Thursday, August 31, 2006

Broder Doesn't Like Democrats' New Calendar

David Broder of the Washington Post is disappointed in the Democratic party for adjusting their caucus and primary calendar.

Well, the Democrats have gone and messed it up again.

I came back from a one-week vacation, out of reach of the news, to learn that the Democratic National Committee in its wisdom had further muddled the calendar of events for choosing the 2008 presidential nominee.

At a meeting in Chicago Aug. 19, the committee decided by voice vote to insert Nevada between Iowa and New Hampshire and to follow New Hampshire with a contest in South Carolina.

The revised calendar, at least tentatively, has the Iowa caucuses on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008, with Nevada holding its caucuses five days later, on Saturday, Jan. 19. Then it would be back across the country for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with South Carolina voting in a primary one week later, on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

All this effort to force-feed four contests in four different parts of the country into a two-week period at the start of the year is designed, the sponsors say, to make the presidential nominating process more "representative."

What they mean is that Iowa and New Hampshire, which have led the nominating process since 1976, are overwhelmingly white -- and notably short of the African American and Latino voters on whom Democrats depend in the general election.

Broder goes on to bemoan the lack of careful examination of the candidates by New Hampshire voters, and warns of a holiday season rush to judgment in the Democratic party.

What he is implicitly saying is that the black and Latino voters of South Carolina and Nevada will choose an immoderate candidate who will avoid the centrist positions that are so beloved by fossils like Broder.

The real risk is to the status quo -- reliable Democrats who vote with the Republicans on asinine war authorizations and hysteria-inspired "war on terror" legislation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Israel Names General To Plan War With Iran

This public announcement by Israel looks to be a information operation against Iran.

Israel has appointed a top general to oversee a war against Iran, prompting speculation that it is preparing for possible military action against Teheran's nuclear programme.

Maj Gen Elyezer Shkedy, Israel's air force chief, will be overall commander for the "Iran front", according to military sources spoken to by The Sunday Telegraph.

News of the appointment comes just days before a United Nations deadline expires for Iran to give up its nuclear programme, which Western governments fear will be used to produce atomic weapons. Despite Iran's offer last week to engage in "serious talks" on the matter, Israel fears even more than other Western nations that the offer is simply to buy time for Teheran to secure all the technology it needs to build the bomb.

"Israel is becoming extremely concerned now with what they see as Iran's delaying tactics," said the Israeli Iran expert Meir Javedanfar. "They [the planners] think negotiations are going nowhere and Iran is becoming a major danger for Israel.

"Now they are getting ready for living with a nuclear Iran or letting the military take care of it."

The prospect of Israel "living with" a nuclear Iran appears remote. Last week Giora Eiland, Israel's former national security adviser, told reporters that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, would "sacrifice half of Iran for the sake of eliminating Israel".

President Ahmadinejad "has a religious conviction that Israel's demise is essential to the restoration of Muslim glory, that the Zionist thorn in the heart of the Islamic nations must be removed," Mr Eiland said. Gen Shkedy, who was appointed to the role two months ago, will co-ordinate intelligence gathered by Israel's foreign spy agency Mossad and military sources, in order to draw up battle plans. Then, during any war with Iran, he will command the campaign from a "hotseat" in the Israel army's headquarters in Tel Aviv.

"It's natural that Shkedy is nominated to this role, because the air force is Israel's only force that can reach and sustain a military operation against Iran," said Uri Dromi, a former air force colonel and military analyst.

"Everyone is playing with dates and timeframes, but the list of options is becoming shorter," he added. "I think we have one year open [to launch military action]. Israel will have to decide."

Officially, Israel stresses that it does not want to take the lead in tackling Iran, and that a massive campaign of air strikes would be best led by America, which has forces in Iraq that are much closer to Iranian targets.

Gen Shkedy's appointment to the Iran command role was made by Israel's chief of staff Dan Halutz in the run-up to this summer's Lebanon war, but emerged only last week.

Gen Shkedy, 49, is the son of Holocaust survivors and has a picture in his office of an Israeli F15 flying over Auschwitz.

The father of three makes no bones about the Iranian threat to Israel. "Ahmadinejad is trying with all his might to reach a nuclear capability. There's no argument about his intentions," he said in an interview two months ago, about the time of his appointment.

"This ... nuclear weaponry can come to constitute an existential threat to Israel and the rest of the world. My job is to maximise our capabilities in every respect. Beyond that, in this case, the less said the better."

Monday, August 28, 2006

America's Moral Conscience Back In Action

Kenneth Starr is coming down on the wrong side of the most important Amendment here.

President Clinton's impeachment nemesis Kenneth Starr is staying busy. Monday, the former Independent Counsel is expected to file a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the suspension of a high school student disciplined for holding a banner across the street from campus reading, "BONG HITS 4 JESUS."

The incident occurred in January 2002, as the Olympic torch relay wound through Juneau, Alaska, en route to the winter games in Salt Lake City. As the torch passed by the school, student Joseph Frederick and friends unfurled the banner across the street from campus apparently to attract the attention of television cameras....

The school principal suspended Mr. Frederick -- allegedly the only student who disobeyed her command to put down the banner -- for 10 days. Mr. Frederick claimed the suspension violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. A federal district judge sided with the school, but a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously reversed.

Mr. Starr and other attorneys in the Los Angeles office of Kirkland & Ellis have accepted the case pro bono.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Government Refuses U.S. Re-Entry To Two Citizens Unless They First Submit to Questioning By FBI

Countries are required by international law to allow their own citizens re-entry.

This is plainly an abuse.

The U.S. government has barred two relatives of a California man convicted of attending Pakistani terrorism training camps from re-entering the country after an extended stay in Pakistan, even though both are U.S. citizens, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Saturday.

Muhammed Ismail, 45, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat.

Hayat, 23, was convicted in April of providing material support to terrorists by attending training camps in Pakistan between March 2003 and June 2005, and of lying about it to the FBI. He faces a possible sentence of up to 39 years in prison.

Hamid Hayat's father, Umer Hayat, was sentenced on Friday to time served and 36 months of supervised release after he pleaded guilty in May to lying about how much money he was carrying on a trip to his native Pakistan from the United States in 2003.

Umer Hayat, 48, told federal officials he was carrying only $10,000 but had $28,000.

The convictions resulted from a federal probe of the Pakistani immigrant community in Lodi, California, a small farm town in the state's Central Valley.

Federal authorities told the Chronicle that although neither Muhammed nor Jaber Ismail has been charged with a crime, they are barred from reentering the United States unless they submit to further FBI questioning in Pakistan.

Julia Harumi Mass, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who represents the family, said agents want to know if Jaber Ismail attended Pakistani terrorist training camps.

The men tried to return to the United States on April 21 with other family members but were turned away in Hong Kong and forced to return to Islamabad because they were on the government's "no-fly" list, Mass said.

Muhammad Ismail's wife, daughter and younger son, who were not on the list, continued on to the United States.

Mass said Jaber Ismail had answered questions during an FBI interrogation at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad after he was denied U.S. entry but declined to take a lie-detector test or be interviewed again without a lawyer.

Neither Ismail holds Pakistani citizenship, Mass said.

The proper way this should have been handled is for these men to be re-admitted to the U.S. and then any questioning could be arranged here without the coercive pressure from being stranded abroad.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church and State

This is somehow unsurprising.

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that a failure to elect Christians to political office will allow lawmaking bodies to "legislate sin." ...

"If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," she told interviewers, citing abortion and gay marriage as two examples of that sin.

Harris said her religious beliefs "animate" everything she does, including her votes in Congress.

She then warned voters that if they do not send Christians to office, they risk creating a government that is doomed to fail.

Harris also said the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.

In reality, she said, "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will. Separating religion and politics is "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," she said.

"And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our founding fathers intended and that's [sic] certainly isn't what God intended."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Shays Calls For Iraq Exit Timetable

Another formerly pro-Iraq war lawmaker has tired of the "let's just drag this thing out and dump it on the next president" strategy of the Bush administration.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), once an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, said yesterday that the Bush administration should set a time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops. He added that most of the withdrawal could take place next year.

Shays, who faces a tough reelection campaign because of his previous support for President Bush's war policies, made his comments after completing his 14th trip to Iraq this week.

He said he found a "noticeable lack of political will" among Iraqis "to move in what I would call a timely fashion" and concluded that Iraqi officials would act with greater urgency if the United States this fall set a timetable for withdrawal....

Critics said Shays is significantly modifying his stand because he is facing a tough challenge from an antiwar opponent in a state that has become a center of opposition to the war. "Americans have known for a long time that Iraq was a mess, and the only thing that changed is proximity to Election Day," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Diane Farrell, Shays's Democratic challenger, said: "I think it is unfortunate it took him 14 trips and three years to recognize that Iraq has been in a constant state of turmoil since the day that Baghdad fell." She added that Shays's timetable may not meet the "expectations of the American public."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Political Strategy By Bush On Iraq

As President Bush would say, "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...won't get fooled again."

The administration has gotten the message that the American people are concerned with the lack of progress in the Iraq war. And they are getting concerned enough to jeopardize the Republican majorities in congress.

So the incessant claims that the U.S. is making progress in that beleaguered nation are being replaced by more believable assertions, such as pointing to the inevitable chaos that might ensue upon an American troop withdrawal.

The shifting rhetoric reflected a broader pessimism that has reached into even some of the most optimistic corners of the administration -- a sense that the Iraq venture has taken a dark turn and will not be resolved anytime soon. Bush advisers once believed that if they met certain benchmarks, such as building a constitutional democracy and training a new Iraqi army, the war would be won. Now they believe they have more or less met those goals, yet the war rages on....

But with crucial midterm elections just 2 1/2 months away, Bush and his team are trying to turn the public debate away from whether the Iraq invasion has worked out to what would happen if U.S. troops were withdrawn, as some Democrats advocate. The necessity of not failing, Bush advisers believe, is now a more compelling argument than the likelihood of success.

Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

"He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,' " Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pro-Israel Spying Case Leading To Crackdowns On American Media

The federal judge in the case involving espionage allegations against Israeli lobbyists is apparently buying the Bush administration argument for cracking down on journalists who deal with classified material.

A federal judge has ordered an investigation into how reporters learned that two pro-Israel lobbyists were under federal investigation before they were formally charged, creating even more scrutiny of the media in a case with broad First Amendment implications.

The order by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria came in the case against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, who are charged with receiving and disseminating national defense information. Legal experts say the case could lead to criminal prosecutions of reporters or newspapers that print information the government has classified.

In an entry on the docket in U.S. District Court, Ellis ordered the Justice Department to conduct a leak investigation into whether government employees disclosed details of the investigation to CBS News in 2004. The docket entry was dated last week, but Ellis further explained it in a previously classified order made public yesterday....

Rosen and Weissman were charged last year with violating the Espionage Act in what prosecutors call a conspiracy to obtain classified information and pass it to members of the media and the Israeli government. They are former employees of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

The lobbyists are the first civilians who do not work for the government to be charged under the 1917 espionage statute with orally receiving and transmitting national defense information. Court documents say the information covered subjects including the activities of al-Qaeda and possible attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq....

Federal authorities are conducting a number of investigations of leaks of classified information to journalists, and legal experts said Ellis's order is noteworthy because it is unusual for a judge to initiate such an inquiry.

"It's one of the first tangible signs that the view of the Bush administration, that journalists are not immune from prosecution for trafficking in classified information, might have currency with some federal judges," said Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the University of Richmond Law School and an expert on First Amendment law. He said it is an "open question" whether federal law allows for the prosecution of journalists for publishing classified information.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Blair Irritated By Bush Inaction During Lebanon Crisis

A new report from London says that President Bush may have pushed his luck too far with his last friendly major international confrere.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes U.S. President George W. Bush "let him down badly" over the Mideast crisis, the Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Citing a senior Blair government source, the newspaper said the alliance between the two leaders is in danger.

"We all feel badly let down by Bush," the source said. "We thought we had persuaded him to take the Israel-Palestine situation seriously, but we were wrong. How can anyone have faith in a man of such low intellect?"

The report comes as Parliament prepares to hold an unusual summer session, to allow members to question the government's handling of Israel's war with Hezbollah and examine whether the recent terror plot in Britain was linked to Blair's Iraq war policy.

The newspaper said the reported rift between London and Washington is based on British anger over Bush's handling of the "road map" to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which Bush agreed to just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"We have been banging on at them for three years about the need to address the Palestinian problem but they just won't engage," said a senior government source. "That is one of the reasons there is such a mess now."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Democratic Challengers Filling Coffers

Democrats who are challenging incumbent Republicans in House races are filling their coffers to a much greater degree than expected for the upcoming midterms.

The traditional fundraising advantage held by incumbent lawmakers -- which Republicans have regarded as a safety wall in their effort to keep control of Congress -- has eroded in many closely contested House races, as many Democratic challengers prove competitive in the race for cash.

In a year of bad omens for the GOP, the latest batch of disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission offers one more: Incumbency no longer means that embattled Republican representatives can expect to overwhelm weakly funded Democratic challengers with massive spending on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts....

For political finance experts, the data are striking because they show that the usual fundraising advantage of incumbents -- who tend to have more access to special-interest money -- is durable but not impervious to competing trends. This year, these include a highly motivated base of Democratic activists and low approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican leadership in Congress....

There are 27 Republican incumbents classified by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as the most vulnerable to losing reelection this fall....

The problem for Republicans is that only eight Democratic incumbents are in seats considered highly competitive by Cook, meaning they are considered "toss-ups" or may "lean" a certain direction, but no candidate has sufficient advantage to be deemed a "likely" winner.

"There's not many opportunities for Republicans to be taking seats from Democrats," said Michael J. Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a nonpartisan research center affiliated with George Washington University. "There's plenty of races to make up the 15 [that Democrats need]. There's not that many places for Republicans to make the hill steeper."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Prospects Improving For Democrats

The big lobbying firms in Washington are getting the idea that it would be prudent to start adding Democrats to their stables.

Washington lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate offices are moving to hire more well-connected Democrats in response to rising prospects that the opposition party will wrest control of at least one chamber of Congress from Republicans in the November elections.

In what lobbyists are calling a harbinger of possible upheaval on Capitol Hill, many who make a living influencing government have gone from mostly shunning Democrats to aggressively recruiting them as lobbyists over the past six months or so...

At Patton Boggs LLP, another lobbying powerhouse, the calculation is similar. "Democrats' stock has clearly risen in the interviewing process this year as the chances for a Democratic takeover [of the House] have increased," said John F. Jonas, the head of Patton Boggs's health practice. "Serious hiring" of Democrats, he added, has become "a high priority here at Patton Boggs."...

Lobbying managers have for years tended to hire Republicans because both Congress and the White House are controlled by the GOP, and access to officials at both places is lobbying's stock in trade. But, in recent months, many of Washington's top lobbyists said in interviews that their decision-making has been altered by an emerging consensus among election experts that the Democrats will boost their numbers in the House and the Senate in the midterm elections Nov. 7 and have a strong shot of winning a majority in the House.

David Broder, the most mainstream of the political reporters at the Washington Post, has an interesting take today on the prospects for the GOP in the midterms:

What I heard here -- and in subsequent interviews at the National Governors Association convention in Charleston, S.C. -- from one Republican after another signaled serious trouble for the GOP across a broad swath of states from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma in key midterm election contests for House, Senate and governor...

A leading Minnesota Republican told me that polls there show "the bottom has dropped out" of Rep. Mark Kennedy's challenge to Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic candidate for an open Democratic Senate seat. Kennedy has company among the corps of Republican congressmen who thought this would be a good year to move up. In Wisconsin, Rep. Mark Green is lagging slightly behind Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. In Oklahoma, Rep. Ernest J. Istook Jr. is far worse off in his challenge to Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. And in Iowa, Rep. Jim Nussle, the strong early favorite to capture the open governorship from the Democrats, now finds himself in a real battle with Democrat Chet Culver.

For all of them, service in this Congress has turned out to be a handicap rather than a benefit to their chances of advancement. The reason was explained in blunt terms by the Republican governor of one of the states where a congressman of his party is struggling for statewide office. "What has this Congress done that anyone should applaud?" he asked scornfully. "Nothing on immigration, nothing on health care, nothing on energy -- and nothing on the war. They deserve a good kick in the pants, and that's what they're going to get."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Election Problems In Cleveland Probably Not Fixable By 2008

The county in Ohio which contains "the mistake on the lake" -- Cleveland -- has pervasive problems with their electronic voting technology, a new study says.

Problems with elections in Ohio's most populous county are so severe that it's unlikely they can be completely fixed by November, or even by the 2008 presidential election, a report commissioned by Cuyahoga County and released Tuesday says...

"The election system in its entirety exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election," wrote Steven Hertzberg, director of the study by the San Francisco-based Election Science Institute.

Cuyahoga had some serious problems with the most recent primary, including:

Nearly 10 percent of Cuyahoga County's official ballots in the May 2 primary were "destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together or otherwise compromised," according to experts who studied the county's new electronic voting system.

That could have made a recount impossible in a close race, says the report, which was released Tuesday.

Ohio law says that the official ballot in touch-screen voting machines is a paper receipt produced by and stored inside the machines. The paper record, similar to a cash register receipt, allows voters to verify that their votes are recorded accurately.

But even when the paper receipts were legible in the May 2 primary, more than three-quarters of them listed vote tallies that did not match the electronic record in the touch-screen machines...

(T)he new report shines a light on problems with the paper record in the Diebold Inc. touch-screen machines.

As part of the study, the firm examined the results from 467 machines in 50 polling locations. The consultants were unable to test 53 of the machines: 28 could not be found in the county warehouse, 24 had empty memory chips and one was broken. The paper records from 87 machines were missing.

In most of the other machines, the experts found discrepancies between the paper record and the electronic memory. To come up with its findings, the team compared the paper receipt to votes recorded on memory chips inside the machines as well as on removable memory cards.

In more than 75 percent of the machines examined, the paper record did not match the votes recorded on the memory chips or the memory cards. In more than a third of the machines, the difference was greater than 25 votes.

Most, if not all, of the problems identified in the report involve errors by workers. So much data has been lost that the consultants were unable to assess the accuracy of Diebold's touch-screen machines.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Does The U.S. Media Take Sides In Lebanon Conflict? Is It That Obvious?

There are two sides to every conflict - unless you rely on the US media for information about the battle in Lebanon. Viewers have been fed a diet of partisan coverage which treats Israel as the good guys and their Hizbollah enemy as the incarnation of evil...

The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.

The 24-hour cable news stations are the worst offenders. Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has had reporters running around northern Israel chronicling every rocket attack and every Israeli mobilisation, but has shown little or no interest in anything happening on the other side of the border. It is a rarity on any of the cable channels to see any Arab being tapped for expert opinion on the conflict. A startling amount of airtime, meanwhile, is given to the likes of Michael D Evans, an end-of-the-world Biblical "prophet" with no credentials in the complexities of Middle Eastern politics. He has shown up on MSNBC and Fox under the label "Middle East analyst"...

As the conflict has gone on, the media interpretation of it has only hardened. Essentially, the line touted by cable news hosts and their correspondents - closely adhering to the line adopted by the Bush administration and its neoconservative supporters - is that Hizbollah is part of a giant anti-Israeli and anti-American terror network that also includes Hamas, al-Qa'ida, the governments of Syria and Iran, and the insurgents in Iraq. Little effort is made to distinguish between these groups, or explain what their goals might be. The conflict is presented as a straight fight between good and evil, in which US interests and Israeli interests intersect almost completely...

The hysteria has extended into the realm of domestic politics, especially since this is a congressional election year. Republican have sought to depict last week's primary defeat of the Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, one of the loudest cheerleaders for the Iraq war, as some sort of wacko extremist anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli stand that risks undermining national security. Vice-President Dick Cheney said Lieberman's defeat would encourage "al-Qa'ida types" to think they can break the will of Americans. The fact that the man who beat Lieberman, Ned Lamont, is an old-fashioned East Coast Wasp who was a registered Republican for much of his life is something Mr Cheney chose to overlook.

This is less a reflection of American Jewish opinion -- which is more diverse than is suggested in the media -- than it is a commentary on the power of pro-Israeli lobby groups like Aipac, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which bankrolls pro-Israeli congressional candidates.

Monday, August 14, 2006

20 Amazing Facts About Voting In The USA

Angry Girl has compiled an interesting set of facts and figures (with references) about electronic voting skullduggery.,2645,61640,00.html,2645,63298,00.html,2645,65757,00.html,10801,97614,00.html

Sunday, August 13, 2006

U.S. Pushed Britain Into Exposing Airline Plot Early

The U.S. pushed the British government into initiating the arrests of suspects, thus publicly revealing the "Airline Plot" sooner than British anti-terror officials wanted, according to NBC.

The British felt that it would have been better to wait and continue to surveil the suspects to expose more of their co-conspirators in the plot.

NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.

A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

The source did say, however, that police believe one U.K.-based suspect was ready to conduct a "dry run." British authorities had wanted to let him go forward with part of the plan, but the Americans balked.

How odd. The "one U.K.-based suspect" would have likely met with people in the U.S. who are in on the plot. But the U.S. apparently didn't want such persons detected.

The British official said the Americans also argued over the timing of the arrest of suspected ringleader Rashid Rauf in Pakistan, warning that if he was not taken into custody immediately, the U.S. would "render" him or pressure the Pakistani government to arrest him...

Ultimately, this official says, Rauf was arrested over the objections of the British.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Crass Political Pandering Over London Airline Plot

The Bush administration -- which allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Tora Bora, and then pulled troops away from the real war on terrorism to pursue the neo-con wet dream of domination over the Arab hoards in Iraq -- is now using the London airline plot as a political cudgel against people who have been right all along about the White House's misplaced priorities in the national security arena.

"The country is safer than it was prior to 9/11," (President Bush) said in Green Bay. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously, we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in."

If Bush really believes that the Muslim terrorists hate us "for what we believe in", and not for our decades-long support of Israel and dictatorial Arab regimes in the Middle East, all the presidential assistants and intelligence community briefers need to be fired and replaced by people willing to tell the emperor the real deal about his fancy new duds.

Some odious shitpails are also jumping on the bandwagon, including a prominent whiny con-man:

Campaigning in Connecticut, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, who lost Tuesday's Democratic primary and is now running as an independent, said the antiwar views of primary winner Ned Lamont would be "taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England."

Rep. Mark Kennedy, the Republican Senate candidate in Minnesota, used the alleged plot as a campaign wedge only hours after it was disclosed.

"The arrests this morning in Great Britain make it clear that now, more than ever, this is an ongoing battle and we need leaders in Washington who remain committed to doing what is right instead of what may be seen as politically advantageous," he said. To amplify the point, Kennedy endorsed Lieberman over the GOP candidate in the race, Alan Schlesinger.

Rep. Kennedy proves that the death of irony has been prematurely announced.

The natural tendency of people to ignore the "boy who cried wolf" is working against the administration in this latest terrorism threat:

(T)he alleged British plot "is really, really serious," one intelligence official insisted yesterday. "This is the real deal. Honestly. This was not the Moorish Nation," he said, referring to the arrest this summer in Miami of a ragtag, FBI-infiltrated group allegedly plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. "We have reason to believe that this is an al-Qaeda-related operation. I don't mean in terms of a bunch of wannabes finding inspiration" in bin Laden.

If the London plotters really are Al Qaeda, this is further proof that Bush's reckless abandonment of the war against Osama bin Laden is coming back to haunt us.

As will any future attacks by Al Qaeda.

But some experts are not convinced by the claims that the airline plot was really Al Qaeda at all:

Others were withholding judgment on al-Qaeda's ties to the alleged plot in England. "I would say that the core of the organization has suffered some serious blows," said Daniel L. Byman, director of Georgetown University's Security Studies Program. "It's harder for them to do large-scale operations successfully, and their ability to do long-term planning of catastrophic events has degraded. But they still have a number of skilled operatives and global connections, and a strong desire" to stage such attacks.

Byman said, however, that he is "still very skeptical until I see more evidence of how close these guys really were" to al-Qaeda. "I've read too many breathless FBI statements" over the years, he said.

We all have lived through the politicization of national security by the Rovian attack dogs.

Perhaps Bush shouldn't have let Osama bin Laden get away when he could have heeded the recommendation of Special Forces and CIA officers to send available elements of the 10th Mountain Division into Tora Bora to conduct a blocking action rather than to leave the job to Afghan warlords who turned out to be on the Al Qaeda payroll.

The dereliction of duty by the president by going to Iraq rather than staying and finishing bin Laden will be an important point in any future debates about the "war on terror."

The people who used the threat of terrorism as a political tool here in America may well rue the day they decided on that slimy course of action.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

U.S. Restrictions On Muslim Charities Preventing Americans From Giving Humanitarian Aid To Lebanese

Restrictions imposed by the U.S. "war on terror" are preventing people who wish to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people from giving money to charities active in the area.

The problem, according to relief groups, is that many people who are inclined to write checks for emergency aid and reconstruction in Lebanon are afraid of ending up in some government database of suspected supporters of terrorism.

Arab American leaders say this is one of the unintended consequences of the U.S. government's crackdown on charities run by Muslims. Though aimed at cutting off illicit funding for terrorist groups, the crackdown has complicated legitimate humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

"Dozens of people have approached me. They want to help, they want to send money to buy medicine, and they're afraid of the government reaction to their contribution," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Some do it anyway. They can't sit idly. But they worry that one day they'll hear a knock on the door."

Naturally, supporters of Israel have no such problems:

United Jewish Communities, an umbrella organization for 155 Jewish charities across the country, announced last week that it will raise at least $300 million in emergency aid for Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington alone intends to raise $10 million toward that goal.

By comparison, the flow of private U.S. donations for humanitarian aid in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories is a mere trickle, estimated by relief groups at a few million dollars.

Meanwhile, the situation on the ground for civilians is growing increasingly grim:

International aid workers said the situation was particularly dire throughout the south, because convoys could not reach Tyre, nor venture from there to the outlying villages.

"South of the Litani is off," said Khaled Mansour, the chief United Nations spokesman in Lebanon, indicating that the agency's aid convoys had been halted because the last bridge over the Litani River north of Tyre had been blown up.

The United Nations World Food Program has stopped deliveries of food to southern villages because of the danger on the roads, said a spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume.

The World Health Organization warned that if fuel is not delivered soon, 60 percent of the hospitals in Lebanon will "simply cease to function."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

RAND -- How Thou Art Fallen

Under the Big Fucking Deal department we find the following:

According to a study published Monday by the RAND Corporation, a nonpartisan research group, teenagers who spent more time listening to music with lyrics that objectify women or praise men for their voracious sexual appetites were more likely to become sexually active earlier in their youth. Previous studies have linked sex at a young age with higher risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

It's the latest, and among the most rigorous, studies in a growing body of research that suggests media have a significant impact on young people's behavior - a claim that ignites controversy when coupled with calls for censorship or restrictions....

Parents and psychologists have long worried about the harm not only of music, but also of TV, movies, and video games. After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, a few groups decried the violence depicted by rock singer Marilyn Manson's lyrics. Some went so far as to blame the singer for the attacks. More recently, the governor of Illinois tried unsuccessfully to ban sales of violent video games to minors.

The RAND Corporation, having been created by the Air Force and the CIA, usually does not author such obvious crap.

A more reality-based analysis would find that there is greater danger to these youngsters from the Bush administration's policies which have created a severely anti-American world in which these kids will need to navigate.

Not to mention that our impressionable youth will be called upon increasingly often to fight and die in needless wars chosen by the American national security state.

RAND must not have had room in their study for the good stuff.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ney Bows Out, Picks Padgett To Run In His Place

Rep. Robert W. Ney, who went on Jack Abramoff's famous $130,000 golf trip to Scotland, and has been no stranger to this blog, made a big announcement this morning:

Rep. Robert W. Ney, the six-term Republican congressman from central Ohio implicated in the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, announced this morning that he will not seek re-election....

Ney has been identified as the accused but so far unindicted "Congressman A" in Abramoff's plea agreement. He has denied wrongdoing.

Ney has been under investigation by federal authorities in Florida and the District for actions that helped Abramoff and two partners buy a Fort Lauderdale-based casino cruise line. The deal that Ney promoted in the Congressional Record hinged on the Abramoff group's creation of a counterfeit $23 million wire transfer.

Ney's anointed successor on the GOP ticket has some special qualifications:

The first thing we know about Joy Padgett is that she's Ney's handpicked candidate -- a distinction about as prestigious as Michael Brown giving you something called a FEMA Gold Star for Competence. The second thing we know is that she was first appointed to her State Senate seat by disgraced Governor Bob Taft," said Bill Burton, communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Bob Ney was forced out of this race by the reality of an electorate demanding change from the culture of corruption in Washington and a Congress that compulsively puts special interests first at every opportunity.

The Padgett Record -- A History of Ties to Ney, Taft and the Special Interests

Padgett Took Nearly $8,000 from Ney. Since 1993, Padgett has taken at least $7,500 from Ohio Congressman Bob Ney. [Ohio Secretary of State,]

Padgett Was Appointed by Taft to Direct the Governor's Office of Appalachia. In mid-1999, Padgett was appointed to director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, a $63,000 a year job. At the time of the appointment, she was a four-term state House member, barred by term limits to seek re-election. [Columbus Dispatch, 10/10/04; Associated Press, 6/7/99]

Padgett Was Appointed by Taft to Serve in the State Senate. After serving in the appointed position of director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia, Padgett was appointed again, this time to the state Senate. [Roll Call, 12/7/05]

Padgett Has Taken Money from Big Drug Makers, Energy and Tobacco. In her campaigns for the Ohio state House and Senate, Padgett has taken money from the pharmaceutical manufacturers; Pfizer, Merck and Johnson & Johnson; oil & gas interests and the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds. [Ohio Secretary of State,]

Padgett's 2004 State Senate Race Was Referred to as One of the Nation's Nastiest Campaigns. In October 2004 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, referred to Padgett's 2004 Senate race as, "One of the nation's nastiest campaigns [that] has divided a quiet corner of Appalachia, a place usually immune from political venom thanks to its neighborly ways." [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/30/04]

Padgett Accused Her Opponent of Being Soft on Terrorists. Padgett's 2004 Senate opponent was a former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press who became famous after Shiite Hezbollah terrorists kidnapped him and held him hostage in Lebanon for almost seven years. Padgett accused him of anti-American behavior and that he is soft on terrorists. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Padgett, also "sent out campaign mailings this month showing Anderson with a Hezbollah terrorist leader. She called Anderson "part of the 'Blame America' crowd" that is sympathetic to Mideast thugs intent on hurting Americans." What she failed to mention was that the terrorist pictured with Anderson was the secretary general of Hezbollah, the group that abducted him in 1985. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/30/04]

Saturday, August 05, 2006

House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff Updates Report On Administration Skullduggery

The House Judiciary Committee Democratic Staff has updated their December 2005 report detailing the abuses of power by the Bush Administration in the conduct of what they call the "War on Terror."

Entitled The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance, this report gathers in one handy document the systemic malfeasance that has been made public in bits and pieces (usually leaked) over the past few years.

In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration; and approved domestic surveillance that is both illegal and unconstitutional. As further detailed in the Report, there is evidence that these actions violate a number of federal laws, including:

There are over 1400 footnotes to the report. The authors clearly anticipate the gooper tactic of demanding proof for even the most obvious of facts.

The report is available online from (at the link above) and is offered in PDF, Word, and HTML formats.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Serious Lack Of Evidence Against Padilla, Judge Says

It is becoming clearer that Jose Padilla, who was forced to languish in custody as an "enemy combatant" for years, is not the major league terrorist (the "dirty bomber") portrayed by the Justice Department.

The feds don't have a lot of evidence against him.

With much fanfare, the U.S. government charged Jose Padilla last fall in a South Florida terror-conspiracy indictment. He was brought to Miami in January under heavy guard, shackled hand and foot, helicopters flying overhead.

But now a federal judge says the case against him appears "very light on facts."

In the last week, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke ordered prosecutors -- for the second time -- to provide more details to make their case against Padilla and codefendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, accused of being part of a North American terrorist cell that supported Islamic jihad abroad.

Cooke said the Miami federal prosecutors' initial response was "insufficient." ...

The three defendants are charged with conspiring to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas and providing "material support" for terrorist activity. The indictment was originally filed in 2004, but Padilla, a former Broward resident, wasn't added until last November because the U.S. military had been holding him as an "enemy combatant" for more than three years -- a case that was almost heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cooke ordered Miami federal prosecutors to supply evidence of transcripts of phone wiretaps that show the "manner and means" of the trio's terror conspiracy -- including "descriptions of the time, place, circumstances, causes, etc." of their activities. She set a Monday deadline to turn over that information to defense attorneys, who maintain the indictment lacks incriminating evidence.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blogger Jailed For Refusing To Turn Over Video

In what is apparently the first case of a blogger being jailed for refusing to reveal sources, a San Francisco man will be staying behind bars until a grand jury finishes its term next summer or until the blogger reconsiders his decision not to cooperate with law enforcement.

A freelance journalist and blogger was jailed on Tuesday after refusing to turn over video he took at an anticapitalist protest here last summer and after refusing to testify before a grand jury looking into accusations that crimes were committed at the protest.

The freelancer, Josh Wolf, 24, was taken into custody just before noon after a hearing in front of Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court. Found in contempt, Mr. Wolf was later moved to a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., and could be imprisoned until next summer, when the grand jury term expires, said his lawyer, Jose Luis Fuentes.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Mr. Wolf to testify before a grand jury and turn over video from the demonstration, held in the Mission District on July 8, 2005. The protest, tied to a Group of 8 meeting of world economic leaders in Scotland, ended in a clash between demonstrators and the San Francisco police, with one officer sustaining a fractured skull.

A smoke bomb or a firework was also put under a police car, and investigators are looking into whether arson was attempted on a government-financed vehicle.

Mr. Wolf, who posted some of the edited video on his Web site,, and sold some of it to local television stations, met with investigators, who wanted to see the raw video. But Mr. Wolf refused to hand over the tapes, arguing that he had the right as a journalist to shield his sources....

Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota, said that although the jailing of journalists had become more common, Mr. Wolf's case was the first she had heard of in which a blogger had been pursued and eventually jailed by federal authorities.

"There is a tendency on the part of the prosecutors to go aggressively after people not perceived to have a big gun behind them," Ms. Kirtley said. "They are the most vulnerable links in the chain."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

FSAC Determined To Be Redundant, Unwanted By DOD

The case of corrupt defense contractor Mitchell Wade is hardly unknown to regulars to this blog. See Cunningham Pre-Sentencing Memo Brings Bad News, CIFA: A Money Pit, The Odious Rep. Katherine Harris, Time For "Dukestir" To Pay The Piper, Wade's MZM Skullduggery Revisited, et al.

Today brings the news that the Pentagon is shutting down the intelligence center that was created as part and parcel of Wade's largesse.

The Pentagon has decided not to renew a contract with a company caught up in the scandal involving former House member Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), forcing the closure of an intelligence center in Virginia that grew out of a 2003 "earmark" in legislation by Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.).

The Defense Department decided in early June to terminate the Foreign Supplier Assessment Center (FSAC) in Martinsville, Va., according to a statement from the Pentagon yesterday. The reason, according to the statement, was that "the U.S. government has other entities that provide similar services." ...

When it opened in 2004, the center had the task of checking on the ownership of foreign companies that had contracts with Pentagon agencies. Yesterday's Pentagon statement listed four other government entities that provide those services, including the Intelligence Community Acquisition Risk Center and the National Security Agency....

The original contract went to MZM Corp., whose former president, Mitchell Wade, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery and election contribution fraud. In his plea agreement, Wade acknowledged being told by congressional staff members that Goode had put an earmark for several million dollars in the defense bill for the FSAC facility. MZM was subsequently sold, and the contract went to Athena Innovative Solutions Inc. Athena did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.

Court papers associated with Wade's guilty plea said that "Representative A," identified as Goode, received $46,000 in contributions from Wade that were disguised to appear as if they had come from MZM employees in 2003 and 2005. That was part of about $90,000 Wade and his workers contributed to Goode overall.