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Lets's talk about democracy
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Thursday, 3 November 2005
Chavez is a fruit loop. no?
Topic: General News.

Are you parnoid if they really are out to get you? Hugo Chavez said in September on his visit here the US was planning to invade Venezuela and everybody just scratched their heads and then forgot about it. The wiseguy at Oilwars found this interesting post at the WaPo blog that reports:

"The Pentagon has begun contingency planning for potential military conflict with Venezuela as part of a broad post-Iraq evaluation of strategic threats to the United States.

The planning has been precipitated by general and specific directives issued by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his civilian policy assistants.

Internal documents associated with the 2005 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and preparation of the fiscal year 2008-2013 future defense plan identify five specific "threat" countries in three groups requiring "full-spectrum" planning."

A pardon for Libby?

A nice little war in South American would get everybody's minds off of Scooter Libby's upcoming trial. Or would it? Remember, Daddy pardonedCasper Weinberger just before he was going to trial to prevent his notes, possibly inplicating Bush in the Iran/Contra scandal, from being used as evidence. Weighing the potential disaster of having Cheney and his office of misfits testifying under oath versus keeping all that dirty laundry under wraps might convince the brains behind Bush that a pardon, though politically damaging, is the lesser of two evils. He might want to just go ahead and pardon Rove right now, jus to be on the safe side.

Another thing everybody should ignore is Dana Priest's article in the WaPo yesterday pointing out that the:

"CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long."

Meanwhile W. is moving his rollign bunler tour down south. Reuters reports:

Bush was scheduled to arrive late Thursday for a two-day Summit of the Americas in a country where anti-Bush sentiment runs high due to the war in Iraq and U.S.-backed, free-market policies that Argentines say pushed millions of their compatriots into poverty.

"People see all the iron barricades and police on every corner and they get scared," said construction worker Hernan Brito, who received five last-minute requests to board up store windows from merchants who he said also fear looting.

U.S. interests like Blockbuster video stores and Citibank branches were covered with corrugated metal shields ahead of protest marches early Friday.

More than 7,500 police officers erected a security ring around the summit hotels and patrolled the streets and beaches of this normally bustling city of 600,000, which looked more like a ghost town. Coast guard boats and helicopters trolled the shore, while air space was restricted.

"We hope protests are carried out in a peaceful way, but if they are not, we are prepared to give wrongdoers a forceful response," said Federal Police commissioner Daniel Rodriguez."

That'll keep everyone's focus elsewhere!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:45 PM EST
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Tuesday, 1 November 2005
No bag of chips?
Topic: General News.

Let me get this straight; according to Orin Hatch, Samuel Alito is one of the best judges in the US, yet W. said two weeks ago he had looked and looked and the best person he could find was Harriet Miers. So, does this mean Alito isn't all that and a bag of chips? If he's so great why didn't W. pick him in the first place? What made the brains behind Bush think his wingnut base was going to go along with anything other than a dyed in the wool anti-abortion radical in the first place? The mind boggles.

By the way, the right wingers keep changing their story about what happened with the president's "mistake," otherwise known as the Miers nomination. I thought all their angst was caused by uncertainty over whether she would do the right thing and overturn Roe, which is the sole justification for most of these people's existence. Now, however, the narrative has shifted; I heard both David Frum and Rich Lowery say yesterday their concern wasn't over Roe (Because the liberals could then accuse them of being hypocrites.) but rather the integrity of the institution of the Supreme Court, which could have been undermined by an unqualified nominee. (Riiiiight! Because Clarence Thomas is such a genius) And it's not that the right has W. wrapped around their little fingers, but that liberals hate Bush so much they would never go along with his agenda so he has no choice but to govern from the extreme right. They're the only ones he has left! W. ought to keep in mind weakness breeds contempt.

Beschloss, be gone!

Is there anyone out there who can give Michael Beschloss a real job? I'm so sick of seeing that guy on the Newshour! He's like a professional wedding quest or something, he's always getting his puss on camera and all he does is recite boring antidotes from the Eisenhower administration that no one cares about. David Korn is another talk show schnorrer who has too much time on his hands. He always gets the call from NPR when they need a token liberal. There are other voices on the left, NPR, try updating your rolodex, maybe listen to Pacifica sometimes, they are out there.

Oh, sorry, I said the word that cannot be spoken: "Pacifica." Last week one NPR reporter had to lower himself and use a clip of a Joe Wilson interview from Democracy Now. That must have killed them. If they would actually have people like that on their programs they wouldn't have to rely on Amy Goodman. But then they might be accused of left wing bias and Cheryl F. Halpern might have to remove them physically from the studio.

PhARMA's terrorist plot

Here's weird story: a consultant named Mark Barondess came up with an idea to help out the pharmaceutical trade group PhARMA in its efforts to scare people about imported drugs, a big danger to drug company profits, by commissioning a thriller novel that portrays terrorists poisoning pharmaceuticals on their way to the US from Canada. Ken Johnson, a senior vice president for PhARMA says of this dubious project, "We didn't know anything. We had credible, safety based arguments supporting our position against importation." PhARMA says a deputy vice president for federal and state affairs with "limited budgetary authority" gave Barondess $100,000 (Well, it's PhARMA; that's chump change to them.) for consultant fees which he said he used to underwrite the book. Also involved with this farce was former NY Times reporter and fabricator Jason Blair who was hired to edit the book. In the end, everything fell apart badly with much bad feelings on both sides and now Barondess is writing a book, the Karasik Conspiracy, about a major drug company commissioning a terrorist attack to scare Americans away from buying imported drugs. Classic! [I have a friend who is a big shot at PhARMA, so I find this particularly amusing.]

In Iraq news:

Now that the president has got the Miers fiasco and the Libby indictment behind him, he can take comfort in the fact that at least the Alito story will put Iraq back on page A-15 for a few days. At the beginning of last week, the big news story was the death toll in Iraq hitting the 2000 mark, but that nasty bit of reality didn't mar the front pages long before the Miers withdrawal came along to draw attention away from the slaughter house that is George Bush's Iraq. Over the later part of last week and over the weekend, we lost another 25 troops; the highest daily casualties being 5 killed on Thursday and 7 on Sunday for a grand total of 93 for October. Along with the deaths of our troops, about 60 Iraqis are dying everyday according to a pentagon civilian body count no one even knew existed.[BBC]

It seems a day doesn't go by without news of dozens of bodies being found with their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in the back of their heads, presumably Sunni victims of Shiite death squads. Various car bombings in Shiite areas are also an almost daily occurrence along with the obligatory assassinations of government officials. The rate of 85 insurgent attacks a day has remained pretty steady since the start of 2005 and it doesn't appear the insurgency has been in the least bit deterred by US bombing raids and offensives with catchy names on the Syrian border.

The US reported another "precision" strike on two "safe houses” in the Syrian border region on Sunday that reportedly killed al-Qaeda militants but most likely also killed civilians. AP reports at least six dead including 3 children and a local doctor says up to 40 died, including 12 children. A Marine spokesman said he had no reports of civilian casualties, of course, and the information that the houses were full of insurgents came from local sources. In two years of fighting in Iraq what we apparently haven't learned yet is that our million dollar smart bombs are a good way for local disputes to be solved in one fell swoop, courtesy of the US tax payer.

A round up in Baghdad led to the arrests of a hundred "suspected insurgents," who I'm sure, were all guilty as hell and will get a fair trial before they disappear into Abu Ghraib, never to be seen again. Didn't we recently deploy another two battalions to Iraq to guard the over flow of about 10,000 prisoners currently held by us? With all these insurgents being detained you'd think we would get a grip of the situation over there by now.

Ap: "Military commanders have warned that Sunni insurgents will step up their attacks in the run-up to the Dec. 15 election." (I wish I had a nickle for every time I've heard that.) Therefore we've upped the Iraqi deployment to 157,000 troops. What I don't get about this mini escalation is why we need that many troops in there if we're turning over so many areas to Iraqi military control. Supposedly they're in total or partial control of large sections outside the "triangle of death." Are these troops there for the election or for regime change in Syria?

The Vietnam analogy department:

Ap reports the military is looking into a case of fragging involving a sergeant killing two of his superior officers. This supposedly the first case of a fragging in the Iraq war, but probably not the last.

The NYT reports the NSA has kept secret a report that finds, "NSA officials deliberately distorted critical intelligence during the Gulf of Tonkinepisode that helped precipitate the Vietnam war." The accusation is that, "The agency's communications intercepts were falsified to support the belief that North Vietnamese ships attacked US destroyers on Aug. 4 1964, two days after the previous clash." A NSA historian, Robert Hanyok, has had his report suppressed since 2001 because, "Agency officials feared its release might prompt uncomfortable comparisons with flawed intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq." Now, who could possibly think that? Besides, the intelligence that got us into Iraq wasn't "flawed," it was made up, manufactured, twisted to fit the policy, that's why Scooter Libby is going to court tomorrow.

The 'we still haven't learned our lesson' department.

John Hannah has been promoted to be Cheney's new National Security Advisor. Wasn't this the guy last week who was reported to be telling all his friends he thought he was going to get indicted? Why did he think that, I wonder? Guilty conscience?

Hannah is best known for being Cheney's liaison to Ahamd Chalabi and his cadre of liars and misfits. Apparently Hannah, along with his mentor John Bolton are really, really, gullible. If I could find out where they lived I'd offer to pave their driveway or maybe sell them some land in Florida. If you're completely incompetent in this administration you get ahead. This move puts paid to the theory that W. is going to shuffle the deck and get some fresh blood into the mix. It’s the same old crap, just a different day.

David Addington---aka. I've got mashed bananas in my pants---becomes Cheney's chief of staff.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:35 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005 1:47 PM EST
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Monday, 31 October 2005
Alito the Hun
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Well, now we're all distracted from Scooter Libby's indictment by the president's announcement of yet another nominee for the Supreme Court, right? (If this nomination thing goes on long enough we'll have to resort to the Greek alphabet for names.) I wrote last week that everybody was saying he almost had to pick "Attila the Hun," but that should have been "Alito the Hun." Yes, Samuel Alito, who a Democratic Senator called a "right wing wacko," according to Cokie Roberts on Morning Edition, is the new choice and this time he's a long time denizen of the judicial monastery. No fooling around with this nominee; he's "qualified" and he's sure to vote the right way on all the issues the president's rapidly shrinking "base" cares so passionately about.

Now, the Democratic line is sure to shift from what was the previous Republican position that every nominee deserves an up or down vote in the case of Harriet Miers, to the previous, previous Democratic line that this nominee is too far outside the mainstream and should be prevented from getting a vote. The Republicans are now saying this isn't about judicial philosophy but solely about the qualifications, opposed to last time when they couldn't vote for Miers because they didn't know enough about her philosophy (i.e. views on abortion.).

There is sure to be a major fight over Alito and the various special interests are glad to hear it. No one could get it up enough to donate tons of cash for Miers on the bench, but the money will be flowing for this one you can be sure. Christmas has come early for People for the American Way and James Dobson's Focus on the Family. This is the fight the right wingers wanted and they'd better win, because if things don't go as planned the president, their only champion, will be damaged beyond repair thus leaving them in the political wilderness.

The right wing rebellion has already weakened the White House and Sam Brownback is saying they may not be able to count on all 55 Republican votes if the candidate is too far out there, which Alita appears to be. Moderate Republican Senators are going to be leery of jumping off the cliff for Bush and even true believers like Rick Santorum have to be thinking twice about how far he's willing to go, considering he's involved in a very tight re-election bid with a popular liberal pro-choice Democrat. Time is not on the side of the Republicans either. Very soon now, the '06 race will be in full swing and they don't need a nasty filibuster fight going on forever or, even more potentially damaging, a vote on the "nuclear option," which could blow any Republican unity right out of the water.

And then there's the Libby trial: all the conservative elite pundits are sure he's going to be exonerated, but do they really want a very public airing of the inner workings of the vice president's office during the manufacturing of the "evidence" of Iraq's WMD, right in the middle of the '06 campaign? If he pleads guilty to avoid this almost unthinkable option, then they wind up with a convicted perjurer from the administration which the Dems can beat them over the head with. These are perilous times for the GOP, indeed.

And what about that Libby indictment?

What's the big deal, anyway? This is case is about one individual doing things all administrations do to counter critics and besides that, an indictment isn't a conviction. Remember, in our system a person is innocent until proven guilty. These allegations of lying are based on the word of journalists and as Pete Williams of NBC News asked, are you really going to take the word of "three journalists...versus the vice-president's chief of staff?" (Williams is a former spokesperson for Cheney, so he should know something about the character of the man.) I mean, who are these people; Judith Miller is a jail bird and Tim Russert is an obvious liberal fellow traveler and just last night Matt Cooper was on NOW and you know what a biased show that is!

And what about the Plame investigation? No one has been charged with outing a CIA agent; so again I ask, what's the big deal? Perjury? Is Patrick Fitzgerald serious? As Kay Bailey Hutchison rightly pointed out, if there's going to be an indictment make sure it's not on "some perjury technicality." Like William Kristol of the Weekly Standard says, we shouldn't be using our criminal law to resolve, "What is basically a policy and political dispute between the administration and its critics." Besides, I have problems remembering who I talked to last week, never mind two years ago, so how can you expect Scooter to remember all the good work he's done for the American people over the years?

I don't think this indictment hurts the president in the least. Who remembers the name of Al Gore's or George Bush Sr.'s chief of staff? People will soon forget who Scooter Libby ever was. In the overall scheme of things this is just a minor hiccup that will be wiped out by an excellent pick for the Supreme Court and a successful voter turnout on Dec. 15 in Iraq.

The president has 39 more months left in office and he can turn this around, no problem. Now he can go back to doing the business of the American people. As he said on Friday, "I got a job to do and so do the people who work in the White House." Yeah! Let's get those high oil prices under control and work on lifting the tax burden off working Americans.

Back to reality:

That's the initial spin I've been hearing from the unrepentant supporters of the administration on all the talk shows. They're pretty weak arguments and I don't think most people are going to buy it. As much as the true believers are going to want to spin Libby's indictments away from why we went to war in the first place---bogus claims of Saddam's WMD----etc.----it will just keep coming up like Lady Macbeth’s damn spot. This entire thing started because Cheney and his minions just couldn't tolerate anyone exposing their lies about the reasons for going to war. The serial lying and the obsession with Joe Wilson's wife by Cheney and the lengths he and Libby were willing to go to is really frightening.

One thing I don't get about this whole mess is why Karl Rove is still collecting a pay check from the American tax payer. When this Plame matter became an issue Bush came out and swore up and down that no one in the White House had anything to do with the leaking and if anyone did, they wouldn't be working for him anymore. Well? Either, Bush knew from the start that Rove was involved, or he subsequently found out about it and Rove lied to him about it, but in either case I don't see how Rove keeps his job. Patrick Fitzgerald says Rove is still under investigation, there is still a Grand Jury looking into his role, but in the strange world of the Bushies this is a good thing. At least he wasn't indicted; we can all breath a sigh of relief! What?

It's really amazing how incompetent the whole effort to undermine Joe Wilson was. Even before the attempted cover up, Libby still managed to bungle the initial character assassination part of the plan, because as soon as Bob Novak published Valerie Plame's name there was an immediate call for an investigation into how he got that name. What did they think would happen when her name appeared in newspapers?

Did they figure George Tenet could just ignore one of his covert agent's identity being broadcast all over the world without doing anything about it? If he had just let it pass, there would have been a mutiny at the CIA. The question is why did he give Cheney the name in the first place? Did he ask Cheney what he needed her name for? Didn't he have any concern at all about what they might do with the information? He must have known what kind of people he was dealing with, having observed their tactics against his own agency while they manufactured their own intelligence in the dungeons of the pentagon. What a spineless toady, no wonder he got a medal!

In any case, this indictment is just the tip of the ice berg. If the Plame investigation does nothing else, it points to a larger malady in our body politic. We have a serious disease and the only way to recover is to remove the malignant tumor. Our immune system, however, our checks and balances, are seriously compromised by having one party in control of two of the three branches. (Or maybe all three?) I don't know what it would take for the Republican dominated legislative branch to actually do their job and check the executive branch which is clearly running amok. The only thing we can hope for is a voter backlash in '06 that will turn the scoundrels out. I'm not holding my breath, though.

One would think the weight of all the scandals and rampant corruption that characterizes the GOP has to come crashing down on them eventually, right? Don't forget Lewis Libby isn't the first administration official to get hauled into the dock; David Safavian, the former procurement chief, was arrested just last month. Timothy Flanagan, Bush's choice for the number two spot at the Justice Department had to withdraw his nomination when too many questions about Jack Abramoff----the great GOP corrupter----kept coming up. Tom DeLay had to quit his leadership position in the House after being indicted on money laundering charges, Bill Frist is under SEC investigation for insider stock trading, the head of the FDA, Lester Crawford, who abruptly stepped down only three months after finally being confirmed, for an as yet unknown reason, is under investigation; Lawrence Franklin, a former pentagon official, has pled guilty to passing classified information to a foreign government; Grover Norquist, the king of K Street has cavorted with convicted terrorists and is implicated in nefarious dealings with Jack Abramoff; Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition chief and present candidate for Lt. Governor in Georgia, is also involved with Abramoff's funny business with Indian casinos; Michael Brown, former FEMA director, will be making another trip to congress to explain certain inconsistencies that have come to light in his previous testimony under oath about what he knew about what was going on in New Orleans in the days after Katrina; and who could forget the Ohio coin collection and newly indicted Ton Noe, former fund raiser for George Bush?

When do people wake up and say, enough his enough? Yes, there's always corruption and every administration has problems like these, but not on this scale. This is a culture of corruption; this is a universe of unbridled criminality. The pundits and the editorial pages are patting themselves on the back saying 'the system works,' because Libby got indicted, but until those names above are all in the court room and out of government, the system is still seriously ill and in desperate need of fixing.

Note: Why is this blog on Al-Jazeera's top 100 at # 85? What's that all about?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:33 PM EST
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Friday, 28 October 2005
A culture of corruption!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements. He has just resigned. So far, the word is Karl Rove is still under investigation and might be indicted later on. Actually, this is even worse for the White House because they'll have this Rove thing hanging over their heads maybe for months more to come. W. scooted out of DC this morning to make a speech on terrorism---always stick with the classics---but how long can W. stay out of Washington? Well, I guess for quite a while, he's pretty good at that sort of thing. Right now, I'm just going to focus on the other White House disaster, the Harriet Miers cave in, because this news is too new and we'll all need to take a deep breath and see what this is all about.

p.s. I can't wait for the very public trial right around election time!

David Brooks, big time douche bag:

The consensus on the failure of the Miers nomination seems to be in pundit-world that Bush yanked her out under pressure from his right wing, nut job, koo-koo base; it wasn't about documents as some Republicans and their pundit minions still insist. Last night on the NEWSHOUR David Brooks was sitting there with that cat-that-ate-the-canary-smile on his face---looking all warm and cozy over all the good work he did in killing the nomination---when out of nowhere Mark Shields goes medieval on him accusing him and the other right wingers of having their fingerprints all over the scene of the crime. He called Brooks and his ilk "hypocrites," for flunking Miers' on her litmus test, before she could even defend herself in front of the Judiciary Committee.

That wiped the self satisfied smirk off Brook's face for a minute: he, being a poor little old Op-Ed writer, could hardly have derailed a judicial nomination! "Do you think she was qualified?" he asked Shields. Of course, that's not the issue. The question isn't whether she was qualified, but rather, what about giving her 'an up or down vote?' Senator Sam Brownback (A major douche bag.) had been interviewed in the previous segment and he had maintained the fiction that without more documentation on her judicial philosophy, he couldn't have backed her and this is where the hypocrisy comes in. Isn't that always the right wing mantra when W. has sent these rabid nominees up in the past, give the nominee an up or down vote? When Democrats have requested documents on past nominees in order to divine their philosophy and the White House has stonewalled them, the right wing pulls out the "litmus test" bugaboo and demands an up or down vote. For Brooks to say his Op-Eds along with the avalanche of negativity orchestrated by David Frum and William Kristal had nothing to do with the killing of this nomination is just beyond the pale.

For my part, it's not that I was happy with the nomination either, but my concerns were more about her being a lapdog for Bush on the Court, backing his draconian policies on the war on terror; a concern barely brought up by the Democrats. I didn't agree with the notion that the Democrats should have gone ahead and backed her confirmation because it "could have been worse:" There was still the danger of her being very deferential to corporate interests and there wasn't any guarantee she wouldn't help overthrow Roe.

The strategy of standing back and letting the Republicans cannibalize each other, though, seems to have been effective both at killing the nomination and making the Dems look like the reasonable ones. On the one hand, I was irked that Democratic leader Harry Ried came right out and backed her, but on the other hand, whether intentional or not, his praise for Miers got the right wingers thinking there must be something wrong with her even before David Frum & Co. rolled out the guillotine. So, I'm happy she's out of there but the question is what is coming in her wake.

The fire breathing types on the other side have made their point, though: 'we got you into this position, now do our bidding, or else.' I would expect Attila the Hun to be the next nominee because this is what happens when an administration decides to govern solely from its most radical base of support and leave the moderates out in the cold. At this point they have no choice but to choose a divisive candidate. Bush may have been able to get Miers confirmed with the votes of the Democrats and moderate Republicans, but he decided to cave to the worst angels of our nature, again, and he's paid a big price for it.

The right wingers can't contain their glee over their big victory and are now girding for the battle of the century over whoever Bush picks next, who they fully expect to be their kind of guy. (And it will be a guy.) This might not turn out to be the Rapture they're anticipating, though, elections are coming up very soon and if they come off looking like the frothing at the mouth religious fanatics they really are, they might wind up alienating more moderate voters and independents. If they go too far, they could push themselves right out of power and into the political wilderness. I've already heard right wingers saying if the Dems want a filibuster fight 'bring it on,' and I hope they keep it up; that kind of arrogance it just the thing most Americans are really getting sick of.

Crazy Iranians:

Speaking of religious extremists...Iran, another country with a problem of being run by a radical minority, is getting racked over the coals for President Mamoud Ahmandinejad's comments that Israel should be wiped off the map. Today they held their annual post Ramadan "death to Israel, death to America, death to Britain" rally and gave the finger to the world community who have rightly condemned Ahmandinejad's anti-Israel tirade. The traditional burning of the Israeli and American flags will, of course, wind up being used by Tony Blair to make hay with his calls for something to be done about a country that is seeking nuclear weapons while calling for the destruction of Israel. "If they continue down this path, then people are going to believe that they are a real threat to our world security and stability." [BBC] The question is what can be done? Israel is calling for Iran to be thrown out of the United Nations, but none of this will amount to much in the long run.

I still say this is much to do about nothing, because this has been Iran's policy all along, nothing has changed, except that now they have a president who is obviously oblivious to foreign policy concerns. The real powers that be in Tehran won't allow this type of thing to continue, they have too much at stake. They can't afford to have a loose cannon blundering around pissing off India and China while at the same time trying to make money selling their natural gas and oil to them. War is bad for business, in this case, especially since Iran's position in the region right now is so strong.

Crazy Iraqis:

If we were to do something militarily about Iran, we might find ourselves in the funny position of having to shift our support to the Sunnis in Iraq, because the Iranians have more sway with the Shiites than we do these days. If we attacked Iran they just might start an insurgency of their own against us. I thought it was interesting that during the opening of the trial against Saddam, the Shiite prosecutor, Jaafar al-Musawi, started to go into a litany of Saddam's "odious crimes" including "a war with no justification against our neighbor Iran." Sadoun al-Janabi, the defense lawyer who was kidnapped and killed later that day, asked al-Musawi in objecting to the listing of crimes not included in the Dujail case, "What are you, an Iraqi or an Iranian?" To me, that was a very interesting line of defense, pulling out the nationalism card. (And is probably what got him killed.) The nationalism issue brings up even more serious questions about our supposed democratic friends the Shiites, or at least the faction of Shiites who are beholden to Iran and where their loyalties really lie.

The Sunnis main objection to the new Constitution was their fear that it would lead to the disintegration of Iraq. They seem to be the only Iraqis that want to remain Iraqis: the Shiites and the Kurds appear to be very comfortable with the possibility of an emasculated Iraq. The Kurds are justifiably leery of a strong government in Baghdad because of what's happened to them in the past, which is understandable. Besides, they're not even Arabs and have made no secret of their ambition to have their own country in the future. The Shiites on the other hand, might prefer to have a fragmented and weak Iraq with a strong Iran dominating the region. If it's our policy to have a secure, democratic Iraq being the shining light of the Middle East, we'd better think about making up with the Sunnis, because they seem to be the only ones who really want to be Iraqis.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:25 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005 2:41 PM EDT
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Thursday, 27 October 2005
Crashing and burning: W.s gone fishin'.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Just when we're all biting our nails to the nub over what Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is going to do about the Plame leak case, Harriet Miers steals the show by withdrawing her name from consideration for the her nomination to the Supreme Court. W., meanwhile, is in Florida with the Jebster helping him to take responsibility for the slow distribution of water, ice and food to people who are lined up for blocks waiting hours for it, sometimes overnight. Jebster wants you to know that, it’s not FEMA's fault! If you all are real good and don't ask any hard questions about the Miers nomination, W. will put on his tool belt and hammer some nails.

Anyway, Miers told Bush in her resignation letter that she felt that since W. had said he wasn't going to cross that "red line" of turning over internal White House documents describing her work involving torture and Gitmo detainees, in particular, she would find it difficult to answer questions that were likely to be asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee, especially by Arlen Specter who wrote to Miers yesterday letting her know he was going to ask her some very involved questions about Guantanamo and her closeness to the president and whether she would have "any special deference on any matter involving him" that might come before the court. (I think what really pushed her over the edge, though, was Concerned Women for America pulling their endorsement. See, they're women and they're concerned, concerned for America. That was a bridge too far for this administration.)

Naturally, keep in mind this was totally Miers' decision, Andy Card had nothing to do with it at all. Asked yesterday whether the White House would withdraw the nomination, Specter said, "Anything is possible, but my sense is her nomination will not be withdrawn. I think it would be a mistake and a sign of weakness on the part of the administration for that to happen." Since she fell on the sword herself, the White House comes out looking like roses, right? That's why W. is out of town today. (Where's the president of Macedonia when you need him?)

The real question about this nomination is why did it take them so long to withdraw her name? ATC had no problem finding Republican senators who had a real tough time saying anything good about Miers and I'm sure the White House has been hearing this for weeks. Richard Wolf, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek, said on Radio Times today that the timing of this had something to do with managing the bad news, getting it all into one bunch, assuming bad things come out of the Plame Grand Jury today or tomorrow and more importantly they need her back in the WH counsel’s office more than they need her in the Supreme Court right now.

The Counsel’s office is completely overwhelmed with defending the administration against FEMA's disastrous management on Katrina, among other things, and it's going to get a lot busier if Libby and Rove need legal help. At present the office is without a head and things are a little chaotic, although word is Miers was partly responsible for a lot of chaos before she left. Wolf also says there's a perverse sense of the "boil being lanced," not having to take a beating from their base over this nominee anymore.

I don't think this administration can take one more thing going wrong. There's Katrina, Iraq, Plame, Miers, DeLay, Frist, and God knows what's going to come out of the Jack Abramoff investigations. There is a definite tipping point here; is Andy Card up to it, because W. is probably going to be out of town a lot.

On the Karina/FEMA front:

The administration had extended Michael Brown's job for another 30 days at his annual $148,000, according to DHS director Michael Chertoff, in order to, "allow the new people who have responsibility...to have access to the information we need to do better." So we're paying this jackass to tell DHS how not to fuck things up next time? It will be interesting to see if they keep paying him when he gets hauled in front of congress to explain the inconsistencies in his testimony under oath, which were exposed by FEMA employee Marty Bahamonde's emails, which show that while he was the only FEMA employee in New Orleans---Brown said there were a dozen and a medical team---while everything fell apart at the Superdome. According to Brown's press secretary he was too busy trying to get some dinner at a Baton Rouge restaurant while the levies were flooding the Big Easy. "OH MY GOD!!!!!!, I just eat an MRE and crapped in the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants." Classic!

On the Gitmo front:

This hunger strike story just won't go away. There are at least 20 detainees on hunger strike, what the pentagon calls, "voluntary fasting," who are being force fed through tubes down their noses. Letta Taylor of Newsday, reports, "The Pentagon has engaged in a new form of medical abuse at Guantanamo Bay by force-feeding detainees on a hunger strike in ways that are deliberately painful and that cause life threatening vomiting and weight loss, defense attorneys say." Lawyers for the detainees have filed complaints in federal court which allege that, "doctors and guards intentionally trust feeding tubes covered in blood and bile from one detainee’s nose into another inmate's nose and that they deny prisoners anesthesia."

A day after John McCain got the anti-torture measure passed, FT reported, "Amnesty International called for an independent body to be given full access to the facilities [at Gitmo] to investigate and report on the allegations," of hunger strikers being force fed by tubes. [BG] "Amnesty said, 'it fully supported' the goals of the hunger strikers---which include the right to a fair trial, contact with families, access to sunlight, and a central demand to observe and report openly on their conditions." How crazy is that? Just because some of them have been in detention for years without any proof that they've ever done anything wrong, why should they be able to talk to their families or see sunlight?

On the day we hit the 2000 benchmark, W. said that these terrorists are as "brutal an enemy as we have ever faced, unconstrained by humanity and by the rules of warfare." So, why should we be constrained by any silly rules or treaties we've signed and have been ratified by the Senate, that the Constitution says is the law of the land? Dick Dick Cheney went up to the Hill last Thursday to try to get McCain to change the language of his anti-torture measure to exempt the CIA from having to abide by the Army's field manual's rules on the treatment of prisoners. The exemption Cheney wants and what McCain rejected, said the measure---passed by the Senate 90-9--- "shall not apply with respect to clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States, that are carried out by an element of the United States government other than the Department of Defense and are consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the United States and treaties to which the United States is a party, if the president determines that such operations are vital to the protection of the United States or its citizens from terrorist attack."

That a pretty big loophole. McCain said, "I don't see how you could possibly agree to legitimizing an agent of the government engaging in torture. No amendment at all would be better than that." This White House provision would basically endorse torture. Of course, not that the government has ever engaged in torture: just because the ACLU has found from the government’s own records that 21 prisoners have been killed in custody, that's no reason to tie the president's hand in the war on terror. [Hear Tom Wilber, a lawyer for Kuwaiti prisoners at Gitmo, on the feeding tube issue on Here and Now today.]

Crazy Iranians:
Reuters reports newly elected Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said at a "World Without Zionism" conference that Israel was a "disgraceful blot" and should be "wiped off the map." Scott McClellan was quick to respond that, "I think it reconfirms what we have been saying about the regime in Iran. It underscores the concerns we have about Iran's nuclear intentions." Number one; I think we should be a lot more concerned about the various Iranian groups operating inside Iraq and their influence on the Iraqi "government" which they appear to have a lot more of than we do these days. Iran's introduction of new and more deadly roadside bombs into Iraq are a much bigger threat to us than whatever some figurehead says at a rally designed for domestic consumption.

What he said was, "There is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world." It's just the same old lip service every autocratic government in the Middle East pays to the Palestinians. I don't see any imminent threat of a nuclear attack on Israel. Suicide bombers in Israel aren't about to burn Israel in "a fire of the Islamic nation's fury." This Ahmadinejad character is a joke, he doesn't make policy or have anymore pull than Mohammad Katami did. This is much to do about nothing.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:30 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005 2:39 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 26 October 2005
Never listen to the mob, they never know what they want.
Topic: General News.

A new poll out taken by a Republican pollster, Ed Goeas, and a Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, that was sponsored by George Washington University found that 58% of voters said the federal government did a poor job responding to hurricane Katrina. That's not much of a surprise, but what is interesting is how they said they would pay for Katrina relief: As we know W.'s plan is to slash social programs that help the poor and make tax cuts to the rich permanent. Voters surveyed in this poll, reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, had other ideas; 73 percent said they would, "cut highway spending that did not go directly to roadwork, 68 percent said they would raise taxes on people earning $200,000 a year, and 63 percent said they would start withdrawing troops from Iraq and pull all of them out by the end of next year."

These are pretty large majorities, why are the Democrats so terrified of forcefully calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq? Hillary won't even say whether she regrets voting to give W. authority to go to war, so she's not likely to start a "class war" by calling for more taxes on the rich.

China's nukes:

The Ap reports that, "The U.S. government is trying to help China's booming nuclear-power industry tighten security by conducting demonstrations this week of measures meant to prevent the theft of radioactive material." Before they sign on to this deal the Chinese might want to think about checking out the ABC News report that found nuclear reactors on university campuses around the country are almost defensless. Among its findings: "unmanned guard booths, a guard who appeared to be asleep, unlocked building doors and, in a number of cases, guided tours that provided easy access to control rooms and reactor pools that hold radioactive fuel. The report found none of the college reactors had metal detectors, and only two appear to have armed guards."

Windfall taxes anyone?

The LA Times reports, "When major U.S. energy companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. announce their third-quarter earnings in the next few days, the results are certain to be staggering. Exxon Mobil alone is expected to report quarterly profit of about $8.7 billion." House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is said to have really taken the bull by the horns and told the oil companies to invest some of that money in building new refinaries, in order to "ease the pain" of high prices. (Whoa there, Dennis, don't get all marxist on us.) They could just stop gouging consumers, but you know...By the way, didn't congress already pass the no-oilman-left-behind Act that was supposed to help them out with refinary construction?

Apparently, some in congress want to "slap the industry with a windfall-profit tax like the one imposed in 1980." But, they're so generous! Remember that, all the major oil companies as a group gave $11 million whole dollars to Katrina relief!!!! So what if "together, the 29 major oil and gas firms in the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index are expected to earn $96 billion this year, up from $68 billion last year and $43 billion in 2000," big deal, they're broke. Don't you know all those government environmental laws are just killing them, otherwise they'd be more charitable. No doubt, that W. and congress will charitable to the oil industry and we'll hear no more about wind fall profits taxes.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:22 PM EDT
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Wanna buy some wood?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Not that we've never had problems with the Great White North, but the relationship between Canada and us looks pretty bleak these days, even with a new conservative government led by Paul Martin that the right wingers predicted would be a lot more cozy with W. This happy vision of solid North American front behind George W. Bush and all his works may have been a tad overly optimistic, in retrospect. (Besides, W. & Co. are hardly conservatives.) From the beginning, things started off on the wrong foot when W. went to Canada to meet Martin and insisted on pressuring him on missile defense. Martin was reportedly furious that Bush leaned on him when he had already told Condi that he didn't want to discuss, what for him, is a very touchy political hot potato. Rice had assured Martin it wouldn’t come up before the meeting, but you can't tell W. anything; he, having never had trouble always getting everything we wants handed to him on a silver platter, doesn't understand some governments in the world really are democracies and their politicians actually have to answer to their constituencies. A large majority of Canadians are not on board with spending a bunch of money on a technology that hasn't worked, after many billions already spent so far (And appears unlikely ever to work.), and they want nothing to do with Star Wars, period.

When you factor in the long running trade dispute over softwood lumber imports from Canada and the $ 4 billion a NAFTA ruling says the US owes them for unfairly collecting duties on those imports, it's easy to see why Condi's visit to Ottawa this Monday was a bit strained. Paul Martin has been pretty undiplomatic about the whole thing and has said the administration's behavior on the lumber trade is "a breach of faith," and demands the "duties must be refunded." Joel Brinkley in the NYT writes that partly as a result of the lumber issue Canada is, "Working hard to build its relationship with China...some officials are saying Canada may shift a significant portion of its trade, particularly oil, from the United States to China." China is already buying up major Canadian oil companies like a kid in a candy shop----it's odd that there are no panicked investigations going on congress over the Chinese take over of our biggest energy importer's oil industry---a State Department official says, though, "Petroleum is a fungible resource, are we are going to fill our energy needs from wherever we can get oil." There you go, 'don't worry be happy:' that's their great plan; screw a friendly country that provides most of our energy needs, lets protect a miniscule special interest, instead. (Is there a country out there that we haven't alienated yet, particularly one that exports oil to us? Oh yeah, Saudi Arabia; they're still our best buddies.)

Condi says she's willing to talk about the lumber issue with the Canadian's but, "it’s important to keep it in perspective." It's true that lumber is only 3% of Canada's overall trade with the US, but I think the real issue is; they are tired of being pushed around by us (About half the world could probably relate to that.). If it really is such a small matter to Condi, then why are we pushing away such an important ally to protect a relatively small industry compared to our desperate need for fossil fuel? When you consider Canada is planning to send one-quarter of what they're now sending us to China instead, this intransigence seems just slightly counter-productive. Oh well, never mind, we'll just wait on Iraq to become a stable democracy and then they'll make up the difference in what we're losing to China.

The twinkie defense:

John Tierney wrote an Op-Ed in the Times yesterday condemning the Democrats for "gleefully suggesting" Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are getting their just deserts for claiming Saddam had WMD. He writes, "No one deserves to be indicted on conspiracy charges for belonging to a group that believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." That's such a red herring: if indictments do come down, for either of them, it won't be because the WIGs "believed" Saddam had WMD, it will because an orchestrated whispering campaign was launched by Rove and Libby against Joseph Wilson, who dared to contradict the party line, and in the process they outed a covert agent, his wife, who was considered "fair game," and then, most importantly, tried to cover their tracks when they were hauled in front of a Grand Jury.

The Bush defenders would like to make this an argument about whether the CIA and other country's intelligence services thought Iraq had WMD---Bill and Hillary believed it!---but this time around they're not going to be able to hide behind that lame excuse. Just like when the Clinton bashers had no problem with Ken Starr sniffing Monika's stained blue dress during the Whitewater investigation, they can't turn around now and say Patrick Fitzgerald should focus exclusively on whether Karl Rove and Scooter Libby violated the law by outing a covert agent. A Special Prosecutor can't look the other way when he has evidence of a crime being committed, especially when it's obstruction of justice and perjury. (Isn't that what they slick Willy on?)

By the way, it would have been nice if this "group" had actually known Iraq had WMD, instead of just believing they did, before launching a war that has cost $200 billion, 2000 dead Americans and over 20,000 wounded. The terrible results of this foreign policy mistake---this little boo boo---one could certainly argue, as Howard Dean has, does qualify as a crime, if not treason: Our military is a shadow of its once formidable self, daily being bled white of man power and materiel; our diplomacy is a shambles, we can't even convince other countries that a nuclear Iran is a problem; and we're so broke from this slight miscalculation, that our entire country is in hock to the Chinese for at least the next century.

Tierney can question the motives of Joseph Wilson and make fun of Howard Dean all he wants, but that's pretty weak tea compared to the enormity of the political fallout that's coming from this case. The right wingers are desperately trying to find some justification for Rove and Libby's despicable behavior, but they can't, this time the "twinkie defense" won't do.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:07 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 25 October 2005
A landmark day in Iraq!
Topic: General News.

Reports out today say the Iraqi Constitution has been passed by the Iraqi people. Those rotten Sunnis almost spoiled the show by nearly defeating it by voting "no" in three provinces by a 2/3 vote. The Province of Nineveh turned out to be where the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission investigated irregularities in the tallies but eventually found that only 55% of the vote went against the document and there was no fraud after all. This being Iraq, I take this news with a grain of salt, it's not like they ever get anything else right, but what are you going to do? Now, we move on the December elections for a new parliament where, presumably, the Sunnis will go and vote again but will still have no say in anything because they represent only 20% of the population. Of course, now that the Iraqi people have endorsed what the Shiites and the Kurds have been up to, they can go along and amend the constitution all over again and put in whatever crackpot religious laws they want in and outlaw the Sunnis, for starters. Naturally, in the "run-up" to the election we can expect an "upsurge in violence" that will settle down after the insurgents see they have been massively defeated by democracy and Pease will then reign; we'll bring our troops home and the Shiites will get to massacring the Sunnis without anymore interference from us.

By the way, didn't I hear something the other day about the various military offensives in Anbar province and along the Syrian border having succeeded in crippling the ability of insurgents to use car bombs? I was just wondering if I was dreaming because yesterday the Palestine hotel was almost launched into space by a coordinated, three car bomb attack that luckily failed in its apparent attempt to kill a lot of western journalists. Iraqi national security advisor Mouwafak al-Rubaie claimed the attacks had been a "very clear" effort to take foreign journalists hostage and I kept hearing this repeated all day on the NPR news reports, but if it was a hostage taking plot, why wasn't there any evidence of hostage takers being involved? This al-Rubaie fellow ought to look into getting a job as national security advisor in the Bush administration; I think they'd like the cut of his jib. Steven Hadley said he blew the "16 words" in the state of the union speech and he got promoted; Condi blew 9/11 and she got to be Secretary of State. This Iraqi might go far with his wild assertions based on nothing.

The AP reports also, "The U.S. military said two Marines were killed by a roadside bomb during fighting with insurgents on Friday near Amiriyah, a village in western Baghdad. That raised to 1,999 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003." Scott McClellan said the news of the constitution passing was a, "Landmark day in the history of Iraq." Some might say hitting 2000 dead is a landmark in the histroy of Iraq, too.

Speaking of NPR: has anybody, besides me, ever noticed the stories they decide to go with on the weekends are a little odd? This past Saturday they ended one update with a story about a speech Gorbachev gave and the report went something like this: "In a speech today, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbechev said the US and Russia were both victorious at the end of world war 2." End of story, that was it! What was that all about, who decided this was worthy of the time it took to read?

Central Asia News:

In another lurch towards the good old days of Stalinism, Vladimir Putin has banished tycoon Mikhail Khordorkovsky to a prison in Chita, Siberia. (You really got to love the classics.) There he will serve out the rest of his 8 year sentence on tax evasion and fraud charges, which were basically trumped up because Putin viewed Khordorkovsky as a political threat. Khordorkovsky's business partner, Platon Lebedev, has also been sent to Siberia. This ridiculously heavy handed treatment should be an example to others in Russia who think there should be any other leader besides Czar Vladimir.

What does the great Soviet expert Condoleezza Rice have to say about this? I don't know, she's too busy making kissy faces with Kazakhstani autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev, who she knows from his days in the Soviet Politburo and her days at Chevron making oil deals with him. Nazarbyev is busy getting ready for next year's elections where he will try to win the election by 100%, instead of the usual 96%. Since Kazakhstan is drowning in oil and the Chinese are very interested in all that oil and natural gas, I don't think Condi will be looking too closely at this particular cult of personality. Here's a good rundwon of what went on when Condi made Nazarbayev answer questiosn from the US press: Gateway Pundit.


Uzbek dissident Elena Urlaeva has been delared insane by the Usbek government and is being forced to take forced psychiatric treatment, Human Rights Watch says. "The Uzbek government has shown its willingness to use Stalinist-era tactics in its campaign against human rights defenders," says Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Her great crime, according to the Uzbek police, was being caught with "four copies of the caricature in her possession, as well as 75 copies of a pamphlet describing the Ozod Dekhon ("Free Peasants") party, an unregistered independent political party of which she is a member. The government said she was also carrying 65 pages of printed text "critical of the policies of the president and government of Uzbekistan." [HRW]

"On May 14, the State Department certified that Uzbekistan made “substantial and continuing progress” in meeting its human rights and democracy commitments under the “Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework,” signed in March 2002," according to Muslim Uzbekistan, which gives a rundown of US whitewahing of that countries human rights "progress." No word that I can find, yet, on what the US is doing about the Elena Urlaeva case.

More Azerbaijan news:

Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Fried, said there were "disturbing reports" of pre election abuses and excessive use of police force in the run-up to the Nov. 6 elections in the oil rich country. The US urged the Azeri government to run free and fair elections and noted signs of backsliding on its commitment to do so. Well, I'm sure Daniel Fried has just struck fear into the heart of Ilham Alyev and he'll get right on cleaning up his act.

Holy Toledo!

I, along with everybody else, probably said to themselves when they heard about the riots there last week: 'Whaaa?' All I heard was that Nazis had showed up to march in LaGrange, a black neighborhood in Toledo and there had been so much opposition to their presence that the police told them they couldn’t march and at some point rocks got thrown and teargas was released. According to Time, it turns out this story started a while back when, "Thomas Szych, who is white, complained that local African-American children were dealing drugs and made hundreds of calls of complaints to local police. In interviews with Toledo media, Szych described two African-American police officers as 'gorillas with guns.' But the police found little evidence of gangs in the neighborhood."

This obsession with one particular woman's pre-teen children, who he regularly video taped, eventually led to Szych getting some local press which wound up attracting the attention of this Nazi group who decided to get some press of their own by marching in support of this jackass. Times writes, "Many in LaGrange, including members of the police, now believe Szych may have had something to do with the Roanoke Nazis' deciding to visit Toledo. Szych denies any involvement. But soon after the police cordon began pushing back against the Saturday crowds, sending mobs of people through the neighborhood, one of the first buildings attacked was Szych's house, about three blocks away. Rocks and bricks were hurled through the windows and Szych appeared on his porch, firing warning shots into the air, according to news reports by the Toledo Blade."

Afterwards, Szych said if the Toledo police wouldn't do their job then more power to the Nazis, this after denying he had anything to do with them coming. [I heard that on CBS' Sunday Morning program but I can't find the link. Their web site sucks!]

Darfur, again.

With all the disasters going on in the world, including the latest hurricane, Wilma, that wrecked southern Florida, along with my parent's house, the world has been ignoring what's going on in Sudan, which has gone from bad to worse. Read about this at Eric Reeves web site www.sudanreeves.org, who says the crisis is about to get to biblical levels within the next few weeks.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:53 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005 12:07 PM EDT
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Monday, 24 October 2005
A Cheney/Rummy cabal in the White House?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Colin Powell's former chief of staff has said Bush administraion policies are run by a "cabal!" He said, "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues." Before you go saying Lawrence Wilkerson a yapping dog of liberalism, keep in mind he is retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College and thinks W.'s daddy was, "one of the finest presidents we've ever had."

Wilkerson feels the government is totally dysfunctional and warns that,"if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence." This is a pretty stark warning coming from someone who worked in the administration and has solid military and Republican credentials. Not that this is a big shocker, but he also says, Bush "is not versed in international relations, and not too much interested in them, either." [NYT][Transcript of speech]

Of course, Wilkerson isn't the only person who has said this administration is incompetent, but coming from such a high level official with a solid military record and Republican pedigree, he ought to be taken very seriously. From the Chinese/EP-3 incident in April 2001 to 9/11 to Iraq to Katrina; there is undeniable proof that this presidency is a danger to all of us. Whether you're a Bush hater or a Bush lover, you have to admit honestly that it's critically important that the leadership of our country is actually capable of doing their jobs. I don't think this bunch is. If there were ever a better time an impeachment, I can't think of one.

Yes, I loath Bush & Co. and the Republicans in congress, but if you've read this blog for a while you know I'm not necessarily overwhelmed with the Democrats either. Hillary and her band of "centrist Democrats," in particular, are pretty high up on my shit list, too. So, lets have our debates on social issues and whether the war has made us more or less safe, but lets at least agree that as Americans we can do a lot better than George W. Bush and his puppeteer Karl Rove, who are apparently the only ones at this point that think the emperor has a stitch of clothing on.

Our perfect little war with Syria: Who knew?

In the second to last paragraph of a story in the NYT on the pentagon's very dubious estimates of foreign fighters being held in Iraq, Dexter Filkins writes, "The United States military is considering plans to conduct operations inside Syria, using small, covert teams for intelligence gathering." Not that I'm particularly surprised by this, I'm sure we've been going into Syria since the beginning, but what I am stunned by is the revelation that, "A series of clashes have occurred between American and Syrian troops in the last year, including prolonged firefights this summer that killed several Syrians." That's interesting; we've killed Syrian soldiers in combat? Why haven't we heard more about this?

It would seem if Rummy is signing off on these covert missions and is aware of fairly significant battles going on between our troops and the Syrians, he ought to be hauled up in front of congress and be made to explain why we're operating in another country, why he hasn't told anybody about it and what the plan is if things don't go according to plan and we get sucked into a regional conflict. Before you start sending troops into a sovereign nation, especially in that crazy neighborhood, you'd better have thought it through and if we're to judge by Rummy's stellar track record so far, you just know he hasn't. In order to prevent another potential disaster that could go on for decades and destabilize the Middle East----and our energy supplies!---Rummy must be held to account, right now, before he's allowed to go off half cocked on yet another military adventure, which will, no doubt, lead to more untidiness.

In other Rummy news:

This Saturday on his way to Lithuania, Rummy said he wanted this Taliban burning story cleared up as soon as possible, because this bad press going on for weeks over an "unverified allegation" could hurt our standing in the world. [Reuters] An "unverified allegation?" That's a funny way to put it. The pictures seem to be pretty clear.

By the way, the Australian journalist who took the video of the burning corpses, Stephen DuPont, said in an interview that he thought the soldiers involved were simply acting on orders and had no idea they were doing anything other than disposing of some decomposing corpses. (The bodies were returned to the Afghans and buried afterwards.) I'm sure that's true, so the very questionable actions of the Psy-Ops guys should be the real focus of the "investigation," which I'm sure will be very thorough and hard hitting, like all the other pentagon investigations that never find any wrongdoing.

If these Psy-Ops characters are so good at their jobs, being trained in cultural sensitivity etc., why didn't they know that employing the dubious tactic of trying to smoke out some Taliban fighters by taunting them with the bodies of their fallen comrades was destined to backfire? In terms of winning the hearts and minds of the villagers who had to endure the loud rock music they bombarded them with and the crudity of the language they used, I should think this mission was pretty much not accomplished. If this is how our most experienced officers are behaving, I can see why the Taliban are finding it so easy to operate effectively pretty much everywhere in the southeast of the country.

Do I think this is a huge deal, by the way? No, not really; I think, though, the same bunch of lunatics who can always use more recruiting tools will milk this for all its worth, which is why Rummy ought to come down hard on these Psy-OPs idiots, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I feel bad for those poor suckers who were standing around the bodies and will doubtless wind up paying the price.

Harriet Miers and her big Texas payoff:

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, it appears Harriet Miers got 10 times the market value for a piece of Superfund land she owned. The judge who appointed the panel that would determine how much the state would pay for the land had taken thousands in campaign contributions from Miers' law firm and he went ahead and picked a business associate of Miers and a fanatical anti-emminent domain advocate. And wha tdo you guess happened? She got $5 an acre when the land was only only really worth about .30 cents an acre. The Inquirer article writes that some feel "Miers handling of conflicts of interest doesn't bode well" for any future entaglements she might have will administration policies that might go before the Supreme Court. Another odd thing about this story is that the state later decided it had paid too much for the land, $106,915, and asked for $26,000 back from Miers. This was back in 2003 and Texas is still waiting. There has been no explaination by the White House as to why she hasn't paid the state of Texas what she owes.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:57 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005 3:29 PM EDT
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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?]


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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