this new updated program of domestic spying is, the NYT reported Sunday, "That James B. Comey, then deputy attorney general, refused to sign on to the recertification of the program in March 2004.

That prompted two of Mr. Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel and now the attorney general - to make an emergency hospital visit to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, to try to persuade him to give his authorization, as required by White House procedures for the program." They probably had him doped up pretty good before he went ahead and signed it, too.

President to appoint horse to Senate?

Beyond the question of what the government is doing with all this information and which agencies are making lists to see who's being naughty and nice, what happens to all these watch lists if a less than benevolent regime ever takes power? I mean, what if Hillary gets into the White House and starts using all this information to go after all the right wingers? Food for thought all you Free Republic types out there!

You know, the Romans thought they were sitting pretty when the young son of Germanicus took over from the tyrannical Tiberius and made a big show of burning all the secret files Sajanus had kept on the personal lives of everybody, but what they didn't know was that he had copies and they soon learned that "little boot" was a little crazy. And that young man grew up to be Caligula...And that's the rest of the story. Good night folks!

Cheney: no fear of flying!

W. & Co. are really into knowing everything about what and who you're talking to, but Dick Cheney is busy making sure no one knows anything about what he's doing. I hear he's had google earth blur the image over his residence and he isn't telling anyone where he travels, who pays for it, or what it's costing us.

According to Lobby Watch (Via This Fucking War, thanks madtom):

"Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff have been unilaterally exempting themselves from long-standing travel disclosure rules followed by the rest of the executive branch, including the Office of the President, the Center for Public Integrity has discovered.

Cheney's office also appears to have stuck taxpayers with untold millions in travel costs rather than accepting trip sponsors' funds that the rules would require to be disclosed. Some would credit the vice president's office for not accepting outside cash to cover his travel costs. That may be true, but critics point out that the Office of the Vice President's lack of disclosure also creates an opaque situation, with little or no transparency or accountability and at a substantial cost to taxpayers."

Boy, even W. has to follow these rules, but not Darth. Makes you wonder who is really in control over there at 1600.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:20 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006 3:29 PM EST
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Sunday, 1 January 2006
W. versus ET.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Now, this is a bizarre story that I just had to comment on. I found experts from a yahoo.news story that has "expired" at the QandO blog blog:

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defense Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: 'UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head.'

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, 'I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something.'"

Hellyer thinks W. is planning on build a forward operating moon base and is developing "laser and particle guns to the point that they can be used against the visitors from space."

According to a site called Exopolitics, "Hellyer decided to read a book that had been idly sitting on his book shelf for two years. Philip Corso's, The Day After Roswell, sparked intense interest for Hellyer in terms of its policy implications. Corso named real people, institutions and events in his book that could be checked. Intrigued by the policy implications, Hellyer decided to confirm whether Corso's book was real or a "work of fiction". He contacted a retired United States Air Force General and spoke to him directly to verify Corso's claims.

The unnamed General simply said: "every word is true and more". Hellyer then proceeded to discuss the "and more …" with the general and claimed he was told remarkable things concerning UFOs and the extraterrestrial hypothesis that interplanetary visitors have been here since at least 1947."

We are going to build a moon base, this is true, I don't know about intercepting aliens, though. Robert Roy Britt writes in an article in Space.com that, "The first mission to the Moon will likely be an orbiter that generates NASA's first digital map of the pockmarked world, officials said Wednesday.

It will be a reconnaissance craft designed to help prepare for a return of astronauts as early as 2015, as envisioned last month by President George W. Bush. The second new lunar foray, in 2009, will be with a robotic lander whose goals are not yet clear.

'These missions will not be driven by science,' said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the NASAs Office of Space Science. 'They will be driven by preparations for human landings.'"

No doubt, the missions will not be driven by science. Maybe, W. remembers Ronald Reagan's interest in aliens and recalls him saying, "The earth would have to make a common front against attack by people from" other planets? Starting a war with another planet sure would get Iraq and the domestic spying scandal off the front pages!

In any case, one thing we can be sure of, we have to beat the Chinese there!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:34 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006 1:59 PM EST
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Saturday, 31 December 2005
Happy new year! Its got to be better than this year, right?

So, 2005 is almost over and next month I'll be on to my third year of giving my cranky opinions. When I began this thing, I didn't even know what blogs were but I was sick of getting my letters to the editor rejected so this seemed like a good option. By the time I got the hang of this thing newpapers sarted publishing every thing I wrote, which was sort of annoying. It didn't matter at that point because no one cared about letters to the editor anymore, everyone was on to caring about what bloggers had to say. Not that anyone cares about what I say, still, but it amuses me at least.

This year we lost 842 soldiers in Iraq, five less than 2004. That's progress? Hopefully, things will look better by the end of next year and here's hoping Bush, Cheney, DeLay and Abramoff will all be behind bars!!!!

We can only hope. So, happy new year to everyone out there who comes by to have their browser crash under the weight of a zillion tripod pop ups.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:58 PM EST
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Friday, 30 December 2005
Mind boggling inefficiency of the intelligence agencies.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

So far, today's top story is that the Justice Department is launching an investigation into who leaked the information about the NSA domestic spying program. Once again, the NYT is right in the middle of another leak case and it will be interesting to see how far the government is willing to go in obtaining James Risen and Eric Lichtblau's notes and whether either of them will do jail time for protecting their sources.

This time around the DOJ made record time in getting the investigation under way, in contrast to the Plame case in which they just couldn't bring themselves to be too interested in until the political pressure became too great. Maybe, they should also look into who leaked the story about OBL's satellite phone. W. seems to think the press reveals "sources, methods and what we use information for" that helps the "enemy" adjust their operations. Of course, I guess this just might be paranoia on W.'s part because it turns about the OBL "leak" was no leak at all. He was referring to a 1998 Washington Times story that has gone into the realm of urban legend as being the trigger that got OBL off his phone and according to the warped thinking from the White House led to 9/11.

But in actuality the 1998 missile strikes on his camps in Afghanistan probably had more to do with it. The WaPo wrote on Dec. 22 that they searched media databases and found that Times magazine "had first reported on Dec. 16 1996, that Bin Laden 'uses satellite phone to contact fellow Islamic militants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.' Taliban officials provided the information, with one official---security Chief Mullah Abdul Mannan Niazi---telling Time, "He's in high spirits.'" The Washington Times article that Scott "My dad thinks LBJ killed JFK" McClellan says, W. was referring to, at his press conference two Monday's ago, buries the information about OBL's phone in the 21st paragraph and never mentions that the government was listening in on him, despite what W. thinks.

So, it's all much to do about nothing, but it's interesting that W. is using this bogus story to justify his unchecked spying on the American people, yet another sign of bad intelligence getting into the president's ear. This is what happens when you don't fire the people who misled you into a disastrous war with bogus Intel on WMD and anthrax spreading robot planes, they keep giving you bad advice.

Oh,oopse,did I say 'unchecked spying?'

The president said back in 2004 that, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so...constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the constitution." Riiiiiight! As long as the president, and only the president, gets to interpret what the constitution says about executive power, he's fine with it. When an "activist" Federal Court like the 4th circuit gets all uppity and willfully disregards "a presidential directive” in the Pedilla case it's, according to Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, "An unwarranted attack on the exercise of executive discretion, and, if given effect, would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns." The only separation of powers this president is concerned about is separating the Congress and the courts from their power to interfere in anything he feels like doing.

What's puzzling about the Pedilla case is, if Judge Michael Luttig thought Pedilla's detention was probably "a mistake" then why didn't he just release him? Keeping him locked up in a navy brig isn't exactly punishing the government for their manipulation of the court system, which is what Luttig seems to be all worked up about. When a nut job like Luttig says that the government’s credibility could be harmed by its dishonest maneuvering, you know this administration is really going off the rails. But, no matter, this all just fires up W. and Cheney to fight harder and take even more liberties with our system.

No such agency has no clue:

As we've lately found out, the NSA wasn't just tapping a few phones, but was running a massive data mining program, spying on maybe millions of e-mail messages and phone calls and all without any check from the courts or congress. Earlier stories of "mistakes" that might have been made by the NSA in accidentally listening in on a few domestic calls are out the window now that we know they were tapping into entire switching nodes. At the same time news has come out that the FBI was lurking around mosques with radiation detectors trying to see if any American Muslims were trying to build "dirty-bombs." And then there is the story of the "perpetual cookies" that were on the NSA's web site illegally; of course, they say this whole cookie thing is just a big mistake, but one wonders if these people actually have any clue of what their doing, because they seem to make a lot of them.

Nuclear power plants and chemical plants are basically open targets and first responders still can't talk to each other in a crisis four years after 9/11---and, oh, by the way, there's an American city missing---but these idiots charged with protecting us, with their multi-billion dollar budgets, are frantically poindextering the fourth amendment while leaving the door wide open for terrorists to blow up half of New Jersey. And don't forget the antiwar activists; they're a big danger too. While Osama is comfortably ploinking dolly the sheep in his cave, all the immense resources of the US government's intelligence agencies are either trying to relocate their ghost prisoners to more torture-friendly countries or, on the domestic front, they're burning the midnight oil keeping tabs on long haired freaks with bad BO. I feel safer, don't you?

The mind boggles at the audacity of this president's assault on the constitution and our system of government. W. likes to say he's the commander in chief so he can do what ever he feels like doing to protect the country, but by the time he gets done it won't be the same country. Too bad there isn't a brain dead woman having her feeding tube pulled out involved in this spying case, or congress would be parachuting into DC to investigate this monumental attack on our very democracy.

See Non Sum Dignus for slicing and dicing of David Brooks on the perogitives of the president.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:14 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005 3:33 PM EST
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Wednesday, 28 December 2005
The elections in Iraq:
Topic: Iraq

Well, the Iraqis had their big election and the Sunnis came out to vote this time in big numbers, so we can pretty much pack up and leave, right? All the Purple Hearts our troops have received fighting in Iraq are turning into purple fingers! The fact that the main Shiite religious bloc gained the most votes at the expense of the secular Shiite lists and the Sunnis, is no impediment to the formation of a truly inclusive parliament that will represent all the factions of Iraq, right? The initial signs aren't encouraging, when one considers Sabrina Tavernise's report in the NYT on Monday that, "A committee headed by two independent Sunnis---Noori al-Rawi, Iraq's departing culture minister, and Zuhair Chalabi, the minister of human rights--met with members of the Shiite group, the United Iraqi Alliance, and relayed a request on behalf of the Sunni parties" that the Shiites donate 10 of their seats to the Sunnis in order to "defuse tensions over the results of the Dec. 15 elections." Surprisingly, Tavernise writes, "The Shiites refused." [NYT]

So, it appears that the US hope of the Shiites being reasonable and not alienating the Sunnis might be slightly misplaced. It's the same old zero sum game going on and the forecast calls for more Kurdish demands for Kirkuk in return for their votes in forming a governing coalition. (Along with some self interested back room deals for Ahmad Chalabi and his meager votes?)

Remember, the US plan is that the Shiites see reason and allow the Sunnis to get into the government and that this some how marginalizes the insurgents and this happy development along with General Peter Pace's plan to hand over more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces leads to us drawing down troop levels to 100,000 by the end of next year. (I still don't see how still having 100,000 troops over there this time next year is a sign of progress, but we just have to trust W. that this is a good thing.)

Despite the happy talk by the pundits, the whole thing might yet blow up in our faces as the Sunnis are complaining of massive voting irregularities around the country, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of Sunni voters by Kurdish and Shiite militias. The tanker truck caught coming across the Iranian border with thousands of phony ballots hasn't helped the perception by the Sunnis that they got robbed, either. No one is taking these claims very seriously, though, and even the UN head of the electoral assistance team, Craig Jenness, says, "It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty credible given the circumstances."

Yes, given the circumstances that most of the country is a war zone, I'd say things went pretty well. Of course, it wasn't just the huge amount of security and the curfews that made the election successful, it was the indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups basically calling an election-day truce in the hopes that the Sunni political parties allied with them might pick up enough seats to serve as their version of Sinn Fein.

Now, it looks like that even though they gave the political process a chance, they still struck out. The result appears to be that the Shiites closest to the Iranians are back in the saddle and the Kurds are going to go ahead with their program of the de-Arabization of Kirkuk and both groups will go ahead with slicing up the oil money between them leaving the Sunnis with vast swathes of desert. Unless, Zalmay Khalilzad is a miracle worker I don't see this whole thing coming to a good end.

No monolith:

Not to say that the Shiite bloc is a monolith itself, they could wind up imploding over disputes about who runs what between Mukada al-Sadr and the Badr brigade in the south. The FT wrote on Dec. 17 that the commander for British forces in southern Iraq, Brigadier Patrick Marriot, said he would recommend no "significant reductions" of UK troops until provincial elections in March or April are over. Marriot predicts that Shia factions in the south are, "Going to be fighting for local power, they're going to be fighting within their lists." The main culprits as usual are the Badr Brigade and the Sadr's Medhi Army who have already had several violent clashes last August in Maysan province. The FT writes, "The Brigadier General said the provincial elections could see fragmentation within Badr and Medhi, as elements within the militias seeking local power independent of the national coalition broke from the alliance. 'There are certain minorities within those lists, if it fragments, will end up fighting.'"

Which is probably all well and fine with the Iranians, who will feel safer with a perpetually dysfunctional Iraqi neighbor and us tied down in a grueling guerilla war for years to come. Naturally, the Arab Iraqi Shiites, how ever much they may have in common religiously with the Shiite Iranians, still have a tribal and ethnic distrust of the Persians, but Persian money is still money. As long as the Iranians keep doing their part to keep the Iraqi United Alliance in power with bogus ballots and military assistance via Badr, we're SOL. If we push the Shiites too hard on the Sunni issue we'll just push them further into Iran's hands, but if we're seen to be helping the Badr brigade in our common fight against the Sunni insurgents, we convince the Sunnis we want them annihilated as well which will further inflames the situation. There are a whole bunch of militias in Iraq, we just happen to be the biggest and we're right in the middle of a very ugly civil war.

PTSD costs too much!

The WaPo reported yesterday that the VA is exploring ways to nickel and dime our returning troops that suffer from PTSD. It seems in the past five years claims for disability from PTSD has risen by 150% and the resulting costs are breaking the bank. Interestingly, the majority of claims are coming from Vietnam vets who have been dealing with their traumas by themselves up until now. (Just wait until the tens of thousands of troops who will be coming back from their 2nd or 3rd 18-month tours in Iraq, who have endured the viciousness and brutality of urban guerrilla war, start seeking the help only the VA can provide.)

Shankar Vedantam writes the VA, “has…been in negotiations with the Institute of Medicine over a review of the "utility and objectiveness" of PTSD diagnostic criteria and the validity of screening techniques, a process that could have profound implications for returning soldiers. ‘On the one hand, it is good that people are reaching out for help,’ said Jeff Schrade, communications director for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. ‘At the same time, as more people reach out for help, it squeezes the budget further.’

Its amazing to me that there would be a move on to change the way PTSD is defined in order to save money. Perhaps, before sending our service people into a meat grinder to protect democracy in the Middle East or South East Asia the president and Congress ought to make sure they're really willing to pay the bill for the consequences of their decisions four or five decades down the road as today’s twenty year-olds become tomorrow’s senior citizens.

“Facing a budget crunch, experts within and outside the Veterans Affairs Department are raising concerns about fraudulent claims.” Oh, what a cop out! The assertion that many of these claims might be efforts by vets to defraud the government is just absurd. There are, no doubt, ten of thousands of people who have been in combat and are mentally and emotionally scared by their service who never seek help because of the stigma involved. The idea that there are people out there willing to live with being called cowards or crazy just to pick up a government check is ridiculous. If the VA and the pentagon are so concerned about fraud they might begin by investigating Halliburton and all the other rapacious corporate looters of our tax payer monies before they build even higher bureaucratic walls around the treatment and help those who have done their duty for the country deserve and are owed.

This president is radioactive:

Geez, just when you're getting over the news that the NSA has been bugging American's phones without any warrents, you find out that it's not just a few phones but a whole bunch of phones.

The NYT reported on Friday that, "The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said."

As if that wasn't bad enough, now we find out that, "Since 2002 the U.S. government has been monitoring for suspicious radiation levels outside more than 100 predominantly Muslim-related sites in the greater Washington, D.C., area, as well as various sites in other cities, several government officials with knowledge of the program confirmed to CNN Friday.

One government official said the authorities don't obtain warrants because the testing is conducted from outside the buildings on what they consider public property." [CNNCNN]

So, that's OK, because they were outside the building. If they were in a car outside your house and were using one of those audio-cones that they use on Monday Night Football to listen in on your conversations that would be OK too.

Stop all the complaining, you babies! As DAVID B. RIVKIN and LEE A. CASEY write in the Times today, "The contretemps its revelation has caused reveals much more about the chattering classes' fundamental antipathy to strong government in general, and strong executive power in particular, than it does about presidential overreaching." Stupid chattering classes!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:54 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005 3:34 PM EST
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