Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pat Oliphant today


And the Coast Guard did not like the deal either

When the stink over the Dubai ports deal started to erupt, we were told not to worry, the Coast Guard not the company would handle security. Now we find, in this WaPo story, that the CG stated flatly that they could not "rule out" bad things happening.
The U.S. Coast Guard, in charge of reviewing security at ports operated by a Dubai maritime company, warned the Bush administration it could not rule out that the company's assets could be used for terrorist operations, according to a document released yesterday by a Senate committee....

.....But in a Dec. 13 intelligence assessment of the company and its owners in the United Arab Emirates, the Coast Guard warned: "There are many intelligence gaps, concerning the potential for DPW or P&O assets to support terrorist operations, that preclude" the completion of a thorough threat assessment of the merger.

"The breadth of the intelligence gaps also infer potential unknown threats against a large number of potential vulnerabilities," says the document, released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
But what does the CG know anyway? They weren't going to make any money on the deal.

Support Our Troops

72% is the number of American troops who believe the US should leave Iraq within the next year. From the latest Zogby-LeMoyne poll, 29% said we should leave immediately and only 23% said we should stay as long as needed.
The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

Different branches had quite different sentiments on the question, the poll shows. While 89% of reserves and 82% of those in the National Guard said the U.S. should leave Iraq within a year, 58% of Marines think so. Seven in ten of those in the regular Army thought the U.S. should leave Iraq in the next year. Moreover, about three-quarters of those in National Guard and Reserve units favor withdrawal within six months, just 15% of Marines felt that way. About half of those in the regular Army favored withdrawal from Iraq in the next six months.
Call your Congressmoop and demand that he or she support our troops.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Halliburton has a friend in high places

Who knew? The Ny Times today shows just how good a friend he is. Following a top level audit, the Army is going to pay most of the charges disputed by its own people.
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency had questioned $263 million in costs for fuel deliveries, pipeline repairs and other tasks that auditors said were potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation. But the Army decided to pay all but $10.1 million of those contested costs, which were mostly for trucking fuel from Kuwait and Turkey.

That means the Army is withholding payment on just 3.8 percent of the charges questioned by the Pentagon audit agency, which is far below the rate at which the agency's recommendation is usually followed or sustained by the military — the so-called "sustention rate."

Figures provided by the Pentagon audit agency on thousands of military contracts over the past three years show how far the Halliburton decision lies outside the norm.

In 2003, the agency's figures show, the military withheld an average of 66.4 percent of what the auditors had recommended, while in 2004 the figure was 75.2 percent and in 2005 it was 56.4 percent.
Boy o Boy, was Halliburton lucky on this one.

34%

From the latest CBS News poll.
Mr. Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.

For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.
People are starting to figure out that Our Dear Embattled Leader couldn't pour piss from a boot with the instructions on the heel.

No doubt about it, IOKIYAR!

Josh Marshall brings to our attention this bit of political dirty trickery that was int the WaPo today.It is not often you get to see the IRS used for illegal purposes.
Texans for Public Justice, based in Austin, has been a thorn in the side of the state's politicians since its founding in 1997. It bills itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit policy and research organization which tracks the influence of money and corporate power in Texas politics." According to McDonald and the group's tax returns, about 45 percent of its $310,000 budget in 2003 came from individual donors. The rest came from an affiliated, tax-exempt group the IRS also audited, the Public Justice Foundation of Texas.

The group regularly publishes detailed reports on campaign spending and corporate lobbying. It is perhaps best known for its March 2003 allegation of illegal spending by corporations during DeLay's successful 2002 campaign for a Republican takeover of the Texas legislature -- claims that culminated last year in the indictment of DeLay and two campaign aides for money laundering and conspiracy to hide corporate donations.

The events leading to the IRS probe are laid out in documents the agency released to McDonald in response to his request for all records related to allegations of wrongdoing by the foundation. It began when Zall wrote a July 19, 2004, letter to Johnson complaining about the Texas nonprofit group and noting that the lawmaker had "jurisdiction to review the Internal Revenue Service's supervision of tax-exempt organizations," according to a copy.

Zall's biography on his law firm's Web site notes that he was "of counsel" from 1990 to 1998 to the Williams & Jensen law firm, which has long represented DeLay's leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC). Barbara Bonfiglio, a principal at Williams & Jensen, was subpoenaed in January 2004 by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle as part of his inquiry into DeLay.
No need to cover your tracks when all your friends are in charge.

Germany's Ooops moment.

The NY Times today ran a story on the valuble assistance Germany gave the US at the beginning of Our Dear Embattled Leaders Glorious Little War. At the same time they were vociferously decrying that war.
Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.

In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.
Image is everything.

Krugman sees the coming Oligarchy.

Do you? Read his column today so you will know what to look for.
Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There's an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I'm with Alan Greenspan, who — surprisingly, given his libertarian roots — has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to "democratic society."
This is most certainly NOT an fnord.

Anybody remember the Military-Industrial Complex?

Bob Herbert tells us how they are doing these days. Don't hold your breath waiting for the obit.
The endless billions to be reaped from the horrors of war are a perennial incentive to invest in the war machine and to keep those wars a-coming. "His words have unfortunately come true," says Senator John McCain in the film. "He was worried that priorities are set by what benefits corporations as opposed to what benefits the country."

The way you keep the wars coming is to keep the populace in a state of perpetual fear. That allows you to continue the insane feeding of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the rest of the nation's needs. "Before long," said Mr. Jarecki in an interview, "the military ends up so overempowered that the rest of your national life has been allowed to atrophy."

In one of the great deceptive maneuvers in U.S. history, the military-industrial complex (with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as chairman and C.E.O., respectively) took its eye off the real enemy in Afghanistan and launched the pointless but far more remunerative war in Iraq.
Still doing just fine, thanks for asking.

How deep is Fred Phelps closet?

Leonard Pitts Jr has a well thought out column in which he states that he knows why Fred Phelps does all the hateful anti Christian things he does.
Well, I don't think he's as crazy as he seems. Heck, nobody could be. No, he's not disturbed. He's just gay.

Hear me out. How often have we seen public moralists railing against that which they themselves secretly indulge? Think Jimmy Swaggart with his prostitute. Think Dr. Laura's pose in the nude. And for goodness' sake, how many times have we seen homosexuality condemned by those who turned out to be closeted themselves? There was Pat Robertson biographer-turned-gay-activist Mel White; Spokane Mayor James West, who spent his days opposing gay rights and his nights in gay chat rooms; and Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, who founded a group that purported to cure people of homosexuality but gave it up when they fell in love with each other.

Consider all that, and then consider the sick ferocity of Phelps' attack:

God hates "fags."

Gays are vomit-eating dogs.

Gays are "worthy of death."

Can you say "self-hatred," boys and girls? Come on, isn't it obvious? The poor fellow is gayer than a Bette Midler AIDS benefit. In San Francisco.

He needs not our condemnation but our understanding. Maybe someday he'll find the strength to stop living this lie. He might just go on to be the greatest gay-rights activist this country has ever known. Maybe then, in the arms of the right man, he'll stop hurting.

Kind of chokes me up to think about it.
Well, it is only a theory, but it makes sense to me.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I always get Molly late

So I will give her the last word today. Her column explores the multiple failures underpinning Li'l George Dubai-ya's Port Deal.
President Bush said: “I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company. I’m trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to the people of the world, we’ll treat you fairly.” So, what’s wrong with that? There’s our only president standing up against discrimination and against tarring all Arabs with the same brush and all that good stuff. (The fact that it was Mr. Racial Profiling speaking, the man who has single-handedly created more Arab enemies for this country than anyone else ever dreamed of making is just one of those ironies we regularly get whacked over the head with.)

OK, here’s for starters. We have already been warned that, should we back out of the DP deal, the United Arab Emirates may well take offense and not be so nice about helping us in the War on Terra—maybe even cut back its money, as well as its cooperation. This is a problem specific to the fact that we are dealing with a corporation owned by a country: A corporation only wants to make money, a corporation owned by a country has lots of motives.....

.....The people running this country—and that includes most of the leaders of both parties—have proven again and again they are perfectly willing to outsource American jobs, American wage standards, and American health and safety standards all for the sacred, holy grail of free trade. Why would it surprise us that national security is ditto?

I am amused by Chertoff’s use of the word “balance.” Since the administration has done zip, nada, zilch about port security, it’s unclear what he’s trying to “balance.” In 2002, the Coast Guard estimated it would take $5.4 billion over 10 years to improve port security to the point mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act. Last year, Congress appropriated $175 million. The administration had requested $46 million, below 9/11 levels.
Yeah, no need spending too much money. We don't want to be too safe.

So you serve your country with honor and great skill, whaddaya get?

Well if you are this retired Army Lt. Colonel you get a free place on the no fly list. And what was his connection to the terrists, you ask? Why he ran against a Republican congressmoop who has overstayed his welcome in DC.
The federal officials who are busy assuring Americans that they've got their act together when it comes to managing port security are not inspiring much confidence with their approach to airline security.

When Dr. Robert Johnson, a heart surgeon who did his active duty with the U.S. Army Reserve before being honorably discharged with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, arrived at the Syracuse airport near his home in upstate New York last month for a flight to Florida, he was told he could not travel.

Why? Johnson was told that his name had been added to the federal "no-fly" list as a possible terror suspect.

Johnson, who served in the military during the time of the first Gulf War and then came home to serve as northern New York's first board-certified thoracic surgeon and an active member of the community in his hometown of Sackets Harbor, is not a terror suspect. But he is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq, who mounted a scrappy campaign for Congress as the Democratic challenger to Republican Representative John McHugh in 2004 and who plans to challenge McHugh again in upstate New York's sprawling 23rd District.
But in fact it must have been some other reason because:
McHugh's office denies any wrongdoing by the Republican congressman, a senior member of the powerful House Armed Services Committee who brags about working closely with the Pentagon and intelligence agencies.
And in related news, Congressmoop McHughs office has declared that the Congressmoop has undeniable evidence that the moon is made of New York Green Cheese.

The old guard is under attack

From the young ones looking to make their bones and get their place in the sun. In Iraq the removal of Saddam and the Baathist power structure left a vacuum that was quickly filled by the only remaining structure respected by the people, the religious establishment. The NY Times examines the various factions in Iraq and the willingness of the younger clerics to push and then push again to get what they want.
American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken an ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.

Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite cleric to whom the Americans have often looked for moderation, appears to have been outflanked by younger and more aggressive figures......

......The violence and new militancy has come in part from a competition among Shiite factions to be seen as the protectors of the Shiite masses. The main struggle has been between the leading factions, both backed by Iran, and their spiritual leaders.

Many of the retaliatory attacks after the bombing were led by Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose anti-American crusades have turned him into a rising political power.

His main rival, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, defended the right of Shiites to respond to the bombing. He has shown a new willingness to publicly attack the American role in Iraq, once the preserve of Mr. Sadr, and he also commands a powerful militia, the Badr Organization.

"There are clerics who are very moderate and who understand what the current situation demands, and there are clerics who have political agendas and who marshal forces for their own gain," said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group. "Those are the dangerous ones."
And so the young ones see the prize and think they can withstand the consequences of their reach for it.It would be unusual to find those who start the civil war still standing at the end of the civil war.

Tom Reynolds, the Pride of NY 26th District

From the gentle pen of Robert Novak, traitor, comes this little tid-bit.
Rep. Thomas Reynolds of New York, a key member of the House Republican leadership, is soliciting political contributions by in effect scalping tickets for NCAA ''Sweet Sixteen'' games at Washington's sold-out MCI Center for more than 30 times face value.

Reynolds is soliciting $2,000 a person to provide tickets for the March 24 tournament session that are sold by the NCAA for $65 apiece. ''Tickets are very limited,'' says the letter of invitation, ''so please RSVP as soon as possible.''

Although Reynolds is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the basketball money will fund TOMPAC, Reynolds' leadership political action committee that he uses to make contributions to selected candidates.
Well, at least he is not selling his wife and kids.

Frist shows he has the moral fiber to be preznit.

After leading the charge against the Arab ports deal,Bill Frist R-TN is the first to cave in to White House-Arab blandishments.
Speaking to reporters before headlining a GOP fundraiser in Lexington, Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said his initial trepidation about the deal has waned in recent days as his staff received intelligence briefings.

Frist said Republicans trust the Bush administration and think its determination that the port deal doesn't threaten American security is "in all likelihood absolutely the right one."
No doubt they whispered sweet nothings in his ear. Things like, If you want to be preznit you better support this deal and How about we toss [fill in appropriate amount here] dollars in your campaign kitty. Those and other sweet words no doubt set all his worries to rest.

Some people are still trying to fight the war in Iraq

As if it were possible to win. The WaPo has an interesting piece on the efforts of the military to act like they are still a major player in Iraq.
Current U.S. military commanders say they have come to understand that they are fighting within a political context, which means the results must first be judged politically. The pace and shape of the war also have changed, with U.S. forces trying to exercise tactical patience and shift responsibilities to Iraqi forces, even as they worry that the American public's patience may be dwindling.

The war also has changed geographically. Over the last three years, it has developed a pattern of moving around the country, from Fallujah to Najaf to Mosul and Samarra and back to Fallujah. Last summer and fall it was focused in Tall Afar, in the northwest, and in the upper Euphrates, in the remote western part of Anbar province near Syria.

This year the war seems to hinge on the battle for Baghdad. Inside the capital, that promises to be primarily a political fight over the makeup of the future government of Iraq -- and whether it can prevent a civil war, a threat that appeared much more likely this week with the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra and retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques and clerics.

U.S. officials don't talk much about the prospects of civil war. It is unclear what role the United States would play if such a war broke out, but military strategists said American forces would be used to try to minimize violence but not to actually intervene between warring groups.
Make no mistake, the US military has the means of great physical and human destruction at its command, still. The problem facing the military is that, as the last week has shown, they have allowed themselves to be shunted into political irrelevancy. The various elements of Iraqi politics are struggling for control without the US or its arms. And if that struggle devolves into civil war, the only real and viable alternative for the military will be to leave. As in Viet Nam, the ability to kill in great numbers or destroy large areas will not deter the Iraqis from their ultimate result, it will only increase the suffering. Better to leave now and let them sort it out now and hope they are not past the point of no return.

ADDENDUM: The latest Newsweek has more detail on what happened in Iraq last week.

Sunday cartoons


Pat Oliphant



Bill Schorr

The Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his scurvy crew

Scalia, Alito and the cabin boy Thomas get a chance to do great damage to America this week. At issue, in two separate cases, is whether you can buy elections and whether you can gerrymander when ever you wish. The LA Times lays out the details of the two cases that will affect more than the basis legal issues.
The Supreme Court will take up states' rights — of both the blue- and red-state variety — in a pair of election-law cases to be heard this week that could have a big impact on the future of American politics.

Tiny Vermont, a true blue state, hopes to restore small-town democracy by greatly limiting the role of money in politics. If its new spending caps win before the high court, they could change how campaigns are conducted across the nation.

Meanwhile, Texas, the biggest of the red states, is defending its right to redraw its electoral districts to give its GOP majority more seats in Congress. If its extraordinary mid-decade shift wins in the high court, other states have signaled they will do the same.

The pair of cases will also give strong clues about the court's newest members: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
And so we will get to see if the Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his new second mate Alito are true magistrates or merely activist partisan hacks like the rest of the scurvy crew.

Quote of the Day

"We knew that some in the administration were arrogant, but we assumed they were competent. But to be arrogant and not competent raises real questions."
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) explaining the he once was blind but now can see thanks to the DPWorld deal.

The Ports deal as a wedge issue

This time the wedge is working between Our Dear Embattled Leader and his erstwhile loyal cadres in Congress. The LA Times looks at the problems brought about by a Congress up for reelection and a preznit who isn't. The pressure of reelction has heightened the irritations brought on by a White House that tried to rule without Congress.
Republicans are concerned it will allow Democrats to use against them the very issue the GOP wielded to great effect in 2002 and 2004, when the party accused Democrats of being insufficiently tough on terrorism. Political fear swept through the ranks of GOP strategists last weekend when they heard Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on television saying Bush was endangering national security by approving the port deal.

"We looked at this thing and said, 'Oh my God! We are getting outflanked on national security by the left of the left wing!' " said a senior House Republican aide, who spoke about the party's internal conversations on condition of anonymity.

The deal also rankled Republicans because it fueled long-standing complaints that the Bush White House did not consult enough with Congress and took GOP support for granted.

"Isn't there supposed to be some give and take?" said Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). "There's a disconnect [at the White House] about the value of Congress — until they need us for something they want."

The administration's handling of the port deal also has compounded GOP concerns that the administration's policy and political apparatus — which seemed shaky on such issues as Hurricane Katrina and the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet E. Miers — was not in good working order.
And so the Republicans get to pretend they are tough independent folk and ODEL will still get his big score before he leaves office.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Who cries for Kenny Boy?

Not me, that's for damn sure! And probably not his erstwhile best buddy, Li'l Georgie. But if you want to know how the mighty have fallen, read all about it in the NY Times today.
Once at the pinnacle of Houston's financial and political elite with a fortune worth as much as $400 million, Mr. Lay, the former chairman of the Enron Corporation, is now facing financial ruin.

While he has talked about his shrinking wealth since Enron's collapse, he has managed to keep up appearances, continuing to live in a full-floor apartment in the city's affluent River Oaks section. But already, according to personal financial records obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Lay has fallen out of the ranks of the city's millionaires, with a stated net worth of less than $650,000.

And that financial assessment is probably on the optimistic side. His assets, for example, include $1.9 million held in a trust that is almost sure to be eaten up by legal fees.

In addition, Mr. Lay, 63, faces potential liability from lawsuits that were filed against him by shareholders and others after Enron's collapse that would almost certainly force him into personal bankruptcy. Mr. Lay may also be forced to forfeit his remaining home, along with some other assets, if he is convicted in the criminal fraud trial that is now taking place in Houston.
It's just too bad that what he has is going to lawyers and not to those who were harmed.

The Incredible Mr. Don Knotts R.I.P

Don Knotts, the skinny, lovable nerd who kept generations of television audiences laughing as bumbling Deputy Barney Fife on "The Andy Griffith Show," has died. He was 81.

Who do you trust?

In America it was a game show. In Iraq it is a question of life and death. Knight-Ridder has a chilling article on the rise of the informer in Iraq.
A word to the police can result in uniformed security officers or even private soldiers in fake uniforms dragging residents from their homes in the middle of the night - without legitimate cause, the victims complain. Angry and confused, their families suspect that neighborhood informants are feeding lies to the security forces to settle personal scores. The raids also have sown doubts that government security forces can protect the people.

Much of the suspicion is breaking down along ethnic lines, with Sunni and Shiite Muslims blaming each other. The progressive erosion of trust is one reason for the violent response to Wednesday's mosque bombing in Samarra, after which private militias roamed the streets. It underscores the failure so far to build public institutions that earn confidence and that could stand in the way of open civil war.

"The Shiites are afraid of threats and assassinations, while Sunnis are afraid of raids (by uniformed security). The kidnappings or assassinations take place during the daylight hours and the raids happen at night," Ali said. "Dora has become hell for both Shiite and Sunni residents."

Some shop owners say they try not to ask customers questions that they once considered innocuous. Behind closed doors, residents suspect their own relatives of bringing raids to their home.
Even the US Army is involved in their use.
U.S military and Iraqi government officials say they use informants but that they double-check the information that's provided. They say they have a responsibility to follow tips in order to find kidnap victims or possible car bombers. And they say they pay informants.
Helping to make Iraq a better country, one raid at a time.

Finally a good law to protect our children

From the Akron Beacon Journal:
State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to ``introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.'' The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship....

......``credible research'' shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing ``emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.''

Bill Buckley says its a failure

Our Dear Embattled Leaders Glorious Little War on Iraq has lost the support of the last intelligent conservative, William F Buckley.
Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols.
More importantly, Mr. Buckley has pointed out that ODEL is at his very own "Read my lips" moment.
Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.
And the port sale uproar has shown that his base will not simply reverse direction on his say so. And so the big fool will probably say to push on.

All the things you wanted to know about Dubai.

But didn't know where to look, are provided by this report from Newsweek.It would seem to be that everything you heard about the place is true:
Ah, Dubai. It’s a glitzy tourist Mecca and boom-town extraordinaire now, with spectacular hotels, water parks, indoor snow skiing, the world’s tallest building under construction and vast networks of man-made islands visible from outer space as a palm tree and a map of the world. Built from the sand up purely to facilitate business and pleasure, there really is not and never has been any place quite like it.....

.....To be sure, Al-Maktoum had a useful tradition to build on. Dubai was, is, and ever has been a place for traders, entrepreneurs, moneymen, intriguers, smugglers and spies. In a region of notorious bureaucracy and protectionism, Dubai looked quite lawless because its rulers wanted, well, less law.....

......You don’t create a wide-open trading environment, of course, without attracting some controversial, even dangerous, customers. If Somerset Maugham’s description “a sunny place for shady people” was apt for Monaco, he should have seen the sun and shadows in Dubai. The nuclear network of renegade Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan ran some of its black-market trade through there. Part of the money underwriting the 9/11 attacks on the United States went through Dubai’s banks and moneychangers. Iran’s government and the Iranian people have often used the emirate to bypass the embargos and boycotts imposed on them.
Feeling better about the deal yet?

The Toledo Blade knocks on the White House door

In their continuing, excellent series about the Ohio Republican money laundry, the Blade shows how Tom Noe made illegal contributions to Our Dear Embattled Leader.
“So [Mr. Noe] said, you know, ‘Why don’t you do what you can, and then I’ll get credit for whatever you raise,’” said Mr. Talbott, who was also convicted yesterday on a charge he laundered money from Mr. Noe into the campaigns of three Ohio Supreme Court candidates.

Mr. Talbott said he collected about $6,000 from lobbying clients for the Bush fund-raiser. But Mr. Noe wanted Mr. Talbott to raise $20,000 — a table of 10 people each contributing $2,000 — and he was about $14,000 short. Mr. Talbott said Mr. Noe told him: “I’ll write you a check, and you find three others that you write checks to .…’ So that’s how we came to the $14,000.”

Mr. Talbott then wrote two checks: $3,900 and $3,500 to people whose names are blacked out from the investigative report and were members of the “Noe Supper Club” — a group of government insiders Mr. Noe treated to lavish dinners — and a $3,750 check on Nov. 5, 2003, to Mr. Moormann.

“These individuals were aware the money came from Tom,” Mr. Talbott said.

Mr. Talbott kept the remaining $3,150 from Mr. Noe, using it to defray a $4,000 contribution that he and his wife, Susan, made to President Bush’s campaign, the investigative report says.
ODEL has said he would never keep dirty money but has yet to explain this.
The President has returned $4,000 in contributions made directly from Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, but he has resisted returning more than $100,000 that the coin dealer raised for Mr. Bush’s campaign.
To those not familiar with CoinGate, this will put it in a nustshell.
Last week, Mr. Noe was indicted on a 53-count felony indictment for stealing millions of dollars from the rare-coin fund he managed for the state, and in October, he was indicted separately for allegedly laundering $45,400 into President Bush’s re-election campaign. Mr. Noe has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Mr. Talbott told investigators that Mr. Noe asked for help in recruiting guests to an Oct. 30, 2003, fund-raiser in Columbus because he wanted to “achieve Pioneer status” by raising at least $100,000 for President Bush’s re-election.
So the appearence is that Tom Noe stole public monies from the State of Ohio to make campaign contributions to Our Dear Embattled Leader and other Republicans. This began under then-Gov. Voinovich and continued through the two terms of Gov. Bob Taft. And it has resulted in the White House once again having to deny any knowledge of a Bush Pioneer.
A White House official yesterday could not confirm whether Mr. Noe had attended a Christmas party but said Mr. Noe “probably was invited at some point.”

“I just don’t have that information. I’m not saying he did; I’m not saying he didn’t,” the official said.

South Dakota calls for judicial activism.

And the SD lawmakers are firm believers in the activist tendencies of the Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his scurvy crew, Scalia, Alito and the cabin boy Thomas.
Many opponents and supporters of abortion rights believe the US Supreme Court is more likely to overturn its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion now that conservatives John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. are on the bench. Lawmakers said growing support among South Dakotans for abortion restrictions added momentum to the bill.

''I think the stars are aligned," said House Speaker Matthew Michels, a Republican. ''Simply put, now is the time."
Judicial activism is bad, OK. Unless we do it, then it's OK, OK?

Friday, February 24, 2006

The new Iraqi power structure

The NY Times does a piece on the militias in Iraq today. They examine how Shia and militia leaders have worked to place their people into influential positions within the police and other power structures of the government. With their Mahdi Army, Badr Group and pesh merga, those who were so long powerless have taken the first steps to consolidate their power outside the electoral process.
Though many Shiite leaders denounced the anti-Sunni reprisals this week, none of them chastised the Mahdi Army or called for disbanding it. That itself was a clear indication of how the politicians were looking to the militia as a protector of Shiite interests in the wake of the shrine attack.

Those political leaders who have no militias, particularly Sunni Arabs, say they feel more helpless than ever in this shifting landscape of private armies.

"Anybody who has a militia now has power," said Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and member of the newly elected Parliament. "The Mahdi Army, Badr, the insurgents, these are the ones who wield power. They have weapons, they can move around and they are determined. It's not a question of political personalities, but of arms and weapons."
It is amazing that none of the bright light for the New American Century could figure out that the power vacuum left by the removal of Saddam would be filled quickly and not wait for their incompetent efforts. Maybe they thought the US would be the new power center? They certainly thought they could mold and influence the new power center. And they were wrong.
"Insurgent infiltration and militia influence remain a concern for the Ministry of the Interior," the report said. "Many serving police officers, particularly in the south, have ties to Shia militias."

The ascent of the militias inside the security forces was quick and quiet. Soon after the Shiite-led government swept into power last spring and Bayan Jabr, a senior Shiite politician, become interior minister, a housecleaning began, in which about 140 high-ranking officials were dismissed and political allies of the Shiites were put in their place, according to several former ministry officials who feared reprisals if they gave their names. In addition, recruitment drives brought hundreds of ordinary Shiites into the security forces, many of whom identified more strongly with their political parties than with the Iraqi state.

By summer, an American government adviser to the ministry, Mathew Sherman, recalled writing in his notes that "the ministry is quickly being infiltrated by militia and by Badr people."
As Condi would say, "Who could have imagined this would happen?"

Results of latest Rasmussen poll

17% of Americans think it is a good idea to put DP World in charge of US ports. And the issue is starting to damage the Republicans only asset, "national security".
Should Dubai Ports World Be Allowed to Buy Port Operating Rights?
Yes 17%
No 64%

RasmussenReports.com

Are Port Operating Rights Currently Owned by U.S. Firm?
Yes 15%
No 39%
Not Sure 46%

RasmussenReports.com

Trust More on National Security
President Bush 41%
Democrats in Congress 43%

RasmussenReports.com
Dick Cheney needs to shoot another lawyer, quick!

Another one bites the dust in CunningScam

And rocks two more prominent Republicans in the process. Read the details of Mitchell Wade's guilty plea over at the TPM Cafe.
Wade, 46, of Great Falls, Virginia, entered his guilty plea earlier today in U.S. District Court before the Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina to multiple felony counts related to his wholesale corruption of the defense procurement process. The conduct includes Wade making over $1 million in payoffs to then- Congressman Duke Cunningham, providing illegal benefits to Defense Department officials, and attempting to curry favor with two other members of Congress by making illegal campaign
contributions.
Just like a slow chain reaction and the prosecutors are pulling the rods out little by little.

DP World introduces new Head of Port Security



From MSNBC

The Bushoviks walked into their own shot

Paul Krugman explains how Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions created the backlash to the ports deal. Sort of like if Dick Cheney had shot then got himself in the way of his own blast instead of some old lawyer.
The storm of protest over the planned takeover of some U.S. port operations by Dubai Ports World doesn't make sense viewed in isolation. The Bush administration clearly made no serious effort to ensure that the deal didn't endanger national security. But that's nothing new — the administration has spent the past four and a half years refusing to do anything serious about protecting the nation's ports.

So why did this latest case of sloppiness and indifference finally catch the public's attention? Because this time the administration has become a victim of its own campaign of fearmongering and insinuation.
If you are still not sure how they do it, read the rest.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A day without Abramoff..

Is like a day without your morning dump while reading the sports page. The Boston Globe goes into more detail about Casino Jacks work as an agent of Russia.
A subpoena in the case, issued this month to an Abramoff associate, says the US government is seeking information on Abramoff-related activities with ''any department, ministry, or office holder or agent of the Russian government." The subpoena, which has not been made public, was given to the Globe by a person who is involved in the case.

Abramoff's work on behalf of Indian tribes has been widely scrutinized, but his work for Russian interests has received far less public notice.

It is legal for foreigners to hire lobbyists, but Abramoff's dealings in this area have come under federal investigation because his fees were so large and because investigators are examining whether he might have bribed members of Congress.
This is like reading the first chapter of Moby Dick. You know you have only just begun.

Quote of the Day

This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America.
George W. Bush, referring to the sale of US ports to The U.A.E.

Sometimes he can be so right on the money.

Some people show their trust in strange ways.

After asking the American public to "trust us" for the last five years and failing that trust every time, the Bushoviks are getting paid back in kind.
55% Now Call Iraq War a 'Mistake' according to Gallup. That figure now stands at 55%, up 4% points since late January and it precedes the civil war that is about to be unleashed. Only once before was the figure higher, at 59%. What I find so interesting about this is the good sense of the American people. They are consistently lied to by their administration and neither broadcast television nor cable television nor talk radio, with a few statistically insignificant exceptions, carries the arguments of war dissenters. Gallup noted that it had asked this question about other wars involving the United States, "and only the Vietnam War engendered more public opposition than the current Iraq War."
Imagine that!

Port sale stink just wont go away

In the Senate, both parties had a good time ripping into this bad deal. They even got to talk with Michael Jackson (No, not the Gloved One).
Mr. Levin said President Bush's threat to veto any Congressional measure to upset the deal with Dubai Ports World simply showed how "out of touch" Mr. Bush is, with the American people and with members of Congress, for whom he shows "presidential disdain."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said he found it "remarkable" that the White House seemed to have been surprised by the furor over the impending port deal. "We cannot risk contracting out our national security," he said.
In related news, The Guardian has the details of the sale agreement and wouldn't you know it, they left out parts that other people had to follow.
The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

As part of the $6.8 billion purchase, state-owned Dubai Ports World agreed to reveal records on demand about ``foreign operational direction'' of its business at U.S. ports, the documents said. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment.

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.
But they are such nice guys, they don't really need records available to American courts.

Bob Herbert continues on rendition

In particular, the truly tragic results to one man, Maher Arar. A Canadian citizen, dragged off his flight during a layover in NY, flown to Syria where he was imprisioned, incommunicado, and tortured for several months until someone incharge realized they had the wrong man. At which he was quietly returned to Canada without so much as a My bad! to try and rebuild his reality.
Mr. Arar's own psychological difficulties have compounded the external challenges he faces. "I was invited to go and speak in Vancouver, which is west of here," he said. "But I can't take the plane anymore. Psychologically I am so scared to fly. So I couldn't go."

He said he frequently lacks the confidence or motivation to perform even minor tasks, and often feels overwhelmed by the thought of something as ordinary as a scheduled meeting with the principal at his 9-year-old daughter's school.

He said his 4-year-old son, Houd, panics whenever he thinks his father is about to go out. "He always wants to come with me," said Mr. Arar. "He insists, and he cries if I can't take him. He's afraid that if I go, I won't ever come back."
And in case it isn't yet clear, Bob Herbert spells out what we have become.
The rendition program is one more example of the way the United States, using the threat of terror as an excuse, has locked its ideals away in a drawer somewhere. We don't even give them lip service anymore. A person like Mr. Arar is not seen as having any rights. He's not even seen as human. He was carted away in accordance with official U.S. policy, and treated like an animal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bureau of Land Management - Paving the Way For Business.

In the WaPo today, we have another shining example of Americas assets being sold to anybody with the money to buy them.
Here on the high sage plains of western Wyoming, often called the Serengeti of the West because of large migratory herds of deer and antelope, the Pinedale region has become one of the most productive and profitable natural gas fields on federal land in the Rockies. With the aggressive backing of the Bush administration, many members of Congress and the energy industry, at least a sixfold expansion in drilling is likely here in the coming decade.

Recent studies of mule deer and sage grouse, however, show steep declines in their numbers since the gas boom began here about five years ago: a 46 percent decline for mule deer and a 51 percent decline for breeding male sage grouse. Early results from a study of pronghorn antelope show that they, too, avoid the gas fields.

Yet as these findings have come in, the wildlife biologists in the Pinedale office of the BLM have rarely gone into the field to monitor harm to wildlife.

"The BLM is pushing the biologists to be what I call 'biostitutes,' rather than allow them to be experts in the wildlife they are supposed to be managing," said Steve Belinda, 37, who last week quit his job as one of three wildlife biologists in the BLM's Pinedale office because he said he was required to spend nearly all his time working on drilling requests. "They are telling us that if it is not energy-related, you are not working on it."
This one was probably The Shooters call. ODEL never had any real bidness in the oil & gas field.

Tom Toles explains Part D


Quote of the Day

I think he really takes this as a personal affront, you know, having Republicans challenges[sic] his commitment to terrorism.
Jim Vanderhei on Countdown, talking about Our Dear Embattled Leader -- or was it Osama Bin Forgotten

It's OK with George, even if he doesn't know what it is,

But he will stand up to the world to defend anything his people want to put over on the American public.A lot of folks are surprised at the opposition to this deal. Given this administrations penchant for pushing hot buttons, you would think they would have seen it coming.

MoDo waxes wroth about the National Security Fire Sale

With her column today, MoDo expresses her anger, and the anger of real Americans, at the efforts to outsource our ports to the folks who brought you 9/11.
What kind of empire are we if we have to outsource our coastline to a group of sheiks who don't recognize Israel, in a country where money was laundered for the 9/11 attacks? And that let A. Q. Kahn, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, smuggle nuclear components through its port to Libya, North Korea and Iran?

It's mind-boggling that President Bush ever agreed to let an alliance of seven emirs be in charge of six of our ports. Although, as usual, Incurious George didn't even know about it until after the fact. (Neither did Rummy, even though he heads one of the agencies that green-lighted the deal.)

Same old pattern: a stupid and counterproductive national security decision is made in secret, blowing off checks and balances, and the president's out of the loop.

Was W. too busy not calling Dick Cheney to find out why he shot a guy to not be involved in a critical decision about U.S. security? What is he waiting for — a presidential daily brief warning, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S. Ports?"
It really is interesting how absent Our Dear Embattled Leader was last weekend. Missing for The Shooter and missing for the National Security Fire Sale. Hmm! Another three day drunk?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Holden, Master of the Quotes

From First Draft, the man who reads the Gaggle so you don't have to has a pair of quotes that define the Bushoviks.
Orrin Hatch in the The St. George Daily Spectrum (via ThinkProgress, who in turn came to me via Eschaton):

Nobody denies that [Saddam Hussein] was supporting al-Qaeda…Well, I shouldn’t say nobody. Nobody with brains.


September 17, 2003
:

PRESIDENT BUSH: "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th."


UPDATE: Hatch got caught and is doing the backpedal dance. Read it here.

Ports deal OK with Our Dear Embattled Leader

In fact, according to the AP, he is telling people that it is a fabulous part of his glorious foreign policy or something like that.
"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."
At which point the entire country, remembering how careful they were with Iraq, disaster relief, national security and Medicare Part D, recoilled in horror. I might cut him some slack if Rummy said the deal was kosher, but when asked about it he gave this response.
I am reluctant to make judgments based on the minimal amount of information I have because I just heard about this over the weekend.
Our friends over at ThinkProgressinform us that Rummy is a member of the committee that "unanimously" approved the deal.

How square can it be if they won't let Rummy in on it?

FORGOT TO MENTION: ODEL says he will "break his maiden" with a veto if Congress passes a law trying to stop this deal.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Tom Toles



Say, could you pop in the cassette with "Feelings" on your next trip?

Trust us, we will have safeguards in place

For those of you who actually believed the Bushovik claims that they would have constant oversight of their illegal spying program, you shold read this from the LA Times.
For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.
Those Bushoviks sure are good at secuity though. So what if they would rather keep a dozen innocents in isolation to keep from letting one guilty bugger go. But you can bet your bottom dollar they would never sell the operating rights for American ports to the guys who financed 9-11.

Quote of the Day

“These were enormously hardworking, patriotic individuals. When you put together the pieces, it’s all so sad. To preserve flexibility, they were willing to throw away our values.”
Alberto J. Mora, former general counsel of the Navy, talking about those who supported torture of detainees.

The New Yorker writes about the Torture Memo.

In the latest edition, Jane Mayer has put together a long and detailed article about Alberto Mora, general counsel to the Navy and an honest man. In it she chronicles his efforts to stop the torture and abuse in Guantanomo and other military facilities.
In important ways, Mora’s memo is at odds with the official White House narrative. In 2002, President Bush declared that detainees should be treated “humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles” of the Geneva conventions. The Administration has articulated this standard many times. Last month, on January 12th, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, responding to charges of abuse at the U.S. base in Cuba, told reporters, “What took place at Guantánamo is a matter of public record today, and the investigations turned up nothing that suggested that there was any policy in the department other than humane treatment.” A week later, the White House press spokesman, Scott McClellan, was asked about a Human Rights Watch report that the Administration had made a “deliberate policy choice” to abuse detainees. He answered that the organization had hurt its credibility by making unfounded accusations. Top Administration officials have stressed that the interrogation policy was reviewed and sanctioned by government lawyers; last November, President Bush said, “Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture.” Mora’s memo, however, shows that almost from the start of the Administration’s war on terror the White House, the Justice Department, and the Department of Defense, intent upon having greater flexibility, charted a legally questionable course despite sustained objections from some of its own lawyers.

Mora had some victories. “America has a lot to thank him for,” Brant, the former head of the N.C.I.S., told me. But those achievements were largely undermined by a small group of lawyers closely aligned with Vice-President Cheney. In the end, Mora was unable to overcome formidable resistance from several of the most powerful figures in the government.
Didn't you just know that The Shooter would be involved. Sadly, not only were his best efforts thwarted, but he has retired from his post. No doubt he has been replaced by a more "reliable" man.

Bushovik logic on illegal spying

It is simple. We didn't break the law and we want Congress to change the law and make it legal. And we wouldn't do this if we hadn't pissed off a few Republicans along the way.
After two months of insisting that President Bush did not need court approval to authorize the wiretapping of calls between the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, the administration is trying to resist pressure for judicial review while pushing for retroactive Congressional approval of the program.

The administration opened negotiations with Congress last week, but it is far from clear whether Mr. Bush will be able to fend off calls from Democrats and some Republicans for increased oversight of the eavesdropping program, which is run by the National Security Agency.

The latest Republican to join the growing chorus of those seeking oversight is Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

In an interview on "Fox News Sunday," Mr. Graham, a former military prosecutor whose opinion on national security commands respect in the Senate, said he believed there was now a "bipartisan consensus" to have broader Congressional and judicial review of the program.

"I do believe we can provide oversight in a meaningful way without compromising the program," he said, "and I am adamant that the courts have some role when it comes to warrants. If you're going to follow an American citizen around for an extended period of time believing they're collaborating with the enemy, at some point in time, you need to get some judicial review, because mistakes can be made."
In the Bushovik world, making a mistake is a sure thing.

The shaky ground that Our Dear Embattled Leader finds himself on is probably why the complete Bin Laden tape was released over the weekend. Nothing like a little "terra" to get the boys back in line.

Cry for our lost country.

Bob Herbert takes a look at the shameless ruling that closed off legal action for a shameful act, the rendition and torture of an innocent man.
Mr. Arar's case became a world-class embarrassment when even Syria's torture professionals could elicit no evidence that he was in any way involved in terrorism. After 10 months, he was released. No charges were ever filed against him.

Mr. Arar is a 35-year-old software engineer who lives in Ottawa with his wife and their two young children. He's never been in any kind of trouble. Commenting on the case in a local newspaper, a former Canadian official dryly observed that "accidents will happen" in the war on terror. The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed a lawsuit on Mr. Arar's behalf, seeking damages from the U.S. government for his ordeal. The government said the case could not even be dealt with because the litigation would involve the revelation of state secrets.

In other words, it wouldn't matter how hideously or egregiously Mr. Arar had been treated, or how illegally or disgustingly the government had behaved. The case would have to be dropped. Inquiries into this 21st-century Inquisition cannot be tolerated. Its activities must remain secret at all costs.

In a ruling that basically gave the green light to government barbarism, U.S. District Judge David Trager dismissed Mr. Arar's lawsuit last Thursday. Judge Trager wrote in his opinion that "Arar's claim that he faced a likelihood of torture in Syria is supported by U.S. State Department reports on Syria's human rights practices."

But in dismissing the suit, he said that the foreign policy and national security issues raised by the government were "compelling" and that such matters were the purview of the executive branch and Congress, not the courts.

He also said that "the need for secrecy can hardly be doubted."

Under that reasoning, of course, the government could literally get away with murder. With its bad actions cloaked in court-sanctioned secrecy, no one would be the wiser.
Just like we were some damned banana republic.

Paul Krugman hands out some dishonorable mensch-tions.

In his column today, Paul Krugman takes a look at the character of the dudes running our country and finds nothing good.
The people now running America aren't mensches.

Dick Cheney isn't a mensch. There have been many attempts to turn the shooting of Harry Whittington into a political metaphor, but the most characteristic moment was the final act — the Moscow show-trial moment in which the victim of Mr. Cheney's recklessness apologized for getting shot. Remember, Mr. Cheney, more than anyone else, misled us into the Iraq war. Then, when neither links to Al Qaeda nor W.M.D. materialized, he shifted the blame to the very intelligence agencies he bullied into inflating the threat.

Donald Rumsfeld isn't a mensch. Before the Iraq war Mr. Rumsfeld muzzled commanders who warned that we were going in with too few troops, and sidelined State Department experts who warned that we needed a plan for the invasion's aftermath. But when the war went wrong, he began talking about "unknown unknowns" and going to war with "the army you have," ducking responsibility for the failures of leadership that have turned the war into a stunning victory — for Iran.

Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, isn't a mensch. Remember his excuse for failing to respond to the drowning of New Orleans? "I remember on Tuesday morning," he said on "Meet the Press," "picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' " We now know that by Tuesday morning, he had received — and ignored — many warnings about the unfolding disaster.

Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, isn't a mensch. He insists that the prescription drug plan's catastrophic start doesn't reflect poorly on his department, that "no logical person" would have expected "a transition happening that is so large without some problems." In fact, Medicare's 1966 startup went very smoothly. That didn't happen this time because his department ignored outside experts who warned, months in advance, about exactly the disaster that has taken place.
And he has a pretty good idea why they are in charge.
But how did such people attain power in the first place? Maybe it's the result of our infantilized media culture, in which politicians, like celebrities, are judged by the way they look, not the reality of their achievements. Mr. Bush isn't an effective leader, but he plays one on TV, and that's all that matters.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

At home on the Armstrong Ranch

If you want to know how the new ruling class lives, you can go to the NY Times here.

Shore is a fahn spread you got here Miz Armstrong.

And if you want to see how they do bidness, you can read what Arianna has to say here.

Great minds think alike.

For some years now, I have been convinced that Our Dear Embattled Leader and his evil minions with one purpose in mind, to enable Grover Norquislings wish to shrink government until it was small enough to drown in the bathtub. I always thought I was the only one who saw that. And then today in the Smirking Chimp what do I see, someone who thinks like me!
George Bush and Dick Cheney came to Washington, after all, not to run the government but to run it down.

They figured maybe they'd get a couple of Supreme Court nominations, and maybe get a shot at taking out Saddam, but the main mission of Bush and Cheney was to leave Washington less than they found it.

And they wasted no time getting down to it, most triumphantly with their massive tax cuts of 2001. The cuts would leave less revenue to pay for federal programs, saddle future presidents with crippling deficits and debt-interest payments, make the middle class pay more and lighten the load on the rich.

Bush/Cheney also packed federal departments - EPA, Justice, State, FEMA, Defense and others - with multiple layers of true-believing appointees. Their job was to freeze out career public servants and radically shift their institutions from active mode to passive to somnolent in such areas as environmental protection, voting/civil rights and social services.

But Osama bin Laden plotted while Bush worked out, and on September 11, 2001, the Saudi-born terrorist changed everything for the president who blew into Washington looking to dismantle the infrastructure. Suddenly, Bush and his fellow would-be pillagers had to figure out how to marshal the manifold resources of government - including those experienced, dedicated public servants previously regarded as quaint anachronisms - to actually accomplish things.

It's no wonder, then, that the Bush team mangled the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, as documented in a new 600-page report written by Republican members of a select House of Representatives committee. No wonder that a centerpiece of Bush's presidency, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, has proved to be a break-the-bank boondoggle. No wonder that America now finds itself ensnared in the deadly folly of Iraq, with thousands of lives lost, reconstruction hopelessly mismanaged and billions of dollars missing and/or stolen.....

.....And one enormously important thing that the intelligence community got right - that there was no evidence of a meaningful working relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida - Bush disregarded. Indeed, he told the world exactly the opposite, and most of us believed him, myself included.

This rehash of the last five years of failure, incompetence and twisting of truth by Bush and his administration casts a different kind of light on the National Security Agency no-warrant spying operation Bush secretly authorized more than four years ago: Even assuming it's legal, what are the chances that the Bush team is managing it with the care, precision and caution required of a program with such a massive potential for abuse? Two chances, as my brother likes to say: Slim and none.

Slim just left town.

Newsweek profiles The Shooter.

Newsweek gives us an in depth look at our modern day Aaron Burr. In the end it raises as many questions as it answers, but what else can you do when you start out like this:
Dick Cheney has never been your normal politician. He has never seemed as eager to please, as needy for votes and approval and headlines as, say, Bill Clinton. Cheney can seem taciturn, self-contained, a little gloomy; in recent years, his manner has been not just unwelcoming but stand-offish. This is not to say, however, that he is entirely modest and self-effacing, or that he does not crave power as much as or more than any office-seeker. This, after all, is a man who, in conducting a search for George W. Bush's vice president, picked himself. Indeed, since 9/11, Cheney has struck a pose more familiar to readers of Greek tragedies than the daily Hotline. At times, he appears to be the lonely leader, brooding in his tent, knowing that doom may be inevitable, but that the battle must be fought, and that glory can be eternal.
Read more about "The Man Who Would Be President".

Pillow talk DC style

When these people get things done around the house, it will probably cost millions. The NY Times has a look at lobbyists married to congressmoops and their staff.
Like many Washington couples, Jeffrey and Alexandra Shockey need the advice of a lawyer on how to conduct their pillow talk.

Mr. Shockey is a top aide to Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Mrs. Shockey is a lobbyist for a firm that seeks to influence the congressman.

So when Senator Arlen Specter this week defended the marriage of one of his aides to a lobbyist with interests in her work, the Shockeys and others around town could empathize. Marriages to lobbyists are increasingly common among Capitol staff members and even members of Congress — a situation that, even in Congress's current zeal for overhauling lobbying, almost no one seriously expects to be restricted any time soon.
Who can say what happens when "The Wall of Jericho" comes down.

Chertoff says OK to let fox guard henhouse.

Michael "Never did like New Orleans" Chertoff said today that we should not worry about turning over control of US ports to a company contolled by the UAE government.
Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff on Sunday defended the government’s security review of an Arab company given permission to take over operations at six major U.S. ports.

“We make sure there are assurances in place, in general, sufficient to satisfy us that the deal is appropriate from a national security standpoint,” Chertoff said on ABC’s “This Week.”
And if any problems arise, we will be on vacation.

At least they don't have to worry about the port of New Orleans anymore.



Click on image for larger view

Now we know why they were smiling.



From the WaPo.
The rush to revise ethics laws in the wake of the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal has turned into more of a saunter.

A month ago, Republican leaders in Congress called legislation on the topic their first priority, and promised quick action on a measure that would alter the rules governing the interaction between lawmakers and lobbyists.

But now they do not anticipate final approval of such a measure until late March at the earliest.
When congressmoops get a case of the slows, they can't outrun a rock rolling uphill.

Do you know what 12.7% is?

It is the number of Americans, many working full time, who live in poverty in the United States of America.
A shocking 37 million Americans live in poverty. That is 12.7 per cent of the population - the highest percentage in the developed world. They are found from the hills of Kentucky to Detroit's streets, from the Deep South of Louisiana to the heartland of Oklahoma. Each year since 2001 their number has grown.

Under President George W Bush an extra 5.4 million have slipped below the poverty line. Yet they are not a story of the unemployed or the destitute. Most have jobs. Many have two. Amos Lumpkins has work and his children go to school. But the economy, stripped of worker benefits like healthcare, is having trouble providing good wages.

Even families with two working parents are often one slice of bad luck - a medical bill or factory closure - away from disaster. The minimum wage of $5.15 (£2.95) an hour has not risen since 1997 and, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest since 1956. The gap between the haves and the have-nots looms wider than ever. Faced with rising poverty rates, Bush's trillion-dollar federal budget recently raised massive amounts of defence spending for the war in Iraq and slashed billions from welfare programmes.
The head of my company will probably give himself $30 mil. this year, most of the people who work for him will get raises amounting to less than inflation last year. And by the time we get Our Dear Embattled Leader out of office, we can expect many more millions living in poverty.

Ohio Republicans sweating it out.

The Toledo Blade has a feature article today that sums up all that has gone before in CoinGate and asks the question, "Who's next?".
"A lot of people are asking what and who's next?" said Mr. Tipps. Many wonder about Mr. Taft's long-held denial that he didn't know anything about the rare-coin investment" until The Blade first reported it April 3, 2005, he said.

"Are they going to climb the ladder?" asked Columbus attorney and Democrat Henry Eckhart, referring to investigators and prosecutors. "Noe isn't at the top of the ladder. He was holding it for the rest of them."
And let us not forget that the strands of this web are not confined to Ohio alone.



// posted by montag @ 12:17 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Republicans have a drug problem

And I mean more than just Rush. According to the NY Times, the disastrous start to Our Dear Embattled Leader's Glorious Medicare Drug Plan is bad news for Republicans. Seniors, on the whole, both remember and vote.
Older voters, a critical component of Republican Congressional victories for more than a decade, could end up being a major vulnerability for the party in this year's midterm elections, according to strategists in both parties. Paradoxically, one reason is the new Medicare drug benefit, which was intended to cement their loyalty.

During next week's Congressional recess, Democrats are set to begin a major new campaign to highlight what Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, describes as "this disastrous Republican Medicare prescription drug plan." Democratic incumbents and challengers plan nearly 100 public forums around the country, armed with briefing books and talking points on a law that, party leaders assert, "was written by and for big drug companies and H.M.O.'s, not American families."

Recognizing the widespread criticism of the new drug program, Republican senators met in a closed session with administration officials this week to discuss the rocky rollout of the plan and prepare for questions back home.

But pollsters say the Republicans' difficulties with the over-60 vote go beyond the complicated drug benefit, which began Jan. 1. President Bush's failed effort to create private accounts in Social Security last year was also unpopular with many older Americans. That, in addition to confusion over the drug benefit, has "taken the key swing vote that's been trending the Republicans' way and put it at risk for the next election," said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster. "And what that means is Republicans are going to have to work extra hard."
Those pesky seniors, they remember a time when you didn't screw people just because you could.

// posted by montag @ 5:01 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Flying pigs coming to Ohio.

One of the Republican candidates for governor in Ohio,Attorney General Jim Petro, has a novel new way to prevent Republican corruption in the state.
Attorney General Jim Petro, under fire for his handling of the Tom Noe rare-coin scandal and state legal work, said yesterday that his first initiative as governor would be to "end political favoritism" by calling for a ban on awarding state contracts to political contributors.

Under his proposal, Mr. Petro said no officeholder would be permitted to give a contract - bid or unbid - to anyone who has contributed to him or another candidate for the governor's office in the previous two years. The proposal would also ban contributions from holders of state contracts during the life of the contracts and for one year after they expire.
So much for petrodollars flowing in Ohio. This idea reminds me of a little story I remember from long ago. It involves a local election where the incumbent promised, among other things, to rebuild a road badly in need of work. The incumbent even had drainage pipe delivered to the prospective work site. Where it sat until the election and long afterwards. So long that someone finally chalked on the piping, "Take me home boys, elections over". I am willing to bet that Petro's high sounding proposal will eventually end up like the pipes, sitting in the weeds waiting to be taken back to the depot.

// posted by montag @ 1:03 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

What a can of worms looks like.

The LA Times has a thoughtful piece on the changes in the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. And, despite the continuing babble of Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions about bringing democracy to the region, none of it is going favorably for the US.
In the 1980s, Iran spent eight years and thousands of lives waging a war to overthrow Hussein, whose regime buffered the Sunni Muslim-dominated Arab world from Iran. But in the end, it took the U.S.-led invasion to topple Iraq's dictator and allow Iranian influence to spread through a chaotic, battle-torn country.

Now Iraq's fledgling democracy has placed power in the hands of the nation's Shiite majority and its Kurdish allies, many of whom lived as exiles in Iran and maintain strong religious, cultural and linguistic ties to it. The two groups sit atop most of Iraq's oil, and both seek a decentralized government that would give them maximum control of it. A weak central government would also limit Sunni influence.

The proposed changes have aggravated ancient tensions between the two branches of Islam, not to mention Arabs and Iranians. Neighboring countries have historical and tribal links to Iraq's Sunnis.

"A weak Iraq is now sitting next to a huge, mighty Iran. Now the only counterpart to Iran is not a regional power, but a foreign power like the United States," said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a political analyst and television host in Dubai. "This is unsustainable. It's bad for [Persian] Gulf security. It's given Iran a sense of supremacy that we all feel."
Well, as Condi would say, who could know this would happen? And as I would answer, anybody who had their heads out of the sand.

// posted by montag @ 12:42 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Casino Jack is singing like a canary.

If this story in the WaPo is any indication. Unlike the Dukester, the prosecution in the Abramoff trial has asked for a delay in sentencing.
Abbe Lowell, Abramoff's lawyer in Washington, said in a telephone conference with U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck that if sentencing went forward as scheduled on March 16, it would be "upsetting to what's happening behind the scenes."

"It's based solely on the sensitivities of cooperation," Lowell said of the request.

Abramoff pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to charges that he and a former partner, Adam Kidan, concocted a fake wire transfer to make it appear they were putting a sizable stake of their own money into the $147.5 million purchase in 2000 of the SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet. Kidan also pleaded guilty.

Abramoff also pleaded guilty last month to charges stemming from an investigation into the former lobbyists' ties to members of Congress and to the Bush administration.
This little news item is no doubt putting a big fear in the Republicans in Congress. The Bushoviks may be pushing hard to save the White House and will probably throw a few congressmoops to the wolves to do so.

// posted by montag @ 12:25 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Duke Cunningham didn't play ball.

And according to the WaPo, the prosecution is asking for the max when he is sentenced. Generally, the sentence requested following a guilty plea will be tailored to the level of cooperation from the guilty party. No cooperation, no break on the sentence.
Convicted former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) should be sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison because of "unparalleled corruption" that included a "bribe menu" on congressional letterhead telling a defense contractor what payments were required for different levels of federal funding, federal prosecutors said in court papers yesterday.

Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to bribery-related and tax-evasion charges of accepting $2.4 million from two contractors and two other men in return for steering defense work to them. The pre-sentencing memo filed by prosecutors in San Diego yesterday offered new details on the extent of his crimes and efforts he made to cover them up.
The filing also includes juicy details of how the Dukester did "bidness".
For instance, it said that Cunningham offered one of the contractors, identifiable in the court papers as Mitchell Wade, head of a Washington company called MZM Inc., $16 million in government contracts in return for the title to a boat Wade had just bought for $140,000. A copy of the notes is included in the filing, showing, the government said, that Cunningham charged an additional $50,000 for every $1 million more.

When the payments reached $340,000, the rate for each $1 million of federal funding dropped to $25,000, the document said.
Our tax dollars at work.

// posted by montag @ 12:12 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Right wing "humor" explained

It appears that the good folks over at The Obfuscation Report have discovered the secret to what makes neo-cons laugh.
I have to admit, I’ve never understood Right Wing Humor. I just didn’t get it and I often don’t find it funny.

For example, the Running Joke among conservatives this week is that they would rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than ride in a car with Ted Kennedy.

I have to admit, I didn’t think it was funny. You see, the joke is a reference to a car accident in which a woman in the car with Ted Kennedy died. And the more I thought about it the more I realized the Republicans think death is funny. It’s funny when people die. There’s the joke.
Which quite naturally leads to knee slappers like this.
I’d rather go hunting with Dick Cheney, than be a U.S. soldier in Iraq. Ha, Ha, Ha. It's funny because 2,200+ soldiers have died in Iraq. Now there’s Republican Humor on a grand scale. It's funny when people die.
Who could top that one.

// posted by montag @ 11:34 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

The New York Times speaks out on Americas great shame.

In its editorial today, the NY Times attack two of the shameful blots on America that are Our Dear Embattled Leaders legacy. The first is the tar baby in Cuba.
On Thursday, the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a scathing report on the violations of democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law at Guantánamo Bay: indefinite arbitrary detentions, hearings that mock fair process and justice, coercive and violent interrogations, and other violations of laws and treaties.

The Bush administration offered its usual weak response, that President Bush has decided there is a permanent state of war that puts him above the law. And that is exactly the problem: by creating Guantánamo outside the legal system for prisoners who, according to Mr. Bush, have no rights, the United States is stuck holding these 500 men in perpetuity. The handful who may be guilty of heinous crimes can never be tried in a real court because of their illegal detentions. A vast majority did nothing or were guilty only of fighting on a battlefield, but the administration refuses to sort them out.
And then they take aim at the unexamined evil of Abu Ghraib.
The U.N. report followed a broadcast by an Australian television station of previously unpublicized photographs taken at Abu Ghraib in 2003. Many were similar to the pictures the world saw two years ago when the scandal of abuse, humiliation and torture first broke. Others show even worse abuses and degradation.

All are a reminder that the Bush administration has yet to account for what happened at Abu Ghraib. No political appointee has been punished for the policies that led to the atrocities. Indeed, most have been rewarded.

The prison was a symbol of the worst of the Hussein regime. Now it's a symbol of the worst of the American occupation. Congress should order it replaced. And perhaps John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, could keep his promise to dig out the truth about Abu Ghraib.
And perhaps John Warner will discover the moon is made of green cheese. And this is more likely given the degree that Republicans have supported and cheered the two evils, and covered themselves and our country in shame.

// posted by montag @ 12:07 AM 0 Comments Links to this post

Friday, February 17, 2006

MoDo sees the truth of the Shooter

In her column today, MoDo puts forth an interesting view of The Shooter and Rummy in their quest for the truth.
I love it when Shooter and Rummy call us unrealistic for trying to hold them to standards that they set. They are, after all, victims of their own spin on Iraq. Mr. Cheney thought we'd be greeted with flowers; Rummy said we could do more with less.

Rummy misses the point: we're supposed to be the good guys, the beacon of freedom. Our message is supposed to work because it has moral force, not because we pay some Lincoln Group sketchballs millions to plant propaganda in Iraqi newspapers and not because the press here plays down revelations of American torture. If the Bush crew hadn't distorted the truth to get to Iraq, they wouldn't need to distort the truth to succeed there.

"Ultimately, in my view," Rummy concluded, "truth wins out."

Bad news for him, and his pal Dick.
Nothing new here, but it always bears repeating.

// posted by montag @ 11:58 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Pat Roberts poses for the press

Attempting to strike a properly magisterial position, the oxymoronic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee sought to appear in conflict with Our Dear Embattled Leader and his illegal spy program.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court, a move President Bush has argued is not necessary.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he had some concerns that the court could not issue warrants quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the eavesdropping program. But he said he would like to see those details worked out.
Which probably means that if he can not find a way to defang the FISA court he will have to kill this child quietly when no one is looking, like all the others.

// posted by montag @ 10:39 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

They only got three buildings the first time

But now, thanks to the amazing protective oversight of Our Dear Embattled Leader and his minions, they will get another shot at New York and Philadelphia (New Jersey is fucked) and Baltimore and other major US port cities. As the NY Times reports, even after a second look the Bushoviks will hand over the day to day operations to our good friends from DUBAI,the United Arab Emirates!
The Bush administration dismissed the security concerns of local officials yesterday and restated its approval of a deal that will give a company based in Dubai a major role in operating ports in and around New York City.

Representatives of the White House and the Treasury Department said they had given their approval for Dubai Ports World to do business in the United States after a rigorous review. The decision, they said, was final.

Dubai Ports World is buying the British company that currently operates the cruise-ship terminal on the West Side of Manhattan, one of the biggest cargo terminals in New York Harbor, and terminals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other big ports.
In November '04 voters thought John Kerry would not protect them. In February '06 Our Dear Embattled Leader proves again to voters that he will not protect them.

// posted by montag @ 7:28 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

What you don't read in the news.

Knight-Ridder, one of the last honest news services, has the straight skinny on what happens in Iraq, daily.
The gunfight by the Tigris River was over. It was time to retrieve the bodies.

Staff Sgt. Cortez Powell looked at the shredded jaw of a dead man whom he'd shot in the face when insurgents ambushed an American patrol in a blind of reeds. Powell's M4 assault rifle had jammed, so he'd grabbed the pump-action shotgun that he kept slung over his shoulders and pulled the trigger.

Five other soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division scrambled down, pulled two of the insurgents' bodies from the reeds and dragged them through the mud.

"Strap those motherf-----s to the hood like a deer," said Staff Sgt. James Robinson, 25, of Hughes, Ark.

The soldiers heaved the two bodies onto the hood of a Humvee and tied them down with a cord. The dead insurgents' legs and arms flapped in the air as the Humvee rumbled along.

Iraqi families stood in front of the surrounding houses. They watched the corpses ride by and glared at the American soldiers.

Fifteen months earlier, when the 1st Infantry Division sent some 5,000 Iraqi and U.S. soldiers to retake Samarra from Sunni Muslim insurgents, it was a test of the American occupation's ability not only to pacify but also to rebuild a part of Iraq dominated by the country's minority Sunnis.

More than a year later, American troops still are battling insurgents in Samarra. Bloodshed is destroying the city and driving a wedge between the Iraqis who live there and the U.S. troops who are trying to keep order.
Read it all but don't expect it to get any better than it began.

// posted by montag @ 7:02 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Victim aplogizes to The Shooter

In the topsy turvy reality of Red Bushovism, Harry Whittington the unintended target of a negligent Shooter, apologised for getting his face in the way of the blast. The original CNN headline, on display at TPM, was "Shooting victim apologizes to Vice President".
"My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week," Whittington said.
Perhaps he was referring to the delay Big Dick suffered in getting back to the ranch for cocktail hour on Sat.

// posted by montag @ 6:17 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Some judges still uphold the law.

And this will surely be a throbbing hemmerhoid for Our Dear Embattled Leader and his evil minions.
A federal judge Thursday ordered the Justice Department to respond within 20 days to requests by a civil liberties group for documents about President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program.

The ruling was a victory for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which sued the department under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking the release of the documents.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that the department must finish processing the group’s requests and produce or identify all records within 20 days.

“Given the great public and media attention that the government’s warrantless surveillance program has garnered and the recent hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the public interest is particularly well served by the timely release of the requested documents,” he said.
And you can bet that calls have already gone out to the Dread Chief Justice Roberts and his swashbuckling crew, Scalia, Alito and the cabin boy Thomas.

// posted by montag @ 7:32 PM 1 Comments Links to this post

They can't grab their own butts with both hands

In another amazing feat of handling involving scret and sensitive intelligence, the Bushoviks managed to release still classified secrets to defense attorneys in a terrorism prosecution.
The unsealed records, included in boxes of selected classified data turned over to defense lawyers in April, included what a federal prosecutor called "extraordinarily sensitive information."

But it was more than four months before FBI agents discovered, on Aug. 12, that the documents included still-secret data not intended for release.

When authorities scrambled to retrieve the secret documents from a courthouse room reserved for defense lawyers, a court security official blocked their access, records show.

According to a government legal brief filed in the case, the erroneous disclosures represent the first such misstep in the 27-year history of the nation's top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Defense lawyers have always been denied access to applications and affidavits justifying warrants for national security surveillance.

Such documents commonly include highly sensitive and classified information from a variety of U.S. intelligence agencies, foreign intelligence services and confidential sources, prosecutors acknowledged.
And these are the people that claim they can best defend the US? Just another part of the Gang That Can't Shoot Straight.

// posted by montag @ 7:06 PM 0 Comments Links to this post

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