Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Iran as linchpin in the Middle East

"Not-So-Strange Bedfellow," Tom Friedman's column on Iran today, has a few observations about Iran's importance to the future of Middle East peace and advice for the Bush administration:
Because the U.S. has destroyed Iran’s two biggest enemies — the Taliban and Saddam — “there is now a debate in Iran as to whether we should continue to act so harshly against the Americans,” Mohammad Hossein Adeli, Iran’s former ambassador to London, told me at Davos. “There is now more readiness for dialogue with the United States.”

More important, when people say, “The most important thing America could do today to stabilize the Middle East is solve the Israel-Palestine conflict,” they are wrong. It’s second. The most important thing would be to resolve the Iran-U.S. conflict.

That would change the whole Middle East and open up the way to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, because Iran is the key backer of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Syria. Iran’s active help could also be critical for stabilizing Iraq.
I hadn't heard that first point, that some Iranians are actually grateful, it appears, for the Americans having done away with the Taliban and Saddam. That's certainly not the conventional wisdom these days. It's more likely to be about Iran's growing power in the region as a result of these developments and its leader's pursuit of nuclear power. The latter view reinforces the U.S./Iran relationship as one of hostility. Perhaps Ahmadinejad's electoral losses of late and his rebuke by religious leaders in the government are affirmations of Friedman's point that the U.S. may have inadvertently gained some ground in their relationship with Iran. Now if only Bush wouldn't f*%# up potential new inroads with his bellicosity.

The advice for Iranian policy:
But for talks with Iran to bear fruit, we have to negotiate with Iran with leverage.

How do we get leverage? Make it clear that Iran can’t push us out of the gulf militarily; bring down the price of oil, which is key to the cockiness of Iran’s hard-line leadership; squeeze the hard-liners financially. But all this has to be accompanied with a clear declaration that the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Iran, but a change of behavior, that the U.S. wants to immediately restore its embassy in Tehran and that the first thing it will do is grant 50,000 student visas for young Iranians to study at U.S. universities.

Just do that — and then sit back and watch the most amazing debate explode inside Iran. You can bet the farm on it.

Evidence against Libby piling up

Judith Miller's Account Hurts Libby Defense.

Cathie Martin, Ari Fleischer and now Judith Miller all confirming Libby spoke to them of Valerie Plame before he claims to have heard it from Russert.
Deliberately and sometimes defensively offering her account in Libby's perjury trial, Miller told the jury that "a very irritated and angry" Libby told her in a confidential conversation on June 23, 2003, that the wife of a prominent critic of the Iraq war worked at the CIA. Libby had told investigators he believed he first learned that information from another journalist nearly three weeks later -- the assertion at the core of the charges against him.

Miller testified that Libby, then the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, shared this information as they talked alone in his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and that he complained that the CIA and a former ambassador were unfairly trying to blame the White House for using faulty intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. He then mentioned that the wife of the ambassador, Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked at a bureau of the CIA.
Nice little extra here...her public confirmation of Libby and the White House's feud with the CIA over faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq invasion. Prime motivation, laid out in full, for Libby to have gone out of his way to expose Valerie Plame.

Other tidbits from this article: Judith Miller apparently kept notes/notebooks from interviews while a reporter for the New York Times in a shopping bag under her desk. This is where she retrieved notes from a meeting with Libby from after initially having overlooked them. And I thought I had poor organizational skills...:)

Meanwhile, the NYTimes today draws attention to the legal argument occurring at the end of today where Libby's lawyers are seeking to have Miller answer whether any other sources of hers had discussed Valerie Wilson. The Times suggests that if Miller refused to answer, she could be held in contempt and there could be a mistrial. The Post report, link above, however, quotes her lawyer as saying "there are no other sources she can recollect dealing with [concerning] Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame." This issue continues into tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One more observation about Ari Fleischer's testimony

I think this is the first time we've seen, publicly at least, an attack of conscience by any Bush administration official over the leak:
Asked why he thought he needed immunity, Fleischer testified that after learning that a criminal investigation had been launched into the disclosure of Plame’s employment, “I was absolutely horrified. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, did I play a role in somehow outing a CIA officer?’”

Specter hilarious today

"Specter: Bush Not Sole 'Decision-Maker'." You've got to be kidding me...Specter continues to excel at exasperating...

Happy Birthday Darth Cheney

Yeah, that guy was born this fateful day. So happy birthday you icon of civility.

Groundhog day

S.D. lawmakers draft modified abortion bill.

Don't these people listen?

Sleeper issue for next election campaign

Angry income trust investors blame Flaherty:
Income trust investors who lost big chunks of their life savings took their anger today to the doorstep of the man they blame for their woes.

And they stated their case about Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's tax policy flip-flop in the kind of plain language politicians don't always hear.

"I'm pissed," said William Barrowclough a retired teacher from Peterborough, Ont. "I think I've got good grounds."

Mr. Barrowclough was one of more than a dozen investors who held a news conference on Parliament Hill as the Commons finance committee prepared for hearings on Flaherty's Oct. 31 decision to start taxing income trusts — a flat reversal of a Tory campaign pledge from the last election.
...
Mr. Barrowclough was one of those who took a hit, to the tune of $250,000 he had invested, partly to provide for his grandchildren's education. Much of the money came from an insurance settlement received for his wife's death in a traffic accident.
I'm sure a few of these people wouldn't mind appearing in ads on the issue, wouldn't you say? Since Mini Bush has his attack ads already launched and seems to favour the format, I'm sure he'll welcome similar tactics from all comers...:)

There are a lot of angry people out there and this should become a big election issue.

A leading Republican Senator talking war strategy

Richard G. Lugar - Beyond Baghdad :
"But the pendulum of Middle East politics may be swinging back against Iranian assertiveness. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states and others have become increasingly alarmed by Iran's behavior and by widening regional sectarian divisions. Because of this dynamic, U.S. bargaining power in the Middle East is growing. Moderate Arab states understand that the United States is an indispensable counterweight to Iran.

This opens up opportunities for solidifying our broader strategic objectives, and it offers a backup option in Iraq. Even as the president's Baghdad strategy goes forward, we need to plan for a potent redeployment of U.S. forces in the region to defend oil assets, target terrorist enclaves, deter adventurism by Iran and provide a buffer against regional sectarian conflict. In the best case, we could supplement bases in the Middle East with troops stationed outside urban areas in Iraq. Such a redeployment would allow us to continue training Iraqi troops and delivering economic assistance, but it would not require us to interpose ourselves between Iraqi sectarian factions."
What's that you say? A Republican Senator raising redeployment and an emphasis on regional states becoming a necessary part of countering Iran. This is good news...

Also worth a read today is this article on Iran's increasing power in the region, expanding in more depth on issues Lugar raises.

Simple video making a strong point

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ari Fleischer sings his song today

Fleischer Tells Jury That Libby Told Him About Plame.

More evidence damaging to Libby's claim that he learned of Plame's undercover status from Tim Russert. Fleischer says Libby told him about Plame working at the CIA days before Libby spoke with Russert. Got that?

This looks like confirmation that Fleischer was being used by the higher ups in the White House to get the word out on Plame. He wasn't given the usual warning about classified information by Libby when they had their lunch. Message? Go ahead and leak this to the press, get the word out.

Some of the interesting details today:
"He added that this was something hush-hush or on the QT, that not many people knew this information," Fleisher said. "My impression was Mr. Libby was telling me this was kind of newsy."

Added Fleischer: "My thought was that what I was hearing was about nepotism."
Ari hears that someone's wife works in CIA counterproliferation and nepotism is what springs to mind? How about classified territory and maybe I should be very careful where I'm treading? How about maybe she's doing something of importance for your country and you might not want to publicize that? He may have weighed such questions but in the end:
Fleischer said he never viewed the information he received about Plame as classified or secret, because the protocol in the White House was that press aides would be warned explicitly when information was classified and could not be used in discussions with reporters.
It didn't take Fleischer too long to realize he'd been hung out to dry and he told the government. Good for him. What is that vulgar yet comical expression I've read time and time again throughout the course of the CIA leak matter as the Bush insiders have turned on each other? It's along these lines...Ari in the end decided: "F*%# me? No, F*%# you..."

Very cool 3-D graphic

Economic activity around the world.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Funny sign seen at Washington protest yesterday



Great photo diary of the anti-war protest in Washington yesterday from missreporter on DailyKos. Couldn't resist posting one of her photos which is hilarious. Go see the rest.

This made me smile

Think Hillary's going to be Swift Boated?
The former first lady also said has learned the lessons of the last two presidential campaigns, both lost by Democrats who responded slowly to criticism.

"When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent," Clinton said. "I have been through the political wars longer than some of you have been alive. We've got to be prepared to hold our ground and fight back."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Big anti war demonstration today

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Coverage of the march in the Times.

More on the botched strategy and the failure of both the political and military establishments to engage the issue as needed, by a retired general here.

John McCain needs some serious scrutiny

Here's a bit. The myth of McCain:
"A few months ago, McCain suddenly rushed up to a friend of mine, a prominent Washington lawyer, at a social event, and threatened to beat him up because he represented a client McCain happened to dislike. Then, just as suddenly, profusely and tearfully, he apologised."
If Hillary Clinton did this, or Barack Obama, or John Edwards...need I say more?

Arianna reports he's not so temperate these days with reporters either...

Will Rove Testify?

Rove and Bartlett subpoenaed by Libby's team.

Lots of interesting stuff to come in this trial. Rove on a witness stand, under oath. My oh my.

Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for Bush, apparently was told by both Libby and Bartlett about Valerie Wilson's CIA employment in connection with their effort to discredit Joe Wilson, an Iraq war critic and thorn in their side. It suggests the possibility that Libby was not the initial scapegoat that the White House had in mind. Perhaps it was Fleischer instead. Let's let Fleischer in on some classified stuff by slipping him a juicy classified document while he's travelling, make him feel part of the gang, let Fleischer get the word out and let him suffer the repercussions from dealing in such classified territory. Let Ari be the first to get it out there, get reporters talking about it and then we'll just say, "we heard that too" as Rove did with Novak. As Libby tried to argue with Russert. Nice plan, but gone awry.

Fleischer wasn't one of the original Bush inner circle, so it would make sense that they would view him as expendable. And Fleischer apparently embarked down the road to disseminating the information. It's repeated here how Fleischer told NBC's David Gregory about Wilson's wife. The problem for the White House lies in Fleischer's immunity deal with Fitzgerald. Did Ari figure out he was being set up and get the heck out of dodge? Looks like it.

What's interesting is how, with Fleischer gone, Libby somehow became the guy with the target on his back and ended up indicted when Rove and Bartlett were involved as well. Rove's testimony, should he actually end up being called, will be among the highlights of this thing.

At Ease, Mr. President

At Ease, Mr. President, a thoughtful op-ed today by Garry Wills on the proliferation of the use of the term "commander in chief" to describe you know who:
WE hear constantly now about “our commander in chief.” The word has become a synonym for “president.” It is said that we “elect a commander in chief.” It is asked whether this or that candidate is “worthy to be our commander in chief.”

But the president is not our commander in chief. He certainly is not mine. I am not in the Army.
...
Wartime and war analogies are embraced because these justify the secrecy. The representative is accountable to citizens. Soldiers are accountable to their officer. The dynamics are different, and to blend them is to undermine the basic principles of our Constitution.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday night video



This is one of my favourite songs lately, Truth No. 2 by the Dixie Chicks...if you listen to the lyrics you'll hear why...:)

Charges Dropped Against NSA Protesters

Charges Dropped Against NSA Protesters:
A federal judge dropped charges against 13 peace activists arrested for protesting outside the headquarters of the secretive National Security Agency.

An NSA security officer lacked the legal authority to charge the protesters and did not provide a statement of probable cause, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Gauvey ruled Thursday.

The law only prohibits illegal entry, not remaining on NSA property, and the protesters were never told the NSA objected to their presence, the judge said.

''There was no guard. There was no checkpoint. There was no sign warning them of anything,'' Gauvey said.

The activists were charged with entering a military installation for illegal purposes, which carries a maximum six-month sentence and a $5,000 fine.
More overstepping of legal bounds by Bush administration officers. Convenient tandem report to this morning's more significant Times piece on the Justice Department's excessive secrecy tactics in NSA wiretapping cases.

Do you think the lawless tone at the top of this administration has anything at all to do with such incidents? Where they've lawyered down the Geneva Conventions, repeatedly expressed disdain for the judiciary, declassified intelligence for political purposes such as silencing an Iraq war crtitic (Joe Wilson)? The message they've sent with such actions has trickled down, no doubt about it. Might makes right has been the unofficial slogan of the Bush administration, to date.

Membership has its privileges

"And You Thought Katherine Harris Lost."

Damaging testimony for Libby yesterday

"Ex-Cheney Aide Contradicts Libby":
Cathie Martin, Mr. Cheney’s former spokeswoman, testified that she had a clear memory of telling both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby that a prominent war critic’s wife worked for the C.I.A., days before he contends he first learned it from a reporter.
...
She testified that both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were intensely interested in Ms. Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had been sent to Africa to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger for his nuclear weapons program.

Ms. Martin, who no longer works for Mr. Cheney but remains at the White House as a communications assistant to the president, described how Mr. Libby had telephoned a senior Central Intelligence Agency official in her presence sometime in early July and asked about the Wilson trip. She said she was then put on the phone with Bill Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, who told her that Mr. Wilson went to Africa on behalf of the agency and that his wife worked there.

She testified that, later that day, in a meeting with Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney, she related the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the agency.
Intensely interested yet still he claims to have learned it from a reporter...

Running on Empty

"Running on Empty," Tom Friedman today calls for the Democrats to step up and take the lead on two major issues, climate change and Iraq. Hear, hear to that. His suggestion on climate change is similar to what Stephane Dion has been advocating in Canada:
The really bold, transformative — and popular — initiative Mr. Bush should have offered would either be a national cap-and-trade system for controlling CO2 emissions by utilities, manufacturers and autos, or a carbon tax. Both would create economic incentives for us to get rid of appliances, buildings and cars that emit a lot of CO2 and to invent and purchase those that don’t.

But there is no reason that the Democrats could not right now put a cap-and-trade bill on Mr. Bush’s desk themselves by spring, Mr. Krupp said, “and I think Bush would sign it.”
I wouldn't hold my breath on Bush signing it, but it's a worthwhile goal.

And on Iraq:
Let the troop surge be accompanied and reinforced by what the Baker-Hamilton commission proposed: a regional conference that puts Syria, Iran, Jordan and Saudi Arabia around a table with Iraqis to try to stabilize the place. And that requires that America brandish carrots and sticks with all the parties. If a real regional conference doesn’t work, then Democrats who want to just set a date to withdraw will have an even stronger case because we will truly have tried everything. But let’s try everything: a surge of diplomacy, not just troops.
Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy...regional diplomacy said Jim Webb...

U.S. Justice Dept reinventing the legal system in NSA cases?

An article in the NYTimes today, "Secrecy Is at Issue in Suits Opposing Domestic Spying," suggests Americans are facing significant threats from the Justice Department to the impartial functioning of its judicial branch. The Justice Department is taking extraordinary secrecy measures in the NSA wiretap cases and is arguably taking on a quasi-judicial role by asserting control over the processes used in the lawsuits. For example, the Justice Department is submitting their written responses to lawsuits filed "...by placing them in a room at the department." Normally a response would be sent to the complainants in a case. Well not anymore if you happen to be suing the government for illegally wiretapping you. Parties have to go to the Justice Department to see them! Here are a few more details of the measures being employed:
The Bush administration has employed extraordinary secrecy in defending the National Security Agency’s highly classified domestic surveillance program from civil lawsuits. Plaintiffs and judges’ clerks cannot see its secret filings. Judges have to make appointments to review them and are not allowed to keep copies.

Judges have even been instructed to use computers provided by the Justice Department to compose their decisions.
With respect to the complainants who have filed cases:
Some cases challenging the program, which monitored international communications of people in the United States without court approval, have also involved atypical maneuvering. Soon after one suit challenging the program was filed last year in Oregon, Justice Department lawyers threatened to seize an exhibit from the court file.

This month, in the same case, the department sought to inspect and delete files from the computers on which lawyers for the plaintiffs had prepared their legal filings.

The tactics, said a lawyer in the Oregon case, Jon B. Eisenberg, prompted him to conduct unusual research.

“Sometime during all of this,” Mr. Eisenberg said, “I went on Amazon and ordered a copy of Kafka’s ‘The Trial,’ because I needed a refresher course in bizarre legal procedures.” (emphasis added)
Why are they seeking to seize exhibits and not seeking instead to seal a sensitive document from public view instead? Why can't they make the argument and get a court order? It demonstrates utter contempt for the legal process.
Nancy S. Marder, a law professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and an authority on secrecy in litigation, said the tactics were really extreme and deeply, deeply troubling.

“These are the basics that we take for granted in our court system,” Professor Marder said. “You have two parties. You exchange documents. The documents you’ve seen don’t disappear.”
More proof of the bully mentality permeating this administration and its Justice Department. Until people stand up to the bully, the bully will try to get away with all they can. And it's apparently been quite a lot...

Russert's a Cheney fave

Arianna Huffington's been saying this for months:
"Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you.

This delicious morsel about the 'Meet the Press' host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby.

Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: 'MTP-VP,' she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under 'pro,' she wrote: 'control message.'

'I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used,' Martin testified. 'It's our best format.'"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

On Gore running

Political Wire: Quote of the Day:
"He's going to run, and he's going to be formidable. If he didn't run, I'd be shocked."

-- James Carville on Al Gore to Rolling Stone.
Gore vs. Clinton is a match-up I'd love to see. McCain-Giuliani-Romney will put you to sleep in comparison...

Hillary's blog ad buy getting attention

"Hillary in Blogistan: On Blogads, The Netroots and Peter Daou at Blog P.I.." Insightful piece on the politics of placing ads on the blogs. If you're not a blogger it's an interesting little read which will give you a sense of the growth in power of blogs and the ad fees that are being commanded. I don't understand why some would knock her campaign for advertising on leading conservative blogs. If you're a national candidate, clearly you have to advertise everywhere but with appropriate buys, which her campaign appears to have done.

Is that Liddy - or Libby?

Ooops. Misspelling in headline caught on Google News...:) Guess the media is taking the Bush/Nixon comparisons of late more seriously than we thought...:)

Evocative moments at the Libby trial

I couldn't help but recall a scene from the movie, Clear and Present Danger after reading this passage from the NYTimes coverage of the Libby trial today:
Mr. Libby’s lawyers said in an opening statement on Tuesday that he felt so abandoned by the White House as the leak investigation intensified in the fall of 2003 that he appealed to his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney subsequently wrote, according to the defense’s opening statement: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meatgrinder because of the incompetence of others.”
Was this like a "get out of jail free card" that Cheney was penning to ease Libby's mind as he went about his mission to discredit the Wilsons? Remember this scene from the movie?
Jack Ryan: I didn't sign up for this. This is someone's bullshit political agenda. Who authorized this? Cutter?
Ritter: Cutter couldn't tie his own shoes without permission.
Jack Ryan: If I go down you're coming with me.
Ritter: Wrong again. I have an *autographed get-out-of-jail-free card*! "The President of the United States authorizes Deputy Director of the CIA Robert Ritter to conduct 'Operation Reciprocity' including all necessary funding and support. This action is deemed important to the national security of the United States etcetera, etcetera, etcetera." You don't *have* one of these, do you Jack?
[as Ryan walks away]
Ritter: Gray! The world is gray, Jack!
Rove: The world is grey, Scooter!

Of course, this is all an interesting and fun dramatic embellishment on my part. The parallel is not so much in the note but in the feelings evident in the Ryan character about having been left dangling in the wind by his White House colleagues and left to take the fall. From Libby's counsel's opening statement, it seems that Libby experienced something similar.

Note also the emphasis in the Times article that there's "little known evidence" of Libby being set up as a scapegoat. Of course not, does anyone believe Rove would leave fingerprints?

Speaking of Rove, Murray Waas is of the opinion that the Rove fingering by Libby's team is meant to signal to the White House that Libby's looking for a pardon and some assurance in exchange for tamping down the Rove references/amending his defense...hmmmmm...if you were Libby, would you count on that?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

They're not your friends, Mini Bush

Wilkins slams Day for questioning U.S. on Arar.

Kerry not running

Kerry Bows Out of '08 Presidential Race.

It is very clear now that Kerry would have been a much, much, much, much better choice than W in 2004. Some consolation for the Senator. Probably the right decision, reminds me of Gore's declining to run in 2004...

Olbermann with more on the CIA leak



Olbermann delves into the Libby trial developments from Tuesday with David Shuster...some interesting tidbits here, including Cheney allegedly instructing Scott McLellan to go out and lie about Libby's involvement in the leak. And keep in mind that Cheney's response to reports of his involvement in the leak is likely what has been reported before, that Bush had declassified some intelligence in order to refute Joe Wilson's report that the Nigerian "yellow cake" was bunk. Needless to say, this does not help Libby on the charges he faces nor Cheney if he's implicated in any obstruction schemes.

Also on the clip, Keith briefly interviews Hillary Clinton on Iran. Hillary seems newly unleashed in the ferocity of her critiques of Bush. The race is clearly on.

A leading blogger's view on Bush's speech



This is a blogger whose writing I admire very much, Josh Marshall, and he's getting into video blogging now. Very insightful and just as good as any talking head you'll see on the networks. I heartily agree with the comments on Webb as a potential '08 sleeper candidate.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The New York City subway hero stole the show

That was a great moment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is right on

(AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

I'm just enthralled with this new picture.

Speaker Pelosi looks like she's right on top of everything Bush is saying. She's ready to applaud, shift her eyes, blink with disapproval or acknowledgement at just the right time. She's got the expressive looks down pat! It's like she's visibly representing everyone who opposes Bush. It is making listening to this imbecile entirely bearable.

What a welcome change.

Btw, I'm now hearing the part where W scares the sh*t out of the world...citing all the foiled terror attacks - this will be fact checked no doubt, can you believe anything he says anymore? Did you catch the mention once again of the foiled plot to crash an airliner into the tallest building on the west coast? Using this classified information once again for political gain, for an applause line, to scare Americans.

Sunnis and Shiites are part of the same totalitarian threat? Kill on an even more horrific scale? WTF is he talking about? Elevating them to al Qaeda's status?

He's been able to craft enough applause lines I see...

Video report on Cheney's involvement

CIA Leak case exploding today


Big news is that Libby is claiming he's being scapegoated by the White House for the leak of Valerie Wilson's CIA operative status in order to protect Karl Rove. From MSNBC:
Attorney Theodore Wells said Libby went to Cheney in 2003 and complained that the White House was subtly blaming him for leaking Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak.

“They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Wells said, recalling the alleged conversation between Libby and Cheney. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.”
When you work in a den of snakes, what can one expect when everyone's back is against the wall? A circular pointing squad.

And Cheney's involvement in the leak is being portrayed as "deep." Confirming suspicions many have had all along. MSNBC is reporting on the opening statements and a kos blogger transcribes it:
Shuster's report continues:

The prosecuters will also show that it was VP Cheney who directed Scooter Libby on how to handle the media inquiries on the Wilsons, on Joe Wilson's criticisms, that was a violation of protocal. In addition, prosecutors are alleging that VP Cheney himself wrote out for Scooter Libby what he should say to one of the cruicial reporters in the case and it was during that conversation with the reporter when Scooter Libby gave the confirmation to that reporter that Valerie Wilson was undercover at the CIA.

There was other information that was damaging to the Vice President concerning the State of the Union and the false claim that was made. The prosecutors say the evidence will make it clear that VP Cheney asked the Director of the CIA George Tenet to take complete responsiblity for the mistake and to make it clear that the VP and the president were not involved...

And:

There was a note that VP Cheney wrote to Scooter Libby about how Libby should handle this matter, that Scooter Libby, according to prosecutors, destroyed just before Scooter Libby testified to the FBI where Libby allegedly lied about his dealings with reporters. It is damaging information about this Vice President, politically, it could also be a big deal as far as this trial is concerned.

[Update: Shuster now says the phrase Fitzgerald used was: Wiped out (as in from memory), not destroyed, and he reports that the note itself was found in Libby's files]
Um, and Cheney is on the defense list as a witness? Is Fitzgerald salivating or what?

Happy anniversary Mini Bush

Here's some anniversary sentiment just for you:
With a full year of Conservative rule behind them, Canadians now want to see the Tories start taking responsibility for their government's actions, says Heather MacIvor of the University of Windsor.

People are growing weary of hearing the prime minister blame previous Liberal governments for everything that goes wrong in Ottawa, said Prof. MacIvor.

“They're going to have to stop calling themselves Canada's new government,” she said.

“It's just getting dumb.”
Wasn't that thoughtful of me to remember your anniversary...:)

Richard Clarke on Olbermann



Clarke reminds us of the many issues being ignored while Iraq's sucking up the oxygen after a discussion of Iraq...

Kristof with a lesson for W on Iraq

Forget about Vietnam, Kristof says, it's Moby Dick that helps us understand what W's been doing. Iraq's the white whale:
To me at least, Melville captures the trajectory of the Bush years. It begins with a president who started out after 9/11 with immense support at home and abroad and a genuine mandate to fight terrorism. But then Mr. Bush became obsessed by his responsibility to prevent another terror attack.

This was an eminently worthy goal, but Mr. Bush abandoned traditional rules and boundaries — like bans on torture and indefinite detentions — and eventually blundered into Iraq. And in a way that Melville could have foretold, the compulsive search for security ended up creating insecurity.

Melville’s lesson is that even a heroic quest can be destructive when we abandon all sense of limits. And at a time when we hear the siren calls of moral clarity, the classics almost invariably emphasize the importance of moral nuance, an appreciation for complexity, the need for humility.
Now if only we can stop Ahab from destroying the ship...

Monday, January 22, 2007

That's a shame

Bush polling in Nixon territory. Sounds about right...

Bill Clinton won two terms, remember?

Editorial in WPost continues to set the bar to her advantage.

On the video trail to 2008

Washington Post article today: On the Electronic Campaign Trail talking about internet video and its impact, already, on the 2008 campaign. All the Democratic candidates thus far have announced by web.
Peter Dao, the campaign's Internet strategist, who worked on the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), said Clinton's team hopes to make her campaign as interactive as possible and said the opportunities today are far advanced over just a few years ago.

"I remember in 2003 and 2004 when you said 'blog,' most people didn't know what you meant or the significance of it," Dao said, adding that with the growth of blogs and social networking sites, "the ubiquity of it is so amazing . . . the sky's the limit."
I think that latter point is the key...everyone knows that video has changed campaigns, witness George Allen's implosion post "macaca" and the candidate announcements. It's the unknown use that we can't foresee that makes this development so intriguing at this stage.

The end of an era

Tighter Passport Rules for U.S. and Canadian Citizens Start Tuesday. Passport now required. The stiffened posture at the border is taking full effect. Driven by the U.S., the message is clear...the nations that have been your best friends are no longer viewed as such. So I'll show my passport (as I've been doing for years anyway) with a bit of sadness from here on in for the changed relationship. It didn't have to be this way...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Brownie, the gift that keeps on giving

Brown still dishing on the politics of the Katrina response:
Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the devastating hurricane be federalized — a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

Brown, 52, declined to say who in the White House had argued for federalizing the response only in Louisiana.

This ain't no disco

Terry McAuliffe, a Hillary backer, sends a message today:
"McAuliffe predicted a rough campaign. “She is going to fight for herself and she is going to have people around her who will fight,” he said.

“They are going to play mean, nasty and dirty on the other side. You don’t walk into a knife fight without adequate gloves.”"
I think he should have said you don't walk into a knife fight without a bigger knife or a gun. But maybe that would have sounded too whack. In any event, toughness is definitely what's been missing from the Dems, so dial it up. Especially since the Rethugs will be dishing it out in spades...

This guy has very bad timing

Kansas Senator Announces Bid for Presidency on same day as Hillary...imagine the luck.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Peggy Noonan on the State of the Union

It's too late for this:
It's been an era of soft thinking and hard words. Those who opposed the war were weak and craven; those who supported it were dupes and bullies; those who came to oppose the war were cowards bowing to polls; those who continue to support it love all war all the time. Some of this was inevitable -- the stakes could barely be higher; passions flare. But it's not getting us anywhere. And it's limiting debate. It's making people fearful.

It is time for a kind of verbal amnesty in which thoughts are considered before motives are judged. An admission that the White House is as responsible for this situation as everyone else would help clear the air -- and just might prompt some soul-searching in members of the audience. An honest plea here could break through the cement that has hardened over the debate. Who could answer harshly when a president who loves his country admitted the problem and pleaded for change? That's what might really hit reset.
And Bush has given no indication he could ever restrain himself or his White House from the use of "hard words." Maybe if there were a reservoir of good will that Bush could tap into this suggestion might resonate. But this is a White House and President that have tried to divide from the beginning and show no sign of easing up. Besides, Bush tried this before in his speech to the American nation leading up to the fifth anniversary of 9/11. He called for unity, etc. and then proceeded to run around the country during the midterms calling Democrats terrorist coddlers, terrorist enablers. Because that's who he is.

Report on White House use of intelligence coming: Rockefeller

Sen. Rockefeller Assails Bush Over Iran Stance:
The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday sharply criticized the Bush administration’s increasingly combative stance toward Iran, saying that White House efforts to portray it as a growing threat are uncomfortably reminiscent of rhetoric about Iraq before the American invasion of 2003.
...
Mr. Rockefeller was biting in his criticism of how President Bush has dealt with the threat of Islamic radicalism since the Sept. 11 attacks, saying he believed that the campaign against international terrorism was “still a mystery” to the president.

“I don’t think he understands the world,” Mr. Rockefeller said. “I don’t think he’s particularly curious about the world. I don’t think he reads like he says he does.”

He added, “Every time he’s read something he tells you about it, I think.”
Rockefeller's working on that infamously delayed report by his formerly Republican-controlled Intelligence Committee on White House manipulation of intelligence in the run up to the war. He has this to say:
He said that the committee was nearing completion on one part of that investigation, concerning whether the White House ignored prewar C.I.A. assessments that Iraq could disintegrate into chaos.

That report, Mr. Rockefeller said, could be released within months and was “not going to make for pleasant reading at the White House.”

Hillary's in

Sen. Clinton Launches 2008 Campaign.

Yes, we all knew it, but still, this is exciting...her campaign managed to surprise with this.

There's a recent Zogby poll showing Obama on top in New Hampshire. Wouldn't you rather be her than him? He's got nowhere to go but down and it absolutely helps her to not be perceived as inevitable. The Post article and the NYTimes coverage both are cast in ways that emphasize the challenges for her. What other candidate warrants such special scrutiny? Gets the bar set so high?

I say, good, she's got nowhere to go but to exceed these expectations.

We could have told you this: Toonies aren't transmitters

Pentagon Says Its Own Spy Coins Report is False.

No transmitters in Toonies to track Americans in Canada. Another effort to make Canada the bogeyman down the tubes. Nice try though. 10 for ingenuity on this one.

Olbermann on Bush's latest attack on the judicial branch



Keith Olbermann with more on Bush's unprecedented removal of 7 U.S. Attorneys. Gonzales has always been more "General" than "Attorney" says Jonathan Turley...:)

More Colbert, this time on O'Reilly



Colbert is brilliant...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Threats in Montreal

Letters threaten FLQ attacks in Montreal:
An RCMP spokesman says the force is taking "very seriously" a recent threatening letter signed by a group claiming to be a new cell of the FLQ, a Quebec militant group active in the 1960s and 1970s.

The letter, dated Jan. 15, says "strategic targets of importance" will be targeted in the western, largely English-speaking part of Montreal between Feb. 15 and March 15.

A big shout out to Senator Pat Leahy today



You, sir, are right on. Watch the video above or check out the CBC video report which gives you a better flavour of Leahy's extended outrage.

Leahy blasted Attorney General Gonzales for the rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria (with which Arar holds dual citizenship) where Arar was tortured. Arar has been cleared of any suspicion by the Canadian government and the Canadian Minister in charge of the file says today that we have now seen the U.S. information on Arar...and Arar should be cleared.

Some of what Leahy said (from CP link above):
Leahy, who's from Vermont and has an extensive interest in Canadian issues, called rendition cases like Arar's - where a foreign terror suspect is sent to a third country to be tortured - a "black mark" on the country.

And he scoffed at the notion that American officials sought assurances from Syria that Arar wouldn't be tortured.

"We knew damn well, if he went to Canada, he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held. He'd be investigated," said Leahy.

"We also knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country, a country that has always been a beacon of human rights."
...
"Canadians have been our closest allies . . . They're justifiably upset. They're wondering what's happened to us.

"I'm somewhat upset," Leahy noted.

Good for Leahy for publicly rebuking the useless, embarassing stonewaller Gonzales.

Colbert hosts Papa Bear



Let's see if this stays up...

Some good news from Iran

"Rebuke in Iran to Its President on Nuclear Role."
Iran’s outspoken president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, appears to be under pressure from the highest authorities in Iran to end his involvement in its nuclear program, a sign that his political capital is declining as his country comes under increasing international pressure.

Just one month after the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, two hard-line newspapers, including one owned by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the president to stay out of all matters nuclear.

In the hazy world of Iranian politics, such a public rebuke was seen as a sign that the supreme leader — who has final say on all matters of state — might no longer support the president as the public face of defiance to the West.
The sanctions imposed by the U.N. and the Security Council resolution passed at the end of December have apparently had some effect on the Iranian economy, Iranian politicians and leaders beyond Ahmadinejad. The prospect of being drawn into the debacle in Iraq may also be causing some sober second thought in Iran as well.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hilarious

Comic report on four high profile Capitol Hill roommates.

Bush concedes on his warrantless wiretapping

Bush concedes. Isn't it great to be able to write such a sentence? Well, he thinks he did something wrong with his warrantless eavesdropping. Otherwise, why reverse his position?
The Bush administration, in a surprise reversal, said on Wednesday that it had agreed to give a secret court jurisdiction over the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program and would end its practice of eavesdropping without warrants on Americans suspected of ties to terrorists.

The Justice Department said it had worked out an “innovative” arrangement with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that provided the “necessary speed and agility” to provide court approval to monitor international communications of people inside the United States without jeopardizing national security.

The decision capped 13 months of bruising national debate over the reach of the president’s wartime authorities and his claims of executive power, and it came as the administration faced legal and political hurdles in its effort to continue the surveillance program. (emphasis added)
Surprise! In the face of imminent investigations of Bush's warrantless wiretapping, alleged by many to have been illegally committed, they say uncle! OK, despite our many protestations of presidential executive power and our demonizing of Democrats as wanting to let Al Qaeda listen in on telephone calls...well, sorry for all that. Now we're suddenly happy to let the FISA court scrutinize our program. W....T....F?

Not so fast, slick Alberto. Democrats are still intent on getting to the bottom of what happened, as well they should:
"The announcement today is welcome news,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee. “But it is also confirmation that the administration’s go-it-alone approach, effectively excluding Congress and the courts and operating outside the law, was unnecessary.”

Mr. Rockefeller added, “I intend to move forward with the committee’s review of all aspects of this program’s legality and effectiveness.”
Next time W, you may not want to follow Karl Rove's advice and demonize Democrats as terrorist sympathizers. They may remember it at such moments.

Oh, and what's this tidbit from that suddenly most helpful of species, a congressional Republican?
The administration said it had briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees in closed sessions on its decision.

But Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico, who serves on the Intelligence committee, disputed that, and some Congressional aides said staff members were briefed Friday without lawmakers present.

Ms. Wilson, who has scrutinized the program for the last year, said she believed the new approach relied on a blanket, “programmatic” approval of the president’s surveillance program, rather than approval of individual warrants.

Administration officials “have convinced a single judge in a secret session, in a nonadversarial session, to issue a court order to cover the president’s terrorism surveillance program,” Ms. Wilson said in a telephone interview. She said Congress needed to investigate further to determine how the program is run. (emphasis added)
More spine from Republicans, thank you. And for an inkling of what's really behind this move by the administration:
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., said the appellate court should still examine the legality of the program and whether the it had violated intelligence law for the last five years.

It’s not academic when the president violates the law,” Mr. Romero said. (emphasis added)
The administration was able to gets its torture immunity legislation passed prior to the election, but not congressional approval of the Presidents' warrantless wiretapping. These actions today suggest that the administration is concerned about this unresolved liability and for all the deft stage management of their announcement, it's likely to do them little good.

More analysis of the fallout in the WPost today...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Unprecedented removals of US Attorneys by Bush administration

Justice Dept. Names New Prosecutors, Forcing Some Out:
"The Justice Department is removing several United States attorneys from their jobs, among them Carol C. Lam, the top federal prosecutor in San Diego, who led the corruption prosecution of former Representative Randy Cunningham.

Justice Department officials said Tuesday that Ms. Lam's dismissal had nothing to do with the prosecution of Mr. Cunningham, Republican of California, but was based on her overall record in prosecuting firearms violations and crimes along the California border with Mexico.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said that Ms. Lam and Kevin V. Ryan, the United States attorney from San Francisco, among others, were being pushed out without cause. Mr. Ryan's office has been investigating the backdating of stock options granted to corporate executives.

Ms. Feinstein said on the Senate floor on Tuesday that Ms. Lam, appointed in 2002, was a straight shooter and a good prosecutor.

"To my knowledge," Ms. Feinstein said, "there are no allegations of misconduct having to do with Carol Lam. She is a distinguished former judge. Rather, the only explanation I have seen are concerns that were expressed about prioritizing corruption cases over smuggling and gun cases."
Some are suggesting that this smacks of significant abuse of power. Note the Lam removal in California, above, and her prosecution of a high profile Republican. The article mentions that others leaving are in Arkansas, where a Rove protege is taking the job, Nevada and San Francisco, for example. Notice a pattern? What prominent Democrats are from Arkansas, Nevada and San Francisco? Hmmmmm....what say you, Alberto?
“We in no way politicize these decisions,” Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
That's right, because the Bush administration is above that, aren't they?

My kingdom for a juror with an open mind about Bush administration honesty

Jurors Questioned About War, Memory as Libby Trial Opens:
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is presiding over the trial, yesterday dismissed three of the nine potential jurors interviewed. Two were released after expressing strong feelings about the Bush administration.

"I am completely without objectivity," said a woman in her 30s, who was dressed in tailored brown trousers and a sweater. "There is nothing they could say or do that would make me think anything positive." Walton excused her immediately. Libby turned to watch her walk out of court. (emphasis added)
And this is just the first day, people. More:
The judge dismissed a young man in his 20s after he told lawyers and the judge: "I don't have the highest opinion" of the vice president.
They'll find their jurors eventually...:) I mean, how hard can it be to find people who think a top Bush official might not have been lying? I mean, really...:)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

This is rich

"Bush Says Iraq Fumbled Executions." What is he, the last guy to weigh in? Why does it take him so long? Mr. Decisive seems to have waited quite a while for the wind to blow on Saddam's hanging before he dared go this far.

Oh, and there's this:
Mr. Bush also said that if he were questioned by a pollster, he would voice disapproval of the situation in Iraq.

“If you were to take it and put me in an opinion poll and said ‘Do I approve of Iraq’ I’d be one of those that said, ‘No, I don’t approve of what’s taking place in Iraq,”’ Mr. Bush said in the interview.

“On the other hand I do believe we can succeed,” he said.
WTF is going on with this guy? Can you say, having it both ways? Can you say, desperate effort to show he's not out of touch, that he understands what public opinion is? Fine, but what difference does it make at this point? I mean, really? Say something interesting that shows you have some kind of insight here. It's not like you're the President or anything. Otherwise, why bother?

CIA Leak case takes center stage again

Trial begins:
"The trial of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity opened this morning, with the prosecutor and defense attorneys for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff questioning potential jurors about their views of the Bush administration, the Iraq war and the fallibility of human memory."
Remember what this is all about:
Libby, the first sitting senior White House official to be indicted in recent history,faces five felony counts stemming from a federal investigation into Bush aides' leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in 2003. Her name was published in a syndicated column days after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized one of the administration's central rationales for the war in Iraq.

Libby, 56, has not been accused of the leak itself. He has been charged with two counts of making false statements to FBI officers, two counts of perjury before a grand jury and one count of obstructing justice. Legal experts have estimated that, if convicted on all charges, Libby could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
And just why is it so important that Valerie Wilson was outed? A career spent with the CIA and at the end, tracking Iraq's weapons proliferations was obliterated by the Bush administration:
Valerie Plame was recruited into the CIA in 1985, straight out of Pennsylvania State University. After two years of training to be a covert case officer, she served a stint on the Greece desk, according to Fred Rustmann, a former CIA official who supervised her then. Next she was posted to Athens and posed as a State Department employee. Her job was to spot and recruit agents for the agency. In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer--before 9/11--word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group.
...
When the Novak column ran, Valerie Wilson was in the process of changing her clandestine status from NOC to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management. Her aim, she told colleagues, was to put in time as an administrator--to rise up a notch or two--and then return to secret operations. But with her cover blown, she could never be undercover again.
Rove and Libby played fast and loose with her status by talking to reporters about it, Armitage was negligent about it. This trial is a welcome rebuke to these incompetents.

Rice returns to the Scowcroft way

Rice Speaks Softly in Egypt, Avoiding Democracy Push - New York Times:
Ms. Rice, who once lectured Egyptians on the need to respect the rule of law, did not address those domestic concerns. Instead, with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit by her side, she talked about her appreciation for Egypt’s support in the region.

It was clear that the United States — facing chaos in Iraq, rising Iranian influence and the destabilizing Israeli-Palestinian conflict — had decided that stability, not democracy, was its priority, Egyptian political commentators, political aides and human rights advocates said.
She's come a long way, apparently returning to her old mentor's realism:
The relationship between Scowcroft and the Bushes is not the only complicated one in this story. Condoleezza Rice was Scowcroft’s protégée. What happened there?

Condoleezza Rice started her public career as an aide to Scowcroft, and was firmly in the realist camp. But she switched Bushes, in a sense, becoming closer to the son than to the father; the son has a different view of the world, and now so does Rice. From what I understand, Rice believes now that the realists’ preoccupation with stability over democratic change brought us to September 11th, and now she’s committed to the idea of transforming countries into democracies, rather than dealing with their governments as they are. There is, of course, merit to that argument. There is also merit to Scowcroft’s argument that America shouldn’t rush into these sorts of programs haphazardly.
These youngsters these days, always thinking they know better...

Snow in Canada in January is now big news


Winter weather marches through Canada, wreaking havoc on city streets. Back to normal, it's about time...

Someone else noticed Bush's incessant smirking on 60 Minutes

Bob Cesca: Iraq Is Not Hilarious, Mr. President.

And elsewhere on the Huffington Post, came across this excerpt from the Bush interview which captures Bush's bizarre detached way of looking at things:
"I am blessed by an Almighty that comforts me and a wife that loves me and friends that are my buddies now, and they were my buddies before and they'll be my buddies after, and I've got a wonderful family....I feel exhilarated by the experience....There are moments of anxiety, and there are of course moments of anguish and sadness. But there's also moments of great exhilaration and enthusiasm. It's just a fascinating experience and I'm glad that I did it." (emphasis added)
It's good to be W, isn't it? Being President is just another job he's glad he did until he moves on to the next experience. Looking forward to the days out of office already, it seems. Happy to have someone else clean up his mess...

Monday, January 15, 2007

What to say?

On the remarkable report by John Burns in the NYTimes today on the hangings of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Tikriti, and Saddam's former chief judge:
Iraq’s turbulent effort to reckon with the violence of its past took a macabre turn today when the execution of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother ended with the hangman’s noose severing his head from his body after he fell through the trapdoor.
...
After the executioners pulled a black hood over the heads of the two men, tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like a deadweights. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and inertia — a grim science that has produced detailed “drop charts” that have been used for decades in hangings around the world — appeared in Mr. Tikriti’s case to have been seriously awry.
...
The grim mishap early today — described as “a rare incident” in an official statement — appeared to unnerve the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
...
The Iraqis were so shaken by the decapitation that they waited more than seven hours after the executions, at 3 a.m. local time, to formally announce them and then read a statement that made only a passing reference to the severing of Mr. Tikriti’s head.

After several paragraphs that traced the “big crimes against humanity” committed by the two men, the statement concluded: “In a rare incident, the head of the convict Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan” — his name as it appeared on court documents — “was separated from his body during the execution.”

The statement offered no details, leaving those to a news conference another six hours later, when rumors had begin circulating among Sunni Arab loyalists of the former regime and on Arabic-language television channels broadcasting across the Middle East that Mr. Tikriti had been deliberately decapitated in an act of revenge by the Maliki government.
And so, more damage control ensues...Condoleezza Rice laughably joins in the condemnation of what her government is into neck deep. What else is a self-respecting world leader to do?

One is once more left with the impression that whatever can go wrong in Iraq, it will...

Klingons in the White House



Really, so says a U.S. Representative...:) A laugh for a Monday...

Libby trial beginning Tuesday

Cheney getting warmed up:
In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Cheney called Mr. Libby “one of the finest individuals I’ve ever known.” Pressed about his former aide’s honesty, Mr. Cheney replied, “I believe he’s one of the more honest men I know.” (emphasis added)
Oh, really?
Mr. Libby told the grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he had not disclosed information about Ms. Wilson to any journalists. But Judith Miller, then a reporter for The New York Times, and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine told the grand jury that Mr. Libby had indeed spoken to them about Ms. Wilson.

Mr. Libby also testified that he learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from a third journalist, Tim Russert of NBC News, but Mr. Russert is expected to testify that that is false. Prosecutors have said that Mr. Libby learned of Ms. Wilson’s identity from administration officials including Mr. Cheney.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bush on 60 Minutes

Too bad Mike Wallace couldn't have done the interview...wouldn't you have loved to hear him ask W, "You're smiling, you're grinning...do you think this is funny?" "Why do you continue to grin and smirk at me?" I can just hear it now. Oh well, so Scott Pelley is no Mike Wallace. He did ask some tough questions but Bush continues to be in his talking point fantasyland. What happens in the Middle East now will affect America's future. Basically, that's Bush's message. And he's right. Too bad he's mucked it up so badly by failing from the start to make sure that it would turn out well for America if it's so important to America's future. Not enough troops. Fatal in and of itself. So to sit there smilingly assuring people how important it is...at this point, you've got to ask yourself, well then why doesn't he put in the number he needs to do the job? If it's that important, do what McCain suggests and make it 50,000 or more. Make it substantial. Yet Bush either won't do it or can't do it.

So it's more of the same for the foreseeable future. And Bush seems very contented with himself.

Righties a little touchy about Rice



Nice little piece of video showing a maelstrom on the McLaughlin Group. The righties have their panties in a bunch because Senator Boxer dared to raise the point that many American policy makers don't have family in Iraq doing the fighting. Senator Boxer said she personally would not pay a price, her children are too old and her grandchildren are too young. Boxer went too far, apparently, by saying that Rice didn't have any family there either. Bush doesn't have family there either, neither does Cheney. Would that have caused such an outrage had Boxer said it? It's amazing that Rice evokes such visceral defence, watch how Tony Blankley has a conniption over Boxer's comments. Why such hurt, Tony? It's fascinating.

And how about Pat Buchanan chiming in to support Eleanor Clift here. What a chameleon.

In any event, this is an interesting clip that shows an evolution in the political discussion since the election of the Democrats to control of congress...

Friday, January 12, 2007

More of the growing criticism of the surge

Zbigniew Brzezinski - Five Flaws in the President's Plan includes this observation which is simple yet powerful:
The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy.

Friedman on the surge

"Make Them Fight All of Us" is Tom Friedman's answer to Bush today:
I’ve heard the president’s surge speech, and I have a reaction, an observation and some advice.

My reaction to the president’s speech was to recall a line from Bill Maher’s book about the war against terrorists: “Make them fight all of us.”

Mr. President, you want a surge? I’ll surge. I’ll surge on the condition that you once and for all enlist the entire American people in this war effort, and stop putting it all on the shoulders of 130,000 military families, and now 20,000 more. I’ll surge on the condition that you make them fight all of us — and that means a real energy policy, with a real gasoline tax, that ends our addiction to oil, shrinks the flow of petro-dollars to bad actors and makes America the world’s leader in conservation.

But please, Mr. President, stop insulting our intelligence by telling us that this is the “decisive ideological struggle of our time,” but we’re going to put the whole burden of victory on 150,000 U.S. soldiers. Yes, you’re right, confronting violent Islamic radicalism by trying to tilt Iraq and the Arab-Muslim world onto a more progressive track is indeed hugely important. But the way you have fought this war — with our pinky — is contemptible. For three years you would not summon the military means to back your lofty ends.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that Bill Maher is now being cited as having had a better strategy than Bush on Iraq...

Finally the voices of sanity are speaking

There is a great report on the Senate Committee meeting yesterday before which Condoleezza Rice appeared: Devastating Criticism on Iraq by Both Parties. It's amazing to read how Republican Senators are also voicing opposition now (no doubt out of electoral fear) and the Committee appeared to have been united. Among those distinguishing themselves, Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel and Russ Feingold. As for Rice, once again, reminiscent of her 9/11 Commission appearance, she failed to answer questions and engaged in word play:
Lawmakers argued with Ms. Rice over what to call the latest plan — she corrected critics who referred to it as an “escalation,” describing it as an “augmentation” — and over whether a civil war is underway.

When Ms. Rice asserted that insurgents, not warring Shiite and Sunni factions, were mainly responsible for American casualties, Mr. Hagel shot back, “Madame Secretary, your intelligence and mine is a lot different.”

He added, “To sit there and say that, Madame Secretary, that’s just not true.”

“Well, Senator, if you’ll — ,” Ms. Rice began.

“That is not true,” Mr. Hagel repeated.

“Senator, if you’ll allow me to finish,” Ms. Rice said, visibly exasperated, finally conceding that Iraqi attacks on other Iraqis are taking place in the form of death squads.
Can you f*%#ing imagine the nerve of Rice to inject a new focus-group-like word like "augmentation" into the discussion. As if the White House desperation at loss of control over the coverage of Bush's "surge" would not be painfully obvious...these people have got to stop playing politics with this disaster. Are they still listening to the likes of Karl Rove?

And Bush is wearing, more than ever, the effects of his war of choice:
Early in the day, in an emotional ceremony at the White House, Mr. Bush awarded the Medal of Honor to the family of Cpl. Jason Dunham, a marine from Scio, N.Y., who was killed in Iraq in 2004 when he threw himself on a grenade to save the rest of his unit. The president began crying during the ceremony.
There is something about this report that is disturbing. Not that he's crying, it's the element of an emotional breakdown that comes through...somehow when he's just committed more troops and is potentially widening this conflict to Iran and Syria, it's not the kind of image that is reassuring at all.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Olbermann on Bush's lack of credibility

Crooks and Liars has Olbermann: A Look Backward at the Commander’s Credibility.

Thanks to disco for the link...:)

A little constitutional talk this morning



Courtesy of Keith...

No comment by Canada's New Dual Citizenship Loving Government on Iraq

No comment is their mantra. Or, blame the Liberals. Now that Bush has laid out his escalation, wonder what Mini Bush will have to say? Support his strong ally to the south, no doubt. Can't wait to hear his views on this. Steve? What say you? World leaders are weighing in. What's our position?

At least send out Junior MacKay to say something inane that no one will remember (like he usually does).

We're waiting...

P.S. Blog post title, in case you haven't figured it out, is a reference to their special advisor on Middle Eastern affairs, Wajid Khan, their new Conservative member who has dual citizenship. It's OK for him, not so OK for a certain Liberal...:)

That infamous spy tool, the Toonie


U.S. warns about Canadian spy coins:
In a U.S. government warning high on the creepiness scale, the Defense Department cautioned its American contractors over what it described as a new espionage threat: Canadian coins with tiny radio frequency transmitters hidden inside.

The government said the mysterious coins were found planted on U.S. contractors with classified security clearances on at least three separate occasions between October 2005 and January 2006 as the contractors traveled through Canada.
The Toonie is coming in for some scrutiny!
Canada's largest coins include its $2 "Toonie," which is more than 1-inch across and thick enough to hide a tiny transmitter. The CIA has acknowledged its own spies have used hollow, U.S. silver-dollar coins to hide messages and film.
Toonies containing transmitters...this just kills me...:)

Bush does his escalation thing

REUTERS/Jason Reed

Adding 20,000 Troops to Baghdad. As was highlighted by Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews last night as they reacted to Bush's speech, Bush appears to be opening up a new front in this war. 20,000 troops to Baghdad may seem like nothing if this thing really expands. This is how the Post put it:
Bush had tough words for Iran and Syria. In stark contrast to the Iraqi Study Group's recommendations last month, the Bush administration intends to increase its operations against both countries, Bush said. He vowed to "interrupt the flow of support" from Iraq's two key neighbors and to "seek out and destroy" networks providing weapons and training to U.S. enemies in Iraq.

"Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity, and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria," he said.

In a clear warning to the hard-line government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bush also announced that the United States will deploy Patriot air defense systems and expand intelligence sharing "to reassure our friends and allies."
Seek out and destroy...does that include entering Iran and Syria? Here's how the NYTimes puts it:
He left deliberately vague the question of whether those operations would be limited to Iraq or conducted elsewhere, and said he had ordered the previously reported deployment of a new aircraft carrier strike group to the region, where it is in easy reach of Iranian territory.
Are we seeing the beginnings of this strategy today? An Iranian office in Iraq was raided by U.S. forces today. The Iranians are protesting to the Iraqi government. Iranian staffers were taken away by U.S. forces. Looks like Bush is collecting leverage.

REUTERS/Jason Reed

The NY Times also gives a flavour of Bush's testy mood leading up to his speech, showing the pressure that comes when you're in a box like this:
He put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: “Because it has to.”
That's not an answer, oh imperious one. I wonder if he can answer that question. By the way, the comments on the Times article by readers are scathing. Some commenting along the lines of this guy:

REUTERS/Jason Reed

Bloggers in court

Watching Scooter Libby's trial, that is:
"When the trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice opens next week, scores of journalists are expected to throng the federal courtroom in Washington, far too many for the 100 seats set aside for the media.

But for the first time in a federal court, two of these seats will be reserved for bloggers. After two years of negotiations with judicial officials across the country, the Media Bloggers Association, a nonpartisan group with about 1,000 members working to extend the powers of the press to bloggers, has won credentials to rotate among his members."
Why not? Bloggers have been a big part of this story, encouraging media and public attention on it. Well deserved credentials, I say..:)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush speech tonight

Bush to admit Iraq mistakes, boost troop numbers: official:
"U.S. President George W. Bush will tell the nation Wednesday night he will send more than 20,000 additional American forces to Iraq, acknowledging that it had been a mistake earlier not to have more American and Iraqi troops fighting the war, a senior administration official said.

Seeking support for a retooled strategy to win support for the unpopular war, the president also will acknowledge that the rules of engagement were flawed, White House counsellor Dan Bartlett said.

For a little over 20 minutes Wednesday night, Mr. Bush is to explain why a gradual buildup of about 20,000 additional U.S. troops, along with other steps expected to include pumping $1-billion (U.S.) into Iraq's economy, is the answer for a more than three-and-a-half-year-old war that has only gotten deadlier with no end in sight."
Good luck on that, W. Word is at least ten Republicans in the Senate are likely to vote against your plan, so they're saying. The Senate and House will vote on it next week, likely demonstrating the American public's opposition to it.

As for W admitting mistakes? I'll believe it when I see it. The explanation regarding the flawed "rules of engagement" should be quite interesting. What is he going to do, blame the military commanders he has consistently portrayed as the ones he's listening to and giving what they need to do their jobs...?

It's going to be a lonely W for the next few years...

More benefits of a Democratic controlled congress

Internet neutrality's the winner:
"Senior lawmakers, emboldened by the recent restrictions on AT&T and the change in control of Congress, have begun drafting legislation that would prevent high-speed Internet companies from charging content providers for priority access.

The first significant so-called net neutrality legislation of the new Congressional session was introduced Tuesday by Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of South Dakota, and Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, one of the few Republicans in Congress to support such a measure.

“The success of the Internet has been its openness and the ability of anyone anywhere in this country to go on the Internet and reach the world,” Mr. Dorgan said. “If the big interests who control the pipes become gatekeepers who erect tolls, it will have a significant impact on the Internet as we know it.”"

Good for her

Clinton to announce in next few weeks: "
Mrs. Clinton, meanwhile, plans to announce her decision in the next several weeks, her advisers say. According to several Democrats who have spoken to her, as well as advisers, Mrs. Clinton has given every indication that she is running, short of saying so, and no signals that she is not."
This will be fascinating to watch.

Demo of iPhone

Apple - iPhone. Check out the demos showing how the phone works and the music, very neat.

Poor W, nobody wants him

S.M.U. Faculty Complains About Bush Library. Well, maybe a few down there in Dallas do, but there's opposition on the campus of Southern Methodist University (Laura Bush's alma mater):
About 150 of the university’s 600 faculty members attended the meeting, voicing a range of concerns, particularly on whether the school’s academic freedom and political independence might appear compromised by an association with not only the Bush library but also a museum that would accompany it.

Thomas J. Knock, a professor of history, said the public might have trouble differentiating between the library, museum and the university.

James K. Hopkins, chairman of the history department who was co-chairman of the meeting with Ms. Blair, a professor of theater, said he had asked Dr. Turner under what circumstances the university would “walk away” from a deal with the library.

“There was this very indirect response to that,” Dr. Hopkins said.
It looks like you're getting the George W. Bush presidential library, people. You win. Any bets on whether it'll display the "3 Shakespeares" W claims he read this past summer...?

You have my sincerest condolences...:)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Opposition lining up to Bush's escalation

Fissures Grow on Eve of Bush Speech on Iraq:
Mr. Kennedy praised the “pride and valor” of American troops and said he and other critics would always support them. But he recalled the American agony of Vietnam four decades ago, asserting that Iraq could become another “quagmire.”

“Listen to this comment from a high-ranking American official,” Mr. Kennedy said, recalling a commitment to “help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia” and to “stay the course.”

“This is not President Bush speaking,” Mr. Kennedy said. “It is President Lyndon Johnson, 40 years ago, ordering a hundred thousand more American soldiers to Vietnam.”

Mr. Kennedy has introduced legislation to specify that no more troops be sent to Iraq, and that no additional dollars be spent on such an escalation, “unless and until Congress approves the president’s plan.”
...
Mr. Kennedy said the right course is obvious. “The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence,” he said. “An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake.”
Oh, and there's this little inconvenient fact about lack of public support for the escalation:
A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows a daunting sales job ahead for the White House, which is considering a plan to deploy up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

Those surveyed oppose the idea of increased troop levels by 61%-36%. Approval of the job Bush is doing in Iraq has sunk to 26%, a record low.
Josh Marshall is skeptical based on the track record of Bush in Iraq:
But going back now some four years, who can point to even a single Bush administration decision in Iraq, either strategic or tactical, that didn't turn out to be either a bad idea or a complete disaster? Anything? One good call?

When the president goes before the people on Wednesday, he is basically saying, trust me.

It's never really possible to know what the future will bring, especially for most of us who may have gut level instincts about military strategy but little detailed operational knowledge. But given the track record and the fact that few people outside the White House seem to think this is a good idea, what possible basis is there to put any trust in Bush's latest gambit?
Good question...