Sunday, April 29, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex ~ News For The Thoroughly Modern Mammal

Ill: Indymedia

Free-Love Females Gain Evolutionary Advantage
In a jolt to the fine sensibilities of male mammals everywhere, here comes a report from scientists studying a small furry mammal in Australia that says females of the species are not only not ashamed of their promiscuity, those who were gained significant evolutionary advantages, living longer & bearing healthier offspring than monogamous females.
Right-wing religious zealots of human male species everywhere were immediately up in arms, calling for chastity belts for the furry little creatures.
Said one, who wished to remain anonymous, "Evolution is heresy--we all know that--but a man can never be too careful, lest his daughters & wives get a notion to follow suit. " He added, "We want our women to be pure, lest, in all our fooling around, we get one pregnant. No man wants to pay child support to a creature who isn't carrying his genetic material ~ er, fine moral sensibilities ~ onto a new generation. Now that we've succeeded in banning abortion for all intents & purposes, the danger is even greater that we'll be called upon to support progeny that isn't even ours. Uh, maybe we didn't think this through carefully enough."
Another pointed out that born-again Muslim women have found ways to restore their virginity & proposed that all right wing Christian men insist that their women do the same. "Of course, it's really not the same as the original intact state, but we believe in God's great forgiveness, & we're sure that if He can overlook our boozing, drug use, & whoring around, He will have the decency to look the other way with respect to a surgical procedure that restores the fun ~ er, propriety ~ to a proper Christian woman."


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Abramoff Associate Had Friend in High Places at DOJ ~ Now Abruptly Resigned

"Coughlin held two senior staff positions at Justice while Ring was lobbying the department on behalf of Abramoff's clients...Coughlin is at least the second Justice Department official to come under scrutiny in the wide-ranging Abramoff probe, which has implicated five congressmen, a deputy Cabinet secretary, a White House aide and eight others. Sue Ellen Wooldridge, a top environmental prosecutor at the Department of Justice, resigned in January."

On Friday came the announcement that Robert E. Coughlin abruptly resigned as the Department's continuing investigation threatened to get too close to a friend, Kevin Ring, who was a lobbyist for Abramoff & who apparently lobbied the Department of Justice at the same time as Coughlin held senior staff positions there.

Coughlin was later promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff for the DOJ's Criminal Division, which is now looking into Ring's key position as a lobbyist for Abramoff's clients. (McClatchy News, title bar.)

Coughlin said that his resignation was voluntary, & that he was moving to Texas, but declined so say whether he had another job lined up.

Coughlin claims to have recused himself from any participation in the DOJ's investigation of Ring & Abramoff.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Guy Who'll Be Investigating Karl Rove (Maybe)

Allegedly, another fox in charge of the henhouse

"He's been accused of rolling back protections for federal workers who face sexual-orientation discrimination; installing staffers in key posts who share his religious-conservative worldview; wielding his prosecutorial power for partisan purposes; and turning his agency into a "black hole" for whistleblower disclosures and complaints of reprisal. Welcome to Scott Bloch's stormy, three-year tenure at the helm of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the federal government's obscure whistleblower-protection agency, which is also in charge of policing whether federal employees are engaging in political activity on the job."

Read on: excellent in-depth article in Mother Jones today (title bar).

Is it too soon to be calling for an special independent prosecutor? ~ if indeed there is such a creature left in the land ~

Update: Seems I'm not the only person to think so:


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Purge Prompts Surge ~ In Congressional Oversight, That Is

Is the dark reign of Bushco & Acolytes on the wane?

DP always likes to be right, & now it appears her fondest fantasies are about to come true. The prosecutor purge scandal seems to have the potential to unwind the sticky spiderweb by which Rove, especially, effectively ensnared every conceivable function of the federal government.
Will we be privileged enough to watch yet another scheme to hold Americans hostage to a greedy & power-hungry government unravel? (Ref. Nixon's Watergate, which DP is old enough to remember in vivid technicolor).
(I'll not mention that a whole lot of people who were connected with Nixon's corrupt administration are responsible for its dirty-trixs revival in the here & now.)

In the news today: Congress will subpoena Condoleezza Rice regarding the contention that Saddam Hussein sought enriched uranium, a key point in selling the Iraq war to terrified & gullible Americans. Also in the news: tonight PBS is airing Bill Moyers on "Buying the War."

Further in the news today: Congress is granting Monica Goodling immunity in exchange for her testimony on her role as a Baby Republicon in the partisan prosecutorial purge. (We hope she'll appear clenching in her fist the hard-won law degree from the Right Wing Christian Law School of the Holy Cereal-Boxtop variety, that being her only qualification to enter the Rove inner sanctum of extreme power politix). Let's all watch to see if a good Christian can tell the truth about Rove's involvement, or, if not, watch her facial expressions as she lies like a rug.
Article (title bar) from the WaPo: "Revival of Oversight," complemented by further commentary on the Office of Special Counsel's Mr. Bloch, who is maybe investigating Karl Rove & Mystery of the Missing e-mails. Maybe.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Investigation of Rove Purportedly Underway

Do we shout boo-yah now?

Is it real, or just another poof of magic smoke hiding a lame old vaudeville trick?
This morning the LA Times reported that the Office of Special Counsel (which had already opened an investigation as to the firing of former U.S. Attorney Iglesias of New Mexico), is apparently expanding its inquiry to include Karl Rove. Yes, Karl Rove. (Title bar.)
"...[T]he Office of Special Counsel is preparing to jump into one of the most sensitive and potentially explosive issues in Washington, launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations that for more than six years have been headed by chief strategist Karl Rove.
"The new investigation, which will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities, could create a substantial new problem for the Bush White House.
"First, the inquiry comes from inside the administration, not from Democrats in Congress. Second, unlike the splintered inquiries being pressed on Capitol Hill, it is expected to be a unified investigation covering many facets of the political operation in which Rove played a leading part.
"'We will take the evidence where it leads us,' Scott J. Bloch, head of the Office of Special Counsel and a presidential appointee, said in an interview Monday. 'We will not leave any stone unturned.'
Reading the report this morning provoked great relief & jubliation in the 1st instance, & a vague sense of unease in the 2nd. After all, this is an Administration that has successfully whitewashed every scandal from cooked intelligence to torture gulags to Cheney's secret Energy Task Force to domestic spying & phone-tapping to politicization of prosecutorial powers ~ all to a degree incomprehensible to those of us actually paying attention.
Scandal upon scandal has been evaded by means of out-& out lies, continuing propaganda, artful spin, & when any investigations have taken place, it seems always to be the very branch suspected of wrongdoing that investigates itself --& always reaching the reassuring & inevitable conclusion that whatever it is may look bad, & our judgment may not have been the best, but we assure you, nothing illegal happened.
Nothing to see here, folks, go home.
Apparently the folks at the LA Times were thinking the same thing, & by this evening there was a closer look at Mr. Bloch, who was appointed by Bush.
Here's what they found:
"Even as Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch moved forward with plans for a sweeping probe of the Bush administration, several advocacy groups complained that his ties to the administration and to conservative groups, as well as his record on gay rights and whistle-blowers, made him the wrong man for the job.
'There is a serious question as to whether Bloch will just provide cover for an administration that is covering for him,' said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Democratic-leaning group.
"A spokesman for the Office of Special Counsel, communications director James Mitchell, waved away the complaints, saying agency staffers have already begun to form an internal task force, led in part by career staff, to probe three broad areas of activity involving the White House and senior advisor Karl Rove.
"The agency will use its subpoena power if necessary, Mitchell said. It will focus on whether White House political concerns improperly intruded on the decision to fire at least one U.S. attorney; whether Rove's office staff or others violated the Hatch Act in briefing Cabinet agency managers on political developments and Republican campaign goals; and whether the White House improperly used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts for official business.
"Many of those e-mails are now missing, and Bloch has said his agency will probably join the effort to find them.
Read on & draw your own conclusions.
I found this tidbit about Bloch's record so far interesting:
..." At Bloch's confirmation hearing, Mitchell said, the incoming director was urged to reduce the large backlog of whistle-blower and other complaints. Bloch disposed of a great many of them — so many that an advocate for environmental whistle-blowers said they had received no satisfaction from the agency.'He just ignored them,' said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Mitchell said office procedures on whistle-blower and other cases were reviewed by a bipartisan congressional staff in 2005 that later provided a positive report.
"While Bloch has alienated advocacy groups on the left, he has also lost support from White House insiders, according to one report. The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, reported last year that Bloch was ostracized by the White House and might even be urged to step down.
"Mitchell said such attacks are expected by investigators like Bloch. 'He is a watchdog,' Mitchell said. 'That's what he likes to do.'"
Pray he does it thoroughly & well.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

GonzoGate ~ Friday Fallout

Wha, wha, what'd I do?
Being dumb (or just playing the role) must be one the few things 'Berto will admit to publically, as long as it spares George & his brain, Karl Rove, from having to testify. That's his function here, y'know.
Any litigation lawyer can tell you when it's time to unpack the Magic Trick Box of Obfuscatory Maneuvers (handed to every law student the day they graduate). In it are delay, fumbling, evasiveness, pretending not to understand, asking the the questioner to repeat & qualify questions, obstructionism, stonewalling, & finally, if forced to give an answer, giving one that means nothing at all. They are the absolute last tactics left the clever litigator when there is absolutely no substantive defense left to argue.
By that measure, 'Berto performed brilliantly yesterday, & we'll see if his heroic effort to keep the Bushco ship of state from foundering on the jagged rocks of democracy will hold.
Today's post-mortems on 'Berto's performance include this piece (excerpted) by David Swanson, the Washington Director of and co-founder of the coalition, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and of the Backbone Campaign. Mr. Swanson points out the reasons he thinks the senators conducting the hearings were too soft on Gonzales.
"Through the course of questioning by Senator Leahy, Gonzales said that he had met with the President on October 11, 2006, and Bush expressed concerns about 'voter fraud.' Actually, Gonzales initially used the phrase 'election fraud,' but made clear that he really had in mind a mythical epidemic of 'voter fraud.'
"Specter then laid out a chronology:
December 2004: you talked to Sampson.
June 1, 2006: in email Sampson discussed your plans to remove [Fomer San Diego prosecutor Carol] Lam.
June 4 or 5: Attorney Mercer discussed with you Lam's performance.
June 13, 2006: Sampson says you consulted on removal of [Arkansas prosecutor] Bud Cummins.
Oct. 11, 2006: you went to White House to talk with Rove and Bush about your vote fraud concerns, came back and told Sampson to look into it, including in New Mexico.
Nov. 2006: you attended a meeting with Sampson, Monica Goodling, etc., about the proposed removals.
[In light of that,]"Do you think it's accurate to say you only had a limited role?" Specter asked. A good question, but not a clear-cut yes or no question of the sort a Senator should know how to ask.

"Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA.) wondered if Gonzales had read the reports on the attorneys who were fired, the standard job performance reports that go by the DOJ acronym EARS. The AG replied that he had not. In two cases, he claimed, he was not even aware of any reasons for the firings he approved, but in the others he was independently aware of problems with the attorneys.
"Sam Brownback (R-KS.) then gave Gonzales a relatively friendly forum in which to provide, unchallenged, the reasons he claims each attorney was fired. His response on the first of them, Nevada's top federal prosecutor Daniel Bogden, was that he did not know why he was firing him. Three breaths later, he claimed that he struggled over the decision.
"San Francisco prosecutor Kevin Ryan, he said, was so poorly reviewed that they had to send out a second EARS team, although he, of course, being the Attorney General, did not read such reports.
"Arkansas prosecutor Bud Cummins was supposedly canned primarily because there was 'another well-qualified individual'they wanted to give the job to.
"Now would have been the time for some Senator to recall having read Greg Palast's article in the current issue of In These Times arguing that the replacement candidate, Timothy Griffin, former deputy research director for the Republican National Committee, rather than being well-qualified, is an out-and-out criminal.
"Under questioning by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA.), Gonzales admitted that he had been 'the decider,' that he had indeed made the decision to fire the attorneys -- sort of -- and that he'd read the EARS reports -- maybe -- but given them 'appropriate weight.'
"Under questioning by Russ Feingold (D-WI.), Gonzales added, without blinking, that he had not asked for, or learned, the justifications for the firings.
So, said Feingold, you had no basis for telling readers of your op-ed in USA Today that the attorneys had 'lost your confidence.'
"Gonzales cited the CSLDJ ["consensus"'of the senior leadership of the Department of Justice"] and said, 'I will say I regret those words."
"(The USA Today editorial page had another view. It asked the Attorney General: "Which time were you telling the truth? Gonzales has bounced from one account of his role in the dismissals to another. On March 7, he wrote on this page that the fired prosecutors ‘simply lost my confidence.' Six days later, he contradicted his writing and portrayed himself as clueless, saying he ‘was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions.'")
"Two more Senators put up an effort to get a straight answer on something before lunch, Charles Schumer (D-NY.) and Dick Durbin (D-IL.). According to both Gonzales' Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson and prosecutor Carol Lam, Schumer pointed out, the Department of Justice had not communicated to Lam any concern about her prosecution of immigration cases (those being Gonzales' main excuse for having fired her). Gonzales claimed that "Congress members" had talked to her about the matter; in his mealy-mouthed way, he tried to imply that DOJ had done so too. But Schumer would have none of it.
"So, we are to believe the unbelievable. As Josh Marshall has pointed out at Talking Points Memo, with the obvious political reasons for her firing staring us in the face (her prosecution of Republicans), we are to believe she was fired for something her employer never even discussed with her.
"Schumer hit on one other obvious Gonzales contradiction.
"On December 15, 2006, he said, the Attorney General told Senator Mark Pryor that he would work to see that Karl Rove's candidate, Timothy Griffin, faced a confirmation hearing in the Senate.
"Then, on December 19, Sampson emailed White House Counsel Harriet Miers, indicating that the DOJ wanted to get around that process, using delaying tactics that would pave the way for a recess appointment.
"'You can't have it both ways,' Schumer told Gonzales. Either you lied or your Chief of Staff operates on his own. Either way, Schumer insisted, 'You should not be Attorney General.'
"Gonzales claimed that he was unaware of Sampson's email, despite the fact that Sampson, under oath, had sworn otherwise.

"Senator Durbin touched on similar territory, pointing out that Sampson recommended to White House Counsel Miers that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald be removed in the middle of his investigation of the White House's outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. In typical fashion, Gonzales claimed he neither remembered this, nor had been consulted.
"Durbin then criticized Gonzales and the AG promptly objected: 'If you criticize the Department, you are criticizing career professionals.' Not a smart thing to say. Durbin cut him off at the knees with a comment the likes of which hadn't previously been heard in the Senate: 'That is like saying that, if you oppose the war, you're opposing the troops.' The crowd in the back of the room broke out in applause.
"The hearing was to continue in a similar vein after lunch. And other hearings and private interviews would continue, undoubtedly in a similar vein, in the weeks to come.
"The House Judiciary Committee is considering granting limited immunity to Gonzo's former counsel Monica Goodling, whose lawyer said she would take the Fifth and has refused to appear...
"On Tuesday, Gonzales refused to comply with a committee subpoena for documents related to the attorney firings...
"Of course, he fits right in. Both judiciary committees have approved, but not yet dared issue subpoenas for Karl Rove, Miers, and other key White House players. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has already asked Secretary of Condoleezza Rice four times to appear or be subpoenaed, but has not dared subpoena her.
"The fear is, no doubt, of delays and of a Supreme Court now made up, in part, by people like Alberto Gonzales. How to hold the executive branch to account? The current dilemma seems like a real mystery, something our Constitution just does not provide a solution for.
"Even if we could get rid of Gonzales, who would replace him? Who, appointed by George Bush and Dick Cheney, would obey and enforce the law? The answer is simple enough: Nobody.
"Fortunately, our Constitution does provide a solution. It's called impeachment, and on Saturday, April 28, there will be an event near you demanding it."
Also today, in an editorial for the New York Times that was high on the "most e-mailed" list, 'Berto was lambasted for coming across "as a dull-witted apparatchik incapable of running one of the most important departments in the executive branch."
The op-ed starts, "If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had gone to the Senate yesterday to convince the world that he ought to be fired, it’s hard to imagine how he could have done a better job, short of simply admitting the obvious: that the firing of eight United States attorneys was a partisan purge."
And gets better from there. Read on (title bar).

'Berto sweated it out & was a good soldier, didn't spill the beans about anything having to do with Meiers, Rove, or George himself, & thus the Decider pronounced himself pleased after it was all over.
For now, at least.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Gonzogate ~Take Me To Your Mind-Meld Leader

'Berto must be awfully grateful to that insane Korean kid at Virginia Tech today. The sensational news of the shooting deaths at the school has well & thoroughly muscled aside any particularly detailed treatment of his own dismal performance in testimony before Congress in the media today.

Arriving home too late to find anything being broadcast but the aforementioned shooting, your Demon Princess had to piece together various print news accounts--a poor substitute for actually being able to observe what Dahlia Lithwick for Slate calls "the face"--imperturbable "bemused puzzlement" interrupted only by "earnest seriousness" while not saying a damned thing that credibly allays suspicions that the DOJ was playing politix with prosecutions in advance of last November's Democratic party election sweeps.

Except to admit that would have been very wrong, & he would never do anything very wrong.
DP was also not particularly surprised to hear that, according to this article, 'Berto was such a very hands-off & remote administrator that he, in fact, was really not there at all.
Maybe he was too busy running the Geneva Conventions through the shredder in the backroom, or tweaking his torture memo, or orchestrating the illegal and covert amassing of information on American citizens to have been bothered by relatively low-level concerns like replacing prosecutors in key states before last November's elections.
"Gonzales struggled Thursday to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors, losing ground as a second senator from his own party joined the calls for his resignation.
"Even with the White House offering fresh support, it was a long day for the attorney general. Seventy-one times he fell back on faulty memory, saying he could not recall or remember conversations or events surrounding the firings. During breaks in the hearing, sign-waving protesters rose from the audience calling for him to resign."
"Gonzales has provided differing versions of the events surrounding the dismissals, first saying he had almost no involvement and later acknowledging that his role was larger — but only after e-mails about meetings he attended were released by the Justice Department to House and Senate committees.

"There was no doubt about the stakes involved for a member of
President Bush's inner circle, and support from fellow Republicans was critical to his attempt to hold his job."
One of the weirder moments in the hearing came when Lindsey Graham tried to out-lawyer Gonzales by not-so-subtly reminding him of the defense tactic Graham himself preferred, and proceeded, in fact, to testify for Gonzales:

"Calling most of Gonzales' explanations for the firings 'a stretch,' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham asked whether the dismissals simply came down to personality disagreements the Justice Department and White House had with the former prosecutors.
But since unfortunate, hapless & earnestly tone-deaf 'Berto is accustomed to having to answer to the White House only, he rebuffed Graham's kind offer of an interpretation Graham clearly thought he could work with, and instantly Graham repaid him with a bitchy shot of lethal of D.C. snark:
"You said something that struck me — that sometimes it just came down to these were not the right people at the right time,' said Graham, a Republican. "If I applied that standard to you, what would you say?'"
Likewise, when the hearing opened, 'Berto's tone-deafness was fully on display in his interactions with Republican Arlen Specter, who, famous as he is for thundering statesmanlike pronouncements & threats, they always turn out to be neat tricks of kabuki theatre that collapse into abject obedience to the party master. I imagine 'Berto, like the rest of us, really cannot take Arlen Specter's thundering seriously anymore, but made the mistake of trying to interrupt him & talk over him--tsk, tsk, for which offenses Arlen postured & waved his fist (metaphorically), producing some dramatic moments.

The Washington Post has some good articles, but one of my favorite rundowns of the historic event is Dahlia Lithwick in Slate and what she has to say about lack of evidence--it is 'Berto's position that Congress, not he, has the burden of proving that what he did was wrong, & we all know by now that George W. has reported something like 5 million potentially relevant e-mails missing from White House records, & additionally, those funnelled by Karl Rove, the Treasure Trove, through a Republicon National Committee account for the precise purpose of keeping them out of the mix.

Dahlia also points out the sheer stupidity of what little Gonzo did say--apparently the topcats in charge comprise a universal mindmeld that only true believers can hear; they communicate with the little people in concensus-speak such that no one of them has to take the blame for anything, & most especially anyone called before the Senate to testify.

And, to remind us all what the fuss is about this time, this article appearing today in the Baltimore Sun treats what is, in truth, the latest in a long string of scandalous abuses of democratic process to issue forth under the auspices of America's Attorney General. "Administration Tried to Curb Election Turnout in Key States.",0,23441.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines

Read more here, at NPR, including an excellent list of who in the White House is involved (separately).
The hearings today resulted in one GOP Congressman's call for 'Berto's head.
My guess is that 'Berto is going to try to tough it out & retain his post, but if need be, he'll fall on his sword to protect Bush ~ or more precisely ~ Bush's brain, Karl Rove, as did that other good neocon soldier, Scooter Libby.
God, I really hate to think what would have happened to this country if the Neocons had managed to establish a competent & convincing dictatorship.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Daily GonzoGate Twitter

Photo: AP
Today's twitter is Berto's apparent belief that Congress will forgive him for not being a hands-on administrator in his advance release of a 25-page document before he testifies next week.
Adopting the humble facade that's gotten him as far as he's come in politix ~ that is, one that easily fools arrogant white people in power into believing that they're dealing with a self-effacing guy who's just grateful to have been allowed to advance as far as he has into the exclusive inner circle ~ 'Berto pleads that he was perhaps guilty of not being a more hands-on manager, by way of explaining his contradictory past statements regarding his involvement in the partisan prosecutor purge. (Title bar.)
"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, fighting to save his job, said in prepared Senate testimony Sunday he has 'nothing to hide' in the firings of eight federal prosecutors but claimed a hazy memory about his involvement in them.
"In his 25-page statement, Gonzales apologized for embarrassing the eight U.S. attorneys and their families by letting their ousters erupt into a political firestorm that has engulfed the Justice Department since January. He maintained the firings were not improper, but said he remembers having only an indirect role in the plans beyond approving them.
"'I have nothing to hide, and I am committed to assuring the Congress and the American public that nothing improper occurred here,' Gonzales said in prepared testimony released before he appears Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The panel, which oversees the Justice Department, is investigating whether the firings were politically motivated.
"'I am sorry for my missteps that have helped to fuel the controversy,' he said, [and] added: 'in hindsight, I would have handled this differently. ... Looking back, it is clear to me that I should have done more personally to ensure that the review process was more rigorous, and that each U.S. attorney was informed of this decision in a more personal and respectful way.'
In other words, your helpful Demon can't resist adding, he's copping to being the same sort of "absentee landlord" who delegates too much power to his subordinates & doesn't bother to supervise them very carefully, the very reason given for Iglesias' firing ~ the "absentee landlord" thing ~
Despite the fact that prosecutors who go to Washington to work on other projects the GOP approves do so without fear that they will lose their positions back home. The paucity of cases brought against Democrats in advance of hotly contested Congressional seats had not a thing to do with it at all.
If you believe that it did, Mr. Gonzales will turn his sad brown puppy-dog eyes upon you & beg you to forgive, in the passive voice that belies the fact that a man who speaks so softly could have come up with such a thing as the infamous torture memo, that "mistakes were made." If there were, he surely didn't have any responsibility for them.


The News In Iraq

Image of original painting, "General Mushroom," used with permission of the artist, Mark Bryan

Well, with the "surge" & all, President Bush's one-size-fits all solution to preserving American access to the oilfields he has long coveted, we'd expect those little brown people over there to be more ingratiating & awestruck by our awesome power to sweep them up & put them in indefinite detention without trial, even if they are innocent.

But seems they aren't. They're just getting bolder & more defiant. (Imagine that!)
In case you haven't been paying attention lately, the news from Iraq is bad & just keeps getting badder ~ bombing attacks in the supposedly safe Green Zone (just after John McCain's heavily-fortified "see ~ I can walk through the market perfectly safely" prospective Prez photo-op), increased violence overall, & as if that weren't enough, American Marines misbehaving & going on killing sprees (again), troops getting their tours in Iraq extended (yet again?).
And amidst it all, nobody fool enough to step up & take Hapless George's offer of a job as "War Czar," & willing scapegoat for everybody else's mistakes. (Title bar.)
Imagine that.
Slate deconstructs the futile effort (not least because working under the supremely arrogant & unapologetic Bush is bound to be a thankless toil for no particular reason) thusly:
"Let's be clear about the significance of these refusals. Generals do not become generals by being demure. They are, as a rule, confident, opinionated, and in many cases, arrogant. Retired generals like to talk with other retired generals about how they would handle one foul-up or another if they were still in command.
"In other words, if some retired generals out there had a great idea about how to solve the mess in Iraq, and if the president offered them the authority to do what they wanted to do, few of them would hesitate to step up and take charge.
"The fact that Bush has found no takers suggests one of three possibilities: The generals don't have any great ideas; they don't believe they'd really be given carte blanche; or, most likely, to some degree, both.
"There's a history of American policy czars—grey eminences solemnly appointed by presidents to untangle the day's knottiest problems (drug czar, energy czar, inflation czar, etc.)—and each chapter has been a tale of frustration and woe.
"The reasons for failure have been the same in each instance.
"First, the sources of the problem are beyond any one person's grasp.
"Second, the president names a czar because the normal government agencies have failed or don't know what to do.
"Third, czars may be given a mandate to knock heads together, but they're not given the power to set policy. If the president doesn't have a sound policy, the most efficient coordinator can't solve anything important.
"Fourth, an outsider, no matter how smart and respected, probably doesn't have a better grasp of the problem than the responsible government agencies do—or if he does, he doesn't really control the levers to force those agencies to follow his directives.
"Fifth, everyone (except maybe the appointed czar) understands all this from the outset—understands that the whole enterprise is a PR stunt to make the president look like he's trying to do something and to absolve him from blame after it's clear that even the wise outsider couldn't work miracles.
"Such would be the case with the war czar, too, and that's probably why no general worth his stars wants the job.
"The decliners have been prominent men indeed: retired Gen. Jack Keane, former Army vice chief of staff (and the co-author, with Frederick Kagan, of the briefing that Bush cited to justify the "surge"); retired Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and retired Marine Gen. John Sheehan, former NATO commander.
"Gen. Sheehan, the only one who talked on the record with the Post reporters, made the point clearly. 'The very fundamental issue,' he said, referring to Bush and his aides, 'is they don't know where the hell they're going.'

"Another problem is Vice President Dick Cheney, who, as Sheehan put it, believes 'We're going to win' and still has far more influence than the administration's pragmatists, who are looking for a responsible way out. In other words, Sheehan realizes that if he took the job, he would always be outflanked by Cheney.

"'So,' Sheehan said, 'rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No thanks.' "

Poor George. Seems that God & the professional warriors of the planet, have deserted him.
Will he think about (finally) giving up the charade?
DP is betting "not."


Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Memoriam: Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut
November 11, 1922-April 11, 2007

If you haven't heard yet, Kurt Vonnegut, author of darkly comedic sci-fi-ish novels such as "Cat's Cradle" & "Slaughterhouse 5" died today in New York as a result of injuries sustained in a fall some weeks ago.

Elsewhere in the news today, I stumbled upon this report concerning librarians who defied the FBI & refused to turn over patrons' records despite an order to so that also, conveniently enough, prevented them from telling anyone about it. (Repeat: the Patriot Act must go!)

"A librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday that secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms.

"'Terrorists win when the fear of them induces us to destroy the rights that make us free,' said George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, a consortium of 27 libraries in the Hartford, Conn., area.

"In prepared testimony for a Senate panel, Christian said his experience 'should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution' about the strain that the government's pursuit of would-be terrorists puts on civil liberties.

Several hours spent looking for good quotes to tie the two together later (surely Kurt, with his wickedly sardonic sense of humor & his apprehension of war & warrior machinations, could not have failed to appreciate BushWorld & to be outraged by it), I came across this:

.."I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

"So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries."

Read on, fans, to learn what the legendary independent thinker & sci-fi visionary thought of other Bushco shenanigans.

Any author of such fundamentally humanitarian (though dark) works whose achievements include making the "Top 10" list of most controversial reading lists in schools across America must have something to say worth reading.

So it goes, Kurt, so it goes.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Update: Doin' the Dance, The Karl Rove Dance

Karl Busts Another Move ~ Dances to Save his Neocon Nation

Update: Ooopsie! White House says e-mails linking Rove to prosecutor firings have been lost. George not only has a Monica haunting him, seems that Rosemary Woods is still "accidentally" erasing evidence for the White House.
And oopsie again ~ Congress heard testimony today that prompted accusations that the General Services Administration, whose function it is to award & monitor tax-payer funded contracts, is playing politix, & again Karl Rove's office is involved. The head of the GSA, Ms. Doan, met with Rove's office in an effort to plan how the GSA could help 'our candidates' get elected.
"In several recent statements, Doan has said she did nothing wrong. She said her troubles are the result of retaliation by the inspector general over her efforts to rein in spending and balance the GSA budget.
"Doan, a wealthy former government contractor who sold her company before taking over the GSA last May, has hired three law firms and two media relations companies at her own expense to handle inquiries from the federal investigators and the news media."
Amply demonstrating why he's called the Neocon Brain, Mr. Rove treats us all to yet another example of what your Demon Princess likes to call the "flip & deflect"--that is, accusing the GOP's political enemies of the very things they themselves have made de rigeur SOP in the no-holds-barred pursuit of power for its own sake.
Just one of the things she really hates about the Neocons, who have succeeded in poisoning American politix so thoroughly that its going to be a long, long time before we can drink from the well without having to stifle an involuntary gag response.
If their mouths are moving, they must be lying, & in Rove's case, the more he hams it up, the more he's trying to distract you from the very things the GOP is doing by projecting it onto his adversaries. In advance, natch. Either Karl is prescient, or, more likely, he's in on the behind-the-scenes manipulation.
Two pieces in the NYT today remind us how stubborn & arrogant the Neocons can be, even (or maybe especially) when caught with their pants down. In the first (title bar), a federal panel on election integrity, under great pressure ~ which seems to have included an alteration to its original report ~ issues what is still a lukewarm & not very convincing endorsement to the GOP's position that all those fired prosecutors were indeed not paying enough attention to manipulations at the ballot box by Democrats.
"The Republican Party’s interest in rooting out voter fraud has been encouraged by the White House.
"In a speech last April, Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser, told a group of Republican lawyers that election integrity issues were an 'enormous and growing' problem. 'We’re, in some parts of the country, I’m afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses,' Mr. Rove said. 'I mean, it’s a real problem.'”
Your Demon can't disagree. However, the guys in the mirrored sunglasses seem to be Republicans.
I'll ignore for now the fact that the words "elections" & "integrity" from Karl Rove in the same sentence proves only once again that he has no shame ~ the essential insight to his character. He IS the master of deflection & architect of the disingenuous propaganda PR soundbyte that's become the trademark of the Neocon nation.
Apparently, good Christian we have to assume he is, he doesn't care that there's a special spot in hell reserved especially for him, right next to Machiavelli. But that's to be worried about later if at all ~ in the here & now he's got a sinking ship to try to save, & Karl's pulling every trick out of his shabby & weathered overused Magic Dirty Trick Box to do it.
And well he might, because things are gettin' pretty ugly for Mr. Rove, his boss, & especially 'Berto, who has a key role in the most nefarious doings of the Neocon Nation. Check this editorial , "Another Layer of Scandal," appearing in the NYT today: the politicization of the Justice Department just may be the last straw not to be borne. (Yes, even with torture & American-run gulags abroad propping up a misguided war of choice in the MidEast).


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

American Former Navy Man Tortured In Iraq

Ill: Wizard of Whimsy

Here's news all the mindless patriots of 911 & torture apologists should reflect upon ~ Americans who allege they were in Iraq to infiltrate & expose an Iraqi security firm say that they were rescued by fellow Americans, only to be tortured later.

So, another suit against Donald Rumsfeld has been filed.

At least one has already been dismissed on the basis that the plaintiffs were foreigners, so no access to American courts, habeus corpus or even the Geneva conventions for them. Not to mention the doctrine of offical immunity ~ e.g., that no one can sue a U.S. public servant if the alleged wrong was carried out in the course of his service. (Yes, something as heinous as torture!) 'Berto, after all, pronounced the Conventions "quaint," & he & John Yoo should know.

Will the fondly-remembered Rummy be able to wriggle out of it this time?

After all, these guys are Americans, &, ostensibly, patriots who were in Iraq for the right reasons (unlike that crazy little brown guy, Jose Padilla).

Here's the story:

"Vance's nightmare began last year on Apr. 15 when he and co-worker Nathan Ertel barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office after their employer, an Iraqi private security firm, took away their ID tags. They feared for their lives because they suspected the company was involved in selling unauthorised guns on the black market and other nefarious activity. A U.S. military squad freed them from the red zone in Baghdad after a friend at the U.S. embassy advised him to call for help.

"Once they reached the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, government officials took them inside the embassy, listened to their individual accounts and then sent them to a trailer outside for sleep. Two or three hours later, before the crack of dawn, U.S. military personnel woke them. This time, however, Vance and Ertel, Shield Security's contract manager, were under arrest.

"Soldiers bound their wrists with zip ties and covered their eyes with goggles blacked out with duct tape.

"The two were then escorted to a humvee and driven first to possibly Camp Prosperity and then to Camp Cropper, a high-security prison near the Baghdad airport where Saddam Hussein was once kept. Vance says he was denied the usual body armour and helmet while traveling through the perilous Baghdad streets outside the safety of the Green Zone or a U.S. military installation. It was not the way the tall 29-year-old with an easy charm and keen mind had expected to be treated.

"Vance claims that during the months leading up to his arrest, he worked as an unpaid informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Sometimes twice a day, he would share information with an agent in Chicago about the Iraqi-owned Shield Group Security, whose principals and managers appeared to be involved in weapons deals and violence against Iraqi civilians. One company employee regularly bartered alcohol with U.S. military personnel in exchange for ammunition they delivered, Vance said.

"'He called it the bullets for beer programme,' Vance claimed while relating the incident during an interview this week at a cigar bar just walking distance from the White House.

"But his interrogators at Camp Cropper weren't impressed. Instead, his jailers insisted that Vance and Ertel had been detained and imprisoned because the two worked for Shield Group Security where large caches of weapons have been found -- weapons that may have been intended for possible distribution to insurgents and terrorist groups, Vance said.

"In a lawsuit now pending against former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 'other unidentified agents,' Vance and Ertel accuse their U.S. government captors of subjecting them to psychological torture day and night. Lights were kept on in their cell around the clock. They endured solitary confinement. They had only thin plastic mattresses on concrete for sleeping.

"Meals were of powdered milk and bread or rice and chicken, but interrupted by selective deprivation of food and water. Ceaseless heavy metal and country music screamed in their ears for hours on end, their legal complaint alleges.

"They lived through 'conditions of confinement and interrogation tantamount to torture', says the lawsuit filed in northern Illinois U.S. District Court. 'Their interrogators utilised the types of physically and mentally coercive tactics that are supposedly reserved for terrorists and so-called enemy combatants.'

"Rumsfeld is singled out as the key defendant because he played a critical role in establishing a policy of 'unlawful detention and torment' that Vance, Ertel and countless others in the 'war on terror' have endured, the lawsuit asserts, noting that the former defence secretary and other high-level military commanders acting at his direction developed and authorised a policy that allows government officials unilateral discretion to designate possible enemies of the United States.

"Because the incident and allegations are now in litigation, the Pentagon has no comment, spokesman Army Lieut. Col. Mark Ballesteros said. He referred all inquires to the U.S. Justice Department, which also had no comment for similar reasons.

"But darker allegations are included in the complaint over false imprisonment. Because he worked with the FBI, Vance contends, U.S. government officials in Iraq decided to retaliate against him and Ertel. He believes these officials conspired to jail the two not because they worked for a security company suspected of selling weapons to insurgents, but because they were sharing information with law enforcement agents outside the control of U.S. officials in Baghdad.

"'In other words," claims the lawsuit, 'United States officials in Iraq were concerned and wanted to find out about what intelligence agents in the United States knew about their territory and their operations. The unconstitutional policies that Rumsfeld and other unidentified agents had implemented for 'enemies' provided ample cover to detain plaintiffs and interrogate them toward that end.'

"It may take some time to sort out the allegations as the legal process grinds forward, but, in the meantime, Vance is raising new questions about his detention. He still wonders why his jailers didn't just call the FBI and have him cleared. They had access to his computer and cell phone to determine if his claims were true.

"'When I told them to do that, they just got angry and told me to stop answering questions I wasn't being asked,' Vance said. 'I think they were butting heads with the State Department. I just snitched on the wrong people. I took the bull by the horns and got the horn.'

"And why weren't managers with the Shield Group held and interrogated?
Interrogators were certainly interested in these other individuals, according to the lawsuit.

"They wanted to know about the company's structure, its political contacts, and its owners -- most of whom are related to a long-established Iraqi family who fled Iraq during the years the country was ruled by Saddam Hussein, Vance said.

"More startling even now is that the company has reformed. At the time they left, Shield Security held U.S.-funded contracts with the Iraqi government, Iraqi companies, NGOs and U.S. contractors. As far as Vance knows, the company still does -- but under a different name: National Shield Security.

'I built their web site," he said. 'And they are still being awarded millions of dollars in contracts.'" (Full story: title bar).

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. Even if we are patriots.

But never fear, strong-jawed & meaty muscled men formerly of the U.S. armed forces, Demon Princess is on your side. Being made eat a nasty combo of powdered milk & chicken as well as being forced to listen to country western music is indeed a form of torture not to be countenanced.

Not nearly as bad as being urinated on & sodomized with a nightstick, or being assaulted by attack dogs & forced to wear womens' used panties on your face ~ but hey, that's the torture we mete out to brown people who wear towels on their heads ~ very different.

To refresh yourself on that, see this story about what happened to other Americans in the U.S. armed forces who refused to hold their silence on the disgrace that is Abu Grhaib.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Presents

Hey hey hey! It's MoronCowboy's one year anniversary or thereabouts & still the FBI hasn't succeeded in arresting your intrepid Demon Princess. Although this site did get a visit from the Pentagon the other day. I've arrived.

Today's offering in celebration of Easter ~ the Vatican seen from another dimension ~ say a Star Wars movie? Enjoy!


Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Funnies ~ Ask A Republican

Thursday, April 05, 2007

'Berto Locks Himself In Office ~ Frantically Prepares To Testify

Today's news of interest in the ongoing GonzoGate debacle is that 'Berto has hunkered down to study his options & prepare for his testimony before Congress on the 12th & 17th. (Title bar.)

Demon Princess wonders why all the fuss ~ he could just tell the truth.

Er, except that the truth probably wouldn't serve his objectives very well, which she presumes involve keeping his position. Poor 'Berto. That's what trying to talk outta both sides of your mouth willy-nilly gets ya.

"Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has retreated from public view this week in an intensive effort to save his job, spending hours practicing testimony and phoning lawmakers for support in preparation for pivotal appearances in the Senate this month, according to administration officials.

"After struggling for weeks to explain the extent of his involvement in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, Gonzales and his aides are viewing the Senate testimony on April 12 and April 17 as seriously as if it were a confirmation proceeding for a Supreme Court or a Cabinet appointment, officials said.

"Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman, and Timothy E. Flanigan, who worked for Gonzales at the White House, have met with the attorney general to plot strategy. The department has scheduled three days of rigorous mock testimony sessions next week and Gonzales has placed phone calls to more than a dozen GOP lawmakers seeking support, officials said.

"Gonzales is seeking to convince skeptical lawmakers that he can be trusted to command the Justice Department after the prosecutor firings, which he initially described as an 'overblown personnel matter.' Subsequent documents and testimony from his former chief of staff have shown that Gonzales was regularly briefed on the process, revelations that have led to calls for his resignation.

"Justice officials and outside experts said the effort is further hampered by legal conflicts among Gonzales and his senior aides. Top Democrats have also accused department officials of misleading Congress in previous testimony, leading Justice lawyers to insist on limiting contact between key players to avoid allegations of obstructing a congressional investigation, officials said.

"As a result, Gonzales and senior Justice lawyers have so far received little assistance from the White House and cannot consult with some of his closest aides, including Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, officials said.

"'We are hampered because some senior officials are not able to discuss the facts as they know them in the same room, for fears of additional accusations of misleading Congress,' said one Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue."

That is, fear of the Republicans getting together & agreeing what the story should be. A legitimate concern, considering how every Bushco-captive branch of government has operated so far.

The pressure continues to mount with news like this, also today ~ fired NM prosecutor Iglesias is talking to special counsel investigating whether violations occurred of federal laws such as whistleblower, other anti-retaliation provisions, or the Hatch Act, which forbids public servants from engaging in certain partisan activities, as mentioned in a previous post.

"Justice Department officials have said they added Iglesias to the list of prosecutors to be dismissed because his supervisors deemed him an 'absentee landlord,' who delegated too much authority to his second-in-command.

"Iglesias acknowledges traveling out of New Mexico on U.S. attorney business and that he has spent some 40 to 45 days a year in his service in the Navy Reserve.

"The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act prohibits an employer from denying any benefit of employment on the basis of an individual's military service.
"New Mexico Republicans, including Sen. Pete Domenici, complained to White House and Justice Department officials that Iglesias moved too slowly on voter fraud and political corruption cases.

"Iglesias says he was fired for resisting pressure from Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., to rush indictments in an investigation of an alleged kickback scheme involving Democrats. Domenici and Wilson acknowledge calling Iglesias in October before the 2006 election, but they say they did not pressure him.

"Iglesias said his discussions with the Special Counsel's staff includes questions about whether the pressure from officials to act on voter fraud or corruption cases might violate the Hatch Act, which prohibits civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity.

"Iglesias said the Special Counsel also is looking into whether he might have a claim under whistleblower protection laws, even though he was dismiseed two months before he publicly discussed the calls he received from Wilson and Domenici. Iglesias said the details are still being researched."
And in the Chicago Tribune today, a former prosecutor reminds us what is so terribly wrong with a partisan prosecutor:
"But what is the recognition of why the stories concerning the firing of eight U.S. attorneys merits continued front-page coverage. It has to do with power and politics.

"There may be no public office in the United States that can change the course of a person's life as dramatically or swiftly as that of a prosecutor. A person can be sitting at his desk or on his sofa one day, and the next be visited by government agents who whisk him away to jail without notice. His life will be shattered beyond repair. He will lose his job, his life's savings and, in most cases, his freedom and perhaps even his family.

"An unspoken, but widely acknowledged, truth is that the prosecutor's power to take away everything precious in someone's life is virtually unchecked. While a prosecutor might not be able to persuade a grand jury to indict the proverbial ham sandwich -- as the common saw goes -- I am certain it would indict the maker of that sandwich for using mayonnaise not mustard, if the prosecutor is zealous enough.

"No bills," where a grand jury declines to honor a prosecutor's request to indict, are as rare as Cubs World Series appearances. Once an indictment is issued, the court system provides little more of a check or balance. The courtroom tilts heavily toward the government's side.

"This awesome power rests primarily with 93 U.S. attorneys across the country, who are appointed by the president, typically based on recommendations of senators from the president's party. This process is inherently political.

"However, as the former chief of the criminal division of the Chicago office...I can attest that every assistant U.S. attorney in that office appreciates the weight of the power he or she has and the responsibility it entails. Every one of them understands the importance of making decisions based only on the merits of the case.

"In the past, Washington has been scrupulous about avoiding putting a political finger on that scale. The system depends on this impartiality. We are prepared to give these attorneys largely unchecked power to ruin lives that has no analog in our system of government because we have faith that, correct or incorrect, they exercise their awesome power free from political influence.

"Now, however, politics rears its ugly head. The Bush administration has rated these people vested with awesome power not on independence, energy, zeal or integrity, but on 'loyalty' to the White House.
"It is hard to imagine a more dangerous and misguided measuring stick for those who make the decision whether to indict political officeholders who may be corrupt, among other potential defendants."

I have to agree. Who gets to excercise that kind of power & in the pursuit of a blantantly political purge pogramme is just too much to be entrusted to baby Republicons, however power-hungry & entitled they may think themselves to be.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

FBI Spies On The Politically Incorrect

Ill: Micah Wright/Propaganda Remix

After years of denying it, D.C. police say they've just found in their records the fact that the FBI participated in questioning of anti-war protesters based on "probable cause" to believe they were anarchists because anarchists wear black & have tattoos, apparently.

"For years, law enforcement authorities suggested it never happened. The FBI and D.C. police said they had no records of such an incident. And police told a federal court that no FBI agents were present when officers arrested more than 20 protesters that afternoon for trespassing; police viewed them as suspicious for milling around the parking garage entrance.

"The probable cause to arrest the protesters as they retrieved food from their parked van? They were wearing black -- a color choice the FBI and police associated with anarchists, according to the police records.

"FBI agents dressed in street clothes separated members to question them one by one about protests they attended, whom they had spent time with recently, what political views they espoused and the significance of their tattoos and slogans, according to interviews and court records.

"The revelations, combined with protester accounts, provide the first public evidence that Washington-based FBI personnel used their intelligence-gathering powers in the District to collect purely political intelligence."
"Similar intelligence-gathering operations have been reported in New York, where a local police intelligence unit tried to infiltrate groups planning to protest at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and in Colorado, where records surfaced showing that the FBI collected names and license plates of people protesting timber industry practices at a 2002 industry convention.

"Several federal courts have ruled that intelligence agencies can monitor domestic groups only when there is reason to believe the group is engaged in criminal activity. Experts in police conduct say it is hard to imagine how asking questions about a person's political views would be appropriate in a trespassing case." (Title bar.)

Ah, but they were forgetting that Bushco's World is a brave new one. Thought criminals ~ even as to private industry ~ will be persecuted. And every coercive means at the state's disposal will be brought to bear.

We're shocked, shocked ~
J. Edgar Hoover would've been proud.