An Emboldened Iran

So, Iran took some British sailors, eh? As well they might. After all, what are we going to do about it? I say we because, remember, we Americans, the Brits, and the Israelis are all identified transitively around the middle east. We all fall under the Great Satan banner of American influence, so a blow to one is seen as an attack on all, or at least an attack up the metaphoric chain of command. In the communal consciousness of the region, we've been affronted as surely as the British have.

So, disregarding the simple fact that they can, we might ask why Iran is engaging in such a clear provocation? This is exactly the sort of incident at sea that many of us were worried would be ginned up in order to justify military action, and the Iranians just go and hand it to the Bush Administration?! Hasn't the Supreme Jurisprudent been paying attention? Don't they know we've got a crazy cowboy in charge who hasn't used his trigger finger in a few months? The silver lining of our concocted War in Iraq was supposed to be that people would be afraid of our crazy asses! We were supposed to get serious mileage out of the utter depravity of the justifications for the war, using our red-eyed frothing to make bad guys back down across the globe. Instead, they see right through us... our bluster and bravado starts sounding pretty hollow when they hear that the Joint Chiefs might resign rather than be party to an attack on Iran. Such are the wages of the Iraq War. We are no longer a super power because we cannot project force. We can no longer push around the little guys. Too bad for America. Thank you George Bush. Our power will be easy to reclaim, but we're currently thoroughly emasculated.

So, given that they are obviously ballsy (or shrewd) enough to call our bluff, why are the Iranians doing it? They could be moving to embarrass Tony Blair on his way out of office. It could be a rogue operation commenced without central authority. But I think the most likely explanation is something that's so en vogue in the Middle East: the hostage swap.

Remember the time we advanced the phony theory that Iran is behind the deaths of Americans in Iraq via EFPs? At around the same time, we captured a number of Iranians that we said were involved in these operations. We even stormed a consulate to do it. Ringing bells? Well, we've got Iranians, and for all intents and purposes, they've got Americans. Do you think they'll let theirs go without us playing along? Why? What's in it for them?

If I were the Iranians, I'd play hardball. Since they've already called our bluff, they should keep up the pressure. "Your soldiers are no longer on the coast. They are in Tehran. We will not let them go, under any circumstances, until you release our diplomats in Iraq. If you'd like to launch a rescue mission, then I refer you to President Bush's statment: Bring It On." As we've seen before, such a rescue mission could easily end in disaster, and no one will be willing to take that chance. We'd be forced to agree to their demands.

So, if you want to play along, watch the news for tales of released Iranians in Iraq.


Prosecutor Purge Roundup

Back when Josh first started covering the Gonzales Prosecutor Purge, there was a story wherein the FBI agent in command of the San Diego field office told the paper that he was sure the firing of his local prosecutor - Lam - would jeopardize ongoing GOP corruption investigations and that politics was definitely involved. After that way-too-candid interview, his DC keepers shut him up.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An FBI agent was warned to keep quiet about the dismissal of a U.S. attorney after he told a newspaper her firing would hurt the agency's ongoing investigations and speculated politics was involved, a U.S. Senate panel heard on Tuesday.

FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the handling of the incident, saying: "I do not believe it's appropriate for our special agents in charge to comment to the media on personnel decisions that are made by the Department of Justice."

"I profoundly disagree," replied Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, who told the panel of the warning to the agent. "He (the agent) was simply saying that it would affect cases that were ongoing. And I think he's entitled to his opinion."

This, alone, would be bad. But we've had dramatic further developments over the recent days. Gonzales had to "clarify" his remarks about not being involved in deliberations. For those of us who are not politicians, "clarifying" your remarks in this context means "changing what I said so you don't think I intentionally lied to you." Instead of "not being involved in deliberations," he went to at least one 60 minute meeting to "sign off on the final list" of people chosen to be fired. Are we to believe that he signed off on the list and then sat around for the next 59 minutes? He is a lawyer, I guess, so he could bill by the full hour. Or, are we to believe that during this hour long meeting he signed off on the list without any discussion of the reason for their dismissals? The fact is that this is a documented lie from our chief law enforcement officer - a seeming contradiction in terms, but par for the course in this administration. Oaths be damned.

They are using the power of the law to pummell the opposition party, trying to cement one party rule so as to be unchecked and uncheckable. I believe that as we investigate, we will find an ever expanding network of this type of behavior - it seems to motivate everything. For instance, we have the statement from John DiIulio, the former White House head of faith-based policy, to Suskind:

There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. ... I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues.

I am convinced we will continue to find that the entire monolith of the federal government has been turned into an extension of the GOP, transforming us into a country with an Official Party. That's no longer a democracy ladies and gentlemen. Always remember, you can lose the Republic on the installment plan as easily as in a coup d'etat.

Fighting back with the RIAA

Slowly, we're putting together a How-To on defending yourself from fishing expedition lawsuits by the Intellectual Property (IP) industries. This case provides a good deal of illustration for that How-To.

The fact of the matter is that these corporations have been using the threat of their vast wealth and the droves of lawyers it buys to intimidate the little guys (read: us) into paying settlements for cases that are leagues away from air-tight convictions. With the ubiquity of wireless networks these days it's utterly impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the owner of an internet connection committed the intellectual property violation they are standing accused of - and that's just the beginning of the problems with proving these cases.

We've always needed just a few of these cases to be fought to the defense's successful conclusion for a precedent to be set down. This is why the RIAA has dropped so many cases against people that seemed determined to fight, rather than having this losing precedent established. Now that we're beginning to build case law, the numbers of these intimidation lawsuits should decrease markedly. How nice.

McCain and the Immaculate Hack

It's not often that you see a case of a vandalized national website with no investigation spawned from the violation, but that's exactly what we have here. This was the holy grail, my friends - the immaculate hack, born without sin.

John McCain's web site was stealing a graphic that some one else was hosting. Like a good little admin, the operator noticed the flood of traffic "surging" from McCain's domain, plucking a single file off his server thousands of times a day, and did the natural thing. He changed the graphic into a little text package... see if you can pick it out below:

Can't stop now cuz it's HaXor for Life!


More Fox Fun!

Truth in screenshots:

Fair and Balanced, via C&L


Bush Presser

I just got finished watching today's Bush Presser. He's fighting to the death on this one not because it's fertile ground over which to fight, but because so much rests on this blinding shield of ignorance he's insisting on maintaining. They're going to the mats over Gonzales' Purge because if they allow an intrusive investigation here, they'll set a precedent. Fortunately for the Democrats, defending the right to politicize the execution of once-blind justice in this country is not exactly a position which will win the White House any converts. If a General's job is to pick the ground over which you fight, this Attorney General has failed in a serious way. Thank god for crony incompetence.

To maintain form, he ends the presser with: "thank you for your answers." Ouch.

Prosecutor Purge and the Unitary Executve

Over and over again, the defense espoused by those in official position is that "no one has done anything improper," because even if they were dismissed for the most blatantly improper political reason - to interfere with ongoing investigations of the corrupt Republican power structure in Washington - that wouldn't be improper because of of the Theory of the Unitary Executive, where the President has sole control over anyone in the executive department. This is an assault on the underlying conventions of our political system - that people are treated equally under the law. By changing the conventions without notice, they are turning this country into something it has never been.

So, there was political pressure, but that's entirely proper because the President has complete unitary authority over the executive. It's all part of the same slide.


Fitzgerald "Undistinguished?"

For those of you still unbelieving that the administration of Justice in this country has become a shameful partisan circus, where you are fired or promoted based on your biased treatment of Democrats and Republicans rather than your blind prosecution of crimes, I offer you this further evidence: Patrick Fitzgerald, the nation's most respected prosecutor, a man without a single detractor in the Senate, was rated as "undistinguished" by the Bush DOJ.

It's just unreal what they think they can get away with.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald was ranked among prosecutors who had "not distinguished themselves" on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005, when he was in the midst of leading the CIA leak investigation that resulted in the perjury conviction of a vice presidential aide, administration officials said yesterday.

The chart was the first step in an effort to identify U.S. attorneys who should be removed. Two prosecutors who received the same ranking as Fitzgerald were later fired, documents show.

The March 2005 chart ranking Fitzgerald and other prosecutors was drawn up by Gonzales aide D. Kyle Sampson and sent to then-White House counsel Harriet Miers. The reference to Fitzgerald is in a portion of the memo that Justice has refused to turn over to Congress, officials told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because Fitzgerald's ranking has not been made public.

In the end, Fitzy wasn't fired because even crazy people recognize some limits. Even for Rove, whose Permanent Republican Majority project seems to be his sole responsibility in the White House, canning Fitzgerald would just be too obvious a parallel to Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. Just because all the executive arguments come straight from the Nixon White House doesn't mean they have to make that damning fact too apparent to the broader public.


Boortz: Valerie Plame Not Covert

Despite the recent precedent, I had a good call into Neal Boortz today! Go Team!

I was calling because Neal insists upon repeating the lie that Valerie Plame was not covert at the time she was outed by the White House. I got through a week ago or so on the same topic, but wasn't able to convince because I didn't have citations right in front of me. This time, I went prepared.

The surprisingly great thing is that both Netdawg (who was the screener, saving me from Belinda's scorn) and Royal Marshall were pulling for me! Netdawg had showed him the article I tried to reference after our first conversation, but Neal apparently wasn't convinced since he didn't issue a correction. Royal came on the line after Netdawg and gave me a good pep talk - rooting for me and advising to "keep your cool because Neal will hang up on you at the first opportunity."

(Update, I'll include the hasty notes I used to call the show for the hell of it:
*First, we have sworn testimony before congress: ten CIA officials, on July 22, 2005. They testified to Valerie's NOC status. It is a crime to lie before Congress.

*Special Counsel Fitzgerald affirmed her status further October 28, 2005 press conference

*Clincher: Judge Hogan Pre-trial ruling - In the February 15, 2005 judge's ruling on the issue, the court's opinion states:
As to the leaks’ harmfulness, although the record omits specifics about Plame’s work, it confirms, as alleged in the public record and reported in the press, that she worked for the CIA in some unusual capacity relating to counterproliferation. Addressing deficiencies of proof regarding the IIPA, the special counsel refers to Plame as “a person whose identity the CIA was making specific efforts to conceal and who had carried out covert work overseas within the last 5 years”

**Perhaps Why Neal is misinformed: she hadn't lived overseas for 6 years, but that isn't the requirement. It's overseas *work* within 5 years.

**Why it's hard to prove IIPA violation:
Fitz: "In order to establish a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act], it would be necessary to establish that Libby knew or believed that Plame was a person whose identity the CIA was making specific efforts to conceal and who had carried out covert work overseas within the last 5 years. To date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work."
There. Parenthetical inclusion concluded.)

Boortz once again had to fall back on ignorance - claiming he was not able to reference things since he was travelling, and therefore shouldn't be expected to win the argument. In the end, he shouted over me when I tried to give a simple citation for my evidence over the air. At least now his listeners know the truth about Valerie, and the fact that Neal labors to maintain their ignorance.

Finally, I was also able to fluidly get a dig at Ann Coulter's "faggot" comment in there. A coup all around.

Vacationing Through the Good Stuff

Well, I'm off on what promises to be a spectacular trip through Europe, and I'm taking it during a shocking deluge of "fun" news stories that I'm going to miss*. Fun for us Democrats, that is:
  • We've got the Prosecutor Purge - the Gonzales Eight that were fired for not prosecuting enough Democrats "before November" to blunt the Republican Culture of Corruption. Please note that the DOJ had already focused 87% of its investigations on Democrats, but that just wasn't enough for this hyperpartisan White House. You can get all your coverage on the Purge from Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo and TPMMuckraker.
  • We've got the new disclosure of the abuse of one of the most controversial provisions in the Patriot Act, the National Security Letters that the FBI can issue secretly, and without judicial oversight, to spy on Americans. Given that the signing statements Bush uses to defend this law breaking are a direct consequence of this Administration's theory of the Unitary Executive, my old compatriot Glenn Greenwald will be your go-to source. I've written about the consequences of this theory again and again.
  • We've got the breakdown of VA care that the Democrats have been making noises about since I first started paying attention to politics. Have the heads stopped rolling? At least, in this Post-Rumsfeld era, people are being held accountable. You can thank the Democrats for that too.
  • We've got the ongoing response to Ann Coulter's almost unbelievable slur against John Edwards. So far we've knocked the harridan off of seven of her distributor's newspapers and forced many of her advertisers off her site. Small victories on this one are all we should expect - she exemplifies the new Republican Party and they're going to keep her.
  • Scooter Libby was just convicted, and the fallout continues - despite what Fox News says to the contrary. With Jurors publicly emphasizing Libby as the "fall guy," wondering aloud "where Rove" and "these other guys" are, and the "cloud over the Vice Presidency," could Libby flip? Given that guidelines say the applicant should have been convicted at least 5 years before the pardon, the pressure may be on. Could we have our sights on Big Time?
Were these stories occurring at any time during the last six years before the Democrats took power of both houses of Congress, they would no doubt languish - swept under the rug for Republican partisan considerations that seem to outweigh all responsibilities for good government. Now that we've got a Congress interested in fulfilling their duty of oversight, I wonder what will be different when I start absorbing news again in two weeks. Here's hoping it's a whole new world (but one where I can still be comfy).

I know it's going to be hard coping without my saber-like mind picking out (and apart) the gems for you during these two weeks, just as I know that the hundreds of thousands of other blogs out there could never fill that void. What can I say? You'll just have to deal - but stay away from the Oxycontin.

*It's an easy trade. :)


Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!

He's a juggernaut, hurdling unstoppable towards the Republican nomination!

Gay Rights, Gun Control, Culture of Life. Oh yeah, feel the momentum.


Savage for President!

Michael Savage - the host of the nation's third largest talk show and all around crazy-man - is considering running for President. He's promised to throw his hat into the ring if he receives five million votes telling him to on his website's poll. Let's see if we can help push him into running.

His heavy presence would doom the GOP's long term goals by thoroughly offending everyone to the left of his 5% extremists. We might get an opponent called a "faggot" in the debates, or some high-profile and racially charged invective against illegal aliens. It would be a trip. Go vote.


Love those Fox News Screenshots

How can anyone respect this "news" organization anymore? They do this so consistently, and every time they do, they fool a substantial portion of their viewers. Welcome to the conservative fantasy world where only the facts that agree with you exist:

"But it's not a lie!" they scream. "He was found not guilty of one of the five counts, and that did happened to be a lying to investigators charge!" Of course, in count 4 he was found guilty of lying to investigators, but still! Talk about Clintonian Parsing.


Asian Markets Continue to Tank

Let's hope this doesn't presage another bad day in the States:

The burning question: How is this George Bush's fault?


9/11 Recommendations Vetoed?

Wow, this is weird.

The U.S. Senate began debating legislation to bolster America's security on Wednesday with the White House threatening a veto because one part would extend union protection to 45,000 airport workers [...]

The overall bill would implement many of the stalled recommendations of the bipartisan commission created after the September 11 attacks.

The measure refines other recommendations and imposes new ones, such as the labor provision, and would let state and local governments share information with federal authorities, build better communication systems and provide grants to help high-risk areas prepare for disasters.

But White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said if the labor provision remains in the legislation, "the president's senior advisers would recommend he veto the bill."

Thirty-six Republican senators sent a letter to Bush on Tuesday saying they would provide the needed votes to sustain a veto in the 100-member Senate.

Wow, you'd think they'd have done a preliminary whip count before waving the veto threat. Instead the Republicans have to smack him in the face.

North Korea's Nonexistent Uranium

What is the preeminent goal of our national security policy? Nuclear Nonproliferation, right? Everyone talks about it in the debates and on TV shows, and these are serious people, mind you, so I'm sure their actions will be in line with their rhetoric about this most serious of all topics - national security. Hold your breath with me...

Clinton's Agreed Framework achieved an excellent victory in the battle to decrease the ultimate security threat we face - that of loose nukes in the hands of incredibly hostile regimes. Through an agreement that was essentially a bribe, we achieved our goal of completely stopping the enrichment of plutonium inside North Korea. We stopped the North Koreans from making nuclear weapons with the Agreed Framework - an achievement to be celebrated.

Instead, it was alleged by the Bush Administration that the North Koreans were cheating on the agreement by enriching uranium - much more difficult to manufacture a bomb with - and using that uranium for a clandestine program. Incensed that America would be taken in by this "thug," the Bush Administration pulled out of the Agreed Framework entirely, rather than trying to ratchet this uranium program into the existing framework. The rest (including the half-dozen nuclear weapons the North Koreans now possesses) is history.

Now we find out that the straw that broke the camel's back wasn't even a real straw. From the Washington Post:
The Bush administration is backing away from its long-held assertions that North Korea has an active clandestine program to enrich uranium, leading some experts to believe that the original U.S. intelligence that started the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions may have been flawed.

....The administration's stance today stands in sharp contrast to the certainty expressed by top officials in 2002, when the administration accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium program -- and demanded it be dismantled at once.
Or from the NY Times:
For nearly five years, though, the Bush administration, based on intelligence estimates, has accused North Korea of also pursuing a secret, parallel path to a bomb, using enriched uranium. That accusation, first leveled in the fall of 2002, resulted in the rupture of an already tense relationship: The United States cut off oil supplies, and the North Koreans responded by throwing out international inspectors, building up their plutonium arsenal and, ultimately, producing that first plutonium bomb.

But now, American intelligence officials are publicly softening their position, admitting to doubts about how much progress the uranium enrichment program has actually made. The result has been new questions about the Bush administration’s decision to confront North Korea in 2002.

“The question now is whether we would be in the position of having to get the North Koreans to give up a sizable arsenal if this had been handled differently,” a senior administration official said this week.
"The Question now is whether we would be in" a better position now if we had followed a sane policy not based on machismo, but on pursuing the desired results. Heaven help me, what a question.

The Blogosphere has been all over this one. This revelation catapults this failure from disqualifying to intentional. We weren't even sure about the uranium program, so we let them open the plutonium program again for no reason! Given how much greater a threat a plutonium program is than a uranium, this is an absolutely unbelievable mistake. In no way could such a trade-off ever make sense.

Rice v Olbermann

Yet more excellent video! The Special Comment we've all been waiting for - putting Condi in her place.

Hersh on Iran - More Video

A video followup to the last Sy Hersh story.
Hersh: Inside the military, they are planning very seriously at the President's request to attack Iran....

We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way
He says that there is a lot of activity across the border by American forces, just like in the lead up to the Iraq War. Then it was an attempt to provoke a causus belli. There's no way that could be happening again, right?

Furthermore, he says that the Navy is worried about the predictable movement of Carriers in the narrow straights. I've just gotta add that I called it on that one.

Seymour Hersh on Iran

Seymour Hersh tends to be right. Let's hope he's not this time. Click here for the video.

Hersh: There has been some violence. So America, my country, without telling Congress, using funds not appropriated, I don't know where, by my sources believe much of the money obviously came from Iraq where there is all kinds of piles of loose money, pools of cash that could be used for covert operations.

All of this should be investigated by Congress, by the way, and I trust it will be. In my talking to membership — members there, they are very upset that they know nothing about this. And they have great many suspicions.

We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way

He — that is one of the reasons, I was told. Negroponte also was not in tune with Cheney. There was a lot of complaints about him because he was seen as much of a stickler, too ethical for some of the operations the Pentagon wants to run. (full transcript below the fold)

Interestingly, he discusses a possible explanation for Negroponte's resignation of his office as National Intelligence Director in favor of an undersecretary position at State. Given Negroponte's experience with Iran contra, the parallelism of flavors may have spooked him out.

He also talks about how we seem to be taking sides in the Sunnis vs Shiites struggle, and the consequences that flow from that decision.