Saturday, April 29, 2006

More kissy kissy with dictators: Ilham Aliev

This is an interesting story that got lost at the end of the week, what with all the hubbub about singing the national anthem in English and Rush Limbaugh getting arrested and all...

Yesterday W. met at the White House with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev. This is a big deal for a dictator like Aliev to have a meeting with the president of the United States, I should think. W. said they had a frank discussion and that:

"And we talked about the need to -- for the world to see a modern Muslim country that is able to provide for its citizens, that understands that democracy is the wave of the future." [WH]

That's a funny way to describe a regime that's more or less a family run Kleptocracy which rutinely sends the cops out to bust up opposition protests.

Human Rights Watch says:

"Azerbaijan has a long history of unfair and corrupt elections and of using politically motivated arrests to silence critics and opposition politicians. International observers uniformly deemed the November 2005 parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan to be neither free nor fair. Observers documented harassment of opposition supporters, intimidation of observers, tampering with election results and ballot-box stuffing."

But, I guess, it's good to know that Aliev "understands that democracy is the wave of the future." Just like the Saudis do, right? Just give them time.

This visit couldn't have anything to do with all our new military bases in the Caspian region and a possible attack on Iraq could it?

Last year the Russian daily reported that "Uzbekistan's decision to close the US base strengthened Azerbaijan's positions in these talks as President Ilham Aliyev could now demand the lessening of pressure on his government ahead of the November parliamentary elections." [armeniandiaspora]

But before meeting with Bush that, Aliev said , "Azerbajian will not be engaged in any kind of potential operation against Iran." Maybe, the "frank discussion" part of the meeting was about that? A lot of liberal bloggers are thinking we'll be using our news bases in Azerbajian to attack Iran, but that would be suicidal for the Aliev regime because there are more Azeris living in Iran than there are in Azerbaijan itself. [Cornell]

I think this has more to do with Aliev just keeping his mouth shut if we attack and keeping that crude flowing...and not getting too friendly with Putin in Russia. Where's that crazy shouting Azeri lady when you need her?

National Security Letters:

AP reports:

"The F.B.I. secretly sought information last year on 3,501 American citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said."

The numbers given by the FBI might be a little low as the ACLU reported last year that:

"New information in recent news reports shows that 30,000 National Security Letters are issued by the government per year, a hundred-fold annual increase since the 2001 Patriot Act relaxed requirements on the FBI's use of the power."

But who knows for sure, since they don't really have to tell anybody what they're really up to.

I'm keeping my eyes on that Arab looking guy outside in the ice cream truck.

Ice cream truck terrorists:

As if things weren't going bad enough in the Lodi 'icecream truck Jihadi' case, now the NYT reports: "A juror who voted Tuesday to convict a Pakistani-American on federal terrorism charges now says that she never believed he was guilty and that she had been pressured by other jurors to change her mind and convict him."

The juror, Arcelia Lopez, in a signed affidavit said "I never once throughout the deliberation process and the reading of the verdict believed Hamid Hayat to be guilty. I deeply regret my decision."

Remember, the FBI said that Hayat had gone to Pakistan to train as a terrorist and then came back to the US to launch a Jihad in Lodi, Ca. The whole case relied on the testimony of a paid FBI informant, Naseem Khan, who apparently went out of his way to earn the $250.000 he was given to find terrorists.

The SFgate reported last month that, 'Khan berated and scolded Hayat during phone call to Pakistan, saying, 'You're f -- wasting time. ... You sound like a f -- broken bitch. Come on, man! Be a man, do something, s -- !' Khan testified that he scolded Hayat 'as a way to make him talk.'"

Apparently, besides maybe helping Hayat(19-years old)along a little too much on his quest for Jihad, he might have also made some stuff up a long the way, too. He testified that he saw al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri in Lodi in the 1990's, but an FBI agent testified that the chances of him being there then was pretty slim. She said though, "I believe that's what he thought he saw." [sfgate] Well, that's evidence enough for me, send that guy up for 39 years.

And his dad too. His dad, Umer Hayat, is also on trial for lying about his son's trip to a terror camp in Pakistan, but is due to be released next week, as the jury told the judge this week that they couldn't come up with a verdict for him.

Maybe, instead of going to trial with such little evidence the DOJ should have just sent these two to Gitmo.

Big fat idiot Limbaugh gets slap on hand.

Yesterday Rush Limbaugh was arrested on felony drug charges, but before anyone could even say William Kennedy Smith, he was walking ---scott free. Looks like Limbaugh's high priced lawyer, Roy Black, got some activist judge to just let the whole thing go bye, bye.

What's this country coming to? Are we Mexico now? Are we going to be making all drugs legal like they're doing in 'drug-xico?'

Back before Rush was all about oxy-coddling law breakers and drug addicts, like he is now, he said we have to get "serious about punishment because we are becoming too tolerant as a society, folks, especially of crime, in too many parts of the country." [sfindymedia] Boy, he had that right! Next thing you know he'll be siging Nuestro Himno!

The NYT reports that as part of his get-out-of-jail-free agreememnt, "Mr. Limbaugh is...required to refrain from breaking the law during the 18-month period," but no word on whether he's required to refrain from lying his ass off as well.

Friday, April 28, 2006

"Nuestro Himno." Sing in English!!!

Admid all the other pressing matters of the world today, now add to them: "Nuestro Himno," or the national anthem in Spanish. Spanish language radio stations around the country are going to start playing Nuestro Himno today, as they build up to the big boycott of American businesses on Monday.

What message are the organizers of this movement trying to send here exactly? I get it that there's a lot of buisnesses that would come to a stand-still if they didn't have immigrants, that's all fine and good. And I think what they're trying to say by singing the anthem in Spanish is that they want to be Americans too, but that's not the way it comes off in the more narrow minded regions of the country. This could really back-fire on them.

For his part, our great white leader had not a second of hestitation saying that the national anthem should be sung in English. (He knows a home-run when he sees one.) The WaPo reports that Bush said at a press conference today:

"One of the things that's very important is, when we debate this issue, that we not lose our national soul. One of the great things about America is that we've been able to take people from all walks of life bound as one nation under God. And that's the challenge ahead of us."

Yes, yes, that one God, we've all embraced; who isn't Allah or Jehovah or whoever the hell the reverned Moon worships. Yes, we're all really outraged that these people are siging our anthem in Spanish. Of course, as anyone who has ever been to an NFL game should know, when the anthem is sung they have to show the words on the jumbotron so everyone can sing along. (Take a poll this weekend at your local mall and see how many good white Americans really know the words.)

I say, if these immigrants want to sing the anthem in Spanish, let them. At least they actually care about learning the words.

Domestic spying: Where's the outrage?

It's nice to know someone in Congress is paying attention. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector wants answers about the NSA spying program. "Where is the outrage?" he wants to know. According to the WaPo:

He said, "yesterday that he will file an amendment to block the NSA program's funding -- but said he will not seek a vote on it at this time -- in hope of stirring greater debate on the warrantless surveillance, part of the agency's monitoring of alleged terrorists."

Yeah, good luck with that, Congress is moving on to acting like they care about the high price of gas. [Check out Dennis Hastert ditching his hybrid for his SUV]

Spector isn't the only one trying to figure out what the hell the government is up to, though; Rep. Jane Harman (D. Ca.) actually voted against the 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill this time around over her concerns about the NSA program and the administration's total lack of candor on what its actually doing.

While Congress dithers it appears that what the NSA is doing is a lot more than listening in on a few calls from al-Qaeda. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed suit trying to get information about the NSA using AT$T to spy on and data-mine perhaps millions of e-mails and phone conversations with no warrent.

And you've got to figure it isn't just AT$T that's helping out the government. Google and Yahoo, who are oh-so-helpful to the Chinese in their hunt for dissidents are probably falling all over themselves to help the NSA out in its quest to see what you're reading and writing.

Where is the outrage?

Indictment for Rove?

According to a spokesman for Karl Rove, "Karl has been totally truthful and not only has done nothing wrong but has done everything right." Amazing!

Still there's a lot of speculation out there that's he's on his way to an indictment any time now. It appears the Special Porsecutor isn't as impressed by Rove's dillegence to tell the truth.

Raw Story says that Rove described the three hour grilling he got as "hell."

The grand jury is meeting again today, so it could be coming down any minute! My question remains: will he actually step down if he's indicted?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Leaks bad, fire lady before she retire!

What an odd story this Mary McCarthy business is. Supossedly, CIA agents on background (Though no one seems to know where this information came from.) say McCarthy got fired for leaking information about the CIA's secret prisons overseas. But now, she says that's not why she got fired.

Jeffery Smith writes in the WaPo that:

"A lawyer representing fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy said yesterday that his client did not leak any classified information and did not disclose to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest the existence of secret CIA-run prisons in Eastern Europe for suspected terrorists."

McCarthy's lawyer, Ty Cobb, says that she violated a security agreement she had signed by not disclosing contacts she had with jounalists, including Dana Priest. Hell, if that's what they're upset about they'd better fire half the agency. What's so weird about this, is why they'd bother to fire her when she was just about to retire?

If this is such a big deal then why is she keeping her pention? Smith writes that "a former intelligence official who is friendly with McCarthy" said that "firing someone who was days away from retirement is the least serious action they could have taken. That's certainly enough to frighten those who remain in the agency."

This starts to explain something...frightening others from leaking anymore stuff about what the government is up to. It seems to me that this administraion is becoming more Nixonian by the day. Could there be even worse things they're trying to hide?

It's not like leaking information about secret prisons or renditions is exactly a national security issue, since the victims of those programs already know about it. The only reason W. & Co. are so worked up about these leaks is because it embarrasses them politically.

Rice for president or just wake up Cheney?

An editorial in the LA Times on Sunday writes that it's time for "shotgun' Dick Cheney to exit stage right. "If president Bush hopes the "shake-up" of his administration initiated last week will re-energize his listless presidency, he's bound to be disappointed," the Times says. Apparently they think a far more audacious makeover is needed — one that sends Vice President Dick Cheney into early retirement. Moving the deck chairs around at the White House just isn't cutting it even for some supporters of Bush. And, once again, the specter of Condi Rice becoming vice-president is raising its ugly head. Washington Briefing quotes Sarah Baxter in the Sunday Times of London who writes that:

"Republicans are urging President George W Bush to dump Dick Cheney as vice-president and replace him with Condoleezza Rice if he is serious about presenting a new face to the jaded American public." She quotes Fred Barnes as saying "the president needs to do something shocking and dramatic such as putting in Condoleezza Rice."

Yeah, that would be a great idea, I'm all for it. Although the idea of having vice-president that could actually run as the GOP nominee must be enticing for some in the Party staring into the face of a midterm election debacle followed by a grueling nomination fight, Condi '08 would be a Republican electoral disaster of the Herbert Hoover variety. Once she becomes a candidate, all the pre-9/11 warnings she ignored and all the warning about Iraq's WMD is going to come back to haunt her. Just imagine how much footage there is out there of her warnings about mushroom clouds and --- my personal favorite --- her insistence that "I don't think that anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." [USA Today]

The fact is that anyone from this administration who is associated as closely with Iraq is Condi is hasn't got a quail's chance in Texas of winning an election. People are going to be so sick of W. & Co. by 2008 that they'd even vote for John Kerry!

I'm not entirely sure that Cheney is going to survive the second term, or that he can stay awake long enough, but Condi isn't taking his place. There's no way John McCain will either, unless he chucks all of his integrity overboard and throws in with the Pat Robertson wing of the Party, which would neutralize his maverick appeal. Maybe, Bill Frist might be an option if the GOP loses the Senate. One might think that such a political failure would preclude this, but you never can tell; failure is always rewarded in this administration.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rounding up 11 million workers?

George Bush speaking in Orange County today said that deporting 11 million undocument workers "is not going to work. It's just not going to work." This he says in the county that gave the world the "Minuteman Project." (I prefer Mike Watt) For their part, they were protesting outside yelling, according to AP, "Go back to Mexico" and "God Bless America." (W. should go back to Mexico?)

The problem with W. going to California is that there aren't very many places there for him to speak without a great deal of opposition; he's even had trouble with Ahhhnold lately. Ironically, this time around he close to go to what would normally be a safe place like the OC, but he ran ran into trouble there with the anti-immigrant types.

Although W. tried to portray his "compassion" towards good hard working people, the more radical elements of his party are having none of it. This is what happens when you try to govern from one tinly sliver of the electorate.

Is deporting 11 million workers really that impossible? Knight/Ridder reported yeaterday that:

"Two federal agencies keep to themselves a mountain of evidence that investigators could use to indict the nation's burgeoning workforce of illegal immigrants and the firms that employ them."

J.D. Hayworth, for one, thinks it could be done. "If the government bothered to look, it could find abundant evidence of illegal aliens gaming our system and the unscrupulous employers who are aiding and abetting them," he said.

Of course, since the IRS and the Social Security system can keep tabs on the estimated 7 million workers who are illegal, why couldn't they just issue temporary Green Cards and encourage undocumented workers to sign up for legal status?

United 93 continued:

Paul Greenleaf, the director of United 93, was on Radio Times this morning and after listening to him I'm somewhat less opposed to the idea of the movie now. I still don't like the promotion of and money-making from such subject matter, but it seems he's done a pretty good job. What struck me most about what he said about the way he made the movie was the ending he chose.

At the end, all you see is disembodied arms frantically struggling to get control of the plane as it goes down. He thought this was the perfect metaphor for the situation we're in today. He ended the interview saying that we need to come up with more imaginative solutions to the problems we have, more than what we've done so far. I couldn't agree with this sentiment more.

When is enough, enough?

Newsweek reported last week that, "The number of American children who have lost parents in Afghanistan and Iraq now stands at more than 1,200 --- a figure roughly equal to the number of widows and widowers, according to the pentagon." I'm wondering if any of them saw 60 Minutes last night when Tyler Drumheller, a former top CIA official said the war in Iraq was based on intelligence twisted to fit the policy.

It really amazes me that there is so much information out there now that leaves absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this administration shamelessly manipulated people's fears of another 9/11for political advantage and repeatedly lied about the threat of Iraq's WMD to get us into a disastrous war and there's no apparent political consequence for this.

It's not that the president didn't know what was going on or was misled by underlings; he was bent on going to war no matter what and had a hand in every decision. Before the right wing attack machine starts Swiftboating Drumheller we should keep in mind that before this: there was the Downing Street memo, a smoking gun if there ever was one; then there was the memo from January of 2003 that said that the president wasn't expecting to find WMD so he was thinking about painting a spy plane in UN colors and hoping that Saddam would shoot it down; his vice-president's chief of staff is under indictment for lying to a grand jury in a case involving the leaking of national security secrets, that the president authorized, to try and discount evidence that he used phony intelligence in his state of the union address.

Where's the outrage? What's it going to take to get the other branches of the government to check this rogue executive? Congressional Republican's loyalty to their party leader is one thing, but when does political allegiance become national suicide? This administration is in office for another three years; can we really afford another war in the Middle East; can we really afford losing another American city?

This is to say nothing of the blunders Bush & CO. made before 9/11. As the Mousaoui trial has pointed out again, the FBI had ample evidence of an impending attack and did nothing. The CIA told the vacationing George Bush that OBL was "determined to attack inside the United States,” but he did nothing. His National Security Adviser totally failed to prevent the attacks and instead of being fired for her criminal negligence, she got a promotion! When the attacks actually occurred this president dithered for a crucial seven minutes reading "my favorite goat," as the military was desperately trying get their orders from him. And it's not like he immediately took the reigns of power and started issuing hours; no, he disappeared for the rest of the day and didn't wind up back at the White House until that evening.

I understand that people don't want to believe that the president is a serial liar whose repeated blunders have brought us to the brink of military and financial disaster. It would be better, though, that people wake up now before it's too late. We cannot afford to allow this administration to go along the way it has for another three years.

If nothing else, the fact that Bush hasn't come out and said unequivocally that he won't use nuclear weapons in a first strike against Iran should shake a somnambulant Congress out of its stupor. What kind of political prospects for the '06 midterms do the Republicans think they'll have if there's radioactive cloud wafting over the Middle East? Something that dangerously irresponsible being seriously considered by a White House that has such a track record ought to be enough to start an urgent effort to impeach this president.
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