Saturday, July 21, 2007

Book Em' Danno

The legal eagles are weighing in. Clearly, it appears that Congress' best option if Bush/DOJ refuse to prosecute their contempt citation is to have the Sgt. At Arms arrest Harriet Miers:

Instead of referring a contempt citation to the U.S. attorney, a house of Congress can order the sergeant-at-arms to take recalcitrant witnesses into custody and have them held until they agree to cooperate -- i.e., an order of civil contempt. . . . So, far from being defenseless against the president's refusal to prosecute or the threat of presidential pardon, Congress could take into its own custody defiant administration officials who refuse to cooperate with legitimate inquiries into executive malfeasance. Those targets would have the right to seek writs of habeas corpus from the federal courts, but as long as Congress could show a legitimate need for the information it was seeking pursuant to its legislative oversight functions, it would be standing on solid legal ground.
Remember, this could include Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Josh Bolten and any other White House officials who can't show sufficient cause why they should not be compelled to testify.

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WaPo Used To Be A Quality Paper

Today's editorial is another piece of crap, bootlicking Republicans ....

From Josh Marshall. First an excerpt of the editorial and then Marshall's commentary:

The decision of Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) to deny rather than nourish a bipartisan agreement is, of course, irresponsible.... A Democratic strategy of trying to use Iraq as a polarizing campaign issue and as a club against moderate Republicans who are up for reelection will certainly have the effect of making consensus impossible -- and deepening the trouble for Iraq and for American security.

One wonders if perhaps the Post editorial board simply hasn't been paying attention to current events. As Kevin Drum noted, "After four years of Republican insistence that Congress's only role in the war is to pony up trainloads of money and then shut the hell up, it turns out that it's actually Democrats who are making consensus impossible."

This would fit right up there with the old axiom that if I beat my wife, it's her fault for making a crappy dinner or something.

Indeed, where have these guys been? When Republicans unilaterally govern the WaPo wants to worship at the feet of "strong leaders". When Democrats, the adults, step in an start to try and clean up the mess, they're not being bipartisan? And since when is making bipartisan agreements back in vogue again?

Harry Reid is speaking the only language the Republicans can understand right now. That language is one of raw power as the current GOP leadership has shown over and over and over again that they will respect nothing less. I hope it doesn't remain so, but until things change that's the way it is.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Oh. My. Gawd.

First there was Edwards haircut. Then Romney's makeup. Today we had Oprah dead dog. And now Hillary's cleavage.

That's right ladies and germs. And entire WaPo .... yes I said Washington Post ... piece on Hillary showing some cleavage on the Senate floor. Sure, it was a fashion writer, but is this a fashion story? Take a look and judge for yourself .....

Allow me to save you the googling. Here is the "offending" picture:


Lest you be shocked by that one, I found another from another time on CSPAN:

Oh my. The horror! Why, this is the equivalent of Hillary giving Robert Byrd a blow-job right on the Senate floor! I'm, well, words can't express my shock.

You have to take a moment and read some excerpts on the offending outfit:

The cleavage, however, is an exceptional kind of flourish. After all, it's not a matter of what she's wearing but rather what's being revealed. It's tempting to say that the cleavage stirs the same kind of discomfort that might be churned up after spotting Rudy Giuliani with his shirt unbuttoned just a smidge too far. No one wants to see that. But really, it was more like catching a man with his fly unzipped. Just look away!

....

With Clinton, there was the sense that you were catching a surreptitious glimpse at something private. You were intruding -- being a voyeur. Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease. It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality. It also means that she feels that all those other characteristics are so apparent and undeniable, that they will not be overshadowed.
Whether tongue in cheek or not, and who could tell these days, this is the peak of stupidity in the media.

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THIS Is A Great Idea

So, Bush thinks he can prevent the DOJ from prosecuting a Congressional contempt citation? So this is what Congress should do:

Marty Lederman, who predicted a couple of weeks ago that this would happen, has more details on pursuing these options here. Mark Kleiman, by contrast, thinks Congress should just start defunding the "non-essential" parts of the White House: the press office, the political office, and the White House Counsel's office. Says Mark: "Clinton won his [1995 budget showdown with Newt Gingrich] because Gingrich tried to shut down the government. Punishing and crippling Bush doesn't require shutting down any activity the public cares about."
There are clearly enuciated powers in the Constitution for Congress. So if the Preznit wants to play rough, play rough. And if Republicans threaten to filibuster? Use the nuclear option that they developed. It's time to save our government.

More from Kleinman:

I haven't used the term before, but this is really a Constitutional crisis. If the Democrats handle it correctly — which means, above all, stressing the insult to the rule of law and the threat to the Constitutional order — they'll have the public on their side, along with the bulk of elite opinion. (Who knows? Maybe even the editorial page of the Washington Post.)

And I suspect that a combination of institutional self-respect and electoral self-preservation will lead a substantial number of Republicans to desert the President. They've been looking for an excuse, and he just handed it to them.

Perhaps. Perhaps.

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Takin' It

Bush has (a very public) colonoscopy .....

But it's the American public who takes it in the ..... well you know.

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Hasert To Resign?

That's the rumor anyway.

You've gotta wonder if he's on, like, a list or something?

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Pakistan Boils

While Iraq is at a full cook, Pakistan is just starting to boil. Will it boil over? Will it simmer down? Who will get the nukes if it does boil over?

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And We Thought Paris Was Bad

Did you know that Oprah Winrey's dog died?

Well if you don't, you're just not paying attention:

In case you missed that, let me reiterate: Oprah sent out an official press release to inform the world that she's heartbroken because her dog died.
Chez gives us the full run down here. I totally agree with him. I try to be nice to Oprah. But let's face it, I don't like her. She's arrogantly overindulged and self-important. The information on her show ranges from just enough to get people in trouble to completely wrong.

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Dictator Watch

This story is more of a reminder than news. Apparently the media is just starting to get a wiff of what is likely to happen once Congress issues contempt citations to the White House:

To appreciate the White House's new claims of executive privilege, it's important to understand how contempt charges work. First, the House or Senate issues "a statutory contempt citation," which is given to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who then has to convene a grand jury. But none of this would be able to happen under the White House's new position on the matter, which an expert in executive privilege called "astonishing." It all amounts to "a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," the expert said. This view of executive privilege is apparently based on an opinion issued by the Justice Department during the Reagan administration.
Whatever opinion they are saying they depend on, make no mistake that it's Abu Gonzales that is pulling the strings at DOJ. As I've said numerous times, Bush hasn't kept his good buddy at DOJ simply because they're good friends. Bush is covering his flank and enhancing his ability to play out the clock.

When (not if) Bush ignores any contempt citation, and when (not if) the DOJ refuses to prosecute it, time will continue to pass. Hopefully, and that's a big hopefully, via other suit remedies (or if the Congressional Sgt-At-Arms goes to the White House and arrests someone) the courts will ultimately rule in Congresses favor via a civil suit. But by then, Bush figures to be out of office and will care less what is revealed. Bush, correctly in my estimation, realizes that no one will have the stomach to bring criminal charges against a former President.

Too bad ... that.

Update: Here's the actual statement from the White House on the subject:
"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," a senior official told the Post, which granted the official anonymity because 'he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.' "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."
I think that's a "tag, you're it" moment to Congress. I guess if the Pentagon can have an intelligence agency, Congress can have a police force with jails.

But then you have a former Reagan administration official saying this:
"Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran."

...

Roberts said that because of Bush's unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why "the Democrats [and Republicans in safe seats I might add] have not brought a halt to Bush's follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year's election."

However, Roberts emphasized,"the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling." Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. "Something's in the works," he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.
Wow. My denial system says that this is perhaps a bit of hyperbole. Then my experience says that it's true. Afterall, what hyperbolic prediction about Bush's pursuit of executive authority has not come true thus far? I wonder just how far things have to go before Congressional Republicans step in to remove these clowns?

If Congress does nothing, we're all in more deep yogurt. Are people going to have to take to the streets with weapons or something? You have to wonder? The most fundamental basis on our peaceful system of government is that power is balanced, executives are checked, and imbalances can be equalized via a system that is responsive to it's citizens. If that breaks down, and it certainly seems to be breaking down, people are left with going outside the system or submitting to dictatorship.

Update II: Care to guess who the Reagan official was who issued the opinion that the White House could thumb it's nose at a contempt citation by forcing the DOJ to not prosecute?

Ted Olson.

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The Gambler

Here's a post sure to make you smile.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Duffy Takes a Mulligan

Atrios gives us a brief pictorial trip down memory lane, pointing out how good our media is at prognosticating, given his split-the-baby-in-half policy analysis today!


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Plame Suit Dismissed

A Federal judge has dismissed Plames civil suit against Cheney et. al. I don't know any details yet other than it's the same judge that dismissed the Cheney task force lawsuit. I'm sure she'll appeal.

Update: It was dismissed on "jurisdictional grounds", having nothing to do with the case's merits.

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Go Harry

Republican WINO's are furious with Harry Reid after the filibuster. Here's why ....

This handy guide to the filibuster answers many questions. But this is one of the keys:

4. What are the prospects for the Dems succeeding in breaking the GOP filibuster?

They're actually better now that the softer Iraq amendments can't get passed. That's yanking the bill rules out the introduction of other, nonbinding amendments that nervous Republicans were inclined to support. Without the option of supporting such amendments, Republicans can't plausibly claim to constituents to have done anything to stop the war. In turn, that increases the pressure on them to support the only available option left -- i.e., a binding measure mandating withdrawal, such as the one favored by Dems.

That's probably the real reason why Republicans are furious with Reid today for removing the bill and all its amendments. (Well, that and sleepiness.) Case in point: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). In his floor statement right after the cloture vote failed, a visibly angry Specter inveighed against the Senate's lack of debate on the most prominent GOP amendment -- John Warner and Richard Lugar's toothless proposal for Bush to submit a post-surge strategy to Congress after Petraeus's report. Specter, clearly, wanted the option of supporting Warner-Lugar, an option Reid has taken away.

As a result, when debate eventually resumes, Specter will have to choose between either staying with the surge or mandated redeployment. Even for a moderate GOP Senator not up for reelection next year, stark choices are not pleasant ones. Get ready to see more waverers -- though, as Greg has been pointing out, not all waverers actually vote their wavering consciences.

The wild card here for the WINOs is the September Petraeus report. No matter how nuanced a picture of Iraq Petraeus paints to Congress, the White House will use it as a rallying cry for continuing the war. How much support that can give to a GOP Senator whose constituents loudly hate the war is one of the big unknowns.

One thing that could conceivably cause more Republicans to defect, ironically, would be President Bush portraying Petraeus's report as more optimistic than it in reality. The same could happen if Petraeus's report itself is more optimistic than Iraq seems to warrant. Either of those could diminish whatever credibility on Petraeus' part the White House is out to exploit, leaving the GOP caucus set to fracture ahead of the next election.
Good move Harry. Make em' sweat at home this summer.

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Excellent Question

This is really an excellent question.

Whatever happened to our "war czar"? For bonus points, can you name him (without cheating)? You remember, the person who was going to coordinate the war right into victory?

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Quote of the Day

From Maria Bartiromo's interview of Condi Rice in the current issue of BusinessWeek:

MB: Would you consider a position in business or on Wall Street?

CR: I don't know what I'll do long-term. I'm a terrible long-term planner.
Ah. We know.

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Is This Progress?

This chart was put together by Brian Beutler ....

These are the number of attacks per quarter since the start of the war (click to enlarge):

Sure making progress there aren't we?

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At Least She Apologized

Diane Sawyer that is.

That's more than can be said about most of the other media types who screw things up.

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Wear Your Helmet

James Surowiecki makes the best argument I've seen yet for strong regulation of automobiles, i.e. size and fuel economy:

Back in the nineteen-seventies, an economist named Thomas Schelling, who later won the Nobel Prize, noticed something peculiar about the N.H.L. [national hockey league] At the time, players were allowed, but not required, to wear helmets, and most players chose to go helmet-less, despite the risk of severe head trauma. But when they were asked in secret ballots most players also said that the league should require them to wear helmets. The reason for this conflict, Schelling explained, was that not wearing a helmet conferred a slight advantage on the ice; crucially, it gave the player better peripheral vision, and it also made him look fearless. The players wanted to have their heads protected, but as individuals they couldn’t afford to jeopardize their effectiveness on the ice. Making helmets compulsory eliminated the dilemma: the players could protect their heads without suffering a competitive disadvantage. Without the rule, the players’ individually rational decisions added up to a collectively irrational result. With the rule, the outcome was closer to what players really wanted.
Car owners face a similar dilemma whether it be concerns for safety (a bigger car is safer) or whether it's styling. The argument is also similar to the one made regarding uniforms in the schools. If you level the playing field, everything runs smoother.

I'm not sure I'd want to have just one model of car available for everyone. But if you could only buy cars with high fuel efficiency, wouldn't we all find different ways of "stylin"? Given the rules, wouldn't everyone find a way to express their individuality? And wouldn't it be in the public's best interests? Just ask any U.S. soldier in Iraq, they'll tell you.

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Best Divorce Letter Ever

Go take a look. Be warned, it's quite .... colorful!

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Subprime Mess

I found some interesting charts that show who is defaulting on home loans, and the extent of the subprime default problem ....

First up, who is defaulting:


Fixed rate borrowers are hanging in there. It's the adjustable folks that are falling out. I suspect that a lot of these are flippers, people who speculated in real estate with the assumption they'd never get stuck with a growing loan amount. Now that the music has stopped, they're finding out that there are not enough chairs or enough cash to keep these investments afloat.

Just where is the default rate a problem?




Looks like it's pretty much everywhere. California, and the Central Valley of California are some of the worst locations, all commuting distance to the high cost Bay Area. But the problem really exists everywhere.

It's also important to remember that the adjustable rate mortgage "resets" are just beginning. There are still a whole bunch of loans out there to reset with borrowers hanging on, ever hopeful that home prices and buying demand will soon rebound.

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Lies

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Gulf of Tonkin II?

Is the United States provoking war with Iran, to begin while the Congress is conveniently on its August recess?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Filibuster Ignorance

It really is astounding how many people simply do not understand the filibuster.

Bloggers are reporting media errors everywhere on the subject. I wrote about Diane Sawyer yesterday, but she's not alone. Most of the errors attribute the filibuster to the Democrats, or that the Democrats failed in some way with the "filibuster". Perhaps this is all because of the "gentleman's agreement" to not actually have a filibuster. It's been so long now that no one knows how it works. And of course, some of the errors are on purpose i.e. Faux News. But CSPAN?

For the record. It's the Republicans that filibustered. The only thing Harry Reid did was to make them actually do the filibuster, talk continuously to maintain the debate in the Senate chamber, rather than everyone agreeing that the filibuster happened with the failure of a cloture vote and then going home.

The only thing the Dems "lost" was getting enough votes to "stop the filibuster", which requires 60 votes. This is what a cloture vote is. Reid chose (was not forced) to put the cloture vote before the Senate after just one night rather than making Republicans continue the filibuster beyond this morning. If it were me, I might have wanted to keep them talking for another day or two, but I'm sure that Reid decided it would make the point he wanted to make, so he opted to put it to a vote. Interestingly, Dems did gain one vote from a Republican, Susan Collins of Maine.

The Senate goes on recess for August soon. I'm not sure it wouldn't be a good idea for Reid to keep the Senate in session throughout the break with the filibuster. It would sure highlight the obstruction of Republicans and would force the media to sharpen it's skills in, like, understanding how our government works.

In the meantime, ignorance by those who are supposed to know reins!

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Your Media, Hard At Work

First there was Edward's haircut, which is still brought up at the drop of a hat. Then there's Mitt Romney's make-up. Now there's Al Gore's fish.

Is our media stupid or what?

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Thirty Good Names

Larry Flynt says he has 30 good names who are DC madam clients .....

KING: Does that mean you have phone numbers that you're following up?

FLYNT: Not just phone numbers.

KING: Names?

FLYNT: We've got good leads. We've got over 300 initially. And they're down to about 30 now which is solid.

KING: When are you going to print?

FLYNT: Well, the last thing now is we don't know if we want to let it to drip, drip, drip or we want to go with everything at once.

KING: You mean you might release 30 names at once?

FLYNT: A good possibility.

KING: Will we be -- I don't want to get into names yet. Will we be shocked?

FLYNT: Yes.

KING: Were you shocked?

FLYNT: I was shocked, especially at one senator but...

KING: One senator especially?

FLYNT: Yes.

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We'll Be Back

Here is Harry Reid's statement after a morning vote ended debate, aka the filibuster.

“Because Republicans continue to block votes on important amendments to the Defense Authorization bill, we can make no further progress on Iraq and this bill at this time.

For these reasons, I have temporarily laid aside the Defense Authorization bill and have entered a motion to reconsider.

But let me be clear to my Republican colleagues — I emphasize the word “temporarily”. We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq. We will do everything in our power to complete consideration of a Defense Authorization bill. We must do both.

And just to remind my Republican colleagues — even if this bill had passed yesterday, its provisions would not take effect until October.

So we will come back to this bill as soon as it is clear we can make real progress. To that end, I have asked the Democratic Whip and Democratic Manager of the bill to sit down with their counterparts to work on a process to address all outstanding issues related to this bill so the Senate can return to it as soon as possible.
Do it again Harry. And again. And again .....

Update: I hadn't realized it. But Reid statement significantly ups the anty. His statement, in essence, is saying that there will be no further considering of war funding until these withdrawal amendments get and up or down vote. If he sticks to that, and that's a big "if", it would be a critical move by Senate Dems.
Spencer Ackerman added, “Because the Pentagon’s priorities won’t become law until a Defense Authorization bill is passed, the Pentagon’s fiscal 08 priorities won’t get funded until this standoff is resolved — and Reid is insisting that won’t happen until the GOP allows a vote on the Iraq withdrawal measures. That’s pretty significant.”

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Irony

A whole lot of people, much more eloquent than I have pointed this out already. But I think it bears repeating. Isn't it ironic that the U.S. government is just as deadlocked as the Iraqi government?

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Put Up or Shut Up

Here's a quickie on exactly why you should not believe Republicans who "come out" against the President in the Iraq war:

As cots were rolled out and pizza was delivered for their all-nighter, the NYT notes on Page One that several of the Republican senators who publicly defected with the White House on Iraq have refused to support the Levin-Reed amendment, which would mandate a withdrawal of combat troops.
Pretty much speaks for itself. Show me the vote, then I'll believe the BS statements.

Added: This is too funny. Greg Sargent has coined a name for the BS Republicans: WINO. Who are the WINO's?

Norm Coleman
Pete Domenici
Dick Lugar
John Sununu
John Warner

What is a WINO?

Republicans who are Wavering In Name Only

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Too Funny

Remember how Cheney fought tooth and nail to protect the identities of his "energy task force"? Well, the names have now come out:

The WP got its hands on the list of meetings that Vice President Cheney's energy task force held with various interest groups and (surprise!) most of them were with the energy industry. These meetings became the subject of much controversy as the administration fought tooth and nail to keep the list private. But now the Post reports that by the time the task force met with environmental groups, there had already been numerous encounters with the industry and the first draft of the report was basically complete. Many of those who met with Cheney continued to be perplexed as to why the administration fought so hard to keep the list of meetings private. Interestingly enough, the paper notes that although the report was heavily criticized by environmental groups when it came out, some now say "that in retrospect it appears better balanced than the administration's actual policy."
It's called paranoia and was one of the first signals of just how off-the-rails Dick Cheney has become.

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A Tank In Every Garage

So, Robert Gates wants more money for yet another type of up-armored vehicle for Iraq?

USA Today fronts word that Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with lawmakers yesterday to try to figure out a way to shift around $1.3 billion so that Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles could be delivered more quickly to troops in Iraq. Gates said the Pentagon has "found a way to accelerate production … and it's going to take a little extra money." On Monday, USAT revealed the Pentagon ignored multiple pleas from those on the ground for more of these vehicles.
I love that line, "it's gonna take a little extra money". I smell a contractor nearby, don't you?

Perhaps I don't understand all the ramifications of guns, tanks and things. And I'm not trying to be callous towards our troops. But if they build a more armored vehicle, won't the insurgents just use a bigger explosive device? In other words, isn't this a neverending cycle? How about saving a buck and ending the war?

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Terra!

One of the big stories of the last day or so has been the new National Intelligence Estimate of the threat of terrorism. Depending on who you listen to, Osama bin Laden is about to fly a B-52 full of nuclear bombs to the U.S. or the intelligence agencies are crying wolf yet again .....

I conclude a couple of things, and I didn't need an NIE report to reach those conclusions:

1) the U.S. is vulnerable and likely to experience another terrorist attack. As hated as we are throughout the world and as provocative as we've been to Islamic fundamentalists, it only makes sense that the movement is energized around the world to strike the U.S. And no amount of "domestic security" is going to ever be able to stop all attacks.

2) Whether it's "al Qaeda" doing the attacking ... you know, the one in Pakistan, ... or a local believer who's hooked up to the movement via the internet (or his tinfoil hat for that matter) is less of a concern. As with the beginning of all this nonsense, the causes of this wave of terrorism are political and cultural, not military. The solutions will also be in longer term policies that address the political and cultural underpinnings of the problem.

3) No matter who the threat is, the short term solution are more based in intelligence, law-enforcement and nibble response. The solutions are NOT in using a hammer to try and kill a cruising fly. Our military, and Bush's use of it, are more of a cause of terrorism than a solution. Until we change course in the use of the military, the status quo of a continuing threat from those using the only weapons available to them remains.

4) The threat of a terrorist attack using a so-called "weapon of mass destruction" (I hate that term, what's mass destruction anyway?) is remote. To use large scale biological weapons or nuclear weapons requires expert technology, careful handling, is difficult to distribute and access that is simply beyond most people.

One other point. There's that little matter of Israel and Palestine. Of course this is all a part of that political/cultural thing I alluded to earlier. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is like a festering wound. It never kills you, but it continually harbors infection that never let's the world quite feel good. The conflict with Israel has spawned terrorism since before I was born, and will continue to fuel violent dissendent movements. This festering sore needs resolution for the GWOT to ever truly be over.

Because of my conclusions, I pretty much have tuned out much of the discussion of this recent NIE report. Frankly you're much more likely to die because you forgot to put on your seat beat when you drove to work. And "terrorism" is simply another word for a nutbar criminal, and they've always been with us (Timothy McVeigh anyone? Or how about the Virginia Tech nutbar?) and always will.

Of course it's useful as yet another repudiation of Bush and his policies. But until we have leadership that is able to apply greater than a retarded level of thinking to the problem, nothing will really change in this Great War On Terror.

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Net Neutrality

The Nation explains why the Net Neutrality issue is so important.

Once an American logs on, he or she has known that it is as easy to get to Wal-Mart Watch's dissident www.walmartwatch.com site as it is to reach the retail giant's corporate site. It is as easy to go to visit George Bush's official White House location on the Web as it is to visit the folks at www.afterdowningstreet.org, who would like very much to remove the president and everyone he rode in with.

In 2005, however, the Federal Communications Commission, began to attack the Net Neutrality rules that for decades have guaranteed a level playing field for every web site. They did so under pressure from "old-media" telecommunications corporations -- mostly in the cable and phone sectors -- that want to "own" the web. If Net Neutrality, the first amendment of the Internet, is completely eliminated in the manner favored by the telecommunications giants, then cable and phone companies can make a fortune by providing high-speed connections to sites that pay for the the service while discriminating against sites that do not pay.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Flippy Floppy

It's really like shooting fish to highlight hypocrisy coming from Senate Republicans these days. But this turnaround must be causing Mitch McConnell at least a little whiplash:

McConnell on the "nuclear option" to get rid of the filibuster back when Republicans where the majority:

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spokesman: “Senator McConnell always has and continues to fully support the use of what has become known as the ‘[nuclear]’ option in order to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate.”
Now McConnel; doesn't even want to have the inconvience of the symbolic filibuster anymore:
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles. … [A]ll the controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate in January have required 60 “yeas” to pass.

“It’s a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we’re in,” McConnell said. “It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation.”
Oh boo hoo. Given that it's the published GOP strategy in the Senate to block any, ANY legislation during this session it hard to take McConnell seriously.

It's crucial for Democrats to continue to highlight the obstruction. Given the nutso rules of the Senate, Republicans are going to block all legislation anyway. So the Democrats might as well spend the remaining time in session with further hearings and continuing "political theatre" to highlight the state of Congress .... just where the problem is. With idiots like Diane Sawyer around, the Dems will have to highlight the issues a hundred times before it will begin to sink into the body politic.

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Diane Sawyer is STUPID!

This is really astounding. How long has Diane Sawyer been a reporter (1978, but who's counting)? This is unbelievable .....

During the July 17 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-anchor Diane Sawyer falsely claimed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "vows to filibuster, talking all night to close out all topics besides a vote on Iraqi troop withdrawals."

Sawyer was referring to Reid's plan to hold an all-night Senate debate prior to the July 18 cloture vote on a Democratic proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq. However, by planning to extend the Senate session throughout the night, Reid is not "vow[ing] to filibuster," as Sawyer reported. Rather, he is highlighting the Republicans' blocking of an up-or-down vote on the proposal; in other words, it is the Republicans who are filibustering the withdrawal proposal by requiring that 60 senators vote for the amendment in order for it to pass.
Oh ferchristsakes. This show, this news reporter, is probably one of the larger outlets for "news" that people pick up each day. No wonder people think that Osama bin Laden has a nice beachfront home in Iraq.

On the real news front. The forced filibuster tonight is putting some heat on the Republicans. It'll be worth a couple of news cycles which is good. Congress needs to continue these kind of pugilistic tactics until Republicans come to their senses.

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Quotable

I mentioned earlier an ABC News report from Iraq. In that interview, soldiers are getting bolder in complaining about the whole mess.

Here is one of those quotes:

Approaching his fifteenth month in Iraq, one soldier made a personal challenge to President Bush: “I challenge the President or whoever has us here for 15 months to ride alongside me. I’ll do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day for 15 months. I’ll do 15 more months. They don’t even have to pay me extra.”
You watch last nights report here. It's quite disturbing to see these young people stuck the way they are.

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Lying SOB



Brazen .....

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xoxoxoxxxoo

David Brooks has written an love letter op-ed after having spent some quality time with Bush. Get your hankey ready ....

Far from being beleaguered, Bush was assertive and good-humored. While some in his administration may be looking for exit strategies, he is unshakably committed to stabilizing Iraq…. I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency. [Some would call that clueless or lacking conscience]

All this will be taken as evidence by many that Bush is delusional. He’s living in a cocoon. He doesn’t see or can’t face how badly the war is going and how awfully he has performed. [ ok, I'll play that strawman ..... Ah .... Yeah?!]

But Bush is not blind to the realities in Iraq…. Rather, his self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.” [this isn't delusional? Freedom may be a gift of the almighty, but it ain't arriving via the Bushmobile]
Brooks goes on and on, but the bottom line is his analysis is about as vacant as MoDo's schoolgirl rumor mill. And the NY Times expects people to pay for this crap? No wonder papers are going under.

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I Have A Dog That Will Run

Josh Marshall:

I must say this really does make my day. "None of the Above" has surged into the lead in the new GOP primary poll out from AP/Ipsos. The only thing funnier is that this is even surprising. McCain's campaign has imploded. Giuliani's the fading pro-choice contender, which is sort of redundant. People seem to be catching on to the fact that Fred Thompson is a one-term senator and lobbyist not Reagan 2.0. And that leaves you with Mitt Romney, the avatar of transcendent phoney-baloneyism.
If you think about it, who in their right mind would run for President on the Republican side this time around?

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Escalation II

I had read this story yesterday, but just gave it passing notice. The Pentagon is always making plans, so who knows. But William Arkin makes an interesting case for why Bush will add yet more troops to Iraq:

Here's how it could happen: In September, Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker produce their "report" to Congress. President Bush then ponders the options. (And we know he isn't going to throw in the towel.) And then the case is made -- and there is a certain logic to it -- that keeping forces at the same or higher levels would help the U.S. and Iraq reach their goals more quickly.

So one option then would be Surge II. These guys have guts.

On his Baghdad-bound aircraft yesterday, Gen. Peter Pace said that the Joint Chiefs (the chairman, vice chairman, and the chiefs of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force) are developing their own assessment of the situation in Iraq, a report that they will present to the president in September alongside the report from Gen. David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq.

Joint Chiefs deliberations are closely held. Pace said, however, that they would look at post-September scenarios for Iraq that included a second surge of U.S. military forces -- if that is what the president wants. Pace also echoed the view that the first surge (which started in January) is just beginning to bear fruit and in fact needs a boost to allow for Iraqi political and military progress.
I think he lays out a very possible scenario. I hope he's wrong. Arkin reports that generals in the Pentagon are fed up with Iraq while those in Iraq have swallowed the kool-aid all the way. Interestingly, soldiers are starting to get more brazen in their criticisms of their deployment in a no-win situation as evidenced by an ABC News report last night. These guys sounded just like Vietnam soldiers. As usual, we shall see.

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Three Words

Ain't Gonna Happen ....

The New York Times and Washington Post lead, while the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, with President Bush's announcement that he plans to bring the Middle East peace process back to the forefront by calling for a regional conference in the fall. Bush also emphasized U.S. support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promised to send $80 million in direct aid. Although Bush recognized that his vision of a "two-state solution" is still a distant dream, he urged countries in the region to send high-level officials to the conference so that "today's Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan."
Would somebody, anybody, please get to Preznit Bush and tell him he's radioactive. No one, I mean no one is going to want to do anything to help this schmuck. The only problem is that he represents us.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Ask And You Shall Receive

We wanted a filibuster, now we'll get it ....

Go Harry:

Moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that in response to conservative obstructionism, he plans to force war supporters to physically remain in the Senate and filibuster Iraq withdrawal legislation.

Reid accused conservatives of “protecting the President rather than protecting our troops” by “denying us an up or down vote on the most important issue our country faces.” He said that if a vote on the Reed/Levin Iraq legislation is not allowed today or tomorrow, he will keep the Senate in session “straight through the night on Tuesday” and force a filibuster.

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Make Em' Talk

One way to garner some headlines over the obstructionist Republicans is to make them actually do a filibuster. That's not how it works right now ....

Currently they have a cloture vote. If the votes are not there to override a filibuster, there's a sort of gentleman's agreement that the filibuster took place without making anyone actually take the time to do the talking. And clearly, the GOP plan is to keep doing this. Sen. Kent Conrad:

I think that we could do a better job making our points, and one part of that is to let the American people see just how obstructionist this Republican minority is being. The leader has had to file cloture now over 40 times already this year. And cloture, as you know, is a special procedure to stop debate, to stop filibusters, in order to reach conclusion on legislation. I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don’t intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster.
So as many have been advocating, (go sign the petition) allow me to add my small voice. Make them actually perform the filibuster. Let Republicans stand in the well of the Senate and have to talk 24/7 and keep the filibuster votes handy at all times. Enforce the filibuster rules religiously. The media would be all over it, a sort of reverse Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. It would be terrific theatre to get all the sound bites of the nutbar conservative arguments they'd use during the non-stop talking.

Digby has a rundown on the obstructed legislation.

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Back n' Forth n' Back n' ......

This is what it's like to be an occupier in the middle of a civil war:

The NYT fronts a good look at how Iraqi soldiers aren't happy about the new alliances that are being created between U.S. forces and Sunnis, many of whom are former insurgents. Although they should all theoretically be working to bring peace to Iraq, soldiers don't see the Sunnis as allies and U.S. forces sometimes have to intervene to prevent violence from breaking out. Whether the two groups can work together is seen as a key test of the strategy. At the same time, though, some U.S. service members are beginning to trust the Sunnis more than the Iraqi soldiers. "I could stand among 1,800 Sunnis in Abu Ghraib," Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton said, "and feel more comfortable than standing in a formation of Iraqi soldiers."

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Another Civil War

I wonder if there's another middle eastern civil war brewing?

Some of the experts I read don't think so because fundamentalist have much less popular support in Pakistan than elsewhere. But on the other hand, there is a lot of unrest in Pakistan. This particular story is about the breakdown of a deal to allow the area of Waziristan to govern itself (translation: allow al Qaeda back in to train):

The peace deal in North Waziristan was supposed to give tribal leaders the autonomy to fight off extremist groups but, instead, many believe, as U.S. intelligence officers outlined last week, that it has created a safe haven for terrorist groups. Although the Pakistani government isn't saying that the deal is over, it has deployed troops to the area and local militants declared it to be dead, which, as the LAT says, "indicated they wanted no impediment to an all-out fight with government forces." The LAT and WSJ point out there is increasing talk that President Pervez Musharraf might use the threat posed by the militants to declare a state of emergency and postpone elections that are supposed to take place this year.
A little itty bitty civil war certainly would serve Musharraf's purposes, so long as it doesn't get out of control.

Update: Interestingly, just after writing this I came across this terrific background article on the complexities of Pakistan's political situation. It's a very good backgrounder for those interested in the dangers in Pakistan. Here's an excerpt:

Pakistan today in many ways resembles pre-revolutionary Iran. A cosmopolitan middle class is prospering, yet for the great majority of poorer Pakistanis life remains intolerably hard and access to justice or education is a distant hope: just 1.8 per cent of Pakistan’s G.N.P. is spent on education. The published literacy rate is forty-nine per cent, and in some areas the rate is estimated to be as low as fourteen per cent. Instead of investing adequately in education, Musharraf’s government is spending money on a fleet of American F-16s for the Air Force. Health care and other social services for the poor have also been neglected, in contrast to the public services that benefit the wealthy, such as highways and airports—many of which are world-class.

It is this disparity perhaps as much as anything else that has fuelled the growth of the Islamist religious parties. Ayesha Siddiqa told me, “There is a breakdown of effective government. The political parties have all failed to create an environment where the poor can get what they need from the state. The laws are always twisted for the rich; in fact, there are effectively no laws for them. So the poor have begun to look to alternatives for justice.” She went on to point out, “The religious parties and Sharia are increasingly seen as the one source of justice for them. In the long term, flaws in the system will create more room for the fundamentalists.”

Paralleling the rise of the religious parties as the only effective opposition to the entrenched Pakistani √©lite—widely perceived as corrupt, Westernized, and decadent—there has been a growing number of Taliban-style Islamist vigilantes, particularly in the M.M.A.-ruled North-West Frontier Province. In the past few months, a rash of suicide bombings—something previously almost unknown in Pakistan—have left scores of people dead in the frontier region.

...

Dependent on the support of the mullahs as well as on that of the Americans, Musharraf is in an almost impossible position. He has replaced many of the more pro-Islamist I.S.I. generals, and he appears in many ways to be co√∂perating with the United States in the hunt for Al Qaeda suspects. But the Army continues to use jihadis in Kashmir, and the extent to which Taliban units are openly operating out of Pakistan’s tribal areas implies that the I.S.I. is not doing all it can to prevent the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan. Musharraf cannot have the blessings of both the Americans and the Islamists, and he cannot continue to dismantle democratic organizations while claiming to be the savior of democracy.

Few people are predicting a happy resolution to this increasingly dangerous situation, yet Jahangir remains optimistic. “Musharraf is rapidly losing the minimum respect that gives you the moral authority to rule a country,” she said. “We have the resilience to create new institutions and new systems. We have enough people of integrity. Given an opportunity, political parties can make a difference and new political leaders can emerge. But we civilians have to run the government ourselves. At the moment, it is not that the country has a garrison; it is that the garrison has a country.

“However flawed democracy here is, it is still the only answer,” she continued. “Once there is a proper political movement, the religious parties will become marginalized. I am not at all gloomy. These protests have been a wake-up call.”
Let's hope the prognosticators about Pakistan being OK are correct. The article certainly paints a picture of Pakistan as being very similar to Iran under the Shah ... a staunch American ally dependent on American weapons with a populace of haves and have-nots. We all know how well that turned out.

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Neo-Crazed

The neo cons really are nuts.

I lie on the beach with Hillary-Ann, a chatty, scatty 35-year-old Californian designer. As she explains the perils of Republican dating, my mind drifts, watching the gentle tide. When I hear her say, " Of course, we need to execute some of these people," I wake up. Who do we need to execute? She runs her fingers through the sand lazily. "A few of these prominent liberals who are trying to demoralise the country," she says. "Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get." She squints at the sun and smiles. " Then things'll change."

The Independent has the story. One of their reporters managed to book passage on an annual cruise organized by the National Review, mouthpiece of right-wing America.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Patriot Vs. Left

Have you ever doubted the claims by those on the left that the media skews their position? Or that the media favors one side or the other? Click through and see what Rick Perlstein found:

I just was a guest on Mike Feder's show SIRIUS Satellite Radio show and learned something deeply, deeply offensive.

The liberal channel is called "SIRIUS Left."

The conservative channel is called "SIRIUS Patriot."

SIRIUS Satellite Radio doesn't think you're patriotic. This is an obscenity.

SIRIUS's media relations representative for talk radio is Hillary Schupf. Her email is hschupf@siriusradio.com. Her phone number is 212-901-6739. Let's start with her. Share what she says in the comments. This cannot be allowed to stand.

Doesn't get much more blatant than that.

I sent my email. Have you? Send Hillary some love.

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Why?

Just a quick question.

I read the reviews of the pundits appearances on all the Sunday news shows. What strikes me is, why do all the same old faces who've been completely wrong show up week after week after week (i.e. Bill Kristol)? From a Kristol column before the war:

We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of cooperation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.
Is there anything there that's correct?

And yet, the SOB is on one show or the other week after week after week ......

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Huckleberry Loses It

Indeed, it's been a tough couple of months for ole' Huckleberry Graham. The pressure of hubris and being wrong are evident ....

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Dead Checking

You may want to carefully consider whether you read this entire post or not.

There's been testimony in a military trial of a Marine accused of murder in Iraq. It appears his behavior was typical, and sanctioned. This is no real surprise. But I hope our country realizes that we're creating a generation of deeply troubled young men who know how to use guns .....

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A Marine corporal said Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after officers ordered them to "crank up the violence level," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo testified Saturday at the murder trial of Cpl. Trent D. Thomas.

"We were told to crank up the violence level," the newspaper quoted Lopezromo as saying in testimony for the defense.

When a juror asked for further explanation, Lopezromo said: "We beat people, sir."

Weeks after allegedly being criticized by officers for not being tough enough, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.

Lopezromo said the man was known to his neighbors as the "prince of jihad," and had been arrested several times and later released by the Iraqi legal system.

Unable to find him, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it appear he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony.

Four Marines and the corpsman, initially charged with murder in the April 2006 killing, have pleaded guilty to reduced charges and been given jail sentences ranging from 10 months to eight years. Thomas, 25, from St. Louis, pleaded guilty but withdrew his plea and is the first defendant to go to court-martial.

Lopezromo, who was not part of the squad on its late-night mission, said he saw nothing wrong with what Thomas did.

"I don't see it as an execution, sir," he told the judge, according to the newspaper. "I see it as killing the enemy."

He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.

"Because of the way they live, the clans, they're all in it together," he said.

Lopezromo and two other Marines were charged in August with assaulting an Iraqi two weeks before the killing that led to charges against Thomas and the others. Charges against all three were later dropped.

Thomas' attorneys have said he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury from his combat duty in Fallujah in 2004. They have argued that Thomas believed he was following a lawful order to get tougher with suspected insurgents.

Prosecution witnesses testified that Thomas shot the 52-year-old man at point-blank range after he had already been shot by other Marines and was lying on the ground.

Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead, he testified.

"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice," he said.
This is what happens when you put young men with personality disorders *snark* in a situation that is impossible. And then they come home .....

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Foreign Fighters

There's only three possibilities when it comes to the Bush administrations assertions that "foreign fighters" have infiltrated Iraq.

1. Foreign fighters are particularly adept at not getting caught.

2. Local fighters are particularly adept at getting caught.

3. Bush is full of crap.

I'll let you decide:

Ned Parker of the LA Times reports that of 19,000 "insurgents" held by the US military in Iraq, only 135 are foreigners.

Here's Juan Cole's conclusion:

So you'd think after all the ink spilled on Iranian and Hizbullah contributions to the troubles in Iraq, that they'd be prominent among the foreign fighters, right? Wrong. It is not clear that the US has any Iranians at all in custody. There was a big deal made at the NYT about one Lebanese Hizbullah guy who may have been a freelancer.

So if they aren't from Iran, where are they from? Saudi Arabia--- 45%! Only 15% are from "Syria and Lebanon," and I'll bet you that all but one of those are Sunni. 10% are from North Africa, which is only about 14 guys. North Africa is Sunni.

That is, the numbers Parker pulled out of a US officer in Iraq demolish the entire image that the Bush administration and the Washington press corps has been presenting of the war.

Foreign "al-Qaeda" is almost irrelevant to it. Iran is entirely trivial to it. The Baathist, Allawi-dominated Syrian government is trivial to it. The Lebanese Hizbullah may not be involved at all, as an organization. Certainly it is not involved in any significant way.

Which country is providing a lot of foreign suicide bombers? US ally Saudi Arabia. Has any general or Bush administration official called a press conference to denounce Saudi Arabia? No. Has Joe Lieberman threatened it with a war? No. Everything is being blamed on Iran because powerful American special interests want to get Iran, regardless of the facts.

There isn't any significant cadre of foreign "al-Qaeda" fighters in Iraq if this is all we could capture. They can't take over the country because they are such a tiny group. Everything Bush and Cheney have said about the nature of the war and the supposed dangers of a US withdrawal is transparent falsehood.
I should think that would clear things up a little ..... if the media ever investigated any of Bush's claims that is.

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