Filtered news 11/28

"That's what free people do..."
-- Rumsfeld, about lawbreaking Iraqis in late 2003

Free press is dead "The Supreme Court ruled against The New York Times on Monday, refusing to block the government from reviewing telephone records of two Times reporters in a leak investigation concerning a terrorism-funding probe. "The one-sentence order came in a First Amendment battle that involves stories written in 2001 by Times reporters Judith Miller and Philip Shenon. The stories revealed the government's plans to freeze the assets of two Islamic charities, the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation. "U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is trying to track down the reporters' confidential sources for the stories. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment on the Supreme Court's order." (AP, )

Free speech is dead At a “First Amendment awards dinner,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said yesterday “the country will be forced to reexamine freedom of speech to meet the threat of terrorism.” He said a “” may be needed to limit “terrorists’ ability to use the Internet and free speech.”

Who are we fighting in Iraq? You've no doubt heard from some that it's mainly Iraqi factions with different ethnic/religious/political affiliations, and you've no doubt heard that it's mainly a flood of outsider bad guys from other Arab nations (the fly paper theory). I went to the most objective and best informed source I know: Professor Cole at the University of Michigan. He told me that there are about 1,000 foreign fighters (other than the US and British forces) in Iraq -- the overwhelming number of people fighting us are Iraqi. --Russ

Funny or ugly? Tom Delay endorses a book on corruption. This is .

Cutting off our precious bodily fluids. On this date in 1942, coffee rationing began in the United States and lasted until Germany and Japan were defeated. Meanwhile, as of last Saturday, the length of the war in Iraq has surpassed that of World War II, yet we’ve been asked to sacrifice nothing. FDR---what a meanie.

Blessed silence. Good news: in the wake of the midterm elections, political "robocalls" are in the process of in Virginia, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Missouri. Bad news: the robo-electioneers who think up this stuff will be back in God-knows-what form.

"2008---the field's already getting crowded with candidates. Everyone knows about Hillary and McCain, but who else has a shot? On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani. Hero. 9/11. Time’s person of the year. Member of the comb-over club. But also a member of the New York, divorced, pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-stem cell research, gay-friendly wing of the Republican Party. I'm sorry, did I say wing? I meant room. Did I say room? I meant corner. Did I say corner? I meant table -- for one." -- Jon Stewart

Something to keep you awake at night Here's Rush Limbaugh saying that because all the Bush mumbojumbo in Iraq hasn't panned, we should just "." I know we're supposed to get really outraged over this sort of thing and bent out of shape. But why exactly? These guys -- really the whole movement -- are so pitiful, such utterly pathetic whiners and fools, it's hard to treat them as anything but spoiled children.

'We'll bring democracy to the world because liberty isn't the property of one culture or civilization but God's gift to mankind. But if these friggin' towel-heads won't get with the program, then, well, just nuke'em.'

It's like talking to a five year old with behavior problems. And this is Russert's interlocutor, represents the mindset of those who still control the executive branch.

Not like Jesus was into feeding the poor or anything... The president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America “has stepped down, saying the group resisted his efforts to broaden its agenda to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming.” Rev. Joel Hunter said of the split, “When we really got down to it, they said: ‘This just isn’t for us. , so we just can’t go there.’”

Corruption watch Corporate lobbyists look to Republicans over the next couple of years.

A glass of ice-cold poison, please “The Bush administration pleased farmers and Monday by declaring that pesticides can be sprayed into and over waters without first obtaining special permits.”

That whole ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away thing never really works A decade ago, “researchers had assumed the number of AIDS cases would be declining. Instead, .” A new report by the Public Library of Science’s Medicine Journal finds AIDS “is set to join heart disease and stroke as the top three causes of death worldwide” within the next 25 years.

Great Moments in Daily Show Writing

Stewart: Certainly from an Iraqi perspective, what this is called makes no difference.

Oliver: Oh, really? If you have lost a loved one in this conflict, and statistically if you're an Iraqi you have, wouldn't you rather know it wasn't in a Civil War but rather a territorial arglebargle of regional qualms?

Stewart: 3,000 Iraqis died just this month. To argue over what to call it seems like semantic quibbling.

Oliver: Semantic quibbling? Oh, well, I wouldn't call it that.

Stewart: What would you call it?

Oliver: A minor linguistic flareup between two parties of different terminological points of view.

Stewart: It's really the same thing.

Oliver: It's "same-ey." For now let's agree to disagree on how we state our agreements. Agreed?

A real tough guy. Ahem. Giuliani stood up to terrorists. .

Thanks Oh Wise Men of Washington. Thank you St. McCain. Thank you Last Honest Man. Thanks oh Glorious Keepers of the Flame of the Vital Center. Thanks Jon "Beware the Dirty Fucking Hippies" Chait. Thank you Richard Cohen and Margaret "Whatever Colin does, I’ll go with" Carlson. Thank you oh self-glorifying stewards of our national discourse for sending us down this path. Thank you Joe Lieberman Weekly for being wrong about everything all the time, and therefore making it easy for me to choose a direction every morning.

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province.

The Marines recently filed an updated version of that assessment that stood by its conclusions and stated that as of mid-November, the problems in troubled Anbar province have not improved, a senior U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, the official said.

The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington Post, is far more bleak than some officials suggested when they described it in late summer. The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital.

Newt's prescription for success in Iraq:

The Moral Bankruptcy of Modern Punditry "The primary question facing America's pundit class today is how to avoid responsibility for the situation in Iraq, which is almost certain to get much worse over the next two or three years." Of course, most of them are responsible. And it's reprehensible that they're engaging in word games which ensure that we will continue to "stay the course" because George W. Bush thinks we're "winning."

Mining for truth Justice Department Inspector General the National Security Agency's warantless wiretapping program.

Corruption watch II The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for an official investigation into whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) broke the law “by pushing for near land he owned west of Chicago.” Hastert turned a by selling the land last year.

Deck of Cards When the history of this era is written, I hope it is remembered that the President of the United States created a deck of cards with "bad guys" on it. The media, rather than seeing this is a bizarre and infantile thing, thought it was wonderful. So wonderful that they dutifully printed the graphics on their newscasts, and created We are ruled by dangerously silly people.

"We woke up the day after the election to a new world.
We're going to have tough days ahead of us."
-- Ken Johnson, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Pimps that will have to lower prices
now that the party of consumer protection is back to driving the bus,

State Department asks Bush twins to withdraw from Argentina. Twins opt to .

Lazy, vindictive jerks. Just weeks after voters told ‘em to clean up their act and stop being dicks, Republican leaders entered the last throes of their majorityship in grand fashion: by and running out the clock. But at least they’re putting average Americans above political tomfoolery:

Some Republicans...look forward to using unfinished budget work to gum up an early Democratic agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, negotiating lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, cutting interest rates on college loans and repealing some tax breaks for oil companies. "Other stuff may get pushed off the table," said GOP lobbyist Hazen Marshall, a former longtime Capitol Hill aide. "It kills (Democrats') message."

So remember, troops: when mortar explosions wake you up in the middle of the night and you wonder what you’re fighting for in Iraq, it’s now all about killing the Democrats’ agenda. Huzzah.

Corruption watch III Who'll end Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) political career? The voters of New Orleans or the Justice Department? We'll find out in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, .

New boss same as the old boss "Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to lead the Pentagon, advocated a bombing campaign against Nicaragua in 1984 in order to 'bring down' the leftist government, according to a declassified memo released by a nonprofit research group. . . .In the memo, Gates, who was deputy director of the CIA, argued that the Soviet Union was turning Nicaragua into an armed camp and that the country could become a second Cuba. The rise of the communist-leaning Sandinista government threatened the stability of Central America, Gates asserted. Gates' memo echoed the view of many foreign policy hard-liners at the time; however, the feared communist takeover of the region never materialized. . . . 'It sounds like Donald Rumsfeld,' said National Security Archive Director Thomas S. Blanton. 'It shows the same kind of arrogance and hubris that got us into Iraq.'" (LATimes)

"It's a gimmick because it satisfies McCain, it satisfies the hardliners...My concern is that
they'll do it slowly and then, in the end, inadvertently, they will imitate our bug-out from Vietnam.
Namely, we'll blame the Iraqis and leave, thereby creating the worst of all situations."
-- Zbigniew Brzezinski, on whether Bush will boost the number of troops in Iraq,

Holy crap Jeff Sharlet on how

Playing Whack-A-Calendar. For those of you at home, the next 3, 4, 6, 12, 18, 24 or 200 months will be the “most critical” in Iraq. Unless the following 3,4,12,16,45 or 300 months end up being the most critical. Mr. Tax Dollar, meet Mr. Toilet. At some point I started keeping track of various Friedmanesque predictions/deadlines. For those who wish to follow at home here's what we have coming ahead. The dates posted are the dates the predictions/deadlines are due.

11/30/06 Zalmay Khalilzad sez Maliki h
11/18/06 Joe Klein says we should give Iraq "One last shot." Time ambiguous, so I gave him a Friedman.
11/19/06 Lee Hamilton says next 3 months are critical.
12/31/06 Joe Lieberman says significant troop withdrawals begin.
1/06/07 "In two or three months if this thing hasn’t come to fruition and this level of violence is not under control," Warner said, "I think it’s a responsibility of our government to determine: Is there a change of course we should take?"
03/05/07 "This is a decisive period for everyone and everyone knows it. The next six months will determine the future of Iraq>"
05/20/07 Obama says reduction should start in 4 to 6 months.
05/26/07 Cornyn says we need another 4 to 6 months to get this right.
05/26/07 McCaffrey says the next 4 to 6 months are crucial.
06/12/07 we're going to win or lose this thing within the next several months.
12/31/07 Joe Lieberman says half the troops will likely be home, with full withdrawal possible.

Has Hell frozen over at last? It’s truly remarkable. Who would’ve believed that even big oil companies would before Team Bush?

“We have to deal with greenhouse gases,” John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., said in a recent speech at the National Press Club. “From Shell’s point of view, the debate is over. When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, ‘Let’s debate the science’?”


Even by the standards we’ve now come to expect … incredible.

Carbon dioxide update

The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis. The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year. ...."At these rates, it certainly sounds like we'll end up towards the high end of the emission scenarios considered by the IPCC," commented Myles Allen from Oxford University, one of Britain's leading climate modellers.

Well, that should solve the problem of vote count foulups in Florida, anyway.

That liberal media still ain't liberal Today, MSNBC and NBC News announced their The Los Angeles Times has to describe the violence, and the Christian Science Monitor . But most media organizations, , continue to avoid the phrase. Some examples:

Fox News:

WARD: In response to today’s attacks and snowballing sectarian violence, a curfew has been imposed in Baghdad and the international airport closed to all commercial flights. [11/23/06]

Washington Post:

But fear ran high that the fighting would not end, as clashes in Ghazaliya and elsewhere illustrated the inability of Iraqi security forces to rein in the violence that has propelled the country closer to full-blown civil war. [11/27/06]

USA Today:

Abizaid didn’t have much to offer besides faith, hope and the familiar but elusive objectives of stabilizing the country, reining in sectarian violence and preparing Iraq to manage on its own. [USA Today, 11/16/06]

Boston Globe:

It was one of the largest mass abductions since the US-led invasion in 2003, startling even by the standards of a nation reeling from sectarian strife, daily bombings, and death squads. [11/15/06]

San Francisco Chronicle:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faces intense pressure from the United States to eliminate the militias and their death squads, which are deeply involved in the country’s sectarian slaughter and are believed to have thoroughly infiltrated the police and security forces. [11/15/06]

Chicago Tribune:

As the prospect of civil war in Iraq festers, the U.S. military has identified three options - add more troops, start a graduated retreat or embrace a speedy one - according to a Washington Post account that quoted sources familiar with the written Pentagon options. [11/26/06]

New York Times:

The two [Bush and Maliki] are expected to talk about the widening sectarian war in Iraq and to try to reach agreement on ways to stop it. [11/27/06]


FRANKEN: But President Bush is focused on what can be done in Iraq without leaving behind a country consumed by sectarian war. [11/27/06]

On MSNBC’s Hardball, Washington Post national security reporter Dana Priest explained that her newspaper does not use the phrase “civil war” to describe the current violence in Iraq in part because Iraqi government officials say it is not a civil war. Priest said she “absolutely” believes the “level of violence [in Iraq] equals a civil war.” But she acknowledged that the Post has “not labeled it a civil war,” explaining, “We try to avoid the labels, particularly when the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war.” Government officials in Iraq have a direct interest in avoiding the characterization of violence there as a civil war. The Washington Post’s job is not to act as stenographers for officials in positions of power, but rather to report facts as they exist on the ground. Not surprisingly, experts disagree with Iraqi officials about the current conditions. According to scholars surveyed by the New York Times, not only is Iraq in the midst of a civil war, the current level of bloodshed “already puts Iraq in the .”

The do less than nothing Congress Even though the Do-Nothing 109th Congress has passed just two out of 11 spending bills, it has decided to put off the remaining nine until the new year, “ on the incoming Democratic majority.” The conservative leadership is already making excuses. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said he is looking into “.” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) admitted that political considerations may be behind the inertia, stating, “I know a lot of folks just as soon not to see them done this year and .”

But passing all spending bills isn’t an impossible task, and it wouldn’t be unprecedented. As , it has been done before:

In 1994, when Republicans swept back to power in the House after four decades, there was no spending mess to clean up — all appropriations bills had been enacted by the Democrats before the end of the fiscal year. But they did convene a brief lame duck to consider the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade measure.

"Thank God for the leadership of President Bush...I know that Iraq
without Saddam is so much better for the security and safety of Israel."
-- Israeli PM Olmert, Wow - did he really say that? He thinks Israel is safer now than it was before Bush ignited the suiciders? That means I'm smarter than the PM of Israel and the president of the United States.

More on your so-called liberal media CNN’s John Roberts called the situation in Iraq an “,” and said the media has “sanitized” their coverage of the violence. “The amount of death that’s on the streets of Baghdad for U.S. forces and for the Iraqi people is at an ,” Roberts said.

Now here's a cause Dubya can get behind: polishing his own history The New York Daily News reports, “President Bush and his truest believers are about to launch their final campaign — an eye-popping, .”

Bush is attempting to raise $500 million to build his library and a think tank at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Bush fund-raisers hope to get approximately $250 million from what they call “megadonations” of $10 million to $20 million each. Among the for “megadonations,” whose names will remain anonymous:

Bush loyalists have already identified wealthy heiresses, Arab nations and captains of industry as potential “mega” donors and are pressing for a formal site announcement - now expected early in the new year.

Bush allies feel they need enormous funds to shape how history views Bush’s legacy. A Bush insider said, “The more [money] you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert.” Much of the money will be used to build a “legacy-polishing” institute:

The legacy-polishing centerpiece is an institute, which several Bush insiders called the Institute for Democracy. Patterned after Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Bush’s institute will hire conservative scholars and “give them money to write papers and books favorable to the President’s policies,” one Bush insider said.

Bush had earlier indicated his desire to create a think tank “to talk about freedom and liberty and the DeTocqueville model of what [French political philosopher Alexis] .”

The Cheney-ites play their card. From the ...

A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr.

The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria.

The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by his agency, and discussed Iran’s role in response to questions from a reporter.

The interview occurred at a time of intense debate over whether the United States should enlist Iran’s help in stabilizing Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, directed by James A. Baker III, a former Republican secretary of state, and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker, is expected to call for direct talks with Tehran.

The claim about Hezbollah’s role in training Shiite militias could strengthen the hand of those in the Bush administration who oppose a major new diplomatic involvement with Iran.

Is it true? Is Hezbollah training the Mahdi Army? I have no idea. And regrettably, under current management, the fact that senior intelligence officials or senior administration officials say it, really doesn't mean much one way or another. It certainly wouldn't be particularly shocking if one radical Shia para-military (actually not that 'para') backed by Iran had ties to Iraqi Shia in the south who also have close ties to Iran.

Everybody's enemy's enemy is a friend. We do know the Israelis are knee-deep in Iraqi Kurdistan, right?

The truth or falsity of this new intel from the same sources of the reliably bogus intel of recent years, though, seems of secondary interest to the debate that's getting set up. It's a recipe and the argument for staying in Iraq permanently. We can't get out because getting out means coming to an accomodation with Iran and Syria who've already been meddling in Iraq.

If we're trying to overthrow the Iranian government -- which we've said we are -- is it greatly surprising that they're either having or allowing their proxies to help train the Iraqi militia which is helping pin us down in Iraq?

That doesn't mean it's good or bad, only that it's hardly unexpected. And it brings us back to the key question: what's our goal in Iraq. Not what it may or may not have been three years ago. But what is it right now? Is being in Iraq making us more or less secure? Do we want to stay there indefinitely or do we want to began the process of leaving in such a way as to leave as stable and safe a situation as possible? Those are the key questions. Letting a purported connection between Hezbollah and the Mahdi Army drive our thinking is just another way of saying we want to stay forever because if we don't Iran will have won.

The Times quotes former NSC official Flynt Leverett saying: “That sounds to me a little bit strained. I have a hard time thinking it is a really significant piece of what we are seeing play out on the ground with the various Shiite militia forces.”

I think he has it just right.


November 28, 2006 - 10:15am