Think at your own risk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Oh, loathesome me

Yes, yes, Michelle "The Internmenator" Malkin was number 49, beating out Geraldo and his horrible mustache (Malkin is slammed as "...a curious case of racial Stockholm syndrome with a palpable lust for violent ideological oppression and displays of imperial power" and sentenced to be "detained indefinitely without charge and waterboarded hourly for looking at a cop “all slanty-like.”) But that's not even close to the best of what's in the Buffalo Beast's annual ranking of the 50 most loathesome people in America. Read it, love it, savor it. They even dis my girl Hillary, but it's all good...

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Torture, International

It's semi-official:
It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the ''rendition'' of more than a hundred persons affecting Europe, according to Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, whose interim assessment was made public today in an information memorandum. Citing statements made by American officials and others, Mr Marty also said there was ''a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture''. He welcomed the arrival yesterday of detailed information he had requested from Eurocontrol and the EU's Satellite Agency. At the opening of the debate this morning, Dick Marty expressed his concern at the pressure put on the media in the United States not to report on this affair. ''Our aim is to find out the truth that is being hidden from us today'', he said.
Read the memo for yourself here.

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Where attitudinal sista girls and hormonal teens with no acne come together

Oh no they didn't! The new CW network (is that pronounced "cwah...?") makes UPN and The WB obsolute, girlfriend! Ohmigod, does this like mean Britney and K-Fed are getting renewed, or just that Brandy's brother is getting his own show. Tell me tell me tell me, I'm like, so interested!!!

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Wolfowitz off to a rough start at the World Bank

...He gets poor marks from the career staff and from the Financial Times...

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Right and wrong

In his LAT column today, Joel Stein makes some coherent points about the guilty, knee-jerk reaction that kicks in for so many Americans who oppose the Iraq war (particularly given the successful Republican effort to equate any dissent from the war with unpatriotic tendencies):

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else. Trust me, a guy who thought 50.7% was a mandate isn't going to pick up on the subtleties of a parade for just service in an unjust war. He's going to be looking for funnel cake.

Besides, those little yellow ribbons aren't really for the troops. They need body armor, shorter stays and a USO show by the cast of "Laguna Beach."

The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.

I understand the guilt. We know we're sending recruits to do our dirty work, and we want to seem grateful.

After we've decided that we made a mistake, we don't want to blame the soldiers who were ordered to fight. Or even our representatives, who were deceived by false intelligence. And certainly not ourselves, who failed to object to a war we barely understood.
But then he goes on to offer a wholly unsupportable case against those same Laguna Beach peep show-needed jarheads, because, as he says, he doesn't support the war, so saying he supports the troops is downright "wussy" ...

The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.

I do sympathize with people who joined up to protect our country, especially after 9/11, and were tricked into fighting in Iraq. I get mad when I'm tricked into clicking on a pop-up ad, so I can only imagine how they feel.

But when you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you're not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you're willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse. Sometimes you get lucky and get to fight ethnic genocide in Kosovo, but other times it's Vietnam.

And sometimes, for reasons I don't understand, you get to just hang out in Germany.
Ineffecient...? So people in the military who don't support the policy of their civilian leadership -- which is their boss, by the way -- should simply make the moral choice on the battlefield not to fight? Otherwise they're serving as "willing tools of American imperialism?" That makes about as much sense as telling cops who don't like the new mayor to ignore those dispatch calls (aren't they really just dispatches from the Enemy?) or telling firefighters to hold the hoses in objection to the administration's policies on clean water. Except in the case of clearly illegal orders -- to commit genocide or torture -- soldiers have to follow orders. [That's why the Abu Ghraib grunts are in prison (and why the officers in charge of them, and the Pentagon wackos in the Office of Special Plans should be).]

Dude, soldiers don't make policy. They make war. They serve administrations they like, and president's they don't like so much, and they do their jobs for Democrats or Republicans, regardless of their own party affiliation. And let's get real for a second -- most of these guys weren't "tricked" into fighting in Iraq. If you talk to them, most will give you the gung ho line in support of the war. Almost to a man. It can be maddening, but it's also reality. I'd guess that most of the guys in uniform over there believe in the mission, maybe because of partisan politics or perhaps because they listen to too much Rush Limbaugh, but more likely because they believe in themselves and each other -- whatever the odds, in Somalia or in Iraq or wherever they are, soldiers will tell you that they believe that if you give them the time and the tools, they can get it done. Personally, I can't help but admire their determination.

Those in the military who don't support the war -- and there are more of them are out there han the right wants you to know -- will often still say they want to stay in the fight, in order to support their brothers who are over there. And then there are those who just want out. Fortunately, they have several means of registering their objections to administration policy: they can resign their commissions (or try to) and they can publicly criticize the policy from the outside (as Anthony Zinni, Mr. Shinseki, the guys from Operation Truth and others have). (They can't blog, or criticize from inside, or they can get in real trouble...) They can raise collective objections to specific policies or missions (though there are consequences to that if they're still in uniform) or try collective action to avoid serial service, as some Guardsmen have done regarding stop-loss. Would-be recruits who object to Bush's foreign policy can choose not to enlist (or re-enlist) while this crowd is in power, as many have. And they can vote for the other party in the next election (assuming their votes are counted and not tampered with, of course...) Stein should have pointed out some of those options, rather than throwing out his flippant and unexplicated call to "just say no."

And why no parades? These guys are going through hell over there in the 130 degree heat, with no decent leadership or strategizing in Washington, not enough healthcare and other resources when they get home, not enough pay while their protecting $1,000-a-day Halliburton contractors, and not enough body armour. When they get home, assuming they come home alive and in one piece, they've got to live with the images in their heads -- the cheating death every minute, being wary of women and children at checkpoints, the shooting people and seeing their friends blown up -- for the rest of their lives. You're damned right they deserve a parade. Those who oppose the war certainly don't have to attend if they don't want to, but they shouldn't object to the idea. And if that makes me a wussie who objects to the war but supports the troops, roll me out some ticker tape and a bumper sticker. (HT to Dr. Rusty at Jawa, even though we don't entirely agree... and as for Ms. Malkin -- sorry, lady, but you are pretty loathesome... I don't know if you can hold a candle to Geraldo, but then, who can...)

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Who's blowing stuff up in Iran (and who's thinking about it)?

From Bloomberg a couple hours ago:

Two bombs killed at least six people and wounded 35 others in the oil-rich Iranian city of Ahvaz in Khuzestan province, where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was due to give a speech today.

Iranian Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi said those responsible for the ``terrorist'' acts were trained ``outside'' Iran's borders. One explosion occurred in a bank in Kianpour district in the southwestern city, and the other in Manabe Tabiee, state television said. Ahvaz is near the Iraqi border.

President Ahmadinejad canceled his visit to Ahvaz because of bad weather, his press office said. The bombs didn't explode at the location where he was due to speak, the office said.

Iran holds the world's second-largest oil reserves and is the No. 2 producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Khuzestan, its largest oil-producing province, has witnessed unrest in recent months that the government attributes to ethnic Arab separatists. Arabs, who make up the majority in Ahvaz, account for 3 percent of Iran's population.

Most of Iran's crude oil reserves are in Khuzestan, which is located close to the border with Iraq and to the Persian Gulf. The province is also home to two of the country's largest undeveloped oil fields -- the Azadegan and Yadavaran deposits.

A story in the Jerusalem Post quotes Iran's official news agency as describing the city of Ahvaz as " a city in southwestern Iran with a history of violence involving members of Iran's Arab minority" and it adds:

Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said the attacks were related to last year's bombings in the city and were foreign inspired.

"Today's explosions are a continuation of the same indiscriminate attacks directed from outside the country," IRNA quoted Pourmohammadi as saying.
And according to GlobalSecurity.org:
Ahvaz, capital of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, has been the scene of intermittent unrest among the predominantly Persian country's Arab minority.

A major bombing in the city in October that authorities blamed on Britain and on ethnic Arabs killed several people and injured scores.

A local journalist in Ahvaz, Mojtaba Gahestuni, suggested to Radio Farda that today's explosions resembled blasts that killed more than a dozen people and wounded more than 100 in the same city in June and October. Gahestuni noted that in each case an initial blast was followed shortly thereafter by a second explosion, and that the attacks took place in crowded parts of the city.
There were also 'splosions at the Nigerian offices of a large Italian oil company called Agip. In that case:
It is unclear if robbery was the sole motive for this latest attack, but it comes just days after militants who have kidnapped four foreign oil workers and attacked a Shell oil platform said they were preparing to carry out more raids.

The rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, says it wants a share of the Niger Delta region's enormous oil wealth, and is demanding the release of two local leaders.
Meanwhile, Iran is planning to hold a Holocaust skeptics conference, and threatening to ramp up its nuclear enrichment program to industrial levels if it is referred to the U.N. Security Council, while the U.S. is making threatening noises of its own, while officially saying it hopes to avoid confrontation with Ahamadinejad and Co. ... Gotta love this quote from Dubya:
"I'm concerned about a non-transparent society's desire to develop a nuclear weapon. The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon," Bush said during a speech in Manhattan, Kansas.
Yeah buddy, you oughta know about non-transparency...

Must-reads: this piece on the est's impossible choices on Iran by Christopher Dickey, and this one by Fareed Zakaria.

And last but not least, this new and stunningly rational assessment of the Iran-Israel axis of conflict:
Notwithstanding the United States' overwhelming military superiority and the asymmetry of warfighting capabilities between Iran and the US, it makes perfect sense, strategically speaking, for Iran to resort to the remedial targeting of Israel, the United States' strategic partner in the region.

In other words, Iran's current expressions of hostilities toward Israel are better understood from the prism of the US and Iran and how Tehran benefits in its incessant search for regional allies to offset US power. This it does through its anti-Israel posturing, using threats against Israel as the United States' Achilles' heel.

This brings us to the notion that Tehran's road to Washington, that is detente between the two countries, goes through Tel Aviv, and that Iran's cessation of hostilities toward Israel is the sine qua non for Washington's willingness to normalize ties with Tehran.

This is wrong, and the sooner US politicians realize it the better. Iran's US policy goes first: its Israel policy is a component of this. Put simply, Tehran's road to Washington does not travel through Jerusalem; rather, indulging in metaphors for a moment, it is a straight highway with several exit lanes, one of which is Israel.

Consequently, should a war break out between Iran and Israel in the (near) future, retrospectively it will most likely be interpreted by future historians as yet another example of how misperceptions cause war. Robert Jervis, in his important book Perception and Misperception in International Politics, has aptly detailed how the 1967 war was instigated by an Israeli misperception of the intentions of Egypt's leader, Gemal Abdul Nasser, who was vilified then as an "Arab Hitler" out to destroy Israel.

It turns out that Nasser's fiery anti-Zionist rhetoric was mostly for domestic consumption and his decision to remove the United Nations buffer forces from the Sinai and the like were not in preparation for war but simply maneuvers meant to bolster Syria's position.

Sadly, it appears that the same misperceptions are sowing the seeds of yet another bloody conflict in the Middle East, and one only hopes that learning from the past can make a difference, much as it is currently difficult to distinguish facts from misperceptions, public postures from policies and intentions.
Read the rest here.

From the vault:
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Gone fishin'

Let me get this straight... Antonin Scalia objected to Oregon's assisted suicide law based in part on the federal government's use of its powers to protect "public morality..." something he considers himself an arbiter of ... but not only did he skip John Roberts' swearing in to the Supreme Court, he did so in order to indulge in an all expense paid jaunt to an exclusive resort, where he plaid a spot of tennis and also did some fly fishing? I mean I know you were pissed you didn't get the job, but daaaamn...! (Kind of makes the NASCAR jacket and expensive Bible Clarence Thomas got look like the affirmative action schwag...)

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Short takes

Ford is apparently trading some 30,000 of its U.S. workers for magic beans...

The U.S. illegally transported terror suspects overseas to be tortured, an EU report finds. Okay refresh my memory... what are we trying to change about the Middle East again...?

Conservative Paul Craig Roberts takes the notion of Diebold-delivered elections dead seriously (as should we all...)

Okay, so P.C. silliness has gone too far. You mean the "American Idol" judges can't comment on a contestant not being masculine enough to be marketable? Aye, dios mio!

Yahoo! and MSN try to clean up the P.R. from their cooperation with Big Brother in handing over search data. (Stay strong, Google!)

Apparently the Russians and British as spying on each other, and doing it quite badly...

...and according to Drudge, Dubya is so far declining to get on the Brokeback bandwagon. Ya think???

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The Department of Useless Information

WaPo has the scoop on early warnings received in the White House situation room about just how bad Hurricane Katrina could get. The scoop is by future NSA wiretap target Joby Warrick:
In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

The NISAC paper warned that a storm of Katrina's size would "likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching" and specifically noted the potential for levee failures along Lake Pontchartrain. It predicted economic losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including damage to public utilities and industry that would take years to fully repair. Initial response and rescue operations would be hampered by disruption of telecommunications networks and the loss of power to fire, police and emergency workers, it said.

In a second document, also obtained by The Washington Post, a computer slide presentation by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prepared for a 9 a.m. meeting on Aug. 27, two days before Katrina made landfall, compared Katrina's likely impact to that of "Hurricane Pam," a fictional Category 3 storm used in a series of FEMA disaster-preparedness exercises simulating the effects of a major hurricane striking New Orleans. But Katrina, the report warned, could be worse. ...

...The documents shed new light on the extent on the administration's foreknowledge about Katrina's potential for unleashing epic destruction on New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities and towns. President Bush, in a televised interview three days after Katrina hit, suggested that the scale of the flooding in New Orleans was unexpected. "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm," Bush said in a Sept. 1 interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Not doing a goddamned thing with important information when it could do some good? Priceless.
Tags: , Katrina, New Orleans, Politics, hurricane,

Thou shalt not covet (Canada)

Do you think it's true that the things we say we hate the most and the things we most covet are very often one and the same? If it is true, it would explain the American right's captivation with the giddy thought of "turning" Canada... (one they share with their Tory brethren in the UK...) So what hath Canada wrought? According to an analyst in the Toronto Star:
In their collective wisdom, Canadian voters struck a cautious balance between determination to separate the Liberals from power and concerns about what the Conservatives would do with it. The result is a surprisingly weak Stephen Harper Conservative minority government with an uncertain future.

Putting an end to 13 years of what often felt like one-party rule, Canadians streamed to the polls on an unusually mild winter day first to toss out tired and tainted Liberals and then to impose onerous conditions on the Conservatives and their 46-year-old leader.

They gave the Liberals and the resurgent NDP the strength to defeat this minority, a fascinating dynamic that pushes the Bloc Quebecois toward the sidelines and should make Canadians breathe easier about any real or imagined neo-conservative threat to social values.
I'm not sure whether that means the righties won or lost... But one thing's for sure -- call it aloneness in the increasingly leftist, Cuba and China-centric, anti-Bush hemisphere (or hell, the whole world except for Tony Blair...) or just an extreme case of right wing paranoia, but I think the conservatives are lonely, and trolling for an international friend...

It's all rather sweet, really...

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Oh God yes, it WAS helpful!

Michelle Malkin inadvertently uncovers the best book review ever, this one disrobing Fred "Beatle" Barnes' doe-eyed, romantic new book on Bush (otherwise known as "Brokeback Pundit...") Here 'tis:
29 of 43 people found the following review helpful:
They didn't have a zero star rating., January 22, 2006
Reviewer: OGould - See all my reviews

I completely recommend this book if you like being underwhelmed, or if you want to be whipped into a catatonic stupor. If you must read it, get it from the library so you won't feel like you did when you bought the Ding King from the TV commercial. (As for the writing style, I'm not sure our president can push a subject against a predicate, at gunpoint.) If this was written by a ghostwriter, he or she should be taken out and shot.

Was this review helpful to you? YesNo (Report this)
Mr. (or Ms.) OGould, mark me down as number 30 of 44. Your review was indeed most helpful.

BTW, are Captain Ed and Michelle Malkin the same person...? It sure would explain a lot...

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The dirty water defense

So Newsweek's lead blue dress chaser Michael Isikoff (finally putting his talents to good use, apparently) is reporting that the Department of Defense has been conducting its own domestic spying program that even some insiders are saying has gone too far. The program, called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or "CIFA," was supposed to be a top secret national security program aimed at protecting defense facilities. But apparently it also targeted anti-war, anti war profiteering protesters, including a small group that last summer was handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches outside Halliburton's corporate headquarters in Houston as a protest against the company's gouging of the U.S. military for food for the troops in Iraq. Writes Isikoff:
...To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"—tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON—short for Threat and Local Observation Notice—that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.

A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention—although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. ...
And the right wonders why so many Americans are suspicious of Bush's Nixonian no-warrant spy activities at the NSA. Key question: who is it that one would want to wiretap who was supposedly talking to al-Qaida, but whom the Bushies would have to worry the FISA court wouldn't give NSA a warrant for? Because if it's al-Qaida on the line, wouldn't they get a warrant in a New York minute?

Bush bots, grow up. If you really have such innocent, childlike trust that your beloved president wouldn't dare use warrantless spying on political enemies, diplomats (we've already bugged U.N. Security Council members, remember?) or even members of Congress... you really need a nanny.

Oh yeah, and this one hits close to home:
Four months later, on Oct. 25, the TALON team reported another possible threat to national security. The source: a Miami antiwar Web page. "Website advertises protest planned at local military recruitment facility," the internal report warns. The database entry refers to plans by a south Florida group called the Broward Anti-War Coalition to protest outside a strip-mall recruiting office in Lauderhill, Fla. The TALON entry lists the upcoming protest as a "credible" threat. As it turned out, the entire event consisted of 15 to 20 activists waving a giant BUSH LIED sign. No one was arrested. "It's very interesting that the U.S. military sees a domestic peace group as a threat," says Paul Lefrak, a librarian who organized the protest.
I remember that strip mall recruiting office. It was near where our headquarters were for the Dem 527 I worked for was located. The office is located in a part of Lauderhill that's almost entirely Black and heavily West Indian, lower middle class to middle class. Just what recruiters are looking for... I've got to tell you it's about as much a hotbed of al-Qaida activity as the family kitchen in "Soul Food." But then, I'm not a super secret DoD analyst or NSA "expert..."

... Meanwhile, what has Halliburton -- the "military-like entity" DoD was spying so hard to protect -- been doing with all that extra security (when they're not bilking Congress and the DoD, overcharging for gasoline in a country with 15 percent of the world's crude supply, trading with enemies of the United States or bribing the Nigerians? Why, they've been busy piping dirty, contaminated water to our men and women in uniform in Iraq. (The MSM is just catching up -- that story actually broke last September on the advocacy site HalliburtonWatch...)

The Republican circle of life continues.

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The stink grows at Justice

Think there's any politics going on at the Justice Department's voting rights division? Nah...
The Justice Department's voting section, a small and usually obscure unit that enforces the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws, has been thrust into the center of a growing debate over recent departures and controversial decisions in the Civil Rights Division as a whole.

Many current and former lawyers in the section charge that senior officials have exerted undue political influence in many of the sensitive voting-rights cases the unit handles. Most of the department's major voting-related actions over the past five years have been beneficial to the GOP, they say, including two in Georgia, one in Mississippi and a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) in 2003.

The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section's decisions on hiring and policy.

"If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost," former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: "The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this." ...

... The 2005 Georgia case has been particularly controversial within the section. Staff members complain that higher-ranking Justice officials ignored serious problems with data supplied by the state in approving the plan, which would have required voters to carry photo identification.

Georgia provided Justice with information on Aug. 26 suggesting that tens of thousands of voters may not have driver's licenses or other identification required to vote, according to officials and records. That added to the concerns of a team of voting-section employees who had concluded that the Georgia plan would hurt black voters.

But higher-ranking officials disagreed, and approved the plan later that day. They said that as many as 200,000 of those without ID cards were felons and illegal immigrants and that they would not be eligible to vote anyway.

One of the officials involved in the decision was Hans von Spakovsky, a former head of the Fulton County GOP in Atlanta, who had long advocated a voter-identification law for the state and oversaw many voting issues at Justice. Justice spokesman Eric W. Holland said von Spakovsky's previous activities did not require a recusal and had no impact on his actions in the Georgia case.

Holland denied a request to interview von Spakovsky, saying that department policy "does not authorize the media to conduct interviews with staff attorneys." Von Spakovsky has since been named to the Federal Election Commission in a recess appointment by President Bush.
Al Gonzalez, you're doing one heck of a job...

Tags: , Politics, Elections, Republicans,

Built Ford crappy

Part of the cruel calculus of capitalism is that some companies fail because of bad luck, and others fail because they deserve to. Ford, in my opinion, is one of the latter. The company is jettisoning another 30,000 American jobs as part of an Orwellian-titled "way forward" plan aimed at stemming the losses from the poor decision-making, vapid car design, failure to keep up with technological advancements (clean fuel cars anyone?) and the losses and embarrassments from recall-tainted crap on wheels they've been hawking for more than a decade. (Am I biased? Yep. I've owned a Ford (Expedition) -- one of the recalled ones the company threw together but refuses to take responsibility for now that it's scrap metal...)

Bottom line: Ford's cars are junk, their management are fools and they deserve to go out of business, in pure capitalist style. I'm just sorry for their workers, who should by no means be shown the door before their worthless managers and executives are. But if Ford goes the way of the Edsel and is replaced by a smarter, better U.S. car-maker (maybe the Apple Computer or Jet Blue of the auto industry is just waiting to be born in the dorm room of some whiz kid car designer? One can only hope so, and that the Bush feds won't swoop in to rescue Ford so it can buy up the new guy before he beats the crap out of them...) then in the end, U.S. consumers will be the winners.

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George and Jack and Scott and uh-oh...

From Sunday's Time online:

"Peppered for days with questions about Abramoff's visits to the White House, press secretary Scott McClellan said the now disgraced lobbyist had attended two huge holiday receptions and a few "staff-level meetings" that were not worth describing further. "The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him," McClellan said.

The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s. ...

... Abramoff was once in better graces at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, having raised at least $100,000 for the President's re-election campaign. During 2001 and 2002, his support for Republicans and connections to the White House won him invitations to Hanukkah receptions, each attended by 400 to 500 people. McClellan has said Abramoff may have been present at "other widely attended" events. He was also admitted to the White House complex for meetings with several staff members, including one with presidential senior adviser Karl Rove, one of the most coveted invitations in Washington.

Michael Scanlon, who is Abramoff's former partner and has pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a Congressman, in 2001 told the New Times of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that Abramoff had "a relationship" with the President. "He doesn't have a bat phone or anything, but if he wanted an appointment, he would have one," Scanlon said.

And by the way, one of the tribal leaders apparently pictured with Jack 'n Dubya at a meet and greet set up by Abramoff and Grover Norquist: he's under indictment for embezzling $200,000 from his tribe. Oh, the company you keep...



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Friday, January 20, 2006

A thousand little book sales

Looks like Osama bin Laden has a potentially lucrative sideline on afternoon TV, turning barely noticed manuscripts into best-sellers. Case in point, the book Bin Laden mentioned in his ten-minute "proof of life" diatribe released yesterday. ... And he didn't even have to negotiate syndication rights with King World...

Previous:
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A message from Jack Abramoff's dad

You're glib, Clooney ... glib... and there's more!

In a telephone interview with The Desert Sun this morning, Frank Abramoff said Clooney was “an idiot” and described the actions as “pure, unadulterated stupidity.”

“You want to make fun. You can do that, but you don't make fun of someone else's hardships and misery,” the 78-year-old Abramoff said. “We’ve gone through quite a bit in our family. But the political end of it and the media end of it and all the other areas are one thing. When you see something like that on a show for 500 million people, it was not only a slap in my son’s face but in my father’s.”
Yes, hardships and misery ... like getting busted for stealing $20 million from Indian tribes and shaking down Washington with Ralph Reed and Tom DeLay riding shotgun. Poor Jack...

Update: BTW dad, looks like little Jack-off was at those White House meetings after all...

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From AIPAC to Iran in three indictments

Former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for spying -- passing classified information to an Israeli diplomat and to members of AIPAC (who then allegedly routed the information to the Israelis as well). So why should anyone care about the indictment of a sole administration official caught "helping" our ally, Israel?

First, recall that Franklin was the "Israeli mole in the office of Douglas Feith" -- the fiercely Likudnik neoconservative who served under Stephen Cambone and Don Rumsfeld at the Pentagon (Feith was undersecretary for policy, Cambone for intelligence, before Feith stepped down last year). The information Franklin passed on to the Israelis and AIPAC was about Iran, likely the next target on the U.S. neoconservative military hit list. According to the American Prospect (same link as "Israeli mole..." above):


... a September 1 report by NBC speculated that the reason the Israelis may have broken their declared post-Pollard policy of not spying on the United States is because of Israel’s preeminent concern about Iran’s nuclear program, and its view that the United States may not be prepared to act assertively enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The Post piece seems to imply that Franklin is more of an anti-Tehran zealot than anything else and wasn’t engaging in espionage per se. But as the Post article and the June meeting between Green and the FBI seem to indicate, the FBI is looking into the possibility there's been communication between Israeli elements and U.S. officials, including several who work for Feith and have access to sensitive intelligence on Iran and its nuclear program.
The Green is Stephen Green, a former candidate for Congress and an expert on U.S.-Israeli releations (and Israeli spying) who was swept up into the FBI investigation into said mole. The FBI didn't seem all that interested in Franklin, though:


Green, as the FBI agents knew, had a special expertise in the field of Israeli espionage in the United States. In the 1980s, he had taken time off from his job at the UN to look into the U.S.–Israeli "special relationship." He spent years combing through public records, filing and litigating Freedom of Information Act requests, and tracking down current and retired government officials. He eventually wrote two books, Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations With Israel and Living By The Sword: America and Israel in the Middle East. The Times of London and Foreign Affairs commended his work, describing it as "praised by those who believe the United States has damaged its own security, and Israel's too, by uncritical and often secret support of Israel's actions, no matter how extreme." Yet, as Foreign Affairs reported, Green's work also caused "sputter[ing] with indignation" among "those who believe… that American and Israeli interests are identical."

Green returned to the UN in 1990 and followed the subject from there. Earlier this year, he published a piece in the newsletter CounterPunch, recapping previously reported -- though long-forgotten -- government investigations of prominent neoconservatives for their suspected espionage or improper information-sharing with Israel. And that's where the FBI comes in.

According to the FBI agents who contacted Green, as he recounts, the article had come to their attention when one of Green’s sources -- a retired national security official they were interviewing -- shared it with them.

And so on June 22, Green found himself sitting across an oval-shaped conference table from two FBI agents at an undisclosed northern Virginia venue. The meeting lasted nearly four hours.

"They were extraordinarily well-informed; it was apparent they've been at this for awhile," Green says. "I asked them if there was a current reason for them asking questions about things that go back over 30 years, and they sort of looked at each other and said, 'Yes, it's a present issue,' but wouldn't say specifically what. Though they did ask very specific questions about one individual in particular."

Green said the agents asked about several current or former Pentagon officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Michael Ledeen, and Stephen Bryen.
"The tenor of their questions was such that it defined where these people were in terms of the nature of their focus," Green says. "They also asked about a couple other Office of Special Plans people, including Harold Rhode. Ironically, about the only name that didn't come up was Larry Franklin."
AIPAC has been under FBI investigation since 1999, and two of its former officials are dangling over the legal precipice too (while AIPAC for now refuses to pay their legal bills.) But these three indictments aren't the end of the story. What's interesting is where the investigation could lead:


First, the indictment says that from "about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004" Franklin, Rosen and Weissman "did unlawfully, knowingly and willfully conspire" in criminal activity against the United States. So far, no one has explained what triggered an investigation that began more than six years ago. But it reveals how long the three indicted conspirators and "others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury," engaged in such criminal activity. In any case, what appeared at first to be a brief dalliance between Franklin and the two AIPAC officials now—according to the latest indictment, at least—spans more than five years and involves at least several other individuals, at least some of whom are known to the investigation. What triggered the investigation in 1999, and how much information has FBI surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative efforts collected?

Second, the indictment makes it absolutely clear that the investigation was aimed at AIPAC, not at Franklin. The document charges that Rosen and Weissman met repeatedly with officials from a foreign government (Israel, though not named in the indictment) beginning in 1999, to provide them with classified information. In other words, the FBI was looking into the Israel lobby, not Franklin and the Defense Department, at the start, and Franklin was simply caught up in the net when he made contact with the AIPACers. Rosen and Weissman were observed making illicit contact with several other U.S. officials between 1999 and 2004, although those officials are left unnamed (and unindicted). Might there be more to come? Who are these officials, cited merely as United States Government Official 1, USGO 2, etc.?

Third, Franklin was introduced to Rosen-Weissman when the two AIPACers "called a Department of Defense employee (DOD employee A) at the Pentagon and asked for the name of someone in OSD ISA [Office of the Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs] with an expertise on Iran" and got Franklin's name. Who was "DOD employee A"? Was it Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy? Harold Rhode, the ghost-like neocon official who helped Feith assemble the secretive Office of Special Plans, where Franklin worked? The indictment doesn't say. But this reporter observed Franklin, Rhode and Michael Rubin, a former AEI official who served in the Pentagon during this period and then returned to AEI, sitting together side by side, often in the front row, at American Enterprise Institute meetings during 2002-2003. Later in the indictment, we learn that Franklin, Rosen and Weissman hobnobbed with "DOD employee B," too.

Fourth, Rosen and Weissman told Franklin that they would try to get him a job at the White House, on the National Security Council staff. Who did they talk to at the White House, if they followed through? What happened?

Fifth, the charging document refers to "Foreign Official 1," also known as FO-1, obviously referring to an Israeli embassy official or an Israeli intelligence officer. It also refers later to FO-2, FO-3, etc., meaning that other Israeli officials were involved as well. How many Israeli officials are implicated in this, and who are they?

Sixth, was AEI itself involved? The indictment says that "on or about March 13, 2003, Rosen disclosed to a senior fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank the information relating to the classified draft internal policy document" about Iran. The indictment says that the think tank official agreed "to follow up and see what he could do." Which think tank, and who was involved?

The indictment is rich with other detail, including specific instances in which the indicted parties lied to the FBI about their activities. It describes how Franklin eventually set up a regular liaison with an Israeli official ("FO-3") and met him in Virginia "and elsewhere" to communicate U.S. secrets.
Who are these "other officials", described in the above article as "nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well"? Maybe after they finish suing AIPAC over their unpaid legal bills and the organization's unceremonious snubbing of them (who are those guys? Never heard of them...) Rosen and Weissman will be mad enough to start spilling their guts... They have already claimed that they shared the allegedly classified data with their boss at AIPAC, and are arguing that their activities were common practice at the lobby, as were high level contacts with the likes of Feith and (surprise, surprise) Michael Ledeen, with whom the rhetorical case for war with Iraq was shaped and who may now be linked to the Italian newspaper that first proffered the Niger forgeries. (Franklin, once he was caught, allegedly helped the FBI set up a sting against AIPAC, and his calls a number of pro-Chalabi types in Washington, as well as with CBS News reporters, were monitored. One of the monitored calls was allegedly with Richard Perle...)

According to the French news entity Petras:

In August 2004, the FBI and the US Justice Department counter-intelligence bureau announced that they were investigating a top Pentagon analyst suspected of spying for Israel and handing over highly confidential documents on US policy toward Iran to AIPAC which in turn handed them over to the Israeli Embassy. The FBI had been covertly investigating senior Pentagon analyst, Larry Franklin and AIPAC leaders, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman for several years prior to their indictment for spying. On August 29, 2005 the Israeli Embassy predictably hotly denied the spy allegation. On the same day Larry Franklin was publicly named as a spy suspect. Franklin worked closely with Michael Ledeen and Douglas Feith, then Undersecretary for Defense in the Pentagon, in fabricating the case for war with Iraq. Franklin was the senior analyst on Iran, which is at the top of AIPAC’s list of targets for war.

As the investigation proceeded toward formal charges of espionage, the pro-Israeli think tanks and ‘Zioncon’ ideologues joined in a two-prong response. On the one hand some questioned whether “handing over documents” was a crime at all, claiming it involved “routine exchanges of ideas” and lobbying. On the other hand, Israeli officials and media denied any Israeli connection with Franklin, minimizing his importance in policy-making circles, while others vouched for his integrity.

The FBI investigation of the Washington spy network deepened and included the interrogation of two senior members of Feith’s Office of Special Plans, William Luti and Harold Rhode. The OSP was responsible for feeding bogus intelligence leading to the US attack of Iraq. The leading FBI investigator, Dave Szady, stated that the FBI investigation involved wiretaps, undercover surveillance and photography that document the passing of classified information from Franklin to the men at AIPAC and on to the Israelis.

The Franklin-AIPAC-Israeli investigation was more than a spy case, it involved the future of US-Middle East relations and more specifically whether the ‘Zioncons’ would be able to push the US into a military confrontation with Iran. Franklin was a top Pentagon analyst on Iran, with access to all the executive branch deliberations on Iran. AIPAC lobbying and information gathering was aggressively directed toward pushing the Israeli agenda on a US-Iranian confrontation against strong opposition in the State Department, CIA, military intelligence and field commanders.

Franklin’s arrest on May 4, 2005 and the subsequent arrest of AIPAC foreign policy research director Steve Rosen and Iran specialist and deputy director for foreign policy, Keith Weissman on August 4, 2005 was a direct blow to the Israeli-AIPAC war agenda for the US. The FBI investigation proceeded with caution accumulating detailed intelligence over several years. Prudence was dictated by the tremendous political influence that AIPAC and its allies among the Conference of the Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations wield in Congress, the media and among Fundamentalist Christians and which could be brought to bear when the accused spies were brought to trial.
At the time Rosen and Weissman were first being investigated, Congressman John Conyers was calling for a larger probe into whether their outfit passed classified information to opponents of Saddam Hussein, including Ahmad Chalabi, to help spur on the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Such an investigation should happen (though it probably won't, since both parties are beholden to AIPAC, as is much of the press -- right Wolf Blitzer...?) before the same crew pushes us into war with Iran.

Related: The Franklin-APIC spy case

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Friday short takes

The WaPo pulls one of its blogs after the ombudsman pisses off savvy Democrats (she should start reading blogs, in which case she would have been hip to the Abramoff gave only to Republicans thing)...

Who are all these people going to see Brokeback Mountain? I'm sorry I just don't get it -- it's not a family film... I'd think teenagers would rather see cowboys dealing with a whole different kind of six-shooter ... no straight guy is gonna be seen buying that ticket unless he's a paid film critic ... it's not exactly a couple film (cue the squirming straight guy...) and it's not a "chick film" either -- why would a girl want to see two good looking straight actors shagging each other? I guess I just don't understand the modern culture. Either that or gay people have a crap load of money to spend on movies ...

Blimey! There's a whale in the Thames...!

I think it's safe to say that every mine accident will now be a top news story...

There's a Black Jesus movie... Can't wait for the Bill Bennett/Pat Robertson commentary on that ...

I wonder who Israel could find to blame for those recent suicide bombings whom it coincidentally also would like to pound with airstikes... hmm... Oh here are a couple of countries!

Phrase of the week (just drop it into conversation as Mark Marin used to say) "enthusiasm deficit..."

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Praying for Jill Carroll

Time may be running out to find or win the release of kidnapped reporter Jill Carroll. Reuters is out with a corrected story saying Iraqis will not be releasing six female detainees after all (pressure from the White House, perhaps...)

More on Jill Carroll from PBS. And an update on the pan-Islamic calls for Carroll's release, via her employers at CSM. And of course, her mom's appeal to the kidnappers to let her daughter go.

Previous: American journalist kidnapped in Iraq

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Who will benefit from the GOP ethics meltdown?

This picture says it all.

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The more I read about Colin Powell...

...the less respect I have for him... and the more respect I have for his former deputy, Mr. Wilkerson.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Beyond regulation

"Some presidential powers, particularly in the area of national security, are simply "beyond Congress' ability to regulate..." That's the Al Gonzalez Justice Department's legal rationale for Bush's illegal NSA wiretapping scheme? It would be funny if it weren't so damned disturbing... and you've got to love the coordination of the leaked 42-page document and Cheney's speech at the Manhattan Institute. Priceless. A voice of reason, please:
But Robert Reinstein, dean of the law school at Temple University, said in an interview that he considered the eavesdropping program "a pretty straightforward case where the president is acting illegally," and he said there appeared to be a broad consensus among legal scholars and national security experts that the administration's legal arguments were weak.

The foreign intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978 represents the Bush administration's biggest legal hurdle, he said. "When Congress speaks on questions that are domestic in nature, I really can't think of a situation where the president has successfully asserted a constitutional power to supersede that," he said.

Two leading civil rights groups brought lawsuits this week aimed at ending the N.S.A. program, and several lawyers representing defendants in terrorism cases are also seeking to challenge the program on the grounds that it may have been improperly used in criminal prosecutions.

Mr. Reinstein predicted that the court would ultimately declare the program unconstitutional. "This is domestic surveillance over American citizens for whom there is no evidence or proof that they are involved in any illegal activity, and it is in contravention of a statute of Congress specifically designed to prevent this," he said.
Good prediction, but there's that small Alito problem to contend with ...

Previous:
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Osama bin helpful

Okay, I've figured it out. Osama bin Laden is either a clever fiction cooked up by Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove, or he's a paid employee of the White House. Otherwise, why does he always manage to resurface at precisely the moment the Bush administration needs him most? Prior to the election, he seemed to egg the American people on, daring them to re-elect George W. Bush. Now, he pops up just in time to help Bush rev up the fear machine and give the GOP fresh talking points to try and shore up those illegal wiretaps.

Additional proof: Even the guy who shot the pope wants to find Osama more than the Bush administration.

Related: Care to read the entire Bin Laden transcript, rather than the same snippets fed to you by the sanitizing committees at AP, MSNBC, CNN, etc.? Here you go, courtesy of the BBC. It's pretty chilling stuff. Clearly we're not dealing with some bug-eyed crazy scurrying through the caves of Pakistan hoping to create a global Caliphate. This guy is calculating, political, and in his own words, has nothing to lose:
I would like to tell you that the war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever as the wind blows in this direction with God's help.

If you win it, you should read the history. We are a nation that does not tolerate injustice and seek revenge forever.

Days and nights will not go by until we take revenge as we did on 11 September, God willing, and until your minds are exhausted and your lives become miserable and things turn [for the worse], which you detest.

As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain. You have occupied our land, defiled our honour, violated our dignity, shed our blood, ransacked our money, demolished our houses, rendered us homeless, and tampered with our security. We will treat you in the same way. ...

... I swear not to die but a free man even if I taste the bitterness of death. I fear to be humiliated or betrayed.
So in the global propaganda war for the hearts of the Muslim world, it's this guy vs. Karen Hughes... I feel safer already.

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New GOP payola scandal?

A comment on Air America's "Majority Report" Wednesday night (who knew that show was still on?) has apprently prompted a Democratic Congressional inquiry into whether aides to Sen. Bill Frist and Rep. Tom DeLay gave insider tips to well heeled Wall Street investors who also happened to have been big contributors to the GOP. Rawstory has the scoop, and a letter from a Democractic Congressman from Washington State asking the ethics committee to look into the matter. Of course, the ethics committee hasn't actually convened in God knows how long, to avoid having to deal with GOP scandals from DeLay to Duke Cunningham... The Raw story links to a February 2005 story in The Hill regarding the practice -- which obviously flew way under the radar at that time. The suspect firms aren't named in eithe rpiece, but this sure is interesting...

Related: Abramoff traded cash for face time with Bush...

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Spying on professors (for pay) too

Looks like Dubya really is leading his party. Even the college Republicans are picking up his methods (and losing one former GOP official with a modicum of morality in the process.)

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Not + legal = illegal

From today's WaPo:
The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday.

The Congressional Research Service opinion said that the amended 1947 law requires President Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of such intelligence activities as the domestic surveillance effort.

The memo from national security specialist Alfred Cumming is the second report this month from CRS to question the legality of aspects of Bush's domestic spying program. A Jan. 6 report concluded that the administration's justifications for the program conflicted with current law.

Yesterday's analysis was requested by Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, who wrote in a letter to Bush earlier this month that limiting information about the eavesdropping program violated the law and provided for poor oversight. ...

... The only exception in the law applies to covert actions, Cumming found, and those programs must be reported to the "Gang of Eight," which includes House and Senate leaders in addition to heads of the intelligence panels. The administration can also withhold some operational details in rare circumstances, but that does not apply to the existence of entire programs, he wrote.

Unless the White House contends the program is a covert action, the memo said, "limiting congressional notification of the NSA program to the Gang of Eight ... would appear to be inconsistent with the law."

So I suppose the next gambit will be to stamp the entire NSA program as "covert." More importantly, though, it remains to be seen what, if anything, the congress will do about it if that's not enough to clear the president of breaking the law.

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Picking a fight with Iran

Update: Hillary tracks to Bush's right in criticizing the administration's belated focus on Iran. Meanwhile, Charles Krauthammer is beating his head against a wall in agony over the West's unwillingness to take the neocon plunge and bomb the holy crap out of Tehran...

Original post: One journo says the West is picking on the wrong Islamic state.
Iran is a serious country, not another two-bit post-imperial rogue waiting to be slapped about the head by a white man. It is the fourth largest oil producer in the world. Its population is heading towards 80 million by 2010. Its capital, Tehran, is a mighty metropolis half as big again as London. Its culture is ancient and its political life is, to put it mildly, fluid.

All the following statements about Iran are true. There are powerful Iranians who want to build a nuclear bomb. There are powerful ones who do not. There are people in Iran who would like Israel to disappear. There are people who would not. There are people who would like Islamist rule. There are people who would not. There are people who long for some idiot Western politician to declare war on them. There are people appalled at the prospect. The only question for Western strategists is which of these people they want to help. ...

...On Monday, Washington’s knee-jerk belligerence put this coalition under immediate strain. In two weeks the IAEA must decide whether to report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. There seems little point in doing this if China and Russia vetoes it or if there is no plan B for what to do if such pressure fails to halt enrichment, which seems certain. A clear sign of Western floundering are speeches and editorials concluding that Iran “should not take international concern lightly”, the West should “be on its guard” and everyone “should think carefully”. It means nobody has a clue.

I cannot see how all this confrontation will stop Iran doing whatever it likes with its nuclear enrichment, which is reportedly years away from producing weapons-grade material. The bombing of carefully dispersed and buried sites might delay deployment. But given the inaccuracy of American bombers, the death and destruction caused to Iran’s cities would be a gift to anti-Western extremists and have every world terrorist reporting for duty.

Nor would the “coward’s war” of economic sanctions be any more effective. Refusing to play against Iranian footballers (hated by the clerics), boycotting artists, ostracizing academics, embargoing commerce, freezing foreign bank accounts — so-called smart sanctions — are as counterproductive as could be imagined. Such feel-good gestures drive the enemies of an embattled regime into silence, poverty or exile. As Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian pages after a recent visit, Western aggression “would drain overnight its still large reservoir of anti-regime, mildly pro-Western sentiment”.

By all accounts Ahmadinejad is not secure. He is subject to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His foe, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, retains some power. Tehran is not a Saddamist dictatorship or a Taleban autocracy. It is a shambolic oligarchy with bureaucrats and technocrats jostling for power with clerics. Despite a quarter century of effort, the latter have not created a truly fundamentalist Islamic state. Iran is a classic candidate for the politics of subtle engagement.

This means strengthening every argument in the hands of those Iranians who do not want nuclear weapons or Israel eliminated, who crave a secular state and good relations with the West. No such argument embraces name-calling, saber rattling, sanctions or bombs.
Worth reading the whole thing. The piece concludes "If ever there were a realpolitik demanding to be “hugged close” it is this one, however distasteful its leader and his centrifuges. If you cannot stop a man buying a gun, the next best bet is to make him your friend, not your enemy."

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The new Downing Street memo

A new leaked memo reveals that the Blair government knew -- and knows -- more than it's telling about illegal "torture flights" arranged by the CIA, which may have transported prisoners captured by British troops for "rendition" to foreign gulags. Reports Richard Norton Taylor in today's Guardian:
The government is secretly trying to stifle attempts by MPs to find out what it knows about CIA "torture flights" and privately admits that people captured by British forces could have been sent illegally to interrogation centres. A hidden strategy aimed at suppressing a debate about rendition - the US practice of transporting detainees to secret centres where they are at risk of being tortured - is revealed in a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10.

The document shows that the government has been aware of secret interrogation centres, despite ministers' denials. It admits that the government has no idea whether individuals seized by British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan have been sent to the secret centres.
Dated December 7 last year, the document is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary's private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair's office. It was obtained by the New Statesman magazine, whose latest issue is published today.

It was drawn up in response to a Downing Street request for advice "on substance and handling" of the controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice. ...

...The document advises the government to rely on a statement by Condoleezza Rice last month when the US secretary of state said America did not transport anyone to a country where it believed they would be tortured and that, "where appropriate", Washington would seek assurances.

The document notes: "We would not want to cast doubt on the principle of such government-to-government assurances, not least given our own attempts to secure these from countries to which we wish to deport their nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism: Algeria etc."

The document says that in the most common use of the term - namely, involving real risk of torture - rendition could never be legal. It also says that the US emphasised torture but not "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", which binds Britain under the European convention on human rights. British courts have adopted a lower threshold of what constitutes torture than the US has.
The New Statesman article by Martin Bright goes into more detail on the contents of the memo and concludes, bluntly:
the truth is that the government is involved in a cover-up, not so much of what it knows about this shady business, but what it doesn't know. The one thing it is pretty sure about, however, is that if it has happened, and if Britain had a role, then the government has broken the law.
Related: Blairwatch also on the case.

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He's baaaaack...

Bin Laden reportedly sends a threatening message.

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Short takes

Book Report: Fred Barnes is a pathetic kiss-ass and his book is Bush-bot garbage...

Condi Rice is shaking up the State Department. Diplomats who want promotions will have to take assignments in the neocon hit-list zone, and the new USAID chief used to run Eli-Lilly. Just the guy to sell 'spensive patented AIDS drugs to dying Africans...

Jill Carroll's mom pleads for her release ... as the Arab world begins to speak out...

The Democrats have a plan to clean up Washington and blow up the "K Street Project." Republicans have Rick Santorum...

...by the way, if you don't like "plantation?" How about "auction house...?"

Surprise! ... The Bush/GOP prescription drug bill sucks. (Sure hope whoever's vetting the speech this time doesn't accidently allow the word "sucks" into the State of the Union...)

There'll be no creationism in Cali...

But there will be Kelly Clarkson songs on "Idol." Not that I care -- I'm watching "Lost" on Wednesdays.

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What Gore said

Update: David Broder breaks down Gore's indictment of the president for his apparent unwillingness to be constrained by the Constitution or the law, and says there should be real hearings -- not CSPAN showmanship -- on the matter. Says Broder:

the administration's resistance to setting and enforcing clear prohibitions on torture and inhumane treatment of detainees in the war on terrorism raises legitimate questions about its willingness to adhere to the rule of law. From the first days after Sept. 11, Bush has appeared to believe that he is essentially unconstrained. His oddly equivocal recent signing statement on John McCain's legislation banning such tactics seemed to say he could ignore the plain terms of the law.

If Judge Samuel Alito is right that no one is above the law, then Bush's supposition deserves to be challenged.

Gore's final example -- on which he has lots of company among legal scholars -- is the contention that Bush broke the law in ordering the National Security Agency to monitor domestic phone calls without a warrant from the court Congress had created to supervise all such wiretapping. If -- as the Justice Department and the White House insist -- the president can flout that law, then it is hard to imagine what power he cannot assert.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter has summoned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to a hearing on the warrantless wiretap issue, and that hearing should be the occasion for a broad exploration of the willingness of this administration to be constrained by the Constitution and the laws.
Meanwhile on Slate, former Gore speech writer Bruce Reed makes a compelling argument that despite the draconian excesses of both Nixon and Bush, Democrats must learn to love the presidency again. A great read.

Original Post 3:53 p.m. Jan. 18: Two passages from Al Gore's MLK Day speech that deserve to be read over and over again:
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA’s domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: “The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.”

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, “On Common Sense” ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that “the law is king.”
Then there's this passage, which ends with a question every right wing blogger, TV anchor, pundit, radio host and "movement" member should be called upon answer:

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President’s men have minced words about America’s laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the “kind of surveillance” we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically – and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: “To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress.”

This is precisely the “disrespect” for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America’s Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer—even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then – until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan – one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons – registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: “This material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful.”

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is “yes” then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?
Gore goes on to give some ideas:

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch’s claims of these previously unrecognized powers: “If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution.”
So there it is, then. What can't the president do, winger faithful? Is there anything you deem beyond his powers? Do the above possibilities square well with the AJ Stratas, Michelle Malkins, John Hinderakers, anti-ACLU paranoids the random, Constitution challenged wingers and Freepers of the world? If so, say so. And then admit that what you want is a king to keep you safe from the Muslim boogeymen, not a democracy to keep you free from the boogeyman the Founding Fathers feared most: tyranny.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

They don't know Jack?

The White House is stonewalling on the question of who Jack Abramoff kibbutzed with at 1600 PA Ave.

Oh, and Rick Santorum knows nothing about the "mysterious" K Street Project. Riiiiiight...

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Hil' and Al's excellent adventure?

Could the Hillary and Al Gore speechifying over the MLK weekend be a portent of presidential primaries to come? The HuffPo says "yee-haw!"

Also: John Leo on the GOP's "synthetic shock syndrome." Quick! Raise your hand if you're Black and you can recall hearing Republicans telling you to "get off the Democratic plantation." All hands of the politically active should be up.

Related:

Full text of Gore's remarks here, and video available here.

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Roberts watch

It remains to be seen whether I was completely suckered by John Roberts' charm and intelligence during his confirmation hearings. But there are interesting signs:
  • Roberts' dissent in the Oregon assisted suicide case -- a case in which Roberts did not write an opinion but in which fellow dissenter Antonin Scalia asserted the Court's right to defend "public morality..." whatever that has to do with federal vs. state power... (more from Talkleft including the right's push to get the wingers in Congress to pass a John Ashcroft, MD law in response to the Oregon rout.) Recall that during his hearings, Roberts demurred on the "right to die" issue, which Jeralyn Merritt points out really wasn't the central issue in the Supco case -- it was more about the right of states to make their own laws regulating physicians.) More on Roberts and the Oregon case here.
  • The Roberts Court's refusal to hear a case by NYC firefighters and other rescue workers who claim they were given faulty radios on 9/11...
  • The Court's refusal to hear a case brought by a man who was arrested for protesting a visit by President Bush in an area designated by Secret Service agents as off-limits...
  • And a case brought by a reputed mob associate accused of looting a printing company's pension fund, in which his lawyers argue that prosecutors withheld evidence found during a Miami raid...
These may at first blush seem like bad omens, but read the rest of the stories and judge for yourself. In each case, as a non-lawyer, the cases don't look that strong. The 9/11 families agreed to take the federal settlement, and it's arguable that indeed opted them out of later lawsuits. The protester was in fact in an area roped off by Secret Service, and -- like it or not -- that's they way it works at events with elected officials (what's more troubling is that after his arrest, the protester's, movements, phones and emails were probably tracked by the FBI and Pentagon...) And the mobster isn't exactly a model case for prosecutorial misconduct.

And then there's the murkier -- and unanimous -- ruling today essentially dodging the first abortion case to pass Roberts' desk. More on that ruling from TalkLeft, and ScotusBlog has more on why the ruling -- while on its face a win for pro-choicers, might wind up effectively limiting abortion rights...

So I guess I'll withhold judgment for now. What's really troubling is the likely addition of Sam Alito to the Sca-Thomas voting block.

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Glenn Beck hired

...by CNN. Don't know if that makes CNN News Group executive vice president Ken Jautz the "worst person in the world" as Keith Olbermann dubbed him last night, but I do doubt that the network that ditched Aaron Brown and extended AIPAC flak Wolf Blitzer's air-time (and which sports Kyra Phillips, Mrs. Rush Limbaugh -- Daryn Kagan, Andrea Koppel and Candy Crowley -- no offense to big girls but perhaps the most inappropriately named person in the world...) needs a conservative voice to "balance it out."

Mind you I listen to part of Glenn Beck's show almost every morning (sorry, I like Jerry Springer but there's only so much Air America I can take...) just to see what the other side is up to, and he's not always as bad as this. However, Beck can be surly, self-riteous (for a self-described reformed alcoholic "scum bag") and even downright mean-spirited, and his blank-slate defenses of the Bush administration are disturbing for a guy who appears to be pretty smart. But he's definitely not the worst thing CNN could have come up with. They could have gone with the fact-challenged, former Clarence Thomas Coke-can coquette and faux-Beverly Hillbilly Laura Ingraham, after all...

Then again, that's probably CNN's next "suck up to the right wing" move, and the network has already undermined what's left of its credibility by hiring Mr. Moroning in America himself: Bill Bennett. ... And is it any wonder that in its breathless chase for Fox News viewers, CNN looked at the radio ratings list and unable to hire number one -- Limbaugh -- having him and his main squeeze on the same payroll would be too sleazy even for CNN; and with number two -- the block-headed Hannity -- already taken, it went for the next guy down on the totem poll? Y'know what? Strike what I said before. CNN's newsgroup EVP is the worst person in the world...

Related: Media Matters urges readers to tell MSNBC to bring Chris Matthews back to reality.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ledeen and the Niger forgeries

Also hat tipping Mike V, neocon think-tanker (and advocate for war with Iraq, Iran and any other Muslim country he can get our hands on) Michael Ledeen (who the American Conservative has likened to an old-time fascist) probably should be looked at in the reopened FBI investigation of the forged documents purporting to show that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear materiel from Niger.

Raw Story reports on Ledeen's ties to the Italian newspaper that first proferred the forgeries.

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Diplomat: Freedom is 'crawling over broken glass' in Mideast

Great link courtesy of Mike Votes (Born at the Crest of Empire). Looks like the main beneficiaries of Mr. Bush's "march of democracy" in the Middle East are the same fundamentalists Islamists he claims we're fighting in Iraq. Nice.

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Sift the messenger

The WaPo's characterization of the united Western-Eastern front against Iran strikes me as phony editorialisation. Says the increasingly Bushite WaPo:

U.S. Wins Support In Iran Dispute
China, Russia Join Call to Suspend Nuclear Program
By Mary Jordan and Dafna LinzerWashington Post Foreign ServiceTuesday, January 17, 2006; A01

LONDON, Jan. 16 -- China and Russia agreed with the United States, Britain, Germany and France on Monday that Iran must completely suspend its nuclear program, the British Foreign Office said. Although the countries failed to agree on whether Iran's case should be referred to the U.N. Security Council, the Europeans applied new pressure on the Iranian government by calling for an emergency meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on Feb. 2.

With all six nations declaring that they sought a diplomatic solution to the escalating confrontation with Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered a glimmer of hope for a compromise. Putin said the Iranian government was considering a proposal from Moscow that Russia would produce enriched uranium for Iran, to ensure the material could be used only for peaceful purposes.
But says the Times of London:
Blair plays down international splits over IranBy Simon Freeman and agencies

Tony Blair today said that he remained hopeful of a diplomatic solution to the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme, as efforts began to play down public divisions between world powers.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that the international community was united in its condemnation of Tehran for breaking the seals on its nuclear plants, and was working towards an acceptable solution. He said that the Islamic republic was slowly but surely becoming more isolated, despite the split in opinion abroad.

Germany, France and the UK - who comprise the E3 which has been in negotiations with the Middle Eastern country for two years - have voted to convene an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Commission on February 2, the first step in a referral to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions.

However, Russia and China, which both have major trade and energy links with Iran, today appeared to undermine the threat. Both countries wield a veto as permanent members of the Council and hinted that they could not support such measures.
The extent of the split emerged today as the various world leaders gave their pronouncements following a seven-hour meeting in London yesterday.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, said: "Sanctions are in no way the best, or the only, way to solve the problem." Mr Lavrov referred to the ongoing instability in Iraq as an example of how international sanctions could fail to rein in a rogue state.

Russia has a $1 billion contract with Iran to build its first civil nuclear reactor and is also reluctant to risk its relations with the republic, which wields influence in the turbulent Caucasus.

A spokesman for the Chinese Government said that punitive measures would "complicate" the issue. China obtains 12 per cent of its oil from Iran.
And the BBC:

Powers disagree over Iran crisis

The UK has taken a hard line on an Iranian offer to continue discussing its nuclear programme, indicating major powers disagree on how to proceed.

Russia says a compromise offer is still on the table, and China has urged all parties to continue negotiations. But the UK, France, Germany and the US want the UN Security Council to consider punishing Iran.

Iran broke seals on three nuclear facilities last week, but says it does not aim to build nuclear weapons.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says a compromise offer is still on the table which could see Iran sending uranium to Russia for enrichment - which would be an obstacle to Iran developing nuclear weapons of its own.

Iran has also offered to return to talks with the EU-3 of France, Germany and the UK.

But on Tuesday the UK Foreign Office appeared to reject both that offer and the Russian compromise. Unnamed Foreign Office officials were quoted by news agencies as saying the Iranians were stalling.
Whom to believe? I guess it's all in how you spin it, and these days the WaPo seems increasingly eager to spin it the Bushies' way...

Related: CNN gets the boot

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Hil and Al go off

Hillary calls the GOP House a "plantation" and says the Bush administration will go down in history as one of America's worst...

...Meanwhile, Al Gore demonstrates what happens when a politician no longer has anything to lose...

Update: Torquemada responds to Gore.

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Yeah, that helps

California executes a blind, crippled old man, who would probably have expired on his own had they left him in prison a little longer... helluva way to blow a couple million dollars (and this guy was so elderly and ill, California managed to double its spending -- on essentially a lifetime of medical treatment and housing, plus the costs of the actual execution.) Brilliant.

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Alphabet soup

So not only was the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program probably illegal, it also sidetracked the FBI by bogging agents down with dead-end leads that invariably ensnared innocent Americans. From the NYT story today:
Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends
By LOWELL BERGMAN, ERIC LICHTBLAU, SCOTT SHANE and DON VAN NATTA Jr.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 - In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.
But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.

F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.

As the bureau was running down those leads, its director, Robert S. Mueller III, raised concerns about the legal rationale for a program of eavesdropping without warrants, one government official said. Mr. Mueller asked senior administration officials about "whether the program had a proper legal foundation," but deferred to Justice Department legal opinions, the official said.

President Bush has characterized the eavesdropping program as a "vital tool" against terrorism; Vice President Dick Cheney has said it has saved "thousands of lives."

But the results of the program look very different to some officials charged with tracking terrorism in the United States. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, including some in the small circle who knew of the secret program and how it played out at the F.B.I., said the torrent of tips led them to few potential terrorists inside the country they did not know of from other sources and diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive.

"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed," said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration."
and this:
Some F.B.I. officials said they were uncomfortable with the expanded domestic role played by the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies, saying most intelligence officers lacked the training needed to safeguard Americans' privacy and civil rights. They said some protections had to be waived temporarily in the months after Sept. 11 to detect a feared second wave of attacks, but they questioned whether emergency procedures like the eavesdropping should become permanent.
That discomfort may explain why some F.B.I. officials may seek to minimize the benefits of the N.S.A. program or distance themselves from the agency. "This wasn't our program," an F.B.I. official said. "It's not our mess, and we're not going to clean it up."

The N.S.A.'s legal authority for collecting the information it passed to the F.B.I. is uncertain. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires a warrant for the use of so-called pen register equipment that records American phone numbers, even if the contents of the calls are not intercepted. But officials with knowledge of the program said no warrants were sought to collect the numbers, and it is unclear whether the secret executive order signed by Mr. President Bush in 2002 to authorize eavesdropping without warrants also covered the collection of phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Aside from the director, F.B.I. officials did not question the legal status of the tips, assuming that N.S.A. lawyers had approved. They were more concerned about the quality and quantity of the material, which produced "mountains of paperwork" often more like raw data than conventional investigative leads.

"It affected the F.B.I. in the sense that they had to devote so many resources to tracking every single one of these leads, and, in my experience, they were all dry leads," the former senior prosecutor said. "A trained investigator never would have devoted the resources to take those leads to the next level, but after 9/11, you had to."
The Times drew some connections to possible indictees on terrorism and other matters who might have come through the NSA sieve. Not surprisingly, every name that pops up is a potential lawsuit against the federal government...

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Remember Afghanistan?

It ain't looking good...

Pretty cowboys in love (or, last gasp of gay chic?)

Apparently, the Golden Globes pretty much awarded statues to anything with a homosexual character in it last night. I didn't watch, but that's what the papers say so it must be true. Now if we're truly in the post "Will and Grace"/post-"Queer Eye" era, when gay is no longer the hottest trend going (metrosexuality kinda cancels it out, right? And the last "Real World" had all straight characters, so that's gotta tell you something...) then I'd say it went out with a bang ... er ... perhaps not the best choice of words ... with a lot of awards.

...Or maybe this was the Hollywood foreign press's way of goading Pat Robertson into another absolutely priceless soundbite...

Anyway, the Times UK cautions that we shouldn't think all the accolades for U.S. film and TV projects means the foreign press has fallen back in love with the U.S.A. After all, they did award a British guy for playing a better American character (Hugh Laurie in "House") than his American co-nominees...

That's all I'm saying about the awards shows. To tell you the truth, I'm really not that interested in them, except to hope that George Clooney wins lots of whatever he's up for (thanking Jack Abramoff... priceless...)

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The new gang of three?

The three dissenters in the Supremes' decision to uphold Oregon's assisted suicide law: Scalia (check), Thomas (check) ... Roberts...

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Jacko of Arabia

Well, it turns out wonders never do cease. Michael Jackson is looking for a job... in Bahrain. ... advising the government on building theme parks and such-like...
The singer, his reputation in tatters at home after winning a grueling molestation trial in California last year, is negotiating a position as a consultant with a Bahrain-based company that plans to set up theme parks and music academies in the Middle East, according to a press release.

AAJ Holdings Ltd., owned by Bahraini businessman Ahmed Abu Bakr Janahi, said it wanted to hire the 47-year-old Jackson to give advice on setting up entertainment businesses.

AAJ, which focuses mainly on urban development projects, played a key role in designing Bahrain's ongoing Financial Harbor development and Oman's Blue City, a multibillion-dollar tourist resort with golf courses, hotels, and several dozen kilometers (miles) of sandy beaches.

According to the statement, Janahi believes Jackson could play an important role in the company.

"Stagnant architectural structures need content in the form of entertainment to revive them and that's where Michael Jackson will play an integral role," the statement said.
...indeed they do...

Oh, and don't think you're going to escape that Jacko Katrina relief song. Looks like the Bahrainis are paying for that, too.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Happy Martin Luther King Day

Here's a link to the King Center web-site. The site leads with a great audio clip: "Everyone can be great because everyone can serve." And here's the King Institute at Standford. Enjoy the day.