Category Archives: Karl Rove:Bush’s brain or Bush’s as’hole?

NSA: “EVERYONE !!”

Seems the NSA can, without a warrant, snoop on anyone within three degrees of someone that they may have some suspicion about.

…the rather startling news that came out of yesterday’s House Judiciary Committee on the NSA spying programs: NSA Director John Inglis revealed that the FISA Court permits the government to do three jumps from an initial number tied to a phone number reasonably believed to be tied to terrorism (or relevant to Iran, though that search criteria didn’t get mentioned at all in the parts of the hearing I watched).

Three degrees of separation!

Remember, some years ago, every single person in the US could be connected via six degrees — the old Kevin Bacon game. There’s some evidence that that number has become smaller — perhaps as small as 3 (I’ve seen more scientific numbers that say it is 4.5 or thereabouts).

In any case, if the US is using the excuse of terror to get three jumps deep into US person associations, then this program is even more intrusive then they’ve let on.

I imagine that would include everyone in our government, the Israeli government, the Palestinian authority, every head of state, every law enforcement officer, everyone who has ever been abroad, everyone who has ever interviewed a foreign person, everyone who knows anyone who knows anyone in:

Greenpeace,

the Quakers,

any demonstration of any kind,

anyone who has written a letter to an editor,

any person of color,

anyone who signed a petition, and

so on.

It’s basically EVERYONE. and what will they do with it? Wait til Karl Rove or one of the Cheneys gets back in power and you’ll see in short order. Or just some NSA guy who’s curious about who his ex girlfriend in dating. Or some NSA girl with a grudge against oh, well, ANYONE!

We have a constitution; that used to mean something.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When basically the entire population is legally suspect, doesn’t that mean we’re doing something wrong?

 

video: Gary Oldman, in “The Professional.”

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Juan Cole on Steven King and Barack Obama

One of Cole’s best ever.

Congressman Steven King of Iowa, who has decided to further disgrace Congress by seeking a fifth term there, delivered himself of the sort of bigotted and ignorant comments about Barack Obama that we have come to expect from the rightwing Republicans who have made such a mess of our economy and of the world…..

Judge for yourself on what grounds Vural Cengiz, head of the Turkish-American Businessmen’s Union thinks Obama would be “good for Turkey” (a NATO ally of the United States and part of King’s ‘world of Islam.’):

“Barack Obama can be the leader that the world is looking for. He can put a new list of criteria to judge what is good and bad for American people. He can stop the hate wars between Muslims and Christians by promoting peace and helping the communities in need. He can be the one to stop dropping the bombs and start sending the doctors, food and clothing as well as capital to create more jobs, to build more hospitals and schools all over the world. . .

Turks do not have high hopes about the future as long as American politics in Iraq continue as usual. Help in the war against the terrorist PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party) from United States in the last two months gave some hope to many Turks about the United States. However, Turks will not feel friendly to the US as long as they don’t feel that America’s Iraq politics is completely changed. And it looks like only Obama can change it. . .

Barack Obama is an African-American. He knows suffering, hunger and danger much better than Senator Clinton. He is not a rich man. He understands the issues of poor and middle-class families. He also understands poor and middle-class nations. Turkey stands right there. He is good for Turks, as well as the rest of the world…”

So from Cengiz’s point of view, it is Bush who is promoting terrorism (because his Iraqi-Kurdish allies coddle the Kurdish Workers Party terrorist group, which has been sneaking over to Turkey from Iraq and killing Turks), and it is Obama who might stop the bombings.

King again:

‘ He continued: “There are implications that have to do with who he is and the position that he’s taken. If he were strong on national defense and said ‘I’m going to go over there and we’re going to fight and we’re going to win, we’ll come home with a victory,’ that’s different. But that’s not what he said. They will be dancing in the streets if he’s elected president. That has a chilling aspect on how difficult it will be to ever win this Global War on Terror.” ‘

Oh, it seems pretty obvious that the “global war on terror” could be much more easily won if we stop being mired in a quagmire in Iraq, stop operating a machine for producing terrorists, stop spending trillions on Bush’s buddies in the military-industrial complex, and instead do some good police work in finishing off al-Qaeda.

You see, when King gets away from name-calling, racism, and guilt by association and actually tries to make a substantive point, the bankruptcy of his arguments becomes amply apparent.

People like King have run this country since 1994. I say they are dinosaurs. I say that November 2008 will be to them as the Chicxulub meteor was to the original dinosaurs. I say that the dark age of bigotry and fear-mongering and tyranny will pass.

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“A Victory of the Better America?”

You really should read this; the best piece of writing I’ve seen on the Clinton/Obama race.

Andrew Arato, Dorothy Hart Hirshon Professor of Political and Social Theory, The New School for Social Research, New York

Is it possible? At least we have found a likely leader. The Battle of the Potomac is over. Despite the name that resembles the bloody exchanges of the Civil War, the mini civil war of the U.S. Democrats will hopefully not last very long. I am watching Obama’s victory speech from Madison, Wisconsin, a famous left wing university town. It is his best yet, combining the thoroughness of Harvard Law School and the emotional fervor of the Black Protestant church. Because McCain wants to stay in Iraq a hundred years, we should not give him four years…..The post-imperial candidate laid down his markers. The students (and myself even more) loved what we heard, expressed so clearly and so eloquently. Is it possible for an imperial Republic, after the failure of Athens and Rome, , for the second time in history after the lone British case, to willingly divest itself of a significant part of its imperial possessions that have become so dangerous for what makes the republican core still great? Yes we can is the Obama slogan, even if coined not exactly for the project that I have in mind. His personality and foreign policy ideas fortunately embody it. He was always against the Iraq war. He wants comprehensive negotiations with all regional powers of the Middle East. He wants to withdraw from Iraq relatively rapidly. But, and it is a big but, despite a series of successful battles, he has not yet won. Not yet against Clinton, and more importantly not yet against the other America, against McCain.

If Clinton loses it is not because she is a woman. In the Democratic Party that fact is rather a plus, ideologically and also because there are more women voters and more woman Democrats. It is because she is a woman, that she is still a serious contender in the race. She is losing instead, aside from Obama’s own strengths, because of her unforgivable two votes on the Iraq War in 2002 that already cost John Kerry (now an Obama supporter) the presidency. Making things worse, she still defends not only her positive vote on the Authorization of the Use of Force, but also the negative one on the Levin Amendment that would have required that the U.S. President go to the UN Security Council first, and, in case failure to get Chapter VII authorization under the Charter, to go back to Congress for explicit authorization to go to war. While in case of the Authorization itself, Clinton now says that knowing everything she knows today (i.e. that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that Bush would abuse the authorization) she would have voted no, she does not say why it was right to trust this particular President and his circle at all, given all the planning for war. But in the case of the Levin Amendment the issue is even more serious. The proposal was eminently sensible as well as deeply constitutional. It is Congress’ constitutional power to declare war. This power cannot be delegated, because it is given by the constituent power. The only possible exception is a Chapter VII war, where under a binding international treaty signed by the U.S. the Security Council is the source of the authorization. This is what happened in the Korean War; the first time the Congressional right to Declare was seriously bypassed. Recently Congressional declarations have been replaced by Authorizations that however do not leave it up to the president to decide whether to go to war or not, as did the Iraq authorization in question. The aim of the Levin Amendment was to replace a “blank check” authorization, clearly unconstitutional, by the choice: either authorization by the Security Council or a more specific, Congressional re-authorization. It is this choice that Hillary Clinton still repeatedly represents in speeches, quite wrongly, as surrendering the powers of the United States to the United Nations. In reality however, she like Bush, wishes to keep the presidential prerogative free of both international and constitutional restraints.

We have seen the consequence of such a liberation from both types of law in Iraq, in Guantanamo, and all places where extraordinary rendition, kidnappings, torture, and detentions without due process have been practiced by U.S. authorities. Hillary Clinton may be an opponent of all that, but she does not attack the problem at its roots even if she goes further than McCain in the one and only case of Iraq. The empire is not only Iraq, and presidential power in an imperial setting would remain a danger also after an Iraqi withdrawal, assuming she would carry it out. As the famous colonel in the film Battle of Algiers said to the assembled French journalists: if you want an Algerie Francaise, you must put up with all that. If you want to protect the American empire as is . . . if you are unwilling to negotiate with all our adversaries without pre-conditions that is of course the pre-condition of orderly withdrawal…then you must put up with the means necessary to protect it. Clinton’s positions on negotiations with Iran indicate that she has not yet learned much from the past, indeed from the war in Iraq itself. And McCain is one of the most aggressive American politicians with respect to both continuing the war in Iraq and risking a new one with Iran. Only Obama, not Clinton, nor McCain in spite of his loud verbal opposition to torture is ready to do what it would take to end the situation in which there is any kind of imperial rationale (however mistaken technically) for torture. Obama (tutored here by Zbigniew Brzezinski) is the only realist among the three candidates still standing, in spite of his soaring rhetoric.

All polls currently indicate that the great majority of the country is with Obama on questions of foreign policy, and has been for two or more years, though they may not yet correctly identify his views on all the issues. But given the threat of recession, the issue of external affairs retreated behind that of the economy. In general this would be an advantage to the Democrats. It is also to Hillary Clinton’s advantage, because of the superior track record of the Clinton administration, her own obvious competence, and better thought out position on very much needed health care reform – where she is an expert paradoxically enough because of her dramatic failure in 1993, that led to the so-called “Republican Revolution in 1994. The Obama idea of “change” has to do mostly with the large issue of identity and foreign policy posture in the world, while Clinton’s slogan experience refers to her managerial abilities in the domestic sphere where there is very little difference between the two equally liberal (in the American sense = social liberal) Democratic candidates. In spite of small, probably tactical differences, they both have dramatic health care reform as the centerpiece of their social program, and they would both pay for it the same way, by refusing to make the outrageous Bush tax cuts that produced huge deficits permanent for the wealthy. They are lucky, because unlike Kerry in 2004 they don’t have to promise to pass new legislation to finance health expenditures . . . all they have to do is the much easier thing, namely to oppose new legislation to make reduction of governmental resources permanent. This will still be called raising taxes by the Republicans; but the stress will be on rescinding tax cuts to the wealthy! In any case, the Democratic electorate is asked to decide whether the more experienced but more polarizing Clinton, or the more novice Obama who is willing to work with Republicans is likely to accomplish a similar domestic agenda. And we still do not know how they will decide this question.

So far, before the three Potomac Primaries, the young, the educated, men and most dramatically blacks were with Obama, older voters, the less well educated, women, and Hispanic-Americans were with Clinton. Obama could win the majority of whites in caucus states where the politically active vote in a kind of township meeting setting that suggests participatory democracy, and where the young and the educated have an advantage. Clinton won the whites in the primary states, where normal elections with secret ballots take place, the form also favoring the Brady (a former losing black Mayor candidate in Los Angeles) effect: the voter tells the pollster that he or she votes for the black but does not do so under the veil of secrecy. This was probably the reason for the huge discrepancy between polls and results in New Hamphshire and California, lost by Obama. Now in Virginia and Maryland, two primary states, the white vote was evenly split and there was no Brady effect! (There may be now a Haile Berry effect, still racist of course: “she is the one black that I would marry”). Admittedly there is also Hillary hatred, but this is measured by the polls; since we still allow substitute languages for misogyny but not for racism: as “she is so aggressive” or “she is such a know it all”. It seems however that her collapse in Virginia and Maryland where she is liked and where she used to be leading is due simply to the rise of Obama.

Obama will most likely take Wisconsin, powered by the young and the educated. Then the big three hurdles will be Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. If his current momentum is real he may take all three or two out of three. If he takes both Ohio and Texas on March 4, or one of them and later Pensylvania he has won, and the so-called super delegates will have to fall into line with Carter, Gore and Pelosi leading the pack. If Clinton takes all three she will win, narrowly perhaps depending on the size of her win in proportional elections, to the tremendous disappointment of Obama’s young army, and the super-delegates whose majority is now with her will also fall into line. She would do well in that case to offer the vice-presidency to Obama in a convincing manner, if she wants to win against McCain. If Obama wins only one of the three, and is narrowly ahead, the super-delegates may still want to decide for Clinton. There may even be attempts to illegitimately give Clinton the delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries where Obama chose not to compete on the orders of the DNC. In either case, in August we will have riots in Denver, the site of the Democratic Convention, that will resemble the siege of Chicago in 1968, and with Clinton playing the role of Hubert Humphrey the Democrats will go on to lose the election. So if Obama has a narrow majority in the end, the party leaders better quickly shift to him and manage some deal. Their choice will be also motivated by electability (that does not = Hillary hatred, pace Stanley Fish!) as an issue, namely the legitmate concern regarding who does better against McCain in the polls. Today it clearly seems to be Obama, but how much of a Bradley effect is hiding in the numbers? Noone knows. Clinton however is more vulnerable on the question of Iraq, exactly like Kerry was, than is Obama with his far greater consistency on the issue.

The electoral results will in any case be all important. Conventionally two things are said: First, that the one with momentum wins and that is now Obama, and, second, the one who can break through his or her prior demographic constraints wins, and that is Obama too, though only marginally. Clinton cannot hope to get the young, or the blacks or the educated to vote against Obama. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas she may not have to. If she can continue to get huge majorities among white women, the less educated, and among Hispanic Americans that may be enough. It is Obama who needs to break through his previous demographics, and he has not yet done so enough. Whether the momentum will do it for him remains to be seen.

If he does make it, the Democrats, unlike last time, will have a great convention, one for all the ages. And then debates will be incredibly exciting. McCain already admitted he knows little about the economy and economics, but has read Alan Greenspan’s book. Now that two bubbles (finance and real estate) Greenspan helped to create have burst, that should not be enough. Flip-flopping on taxes (first I was against them as unfair and unwise, before I was for making them permanent) and staying in Iraq permanently will not go over well in the debates with a clever lawyer like Obama. Just one issue remains for McCain: that of commander in chief in wartime, if we are willing to forget that we should not be in any war at all. And here McCain with his military experience looks more like such a figure, however wrong his policies! Obama will undoubtedly show that staying in Iraq even 5 and not 10 or 100 years makes the United States weaker in Afghanistan, weaker against the terrorists, less able to deal with new crises, more and more unpopular in the world and especially the Islamic world. What he then must be ready for is two things. To give a convincing answer to the question of how to withdraw from Iraq in a way that is not catastrophic for Iraq itself, and to deal with crises situations, external or internal, real or manufactured that probably will arise during the campaign, and do so in a very effective and presidential manner. He should be able to do these two things, but the other side that should have certainly lost in 2004 already cannot be underestimated.

We are not there yet. But it is already another country. I did not think I would say it so soon. After years of shame, I am proud of our democracy again. To nominate a very liberal black or a liberal woman, to force even the other America to choose someone with a human face, though largely the wrong policies that are not yet sufficiently known, is a clear repudiation of the politics of 2001-2008. The driving force behind all this is American civil society, and mostly the self-organizing young, and the gods of history have given us a perfect candidate to carry their message and their hope. The activists must not be disappointed by the eventual victory of McCain, or even Clinton. But the future is actually in their own hands. It is they who need to take their country back!

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Iraq mortality study showing 600,000 excess deaths NOT funded by George Soros

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Let me convey what I thought was a simple and unremarkable fact I told Munro in an interview in November and one of the Lancet authors emailed Cannon the details of how the survey was funded. My center at MIT used internal funds to underwrite the survey. More than six months after the survey was commissioned, the Open Society Institute, the charitable foundation begun by Soros, provided a grant to support public education efforts of the issue. We used that to pay for some travel for lectures, a web site, and so on.

OSI, much less Soros himself (who likely was not even aware of this small grant), had nothing to do with the origination, conduct, or results of the survey. The researchers and authors did not know OSI, among other donors, had contributed. And we had hoped the survey’s findings would appear earlier in the year but were impeded by the violence in Iraq. All of this was told repeatedly to Munro and Cannon, but they choose to falsify the story. Charges of political timing were especially ludicrous, because we started more than a year before the 2006 election and tried to do the survey as quickly as possible. It was published when the data were ready.

The New York Post and the Sunday Times of London, both owned by Rupert Murdoch, followed the WSJ editorial and trumpeted the Soros connection and the supposed “fraud” which Munro and Cannon hinted. “$OROS IRAQ DEATH STORY WAS A SHAM” was a headline in the Post, which was followed by a story in which scarcely anything stated was true.

The charges of “fraud” that were also central to the National Journal piece were based on distortions or ignorance of statistical method, such as random sampling and sample size, or speculations about Iraqi field researchers fabricating data. Nothing close to proof of misdeeds was ever offered. 

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US attorney scandal not going away; federal probe deepens

It is difficult to believe this will result in any indictments, given the suppressive nature of the Bush administration. But it’s a sign that there is still some life in the Justice Department.

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….recent behind-the-scenes activity in several investigations suggests that the issue that roiled Congress in 2007 could re-emerge in the heat of the election year. Two inquiries by the House and Senate ethics committees are examining whether several congressional Republicans, including one running for the Senate this year, improperly interfered with investigations.

As potent as the congressional probes might be, they appear to be far narrower than a sprawling inquiry launched by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

Investigators from these offices have been questioning whether senior officials lied to Congress, violated the criminal provisions in the Hatch Act, tampered with witnesses preparing to testify to Congress, obstructed justice, took improper political considerations into account during the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys and created widespread problems in the department’s Civil Rights Division, according to several people familiar with the investigation.

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Why is Waxman having baseball hearings?

Doesn’t strike me as the Oversight Committee’s highest priority. Strikes me as a Republican-like “oh, look over there….” kind of cover for not doing the real work…am I wrong?

Like, how about a little more attention to this?

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Michigan Republicans are morons

Let me get this straight: these benighted folk think that Mitt Romney, he of the ultrarich business CEO class that took down the American auto industry, is the savior?  Good luck with all that, and oh, there’s an arsonist who wants a job with your fire department…..

Not that I mind Romney winning…I’m ecstatic. I had picked McCain to win, because I was wrongly convinced that Michiganders (of which I was once one) had enough sense to vote for the only guy with a chance of winning in the fall, John McCain. Poor old John. Bad as he is….

It may be that people are just burnt out on the Iraq war, McCain, and all the broken promises; it may be that soon the single biggest issue will be “the economy, stupid,” all across the country… but the idea that big business is the champion of the little guy is completely delusional.  The business of big business is exploitation of the little guy. That’s why we need government, to balance that out. Instead, our government has become just another weapon in big business’ array of armaments against the little guy.

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