Even George S. Will Sees the Issue Correctly

Will is critical of the Republicans' new bestest "reform" plan to take power away from 527s, largely funded by normal mortals. Will has been surprising me lately.

$85 Million Worth of Evil, with a Cheney Attached, and That's Just the Start of the Bad

I cannot believe my eyes. This is so wrong, and to have one of the Cheneys attached to it, a woman who has a track record of spending oodles of women and showing no positive results for it, makes me violently ill.

Your reaction?

From the Times today:

As the Bush administration confronts the Tehran government over its suspected nuclear weapons program and accusations that it supports terrorism, a newly created office of Iranian affairs in the State Department is poring over applications for a rapidly expanding program to change the political process inside Iran.

The project, which will spend $7 million in the current fiscal year, would become many times larger next year if Congress approves a broad request for $85 million that the Bush administration has requested for scholarships, exchange programs, radio and television broadcasts and other activities aimed at shaking up Iran's political system.

The effort, overseen by Elizabeth Cheney, a deputy assistant secretary of state who is a daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, has been denounced by Iran's leaders as meddling in their internal affairs.

It comes at a time of escalating confrontation between Iran and the United States over Iran's nuclear program, exacerbated by reports, which the administration has played down, that military contingency plans are being reviewed as well.

While the United States has marshaled international support for diplomatic pressure on Iran, some Asian and European allies have expressed misgivings about other avenues of pressure, which are seen as aimed at undermining the government in Tehran.

One Asian diplomat said the effort was reminiscent of the subsidies the United States provided to Iraqi exile groups in the 1990's. "They don't call it 'regime change,' but that is obviously what it is," he said. But he had to be promised anonymity before he would discuss it, not wanting to create a public rift between his country and the United States on a significant matter of foreign policy.

Blogger Was Hungry Today...

and ate a BUNCH of my posts from late morning to afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't get smart to it until after I'd lost about 7-8 without moving to offline editors.

I will see if I can reconstruct the missing posts later but... who knows?

Lawmakers Make Great Prisoners?

Read this and tell me whether you shake your head as much as I did. From AP:

U-S Senator Tom Coburn isn't naming names, but he expects six congressmen and a fellow senator will go to jail.That's because he thinks they'll be facing corruption charges following investigations involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Wagoner last night, Coburn said that "if you've been keeping up with things, you've got a pretty good idea" of who the seven lawmakers are.

The Oklahoma Republican says members of both parties have been involved in questionable dealings.

The remarks were made in relation to his attempts to curb "earmarking," which is the practice of inserting appropriations for specific projects into unrelated bills.
Any idea who he's talking about?

And while I don't and won't dismiss the notion that some Dems are as unclean as Reps in general, almost all the dirty money of Abramoff's went specifically to Republicans. The lobbyist gravy train was specifically managed, increased, and mismanaged under people like DeLay and Santorum. So I don't buy that (m)any Dems are going down for Abramoff.

"Thank You for Smoking"

Those interested in seeing the film, which opened in full release Friday (4-14), see this.

Living in Bush's America Can Make Us All Feel Like a Part of the Ill-Fated Donner Party

Uh... well, yes, I think this is true.

But here's another truth, tendered up by Wilson's Blogmanac, on this anniversary of the first, pre-Bushian Donner Party:

1846 The families of James F Reed and George and Jacob Donner, 31 people in nine wagons, left Springfield, Illinois. It was the commencement of the Donner Party, the most famous group of American emigrants ever to attempt the cross-country wagon journey to California.

Almost ninety wagon train emigrants were unable to cross the Sierra Nevada before winter, and almost one-half starved to death.

Cannibalism has been suspected ...

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

Or a few million, if you're a Bush.
This photo, found on Firedoglake but which originally appeared here, says really all that needs to be said about why we would go into Iran, much as why we went into Iraq and Afghanistan. The US flags represent U.S. bases or major military interests in this region.


Britain Joined U.S. in "Mock" Iran Invasion

Prepping for the real thing? I see the Neo-cons are already telling us (just like Iraq) that Iran will be an easy take, a cakewalk, we'll be in and out in no time and yes, I'm sure, Iran will pay for itself (sound familiar?).

From the Guardian (UK):

British officers took part in a US war game aimed at preparing for a possible invasion of Iran, despite repeated claims by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, that a military strike against Iran is inconceivable.

The war game, codenamed Hotspur 2004, took place at the US base of Fort Belvoir in Virginia in July 2004.
July 2004?

But Mr. Bush tells us he really, really, really wants a diplomatic solution.

Oh wait. We heard that before, too.

In the "No Shit, Sherlock!" Department: Rumsfeld Personally Approved Torture

Posted by Mary Scott O'Connor at My Left Wing:

As if the news regarding Rummy couldn't get worse for him, we have a new article by Salon.com indicating that he personally approved the use of forced nudity, stress positions and the removal of religious items against prisoners in Guantanamo.

Additionally, the document, obtained by Salon through the FOIA, discusses his weekly calls to Gitmo in order to discuss the interrogation of a "high value Al-Qaeda detainee", Mohammed al-Kahtani, who according to Army investigators have called "degrading and abusive" treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved.

In Honor of Tax Day, Stalking the $104 Billion Corporate Welfare Tax Refund

Slate's on the case:

Feeling flush because you're getting a nice tax refund this year? You're not alone. Some of America's largest corporations—a virtual who's who of the Fortune 100—have been reporting their own hefty tax windfalls, thanks to an absurd provision of a law designed to create jobs.

IBM, for example, is banking a $2.8 billion refund—well, better to call it a "tax savings"—because instead of paying the normal corporate tax rate of 35 percent on $9.5 billion in profits it earned overseas, the company paid only 5.25 percent. That's the magic of the American Jobs Creation Act, a piece of legislation that passed with comfortable margins in both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by President Bush just two weeks before the 2004 elections.

The AJCA, which was pushed through during the last fit of panic about outsourcing, was ostensibly designed to encourage companies to add jobs here. It gave a small tax deduction to American manufacturers, and it offered a one-time tax holiday in 2005 when corporations could repatriate their foreign income at a massively reduced tax rate. This repatriation, the theory went, would encourage R & D and capital investment in the United States, leading to new positions down the road. But, like President Bush's creatively named Clear Skies initiative and Healthy Forest Restoration Act, the American Jobs Creation Act has not lived up to its title.

In Honor of Good Friday...

Skippy and Company present a series apparently entitled "God Told Me to Hate You".

Er... don't be fooled by the title. It's well worth a read.

Harry Shearer: Tommy Franks Tells the Truth by Accident

With a nod to Left is Right for pointing us there:

Harry Shearer posting at Huffington Post shares something related to the Iraq War timeline I missed today:

On Hardball Friday afternoon, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of the Iraq war, was defending Defense Secretary Rumsfeld against the recent offensive by the retired generals. In passing, he said this:

"Ask him about the 14 months we spent planning this thing."

That would put the operational, as opposed to contingency, planning as having started in roughly January of 2002, about eight months later than what was implied in Joint Chiefs head Peter Pace's statement at the Pentagon briefing earlier this week.

Expert Comes Clean on How the Government Watches You

This story by an expert - called the Wiretap Whistleblower - in Wired scared the hell out of me and I'm not exactly a terrorist or a person who uses the Net for illicit purposes (unless you count progressive blogging thusly, which some do!).

Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the internet -- whether that be peoples' e-mail, web surfing or any other data.

Given the public debate about the constitutionality of the Bush administration's spying on U.S. citizens without obtaining a FISA warrant, I think it is critical that this information be brought out into the open, and that the American people be told the truth about the extent of the administration's warrantless surveillance practices, particularly as it relates to the internet.

Despite what we are hearing, and considering the public track record of this administration, I simply do not believe their claims that the NSA's spying program is really limited to foreign communications or is otherwise consistent with the NSA's charter or with FISA. And unlike the controversy over targeted wiretaps of individuals' phone calls, this potential spying appears to be applied wholesale to all sorts of internet communications of countless citizens.

Poor VP Duck! It's Dick! Cheney Gets Nearly $2 Million Income Tax Refund

I guess we know who those tax cuts for the rich are helping.

So how much are you getting back?

What? Not $2M? How did that happen?

Wow, Nebraska Reinvents School Segregation

Omaha, Nebraska has voted to divide up school districts on the basis of racial lines.

Only in the Bush years!

In the "We're Sure There Are Some Non-Perverts Working in the Bush Administration, Too" Department

Attaturk at the excellent Rising Hegemon brings us this:

And now, a Transportation Security Administration official:
    Authorities in Idaho say they aren’t sure of the true identity of a Transportation Security Administration officer charged with attempting to kidnap a 10-year-old boy because they found personal identification documents — including Social Security numbers — for five separate individuals in his possession.
Somehow I suppose they can blame the Clenis, but is this some sort of Grover Norquist idea to stock the government with perverts in order to ultimately cause it's dismantling?

We Plunder and Destroy an Ancient Babylonian Site in Iraq and We Might Apologize?

Well, we're down to just SIX wonders of the world, thanks to Donny Rumsfeld's boys...

Another corker of a story from Blah 3, this time posted by Stranger:

Historical site? Archaeological dig? Who fuckin' cares? We need a goddam heliport!!
    A senior US marine officer says he is willing to apologise for the damage caused by his troops to the ancient Iraqi site of Babylon.

    US forces built a helicopter pad on the ancient ruins and filled their sandbags with archaeological material in the months following the 2003 invasion. Colonel Coleman was chief of staff at Babylon when it was occupied by the First Marine Expeditionary Force. Babylon's Hanging Gardens were among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. [...] The 2,000 troops who were deployed there did immense damage as they set up camp amidst the ruins of old temples.

    A helicopter pad was constructed at the site. The vibration from landings led the roof of one building to collapse. The soldiers also filled their sandbags with archaeological artefacts, just because they were lying around and easy to pick up.

    The head of the Iraqi State Board for Heritage and Antiquities, Donny George, is angry and says the mess will take decades to sort out.
And what's with this 'willing to apologize' crap? The Iraqis are pissed, the Marines fucked up, why not just come out and apologize, already? Is this really that difficult??

West Point Grads Against the War

This is a good example of why I like Blah3:

Monkeyfister profiles West Point Grads Against the War. Imagine that! But then, West Point graduates some of the smartest of the toughest.

Nepalese Protests and Battle for Independence

Have you been seeing these on TV? Well, ok, normal TV doesn't usually show them, but there was more in-depth coverage on Democracy Now!

The police in Katmandu just have bats and sticks and it looks like the people might actually win this. Here's The Times weighing in on the matter.

All That Hijacked Afghan US Security Data

Story here related to all these drives taken and being sold outside the Baghram Air base, but I don't think the problem is just magically swept away by us buying back the Flash hard drives we allowed to walk away while they contained images of detainees being tortured and killed by us, the names of secret operatives, etc.

Buzzflash calls these military folks the Keystone Cops, but I don't think the Keystone Cops were this bad.

Neil Young: Records a Highly Political Album

Including one that discusses impeaching our own version of Napoleon, only with far less military prowess.

Say Hello to...

Drunken Monkey Style Blogging.

No, it is not the president's blog. Cough.

Blog 'Em if You Got 'Em

Just a reminder that the excellent commentators over at Blah3 are still working hard to make their 1 million visit mark before the end of April.

With a long Spring - and for some, holiday - weekend ahead and certainly lots of puzzling news to digest, let me recommend you not only pay Blah3 a visit but plan some return tours through their postings. I enjoy them and hope you will, as well.

Italian Courts Apparently Can Say No to Their Dictator...

Unlike Bush's hand-picked Supreme Court....

Italian courts have told Berlusconi No on his ridiculous insistence that this week's vote be overturned because he was not named the winner.

And Yet, Mr. Bush Says, "Great Job, Rummy!"

That's essentially what the president told us today as he said he would not listen to critics who want to oust Donald Rumseld as head of the military machine.

More Violence in Iraq

Two more U.S. Marines dead, 22 civilians hurt, six Iraqi policemen slain...

Consider that the Marines are considered the toughest fighters, yet more than 10 have died in fighting just this week when several days ago, we already exceeded before the first half of April the number of US military deaths in Iraq in March. (Err... spend about 15 minutes diagramming that sentence and you'll probably understand what I meant... cough.)

GI's Betrayal by Bush

Read the story here.

VP Cheney Deeply Involved in Efforts to Blow Credibility of Bush Critic Amb. Joseph Wilson

From today's National Journal:

Vice President Dick Cheney directed his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on July 12, 2003 to leak to the media portions of a then-highly classified CIA report that Cheney hoped would undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to Libby's grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case and sources who have read the classified report.

The March 2002 intelligence report was a debriefing of Wilson by the CIA's Directorate of Operations after Wilson returned from a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger to investigate claims, later proved to be unfounded, that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation, according to government records.

The debriefing report made no mention of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, then a covert CIA officer, or any role she may have played in her husband's selection by the CIA to go to Niger, according to two people who have read the report.

The previously unreported grand jury testimony is significant because only hours after Cheney reportedly instructed Libby to disclose information from the CIA report, Libby divulged to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper that Plame was a CIA officer, and that she been involved in selecting her husband for the Niger mission.

Both Libby and Cheney have repeatedly insisted that the vice president never encouraged, directed, or authorized Libby to disclose Plame's identity. In a court filing on April 12, Libby's attorneys reiterated: "Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson [Plame] by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else."

But the disclosure that Cheney instructed Libby to leak portions of a classified CIA report on Joseph Wilson adds to a growing body of information showing that at the time Plame was outed as a covert CIA officer the vice president was deeply involved in the White House effort to undermine her husband.

LardassHardball Host Planning Senatorial Run?

Chris Matthews is supposedly thinking of it, and running from PA.

However, Matthews does not LIVE in PA. Neat trick. Although he's worked for Dems in the way distant past, I can't see him running as one considering his on-show behavior and commentary, where it has been proven he weights the show strongly in favor of nutball right-wingnuts.

And I certainly don't see him winning. His show is fairly low in the ratings, for example, and he certainly does not seem like one of the world's better minds. But... well... PA DID elect Rick "man on dog on kitten on nympho midget" Santorum, so who the fig newton knows?

At Least Chuck Hagel is Sane on Iraq

Even if he owns one of those dreaded electronic voting companies (sigh)... Hagel says a strike on Iran is not a viable, feasible, responsible option."

Amen to that!


Say Hello to ...

StateMaster: the database where statistics come alive!

I know, it's sad when - on a Friday - I get excited about another database. I'm such a friggin' nerd.

What the Leader of Iran Has Over Bush, Leader of the Free World

David Letterman pointed this out tonight: how is it the leader of Iran can say the word nuclear correctly when George W. Bush, the ostensible leader of the free world and alleged native English speaker, cannot?

E&P: How the Washington Post Blew it on Cheney Boo-Down at Nationals Opener

Editor and Publisher shows you how the Post spun it to make it sound like people booed "lightly" at Cheney's poor pitch rather than at his miserable, law-breaking, life-taking corrupt policies and practices.

Your Tax Dollars Lost is Viacom's Gain, Thanks to Yet Another Bushie Turned Private Sector

From EFF:

The Washington DC legal newspaper, Legal Times, is reporting (sorry, subscription link) that Kevin Murphy, a legislative aide to Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), has recently taken a job with cable and film giant Viacom. Senator Smith, you may remember, is one of the Hill's leading proponents of the broadcast flag. Smells fishy, you say? Legal Times thinks so, too:
    In a potential conflict of interest, a legislative assistant to Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), who is currently sponsoring legislation limiting the use and distribution of digital broadcasts, has been hired by media giant Viacom Inc.

    In January, Smith drafted the Digital Content Protection Act, which calls for wider use of "broadcast-flag" technology, a code inserted into digital audio or visual transmissions that limits the ability of consumers to redistribute that content. Broadcast-flag technology is opposed by many consumer groups but has broad support in the entertainment industry. The bill has not been formally introduced.

    Keith Murphy, a legislative aide to Smith who has worked closely on the legislation, is scheduled to begin work for Viacom at the end of April. Viacom's subsidiary, Paramount Pictures Corp., is a member of the powerful Motion Picture Association of America, a forceful advocate for the broadcast-flag proposal.
Whether it's actually a conflict of interest or not, it sure has the appearance of impropriety.

Berlusconi Would Like to Borrow Bush's Supreme Court to Toss Out Italian Election Results

I bet he does, the little fascist elitist pig. And notice that Bush and Bush's poodle refuse to congratulate Mr. Prodi on his apparent win; Bush is used to being able to push courts to change the will - and vote - of the people. From ABC News:

ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looked isolated on Thursday as allies cast doubt on his claims Italy's general election had been rigged and initial scrutiny of contested ballots suggested they could not overturn the result.

One coalition partner said the review of ballots would change nothing and a government minister said Romano Prodi's center-left coalition had won the election and had a right to govern.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel became the latest European leader to congratulate Prodi on his victory after the leaders of France, Spain and the European Commission. Britain and the United States on the other hand, have remained silent.

Berlusconi has said that the result of the April 9-10 vote, which handed Prodi a tiny majority, should be overturned because of "widespread" fraud.

Newspapers reported on Thursday that the prime minister wanted a recount of more than one million votes, but a political source said President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi had refused to grant the necessary permission.

Prodi told Reuters television his election victory would be rubber-stamped shortly.
"Well, he (Berlusconi) is unable to lose, to admit that we won. He will never do (it). He is absolutely unable to admit the truth," Prodi said outside his house in the northern Italian city of Bologna.

John Negroponte: Always Part of a Vicious Problem and Never Part of Any Solution

Negroponte, I swear, is pure bureaucratic, Bushian evil. In a Bush world, of course, men like Negroponte, the more they screw up and cause death and destruction and failure, the more they are promoted and given additional power. Unbelievable.

From yesterday's USA Today:

WASHINGTON — A year after John Negroponte became the first director of national intelligence, key lawmakers worry that the spy agency they created is not fulfilling its vital mission.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is "not adding any value" by enlarging the bureaucracy, said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee. "They're lengthening the time to make things happen. ... We want them to be lean and mean."

Supreme Court's Scalia: More Reprehensible Everyday

Posted on Think Progress (I'd love to see Scalia recused permanently, villified and removed forceably from the nation's highest bench as he should be):

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says that refusing to recuse himself from a case involving his hunting buddy Dick Cheney was the “proudest thing I have done on the bench,” and told his critics to “get a life.”
Also of note from Think Progress on the war against women being waged by some sanctimonious pharmacists:
The latest escalation in the pharmacy wars: Pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for vitamins and antibiotics simply because they come from a women’s health clinic that performs abortions.

Flash Drives Containing Secrets, Spy Names, Torture and Execution Photos Up for Sale

This story which I first heard about on NBC today is extremely disturbing, moreso than this LA Times article indicates:

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A computer drive sold openly Wednesday at a bazaar outside the U.S. air base here holds what appears to be a trove of potentially sensitive American intelligence data, including the names, photographs and telephone numbers of Afghan spies informing on the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The flash memory drive, which a teenager sold for $40, holds scores of military documents marked "secret," describing intelligence-gathering methods and information — including escape routes into Pakistan and the location of a suspected safe house there, and the payment of $50 bounties for each Taliban or Al Qaeda fighter apprehended based on the source's intelligence.

The documents appear to be authentic, but the accuracy of the information they contain could not be independently verified.

On its face, the information seems to jeopardize the safety of intelligence sources working secretly for U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, which would constitute a serious breach of security. For that reason, The Times has withheld personal information and details that could compromise military operations.

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan said an investigation was underway into what shopkeepers at the bazaar describe as ongoing theft and resale of U.S. computer equipment from the Bagram air base. The facility is the center of intelligence-gathering activities and includes a detention center for suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups flown in from around the world.

More on White House Ties (Lots of Calls) to New Hampshire Election Dirty Tricks by GOP

Also from WaPo:

WASHINGTON -- New Hampshire Democrats are seeking to depose senior White House officials to learn what they knew about a 2002 episode in which a national Republican operative helped organize the jamming of Democrats' phone lines on Election Day, a scheme for which two GOP officials have already been convicted.

This week, as a Manchester judge considers a request to compel testimony and records from the White House and the Republican National Committee in a civil suit brought by the Democrats, the nearly four-year-old local political scandal spilled onto the national scene, with the chairmen of the parties trading barbs and accusations.

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, sent a letter on Tuesday to his RNC counterpart, Ken Mehlman, citing the fact that the man convicted of organizing the phone-jamming called the White House political office repeatedly in the days before the election. Dean demanded that Mehlman say whether anyone at the White House or the RNC knew about the plot.

Mehlman, who in 2002 headed the White House political office, responded by saying he and his staff knew nothing of the plans. But Democrats fired back yesterday, accusing Mehlman of refusing to reveal the extent of the contact between the White House or RNC and the New Hampshire operatives.

''They're stonewalling because they can't face the truth," said Damien LaVera, a DNC spokesman. ''The law was broken here. We need to know where this goes -- who was involved in this, who authorized it."

The episode began with a political dirty trick engineered by New Hampshire Republicans on Nov. 5, 2002. Republican John E. Sununu, then a House member, was locked in a tight Senate race against Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, then the governor, in a contest some observers thought could determine control of the Senate.

In an effort to disrupt Democrats' get-out-the-vote efforts, officials with the state Republican Party hired a telemarketing company to tie up the hot lines that had been set up by Democrats and a firefighters' union to help get voters to the polls.

For about 90 minutes, computer-dialed calls tied up the hotlines, until the scheme was halted by state Republican officials who grew concerned about its legality. Sununu won the race by about 20,000 votes on a day in which Republicans swept the major races in New Hampshire and much of the nation.

The case has yielded three convictions so far, including those of the RNC's New England regional political director for the 2002 elections, James Tobin, and the then-executive director of the state Republican Party, Charles McGee. The third person convicted was Allen Raymond, a former Virginia telemarketing executive who was hired by the New Hampshire Republicans.

New Hampshire Democrats are now trying to prove that national political figures were involved in orchestrating or condoning the plan. On Tuesday, they asked a state judge to allow them to widen their inquiry in a civil lawsuit so that they can question former White House aides -- possibly including Mehlman -- and other national political figures about their conversations with state Republican officials.
There has to be a reason why so many calls that day came from or were made to the illegal jammers to the White House. I don't believe Mehlman's - or the White House's - explanation for a moment.

Violence Escalates Significantly in Afghanistan

Far more deaths and even greater destruction there (from WaPo):

A spate of terrorist attacks, from the murders of five medical workers in Badghis province in the north to bombings in the opium poppy region of Helmand in the south, is expanding a climate of insecurity across Afghanistan as NATO forces prepare to take over most military duties from the U.S.-led coalition.

Afghan officials vaguely blame the attacks on "enemies of Afghanistan" and denounce neighboring Pakistan for harboring Islamic insurgents bent on destroying this fragile new democracy. The reinvigorated Taliban militia, for its part, has vowed to wage a bloody spring and summer offensive against the Afghan state.

But a variety of foreign analysts and military officials here offer a different explanation: a vast canvas of weakly governed and unprotected territory in which drug traffickers, feuding tribesmen and opportunistic criminals -- as well as Taliban gunmen on motorbikes and mysterious suicide bombers -- operate with increasing ease, despite the presence of tens of thousands of foreign troops in the country.

"There are feudal fights, factional rivalries, people settling old scores, people opposed to anti-drug operations," said Cmdr. Susan Eagles, spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force here. "There is no coordinated strategy between incidents," she added. "When there are areas of ungoverned space, where the rule of law is not in operation, it becomes a breeding ground for insurgent action."

In addition to the growing number of suicide bombings, a tactic once unknown in Afghanistan, Western officials cite persistent reports of a burgeoning collusion in Helmand and Kandahar provinces between drug traffickers and forces loyal to the Taliban, which banned opium poppies as un-Islamic when it ruled most of the country five years ago.

Poll: Americans Would Consider Military Response to Iran, But Don't Trust Bush to Call It

I don't agree on military action, but here's the poll as reported in the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — Americans are divided over the prospect of U.S. military action against Iran if the government in Tehran continues to pursue nuclear technology — and a majority do not trust President Bush to make the "right decision" on that issue, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

Asked whether they would support military action if Iran continued to produce material that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, 48% of the poll's respondents, or almost half, said yes; 40% said no.

If Bush were to order military action, most respondents said they would support airstrikes against Iranian targets, and about one in four said they would support the use of American ground troops in Iran.
How can the U.S. just announce that we will vastly accelerate our nuclear plans while telling other countries, like Iran, that they can't have any nuclear plan? That's a very serious question.

What a Tremendously Terrible Idea, Featuring Hot Tub Tom DeLay

From TPM Muckraker (please excuse me while I go vomit):

DeLay's Third Act?

Josh Bolten, who's just been tapped to replace Andy Card as White House Chief of Staff, reportedly wants an outsider to replace him at the Office of Management and Budget.

The necessary qualification? Well, you might say he needs an expert at moving money around. Let's see...

    Sources said that he is considering former and current House members for the post.

    One associate even suggested that retiring Rep. Tom DeLay was being considered, though the most likely pick would be from a conservative budget association.
No word on whether DeLay would be allowed to fulfill his duties while sitting at the defense table during his trial in Texas..

Happy Passover

to my Jewish friends.

Happy Full Moon to my Wiccan and werewolf friends.

Happy day before TGIF for my drinking friends.

Boy, Are the Bushies Ever Trying to Get Shed of Rumsfeld

... or at least, make us believe they are so they can treat Rummy as the only one responsible for George and Dick's egg-cellent Iraqi adventure. Apparently, they want someone even more Bushie to lead up the attack on Iran... perhaps Scott McClellan or that little gnome woman lawyer friend of Dubya's will be available.


American Defense Contractors Using Cheap Illegal Labor

SusanG at DailyKos posts this damning story:

CBS visits a building site where construction of housing for officers at Trident Submarine Base is underway and finds a military subcontractor using the cheapest labor it can find:
    These men, most in their 20s and all born in Mexico, spoke in shadows because they are here illegally, and fear talking to the press could get them fired. Talking about the long hours and low pay -- less than half what a union member makes -- about $13 or $14 an hour.

    Despite dozens of arrests at military bases around the country, government construction sites continue to be fertile ground for undocumented workers, something Centex, the Texas-based conglomerate who has contracts with the federal government, was hesitant to discuss...."

    Sometimes, they check your documents," says one man. "Sometimes no. If you show up to work, they need you to work. So it's not always the case."

    "But, it almost doesn't matter," says another man. "Because they treat you as if you don't have any rights."

35 US Military Deaths in Iraq So Far in April

Those 35 - and we're only at the 12th day of a month with 30 days - already outnumber all the US military deaths in Iraq in March.

The Hyperbole on Iran Has Officially Begun

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is hot on the case:

Okay, we may not be able to stop or counter the cresting wave of Iran nuclear bamboozlement. But we can at least give you the play-by-play along with color commentary that we can refer back to when we're discussing possible Iran disengagement strategies in 2010.

Here's a gem just out from Bloomberg, courtesy of TPM Reader TB.

Headline: "Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says"

Gee, You Never Know Who Will Turn Up on the Terrorist No Fly Watch List

You know, people like those who've been busy giving service to our country. From AssPress on MSNBC:

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnesota reservist who spent the past eight months in Iraq was told he couldn't board a plane to Minneapolis because his name appeared on a "no-fly" list as a possible terrorist.

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown, who was in uniform and returning from the war with 26 other Marine military police reservists, was delayed briefly in Los Angeles until the issue was cleared up.

South Dakota

Let me share this killah cartoon from My Left Wing.

Thank You and Rest in Peace, Rev. William Sloane Coffin

My Left Wing reports that peace activist Rev. William Sloane Coffin has died.

Billmon Shares My Incredulity at the "Yawning" Nature of the Media on the Nuclear Iran Issue

From Billmon at the Whiskey Bar:

Maybe it's just me, but I've been at least a little bit surprised by the relatively muted reaction to the news that the Cheney Administration and its Pentagon underlings are racing to put the finishing touches on plans for attacking Iran – plans which may include the first wartime use of nuclear weapons since Nagasaki.

I mean, what exactly does it take to get a rise out of the media industrial complex these days? A nuclear first strike against a major Middle Eastern oil producer doesn't ring the bell? Must every story have a missing white woman in it before the cable news guys will start taking it seriously?

I suppose I could understand it if all we had was Sy Hersh's word that the administration is planning another "pre-emptive" war in the Middle East. After all, we're talking about the same reporter who peddled all those crazy, unsubstantiated allegations about torture at Abu Ghraib prison. You can't be too careful with a journalistic loose cannon like that.

But now that Sy's Iranian nightmare – including the nuclear aspect of it – has been confirmed by the semi-official media, you'd think we could expect a little more ruckus about it from someone other than Helen Thomas. (No disrepect intended to Thomas, but she's probably the media personality the White House would most like to see taking point on this story.)

Even by the corrupt and debased standards of our times, this is a remarkable thing. The U.S. government is planning aggressive nuclear war (the neocons can give it whatever doublespeak name they like, but it is what it is); those plans have been described in some detail in a major magazine and on the front page of the Washington Post; the most the President of the United States is willing to say about it is that the reports are "speculative" (which is not a synonym for "untrue") and yet as I write these words the lead story on the CNN web site is:

ABC pushes online TV envelope

Nobody Wants to See John Ashcroft Now Either

As Atrios notes, Vancouver practically cannot give away tickets to see former Attorney General and still pompous self-righteous schmuck John Ashcroft speak. I might pay to have him shut up, however.

Bush and Colin Powell Lied About Iraq Mobile Labs But the Media Should Apologize?

Just when you think this White House cannot possibly get anymore brazen, Judd at Think Progress brings us this:

On May 29, 2003, President Bush said “We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories.” This morning the Washington Post revealed that a Pentagon field report transmitted to Washington on May 27, 2003 “had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons.”

Today during the White House press briefing, Scott McClellan demanded a public apology from the news media for covering the story:
    You know, I saw some reporting talking about how this latest revelation — which is not something that is new; this is all old information that’s being rehashed — was an embarrassment for the White House. No, it’s an embarrassment for the media that is out there reporting this.

    I brought up with some of you earlier today some of the reporting that was based of this Washington Post report. And I talked to one of network about it…they expressed their apologies to the White House.

    I hope they will go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made, because I think it is important given that they had made those statements in front of all their viewers. So we look forward to that happening as well.
McClellan’s complaint is that the Washington Post and others suggest that President Bush may have known about the report before he made definitive statements that the trailers were for the purpose of building biological weapons.

When McClellan was asked when the White House became aware of the Pentagon field report, however, McClellan couldn’t say. He told the press corps “I’m looking into that matter” but the answer was “not the point.”

Did Bush Tell the Prosecutor What He Told Us, I.E. a Lie?

Martin Schram makes a very important point in this Ventura County Star newspaper column:

There is only one major question that remains publicly unanswered concerning President Bush in the special prosecutor's probe of the leak campaign to discredit Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson that ended up outing his wife, ex-CIA covert agent Valerie Plame.

It isn't the famous: What did the president know and when did he know it? (We now know a good bit about what this president knew and when he knew it. And what he did after he knew it.)

It is: Did the president tell the special prosecutor's team all the truth he knew, or did he tell them the same thing he told us back then?

We need to know because what Bush was telling us in 2003 — that he knew nothing about the leaks and wanted to find and fire all leakers — ran the narrow gamut from misleading half-truth to bald-faced untruth.

Of course, it is not a federal crime for a president to lie to the American people when he is not under oath. (No, the usual punishment we inflict upon incumbent presidents who lie is to re-elect them.)

But it is a crime for anyone to mislead, impede or lie to federal investigators — whether they are not under oath to tell the truth or not. For a president or a vice president, it can be an impeachable crime. (This point was argued most persuasively by congressional Republicans a few years ago as they made a federal case out of an incident that was not about national security, but consensual oral sex.)
Thanks to Buzzflash for the link.

Comprehensive US/Iraq Database

Invictus at Blah3 brings us this:

It's all here. Frankly, it's overwhelming.

Immigration Bill Fallout

Denny Hastert and Bill Frist are working to distance themselves from the bill's harshness, the cowards! From the WaPo:

In the wake of this week's massive demonstrations, many House Republicans are worried that a tough anti-illegal-immigration bill they thought would please their political base has earned them little benefit while becoming a lightning rod for the fast-growing national movement for immigrant rights.

House Republicans rushed through legislation just before Christmas that would build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, require that businesses verify the legality of all employees' status through a national database, fortify border patrols, and declare illegal immigrants and those who help them to be felons. After more lenient legislation failed in the Senate last week, the House-passed version burst into the public consciousness this week, as hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country turned out to denounce the bill.

Yesterday, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) issued a joint statement seeking to deflect blame for the harshest provisions of the House bill toward the Democrats, who they said showed a lack of compassion. "It remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony," Hastert and Frist said.
Elsewhere in WaPo, Bush also acts like the cowardly lion on immigration:
White House spokeswoman Erin Healey said she would not divulge internal discussions about what the president agreed to say last week, but she asserted that Bush has been "very engaged in this issue." She reiterated his support for a comprehensive bill that would tighten border patrols, toughen the enforcement of laws outlawing employment of undocumented workers, and expand a temporary guest-worker program for both illegal immigrants and legal foreign workers seeking access to the U.S. labor market.

Last night, citing Bush's Saturday radio address, in which he spoke of "a promising bipartisan compromise," Healey said Bush had expressed "strong support" for the Senate agreement.

With Bush on the sidelines, it may be the demonstrators who will drive the process forward.

As he watched tens of thousands of marchers in the streets of Phoenix, Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) noted that the demonstration kicked off with a rendition of the national anthem amid a sea of U.S. flags. Shadegg voted for the House bill, but he said yesterday's orderly, patriotic marches should help the cause of lawmakers from both parties who want to temper the bill and add an avenue to legal employment.

American Majority Believes Bush Did Wrong in CIA Leak

From Ed&Pub on the latest Gallup poll:

A new Gallup poll released today finds that most Americans are critical of President Bush's actions in the Plame/CIA leak scandal, but only one in four is following the matter closely.

Overall, 63% of Americans believe Bush did something either illegal (21%) or unethical (42%), while 28% say he did nothing wrong. While many more Democrats are critical, 3 in 10 Republicans also find that Bush did something illegal or unethical. The more closely people are following the issue, the more likely they are to say he did something illegal rather than merely unethical.

The poll, conducted April 7-9, 2006, shows that just 25% of Americans are following the matter "very" closely, while another 39% are following the issue "somewhat" closely. Another 36% are not following the issue closely at all.

Despite the latest turns in the CIA leak case, and news from Iraq, the president's overall approval rating did not fall still further, hanging on at 37%, which is in line with most other polls.

I'm Still Peeved About the Censoring of Cheney Being Booed Loudly and Roundly at Nationals Opener Tuesday

I just can't believe that the TV media in particular - and even the Washington Post - took what certainly was a news item: loud public booing and catcalls during VP Dick Cheney yesterday as he threw out (badly) the opening ball at the Nationals opener, and hid it from the public.

Feds: Proof of US Citizenship Needed for Health Care

Nice. Keep illegal immigrants out of even basic health care. For heaven's sake... how awful!

Ewww... Sushi is Almost Exclusively Tied to the Evil Reverend Sun-Myung Moon

Dedalus brings us this at Blah3 (and ouch... I just had some very nice California Roll last Friday, too):

Ah sheesh, can't a guy enjoy a nice piece of unagi anymore? There's a whole lot of people who know the Unification Church better than me, but I don't think I've ever even heard of this angle: to paraphrase Bill Maher, when you dine on sushi, you dine with Moon:
    In a remarkable story that has gone largely untold, Moon and his followers created an enterprise that reaped millions of dollars by dominating one of America's trendiest indulgences: sushi. [....]

    Adhering to a plan Moon spelled out more than three decades ago in a series of sermons, members of his movement managed to integrate virtually every facet of the highly competitive seafood industry. The Moon followers' seafood operation is driven by a commercial powerhouse, known as True World Group. It builds fleets of boats, runs dozens of distribution centers and, each day, supplies most of the nation's estimated 9,000 sushi restaurants.

    Although few seafood lovers may consider they're indirectly supporting Moon's religious movement, they do just that when they eat a buttery slice of tuna or munch on a morsel of eel in many restaurants. True World is so ubiquitous that 14 of 17 prominent Chicago sushi restaurants surveyed by the Tribune said they were supplied by the company. [....]

    Moon predicted in 1974 that the fishing business would "lay a foundation for the future economy of the Unification Church." In fact, while Moon and businesses affiliated with him reportedly have poured millions of dollars into money-losing ventures including The Washington Times newspaper, the seafood ventures have created a profit-making infrastructure that could last-and help support the church-long after the 86-year-old Moon is gone.
Ugh, ugh, UGH.

Venezuela Has 5 Times the Crude Oil of Saudi Arabia?

That's what the BBC's Greg Palast said today on Democracy Now.

This makes Hugo Chavez much more of a player on the world stage and this comes at a time when the Bushies are trying so hard to oust Chavez, regardless of the fact that his people want him to stay. The Bushies already helped stage a coup to get rid of Chavez, who made it back.

I've never quite reached a conclusion as to whether Chavez is a good guy or a bad guy. But the more I watch the Bushies try to take him out, the more I begin to question if Chavez is on the side of better than the Bushies. The Bushies seem to oppose any democratically elected leader, anyone who sides (at least to some degree) with the normal people, and anyone who doesn't just gouge on gas. Which is why we've been buying gas almost exclusively at Citgo for quite awhile now, even though the closest station is nearly 25 miles away (but no gas station is close to us in the hinterlands).


Asia Times: Bush Will Rebound Because He Will Attack Iran

This is a chilling column from Spengel in Asia Times which basically predicts the GOP will win the mid-term 2006 elections by a landside because Bush will be back on top because Bush will use the nuclear option and attack Iran.


Fox News: Aren't Immigration Rallies Perfect Opportunity to Arrest Illegal Immigrants?

Can they arrest Bill O'Reilly for sexual deviancy and the rest of them for flat out lying with an FCC license while they're at it?

Think Progress has the story.

Berlusconi Won't Go Quietly

The Times informs us that, like George Bush in 2000, Silvio Berlusconi will contest the results of the Italian election and try to use a cooked court to decide the results in his favor. Fascist.

So Why the Hell Was the Reaction - Thunderous Boos - to Cheney Today Suppressed?

All day long, I've seen all these folks coming in on a search that pulled up my note last year about Cheney (and Bush before him) booed as they threw out the first ball at the start of baseball season. But when I was watching today's event on the news, I always saw Cheney with NO sound track whatsoever.

Now I know why the searches and why the no sound track: because Cheney was met with far MORE negative reaction today than last year. Fox News killed the audio during the live airing, but CNN and MSNBC where I saw it replayed just ran no audio with it to hide the fact that he was greeted with jeers. Never did the folks working the desk mention one goddamned thing about it while I watched either.

Makes you wonder what else they spin... like we don't know.

Another Article on Iran

Reader Jane posting in comments recommends this additional article on Iran and the Bushies plans for it.

As First Amendment Violators, Bush and Justice Department Earn "Muzzle" Prizes

From Wired:

President Bush and the Justice Department are among the winners of the 2006 Jefferson Muzzle awards, given by a free-speech group to those it considers the most egregious First Amendment violators in the past year.

Bush led the list, compiled by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, for authorizing the National Security Agency to tap the phones of U.S. citizens who make calls overseas. The wiretaps were conducted without authorization from a federal court. The White House defended the warrantless wiretapping program as necessary to fight terrorism.

The Justice Department earned a Muzzle for demanding that Google turn over thousands of Internet records, prompting concerns that more invasive requests could follow if the government prevails.

"If individuals are fearful that their communications will be intercepted by the government, such fears are likely to chill their speech," the Jefferson center said.

Other winners of the 15th annual awards include the Department of Homeland Security for barring an air marshal from expressing concerns about public safety; the Yelm, Wash., City Council for banning the words "Wal-Mart" and "big-box stores" at public hearings; and students at the University of Connecticut who heckled conservative columnist Ann Coulter.

Speaking of Iraq: Newt Gingrich Wants Us Out

From Editor and Publisher, from (sadly) US 2008 prez candidate Newt Gingrich:

"It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003," Gingrich said during an informal question-and-answer session at the school, according to the newspaper. "We have to pull back, and we have to recognize it."
I agree with Newt here, but I sure as hell don't want him for president.

Four More Marines Die in Iraq Today

This after we lost several over the weekend.

Poll Shows Now 45% of Americans Want Bush Censured for His Actions

Without doubt, this number will rise substantially in coming weeks.

Secret Police Arrest Al Qaeda Critic for "Destructive Thoughts"

A Human Rights Watch release published at Common Dreams' newswire:

NEW YORK - April 11 – Saudi authorities in the northern city of Ha’il should immediately release Rabbah al-Quwai’i, a journalist for Riyadh’s al-Shams newspaper, Human Rights Watch said today. The group also urged Turki al-Sudairy, Saudi Arabia’s minister for human rights, to open a public inquiry into the role of the country’s security and intelligence services in al-Quwai’i’s arrest.

On April 3, Saudi Arabia’s domestic intelligence agency, (al-mabahith), arrested al-Quwai’i, 24, on charges of “doubting the [Islamic] creed” and for “harboring destructive thoughts.” Al-Quwai’i had been a frequent contributor to Internet discussion forums in Ha’il and was the editor for the media section of the Saudi Internet forum “A Body of Culture,” (Jasad al-Thaqafa). His writings questioned prevalent religious doctrine and in particular criticized thinking that in his view contributed to acts of violence in Saudi Arabia by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Quwai’i’s arrest added a new twist to his trouble with the mabahith, which had failed to investigate death threats he received in November 2005 because of his Internet writings. International human rights law protects free speech, including criticism of religion and society, but bans incitement to violence, such as death threats.

Progressive: I Like It!

I happened to catch this dictionary.com definition of a Progressive on Common Dreams' site tonight and I liked it enough to want to share because it's idealistically how I see myself.


    Moving forward; advancing.
    Proceeding in steps; continuing steadily by increments: progressive change.
    Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods: a progressive politician; progressive business leadership.
    A person who actively favors or strives for progress toward better conditions, as in society or government.

Paul Krugman on Bush and Iran

Since The Times put the editorial columnists like Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman behind a premium subscription wall, I've had to depend on the kindness of strangers and reprint sites to enjoy them (I'm sure many of you are in the same boat).

Today's - or rather, yesterday's dated April 10th - column from Krugman comes courtesy of Common Dreams; again, it's one I encourage you to read in full, but as usual, here's a snippy-snip:

"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many people just didn't want to believe that an American president would deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace.

Now people with contacts in the administration and the military warn that Mr. Bush may be planning another war. The most alarming of the warnings come from Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal. Writing in The New Yorker, Mr. Hersh suggests that administration officials believe that a bombing campaign could lead to desirable regime change in Iran - and that they refuse to rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

"But he wouldn't do that," say people who think they're being sensible. Given what we now know about the origins of the Iraq war, however, discounting the possibility that Mr. Bush will start another ill-conceived and unnecessary war isn't sensible. It's wishful thinking.
Why might Mr. Bush want another war? For one thing, Mr. Bush, whose presidency is increasingly defined by the quagmire in Iraq, may believe that he can redeem himself with a new Mission Accomplished moment.

And it's not just Mr. Bush's legacy that's at risk. Current polls suggest that the Democrats could take one or both houses of Congress this November, acquiring the ability to launch investigations backed by subpoena power. This could blow the lid off multiple Bush administration scandals. Political analysts openly suggest that an attack on Iran offers Mr. Bush a way to head off this danger, that an appropriately timed military strike could change the domestic political dynamics.

Does this sound far-fetched? It shouldn't. Given the combination of recklessness and dishonesty Mr. Bush displayed in launching the Iraq war, why should we assume that he wouldn't do it again?

Paul Krugman on Bush and Iran

Since The Times put the editorial columnists like Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman behind a premium subscription wall, I've had to depend on the kindness of strangers and reprint sites to enjoy them (I'm sure many of you are in the same boat).

Today's - or rather, yesterday's dated April 10th - column from Krugman comes courtesy of Common Dreams; again, it's one I encourage you to read in full, but as usual, here's a snippy-snip:

"But he wouldn't do that." That sentiment is what made it possible for President Bush to stampede America into the Iraq war and to fend off hard questions about the reasons for that war until after the 2004 election. Many people just didn't want to believe that an American president would deliberately mislead the nation on matters of war and peace.

Now people with contacts in the administration and the military warn that Mr. Bush may be planning another war. The most alarming of the warnings come from Seymour Hersh, the veteran investigative journalist who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal. Writing in The New Yorker, Mr. Hersh suggests that administration officials believe that a bombing campaign could lead to desirable regime change in Iran - and that they refuse to rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

"But he wouldn't do that," say people who think they're being sensible. Given what we now know about the origins of the Iraq war, however, discounting the possibility that Mr. Bush will start another ill-conceived and unnecessary war isn't sensible. It's wishful thinking.
Why might Mr. Bush want another war? For one thing, Mr. Bush, whose presidency is increasingly defined by the quagmire in Iraq, may believe that he can redeem himself with a new Mission Accomplished moment.

And it's not just Mr. Bush's legacy that's at risk. Current polls suggest that the Democrats could take one or both houses of Congress this November, acquiring the ability to launch investigations backed by subpoena power. This could blow the lid off multiple Bush administration scandals. Political analysts openly suggest that an attack on Iran offers Mr. Bush a way to head off this danger, that an appropriately timed military strike could change the domestic political dynamics.

Does this sound far-fetched? It shouldn't. Given the combination of recklessness and dishonesty Mr. Bush displayed in launching the Iraq war, why should we assume that he wouldn't do it again?

Fun with American History

MissM reprises a pretty funny story about immigrants and American History from the All Spin Zone. Go read it and get a much-needed laugh.

BTW, About That Rise in Gas Prices

While the media is spinning it that the sharp rise in the past two weeks of gas prices has to do with the discovery that there is actually less availability than before or that production has topped out, that's not entirely the case.

Instead, the prices first spiked with the initial news about the Bushies' plans toward Iran, which called far more attention to Iran's nuclear testing. When the White House did more saber rattling - guess what? - the prices for crude went higher.

Now, some of us predicted this kind of game playing when you have two gas/energy company men in the White House. But everyone is going to pay through the nose for this.


The announcement about the tests this morning did not help, of course. But none of us can afford to believe the Bushies that they are pursuing only diplomatic measures on Iran.

We heard this on Iraq as well and it simply was not true. We've learned many times and in many ways that Saddam and Iraq were on target even before 9/11 and certainly afterward. I think Iran's been on the drawing board for a long time as well.

Hearing Bush on it yesterday and Rumsfeld pooh-poohing it today made me believe them less rather than more; they wouldn't need to expend such hyperbole if they had nothing to hide.

DNA and the Duke LaCrosse Team

Even among the media, there has been widespread surprise that the D.A. in the area of North Carolina where the supposed acts of sexual violence took place, allegedly by white members of the Duke LaCross team, against an "exotic dancer" is choosing to pursue charges despite the failure of DNA to tie these men to the event.

Unfortunately, I think this speaks volumes about the lack of understanding people have about DNA and scientific crime scene analysis in general. It is NOT unusual to fail to have DNA evidence, despite what CSI tells you. Also, the kind of DNA analysis done in a very short period of time is not the kind of exhaustive testing that can be done over a period of sometimes months. DNA is only recovered in a portion of crimes; the same is true with fingerprints and other forms of evidence. Crime shows make it so fancy and certain, but it just often is not. Also, DNA analysis is still relatively new; there is so much we still do not know about it.

I am glad to see some of the members of the community beginning to rally around the supposed victim, reminding the public this woman was not just an exotic dancer but a college co-ed, a mother of two small children trying to support those kids the best way she could. I don't know if events played out as she said or if the Duke LaCrosse team - all or in part - is guilty. But I do know that even a prostitute can be raped and sodomized against his or her will and this is violence whenever a person says No and is still acted upon anyway.


Raw Story: Secret Service Documents Call More Question Around Jeff Gannon

Like they're weren't enough questions about JD Guckert/Jeff Gannon already.

Gannon’s ready access to President Bush and his work for a news agency that frequently plagiarized content from other reporters and tailored it to serve a conservative message may raise new questions about the White House’s attempts to seed favorable news coverage. Democrats have sought to paint Guckert in the context of other efforts by the Administration to “plant” positive spin by paying for video news releases and columnists to espouse their views.

Guckert made more than 200 appearances at the White House during his two-year tenure with the fledging conservative websites GOPUSA and Talon News, attending 155 of 196 White House press briefings. He had little to no previous journalism experience, previously worked as a male escort, and was refused a congressional press pass.

Perhaps more notable than the frequency of his attendance, however, is several distinct anomalies about his visits.

Guckert made more than two dozen excursions to the White House when there were no scheduled briefings. On many of these days, the Press Office held press gaggles aboard Air Force One—which raises questions about what Guckert was doing at the White House. On other days, the president held photo opportunities.

On at least fourteen occasions, Secret Service records show either the entry or exit time missing. Generally, the existing entry or exit times correlate with press conferences; on most of these days, the records show that Guckert checked in but was never processed out.

In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on fourteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held; on another, he checked in twice but failed to check out.

“I’d be worried if I was the White House and I knew that a reporter with a day pass never left,” one White House reporter told RAW STORY. “I’d wonder, where is he hiding? It seems like a security risk.”

Others who have covered the White House say not checking in or out with the Secret Service is unusual, especially in the wake of Sept. 11. The Secret Service declined to comment.

The City with the Lowest Quality of Life?

For the third year running, it's Baghdad.

Oh gosh. Come to think of it, that's exactly how long *we* have controlled Baghdad, isn't it? Hmmm.

More Than Two Million Marched on Monday

That's the number the UK Independent pegs Monday's immigration rallies at. Wow.

Ed&Pub's Greg Mitchell Follows Up on US Propaganda on al Zarqawi et al

I couldn't believe this story which I highlighted yesterday got almost no attention today - the media was too busy trying to discredit Sy Hersh today for his "we're gonna nuke Iran" article - specifically, that the US government has planted propaganda to increase the supposed importance of terrorist players like al Zarqawi. But at least Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell was paying attention.

I encourage you to read the piece in its entirely, but here's a snippy-snippet:

“Leaks to reporters from U.S. officials in Iraq are common, but official evidence of a propaganda operation using an American reporter is rare,” Ricks observed. He quoted Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's chief spokesman when the propaganda campaign began in 2004: "We trusted Dexter to write an accurate story, and we gave him a good scoop."

Filkins, in an e-mail to Ricks, said he assumed the military was releasing the Zarqawi letter "because it had decided it was in its best interest to have it publicized." He told Ricks he was skeptical about the document's authenticity then, and remains so now.

But Ricks' article, if anything, underplays the impact of the letter in February 2004--and if Filkins had qualms about its authenticity, it hardly deterred him and his paper from giving it serious, and largely uncritical, attention.

Christians Sue for the Right to Discriminate

Lovely. From the Chicago Tribune.

Criminal Diebold-Voting Conflict of Interest

Why I can rarely find anything on this story in the U.S. but can in other countries just boggles my mind and fries my... well, another part of my anatomy.

The Secretary of State in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, a man who caused much concern at the time, turns out to hold a large number of shares in Diebold, the electronic voting folks. His story is probably as bogus as the Ohio 2004 presidential vote results.

Ohio is reeling with a mixture of outrage and hilarity as Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has revealed that he has owned stock in the Diebold voting machine company, to which Blackwell tried to award unbid contracts worth millions while allowing its operators to steal Ohio elections. A top Republican election official also says a Diebold operative told him he made a $50,000 donation to Blackwell's "political interests."

A veritable army of attorneys on all sides of Ohio's political spectrum will soon report whether Blackwell has violated the law. But in any event, the revelations could have a huge impact on the state whose dubiously counted electoral votes gave George W. Bush a second term. Diebold's GEMS election software was used in about half of Ohio counties in the 2004 election. Because of Blackwell's effort, 41 counties used Diebold machines in Ohio's highly dubious 2005 election, and now 47 counties will use Diebold touchscreen voting machines in the May 2006 primary, and in the fall election that will decide who will be the state's new governor.

Blackwell is the frontrunner for Ohio's Republican nomination for governor. The first African-American to hold statewide office, the former mayor of Cincinnati made millions in deals involving extreme right-wing "religious" radio stations.

As part of his campaign filings he has been required to divulge the contents of his various stock portfolios. Blackwell says that in the process he was "surprised" to learn he owned Diebold shares. According to central Ohio's biggest daily, the conservative Republican "Columbus Dispatch," Blackwell claims his multi-million-dollar portfolio has been handled "by a financial manager without his advice or review."
Thanks to Buzzflash for the link.

Bush and GOP Keep Falling in Polls - Lowest Figures Yet for This Particular Poll

What a surprise (yawn); from WaPo:

Political reversals at home and continued bad news from Iraq have dragged President Bush's standing with the public to a new low, at the same time that Republican fortunes on Capitol Hill also are deteriorating, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 38 percent of the public approve of the job Bush is doing, down three percentage points in the past month and his worst showing in Post-ABC polling since he became president. Sixty percent disapprove of his performance.

With less than seven months remaining before the midterm elections, Bush's political troubles already appear to be casting a long shadow over them. Barely a third of registered voters, 35 percent, approve of the way the Republican-held Congress is doing its job -- the lowest level of support in nine years.

Our Anti-Democracy White House Tied to Illegal 2002 Phone Jamming Case in NH

Goddamn them! From the AssPress:

WASHINGTON - Key figures in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in 2002 had regular contact with the White House and Republican Party as the plan was unfolding, phone records introduced in criminal court show.

The records show that Bush campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 — as the phone jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.

The national Republican Party, which paid millions in legal bills to defend Tobin, says the contacts involved routine election business and that it was "preposterous" to suggest the calls involved phone jamming.

The Justice Department has secured three convictions in the case but hasn't accused any White House or national Republican officials of wrongdoing, nor made any allegations suggesting party officials outside New Hampshire were involved. The phone records of calls to the White House were exhibits in Tobin's trial but prosecutors did not make them part of their case.

Democrats plan to ask a federal judge Tuesday to order GOP and White House officials to answer questions about the phone jamming in a civil lawsuit alleging voter fraud.

Repeated hang-up calls that jammed telephone lines at a Democratic get-out-the-vote center occurred in a Senate race in which Republican John Sununu defeated Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, 51 percent to 46 percent, on Nov. 5, 2002.

Hundreds of Thousands Marched Today in Over 90 Cities

(applauding loudly)

Picture lifted shamefully (as opposed to shamelessly) from the great Skippy of Skippy International.

"Thank You for Smoking": The Movie

Have you seen it?

Skippy has and liked it. But I'd love to hear your opinion since I want to go see it (as a neighbor of the place that produces the cheddar cheese derided in the film, Cabot Creamery as well as a neighbor of Bill Macy - at least, he did live here close to David Mamet).

Iran: When, Not If

The president's happy horseshit today aside, Stranger and Invictus at Blah3 are discussing when we'll strike Iraq. Like them, I think that - unless something greatly changes - our strike on Iran is probably a certainty (something I am very, very, very sad to think).

Time's "Why Iraq Was a Mistake"

MissM reprints some of the key passages from the above-referenced article by a retired military man that I think is well worth reading.

Christian Coalition Shrinks as Debt Grows

Couldn't happen to a nicer group of people. From MSNBC from the WaPo:

In an era when conservative Christians enjoy access and influence throughout the federal government, the organization that fueled their rise has fallen on hard times.

The once-mighty Christian Coalition, founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors' lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters.

In March, one of its most effective chapters, the Christian Coalition of Iowa, cut ties with the national organization and reincorporated itself as the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying it "found it impossible to continue to carry a name that in any way associated us with this national organization."

Berlusconi Out?

It's looking like this could be the case, although reporters in Italy now indicate the lead by his centrist Democrat challenger is narrowing.

Let us hope Berlusconi goes.

France's Protesters Get Results

France has backed off on the law that sent millions to the streets.

Hmmm... something to be learned from this?


Christian Science Monitor: Leaker in Chief

One last one before I go beddie-bye (and in that first paragraph, I sure as hell question the president's right to declassify information selectively for his own selfish purposes!):

The president is not accused of illegality. And no one questions his legal right to declassify information. But critics are now charging Mr. Bush with hypocrisy - a development that makes efforts to put his presidency back on track all the more daunting.

"Here's why this hurts: It reminds people again that the intelligence was bad and we're in Iraq without end for some of the wrong reasons, and that's at the heart of his 36 percent," says Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, referring to Bush's job approval rating in recent polls.

Democracy Falters in the Arab World, Despite the Bushies Worst Efforts

The more the Bushies pushed, the worse it has gotten:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 9 — Steps toward democracy in the Arab world, a crucial American goal that just months ago was cause for optimism — with elections held in Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian areas — are slowing, blocked by legal maneuvers and official changes of heart throughout the Middle East.

Analysts and officials say the political rise of Islamists, the chaos in Iraq, the newfound Shiite power in Iraq with its implication for growing Iranian influence, and the sense among some rulers that they can wait out the end of the Bush administration have put the brakes on democratization.

"It feels like everything is going back to the bad old days, as if we never went through any changes at all," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, editor in chief of Forbes Arabia and a prominent Saudi columnist and advocate. "Everyone is convinced now that there was no serious or genuine belief in change from the governments. It was just a reaction to pressure by the international media and the U.S."

Want Another Eight Years of Bush? (GOD! NOOOOO!)

Then vote John McCain, says this piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (by my hero, Helen Thomas) which I think makes a lot of (very sad) sense:

In his bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain is moving to the right.

The Arizona Republican, who failed to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, is the most visible Republican on television, outside the White House, and seems to never pass up an opportunity to appear on Sunday talk shows.

All this appears to be part of his effort to transform his image as a maverick independent so that he can make his pitch to the conservative Republican base that will vote in the party's primaries and caucuses two years hence.
Electing McCain would be an extremely grave mistake; it was before he moved to the right and it's even moreso now.

Ariel Sharon: A Little Late, Eh?

WaPo says Ariel Sharon will finally be ruled "incapacitated".

I think brain dead is probably quite a bit more honest and to the point, no? This is ridiculous.

Meanwhile, what's happening to the Palestinian people in the wake of the Hamas election and all the attention on Sharon is just criminal. It's getting much worse for the normal people now, and it was already abyssmally tough before.

Washington's Leak Culture

The LA Times explores this in enough detail that you will probably want to read.

Colin Powell: Huge Mistakes in Iraq

Read it here, including the fact that we did not have enough troops on the ground and ignored early warning signs of trouble.

I Cannot Stress Enough

how big a deal the propaganda story in the WaPo is. If this is not the lead story throughout this week, then something really is irreparably broken with our media because this administration has a most vested interest in keeping bin Laden and al Zarqawi as the chief bogeymen; to have a revelation that this has been manufactured (something so many of us have believed to be true even before 2001) is a huge step forward.

This is a Big Deal: From WaPo

From today's WaPo, as linked to by Buzzflash - read beyond the quote for why I think this is a huge deal for us:

The U.S. military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The documents state that the U.S. campaign aims to turn Iraqis against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, by playing on their perceived dislike of foreigners. U.S. authorities claim some success with that effort, noting that some tribal Iraqi insurgents have attacked Zarqawi loyalists.

For the past two years, U.S. military leaders have been using Iraqi media and other outlets in Baghdad to publicize Zarqawi's role in the insurgency. The documents explicitly list the "U.S. Home Audience" as one of the targets of a broader propaganda campaign.

Some senior intelligence officers believe Zarqawi's role may have been overemphasized by the propaganda campaign, which has included leaflets, radio and television broadcasts, Internet postings and at least one leak to an American journalist. Although Zarqawi and other foreign insurgents in Iraq have conducted deadly bombing attacks, they remain "a very small part of the actual numbers," Col. Derek Harvey, who served as a military intelligence officer in Iraq and then was one of the top officers handling Iraq intelligence issues on the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told an Army meeting at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., last summer.
English journalist Robert Fisk said on last Friday's Democracy Now - and something he has indicated before - that he has strong doubts about whether al Zarqawi has been alive for sometime. Apparently, it's unheard of in Muslim tradition not to honor the death of one's parent. Yet when his mother died in early 2004, there was NO word from him. He feels that al Zarqawi may have died a long time ago and that the U.S. has chosen to run him as a phantom for media purposes.

Lieberman: May Run for Senate as Indy if Dems Fail to Nominate Him

According to reporting at DailyKos, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who has seemed FAR more like a right-wing GOP hawk than a Dem since Bush came to power, has said he will NOT rule out running as an Independent if the Connecticut Dem party fails to give him the nomination over Ned Lamont, his primary Dem challenger.

I don't see Lieberman making it as an Indy. I'm not sure he'd win as a Dem this time out either.

Can You Figure Out Why Dept of Homeland Insecurity Harassed This Fellow?

I cannot. But we're hearing more and more incidents where - besides being fascinated with very young girls - these folks are just bullying people.

I especially liked the part where "they're looking into it" but they're sure the guy was wrong. Uh huh.

Blair's Envoy Warns of Arrested Iraqis Disappearing into Black Hole Created by Coalition

Very, very disturbing, especially when read on Iraq's "Freedom Day":

Iraqis arrested by coalition forces have disappeared into a 'black hole' with no records of where they are being held, Tony Blair's personal envoy on human rights has warned.

Ann Clwyd said if the scandal of the missing prisoners had been taken more seriously from the start by the US, it could have helped prevent the abuse of detainees in their jails.

In an interview with The Observer, the Labour MP said she was 'very unhappy' at the rising numbers still detained - and called on the Iraqi government to publish a report on claims that inmates were tortured by Iraqi jailers.

Clwyd, appointed after decades of campaigning against Saddam Hussein's regime, reports directly to the Prime Minister and has until now rarely discussed her work.

She has spoken out amid growing criticism of Britain's failure to stop abuses in Iraq, arguing that suggestions Blair was unwilling to confront the US administration on such issues were wrong: 'I know, in conversations he has with the people of influence in the US, he doesn't pull his punches. He pushes them, sometimes with direct results.'

Clwyd's own files include two alarming cases highlighting the issue of the missing - and the scale of effort required to trace them.

The first involves an elderly woman arrested shortly after the war in the middle of the night by US soldiers. With her family unable to find her, relatives in Britain sought Clwyd's help.

Oh, Mr. Rumsfeld?

The Army is facing a major shortage of officers... not to mention body armor, bullets, soldiers, reservists...

Shall I go on?

Rem... Remi...Remin....Remind...Reminde...Reminder

Blah3 is looking for its first million visitors before the end of April. They have an interesting crew of posters frequently offering different material than you find on 99 out of 100 other blogs.

Stop by, visit, and don't bite. ;)

Our Economy and the Dollar

Monkeyfister at Blah3 offers us a fascinating bit of information I did NOT know about. Did you?

So Much For Dollarizing Tthe Global Economy...
    Six months ago, the Federal Reserve quietly announced that as of March 20, 2006, they would no longer publish "M3" Data. The "M3" was the amount of cash the government printed to put into circulation, propping-up the U.S. economy. As of eight days ago, M3 data is no longer being reported, so there is no way for the public, investors or bond holders to know how much currency exists - and no way to gauge how much a "dollar" is truly worth. Three separate sources in the U.S. Treasury have told us that this week, the Federal Reserve ordered TWO TRILLION dollars to be printed secretly! The U.S. Treasury is allegedly running printing presses 24/7 to accommodate that order. Treasury employees were specifically ORDERED not to talk about this to anyone because it could cause economic collapse. This probably explains why the US Treasury Secretary resigned several months ago and was replaced by a Bush flunkey, and why Greenspan resigned from the Fed several weeks ago, not wanting to go down with the Titanic. We were also told that the whole Immigration Amnesty Debate (especially the well-funded well-attended protests) was deliberately scheduled to take place now, to divert attention from this massive printing/devaluation of the U.S. Dollar. The White House apparently hoped that by the time anyone found out about the flooding of the market with dollars, they could stage an event, such as an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, that would distract the public entirely.

Questions About UK Times Article on Niger Document Forgeries

Josh Marshall is on the case.

Maureen Dowd: The Divine Right of the Bushes


From today's Dowd:

W. subscribes to the Nixonian theory that when a president does it, it's not illegal — or maybe it's the divine right of kings. God has been pretty active in Republican politics lately: Tom DeLay said God told him to drop out of his re-election race. If the administration were seriously trying to declassify something in the national interest, wouldn't it have President Bush explain his decision or have his Scottish terrier yip it out from the podium, rather than having Scooter whisper it in Judy's ear?

Instead, sounding very Lewis Carroll, the White House claims that when the president leaks something secret, it's not secret anymore. It's the Immaculate Declassification: intelligence is declassified by passing it on to a friendly reporter.

"The president believes the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter," Scott McClellan said. "And I think that's why it's important to draw a distinction here. Declassifying information and providing it to the public, when it is in the public interest, is one thing. But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious. And there is a distinction." And thank goodness we have a White House that gets that distinction. Democrats who don't, he sniffed, are guilty of "crass politics."

If W. wants the information out, it's good for the country to make it public. If W. doesn't want the information out, it's bad for the country to make it public. L'état, c'est moi.

That's how we got mired in the Iraq war in the first place. The administration ruthlessly held back classified information that contradicted its bogus case for war, and leaked classified information that supported it.

The Bushies keep trying to manipulate reality, but reality bites back. That's not only crass politics. It's lethal politics. L'état, c'est mess.

Did You Know Today is Freedom Day in Iraq?

Well, apparently, they don't know it there either.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Five roadside bombs killed at least three people in Iraq on Sunday — the three-year anniversary of the Baghdad's fall to U.S. forces. Iraq police and soldiers bolstered security in the capital to prevent attacks on "Freedom Day."

The holiday marks the April 9, 2003 event in which a huge crowd of Iraqis cheered as U.S. Marines hauled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdous Square, marking the collapse of his regime.

American troops killed eight suspected insurgents in a pre-dawn raid north of the capital. Drivers in the capital were stopped and searched by Iraqi forces at extra checkpoints in the city.

Most Iraqis welcomed the end of Saddam's regime, but the insurgency, militias, rising sectarian violence, electricity shortages and political vacuum have all sapped much of the enthusiasm generated by the collapse of dictatorship.

"Iraqis are pleased and displeased," said Qassim Hassan, a soldier. "They are pleased because they got rid of tyranny and dictatorship, but they are displeased because they went from bad to worse. The Iraqi street is seething between sadness and terrorism."

Even U.S. officials acknowledged the mixed nature of the Iraq war's current stage.