Saturday, August 04, 2007

The U.S. Senate "caved" - what else can you say?

By Carol Gee

They raised their hands in droves, and couldn't wait to do it. Democratic senators lined up behind OCP (our current president), and abandoned the American people's civil liberties. "Kagro X" at DailyKos states it clearly: " There is something fundamentally wrong here." There is no other way to say it. We expect the House to follow suit today.

The news is disheartening. It is this. The "Senate passes Bush-backed spy bill", according to Reuters. To quote the story basics,

On a vote of 60-28, the Senate sent the measure to the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives for consideration as early as Saturday as lawmakers push to begin a month-long recess.

. . . The Senate defeated, on a 45-43 vote, a Democratic alternative, which would have placed tighter controls on the spying and provided for independent assessments of the attorney general's implementation of the measure.

Like watching the production of sausage - We observed more than we wanted to know as the events emerged. We saw that the fear mongering of OCP and his lieutenants worked well on the highest legislative officials in the land, United States Senators. They lost their nerve, perhaps rationalizing that the measure is temporary. Vulnerable Americans are now left to the protection of Alberto Gonzales. The Los Angeles Times headlined, "Senate votes to expand spy authority - The last-minute legislation gives agencies more power to track foreign communications and removes the court approval process." It was written by Greg Miller, August 4, 2007. Quoting portions of the story,

. . . The House is scheduled to vote on an identical bill today; congressional officials said they expected the measure to pass. On Friday, the House rejected a competing version offered by Democrats

. . . In January, facing scrutiny from Congress and accusations that the program was unconstitutional, Bush shifted the program to the FISA court's purview. Sometime later, however, a FISA judge ruled that certain aspects of the Bush administration surveillance program violated the law. Intelligence officials indicated that the ruling required the government to obtain warrants even for "foreign to foreign" communications when the e-mail or phone call crossed networks in the United States.

That secret ruling — the court's deliberations are classified — caused a panic in intelligence circles. National Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell warned that U.S. spy agencies were suddenly unable to collect dangerously large swaths of foreign communications.

In the Middle East, treatment of the story was matter of fact. It points out that the "crisis" occurred after it was leaked that the FISA court was not allowing the illegal program to continue as it has been. Oh, and there was an increase in foreign so-called "chatter." Will the court now be able to provide the oversight needed? I doubt it. The law will now be in the hands of DNI Admiral Mike McConnell, as superviced by OCP. We saw during the negotiation process how little independence the DNI really has. We have become a nation of men, not of laws, as a pundit pointed out. Aljazeera English - News headlined its story, "US senate approves spy bill." I quote,

The US senate has approved a bill that would maintain president George Bush's authority to eavesdrop on terror suspects without court approval. . . The temporary powers give Congress time to draw up a more comprehensive plan instead of rushing approval for a permanent bill before the break. . . The bill would allow the administration to continue the warrant-less surveillance but require it to describe to a secret federal court the procedures it uses in targeting foreign suspects.

. . . After the September 11 attacks, Bush authorised the interception without warrants of communications between people in the US and others overseas if one had suspected ties to terrorists. . .Critics say the programme violated the FISA law, but Bush argued he had wartime powers to do so.

A recent ruling by the FISA court barred the government from eavesdropping on foreign suspects whose messages were being routed through US communications carriers, including Internet sites, prompting the Bush administration to call for the new bill.

The steam roller moved unchecked. Individual senators lost their nerve in the face of threats, hyperbole, and the duplicity of a White House negotiating in bad faith. It will be interesting how many senators foreign phone calls will come under the watchful eyes of our now ubiquitous big brother watching out for us. The next six months will see the presidential campaign in full swing, the September reports of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, and the finishing of this current session of Congress. It is one of the saddest times for me since the elections of last November. What were these people thinking? They turned us over to people demanding tools to "keep us safe." Our freedom and civil liberties have not been so threatened in a long time, if ever. The International Herald Tribune headlined, "Broader wiretapping authority advances in U.S. Congress," by Eric Lichtblau and Mark Mazzetti, August 4, 2007. To quote,

A furious push by the White House to broaden its wiretapping authority appeared on the verge of victory Saturday as a bill advanced in Congress to give the Bush administration more latitude temporarily to eavesdrop without court warrants on foreign communications that it suspects may be tied to terrorism.

. . . In an unusual maneuver, Bond pressed the case for new legislative authority by reading on the Senate floor, apparently to the surprise of some administration officials, an e-mail message that the office of the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, sent to Congressional leaders on the urgency of amending the wiretapping law.

Court officials and McConnell's office refused to comment on the message. The concerns from his office appeared to reflect, at least in part, the recent restrictions imposed by the court on intercepting what is known as "foreign-to-foreign transit traffic," in which both parties are outside the United States but the phone calls or e-mail messages are routed through telecommunications centers in the United States.

Please let your elected legislators know how disappointed you are, when they get back to their districts. Their adjourning for the August recess was far too much of the impetus for all this.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Quick Flick Pick: VP Tour de Farce Edition

By Creature

[h/t Raw Story]

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Dems act afraid of the boogeypresident once again

By Edward Copeland

Sure, Congress' approval ratings are even lower than Dubya's, but don't they realize that most people no longer even listen to Dubya, just waiting for the day that our long, national nightmare is over. They do however watch Congress, who after seven months of Democratic leadership keeps disappointing voters who hoped they'd finally bring back some check and balance on this incompetent zealot in the Oval Office. I guess getting their long August recess is more important, as the Senate Dems cave and gives Dubya what he wants in terms of FISA changes, though they insist the changes "are temporary," in a 60-28 vote. It's on to the House today. As usual, helping the GOP get their victory was closeted Republican Censorin' Joe Lieberman.

Sixteen Democrats and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) joined all 43 Republicans in supporting the measure, which is nearly identical to a proposal prepared by the Bush administration. "We're at war. The enemy wants to attack us," Lieberman said during the Senate debate. "This is not the time to strive for legislative perfection."

People who believe in the rule of law and rights of privacy say that this bill actually gives Dubyaland more snooping authority than they had under the old warrantless wiretapping program, noting that the previous requirement that at least one side of the call had to be affiliated with al-Qaida or some other terrorist group has now been dropped.

Democrats "have a Pavlovian reaction: Whenever the president says the word 'terrorism,' they roll over and play dead," said Caroline Fredrickson, Washington legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gregory Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, predicted that the bill's approval would lead to the monitoring of ordinary Americans by the National Security Agency, which conducts most of the government's electronic surveillance. "If this bill becomes law, Americans who communicate with a person abroad can count on one thing: The NSA may be listening," he said.

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Inner Turmoil Has Bush Blaming Bridge Collapse On Al Qaeda In Iraq; Cheney Points To Iran

White House Torn Apart, Aides Sniping At Each Other; DHS's Chertoff Ad-Libs "Dry Run" Scenario As Middle Ground

By J. Thomas Duffy

On the eve of his visit to the disaster-striken, collapsed Minnesota bridge, President Bush is said to be engaged in a bitter division with his self-appointed Vice President.

Sources tell The Garlic this evening that a full-scale brawl has erupted in the West Wing of the Bush Grindhouse, as aides supportive of The Commander Guy are standing behind him in wanting to blame the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota on al Qaeda in Iraq.

This pits them against a larger group firmly supporting Vice President Dick Cheney, who seeks to claim that the bridge collapse is the work of agents from Iran.

"This is as bad as it has ever been," offered a source, with close ties to the Bush Grindhouse.

"They've gone full bore on this, with press releases already prepared ... Video is being edited in the Situation Room, to back up arguments ... There's a rumor going around that Cheney, working through his people in the Pentagon, already have four, or five stooges in Iran, that they can pin a conspiracy gang charge on ...Cheney's winning this thing, he's got all his cards lined-up"

The President, reportedly, is leaning on the National Security Agency (NSA) to produce captured, legal or illegal, wiretaps to back up his claim.

Publicly, The Decider Guy has been conducting his affairs in a normal fashion, offering his sympathies to the victims of the bridge collapse and, at the same time, hedging his bets with citing deficiencies in the bridge.

It was said that Bush had a "very difficult time" not speaking out at his Rose Garden news conference yesterday, to begin pointing the finger at al Qaeda in Iraq.

Cheney Stiffed By Russert; Chertoff Ad-Libs New "Gut Feeling"

Meanwhile, the Vice President was said to be calling Tim Russert, and seeking to get on 'Meet The Press" this coming weekend, offering the host an "irresistible scoop" regarding the bridge collapse.

The Vice President's office, confident that could break the Iran-Is-To-Blame charge on national television, was stunned when Russert failed to offer Cheney a segment on the program.

There are reports that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was pulled into the mix, and put on the spot of either supporting the President, or the Vice President.

Chertoff, apparently, ad-libbed a new "gut feeling", indicating that it would be best to categorize the bridge collapse as a "possible dry run" by terrorists looking to attack the United States again.

First Lady Calls For New Donation

With the First Lady, Laura Bush, visiting the disaster site today, no word of the feud was leaked, so as not to put the First Lady in a position of having to publicly rebuke, presumably, the Vice President.

The First Lady met with emergency officials and rescue workers, offering her sympathies and support.

"And many bridges are stable But, of course, what we see on television is the one bridge collapse a day that discourages everybody."

The First Lady also announced that she will be asking friends and supporters of the President add $35 to their $61 donation to the RNC, as a tribute for her husbands' birthday, with the extra money being designated for any single woman effected by the bridge collapse, that they can continue their hunt for a husband.

Bridge Opportunity Zone May Be In The Offing

It's not clear if The Shakespeare Guy will come out and blame al Qaeda in Iraq during his visit to Minneapolis tomorrow.

Aides, particularly the group working on his domestic agenda, are lobbying for a "New Orleans-type" speech.

The White House has shipped klieg lights to the Twin Cities, and sent an advance team to scout out cathedrals that Bush could use as a backdrop.

If the President does that, gushed a source close to the West Wing, "we can get the bridge refugees up and back on their feet, just as good, and just as quickly as we got New Orleans back on her feet".

The domestic team has advocated to the President that he announce a "Bridge Opportunity Zone", following his New Orleans blueprint, to assist persons and business affected by the bridge collapse.

The President, will not, as some wire reports indicated, name a "Bridge Czar", and Vice President Dick Cheney will not accompany the President to Minneapolis.

The OVP indicated there is a schedule conflict, that the Vice President will be with former Secretary of War Donald "I Can't Recall" Rumsfeld, preparing for the Armageddon.

The President may reprise his New Orleans plan and announce a "Bridge Opportunity Zone" during his visit to Minneapolis tomorrow

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Friday, August 03, 2007

White House reneges on FISA deal

By Creature

AP is reporting tonight that negotiations between House Democrats and the White House over changes to the FISA law have broken down. The White House denies this, as they deny most things, instead insisting there really are democrats on the other end of the line. Why the struggle for a deal? Because the White House doesn't want a bill. They want a talking point.

House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes said talks were at a standstill after the White House reneged on an earlier offer accepted by Democrats.

Asked if the negotiations were still ongoing, Reyes said: "No."

Reyes, D-Texas, said Democrats had agreed to three points that McConnell said the Bush administration needed.

"The DNI subsequently sent us a rewritten piece of legislation that was about 80 percent different," Reyes said. [emphasis me]

A deal was set. The Democrats had accepted and the administration pulled out. After being baited all week to get something done the Democrats came to the table--why they allowed themselves to be pushed to the table by a 28% president is another story--and they were played the bi-partisan fool by a White House that had no intention of making a deal. And, why should the White House make a deal, the lack of one allows for this kind of presidential politiking:

In his remarks, Bush coupled his demand for legislation with a threat. He said would veto any bill by the Democratic-led Congress that his intelligence director deemed unable "to prevent an attack on the country."

"We've worked hard and in good faith with the Democrats to find a solution, but we are not going to put our national security at risk," Bush said after meeting with counterterror and homeland security officials at FBI headquarters. "Time is short."

The White House created the need to amend FISA. They created the cloud of urgency to pass the amendment. And now they get to keep hammering the Democrats by reneging on the deal. It's all part of their new PR blitz. Whether it be a vice president on the TV, or a racist radio-host at the White House, they are in message-mode and the Democrats have played the pawn, once again.

Note: AP has three versions of this story up on the Tubes. The first, published before the White House interjected their two cents about the breakdown in negotiations. The second, and the one I used, contains White House caveats, but still fairly represented the Democrats side. And, the third, loses the word "renege" completely and relies almost exclusively on White House spin. It's not a pretty evolution, but worth a read if only to track the blame as it is shifted onto the Democrats or at least muddled to seem that way.

Update: The Muckraking folks are all over this FISA fiasco.

Update II: Looks like the Senate passed their version and we wait for the House vote tomorrow.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day -- and since all versions of the AP article now lead to the Bush-heavy one I've pasted them, in their entirety, under the original post at SotD.)

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Corporate profits - The Movie

By Libby Spencer

If this isn't a waste of judicial resources, I don't know what is.

Jhannet Sejas and her boyfriend were celebrating her 19th birthday by taking in a matinee showing of the hit movie "Transformers" at the theater at Ballston Common mall.

Sejas was enjoying the movie so much that she decided to film a short clip of the sci-fi adventure's climax to get her little brother hyped to go see it.

Minutes later, two Arlington County police officers were pointing their flashlights at the young couple in the darkened theater and ordering them out. They confiscated the digital camera as evidence and charged Sejas, a Marymount University sophomore and Annandale resident, with a crime: illegally recording a motion picture.

It was a 20 second film clip. Who was she going to sell it to? Besides, it was her birthday. Even if she just wanted to capture a moment of the event that she was enjoying, she shouldn't have been arrested, much less prosecuted. If that short a clip is an arrestable offense, then the law needs to be clarified so some reasonable saleable footage is required to trigger culpability.

But whatever, the movie theater, Regal Cinemas is pressing charges, which carry a significant penalty, and banned the young woman for life from their theaters. So I ask myself, who could be so heartless as to pursue this case?

Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) is the largest motion picture exhibitor in the world. The Company's theatre circuit, comprising Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres, operates 6,386 screens in 539 locations in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Regal operates approximately 18% of all indoor screens in the United States including theatres in 43 of the top 50 U.S. markets and growing suburban areas. We believe that the size, reach and quality of the Company's theatre circuit not only provide its patrons with a convenient and enjoyable movie-going experience, but is also an exceptional platform to realize economies of scale in theatre operations and, through its investment in National CineMedia, LLC, further realize cinema advertising, marketing and other revenue enhancing opportunities by utilizing Regal's existing asset base.

Regal Entertainment Group corporate offices are located at 7132 Regal Lane, Knoxville, Tennessee, 37918. Our phone number is 1-865-922-1123 and our fax number is 1-865-922-3188. Our customer relations number is 877-TELLREGAL or 1-877-835-5734. Our investor hotline is 1-866-REGALEG or 1-866-734-2534. For press inquiries call 1-865-925-9539. For more information about Regal Entertainment Group, visit our Investor Relations area.

Oh, just your usual souless corporation. They also own half interest in another 12,000 screens in 43 states in partnership AMC theaters. The entertainment media is as inbred as the news media, People tell me that's capitalism. I call it a monopoly, not the free market.

But I digress. I think I'll call Regal Cinemas and tell them if they continue to tie up our court system with these inane charges, I've just banned myself from their theaters. You could do that too. It's a toll free number and chances are, they have a theater near you.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Chaos! Outrage! Politics as usual

By Libby Spencer

The Politico shows its alleged non-partisan political stripes today in their colorful description of the hijinks in the House last night.

In a massive flare-up of partisan tensions (video link courtesy, Republicans walked out on a House vote late Thursday night to protest what they believed to be Democratic maneuvers to reverse an unfavorable outcome for them.
The flap represents a complete breakdown in parliamentary procedure and an unprecedented low for the sometimes bitterly divided chamber.

Unprecendented low? How soon the Politico forgets. For a publication that bills itself as the ultimate professional Beltway insiders, it seems rather odd they would have omitted a little historical reference that sprang immediately in all the amateurs' minds. James Joyner, who couldn't be called liberal by any stretch of the imagination recalls a similar incident.

The Republicans would certainly be in a better position to take the moral high ground on this one had they not done essentially the same thing when they had the majority. It happened two years ago on the Central America Free Trade Area bill:

The 217 to 215 vote came just after midnight, in a dramatic finish that highlighted the intensity brought by both sides to the battle. When the usual 15-minute voting period expired at 11:17 p.m., the no votes outnumbered the yes votes by 180 to 175, with dozens of members undeclared. House Republican leaders kept the voting open for another 47 minutes, furiously rounding up holdouts in their own party until they had secured just enough to ensure approval.

Not that this stopped GOP Rep. Cantor from shrieking the sky is falling...

An outrage. Is this a democracy or a dictatorship?

Where was he while the president is accumlating dictatorial powers under the mythical executive privilege? This was all just parliamentary grandstanding, on both parties' parts and frankly I don't get why the GOP didn't just go for this, if they really had the votes to pass it.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) eventually offered a motion to reconsider, according to floor staff on either side, ostensibly giving members a chance to recast their votes. But the maneuver sparked a chorus of angry protests from the Republicans, yelling “shame” on Democrats, while they returned fire with angry volleys of their own.

Shame on all of them for wasting the taxpayer's dime on these sort of theatrics. We have bigger problems than worrying about how to punish illegal immigrants with under the table measures. I continue to think if we simply abolished amendments, our laws would be more comprehensible, our legislators would be more accountable for their votes and would also get a lot more done.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Even the rulings against it are done in secret

By Edward Copeland

The sudden rush and handwringing seeking to revise FISA rules on warrantless wiretapping seems to have been sparked by a judge's secret ruling earlier this year declaring parts of the program illegal. Now, the cause has been made public in an article in The Washington Post.

The judge, whose name could not be learned, concluded early this year that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States, according to two other government sources familiar with the decision.
The decision was both a political and practical blow to the administration, which had long held that all of the National Security Agency's enhanced surveillance efforts since 2001 were legal. The administration for years had declined to subject those efforts to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and after it finally did so in January the court ruled that the administration's legal judgment was at least partly wrong.
The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California. Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Who should this leaker to the media be, presumably at risk of being punished by Dubyaland's threats to prosecute leaks it doesn't like? Why none other than House Minority Leader John Boehner, and on Fox News no less. I'm guessing neither will get in trouble.

There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto in a Tuesday interview.

Of course, Boehner's spokesman Kevin Smith is quick to deny that his boss leaked classified information after House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel said that "John should remember the old adage: Loose lips very much sink ships."

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Quick Flick Pick: My New Favorite Democrat Edition

By Creature

Dodd goes
Toe to toe
With BillO

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's in the background?

By Carol Gee

Keeping up with the latest - means finding out what is behind the scenes of our big stories. The blogosphere is the perfect vehicle for us "news junkies" to do this. We want to know what it is that we have been missing since going online. The issues I am currently following are Justice, the War in Iraq and the entire Middle East.

Justice and domestic surveillance, more background - The uproar over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' truthfulness as he testified before the Senate brought unexpected dividends for civil libertarians. Revelations about the breadth of the current administration's domestic surveillance program(?s) began to appear. My recent S/SW post, "Invasions of privacy - how should we react?" explored what I knew at the time. Others were also blogging about it. For instance,

  • "emptywheel" at The Next Hurrah posted this excellent resource for further background on the history and evolution of the Bush administration's spying on Americans: "TIA and TSP timing" (7/30/07). To quote,

    Commenter joejoejoe sent me a superb timeline to show the chronology of Congress' building opposition to the Total Information Awareness program as it relates to the NSA's domestic wiretap program

  • Firedoglake: "Dear Mr. Vice-President" is about Senator Rockefeller's deep reservations about what was going on with domestic surveillance during earlier years (dated 7/30/07). Quote,

    Rockefeller came back from his second briefing on the NSA’s domestic spying program and recorded his concerns about the program in a letter addressed to Vice President Cheney.

    The briefing took place just as the Senate was about to vote to defund any data-mining of American citizens. The Senate had tried, earlier that year, to defund the data-mining program, Total Information Awareness, yet Bush had just changed its name and carried on. So in July 2003, the Senate was trying to write legislation explicit enough so the Administration couldn’t pull off such a head-fake again.

Iraq war casualties, more background - There is nothing more central to the war in Iraq than the loss of American lives. My recent post, "By the numbers," looked at Iraq deaths and casualties of all types. Antiwar activists ask how long this is going to go on. Not long ago Senator Clinton asked the Defense Department if they had a plan for getting out of Iraq. More current info on the situation comes from a couple of reliable sources:

  • "Faiz" at Think Progress explored the most important aspect of the Iraq war with his latest post, "REPORT: Putting U.S. Troop Casualties in Perspective."

    The AP notes that “the daily average for U.S. troop deaths in July was at least 2.35 — higher than the daily average of 2.25 last year, and remarkably consistent with average daily casualties in 2005, at 2.32, and 2004, at 2.33.”

    While U.S. troop casualties have fallen, reports indicate Iraqi deaths are rising again in Baghdad to pre-surge levels.

  • Hat tip to Juan Cole for the Michael Gordon (7/24/07) NYT story on the Iraq plan for 2009.

    The classified plan, which represents the coordinated strategy of the top American commander and the American ambassador, calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the summer of 2008. “Sustainable security” is to be established on a nationwide basis by the summer of 2009, according to American officials familiar with the document.

    The detailed document, known as the Joint Campaign Plan, is an elaboration of the new strategy President Bush signaled in January when he decided to send five additional American combat brigades and other units to Iraq. That signaled a shift from the previous strategy, which emphasized transferring to Iraqis the responsibility for safeguarding their security.

    . . . The plan envisions two phases. The “near-term” goal is to achieve “localized security” in Baghdad and other areas no later than June 2008. It envisions encouraging political accommodations at the local level, including with former insurgents, while pressing Iraq’s leaders to make headway on their program of national reconciliation. The “intermediate” goal is to stitch together such local arrangements to establish a broader sense of security on a nationwide basis no later than June 2009.
Current Middle East levels of support for terrorism - It would be very good news if people in the region would move away from supporting terrorists and their horrendous tactics. Background information, from Pew Research public opinion data, comes out of an excellent article by Edward Luce, writing for the Financial Times (on 7/24/07). It was headlined, "Terror support falls in Muslim countries." To quote extensively from the piece,

There has been a striking decline in support for terrorism in Muslim countries over the past five years, according to the annual take on world opinion by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Of the 16 majority Muslim countries included in the survey, 15 have shown waning enthusiasm for terrorism in general and suicide terrorism in particular, it says.

The most striking declines are in Lebanon, where in 2007 34 per cent of people say suicide bombings are justified compared with 74 per cent in 2002. There has been a similar decline in Pakistan from 33 per cent to 9 per cent and in Jordan from 43 to 23 per cent. Only among Palestinians, where 70 per cent say suicide attacks are sometimes or often justified, do a majority continue to support it. . . This interpretation is consistent with the fear of the US – and implicit hostility towards the US as well – remaining high across much of the Muslim world. Clear majorities in all Muslim countries remain “very or somewhat worried” about the US as a potential military threat to their countries. These include 93 per cent of Bangladeshis, 92 per cent of Moroccans and 81 per cent of Malaysians.

The survey found a rise in optimism and contentment across much of the developing world, driven in part by the improvements in economic growth rates in China and India since 2002. Large majorities in both countries expected their children to be better off than they were. These findings were a near mirror image of attitudes in the west, where large majorities were pessimistic and believed their children would be worse off.

The cold light of day reveals that the Middle East is of such high priority that we must keep up with what is going on there. Public policy in the region must be driven by what an informed public conveys to their elected officials.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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By Creature

White House: President Bush Offers Sympathies and Assistance to Minneapolis and Calls on Congress to Act Before Recess

Could they maybe have had, oh, I don't know, two separate speeches? These people have no boundaries. They should be ashamed, but, of course, if they had any shame they all would have stepped down years ago.

Holden breaks down the platitudes and politics by the numbers.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Obama's upper hand

By Creature

I've been wanting to comment on Obama's big terrorism speech, but I haven't had the time. Thankfully, the hardest working man on the Intertubes has done the work for me. Carpetbagger, take it away.


My quick two cents involve the Right's absolute hysterical hypocrisy--TBogg's take is perfect on that point--and how impressed I was in general with Obama's tone. However, my real question, with all the coverage and controversy the speech garnered, is: what did Obama Girl think of it? I'm sure Chris Matthews will be on the scene to gush ask her any minute now.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Breaking News! Bush Grindhouse Backs Up Letter With Wiretap Poll Showing Overwhelming Support For Gonzales

Massive Overnight Data Mining Rings In Big Number For Embattled Crony General; "They Want Him To Lie More"

By J. Thomas Duffy

The Bush Grindhouse, followed up the letter sent yesterday by Intelligence Czar Mike McConnell, with another set of documents, culled from their Terror Surveillance Program, and "other intelligence activities", showing overwhelming support for the embattled Crony General Alberto Gonzales.

"They love him," beamed Grindhouse Press Secretary Tony Snow. "They want him to lie more."

According to Snow, the Grindhouse conducted -legally - a series or wiretaps, as well as a massive Data Mining program, keying in on Gonzales, and his testimony given last week.

The Bush Grindhouse cites well over 78% approval for Gonzales via the Wiretapping, and slightly less support, only 68%, coming from the Data Mining exercise.

"The people emailing pulled the numbers down a bit," confessed Snow, "but overall, we extremely pleased that, along with the President, an overwhelming and significant number of Americans also have confidence in the Crony General."

The documents supplied today to the Senate Judiciary Committee were only an overview of the results of the Wiretapping and Data Mining Poll.

"Since most of this is classified, we can't release the raw results," said Snow.

Gonzales, who had his testimony contradicted by FBI Director Robert Mueller, has until Friday to correct his answers, or face a possible perjury charge, and, potentially, impeachment.

"We looked for those things as well," added Snow, "and it was strong, very strong, against taking any action on the Crony General ... They want him to stay right where he is, and doing the things he does best ..."

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he was enraged with the report given him today, and indicated that he may, if his anger stays with him, fire off another letter to the Bush Grindhouse.

"This is unacceptable, " fumed Specter. "A blind poll, that we can't see who was polled, and what the results were ... I'm beside myself ... This administration is very close ... Very close to getting another letter from me!"

Specter's colleague, Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), was also displeased, indicating he may give the Bush Grindhouse the month of August to redo the Wiretapping and Data Mining Poll and resubmit it to the committee.

"This is ridiculous," barked Leahy. "We'd like to submit our own questions to this Wiretapping and Data Mining audience, to get our own results. I agree with my colleague, Mr. Specter, that another stern protest letter is probably warranted here."

When apprised of this latest development, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed her disagreement with Specter and Leahy.

"We have to stop the war and have the business of the country to attend to," huffed Pelosi. "I have no interest in letter writing ... It's off the table."

Bonus Links

Anonymous Liberal: The Gang of Eight Smokescreen

TalkLeft - NewSpeak: Bush's FISA Proposal

The Crony General: "Not necessarily. I could be arguing in my spare time ..."

(Cross Posted at The Garlic.)

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It's not over

by Capt. Fogg

Not until the fat lady sings or the skinny skank is convicted of felony voter fraud. When I wrote last May 12th that the case against her had been dropped after the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office got a call from an FBI agent Ann Coulter had been sleeping with, I was sure it had all gone the way of any case against a Republican insider. But now it seems that perhaps she's not completely off the hook.

The Palm Beach Post reports today that FEC Case No. 07-211 is still alive and well and that Coulter is still under investigation. WPB campaign consultant Richard Giorgio has filed a complaint accusing her of false swearing and fraud to which Giorgio claims to have been an eye witness.

"This was willful. Anyone else would have been prosecuted."

Undoubtedly so and I have to remember how tens of thousands of people were turned away at the polls because they had been falsely added to the Felons list by the Florida Republican Machine. But this is a Red State and the law only applies to little people.

Coulter is refusing to talk. Her lawyer is refusing to talk and according to the Post t
he FEC could impose $2,000 in fines and refer the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the state attorney's office for criminal prosecution.

So far she's escaped being tried for committing fraud in front of several witnesses, though the evidence is there in black and white. If somehow her money, hired guns and scurrilous lawyers don't manage to get her out of this latest accusation, she will have finally to face
the Florida Elections Commission. Did I mention that all seven members of that body were appointed by Jeb Bush?

Maybe it is over.

(Cross-posted at Human Voices.)

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Datamining not just for terrorists

By Libby Spencer

Whether you believe Gonzales lied to Congress or not, one thing is clear. Bush lied about the NSA secret surveillance program. The administration now admits it was much bigger than they initially admitted and included a much broader range of surveillance.

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described.

The disclosure by Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, appears to be the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005.

They would like to think they were just compiling data on "terrorists" but Prof. Juravich would beg to differ. The link may be subscription only, so here's the major exerpts.

Last week, Juravich, director of the Labor Relations Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, was denied access to Canada at the country's border when a customs agent realized Juravich had been arrested in 1981.

The ban stunned Juravich, who has visited Canada over 50 times in the past two years to work and spend time with his partner, Teresa Healy of Ottawa. He has a Canadian musician's work permit and was in the country just two weeks ago.

"I was mystified when the border agent asked me about an arrest from 1981," said Juravich.

Juravich said he was arrested during the Sterling Radiator strike of 1981 in Westfield. He described the protest as a non-violent gathering of 200 people. Most of the people at the strike were arrested that day, Juravich said, and on the following day the charges were dropped.

"I don't have a police record, but now I have to prove it," Juravich said. "Whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty?"

"What kind of a message does this send to activists of all ages that ... the kind of dissent essential to the democratic process will be punished harshly a quarter century (later)?" Juravich asked.

Juravich was on his way to Canada July 25 to see Healy and pick up a professor's work permit when he was barred from entering the country. Juravich will be on sabbatical this year and lined up a job as a visiting professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, teaching a course in labor culture and another in sociology.

"The basic principle here is with this kind of exchange of information in the 9/11 context - we need to realize that this information doesn't just sit around," Juravich said. "It gets used and in my case it was used in an entirely inappropriate fashion."

Which makes this news all the more disturbing. Under the heading, WTF?

WASHINGTON, July 31 — Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers.

Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval.

The White House has told Democratic lawmakers that it will accept a narrow bill now but will come back later for broader changes, including legal immunity for telecommunications companies involved in the wiretapping program.

Did I say WTF? What I meant was WTF? When are the Democrats going to start acting like the majority party and stand up to the second most unpopular president in the history of our nation? We restored them to power to stop this trampling of our civil rights, not to cover it up and retroactively legalize it.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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GOP still bawking on YouTube debates

By Libby Spencer

You have to love "logic" like this. Reid Wilson at Real Clear Politics says the GOP is not afraid of doing a YouTube debate and here's why.

Instead, Republicans' hesitancy to participate in the YouTube debate comes from having watched the Democratic YouTube debate. During the first try, Democrats had to answer difficult questions. [...]

Now, put yourself in the shoes of Rudy Giuliani's campaign, or Mitt Romney's campaign. Some of the questions Democrats were asked were not anything a consultant could expect, and that leads to danger. If you want your candidate to stay on message, why would you allow them to face questions the likes of which you are unable to predict? And why allow a possible future president of the United States to answer a question from a snowman?

Man, the focus on the stupid snowman is astounding. I didn't see the video but these guys know it wasn't really a snowman and was actually a question delivered by a real American, right? Right? Wilson sums up the GOP's courage in the last graf.

The Republican answer to the YouTube debate has nothing to do with the internet, and everything to do with limiting future debates to limit future risk.

Oh I get it. It's not fear of accountability. It's prudence. It might be bad for the candidate's image if he answered a question honestly, without being preprogrammed with a consultant approved soundbite that will play well on the evening's stenography session news. Way to show your leadership skills boys. I'm sure this same strategy would serve the country well in dealing with unexpected international events.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A tour de farce

By Creature

The vice president's media tour continued tonight with a trip to Larry King's desk. Between reading the Petraeous tea leaves--"significant progress" is likely to be reported--cheerleading a convicted Libby--"he still has a very difficult road"--embracing a lying attorney general--"Al's a good man, good friend, and in a difficult assignment"--and doing a bit of lying himself--he had no recollection of sending Gonzales on his sick-bed visit--the vice president managed to smear a sitting senator with the classic aiding the enemy charge.

All in a days work for a man who occupies his own branch of government [an argument revived by the VP in yesterday's CBS interview] and is accountable to no one.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)


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How is Congress doing?

By Carol Gee

Headline: "Democrats push domestic front" - The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are about to leave for an August recess. Juan Cole reports that the Iraqi Parliament is also on vacation. Josephine Hearn, writing for (7/29/07) provided a rather good story on what is currently happening in our Congress. To quote from the story following my opening headline,

After a spring and early summer dominated by the Iraq war, congressional Democrats are at last pounding out accomplishments on the domestic front, hoping to boost dismal approval ratings for Congress and avoid a “do-nothing” label as they head into the August recess.

Last week’s achievements in agriculture, lobbying reform and homeland security will give Democrats something positive to bring up with voters during the month-long break. . . . The lobbying bill negotiated last week requires news disclosure of fundraising activities while the anti-terrorism bill passed Friday enacts many recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

. . . The week ahead will see another flurry of activity, with plans for Democrats to expand children’s health insurance and pass energy and defense bills. . . On other bills, though, Democrats adopted a bipartisan approach to speed legislation through Congress. The anti-terrorism bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 371 to 40 after Democrats dropped provisions that would have drawn the ire of Republicans, including one allowing collective bargaining by Transportation Security Administration screeners.

Headline: Republican corruption investigated - Today brings another (not surprising) Republican lawmaker scandal. I have to admit I can find little sympathy for the Senator's problems. Yahoo! News/AP's Dan Joling headlined, "FBI, IRS search home of Senator Ted Stevens" (8/31/07).

Federal agents searched the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens on Monday, focusing on records related to his relationship with an oil field services contractor jailed in a public corruption investigation, a law enforcement official said.

. . . The Justice Department's probe into Allen's relationships has led to charges against state lawmakers and contractors. Last year, FBI raids on the offices of several Alaska lawmakers included Stevens' son, former Alaska Senate President Ben Stevens.

Headline: "Critics claim ethics bill watered down." Even though many newly elected lawmakers were swept into office in 2006 on a wave of "throw the rascals out" voter sentiment, it is hard for Congress to discipline itself. Chris Frates at writes (on 7/30/07) in more detail about pending ethics reform legislation. To quote,

Drawing particular scrutiny were two provisions that would force lawmakers to disclose their requested earmarks and their lobbyist bundlers.

Lawmakers changed the earmark disclosure process and raised the threshold from $5,000 to $15,000 for reporting campaign contributions raised by lobbyists.

. . . Though hurdles remain, passage of the legislation also could provide a big credibility boost for a congressional majority at least as unpopular with voters as President Bush.

. . . Senate Democrats complained that DeMint's obstruction forced them to rewrite the bill with the House.

Former lawmakers' opinions about how Congress is doing - Former leading Texas Democrat Martin Frost was a well respected member of Congress until he got caught in the DeLay Texas redistricting machinations of 2006. Martin Frost's Congressional leadership assessment should matter more to thinking people than Tom DeLay's*. DeLay was dismissed in disgrace. Now about all Delay can manage is a few appearances on TV's (unthinking) political shows and a little blog. carried recent guest columns by both men (7/23/07). Texas Rep Frost opined that Democratic leaders have been remarkably successful "under difficult circumstances." The headline reads - "Frost: Pelosi, Reid deserve high marks." To quote some Frost specifics:

The deadlock over immigration was a Republican failure, plain and simple. To describe it any other way is demagoguery in the greatest Tom DeLay tradition.

. . . bringing an end to our involvement in Iraq. Pelosi and Reid have skillfully handled this issue so that it is now clear to the public that the only thing standing in the way of an orderly change in policy is an incredibly blind and wrong-headed president. . . . Instead, Pelosi and Reid kept their respective caucuses united in favor of a series of benchmarks and deadlines for ultimate U.S. withdrawal. . . . now the stage is set for a real showdown in September over war funding.

Given the Democrats' small majorities in both the Senate and the House, the party leadership's handling of this explosive issue has been masterful and "just right."

. . . They kept the heat on until the president finally accepted a significant increase in the minimum wage . . . Congress passed a budget resolution for the next fiscal year on time this spring . . . on time. . . And both houses passed significant ethical reforms.

. . . Democrats in the Senate have already passed significant energy legislation, and hopefully the House will soon follow suit. Democratic leaders also are making progress on legislation reauthorizing "No Child Left Behind" and our nation's farm support programs.

None of this has been easy, but Reid and Pelosi deserve high marks for their first six months in office.

*Tom DeLay writes (on 7/23/07) at that the "Democratic Congress is a failure." I include this quote only to "remain fair and balanced:"

In sum, the style, substance and management of the new Democrat majority has been an abject failure. The leaders do not lead. The back-benchers do not follow. They have no unified agenda. They espouse no underlying principles. It's a good thing their presidential candidates are having such substantive debates.

My own congressional report card contains mostly grades of "B" (for domestic legislation), and "C" (for the war in Iraq), as well as an occasional "A" (for leadership tactics). On this I agree with my former Congressman, Martin Frost.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

Even if the war had gone exactly according to plan, the neocons' grand vision of regional transformation had about as much chance of success as throwing a hand grenade into a printing press and it spitting out a copy of "Hamlet." - Gary Kamiya on War, chaos and Bush's faith

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Toy Commandments

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

A new toy Moses doll. Didn't he say something about graven images?


The BBC has a great story about a new line of faith-based toys that's about to hit Wal-Mart. One2Believe Toys is launching its new "Tales of Glory" line of action figures, featuring Samson and Goliath action figures, a Moses doll accompanied by a story book, and a 12-inch high talking Jesus doll. As company founder David Socha explained to BBC News, "If you go in a toy aisle in any major retailer, you will see toys and dolls that promote and glorify evil, destruction, lying, cheating." Surely this is why a Goliath doll was included in the range. As of blog posting time, the company's theologians have not yet concluded their due-diligence review of whether the toys constitute "graven images" or "false idols," in violation of the First and Second Amendments to the United States Constitution Commandments of the Holy Bible.


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Myth busting at NASA

By Carol Gee

(NASA Image: "Comet Buster")

NASA on collision course with scandal - An expose broke last week that breaks the hearts of "space junkies" like me and my friend, Capt. Fogg at The Reaction. Every time a similar NASA story appears another part of the "heroic space astronauts" myth gets peeled away. Details of the story were well-covered by CBS News (on 7/27/07). The lurid headline and associated info laid it all out: "Panel Finds Space Disgrace: Drunk Astros Report Says NASA Officials Twice Knew Crew Members Were Intoxicated, Let Them Fly Anyway." Quoting from the story,

. . . Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said the panel provided no details and did not verify the troubling revelations and promised the space agency would pursue the truth.

"I've covered the space program for over 20 years, and I have to believe these are isolated incidents," says CBS News space analyst Bill Harwood. "I’ve never heard even a whisper of this kind of behavior during a shuttle launch countdown, and certainly not a case of an inebriated astronaut actually getting on a space shuttle."

He adds, "The problem here is that this report is based on unverified allegations, and until NASA can go carry out the kind of extensive review needed to pin this down, it's really impossible to say whether they are widespread or isolated."

Southwest news views - The hometown of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is Houston, Texas. Their paper is the Houston Chronicle. Reading feature stories is a useful way to assess just how much Houston's space community is shaken by the facts of the story. The question is what the leadership of that proud community does to reconcile old myths and current reality. Linked below are a few interesting sidebar pieces probably not found elsewhere:

Other bad news about NASA was reported in the Houston Chronicle during the same period. The headline on July 26, 2007, 11:56PM read - "NASA investigates possible sabotage of recorder for lab." In spite of this unsettling revelation, the powers that be have decided "the mission will go on." That is another part of the space program's mythology. Is safety taking a back seat to magical thinking?

Russia is a NASA's partner in space. One wonders what the Russians think about this report. The Russian "official" news view can routinely be found at RIA Novosti. This source reports that, "U.S. space shuttle launch to go ahead as planned - NASA expert" (15:32 27/ 07/ 2007 MOSCOW). I quote news story elements related to both scandal issues,

The launch of space shuttle Endeavour to the International Space Station (ISS) will go ahead as scheduled on August 7, and will not be delayed due to earlier reported sabotage, a NASA expert in Russia said Friday.

. . . The reported act of sabotage is not the only incident that is tainting NASA' image, Aviation Week & Space Technology international aviation weekly said Thursday, that a NASA medical panel had established U.S. astronauts flew while heavily intoxicated on at least two occasions.

The weekly, which obtained the panel's findings, said "flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so intoxicated that they posed a flight-safety risk."

The launch of the NASA STS-118 mission is targeted for August 7. It will be the 22nd flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and the first flight for Endeavour since 2002.

Russian space program statement - A few days later, a CBS News (7/29/07) report predictably maintains the myth, "Russia Denies Drunk Astronaut Report. Official Rejects Report That Russian Astronaut Was Drunk Aboard Soyuz Space Flight." To quote,

"We categorically deny the possibility that this could have happened at Baikonur," Igor Panarin, spokesman for the Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos, told The Associated Press. "In the days at Baikonur before the launch, this is absolutely impossible. They are constantly watched by medics and psychiatrists."

Back in the Southwest a possible fix for the problem turned up in the Dallas Morning News. Here is my idea for something that might work in the high tech world of space sobriety, though it does not exactly go with the mythology of gritty space explorers: On Saturday (7/28/07) this headline appeared: "New celeb trend: ankle alcohol monitors . Lohan's bracelet isn't just for show." To quote,

Since then, she had been seen around town and in paparazzi photos wearing the ankle bracelet, a high-tech device known as a Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor. It measures alcohol content emitted through perspiration in the skin and relays the information to authorities or, in this case, her attorney, Blair Berk.

Space Travel is a magnificent human adventure. At its best it is courageous, heroic, selfless and ennobling. At their best people in the space program travel on behalf of humankind. Their discoveries add to the progress of science, and offer inspiration to young and old alike. I conclude this post with the following story. It is much more in line with what I prefer to be blogging about, more like what Mondays should be in Texas. It is from C/Net News (7/30/07), and is titled, "How to land a spacecraft on an asteroid." To quote,

NASA is exploring the possibility of sending astronauts to an asteroid, with hopes of making deep-space exploration more feasible.

. . . according to David Morrison, a senior scientist in NASA's Astrobiology Institute.

"The concept of human flights to near-Earth objects is exciting for science, and it's a logical, technological stepping stone to Mars because it's intermediate in flight length," said Morrison. "It's not literally on the way, but it's on the way for developing the technology for deep space."

The important truth to ascertain is whether it is still safe to fly. That is always the central question for me in the midst of these revelations. The space program is challenged to confront reality while honoring those who have died in the service of space exploration, myths and all.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A New York Minute: Things To-Do Edition

By Creature

This wonder wall of Post-its did not exist yesterday. It's art, it's way cool, and the picture does not do it justice.

And here is my contribution to this massive To-Do list:

If you're in NYC and want to contribute to the wall it's on the corner of 6th Street and 1st Avenue in the East Village.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Sustainable Summer Recess

By Creature

Reuters: Iraqi parliament adjourns in blow to Bush

A blow to Bush or another hundred American troops blown to bits? Disgraceful.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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A word from our Stickings

By Creature

Reaction readers, I have received a missive from my boss, and pal, Michael J.W. Stickings. He would like you all to know that he has not forgotten about you, but that he is on vacation trying to forget everything Bush and having a great time doing so.

Michael will be returning August 12. He may post intermittently, so we all still need to be on our best behavior. Either way, the rest of The Reaction team will be on duty and we hope you continue to check in regularly.


P.S. And, if Michael were posting, I'm sure he'd be posting about this.


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Swedish Film Icon Ingmar Bergman Dead At 89 ; Police Depressed, Working Through Emptiness, Not Ruling Out Foul Play

By J. Thomas Duffy

Internationally-known film director Ingmar Bergman died today, at the age of 89.

Bergman, the iconic and celebrated director of over 60 films, including three Academy Award winners ("The Virgin Spring" (1960), "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961), and "Fanny and Alexander" (1982), died at his home on the Baltic islet of Faro, north of the tourist island of Gotland, Sweden.

Mr. Bergman's body was discovered in an empty, all white, emotionally-barren room, a stale twinge of sadness hanging thickly in the air, with discarded nuances strewn about.

While it appears Bergman passed away from natural causes, police, depressed, and working through emptiness, are not ruling out foul play, after the discovery of a second body found nearby on Bergman's property.

It was a large, older man, dressed in a full-length robe, with a hood. Near the body of the second person, a large, long-handled scythe was found, next to a chess set, and what appeared to be a completed match, with black winning over white.

Police refused to comment if the two deaths are related, but did issue a statement that the area in which the two bodies were found reeked of erotic tension and isolated cruelty, while intertwined with unparalleled beauty.

"It was, all at once, eerily terrifying, yet serenely peaceful, washing over you a sense of powerlessness that leads to unfulfilled despair," noted the police report.


IHT: Ingmar Bergman is dead at 89

Edward Copeland on Film

IMBD: Ingmar Bergman

Wikipedia: Ingmar Bergman

(Cross Posted at The Garlic.)

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Japan's upper house election: Big win for the opposition

By AviShalom

In Sunday's election for half the seats in Japan's upper house, the House of Councilors (HoC), the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is winning most of the single-seat districts and will be the largest party in that body.

The DPJ is really cleaning up in the single-seat districts (SSDs) where voters were given a clear choice of LDP vs. DPJ candidate. (There are 73 seats up in prefectural districts that elect one to five members and in which the voter votes for one candidate; there are 48 seats elected by nationwide proportional representation from a separate party-list vote.) The Okayama prefecture, which forms a SSD for the upper house, offers a glimpse of clever one-on-one campaign tactics:

Toranosuke Katayama, secretary general of the LDP's upper house caucus, lost his seat to Democratic Party of Japan rookie Yumiko Himei, a former member of the Okayama Prefectural Assembly backed by the People's New Party.

Himei won with her slogan "Hime no Tora Taiji," a play on both candidates' names that means "The princess [hime] will wipe out the tiger [tora]."

That a leader of the governing LDP's caucus lost is, of course, a big deal, and it was not the only such case. In another district, Shimane, a candidate of the People's New Party (PNP) defeated a deputy secretary general of the LDP caucus. There were several districts in which the DPJ jointly endorsed candidates with the PNP, which is one of the parties founded by the "traitors" who were expelled from the LDP in 2005 for opposing then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's postal privatization program. (The PNP also is the party that placed former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori on its national list for this election; apparently he will not be elected.)

According to The Daily Yomiuri (first link above), many of the races won by the DPJ were won with policy-based and anti-government campaigning.

During the campaign [in Tokyo, DPJ candidate and director of an environmental NGO] Masako] Okawara, 54, stressed her achievements in dealing with food safety and environmental problems. She garnered support among housewives and swing voters. [...]

[ Also in Tokyo, DPJ candidate Kan] Suzuki, 43, emphasized his six years of activities as an expert on educational and medical issues throughout the campaign. He called for a change of government, saying, "The current administration cannot carry out real reforms." [...]

[In Tochigi constituency, DPJ candidate Hiroyuki] Tani apparently gained wider support by capitalizing on public criticism of the ruling coalition over the pension record-keeping blunder and a series of scandals involving Cabinet members.

The success of such campaign tactics is significant for Japan, given that breaking with the old pork-barrel and special-interest-focused campaigns that long sustained the LDP was one of the goals of the lower-house electoral reform back in 1993. The LDP still has not lost an election for the lower house (partly due to its alliance with New Komeito), although the 2005 "snap" election that the LDP won big under Koizumi was fought almost entirely on a single national policy issue: postal privatization. Koizumi craftily used that issue to advertise the repositioning of his party as a policy-reform vehicle and to catch the DPJ off guard.

This election suggests that the voters are no longer buying the reform image of the LDP and have finally decided that the DPJ is the more reformist party. The LDP apparently will be reduced to being the second largest party in the HoC for the first time in about 50 years. (There was a period in the 1990s when the LDP was not the majority, but remained the largest party.)

Nonetheless, this election is not necessarily fatal for the LDP government headed by Koizumi's successor, Shnzo Abe. Unlike in Italy, for example, the elected upper house in Japan has no authority to withdraw "confidence" from the cabinet. Only the lower house can do that, and no election is due for the lower house until 2010. Nonetheless, almost all legislation must clear the upper house, and so Abe's agenda will be greatly weakened. Will the LDP dump him? Will he decide he has to call an early election and challenge the voters to either oust his party entirely or reinforce his party's authority vis-a-vis the upper house? I hope some readers more familiar with Japanese politics will weigh in.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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Orrin Hatch, your toolness is showing

By Creature

Soon after agreeing that "of course" Alberto Gonzales has credibility problems, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), appearing on This Week, made sure his ass-kissing bona fides were still intact [h/t my dvr]:

HATCH: Let me tell you: Alberto Gonzales is not going to retire. He is not going to resign. I have a lot of respect for the man. He is willing to hang in there. I think he's done a lot of good things down there, even though, yeah, he's been used as a punching bag by the Democrats and, I might add, some Republicans who I chatted with, and said, yeah, they have gone too far. Not just Democrats, but some of the Republicans themselves. All I'm saying is, is that you know, we've had all of these hearings, we've had of this bluster, we've had all of these documents, and there isn't one evidence of impropriety and yet they've built this like it's some sort of a big scandal and it's not.

Orrin Hatch is right on three points: Gonzales certainly has a credibility problem, he will not retire, and he will not resign. As the New York Times opines today, he must be impeached.

And, it seems, Senator Hatch was the only one willing to go on the TeeVee and defend the attorney general. ThinkProgress brings us this from FOX News Sunday:

Chris Wallace revealed that no conservative would willingly defend Gonzales on Fox. "By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales," said Wallace. "We had no takers."

I guess FOX News lost Orrin's number: 1-800-GWB-TOOL.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Breaking News! "That's al-Qaeda Talking" On Riff Between Maliki And Golden Boy General

President Blaming Terror Group; Claims Classified Wiretap Program Shows Scripted Dialog Given To Iraqi PM

By J. Thomas Duffy

President Bush, first setting the stage with his weekly radio address, came out squarely blaming the terrorist group al-Qaeda for the burgeoning squabble between Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S General David Petraeus.

The Bush Grindhouse would only say they blamed al-Qaeda, alternately citing al-Qaeda in Iraq, and al-Qaeda central, based in their safe haven in Pakistan.

"We know", offered White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, "that al-Qaeda is - literally - putting words in his mouth."

This revelation came after reports of growing tension between Maliki and Bush's 'Golden Boy" General mushroomed to the point that Maliki appealed directly to President Bush to replace Petraeus, to remove him from operations in Iraq.

When pressed by reporters how the President knew it was al-Qaeda, Snow referred to the controversial Terrorist Surveillance Program.

"Now, understand, I can't go into specifics," Snow pleaded, "so, let's say that our intelligence from a classified surveillance program gave us this valuable information."

Snow would neither confirm or deny if it was the same TSP, the one the President confirmed, and that Crony General Alberto Gonzales lied about in his appearance testifying this week, or if it was Gonzales additional lie of it being "other intelligence activities".

Coincidently, in his weekly radio address, The Commander Guy badgered Congress to update the The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"The President needs a better FISA program," said Snow. "We had the terrorists pulling dry runs last week... We have to be able to take action and can't be stopping and asking this judge, or this senator if it's okay if we listen to a phone call ... Or read an email ... American lives are at stake here."

"It's all part of al Qaeda in Iraq strategy," Snow continued. "They attack us on September 11th, fan an insurgency after we liberate the country, and now want us to leave so they can take over the country. They're telling Maliki what to say in an effort to push us out."

Snow would not confirm if the latest NIE report offered evidence that al-Qaeda in Iraq was putting words in Maliki's mouth, citing the most sensitive information is classified.

Snow wouldn't comment on the reports of a growing rift with Saudi Arabia, that has the Saudis distributing fake reports that lie about Maliki and his government.

"I can't comment on that at this time, confessed Snow. "We still looking that one over ... It could be al Qaeda in Iraq's work, or it could be coming from al Qaeda Central ... We are pretty certain it has al Qaeda fingerprints on it..."

Snow, also, would neither confirm or deny reports circulating around Washington that al Qaeda was responsible for attempting to send electrical interference in the area near the hospital where Vice President Dick Cheney was having his heart defibrillator replaced.

Sources tell The Garlic that there was tension between the Bush Grind House and the Vice President's office, after the Secret Service picked up the stray currents of unexplained electricity.

The Bush Grindhouse argued that al Qaeda should be blamed for it, while the OVP lobbied that it was clearly coming from Iran, and a full, military response should be ordered.

Furthermore, Senator Joe Lieberman (I&R- CT) was said to side with Cheney and the OVP, and was prepared to call the Senate into session, and sponsor legislation for an attack on Iran.

Both plans stalled, after Crony General Alberto Gonzales was said to be "totally confused" on which set of intelligence - Iraq or Iran - he was to lie about next.

Bonus Links

Think Progress: The Ever Changing Definition of ‘Mission’ In Iraq

Glenn Greenwald: Various items ...(Update III -- with Bush's radio address tomorrow re: FISA)

TalkLeft: NewSpeak: Bush's FISA Proposal

President Bush is said to be outraged, and blaming al Qaeda for the rift between General David Petraeus and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

(Cross Posted at The Garlic.)

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