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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't hold back, Jimmy


Former president Jimmy Carter on current president GWB:
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."
As for Tony Blair:
Carter also lashed out Saturday at British prime minister Tony Blair. Asked how he would judge Blair's support of Bush, the former president said: "Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient."
Douglas Brinkley, a Carter biographer, described Carter's comments as "unprecedented." Unprecedented and sorely needed. Let the conservative backlash begin. Hold on.

More Carter here.

More on Mueller


Just wanted to do a quick follow up on a post of mine from the other day regarding possible FBI involvement in the warrantless wiretapping scandal. In an update, I linked to A.L. who speculated that the reason that FBI Director Mueller played such an apparently prominent role in the pushback on the wiretapping program was because of his willingness to buck pressure from the White House. As evidence of this, A.L. linked to a March 2006 U.S News & World Report article regarding warrantless searches (which I too noted at the time).

But one can go back further to get an understanding of why Mueller may have been willing to go the lengths he was on warrantless surveillance. A January 2006 NY Times article reported that after Sept. 11th, the FBI was flooded with hundreds of various forms of data (email addresses, phone numbers etc) which was thought to have been compiled by the NSA program. Most of those leads turned out to be dead ends.

Placing both articles in context, it's not surprising that Mueller would wish to be involved given that as his role as FBI Director, he would ultimately be responsible for compiling evidence against anyone who may have been swept up as a result of those NSA taps. So it would make sense that he would want to ensure that the evidentiary trail could hold up in a court of law.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Of Curtains and Trick Bags


With revelations of dubious behavior coming out on what seems to be a nearly daily basis, pressure is building on the White House. Even the vaunted Washington Post, long a deflector for this administration's most nefarious shenanigans, has taken to recalling shades of Watergate. Votes of no-confidence ring out from all but within the walls of the oval office, confidence is codified as us vs. them. Accusations of trick bags from the Democrats ring hollow when matched with reality's trickless confines. The Bushies would like nothing more than to hide all their indiscretions behind a veil of national security.

It is long past time we pay attention to the man behind the curtain and demand he reveal his own bag of dirty tricks.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Friday, May 18, 2007

An orange jumpsuit for the AG?


Yesterday, conservatives were trying to make the case that there is "no there there" when it came to Alberto Gonzales' late night, DOJ disrespecting trip to the sick-bed of his predecessor, John Ashcroft. Well, today, Time magazine takes a look at the "there" in "no there there" and finds that, in fact, there may have been a law broken.
Ashcroft bluntly rebuffed Gonzales, but Comey's unwillingness publicly to say what Gonzales said in the hospital room has raised questions about whether Gonzales may have violated executive branch rules regarding the handling of highly classified information, and possibly the law preventing intentional disclosure of national secrets. [...]

The law controlling the unwarranted disclosure of classified information that has been gained through electronic surveillance is particularly strict. In the past, everyone from low-level officers in the armed forces to sitting Senators have been investigated by the Justice department for the intentional disclosure of such information. The penalty for "knowingly and willfully" disclosing information "concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States" carries a penalty up to 10 years in prison under U.S. law.
Sounds like the "no there there" conservatives will be in need of a new set of talking points. What a waste of paper.

Note: Conservatives only resorted to their claim of no actual wrongdoing as a fall back position after it was discovered that Bill Clinton had never sent his chief counsel to arm-twist a disabled and disoriented Janet Reno.

You Make Enough Already, Soldier


Let me get this straight. A President who has presided over the largest increase in defense spending in US history is now saying he is opposed to providing Armed Service members with a 3.5 percent pay increase because it is .5 percent higher than what he thinks they deserve? That's where he chooses to finally show some conservatism? One would think he would be more interested in the billions of dollars going to pay defense contractors who haven't been very meticulous in their accounting.

But then, it's like they say. War is profitable. Just not, it seems, for the ones doing the actual fighting.

Update: So how much of a difference does this .5 percent mean in dollars? About what we spend every nanosecond in Iraq.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Oliver Stone Alert


One bullet, two bullets, magic bullet, bull:
In a collision of 21st-century science and decades-old conspiracy theories, a research team that includes a former top FBI scientist is challenging the bullet analysis used by the government to conclude that Lee Harvey Oswald alone shot the two bullets that struck and killed President John F. Kennedy in 1963. [...]

They found that the scientific and statistical assumptions Guinn [conductor of the original bullet analysis] used -- and the government accepted at the time -- toconclude that the fragments came from just two bullets fired from Oswald's gun were wrong.

"This finding means that the bullet fragments from the assassination that match could have come from three or more separate bullets," the researchers said. "If the assassination fragments are derived from three or more separate bullets, then a second assassin is likely," the researchers said. If the five fragments came from three or more bullets, that would mean a second gunman's bullet would have had to strike the president, the researchers explained.
I guess Jerry had it right all along...


A Cage That Imprisons All


Terror and torture were among the topics of Tuesday's GOP debate that elicited some of the most outlandish of the night's performances. In a scenario better suited to an episode of "24", moderator Brit Hume asked how far the candidates would go to thwart a pending terror attack. Rudy and Tancredo wholeheartedly endorsed whatever means necessary. Romney did them one better by also going off on a tangent about the need to double Gitmo. The only reasoned response explaining why torture doesn't work came from McCain, which isn't very surprising given his background. But still, tough on torture was what drew the biggest applauses.

But as Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar remind us, torture is definitely not something we should cheer. Here's a taste.
The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night's presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. Indeed, among the candidates, only John McCain demonstrated that he understands the close connection between our security and our values as a nation.
Read the whole thing. It is, if anything, yet another in a series of endless reiterations of why we should endeavor not to find ourselves prisoners to the cage of irrational fear.

Update: More from Balkinization.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

I, Spy More


Yesterday, everyone was talking about the testimony of former Deputy Attorney General James Comey. As Creature noted, some disturbing new questions have been raised, chief among them why Congress has not sought further investigations of the NSA spying scandal especially in light of what has just been learned.

Well Congress is finally sitting up and taking notice. In a letter sent to Gonzales late yesterday, Senators questioned the Attorney General as to whether he will continue to stand by his testimony last February that there was no dispute in the Department of Justice over the legality of the NSA wiretapping program. As Comey testified on Tuesday, he and several senior administration officials, including then AG Ashcroft, came close to resigning in protest because the Bush administration insisted upon continuing the wiretapping program despite objections from the DOJ.

Now Gonzales has responded saying that he does indeed stand by his earlier testimony. This is where the story starts to get interesting. During that testimony, Gonzales took pains to stress that he could only discuss the surveillance program that had already been revealed by the New York Times and later confirmed by the Bush administration. What Comey revealed now raises the question of whether there are more spying programs which have yet to be disclosed and Laura Rosen adds some pieces to the puzzle that may suggest that the FBI may have been involved in such surveillance.

This is definitely something that Congress needs to look into with all deliberate speed so we may finally learn just who was spied on. Because given the nature of the beast behind Purgegate, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to speculate who that may be.

Update: Marty Lederman speculates on the nature of "the program".

Update II: The Anonymous Liberal has some thoughts on why Comey may have sought help from FBI Director Mueller.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Shells Over Baghdad


Not getting better:
BAGHDAD - Mortar rounds hammered the U.S.-controlled Green Zone for a second day Wednesday, killing at least two people, wounding about 10 more and raising new fears for the safety of workers at the nerve center of the American mission in Iraq. [...]

Both the intensity and skill of the attack were noteworthy. The shells, believed to be 122mm, exploded in rapid succession over about a three-minute period.

The blasts were relatively close to one another, suggesting an experienced mortar crew using more than one launcher.
Meanwhile, the White House tried to explain away this uptick in violence by claiming that it has always been part of the "operating environment." Move along. Nothing to see here. Except maybe there is:
[T]he recent increase in attacks has raised alarm among American staffers living and working in what had been considered an oasis of safety in the turbulent Iraqi capital.
Don't fret, though. This is progress to the up-is-down administration. Coordinated, increased shelling in the Green Zone means the surge is working. What else could it mean?

War Comes to New Jersey


Will Bunch reports that the Bush administration has apparently decided to bring Shock & Awe to the homeland, principally in skies of New Jersey (perhaps as a response to the Fort Dix Six?). Actually an F-16 just dropped some flares during a training exercise, accidentally setting the surrounding forest ablaze and forcing evacuations.

But as Attack NJ notes in the comments "[...] We need to attack NJ there, so they dont attack us here. They hate us for our freedoms. They all worship the Jersey Devil. Plus most are Flyers fans. And no Timetables - they'll just wait for us to leave, then attack. We should build military bases there. At least bush should be able to find NJ on a map."

Nah, he'd probably just attack Wyoming and claim that it was the central front.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Tenet Should Be Behind Bars, Not Microphones



Tenet Receives his “Presidential Medal of Silence”
We are supposed to feel sorry for this pathetic soul [former CIA Director George Tenet], who could not muster the integrity simply to tell the truth and stave off unspeakable carnage in Iraq. Rather, when his masters lied to justify war, Tenet simply lacked the courage to tell his fellow citizens that America was about to launch what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime”—a war of aggression.
Read more of former CIA analyst Ray McGovern's damning piece here. And if you know any of the TV talking heads who tossed softball questions at him in recent weeks, please forward the piece along to them.

Fuel Efficiency -- A No-Brainer?




You would think that requiring automobiles to become increasingly more fuel efficient would be a simple and smart way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, pollution, and greenhouse emissions. Perhaps it would be used a selling point for an automaker or two -- "buy our car and save $5000 in gas over 10 years."

Better fuel efficiency technology certainly exists, and has been improving for decades, yet US standards have not increased since the Carter Administration. In the 30 years since US fuel efficiency standards were raised we've seen the advent of the VCR, the CD player, the DVD player, the cell phone, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the space shuttle, airbags, GPS systems, digital cameras, the personal computer, the laptop computer, the PDA, the internet, e-mail, Wi-Fi, ATMs, DNA fingerprinting, fiber optics...

Without regulation the auto industry is not doing enough to keep up with the pace of technology. It begs the questions who is in charge and what are their priorities?

Click here to tell your representative to support the "Fuel Economy Reform Act" (H.R.1506) and raise fuel efficiency standards.

Thanks.

Disturbed


Yesterday, the former No. 2 at the Justice Department, James Comey, filled in the details of an attempt by the administration to skirt DOJ approval with respect to their warrantless wiretapping program -- an attempt which included a late night visit to a sick and hospitalized attorney general and a subsequent reauthorization of the program without DOJ approval. Today, even the Washington Post's editorial board is "disturbed" by it all.
The dramatic details should not obscure the bottom line: the administration's alarming willingness, championed by, among others, Vice President Cheney and his counsel, David Addington, to ignore its own lawyers. Remember, this was a Justice Department that had embraced an expansive view of the president's inherent constitutional powers, allowing the administration to dispense with following the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Justice's conclusions are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department's supervision.

Now, it emerges, they were willing to override Justice if need be. That Mr. Gonzales is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all.
Welcome, WaPo, to the land of the disturbed. Maybe now there will be less cheerleading and more scrutiny. Maybe.

Glenn Greenwald will take you the rest of the warrantless wiretapping way.

Opening The Files: 05/16/07


Falwell That Ends Well

Many in the blogs are noting the passing of Rev. Jerry Falwell yesterday at the tender age of just this side of Methuselah. I really don't have much to say about it since, unlike Falwell, I choose to take the moral high road and not speak ill of the dead no matter how deserving of contempt they may be. For as much as he may have tried to ostracize those who did not share his beliefs, he was still just a member of the diversity that is humanity and thus deserving of a modicum of respect. My thoughts and best wishes are with his family tonight.

For some good examples of the life and slimes of Jerry F., Carpetbagger is as good a place as any to start. And Timothy Noah has more from the Falwell hit parade.

Seeing as how much he's had to suck up to Falwell recently in order to even be considered a serious contender, it's not surprising to learn that John McCain was among the first to issue condolences to the late reverend. Wonkette wondered what the other GOPers might have said about Jerry during last night's round two debate.

Apparently FOX isn't the only ones reporting parody as actual news. MSNBC punk'd themselves when they took a quote from a fictitious White House website to tout Falwell's influence on the Bush administration. Ah, ain't research grand?

Alan Wolfe says that given his own penchant for casting stones in life, the urge to return the favor now is hard to ignore. Russell Shaw thinks it's probably best we sit out this dance with the devil's delight.


Ha Czar, Ha Czar, They Found A Czar!

After what seemed like a fruitless search, the Bushies have finally found someone to pin the blame the next Medal of Freedom on. He's Lt. General Douglas Lute. Guess they had to tap into the second string since all the first stringers knew better than to take this scapegoat of a occupation.

But already it seems there may be a problem with this pick. Lute apparently once advocated a drawdown of US forces in Iraq. How soon do you suppose it will be before the White House assures us that Czar Lute is down with the surge? A: Not long.

I'll let Meme handle the roundup on this one. I'm all Czarred out.

(Another one for the cabinet over at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ding Dong


Jerry Falwell is dead.

Mustang Bobby gets the farewell Falwell quote of the day: "If there is a Heaven, I hope he's greeted at the Pearly Gates by Matthew Shepard."

Tony The Poodle



Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was a promising leader who got suckered into supporting and thereby enabling a war of aggression. The man is as guilty of war crimes as the Bushists, and you can't get much more guilty than those fine fellows.

Ultimately the good Blair did early in his tenure as Prime Minister will be remembered, but overshadowed by the sad fact that he provided a large piece of the cover the Bush Administration needed to not just start it's disastrous war on Iraq, but to stay the failed course year after year.

In return for his help in enabling their massive profiteering, Blair will soon find himself well compensated for sitting on the board of Halliburton or The Carlyle Group.

Armageddon It On


As Steven D says, this is disturbing on so many levels. Via Raw Story:
President George W. Bush met privately with Focus on the Family Founder and Chairman James Dobson and approximately a dozen Christian right leaders last week to rally support for his policies on Iraq, Iran and the so-called "war on terror."

“I was invited to go to Washington DC to meet with President Bush in the White House along with 12 or 13 other leaders of the pro-family movement," Dobson disclosed on his radio program Monday. “And the topic of the discussion that day was Iraq, Iran and international terrorism. And we were together for 90 minutes and it was very enlightening and in some ways disturbing too."
I don't know which is more unnerving. That Bush is actually consulting with religious leaders on foreign policy issues or that the percentage of people who still support his administration are probably also the same ones who believe that the end of days will take place this year. And the above revelation makes one thing they are trying their damnedest not to be proven wrong.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

What's in a Pseud?


So we're back to harping on blog comments again? Only this time the bugaboo is about pseudonymous commenters supposedly trolling the interwebs and wreaking such havoc with their bloghate that we should police who is to be given anonymity? Frankly I could care less about whether or not someone wants to remain anonymous when they comment on my stuff so long as they remain civil. And given that foregoing anonymity really won't stop someone keen to cause a ruckus, I don't see much of a point.

Personally I don't have much of a problem with anonymous blog trolls (unless you count Kvatch, kidding!) since my blog resides somewhere in the Y tier of blogospheric hierarchy. And as far as why I choose to blog anonymously, it is not so much an issue of needing to keep my identity a secret but one of continuity. I've had the handle Xsociate* for a long time in various online incarnations and when it came time to name my blog, it was a natural fit. Why mess with a winning and uniquely recognizable moniker ya know?

Anyway, lots more navel gazing to be had here.

*For those curious where the hell I came up with the name Xsociate, it was the end result of an X-Files obsession many many years ago.

(Filed under "WEV" at The Xsociate Files)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Home sweet


I didn't leave my heart in San Fran, but I did leave a bit of my brain. Regular blogging will resume shortly.

Surgin' Toward September


September has been batted about by everyone as the time in which there will be a serious assessment of the "surge" policy and how best to move forward from there. Sen. Chuck Hagel says that the 11 GOPers who visited President Bush last week only represent a small sampling of the growing concerns in the Republican caucus. Defenders of the administration like Brit Hume and Bill Kristol argue that all this talk of giving the surge until September only shows weakness and invites our enemies to continue or escalate their offensives.

I got news for you guys. They already are. During just the first half of May we've lost nearly 50 soldiers, three of whom are missing and may have been captured by members of Al-Qaeda. Despite the increase in US forces in Baghdad, death squads still run rampant and suicide bombings continue unabated. Yet everyone says that September will be when we can assess how things are going, as if current events weren't enough of a clue.

Besides, anything less than a wholesale defection of Republicans won't make the Bushies sit up and take notice. And even if it came to that, I doubt very much Bush would care. He does not care about the costs of this war, whether in blood and treasure for Americans and Iraqis or the political prospects of his party's future.

The only thing he cares about is being able to hand over the reins to the next President and walk out the back door of the White House secure in his belief that at least the war wasn't "lost" on his watch.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Truth in Comics



If it's Sunday, it's Truth in Comics.

Justice Scandal: Pakistan Edition


While the machinations behind the various scandals at the Department of Justice have been maddening to those who actually value the meaning of the word, we should all be thankful that President Bush has not taken the route that some of his allies have.

Two months ago, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Many feel his ousting was designed to help forestall any constitutional challenge that may arise from upcoming elections.

Now protests this weekend have gripped the city of Karachi. The ensuing clashes between backers of Chaudhry and pro-Musharraf demonstrators have left some 31 people dead and hundreds injured. Some worry what the violence could mean for democracy in Pakistan and Musharraf's fate.

And while I do not wish to downplay the seriousness of the situation, it is not without irony. Consider: Pervez may lose his grip on power not at the hands of radical Islamists bent on controlling Pakistan's nuclear arsenal but rather from those who wish to see a truer form of democracy flourish there.

Maybe we could learn a few things from their struggle.

Much more on this from Cernig who thus far has been one of the few to keep us appraised of the situation even though it could have far reaching implications not only for Pakistan but for US efforts in the region as well.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Coultergate


I haven't blogged much about Ann Coulter's voter fraud allegations because as we have come to realize in the many offshoots of Purgegate, voter fraud only matters when it can be leveled at Democrats. But there are some interesting twists to the story that still make for good Coulter fodder.

For those not up to speed: Last year, Ms. Coulter voted in a Florida district which wasn't the same as her physical address in state. Voting in any district other than the one in which you reside is a felony in the Sunshine State, with punishment of up to $5,000 smackers and/or five years in the pokey. Anyway, to cut to the predictable ending, Coulter got off.

But this is where the story gets interesting. Seems that the investigation of her alleged malfeasance was closed after an FBI agent interceded on her behalf. Now that same FBI guy finds himself the subject of his own investigation and if rumors are true, he may in fact be an exorcised boyfriend of Coultergeist!

So did the succubus in the black cocktail dress get help from her G-Man?

I think the bigger question is: who knew there was someone willing to put up with Ann Coulter for more than five minutes at a time?

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)