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Lets's talk about democracy
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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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Wednesday, 21 December 2005
Go Dolphins!
Topic: General News.
First of all today, I'd like to thank the San Diego Chargers for their part in helping this year's Miami Dolphins to get to a .500 record at 7-7 and more especially for ensuring that the 1972 Dolphins perfect record of 17-0 remains unequaled. Last Sunday they beat the seemingly unstoppable Indianapolis Colts in their own home stadium by a score of 26 to 17. The Chargers embarrassed the Colts in front of their home crowd and the looks on the Colts fan's faces was just priceless! The Dolts has been regularly and effortlessly running over the opposition for the past 13 weeks but they came crashing back to earth on Sunday.

You would have thought Manning & Co. had just lost the Super Bowl by the way their faNS were pouting as the realization of the impending loss sunk in. This just goes to show how unused to experiencing meaningful games these fans really are. Dolphin’s fans, on the other hand, having had to only endure three losing seasons in over 35 years and five Super Bowl appearances are more able to put these types of losses into perspective. I would say to all you sour winner Colts fans out there: just grow up; you're 13-1, get over it!

The senate endangers America!!!!

As I write, the Senate is wrangling over some very important legislation. The reauthorization of the Patriot Act, due to expire on the 31st, is being help up because of Republican and White House arrogance. This time around, a simple appearance by Darth Cheney with his obligatory warning of impending doom isn't moving even some GOP senators to pass this bill without some serious consideration for civil liberties. The fact that we've now found out that the NSA is spying on citizens without a warrant from a court and the FBI is spying on anti-war groups and organizations like Green Peace and PETA isn't making for a charitable feeling on Capital Hill this Christmas season. Not that they care about Green Peace or PETA, it's just that they've finally woken up to the reality that the executive branch has slipped away with the bat, the ball, and home plate right under their noses and they're not happy about it.

The GOP rebels (John Sununu, Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Hagel.) and the Democrats led by Russ Feingold are willing to extend the bill for three months while they make sure what's been plopped down in front of them at the last minute is gone over. John Sununu says, "There are specific aspects of the law we didn't have time to consider in depth between September 11th and the passage of the Patriot Act. We've taken a look at these areas in a more deliberative way."

That seems pretty reasonable, considering no one actually read the whole thing before they voted it for it four years ago, but that's not good enough for Caesar; "The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act." 'Yours is not to questions why but to do or die!' This edict from on high, however, isn't getting the reception it normally gets; legislators scurrying to obey the most exalted leader and vote the right way. Hopefully, they will stick to their guns and give W. another stinging defeat in the name of democracy and freedom.

Ted Stevens is an SOB:

The $453 billion defense spending bill (Includes McCain’s anti-torture provision.), which provides funding for our fighting men and women in Iraq, is has been stalled because of one jackass Alaskan Senator. Ted Stevens tacked on to the defense bill a provision for drilling in ANWR, the Artic Nation Wildlife Refuge, because he says, "Our national defense cannot operate without the basic potential of our own production of oil." [WaPo] To me, that would signal our desperate need to develop other forms of energy, because it's not like a few supposed billion barrels of oil from Alaska is going to make that much a difference, but what do I know? Obviously, the financial needs of the state of Alaska trump the rest of the country.

Stevens says also, that if the Senate doesn't pass this bill other non-defense related programs in it would suffer, too. Just to make sure he got this bill passed for his masters at Exxon/Mobil he added in a provision, to make it more palatable for those who were against it, that says, "royalty revenue from drilling would go to fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast." [WaPo] Stevens warns that, "The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of people are not going to receive they assistance they should receive."

That's rich, he and his jackal colleagues slash education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and heating oil assistance in another "cost saving" budget bill* (Passed only by Cheney's tie breaking vote.) and then say 'if you don't pass this the poor will suffer.' Or, we could just not give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich, which will nullify all the $40 billion in "savings" taken away from the poor anyway, and we won't need to ruin a pristine wildlife refuge for a miniscule amount of oil.

[*Note: There is a possibility, as I write, that Congress might have to vote on the budget bill again, probably in late January or early February, because Democrats have successfully changed some of the language in the bill. This might cause problems for a bill that passed by only six votes in the House and one vote cast by Cheney in the Senate, when, as expected, the Republicans plan on pushing through a bill to give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich. Both bills back to back look real bad together which is why they tried to ram the 'stealing form the poor' bill in the dead of night almost two months before the vote on 'relief for the rich' bill comes up.]

What shameless kowtowing to the oil industry! The WaPo writes that the American Petroleum Institute's president, Red Cavaney, actually had to gall to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. (Isn't that a bit of overkill on their parts, I mean really, how unseemly?) He said the 5 to 16 billion barrels of oil in ANWR could ease the current oil crunch, but even he had to admit, "ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic needs." By the way, didn't they say back in the 70's that the pipeline in Alaska would help out of our oil problems, too? Maybe, if they didn't send all that oil to Japan we could get by on that without having to drill in a national park! Besides, who is to say they won't decide they could make more money sending that very valuable ANWR oil to China instead?

[Note: the senate just voted against ending the filibuster against the ANWR portion of the defense bill. Now it's up to Frist to decide whether to keep fighting over it or just pass the bill as it is. If he decides to let it be, the House will have to come back to vote on the new language.]

Bill Frist, friend of PHARMA, does the bidding of his masters:

Another special interest provision inserted into the bill was put there by Bill Frist to help out his buddies in the drug industry. Described by him as a "Targeted liability protection" for vaccines, the law would allow pharmaceutical companies to get off scott-free from law suits if their product kills or maims people. In cases only of "willful misconduct," which doesn't include negligence or recklessness, would they be liable, which means basically not at all.

The NYT says, "The provision would provide immunity from lawsuits to any company that made 'countermeasures' --- broadly defined as drugs, vaccines or medical devices---to protect Americans against pandemics, epidemics or biological attacks. It would give the secretary of health and human services authority to determine what constituted a pandemic of an epidemic." (You think vioxx might be need to prevent an epidemic of heart disease?)

Apparently, the Republicans gave an assurance, in writing, to Democrats who opposed this PHARMA get-of-jail-free card, that they won't put it in the bill, but went ahead and did it any way. GOP promises even in writing are kind of like those assurances we get from Egypt and Jordan that they won't torture prisoners we render to them; not worth the paper their written on!

The Foundation for Tax Payer and Consumer Rights, by the way, says that Frist and 41 other senators own as much as $16 million in pharmaceutical stock, which obviously presents not even a whiff of an ethical dilemma. My God, these pirates in business suits are robbing us blind and meanwhile everybody is merrily going along doing their civic duty to keep the economy humming by shopping. Unbelievable!

To say unchecked power basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject - W. Dec. 19 2005

The WaPo reports today that a FISA court judge, James Robinson, has resigned in protest over the president's stealth spying policy. It seems that there is a concern by him and the other FISA judges that the evidence which the administration provided to the court in cases where they actually bothered to get a warrant might have been illegally obtained. Lead judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she had been told of the program but was bared from telling her colleagues on the court.

Something tells me that the more facts of this story come out the uglier its going to get. I mean, they might not have only been lying to congress but to the courts as well! It's really amazing that a judge on the already secret court wasn't allowed to tell the other judges what was going on.

That's just shocking! Senator John Rockefeller was one of the fourteen whole members of Congress that were informed of the spying program by Cheney, Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden,” a dozen times," but he was forced to write a letter to Cheney about his concerns about the program in his own hand because he was afraid to give it to someone else to type.

He wrote to Cheney that he would keep a copy of the letter in his safe in case Cheney tried to challenge his version of what was talked about in the future. He wrote," Without more information and the ability to draw any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received." There's no word if Cheney ever got back to him on his concerns.

As he expected W. & CO are trying to say Congress was in the whole thing. Peter Baker's question about how permanent the president's "expansion of the unchecked power of the executive..." would be, W. said, "There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time. I'm telling you we briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times." (Twelve times=all the time.) In actuality, the only other congress members at the meeting with Rockefeller for the briefing was, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Porter Goss (Now the CIA chief), and Rep. Jane Harman. The WaPo writes that, "Rockefeller was frustrated by the 'characterization that congress was on board on this,' said one official who is close to him...'Four congressmen, at least one of whom was raising serious concerns, does not constitute being on board.'" [WaPo]

Extralegal equals constitutional according to Bill Kristol:

In an Op-Ed in the WaPo today, William Kristol and Gary Schmitt write that it's "foolish and irresponsible" to "engage in demagogic rhetoric about 'imperial' and 'monarchic' pretensions, with no evidence that the president has abused his discretion."

No, indeed, locking Americans up without recourse to even the most basic civil protections of Habeas Corpus enshrined in the Magna Charta,running secret prisons around the world without any oversight by the International Red Cross, kidnapping people off the streets of Europe, spying on Americans without warrants, all this evidence of the president's prerogatives are a "gray area" in constitutional law and the founders, "intended the executive to have---believed the needed to have---some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional."

The question is how something is extralegal while at the same time is constitutional. "Extralegal" does mean "outside the law," doesn't it? They might want to run this little theory by a few lawyers or read a little Ben Franklin before they use that defense again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:12 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005 2:05 PM EST
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Monday, 19 December 2005
The speechifying continues:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Last night W. gave a 17 minute speech on prime time TV in which he called on those who no longer believe that the war is, "Worth another dime or another day" to now trust him that things are going now according to plan in Iraq and that he has "fixed what has not worked." He cited as evidence of this approach the parliamentary elections on the 15th which will now supposedly usher in a new era of "Constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East." Naturally, everybody hopes that things will go right in the upcoming negotiations to form a new government and the various tribal, regional and religious factions can find common ground and hammer out an equitable agreement to live together in a united Iraq, but I'm not holding my breath. If this very iffy assumption is based on our efforts so far to help the "Iraqi government establish the institutions of a unified and lasting democracy," including the last "landmark election" in January and the embarrassing constitutional drafting process that followed, I'd have to say he's reverted back to his old rosy scenarios and wishful thinking.

W. said of those who have disagreed with his policies that, "There is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see anything right." That's kind of funny because up until a few weeks ago he was the one who couldn't see anything wrong with what was going on in Iraq. Almost over night, it would seem, he's finally taken to heart the urgings of his critics to change course and now everything is back on track. One wonders how many Americans soldier's lives we might have saved if he'd listened to his detractors much earlier on, instead of smearing them in the media and discounting their views as helpful to the terrorists.

The president wants all Americans to understand that a withdrawal now would "undermine the morale of our troops--by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed." He doesn't say that most of them were under the erroneous impression, propagated by him and his righteous lieutenants, that Saddam had something to do with 9/11---which he didn't---and was threatening to attack us with WMD, which he didn't possess, no matter how W. & Co. had convinced themselves he had them. That sort of cynical manipulation of our military people's patriotism can undermine morale too, not to mention endless rotations back to Iraq which could go on for another decade while we wait for the Shiites, the Kurds and the Sunnis to kill enough of each other off to come to an understanding.

Is this the "cause" for which perhaps a thousand or more troops will have to die for? Or is it more important to make sure "Tyrants in the Middle East" don't "laugh at our failed resolve?" No doubt, he only means the Mullahs in Iran and Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, but the tyrants in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait aren't making any sign of loosening their "repressive grip" and our good friend Islam Karimov is having a pretty good laugh at our lack of resolve in doing anything about his wholesale killing and boiling of his opponents.

Spying for freedom:

And while we're busy losing our precious blood and treasure for the freedom of Shiites and Iraqis to kill each other 6000 miles away in that "Vital region of the world," with its vital resources, here at home the president is taking advantage of his "prerogatives" to spy on American's phone calls and e-mail without bothering to let anybody know about it.

The NYT reports, that the N.S.A "Eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said." Yesterday, Condi Rice kept assuring Tim Russert in her tortured rendition of the law that the spying was legal and the constitution gave the president the power to spy on Americans without any checks, although she said she wasn't a lawyer so she couldn't name to the exact statute that gave him that power. W. today in his press conference couldn't exactly say which law allowed him to do it either, but trust him, he can, and besides, members of congress were informed 12 times.

All necessary means:

So there you go, all perfectly legal. It appears, though, that some in the N.S.A were concerned about the legality of such an operation. A senior Bush administration official told the Times that, "Before the 2004 election...some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president." So, you can see why it was so important to make sure all those Debolt machines were fixed just right in several keys states before the election; there was a lot at stake.

The question of why W. and his minions couldn't just go to the Fisa courts, since they' re are pretty much of a rubber stamp anyway, kept coming up at the press conference today and W. said it was because the courts were too slow, this despite the fact that they can go to the court within 72 hours after the wiretap.

One wonders what they were up that was so egregious that they were too afraid to even bring it to a Fisa court; this is the real question. W. may think Article 2 of the constitution gives him the power of the Commander and Chief to ignore the law but one other president tried this end-around the law once before and the result was Jimmy Carter signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which Carter said, "Requires, for the first time, a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States."

Seems pretty clear to me, but apparently Cheney's Rasputin David Addington and DOJ trickster John Yoo thought otherwise and OK'd it, just like Yoo OK'd the tortured legal opinions on looking into people's business, medical and library records for the Patriot Act. They must have been the one's who gave W. the twisted idea that they could get away with this because they were only monitoring calls from New York to Kabul, for instance, and not from LA to Boston. In that case, of course, they would tell the courts what they were up to. But W. says even talking about this issue helps the terrorists, so I don't get the impression the full impact of this kingly usurping of powers he doesn't possess has really gotten through his think skull.

Hopefully, Congress will finally take back the power from the executive it so irresponsibly gave away after 9/11, if it’s not too late already. AG Alberto Gonzales says Congress's resolution to give the president the power to use all ....triggered the president's right to

In the matters of the secret CIA prisons and the torture that goes on in them, the Patriot Act and now the revelations of overreach in domestic spying, the Congress is finally reasserting its authority. The Patriot Act is being filibustered, the Senate is going to pass a law requiring the administration to give them regular updates on the locations of our secret prisons, "if there are any," the identity of the prisoners in them and their conditions and the McCain bill banning cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners is on its way to becoming law.

Meanwhile, the reports of mistreatment and torture keep coming out:

The NYT reports today that, "Eight men at the American detention camp in Guant?namo Bay have separately given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan at various periods from 2002 to 2004, Human Rights Watch, a group based in New York, said Sunday."

Reuters reports, "The men were taken to a prison near Kabul where they were shackled to walls, kept in darkness for weeks, deprived of food and water for days at a time, bombarded with loud rap and heavy metal music, and punched and slapped during questioning by U.S. interrogators.

"The prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency," the New York-based group said in a report released on Sunday."

Looks like the McCain is coming not a minute too soon. But, naturally, we don;t torture.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:21 PM EST
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Wednesday, 14 December 2005
Enough with the speechifying!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Today in another big speech on Iraq the president appeared to be taking responsibility for the bad pre-war intelligence that led us into this mess, but he said, "My decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power.” But are we is the question.

How was he a threat if he had no WMD, though, I don't understand? This whole question of whether the president or congress or Hillary would have gone to war if they had known there were no WMD is a pointless exercise.

Even if W. did feel it was the right thing to do to liberate the Iraqi people and create a "model for other nations in the turbulent Middle East," before the invasion, he would have never been able to get the support from congress or the public to go through with an invasion without the "threat" of WMD. So what's the point of asking the question? But let's not focus on the past, let's look to the future, right?

Watershed down:

And as far this upcoming election being a "watershed" I would refer you back to last January. It took three months for the politicians over there to form a government after that "watershed" election and once they did, the country descended into a whirlwind of car bombings and slaughter that was extreme even by Iraqi standards.

Then there was all the violence in the "run-up" to the constitutional referendum which wound up producing a flawed document which will have to be amended by this incoming government and there's no telling whether the typical zero sum game the various religious and ethnic factions have been playing all along will be any different this time around.

As far as I know the Kurds are still up to their old tricks in Kirkuk: Reuters reports that, "Recent reports of Arabs being targeted for arrest and removal by Kurdish security police has reinforced distrust. Kurdish parties are also accused of relocating thousands of supporters to Kirkuk to boost their electoral clout."

The Kurds are sitting pretty in this new Iraq---which they don't want to be a part of---and this issue of Kirkuk is going to come to the fore sooner or later and I don't think we've got a plan for that. A large part of the Iraqi "security forces" that are so effective against the insurgents are "former" Peshmerga NYT reports that our big plan for victory on the western border is to play one tribe against another even though we're not sure whether the tribes we favor are actually giving us reliable intelligence on insurgents or are just settling old scores. This dubious policy in the Euphrates river valley seems to be a microcosm of what we're trying to do in the political arena.

I haven't heard any of these concerns addressed in any of the president's speeches, which is why I'm not buying the idea that they have grasped the complexity of the situation and are ready to really do the right things that need to be done to get us out of there. Maybe, some more soccer pitches in Husabaya will do the trick?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:03 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 17 December 2005 8:04 PM EST
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Monday, 12 December 2005
Non Sum Dignus is still not worthy but its there.

Today I decided since what I was writing was more opinion than news I would post over at Non Sum Dignus. Go there for today's post.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:29 PM EST
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Wednesday, 7 December 2005
Rummy's at it again!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Rummy really out-did himself in a Speech to an audience at the John's Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies yesterday. Responding to the media furor over the revelation of pentagon having paid a PR firm to plant good news stories in the Iraqi media he said, "We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact."

Well, he apparently didn't read the stories in the NYT or the LA Times which had plenty of context and scrutiny. But maybe, he's referring to the coverage of his assertions about the "immediate threat" of Saddam's WMD back in 2002 or the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch which at the time got a lot of coverage but not much scrutiny or correction.

When stories came out hinting that all this might be a bunch of bull, they got considerably less coverage by the "liberal media." As long as Judith Miller and Bob Woodward are touting the party line Rummy is fine with the press, but when other less embedded reporters point to "crazy" stuff like torture, renditions, White Phosphorus or media campaigns bought and paid for by the pentagon, then suddenly the charge is we're not hearing the good news about Iraq. (The media hates the military.)

As regards his comments on the pentagon's shenanigans in pushing bogus news in Iraq, Rummy stood up like the brave leader he is and blamed the Lincoln Group: "Some people in the military signed a contract with a private contractor, and the private contractor is alleged to have written accurate stories, but paid someone in the Iraq media to carry the storey. Now, the question is, what did the contractor---was he implementing the policy properly?"

"Some people in the military?" He makes it sound like he's as much in the dark as the rest of us are. Isn't he in charge of the pentagon? The contractor was "alleged to have written accurate stories?" (That's what this is all about: writing accurate stories---silly press!) Actually, what they were doing, among other things, was taking entire paragraphs from other sources, printing them without attribution and changing certain passages to make them more flattering to the US and then paying Iraqi journalists to print them.

It seems Rummy sure has a lot of problems with contractors, what with the whole Halliburton overcharging the American taxpayer for millions and now this. He being such a big advocate of outsourcing the military’s logistics, support and intelligence functions might want to look a little closer into what these contractors are really up to. It's funny how neither Rummy or any top commanders in Iraq knew this was going on, yet Eric Schmitt found a quote back on Nov. 18th from Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a military spokesman saying the pentagon's contract with the Lincoln Group was an attempt to "try to get stories out to publications that normally don't have access to those kind of stories." Why don't they have access to those kinds of stories and what kinds of stories are "those kinds of stories?" Does he mean the kind of stories that can only come from a PR firm on K Street?

Because I would think the Iraqis could get access to news stories just like everyone else does, through the newswires, without the Psychological Operations Dept.'s help, but the bigger concern is expressed by Michael Rubin who worked for the CPA in 2003 and 2004 who says the military is fighting with it hands tied in the information war and that terrorists and insurgents "replete with oil boom cash---do the same. We need an even playing field..." See, somehow, these terrorists are selling oil on the open market from their caves and ratlines and they're winning the war of hearts and minds because the military isn't allowed to control all the media.

Perhaps, we could just stop doing stupid things like torturing and killing detainees and leveling entire cities and stuff like that, for starters. Al-Qaeda didn't create Abu Ghraib, we did. They don't go kidnapping people off the streets of Europe and fly them to Syria to be tortured. We would have a much easier time of convincing the world that we really are the shining light of democracy and freedom if we didn't keep doing the opposite of what we profess to be fighting for.

On the Condi front: Stonewalling 101

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/mariner/20051207.html doing her part to scare everybody into submission. All this rendering and torturing we're doing (Though it’s not really torture unless a bodily organ is damaged or death occurs) is saving the lives of Europeans. The Romanians are pretty much convinced we didn't use their bases for detention and torture but former PM Adrian Nastase says, "There were some bases we put at the Americans' disposal. We can't know what happened there."

But regardless, the Romanians are being well rewarded for their "cooperation" with the U.S. and in an odd bit of timing Condi was able to secure the rights to use several bases in Romania which will be very lucrative for the impoverished country. One of the bases, Kogalniceau Air Base, had already been used in the days after 9/11 and this is the one Human Rights Watch says the CIA has made numerous trips to in their black planes. Asked about this, Condi was totally straightforward; "I am not going to talk about whether such activities take place. To do so would clearly be to get into a realm of discussion about supossed or purported intelligence activities and I simply won't do that."

Then, how about the one about mushroom clouds again: she was pretty forthcoming about all the intelligence on Saddam back in 2002. In any case, it will be interesting to see how she continues to duck every question on the grounds of protecting national security.

Program note:

Today, I got sucked in to responding to some really outrageous opinion pieces in the Inquirer, which I normally don't do, but it's taken me so long to write them that I don't really have much time for my usual snarky comments about the news of the day. Therefore, please avail yourselves of my smartass critiques of Kathleen Parker and someone called Nassim Yaziji at Non Sum Dignus.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:22 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005 4:55 PM EST
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Monday, 5 December 2005
Condi comes out fighting!
Topic: War on Terror

[AP]Condi is off for a fence mending trip to old Europe today in an effort to blunt criticism that the US has been using European airports to fly rendered terror suspects around the world and in some cases has secretly detained these suspects in Eastern European countries. TheNYT reports she, "chastised Europe leaders today, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped 'save European lives.'"

That's rich, she's blaming them for the whole thing! So, we kidnap some European citizens and fly them to undisclosed locations around the world, we're trying to save your lives!!!

Steven Hadley---Mr. 16-words---said yesterday on FOX that on her trip she will be addressing European concerns "in a comprehensive way" and her main message will be, "Look, we are all threatened by terror. We need to cooperate in its solution." Which means; its our way or the highway: this is a game for big boys and you have to play along with us and cut out all this whining about human rights and don't even think about letting all those official investigations into these allegations go anywhere because we'll say you were in on it too.

For its part the US is "cooperating" in the war on terror with its European allies by complying with US law (The way we interpret it.) and Hadley says, "We respect the sovereignty of the countries with which we deal." (Yeah right, ask the Italians and Spaniards about that.)

The most important point to keep in mind over all this torture nonsense is that, "We do not move people around the world so they can be tortured." Just because the US has actually admitted they made a mistake by kidnapping an innocent German citizen on vacation in Macedonia and rendered him to Afghanistan where he was tortured while being interrogated, this shouldn't be any cause for skepticism on the part of our allies, [WaPo] because when people go over the line; "The pattern is very clear. We investigate them aggressively, where appropriate charges are brought and people are punished...and procedures are changed to try and reduce the likelihood of mistakes in the future." So, even though there are dozens of known cases of suspects being killed while under the benevolent care of the CIA at these "black sites" around the world, the fact that no one has been brought up on charges, or is ever likely to be; just the very fact that we say this happens should be enough. You can take our word for it. [HRW]

Iraqi prisoner probe put on hold?

Just as we should take the word of Iraqi PM al-Jaafari that the investigation into the discovery of the detention and torture of hundreds of Sunni prisoners in the basement of an Interior Ministry facility on Nov 15 would be completed in two weeks. What, the deadline has passed and the investigation hasn't been completed? That's strange, I would think since the ones behind this are most likely in the government, they wouldn’t have to look too far to find the perpetrators, but what do I know? [AP]

Report the good news!

So, what about all the good news coming out of Iraq, why don’t the liberal media ever focus on that? Rummy says Americans should be optimistic about the way things are going in Iraq and not rely on media reports to the contrary. "To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks." [AP]

He should know, he's got his own media operation going on and it's a lot more balanced! A recent story written by an Iraq heaped scorn on those in the "western press and frequently those self styled 'objective' observers of Iraq [who] are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation." Yeah, right on! Freedom is on the march to victory in Iraq, they don't need some media elite flunky in the US telling them what's up.

Well, it appears they do, because this was a portion of a story board written by a PR firm, the Lincoln Group, hired by the pentagon to plant pro-US propaganda in the Iraqi press to push the US line that everything is A-OK in Iraq. A report cited by the NYT from the pentagon task force on strategic communication of the Defense Science Board revealed that the government had a "fundamental problem of credibility" (Imagine that!) and called for a reinvention and expansion of its information programs. The Times said the US paid the Lincoln Group[ $5 million for the purpose of, "accurately informing the Iraqi people of American goals and gaining their support." The article by Jeff Gerth and Scott Shane goes on to say, though, that it wasn't all about simply setting the record straight: "But while meant to provide reliable information, the effort was also intended to use deceptive techniques, like payments to sympathetic 'temporary spokespersons' who would not necessarily be identified as working for the coalition...in addition the document called for the development of 'alternate or diverting messages' which divert media and public attention' to 'deal instantly with the bad news of the day.'" (What bad news?)

That's sort of what Scott McClellan does every day, so I don't see what the big deal is.

Bloggers beware!

One of the problems with "priming the pump" of the Iraqi media was brought up in a Knight/Ridder article: "'There is no 'local' media anymore,' said a senior military official in Baghdad who has knowledge of American psychological operations in Iraq. 'All media is potentially international. The Web makes it all public.'" This leads me to wonder if a lot of the stuff I see on blogs that claim to post messages from "real Iraqis" who are trumpeting the wonders of the American occupation aren't simply products of the Lincoln Group or US Psy-Ops officers. All you bloggers out there should be careful about who you let post about the "real" conditions Iraqis are living in.

Two good news stories:

An AP story on Dec. 4 from Samarra reports that,” After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with US troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over the killing by insurgents of a local tribal chief."

The report by Antonio Castaneda says the reason for the killing of Sheikh Hikmat Mumtaz al-Bazi was either because of his connection to the US, which isn't spelled out, or "a contract dispute over a US funded project." In any case, "'That's when they decided to take a stand,' said Capt. Ryan Wylie, commander of Bravo Company, Third Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment. '"They defiantly had an idea of the terrorists and where they hang out." Even though Castaneda writes that, "almost everyone agrees that the biggest reduction in violence here is public backlash against the insurgents after the Oct. 11th killing, "he doesn't quote any locals, so it's kind of difficult to know what the people who live in Samarra really thinking or what's really going on. The piece doesn't mention whether the reporter is embedded with Bravo Company, but one assumes he is because I doubt it's safe enough in Samarra for him to just go out and talk to people on his own without a heavily armed escort.

According to this report, attacks are down to one or two a day, from seven a day before, so the US has pulled out two thirds of its troops and replaced them with Iraqi paramilitary commandos, who are most likely Peshmerga or Shiites. [Its funny this story comes out right after W. gets done with his big speech on his strategy for victory which is based on replacing US troops with Iraqis and Rummy's touting of all the tips their getting all of a sudden from Iraqis around the country. Weird, isn't it?]

In another good news story, Nancy Youseff of the Inquirer Foreign Staff writes that Iraqi troops on the Syrian border got a visit by the US and Iraqi brass to praise their progress in securing the area. "Gen. George Casey Jr., the American commander in Iraq, joined Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi (A certifiable Looney.) and about 35 Iraqi officers who are in charge of guarding the Iraqi-Syrian border for a ceremony timed to coincided with Presidents Bush's speech yesterday..."

It seems in the aftermath of Operation Steel Curtain, the border is pretty much secured and the surrounding towns are all under control and are rapidly being manned by Iraqi security forces who are set to take over any time now. Soon, we won't be hearing any more about multiple casualties in a single attack from this part of the country, just like what happened after Fallujah II. The ten Marines who were killed this week on patrol around Fallujah was just an anomaly, I'm sure.

Democracy on the march around the world!

While we'll be hearing a lot about the "veneer" of democracy in Venezuela we probably won't be hearing too much about Kazakhstan’s presidential elections which returned Condi's old friend from her Chevron days, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to office with 85% of the vote. [NYT]

[AP]Meanwhile in Venezuela the elections there which saw big gains for the ruling party will be seen by the main stream media as less legitimate because the opposition decided to boycott the vote claiming they'd be robbed anyway. Or, it could be because they wanted to discredit the process to make Hugo Chavez look like more of a dictator? "Maria Corina Machado, who leads the U.S.-backed vote watchdog group Sumate, called the vote 'illegitimate.'

"We are going to have a single party parliament that doesn't represent ample sectors of society," she said in a statement.'" Well, of course, she's say that, since Sumate is getting its funding from the US. Why don't we see any US funded democracy groups operating in Kazakhstan? Oh, right, Nazarbayev is something less than a dictator of the Cental Asian mold. He's a good guy with a lot of oil as opposed to Chavez who is anti-democratic, even though his elections are actually compeditive when the opposition doesn't decide not to participate.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:19 PM EST
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